Wednesday, February 3, 2016

IWSG: JoAnn Yolanda Hernandez and The Reset Button



It's that the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Thanks to our noble Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh, it's time to share our fears and insecurities, or support and assistance. Doesn't matter which. If you decide to join us, know that whatever you share will receive the upmost respect and attention. 

Click here to join. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Our hashtag is #IWSG


Our awesome co-hosts for the February 3 posting of the IWSG will be Allison Gammons, Tamara Narayan, Eva E. Solar, Rachel Pattison, and Ann V. Friend! 



If you haven't already, don’t forget to sign up for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s newsletter! Our new admin, Chrys Fey, has spun her magic and invited some awesome guests for the first issue, due out February 24. Sign up HERE. 






In the still of the night, with your dreams fading, misery and doom weighing you down, do you see all hope as hopeless? Do you hear the banshee scream? During the darkest moment, is that when you choose death over life? You press the reset button, unconsciously aware that what you really want is to start over. 



The you in this case is  Jo Ann Yolanda Hernandezaward-winning author. Mother, sister, daughter, friend.




In life, JoAnn rose each day hesitantly and accomplished what many of us yearn for: a measure of success as an author. She dedicated her life to promoting authors of colour. Along the way, she hoped if she took her meds, some form of joy would kick in and allow her peace of mind. 



Five years ago, JoAnn, a talented writer, university professor, and often difficult friend, chose to press the reset button. It's taken me this long to realize she wasn't a coward, nor was she courageous. The meds were slowly killing her creativity, bleeding her dry; no amount of desperation, screams for help, or willing her sanity to remain intact, worked. She wasn't getting better. 

I didn't understand. I told her over and over again: "FIGHT! Be stubborn. Refuse to give up. Believe in yourself, in our friendship. Persevere--it'll get easier--I promise!" What I should have said was, "JoAnn, happiness is a decision you make every morning. If not today, then tomorrow."


Sometimes she'd call (I've lost track of how often) and mumble that she'd taken an overdose of meds. Then she'd pass out. I lived in British Columbia, Canada; she lived in Mesa, Arizona. Still, I'd always manage to contact the authorities and have someone show up at her door in time to get her to emergency where they could pump her stomach. One summer I even talked her into coming north to stay with us. I thought my sheer determination to save her -- would save her.

She stayed three months. On her way home, she detoured through Chicago on 9/11 to New York so she could help friends cope with the nightmare.  It was while she was in NYC that she convinced her agent, the infamous Marie Brown, to sign me. The relationship never went anywhere; but for a time, I could say, "I have the same agent as JoAnn Hernandez, Ed Bradley, and Michael Jackson."  




In 2010, JoAnn called from her studio in Mesa to say she'd taken an overdose of meds. I asked her not to call me again. I couldn't help her. If she wanted to die that badly, she should just do it. 

So, she did. 

Convinced of my ability to affect people, (have since learned otherwise) I believed it was my doing that caused her to take her own life. To compensate, I grieved and then moved on ... for five years. 






If you google JoAnn's name, it doesn't tell you she was born August 2, had two sons, one adopted from Vietnam. It says: Honourable Mention, 2009 The Eric Hoffer Book Award -- Young Adult: Winner, 2007 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People. Americas Award, 1997....

It may tell you she wanted to put books by authors of colour in every bookstore in North America. She founded The BronzeWord for that purpose. Today it says she resides in Mesa, Arizona -- even though she's been dead five years. The exact day she died is unknown.

I don't know if there's enough words in the world to convince someone not to press the reset button. Nor if it's even the right  thing to do. Is JoAnn at peace now? I can only hope. I do know there's a hole where her life used to be.



57 comments :

  1. That is terrible. I'm sorry for your loss and grieve, and that you had to go thriugh that, but this wasn't your fault. Hugs!

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    1. I know. I just wanted her name to be remembered. Even if she was unhappy and difficult at best, she was a terrific writer. Thanks, Chrys.

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  2. What a heart wrenching story. I can't even the depths of your grief. It's so difficult when you're so far away. I'm sure you've heard many times not to blame yourself but when something like this happens, it's natural to feel that way. I'm so sorry.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. I hope it helps others. We carry each other through thick and thin.

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  3. I am sorry for your heartache. Wow, what a powerful blog post Jolene. You moved me to tears. You are a wonderful writer. I am in awe of the power behind this post and feel for your great loss, which you conveyed so well as well as creating a great tribute to your friend. God Bless and Comfort You.
    Juneta Writer's Gambit

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  4. That is terrible! Meds really can mess with a person's mind. I know you struggled with it, but it wasn't your job to save her, and you'd done everything you could up until that point.

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  5. Oh, my dear friend, my heart aches for you. I so clearly align myself with your grief, confusion, and deep desire to help. I too, question where our ability to change a person's ultimate decision; pressing the reset button. Maybe, we can't change their course, but we can suggest a different path. Some choose a different path. Why? I wish I had the answer.

    As difficult as it is, I am beginning to accept the fact we are given free will. JoAnn exercised her right.

    She left this earth a better place. A beautiful sole. May she experience the peace she so richly deserved.

    Thank you for being in my life.

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    1. And for yours in mine. Lynn, we were destined to be friends. Thank you for yours.

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  6. While this is sad and heartbreaking, Alex is right. It's not our job to change people or save them from addictions. They have to want to help themselves. God bless you as you grieve.

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    1. Took me a time to understand, but I do now. Thanks, Jennifer.

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  7. What a sad story. I'm very glad you realize that it isn't your job to either save others or let them go. People do what they want with or without you. You aren't in charge of them. My first major was in psych and I planned to be a therapist, but after a year of studying I realized that many people *say* they want to change but keep making the same bad decisions over and over. I knew I'd grow too frustrated to deal with that long-term. So my plan to be a therapist like Bob Newhart went out the window! lol I like this tribute to Joann, and I'm glad you shined a light on her work, her story, and your feelings. I'm sure others will be helped. Let it all go, sweetie, and live your own life to the full! :)

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  8. I'm so, so sorry. Even if you'd kept trying, people are going to do what they want to do. You can only talk them off the ledge so many times.

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  9. {{hugs}} You are in my prayers. Thanks for stopping by today.

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  10. Such a horrid journey, but I know Yolanda wouldn't want you to suffer, not one minute for what she did. Sometimes there is no winning that battle, it just can't be done - and you held no power over her desire or her actions! But sharing her story may have an effect on someone else considering it.

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    1. That's what I'm hoping, too, Yolanda. Thanks.

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  11. Sometimes people can't be helped, no matter how much you try. They will always make their own decisions. Prayers for you.

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  12. Such a sad story. Some people struggle so hard to find happiness, and for various reasons beyond our control, it doesn't always work. Thank you for sharing such a difficult story.

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  13. I am so sorry, Joylene. We all ultimately make our own choices, no matter what others might do or say to help. Will pray for you and for her family.

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  14. A tragedy for all who were in touch with her life. Hard to know where she was mentally, but such a choice is hers to make, hers alone.

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  15. Depression is hard to battle. It saps all your will to live. I'm sorry for your friend.

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  16. Very sad and oh so familiar. Sorry for her, for you and all those she touched in her life.

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  17. So sad. Unfortunately, mental illness is not a choice. I really hope that with continued research and progress in the medical field, more people can be helped before they push that reset button. So sorry for your anguish Joylene. You were a good friend to her.

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  18. I'm sorry to hear about your fiend. She had a sickness that it seems put her in a very bad place. I have experienced it from both sides and they are both very difficult. Hats off for trying but it is ultimately the decision of the other person not your well wishes or words of encouragement that heals them. We do the best we can!!

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  19. Hi Jolene - what an interesting story ... and you were brave doing that much for her - and crumbs is it difficult to pull away and realise it's not your responsibility. So sad .. but you did the right thing ... it did and could sap your energy. However it'd have been wonderful if she could have actually continued her goal to help authors accepted whatever their colour ... cheers Hilary

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  20. I'm sorry you're left behind to bear the grief, but she is at peace now. Thank you for sharing her story and helping people to remember.

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  21. What a tragic story. I'm sorry for your loss.

    It's hard to set healthy boundaries for ourselves when dealing with mental illness and addiction. It sounds like you did all you could. She was lucky to have you as a friend.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Best,

    Adrienne

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  22. My lovely human friend, Joylene,

    The pain, the void, the sad and despairing loss of your beloved friend, echoes and resonates within every passionate word you wrote. Not just words, but words written from the heart.

    You did what you could, Joylene. Finding a balance in medication is such a fragile situation. One can seem to have everything, yet feel like what's the point. I know my human battles everyday to keep going. And keep going we must surely try to do.

    The warning signs of somebody with depressive tendencies are often ignored, dismissed. Yet, dear Joylene, you were there for your friend, as best you could be. I hope she has found some contentment.

    In peace and kind wishes,

    Penny on behalf of Gary.

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    1. Thanks, dear Penny. Your are wise beyond your years.

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  23. Now I know. For years I've tried to find Jo Anne but she'd disappeared from the Internet. I wanted to say thanks for the crits and the commas. :) I wanted to tell her I'd listened and succeeded. Thank you, Joylene, for your loving tribute to Jo Anne. Rest in Peace beautiful writer.

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    1. She was one of my best critique partners, too. And always so full of encouragement. I miss her.

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  24. Joylene, I'm so sorry about this.
    You've written this with such sincerity and passion...it's obvious that she meant a lot to you. But you can't beat yourself up about it.
    You tried. You really, really tried. No doubt about it.
    I think Jo Ann was blessed to have had a friend like you.
    Any person would be fortunate to have you in their corner.

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  25. Wow... My sincerest condolences on your loss. I suffered horrible depression for years and was suicidal too. Try to hit that reset button more times than I dare to admit. I *did* get help from a wonderful therapist who convinced me that I was worth saving. I wish your friend had too. Blessings to you!

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    1. So glad you're still with us and feeling blessed. That's great news, Ravyne.

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  26. My condolences. Dealing with mental illness without professional training (or with, I suppose) is so challenging. Remember the good things you did for your friend--it sounds like you were beyond generous.

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    1. Thanks, Tamara. And thanks for promoting the anthology.

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  27. Some portions of our lives are so daunting to find an answer to, like a math equation that takes 37,000 chalkboards to even write out. How can we even? I think writing is a way through, but also living, learning, hurting, carrying on, healing ... it's all a process and I'm not sure it ever ends.

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  28. My heart goes out to your for your loss. You were an amazing friend and I appreciate you sharing your story with us. Often, we don't know what to do to help those we love who are battling depression and addiction. It is hard to put ourselves in a place we haven't been. Your friend knew you loved her and you did a beautiful job sharing her life with us and letting her memory live on.

    Sending you hugs.
    ~Jess

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  29. I lost touch with Joann years ago, but while I knew her I considered her a good friend. She shared somethings from her very troubled childhood, enduring things no child should, especially the betrayal of the ones who are supposed to protect them. I'm saddened at her passing, but hope she's at peace now, something she didn't get much of in life.

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