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SUICIDE SPEAKS: Remembering Chester

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Life happens. We have to try to find some way to be happy in it.
— Logan Courtney from Angry Macey

Chester Bennington of Lincoln Park died July 20, 2017.

I own the CD Hybrid Theory. It contains many of their biggest hits. I listened to it often for many years. It got me through some difficult times, as the right music often can. I believe that CD and their others were that medicine for a lot of people.

Upon hearing of his death, I got into my music chest, located that CD, and put it in my car to listen to it. It reminded why Linkin Park is so great. And, unfortunately, the lyrics also reminded me of the pain that Chester must have been in. But that is probably the part that I identified with the most.

I used to think that the highest risk time period for suicide was the teenage years, which maybe actually is the case; I did no research for this post. I used to think if you got past that hell of peer pressure and trying to figure out who you are, that then you would be safe.

But recently two musicians well beyond their teen years, Chris Cornell and Chester, have taken their own lives.

In our society, we are made to believe that celebrity & riches will cure what ails you (depression, relationship issues, etc.).

In reality, it often seems to make existing matters worse.

We are made to believe that if you have a loving family who supports you, you will not take drastic measures to end your own life by your own hand.

But it happens every day.

When someone finds a healthy outlet for their demons (music, art, writing), we assume they will be alright now and make it through.

Chris and Chester have proven to us that is not the case.

Contemplating all this last night, I realized that I will never be able to get rid of my anxiety. It is a part of me, just as much as my hands and feet are. Although, I really wish it would quit waking me up in the morning, my heart pounding and my lungs gasping for breath over some irrelevant conversation I had the day before and how stupid I may have sounded.

But maybe I can manage it and live with it. People with other diseases do it all the time. They don’t let one dark space inside them take over control of the main show.

Well, unfortunately, Chris and Chester did.

So, I’m asking you, don’t ease your pain the same way they did.

A phrase keeps repeating in my head right now. It is actually from something my asbestos friend wrote about success & persistence in a career. I feel like it may apply to life in general as well. It seems as though this quote is also attributed to many famous Americans.

If you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.

I was not Linkin Park’s biggest fan by any means. But I do see the genius in their music and why they had maintained such popularity over the years.

Here is video of Chester literally baring his soul on the radio. It was a very brave thing to do. Hopefully by him speaking that day, and the video of it circulating now, he helped one person to prevent what he himself could not.

My kid has told me he would be sad if I died. I am sure Chester’s six children told him that too. I am sure they were also witness to the battle he waged every day to stay in this world. Hopefully they will remember that and be able to forgive him for his untimely absence.

 

If you need it, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline now.
1-800-273-8255

From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

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Bullied

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I feel like I am being called to write. And while it is fun to write about sexy men and innocent girls getting jiggy wit it, that may not be all that I am meant to do with my abilities.

You may have noticed that Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom had an undercurrent of living with bullying, and how to try to find your place as a person beyond it. If you missed that, then obviously you have led a charmed life, because I feel like everyone experiences it at some level some time.

I experienced bullying since I started school. Back then it was brushed off as teasing. While it got better in high school and college, I still experienced it, even as an adult. But episodes are fewer and farther between. I have a specific experience at one of my places of employment that I can’t forget. And she got written into a story. So did all the others. Because that is what writers do.

“ Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
 Harvey Fierstein

Bullying touches every one of us. Either you have been bullied, you have bullied, or you have been a witness to it. Yet, until recently, it wasn’t talked about. It was just like acne. It was something that just naturally happened to you, that you were forced to live through.

Even now, my viewpoint can shift like an empty swing in a strong wind: Are we meant to be left to survival of the fittest, as happens in the animal kingdom? Or are we as humans more evolved than that? Are we meant for more? What would the world look like if we all offered each other a hand up instead of pushing those we view as weaker down?

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
– W.C. Fields

Ginny’s story is the first of three stand-alone books I have planned that will illustrate three different women and how they deal with the bullying and the after effects…badly. Because, let’s face it, that is more interesting to read. And you may find it cathartic.

(For those of you who have read Troll Gurl, know that I will eventually publish a sequel, but that is not one of the future books I speak of here.)

But I want to point out very clearly that I have taken the (semi) healthy approach and chosen to express my own feelings in writing. I don’t want to leak too much about my upcoming stories. But you need to know that just because a character in a book may use violence to deal with the situation, even if it is blowing up a witch, you should never do that in real life.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

The characters in my books feel very alone, isolated. I want that to feel relatable, especially if you currently know or have known in the past the symptoms of anxiety and depression that feel as though they are draining your soul. But Ginny, and the others, all find SOMEONE they can relate to, someone who reaches out a helping hand for them.

I allowed bullying DEFINED ME for 38 years.

I want better for you.

I want you to know that you are not alone. That is why I would like to list a few organizations who can assist if you or a friend or family member is in a time of need.

RESOURCES

NOTE: I have not personally used any of these organizations.

The Mighty

This may be the best suicide prevention article I have ever read.

https://themighty.com/2017/09/reasons-people-stay-suicide-prevention-week-two-write-love-on-her-arms/

#AuthorsAgainstBullying

This site was suggested to me by an author friend. This is a movement started by an awesome young girl named Belle who has her own blog called Belle’s Beastly Book Blog. There is a great video on there where great authors, many of whom I have met, tell their deeply personal stories of bullying and their journey since. I am not there yet. Maybe, someday, but not now. I tell my stories in tiny bits in my books and disguise them as fiction.

http://bellesbeastlybooks.blogspot.com/search/label/authors%20against%20bullying

Bullies Keep Out

I stumbled across this site on accident one night and it seemed like fate was pointing me to it. I found the video featuring Michael Raymond-James, who I absolutely love. I liked him on True Blood, Once Upon a Time, and Terriers. So much so, that I based the character of Josh Tucker on him in the Riley Sisters books.

And then I decided I needed to speak out about bullying.

Do you see now how this felt like cosmic intervention?

http://www.bullieskeepout.com/

It Gets Better

I had to include this organization because I just love their name. And they are doing some great work. They are geared toward LBGT youth. But I think even if you don’t fit into one of those categories if you poked around their website, there is plenty of helpful information.

http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

As always, if you somehow stumbled on this page and you are having thoughts of suicide, even ones you think are casual, please Please PLEASE call:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Boy, do I wish I could have just Googled that number and had it at my fingertips when I was young.

But I am living proof that it gets better.

We just need the bullies to keep out.

Because I’m an author against bullying.

From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

A Cry For Help

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The other day my mom was telling (complaining) about things my son does while she babysits him. She said something to effect of that she was glad she didn’t have a boy, because they are more work than girls. I replied, “I am glad I didn’t have a girl. They have too much drama.” I was thinking of two young girls I know, who I love to death, but they are full of drama. My mother replied, “Oh, like when you took the knife out of the drawer in the kitchen while I was doing dishes and threatened to kill yourself?”

Um, no mother. Not like that at all.

FYI–that was a cry for help that you ignored for 20 years and still apparently don’t even understand in hindsight. She never mentioned the event at the time or anytime in the 20 years since, but this is like the second or third time she has brought it up in the past year. I guess it is her best example of me being a bad kid? Her only memory of me as a teenager?

As a teenager, I hid almost all my real feelings about everything from her, because I didn’t want to hear her negativity. I didn’t even know that was the proper word for it at that time. It was only the early 1990s. The book The Secret would not be published for like another 10 years. If I went so far as to put a knife to my skin in front of her, trust me, it was not for drama. I was dead serious.

If only everyone carried signs...

If only everyone carried signs…

I knew I was depressed my senior year in high school. I wrote school reports about suicide. I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. All my friends had boyfriends, but I didn’t. No boys even looked at me.  I couldn’t remember how to smile or laugh. I coped by writing bad, depressing poetry. I tried cutting, because my friend did it. But it wasn’t for me. I got no satisfaction from it. I found the song “Everybody Hurts” by REM too painful to listen to–it was too painful to think that others were hurting as much as I was. That there could be that much hurt in the world.

Back to the phone call with my mom. I tried to be brave and actually give her a glimmer of honesty.

ME:  “I wasn’t being dramatic. Did you ever think that I might need some kind of help?”
MOM: “No, you were just being dramatic.”
ME: “No, I wanted to kill myself.”
MOM: “Oh, everyone wants to kill themselves.”

How does one reply to that????

I told her I had to go and hung up on her. She then texted me like eight more times that day as if nothing had happened.

I’m sorry, but you just blew off my feelings from a major, horrible time in my life.

And she will say things like “Be glad you didn’t have my mother. I was a good mother.” How can one argue with that?

And today I have to go and see her and make copies for her. I have to continue to pretend to be the perfect daughter. I have to pretend not to notice that she doesn’t accept anything about me or my life, even though by most accounts I have it together pretty well. I have to pretend that I am not a writer, that I don’t have tattoos, that I don’t have a blog, that I don’t go to church.

It is EXHAUSTING! And within minutes of being in her presence, I usually blow up at her about something stupid. She is clueless as to why. Usually, I am too. But, most likely, it is from the pressure of trying to hide my true self from the ONE person in the world who should accept me no matter what. She thinks she accepted me because she let me dress as Punky Brewster when I was eight. No. At the time she would make comments like she should be ashamed to leave the house with me looking like that. She still says things like that about that time today. That is not accepting. God, good thing I didn’t turn out gay.

"...the ones who accept you for who you are."  So, then I have no biological family?  Nice.

“…the ones who accept you for who you are.” So, then I have no biological family? Nice.

It is no wonder I always felt all alone growing up. That I identified with orphans on TV sitcoms. That I still write stories about girls who feel like they have no one in the world, no matter how big the family I write for them is.

This exchange with my mom made me angry.  Angry for me now.  And sad, for teenage me.

The following started as a writing I did in college, a true reflection of my feelings at the time. I converted it into a piece of the novel I am working on. Please don’t steal it:

If Jane’s suffering showed more outwardly, maybe someone would have reached out to offer her help. But her suffering was mostly silent and invisible to anyone who didn’t already know what her regular personality should be. She wasn’t walking past people in the halls missing an arm, leaving a river of blood behind her. To anyone she passed, it would just look like she was having a bad day. As such, if no one person took interest in her, then no one would realize that one day strung together into two days, which then became a week, a month. Depression was invisible. It made Jane invisible as well.

For another depression writing, click here and read THE DRIVING RAIN at the end of the post:  https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/02/26/college-sucked/

Let’s End The Week On A Sour Note…

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This was supposed to be included in my post from earlier in the week, Holding A Grudge, but I did not get it added by my self-inflicted deadline. (Future employers, please DON’T take note of that.)

A bit sad; A bit depressing; All true…
One Less Soul
As I drift from hopeless day
to hopeless day,
I cannot help but realize
The world would be a lot better
If I wasn’t here.
There would be one less body
taking up a desk
and filling up the hallways.
One less person
fighting for the computer
or begging for a ride home;
Just one less
copy of a test to hand out,
correct,
and pass back.
I’d be one less
person to shop for at Christmas,
birthday on the calendar,
and phone number on the monthly bill.
One less
owner of a sunflower ponytail holder,
weakling following the strong,
follower of the masses,
and one less person talking,
yet saying nothing…

If I were gone
Nobody would care
I would just be one less
ugly face for people to turn away from.

But most of all
One less soul wasting paper
writing crappy poems.
–JLF (circa 1994)

Holding A Grudge

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*NOTE:  This blog post is going to suck.  I am using my blog to do a little deep psychological cleansing.  If you have a weak stomach (or just don’t give a sh*t about things that happened to me over 25 years ago), skip this one.  I will understand.  Actually, I won’t know the difference.  This is just some sh*t I had to get off my chest.  It has been weighing me down for a while.

A long while…

I am working on it...

I am working on it…

I can hold a grudge.  I was bullied in school, and I am still bitter about it.  It is something I still can’t let go of.

Today I noticed that the documentary “Bully” was available to watch on streaming Netflix.  I told my husband, “Oh, throw that in the cue.  I want to watch it.”

One beat of time passed.

“You know what, nevermind.  I lived that.  I don’t want to watch it again.”

Bully is the documentary that the Weinstein Company argued with the MPAA over the final rating of the film.  The MPAA originally rated it “R” for language.  You know, the language kids hear and use every day at school.  You know, the whole point of the documentary.  (The film was slightly altered to eventually earn a PG-13 rating.)

And that is about all I know about the documentary.

Once I hit middle school, my life was hell.

Sixth grade.  All of these cliques formed.  I didn’t even know that that word existed until that year.  I never had many friends in school.  But suddenly that became a terrible curse, instead of just an inconvenience.

I was teased.  That is how it was referred to around 25 years ago.

Yes, I can hold a grudge.

I will not discuss what I was teased about, because, well, I am not there yet.  It wasn’t anything that deserved all the attention that it got.

I had my own nickname.

The other assholes kids would say it to me in class.  In the halls.  On the bus.

Oh, don’t get me started on the bus.  It was its own particular brand of HELL.

There are several openings in my county for school bus drivers.  Why are they not being filled?  Maybe everyone has memories of bad experiences on the bus like I had.

Imagine getting on the bus in the morning, and all the kids visibly slide to the edges of the seats, closest to the aisle.  Most of the seats have just one student in them.  You walk toward the back of the bus.  When you are brave enough to ask if you can sit by someone, they all respond with “This seat is saved”.  By this time, the bus driver has already put the bus into motion again.  You have to hold on to the edges of the seats to not be dumped on the floor by the sway of the bus.  The bus driver starts barking at you to “Sit down”.  But you can’t.  You can only stand there, holding on to the seats.  You can’t even manage to be thankful that there is only one more stop before you get to school.

In that moment, you just want to die.

There is one particular girl I always thought was the ring leader of that.  Although, she wasn’t really smart enough for that.  Maybe I just blamed her because she had an ugly f*cking face.

I broke down every morning before school and begged my mom to not make me go to school.  She always made me go.  There are several photos she took during that time, of me before school in some outfit she wanted a picture of.  In all of them I had red rings around my eyes from crying.

I won’t scan them in and display them here.  Too depressing to display how much they all got to me visually, even though I am writing about it.

If only they had had Internet home school then.  I would have been an ideal candidate.

My nickname, in part (the part that didn’t specifically include my name) was published in the school newspaper.  No one seemed to find this disturbing.  Except for me.

Two boys in my class had to do a skit in English class.  They did it as Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live (yes, that was popular then).  They used my nickname in the skit.  To her credit, the teacher did actually ask me if that one bothered me.  But that was actually so funny that I couldn’t complain.  And they were two guys who usually didn’t bother me too much.

Others’ were worse.

There were more events in middle school.  So traumatic that I have blocked them from memory.  The few above are the ones that stick with me.

Once I got to high school, almost everyone had given up that sh*t, unless they were particularly juvenile.

And there was one boy, who never gave up teasing me.  I hated him.  I wanted him dead.  It’s a good thing at the time that I didn’t realize that high school kids actually could do such things to each other.  He said terrible things to me in class.  Obscene things.  It wasn’t fair.

Why couldn’t one of the cute boys I ACTUALLY LIKED say obscene things to me in class!

When I found out years later that he had died in a car accident, I shed no tears for him.  I was actually a little happy about it.

I know.  That makes me a truly terrible person.  But in his death, I knew I would never have to look upon his evil face again.

Now he has a skateboard park named after him.

If I had killed my self due to all his tormenting, I am sure I would not have received such an honor.

And sometimes I did contemplate that.

And my mom will remind me of things I said or did at that time, things I have blocked out.  Like one time when she was doing the dishes and I apparently threatened to cut my wrist with a knife.

Which begs the next question: If your kid does that, why wouldn’t you get them some help?

And another question: Teacher, if a kid in your class choses to do a report for your class on suicide, shouldn’t you take them aside and make sure they are OK? (It may have been for Psychology class, but still…)

Have you ever seen the movie “Never Been Kissed”?  I find the high school flashbacks in that movie really relatable.  My not-so-secret crush never invited me to prom and threw eggs at me, as happens in the movie.  But when it was time to vote for who would ride on the Homecoming float, sometimes they would vote for unpopular people, just so they could ride it and be laughed at.  Obviously it was meant to be an honor for the most popular girls.  One year they did vote two sisters in who were not popular.  They wisely declined from riding.  One year I heard that I ranked quite high in votes as well.  Thank you, assholes.

We were all stuck inside those walls together, sharing experiences.  We all knew so much about each other. Why couldn’t we have embraced that?  Why did we have to use that to cut each other down?

I had a dream, years after I was out of college.  I dreamed I was in the Waldenbooks store at my local mall.  (FYI—at the time I worked for a company connected to Waldenbooks.)  In the dream, there were lots of people in there from high school.  Some of the people I hated the most.

I began yelling at them, and telling them off.  Telling them what I thought of them.  I pushed bookshelves over on top of them, to hurt them physically as they had hurt me emotionally.  And when I woke up…

I felt good.  I felt like a little of the weight had lifted.

A little while later, I had a similar dream, where I was in the local grocery store.  I was face-to-face with one of the guys I hated the most.  A guy that my asbestos friend did hate the most.  I yelled at him and told him off.

I also felt better after that dream.  But, eventually, that relief passed.  And now I write this post.  To try and achieve some of that relief.  To try to wash away some of the extreme hatred I have had for these people for decades.  People who, I am sure, don’t remember me at all.  They don’t remember they teased me.  They don’t remember that I existed.

Some of these people have tried to be my friend on Facebook.  I laugh at them and ignore their friend requests.

I will admit that I am not even sure I remember all of these events accurately, because time and hate have most likely warped them in my head.

I have SO MUCH HATE for these people.  The ones who were the worst.

I still struggle with self-esteem issues to this day because of their name calling.  Because of them snatching my stuff because it seemed amusing to them.

Will I be going to my 20 year reunion next year?

I not be thinkin’ so.

I definitely need to still work in it...

I definitely need to still work on it…

And all the bullying laws around today aren’t going to keep these things from happening.  I was a quiet person (Oh, don’t ever call me “shy”. UGH!  What is with adults and their mother f*cking labels!).  I would never have reported that stuff to anyone.

Hell, at my job I had a girl make fun of a physical attribute I have, and I didn’t report her to Human Resources.  But I totally wish I had.  To this day.  Ten years later.

God, I can’t imagine what kids today go through…

With cell phones and social media, they can’t even get away from bullying when they get home!  At least after school I could nap on my couch to Ducktales and hide from it all.

Do I feel better after all this?  Can I move on?

Meh.  Probably not.

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