Today, I’d like to speak to you as a mother, a friend and someone who cares deeply. I’d like to talk about BELLYFLIES. In my book, Bellyflies, Yumyum the alligator describes butterflies in your tummy as Bellyflies. We have all experienced this as young children and as we’ve grown older.
The basic concept of my book actually came from a very tragic incident.
While I worked in an office I became friends with a wonderful woman, Karen. So intelligent, funny, ambitious, loving. Everything you would want in a friend. While I worked with her one day, we shared stories about our kids and laughed a lot. It was pretty special.
The next day, I noticed, even before I walked inside the office that our mutual friend was waving me over. As she brought me around the corner of the building, I could see she was distraught, pale, shaky and had been crying. I reached out and held her arm but didn’t want to ask what was wrong. I knew it was something really bad and was kind of afraid to know.
As I am recalling the incident my stomach is flipping and I am reluctant to go further but here it is.
My friend finally whispered, “Karen lost her son last night. Matt’s gone!”
I didn’t understand what she was talking about. It wasn’t making any sense. We were just sharing stories about our kids and now, WHAT?? She said that Matt, her 18-year-old son had taken his life. WHAT?? I will spare you the details and give myself permission to avoid saying the particulars out loud.
The day consisted of an entire office of shocked individuals walking around collectively like zombies. All that made sense was to cry together and ask WHY?? The pain we all felt for Karen, her children and Matt were unbearable. It was clear there was absolutely nothing I could do to help the situation. Karen was now with her family, close friends and members of her church of which encouraged her already strong faith. She was in the best hands possible. Although NOTHING could make things better at this point for her and of course for Matt.
It was bedtime and I was happy to let these feelings dissipate for even 8 hours. In bed, there were thoughts, tears, and frustration but absolutely no sleep. I had to get up. The TV was just amplifying every sad thought by showing happy families, teenagers fighting ghosts, even police solving crimes. So, I turned the offensive box off. Next, I tried radio…ohh, definitely no good. So there I sat in silence. Sometimes writing my feelings down has helped in the past to release emotions that keep me awake. So this is what I tried. My mind went to what I could do to help this horrible situation. Thinking of how Matt must have felt, to be so consumed with hurt, that his fate was the only answer. I was angry about what he did to his mom and siblings. Then I justified that in his mind there WAS no choice. With pen in hand, I was compelled to write a story that I hoped would at least help to reduce teen suicide, if only by one. One child is too many. It always amazes me how many lives one precious life touches.
My book Bellyflies is about a young boy, Billy, feeling anxious about reading his story in front of his class. His stuffed animal, Yumyum the alligator, comes to life to explain what he calls “butterflies in his stomach”, BELLIFLIES and tells Billy what he does when he feels that way. Together they chase butterflies and keep active. They help others, and they talk about their feelings. Yumyum suggests picturing the whole class with spaghetti on their heads. After chatting with his parents, Billy and Yumyum finally go to bed feeling so much better. No more Bellyflies.
I have had SO much feedback from those who have read my book to the children in their lives. One family uses the word “Bellyflies” regularly to describe their feelings. It seems to be easy for their children to say, Mommy, I have Bellyflies today,” which starts a conversation, ultimately explaining what is going on in their lives.
Another child, who is suffering during changes in his family, easily jumps into bed for “Bellyflies Time” instead of bedtime. This was a time of distress for him and now it’s a time of comfort.
It has been used as a tool and a reward by parents concerned about their children and a relatable story for all. This makes me so happy.
I was fortunate to be invited to read and speak at schools about Bellyflies, on a number of occasions. Matt’s sister who was eleven at the time asked if I could read my book to her class. The questions these children asked totally blew me away. So curious and thoughtful.
I was also happy to share my story on a Radio Talk show about mental illness. We never really know who is suffering.
When my children where babies I realized that they were absorbing knowledge and information (good and bad) so much faster than we as adults could ever wish to. These innocent beings can breathe naturally but learn everything from feeding themselves, to reading our crazy language. I thought that this would be the time to give children as much knowledge as possible because they WILL absorb it.
Too bad when I was a young mother I didn’t have either the experiences, education or energy to totally accomplish this. Although, thanks to the help of their grandparents, my boys learned, among many other tools, how to appreciate nature and the value of hard work. This will always benefit them in life. It truly does take a village.
More and more children are suffering from depression and anxiety in this world of trying to keep up with instant information and gratification, How to deal with this is a conundrum.
This is my effort: If we could teach young children the tricks to use when they start to feel anxious, overwhelmed, unbearably sad or any other feelings that trap us as teenagers and adults it may make all the difference.
What if these methods were taught at home, then in schools constantly? Maybe children could grow up knowing and dealing with situations naturally. Kids should know that this is a feeling that they can do something about. It’s not wrong and to be buried but to be acknowledged and even dealt with. Symptoms of depression and anxiety are running rampant through our children of today. Therefore, many teenagers and adults suffer this unmanaged devastation. While speaking of this dark place, someone once told me, “It is a place that everyone visits but you don’t want to live there.”
I’ve lived this.
Let me share a small excerpt of a poem I wrote describing this world, called Depth to Dawn.
Depth to Dawn
I love you It’s so dark
I’m sorry Heavy Heart
I forgive you Thoughts so cruel
Thank you Body sluggish
I love you Mentally lethargic
I’m sorry Bed and blanket
I forgive you Fears, tears and tissues
Thank you Am I smiling?
Sky is opening I love you
Heaviness lifting I’m sorry
Senses enhanced I forgive you
Breathe in then out Thank you