• Now, at 16, I am going through the agony of having to deal with some of the hardest things. I am dealing with deception, lies, molestation, drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide. Though none of that pertains to me physically, it does emotionally and mentally. I know that I am not the only one who's family has been plagued with such things, nor am I here to be a victim, I just want to share my story, and let others know they're not alone. My biggest hope is that what I'm about to tell, will help someone to help themselves and that it will prevent someone from making the wrong decision. I think that is important for others to know, that what they do may not be for the best. And even if they think no one is there, and that no one cares, there is. What one does affects many people; not just themselves.

    In the past 10 months, it seems as though everything has come to the surface for me. Between that and everything that has happened in the past years, it seems as though a break is never to be found. Like everyone else, my life is full of ups and downs, and at many times, it is nothing more than an emotional roller coaster that keeps going down hill.

    When I was four years old, my father died. To this day, I can remember how hurt I was and how betrayed I felt. I was hurt because, out of anyone, my dad was the one I adored and admired the most. My parents had split up before they even knew about the pregnancy. As a little kid, vulnerable, innocent, and oblivious to the real world, it never dawned on me that there were periods when my dad wouldn't see me for months. I just knew how thrilled I was when I finally saw him and when he brought me along with him. To learn that he had died, and that I would "never see daddy again" tore me to pieces. Not only had I lost him, but it was right after Easter and three weeks to the day after my birthday. And so not only was I hurt, but I felt betrayed. My mother had kept his death from me. I didn't find out until weeks after. I know it has to be one of the hardest things to tell a child, yet still that seems like no excuse. At this moment, by biggest regret in life remains to be not attending his funeral. That, at least, would have brought me closure.

    Just recently, a few months ago, in fact, I learned what the cause of my dad's death was. Ever since I was four, I had believed that he died of a heart attack. The year before, my dad had been in the hospital and when I asked what was wrong, and he said, "my heart is broken." When I was told he died, I asked what from and my mother told me, "from the same thing as when he was in the hospital." At four years old, I had translated "broken heart" as the simple way to tell a child "heart attack." My mother never corrected me on that, and so for the past 12 years, that has been my reality. By putting 2 and 2 together, by remembering things that were said and things that were done, I had found out for myself the truth behind his death. About 10 minutes after I figured out the truth, my mom was there to variety it all with a death certificate. My dad killed himself. Those, above any, are the four hardest words for me to say.

    In talking with other people who knew the truth from the beginning, I began to learn more and more about it all; the reason behind it, people who caused i, circumstances surrounding it. What he did choked me up so bad that it turned my stomach so much, I felt like I was going to break down right there, right then. For weeks it haunted me. It still does occasionally. I couldn't help but run it all through my head over and over. I wasn't able to stop myself from picturing it all; step by step. My dad was so hurt and so depressed that he felt as though there was no other way out. It wasn't his first attempt. No one ever got him the help he needed. The reason he was in the hospital the year before he died, was because he tried to complete suicide by over dosing on pills, and consequently had to have his stomach pumped. And yet, it didn't hit him then either. When someone so close to you takes their own life, you feel useless. The thoughts that ran through my mind were things that no child should ever even have to consider."What did I do? Why couldn't I stop it? He apparently didn't love me enough, otherwise he wouldn't have done this." Those are all logical thoughts but none of them are true. There was nothing I could do. And he did love me, but he didn't know how to handle what he was going through.

    As much as someone tried to accept what happened, you can never really fully recover. Yeah, you can "go on" with your life. But there's always going to be an emptiness, a gap, a void. No matter what anyone says to you, or what you can do to help yourself, you can never fully get over it. I still unwillingly picture my dad in my head, not knowing what to do; calling his girlfriend, promising her that he won't do anything. He didn't know what he just said because he was too stoned and too drunk to know the difference. The hardest part I have dealing with it is knowing how hurt he must have felt and how alone and how empty he must have felt. I see him over and over sitting in his apartment, making a noose for himself. Knowing that that is going to be the instrument of his death and that it would be by his own hands. Whatever could have led him to slip that around his neck? For the rest of my life, I have to live knowing that the thought of me, a four year old little boy, wasn't enough to save him from hanging himself. And in my head I can see him hanging from the rafters as my uncle walks in to find him. And not only do I hurt for my dad and myself, but I hurt for my uncle. How must have he felt knowing that his little brother, the kid he looked out for for years, could no longer take it and that he couldn't protect him any longer? To this day he can not talk about it with out breaking down.

    The message I want to pass on is that, yeah, things in life are tough, and they may not be the easiest to live with. No one is satisfied with how their life is at any given moment. There are always going to be regrets, but you CAN get over that. For one to be so down that they feel suicide is the only option, it's not. It may appear to be a way out, but it isn't. Here I am, 12 years after the matter, with tears running down the side of my face because I can imagine, I can feel what my dad did. I will forever be haunted by the thought of him grasping for air and knowing that there is no way he can escape that situation. I can feel the thoughts running through his head, knowing that he made the biggest mistake and that he wanted to take that back. I can see the cord he used in my head, and I know for a fact, that there were scratch marks on them. Because he knew at that moment, what he was doing. And he wanted to stop it. But he couldn't. The only moment that he finally wanted to save himself and he was physically unable. Yeah, it may seem gory. But people need to know what happens. What happens to themselves and what happens to the people who love them with all their heart and all their might and all their power. It needs to stop.

    There is always someone there to talk to. Whether it be in person, on the phone, or on the Internet. If you feel like there is no option and that there is no other way out, tell someone. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed. It's not worth the cost of your life, and it's not worth the cost of the years of agony and heart ache and pain that it will cause your family and friends and everyone else who cares about you and loves you. Death is not the answer. It never was and it never will be. Know the pain it will cause yourself. Not just mental pain, but physical pain as well. You don't want that, your family doesn't want that, and I don't want that. I hope that this makes a difference. Even if it's for only one person. At least someone will be helped, and that alone is a start.

  • December 17, 1999. This day will stand out in my memory forever and ever. It was the day my whole family would change forever. Why, you may ask. Was some new family-member born? No. Did someone die? No. It was on this day that the whole meaning of family would become clear - to me, at least.

    Maniac. I have grown used to that word. My brother "is a maniac", everyone says. But nobody knows him. Nobody wants to. On December 17, 1999 my brother tried to take his life by jumping off a bridge. Sometimes failure is better than success - this was one of those times. He hardly got hurt, and my whole family was thankful that he escaped with nothing more serious than a bruised back or so that's what everyone thought. Little did they know that this incident would mean one and a half years of serious treatment and a lifelong sentence to antidepressants. My brother would have to be treated for depression.

    It was hard to tell who was really depressed during the next few months - my brother, my parents or me. This had come as a real shock to me, and I was shaken out of my school routine completely. I knew I had begun to do badly at school, but I didn't know why. I tried to smile and laugh as much as I always did, but this incident had left me shocked and scared. I was extremely angry, afraid and jealous inside (sometimes now I still am) - everyone had begun paying a lot more attention to my depressed brother, and I was pushed into the background. The psychologist would say "family counseling" and it would mean only my parents and brother. I'm sure the doctor had no idea that my brother even HAD a sister, and, ironically, this made me loathe everyone, most of all my family.

    I needed somebody to confide in. I confided in a good friend, and that helped me a little. I tried ignoring the angry feelings, but they made me want to burst. I couldn't tell my parents, of course, not when they themselves were struggling to come to terms with the near-tragedy. I did the worst thing I possibly could have - I kept it bottled up inside me. This, in fact, is the first time I decided to tell everybody about my "family problem."

    For a year the atmosphere in my house was miserable. Not even Satan would have wanted to come within 20 feet of the door. Even my cat seemed to sense that something was wrong, and she would cuddle up against my brother and purr. She too ignored me, and I retaliated by ignoring her. The year that followed was a tense one. Everyone was always on the brink of a tantrum. It became impossible to smile, because everyone around me was always glowering and glaring. Living in my house was hell.

    Now it's almost two years since the day that changed my family. My family has stopped talking about it, and has decided to let bygones be bygones. Things are almost back to normal, and I couldn't be more happy.

    A lot of my school friends refuse to come home because they think that my brother is a "maniac." I don't really care. Nobody knows what he had to go through that one year. Nobody realizes that it wasn't anyones fault, it just happened; nobody except my family.

    As I listen to him strumming his guitar softly, I am overwhelmed with happiness. Nobody deserves to be more happy than he does. Nobody, not even me. And if it makes him happy  to sit in a corner, strumming his guitar and asking me to sing along, then it makes me happy too. After all, I AM his sister, and I DO love him very much.

    And no matter what anyone else says, I always will be his sister.

    (December 2001)

  • (From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL) - The Wall Street Journal Online.

    A new study about mental health in teenagers suggests that physical activity may help decrease feelings of sadness and contemplation of suicide.

    The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, directed questions about physical activity and mental health to about 1,400 adolescents, white and Hispanic, ages 14-18 at Texas high schools. Students attending more physical-education sessions per week were less likely to report feelings of sadness, the study found. Participation in a greater number of sessions of physical activity was significantly associated with a lower risk of considering suicide.

    The authors said the study suggests physical-education classes may help in decreasing the risk of sadness and suicidal behaviors, and enhancing self-esteem.

    The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

    (END) Dow Jones Newswires
    2004-08-02 - 21:48 EST

  • These days, we have so many distractions and temptations that it's hard to focus 100% of the time on learning. Smartphones and social media have made it nearly impossible for many people to disconnect and put their attention on studying. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help pull your focus toward your schoolwork (and they're fairly easy to do). The key is to stick with things that work for you and keep your mind active.  Here are some of the best tricks for doing just that.

    Warm up your brain

    If you're tired because you stayed up late last night, or if you're starting to get bored with the reading material, start your study session or preface your class with a brain warm-up. Play a word game (which you can download on your phone), do a puzzle, or even do a simple picture search (Where's Waldo will do just fine).

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    Get moving

    Before a big test or an important class, fit in a workout or go for a jog. Getting your heart rate up and exercising regularly will send oxygen-rich blood to your brain, which will help you when it's time to learn and retain knowledge.

    Get a partner

    Learning on your own can become repetitive and boring, so enlist the aid of a friend or fellow classmate who can help quiz you and take part in study time. You can even make a game out of it to keep your mind engaged.

    Put away your phone

    Unless you're expecting an extremely important phone call, you don't have to keep your device by your side while you're in class or reading. Smartphones are handy, but they are also big distractions, especially if you belong to a lot of different social media sites and constantly get notifications and messages. Put it away and enjoy the thrill of all those notifications when you come back to it.

    Get comfortable

    When you're in an environment you can control--in your own room while studying, for instance--make sure you're comfortable. Wear comfy clothes, eat something before you start working, have a drink nearby, and keep the temperature a little on the cool side, as being warm will make you sleepy. If you're uncomfortable while you're trying to get reading done, it's likely you won't retain much of what you're looking at.

    Get involved

    It's important to change things up a little if you are a particular type of student. If you typically sit back and listen, but don't engage much in the classroom, make it a point to answer questions and have a back-and-forth with other students and the teacher. If you find that you talk a lot during class, sit back and listen mindfully next time.

    Find out what type of learner you are

    If you're having trouble in a particular class, it could be because you aren't engaging your brain the right way. Some of us are visual learners, and do our best work when ideas are presented to us with images or graphs. Others need to hear instructions before we can comprehend them. There is no one right way to learn, but it's important to figure out what works best for you and put it to use when you're studying.

    We live in age where there are constant distractions trying to divert our attention away from the task at hand. It's never been easier to become sidetracked. That said, there are things you can do to remain focused and get done what you need to. Try our advice for staying mindful and see the difference it makes!

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