20 as 20

To start, I am 38 years old, in case you were unaware. 

I have very little problem with aging.  In fact, I embrace it.  I felt very awkward and weird until I was about 30, and I am loving this stage of my life far more than I did the previous few decades, likely because I have found a well of confidence in myself, due to things like feeling secure in my writing.  I have grown as a person more in the past 8 years than I did in the previous 20, and I am, frankly, very proud of myself.  So, aging does not scare me.

Terrifies the crap out of my husband, though.  He threw his back out not long ago and couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that he just cant lift 150 pounds anymore.  Kevin also has an aging issue, hoping that he is long gone before he ends up in a nursing home or something.  I personally think nursing homes are going to be rocking when were older.  I mean, it’s not like you turn 65 and have to take up knitting and backgammon.  Were gone have Xbox tournaments in our nursing homes, guys.  But I digress.

So, being 38 and aware of my health and such, I am usually comfortable with my limitations.  However, this weekend, there was no time for limits.

Let me tell you briefly about Nick.  Nick and I went to school together since PreK, and he was Kevin’s other best friend when we were kids.  We grew up together through Kev, and by high school, we had become very good friends.  Nick’s greatest talent is music, specifically the drums.  He has been playing since he was a kid, and sometime around the turn of the century he started his first band, Lurid.  I was a fan, though their music was a little heavy for me, but I went to dozens of shows.  Later, they disbanded and he formed Mad Yellow Sun, a band I liked much more, so I attended most of their shows.  After a while, Nick needed to progress, so he packed up his things and moved to Hollywood.  Ever since, he has been teaching music and performing with various groups and touring the world playing his favorite instrument.  I could not be prouder of my friend.

Anyway, a few months ago, Nick sent out a Facebook invite to a show he was doing near Buffalo.  He was going on tour with one of his bands, and I was of course excited to see him.  Thing is, it fell on Friday night…the night before the suicide walk, which was at 8am.  “I can do it,” I tell myself.  “I’ve done it before!”

Yeah, at 20, you idiot.

First of all, I woke up Friday morning and immediately made myself throw up.  Why, you ask?  Think of it as a preventative measure.  I wasn’t about to have some crap sitting in my stomach all morning only to flare up and make me sick on this, the day of days.  I took some Zofran and some Xanax and drank some coffee and was fine.  It was a good sign.

Around 530pm, Kevin and Johnny came over to pregame.  I went and got ready, taking a shower and getting dressed and putting on actual makeup.  I learned who my true friends are when I applied new foundation and Mark and John said I looked great, but Kevin told me “I cannot let you leave the house like that.”  Always got my back, that one.  As I reapplied, I thought of all the nights spent on someone’s kitchen floor getting ready for a “Nick show” back in the day.  I was momentarily grateful that it no longer took me two hours to get ready, though, even with the makeup reapplication. 

Eventually I was on the road, but, as it is when you are trying to be 20, it was one damn thing after another.  First, my sister, who was supposed to come, lost her ID.  Then my cousin decided to stay home.  Then Bern found ID, but didn’t go because Erin stayed.  Then my lighter died, so I had to get a new one.  Then, I had to go to the bank.  Then, I had to drive to flippin Tonawanda, which is a good 30 minutes from my house in South Buffalo.  By the time I got there and found parking I was terrified I was late.  Alas, no.

I saw him standing there talking to a group of people I don’t know. I waited for a lull in the conversation, and then said “Hi, Nicki.”

Nick’s reactions to seeing someone he misses are intense.  He is a hugger extraordinaire, and has the ability to make you feel as though you are the most important person in the room.  Which, I suppose is a good quality for a performer, but when you’re his friend, it truly is a genuine moment.  He tells me his mother is inside the bar.  Now, let me tell you about Joanne.

As there has always been me, Kevin, and Nick, there has also always been my mother, Sharon, and Joanne.  Sharon is Kev’s mother and I have always thought of her as my aunt, and another maternal presence in my life, as she helped raise me up as much as my mother helped raise up Kev.  Then Joanne, whom I because close to during my very tumultuous teen years, and a time when I felt like I couldn’t express things to my own mother.  She stepped in and filled that role whenever I needed her to.  She always was there for me, and for Kevin as well should he need her.  She still calls us her “babies.”  A while back, Jo got sick.  She has been battling some vicious cancer for a couple years now, and I haven’t been able to see her because she lives in North Carolina.  So, to hear she was mere feet away at the bar was incredible news, just as good as seeing Nick play again.

After greeting everyone and freaking out over Joanne being there, I ordered a drink and posted up by the window to take in the scene.  I need moments like this in crowded places, so as to keep myself grounded and not panicky.  An older gentleman sidled up beside me and started chatting me up.  After a little conversation he tells me that he hopes I’m not “weirded out by the old guy hitting on you.”  I tell him I’m not, and I’m flattered, but taken.  He smiles and tells me to have a good night and is on his way, and it makes me realize that this never would have happened if I were 20.

First of all, I didn’t have the confidence then that I do now and probably wouldn’t even have registered that the guy was interested.  Secondly, he never would have spoken to me because that would mean breaking me away from the pack I traveled in once upon a time.  If I’d had half a brain back then, I would have got a drink and stood alone for five minutes.  Could have met a guy instantly!  Again, I digress…

Eventually Nick goes on and plays better than I’ve heard, because it’s been like ten years since I saw him perform last.  I started to feel woozy mid-set, however, and went out for some air.  Jo was also outside feeling icky, and I told her I had to go.  I felt bad leaving early, particularly because I would have liked to spend some more time with Nick and her, but I couldn’t risk illness.  My attempt to relive my 20s wasn’t over yet.  I drove home and took my meds and went to bed…eventually.  I was weirdly amped up and tossed and turned all night.

I don’t know how I woke up at 7am feeling well, but I did, and it was a miracle.  8am found us out the door and headed downtown, and I thought of things like how I used to go party all night and then work a shift the next day.  How crazy!  I was so tired, and a little hungover.  Two beers might not be much for most people, but I am a lightweight who barely drinks, and I was feeling those Blue Moon’s from the bar that morning.

The walk was lovely.  It was bigger than last year’s experience which was significantly downgraded due to the pandemic, but it was still fairly small.  They spaced everything out nicely, and staggered arrival times for participants, so it wasn’t too crowded.  I raised 710$ this year, and was congratulated by the registration lady.  They gave me a t-shirt, they took our picture, and we walked around and looked at the info tables and basket raffle and such.  Then, we took a little walk, not as much as I would have liked to but as previously stated I was hungover and also my leg was killing me for some unknown reasons; probably the boots I chose to wear the night before.

Then, back to the car and home again and change of clothes and pack a bag and time for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  What’s that you say?  Its’ September?  Well, that means we are halfway there, so let’s do it up right!

Except they didn’t.  I’d like to say it was fun, and I guess it was to see people out and to be out myself, but the parade itself was lame.  Usually the best one (when held on actual St. Paddy’s Day,) this was just kind of sad.  It was a handful of families, a couple of bars with floats, a single pipe and drum band, and 4 politicians (and not even the one I’m voting for.)  Add in three fire trucks and a weird procession of Jeeps, and you have the entire parade.  No real music, no dancers, nothing.  Yawn.

Speaking of yawns, by the time I got home it was around 2pm and I was exhausted, I watched a little tv and then passed out on the couch.  I spent 20 hours acting like I was 20-drinking and partying and not sleeping and overexerting. 

And it was a blast, but, as I stated in the beginning…I like my 30s.  I like the pace I’ve got going here, and I hope it continues into the next decade.  As much fun as I had in that 20 hours is also as much exhaustion as I faced.  I have to face it-I am a one event per 24-hour period person now.

Still, it is joyous to grab those little moments where you can remember yourself in your youth, and I felt that this weekend, particularly on Friday night.  For a moment while I listed to Nick play, I’m sure, that in the right light, you could have sworn I was only 20 years old.

World Suicide Prevention Day

I know I just updated yesterday, but today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so here we are.

In case you’re new and don’t know me, I am almost constantly trying to raise funds for suicide prevention through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Right now, I am on a 4-month hiatus, but be sure that come January sign-up I will be back, begging for your pocket change.  In the meantime, let’s talk about suicide, shall we?

Some people are scared of that word, due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness in pretty much all forms.  Suicide is scary, especially when you consider the fact that literally everyone has a chance of dying from it.  It has no requirements and can affect anyone at any time.  There are many reasons people commit suicide, but I’m not going to delve into speculation about the lives of other people.  I can only speak to myself. 

For me, suicide is the final and most tragic symptom of depression.  People who aren’t depressed simply do not kill themselves.  You may argue “what if said person has a terminal illness and decides to go out on their own terms?”  That person is depressed, fool.  You don’t get a terminal illness without a healthy dose of depression.  “What if said person was a drug addict and overdosed and didn’t MEAN to kill themselves?”  Drug addiction is a sign of depression.  Happy people don’t do drugs. 

Moral of the story?  Depression kills.

Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.  That’s a body every 40 seconds.  Every 40 seconds, someone on the planet decided they have had enough, and ends it.  It’s a sad statistic, but one I remember.

Recently, I spoke to a friend who has had some suicidal moments in her life.  We both have Major Depressive Disorder and often talk frankly and openly about such things.  I asked her about fears, for my previous blog, and she couldn’t come up with anything that fit the scope of the article, but she did mention large bodies of water.  She fears them because she doesn’t trust herself.  I can understand that-I fear the bottle of Xanax I keep on the top shelf in the bathroom.  It’s the reason I don’t have guns in the house, for chrissake-fear that we will snap, and end it, is real and with us every day.

Many years ago, I went to the beach.  There was a pier that everyone was jumping off, maybe a 25-foot drop.  I’m a fairly strong swimmer and I don’t fear heights so I literally leapt at the chance to jump off this pier.  The problem is, as soon as I hit the water, the tide went out.  I started swimming back to shore, but felt my arms and legs get heavier.  I noticed that I wasn’t making much headway, and was drifting further out.  I tried to grab hold of the pier but only bashed my side against it as the waves picked up.  Finally, I was underwater, sinking, thinking “Gee, this is peaceful.  This would be a good way to go.  If I die right now, this isn’t so bad.”

But I didn’t die.  Someone grabbed my arm and pulled me up, and I saw my friend Mike, red-faced and huffing, dragging me up and out of the water. Eventually he got me back to shore, where I threw up a bunch of lake water and sputtered for air.  I remember thinking “Thank God he was here!” and, also, “So close.  So close to quiet.”  I wasn’t necessarily suicidal, but I was looking for a relief that seemed illuminated by possible death.  That’s not to say suicidal thoughts haven’t entered my mind.  In high school I was pretty much at my worst, and considering the easy way out, but a friend stopped me, showing me how much I had to live for.  In college, I spent twenty minutes standing on a bridge trying to decide if jumping was a good plan, until my mother showed up and the idea floated away.  So yes, these thoughts come to me, but they also leave, and I am happy to see them go.  The sad part is when they come for others. 

Not that there isn’t help, because there is.  There are suicide hotlines, counseling, medication, and all sorts of emotional tools to keep you from getting to that point.  Most people find the situation hopeless, and don’t look for help.  Well, it’s here, guys.  It exists.  And it’s worth it.

Do I know you?  Are you feeling depressed or suicidal?  Do you need to talk?  Get in touch.  Are you a stranger who needs help, but doesn’t know where to turn?  I don’t care.  Get in touch.  There are no judgments on my end, I assure you.  I can raise all the money in the world and write a million blog posts about it, but the only thing that really is going to stop suicide is people coming together and standing up to it, and being a support for those facing such unfathomable decisions.  It is my hope that all the depressed people in the world choose one more day, every day, because things do change.  Things do get better. Maybe not easier, but better.  I promise.

Walk to Fight Suicide

On the 7th I will be participating in the Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. So naturally I’m hyping it all over social media. Please read my story below, and click here if you would like to donate!

I’m walking in the Out of the Darkness Buffalo Walk to fight suicide and support AFSP’s bold goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025.

Several years ago, my friend Beth asked me to walk with her in the AFSP’s Out of the Darkness walk.  I obliged, unaware of what this walk would come to mean to me.  I have struggled with mental illness since childhood, and have had moments in my life where suicide seemed like a viable option.  I found that I could never take my own life, mainly because of my sister, who is my bright spot in all things dark. However, I wanted to help others who haven’t found their bright spot yet, and help them move away from the destructive path of depression that often leads to suicide. 
 I started raising money and participating in the walk yearly.  I recruited friends and family to participate. I even suggested to my mother that her employer, a mental health organization, set up an information booth.  Next year, health providing, I hope to volunteer on the planning committee. It has become my pet charity, and has a mission statement I believe in.
 I want anyone reading this to know that they are not alone.   I want my friends and family to know that they can reach out to me at any time.  I want those suffering from depression, abuse, trauma, illness, and addiction to choose one more day. 
 I did.
 Keep choosing more. Keep hanging on. It may not get easier, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get better.  I can tell, from my experience, that it does indeed get better.

Please help me reach my goal by clicking the “Donate” button on this page. All donations are 100% tax deductible and benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), funding research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide.

Thank you for your support!

The Darkest Hours

Before posting some poems yesterday, I was toying with another topic.  I scrapped it, because my thoughts were unfocused. Then I woke up and checked twitter, and now I feel like I have to get my words together and write about what I meant to yesterday.

There is one topic that I did not touch on during my Breaking the Stigma series, and that is suicide.

I would never call myself suicidal, but in my youth I did have feelings of such despair that death seemed like a viable option.  However, I had an image in my head that kept me from making such stupid mistakes, and that is my grandmother, Lois. When she died, I found her, and while the cause of death was natural enough, none of it seemed natural to me.  The thought that, were I to kill myself, someone would have to find me-that was enough. So much of my pain came from that point in my life, because of that one little moment, so how could I inflict that pain on others? Furthermore, there’s the pain of losing a loved one, which I learned at an early age, and I could never impose that on my family. Ergo, I reasoned that suicide was stupid.

Don’t get me wrong.  There have been times I was so depressed that I begged God to just end it, but I would never do it myself.

Some people think suicide is selfish, and I’m not going to argue that, exactly.  You can have that opinion. I just think that there must be some deep well of pain that causes people to kill themselves that most of us will never experience.  

This week we lost two icons.  Kate Spade, whose bags brought joy and whimsy to my wardrobe, not to mention my favorite wallet that I intend to use until it falls apart.  And today, Anthony Bourdain, a personal hero of Mark’s and host of one of our favorite travel shows. I can’t imagine what issues they faced, but I am so sad that they have left us, and it reminds me that suicide is something that can affect anyone.

In September, I will be walking in the Out of Darkness walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I participate in this event every year, in an effort to raise money to help those considering suicide. If you would like to donate,  there’s a link over to the right of the page. If you’re feeling like you need to talk to someone, there is the number below. If you want to talk to me, I’m right here.  There is no reason to leave this life…there is always a better moment coming. Stay strong.

suicide-prevention

Out of the Darkness

Six years ago, my friend Beth told me about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s annual Out of the Darkness Walk, which raised money and awareness for mental health counseling and suicide hotlines.  We decided it would be a good thing for us to do, having both had a difficult year struggling with our own mental health issues.  The premise was simple; we would ask people to sponsor us, and then walk around Delaware Park on a nice day in early fall.  What it was, for me, was something more.  I had recently lost someone to suicide, and having suffered from depression since childhood, I was heartened to see so many people come together for a cause.  For a moment, I didn’t feel crazy.  I didn’t feel alone.  I felt like every person around me understood the pain depression could cause a person and those they loved.  It did my soul good.

I have participated every year since, with my family, my friends, and my husband by my side.  The one glitch was two years ago when I was stuck in a hospital bed, but I still raised some money.  It’s an important tradition for me that I look forward to every September.  Last year I dropped the ball a bit, registering late and coming nowhere near my goal, so this year I registered as soon as I got the email for the walk.  (So if you’re following me on social media, get ready to see the link for the next 7 months.)  I ask that you please consider donating, or if you’re local, joining us at Delaware Park on September 8th.  Every year the event gets bigger and better, and every year I still find that sense of hope I found the first time I walked, with my friend by my side.   

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