This week's Legacy post was written by Sande Chase. When I think of Sande, several adjectives come to mind: gracious, elegant, creative, funny, thoughtful, and clever (seriously, you must visit her website for truly gorgeous boxed gifts and gift-wrapping collections, and then her blog, A Gift Wrapped Life, for brilliant methods and techniques for wrapping gifts). After reading this post, I have two more words to add: strong and brave. I am profoundly grateful to her for sharing these words. Please read them, share them, pass them on. I can't think of a more important post to pass along to friends and family. Thank you, Sande, and thank you, Aeleen, for lending your beautiful photo to this post.
late blooming love, originally uploaded by prairiegirl studio
When I think of a legacy and I have thought about it a great deal since Gigi asked me to contribute a guest post, I found myself thinking what most of us think about when asked such an important question. A thoughtful question and one I wanted to answer for Gigi as I admire her honesty and talent so immensely. But the question almost seemed bigger than me, legacy is a word for important people, people who invent things, find a cure, save the world, perform great feats that will benefit mankind. The more I read the guest posts the more I realized I did have an answer but I just didn’t really want to talk about it, certainly not say it out loud. Though I have whispered, I have never shouted, but I am ready to say it loud and clear and I hope you will understand why.
As I was thinking of a nicer, easier answer, a shadow of deep pain kept circling my thoughts and in order to tell you what I hope my legacy will be, I have to share the most painful part of my life and I have to say it quickly before I turn away, find a way to not say these most difficult and painful words out loud. In 1999, my 36 year old sister, my vivacious, outgoing, a woman who I thought was as strong as they come, the youngest in our family of six children, took her own life, and life as I knew it changed forever, changed my family…….. altered me forever.
Since that devastating day, it is very rare that anyone outside of our family mentions my sister’s name. Suicide is a shameful departure, the saddest act we can think of, too awful to even contemplate. The very subject of mental illness in any degree makes many us look away, become silent. I understand this too well as even the memory of that day, that call, still stops my own heart………how could this have happened? How could we have missed this? We had many questions but no answers and it took years to relize there wasn’t one. There would never be an answer.
Mental illness is scary. It is messy, painful, and we don’t even like thinking about it, let alone talk out loud about it. The trouble is that we give mental illness all the privacy it needs to survive. We think of it as a private illness, a coping flaw, we ignore, it, look away, talk in hushed tones, hope it is temporary, we sometimes even think it will just go away if we offer enough love and support. And sometimes it does. But often it does not.
My legacy is perhaps a personal one, first and foremost a way to protect my immediate family and its future generations. To ensure we talk about depression and mental illness as easily and openly as we talk about sexual protection, illness, politics, family history, all the small and large topics we discuss with our children to prepare them in the years ahead. Sit them down and tell them the history of any mental illness in our family, have them be aware of the signs of depression so that they can come to us, talk to us, and ask for help. Make sure the shame stops here.
As women, we need to be vigilant about our own mental health. Place it at the top of our list and do what it takes to treat our emotional health. We are meant to be happy and if we are not, we need to find out why. Do the dirty work, dig deep, get messy, ask for help, treat it without shame. Be open and talk about it out loud, shout if necessary. When we do this it sends a clear message to our children, mental health is just another function of our bodies, it can go awry for many reasons just as easily as any other body part. Remove the shame.
I share this legacy with my sister and her name was Lynne.