My name is Christine. Catering Manager, Mother, Wife, Writer, Public Speaker and Blogger. I have lived a fairly ‘normal’ life. With a fantastic family whose day to day mirrored that of the typical ‘Leave it Beaver’ episode. I am the oldest of three children. With all the traits you will find in a typical first born. My younger sister and brother would describe me as protective but bossy. Smart and organized yet a bit particular about how my things were kept. I was also the oldest of my cousins; many times asked to babysit when aunts and uncles would go to movies or other outings together as they sometimes would. My family was very stable and close.

I was an overachiever at home, work and school; always looking for approval and trying to make myself feel validated and valued. My parents were attentive as much as they could be, each in their way. My father worked a lot for the family business. My mother worked as well, mostly advocating for my sister and her right for equal education opportunities as a disabled student. My sister is smart (Mom would tell me that she thought Jen was smarter than all of us) but is dyslexic. Mom often had to go to bat for her with resistant teachers who would not want to go along with the recommended accommodations so she was often exhausted by the yearly struggle with getting my sister’s teachers to go outside of their routine lesson plan to make sure my sister was also able to get her education. My mother told me I was lucky because I was normal so I could learn like everyone else. I did struggle some in math but thought maybe I wasn’t as smart as the other kids.

The effect of my Mom’s effort on my sister’s behalf on me and my brother was that we were in charge of our own education. Years later I was told after taking a proctored IQ test I agreed to for a cohort’s thesis project that I actually had a genius level IQ at ~138. I also found out I was dyslexic myself. Once I found both of these facts to be true I researched different learning strategies and never earned below an ‘A’ or 4.0 again. I learned how to be my own educational advocate. I eventually graduated with my bachelors in business (BBA) with Highest Honors, Summa Cum Laude.
Eighteen months later as a single parent, working one full time and a part time job I finished my MPA. I think I was given a gift by instead of being advocated for, learning to advocate for myself. But it did also make me feel like the only person I could depend on was myself, in spite of having parents that cared very much about me. I was never a ‘squeaky wheel’ and I never learned how to ask for help. I never wanted to be a bother or burden.

Behind the scenes of my ideal childhood the nightmares lurked. The things I didn’t talk about, and still don’t, even to my therapist. I have alluded to abuse and the ‘things I knew were bad’ but have never described them in detail. Maybe I never will. I don’t think these abuses or witnessing violence led to my mental illness which is why I don’t address them often. It may contribute to my ability to disassociate (become numb to) physical and emotional pain but the onset of this pain and my inability to feel happiness is the illness that I firmly believe is biological and a chemical imbalance in my brain. I know this started in childhood and I am aware of relatives that suffered from the same condition which also led to suicide attempt(s). I didn’t know about this connection until after my hospitalization.

I want to live. I would like to enjoy life and I would love to enjoy living again. I see glimmers of this again but I also still feel darkness. I find myself thinking, “If it gets too bad I can just die.” I recall even in adolescence, telling myself this much more often without realizing how dangerous that thinking was. So, I am writing about my mental illness; and donating to suicide prevention causes; and talking to people who have lost loved ones to mental illness so I can look back on that the next time my pain gets too big.

My diagnosis in the hospital was Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and OCD. I tend to sacrifice my own health and well being for what I perceive as the greater good and had an aversion to hurting other people even if it hurts me. For somebody to call me lazy, selfish or mean are of the worst a person can do to me; aside from feeling alone and unloved. But I suppose this makes me somewhat human.

Singing was my first love. It made my happy. I recall being happy singing. My mother tells me I sang with understood emotion along with music at 6 months old. She has pictures of me doing this. She cannot “carry a tune in a bucket” so she thought this was amazing. Growing up I wanted to be an opera singer. I was very good at reading music and could match tone flawlessly. I had fantastic relative pitch and felt power and complete cohesiveness performing with a gifted choir on stage. I was not a good soloist. I had an okay solo voice but the more I studied, the more I saw those with this gift and knew that was not mine. And I was content with that. My parents never missed a performance. For all that I felt I lacked in attention with my household contributions, school and educational needs and silent pain they could have known nothing about they made up for with my music appearances. THIS made them proud of me. My parents thought I was truly gifted and it made me feel incredibly loved. I lost 50% of my hearing due to an airbag in a minor car accident in 2007 and music hasn’t sounded the same to me since. I threw myself into my marathoning and charity fundraising but I don’t think my parents realize how important these are to me. They haven’t supported me in either by donating or seeing me finish any of my races and I haven’t ever let them know how much this hurts me.

I am 38 years old, and know I am too old to base my well-being on my parents at this point. They are wonderful people and love all of their children equally. I would just love to see them at a marathon finish just once.

My children; I am here for them. I mean that in every way it can be translated. I have no doubt I would have killed myself years ago if I didn’t have their little faces in my mind and their voices telling me they love me in my memory. Because I know no matter how much I may be hurting or how sick I am, they do really love me. They would miss me if I was gone and most of all, their chances of committing the same harm to themselves increases if I were to complete this act. I pray that will always be enough to keep me alive. Sometimes, the thought that they would be better off without me wins the analytical war in my head and it is these times I am most in danger from myself.

In spite of all of my mistakes, I have a boyfriend who loves me, friends who know about my hospitalization and haven’t abandoned me, my career is going well, my children are still in my care full time and I have decided to speak and write about it all in hopes that I get to keep all of those. I hope I also get to somehow help others. I can’t think of anything more healing than that.



40 Responses to About

  1. nikkisth0ughts says:

    thank you for the follow your story is very inspiring..its so important we speak up and help others dealing with mental illness. your blog is wonderful good luck! i look forward to reading more! =)

    • Christine O. says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. As I am sure you know, it was not easy to ‘come out’ so unreservedly and let what has been hidden so long be read by friends, family and strangers alike. My entire life I have built an aura of stability and capability and worked to prove myself a strong tower of unwavering tenacity and drive that to seemingly topple that with 1,000 words or less seems so reckless. But these words are the truth. And there are some stories I have left to tell and some aren’t so pleasant.

      All of it is in the hope that there is another person out there like I was; holding it together, keeping his/her chin up, sucking in the pain, with a painted on smile just praying that soon the pain will stop. I hope this person hears of or reads my story and knows that there is a reason they feel the way they do. Then they see there are options that include staying among the living.

      And just maybe I’ll have a success story for them to aspire for as well. ❤

      • nikkisth0ughts says:

        there are so many other people who feel the way you did. and its a wonderful thing you are doing for those who are silently suffering. i know you will have a success story =) and even if you help only one person you’ve done your job!

  2. Christine O. says:

    ((HUG)) @nikkisth0ughts – thank you!!

  3. clayton paul says:

    It is very nice to meet you! The back story of your life is very open and telling…good for you! It sounds like you are a very interesting and “driven” woman. Thank you for stopping by my site and please visit again soon.

    Success to you!

  4. Genuinely honest words. The character trait of strength and success.

    You will achieve everything you dream you should. I’ve no doubt.

    • Christine O. says:

      Thank you, Michael. I felt like I could be completely open here. I really hope your predictions are true and I hope the same for you!

      • There’s a saying, “if you think you can’t, then you can’t.” From what you’ve written, it sure sounds to me like you’re saying you can.

        Continue to be open here. There’s great support in this community, and there is value for others in your words. 🙂

      • Christine O. says:

        I have felt that there isn’t much a person can’t do as long as they have a strong belief in themselves. And are stubborn enough. Stubbornness I’ve got! 😉

        I appreciate your kind words. I will “soldier on”!

  5. nikkisth0ughts says:

    Hey!! I nominated you for the versatile blogger award =) go to my page to check it out!

  6. talacarson says:

    May your days be full of joy!

  7. wow, did i love reading this. so much that i can relate to. My parents were great in some ways too, but oh so lacking in others. They love and support my academics, but have a blind-eye to the pain I was in. But the part I connected with the most was the paragraph about your love for your kids. The need to not hurt yourself knowing how much harm it would mean to them. My kids are my motivation to keep trekking on, they are my everything. Thank you so much for writing this.

    • Christine O. says:

      Thank YOU so much for commenting. It helps to know others understand. Not just to ‘say’ they understand but that really have felt that pain and so to have that verified validates me in some way. I appreciate your taking the time to read this!

  8. teresamarias says:

    Hi Chrissy,

    My name is Teresa Sabga. I am a freelance journalist studying at Syracuse University.

    I’d like to write a feature for Glamour magazine that explores the way the Internet has changed the way we view illnesses, both visible and invisible, by gathering different viewpoints from medical professors, professionals and doctors who study this trend.

    After reading your blog, I know that hearing your opinion would only benefit my story. ​

    I’d love to interview you sometime next week, if possible. It should only take 30 minutes (probably less).

    Thank you for your time and patience. I really look forward to hearing from you soon.

    All the best,
    Teresa Sabga​​​​​​​​​​

  9. Christine,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I relate to much of it and was inspired by your braveness in writing your story for all of us. May you have peace the rest of your life.

  10. Robin says:

    Chris: robin from my here! Your not alone. You have so many people who struggle like you. Soooo many hugs to you now and always. One foot in front of the other. That’s all I can do. We have to hang in and challenge our thoughts that are not wise. Be in wise mind!!
    Xo robin In nyc

  11. Nurse Catmom says:

    Thank you. Thank you for your courage in submitting your CNN article. Thank you for encouraging me to email my pcp. Thank you for helping me today.

  12. Evans says:

    Thanks for sharing this…how courageous you are to share with strangers! Your CNN article was very educational and I feel better prepared to help others in the future. I wanted you to know that you’re definitely helping people in similar circumstances, but you’re also helping those who love them and seek to help and understand. I also hope to remember your comments about your parents’ failure to support your endeavors as my own daughters grow up!

    • Christine O. says:

      I appreciate that, Evans. My parents are fantastic people and had no idea I was suffering. They always assumed I was ok. I have to watch myself with my own children, too.

  13. David C says:

    Christine, I recently went through an attempted suicide episode just like you. So many similarities to you I couldn’t believe it. But a few differences too. I feel like I could write a 100 page book on the experience – the slow downhill slide, then rapid plunge, psychiatric hospital, and now almost 60 days in recovery. For me it was mainly an anxiety issue. I’m 50, and never had an anxiety issue before. I had one depression episode a long time ago, but I didn’t feel depressed this time. Now I realize that slowly but surely over the 18 months prior to my attempt a number of life and work changes were beginning to weigh on me.
    About 30 days before my attempt, I began to have very real physical symptoms of the anxiety – rapid pulse that never slowed – despite a lifetime of low pulse rate and blood pressure. I began sleeping poorly. About 2 weeks before my attempt I began having panic attacks – which grew in intensity. Again, I never had these before. They were scary and surprisingly physical in nature. These were just a few of the signs – in hindsight I am amazed how many more there were.
    My family got scared. 48 hours before my attempt was the really rapid slide – my irrational brain began completely taking over. Suicide entered my brain – i kept trying to push it out. The last day I couldn’t push the thoughts out – and the outcome was inevitable. Details aren’t necessary here, I will only say that I think my thoughts the final few hours were like yours – very dark, very detailed, totally irrational. The final hour, once I committed to trying to kill myself, was incredibly calm and peaceful. The mental pain and physical stress was gone. My rational brain was totally being held hostage. I spent a week in a psychiatric hospital – where the beginning phases of medicine and recovery took place.
    I’m better now, but I know I will need to keep guard the rest of my life. Christine, like you I am a successful person – good career, great family, excellent physical health. Absolutely zero logical reason for suicidal thoughts. I am truly awed by the power of the brain, both good and bad. I am amazed how quickly the final descent was and how many mental AND physical signs were there. In the final two days before my attempt, I visited with my medical doctor and a psychologist. Their diagnosis was spot on, but not in time. I feel like the final week was pre-ordained – only a powerful anti-anxiety drug would have stopped the final 2 to 3 day slide.
    I am recovering. The best therapy has been to openly talk about it with all my close family members, doctors, and my pastor. Everyone has been super-supportive. While I feel remorse over the pain I put others through, I surprisingly don’t feel remorse for the attempt itself, which to me is a sign of just how powerfully my irrational brain had taken over.
    I have learned an amazing amount about myself, my family, life priorities, and the miracle of medicine. Despite the cost and pain, there are silver linings that will continue to grow. I hope I can recognize symptoms in others and possibly save others who don’t know what can happen to them.
    You have stated that mental illness has nothing to do with one’s character. You are 100% correct. There are many people who think they are strong enough to work through any mental situation, but if their brain chemistry goes the wrong way, they may not be able to do so. Thank-you for making your experiences public. In time I hope I can be more public myself. Talking through it with others has been most helpful.

    • Christine O. says:

      Thank you for reading. I have come to accept this as being an additional hurdle to overcome on my path to ‘success’. Although, I am sorry you go through the same type of experiences, it is always good to hear from a fellow ‘professional’ mentally health sufferer. I sometimes feel I am the only one with such challenges and then I get a note, email or letter from someone like you and me. Keep hanging on, and thank you again for reaching out!

  14. Bob says:

    I ran a crossed your site today and a lot that has happened to you is a mirror of myself. It always helps to know that others have the same thing as you and are able to go on. I take each day one at a time and do what I can and that is okay.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Christine O. says:

      It IS okay, Bob. We can only do what we can do, if that makes sense 🙂

      Sometimes, that just means trying to take care of ourselves for the day…or just getting through it.

  15. shane says:

    just found your blog, I only got as far as (you tried to take your life but you are still here) I myself am in this rare breed of souls, Pulled the trigger twice, I can only give the credit to (God Jesus All from beginning to the end). I was a spur, out of anger pure boiling point of the pressure of this world. The next day want as normal. and I have never looked back
    Amen now I will reed your blog

  16. Kara D. says:

    Hi Christine,
    I’m a writer for Women’s Running magazine and would love to feature you in an article I’m writing for our August issue. I think you’re story is an important one to get out and would inspire our readers. Can we set up an interview? My deadline is Thursday evening…so I’d need to do the interview (either via phone or email) by Thursday morning. My email address is kara at womensrunning dot com. Would love to connect….

    Thank you for sharing your story!


  17. Fonda Bryant says:

    I was diagnosed with depression back in 1995. I had no idea I had it or how long I had it. All I knew was it made me feel negative about every aspect of my life. It’s a very long story but to sum it all up, I got the help I needed but the kicker to it all, I am still fighting it 19 years later. Suicide was something I thought and attempted several times and each time I attempted it, it wasn’t about hurting my family or friends in my mind. It was about wanting to stop the pain I was feeling. However at the same time, I knew if I had committed suicide my son and only child wouldn’t have grown up to be the fine young man he is today. He played football and graduated from college.
    I came into this world, to a very young single mom , who went on to have four more children with only two having the same father. I was the oldest out of the bunch and my father, who although wasn’t famous at the time, went on to become so. My father was the late R&B singer, Johnnie Taylor. I didn’t grow up with him and he didn’t acknowledge me until late in life. He ended up dying on May 21st, 2000, in Dallas, TX. I still sometimes feel, I should have met my father face to face before he died. Instead, I had to settle on several phone calls as the only contact I ever had with him.
    After his death, I went through a very ugly and very painful court battle to prove that I was indeed his heir. I never had a doubt who my father was, the DNA just reinforced what I already knew. However, having to go through a court proceeding with siblings I’d never laid eyes on and hated me from the start was something I wouldn’t have wished on my worst enemy.
    My life has been filled with up and downs and through all of it, my depression has been right there sometimes subtle and other times not. I have also realized something with depression and communicating with others, there are so many more black people that either “suffer in silence” or just plain ignorant to mental health issues because of the three hurdles as I call it in our culture. It’s the fear of being labeled crazy and laughed at, it’s the financial aspect of mental health, and the third and the most difficult hurdle, religion. I was so ashamed when I first came out of the hospital after a week of treatment. I didn’t want anyone to know I had depression or had been in a hospital. Growing up, my mother always said, “Black people didn’t need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist, we have always been strong, we don’t need help, that is a sign of weakness. The word, “crazy,” is something I hear way too much in the black community and I don’t like it at all. I have always said, “If I walked into a room full of black people and told them, I have depression, most of them would shy away, some would say “she’s crazy or she needs to pray,” and maybe just a hand full would understand.
    Since I have opened up to people, it amazing to me, how many of us suffer from some sort of mental illness. People from all sorts of backgrounds I have been able to open up about my depression and help. For instance, a friend who was a former NFL player, a friend who is a Pharm D, a friend who was in corporate at Radio One and others. The more I shared with them my story, support and understanding of depression, the more I was able to help them.
    I am looking for work now, but I feel it’s time to help others. I want to start a foundation and focus on everyone but especially the black community that is still decades behind in mental health awareness, treatment and understanding. Mental illness is no different than high blood pressure or diabetes but left untreated or undiagnosed it can kill you. There are so many of us ashamed or worried about the stigma and that needs to change too. People need to feel as comfortable with mental health as they do a “physical illness.” For it to be 2014, the attitudes surrounding mental health are still mid-evil. We have come a long way but there is still a LOT of work to do.
    Charlotte, NC is a beautiful city and the second biggest banking city in outside of NY but at the end of the day, it’s still the south and moves at a snail’s pace when it comes to mental illness. I want to change that.

    I look at all of us who are fighting to break the negative stigma and bring awareness to mental health as small dots across the country but if all the dots could connect and join together, we’d have a united and powerful front that could help a LOT of people. I hope that I can talk to you further.

    • Christine O. says:

      Fonda, I absolutely agree! They have just added a ‘lived experience’ division of the American Association of Suicidology and I plan to join as soon as I can (maybe I should go do that now, while I am thinking about it)! 🙂

      We would be an unstoppable force if those of us who do suffer but still manage to function let those who pass laws and statutes in this country know that (1) the mentally ill DO vote and (2) we deserve better care. Those who cannot stand up and speak for themselves need more help than they are getting and those of us who function, work and raise families deserve to feel supported and cared for as those who survive physical illness, as you mentioned.

      I am glad to hear from a fellow soldier in the field! Thank you for taking the time to write to me. Your story is powerful and you are obviously very strong.

  18. I want to thank you for following “A Way With Words.” My joy in writing is made more complete when people read what I’ve written (and even more as they respond).

    While I write primarily about faith and mental illness, I’m known to dabble in other subjects and stories and even and occasional poem. If you have any request, please contact me.

    I appreciate what you have going here — sharing your story and advocating for folks with mental illness. I pray you are blessed in your life and your writing, as you bless others.

    Tony Roberts

    • Christine O. says:

      I do enjoy reading your blog, Tony. I also feel like my writing is cathartic for me, but when others respond to it (whether it touches them, makes them think, or confuses them) it makes me realize I may be helping others look deeper into mental health and illness in themselves or other people. people they may know and love.
      I appreciate the prayers and please do, keep them coming. You remain in mine as well!

  19. lulufille says:

    Hi there! I’m not sure what your policy is on awards, but I think you deserve the recognition so I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! =]
    There is no pressure to accept, participate, or follow the rules exactly.
    If you are interested, you can check it out here: http://lulufille.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/very-inspiring-blogger-award/

  20. Kerry says:

    Hi Christine! Thank you for being brave and sharing your story about mental illness. My Mom committed suicide 2 months ago after several failed attempts, and writing has been very cathartic for me as well. Your story helps me understand my Mom’s side of depression which is very comforting. Keep on sharing!

  21. tonyroberts says:

    Hello Christine! It has been some time. I have been away from blogging while following other pursuits.

    I am now contacting long-standing followers with some exciting news.

    I have now transformed my blog into the website “Delight in Disorder: Faith & Mental Illness” (delightindisorder.org). As a man of faith with over 25 years of “lived experience with bipolar disorder,” my goal is to share hope with others who have troubled minds and shatter stigma through stories.

    I hope you will join me there.

    Take care & God bless,

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