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A Look Back Jill Khoury & Sue Martin

Let’s Get Serious For a Moment

Foggy, misty day with weeping willow tree and solitary bench with a person sitting on it representative of depression found on Google
Image found on Google Website no longer online

Today’s post was originally intended to be published last Friday however as oftentimes is the case the day got away from me and I’m bound and determined to get this out today. My grandson will be here in a few hours and I’ve got to get crackin’ so here goes:

Lately I’ve been having a number of conversations with different people about numerous life issues from failed aspirations, rocky relationships, extreme traumatic episodes, death, and disabilities to depression. One of the common threads in many of these discussions is when we are going through a crisis we sometimes have a tendency to hide the pain especially if the difficulty is depression or some other mental illness.

I understand some of the hesitancy in sharing our anguish has to do with time and place although even when the timing may be good we can still hesitate to unburden ourselves. Perhaps we’re afraid of judgement and being seen as what we may perceive as weak. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve felt that bringing others into my pain was unfair and that I alone MUST be strong but I had to ask myself to what end?

A few months ago I hit a very rough patch and thankfully realized that I could no longer go it alone. It was the one time in recent memory when I put aside foolish pride and reached out for help.

Looking back over my life and those times when I stubbornly refused to admit I was hurting seems so silly now. I mean I sincerely doubt that on my deathbed I’ll regret not being a stronger person, on the contrary, I believe I’ll think about those missed opportunities of sharing with others.

Back in March and June of 2014 respectively, I wrote about two amazing women: Sue Wiygul Martin and Jill Khoury. To my knowledge these women do not know one another yet they share common bonds – one is they are extremely hard-working and good at what they do, and two is the topic of depression.

Sue Wiygul Martin

Sue with her Guide Dog
Sue with her guide dog

Sue wrote a book last year, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation, on her experience with suicidal depression.  I found her honesty and frankness in talking about a very personal issue that many find difficult to discuss to be refreshing and extremely helpful.

In a recent communication with Sue, she said something that has stuck with me: “I think it’s important for people to know that even the most confident people are fallible. Having once been depressed doesn’t inoculate us to future trouble. Nor is having once been depressed a life sentence.” This was so powerful to me because 1) I sometimes forget I’m only human and therefore not perfect, 2) it’s highly probable that my depression will be ongoing unless I become the recipient of a welcomed miracle, and 3) more importantly it is not a life sentence.

To view a recent blog post that Sue shared with me click HERE. To read the article I wrote back in March click HERE. When I read Sue’s blog post it reminded me that real strength is facing the crisis, riding the wave to shallow water, thus coming through it. The reminder that this process can, and many times is repetitive, helped to put things in perspective for me.

Jill Khoury

Jill Khoury Reading at the Indiana Writers Consortium
Jill Khoury at the Indiana Writers Consortium

A very busy lady, Jill teaches writing and literature in high school, university, and enrichment environments. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Bone Bouquet, RHINO, Inter|rupture, and Stone Highway Review. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net award. Her chapbook Borrowed Bodies was released from Pudding House Press.

I wrote about Jill Khoury twice last year: once in June and a follow-up article in September. In my June post (HERE) I introduced Jill as a talented poet, artist, and activist. The follow-up post was about her decision to once again use the white cane, to read click HERE.

Since my last post, Jill did a reading in the Creative Writing Conference Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence at the Indiana Writers Consortium in October 2014. For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, starting at 7:00 p.m. on Feb 13, she will be doing a reading  in the MADFRIDAYS series with Bernadette Ulsamer at Delanie’s Coffee located on the South Side at 1737 E. Carson St.

With everything Jill has going on in her life I found a recent post she did on her blog (Visceral Poetics) very interesting. The post was the outcome from her experience at the Indiana Writers Consortium. I could feel Jill finding her voice after having come from an abusive background, struggling with her disability, dealing with childhood bullying, depression and other issues. Showing empathy with other women who aren’t as fortunate in finding an outlet for their similar circumstances and yet using her voice in an art form she is passionate about, can help these very women find the strength they need to make a move.

The issue of mental illness and depression are serious topics in our culture and just like stigmas associated with many disabilities, the only way we can get beyond the negativity is education and awareness. There is no shame in having a physical illness (no one chooses to be sick) so why can’t we show the same amount of compassion for those with mental illness?

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

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WOTM 14 Featuring Sue Wiygul Martin

Remorse and Reconciliation

Sue W. Martin With Her Guide Dog Companion
Sue W. Martin

A book about suicidal depression and new blindness? Sounds, well, depressing. But it’s quite the opposite. At the age of twenty-six, Sue Wiygul Martin was deeply depressed. When the pain reached the point where she couldn’t stand it any longer, she did the only thing that seemed big enough, important enough, to end the pain. She tried to end her life. Her suicide attempt failed but resulted in Martin becoming blind.

When her rehab teacher, now called a vision rehab therapist, came to see her for the first time, she asked Martin to tell her a little bit about herself in an effort to decide where to begin teaching. “In the past,” Martin says, “I’d reach out and grab a few happy experiences and use them to tell somebody something about myself. I’d describe the thrill of arriving at the top of a mountain after a long and challenging hike. I’d describe the feel of mastery as I kayaked the toughest whitewater rivers in the Southeast. I’d share the thrill of speed as I galloped across a field mounted on a huge thoroughbred.

But how could I do that this time?”

Martin explains that she felt as though her entire way of life had been lost.

After thirty years, all of those activities, and then some, are, again, part of Martin’s life. And now she’s a woman on a mission.

“I’m passionate about suicide prevention,” Martin says. “I’m on a mission to de-stigmatize depression and suicidal thinking.” “Only when it’s okay to talk about depression will it also be okay to ask for help.”

Out of the Whirlpool Book Cover
Out of the Whirlpool

Sue W. Martin is a graduate of the University of the South and holds a master’s in blind rehab from Western Michigan University. Following a twenty year career as a blind rehab professional she now works for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in the office of Information and Technology. Martin has recently published her first book, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation.

Martin lives and writes in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau where she lives with her husband, Jim.

The above entry written by Sue Martin for today’s post was so poignant to me I wanted to present it in its original format. Having dealt with depression for most of my life I was immediately drawn to Sue’s book Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation and purchased the Kindle version.

If you haven’t suffered depression first-hand you are most fortunate. Speaking from experience I have wanted nothing more than to be “normal.” The problem is I don’t really know what normal is but as Sue so eloquently puts it in her news station interview “even if you have to stay alive minute to minute and hour to hour – stay alive and ask for help. And life can just be so wonderful.” I’ve learned to live within the moment especially if I’m in the grips of depression.

…I awakened to the familiar feeling of paralysis. What was wrong with me? I should want to do this. I should be excited. I should be leaping out of bed in anticipation of a thrilling challenge. But I was none of those things. I was a failure. I had failed at marriage. I had failed in my career attempts. Now, I was failing to even get out of bed. ~Sue Martin

It’s difficult for me to find the appropriate words to describe the joy I derive from writing these Fierce Friday articles and Sue Martin’s is no exception. When I received an email last week about Sue being featured on CBS42 WIAT news station in Alabama and Maria Schriver’s blog concerning suicide prevention I instantaneously knew I had to reach out to her. To view the news interview you can click HERE. To read Maria Shriver’s blog How To Save a Life: Talk About Suicide you can click HERE.

Depression is so insidious and with the staggering numbers of over 8 million attempted suicides throughout the US on a yearly basis we have to get beyond the stigma associated with this disease. I’m so thankful that Sue had the courage to write about her struggle and is now speaking out on this serious issue. I’m also extremely grateful that she responded to me and granted me the opportunity to share her inspirational story with you. Like all of the women that I’ve profiled on Friday’s Sue is one fierce lady and I’m honored to present her to you.

Following are social media links to Sue’s website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sue W. Martin, Author, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation
Twitter: @swmartin
Facebook: Out of the Whirlpool