National Suicide Prevention Week 2019

Today is the final day of National Suicide Prevention Week 2019. I’ve started so many Facebook posts, only to delete them. I’ve read so many beautiful things. Tributes, memories, some people write of hope and life, some of the darkness.

Now, I borrow this space to share from my perspective – a mom who nearly lost her son to suicide, and a daughter who nearly lost her mom to suicide. More than once, on both counts.

I spent many years feeling as though I was fundamentally flawed. I felt as though there must be something inherently broken about me that my love for my mom couldn’t be enough to sustain her. I believed I must be unloveable because loving me was also, not enough to sustain her. I played accomplice to some bad ideas, hoping that she would find the happiness and love she needed to live.

I’d like to wave it all off as being the past, as being over with, and I’d like to tell you I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my love for my mom, or her love for me, were not broken or to blame for this struggle. And most of the time, all of the above would be true. But when I don’t take every thought captive and I don’t tell the very enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy that his lies hold no power, I can quickly fall back to feeling inadequate and as though my love is broken, and that I am, at the very core, unloveable.

Fast forward to October 1st, 2018. My 12-year-old son attempted to take his own life. He nearly ended his life on a comfortably warm afternoon. We’d been outside most of the day, he’d seen his counselor about 2 hours before his attempt, and he was in a positive, helpful mood. In fact, we celebrated some wins with his counselor in regards to behavior, and we were looking forward to sign language class that night.

I left him to finish up an outside job, while I went inside to call my husband, start a quick pan of brownies, and get the littles ready for our evening. My 11-year-old son found his brother, acted bravely and quickly to aid his brother and then came for me. I wish the moments from my young son tearing through the front door, breathless, through the next afternoon were a blur. Far from it. I remember, in vivid detail, every step.

Medically, they offered us no hope of our son living, and his prognosis, should he live, was grim. A doctor, on a brief round, told me it was unlikely my son would return to his original cognitive and physical condition. My husband even pleaded with me to find one of my off-the-beaten-path remedies to reduce brain swelling, regain cognition, and aid his struggling body. I came up empty-handed, telling my husband I didn’t think there was an herb or oil to bring him back from this.

But God.

God intervened, and we watched an absolute miracle. Not only did our son live, but he was fully restored to his physical and cognitive state prior to his suicide attempt.

Which brings me to the whole point of my writing today.

Suicide attempt.

I see the stigma lifting from suicide that results in death. We’ve lost several famous people to suicide, and many people are having conversations – in person, on social media.

Some things are full of hope, love, and willing those feeling suicidal to reach out. Some things are tinged with a little guilt, a little plea that suicide transfers the pain from the suicidal person to the people that love them. I’ve heard people that have felt suicidal say they weren’t capable of reaching out at their lowest point. I’ve heard them say that being encouraged to reach out saved their lives. I’ve heard them say that the idea they are transferring the pain just makes the darkness heavier. I’ve heard them say it was that reminder that kept them holding on.

Suicide, like every other thing we face, is not one size fits all. There isn’t one reminder, one solution, one approach that will save all the lives threatened by suicidal thoughts. I desperately wish there was.

I walked into many different appointments with my son – counselors, psychiatrists, nurses, doctors. I kept hoping someone could tell me how to spot this, and prevent it, and give us a 10, 12, 24, 50, 100 step plan that would line out how to keep us from ever facing this again. I would complete any number of steps to know that he wouldn’t struggle like this again or to know that if he did, he would reach out, or we would recognize, or something would happen to take it all away and help him feel happiness, hope, joy, excitement, and a zest for life.

Despite a safety plan that my son actively created, point people to reach out to, crisis hotlines, and roleplaying how to have crisis conversations and not be an overbearing parent but a listening ear, we found ourselves facing a second attempt.

It was after this second attempt, and his third stay in the hospital, that I walked into a psychiatrist’s office to discuss his outpatient treatment. My questions about what to expect from the medications, the therapy plan, etc. were met with a grim outlook and grave words.

“Do you know the statistics for someone his age with 2 suicide attempts in 4 months?”

My son was reduced to statistics, and I just shook my head.

“No one has gone over those with you?”

He seemed surprised, and while I can’t recall the specific numbers, and I can’t bring myself to look them up, I remember him crossing his arms in front of him, and shrugging as he told me he didn’t have much hope for my son making it another year.

“We’re just waiting, and watching, that’s all we can do.”

He asked me if I wanted to make any med adjustments or had noticed side effects that were unpleasant, and dismissed me.

I didn’t feel like my legs could carry me out of that appointment. Here we were, only 4 months out from his initial suicide attempt, and a month out from his second attempt, and his psychiatrist spoke as though this was hospice care for the mentally ill or struggling.

I am humbled and grateful that we serve a God who is involved, who sees us, who sees our pain, and who answers when we call. It is His strength that has sustained me, and our family, through all of this.

See, there is a lot of stigma around suicide attempt. It is a space that is not spoken of.

Amongst those who have lost someone to suicide, I am lucky because my mom and son still live and share this life with me. I cannot imagine the pain they endure because their loved one died by suicide. I rarely admit this to anyone, but I don’t often feel lucky, either. The fear that I live with about when or if another suicide attempt will occur, and whether or not it will result in death, is heavy to carry. I am hyper-vigilant about every text message, email, phone call, video call, letter. I’ve called my dad and sister and asked them to keep an eye on mom. I find myself checking in with my son’s step-mom – asking if everything seems okay on their end because phone calls seem “off” to me.

Among those who haven’t struggled with the darkness, or who won’t admit they have, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. Or there must be someone to blame – a bully, bad parenting, a bad home life, bad school, subpar performance in athletics, a lost game, a lost friend, death of someone. So if someone will talk with me, the conversation ends quickly when there is nothing to blame – because I must be hiding something or it hasn’t come to me yet.

Those who have struggled will offer condolences, and occasionally their experience with things people shouldn’t say to someone struggling. But in all of the things I’ve been told I shouldn’t say, I don’t have a grasp on what I should say to my mom or my son.

A friend of mine is walking through the mess and heartache of addiction with her daughter. She posted some time ago about someone saying if she loved her daughter enough, she wouldn’t be battling addiction. I love how eloquently she said her love isn’t broken or inadequate. It is fierce and present and available.

If you have a loved one who struggles with suicidal ideation, depression, addiction, or ____________, then I want to tell you this: Your love is not broken. It is not insufficient. It is not inadequate. Keep loving. Don’t build walls. Don’t shut people out or shut down or quit. Fight the good fight, pray hard for the person/people you love, and keep loving them.

Also, crisis hotlines are not only for the person feeling suicidal. You can call for support, encouragement, action steps, for answers, and for someone to talk to. I’ve called twice. Both calls were answered by someone willing to listen to the fear, the guilt, the heartbreak, and they were kind. It didn’t feel like the stigma was there like it is everywhere else I go.

Until next time,
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Recipe: Caramel Apple Pie

As I set out to share recipes with you regularly, I have a disclaimer, if you will.

  1. I am not good at presentation. Pretty food isn’t exactly my expertise. But it tastes good and that’s what matters around here.

Now on to the good stuff!

Caramel Apple Pie

6-7 – Granny Smith apples
3/4 cup – Brown Sugar
3 TBSP – All purpose flour
1 TBSP – Cinnamon
1 tsp – Nutmeg
1 tsp – Allspice
Bag of caramels (I found these awesome little round caramels at the store last time. Usually I have to unwrap the whole bag and dice them up.)

Deep Dish pie crust
Regular pie crust (for the top)

(As I’m getting back to making my own things instead of buying premade, I’ll start making pie crust again. I have a delicious pie crust recipe from my momma!)

006First, the apples. Wash them real well. I do not peel my apples for pie. I just leave the skin on. I quarter them, core them, and then slice the quarters into quarters and chop. Sometime I leave them in slices. Depends on how I’m feeling that day.

Wait, did I say first the apples? First the oven. Heat to 350 degrees.

Apples are ready and waiting in a big mixing bowl. I start adding the other things. Brown 007sugar, then the flour, then the spices. Don’t forget the caramels! And then I mix it all up. I was surprised the first time I made apple pie that I didn’t have to add any liquids, but you really don’t. Now comes the pie crust.

Here is where I struggle, honestly. I scoop the apple mix into the deep dish pie crust (thawed), spread it around, pack it down (and I always heap it in there). Then, I turn the other pie crust over upside d011own on top of it, and I peel the edges away from the pan, and press it down onto the edges of the deep dish crust. I slit the top crust, and put it all in the preheated oven.

Listen, pretty doesn’t go well for me. I always make a bigger mess and end up crying because it didn’t come out pretty. I’m going for knock-your-socks-off taste here.

Put something under your apple pie, to catch the bubbling extras (Maybe I overfill my pies? No matter, there is always bubbling extras when I make a pie). I bake my pie for

done

45 min to an hour – depending on the golden brown-ness (not a word, but let’s just say it is) of the top crust. Then I pull it out. Now, if I’m being good, I let it rest. Until it cools completely. So that it sets up and is really a sliceable pie…but if it smells too good to resist, I scoop it hot, right out of the pie pan, into the bowl, dollop some vanilla ice cream on top, and indulge.

Enjoy!

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Never a Bull Moment

I remember sitting in our living room when we lived in the city and discussing farm life. Even as we itched to escape the bustle around us, we talked about what we each wanted. From the first conversation, it was always a bull for my husband. He wanted a bull. Not a steer. Not a heifer. Had to be a bull. I wasn’t a fan of the idea, but I didn’t even know when we would live in the country, so why shoot him down?

Fast forward to moving to the country and we went hog wild with ALL the animals. Boy have we learned some lessons the hard (and expensive) way. One of those mistakes is a bull. We got him as a bottle baby. He was as cute as could be.

“Don’t head butt with him,” I’d scold the boys.

“Don’t play with his horns,” I’d warn my husband.

While I didn’t have cow experience, I did have goat and sheep experience. You don’t play that way with things designed to headbutt out their battles. You’ll always lose. So it stood to reason that we don’t play that way with the bull, either.

Well, Mom is a dud and her only goal is to ruin all the fun, so despite my warnings, the play continued. It became a problem as that little bottle baby is hit the 500lb mark.

20190321_203116.jpgThe first major incident happened to me. He charged me twice. In a moment that I thought I was thinking fast and going to stop the collision, I got my shin between me and the oncoming bull. My shin lost. The pain was indescribable.

I hobbled to the couch and started icing the thing, rubbing arnica all over it, and pleading with God to let nothing be broken. The resulting bruise took 3 weeks to heal. It still hurts in spots a couple months later.

The second incident involved my sweet 2-year-old daughter. We call her Wild because, by most accounts, she is just that, wild. But she is kind. She isn’t mean to our animals. She was minding her own when this darn bull went after her. That was it. I listed him and sold him immediately.

We weren’t quite ready to process him, and I value the safety of my kids and myself first and foremost. We are out here day in and day out working, doing chores, playing. We have to be safe.

It was shortly thereafter that my cousin reached out and let me know that Jersey bulls can be some of the meanest (which is what our guy was). I would have thought a dairy bull to be docile like a dairy cow. Guess I thought wrong.

And that leads me to the point of all of this – I have said to fellow small farmers that sometimes you just have to take the leap, no matter how ready you think you are, you’re never ready enough, so sometimes you just have to do things, try them, gain some experience, sweat a little, pray a lot, work hard, learn to work smarter. But it is often the experience that teaches you what your next step should be – more than a book, blog, vlog, or whatnot.

But sometimes, you have to know your limitations. We should have castrated that bottle calf IMG_1756right away. We should have looked at our fencing, lack in separate and adequate pens, and our experience with a stud purchase or two (don’t let us go to the auction, it’s just bad), to inform our decision about that bottle calf. The bull should have come later, when we built a bullpen, and when we had matured enough to know better than to mess with horns/head of a bullheaded critter.

There is never a bull moment on the farm, and for that, I am quite thankful. I’ve learned a lot this past couple of years. I am looking forward to learning more in the years ahead of me.

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