“I thought no man would ever want to touch me again.”
Nakeyah and I giggled on the phone the other day over existential crisis thoughts, tubing issues, transplant and relationships. One of the most important things I finally chose to do was to start making connections with other young women with my same disease. It lightened the sense of alienation, and it truly gives you a feeling that you have finally found your own species. You can exchange insurance rants, your wishes to be a mom, and your paranoid thoughts with people who will not judge you for not being “positive enough” but instead collapse with you as they know exactly what roller coaster you have been unwillingly placed on.
Nakeyah writes “I have met quite a few women in the community that I connected with on a positive and spiritually growing level. We support one another whether it be helping each other understand information, or supporting one another through difficult times or experiences. It is great to be able to talk to people who actually get and understand where you are coming from.”
It is not uncommon for patients to avoid IV therapy – almost to the point of risking their lives. Why? Simply because what people will think of them. That was my story – living up almost 9,000 feet in altitude and avoiding IV therapy like the plague against my doctor’s advice. “Why?” she would ask. Simply put, for the one hundredth time, I didn’t want to be attached to a pump. In the days after it was placed, laying in the hospital, I told my mom I did not want to go back home. I didn’t want to be around people again, and I didn’t want to be around men. I had already been with men who judged me for not being able to birth their children – what about now? I was worthless to the human race.
Having a machine attached to me has been a process of regaining self-confidence whether it is through the exposure of my chest, or rocking a cute ass fanny pack because the fanny pack is truly freedom for anyone with a pump. A year and a half later, I will always be self-conscious in some situations. But I have grown into my necessary medical care despite it’s trials of trying to walk around home only to hear your gameboy device crash behind you, or the famous “what happened to your chest” questions. Nakeyah joins the army of young women with Pulmonary Hypertension who simply put – are bad ass, beautiful and sexy.
“I struggled so much with having to be connected to a machine 24/7. My self-esteem dropped dramatically and I feel that it made me over think how others were looking at me. Its tough being young and still having to deal with the pressures of fitting in with your peers, and the world when others are so conditioned to judge others based on their looks.”
“When I was about 14 years old, I began experiencing episodes of shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating and feeling as if I’d faint whenever walking up stairs to go to classes. I never understood the issue, but I knew something was not right. I told my mom about my concerns and she brought me to my pediatrician. I was told over the course of the next three years that I was overweight (I was about 160 lbs then.) I’ve suffered losing myself and trusting in myself. People are conditioned to view sickness or sick people a certain way. When you have an invisible disease, it is difficult for some to believe in you or your day-to-day struggles. I have been through numerous situations with doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other healthcare professionals that do not understand the disease and try to discredit my word, or say I am not as sick as I say I am – simply because they don’t understand the disease. I had to go through years of rumors, lies being made up about me and judgment all because others don’t get what Pulmonary Hypertension is. This has taught me to have thick skin but also to trust myself and not try to prove myself or what I am going through to others.”
Ladies – and men – who currently have a tube in your chest; do you remember your final pre pump days? Do you remember how terrified you were when you realized that doing the simplest thing sent your heart rate sky-high, intense pain flooded your body and you literally suffocated? We will never forget that pain. The pain of literally starving our bodies of oxygen. Coming home from the hospital was paranoia city trying to trust that my body could simply walk to the car without trying to die. To feel the weight of our pump but the freedom in our chest made this life changing and appearance altering treatment worth it. Sean Wyman texted me in the hospital in my spiral of hatred towards the pump, “but you are alive. This will be worth it.”
“It used to be no man is ever going to touch me, and now it’s you’re lucky I even let you touch me.” Nakeyah laughs. Her photo above is proof that we are living in the new world where old ideals are dead. Disabilities have become abilities, and people attached to machines are people.
Hello my loves – out here in what seems like a time capsule of my not so hottest moments. I have kept this blog out of sight, and out of mind for such a long time. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with curiosity to read through what moved me forever ago – and I tuck it away again – or I come back and jot down quick thoughts with what seems like years in between them. I have debated over and over deleting this website – and finally out of a sheer miracle I decided to give it a much needed facelift and re-boot. I am so so proud and thankful to all of you who have been readers even through my most difficult and “loud” phases. I remember how therapeutic it use to feel sitting down at my laptop nightly, scribbling out all my most inner thoughts to help me process my disease. I went to conference after receiving the Young Adult PH Citizen Award in 2014, came back home so inspired, and then quickly spiraled. I was increasingly unhappy in my environment, and could not focus while my mind was clouded with so much anger and paranoia. My disease was forcing me to look at things with a different shade, and the results were earth shattering and numbing. While writing kept me sane, in some aspects it backfired, but gave me a log to see how trauma and disease changes the brain. I’ve very very very slowly begun writing over the past two-ish years mainly trying to get to know the new me – who understands my triggers, and who knows when to breathe and re-associate myself with my actual surroundings. I wasn’t fixed the day I was diagnosed with PTSD but rather it has taken two years since then of training my brain, and reactions with hiccups along the way. The person who started this blog is no longer existent which is a very heavy thing to say. My body has changed, along with my cells and skin. I have tubing that pokes out of my chest, new scars, new tattoos, and a less clouded mind – depending on the day. I have come to understand this is natural, and like I have typed before, it is okay to change amidst your survival. Thank you again, for your support and please email me or comment if you would like to get in touch or have questions. All pages on the blog have been updated so please take a peek if you feel like it!
I was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the summer of 2016. From around August of 2014 I began to have ridiculous over the top anxiety attacks. I would zone out for hours sometimes, would breakdown over little things, lose my temper, had memory issues, and I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. I tried to take on more work to feel “responsible” to make up for my sudden weirdness, my drinking increased, and I had just quit education because it was really hard to be around kids you adored everyday knowing you could never have your own; unknown to me I was triggered, and my outlook on my disease and treatment was changing. I felt lost, and very much so an outsider – cue the alienation phase. I began dancing in our beautiful winter ceremonies that winter, and it did in fact give me relief until they ended around February. By late April, I was the worst I had ever been, completely sedated and addicted to Xanax, and I decided to move to New Mexico which ultimately opened up so many doors in healing – not only spiritually – but also with a new specialist team who knew how to deal with me. I am extremely thankful everyday that I listened to this internal pursuit to go to the Land of Enchantment.
But before I got to New Mexico it was hard to put down pills and find some kind of everyday relief while I was in my worst moments. Music seemed to bring on more emotion, and could very quickly aggravate and disassociate me. This is when I ran across MASH (the TV show) on Netflix, and attempted to give it a try. It’s basic knowledge to anyone that I love the oldies, and while I never got to really watch MASH I remember seeing it on TV from time to time (like everyone else:) It’s an understatement to say that I was instantly hooked. Instead of sleeping all day – I would prop my phone somewhere playing MASH while I cleaned my room, or got the motivation to apply for jobs in New Mexico. MASH had a way of dulling the background noise, balancing out my thinking and surroundings to where I could function again.
Hawkeye – for me – is someone who my soul tugs at. He remains his kooky comedic self among nothing but despair and disaster in the middle of a war. He is relatable how he fights against the trauma and injustice he feels he is experiencing; I can watch MASH and feel heard yet relieved. Pulmonary Hypertension is my war. Hospitals, surgeries, losing funding for basic life needs, fighting just for your existence. It’s known to lead to some mental breakdowns – as we all know Hawkeye had plenty. He lost Henry Blake, and Trapper John but I lost Sean Wyman and Rebecca Lindenberg. “I’ve been fighting death since I came over here. I’m tired of death. I’m tired to death. They’ll keep coming whether I’m here or not. Trapper went home – they’re still coming. Henry got killed and they’re still coming.” -Hawkeye Friends pass, others are recovering from the beautiful miracle of organ donation. And here the rest of us are – our oxygen tanks, pills, pumps at our side, continuing to fight for our lives.
MASH is still an escape, and relief to my reality four years later after experiencing an internal war. I am so grateful for my PH family – my beautiful friends who I feel like they exist in those green tents with me while bombs explode outside. We all share this sense of mortality, and morbid hilarity; as Hawkeye has put, “joking about it is the only way of opening my mouth without screaming.” If you are needing something warm, funny, and relief to an active mind consider this show for comfort! Everyone is different including their triggers. What works for me may not for you.
All of this and MASH babbling to say that if you are struggling – you are not alone. There will be a day when the clouds clear and anger subsides. Sean Wyman reminded me of that while I sat in ICU crying over the new tube in my chest. The anger has subsided, the paranoia comes in waves, and the grief will always be hanging in the background like some decorative tapestry. That is just the new normal. With that being said I am so grateful today for another summer, beautiful New Mexico landscapes, wildflowers, farmers markets, days with Rocco Ricardo, and groovy records. Peace is possible within this fight.
“Do you feel like you have quality of life?” was something asked by my palliative care nurse yesterday. Honestly, who could call this tube and machine attached to me “quality?”
I have been writing for almost five years about living with a terminal disease that is masked by this perceived normal, if you will, and the absolute frustration of everyday ignorance when it comes to people respecting and believing your reality. We are made out to be drama queens, negative, “too much”, and just about any other word humans would like to use as a buffer for their level of comfort. It’s an isolating feeling to know you are surrounded by people who will slap a prayer on a Facebook status, but will indirectly do what they can to keep your “suckage” far away from their steady life. It’s a dull feeling to know that you live among people who are contributing to the lack of early diagnosis problem by once again thinking you are just being dramatic, or negative. Patients literally die because they are told consistently that nothing is wrong.
Late January, death was on my mind quite frequently. My “end of life” wishes, and how they might find me in my home. I was having tachycardic episodes just even trying to pet Rocco, and found myself laying in the floor more often than not trying to calm my breathing, and move past that suffocating feeling. I knew what was coming; my invisible illness was working its way out.
After an almost two-week hospital stay, countless mental breakdowns, bruised arms, bruised hands, new nurse friends, and “mixing classes”- I walked away with a tube in my chest attached to a little machine. I never realized how many v-necks I own, or tops that lace up until I noticed a little white patch peeking out in the mirror. I have attempted to walk across my living room countless times before feeling a little tug reminding me that I am permanently bonded to this anchor. I forgot to enjoy just seeing my necklace resting against my bare chest, or how amazing my weird habit of rubbing my collar bones felt in which now my right one has a tube stretched over it.
Quite shockingly, the amount of “I didn’t know you were THIS sick” messages I received is more sickening than my heart failure in itself. I guess people really do want this justifiable evidence that you are in fact suffering which I guess seems understandable, but; while they see tubing they still don’t see the bills pile up for the expensive maintenance that is required to keep you alive. While they see your pump now they still don’t see you spending enormous amounts of time mixing your medication just right so you don’t accidentally kill yourself. While they see grumpy Facebook updates they don’t feel the mind numbing reality of laying in bed, throwing up, running to the bathroom every five seconds, and doing what you can to manage your pain level. While they see your spotty red rash along with your chest they don’t see your mini hospital that is quickly swallowing your cute home.
Congrats. You have your physical evidence. I am sick. My body is now reflecting its insides – and you know what? Despite whether Pulmonary Hypertension was visible to you or not, it has been this way for seven years – since day one of my diagnosis. It has always been this level of life altering since the moment they told me I did not have a good chance at a quality of life for long. It has been this horrible since the first echocardiogram when I was eighteen, or finding out I could never carry my own child. Open your eyes, listen to people, and gain some perspective on what sick means. The thought, and fact that you are stuck inside of a body that cannot carry you across the finish line, and that will cost you millions of dollars is realistic. You are allowed to feel this way; do not minimize your pain for others comfort.
While I realize I am NOT my disease, I find myself enveloped within it quite frequently. Instead of fighting it, I am making friends with it whether you can conveniently see that or not.
I was only six years old when my very distraught mother picked me up at school on April 20, 1999. She thanked god for not only me, but especially my brother casually walking out of his very crowded middle school that day. Usually every day I was tired, and we would arrive only to find out John had detention, and by the time we were on our way back home everyone was just cranky. But, today was different. My mom was showing my brother all these horrible things on TV which happened to be two students that took guns to school. That’s all I absorbed. Days later, I remember us all sitting around the TV watching a girls funeral while they played a song my six year old self recognized from “Titanic” (which turned out to be Rachel Scott’s funeral), and my parents telling us to leave the school if anything happens, and to plan an escape if we ever saw a gun. I was in the first grade. These were my first memories of the Columbine massacre, and my first experiences of “being in school”. Columbine became a household name for tragedy, fear, and loss…and it would become something I never really understood, and wanted to avoid until my senior year in high school. The news happened to broadcast an “anniversary” Columbine edition, and while watching I had faint flashbacks to that day. I didn’t know anything about the victims, all fifteen, and like most of America, I wanted to know who the guys were holding the guns.
I remember my first days of “research” and reading on Columbine while sitting in my own school library where ten of the thirteen murders happened. I remember looking around that room thinking how they hell I would escape in such an instance; and for the rest of that year I avoided the library. However, despite my fear I was still curious of these kids, Eric and Dylan, and like most people I wanted to know what their home life consisted of. Since my senior year, I have researched, had my dad drive me to Littleton to see the school, pried into pretty much anything accessible to attempt to understand the Columbine massacre. Most people are too caught up in the theatrics of Columbine to actually dig into what happened. I thought I had all the facts, but when Sue Klebold broke her silence and released her new book A Mother’s Reckoning, a new wave of emotion, and information knocked me to my knee’s.
THE EARLY DAYS
When the Columbine tragedy first erupted it was the first of its kind; a powerful, planned, and almost theatrically executed attack from two senior’s. On top of that Eric and Dylan had killed more in a school shooting at that time than any other attack. The media swarmed trying to give America the updates it wanted, and within the firestorm was making rapid mistakes. Within days, Katie Couric even showed and Colorado was plastered across America. There were prank calls, false information, over dramatization, and the showing of dead bodies before parents had even been notified. Yes, one set of parent’s found out their son was dead because his body was in the paper. Originally there were reported twenty-five dead, that the killers were part of the Trench Coat Mafia, they loved violent video games, did violent things, and that they were bullied. When a tragedy happens that we can’t yet comprehend we love to place blame. Our mind almost needs it so that we may rid it from our own lives. America was spoonfed so many outlets of blame, including Eric and Dylan’s parents that we practically had a list to choose from.
Like most, I figured something went south at home and a “mental illness” was to blame. However, Dylan and Eric have always been my focus of my Columbine studies. When you tell people what you have been studying, two of the most horrific killers in history, you are not exactly looked upon fondly. A lot of people have claimed that they don’t want to understand what happened at Columbine, but turning away this so-called understanding is the very action that will not prevent things like Columbine from happening again. While it is physically, and mentally painful to pick through the main focus needs to be this, and this only; “But we cannot dedicate ourselves to preventing violence if we do not take into account the role depression and brain dysfunction can play in the decision to commit it. We must arrive at a way to discuss the intersection between brain health and violence in an open and nonjudgmental manner, and we cannot do that without first talking about the stigma.” -Susan Klebold A Mother’s Reckoning
When this historical school shooting first happened, it appears as though the country banded together to mourn, almost like when 9/11 occurred. Together we saw the faces of who all had been taken from us, twelve students, one teacher, then two more, the killers. A carpenter flew out from Chicago to assemble not thirteen, but fifteen crosses for all victims including Dylan and Eric. “My husband did it out of love. They still have parents,” said Susan Zanis. “If you’re a parent, you know you don’t want your child to go astray. They may be suffering more because their children did this horrible thing. Within a couple of days, Brian Rohrbough, father to one of the victims had taken Dylan and Eric’s crosses away saying that we did not need to forgive them. To this day he is convinced his child died because there is not enough God in public schools. I love this quote in response to his theory. While I cannot imagine what this father is feeling, or has grieved in his lifetime his “theory” is I guess the only way his mind can somewhat deal with the loss of his son, and unfortunately it continuously does not help the general public and turns them away from Christ himself. “Using the death of his child to score some dubious and inconsistent political points on behalf of his employer says more about Mr. Rohrbough than it does about the society he critiques,” one anonymous reader commented on a forum at the Rocky Mountain News paper. Decades later, there is still a huge divide on whether to acknowledge thirteen, or fifteen victims within this tragedy.“Although I understood the response in my own community, it was still hard for me to accept that Dylan’s entire life had no value at all because of what he had done before he died.” -Sue Klebold
HALEY GROWS UP
A lot of my close friends know that I was not the most pleasant person in high school. I was stuck in a place where sports were admired, and anything but that you were labeled. My dad was raising me, I didn’t know how to style my very long naturally straight hair, make up was confusing, and overall I was just lost. My family home had been divided, I was more interested in listening to the Beatles, and physically I just could not keep up. The kind of bullying I experienced all through high school wasn’t your traditional bullying like one of my best friends was dealing with there; it was more like tell you exactly to your face or create this environment around you to show you how unacceptable you are. Little things like moving desks, and very passive aggressive behavior is what this entire school got by on. However I had close friends who were called “suicide bombers” and “terrorists” because they were a different nationality. Anyone other than white, and athletic was looked down upon. I never felt like I fit in, even with educators themselves. I was suffering from extreme anxiety, and depression, and awkwardly did not know how to deal with myself. I reacted with anger, and by withdrawing myself. Educators exacerbated those feelings beyond comparison. I remember when a friend killed himself, and I lost it several times just that first day in class. A teacher spoke to me in the hallway attempting to alleviate some stress, and only later did I hear her mocking me in the exact hallway with a fellow educator. My friend had put a gun to his temple less than twenty-four hours earlier, and my extreme shock was being mocked. I would go home and stew over that building, and how it made me feel. I couldn’t understand why loving music, and art was such a bad thing. The original high school had burned down in the early seventies, and often I would find myself wishing this current one would as well, and they would just cancel school. I had also not been diagnosed with a very severe, incurable, and terminal disease that was in the process of killing me every time I had to climb double flights of stairs to get to classes. In my years there, I had three teachers in which two kept an eye on me, communicated with me, and one math teacher that asked if I was depressed noticing my disinterest in class. To put the cherry on top my high school “counselor” told me that my current grades did not reflect of someone who will go to college reminding me of continuous failure. I wasn’t a particularly difficult kid to deal with. Looking back I just appeared angry, and withdrawn while attempting to gain approval. Daily, I was crushed by not only those around me, but adults.
Anger has never stopped me from dealing with the worst of kids. I have dealt with many truly angry kids; children that have threatened teachers lives, and children that push every nerve in your body just to get a reaction. Children that by me sitting down with have come down from their own very angry mountain to openly cry all over me. About seventy percent of the time, it wasn’t always a good feeling. While working at this elementary, I would collapse in our counselors office almost needing counseling of my own. It was the first time to deal with a very difficult generation of kids, and kids who I felt their pain and wanted to save them all. If only dealing with challenging kids was ideal. As Susan Klebold writes in her book: “This is one of the paradoxes we must confront. Of course it would be easier to help depressed teens if they were nicer to be around, or more communicative about their thoughts. If only they looked like the kids in the pamphlets do: clean-cut and attractive, staring out a rainy window with a wistful expression, chin propped on a fist! More commonly, though, a disturbed teenager will be unpleasant: aggressive, belligerent, obnoxious, irritable, hostile, lazy, whiny, untrustworthy, sometimes with poor personal hygiene.”
“Sometimes a kid messing up at school or coming at you with a bad attitude about helping at home isn’t a sign they need to be criticized or corrected, but a signal that they need help.”
I choose to deal with those kids because I understand what it is to be truly angry. To be so angry that you lose base and you wish to hurt yourself, or others. You want to “opt out” and not participate in life in general. I understand the lingering depressive anger. Luckily, I was a post Columbine era kid in which this had somewhat been talked about. My father was aware of my school situation and monitored me closely by leaving me letters, and seeking out professional help. Fresh out of high school, and throughout my early adulthood I have found myself back in my same high school footsteps thinking, “what the hell am I doing back here?” Being diagnosed with anxiety, and depression gave an identity to the constant fog in my brain.Luckily I had positive influences around me who knew about my brain health issues, and kept pushing me towards success. This is one of the very few differences between Dylan Klebold and I. He was angry, non communicative, silent, and had a friend, Eric Harris who was just as angry and extremely homicidal.
DYLAN BENNET KLEBOLD
His parents named him after a poet, but he was called their “sunshine boy.” He was the ideal child; sensitive, caring, and a very smart. Dylan didn’t necessarily fit perfectly with the crowd feeling awkward, and annoyed. He was six-foot four, had blonde-red hair, and was growing up in a time where computers and internet were all a new thing. He loved baseball, but with a left elbow injury on his pitching arm, he had not made the Columbine baseball team. Instead, he focused on computers, and the occasional sound for theater. Very rarely did Dylan ever “react” to things in front of his family, and his friends recall a different side, but one not much different from his parents. Dylan made time for his family, extended himself for his friends, and was a hard worker. Susan says that Dylan would have to come sit with her at work after his school hours. She worked at a University, and Dylan decided to volunteer at the daycare. “True to form, Dylan would be out there on the playground, making sure the little kids were lining up neatly to get a turn on the swing.” -Susan Klebold A Mothers Reckoning
Dylan was that friend; the one we all had to somewhat push to get talking and then he took off all on his own. He was creative, funny, into things that weren’t popular, and he truly truly cared. However, Dylan was emotional. He could not deal with mistakes, and he was of the up most critical of himself. He internalized everything, and so easily he would make others feel loved and appreciated by smoothly removing himself from a conversation letting all the discussion be about them. I think in a lot of ways Dylan was afraid to be known. When Columbine happened, Dylan had been writing for two years about how he wanted to die. Most likely, Dylan was suffering from extreme depression; pages he wrote dripped with love, wanting to find love, and how much he hated himself. He wrote, “Thinking of suicide gives me hope that I’ll be in my place wherever I go after this life – that I’ll finally not be a war with myself, the world, the universe – my mind, body, everywhere, everything is at PEACE – me – my soul (existence).” Unfortunately, Dylan was living in an era when child brain health, or brain health in general was not looked after or acknowledged. In this day and age (the 90’s) teenagers were just teenagers. Very rarely did we look up from our morning coffee and think something could be seriously wrong, I mean, a moody teenager? What’s new? I say brain health because it makes perfect sense; when we say “mental illness” there is such a stigma attached. “Oh, she’s mental, he’s mental, they’re crazy.” Years we have grown up making fun of mental illnesses and so afraid of them that when it’s a suggestion for us, we can’t grasp it. Also, “mental” refers to an invisible illness. Our brain is an organ, a very important one at that. It has its own health, and needs its own checkups just as the heart would. When our brain malfunctions in even the smallest of ways like anxiety, it can completely distract us from life because we are not hearing, and perceiving things as we would if our brain was okay. A “brain health checkup” as Dr. Richman put it, “is tangible”; it makes people a little more okay dealing with these health issues. Dylan’s grades were slipping, he was getting into trouble, and he was lashing out at home. His parents lectured him, versus talking, and attributed his loss of steam to “senioritis”. Just before the Columbine massacre, Dylan appeared to finally be getting back on track once again, leading his parents astray.
“Left untreated, even the mildest brain health impairment can derail a young person’s life, and stop a child from reaching his or her full potential, a tragedy in itself. A disease like depression can also have much more serious consequences, as it sets many of the traps that snag children in adolescence: drug and alcohol abuse, drunk driving, petty crime, eating disorders, cutting, abusive relationships, and high-risk sexual behaviors among them.” -Sue Klebold A Mothers Reckoning
In a pre-Columbine society, no one was paying attention to this. After thirteen lay dead inside of a school, we all screamed, “WHY?!” and instead we should have been saying, “HOW?!” Only then did we start looking into bullying, and very mildly mental health. In schools, and homes today we still are not taking brain health seriously. We mock, push away, and downplay what another individual is dealing with. In a society where your children have the entire world available to them through a cell-phone, where they can hear and see things out of your control, where they can experience things, where they are exposed to things…you have actually no idea what your children are up to. You can think you do, but these star students were hiding shotguns and acting as if everything was fine. Your love for your child is not enough to keep them alive.“I taught Dylan, as I had taught his brother before him, to protect himself from lightning strikes, snakebites, and hypothermia. I taught him to floss, to wear sunscreen, and the importance of checking his blind spot twice. As he became a teenager, I talked as openly as I could about the dangers of drinking and drug use, and I educated him about safe and ethical sexual behavior. It never crossed my mind that the gravest danger Dylan faced would not come from an external source at all, but from within himself.”
What if I had a friend in my time that was angry, or homicidal? What if I didn’t have positive influences? What if my father had not found professional help? What would I have been capable of? Instead of being fearful of those questions, I ask them daily. I grieve heavily for Dylan Klebold because I truly truly understand his suffering, and what might have been in a world were he could have flourished. The loss of Dylan so heavily affects me (even though I never had known him and I was six years old when he ended his life) but because I somehow made it out alive, and people who dealt with the exact issues did not.
ERIC DAVID HARRIS
Like most people, while I will always mourn for Dylan because I understand Dylan, I will never understand Eric. Eric Harris was a military child, always moving from place to place. In his writings he describes he was happiest living in Oscada, and leaving it was the hardest thing he had ever done. Eric’s family home seemed very clinical; his mother was concerned, supportive, and left Eric to his own devices. His father was military, and towards the end of Eric’s life was taking one worded notes on Eric’s troublesome behavior. Eric will always be the tougher one to comprehend because Eric’s mental state was probably beyond help. Eric’s parents have also shut everything out that has to do with Columbine, and were not so cooperative with investigators. I truly believe they might have known Eric’s uncontrollable, and sadistic side. While Dylan wrote page after page seeking love, Eric wrote pages and pages of death, rape, gore, and everything that follows. Eric was an extremely homicidal person; he literally hated the human race and often fantasized about exterminating it.
While Eric could come home and write such crude things, in person Eric was perfection. He was an extremely smart student, and could talk his way out of anything. While Dylan was easy-going to be around, friends often remark that Eric was “intense.” Fourteen months before their lives ended, Dylan and Eric were caught breaking into a van. They immediately admitted to the crime, and since they were first time offenders they were put into a program called “diversion” for youth offenders. They were subjected to “counseling”, drug testing, community service, and court appearances. These sessions were more like “good ‘ol boy talks” and “keep up the good work” versus actual counseling sessions. Diversion did nothing except keep the boys busy, and annoy them enough to know their offense. Eric can be heard on recording in court talking to the judge; he is polite, respectful, and was enough to win the whole program over. The boys were dismissed out of diversion early with officers stating that they were good kids, extremely smart, and impressed. While Dylan wasn’t as much favored as Eric (they thought he was questionable and needed drug testing versus Eric who didn’t “need” the testing), Eric was the absolute star with Jefferson County stating that he was no one to worry about. However, many reports on Eric had been made against a website he had created where he would talk about building bombs and making threats, and Jefferson County just before Columbine was getting ready to search the Harris home. What would’ve been if they had? Almost every bomb used at Columbine was made in the Harris’s home…and there is evidence that the parents knew about this. Eric’s dad punished Eric by making him “dispose” of the bombs in a nearby field. Miraculously, shortly after the Columbine Massacre, and the names released, the paperwork to search Eric’s home disappeared, along with a lot of other evidence from Jefferson County.
Eric was the true definition of a sociopath, or psychopath. His brain health, however it got there, was beyond “normal” thinking. Eric could hold a job as well as an outstanding reputation. But the hatred he harvested on the inside was lethal as well as the manipulation tactics he excelled in. While Dylan appeared to “run out of steam” due to actual depression, Eric appeared motivated and normal erasing any doubt that Eric was depressed in the traditional sense. The differences between Eric and Dylan are simple; Eric hated everyone, and Dylan hated himself. When speaking with someone who identifies himself as a sociopath or psychopath he explained that it is like having a cut wire; there is no connection and there is no fixing it. Emotion is fuzzy, and every action is an objective to complete. I believe that there are many different shades of psychopaths in this world, but two mainly standout. There are functioning psychopaths who can contribute to society, and respect those close to them. Then there are extremely homicidal psychopaths who cannot function within society. Eric was beyond homicidal. I believe, as well as most people, that the boys participated in Columbine for two very different reasons. For Eric this was strictly a homicide, almost a military mission that he was preparing for. For Dylan, he really just wanted to kill himself as we know that Dylan let certain people “free” during the Columbine massacre, and fired significantly less rounds. The two had a magnetic attraction that completed the others wishes. “Eric Harris appears to have been a homicidal psychopath, and Dylan Klebold, a suicidal depressive, and their disparate madnesses were each other’s necessary condition. Dylan’s depressiveness would not have turned into murderousness without Harris’s leadership, but something in Eric might have lost motivation without the thrill of dragging Dylan down with him.” -Andrew Solomon. By no means is Dylan “less guilty”. But without Eric, where would Columbine as well as it’s victims be today?
THE ACTUAL BULLYING
There are so many people who have studied Columbine, published things, and one of the most disturbing lectures I’ve ever heard was by Dave Cullen who has profited heavily from his “Columbine research.” He made the claim that Eric, and Dylan were never bullied. “They had so many friends!” He exclaims. While Dylan and Eric had their own little clan of friends, that doesn’t stop other clicks from bullying you. If you would have asked any administrator at my high school, or my family they would have said, “Haley was great! She had friends! She wasn’t bullied, she never really discussed it, it was fine.” Most people who are bullied will not say much especially a male teenager who feels as though he has something to prove. One thing that is so fascinating about Dylan and Eric is that they left so many video tapes, and writings behind almost allowing us to study them with ease. They didn’t leave us stranded, but left SO much to look at so we could experience their goofy moments, school moments, and last moments. In one of their many “home videos” Eric is being followed by the camera at school. Hauntingly, we get a pretty good look inside Columbine, and almost the exact steps that the boys took that day, and what the school looked like. We also got to see Eric and Dylan casually walking down a Hallway, and in front of them come a line of guys. They walk right through the boys, elbowing and nearly knocking the camera out of their hands. This passive aggressive behavior is not your so-called typical bullying, but another way to knock on students. This was captured on video, is available on YouTube, and there is no debate about it; if your student was elbowed in the hallway to get out-of-the-way, how would you feel? “Apparently such behavior was common enough to be accepted as normative.” -Ralph Larkin
In Sue Klebold’s book she also talks of a parent’s conversation with Dylan and his father. “A county employee offered his condolences and told him how his son’s hair had been set on fire by some other students while he was attending Columbine High School. The boy, who sustained fairly serious burns to his scalp, refused to allow his father to go the administration because he was afraid it would make the situation worse. Shaking with anger as he spoke, though the incident was no longer recent, the outraged dad told Tom he had wanted to take the school apart ‘brick by brick.'”
More research by Ralph W. Larkin in his book Comprehending Columbine, found that while “theschool was academically excellent and deeply conservative there was a pervasive culture of bullying – in particular, a group of athletes who harassed, humiliated, and physically assaulted kids at the bottom of the social ladder. Larkin also points to proselytizing and intimidation by evangelical Christian students, a self-appointed moral elite who perceived the kids who dressed differently as evil and targeted them.”
As we know, Dylan and Eric loved to dress differently, and were interested in things different than most…I can relate. With how some people have reacted to Columbine (creating Christian challenges, and removing crosses and memorials of Eric and Dylan) it is one hundred percent believable that the “Christian bullying” was definitely happening at Columbine. So many have gone so far even to create a new Columbine movie that is entirely centered on being a Christian. LET’S CLEAR ONE THING UP RIGHT NOW ABOUT COLUMBINE: This was not an attack on Christians, blacks, women, men, or any person in particular. This was an attack on absolutely everyone in that school. The original plan included two huge propane bombs that if had gone off, would have killed almost everyone there. Yes, they taunted people before they died mocking their skin color, social status, and religion. Hardly anyone was excluded. Stop using Christianity as an excuse.
For Dave Cullen to say that bullying was not a factor in Columbine is to practically contribute to a growing problem in schools. While bullying was not the main focus of the problem, it sure did put a lovely cherry on top that aggravated an already lethal situation.
“Dad, did you know that there are loopholes in the Brady Bill?” Two weeks before the Columbine massacre this is the question that Daniel Mauser (above) asked his father. Several weeks later his dad would be waiting for him at a local elementary school that had turned into a collection building for Columbine students. He patiently waited after most students had been picked up safely that awful day only to realize that Daniel was not on his way home for a reason. Daniel had been fatally shot in the face in the library by Eric Harris…with a gun that was bought because of a loophole in the Brady Bill.
Dylan was raised in a very anti-gun family, and Eric of course had a fascination with his military upbringing. One of the most shocking things Dylan’s mom speaks of is the fact that Dylan owned a gun. She never thought how she raised him, and how their household felt that a seventeen year old boy could buy a gun without her knowing. One of the boys closest friends (and Dylan’s prom date just three days before the massacre) Robyn Anderson purchased their firearms for them at a gun show in Colorado. She had recently turned eighteen, and repeated the statement that as long as she didn’t have to fill out any paperwork that she would buy the guns for the boys. She thought because they were boys that they would be collecting the guns. This sparked the “Robyn Anderson Bill” that when buying a gun for a minor you must have parental permission.
This is my one and only argument on guns; Dylan and Eric were going to do what they were going to do. However, if every dealer that day at that gun show would have required paperwork then it would have been one more delay for them. It would have put things off with one more step, and they would have had less access to the powerful firearms that they did end up purchasing. Putting steps in place will make it difficult for everyone for these reasons exactly. If you have no reason to fear those steps (if your background check is clean, etc…) then you should not be protesting them because fifteen more people might be alive because of the hassle of paperwork, and legality that they were able to avoid. It makes me furious to look at Daniel’s photos (or any of the victims) but in particular, Daniel. His home resembled mine, and he favored my brother with those glasses on. The life taken is beyond infuriating, and I cannot imagine the grief.
I feel as though my spirit was not drawn, but pushed towards this tragedy for a very obvious reason; I feel almost as if it is a duty to educate people on what brain health can do not only for adults, but “moody” teenagers as well. “So besides accidents and homicide, nothing kills more young people in this country than suicide – not cancer, not sexually transmitted disease. A 2013 study looked at almost 6,500 teens. One in eight had contemplated suicide, and one in twenty-five had attempted it, yet only half of them were in treatment.” -Sue Klebold
When we don’t understand something, or simply don’t want to it’s because in a way we fear it. For years with Columbine we have played the blame game and gone right back to our easy way of life. It could never happen in our home, I love my children too much, I know my children, those kids were twisted, crazy, the parents were horrible…blah blah blah. When really these were very normal families, who loved their son’s very much, and even law enforcement had commented on how great they were. Why would they be concerned? We continue to turn on our T.V.’s and see schools and churches splattered with bullets and await to hear how many are dead this time. Our society continues to ignore brain health so ignored in fact that it’s almost an elective or privileged type thing to see a counselor? How? Why? Why isn’t one of the most crucial, and important parts of our body being checked on by a professional? Would you hand your best friend a stethoscope and ask to check you for heart disease?
“But what I have learned implies the need for a broader call to action, a comprehensive overview of what should be in place to stop not only tragedies like the one committed by my son but the hidden suffering of any child.” -Sue Klebold
I refuse to be a Dylan and Eric sympathizer. They are guilty, they are murderers, they took away precious lives and ripped apart relationships. Despite their issues they still actively made the decision to be there. Instead, I want to educate about Columbine for brain health reasons; the problem with current shootings in America is not mainly guns (that is a fraction of the problem.) The problem is our brain health. What are we doing to upkeep one of the most important organs in our body? For some people this tragedy gives them goosebumps, as for me just an immense amount of grief for teens that suffered so secretively, and caused suffering upon others. Instead of turning our eyes away from this carnage, we need to start applying it to our life. Where is your child right now? Who are they with? Who is their friend, but really, WHO are they? Most importantly, how is your child feeling? What if they were to take someone else’s life someday then their own? Where would you start?
Invisibility; one of Pulmonary hypertension’s biggest, and most irritating problems. I have three types of people in my life. The people who are there when something is up, understand, and are doing their best at supporting me. The people who are attempting to learn, and understand this confusing disease, then last, the people who have heard it, seen it, probably don’t understand, and “don’t have time to.” We are human, and tend to do stupid human things like judge others on their outward appearance. Ahh, what a fatal mistake. Doctors judged me on my outward appearance for years, so long in fact that when I was eighteen they didn’t know how much longer I was going to live. Yet, I looked perfectly healthy. I may look fine, and act fine, but PH is still an extremely fatal disease. Judging people by their appearances is not just a social flaw, but a life threatening mistake. I can’t even count on both of my hands how many children, just children, died from PH this year, and how many people are in the hospital PHighting it right now. Its ridiculous. So how much longer are you going to think that this is “no big deal?”
With that being said, I hear patients talk all the time that they wish their best friends, significant other, parents, and sisters brothers cousin would understand. Remember PH’ers, they are not going to understand, and really it’s not their job to. Their job is to be supportive towards you. If they are trying to understand, then bonus points for them. Support is really the main key in lifting a patient’s spirits, not understanding. I’ve made a post like this before, but here I go again with just a little updated refresher!
THE DO’S AND DONT’S FOR THE PATIENT IN YOUR LIFE
When something happens, a new diagnosis, loss of a family member, bad test result, we tend to flock to that person, and back them into a corner for a response. Wait until the crowd dies down a little, and for a quiet moment to show your support in a non-harsh way.
–Don’t Ignore It
“Everyone’s texting them, so it makes no difference if I do.” Really, I mean really? What animal taught you to think that way?
–Do Send a Card
The art of the hand written note, or letter, is pretty much lost. We have social media, texting, Facebook cards, and everything else that substitutes it. When someone receives a card, it shows that you went out of your way to sit down, and write them. It’s a nice thought that few go through with.
–Do Respect Privacy
It’s not everyone’s business that their cancer, disease, or whatever is back, and got worse. Some of us patients are extroverts, and vent when something happens, and others invest privately in a few people. Respect that if you are one of the few chosen. My rule is, if they’ve posted on social media about it, then its ok for me to share with who I think I need to.
–Don’t Offer Fake Support
There is a difference in real support, and “support.” For example, the girlfriend in the movie 50/50 wouldn’t go to chemo with her boyfriend, because she didn’t want to mix with those “bad vibes.” So she only drove him to treatment. Horrible, horrible, horrible girlfriend. Real support consists of hospital stays, visits, knowing exactly what is going on, checking up no matter what time it is, going to events, helping at events, and not leaving the patient even questioning if you’ll be there.
–Don’t Make It a Big Deal
Don’t freak out, make it big, and exaggerate everything. It makes it hard on the patient when the disease becomes the rock. It’s just something that happened to us. When you constantly remind us of what flaw we have, its annoying.
–But DO Make It a Big Deal
At the same time, don’t blow it off. For me, my “diagnosis anniversary” is a big deal. When you blow that off, that can set me off. When a conference, meeting, 5K Marathon, or support group meeting is no big deal to you, you are kind of failing, and being an asshole. It’s a tricky balance of knowing what to make big, and when to do it.
–Don’t Exhaust Yourself
We aren’t asking for the royal treatment by any means. This friendship, like any, is different and has its quirks. It should be no big deal to you. You can still make all the difficult stuff just as much fun, and easy to breeze through. Just like any relationship, it takes two people, and appreciation to make it work.
This by far isn’t everything, however, I’m on a series of different pain medications after surgery this week, and I’m having a little trouble focusing! haha! Thank you to every person who texted, prayed, checked on me, and showed true support. It means more than you know! Now, let’s have a fantastic Monday. Check out the NEW CONTEST UNDER THE CONTEST TAB!! Its easy, and exciting! Also, Song Of The Week is BAAAAAAACK! Enjoy the new hit single, Cheap Sunglasses by RAC.
I guess when you have been “up” for so long, the very second you realize you’re “down” for the first time in a while, it’s a hell of a fall, and it hurts.
Tonight was the first time my stomach shriveled into a little ball, and wanted to be anywhere but locked up inside this body. After hours of attempting to try on “summer” clothes, I gave up, storming out of the store with “workout” gear instead. I drove around for hours today trying to shake my body conscious thoughts, but I felt it eating my mind alive. Upon arriving at home with a salad, and new diet pills, I did some extensive research on getting published which is pretty much a road block for anyone who isn’t someone. Over, and over again I felt attacked by the repetitive negative feelings, and found myself held a prisoner. For the first time in months, the whole idea of suicide was once again dancing around in my mind. What a silencing thought.
I honestly don’t know how we get to this point, or how powerful such negative emotions can be. It’s ridiculous that even when we feel happy, or positive, it almost never holds a candle to what negativity can do. The dark, the horrible, is just so destructive. What amazes me, and what is viciously dangerous, are people who can hide it. People who can swallow back the pain until they are so numb that they do not feel the effects of a knife sliding across their wrist, a bullet going through their skull, or a noose snapping their neck. Thats what is scary, are the people who suffer in silence, and the people who don’t state the obvious for them. Suicide is not only terrifying for the individual going through the actions, but also for the friends or family who will be left standing to plan a funeral. What you are doing is vitally important.
Now, with that being said, no I am not fine, and no I am not okay. Eventually, I will be, but until then that is the dumbest question to ask. Your job is to show support to anyone who can’t be themselves because they hate who they are so much. Your job is not to say vague phrases, and hope that ignoring the harsh yet truthful words they need to hear will help. Your job is to not criticize, or judge. Your job is not to throw things in their face for them to “deal” with. Your job is not to make us feel different, or “special” in any way. We don’t know what makes us this way, we just now that we are this way and it hurts. Dont make us hurt anymore than we have to; help us heal.
Life has been a slew of weird events strung together in order to keep me happy. For a few months now I’ve merely been existing in an unidentifiable funk, and when people ask whats bugging me, I can’t even fathom what words to respond with. I clearly don’t know. Its been the weirdest time in my life, and keeping my mood afloat and in check has been quite the battle. I guess the only definition I have for myself is lost at the moment. Lost in the ridiculous, and overpowering waves of life that have been washing over my head for a long time now. Finally, I’m now realizing that I’m halfway drowned and far away from shore. Yet, I feel as though I’m exactly where I need to be. Is anyone else going through this?
At first I tried to look for happiness in all the wrong ways. Happiness to me was drowning out all the bad, and trying to brainwash myself into thinking that if I blocked anything and everything out that rocked me to the core, I would be fine. I would be fine if I kept ignoring the truth, if I put my blinders on and only focused on the “fluff.” Let me tell you right now, the fluff in life is fake. Its nothing but a mirage that in itself is evil because when you do figure out its fake, and that you thought you just might be fine, that fall will hurt worse than anything. The truth is sometimes ugly, but in the ugliest things I find a certain type of simple, and freeing beauty. Does that make sense? Yea I didn’t think so. I thought that by doing everything “perfect” in life I would find total happiness. What could go wrong? I’m going to church, I’m working a full-time job, I have money, I have “friends”, I mean seriously what am I missing? Taking a step back I realized that I was overworked, exhausted, spent more time sleeping than laughing, I was being lied to, I was bored, and I started to hate life. I entered a state of insanity, and forever I’ve been told that I’m just “dramatic”, “weird”, and “out of control” when in reality I was losing my mind. And now as I sit here in my cold room barely lit with my bedside lamp, I have a such an overpowering sense of clarity that has never graced my eyes or mind before. These emotions are awful. My own mind wants to turn against itself, and sometimes the thought of death is more comforting than waking up tomorrow and seeing the Texas sunrise. However, pulling myself out of these massively damaging thoughts, and feeling the relief when I no longer have the weight hanging around my neck is such an amazing sensation. To look back and see what I’ve gone through, what I’ve survived, and how bad things have gotten and continue to get, it’s just amazing. In the darkest bars I still meet the nicest and funniest people. To the most horrible songs, I have so much fun dancing with the weirdest people. In the darkest of times there is that one light and there is still beauty, and you will pull yourself through. Do not block out the bad because deep within the lousiest moments are the unexpected bursts of elated blessings that your protective “blinders” didn’t let you experience. Happiness is still existent, even in the weirdest places. You are your only judge of happiness, and I promise darling you are not too far from shore. You will not sink to the bottom, and complete black will not encompass your soul. Keep pushing to make it to that sunrise.
Life is beautiful. Keep fighting.
Check out the song of the week, Help Yourself by the one and only Amy Winehouse.
So lately I’ve noticed that I’ve been going, going and going a little too much. And it’s reflecting in everything…my room, laundry, the blog and just everything in general! I took some time to slow down this weekend and I cant believe I actually enjoyed myself. Rocco and I quite literally sat on the couch all day and painted and watched just about every movie on Netflix we could think of. Well, that they’ll actually stream (and that’s very few).
I use my arm as a mixing palette and really it looks like a murder scene. 😉
It just kind of put me back on the right track that we mentally really need those types of days where we do nothing and take a quite literal breather. With everything going a hundred miles an hour its like I can literally feel the oxygen in my lungs backing up. Before I know it I have a to-do list ten miles long and many people to get in contact with. And as much as all that IS important, my happiness is just as important. I’m not saying sit around the house for a week but definitely take some time to just clear your mind. I think once we start feeling better mentally and emotionally it will affect our health in a much more positive way. Life isn’t the most pleasant thing to deal with but we have a choice to make it much better than it is. The problem isn’t the problem in general, but the problem could be how you’re handling it. Mind over Matter.
Slow down y’all. Once you get yourself happier and more relaxed mentally and emotionally, I think physically it will all fall into place.
On a side note, there WILL be a fashion friday this week (woo-hoo!) and check out the new song of the week. Phoenix is beautiful and this is from their newest album!