Herbs, Mental Health & a Community Activist–a reflection on #death #suicide & #mentalhealthawareness

I have been reflecting on depression and suicide. Not the nicest or most uplifting topics to be thinking about, but there is a pertinent and valid reason. I just went to the funeral of an amazing man. That man committed suicide even with all the love, support, and exceptional people and opportunities this man was surrounded by.

We showed up 20 minutes before visiting hours were over and stood in line for about 45 minutes to, in the end; since the line was so long and we got there too late, go to the funeral. Yet we were hoping, with two children who had not eaten dinner yet at 6:00 p.m., to not stay for the funeral service of someone who we could only get standing room for in the foyer of a huge church; again with two hungry children–one a very antsy 4 year old. I’m now forever grateful we stayed to listen to his eulogy.

I think his obituary was written so beautifully and fully expresses who he was as a man, partner, community activist, humanitarian, and friend to so many: Jim Rivett. I hardly knew the man, but I knew of him. My husband knew his husband, Pete, much better because he was a community librarian who went and read to students at Justin’s school when he was younger. I had some mutual friends of his from working as an intern at a non-profit back in 2010: Beacon House, Inc. Many of the women I knew through that organization were friends with Jim and his husband Pete. These were friends that were 20-30+ years my senior but some of the most humble, kind, and excepting women I ever met.

I will forever cherish that experience and always remember the night we displayed the Mosaic Wall at the newly renovated Grace Presbyterian Church in downtown Green Bay at the company Jim worked for at the time, Arketype. It was absolutely beautiful but unfortunately, is now closed down just a few weeks before Jim took his life. He had started his own marketing firm, Khrome, by now, but this is the place I will always remember meeting him at with all of his amazing vintage vases displayed and a huge smile on his face. He was so excited to see Justin who Jim had shared a studio space with his mother back in the 1980s in this same area, downtown Green Bay, but on Washington St. Jim recalled a video they had made of them rollerskating around in that art studio; it sounded amazing and made us giggle!

All of this reflecting and death has caused my father’s passing, 22 years ago this July 18, to resurface, and the hole it has permanently left with me to this day. It hurts to know Pete has this same hole now, with his life partner of 35 years gone. It is like the biggest sucker punch to the chest a person can ever endure without anyone putting a finger on them. Yet his death, by suicide, is just another declaration of the issue of depression, anxiety, and mental health issues that are diseases among us just like cancer, diabetes, or AIDS. It is ever present in our bodies ready to flare up or rise to the surface; time and again. We try and manage it, but for some it is terminal. For him it was.

Bringing our children to the funeral was both my husband and my decision. Having faced tragic death head-on at 15 makes me aware that it is important to introduce these life experiences to children so that they have some understanding of what life and death mean. In this case, I think for my 10 almost 11 year old daughter, it was a lasting experience that was critical at her age. It showed how much love can surround a person but even with all of that; it couldn’t stop the pain and overwhelming burden of depression.

We have this disease in my family, and I want her to know, just like my mother and father made me aware, that it is ALWAYS okay to talk about how we are feeling and she won’t be judged. Especially because we have all dealt with it. I have been since a very early age and reminded her that at her exact age I started to meet with a psychiatrist weekly. There have been several times throughout the years that life has brought me to the point of having to go and see a psychiatrist or therapist, and it has always been helpful and given me tools to use when dealing with these depressed/anxious feelings. The best one ever given was at 10–journaling!

How does this fit into my herbal blog? Well, it is one of the main reasons I fell in love with herbal remedies. Back when I was 22 or 23 I went on the anti-anxiety medicine, Lexapro, after feeling like my social anxiety was too much for me to handle on my own anymore. I wanted to feel more comfortable and confident; something I had not felt in many, many years. It was easy enough as going to a therapist, talking for a bit, and recommending to her, after seeing lots of advertisements for it, to go on this specific medication. Little did I know, it would not be a cure all and would end up messing with my chemicals in a way I did not foresee.

Since deciding to go off of the medicine and then on my own, which I should not have done, go back on it again briefly, all within a year or so of first taking it; my sex drive was permanently altered. Luckily, I have found healing and prevention now in herbs.

Having children really helped my mental health regarding social anxiety, but I still have ups and downs as far as depression and stress go. My hormones really make my month to month life a roller coaster but once I stared incorporating herbs into my daily routine, as well as exercise a yoga a few days a week, there have been significant improvements like I’ve never seen before. Oh, and without the jittery, chemical imbalance side-effects that I experienced on anti-anxiety medication or birth control pills. It has been life changing for me.

The herbs that I credit for this are: Lemon Balm, Motherwort, Catmint, & Rose. I take them daily except Motherwort which I do not take during my period due to having menorrhagia. For that issue I have now started to incorporate Blue Vervain during my monthly cycle; which is showing to make a world of difference in reducing my bleeding! There is nothing more exhausting than having anemia once a month for 3-4 days to really alter a person’s ability to cope, handle stress, stay well, and complete daily tasks.

There have been so many times that my mind goes to a deep, dark place. I remember as a teenager, especially after my dad’s death, thinking, “I could care less if I died right now.” It was not as if there was a plan to commit suicide but just a feeling of hopelessness and defeatism for life. This is still a part of me; especially when things just seem to be pushing against me not matter what I do. Yet, now it seems I don’t reach that really low point anymore. The one where I struggle to get out of bed or clear my head of darkness and despair; where I feel completely hopeless no matter how many people care about me. Even considering how many right and good things there are in my life; it’s takes over as a one track mind to hopelessness.

There is no getting ride of depression for me altogether. Looking back it has always been part of my composition. I have a tendency to think and feel deeply. It also runs in my family. My mother was hospitalized when I was around 7 because she was suicidal and, luckily, told my father that she needed to be admitted somewhere. This and a few years later, her hysterectomy, probably saved her from ending her life or being highly medicated; especially after my father died.

In the end, after this tragic death, there is now a huge void in our community. Someone who left a legacy, but far too soon. He left so many people behind who loved and rejoiced in the life of this amazing man! He was someone who appeared to have everything, yet still could not fight the monsters in his head enough to end this terminal disease. No matter who we are, how many people who surround us and love us; sometimes we are still defeated by it. I feel the most important part of overcoming this more effectively is talking, talking, and more talking; writing is included is this. Bring this out in the open; realize the more we talk, the more we understand we are all dealing with these thoughts, feelings, concerns, stresses, and demons. The stories may differ, but the pain is very similar and as humans; it is the human condition!

We don’t have all the answers to his decision to end his life, but we have some ideas and the known; a history of mental illness. Death can bring awareness and light to things that need it. This is one of those times. Please reach out to others in times of deep despair because without YOU there will be a hole in someone’s life; many people’s lives whether you believe it in that moment or not; THERE WILL BE!

Seek health and wellness as much as possible because your body and mind NEED it! It’s been life changing connecting with my environment and bringing herbs into my daily health routine. They have been around to care and nurture us since we have existed. Even if it is just one or two herbal remedies every day, there is something about prevention as opposed to treatment. Just waiting until the disease has arrived full force and then trying to mask the symptoms instead of assisting the body to heal & regulate itself is the backwards way we have been taught; especially in the United States. We need to help people live healthier lives to ease and prevent disease; not try and poison their bodies with lots of expensive drugs once its taken the body over.

Life is precious and ends too soon for some. In this crazy world with its ups, downs, hurdles, miracles, fun, excitement, and monotony we need to remember to LISTEN to others, DON’T JUDGE because you’ve not lived their life, LOVE one another above all else, exude KINDNESS whenever possible, bestow GRATITUDE through our actions and words, & above all TAKE CARE of ourselves because our bodies need maintenance and care if they are going to carry us through this life successfully and be productive. Suffering is relevant and consideration & compassion are what we ALL need from our fellow human beings.

I’ll end with Jim’s favorite song that my father-in-law, Bob Balsley, performed with Sam Brooker:

Forever Young, By Bob Dylan….

May God’s bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
May you stay forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
May you stay forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young
May you stay forever young

Songwriters: Bob Dylan
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC,Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.,AUDIAM, INC,BMG Rights Management
For non-commercial use only.
Data From: LyricFind

Here are some uplifting photos of my children and I releasing our Monarch butterfly that we got to watch go from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly! It was a truly remarkable experience I had not ever had before. Our connection to our environment and its creatures is so vital to our health and well-being!

“Health is wealth and the key to wellness is balance & prevention!”

Love Always,

Anne (Your BackyardHerbalist)

5 thoughts on “Herbs, Mental Health & a Community Activist–a reflection on #death #suicide & #mentalhealthawareness

  1. A very nice tribute to your friend. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Yes, the mental health issue is getting a lot more social media attention and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I’m grateful for people like you talking about it and encouraging folks to talk and get the help they need. But on the other hand, I”m concerned with the source. What’s causing this rise? Is there a rise?

    I’m also sensitive to the “popularity” and “attention” of depression, particularly suicide. For example, I read that suicide rates and attempts go up when a celebrity suicide has happened. Isn’t that crazy?

    Or when folks define themselves as X, Y or Z they receive attention. I worry that we enable them, if that makes sense.

    So it’s tricky business and I’m no psychologist. I do very much like you sharing your story and your background as to why you are an herbalist.

    But I hope I don’t sound insensitive. I have certainly, like you, dealt with death at a early age, and I used to have dark thoughts. I feel like my mental health has improved as I’ve gotten older. And interestingly, we were talking about young suicides at work the other day and how much wanted to say to our childhood friends, “things will get better” or “this is just a phase”.

    What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lani for your thoughts. I definitely think that, like anything, people can get caught up in the “labeling” of themselves and forget that we are ever changing beings that can go through phases based on life experiences, age, or various forms of self-inflicted abuse. I know that my mental health has a lot to do with hormone fluctuations, lifestyle (food, nutrition, exercise, drugs/alcohol consumption), the time of year it is, and the amount of sleep I’m getting.

      Many young people abuse their bodies because we are, at least around here, apt to go out late, smoke, drink, and eat cruddy food in our late teens to early 20s, and that seems to have a huge impact on our bodies and its ability or lack of ability to deal with depression/anxiety/stress. Yet, when is the damage permanent; I’m not sure. If there is already a history of mental health and then a person tends towards drug/alcohol abuse or unhealthy habits, it’s hard to say if it is manageable or not and what the real cause is of the instability.

      I guess, overall, I just feel it is important to talk with others because then maybe we, as a society, will begin to realize these issues are not something unique or crazy, but just part of the common ups and downs of life. When someone is hurting themself because they still can’t cope when trying their best to do what is healthy for his/her overall wellness, then it is probably time to seek professional help to really evaluate personal lifestyle and what might be some of the core issues at hand; in my opinion.

      The thing that bothers me is that we are really taught, in the U.S. at least, that we wait until the problem arises and then try to subdue the issue instead of teaching people how prevention works.

      Here in Wisconsin we have some of the highest suicide rates of teenagers and young adults. Climate, I believe, is a leading factor. We only get warm weather a few months a year and are deprived of Vitamin D from the sun. Personally, this takes a huge tole on me each year. Then, right when it seems like spring should arrive, the winter drags and there’s a snowstorm in April just when everyone is in high need of sunshine and warmer temperatures. I personally noticed significant changes in my ability to cope last year with my seasonal depression by exercising, continuing to eat right (especially less sugar/gluten), and taking my herbal tinctures.

      I do think that instead of obsessing on what mental health issues we have and over focusing on the labels, or feeling like it defines us, is counterproductive to getting healthier. Mainly because so much of that energy and time could be put into exercising, eating right, and taking healing supplements that could really help change our chemical imbalances. Yet, I am definitely not an expert either and am just basing this off of my personal struggles. As a teenager it was definitely more acceptable and even encouraged to be dramatic and crave the attention of having something wrong; from my peers. Interestingly enough, once my dad died, no one really wanted to bring it up. Part of me thinks because it was more “real” of a problem than some of the over dramatized issues everyone else seemed to be having.

      My moto is “Seek Balance” and I guess that is my final answer. Nothing is ever perfect but when I try to focus on avoiding extremes in anything, it always feels more rewarding and right.

      Have a wonderful day and thanks for your insight, Lani!! ~Anne

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you mirrored my thoughts as well and I totally agree with you.

        It is interesting that Wisconsin has such a high suicide rate. I remember reading ages ago that Alaska had the highest due to the lack of sun.

        It is important to talk about and I hope some good comes of it. It’s important to know that you’re not alone and that other ppl experience similar feelings and emotions.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very moving and you really convey the life of this friend but also how desperate he became. I agree with you about being able to talk and open up about these feelings. My cousin’s brother suddenly took his life and must have kept so much to himself and the hole is there for his sister and family. An inspiring post as you seem to have found a way to counter your own anxieties and depression.

    Liked by 1 person

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