Another suicide

suicide, depression
Anthony Bourdain. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Woke up to the sad news that Anthony Bourdain killed himself, also by hanging as Kate Spade, Alexander McQueen, L’Wren Scoot, and Robin Williams all did.

Another. As a professional reminded me yesterday, it’s not the depression that’s the dangerous point as much as it is that moment on the way back up that they have the energy to act. And we cannot always tell when someone is struggling with mood and depression. Many have learned to hide it well.

Bourdain was open about his addictions and his dysfunction. Kat Kinsman even moreso:

But your customers, your diners, your readers — they can never know. It would ruin the illusion. Seeking help for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, addiction, not only is it a financial impossibility for people who often don’t even have access to basic healthcare — let alone mental healthcare — it’s stigmatized. We’re stopping each other from seeking help, and that’s got to change.

We don’t judge if a pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or if the immune system is dysfunctional. But the brain? Oh how we judge. And once again, the ignorant and self-righteous will take to social media to pronounce judgment and call suicide a “selfish act.” It’s not. Full stop.

As with so much other violence, how much will be enough for us to do something? We can start by ending the stigma once and for all around mental health. A talented psychologist told me if someone is determined to kill themselves, they will. That is true. It’s also true that those who have survived things like jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge said they changed their minds after they jumped. Let’s do everything we can to show that we’d like to keep them here until natural death. We can begin with understanding mental illness, destigmatizing it, and kindness… always.

Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain.

 

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The Link Between Child Abuse, Depression, & Mental Health

 

depression, mental health, mental illness
Photo by Ben Maguire on Unsplash

Another wealthy and famous person is dead from suicide. How much depression or Kate Spade’s mental health played a part is speculative until those closest to her decide whether and how much they want to discuss it. And how much they knew. Someone with depression can be an expert at appearing fine.

She was Emeritus Chair on the Board of Directors for the New York Center for Children, which is devoted to the treatment and prevention of child abuse. I don’t know what her connection was to that issue, whether it was an invitation from a friend, because she was a mother, or out of her experience or that of someone close to her.

The connection between child abuse and mental health is something I’ve spent the past few years thinking about and exploring. Those of us who were abused as children experience depression and C-PTSD. I still startle easily, struggle with sleep and hypervigilance, and have flashbacks. It’s why I’ve written about it and will continue to do so. I’m putting together an outline for my own recovery that I hope will help others. It’s part of why nearly all of my writing, including my novels, are roadmaps to emotional recovery.

“Having it all” doesn’t inoculate you from depression. The most maddening tweets I’ve read in the past couple of hours since the news of Kate Spade’s suicide broke are the ones who declare that she was “selfish.” She was not selfish; she was in pain. If you want to remember her, consider donating to a charity with a mission to treat and prevent child abuse or suicide.

If you’re dealing with the fallout from child abuse, there’s help available. Pete Walker’s book Complex PTSD and its workbook, and Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score are a good start. There are groups such as Survivors of Incest Anonymous and RAINN. There are trauma therapists who can use various modalities. Check out the medical side with a compassionate psychiatrist. Do your due diligence about therapists, doctors, and groups. Just as pedophiles seek work around children, emotional predators find ways to access abuse survivors.

If I can heal, so can you.

Please send this on if you know of anyone suffering from the fallout of child abuse. Thank you.

It is finished!

Easter reference intended. I finished a draft of my memoir and it’s out to beta readers plot hole(think beta testers) until my editor is ready the end of June. Beta readers offer general feedback so you get an idea whether the book works and to what degree. The next phase is rewriting, which I generally enjoy because there’s already a structure. When I gave notes to a new screenwriter recently, I warned them that when you change one story element, you’re changing the story. Changes reverberate through the text so you need to be mindful of what other changes may be indicated. Even though writing is a solitary thing, writing shouldn’t be. Get feedback. Find out what you have before throwing it out into the world.

At the moment, I’m in Chicago watching the snow fall. It’s pretty, but I’m in the minority since it’s April. Snow is still new for me. Chicagoans are over it. I do miss the Pacific Ocean – it’s made it’s way into my dreams….  12249585_10153699172837052_4702429217070570911_n

 

What’s brave?

brave, metoo, child abuse, rape
Photo by Leio McLaren via Unsplash

Another predator is exposed. This time it’s Harvey Weinstein. Stars are making statements. Some of these are thoughtful and reflective. Glenn Close says she’d heard the rumors and writes, “Harvey has always been decent to me, but now that the rumors are being substantiated, I feel angry and darkly sad.” Her entire statement is worth reading in the link above.

I’m having a difficult time with those who say they’re shocked. Harvey Weinstein’s behavior was an open secret in Hollywood and, sadly, not unusual. If someone working regularly in Hollywood is truly shocked, it shows they don’t notice those around them who are not in positions of power. I would ask them going forward to notice the expressions and postures on set, especially of women and children. I hope the way this is breaking wide open helps identify other predators, including the pedophiles, on film and TV sets. And the predators in other workplaces around the country.

Given the statistics of child molestation – depending on the source, 1 in 4 or 5 women (and 1 in 6-10 men) – and the number of Weinstein’s victims to date, it is likely that a percentage were molested as children. My issue with the language gushing over the bravery of the women coming forward is this: the victims with child abuse/incest in their background who do not come forward are also brave. Bravery for them, particularly after being re-traumatized, is what anyone else might consider “normal functioning.” Getting out of bed in the morning can be an act of enormous courage.

So yes, kudos to those who’ve come forward. We need them, especially Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and others who have the clout to amplify the message. But let’s not forget those who’ve been hurt beyond measure who can’t or won’t go public out of self-protection, not so much for their public safety or career as for their own mental and emotional well-being.

  They are no less brave. 

Regarding the courage of the abused child, watch this interview: Arthur Miller totally got that about Marilyn Monroe: start at the 4:22 mark for the entire answer and 5:53 for the meat.

When the Access Hollywood tape came out, I had nightmares and recalled one incident in particular that I’d locked away in a closet in my mind. When I heard the audiotape of the NYPD sting of Weinstein, another came back. I am far from the only one. I’m seeing dozens of others on social media saying the same thing. It is a profoundly painful and disturbing experience to have these things resurface unbidden. These predators do not only hurt their victims, they affect most everyone else who has been molested and/or raped.

This is why I am writing my memoir. If you want to support that effort, you may do so here.

9/11: 16 years ago. Never Forget: part of Project 2,996

Annual repost and part of Project 2996

Robert Halligan Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 15, 2001.

Robert  John Halligan
Robert Halligan, Age: 59
Residence: Basking Ridge, NJ
Two WTC, 99th Floor
Aon Corporation, Vice President

SHOPPING ACROSS THE POND

To a proud Englishman, America is a country of vexing insufficiencies. Its supermarkets know not of H.P. (House of Parliament) sauce and tins of steak and kidney pie. Marmite, sadly, remains a mystery.

Several times a year, London-born Robert Halligan, 59, a vice president at Aon, an insurance brokerage firm, would cross the pond to stock up on such indelicacies. He would cheer on his beloved Tottenham Hotspurs, visit his sprawling family, including five adult children, and drop by a specialty shop to add to the locomotive steam engine models he had been collecting since his trainspotting boyhood. Every weekend he brought the old country to his wife, Jerrie, and their son, Trevor, in Basking Ridge, N.J., by cooking a lard-loving British breakfast (sloppy bacon, fried bread, eggs splashed with grease) and Sunday lunch (roast, two vegetables, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding).

Yet for someone who clung to his British identity, Mr. Halligan flourished in America, where he moved with Jerri, his American wife. He gardened here, played golf and danced beautifully. He was a kind, solicitous grandfather of 10 with a knack for joke- telling. And here he celebrated the holiday he loved even more than Christmas: as a citizen of two countries, Robert Halligan adored Thanksgiving.

***

raja.ehtesham
Ehtesham Raja, Age: 28
Place of Residence: Clifton , NJ
TCG Software
WTC

Ehtesham U. Raja of Clifton, NJ was 28 years old when he died in the World Trade Center. He’d gone there for a conference and was in Windows on the World. He was a 1996 graduate of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia. He had his MBA from Goizueta Business School at Emory. His nickname: Shamu, from his friends in Pakistan.

His parents, Raja Aftab Saeed and Begum Asmat Fatima, donated the land for the Arifwala Hospital, a 40-bed facility, fully equipped with diagnostic and curative services, inaugurated on January 19th, 2009. The hospital is dedicated to their son, Raja Ehtesham Ullah, who lost his life on 9/11. All medical equipment was funded by LRBT America. We have also pledged to fund the hospital’s annual operating budget. (note: the hospital is in Pakistan and fights blindness)

From the Emory Goizueta Memorial site (Ehtesham Raja ’98MBA):

“He was a very kind, caring, compassionate, loving, and intelligent person,” says his mother, Asmat Fatima. “He was respected and admired by those who knew him. His talent and sense of humor made him standout in any crowd. But it was his loving and caring attitude that always made me proud.”

Raja, born in Lahore, Pakistan, worked for TCG Software in Bloomfield, N.J. After graduating with a bachelor of science in industrial engineering from Columbia University in New York City, he worked as a security engineer at Citibank on Wall Street, then, according to his Goizueta Business School application, he returned to Pakistan to work for Citibank Lahore, take the GMAT, and apply to business school.

“He was in the best years of his life,” says Fatima. “Everything seems to be going in his favour. After years of dedication and hard work he finally achieved this status. He had all the plans to pursue his career in finance. He was full of hope for his future.”

Raja also enjoyed sports. He was a swimmer and played cricket, squash, soccer, tennis, and polo while at Columbia.

A memorial service was arranged by TCG Software. “They were proud to have him working for them,” his mother says.

“It is still very hard to believe that he is missing and lost forever,” she continues. “I have to be emotionally strong as Ehtesham has a younger brother, who is at a very impressionable age.

“[Ehtesham] knew life and lived life. His time was limited but in that time he touched so many people. . . . May peace be with him now and forever. He will stay in our hearts and memories forever.”

***
Rest in peace, Mr. Halligan and Mr. Raja. Never Forget.

world trade center bombing

when the demons win…

3 years ago. He’s helped so many of us with depression, etc.

Diane Sherlock

Robin WilliamsA lot has already been written about Robin Williams. His exuberant talent and kindness – our grief and shock. And about our misperceptions about depressionand suicide.

When I was in grad school, Marcos McPeek Villatoro gave an amazing lecture on mental illness and creativity that I wish had been recorded. He’s talked about his own diagnosis on NPR. The room filled and soon overflowed and that was the moment I discovered that most of the people around me either had a mental illness or a family member with it. Quiet, hard-working creative people coping with various storms in their brains or those of a parent, sibling, child, or partner. My mother suffered from depression and, while I was a teenager, Valium addiction. I grew up with her threats of suicide, was the one who attended the family support group at the “pain center” (back then, a…

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