Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Fear Not the Bite of Doing Right

Dear Fellow Rescuers (you know who you are),

It does not matter if you rescue abused dogs or wounded humans, some things are the same.

If you are going to be a rescuer, which is a most noble cause, expect to be bitten. We all know that if an animal is scared and has been abused, regardless of our intention, he may bite us. This is not a reflection of the creature, it is a reflection of the fear. It also is not reflection of us.

But we must be prepared.

I do not rescue dogs or cats but I have been around them my entire life. In theory, I, like many of you, “rescue” human beings and sometimes they bite out of fear too. Yet most people do not understand that scared, battered human beings sometimes behave in much the same way as abused animals. Perhaps it is not their teeth they bite with but rather their words and actions, which can hurt just as deeply.

So if you have been bitten, clean your wounds. Wrap them and protect them so they can heal but do not question if trying to rescue the creature was right. It was. Even if you made mistakes, it was right. And just because he or she bit you, does not define the efforts or the outcome. It was a moment. It was driven by fear.

With that said, if you have been bitten by someone, it is ok to choose not to keep putting your hand in front of their mouth. As rescuers, we often feel that we have failed if we walk away but unlike when dealing with animals, the person you are trying to help does have some accountability. No one should expect you to self sacrifice over and over again. Try not to be mean but know that it is ok if you have to walk away from someone.

Of course I don’t really “rescue” people, at least that is not how I see it but I do see the similarities. I do try to help whenever I can. Sometimes it backfires. Sometimes it is painful and hard. Yet I have never regretted doing what I believed was right. Never. Even in the times I was bitten (which has definitely happened many times).

Be Brave. Be Well.

Sarah

Mistake? Nope. Just Learning.

A deep thought:

I’ve made a lot of “mistakes” (not at all bragging) in my life, yet I don’t really regret any of them. I’ve had friends that people warned me against. Those friendships taught me about who I want to be, what I am capable of standing up to, the depths of my loyalty and the dangers of passing judgment. They taught me about loss and joy.

I chose a stressful and sometimes painful career path with horrible pay (welcome to the world of public service). My job has taught me to be grateful for my life, my friends and my family. It has taught me to not take the basics for granted and the difference a kind word or gentle hug can make.

I have been involved in social advocacy that often times make me feel discouraged. It has also taught me how many amazing people are out there and the difference we all can make. It has taught me to think critically and to challenge my own beliefs. Perhaps most importantly, it has taught me that when people join together, their voices can be heard.

I have been very public about my life and my beliefs and at times criticized for it. This has taught me that sometimes people you think are on your team are not and sometimes people you wouldn’t have guessed were, are. It has taught me that there is a price to pay when standing up for what you believe in but that the liberation of being who you are and accepting others’ responses is worth it.

I have learned that there are very few mistakes we make that cannot become learning experiences. I have learned that standing by my principles has made me a person I am comfortable with and most days proud of. I have learned that in order to truly be loyal to others, we must start with ourselves.

Be well. Be Brave.

Chosen Words

At one time in my life I did not speak up. Then I went to the opposite extreme and said whatever I wanted, to whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Some may be very surprised to learn that what I say now is intentional and thoughtful. But it is.

I have understood for sometime that I have to decide what my motive for speaking up is. Is it to fill my desire for self expression? Is it to promote change? The answer determines what I say and how. Of course, I still do both.

With that said, my job in suicide prevention has shed light on the value of the words we use. For example, we ask people not to say “successful suicide”. There are many things we want people to be “successful” at but suicide is not one of them so why would we ever put those two words together? Think about it. We don’t say a “successful homicide” do we? Why would we say “successful” in the context of something we do not want to have happen?

We also encourage people not to say “failed suicide attempt”. I think most of us can agree that someone trying to take their life is feeling pretty horrible. The last thing they need is to have it said that they “failed” at something else. Not to mention that generally “failing” is negative but with suicide it is in fact positive. We know for a fact that most people who survive a suicide attempt, will never attempt again (90%). This is good!

How we say things matters immensely. It effects judgment toward others and justifies discrimination. Fear of judgment and discrimination (notice I am not saying stigma) is what prevents so many people from reaching out for help or being willing to learn about uncomfortable topics.

So why not “stigma”? Because who owns that? The person impacted by it or the person/people causing it? Or does it exist freely outside of the people both impacted and doing? According to dictionary.com, Stigma is a “mark of disgrace or infamy, a stain or reproach”. ( https://www.dictionary.com/browse/stigma) But how did the mark get there? Did the person who has the mark put it on themselves? Or did society put it on them?

Clearly I (and honestly many others in the suicide prevention field) believe that the mark has been placed upon people by others so basically, lets make them own it. It is about judgement and discrimination. It is not something that exists freely from individuals who are actively judging and discrimination against others.

So with this I challenge everyone of us to ask, “Am I speaking out for me or for change?” And then allow that answer to help guide us in the way that we speak out. If we are speaking out for change, to save people’s lives or raise awareness about important issues, our language matters. The words we choose impact how other people hear us and whether they listen at all.

Be Brave. Be Well.

Sarah