Thoughts about Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass

This isn’t a review so much as it is an essay response to the fantastic book Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass. 

In June 1977, Dade County, Florida voters voted to repeal the county’s gay rights ordinance after a successful smear campaign by anti-gay activist Anita Bryant. Bryant then took her group, called Save Our Children, to other communities to repeal gay rights laws and to pass oppressive legislation against LGBTQ+ rights. 

In June 1977, Harvey Milk announced his campaign for Board Supervisor in San Francisco. That night, he gave the first version of his Hope speech. He said, “And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right” (Milk, 1977).

And that’s what Surrender Your Sons is all about. Hope. 

After Connor’s boyfriend pressures him into coming out to his very religious mom, a cold war begins between him and his mom. She confiscates his phone and restricts access to any Internet source. He’s allowed to continue his Meals on Wheels job until his client Ricky Hannigan dies. 

And then his mom gives him back his phone. He immediately senses something is wrong and texts his boyfriend that he thinks she’s going to kick him out. His boyfriend doesn’t answer. And that night, Connor is kidnapped from his bed (with his mom’s permission) and taken to a religious conversion therapy camp on an island off the coast of Costa Rica. 

But Connor is ready to fight like hell. And in doing so, he discovers a decades-old mystery that might be the one to finally take down the camp. 

Although a novel that involves conversion therapy, especially one at a camp that is running off the grid and uses physical punishment and isolation practices, seems like it would be a dark novel, I found it full of light despite the dark moments—or perhaps because of the dark moments. 

Why? Because there’s hope. 

Through Surrender Your Sons, Sass writes a compelling thriller that infuses hope onto every single page. No doubt the circumstances these characters are in are bleak. But it’s so filled with hope. 

We don’t live in a post-homophobic United States. Although some LGBTQ+ persons find immediate acceptance, this is not the reality for everyone. And even with immediate acceptance, there’s still the reality that homophobia exists and sneaks up in unexpected ways at times. Once again, “Save Our Children” trends on Facebook and Twitter. Under the guise of human trafficking and pedophilia, many using the hashtag equate LGBTQ+ individuals to pedophiles in attempts to strip away hard-fought for rights and in attempts to sow hatred against LGBTQ+ individuals. In 2018, 1 in 5 hate crimes reported in the U.S. were related to anti-LGBTQ+ crimes. As of writing, 20 states ban conversion therapy. 30 states still allow it. And in those 20 states that ban it, there are some with religious exemptions; as long as someone isn’t acting as a psychologist, this is allowed in some states such as Utah which has a conversion therapy ban. And as Sass points out, conversion therapy does NOT have to be a formal practice to still be considered conversion therapy.  And it can still be just as psychologically damaging, even when a person does it to themselves.

But yet there’s hope. 

People carve out places where they are accepted and loved for who they are. They experience found families. That doesn’t mean the pain goes away, but there’s still joy. 

And that’s what Surrender Your Sons is all about. Sass says in the author note that the book is not about queer pain; it’s about what queers do with pain. 

It’s about fighting back against those who hate who you are. 

It’s about finding reasons to keep going when those who are supposed to love and fully accept you reject you and harm you instead. 

It’s about finding those who love you for who you are. 

It’s about finally loving yourself for who you are after you were made to hate yourself.

It’s about hope.

References

https://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/milkhopespeech.html 

https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/conversion_therapy 

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/nearly-1-5-hate-crimes-motivated-anti-lgbtq-bias-fbi-n1080891 

Resources

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ 

http://bornperfect.org/ 

https://www.crisistextline.org/

Book/Author Links: 

Add to Goodreads

Buy 

Follow Adam Sass on Twitter

Adam Sass Website

Ziggy, Stardust, & Me: A Historical Perspective

One of my favorite books of 2019 was Ziggy, Stardust, and Me by James Brandon. 

Ziggy takes place in 1973 which was a very historic year in LGBTQ history although most people don’t know about this. I personally didn’t know anything about it until I read Ziggy!! 

I previously did a historical perspectives post about Robin Talley’s Music From Another World, and I enjoyed it so much that I’m doing it again here!! Although Ziggy does have other historical events covered in it, I’m limiting this post to just the LGBTQ history components. 

Jonathan’s uncle and the criminal history of homosexuality

Throughout United States history, homosexuality had been criminalized; in fact, it pre-dates the year that the country was officially established. It wasn’t until 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas that the Supreme Court decided that U.S. laws prohibiting private homosexual activity between consenting adults were unconstitutional. However, several states still had sodomy laws where the language still specifically prohibited homosexual contact between consenting adults. As of September 1, 2019, 15 states still have laws against sexual activity among consenting adults with Kentucky, Kansas, and Texas having laws that specifically target same-sex couples.

Prior to 1962, there were sodomy laws on the book in every single state. Illinois was the first state to remove these laws in 1962 which essentially meant that Illinois was the first state to decriminalize homosexuality. 

Ziggy, Stardust, and Me takes place in Missouri, and Jonathan’s uncle is in jail for homosexual behavior. Missouri officially criminalized homosexual acts until 2006. Yes, 2006. Three years after the Supreme Court ruled that those laws were unconstitutional. 

Homosexuality in the DSM 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is essentially the Bible of Psychiatry. It also constantly goes through revisions as doctors and scientists come to learn more about various mental illnesses. (For example, I have had two diagnoses that are no longer in the DSM due to their most recent revision!) 

At first, homosexuality appeared in the DSM-I under “paraphilia” before revising it to appear under “sexual orientation disturbance” in the DSM-II. DSM-III called it “ego-dystonic homosexuality.” 

Protests against the American Psychiatric Association (APA) began in 1970 when activists disrupted the conference ridiculuing the APA’s decision to still include homosexuality in the DSM. In 1971, Frank Kameny (who actively worked with the Mattachine Society and was fired from his government job for being gay) grabbed the microphone at one conference, decrying psychiatry and declaring a war on the APA. 

A group of closeted gay psychiatrist began working from within the APA to eliminate homosexuality from the DSM, alling themselves the GAYPA. At the 1972 conference, Frank Kameny along with Barbara Gittings (of Daughters of Bilitis) were a part of a panel called “Psychiatry: Friend or Foe to the Homosexual?; A Dialogue”. Gittings specifically looked for a gay psychiarist who would be willing to speak out. She found John Fryer who appeared anonymously wearing a distorted Richard Nixon mask and spoke into a microphone that would distort his voice and called himself Dr. H. Anonymous. He spoke of his experience. (He did not publicly tell who he was until 1994.) A year later, homosexuality was officially removed from the DSM, majorly due to the activists who fought to have it removed. The vice president of the APA at the time acknowledged that psychiatry at the time was prejudiced and was focusing on the more predominant social mores of the culture.  

The propaganda video 

In Jonathan’s health class, he watches a video reel, warning about the dangers of homosexuality. When I first read Ziggy, I naively thought, “there’s no way that’s real.”

But it’s 100% real. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmqNiFJyI28

In particular, watching this, it very much plays on the public fear that LGBTQ+ individuals are pedophiles. In the past couple months, I have seen this resurgence of belief from some of my more conservative friends. As I wrote to one, this incorrect belief has been used to actively harm the LGBTQ+ community over the last 50 years as LGBTQ rights have increased. This particular point was used heavily in the Briggs Initiative in California in 1978. Harvey Milk said it far better than I ever will so I would encourage you to read this particular speech: :https://www.onearchives.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/1978_harvey_milk_gay_freedom_day_speech.pdf  

Why Ziggy, Stardust, & Me is so important

While I focused on U.S. history here, the reality around the world is bleak for many LGBTQ persons. Homosexuality is still punishable by death in many countries. Homosexuality didn’t get removed from the WHO’s ICD-10 (like the DSM on a global level) until 1990. But in some countries, it’s still considered a mental disorder–in Indonesia, that got added in 2018. And I covered the danger of that propaganda video and how the devices used there are still being used today to try to steer the public opinion against LGBTQ+ people. 

LGBTQ+ rights are always being threatened worldwide, including in the U.S. It’s important that we understand the history to realize that just because rights happen once doesn’t mean that they’re here to stay. (Look at Anita Bryant and the Briggs Initiative)

Ziggy, Stardust, & Me serves as a primer for LGBTQ+ history in a way that is devastatingly enjoyable. Although I’d hope that most readers would end up like me and take the journey into learning more, even if they don’t, James Brandon wrote a magnificent piece that effectively educates while “entertaining” the reader. 

Relevant Links

Add Ziggy, Stardust, & Me to Goodreads

Buy Ziggy, Stardust, & Me

That time I interviewed James Brandon

Note on my research

I used a variety of articles including https://www.thisamericanlife.org/204/81-words. 

I also used The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts.

 

Blog Tour for Music From Another World by Robin Talley: A Historical Perspective

After having previously read Pulp by Robin Talley (partly historical set in the 1950s), Ziggy, Stardust, & Me by James Brandon (queer historical set in 1973), Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (published in 1982), Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (queer historical set in 1989), I eagerly jumped at the chance to read Music From Another World which is set from June 1977 to November 1978. My review for the book can be found here. 

However, I didn’t stop at just reading this book. I was hungry to know more so I decided to read When We Rise by Cleve Jones and The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts, both of which are mentioned in the acknowledgment sections. I also watched the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. When the opportunity arose for me to do a post for the blog tour, I decided to do something atypical and talk more about some of the important moments that are included in the book as well as more of what happens after the book ends.

Who was Harvey Milk?

Harvey Milk was born in New York, and he served in the military until he was honorably discharged. He ended up San Francisco while he was in the military where he first became familiar with the city’s emerging gay community in the 1950s. During this time, however, he was not publicly out because being gay was illegal. Public displays of affection and private intercourse could all be prosecuted. It was also illegal to be gay and to serve in the military. 

Milk ended up back in New York before leaving for Dallas. Eventually, he ended up back in New York before making the decision to move to San Francisco. Once in San Francisco, Milk became an asset to the Castro District, using his camera shop as a way to meet with neighbors and begin to organize his political campaigns. He first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1973. It was not until the Board of Supervisors were reorganized into neighborhoods that Milk successfully won his bid for Supervisor in November 1977. 

While Milk only held the position of Supervisor for 11 months, during his tenure, he worked to create a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing and employment in San Francisco. Milk was shot and killed by former Supervisor Dan White on November 27, 1978. 

Who was Dan White?

Dan White also served in the military, although he was discharged in 1971 because he was considerably younger than Milk. He briefly was a San Francisco police officer before quitting and joining the fire department instead. He ran for Supervisor of District 8 and won. 

Although Dan White murdered Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, he and Milk actually worked well together for a time. However, after Milk changed his mind and voted to approve a juvenile offender facility in White’s District, White turned on him. White refused to speak to Milk for months, began spending less time at City Hall, and was noticeably different at board meetings. 

But the biggest change in attitude was towards gay rights. White originally stated that “the sooner we leave discrimination in any form behind, the better off we’ll all be” (Shilts, 1982, p. 198) However, after Milk changed his vote on the juvenile facility, White voted no on the gay rights ordinance, telling Dick Pabich, a campaign manager for Milk, that he voted against Milk’s ordinance because Milk voted against him on the juvenile center. 

White’s behavior became more erratic in the following months, and he ultimately resigned from the Board of Supervisors. Less than a week later, however, he wanted his position back. Mayor George Moscone considered this before ultimately deciding against reinstating Dan White as Supervisor. 

Who was Anita Bryant?

Some who read Music From Another World may say to themselves, “Anita Bryant sounds too much like a villain to be true.” However, she is one-hundred percent real (and still alive). 

During the 1970s, gay rights experienced a sudden progression. Across the nation, several cities were passing ordinances similar to the one passed in San Francisco, protecting LGBT people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, this came to screeching halt when Anita Bryant launched a very overt anti-gay campaign. Anita Bryant was a pop singer, a Miss Oklahoma winner, and a spokesperson for orange juice. But she’s most known for her work against gay rights. 

Bryant launched the Save Our Children group after Dade County passed their ordinance to protect gay rights. Save Our Children collected 65,000 signatures to repeal the ordinance, and when put to a vote, the voters repealed the gay rights law on June 7, 1977. 

But she wasn’t satisfied with one county. Across the nation, other towns and counties faced similar repeals–some worked in Save Our Children’s favor by repealing gay rights while some voters shut down the repeals or new initatives. 

 

What happened historically after the novel ended?

On November 27, 1978, Dan White sneaked into City Hall through a basement (now the ground floor) window, knowing that he could bypass the newly installed metal detectors if he did so. He went first to Mayor George Moscone’s office where he shot Moscone multiple times and killed him. He then went across City Hall, found Harvey Milk, and shot and killed him. White fled from City Hall, met his wife inside of St. Mary’s Cathedral and confessed what he had done. They went together to the Northern Station of the San Francisco Police, where White had once worked. White was treated exceptionally well by his former colleagues as he confessed to the crime. Ultimately, White’s lawyer managed to stack the jury full of sympathetic white conservatives, and they found him guilty on only the charge of voluntary manslaughter. White served only five years for the murders of Moscone and Milk. 

After Milk was assassinated, a spontaneous candle light march drew up to 40,000 people who marched from the Castro District to City Hall. Friends of Harvey Milk had to fight to allow Milk to lie in state next to Mayor Moscone in the rotunda, and officials eventually agreed. 

In 1979, after White was found guilty of only voluntary manslaughter, pandemonium erupted in the Castro District. They marched to City Hall, but they were no longer peaceful protestors as what had happened many times in the past. Instead, a riot ensued. Several police cars were burned, and protestors broke doors and windows at City Hall. 

While it was too late for justice for Milk and Moscone, their murders and the subsequent trial changed the California judicial system, making it extremely more difficult to claim diminished capacity as White had done in order to get away with murder. 

What if I Want to Learn More?

You should check out: 

When We Rise by Cleve Jones

The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984 documentary)

Meet San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9iYasWREzE

25th Anniversary of Moscone-Milk killings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_K0moovYM8

Harvey Milk interview 1978: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVlxq7wqgeU

Links to Music from Another World

Add to Goodreads

Buy from IndieBound

 

One Moment Can Change Everything (A Caleb Roehrig Gratitude post)

December 21, 2016.

About a month prior, I had first attempted to start an anti-depressant, the first time in three years that I’d be on one. It didn’t go too well. I spent all day in bed while the room swam around me. But I had a couple weeks off for Christmas, and it was time to start again.

I picked up books from the library, expecting that I wouldn’t feel very well at first. One book, I had seen several times at the library, but I kept passing it by. That time, I picked it up.

On December 20, I took the first dose of the new medication, and I went to bed. The next morning, I woke up, slightly dizzy and mostly unable to concentrate on anything.

As I laid on the couch, I picked up that book I had kept passing by. For the first time that day, I was able to focus. I quickly became entranced by the story, reading until the side effects of the medication got too much.

That book was Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig.

In that book, Flynn’s ex-girlfriend January disappears, and Flynn becomes involved the search for her while having to face the truth of who he really is. A thriller doesn’t seem like a life-changing book. However, that moment led to far greater things.

Over the past three years, the author of that book has become a friend.

Over the past three years, he has encouraged me to always do what’s best for me. The first time that I met him, he had actually offered to send me a signed bookplate in case the idea of the signing became too overwhelming for me to follow through in going. On the day of that signing, as he signed my book, he asked me how I was holding up.

He’s encouraged me to follow my dream of writing, and he’s 80% of the reason why I started writing those first words on the page in June 2018. As of date, I have three completed manuscripts, and while publishing those may never happen, I am pursuing that dream. He’s encouraged me without ever having read my writing, and he regularly reminds me that as long as I’m alive, this dream doesn’t have an expiration date.

He’s the first person that I came out to, and he’s the first person I told after I came out to my mom. In fact, Caleb’s book White Rabbit was the reason why I was able to finally sleep well at night again because it let me know that it was okay to not have a label. And while I finally did land on a label, I wouldn’t have gotten there otherwise.

He’s the supplier of many many many book recommendations. He regularly hypes up works by other authors, and I have lost track of how many books I’ve read because of this. (It’s legit over 30.)

He’s also one of the only people that allows me to regularly be honest about where my mental health is at. (Disclaimer: we do have a friendship now, and Caleb invited me to be honest with him about this stuff.) He’s read many ranting messages from me. and he’s read some pretty depressing ones too. But he hasn’t given up on me, and that’s incredible.

I don’t know who I’d be right now if I hadn’t picked up that book on that day. I don’t know that I would have found the courage to start writing. I wouldn’t have had the courage to come out to my mom. (I’m still shocked that I did.)

But I don’t need to wonder. Instead, I am incredibly grateful.

One moment can change eventually change everything.

Thank you, Caleb Roehrig.

Why you should read the Skybound Saga series by Alex London

Last year, Caleb Roehrig and Adam Silvera kept hyping up Black Wings Beating by Alex London.

Full disclosure: I am pretty sure that my brain cannot process most fantasies. I’ve seen lots of tweets that say, “Oh but you’re supposed to be confused at first! You’re being put into a new world!” But that confusion usually NEVER resolves for me.

But considering that Caleb Roehrig doesn’t read much fantasy, I asked him if he thought my mind could handle it. He said yes, and I found a way to buy the book despite the money situation at the moment.

Black Wings Beating is a fantasy based in Uztar where birds are incredibly revered. Falcons are trained while their “owners” realize that they cannot own a wild animal. Brysen wants to be a great falconer while his twin sister Kylee wants nothing to do with it.

But a situation is brewing, and unless Brysen can do something about it, no one and no bird is safe. He goes on a quest to find the Ghost Eagle, the same bird that killed his father. But Kylee follows after him, drawn to protect her brother after Brysen’s very rocky past.

Black Wings Beating has been compared to Lord of the Rings except with queer teenagers instead of hobbits and the ghost eagle instead of the Ring. It’s an absolutely fair comparison, and I found myself drawn into this journey. Yes, Anna who can never understand fantasy was completely drawn into this book. I was heavily invested in the entire story, and it’s an incredible one.

Red Skies Falling releases September 3, and I got to read an ARC thanks to the generosity of the author. There’s always this pressure when that happens, like “what if I secretly hate it?” 

But no worries here! Red Skies Falling is a breath-taking second novel in the series. After the events in the first novel, Kylee and Brysen find themselves in a unique situation, and that unique situation quickly turns perilous. They must figure out what they really stand for before everything falls apart.

This incredible series has remarkable world-building. While I won’t pretend like my mind completely understood everything, London is able to craft a world that comes to life on the page. I have read all of his other books (yes, all), and his ability to world-build is absolutely incredible. The settings become as much of the story as the plot, and even for people who struggle with fantasy (like me) will be able to quickly fall in love with the story.

This is a series that deserves mad love, and it’s one that you should most definitely check out.

Add Black Wings Beating to Goodreads

Add Red Skies Falling to Goodreads

Get caught up on Black Wings Beating (out in paperback September 3)

Pre-order Red Skies Falling (out on September 3)

 

Review of Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley

Pup Flanagan comes from a big family. He’s the youngest of eight kids, and with all of his in-laws, future in-laws, nieces, and nephews, there’s 28 of them.

But one of them is gone. Lost. Dead.

Almost almost three years prior to the start of Sorry For Your Loss, Pup’s brother Patrick died of meningitis. Since then, one of the three beds in the upstairs attic of the Flanagan boys’ room remains empty. Patrick’s picture on the wall has been replaced with a drawing of a cherub instead.

Every Sunday, all the members of the Flanagan family gather for dinner. But still, there’s that missing piece.

Pup finds himself on the verge of failing studio art, a class he needs to graduate next year. Although he doesn’t care much about his grades, he still wants to graduate. Encouraged by his teacher to try photography as a last ditch effort to save his grade, Pup takes a solitary picture of his brother Luke that begins to change his life.

Sorry For Your Loss is much-needed voice in the YA genre. Here’s the thing about grief: you don’t move on. Moving on isn’t possible especially when the loss is so sudden and so horrendous.

And not everyone grieves the same way. There are those that find safe ways to cope and deal with the grief. But others turn to destructive ways.

Because this isn’t a review that will be seen by a publisher, I feel the freedom to share this here. Content warning for infant death and suicidal ideation from this point forward.

4 years ago, my 2.5 month old nephew died unexpectedly. He had a brain tumor, unknown to anyone until those final 36 hours. I remember everything about that final day. There have been nights where it won’t stop playing in my head.

A month after his funeral, I couldn’t stand the grief anymore. Everything was too much. And so I went to figure out how to end my life. THANKFULLY, I was stopped.

But for the next year, I spent more time suicidal than not. My mother, she joined grief share groups and became fascinated by butterflies because they reminded her of her grandson. And when the second grandson was born, my father was too afraid at first to get to know this grandchild, afraid that we’d lose him too. As for my sister-in-law and brother, the parents, their grief was private. We said his name. We remembered him. We missed him. But we didn’t talk. The second Thanksgiving without him (despite never having a first Thanksgiving with him), the fractured lines were all over our family. They still are there.

Grief is not linear. It has no end point.

But it is survivable.

And that’s what Sorry For Your Loss does so well. It shows so perfectly what happened within my family, albeit a different story. People grieve in different ways. And sometimes, grief is destructive. But through it all, grief is survivable.

Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley is absolutely wonderful and completely nails it.

Sorry For Your Loss is available now.

Order Links: 

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

A Gratitude Post about Caleb Roehrig

There’s a canvas in my family room that reads “You deserve to be happy,” written out by Caleb Roehrig. I see it every single day, and I remind myself that I do deserve good things in my life.

2018 has been one of the hardest years of my life. While I remain on Lexapro, my medication hasn’t been fully working in quite some time, and I find myself unable to get in to see a doctor for a med change. What this has meant is that my depression levels are significantly higher, and my anxiety levels are consistently higher on a daily basis. Because self-injury was a way that I used to use to cope with these, I’ve had to fight off relapses into self-injury many days this year. While I’ve been very fortunate that my Lexapro still works to keep suicidal thoughts away, I’ve felt like I’ve been enduring life rather than enjoying life this year.

But when I think back to 2018, I will remember this year for a few reasons besides the mental health difficulties. This is the year that I started writing. This is the year that Caleb Roehrig made significantly better.

I first read Caleb Roehrig’s Last Seen Leaving in December 2016, oddly enough, in the days right after I started Lexapro. I was initially sick with side effects, but his book was so good that I wanted to keep reading through waves of nausea and bad headaches.

I later met Caleb in October 2017. While my day-to-day anxiety was still being completely controlled by Lexapro at the time, my anxiety around special events like book signings was extreme. I wanted to meet Caleb, but my anxiety wanted to prevent it. Caleb’s interactions with me on Twitter were the reason why I decided to get the book signing ticket to go. He even offered to send me a signed bookplate if my anxiety proved to be too much to go. (Side note: Kara Thomas actually did this when my anxiety prevented me from going to her book signing, and it was the sweetest thing.)

At the event, Caleb figured out who I was from my Twitter picture, and I somehow even managed to ask a question because if you asked a question, you got an ARC of Caleb’s White Rabbit. In the signing line, Caleb asked me how I was holding up, and he told me as well that he was so glad that I got an ARC.

Fast forward to April 2018. I attended the launch of White Rabbit. Something had happened earlier in April that made me feel like I was a burden to everybody, and I was feeling especially low and especially anxious about this event. However, I was rather excited to see Caleb again which made the event worth it.

But what happened next isn’t all that explainable. Caleb and I started interacting on Twitter a lot. I’ll blame my obsessive thoughts on why I started tweeting him a lot, but to my surprise, Caleb frequently started interacting back.

Over the past seven months, Caleb has “seen” me at my lowest and highest points in my interactions with him, and somehow, he always seems to know what to say. He reached out in June too after there were a high number of high profile deaths by suicide to see how I was doing which was an incredible moment.

For me, having had someone in my life that I was close to call me a burden and tell me that’s why everyone in my life leaves me, even after that person knew about a person in my own life dying by suicide and my involvement in trying to find him after finding the suicide note, I was distrustful of most people by this point.

That made Caleb reaching out even more meaningful because it gave me a direct contrast and reassured me that there are still good people out there and out there in my life.

Caleb has also been a huge champion of me writing. He’s been very encouraging as I drafted my first draft and then revised it. He’s encouraging now as I write a new project (which I should be working on now instead of this post, but oh well).

Caleb didn’t have to do any of this. But he chose to do so, and that’s the primary reason why even though I am rather depressed right now, I keep enduring rather than finally giving into the dark and just staying in bed (or on my couch) all day everyday.

So here’s to some gratitude in 2018.

 

They Both Die At the End (or why reading matters)

On September 5, Adam Silvera’s newest release entitled They Both Die At The End released. This is not a review of the book.

I have seen numerous tweets and Instagram posts about how reading this book emotionally wrecked people. As I saw all of these posts, I said to myself, “what is wrong with me? I didn’t cry at all while reading this book.”

The answer?

2017 has been a downright traumatic year for me.

In January 2017, my co-worker’s son was killed by an (allegedly–hasn’t been convicted yet….) drunk driver.

In May 2017, I found out that I have a tumor on my thyroid. It’s too small at the moment to biopsy so I don’t know what will happen with that.

In May 2017, a co-worker found out she has breast cancer.

In June 2017, someone I knew was murdered.

In June 2017, another co-worker died of cancer just 4 months after diagnosis.

I have faced so much hurt over the last 9 months that when I read the book, the one thing it did was made me feel grateful.

It made me feel grateful that I was alive.

But 6 days after I read Adam’s book, my world came crashing down completely. I found a friend’s suicide note on Facebook just 3 minutes after it was posted. I immediately called the police. Over the next 24 hours, I faced a whirlwind of emotions as it was first reported that he was okay only to learn an hour later that the police were with his parents—not him. He wasn’t found until the next day, at which point he was found dead.

This is one of the most traumatic things that I have ever faced in my life. I keep wanting to blame myself. I keep wanting to say, “if only I had seen it earlier….if only I had kept a little more in touch…if only…if only.” For me, I have learned a number of very unhealthy coping mechanisms over the years including self-harm (in particular cutting). For me, this traumatic event has made me want to self-harm.

Last night was a particularly traumatic night. It had been exactly 3 weeks since all this happened. I had an emotional disappointment earlier in the day, and then at night, I just lost it all together. The only thing on my mind was cutting. I felt that needed to bleed.

But through this, a thought that rambled in my head was about Adam Silvera’s book. I thought to myself, “this book reminds me that there are uncontrollable forces in this world.” It reminded me that while I can blame myself all I want, the fact is that my friend had bipolar disorder that he kept hidden from most people, including me.

I reminded myself that I did what I could do. I was put into a situation that I never expected to be in, and I did what I could do in that moment.

Adam Silvera’s book ultimately reminded me too that what I do have control over is HOW I spend my life now. What I do matters. What I do does impact others, sure, but what I do most of all impacts me.

Last night, admist tears and a deep desire to cut, I made the decision to not cut.

I couldn’t ultimately stop my friend’s death.

But I can stop me from cutting myself, even on the nights where it doesn’t feel like I can stop myself.

It may sound odd that with a book that brought so many people to tears, it brought me to a place where it reminded me that I have a chance to live through my own deep tragedies. That’s not a chance that everyone gets. Heck, 2.5 years ago, I made the decision that I wasn’t going to live through the deepest tragedy of my life. But I got a fourth chance at life (would have been my 3rd suicide attempt had I not been stopped).

And even among the tears and the deep pain, I’m not wasting this chance. I know that I will still have some really really painful days and nights ahead, but I am hopeful that I will always remember that I am alive, and perhaps it’s not by accident that I am still here.