Friday, August 27, 2010

Listen up

I am currently writing this from my bed, where I do a good deal of my writing. Unfortunately, this time I'm in my bed because I feel like somebody has stretched me on a taffy machine, kicked me in the gut, and stuffed a worm in my ear.

This is my fourth day going on feeling like crap. It started out with general muscle discomfort, which I'm used to. I have some muscular issues that flare up from time to time, and so I initially wrote it off as that. Then I started to get tired. As in, no energy to do anything tired. As in, if I didn't know better I would think I had mono tired. Hot and cold flashes accompanied this...for five minutes I was burning up and then I thought I was in the tundra. Then I started having stomach cramping and nausea. The muscle aches continued, along with an unrelenting headache on my right side--the same side where I have muscle pain in my neck and shoulder. The final straw was when I woke up from an unintended nap this evening with the imaginary worm in my ear. I hurt. And nothing was making anything better.

So I threw on my shoes and asked my husband if he'd take me to the urgent care. He agreed and fifteen minutes later, we were at the urgent care our family uses the most. Unfortunately, we had arrived twenty minutes before they closed, and the doctor wanted to send us to another urgent care that was open later--my guess is because he knew I'd need labs drawn. Practically in tears, I agreed, because I just wanted to see somebody. If you've ever been incredibly uncomfortable for days, then you know how it feels. At that point I was willing to do just about anything for some relief.

My husband took me to the other urgent care a couple miles away. After a short wait, I was taken to the back, weighed and measured (I still don't understand the necessity of this unless it's for medication) and put in a room. A very nice lady came and drew labs on me, explaining that they wanted to check for infection and make sure my electrolytes were fine, since I had been so nauseated. After that, I waited. I watched a doctor help three other patients, two of whom arrived after me. I tried to take a nap but my body hurt too much. Finally a doctor appeared and asked me what was going on. I explained my symptoms to her, and she explained my bloodwork was fine so I couldn't possibly be sick.

Now--if you are a doctor, or you know a doctor, this is a key point--if a patient is telling you they feel like shit, chances are they aren't lying to you. There is Something Going On. Whether you can identify it in a CBC panel, who knows? But most people don't make random trips to an urgent care center at eight p.m. on a Friday night so they can toss a hundred bucks in the trash can. Or because you, the doctor, are cute and adorable. In this case, the doctor wasn't even male, so she wasn't my type anyway.

She checked out my ears, one of which I was holding because of the pain, to tell me everything was fine. I explained again that everything most certainly was NOT fine...I am holding my face for a reason, and it isn't because I'm planning to be photographed. She admitted I could have some sort of infection in my inner ear that she could not see. Hmm...possibly???

Since everything else seemed to be a no-go, she insisted on testing other things, of which I won't name here, but trust me when I say it's nightmarish to me and all of it came back negative. She came in and announced everything was perfect, I was fine, and if anything, I might have a minor stomach virus. Then she gave me three medicines--one to help with stomach cramping, one to help with nausea (which apparently works in exactly 23 minutes--who knew) and another to deal with the potential ear infection. Nothing for muscular pain or discomfort, nothing to help me sleep or make it through the next several days until this bizarre thing goes away. I was so incredibly frustrated I was crying when I left. If nothing else spoke to that doctor, my tears should have been a clue.

And this is what they should have said: Hey lady, LISTEN TO ME. I'm your PATIENT. I didn't come here for fun. I came here for relief. I'm telling you I'm in pain, and more pain than you're giving me credit for. You have a responsibility to run tests and interpret results. But you also have a responsibility to ME, your PATIENT. You have a responsibility to listen to me. When I tell you I've been in constant pain for four days, that I can't get comfortable, that I can't eat, that my head hurts and my ear hurts and I'm coughing and feel like I've been hit by a MAC truck, that I'm doing downward dog to relieve the muscle pain throughout my body, you have a responsibility to do more than run a blood test. At the very least you have the responsibility to listen and to help me find out what is wrong...and if you don't know, to send me to someone who might.

I'm a teacher. Part of my job is listening to nineteen preschoolers about what's important to them. What is funny, what they want to do, what they're trying to do, what's not working. Another part of my job is to listen to their parents--about their worries, their hopes, their dreams. In my last job I also listened to college students--their goals, their successes, their problems. And we worked together to make those things happen successfully.

Perhaps it is this drive in me, this need to help people meet their goals, that causes my lack of patience with those in other professions such as this woman tonight. I cannot stand a doctor who doesn't listen to what I say as a patient. My last doctor, before I moved, was fantastic. His philosophy was that I knew my body, and he knew body processes. His job was to educate me so that we could make decisions together about what was best for my care. His approach was refreshing and very rare. I never felt like he didn't listen to me. I never felt like he glossed over things I felt were important. He set a high bar, and this urgent care doctor fell extremely short.

So all you people who work with other people out there, like I do--LISTEN UP. Part of your job is to LISTEN. Whether you work with a two-year old who's mad that he can't have the broom in dramatic play or you're talking to an adult who's come in with acute pain, you'll learn a hell of a lot more--and be a hell of a lot more effective--if you shut up and LISTEN. Put down your test results, your assessments, your holy grail to unlock what's going on, and LISTEN to the person in front of you. You might just be shocked by what you hear.

And maybe the person you're talking to might help you find the answer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Moving on

So this has probably been one of the most difficult summers on record in a long, long time.

First, I quit a job that I had absolutely loved. Until six months ago, I never imagined leaving that position. I was happy there and knew I did good work. It's funny how life can turn things on its head so quickly, and how isolating those experiences can be. By the time I quit my job, I had come to the conclusion that it truly would be best for me and my family if I were to resign. It was not something I ever imagined I would do, but here I was, doing it.

Then we moved across the country. Fourteen hundred miles, to be closer to my family. Well, we're close all right. We're currently living with my parents. So far that's going okay. There's kinks that have to be worked out, but so far it's been livable. Definitely better than what we left behind, anyway.

Out of fear of having to COBRA our insurance, I accepted a position with a company I had worked with previously. I started that position last week and found that things have changed a LOT in the last ten years, both for the company and for me. During our first day of orientation, after child abuse prevention training, several of my new coworkers got into a discussion about how hilarious it was to beat their own children, and as long as they don't leave marks, it's okay and funny. Many went on to describe how they hit their kids, to the cackles of one another. Anyone who knows me can imagine how disgusted I was by the end of that day. One of my children has special needs, and the children in this program were there because they were considered "at-risk" due to a variety of circumstances. THESE children are the most challenging, and if you routinely can't come up with anything better for your average child than to "beat" them, how in the world will you handle a child at-risk--or a child like mine, who's more challenging? Needless to say, my time at the job ended that same day.

So I'm still looking for a job. My kids are going to be enrolled in the public school system shortly, and school starts in two weeks. We received standardized testing scores on my youngest child, and she scored advanced in nearly every category, showing a particular penchant for math and science. She'll fit in well here, because those are the areas this school system pushes tremendously.

My son is still homesick. He's thirteen, probably one of the harder ages to move anyway, and is struggling with ADHD and depression. His ADHD is more noticeable some days, as he has trouble controlling his impulses and making good choices. No amount of talking seems to help sometimes, and the frustration of seeing your child make the same mistakes repeatedly is hard. My husband and my parents have been tremendously helpful in trying to provide consistency and appropriate consequences when needed.

I do believe my son has a variety of diagnoses that work together to make life more difficult for him. But ADHD seems to be the one that is most in our face these days, the one that never lets go and makes our lives difficult. His boundless energy is hard to harness. His inability to calm down after exciting experiences makes it hard to take him places. His naiviety and immaturity, mixed with the average thirteen-year old attitude of knowing it all is a constant concern to me. When I hear him talk as though he knows it all and dismisses what we say, I actually rejoice in thinking he's acting like a typical kid his age! But his inability to discern realistic scenarios from unrealistic ones concerns me. He believes most anything other kids tell him.

One of my biggest challenges personally this summer has been trying to move away from thinking in diagnostic terms when it comes to this child, and to look at him as a person, and deal with the behaviors that come our way appropriately. I'm extremely analytical and want to compartmentalize his behavior. His inability to discern reality from fantasy, for instance, could be due to fetal alcohol syndrome. His constant movement, ADHD. His up and down mood swings, bipolar disorder. All of these disorders, along with many others, have been tossed around and even listed as positive diagnoses for him. But none of it changes the fact that at the end of the day, he's not a multitude of diagnoses--he's a thirteen year old boy, who's been moved away from his world, and is struggling to make a new world work for him.

Moving is hard. Last week I spent the majority of the week in heartbreak, crying off and on, over leaving the job I had loved. You see, last week I would have gone back to work, to the same pattern of things that I had done for the last ten years. Things I knew and loved to do. But instead I didn't...instead I found myself in a new teacher orientation with unsavory people who think it's funny to hit their own children.

Any move is going to have missteps. I keep my fingers crossed and say my prayers that we have fewer missteps and more finding our way. In the end, I believe in my heart and soul this was the right path for us...and I hope in the end, my son will too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marvelous Mondays, We Are Again Reunited

Well, my last post talked a lot about giving up my very enjoyable Mondays watching Criminal Intent. I started a new job today, one with a company I had worked with before, in a position I had worked with before. In fact, in the past, I had worked with this company for six years, and I really loved the job I had then. I loved the people I worked with, the setup of the day, everything except the pay--which was somewhat dismal but in education, that's kind of expected.

Yet today, I quit. My first full day, and I came home after a revelation. One of the most profound revelations I've had in quite some time. Well, I probably shouldn't say that, because my last revelation led to a cross-country move two months ago. But one of the things I have done in my life is chosen to listen to God. I know in my gut when something is right. I knew it when I took my last job. When I moved across the country the first time. When I moved back to care for my parents. Oh, every time there were huge adjustments and tears, difficulties that needed to be ironed out, but in the end, I don't regret any of those experiences. And today, as I sat by myself eating a horrific lunch of cheese-filled soft pretzels and coke zero, I realized that God was telling me again this wasn't for me. This wasn't where I was supposed to be.

One of my very dear friends had told me before that God had put me here, that this was where He wanted me to be. I know myself well enough to know that this was where *I* wanted to be, not God. I took over that process and drove full speed ahead to get that job. It had always been my "fall back" plan, and of course it came very easily. But what I realized today is that I'm not the same girl that I was twelve years ago, when I last worked there. I'm not the same. Since then, my world has grown tremendously. My professional skills have multiplied and I wouldn't be happy in this job any more. And because there were children involved, I had to let it go as soon as possible. Which meant today.

I'm sure those children will end up with a teacher who is wonderful and able to give to them fully. At least I hope so. And me? I'm back out there peddling my wares. Figuring out where I'm supposed to go, what I'm supposed to do with my life. At the end of the day, after the guilt of letting everyone down leaves me, after the fear of not being needed or not finding a job I can live with in this economy is gone, I'll go back to hitting the pavement with a better understanding of who I am and what I need to do. So for that, I'm thankful for the last few days. Clarity is always a good thing.

So is a paycheck, but that will come soon enough.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Marvelous Mondays, I will Miss you!

So yesterday was Monday. I have gotten a position teaching again and had to go in to fill out paperwork. No big deal, right? Of course not. So I did what I needed to do. They kindly let me bring it home to finish it and gave me a huge three-inch binder of stuff to read.

Now, I know most people strongly dislike Mondays. Start of the work week, end of the weekend, yada yada yada. But not me. At least not MOST Mondays...because on Monday, USA network plays--ta da-- back to back episodes of Criminal Intent!

Yes, it's a strange reason to enjoy Mondays. Actually, my excitement begins on Sunday nights, when Bravo plays three to four episodes of my favorite show. Then Monday morning comes ad the party REALLY begins. An entire day with Goren and Eames. I putter around the house, doing laundry, picking up, writing, while I watch my two favorite detectives solve the unsolveable crimes of New York City.

Well, I am going through mourning. After next Monday, it will be a LONG time before I will get to revel in my special time. Instead of watching reruns of my two favorite detectives, I'll be teaching children. Ha! Why, oh why!

Now here's the part that is REALLY hysterical. I have all of the first five seasons on DVD. I can watch ANY or ALL of those episodes at any time I choose. That means my wonderful detectives are never far from me. But there's something exciting about switching on my television and seeing Bobby and Alex there, without me having chosen the episode, and getting into whatever's being shown at the time. Or maybe it's the rhythm of a slow and easy Monday...picking up the house, doing the laundry, and catching some eye candy during.

Either way, it won't matter, because in two weeks, I'll be working and separated from my very enjoyable ritual. It's time. It's needed. Obviously, you can't compare the importance of living an actual life actively--contributing to a child's growth and learning--to sitting passively in front of the boob tube lusting over a fictional character. But alas, I will miss it.

Summer, oh summer, where have you gone? And taken my sweet detectives with you?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Reality of the World

My husband and I have both been looking doggedly for work. One of the connections he made is with a friend of my mother's, a local podiatrist who volunteers once a month for a Native American tribe sixty miles north of here. When this podiatrist learned of my husband's Native American ancestry, he was intrigued and asked him to join him for a volunteer day with the tribe.

My husband isn't usually the one who volunteers time in our family. Usually that's me. You name the cause and I've probably given something to it. Since having children, volunteering time has become more important--and more valuable--to me. I've taken my kids along for several experiences, and as I've mentioned before on this blog, I've planned and implemented a variety of fundraising and service learning projects for the preschoolers I've taught. I'm a firm believer in giving back to the world. My husband is as well, but his giving back more often comes in the form of money rather than time. So I was a little surprised, but much delighted, when he told me the other day he would be accompanying this podiatrist to the reservation today.

The guys planned their trip yesterday. My husband is a former respiratory therapist and offered to bring his equipment in case anyone needed assistance. The podiatrist was bringing his equipment to help as well. They left early this morning with the plan of staying for the day and coming back this evening.

My husband is a member of one of the five civilized tribes. Both of his tribes are well-established and receive state and federal funding. Although Native Americans often live in poverty and are one of the most repressed minority groups in our country, my husband's tribes are funded enough to be able to offer various programs to their members. These programs sometimes include assistance with housing, education, healthcare, and social services.

Imagine his shock when he arrived this morning at the reservation. This particular tribe consists of only sixty or seventy members. They are not federally recognized, which means they receive no federal or state funding. The average income is six to nine thousand dollars per year. There are no additional services to access.

Even my husband, who is well-educated and more aware of the struggles of Native Americans than most of us, was deeply moved.

Having accepted a job yesterday that pays far less than what I was making previously, I had been focused on money and worrying about making ends meet. There's nothing quite like knowing there are still groups of people in your own country who are making less than ten thousand dollars per year to help you gain perspective.

I could go on and on about the political, social, and economic implications of repression of large groups of people, but I won't. All I will say is that this experience has served as a reminder for us to be grateful for what we have, and to continue to work for social justice, a value that is critical in our family. The idea that America is the land of opportunity won't be true until the opportunities are equal for everyone.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Measuring Your Worth

I am happy to report that I was just hired for the position I spoke about in my last entry. I'm actually pretty excited about it. I've missed teaching. Not just the actual teaching aspect of the classroom, but the children and families I worked with. I miss seeing my preschoolers, experiencing life with them, exploring new concepts and learning ideas. I miss my school.

Now I'll have a new classroom, with new students and families, and an assistant. I'll be responsible for planning and implementing my own curriculum. I won't have to share space or time with other teachers. I've always told my preschoolers that I have to practice sharing too--and truthfully, I'm not always very good at it. So I'm kind of looking forward to not having to share as much for awhile.

I know, going in to this job, there will be two things that will be challenging for me. The first will be to table my analyses of other people's work with children. I've spent the last ten years helping beginning teachers analyze their work. That's a skill that can be very useful when it's welcomed but pretty destructive when it's not. Learning to table it will be an important lesson.

More importantly will be my ability to measure my own worth in something other than dollar signs. So often our culture focuses on the bottom line--the almighty dollar--as a measure of how valuable we are. We look at our net worth, our 401k's, our annual income (gross or net) to determine our contributions and how much we should value one another. After all, you don't generally look for a doctor or dentist in a dirty, rundown medical practice, do you? You look for the professional whose surroundings communicate wealth. That signifies cutting edge resources and success.

Measuring my own self-worth is important to me. It's important to feel like I'm achieving goals and taking care of my family. Just as important, though, is the ability to contribute to the greater good, to know that something I have done has affected somebody else in a positive way. Given someone something they wouldn't have had otherwise. Those measures--ones that are more abstract--are life altering and powerfully defining.

Going into this position, I hope that I'll be able to remember that. Keeping in mind the reasons I took this job that didn't have to do with money is going to be important. Figuring out how I'm worth something that doesn't have a dollar attached to it.

I'm keeping it in mind.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How much does an education really cost?

I interviewed for a job today. I was excited for the interview because it's with a company I've worked with before. In fact, I've held this same position before (a teacher with at-risk kids) and I absolutely loved it. It was, in my opinion, one of the best jobs I've ever had. I loved every minute of it and found it to be quite rewarding. The only drawback, of course, is the pay.

Nobody goes into education to get rich. If they do, they're highly misinformed. Teachers as a group across this country are underpaid and underappreciated, yet held to continually higher standards each year. Given that many standards are simply developmentally inappropriate and for some children just downright unattainable, it's ridiculous to punish teachers for what children do or don't learn.

The push for accountability in education has caused a wide array of problems that the average adult may not even be familiar with. Schools lose or gain money based on their test scores. Teachers are forced to forego teaching certain subjects or interest-based learning to cover material that will appear on standardized tests. Gone are the days of exploring children's natural curiosities--there's a test that has to be taken, one that will determine how much money the school system receives. Most children in elementary school spend the majority of their days focusing on reading and writing. If you're asking what's missing from that equation, let me tell you: creative writing, art, music, science, social studies, and opportunities for social skill building and critical thinking.

We want our children to be critical thinkers, to be able to solve the problems of tomorrow, yet we give them very little time to build and practice those skills. The majority of material young children are bombarded with is the type of knowledge that requires rote memorization. In other words, don't think about it, Johnny--just tell me what I told you, in time for the test.

In areas where there are socioeconomic concerns, these problems are intensified. Factors such as hunger and poverty strongly affect school outcomes. If you didn't eat or you don't have a place to live, it's a lot harder to focus on learning your ABC's. What a surprise that schools with higher levels of poverty score lower on standardized testing! And the answer? Punish those schools! Take away their money! They're not using it correctly anyway or those kids would be learning!

The reality of the situation is that some schools do misuse funds. Many kids go to school hungry or dirty or for whatever reason, not ready to learn. Our social policies meant to address these problems have instead blamed an already burdened school system rather than proactively addressed the needs of people who cannot adequately provide for their families. We are a nation that insists on throwing bandaids on gunshot wounds instead of taking steps to ensure nobody gets shot to begin with.

So back to my interview. In my heart, I have always loved working with kids from at-risk environments. The pay is terrible. Often the materials in these programs are limited, the support is limited, there can be cultural misunderstandings and political and social issues that arise. After doing the math, I've figured that if I take the job I interviewed for today, I'll be able to pay for my family's medical and dental insurance with a little left over each month--possibly enough to pay the rent.

Like I said, nobody ever gets rich in education. For people like me, you walk a fine line between discerning what you need to provide for your family and what you need to do your calling. I have long believed that my students are also my teachers. And despite my concerns about financial savviness, I can say one thing for sure. I'm ready, once again, to learn.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Church of the Poison Mind

Tonight I helped my mom prepare a meal for Vacation Bible School.

When I was a kid, I loved VBS. It was a highlight of my summer. I loved learning about Jesus and the culture of the middle east at that time. I enjoyed the games and most of all the crafts that we would make. The snacks weren't half bad either. All in all, it was a fun way to spend a morning--or several mornings--for a week.

My kids have attended VBS for a few years at different churches. My favorite, of course, is my home church in the city we just moved from. That particular church shared my values more closely than any church congregation I've ever known. This year there was the option for the kids to attend VBS at my parents' church. I thought it might be a fun time. The theme had something to do with traveling around the world and the teacher in me was intrigued. What an opportunity, I thought.

Unfortunately, my kids thought otherwise. Neither was thrilled at the prospect of going, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe it wasn't such a hot idea either. You see, currently there are several individuals in my parents' church that can't seem to get along. Most of these individuals head different committees. One sent an ugly email last week that literally called others names.

It has always been a puzzle to me the things that people do in the name of God. The most horrific wars, torturous acts, and painful moments can almost all be attributed to being committed in the name of religion. For this very reason I avoided church for years. I consider myself a loving, spiritual human being and I believe fully in God and His word. I know He has acted in my life in multiple ways and has a guiding hand on me. But for some people, religion seems to poison their thinking. It seems to cloud their judgment to the point that the most important messages get lost and control takes over.

Control and submission. For so many people, that's the name of the game when it comes to religion--where you fall in the pecking order. Some religions even have pecking orders in relation to who gets into heaven and how. It never ceases to amaze me the million different interpretations to the Bible, and how the more into control and submission a person seems to be, the more into the belief that there is only ONE way to interpret the bible one seems to be.

Tonight the children were learning about the middle east, and we prepared food that was somewhat representative of the region--flatbread, tzatziki sauce, hummus, veggies, figs. It saddened me to see that a large portion of the lesson this evening focused on bibles being illegal in the middle east. It saddens me to think that these children, who had the potential to learn about the native homeland of Christ, to learn about cultural differences and diversity, will walk away with their primary focus being possession of a bible equates to prison.

I choose to attempt to live by Jesus' message. I choose to try to love others, to live a life of compassion and morality and making ethical choices. I don't choose that life because I fear an eternity in Hell, and I don't choose it because I think it makes me better than someone who lives in Jordan or Pakistan. I choose it because in my culture, in my own life, it is what I know to be true. That's all any human being can do.

I often look at our world today and wonder what God is thinking about it...if it weren't so completely sad I'm sure he'd be having a good laugh at our expense. But I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of a God who would support the idea of one culture controlling another, of a person submitting to something against his or her belief system. Because ultimately, the only one who knows what is right is God himself.

So VBS this year? No thanks. I'll take my church with a cup of love and support, thanks.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Aches and Pains

Today I was witness to something that most people will never see. I was present when a suicide note was read.

My mother is a therapist, and has worked with many clients over the years. I distinctly remember the first time one of her clients committed suicide. It was early in her career and very, very painful for her. As with most people, she blamed herself to some degree for not being able to stop the attempt, for not seeing it coming, and probably for a myriad of other things. That was several years ago, and fortunately my mother hasn't had a client commit suicide since.

A few days before we moved out here, my mom told me that one of her former clients who had chronic pain and had suffered tremendous physical and psychological damage, had committed suicide. My mom had maintained contact with this client over the years, even though they were no longer in a therapeutic relationship. She considered herself to be a support system to this person who had very little emotional support in her life. Upon this person's death, her family informed my mother that the former client had left a letter addressed to her and they would send it, along with a momento.

The momento arrived a couple of weeks ago, but not the letter. It appeared the letter had been misplaced after the funeral, and the family was looking for it but hadn't been able to locate it yet. Today, as she was sifting through the mail that arrived over the week, my mom gasped and said, "This is's from (-)." She opened the envelope and found two pieces of paper inside. The outer piece was blank. The inner piece had only two lines written on it. For the sake of confidentiality, I'll paraphrase: We've known each other long enough that you know why. Please pray I rest peacefully.

For most of my life I have struggled with depression. I think many people do, far more than talk about it. It's still highly stigmatized. Mine can be traced genetically through one side of my family. One of my parents has struggled with it; one of my grandparents struggled with it; a great grandparent committed suicide. There is a definite genetic component to this illness that I deal with. I have to manage it the same way a diabetic manages blood sugar or someone with high blood pressure manages that. I take medication, practice stress relief techniques, engage in talk therapy as needed. Yoga is a great tool, as is writing. Different people practice and find success with different treatment options.

I was eleven when my parents first noted concerns about depression, and rightfully so. I suffered from childhood depression. I had intense fears, as young as four or five, of being left without my parents. I remember long crying spells and feeling sad and scared. Most people don't become depressed until adolescence or adulthood, and most will experience shorter bouts or even situational bouts with depression. Mine has been long lasting; I do not know what it is like to live without it. It's a disease I manage on a daily basis.

I understand the risks of writing about this on a blog. If you're unfamiliar with what depression is; if you have fears of mental illness or its stigma, then this is for you. Because I'm just your everyday person--I work, I have a family, I live and I love and most days I do an okay job of it all. It's a risky proposition to discuss something so personal because of the stigma and the misconceptions people have of the disease. I can assure you though, that I'm absolutely the same person I was before you read the above information and I'll be the same person when you're done reading this entry. I'm a good person and live a good life.

Those misconceptions are not only held by your average Joe. As my mother read the letter she had anticipated receiving, I couldn't help but note it was only two sentences long. Two sentences to say all you had to say to someone who loved you? I tried to imagine, and couldn't, what I would write in two sentences to sum up my feelings for any of the people that I love in this world. And yet, in those two sentences, there was such intense pain and emotion communicated. Those sentences were about what had already been said. What these two people already knew about each other.

I have long held the belief that people who suffer from depression make a choice each day to live or to die, and it is one of the most basic choices we make. On this particular day, this person could no longer do it. My mother understood why, even if you or I don't. It's not up to us to say. This person's pain--both physical and psychological--was real and intense and raw. And there was no escape. No hand holding, no talking, no amount of anything would take that pain away in that moment. People say suicide is a selfish act, and perhaps it is; but to those who take their own life, it is often viewed as the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, to no longer be a burden on those whom they love.

Those two sentences have stuck with me today and I have shed more than a few tears over them, not for my mother, but for this person who could no longer find the strength to hold on any more, to live and love and breathe and do the things that most of us take for granted each day.

And I pray for anyone who may read this and is having trouble breathing and living and loving that you are able to hold on until you can catch another breath, for one is always coming after the last one, even if you fear it won't.