My article in the August edition of ‘Women’s Running’

This came out at a great time. I sure need the motivation and reminder of what it feels like to be healthy. Thank you to Kara with Women’s Running for feeling my story was worth telling!

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Posted in Coming Out, depression, Health, major depressive disorder, marathon, mental illness, OCD, running, stigma, suicide attempt survivor, Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Which Brings Me Comfort

As I have learned, there are many different kinds of mental illness and of those, differing severities. I have read and soaked up all I can about the ones that torment me, because learning and understanding brings me comfort. It would be best if I knew how to fix these illnesses. But I don’t know if knowing this will happen in my lifetime or even in my children’s. I pray it does, but like many prayers I do not expect this one to be answered.

Instead, to ward off the one thing that would bring me the most comfort of all; death, of which I have never been afraid; I hold tight to the things that calm my anxiety and keep me from counting down the days until I am finally at peace. The things that make me less jealous of the happy people that revel at life. The ones who look forward to what I find mundane, painful and torturous.

My children; their pure and innocent hugs. The fact that I KNOW they love me in spite of these afflictions I fight every minute of every day. The smell they each have, which has calmed me since their births. My oldest’s effortless sense of humor and my youngest’s sensitive and loving heart. They are both so beautiful and it is a wonder to me that I helped shape who they are. I hope the most important things I have worked to instill in them are always a part of who they are: a lack of harsh judgement of others, equality among human beings, humility, forgiveness and kindness. They each have their own strengths as well and I am so proud of that.

Simple things ease my discomfort and bring me moments of peace: my well worn quilt I’ve had since college, the smell of which brings memories of security and warmth: the smell of lavender (the real essence of lavender not the fake, purplely floral scent you find in candles and hallmark stores): knowing that I have a full day with no plans or expectations and no projects to be completed: no pressure: my mother’s voice, unworried and not sickly…she has become healthy again recently and this reminds me of the way she used to be, I imagine my illness stresses her out as much as hers did me: unsolicited kind words from a friend or coworker, I am exceptionally gifted at convincing myself that no one really likes me that when someone reaches out to show me they care, it can turn an entire week around for me (my recent wedding reception surprised me with the people that came…some who I was convinced no longer cared; but also confirmed the ones who weren’t there- the peril of having a diseased but perceptive mind).

My husband. I know he loves me, even in my weakest state. I try so hard to be healthy for him. He and my children don’t deserve to have to deal with someone like me. So I power through as much as I can for them. I HAVE to get up and work and bring home a paycheck. There is no time for convalesce or hospitalization. I don’t have that luxury. So I bury my pain and paste on a smile and work my hardest and come home exhausted from fighting the depression and anxiety all day and hope it doesn’t bury me again.

This is why I collect the things that comfort me. Mentally wrapping myself in my lavender scented quilt in a dark cool, quiet room is so much better than easing the torment with thoughts of my death.

Until the next day when it is time to pretend again…

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Posted in Anxiety, depression, guilt, Happiness, major depressive disorder, mental illness, stigma, suicide, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

My Blog on ‘Living with Anxiety’

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Father’s Day; My Dad; and Mental Illness

dad

My Dad, he is the best. No, he really is. I don’t think I had a true appreciation for him and all he has done for us until the last couple years. I have always respected and loved him, without a doubt, but I spent a large part of my childhood being scared of him as well. Just because that is how children in our family were raised for generations. One of those, “children should be seen and not heard”, “I was beaten with a stick when I was spanked and I turned out okay when I was a kid”, “because I said so, that’s why” kinds of traditional Irish/Italian families where the Moms stay home, the Dads rule the household and the children DO NOT talk back. And I didn’t talk back. I still don’t! This was tough love but love none-the-less.

I try not to write often about my family on my blog. My family is a private group. We keep our dirty laundry in the hamper, where it belongs (not that there is much, I am the most controversial in the bunch; the “Black Sheep” and not ashamed to be so) but out of respect and love for them, and because I do not feel they have negatively affected my mental illness, I do not find it necessary to tell their story. That is for them to do, if they choose. This is also the reason why I have not completed my book. I get to a place where the story would not make sense without mentioning one of my relatives and I stop. I have been either strongly supported, or patiently tolerated by everyone in the brood and I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that by writing something they would find unfair or unjust or that they interpreted differently and took offense. Someday, I may move past this wall, but for now I feel my progress does not hinder on writing this book, so it has stalled. All of that being said, my father being one of my strongest supporters, I know he is also one of the people that feels most responsible for my mental illness. And I feel so badly about that, because he is not at all. He was a strong disciplinarian, but was NEVER abusive; he was tough and worked a lot, but we never worried about money or our parents’ love for each other or our safety in our home. I believe he probably does have OCD and some anxiety (but I am NOT a psychologist), but, although these are possibly hereditary, it is not his fault I have these issues (in addition to some other fun illnesses) any more than it will be my fault if one of my children ends up with mental illness(es) or that it was our ancestors’ fault that my father may have OCD, etc. There is more serious mental illness in our family’s history on both my mother and father’s sides. This is just the way it is. The luck of the draw. I drew the brain serotonin issue card. Such is life! Now I know, now I have accepted it and now I do what I have to do to be healthy and function to the best of my ability. People work with worse and people do worse with better.

So why do I specifically write about my father today? Well, it is Father’s Day weekend and I have many strengths that I have to thank my father for. Even though I do have depression, I am not lazy (as is a too often assigned stereotype for those of us with depression) and I have a strong resolve. My father literally broke his knee jumping from an attacking swarm of bees while operating his several story high heavy equipment machinery device and somehow managed to drag himself to his truck, get home and prop up his leg (grudgingly went to the Dr. the next day at my mother’s insistence) and was back working that next afternoon. This man has literally never taken a sick day in his life. He has only missed work if my mother has been sick (as she was significantly so these past two years) and had to take care of her. My father gets this from his father who is the same, only more so. My Pop (Grandfather) pulled his own painful tooth once with a pair of pliers, as opposed to going to the Dr. and miss work. ‘Grit’ is what I have more aptly called this quality. This is what I believed has enabled me to continue working full time plus some, raising children, finish college and a Master’s degree, complete marathons, become a boxer as a hobby, and running a household all on my own despite battling my inner demons (along with some serious flares of Lupus) for years and years. I would not have made it to 38 years of age without this ‘Grit’. I understand this now. And I have him to thank for that.

When my Dad first learned of my attempt and hospitalization my worst fear was that he would be angry that I upset my mother and did something horrible ‘on purpose’ and that he would either say terrible things to me I would never forget, or possibly disown me…he did the opposite. He instead said to me, “I am not mad. I love you.” I haven’t heard anything more healing in my entire life. I knew then I WAS going to be okay. He and my equally as wonderful mother took me (and my two kids) into their home and allowed me to just heal. He took over all of the stresses in dealing with my exes and their threats of taking my children from me, he assured me they would do whatever they needed to do to make sure my kids and I were okay and that gave me the strength to continue working, get healthy and be a good mother again. Even now nearly two years later I know it was him that made me so that I could get back on my feet and be a strong person. It was him that made me feel that I am still a whole person, even though this happened. I respect him even more now. I feel much less fear and much more adoration of him not just as a father but as a person. If he could grow into this worldly and accepting father, maybe I can grow into a more resilient and more accepting individual of my own lapses and opportunities. He still will not accept any non-sense, don’t get me wrong! But he knows the difference between non-sense and helplessness, and he saw that difference in me when I didn’t. I thought I was a failure and he knew I was still his Christine. His firstborn and capable of so much more than what I had done up to this point. So I believe that, too. I take it easy on myself now. I know not to take other’s judgments of me harshly because my Dad accepts me so I know I am okay. Anyone who doesn’t “get it” is not someone I have to worry about. These lessons my father has taught me by example. And so…he has given me life a second time. I owe so much more to my dad than just a tie, or a card or a gift card to Academy. I owe him my life and to continue living it the absolute best way that I can. Just as he has always done for us.

Thank you, Dad. I love you!

Posted in Anxiety, children, Dad, daughter, depression, family, Father, Health, major depressive disorder, mental illness, OCD, perfectionism, recovery, stigma, suicide, Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

I Used To Be A Runner…

there will come a day

Not a great one, not even a good one, but I was a loyal runner. Running made me feel good. It made me ‘okay’. On days when I was angry, run down, the worst of my depressive and suicidal moods could be alleviated for hours, even the entire day by a good long slow run. This was my medicine, my escape, my savior…

In July, the August ‘Women’s Running’ magazine will come out about how running saved my life. I truly believe it did, and it has. It saved me from the worst of my Lupus flares (I would get out of the hospital after an overnight/multi day stay for emergency dialysis and meet up with my running group for our weekly long ten miler without even blinking.) It would be slower than usual, but I knew the run would make me feel better. Mind, body and soul. I have NEVER regretted going for a run. So why am I now feeling like I “used” to be a runner?

It has been 15 days since my last run. And that was a pitiful 1.5 miler in my new neighborhood in which the average pace was 14 minutes per mile. Practically walking. Before that my last run was my last race. The Houston Marathon in January. I am ashamed, sad, and remorseful because I know what running does for me. It hurts me to walk by the running clothes I have set out ready to go whenever I go on my next run. I hold back tears when I look up in my office at work and see the three medals I earned at the marathon in January (for doing two runs back to back you win an additional medal for completing the ‘Houston Double’). I feel like a complete loser when I see all of the races and daily runs my friends are completing. Do I have an excuse for this lazy streak? I hate excuses. After all I have overcome to be a marathon runner, what is so momentous to stop me now?!

The medicine that my Psychiatrist and therapist have given me to keep me alive. These two little pills that change the chemistry in my brain, supposedly for the better. You see, I did almost lose it all back in November 2012 when I was trying to use willpower and running alone to battle a very serious mental illness or two. I have spoken and written much about them; OCD, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety, and PTSD blahblahblah. People get tired of my harping on that, I know. I have lost friends over these revelations and constant advocacy and my lack of embarrassment in admitting to all that comes with having these illnesses. That doesn’t bother me. If it bothers them and they have to ignore me, fine. It still is and I still am… What bothers me is that now that I am facing these head on, and not pretending they don’t exist and putting myself at the mercy of the mental health industry, I have come to feel even sicker than ever.

Thank goodness, I am lucky enough to have great insurance. And a job that pays well enough that I can visit my health care team as I am supposed to. I feel so much for those that have to go without in order to be well. I am doing as I’m told. A few months ago I began to feel extremely low again so before the suicide urges came back too strong I asked for help, as one should. I was almost hospitalized but my husband and I felt we could have me try some additional medication the Dr. prescribed and keep me out of the hospital. I HAVE to work, that is not even up for discussion and I can’t imagine being away from my kids. Besides, we have our honeymoon and reception coming up. I just had surgery on my foot, so my usual mood boosting run was out for at least 6 weeks. That was 8 weeks ago. Now I battle my medications. I have stayed on my anti-depressant (just upped the dose a little) and my anti-anxiety med that I felt guilty about taking. I now understand that I have to take it regularly for now and I don’t feel so guilty. I have a fear of becoming medicine dependent and taking a controlled medication scares the crap out of me. I won’t even take pain killers after surgery. My therapist has assured me I am the exact antithesis of one who would become an addict, so I trust her and do as I’m instructed. Then a new medication was added. I researched it at length and became alarmed to find it was an anti-psychotic! I am NOT psychotic! I have never lost touch with reality and am only too aware of my circumstances at all times, but apparently they will often give a significantly reduced dose of these meds to the seriously depressed who seem to be medication resistant at times. So I took it. I immediately began to feel better; but then I felt funny after a few days. Shaky, unable to relax, I couldn’t get comfortable or sleep and I was taking way more anti-anxiety medication just to try to relax enough to sit still for even a few minutes. It was HORRIBLE! I wanted to jump out of my skin. BUT I wasn’t depressed, just felt like a total nutcase. I stopped talking them and went back to my Dr. He agreed I was not tolerating them well and gave me a different one. I began to relax and sleep finally. Much better! Until…I stopped wanting to do anything BUT sleep. I could peel myself out of bed on time but it was a struggle to move. My arms and legs were concrete, my brain in a complete fog.

Like I said, not working is NOT an option. The moment I stop working I give in to illness. I won’t do that, besides I LOVE my job and my career. Most days, it is all I have that makes me feel ‘normal’. I am good at what I do. Even with the illnesses I have to work around. It helps me fight. It gives me value. I have to work and I do still believe my job needs me, too. I know I have a unique ability to empathize and work well with my particular market. And I am still intelligent enough to have much to offer. But I have to stay well. So I come to work every day and give 100% of myself. I even won an award for smashing my quota for the last quarter and look to be doing the same again this quarter. These types of ‘atta girls’ from the real world give me hope. They keep me trying. This is what keeps me feeling human. There aren’t any concessions here for people with illnesses and I don’t ask for any. I am treated equally and I will perform as such. But then I go home and literally collapse into my home and drag myself to my bed. Completely out of anything. Nothing to give my family. No energy to even shower. This isn’t right either. I’ve gained 20 pounds in two months. This isn’t ‘me’. So I stopped taking that as well. I can’t help feeling that I just need to run. I NEED to become a runner again. I have to drag myself out the door.

I will become a runner again. I will.

Posted in Anxiety, children, Corporate, depression, excuse, family, Health, hospitality, major depressive disorder, medication, mental hospital, mental illness, OCD, PTSD, running, stigma, suicide, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Letter to Brian: May 30, 2014

*A friend recently wrote a blog about the comments my CNN writing brought about. Some were terrible, but most were lovely. This is my response to her. I HIGHLY recommend her blog, by the way.*

Laura,

I love this post. All of your posts, as I said when we met, are touching as you write them in the format of a conversation to your brother. The brother you love, who is now gone due to suicide. This is impactful on so many levels I won’t go into them all here because we spoke of this a few times when we met a few months ago. That was an experience shared with other amazing and brave individuals like yourself that I will not forget nor would I want to. It was incredible.

There were many wonderful, supportive and sweet comments to my article that were far more plentiful than the hateful ones BUT I would be lying if I tried to pretend they didn’t bother me. Some made me angry and some made me sad. Many were just so ridiculous that I knew the whole purpose of the comment was to get a reaction from me. I knew there would be some difficult opinions and I also knew I would need to be strong enough to accept those comments as what they are; true opinions people have on this subject. Everyone has a right to their experience and opinion and I tried to respond as such.

I did have to correct people in that I did not earn a dime from that writing. I do not profit from my suicide attempt, not that doing so would be wrong; it is just not something I am ready for as I typically have to jump into my professions with both feet and there would be no turning back and I don’t know that is what I want. I am fully satisfied in volunteerism with my abilities as I feel it helps me atone for my perceived weakness that I have in myself (without mean spirited people confirming it as such) and also to try to help other people who are not like I was; sad, depressed, hopeless and on the edge. They NEED people like us…those that have survived and continue to survive an attempt, or the attempt of a loved one. They NEED to know there is hope and to see that people like us can thrive and be contributing members of society. Success can be malleable. Sometimes it is just breathing. Today, I am successful! <3

Letter to Brian: May 30, 2014.

Posted in Anxiety, depression, guilt, Health, major depressive disorder, mental illness, perfectionism, stigma, suicide, suicide attempt survivor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to the ‘Teacher’ who discouraged my child:

Dearest ‘You Know Who You Are’,

 

This isn’t an attempt to correct a wrong, although it should have been corrected long ago. This isn’t a ploy to get you in trouble, as I am not even going to use your name; but you will know who you are. You are the teacher who encouraged my child. You called her into your office and took time out of your day to explain to her all the ways in which…she did NOT belong in your class. She came home deflated and bewildered. She had worked so hard since the fifth grade to hone her budding skills. She has talent in your area of expertise. I do not just say this as a mother, but I know this as a former professional in your field and as someone who sees the awe in people’s eyes when she uses her talent for fun and in an almost natural way as if she were breathing. She takes others breaths away; of that I have no doubt; and yet you chose to squash this little light in her. At a time when it was the only light she had.

 

She felt it was because your own children, who happen to also be in your class, are not particularly fond of her. She marches to her own drummer; she stands up for herself and she does not bend to the ‘politics’ and false friendships of high school to get ahead, as I wish I was brave enough to have done when I was in school. She is genuine. She is honest and she can be a little too outspoken, and you did not want to deal with her challenges. Her defense and self-preservation lies in her toughness. But if you truly cared about your charges you would have seen this. You could have been her hero; instead you were her villain. Crushing the very essence that made her special and unique. You made her question her dream. And now this dream has died along with the hope she had for a future in your profession. Because you told her she did not belong. Her daily challenges included a recent divorce, her mother’s multiple hospitalizations for physical and emotional illnesses, her own questioning of where she belonged. She could have belonged under your wing, instead you pushed her away.

 

This is an open letter and I realize you may never read it. It matters not if you do. Because I hope all instructors of special and elective classes get wind of this story. The story of the lost and broken child who feels she has found her niche in this world. She may be strong willed and headstrong; but know this may hide something deeper. A will to be told she CAN do something well; a challenge for YOU to see this in her. When her voice used in class was small and quiet but loud and strong in the world, this should have been a clue to you that her self-worth was in question to her. The very instrument in which her talent lie was unsure. That instrument to be silenced by the very one who was to tune and amplify; now is free of this headache you saw as my daughter. Where to me she is the world. Teachers do not know the power they hold in their very hands, in their tuning forks and directors wands. You might as well be magic. And not just for those who easily adjust; who blindly are lead…but for those who need you for different reasons. They need you to help them believe they, too, are worthwhile. Why did you turn her away? I wish I had been strong enough to stand up for her then, but I wasn’t. You failed her greatly. WE failed her.

Now she tears up as she sees her friends go out into the world with the talent you have deemed them good enough to feature. Pictures of competitions and proud moments of performance and awards. Moments my daughter was denied. You let her down. I wonder how many others have suffered the same. This is high school and not Westminster College of Music, where her great Aunts attended school, one eventually leading the very class you teach at your level. This is not a performance for the president as her father and mother were lucky enough to experience. What gives you the right to tell her she is not good enough to have these opportunities?

 

I lost my ability to stand up and fight for her, as I now fight for others and I will always regret this. I would have loved to march into your office and ask you why you chose to bully and belittle my child without giving me so much as a phone call to let me know the hammer would soon befall her head. You did not give me the chance to soften this blow. You did not give me a chance to explain her challenges, to partner with you on a solution; to know if there was a good reason for you to turn her away. To this day, I know not why you told her she should not continue in your class.

 

So she cries silent tears and has given up on her God given talent, much to my severe disdain. I hear her quietly whisper her gifts in the car and in her room and the hair stands up on my entire body at the gift God has given her. The gift she is convinced does not exist. But she still has a love for this deep inside of her that you did not kill completely. I pray she finds her way back to it again someday…

 

I hope you have not killed this in her completely.

 

Sincerely,

 

The Mother who’s Child You Discouraged

2009 tabi sings

Posted in children, daughter, depression, family, High School, MHS, MISD, Montgomery High School, School Board, single parenthood, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments