November 17 is National Survivors of Suicide day. A survivor. Of suicide. Me. I'd never have believed it.
Let me tell you what it is like, now. Let me tell you what I have learned. I have learned that "get over it" are the stupidest words in the world. I've gotten over some surgeries this year, for skin cancer (3), a deviated septum, and a very large hole in my head. I've gotten over being scooped and beaten up, I've gotten over my former family and their actions, and I've come to terms with Andy's death. I have learned that you can love again after you think you never will, because we are meant to love. But I have also learned that I will never "get over" the death of my sons. I will incorporate it into who I am now, but it will always be there. I have learned that if it won't matter in 100 years, it doesn't matter. I have learned that stuff is just stuff. I have learned that the words need to be said, the hugs need to be given, the truth needs to be told. I have learned that you actually can pick your family. You can't pick your blood relations, but your family? That, you can choose. And I've chosen mine. None of them share my blood. I have learned to wear my mask very well. I have learned that you can never be too kind. I've learned that, if there are two ways to do things, and one of them will cause pain, to do it the way that won't cause pain. I have learned that words are weapons stronger than steel. I've learned who my friends are. I've learned more about who I am. I've learned that, just as children's births don't come with instruction manuals, their deaths, don't, either. I've learned that there is no right way to grieve, no timetable on grief. I've learned that it is okay to laugh, to smile, to have fun, to dance, to sing, to live. I've learned that it is also okay to cry, although HE wouldn't allow it for so long that I still don't know how. I've learned that it is okay to be angry with Mr. God, and to tell Him so, because He knows anyway. I've learned that long after you think you can't take one more step, one more breath, one more moment..... you still do. I've learned that you can keep going and be an actual contributing member of society long after you think you can't. I've learned that, if you can help just one person by refusing to be silent, then it is worth it.
People look at me and see a slender, smiling, happy, silly ass red head having fun. People look at me and think that I live an enviable, problem-free life. People look at me and think I have it made. I travel. I am blessed with the best friends the world has to offer. I am more likely to dine out than in. My fur and feather kids give me total unconditional love, and think I can do no wrong. I have lots of "stuff". I drink good wine from nice glasses. I have more true friends than I can count on one hand, and that is pretty amazing. People look at me and think that my life is a joy filled open book. In reality, I am the most private person you're ever likely to meet. I'm quite surprised that I am writing this. A dear friend of mine from England says that every shred of information he knows about me has been pulled out of me. I talk about my life, but I don't talk about my real life. I've learned that people are quick to tell you that they are there for you if you need their help, but, when you need them, they're too busy. I learned that with my boys, with my Mother, with Tommy's Mother. Instead of the helping hand you need, or the shoulder to lean on, they offer disdain and condescension. I've learned that people are quick to judge and make assumptions, when what you really need is something as simple as a kind word. I've learned that mourning is a very private thing, because nobody really cares how much you hurt. Because you are supposed to be "OVER IT".
Let me tell you what my life is really like.
Every morning, EVERY SINGLE MORNING, I wake up, thinking that I had a bad dream, thinking that Jason and Rick are still here. And every single morning, the reality that they ended their own lives slaps me in the face, and I ask, "Why?". Sometimes I wake up in a panic that I haven't made sure J was up for work, or that Rick didn't have time for breakfast. I go rushing to their room... only it isn't their room anymore. Right now, it's a catch all. I don't know what I'm going to do with that room. I call it the "death room". My boys. Tommy's Mother. My Mother. But I promised Mom I'd re-do it, so I'm going to.... just as soon as I find the strength. That is, I wake up if I've slept. Sleep is very elusive. I simply go until I can't go any more. Every few months, I quite literally collapse. Then I start all over again. Some so called friends mistake the reason for my collapse, but I don't mind. People's opinion of me doesn't matter in the least. I'm the one that has to look at myself in the mirror every day and know that I have been the best person that I can be that day. It just means that they have no idea what my life is like.... and that is a VERY good thing. I'd love for no one to ever have to live my life. I simply smile on the outside, cry on the inside, and tell them to believe what they will, tell them I'm fine, and keep on going. It's been that way for seven years. It may always be that way; I don't know. I take one minute at the time. People tell me they don't know how I do it, that they could never bury a child. I guess it's a backhanded compliment. Are they saying that they love their child more than I love mine? Or are they trying to say I'm that dreaded word.... strong? Well, I missed the part where I have a choice. My sons are dead. I am not. What am I supposed to do? SOMEONE is going to be critical, no matter what my actions. If I laugh and smile and dance and have a good time, then I'm vilified for trying to continue to have a life when I'd rather be anywhere but here. If I DON'T laugh and smile and dance and have a good time, I need to "get over it".
I ache, physically and mentally. I can't tell you the last day that I didn't have a headache. I have panic attacks. I shake constantly, inside. I can usually hide it, but sometimes I can't. I take Prozac and Xanax every day. What no one knows is that, every now and again, I simply stop taking them, because I have to know that I can. I never tell anyone I'm not taking my meds. That's my life, and nobody needs to know about it. When I don't take my meds, I find myself drinking too much, to try to drink the pain away. It doesn't work. And I shake a whole lot more, too. I do what I have to, to stay sane. I find my peace in a little Biker bar not far from my house. I'm really comfortable there. There are people who disapprove of my choice of hang-outs. They don't know that I often have one drink, that lasts a long time (Good vodka on the rocks does that. You just keep adding ice). They think I just sit there and drink all night. That's okay They can believe what they will. But that is where I can clear my brain. That, and walking/running. Time when I simply don't have to think. Am I telling you that I don't drink too much sometimes? Of course I'm not. I do. But the alcohol is something I can do with or without. I stop drinking, too. I just don't tell anyone. I let people believe what they will. Because their opinion really doesn't matter. If they were really my friends, they wouldn't judge so much.
I don't eat. I forget to. Then when I remember to, it makes me sick. I can't stand the thought of eating meat. I don't know why. I just know it makes me ill. My doctor is sending me to a nutritionist so we can try to figure out what I can actually eat. Me, who used to love Southern cooking and Spanish dishes and a beautiful rare steak, just like my boys. I can't eat it now. I love ice cream. Two bites, and I'm sick. So I only have two bites. I am truly trying to gain the 10 pounds I need to gain. It isn't as easy as it sounds. I ate a meal tonight, instead of my usual snack. It didn't stay in my stomach very long.
I see a Camry, and think it is Jason. Then I remember.
Or I see a jar of Penrose Sausage, and automatically put all they have in my grocery cart, because they're hard to find, because my boys love them. Then I remember, and put them all back. Mostly, I just avoid that part of the grocery store. Who would have ever thought that a jar of Penrose Sausage would make me shake? But it does.
Something happens, and my automatic reaction is to call one of the boys. It might be something good, it might be something bad, I might need a question answered. When there was talk of Steve Spurrier coaching the Tide, my immediate thought was that Jason was going to have a heart attack, and I needed to call him. Then I remember, and put down the phone. Mostly, I hate phones. A lot of people don't realize that I have to love you a lot to talk to you on the phone. Phones bring all sorts of unpleasant memories.
There are two young men on bicycles, or running, and I speed up to see if it is my boys. Then I remember.
I see a red headed toddler with curly hair, and think of how adorable J and Rick were when they were small, and what a good Grandmother I'm going to be. I'm going to let my grandchildren do all the things I wouldn't let my boys do, while I laughingly remind them that they told me they'd never be mean like me, and not let their child do/make their child do (you can fill in the blanks here. You know all that evil stuff Mom's do, like making you clean your room and do your own laundry and put your own glasses in the dishwasher and say please and thank you, and not stay up until 4 in the morning when you have school the next day). Then I remember.
I hear a new song, and think that maybe THIS one will make the boys appreciate country music. Then I remember.
I think about making ziti, and sneaking in real cheese instead of low fat, like they want me to use. Then I remember. I see seared tuna on the menu, and know that Jason is going to order it. Then I remember. I taste a new fruity concoction for my bar, and want to ask Rick's opinion, because he loves fruity fruity frou frou. Then I remember. I want to take Jason with me to the wine and spirits shows (I made him learn his wines if he was going to play bartender for a while, before med school.). Then I remember.
I hear a parent complaining about their child, or I hear a parent describe their kid as a "fuck up", or an idiot, and I want to shake them. Children are so very precious. I get very angry when people don't take time for their kid's. They didn't ask to be born. It's up to us to give them the best life we possibly can.
When our beloved Tide played LSWho, I really wanted to talk to J about the game. He aced ref bashing 101 with me, and we would have had a field day. But I remembered. And spent another sleepless night, thinking of the games we'd been to together, and knowing there wouldn't be any more. But I've learned that I can watch football again, a sport I've loved since childhood. I try to hang on to the good memories, and let the bad go. I think back to that night when Bama won the National Championship and remember them sitting there, my reverse Oreos, Jason saying I told you so, and H and Ike just shaking their heads, and popping a bottle of 1982 Dom..... which started the never ending argument about 82 vs 88.
Then there is what I now call the "Horrorday's" I used to decorate my home to rival "Christmas Vacation". J and Rick said I looked like a walking Christmas tree. I LOVED Christmas. The spirit, the joy, the laughter.... it was my favorite time of year. Now, I do the best I can. My gifts used to be wrapped to perfection.... every seam met, no tape showed, the bows or decorations were hand made. Now, you're lucky if I throw it in a bag. I see the newest electronic toy, and want to buy it for my sons. Then I remember. I hear "Merry Christmas!" and want to scream. Instead, I smile or laugh and say, "Merry Christmas" back. And I get very ill with people who complain about having to buy gifts for their children and friends. Christmas isn't about giving gifts. It's about giving love. The best gifts are those that show you've put thought into what you are giving, not the ones that cost the most. The best gift that you can give someone is a real smile, and a hug when you can tell they need one. I'll decorate my bar, and it will be fun and silly and bright. I'll do it because one of my guests that I love asked me to. And I'll smile while I do it. Inside, I'll be dying.
People tell me that my son's wouldn't want me to be in this kind of pain all the time. And they're right. They wouldn't want me to be in this kind of pain. People tell me that my son's would want me to get over it and get on with my life. Let me see..... I have a full time job, I get up every day, I do all the things I am "supposed" to do (okay, so my room does need to be cleaned). I'm getting on with my life, thankyouverymuch. If it isn't the way that you think I should, too bad so sad. People tell me I shouldn't talk about suicide, that I should forget about it. Sorry, but that isn't happening. I don't have the flu, and I'm not going to get well. I'm not going to forget about it. I still remember my Granny's death when I was four. How do you expect me to forget the deaths of my children? My children have died, and my world has shattered. I will do all that I can to prevent someone else's world from shattering, too. I am so proud of people like Tony Dungy who acknowledge the truth of their child's death. I am so proud of people like Owen Wilson who say, "I need help". I don't have, "MY CHILDREN DIED BY SUICIDE", tattooed on my forehead. I don't volunteer the information to every new person that I meet. But, should someone ask me if I have children, my answer will always be, "Yes, twin sons." And if they ask me where they live, I tell them in Heaven. And then when they ask how they died, I answer. Honestly. Or when they ask about my band, or my "Heart Patch" necklace. Because to not speak of their deaths when their lives were so profound would be to be ashamed of my sons. I am not ashamed of my sons. I was blessed, this world was blessed, to have them here for way too short a time. Like so many of you, I thought it could never happen to me. Well, it did. And it can happen to anyone. Ignoring the elephant in the room won't change that.
Life is so very precious. We never know when it is going to end. I refuse to let my life end without having said, "I love you", to those I love. I refuse to let my life end without trying to help at least one person understand that suicide is NOT the answer. I refuse to let my life end without trying to help someone, even if that help is as simple as buying them lunch or listening when they need to talk. I refuse to frown when I can smile. I refuse to lose hope that I will make a difference in just one life. I refuse to let other people's opinions color my view of the world. I see it as red and purple. I always have. I always will. I refuse to not take every moment of joy this life has to offer. I refuse to believe that tomorrow is not going to be a better day. It is. Life is to be treasured. I refuse to let people's "angry with the whole damn world" attitude bring me down. Those whispers that people think I don't hear? Well, I hear them. Those snarky remarks about my life? I hear them, too. I refuse to let them bother me. I refuse to color inside the lines. Jason and Rick's Little Mother colored outside the lines. I can honestly say that, 99% of the time, I show the world an upbeat, smiling person.
EVERYONE is fighting some kind of battle. Many choose to share their battles with the world. That's not a bad thing. Many choose NOT to share their battles. That's not a bad thing, either. That also doesn't mean that those of us who choose not to share our pain think that our pain is worse than anyone else's. It just means that my pain is MY pain, and has nothing to do with anyone else. I have many dear friends who would share it if they could, without whom I really couldn't make it through the days. But the pain of the deaths of my sons is MY pain, and I will deal with it the way that I need to. Approve, disapprove, I don't care. I've learned that, sometimes, the best person you can take care of is yourself. The deaths of my children aren't the only difficult issues in my life. Don't presume to judge me because I choose to keep the details of my life private. Don't presume that you know how I live. Don't presume that because you always see a smile on my face that my world is filled with orchids and daisies. It isn't. Don't presume that I have perfect living arrangements. Don't presume ANYTHING. The details of my life don't concern you. Criticize all you will, but I AM always going to do what I believe is right..... even if it hurts me. A lot. And it does. Don't presume that there isn't a lot that I need, because there is. And, someday, someone will love me enough to figure it out.
I have learned to take my joy where I can find it. I have learned how to live out loud, like my boys did. I have learned that there is truth in the statement that, "those who care don't matter, and those who matter don't care." I have learned that the only thing I have in this world that no one can take away from me is my word, my honor and my integrity. If I make a promise, I keep it. Even when keeping that promise causes me a lot of pain, I keep that promise. My sons believed that I was beautiful, strong, courageous, graceful, wise, intelligent. Don't know where they came up with that, but I AM going to be who they believed I was. Jason and Rick's voices have been silenced. Mine has not, and will not, be silenced.
I've learned that you can like me, or not like me. I don't care. I am going to continue to do everything I can to make this world just a little bit better. This thing called life isn't the party I'd hoped for, but since I'm here, I'll dance anyway. And if me being silly or obnoxious or sarcastic or any of the myriad things that I am can brighten someone's day, I'll keep doing it. Some of my regular guests call me their "sunshine". I don't know why, but if I can make them smile, it's worth it. Smiles. Hugs. Love. Laughter. They are so important. As I've told you before, one of my Young One's at work said that I was the only person that ever says, "I love you" to them. Those three little words are really important.
Life is so very, very precious. Every person we see, we impact in one way or another. You get what you give, so I try to only give the good, and toss out the bad. I am going to keep on keeping on, my way. I am going to continue walking in the rain. I'm going to play in mud puddles if I want to. I'm not going to hold grudges. While it is true that some people can no longer be a part of my life, I will always love them. I will respect their point of view. But I won't let them hurt me anymore. I'm going to go dancing. I'll skop and hip (my boys words from long ago.). If I want a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, I'm going to eat it. I'm going to drink the good red wine, because what in the world am I saving it for?
Realize that, if you end your life, you aren't really ending YOUR life. Your life's end ends the lives of all of those who love you. Every single day, we wonder what we could have done differently. Every single day, we blame ourselves. Every single day, we wonder where we went wrong. There will always be the "would have" and "could have" and "if I'd only......" 's. People say you should just forget about it. Well, it's very easy to convince your head that you did everything you could. Try telling that to your heart. Not quite so easy. Reach out your hand, and let someone help you. You don't have to go it alone. More people love you than you know.
Be kinder than you have to be. Walk good, be blessed, and may Angel wings always surround you.
I am Jason and Rick's Little Mother, and I am a Survivor of Suicide.
Brenda Adkins, always Red's & Red Man's Mom