Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Survivor's Side of Suicide: Part 2/2

Today, we're concluding author Julie Cantrell's post on what it's like living through a loved committing suicide.

You can find Part I here.

Welcome back, Julie.

When Robin Williams passed away, the world was abuzz weighing the controversial issues of mental illness, depression, and suicide.

While some people were unable to extend kindness or understanding, proving we have a long way to go in our culture’s recognition of chemical imbalances, the international conversation gave me hope. It proved that people are finally willing to say the word SUICIDE out loud, without the hushed whispers and back corner gossip.

Putting this word on equal footing with all the other words in our vernacular is important. It lessens the sting.

I consider this progress, and I am optimistic the forward momentum will continue.

It is time.

I write this blog today for several reasons:

§  One, I am proud to have been the sister to an amazingly bright spirit who left this world too soon and whose memory I want to keep alive.

§  Two, I want to increase understanding and support for the millions of people struggling with chemical imbalances.

§  Three, I want to offer support and empathy to all who have lost a loved one to suicide and encourage you to speak out loud to honor their spirit and to educate those on the other side.

§  Four, and most importantly, I have a very important message for anyone struggling with depression.

One week after my brother died, we received notice that he had landed the career opportunity he wanted with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. That job may have been enough to offer him the key to that cell, the something to cling to, the reason for reason. Maybe, if he could have stuck it out one more week, he would still be alive today. Seven days, and he may have had hope again.

Today, when I see someone struggling for hope, looking for a signal, a reason, proof that their life matters and that the pain will indeed end, I think of my brother and that phone call that came one week too late.
If you are struggling with depression, please remember... you are in this world for a reason. You have a very important journey you must complete. You were born to accomplish something, something only you know. You will suffer, you will hurt, you will feel hopeless and alone at times. But you are not in that space forever. Keep walking, keep moving forward, and you will find your way through in time.

When you hit bottom, please remember this: You are loved. You are never alone. You were born with everything you need to survive this journey. You matter. And once you are on the other side, as you will soon be, then, you will look back with wiser eyes, the eyes of a survivor. You will know your soul survived the stretching season. And you will move through the world with greater empathy and understanding, a gift like none other. For you, sensitive one, are the blessed. And we need you here. In this life.

Be brave. Wage war. Hold fast to the light inside of you.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

This post will be shared across multiple platforms for National Suicide Prevention Week. Learn more about suicide prevention by visiting:

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, WhenMountains Move, hit shelves September 1, 2013.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Survivor's Side of Suicide: Part 1/2

I'm honored to have friend and NYT's bestselling author Julie Cantrell here this week with a poignant post about her brother's suicide.

Suicide seems to have come to the forefront with the death of Robin Williams but suicide is ever present. Last week was Suicide Awareness Week and I'm willing to do what I can (as a mother, nurse and author) to help raise awareness.

Thank you, Julie, for these words.

Suicide is one ugly word. It’s the kind of word that swings heavy from lips. The kind that is whispered, and stilted, never sung.

As an author, I build my life around words. Every word has worth. Even those words we are not supposed to say.

But suicide is the one word I do not like. I wish there was no need for such a word in our world. Especially since 1997, when my teen brother ended his own life two months before his high school graduation.

It is one thing to be on the other side of suicide, where you may offer prayer or casseroles or even a hug. It is another thing entirely to be on the side of the survivor, after a loved one puts a gun to the head or a rope to the neck or a blade to the vein.

That dark depth of despair is no easy channel to navigate because unlike every other form of death, this one was intentional. This one could have been prevented. This one carries immeasurable sting.

The what-ifs and but whys and I wonders never cease. They haunt all hours, whether moonlit or shine.

And the stares don’t stop either, the constant conversation that hangs silently between friends — at the grocery store, or in the church pews, or at the birthday party. No one says it, but they are thinking… That poor mother, how does she stand it? Or – That poor child, knowing his father took his own life.

What people on that side of suicide don’t understand is that we, the survivors left in the wake, are barely keeping our heads above water. We don’t want pity, or sympathy, or stares. We don’t want whispers, or questions, or help. We want one thing only. We want our loved ones back.
And there’s one simple way you can give this to us.

Talk about the people we loved and lost. Don’t dance around us as if their ghost is in the way. Acknowledge the lives they lived. Recognize the light they once shined. Laugh about the fun you once had together.

There’s nothing you can tell us — no detail too small, no memory too harsh — that will hurt us. We crave it all. We are hungry for any piece of time travel you offer. Bring us back, to that space, when the one we loved was in the here and now.
Suicide is something most of us struggle to understand. It is difficult to rationalize the selfish part of such an act. How could someone not care about the pain they would throw on their loved ones? How could someone not be strong enough to stay alive?

But here’s the truth: suicide was not the cause of my brother’s death. Depression was the cause of his death. And depression is a beast unlike any other. It is an illness we still struggle to cure, despite all the therapeutic and pharmaceutical intervention available today.

Sometimes, even with all the help in the world, a person cannot see through the pain. They cannot imagine a better day ahead. They see only more hurt. And when I say hurt, I mean suffering. Blood-zapping, brain-numbing, soul-bursting agony.

Imagine this: you wake every day as a prisoner. You are trapped in a cell with no freedom in your future. You are tortured — physically, emotionally, psychologically. The anguish never stops. Just when you think you cannot survive another blow, it comes again. More pain.

You try to ignore the ache. You cannot. You try to numb the hurt. You cannot. You try to rise above the pain. You cannot. The brutality persists. And you see no end to it.

If you knew you had to endure only one more round of abuse, or one more month, or even a year, or longer — If there was an end in view, you could be strong enough to handle it. You could take whatever is thrown at you because you want, more than anything else, to live.

You are a sensitive soul and you have so much left in you to give. You want only to love and be loved. But the cell has you trapped. You have tried everything. There is no end to the insufferable situation.

A person with depression becomes suicidal when they finally give up all hope. When they accept that nothing they do, no matter how long they survive, no matter how many medications or prayers or therapists they turn to, the pain will never end.

Can you imagine the pain you would have to be in to take your own life? Can you imagine the fear of a suicidal person (regardless of faith), daring to face the unknown because even the possibility of eternal hellfire or permanent purgatory or absolute absence seems less scary than another day in this world?

We'll conclude with Part II on Thursday.


Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, WhenMountains Move, hit shelves September 1, 2013.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Enterovirus 68

Hello Redwood's Fans!

How has your week been? Mine? Busy at work. Are we seeing the dreaded Enterovirus 68? Why yes, yes we are.

To be honest with you, I just clued into this in the last week. For those of you who might be new to the blog (yea, new readers!), I work as a pediatric ER nurse in a pediatric dedicated urgent care/ER for my real job.

What we noticed was a heavy amount of respiratory related illnesses hitting earlier than ususal. The unit was very busy and we had quite a few admissions for children who needed oxygen with mild-moderate respiratory distress. 

It's not unusual for the fall/winter to bring out viral illnesses. RSV and influenza are normal players but they usually don't get off the bench until late November or December at the earliest. This is why we encourage people to get flu shots in October. So they have the requisite two weeks or so to build immunity. 

So, in September, when patient visits picked up precipitously-- we were like, "What is going on?" 

Enterovirus 68. That's what was going on.

Enterovirus is not new. It comes out to play this time of year. It usually causes mild fever and upper respiratory illness. Enterovirus 68 is just a little more potent. It is a virus so only symptomatic support will help. Meaning, if your oxygen level is low, we give you oxygen. In my experience, it is exacerbating asthma. A small subgroup of patients can also develop respiratory distress over the course of 6-12 hours from onset of illness. 

What should you do

1. Good hand washing is the best prevention. Stand six feet away from people who are coughing.
2. If your child develops a cold with fever, keep an eye of them for signs of respiratory distress and a few other things. If you see these, then seek medical evaluation as soon as possible. 
  • Consistently breathing fast.
  • Skin tugging with each breath (between the ribs, above the clavicles, above the sternum).
  • Pulling with their belly with each breath.
  • Nostrils flaring with each breath.
  • Color changes. Looking pale or blue.
  • Not drinking fluids.
  • Peeing significantly less than normal.
3. Encourage fluids. Don't worry so much about them eating solids but they must drink and be peeing. 

Be assured that though kids are getting admitted to the hospital, most are coming through the illness with flying colors. There haven't been any deaths, thus far, related to this virus. 

For you this week. 

I'm honored to have friend and author Julie Cantrell stop by to post this week about surviving her brother's suicide. Suicide prevention week was last week and I'm honored to help spread her words for hope and healing.

Have a great week. 


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Author Question: X-linked Disorders

Carol Asks:

I have a female character, about 20 years old, who was adopted in a closed adoption. Her biological mother now has a son. He's likely in his teens but may be younger. I'm not really sure yet if it matters unless it affects the answer to this question.

The biological mother discovers that her son has some sort of disease that is carried by women but only affects men. The biological mother then seeks out seeks out my character. Bio mom didn't know if the adopted child was a boy or a girl and wanted to let the child know that either she could be a carrier or he could be affected, depending on gender, of course.
Ideally, I'd like something that is sufficiently serious [not like... color blindness] to warrant seeking out the adopted child, but not deadly in childhood especially but also prefer it to be something that could go unnoticed until adulthood and then managed, even if not cured.

Does that make sense? Is there anything that fits the bill?

I found the wiki on X-linked chromosomes, but so much of it looks like Greek to me.
Jordyn Says:

You were off to a great start researching X-linked disorders. These are disorders carried on the X chromosome and therefore passed along from the mother to her child.  
I sat down with a doctor friend and we came up with two possibilities of X-linked disorders that would present later in life but are fairly serious enough to warrent a biological parent hunting them down.

They are:
1. McLeod Syndrome (this might be your best option).

As stated from the link: McLeod neuroacanthocytosis syndrome is a primarily neurological disorder that occurs almost exclusively in males. This disorder affects movement in many parts of the body. People with this condition also have abnormal star-shaped red blood cells (acanthocytosis). This condition is one of a group of disorders called neuroacanthocytoses that involve neurological problems and abnormal red blood cells.

The signs and symptoms of McLeod neuroacanthocytosis syndrome usually begin in mid-adulthood. Behavioral changes, such as lack of self-restraint, the inability to take care of oneself, anxiety, depression, and changes in personality may be the first signs of this condition. While these behavioral changes are typically not progressive, the movement problems and intellectual impairments that are characteristic of this condition tend to worsen with age.
2. XMEN Disease

XMEN Disease might take a while to diagnose and put you closer into the time frame of your question. It might be discovered after the child presents with frequent infections.

Hope this helps and good luck!