Archive for October 2009

After My Husband’s Suicide…

October 20, 2009

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Unfortunately, depression is not always this obvious.

By Cathleen Hulbert

I feel compelled to share this story today. Perhaps Spirit is using me as a means of prevention.  

My husband, Dan, committed suicide on September 11, 2000, exactly one year before terrorists hijacked jets for a suicide mission in New York City, destroying many lives with their own sickness.

That first Christmas after his death, I still was numb with shock. I put up a Christmas tree to let the neighbors and myself know that I was going to be okay. The next Christmas actually was more difficult, with no cushion of shock to protect me. No Christmas tree that year. Sometimes I found myself walking in a daze down the aisles of stores, wondering why I was there. I cried more that holiday season. I got in touch with my anger as well as deep sadness. But I got through it and I am a better, stronger, more compassionate woman today because of my journey along that rocky path.  

Dan, a journalist with degrees from Columbia University and Yale, was highly intelligent and articulate. He adored his 10-year-old son from a previous marriage. He was an active church elder. He also was in the middle of planning his annual get-away with his best friend, Roger, a fun man who always made him laugh. We were trying to have a child and in the meantime planning a trip to France. In short, he seemed so alive, so happy. And he gave no clues. I can’t even look back and say there were clues. He had an almost child-like joy about the simplest things, such as walking hand-in-hand down a neighborhood street walking our dog on a gorgeous fall day. We loved traveling together, particularly to a beach on the Florida panhandle that always brought out the playful kids in us.

A neurologist has since suggested that he might have had an undiagnosed brain tumor that created a sudden psychotic break. A deeply spiritual acquaintance sensed he was taken out by dark forces. A puzzling note he had left at home said that he had “a crisis that needed to be solved” and that he would be back. He wrote at the bottom, “I will always adore you.” Another note found with his body in a wooded state park said that “bad people deserve to die.”

No one was telling him he was bad. In fact, it was quite the opposite. But who can compete with demons or a brain tumor? Not even an intuitive, loving and devoted wife, apparently, or a best friend who has known him since college. 

In the end, I am here and he is gone, at least in physical form. I know that I am not alone. Determined to defy the taboos about discussing suicide, I spoke openly about my experience from the get-go. The number of people around me who began to share their own losses from suicide was mind-boggling. Why don’t we talk about this more?

This is the season in which there is a strong emphasis on planning for family holiday gatherings. It can be incredibly tough if you are depressed or if you have lost someone to depression. It also is the season of Halloween in the United States, a season for wearing masks. I have since discovered that many, many depressed people are wearing masks, as are many survivors of suicide who want an equal right to talk about their grief.

Because depression is so common, and usually highly treatable, I wanted to take a moment to share the national suicide prevention hotline site with its toll-free number:  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

You can also call your telephone operator and tell him or her that you feel suicidal. They are trained to connect you with a hotline. Or drive yourself to a hospital emergency room and talk about the thoughts you are having. Doctors and nurses will know how to keep you safe. 

I also wanted to say that no matter how dark things might seem, there always is a sacred light of Spirit waiting to break through. Somehow I have evolved since Dan’s death into a profoundly happy, productive and creative woman. I never turned away from God during those dark and confusing days. I always felt deeply loved by family, friends and my Maker. I still do today. For that I am grateful.

And if I have helped even one person with this column, I am more grateful still.

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

Life Lessons Learned on the Road

October 13, 2009

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By Cathleen Hulbert

Masseratti Dick

This is not my car. The guy standing next to it doesn’t own it, either. He just wanted his picture taken with a Maserati. 

I’m related to someone who knows somebody who owns this car. If I did have a luxury sports car I think I might command more respect on the road. In fact I’m certain of it. I actually went for a ride in it one day. My brother dropped me off at my neighborhood car repair shop while he was borrowing this car for business. The mechanics stopped what they were doing to go gagga over it, then they were extra polite to me when I paid up and reclaimed my Honda. I think I had temporarily inherited the Maserati’s magnificent aura because they made more eye contact and smiled a lot. 

Such is the power of a cool car.  

Most of the time, my life on the road involves driving my 2005 silver Honda Civic around Atlanta and north Georgia to visit clients. I drive on city roads both narrow and wide as well as two, four and six-lane highways. I travel on highways that are under endless construction, on mountain roads that are curvy and paved and on long country roads that are mud and gravel. I am a healthcare social worker who does home visits with people who have illnesses in their family. When I get to the home of a client, I would prefer to be calm and clear-headed so that I can focus on the client’s needs rather than my own near-death experience. Too often, the latter is the case.

I don’t drive much higher than the speed limit because when I do speed I start sending out signals to the Universe: “I am breaking the law. Please send out a police officer to pull me over and give me a ticket!” Seriously. Why do some of my friends and colleagues speed consistently and not get stopped? They tell me that I must be bringing it on myself by feeling so awful about it. They actually claim that I am manifesting the officer and the ticket by focusing too much on getting caught. There is probably some truth to that.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to use this twisted power on the people who ride my tail or suddenly pass me on the right before I know they are there — zipping by like rockets. It would be awesome if I could use my strange magnetism with law enforcement to call in a police officer to stop the guy who seems to want to attach the front end of his car to the back end of mine. Can he also be charged with sexual harassment because his car made a pass at me?

Another target of my “call in the police” power would be the driver who thinks that the space I was keeping between myself and the car in front of me  was being held specifically so that she could squeeze into it. Thanks a lot, lady, for eating up my safe distance. If I find a way to make myself feel guilty about your lack of road manners do you think a state trooper would instantly appear?  

My least favorite drivers and the ones I won’t joke about are the mad weavers. They are the ones who wrecklessly flit from space to space, moving back and forth from one lane to the other as if the road were a giant moving game board and they are going for checkmate. It might be thrilling for them but I used to work in a pediatric emergency room. Whole families have been wiped out by drivers like that. I have seen children maimed and orphaned by these lunatics. I see them as weapons of destruction.

I don’t have much choice but to put up with all of them. Driving is a big part of my job now. Most people are considerate drivers and I have to remember that, even though I know that the bad one could ruin my day or my life in an instant. Here are some lessons I have learned while driving my car: 

1.) Yes, I do quickly get into the right lane when I look in my rear view mirror and see a fast-coming car. I just want to be left alone to drive in peace. But if I’m in the right lane and someone wants to ride my tail, even though there is a lane or two on the left in which they can pass me, I take my foot off the gas and gradually drift to a slower speed. It always works and they go away. It’s one of my few passive aggressive moments and victory is always sweet. I never understand these drivers. It’s like they want to go fast but they don’t have the nerve to speed in the left lane where they are more likely to get caught. Sorry, dude. Pushing me with the front end of your car isn’t going to make the entire right lane adjust to your preferred speed!      

2.) I have learned not to make mean gestures with my fingers because such behavior is ugly and it leaves me feeling ugly. So I try to confuse the menace sharing the road with me by giving him or her a thumbs up and a sweet smile. 

3.) Crazed drivers beware. I have learned that when my adrenaline is flowing because I’m terrified I can remember license plate numbers and the company phone numbers printed on the sides of business trucks and vans. If you are driving in a company vehicle and you try to run me off the road, I will find the nearest place to pull over and report you. I am happy to say that business owners take this very seriously and they are always grateful for the call. Such behavior makes them look bad, too. And it puts them at high risk for lawsuits.

4.) I want to be a person who can quickly forgive and let go. Driving a lot helps me practice. I am certain that there have been times in my life when I was the person making some other driver feel bullied. It was usually because I had failed at time management that day and was running late. Or I was having a bad day and being in a car provided me with an anonymous way of acting out. To my “victims,” I am truly sorry.         

5.) On the road, just like in life, I hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Driving defensively has saved my life time and again. When the cell phone rings I try to ignore it. If I drop something on the floor, it’s not worth my life. I move out of the way of dangerous people and recognize road rage as a tragic fact of modern life. I always, always, always adjust my speed for bad weather. If I’m on a winding road and the car behind me wants to go fast, I try to pull over somewhere safe to let that person move on down the road. I don’t need the tension. Neither does that client I’m about to see or the family member waiting for me at home. 

6) Whenever possible, I show acts of kindness to truck drivers and fell0w travelers such as myself who are just trying to get by and do their jobs. When I do this, I always pray for a ripple effect of good will. Who knows? A kindness shown on the highway could even save a life.

 Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.        

 

 

Seeing Our Own Reflection On the TV Screen

October 10, 2009

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By Cathleen Hulbert

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“Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.” President Obama

Watching the news in Europe and other places abroad can be most illuminating. Often, the United States is not even mentioned. It can be jarring if you arrive in a foreign country and turn on the TV without first adjusting your “world view.” You wait and you wait. Lots of important things are going on in the world…

But where’s the news about us?

Oh, right. “us” doesn’t equal “U.S.” once you leave our borders and go to other countries — you know, those places that share the planet with “us.” Love them or hate them, these countries exist soley without your permission or mine and probably aren’t the lease bit interested in our opinions about anything. Ouch. That puts things back in perspective if your own opinions are feeling overwhelmingly important right now.

But on Friday October 9, 2009 the United States was in the international news. And it was about something honorable and important: The Nobel Peace Prize and America’s potential value to the world as a leader with “an unclenched fist.” We are not perfect and neither is the president who was elected by our majority. Think about how many mistakes any one of us can make in a given day and realize that our nation will make its own share of mistakes as a reflection of who we are.

But on that day, on that Friday in October, we were recognized, through our president, as having vast potential to be peacemakers. And that is what the prize was about: our potential. For those of you who chafe and complain that “he didn’t deserve it,” take a moment to consider that you don’t deserve it, either. But under the banner of “United States” you looked a little more hopeful to the world on that day. And when President Obama accepts the award on behalf of the United States, as he certainly will, we should join him in feeling humbled.

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

Politics as a Spectator Sport?

October 3, 2009

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By Cathleen Hulbert

There seem to be quite a few Americans who view politics as a spectator sport.  

If you are sitting in the bleachers and your team wins, do you feel like a winner? You can drive home smiling and honking your horn. But if your team loses, then, oh wow. Are you a loser? I personally don’t think so, but then again I’m not really into spectator sports. And when I do watch them, the team I’m cheering for certainly doesn’t define me.

A part of me wishes that I could get more into sports. I once said that my favorite spectator sport is watching my very passionate mother enjoy a football game. It’s a wonderful thing to behold, really, the way she puts herself into it and has so much fun. But when it comes to politics, the “them vs. us” dynamics of a football game doesn’t serve the greater “we” that is our country. That’s particularly true with a subject such as healthcare reform, in which cooperation and a lack of game-playing can save lives. With so much suffering going on, there’s no time for a game mentality.

Given the current climate in which quite a number of Republicans seem hungry for a “fumble” by our newly elected president, I have a hunch that many Americans do view politics as a spectator sport. Afterall, where was this righteous gnashing of teeth when the mess that is our economy was being created in the first place? This rage thing just doesn’t add up unless there’s a serious case of sore loser syndrome going on.

Okay, so maybe the team you voted for, the one that makes you feel okay about yourself, didn’t win this one. The  “sports” commentary is so telling. “Cheater! No fair! I’ll get you next time! We’ll crush you next time! You lied! You didn’t play fair! You’re not in this game long, Pal!”

In other words, if you’re against the current President of the United States, and his team is in control, you might be pulling your hair out, getting red in the face and feeling like the world is going to end. Your only relief will be a mistake by the other side, or at least something you can spin as a mistake. 

In the case of America losing its recent bid to host the Olympics, the odd celebrating by many Republicans could seem completely anti-American until you look at it through the eyes of a footaball fan. The “other side” fumbled, according to them. That’s what it would be like if your self-esteem is based on the win/loss scenario that ends every football game.

Let’s say that half-way into his term, President Obama and his team manage to turn the tide on our greed-sick economy. The crisis that took years to create starts to ease because of his leadership. And let’s say that his leadership leads to some kind of healthcare reform that helps those struggling Americans who are now going bankrupt to pay medical bills. Maybe it won’t be a perfect system, but we’ll look back and wonder how we could have ever let things get so bad before.  

That’s a win for all of us, right? I mean, you would think the answer would be “yes!”

I have a hunch that it won’t be for the side that is now displaying sore loser syndrome. I think it will actually hurt, at least on the level of ego. And that’s what this is all about. Ego. Because it will mean that their own team didn’t score a big whopping political touchdown.

Good grief.

I didn’t care for George W. Bush one bit and suffered for eight years while he was president. I was scared to death about the trends that were leading to the present economic crisis and I was mad at him for letting them happen on his watch. But I also respected the American system and the ultimate wisdom of the voters to correct mistakes. If you are waiting for the pendulum to swing the other way again, then at least be grown up about it. After all, you had your turn. And it was a long one. 

And to those who can’t blog and yell and complain enough about our current president I would ask, “Where were you?

Where were you during the years that this mess was being created? I hear your voice now, screaming that President Obama isn’t working fast enough to fix the problem. But were you using your voice when President Bush was in office? Were you blogging then about how things as we know it were coming to an end? Because they were.

Or maybe you just flipped the station with your remote because you thought your team already had won the game.   

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

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