Fall. Tears.

October 4th, a Thursday, was a truly beautiful fall day. Crisp, clear, with a big blue sky. My husband and I went for a long afternoon drive in the rolling hills that characterize the driftless country that we live in and around.

I was taken by surprise when the tears started falling. Around every bend the tears fell. My old nemesis, depression was gaining a hold. It didn’t make any sense to be crying on this glorious day. But  I knew depression well enough by now to realize that depression doesn’t necessarily make sense.  It can literally appear out of the blue.

I got through the day by practicing mindful, close attention to my surroundings and my companion.  These kept me anchored.

But the depression has returned and is trying to take a permanent position in my daily life.  If I don’t work very hard to fight it, the depression will take a serious hold for many months. Shorter fall days of sunlight are a trigger to the seasonal disorder.

Clearly I can’t change the seasons nor would I want to change fall into summer, etc. Autumn is my favorite time of year. So what do I do? The depression is misleading. It tells me all things are bad, negative, and deeply darkly foreboding.

So what do I do?

I have two strategies to help me out of depression’s trap.  One is to revisit my list of things and people for which I am grateful. And the other is to create list of all the things and events I am looking forward to in the next 3 to 4 months. Some of those things and events bring a smile, even now.

I’ll name a few: homemade applesauce, baked squash and chili; college football and basketball games; celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends. Two pastimes, coloring and writing.  And , of course, discourse with my family. As I make this list I brighten up. The world is more inviting and rewarding with each minute.

I truly wish and hope for a fall that is fun and fulfilling and a winter with many sunny days for all of us. And that any depression that occurs can be cut down to size.

Thank you kindly.

Communities in Action to Prevent Suicide, part II

Spring in Wisconsin has brought us needed and gently persistent rainfall. Nourishing rain on fertile ground; good food for our thoughts together.

Ursula’s keynote message, “…Zero Suicide and the Engagement of Those with Lived Experience” was a blend of her experiences working with others, and of new directions advocated in “The Way Forward: Pathways to Hope, Recovery, and Wellness with Insights from the Lived Experience, 2014”.

The Way Forward is the most readable, engaging, no-nonsense document that I have ever read. In fact, it is so good and there is so much to learn from it, that I read deeply through the report twice! It is a unique and creative look at suicide prevention. Prepared by the Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the report’s recommendations are based on and prepared by people who have previously attempted to take their own life, and are now helping others in a crisis situation. Over the next days, I will highlight core values and recommendations from the report as presented in Ursula’s keynote. The first core value is:

Foster hope and help people find meaning and purpose in life

Pervasive hopelessness is a major risk factor for suicidal thinking and behavior. Studies have found that hope and optimism can help guard against suicide. From The Way Forward: “Hope is also linked to self-esteem and self-efficacy, as well as improved problem-solving. The pursuit of meaning can help a person cope with pain and suffering. Similarly, research on reasons for living has demonstrated that meaning and purpose are keys to recovery in many different groups of people who have lived through a suicidal crisis.”

I know this well. In my own suicidal crisis, I was saved by my husband who knew, somehow, that he had to teach me how to hope. (Please see Oh So Real: Pregnancy and Suicidal Depression) I had no hope for me or our unborn child, but I did have hope in our beautiful daughter who was about to turn 5 and start kindergarten in the fall…….when the baby was due. So Jim taught me to focus on specific events or achievements or activities of our daughter. One hope at a time, sometimes very small, got me through those difficult days and hope for her life certainly gave me a reason for living that had meaning and purpose. While the psychic pain of feeling suicidal is or can be overwhelming, meaning and purpose dull the pain…….take pain from the driver’s seat to the back seat.

It is possible to fuel a very small hope.