Monday, 28 August 2017

Six hundred and Six (Opinion, and lots of it)

That's how many New Zealanders chose suicide in the last 12 months according to the provisional statistics released today by the coroners office.
I'm not really too interested in demographics, suicide is suicide regardless of what box society had them in.
I'm not surprised at the increase in numbers, I've been mumbling for a long time that I believe the numbers will increase before they decrease, if they ever do decrease.
The truth is, I'm surprised it isn't higher. It probably is higher in reality.

Once again, every mainstream news media outlet appears to have climbed on board the news story train telling us all what many of us already know.
It's too high.
It's bad.
We need to do more.
And in another week it will be just another story buried in an archive only to be viewed by a few.

Yes, we do need to do more, but frankly, the areas where everyone is screaming for more to be done might not be where it needs to be done.
Sure, New Zealand's mental health services do indeed appear to be in crisis and largely inadequate.
Why is that?
Could it be because people are constantly pushed toward services that already can't cope before they arrive on the doorstep which means failure is imminent?
I have no clue as to what the answer to that might be but it's patently obvious to me that nobody has the solution to the mental health systems inadequacies, otherwise they would be getting better.

So, now I await the statements from all the same people who claim to have the blueprint for change.
The blueprint for a reduction in the number of suicides.
The blueprint for success.
I don't have it, never will have it, and don't believe anyone else has it either.
Because I don't believe there is one.

I believe the time is coming for hidden agendas, if there are any, to be exposed.
I'm a long way from a conspiracy theorist, but to me, there's just too much that doesn't quite add up.

I appreciate that the way I view all this isn't how most people view it and I know I open myself up to attack, but come on New Zealand.
Change can only start at the bottom, it's too late to try and fudge things around somewhere in the middle.
It's too late when someone is dead.
Suicide is not all about mental illness and depression.
Everyone needs to step off that bandwagon, the biggest, realest problems might have nothing to do with mental illness.

We cannot win the game after the final whistle has blown, we need to change the game plan.

Take a good hard look at yourself. Could you do more?
Take a good hard look at your own children.
Your grandchildren.
Teach them to bounce.
Teach them to be resilient.
Teach them that they will endure hard times and it's OK, we all do, but they with some support they don't last. Support them through the tough times.
Teach them they are valuable.
Teach them that it's OK to love and lose.
Teach them that pain is part of being.
Allow them to learn their own lessons, in their own time.
Love them but allow them to breath and grow.

If we can start fresh with the newest generation maybe there is a chance for them and their children.
We can all look hard at the reflection in the mirror and change the one person looking back at us.
That might just be enough.

I'm not an expert in any of this.
I'm just a guy with opinions, thoughts. stories and ideas based on real life experience and real life conversations with other people who've experienced similar things.
I'm not trying to save the world, too many other people are busy doing that.

Sadly, when it comes to suicide, all it is for many people is someone else's problem.
One day, it might not be.
And you're not ready for that, I sure wasn't.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The calm before .....more calm?

It's a week out from my book being available.
For the past few weeks it's been available for pre-order at a reduced cost, prior to the actual release, with only a handful of orders.
The cost of purchasing it is to cover the cost of creating it, which I've explained a few times now so I won't explain it all again unless I'm asked a direct question.
It's not about money, it's about raising awareness and helping other people.

I'm not having a big launch for the book, even though I tried my hardest to get the attention of mainstream media to help me do that.
I wanted to have some sort of launch, but nobody wanted to help and the only response I got was to tell me 'I'm very busy at the moment'.
I've never been one to pursue avenues that lead nowhere.

Living through the aftermath of a suicide is never easy for anyone, although there do seem to be different degrees of difficulty for different people and different losses.
But, it's not a competition, we all deal with things differently.

Since my journey of understanding and self discovery began almost four years ago, I've learned a lot.
I've learned a lot about people and what makes them tick. In essence, human beings are largely selfish and despite what we all portray, we really do want what's best for us firstly as individuals, with what we want for others secondary.
I've admitted before and I'll admit it here again, I'm quite materialistic. I like nice things and I've worked hard to get to a place where I can have the things I like and want.
Everyone likes nice things and I believe everyone is materialistic, but only a few will admit to it.

I've learned that much of life comes down to choices.
We all make poor choices during our lives, personally, I've made plenty!
Sadly, many poor choices don't become the lessons they need to be and lives become endless cycles of the same poor decisions being made with the expectation of different results.
Repeating the same mistake over and over will never yield a different result.

When it comes to suicide, I have certain views which don't quite suit the mainstream ideals and the ways that the powers that be are brainwashing the masses into thinking.
I believe I've struggled to gain any traction in the mainstream because of it and that's OK, I won't conform to impossible ideals just because self proclaimed experts say 'this is the way, this is the truth'.
I will remain true to myself and my beliefs.
What I have a hard time understanding is how these self proclaimed experts can continually have the masses spell bound, hanging off their every word, while continuing to make no difference to the number of suicides whatsoever.
Perhaps, in more instances than anyone cares to admit, suicide isn't really preventable.

These days I see myself as a realist, a little bit rough around the edges, a fair distance outside the proverbial box. Perhaps a wee bit opinionated too.
I don't need to fit in, I don't need to agree with things I don't believe because someone says I should.

It appears to me that a lot of what's going on in the name of mental health and suicide prevention is really just a few people criticising the actual efforts of others with the sole intention of getting their disciples to either comment supportively or click the 'like' button.

Constantly pointing out perceived problems does not create a solution.

While others focus on the prevention of suicide, I've always had more interest in the aftermath of it.
When a person chooses suicide, for them, it's over. The suffering, the pain, whatever their problems were, perceived or real, it's over.
That's one persons problems solved.
But, for that one person ending their own pain and suffering, a ripple of pain is created with countless people affected by it. That's where things are the realist.
That's where I live.

Reality central.
Population negligible.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Carrying some anxiety and me.

About three years ago, I learned something about myself that helped me to make sense of countless situations during my fifty three years on this planet.
I learned this after a consultation with my doctor which I had gone to because I thought I was dying.
After Brett's suicide, I struggled to hold it together, no question.
Outwardly I portrayed everything expected of a typical Kiwi male while internally I was an absolute shambles and nothing made any sense. And I mean nothing.
My mind kept trying to convince me that nothing really mattered. Whenever I tried to focus, my mind would tell me something like 'Brett's dead, who cares about work'. Or 'Who cares if you upset someone, Brett's dead'.
In a sense, my mind was trying to convince me that because my younger brother chose to exit by suicide, nothing mattered any more.
By and large, I managed to hold it together.
For about six months or so after Brett died, my mind was constantly trying to get me to self destruct by convincing me that because Brett was dead, nothing mattered, the entire world could effectively go fuck itself.
Many, many times I found myself giving in to these thoughts and countless times I set about self destructing with copious amounts of alcohol....sometimes in company, sometimes alone.
I digress......
I explain a bit more about this in my book, but somewhere along the line I was forced to go to the doctor because I was regularly struggling to get enough oxygen into my lungs and I genuinely thought my time was up. I actually started to believe I had succeeded in my mission of self destruction.
Realising that something was messing with my mojo, and also with the threat of GBH from my wonderful wife Wendy if I didn't, I took myself along to the doctor.
Long story short, after a long conversation and some straight shooting honesty on my part, I was introduced to my lifelong partner in crime.
Mr Anxiety. I also learned that Mr Anxiety had a mate he sometimes brought with him.
Mr Panic Attack. What a fun guy he is!
Until this moment, I was completely unaware that anxiety had been a part of my life forever.
But, as I journeyed backward through my brother Brett's life to try and make sense of his suicide, I started remembering situations where social anxiety had destroyed occasions and situations throughout my whole life.
As a kid, I was socially awkward, didn't quite fit in, preferred a small group to a crowd, was always too scared to speak in a group.
Nothing was any different as a teenager but for the fact that I discovered a way to be a social butterfly.
Alcohol. Alcohol was the lubrication that allowed me to fit in.
As an adult, much the same pattern continued.
I won't go into too much more detail because frankly, it's my personal business and to go right into it would mean bringing other people in and I'm not prepared to do that.

Once I learned what was going on, the next thing I needed to do was learn how to manage it.
I'm not a drug taker and having tried counseling some years earlier, I didn't feel that was an option for me either.
I worked hard on myself and pushed my personal boundaries right to their limits. The biggest part of this was sharing what I'd learned firstly with my wife Wendy, and then with my son Dylan whom I was working with every day at the time. The simple act of sharing what was happening actually started to make the occurrences of it lesser, and when it did rear it's head, it was easier to see it off.
These days, I can talk about it to whoever wants to listen and I can manage it.

I learned that while alcohol allowed me to be extremely social, the following few days after a bender my anxiety levels were through the roof because I was constantly worrying about what I'd said or done to offend or upset anyone that I couldn't remember.

Quitting alcohol twenty months ago presented some new issues for me.
How would I ever be able to be among groups of people sober?
The truth is that yes, it is more difficult, but it is doable. I now find humour in watching people slowly get drunk, the funniest thing ever for me is talking to a drunk person who knows I'm sober so pretends to be sober too. These days I almost look for that guy to entertain me.
But there is a limit to the entertainment and I do struggle to be around very drunk people.

I refuse to say I suffer with anxiety, because I don't.
It's a part of me and I embrace it. There's no point denying it, or trying to hide it. That only makes it worse.
Nowadays, I don't know if Mr Anxiety visits less, or if I've become good at managing his bullshit.
His mate Mr Panic Attack must have died or something, because he never comes around any more.

When Mr Anxiety does call in, I just ride the waves. He only visits these days when I'm in a situation where I need to be among a large group of people and I can control him relatively easily.

While I prefer to be at home living a quiet life, I can also cope with the social situations I need to be in sometimes with a simple ritual.
I give Mr Anxiety a call beforehand and give him a message.

'I own you, you will never own me'.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Crystal ball gazing.....

With the new web site about to go live and the release of the book looming, I find myself reflecting on everything that has led me to where I am today.
My thoughts are constantly drifting back to the day Brett decided to exit this realm and these days, I find it easier to think about.
I think a lot about the relationship Brett and I had, growing up so close together and yet seemingly so far apart.
Bothers in arms, fighting side by side, fighting each other, having each others backs whether right or wrong.
Poles apart behind the curtains.

I still ask the questions.
Could I have done more?
Should I have done more?
What more could have been done?
While I still ask the questions, these days I'm not so hung up on finding the answers. I accepted certain things a long while ago and the letting go of the burdens of guilt and anger have been liberating.
I guess the answers to the questions may never really be known, but for me it was important for my own sanity to find answers that worked for me.
I found those answers and ultimately, I found peace.

So now, as well as drifting back into the memory banks and reminiscing in solitude, I find myself looking forward into the future and wondering where I go from here.
It's been a long and tiring road thus far and I really am scared beyond explanation about what lies immediately ahead which will undoubtedly meet with some harsh criticism and honestly, I'm not sure I'm ready for that.
The intention was to bring a dark subject into the light and if that means copping a bit of flak, so be it.
It still doesn't mean I'm ready for it!

The topic of suicide is never an easy one to talk about and there are literally thousands of people out there telling us all we need to talk about it. And we do.
There are still so many archaic ways of thinking, the way forward is still as murky as all fuck. I can't see what the future holds but I can see and I still hear the typical macho bullshit talk about how the people who take their own life are selfish. They are weak. They didn't consider the people they were leaving behind.
If you've ever uttered any of these words, try this:
You, motherfucker are the selfish one. In saying things like this, you have no consideration for the person who has taken their own life, you are wrapped up in your own learned beliefs. You are the weak one, you are merely passing on your pearls of wisdom because you believed what someone told you and it was easier to continue the cycle of ignorance than it was to become informed.

The way forward for me is the same as it's always been I guess.
One foot in front of the other, there is really no other way.

Wendy and I are having a week in Rarotonga towards the end of August, we need to take a break, clear the cache and recharge a bit.
I personally need a little time to recollect my thoughts away from civilisation and distraction.

I don't have a crystal ball, but I do know this:
Wherever I go from here, it will be because I chose to go there.
It won't be because I followed someone who is lost.