Together Again…

My grandparents came to this country right around the same time my family and I did. 1976. While I was growing up, my family lived 2 blocks away from them. I saw them all the time. And every time I saw them, my grandpa was always doing something. From the time I was a little kid, to just a few years ago, I remember he was never just sitting around. He was never one of those old men just sitting around waiting to die. He would keep his mind sharp and read newspapers and magazines all the time. Keep his body active by walking everywhere. A nearby park, up and down the block, or to my house when the ex and I moved out of my parents house. Oh did I mention we only moved 2 blocks down from my parents?? So my grandpa would get exercise by also walking to my house every day to bring me a plate of whatever my gramma made that day for lunch. We’re Mexican, we don’t know how to make food for just two people, and my gramma definitely didn’t either!

Whether it was “caldo Tuesdays”, or chile relleno Wednesdays, or molé Thursdays, “Pape ‘Fredo” or “Apa” would be at my door around 11:30 every morning. And sometimes he’d stay a while. I’d show him whatever I was working on that day, maybe I had a translating gig to wrap up or whatever. The best times tho were when he’d hang out and tell me stories about his childhood. About swimming in the Rio Grande as a kid. His oldest sister watching him because his mom died when he was about 3….I loved hearing about his life. At only 2 blocks away, then 4 blocks away, I saw them a lot for the first 35 years of my life. I’ve since moved a whopping 5 minutes by car away from them, so although there was no walking to their house anymore, I could still visit often.

And my grandpa could do anything. With all the knick-knacks he had in various silver buckets around his work station/covered porch, he could fix any broken appliance you brought him. My grandpa was a bad-ass at figuring stuff out and reverse-engineering something just so he can learn how to fix it and put it back together. In fact, up until a few years ago, while in his early 90s, he would still take old, broken assistive devices like a wheelchair or crutches or a walker, he’d fix em up and send them to Mexico to people in need!

My grandpa was a builder, an electrician, and a plumber all rolled into one. He built several houses in his younger days growing up in Mexico. He and his new bride lived in one before moving to the US, my aunt and her kids lived in a different home he built, before they too moved here in the 80s, my parents and older brother lived in one he built, before we too immigrated when I was born. My grandpa kept possession of the homes for a long time before finally giving them up a couple decades ago. Dude was just such a jack of all trades, he could just do anything. ❤️

Gramma passed away in July 2016, and that had the effect of kick-starting, and greatly accelerating, his downhill slide. And not just as you might suspect, with depression. Where 6 months earlier was a man who, tho he was 97, his cognitive skills were still great, his mind was sharp. Within weeks of her funeral, he’d forget who some of his family members were. He wouldn’t remember who came to visit him that day. He’d tell us my gramma was at JC Penny shopping and would be back soon. Everything came to a head when he had a stroke about two weeks before passing. But even after having an embolic stroke, things looked up. He survived the stroke, he survived the surgery, doc said he may only have sustained 1% – 2% brain damage from the stroke because of how quickly he was diagnosed and treated, and given tPA. I mean, everything that could go right, went right! Seriously, he was up and eating soft foods a couple days ago!! He was a fighter right to the end. The doc himself couldn’t believe how good a 99 year old man came out of stroke surgery! We all had hope that his wish of living to 100 would become a reality.

Taken after his stroke. He was up. Aware. Talking. Eating. We thought he was going to be ok. 💔

But when they brought him home, he took a turn for the worse. And tonight, he took his final breath at 9:29pm. Surrounded by his 5 kids, and many of his grandkids. Surrounded by love and tears at first, just an overwhelming sense of loss. But then as the night went on, smiles and laughs filled the room. Sharing random memories of his life, I shared how once when his kids wanted to get him a second hearing aid because he only had the one, he said he didn’t want 2 of them because, “Then I’d have to turn off two hearing aids instead of one when I don’t want to hear your mother!” I mean come on, that’s comedy gold people! 😂

Or the time when grandkids (I cannot confirm nor deny that this may have included me and my brother) secretly passed around the tequila bottle and took shots, making sure my gramma didn’t see it because as the matriarch of a Mexican family, she was the most powerful member of the family and the one you should fear the most! But my grandpa saw us, and said he wanted a shot! So we gave him one and I’ll never forget my gramma, rolling her eyes, asked how it was and Apa said it was “like a choir of angels going down my throat.”🤘 #hardcore #thuglife #DamnItFeelsGoodToBeAGangsta 🤘

I said when my gramma passed, and I’m saying it again now, losing a grandparent is never easy, whether you’re 12 or 42. Whether you feel cheated from only having 15 years with them before they died, or whether you’re in your 40s and you’re devastated because you’re a grown man, been alive for decades and decades, and you’ve never, ever existed in a world without them in it.
Either way, it’s damn painful.

But they’re together again. Arm in arm as they always were. He loved her so much, always making sure she was safe. And when he said things like, “I don’t want to have to turn down 2 hearing aids to ignore your mother,” it was all love. They adored each other. He adored her. Just look at the pictures. Always holding her arm, always looking out for her. 70 years together. And now, they are together again. We lost our matriarch and tonight our patriarch. And it sucks. And I don’t know how to end this, but it felt good…..therapeutic, just to write down. As I sit here in tears, I thank you for indulging me and reading this far.

Adiós Apa, lo quiero mucho.
-Su Roperito

Alfredo Aceves Salas
September 16, 1919 – January 28, 2019

#family #grandparents #OnDeathAndDying #grandpa

……..Together again……

At his 90th birthday. That man loved his sweets!

1946

He. Loved. His. Sweets.

I wonder who the jokester was in that marriage and who was more reserved! 🤔

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Lloyd Dobler Was Wrong

Showing my age here, but ya know that scene in the 1989 classic “Say Anything” starring John Cusack where he says to Constance, “Why can’t you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?”

Turns out, pretty hard when you have a mental illness like depression or anxiety. You can try to stop it, you can try to calm the metaphorical voices in your head. (Literal voices would be schizophrenia, which is a whole different topic.) And it might even be possible to stop the voices. Ah, but with help. Either with meds, or with therapy. Someone smarter than you who went to school and studied these things can help you. Someone who has an arsenal of tools in their toolbox. Jedi mind tricks you can play on yourself. But you can’t do it alone. Not really. Not if you actually have depression, not if you’re actually dealing with anxiety, having a panic attack. You can’t just “decide to be in a good mood” when you have a mental illness.

“Sure you can. Just be happy. Change your attitude. Happiness is a choice.” Some of you still believe it is a sign of weakness to be depressed or to have anxiety. And truth be told, I don’t blame you because I get it. The reasons for your disbelief are complex. For some of my guy friends, it’s the culture of “toxic masculinity” that tells you that “real men” don’t cry, let alone have depression. “Yeah right, ‘depression’ sure ok.”

The culture of toxic masculinity is killing our boys and men by the way, but that’s a topic for another day.

For others, you simply will always believe mental illness is nothing more than a character flaw. You will readily believe that something in your brain can go wrong causing you to develop Alzheimer’s. You accept that neurons can misfire and cause dementia or schizophrenia. You break out the science jargon when explaining the “love chemical” oxytocin. And you’ll accept that soldiers can get PTSD from watching women and children die. But depression? Anxiety? PTSD in a non-military person? Suddenly things change. Suddenly anybody that claims to have depression is just “sad” and needs to “get over it.” Depression is just “lack of will power.” “Laziness.” “Not praying enough.” “Everybody gets sad sometimes. Just be happy.” Someone having severe anxiety is “just lying,” or is “weak.” “My dad used to beat me within an inch of my life. And I turned out fine.”

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To that I say great. Fantastic. Your brain isn’t misfiring. Your fight or flight response doesn’t get stuck in the on position. Wonderful. In truth, our brains are more powerful than any super computers. And sometimes our super computers fail. Yet you won’t believe that those very same super computers that invented geometry and theoretical physics can go through a traumatic experience, trigger a predisposition, misfire, and cause depression or anxiety, or that something other than war can cause PTSD. Just like bad habits can trigger heart disease, trauma can trigger mental illness. Something turned that switch on for me, and not for you. That’s all.

Mental illness is even more complicated than we know. We are learning more and more every day. It’s real, it’s complicated, and it’s not a matter of simply “being weak.” This theory states that neurogenesis, or the creation of neurons, helps cure depression. It says that the reason SSRI’s work might not be due to raising serotonin levels, but rather in promoting neuron growth! Or this study that shows how stress in your environment can lead to inflammation in your body, which can lead to brain changes and the development of mental illness.

This study shows that anxiety might be inherited from your parents and actually changes your brain right from the start. Finally, this study shows how environment, background, brain function, and stress hormones can all overlap and lead to depression and other mental illness. The point here is that mental illness is real, really complicated, and can’t be simplified down to “being weak.” Some of it is brain stuff, some of it is situational, some is your environment. We just don’t know, and are learning more and more every day.

But some of you don’t believe. Your life experiences and perhaps *your* brain’s wiring have led you to a place where mental illness isn’t real. And that’s alright. I’m just grateful for my ridiculously supportive wife. My family. My friends. My friend Dese’Rae, creator of Live Through This, which focuses on suicide attempt survivors. Jenny and #TheBloggessTribe who just “get it” and I love that I never have to explain anything to them when I panic about something that I did just fine the week before.

Mental illness can feel overwhelming. Debilitating. Terribly lonely. You will feel like you’re the only one going through this. Nobody else gets it. You, and only you, have experienced pain like this. But that’s not true. Millions of people around the country have broken brains. Hundreds of millions around the world.

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#NeverAlone

And the good news is that you can do something about it. And no, I’m not talking about praying it away or smiling it away. Not talking about “….decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?” I mean, it can’t hurt to pray or meditate. But it won’t cure a mental illness. No, what we can do about it is that we can talk about it. We can bring awareness. Awareness and facts. Remove the prejudice and bias, the stigma, that many in society have against mental illness. Show people that we’re not crazy or “just weak.” And on a micro level, we can talk to mental health professionals, and we can take SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). If we choose not to do that because we’ve heard it fails for some or makes things worse for others, there are other options and ideas. We can realize and accept that this is real, doesn’t make us “weak”, and is fixable. It won’t be easy. When depression tells you that all you want to do is stay in bed all day because “why bother?” or when anxiety makes you afraid of everything, it won’t be easy to get the help you need. But you can do it. One step at a time.

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I have faith in you ❤

As for me, all I can do is lean on friends and family when the darkness comes, keep taking the meds, see the shrinks, and hope the clouds stay away until they don’t.

If you are having a mental health crisis and need someone to talk to, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 #depressionlies #fuckdepression #MakeChesterProud #TheBloggessTribe #NeverAlone #mentalillness #PTSDAwareness #anxiety #BeThe1To #ReasonsISpeak #StopSuicide #sicknotweak #EndTheSilence #EndTheStigma #AFSP #NSPW #TalkingAboutIt #NotAshamed #320changesdirection #IAmTheChange #IKeptLiving

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Who cares? Well. I do.

It’s 2018 and I’m still pissed off about Chester. To know that we will never get new music from him again. I will never see Linkin Park in concert again. (Thank god I got to at least once!) His voice was amazing. His showmanship, raw and real.

Those left behind after someone dies by suicide are often times angry, understandably. They’ll want someone or something to blame. They’ll say drugs made their loved ones do it. Or alcohol. Their loved one “wouldn’t soberly kill themselves.” And maybe in some cases they’re right. Maybe their thing wasn’t mental illness per se. Maybe their thing was strictly addiction. The rush of dopamine as the chemicals go from the syringe to your veins and into your brain. Maybe that and that alone is what’s appealing to some. I don’t know.

But I do know some stuff. I do know that people with mental illness tend to self-medicate. Because their “thing” is mental illness. Depression. Sometimes severe. And anxiety. Sometimes severe. And we might cope by drinking. A lot. Or doing any number of drugs. A lot. Cocaine. Heroin. Even harmless (by comparison) marijuana. Anything to numb the feelings in our broken brain.

“In her system, Carrie Fisher was found with …..” who cares?! She was bipolar. She lived a wonderful and difficult life and she did whatever she did to cope with her mental illness and don’t you dare judge her.

And as someone with mental illness, I think it’s so important when loved ones of those that have ended their lives recognize when it isn’t the drugs or alcohol. Even through their grief and their pain, it’s important to recognize that what took their loved one was skewed thinking and a broken brain.

Such is the case with Chester Bennington. He suffered, and I use that word intentionally, suffered with mental illness. Severe depression. No drugs in his system at time of death. Very little alcohol. Half a glass of Corona at his side. He had a mental illness. His widow says it, his band mates say it.

“….the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place” read a portion of the statement from his band mates after his death.

Dammit if they weren’t right. We’re the same age he and I, give or take a couple of months. And I fell in love with the group over and over, the first time I heard One Step Closer…Crawling…Numb…Breaking the Habit…the list goes on and on. I heard those songs and I thought, “Man. Somebody gets me. I’m not alone. Someone else understands what it’s like to live with these demons.”

#FuckDepression and #MakeChesterProud are two hashtags his wife Talinda and his band mates created to raise awareness about mental illness. And I’m grateful to her and them for saying, “Yeah ya know what? Mental illness. Depression. It’s real.” You can have it all, you can be, well, you can be Chester Bennington, lead singer of one the greatest rock n roll bands of the last 20 years, have the money, have the fame, have a family that loves and adores you, have fans that love and adore you in their own way…. You can have all that, but your broken brain doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter. If you were born with a predisposition, if trauma triggers a change and neurons started firing differently, you’re going to suffer with severe depression. Mental illness won’t discriminate and doesn’t care, even if you’re Chester effin’ Bennington from Linkin effin’ Park.

Whether it’s because of a brain imbalance, not enough serotonin, or whether it’s environmental situations that trigger a predisposition, it really can happen to anyone.

I’m grateful to Talinda. Through what is a pain I can’t even imagine because even tho I myself have mental illness, I have never lost anyone close to me to suicide. I’m so glad Talinda is bringing awareness to mental illness. She recognizes that suicidal people don’t necessarily want to die. Chester didn’t *want* to leave her. Their kids. Friends. He just wanted the pain to end but didn’t know how to make that happen. Suicidal people are not selfish, we’re not merely thinking of ourselves. Indeed we think the world is better off without us.

Doesn’t make rational sense. But that’s the point.

And you can’t fix a broken brain. At least not without meds and/therapy. You can improve your situation, you can change your circumstances, sometimes. And that helps. But you can’t simply will it away, suck it up, make a choice to be happy. Can’t do it. But in this day and age of toxic masculinity, it was likely difficult for Chester to admit he needed help. I don’t know. I don’t know what he did or didn’t do to help his pain.

I loved his music from day one, Crawling in 2000, up to “Heavy,” a song he did with Kiiara. LP’s final single is haunting. One More Light. He wrote it, ironically enough, for Chris Cornell after he too died by suicide. Earlier I mentioned that Chester’s lyrics helped me feel less alone. Well now they do something else too. I listen to lyrics like “Let mercy come and wash away what I’ve done” and my first reaction isn’t to think “Someone gets me.” Instead now I think “God. Poor man. The pain he must have been in.”

Suicide will shift your perspective like that I suppose.

But I am grateful. Grateful for his music, grateful for his company through songs, during some lonely days and nights back in the day. And grateful to Talinda and his band mates for helping spread awareness (and compassion and understanding!) of mental illness. To them I say, thank you.

…….Who cares if one more light goes out? Well. I do.
#fuckdepression #MakeChesterProud #320ChangesDirection #IAmTheChange

#depressionlies
#TheBloggessTribe #NeverAlone
#mentalillness
#PTSDAwareness
#anxiety
#BeThe1To #ReasonsISpeak
#StopSuicide #sicknotweak
#EndTheSilence #EndTheStigma #AFSP #NSPW
#TalkingAboutIt #NotAshamed #IKeptLiving

If you are having a mental health crisis and need someone to talk to, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or you can also text HOME to 741741

Posted in My Life (or "More About Me Than You Ever Wanted to Know") | 7 Comments