Tag Archives: suicide

Does a Family History of Suicide Mean I Have Bad DNA?

My father and my uncle both committed suicide. Other members of my family have been diagnosed with depression. There are times when I wonder whether I’m simply living on borrowed time.

DNA strand

Photo by Svilen Milev

I do still have dark moments when I feel worthless, exhausted, and broken. Sometimes I feel too afraid to deal with life and wish I could let go of the obligation to go on.

I have a husband, two children young children, and we’ve recently adopted two rescue dogs. It’s as though to compensate for my temptations to prematurely exit my life, I’m gathering reinforcements or reasons for me to stay. It’s harder to justify continuing to fight depression for my own sake than for others’.

I am aware that one or both of my children may one day experience what I experience. I suspect the hormone surges of their teenage years may trigger depression in them although my depression didn’t really manifest itself until I was in college.

Will I let my children believe that suicide is written in their DNA? Hell, no! I will teach them coping skills like mindfulness. I will let them know that they will feel depressed sometimes, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. I will remind them that they are never truly alone. People near and far love them and are frequently thinking of them. I will tell them that they MATTER. They bring gifts to the world that no one else can.

I know that I can’t protect my children from everything, but I can keep them surrounded by people who love and cherish them: their cousins, aunts, and uncles, and close family friends.

If the time comes when counseling and/or medication would be helpful, I will get it for them.

I used to think taking an antidepressant was a copout, a way of ignoring your problems. Then I understood it was something I needed in order to clearly see and resolve problems, and especially to recognize when there isn’t a problem, just intense emotions that need to be expressed then let go.

I’m sad that my father and uncle never got treatment. I’m grateful to the many people who helped me find worth in myself and my life, find courage to be open about who I am, not just as someone with depression, but as the real, genuine person that I am, and find companionship, sharing their own struggles and doubts.

My DNA defines that I am right-handed, but I can still write with my left hand. My DNA made me short, but I can stand on a step stool. My DNA may make me experience depression, but I can use healthy coping skills, use my family and friends as a sounding board for my fears and doubts, and live happily, hopefully long enough to witness my children teaching their children that they are not alone and that they MATTER.

Don’t Give Up Yet, Just Wait

Just Wait - It Can Get Better

I have thought about committing suicide many, many times over the last 20 years. As a child, before I even knew what suicide was, I had wanted to disappear. I had wanted the fear, the pain, the loneliness, and the anger to go away, forever.

I’ve been extremely lucky to create a network of supportive, loving friends, and family. I didn’t always have that though.

When I was 22, and I first really started to think about committing suicide, I had almost no friends and I was estranged from most of my family. I had an unfulfilling, low-paying job. Luckily I did have a bike and a car. I numbed myself by riding my bike 42 miles every Saturday. When I felt the suicidal thoughts bouncing off the walls of my apartment, I drove up and down PCH (the Pacific Coast Highway). I sought out whatever beauty I could find: in the ocean, the trees, the sunlight.

I basically procrastinated, and doing so saved my life. Even after doing over a year of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), taking an antidepressant, and creating a life worth living, I still feel the pull of my depression. I still sometimes think:

  • I am worthless
  • I don’t deserve my husband or my kids
  • I’ll never amount to anything
  • I’m tired of fighting myself all the time
  • I can’t do this anymore
  • I just want the pain to go away forever

I honestly feel like I’m living on borrowed time. My father committed suicide two years ago, his brother committed suicide twenty years before that. Who knows when I won’t be able to fight anymore?

Then I remember that we’re all living on borrowed time. Every minute we have is a gift. Every moment, we have the choice to say, “Not yet. Not today. Just wait.”

There are nights when I lay in bed beside my daughter, and I’m just exhausted by my guilt at not being a good enough mother, wife, friend, writer, human being. I think about how much I wish I could definitively end all of the pain with one fell swoop. It’s not enough to think about what it would do to my friends and family. It doesn’t help to think about how damaged my children would be.

Sometimes all I have the strength left for is to say, “Just wait.” Blues Traveler wrote a song called “Just Wait”:

In time you just might take to feeling better
Time’s the beauty of the road bein’ long

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s the thing, I have to wait and see. I need to be here to find out what more I’m capable of, what more I can contribute, how much more love I can experience and share. I do think about needing to be here to guide my children through their depression some day, should they experience it.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to fight, but I know that I’m not alone. I will fight alongside Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry, Andrew Solomon, and my many friends and family who struggle with depression.

As the Barenakedladies wrote:

Nothing worth having comes without a fight
Gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight

I am deeply saddened by Robin Williams’ death. The love, joy, and inspiration he shared will live on through his work, his loved ones, and his fans.

If you or someone you know is deeply depressed, please get help. Call a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You cannot be replaced. You matter. You are needed.

Even if you can’t imagine a moment beyond the pain, just wait. It can get better. Wait, reach out, wait some more. It can, and it will get better.

The Catch-22 of Offering Help

I see you.  You matter.  You are not alone.

I was elated that dropping my daughter off at her first day of Pre-K went smoothly. She’d been “acting out” so much for the past few weeks. I guess I was distracted by my relief.

I went to a Starbucks to write, and when the woman in front of my held up her phone to the cashier and asked, “How do I get the bar code to show up?” I blurted out, “You can just shake it.” She didn’t look at me, but she said, “I don’t LIKE to shake it. That’s why I’m asking!” I stood in stunned silence then mumbled, “sorry.” She said, “it’s okay,” but still didn’t look at me.

Twenty minutes later I still feel stunned, but most of all I feel ashamed. I imagine other people can brush off these things, but immediately I feel my self-hatred flare up and start shouting in my head, “Who the hell do you think you are, you obtrusive fuck? No one asked you! No one gives a damn what you think!”

The thing is, it seems like most people want it both ways. I see on Facebook all the time people complaining they don’t get enough support and simultaneously how dare people stick their noses in their business!

I do worry about butting in where I’m not wanted, but I’m more afraid of being apathetic. I, not surprisingly, have serious baggage about feeling abandoned by my parents and also guilty for not being able to stop my father from engaging in illegal activities or to cure his depression and anxiety, which ultimately resulted in his suicide. The next time you’re irritated when someone offers to help, consider that they might share my “rescuing complex” or “compulsive need to help.” It doesn’t excuse it, but it might shed some light.

Blurting out an answer to a question directed to someone else, I can see I came off as meddling, and maybe the woman thought I was judging her for not knowing how to get the bar code to come up. Maybe she was already having a crappy morning, and I just made it a little worse.

I’m tempted to stop offering to help altogether. It would save me the pain of these confrontations. If people needed help, they’d just ask for it, right? Who DO I think I am anyway?

I am a mother, a friend, and a neighbor. I couldn’t survive without all of the people in my life who help me get through parenthood, and honestly, who help me just make it to the end of the day. Isn’t it still a good idea to “pay it forward” once in awhile?

I realize that a lot of it has to do with timing and approach. Things go better when I pause to assess whether this is an appropriate situation to offer help. I’m a Sagittarius though, so thinking before speaking is not my strong suit.

When I see someone juggling a bunch of stuff and usually a couple of kids, I ask, “Can I give you a hand?” or “Would you like some help?” Sometimes they say, “yes, please!” with gratitude mixed with relief. Sometimes they say, “That’s okay, I got it.” Either way, I’m grateful to be in community with that person for just a brief moment.

I have this Margaret Mead quote on my About page, and I really do believe it: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

So even if I get a metaphorical door slammed in my face once in a while, I’m still going to offer a helping hand now and then, even if it’s just looking a person in the eyes, smiling, and expressing, “I see you. You matter. You are not alone.”

How do you balance offering help without butting in?

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How I Stop Myself from Thinking about Suicide

I used to think that because I take an antidepressant, and I did 16 months of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), I wouldn’t think about suicide anymore. That’s simply not the case.

A man covering his face

When I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out, I still think about suicide. For a moment, I imagine a way I could make an attempt. It’s an extremely unhealthy way of coping with my anxiety. I feel so afraid that I’ll never get everything done, that I’m failing the people in my life in so many ways, that I’m drowning under the weight of all the responsibilities I have, and that I’ll never amount to anything.

What the antidepressant and DBT training do help me with is stopping the thoughts of suicide and regaining perspective.

Practicing Mindfulness
The first step is to become aware of my thoughts and my feelings. I “pause” my stream of worried thoughts by focusing on my breathing. I notice what sensations I’m feeling in my body (tight throat, quickened pulse, knot in my stomach) and try to identify what emotion I’m feeling.

Emotion Regulation
Once I’ve named the emotion I’m feeling, I assess what it’s trying to tell me. If I’m feeling guilty, it usually means I need to apologize. If I’m feeling angry, it’s usually because I feel I’ve been wronged somehow, and if that’s true, I need to forgive. If it’s not, I need to let go of my perfectionism which is setting unrealistic expectations of other people.

When I’m feeling anxious, it’s usually about having unrealistic expectations for myself. I try to notice what “stories” I’m telling myself, about having too much to do, of having to do everything RIGHT NOW, and how everything is falling apart. When I mentally look at these stories, I remember they’re not true. There is a lot to do, but I’m getting things done, one at a time, and nothing terrible is going to happen if something has to wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or next week.

Sometimes I feel very sad that I’m not able to do all the things I want to do, to be the person I wish I could be. In those moments, it’s important to let the sadness in. To let my heart feel heavy, to feel my brow furrow, to notice the urge to hug something and be hugged. Even though I’m surrounded by my loved ones, life can still feel lonely.

Acceptance
Acceptance is not the same as approval or resignation. I accept that my life isn’t ideal, but it is as it is, and it is good. Accepting my experience for what it is enables me to do something about it. I get to choose whether to change things, to appreciate them, or reach out to someone to help me.

Connection and Gratitude
When I’m thinking about suicide, or in general just feeling overwhelmed, I usually feel totally alone. I fear that I have to do everything myself and that everyone else is depending on me.

It helps me to remember that I want to be there for my husband, my kids, and my friends, but also that they’re there for me too. My husband helps out a lot with the house and kids, and he’s always willing to listen and comfort me. My kids of course need me most of the time, but especially my six-year-old son will give me a hug if I ask him to. I try so hard to be the “rock” for them, I’m realizing it’s important to let them support me too. I don’t need to be invincible or infallible for them.

My friends will happily drop off food, go for a walk, or let me rant on the phone. I remember how much they have done for me, and I know that I want to stick around because I love paying it back and forward with them. I am blessed to be part of such a great community, and for all of my faults, I still have much to contribute and receive.

If you ever need someone to talk to, please call a helpline (1-800-273-TALK [8255]). They’re there to support you, whether you’re about to commit suicide or just need someone to listen.

How do you pull yourself out of the darkness?

What My Depression Looks Like

One of the exercises I did while I was in therapy was creating a collage of images that describe how I feel while I am depressed.

Images of my Depression

My collage of pain and suffering

A. The witch image depicts how I feel completely rotten inside. Not only feeling “not good enough,” but also that there is fundamentally something wrong with me. Down to my core I am horrible, undeserving of love, and worthless.

B. The woman with her hands covering her face describes how I feel utterly powerless. I feel like I can’t do anything to make things better. I feel consumed by sadness and self-hatred.

C. The pink balloon reminds me how lost I feel. I feel detached from everyone and everything. They remind me of Mickey Mouse ears and the idea that we should seek unbridled joy, but all I feel is boundless heartache.

D. The rodent with the leash and collar describe how I feel chained to my responsibilities and obligations. I feel burdened by having to take care of other people, and then guilty that I see it as a burden. There’s this sense that I should feel only gratitude for what’s in my life.

E. The Nyquil depicts my desire to end my pain and suffering by overdosing. When I feel deeply depressed, I just want to end it all and sleep forever.

F. The question mark is another illustration of how lost I feel. I don’t know who I am, why I’m here, or what the point of my life is.

It shames me to admit that I’ve ever had these feelings and that I still have them. I had to take a break from writing this because I was crying so hard. The difference though between who I was when I made this collage and who I am today is that I know that these images do not reflect the real me.

  • I am not perfect, but there is good in me
  • I can’t fix everything, but I am strong and powerful, especially in my willingness to ask for help
  • I belong to multiple loving, supportive communities in which I am deeply connected and appreciated
  • I do have responsibilities, but I am able to set healthy boundaries, and I don’t have to do everything myself
  • Life is painful sometimes but I am never alone in my suffering; I have many friends to lean on who lift me up
  • I still don’t know why I’m here, but I know that I have value, and I contribute to the people in my life every day; my life and theirs is richer for it

It’s tempting to hide this side of me, to show only my cheerful persona, but that would be a disservice to all the people who are still suffering and feel all alone. Depression is a part of my life, but it does not define me. It doesn’t have to define yours either.

If you or someone you know is depressed, please check out the links on the “Where to Get Help” page.

What images describe your experience of depression?

Honoring My Dad A Year After His Suicide

A friend told me that when she was growing up her mother would dial her ex-husband’s number and as soon as she heard him pick up, she’d hold the phone out and tell her daughter, “Your dad’s on the phone.” Whatever hurt or anger she felt towards him, she still wanted her daughter to have a good relationship with him.

I wish I had thought to do something like that for my kids with my father. He knew about them because he’d found photos of them online. My aunt said he seemed so happy when he’d talk about them, but he’d never met them. We never exchanged letters or phone calls. I didn’t tell my kids anything about my dad until I found out he’d passed away.

I had my reasons, as people do. I was afraid of my father. He’d never threatened me, but I knew he was capable of violence. The last time I saw him, he was serving time in state prison for shooting a drug dealer who owed him money. Still, that shooting happened over 10 years ago. He did write some mean things about me and my mother, but now that I think about it, he probably couldn’t have hurt me or my kids after he got deported back to Hong Kong.

I can’t reach out to him anymore. He killed himself a year ago. He apparently left a note saying that he didn’t have anything to live for. In my head, I know it’s not really my fault. I didn’t make him swallow the pills, and I didn’t break off communication with him just to hurt his feelings. I genuinely felt scared that he would hurt me after he got out of prison.

Still, I regret that we weren’t even writing letters when he died. I wish I could go back and send him photos of my kids and stories about funny things they said or did. I like to think that my staying out of contact with my dad was to protect my kids, but I wonder a bit of that was just an excuse. He was hard to be around. He was demanding, verbally abusive, and usually running away from the law. But he was also suffering from undiagnosed depression and anxiety. Before I got into treatment, I was pretty hard to be around too.

I don’t know what would have happened if I had reached out to my father. Maybe things wouldn’t have worked out, just as I suspected. Maybe we could have found a way to put the past behind us and just enjoy Zach and Kaylee. I wish I could go back and find out.

I’d like to think that some essence of my father, untouched by his anxiety and depression, is still around. I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation, but as physicists say, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.” All the energy of my fear and hatred of him is gone. What’s left is a deep ache of sadness.

My family will be celebrating the Day of the Dead at a friend’s house and also at Zach’s school. Whatever differences my dad and I had, he still deserves to be acknowledged and honored.

A rare photo of my dad and me happy together

My dad and me when I was about 8 years old

Have you lost anyone that you had a difficult relationship with? How did you cope with your loss?

This Week’s Reminder: You CANNOT Be Replaced

September 8 – 14, 2013 is National Suicide Prevention Week. The Bloggess and Kevin Breel both wrote their thoughts about it.

Kevin Breel calls on all of us to honestly answer, “Am I okay?” He pleads for us to be open and honest with our friends and family instead of hiding behind, “I’m fine, everything’s fine.”

It’s important to take a moment to breathe and be real about what we’re feeling. Not everyone feels depressed or suicidal, but it’s easy for us to pay so much attention to getting things done that we don’t pause to check on how we’re doing, to notice if we’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. It’s dangerous to bottle up those feelings over time.

The Bloggess provides phone numbers for suicide hotlines, and writes that they’ve saved her from self-harm on multiple occasions. To Write Love on Her Arms is asking people to share why they cannot be replaced. She posted her reasons.

Here are mine.

130910iCantBeReplacedBecause

I have considered suicide a few times in my life. I count myself lucky that I had loving, supportive people who helped me, but it took me speaking up to let them know I needed help.

Some of you might feel alone. Consider though, that you are at least some of the following. You are someone’s:

  • child
  • parent
  • sibling
  • friend
  • neighbor
  • co-worker
  • customer
  • boss

The first time I thought about committing suicide, I kept imagining my funeral. I figured the only person who would show up was my mother. Since I’ve accepted my depression and learned healthy coping skills, I’ve made a lot more friends. Now when I’m feeling really down, I think of all the people who would show up to my funeral today, and I think, “I can’t do that to them. I can’t take away my life and the part of me that touches their lives. That’s not right.”

You matter. To someone. To your community. You matter to me, even if we’ve never met in person. You have something to contribute, and I want you to hang in there so you can and so the rest of us can witness and benefit from it.

If you or anyone you know shows any of the following warning signs, please get help. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find out what resources are available in your area.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

It bears repeating: YOU CANNOT BE REPLACED.

Please share below some of the many reasons you cannot be replaced.

Depression: A Secret No More

“…as soon as you have a secret, something about you that you are ashamed to have others find out, you have given other people the power to hurt you by exposing you.” – Ayelet Waldman

I used to have the secret that my father was running from the law. He got arrested for cheating at gambling when I was 14 years old, and then he fled the country when he was supposed to go on trial. He first got arrested shortly after I was born for embezzling money from a company he worked for. I think the only time in my life he was legally in the country was when he served time for assault with a deadly weapon when he shot a drug dealer who owed him money.

It was a lot of pressure for me to keep his presence here a secret. I remember once meeting him at a hotel and fearing I had the wrong one, I asked the person behind the desk whether my father was registered there. I asked for him by his real name, and the person said there was no guest by that name. I felt embarrassed and terrified about what to do next. I sat in the lobby, and when my father came to meet me, I told him what happened. He looked furious and glanced at the hotel employee but thankfully said nothing. I was scared for a long time that my father would get arrested because of my mistake. I was probably about 16 years old at the time.

Some secrets are kind of fun to keep, like when you’re pregnant but less than 12 weeks pregnant. It’s something special for you and your spouse to know that no one else knows. Of course, I totally couldn’t wait to tell people. I think I waited maybe 5 weeks to tell people during my first pregnancy, and maybe 7 weeks during my second pregnancy.

I tell my son that things you’re not telling right now but are planning to tell soon aren’t secrets, they’re surprises, like the presents we buy for his friends’ birthdays.

Real secrets are things that eat us up inside, that tell us that something is wrong with us. My worst secret was when I really deeply believed that my family would be better off without me. I started making a mental shopping list of what to buy before trying to commit suicide. I even chose a place. Luckily, I told my husband, and he and a psychiatrist I had recently started seeing got me admitted me to the psych ward at a local hospital.

I often read tweets about people who are struggling with their depression and sadly, many tweets about people’s relatives and neighbors who recently committed suicide.

I watched Kevin Breel’s Ted Talk “Confessions of a Depressed Comic,” and I agree wholeheartedly that we need to change our culture so that no one ever has feel that they need to keep their depression a secret.

I think The Bloggess has done a lot to de-stigmatize depression and anxiety. Wil Wheaton and Stephen Fry have also written about their own experiences with depression.

There’s a Twitter hashtag #depressionlies where people write about their fight against depression, and other people offer their support.

I’m going to keep writing and saying it openly, I suffer from depression.

What will you do to help yourself or other people know that they don’t need to keep their depression a secret?

My Miracle Child

(Originally posted June 3, 2013)

My second child, my daughter, is kind of a miracle child. While I was pregnant with her, my uterus got trapped in my pelvis, making it almost impossible to pee for a few days, I had chronic constipation (3.5 years later, I still thank God I can poop normally now), and I was exhausted and depressed.I told my midwife that I was starting to have suicidal thoughts, and she referred me to the department at the hospital that specifically treated mothers with depression. I had group and individual therapy and sessions with a psychiatrist.

I learned there that 10-20% of women experience postpartum depression, but if a woman has had a depressive episode in her past, she is 40-60% likely to experience it. I had been severely depressed in my early 20s.

I spent a lot of time crying and explaining that I felt like I wasn’t “good enough” for my son, who was 2.5 years old, my husband, or my daughter. I remember quite clearly the therapist saying to me, “Consider that you’re not meant to be ‘enough’. It really does take a village to raise a child.” I had this crazy idea that being a “good mom” meant doing everything (cooking, sewing, cleaning, and educating) with infinite patience. I started trying to accept that I could be a mom instead of trying to be a “super mom”.

The psychiatrist prescribed Zoloft. I had known before that I was depressed, but I never wanted to take medication because I thought I should be able to handle my emotions without meds. I could control my thoughts and feelings. Couldn’t I?

The therapists explained that taking medication for depression is no different than taking medication if you have diabetes or a heart condition. I realize many people still disapprove of anti-depressants, as I once did, but I’m a convert now. I don’t believe that medication alone can treat depression, but my anti-depressant helps me stay clear-minded enough to use the coping skills I’ve learned. Of course, the trick is to find the right medication.

Zoloft made me even more nauseated than my pregnancy. So sick that a few days after I’d started taking it, I started making plans to commit suicide, and I told my husband I wanted to terminate my pregnancy. Thankfully we saw the psychiatrist right away, and she got me admitted to the psych ward at the hospital. I tried another two doses of Zoloft before accepting that it just wasn’t the right medication for me.

The doctor prescribed Celexa, which ironically, lists nausea as one of its side effects. Thankfully, it didn’t make me hurl. I spent a week in the psych ward gradually finding the right dose of Celexa for me and attending group therapy to learn healthy coping skills.

Being hospitalized made it necessary for my husband and me to tell our friends what was happening and ask for help. I had held people at bay for fear they would discover I was “messed up”, but I couldn’t hide it any more, and it was incredibly liberating. Quite a few of my friends suddenly told me that they had also experienced depression. All of my relationships got deeper and stronger after that.

My daughter just turned three years old. She is an extremely cheerful child. I even have an ultrasound of her smiling in utero. Even though her pregnancy felt like it took two years, I’m grateful for all that happened. I finally got my depression treated, I learned how to ask for and accept help, and I got to experience love for myself and all of the people in my life in a much deeper, more fulfilling way. Yep, she’s my miracle child, some days it’s a miracle I don’t sell her on eBay. Hey, she’s a typical 3-year old, we all have those days.

babySmileInUtero

girlSunHat

Giving What I’ve Got

(Originally posted May 27, 2013)

In my last post, I wrote about being ambitious, taking risks, and pushing boundaries. This week I remembered how important it is to also respect those boundaries.

My son’s school is asking parents to serve on the PTA Board. I’d ignored the emails asking for volunteers, but then I went to a meeting for parents of incoming 1st and 2nd graders. Their plea was compelling. The school does rely heavily on parents to raise money for school materials, field trips, and even some staff. Still, I felt okay deciding to wait another year. Both of my children would be older and need less of my time and attention.

Then I stopped to talk to two moms I know. One of them may be moving away, but she said if she decided to stay in the area she would definitely serve on the PTA. The other mom expressed confidence that I would do well, going so far as to call me “leadership material”. I felt both moved and embarrassed by their encouragement and their commitment.

I thought about how much I should volunteer. Part of me felt that if I were going to volunteer, I shouldn’t do it half-assed by doing the easiest job. This is from my inner Perfectionist. If I really want to help and make a difference, I should do the most challenging, time-consuming, and beneficial job, right? And then I would get accolades from other parents about how selfless I am, and I would practically be a hero (cue the confetti and me doing the princess wave while wearing a tiara).

I had half-convinced myself to volunteer for the Fundraising position, which is the biggest, hardest job. Then I wondered what my husband would say. He’s my sounding board for a lot of things, and even though I resent when he tells me not to do something, he’s usually right. I pictured how tired, frustrated, and terrified I would be, trying to organize and motivate people I didn’t know to give their time and money. I remembered how badly I treat my husband and children when I am tired, frustrated, and afraid.

I realized I’m simply not capable of giving that much time and energy. I looked through the open positions and chose to volunteer for the Hospitality position, which involves buying stuff and setting up for PTA meetings and events. It was in fact the easiest position available.

I wrote an email to the two moms I had spoken to earlier, explaining my choice. I confessed that part of my decision was based on the fact that only 3.5 years ago, I was hospitalized for planning suicide. I had not attempted it, but I had made a mental shopping list and chosen a location. At the time, I was pregnant, exhausted, and had totally unrealistic expectations of how to be a “good mom”. But I still have the passing thought that life would be better without me. I know that that isn’t true, and that it would devastate my family and friends, so I let the thought pass and accept that I just feel overwhelmed sometimes.

Still, after I sent the email, I cried. That really hard, ugly cry. I cried because I’m sad that I can’t give more to my son and the other kids at school. I cried because I felt again that fundamentally “I’m broken” or “damaged” somehow. That I’m less than emotionally stable, mentally balanced people.

The two moms wrote back really compassionate, understanding, and kind responses. I felt relieved. I still worry that some people who read this will think I’m just being a crybaby and a slacker. I heard or read a quote that I can’t quite recall, but it was something about understanding and accepting that each of us has a different container that holds our capacity to give. Some of us have a gallon container, some of us only have a cup. I’ll still give more than I think I can, but not as much as I think I should.

Please note in the comments your thoughts and experience about how much you give to your neighbors, your church, your kids’ schools, etc.