Survivor Pro Tips

A series on grief and healing.

Going Back to the List

Sometimes, in between creating new Pro Tips, I go back and look at what I have made so far. It’s important for me, mostly so that I don’t repeat myself, but also so that I can keep in mind what these really are. 

Last night, I had a dream. It was one of those jumbled dreams that mixes memories with your minds inventions, that leaves you feeling haunted the whole next day. In my dream, I was in Matthew’s room, but it was a different room. It was painted over, but the original color was starting to come through the cracked paint on top. I was doing some writing in the room, not sure what it was about, maybe about Matthew. Whatever I was writing was making me upset, his mother was coming to check on me. But the room was suddenly extremely disheveled. The paint began to crack more and more and the room was messy (something that would never occur currently in there, as it is used as an office now). While looking at the paint, trying to peel it back, I noticed that not all of the colors were the correct color, and this upset me. Then everything got really mixed up and muddy. When I woke up, I didn’t know how to react, but I was suddenly hit with the actual memory of his room and the aqua color that filled the walls, his bed in the corner, his computer along with all of his techy projects on a table, a dresser, his closet with no door. Bits and pieces of computers and plastic strewn about, a rubix cube. I was flooded with the memory of him in it, but also the memory of the emptiness after he died. 

After he died, when I finally went into his room, it was so heavy in its emptiness. The emptiness was suffocating. All of his things were still there, everything still in, and out of, place. But then some things jumped out at me. The book he had been reading the last time I saw him, a GED text book, abandoned on a top shelf in the closet with no door, a picture of me from school, tacked to a bulletin board, all by itself. His computer, which he had completely wiped clean, hard drive emptied and stripped. His message, carefully penned on the wall in permanent marker. The weight of his gone-ness was so oppressive, the air, deflated. I could feel the absence of his life. 

This is a memory that I have not had come up in several years. I know there is a lot of dream theory that suggests dreams help you sort through and process things that your mind cannot/does not during the day. Also maybe that the color of the paint being wrong is somehow tied to my feeling like memories get distorted and that we start to weave a narrative around a memory until it becomes something different entirely. Either way, it brought me back to my list. It brought me here, searching for an existing pro-tip that would remind me of something, that would nudge me forward, etc. I could not find one which encompassed everything I needed in that moment, (which clearly means that there are tons more to write) but one did stand out as relevant.

44) Grief is a cycle. It goes around. And comes around.

Someone once asked me at what point I felt that I had truly moved on from Matthew’s death. I plainly told them that you never actually let it go or move on, but it becomes less loaded and less oppressive as time goes on. I remember his mother sending me a quote, shortly after he passed. A quote by Anne Lamott:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp”

So I suppose the Pro Tips are my limping dance. And that this dream is the grief coming around. And that’s fine. The one thing that I try to explain to people who have recently lost someone is that it really hurts to remember. For a while. It takes a long time to not have memories tied to extreme emotions. But you have to hear them out. If you don’t hear them out, if you bury them and ignore them, they become sort of distorted and infected. And then every time they come up, they are painful and they stab you in the gut, or the heart. You kind of have to look at them like scars. You can see them as ugly or disfiguring, or you can see them as an addition to your story, a plot twist that makes your journey unique. 

I may not have wanted any of this, but this is where I’ve ended up and I’m glad I can be here to share this piece of my story with you. 

Thanks for reading,

xox

-M

A little reflection

This past weekend, I spoke at the opening ceremony for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk”. It was my third time walking and my first time speaking. It’s also the first time I have been actively engaged with the suicide prevention community. It was an extremely powerful experience and I am trying to wrap my head around how I feel about it and process some of the struggles I had with it. 

I was starting to feel discouraged about my speech and the fact that I felt it was a little dry and canned, especially compared to the extremely emotional speech of the closing speaker, which has received a huge response. I realized that although the response to my speech has been quieter, it has been there. My speech was never meant for people who would feel comfortable enough to spew their love all over the place on the internet. It was meant for listeners and for people who are more shy. For people who have never seen someone who looks like them talking about something like this. My position within the suicide prevention community as a woman of color is extremely important to me and to my own community. It’s important for me to be visible and to share my story. Many communities of color have a very hard time addressing depression and mental health issues for a variety of reasons. One is lack of access to resources for help. Another is the stigmatization that many people, also people outside of communities of color, face when it comes to these issues. When you have a mental illness or are facing some hardships emotionally, in some communities it is not okay to ask for help or to talk about it. You are supposed to keep that sort of thing to yourself, but that’s another post for another time. 


I may not have struggled with some of the things that other people who participated in the walk did, but my story is as valuable and as important for people to hear. When I was in the thick of my depression, when people walked away from me, were scared of me, didn’t know how to help me, my family and my community were there. The Overnight Walk didn’t save my life, but it has been my chance to show that I saved my own damn life with the help of my family and friends. I wanted to die every single day for YEARS. I struggled to find a piece of reality to hold onto that meant enough to me to not die. I wanted badly to stop feeling pain and I didn’t know how to even begin to heal myself. I scraped my way uphill and it wasn’t rainbows and sunshine, it was fucking hell. I felt lost in a world of distorted memories and fabricated narratives. There were so many nights when I was convinced I would die in my sleep from heartbreak. But you know what? I didn’t. I woke up every day and I made a conscious effort to survive. I decided to say no to death and no to addiction. I struggled just as hard and fought just as bravely and it’s my job and it’s my turn to shine for others now.

This in no way discounts the struggle of others, but I challenge you to see each struggle for what it is, an individual experience. One is not more important than the other.

We crave connection and resonance when we listen to others speak of their experiences. I hope that for someone in the crowd, what I said resonated, and that it lit up a small piece of them that they’ve been hiding in the dark, afraid to share. I hope that after my speech, folks who are in the lowest, darkest times see that you can actually survive. That it’s not easy, but you can come out of the other end of the tunnel, intact, if a little damaged. It has been over ten years since Matthew died. I have had a lot of time to sort out my feelings. But I am nowhere near done. His loss will haunt me forever, like a broken bone that gets sore when it rains. 

I wanted for other people to see that you can become a whole person again. That whole doesn’t mean you haven’t lost anything. Whole simply means that despite loss, you know who you are, you do the best you can every single day, and that you have reconciled with your choices, your flaws, your past, and your present. That you can look to the future and see yourself there.

Need a signal boost!

magtotoart:

Hey tumblr community, I could really use some help getting together the second half of my fundraising efforts. I need to raise $1,000 in two weeks and I need your help!!
I am raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I’ll be walking 16-18 miles in two weeks in Seattle. I will also be SPEAKING AT THE OPENING CEREMONY, which is a huge honor and I’m so nervous and overjoyed.
I’m busting my butt training and organizing fundraisers and I really need your help in getting this message to everyone.
If you are feeling depressed and thinking about hurting yourself:
1) you are not alone
2) you are not a freak
3) there are people who love you and care for you. I don’t even know you, and I care for your well being.
4) you are a strong and resilient human being and I know you can get through this. I am also a survivor and I can tell you it’s not easy, but it’s possible.


Boost if possible, read my story, share your own. Thank you!

Signal boost please!

Soda Popinskis 6-9 pm tomorrow night! On California and Polk in SF. We’ll be bartending, raffling off some sick ass prizes and selling shirts designed by me! Come support my team’s fundraising efforts for suicide prevention, awareness, and research and support for those affected by suicide, depression and mental illness.

Soda Popinskis 6-9 pm tomorrow night! On California and Polk in SF. We’ll be bartending, raffling off some sick ass prizes and selling shirts designed by me! Come support my team’s fundraising efforts for suicide prevention, awareness, and research and support for those affected by suicide, depression and mental illness.

#80: Understand that some days , it will feel impossible. Understand that on those days, it is still possible.

#80: Understand that some days , it will feel impossible. Understand that on those days, it is still possible.

Monica Magtoto's Fundraising Page

magtotoart:

I rarely post personal things here, but I really need your help getting to my goal of $2,000. Ten years ago, I lost one of my closest friends to suicide. Since joining the Overnight Walk three years ago, I have raised over $5,000 to help suicide prevention and research, survivor outreach and research programs, screening programs at universities and other organizations, and support groups. I have also found a place to share my story and help other people share theirs.

This cause is so very close to my heart, and I know that a huge part the Tumblr community is so very aware and I would love your help getting this out there.

Please read my story, share, tell yours, get the word out.

Thanks so much,

xox

-M

#79: each time you overcome an obstacle, it will reveal a new piece of you.

#79: each time you overcome an obstacle, it will reveal a new piece of you.

#78: Better out than in. 
Get it out of your system. Don’t let it eat you alive from the inside.

#78: Better out than in.
Get it out of your system. Don’t let it eat you alive from the inside.

#77: Get out of your own way.
Sometimes we get stuck because we feel like we can’t move or because we convince ourselves that there’s no way out. I challenge you to open a door for yourself the next time you feel that way, kindly step aside, and let your other self through.

#77: Get out of your own way.

Sometimes we get stuck because we feel like we can’t move or because we convince ourselves that there’s no way out. I challenge you to open a door for yourself the next time you feel that way, kindly step aside, and let your other self through.

#76: You are still here.
And that counts for something.

#76: You are still here.

And that counts for something.