I don’t want you to feel at ease. I want you to know that you are the byproduct of a successful racist regime that has capitalized off of Black oppression and suppression for centuries. I want you to shed light on the corners of your subconscious you’ve glossed over for years. I want you to realize that being racist is more American than apple pie.Dear White People, This is What We Want You to Do
I tried to remain positive but, hey, all of our lives have been turned upside down and I am fully convinced we are living somewhere in a cross between Groundhog’s Day and The Twilight Zone. To say I wasn’t back to the thoughts and feelings of last year would be a complete lie. It’s as if I never left.
Because of this I have been having some thoughts, bad thoughts, ideations, things I haven’t thought about first when I was 18 and then again at 35. I’ve expressed some of this in the poem below (again, not sure where the rhyming came from):
Droplets of Red
eyes darting beneath,
left to right,
What else would
happen on this
lain on the floor
are many more.
For them it was
the virus that
took them alive,
for me it was
the mental pain,
a plunging nosedive.
to admit this is a
trying to think of
others as I ignore
my brain’s pleas.
solidify my guilt for
feeling this way,
but we all have
isn’t that what ‘they’ say?
I have felt
loss so great
in the last week or two,
my career, a loved one
to name a few.
I do not
for my grief,
It is so
selfish to think
that this would be brief.
My sanity, a
tiny grain of sand
on this lonely beach,
That blows in
the wind and
is just out of reach.
And now I look
down and see
and for the first time
in a long time thinking,
maybe, I should be dead.
contributing to my
so much especially
The bitch within
screams I am
no longer needed,
And at times
she has succeeded.
Living last year
still feeling the same,
There is no one
I more despise
than me insane.
I can’t explain all the
thoughts that swirl
in my head,
so I express my
internal pain with
droplets of red.
copyright 2020 – Stephanie Paige
*Disclaimer: I am under the watchful eye of both my psychiatrist and therapist. If you are self-harming or considering suicide, please reach out to someone. There is always help. Text CONNECT to 741741, the Crisis Text Line. Or call the Self Harm Hotline at 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8388)* or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
I have had diagnosed depression for the last 26 years. I can barely remember a time when I didn’t have it. Honestly, I probably was depressed since birth. It is just how my brain is wired. I have always been a chronic pessimist, seeing the glass fully empty. I was the one who knew I wasn’t invincible and expected bad things to happen to me. I would stare at happy people and wonder why I wasn’t circuited that way. And then as I aged, I just accepted that I was never ever going to have a sunny disposition.
In the beginning, my depression started out with episodes of major depressive disorder. As a teen I had MDD because we moved to a different state right before high school. Then came the stress of completing my senior year in high school followed by beating myself up over a poor semester in college.
Then it morphed. It became postpartum depression bringing anxiety, a new friend, into the mix. At some point it changed to dysthymia with episodic MDD. Then, it metamorphosed into cyclical depression last year becoming difficult to treat and adding several bipolar disorder medications to my regime.
I was somewhat stable, let’s say status quo, and then COVID-19 hit, the global pandemic that has made us all feel like we’re living in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
At first it was my anxiety disorder that took possession of my body. I was worried that I would obtain this novel virus. This was enhanced by my daughter’s anxiety that had her thinking we were all going to contract and die from this coronavirus. It kept me awake as I could not shut my brain off even with 100mg of Trazodone, 100mg of Lamictal and 300mg of Gabapentin.
Then on April 1st anxiety departed and my chronic depression stood center stage. In the cruelest April Fool’s Day prank, I was laid off, except this was no joke. After I got off the phone with my boss, I told my husband I was going on a long walk. I was upset, crying (which is rare for me) and needed to clear my head. I wound my way through many local streets and the educational park. I couldn’t understand why. Yes, I knew on a large scale this was happening everywhere. I knew my company laid off 70% of their workforce and shut business down for who knows how long.
It was the smaller scale ‘Why me?!’ that was driving me into the dark abyss. There were four of us in the department who did the same thing. Two of us were let go. Why didn’t I make the cut?! I understood why one of the people in my department stayed but I couldn’t understand why the other one was there and I wasn’t. I had excellent reviews, my projects hadn’t been shut down yet, and I was not the last one hired. My husband explained to me that it was probably due to salary and I most likely was making more so to save the company money, I had to go.
But I couldn’t let go of this. It gnawed at my brain. The negative thoughts repeated themselves over and over again:
“You sucked at your job! Why would they ever keep you?!”
“You’re not needed!”
“You couldn’t hold on to your job. Are you stupid?”
The guilt and self-loathing are the worst. I now feel as if I am not contributing anything to the family anymore. My income was almost equal to my husband’s. In my head we are now going to lose all our savings, including the savings we created for emergencies, you know like for a global pandemic! I just never thought we would have to actually use it. I have applied for unemployment and miraculously have not had to wait long as others have.
But the guilt is still there. I have self harmed several times since April 1st because I feel I deserve the pain. The loathing got worse when my coworker texted me for some information regarding one of my projects (the one who was hired after me). That day I had strong suicidal ideations. If I had a plan, who knows what I would’ve done. Luckily, I did not act on them and virtually met with my psychiatrist the next day and my therapist the day after.
It scares me. It scares me to not have anything to ‘do’. I’m petrified of how my thoughts may worsen. I thought my depression that lasted all of 2019 was bad, but this, this has gotten worse and in such a short amount of time.
I try to avoid my former coworkers because I am afraid of how this may trigger me. This is hard to do sometimes as my boss calls me weekly to ‘check in’. Check in on what? How sucky my life is right now? He called last Friday right after I found out that my uncle passed away due to COVID-19. Talk about triggers. I was done. I seriously did not know how I was going to survive anymore pondering the question ‘What else could go wrong?!’. Because, you know, I cannot view anything as a positive.
Both my psychiatrist and therapist suggested I create a schedule that way I am not dwelling on the negative thoughts. I am working on several of them now: One for rainy weekdays, one for sunny weekdays and one for weekends. I logically know this will help me. When I have things to do I can easily get out of my head. My negative thoughts do not stay away all day. They flutter in and out like a butterfly seeking just the right nectar. For the most part though I can tell them, my Inner Bitch, to shut up.
I am not really sure what the next few weeks or months will bring. I am sure I will be riding this rollercoaster for awhile, with a few contently lucid climbs, many spiraling downfalls and some corkscrews constantly circling my brain.
I just have to hold on for the ride and not let go.
It’s Friday and what Friday means is I weigh myself. I only do this weekly to make sure I am maintaining a healthy weight and not teetering in what would be considered overweight for my short height of a tad over 5′-0″ (I swear I am shrinking). So, I woke up, took my dog out, and then ‘took myself out’. After that, I stepped on the scale with the following repeating itself in my head like a mantra, “125, 125, come on 125”.
Well, the scale didn’t listen. It spit out at me the number 127. I had gained weight. I was up .4lbs (yes, that is .4 not 4). In my head this half-a-pound weight gain was like I gained 10lbs. I started to feel heavy and then I looked in the mirror. Ugh, my stomach looked bigger and flabbier. My arm muscles looked as if they were under a blanket of fat. Wait, were my hips and thighs bigger?! What the heck was I doing wrong?!
I then took a logical look at myself. This is only half-a-pound, less than that really. My clothes fit the same. Nothing had really changed except for the number on the scale and my mind frame.
Why in God’s name did my mind automatically increase my weight gain twentyfold?
I’ll tell you why… the media!
For decades the media has always portrayed that women have to been thin, borderline anorexic. This has become some kind of ingrained message that has carried down from generation to generation. Because of this, women have banded together in losing weight by joining several diet programs.
And because of this, we have a poor relationship with food.
Food is my frenemy. I love to eat it but I don’t feel as if I get to enjoy it because I am always counting calories or Weight Watcher’s points. I’m tired of that. It is draining and frankly sends a bad message to my 13-year-old daughter, who luckily has her father’s metabolism.
This past February I decided to give up on all these fad diets (although I will back Weight Watchers because it teaches you how to eat healthy). I had read an article about Intuitive or Mindful Eating. It intrigued me. No more counting carbs, fat, etc. I eat until I recognize that I am full, choosing healthy foods.
This shouldn’t be too hard, right?!
Well, it has been a challenge because there are times when I do not let my food digest to recognize that I am, in fact, full. And then there are other days where I don’t exactly always choose healthier options. But, overall, I am a healthy eater migrating toward fruits (nature’s candy) and veggies. I eat leaner meats, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, reduced fat cheese… and (not going to lie) a piece of chocolate a day (okay, maybe 2).
I may start out with the proper serving size but instead of digesting a bit, I eat a little more. And then I wonder how I have gained those “10lbs”!
Oh, and I exercise, a good bit. I used to be an avid gym rat, doing some form of workout 4-5 times a week. Then 2019 happened, the year of Major Depressive Stephanie. I had dropped down to maybe 1 weekly workout. Currently, I workout 3-4 times a week (mostly 3), slowly getting back on track.
So here I am eating relatively well and exercising and gaining weight (I know, it is only .4lbs).
And with any weight gain, the love/hate relationship with food only grows. Should I eat more pasta? Do I really need this cookie? Can I afford to drink this beer?
What kind of relationship is that?! If we do eat that cookie or drink a beer, why should we feel guilty about it, because we will?! We need to enjoy the food. Smell it, really taste it, slow down to enjoy it. This is the teaching of Intuitive or Mindful Eating.
I am done with regretting eating tasty food. If I want a cookie, I am going to eat a damn cookie and savor every moment of it (it is not always sweets, I love cheese and brussel sprouts as well). Why can’t I have something special?!
Maybe I should just give up weighing myself completely and just go by how my clothes fit… I think there will be less guilt and disappointment and a more loving relationship with food.
UPDATE: Fotis Dulos, the man that is the topic of my entry chose to take his life instead of spending any time in prison. He was found is his garage on January 28th clinging to life. He passed two days later on January 30th. I had started this post prior to his death.
I can’t tell you what to do to commit the perfect crime but I can (and have) tell you what NOT to do. Unfortunately, Fotis Dulos has not read both of my posts What Not To Do When Committing a Crime… The Stupidity of Criminals and The Stupidity of Criminals… Part 2. In both I clearly explain the reason why criminals get caught. Why? Because they are dumb and do not fully comprehend why they get caught. Fotis Dulos is no different. This is a case that hits close to home, literally. In fact it occurred roughly 30-45 minutes away in the same state depending on traffic of course (only in Connecticut does it take 40 minutes to go 19 miles). I was wondering how I would “spin” this story. It is so weird how the cases closest to me are the hardest to write about. I think it has to do with the fact that since I am so close, I have read so much information. I decided on my direction once I read the 35-page arrest warrant for Fotis Dulos. After that, I fully knew that he is no more clever than any other criminal.
It all started back in May 2019, the Friday prior to Memorial Day. Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five children, dropped her kids off at school and was then supposed to proceed to NYC for a doctor’s appointment. She never showed. Her car was later found in a park parking lot not far from her home. After no one heard from her for hours, a wellness check occurred. In that process they interviewed her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, a native of Greece. I could thoroughly go through the timeline of this case into the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos which turns to the murder of Jennifer Dulos but there are plenty of articles to read for that. For now, I will discuss how Fotis fucked up (I really don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but…) I have discussed in many of my true crime posts about the top three reasons why people kill:
Mr. Dulos had all three as motives. He and Jennifer were going through over 2 years of divorce proceedings. The money that they had (FYI New Canaan, CT is a VERY affluent area) was through Jennifer’s parents, Hilliard and Gloria Farber, who took up residence in NYC. Hilliard passed away in 2017. This becomes relevant to a current civil case between Gloria Farber and Fotis Dulos which concerns if $2.5 million dollars was a gift to Mr. Dulos for his company or a loan.
Custody… with a 2 year non-ending divorce proceeding, custody of the 5 children was at stake. After many abuse allegations from Jennifer back in 2017, there was no way she was going to let Fotis gain custody of the children. In fact, he was on supervised visits with someone from the state department of children and families prior to Jennifer’s disappearance.
And lust… Fotis Dulos had a long time girlfriend on the side. Her name is Michelle Troconis. Fotis had cheated on Jennifer many times and this was the latest conquest.
So, how did Mr. Dulos become one of those stupid criminals?!
Mr. Dulos and his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, were caught on camera dumping several garbage bags into many dumpsters in Hartford, CT. These garbage bags contained items such as clothing, towels, etc. with blood on them that turned out to test positive for Jennifer Dulos’ DNA. Dulos denied that it was him on the video. He should have conversed with Troconis on their proper story. Turns out she positively IDs both of them on these videos.
Tip: Do not get caught on camera!
I was told about this infamous bike by a friend who had read the arrest warrant before me. I have to admit I was very curious how a bike related to the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos. Then I read the arrest warrant.
When Mr. Dulos first came over from Greece, the only item he brought with him was a bicycle. This bike was not your typical Huffy. It was special and rare. Very noticeable.
The bike was stored in one of Fotis’ houses he was developing. His girlfriend mentions that she had stopped at that house and noticed it was missing. Once again, cameras caught a red pickup truck (I’m getting to this) with a bike similar to this laying down in the bed on camera (really, avoid cameras please!) on the day of Jennifer’s disappearance. It is seen on another traffic camera that a man in a hoodie is riding a similar bike near the park where Jennifer’s car was found on the day she went missing.
Tip: Maybe, just maybe, you should use a boring typical bicycle. Less noticeable.
Fotis has always said he was innocent up until the day he died even if within letter form. He has said his vehicle was never in the vicinity so he was innocent. He was correct. His vehicle wasn’t, but an employee’s vehicle was! Fotis had asked one of his employees if he could borrow his personal red pick-up truck. The employee hesitated but ultimately let Mr. Dulos use it. A day or two after Jennifer went missing, Fotis asked said employee to take the seats and destroy them. He would pay for new ones. This rang very suspicious to the employee and instead of obliterating them, he kept them at his house. The police came knocking one day and he was more than happy to give them the truck seats. Turns out, they found a small amount of blood on them. Yes, you guessed it! It was Jennifer Dulos’.
Tip: When needing to destroy something, don’t ask someone else to do it.
I am going to end this installment at this point to prevent making this post extremely long. To note, since Fotis Dulos took his life the defense attorney is now seeking to put the case against him in his estate’s name as a condition the family requested. They want to prove him innocent.
Michelle Troconis is currently out on bond and awaits her trial. Another party, an attorney friend of Mr. Dulos, Kent Mawhinney, remains in jail on a $2 million bond.
Jennifer and Fotis’ children are residing with Jennifer’s mother in NYC where they have been since Jennifer’s May 2019 disappearance.
There will be more to come as I have not even delved into where Mr. Mawhinney comes into play, how Fotis made his bond, his time on house arrest and his appearance on my favorite show, Dateline.
Stephanie. Stephanie who? Stephanie Paige, remember me?
I lied. I never thought I would concerning my blog, but I have. I promised more posts and then became dormant for a month. My excuse… I’m flat out busy. I want to write. I yearn to write. I just do not have the time.
I have started several blog posts. One for True Crime Tuesdays I started about a local case concerning a man name Fotis Dulos and his stupidity. Well, turns out before I could finish he decided to take his own life and now I am torn between finishing it, taking a different twist on it, and that both of these speak ill of the dead. I know, I know, he was not a nice person and (most likely) killed his estranged wife, Jennifer, who has been missing since May of 2019. And well, I just do not have the time to finish it.
I thought about sharing a poem of mine I wrote for a college course about 20 years ago. It is a poem about bowling with erotic undertones. But, yep, you guessed it, no time.
I have several other posts considering mental health and youth mental heath started…
I have 2 books and a novella swimming around in my head, a school of fish just growing bigger… how I wish there was more time in a day.
Okay, so Stephanie, what HAVE you been doing?
Working. Hiking. Dealing with registering my daughter for high school (Eek!). Traveling for work (Hello Green Bay!). Gearing up for my huge big 40th birthday. Writing poetry for FanStory.com contests.
Just no time, no quiet time, no more than 30 minutes time.
I can continue to make promises of a big blog comeback but I hate to let you, my readers, down. Instead of promises, I will make a very strong attempt at biweekly posts for now. I love my readers.
I scroll through social media often, probably too much honestly. During 2019 it often made me more depressed than I already was seeing all the positive things happening to my friends. Yes, I know of impostor syndrome and I know people rarely like to post about negative aspects of their lives, but these positives were too much for me to bear. I felt happy that my friends had great things going on in their lives albeit new babies, new jobs, exciting vacations. Then I would turn inward and repeatedly tell myself how horrible I was and that I haven’t accomplished nearly what I thought I would. Because…
I am my own worst enemy!
We all are. Most of us tell ourselves we can do better. Just strive harder, work longer, sleep less to have more time to do more stuff. The one major addition to this is the two (yes two!) episodes of major depressive disorder I was going through in the majority of 2019 (I swear there were maybe 3 months I was my typical self). Because of this stagnant disorder, I kept repeating the horrible thoughts about myself and the lack of things I succeeded in fulfilling that whole year.
It wasn’t enough that I was successful at my job. It wasn’t enough that my husband and daughter were happy and healthy. It wasn’t enough that I spoke with the school superintendent concerning mental health awareness with our youth. It wasn’t enough that due to the latter, the schools have actively been creating more awareness through round table meetings and district meetings. It wasn’t enough that I had two amazing events surrounding my book.
I just wasn’t enough. Because I am my own worst enemy.
2020 started off with me coming to the realization that I had to leave my major depressive episodes behind. I had to be the change. I gave myself a chance to look at life with a new perspective and with an exception of a couple of days, I have been a content and determined woman. I am deeply adamant to not take up residence with major depressive disorder this year.
And then I scrolled through my social media accounts. I noticed several of my friends amazing activities. One just completed a marathon in Disney world. Another had images of almost daily breathtaking hikes. And a third was showing off the muscles they have gotten due to the gym routine they started last year. And me… what did I have to show off my former strength?! That’s right… Nothing!
I have gone to the gym two times since the new year. I went on several dog walks with my mush, Princess. This time, unlike all of 2019, I had an epiphany. The only one who was stopping me from regaining the stable and strong version of myself was me. As hard as it will be, I need to motivate myself to head to the gym, to hike, and to (hopefully) snowshoe. I need to stop make excuses… I’m too tired, I don’t feel well, I’ll start next week (or month, or year). I was never going to be strong if I didn’t even try.
It will be difficult. I had a whole year of making excuses. A year filled with lack of hunger and mobility. But I have to at least give myself a chance, right?! I have to stop being my own worst enemy because if I stay this way, I won’t ever become stable. I know from past experience how much exercise helps my mental well-being. I feel strong after a good strength training session and I feel so rejuvenated after a long hike or snowshoe excursion. I guess this time I have to keep reminding myself how I feel after and that may be all the motivation I need.
I will always be my own worse enemy, but maybe, just maybe, this year I could be accepting of who I am and become my own friend. I deserve to feel better. I deserve to be stable. I deserve to be happy.
2019, I can’t say that I am not happy to see you go. I spent most of you in a chronic depressive state. Riding a roller coaster to the point of my depression becoming cyclical but not quite bipolar. You taught me about self-harm, the urge to see myself in pain, to control something in my life, to feel some sort of emotion. You brought me death of someone close to me, death of my book and its publishing company. You made me lose myself again and again. You turned me into a weak being so unsure if my strength would ever return.
But, 2019, I can’t say all of you was bad. I did two book signings and with that made a good group of friends with other authors. One night together in May and we became so connected that we still chat almost daily. You gave me Princess, the sweetest rescue dog who has brought me so much solace and love. You sent me to California, albeit via a stressful project. I got to see the desert of southern CA including pieces of Joshua Tree National Park. You brought me to some beautiful trails in Vermont. I can definitely say I saw many beautiful things in nature this year.
And your decade, 2019. So much has occurred from 2010 to now. I went through my hardest, deepest episodes of depression. I almost had a son. I loved this boy from the moment I met him and there is still a piece of my heart that is his. You sent me to the short term psych ward in the hospital once again. A place that both scares me and helps me. You introduced me to EMDR therapy, a therapy that saved my life after the grief of having to return my boy to DCF due to my failing mental health. You rewarded me with a new job that gives me the opportunity to travel to places I have never been… Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia and areas of California. You were the decade of my 30s, my decade of learning.
Now I need to turn my attention to 2020, and the decade that will be my 40s. I bid you farewell 2019. My aim will be to try not to look back. I am determined to make your successor the year of strength. I am not going to make excuses anymore and live in your shadow.
I woke up this morning a little giddy. Excited that you will be gone in less than 24 hours. That I can take my life back, take me back from the spiraling depression you put me in. I will return to the gym. I will eat correctly again (heck, I’ll eat again). I will take back what is rightfully mine. I will focus on my mental health, taking inventory of what I need and exploring other therapies, other medications. I will welcome 40 with open arms in February, living it up with friends and family (trying new craft beers, yum!). I will get back to my blog, back to True Crime Tuesdays, back to possibly republishing Rising From the Ashes.
And this decade coming up… there is so much that will happen. My baby girl will graduate middle school in 2020, high school in 2024 and most likely college all in the next ten years. There is a chance I will see her get married toward the end of the decade. There will be many more trips to see places & things I never have, like the redwoods of northern CA and the cheese state of Wisconsin. I will continue to write, focusing on the other books that have be swirling around in my head. Maybe I will become a peer specialist, just a plethora of possibilities.
There is so much that I can make happen, and for the first time in a long while, I am excited!
Adios 2019! Sayonara 2010-2019! Good-bye 30s!
Welcome 2020, my 40s, my time to bring me back!
When I used to look into the mirror,
I saw a happy, sunshine smile, confidence, compassion and empathy,
Colossal amounts of love, being loved, giving love,
I saw strength the trifecta; muscles, grin lines, intelligence,
And then it all drifted away on a stormy wind.
Now I see hatred with my bitch taking the lead,
On a chariot, riding fiercely with her friends, negativity and loathing,
I see the emptiness in my lack of emotion (laughing no more)
In my eyes that used to shine it’s grassy green hue (now forlorn),
I see my weakness’ growing in numbers,
They prevail over any good I once saw.
I see the scars, tiny slashes on my wrist,
The memory of the internal pain, guilt, and yes, some shame,
The urge rising to repeat the action,
The bitch yelling I deserve the agony, the suffering,
More scarlet droplets trailing down my arm,
And the repetitive thought of how much worse will it get.
The reflection I see, is not a happy one, not a sad one, it is a blank one,
One that feels nothing, embraces apathy,
I am not sure it will change, although I know it did before,
What was that? With pills, therapy and self care I’ll thrive?
Ha, I am doing all those and still nothing changes, fight no more.
With the bitch infinitely cackling, I now take on advice given many times:
Acceptance is key; I invite you in, on my sofa, to envelope me, for eternity.
© Stephanie Paige 11/26/19
I’ve begun to write poetry again. I thought it was a single solitary day a couple of weeks back when I posted a poem, Hidden Pain, on my struggling with mental illness, but it isn’t. When I write poetry, it means I am not doing well. Something is off and I don’t know what and frankly, that frightens me. But like all the many times, years, decades before, I will bounce back (even if I can’t believe it right now).
This past Saturday was especially rough and led to the following poem:
Pieces and parts,
Broken and torn,
Scattered like dirt,
Upon the filthy floor so worn,
Walked on, moved and kicked,
Sucked up and tossed,
One day present,
The next day lost.
A microscopic piece of soil,
Flows down the drain,
No remnants remain,
The water falls,
Descending me further,
Leaving my home,
Towards the sewer.
Asking too much,
Not asking enough,
“What do you want from me?!”
Can’t be strong enough,
Calling my name,
I see you, I hear you,
I feel so ashamed.
Always putting myself last,
Pouring from an empty cup,
Who will be there
To help pick me up?
I’ve fought for so long,
Pleasing all of you,
Neglecting my wants,
To appease you two.
I walk away,
Down the street,
A little further,
Watching my feet,
I keep going,
I’ll hear from you,
Asking me where I am.
How long will it take,
Before you notice I left?
Breath after breath,
A minute, an hour,
A mile or two,
What does it feel like,
When no one is looking for you?
Angry and empty,
(Maybe loved and wanted?)
So tremendously disappointed,
Sometimes it’s hard to know,
When you’re treated so poor,
When you become invisible,
Alone and ignored.
© Stephanie Paige 10/28/19