The Lost Corn Girls

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Chapter One

*Trigger Warning: Graphic/Assault*

“Ahhhhhhh!”

The piercing scream reverberated in my head. I could see a young woman. Her wild dark hair hung across her shoulders in sweaty strands. She was attached to something. I could not quite make it out what it was, but it looked like a wooden cross. No, no, that wasn’t right. It was a post, and she the scarecrow, resided in the middle of a cornfield.

What was she doing there?” I thought.

Then I noticed the blood. Lots and lots of dark crimson. There was blood mixed with dirt caked on her face and body. There was blood on her hands, her legs… and wait, her clothing was ripped. There were slashes down her dress. What was once a light flowy white dress had become a distressing frock. The rips in her dress gave a glimpse of her bare skin, a pale white. I could see several fresh stab wounds. Drops of scarlet gently seeping out. I noticed that one bra strap was sliced, which exposed her breast and barely covered her nipple. She grimaced, looked away, and cried. She felt violated that the top of her areola was visible for this heathen who had taken her when no one else had been given the right to see it. She was scared and disgusted at what else this man might do to her.

“What the heck was going on? Who is she?!” I mouthed to myself.

Then a figure slowly sauntered into my peripheral vision. A dark shadow among the golden flames of a campfire. The wood cackled at the disgraced being. A banshee’s vindictive laugh. The woman let out a piercing scream once again. Her body shook violently as she howled. She tried so hard to escape her new prison by writhing like a viper up and down the post. Nothing succeeded. The figure came up to her, inches from her face. She winced at the acrid smell of his breath. Tobacco, maybe? I then had noticed a shiny object in the figure’s hand. It gleamed and reflected the red and orange dancing hues of the fire. The woman whimpered. A stream of tears flowed from her face.

The figure held up this shiny object. It was a small blade, maybe a pocket knife. He forcefully drove the blade into her stomach. As the figure did so, the woman cowered over as much as she could and let out a yelp. Fresh blood streamed out from her new wound. There was a bulge protruding from his nether region. I recoiled at the sight.

I wondered how much more her body could take. How much more could her mind take? At what point do you just drop your survival instincts and let death take over welcoming it. But then, then I thought to myself, “Why the hell am I even seeing this?!

The figure’s hand turned toward me. It reached out to me with its long tendril fingers. I stepped back in fear and quivered. Suddenly I felt my body shake and I jerked opened my eyes. I had been sleeping. If that was a dream, I wanted a redo. That was just sick.

“Evan, honey, are you okay?” my mother asked with concern.

“What? Who? Why? Um, why do you ask?” I replied. Then I realized I felt damp, Almost sticky, with the taste of bile in my mouth.

“You’re sweating profusely. Are you feeling well?” my mother questioned.

I am not sure what happened. I have never experienced a dream like this. A dream that seemed so real that I was so much a part of, a movie-goer in a new AI film. Who dreams of a woman who is being held captive, continuously injured, and most likely killed?! And the crazed figure was getting a hard-on from it?! Okay, maybe Ted Bundy, but me?! Just sick, sick and disgusting. I’m just a kid. Just a teenage boy. What the hell?!

I gulped to remove the bile from my mouth, winced as it went down my throat, and responded, “I’m fine mom. Just a bad dream.”

I noticed that my mother’s face looked leery, a tad unsure that what I had just said was true, that I really felt fine. My father glanced at me through the rear view mirror for a second. He was appeased with my response. Mom still wasn’t buying it.

“Come on Charlotte,” my father said, “we need to get back on the road.”

6 Months Later… I Am Not Okay And Sinking Fast

Every morning when I first wake up before I fully open my eyes, I remember how it used to be, life as it used to be. Some how I can still see it; a time where there were no masks, no political turmoil; a time where I had a purpose, a job, that gave me a reason to get up.

6 months later, and that remembrance of how life used to be has sailed away on the last gust of wind. In what seems like years, we as a nation can agree that these last 6 months have been depleting.

My routine was forever changed on April 1st, 2020 when I found out my last day at work would be the following day. I was devastated. The first couple of weeks after finding out I fell back into a deep depressive state that involved several episodes of self-harm. All I thought was how I was laid off because I was a horrible employee. Somewhere during the last 5 1/2 years, I did something that made me a top candidate to be let go. Only a small piece of me realized that this mass lay off was due to Covid-19.

After meeting via Telehealth with both my psychiatrist and therapist, they thought it best if I created a schedule and stuck to it. So, with the help of my very wise teen daughter, I did just that. Then I took it to another level and decided to turn this huge negative of being laid off into a positive and am pursuing an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This is a field I know very well sitting in the front row seat as the client. Now I want to return the favor and give back help to those like me.

With this renewed hope, I was smiling again. I was happy.

And then it all changed.

I think it started with an acquaintance of mine who posted something on Facebook about all the people collecting unemployment and how we are abusing the system for the extra $600 (this was prior to the end of the Federal funding). Within this shared post was how it was unfair to the essential workers (which I fully agree with) who got nothing and they are on the front lines being more exposed (*Side note… not all essential workers were in danger of being exposed like the men and women who work the hospitals. But I digress). Also within this dialogue was how we on unemployment were lazy and not looking for jobs because we are just living off the state and the federal government and how if we weren’t lazy, we would look for a job, any job, even if it meant minimum wage.

I was offended. I responded to this person’s post and said that I was not lazy and was looking and had applied to jobs even though we weren’t required to at the moment because of Covid-19. The return response was something to the effect of “Well, if it doesn’t concern you, stay out of it”. This was a person I at one time considered to be a best friend. A friend who knew my work ethic from the beginning. To call all of us on unemployment lazy did in fact concern me. I was defending myself as well as others like myself.

I think more than anything, it broke my heart to know that no matter what this person knew of me and about me, this is how they viewed me. I had long ago realized our friendship would never be as strong as it once was (and I mourned it then), but now I knew I had to cut the ties of whatever was left.

Because I live with chronic depression, I sat with this situation and started questioning myself to see if I was this “lazy” person. I had applied to several jobs. That being said, I was not running out and applying for minimum wage jobs as I was receiving a good income where I was, and yes, my unemployment was far more than any minimum wage job would pay me. I think the main problem with the job hunt for me was the narrow field I had placed myself into. There were not many openings for architectural project managers or cad operators. If an opening popped up, I applied.

6 months later, where has it gotten me?

Sinking into a deeper depressive hole that is rapidly circling the drain.

I’ve applied to 20-25 jobs. Most of them are cad positions where all the employer has to do is take a look at my 18 years of experience and throw my application out. No employer wants to pay for someone with that experience when they can pay someone with 2+ years for a lot less. I have had many views on my applications, but only 3 bites. As I like to call it, I have had the planes, trains, and automobiles of interviews: 1 phone, 1 Zoom, and 1 in-person.

So far, nothing. Yes, I understand, we are still head deep in the mess that is Covid-19, but what you, my reader, might not understand is that I have NEVER been unemployed before. Ever. After 6 months, I feel like I never will be employed again. And I am almost as depressed as I was during all of 2019, and that is not good.

I have not harmed myself since June, but it plays out in my head often as well as intrusive thoughts such as trucks hitting my car while I’m driving and my yearning for it. And yet, I have not spoken with my therapist since July. Family members have asked me why I would not talk with him. There are a few reasons: I despise Telehealth, I want to physically sit face-to-face; with being unemployed there is a lack of funds; and lastly, what new would he tell me that I haven’t heard before through the decades of therapy I’ve had?

I told my psychiatrist all this during my ‘appointment’ with her over the phone and she expressed to me that maybe I needed a change of therapy type, that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) didn’t sound like it was working for me anymore. She brought up DBT (Dialectal Behavioral Therapy) again, along with ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). She had brought these up to me about a year ago as well. Couple that fact with the medication I’m on not alleviating my symptoms, and I know I am in trouble.

It’s funny really, how on December 31st, 2019 I shed my major depression by saying “2020 is my year to take me back!”. My inner bitch is laughing about it now. It started out that way. Now, with this deepening depression, I am being cautious to not jinx 2021; I need to see the script before I commit to you!

I really just want to be okay.

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*To note: I am not suicidal. Yes, I have self-harming and intrusive thoughts, but I am under the care of a psychiatrist. I have sought out a therapist in the area who specializes in DBT and ACT and will be seeing him in-person (yes, with masks) this Thursday. I want to get better; I am just so tired of fighting.

Move Over CVS, There is a New Competitor in Town

It is not a shock that I was laid-off due to Covid-19. I am one among thousands who were. This lay-off, though, has led to an interesting learning experience about medical insurance and medication. This will be a two-part blog series as there is a side story that I will twist with humor concerning GoodRx.

I have spoken at great length about my extensive history with mental illness (yes, Stephanie, we know already!). I have been on various medications throughout these last 22 years (I didn’t start meds until I was 18). After two decades, my body said nope, not anymore to the antidepressant, Lexapro. This drug worked so well until it didn’t. I was not sad to see it go. Since I was put on every known SSRI*, my psychiatrist recommended switching to an SNRI*.

So here I am, newly unemployed and feeling highly depressed, inadequate, and self-loathing. I have a telehealth session with my psychiatrist the beginning of May. She sends my scripts to Express Scripts, the online pharmacy that I was using with my now former job. I’m thinking that things will go as normal as the company paid for two months of COBRA*.

Boy was I wrong!

I thought it very funny that I never received a text that the drugs shipped. Of course, because I am now over 40, I did not recognize this until a week and a half later. I am filling my pill container and gasped when I realized I was in dire need of my SNRI, the generic version of Cymbalta. I was beginning to run low on my 100mg lamotrigine as well. The latter helps me with the cyclical nature of my depression (I do not have bipolar disorder, I lack the mania aspect).

“Shit! Shit! Shit!”

Anyone who has ever been on an antidepressant knows that it is really bad to go off of them cold turkey. Depression symptoms can quickly elevate and worsen. You are also at a higher risk of suicide. Now you understand my profanity.

I quickly log on to Express Scripts to see where these prescriptions that my psychiatrist ordered two weeks ago are. What do I see for each and every one of them? CANCELED. Um, what?! I am now panicking. I only have a week left of the Cymbalta. This is not good.

I call Express Scripts.

The nice lady on the phone tells me that she sees the five prescriptions as canceled but cannot tell me why. I explain to her my dire situation. She is of no help. She notices I have a refill left on the lamotrigine 100mg and says she can put that through but because that script technically expired she has to notify my doctor. I explain to her that I really need the Cymbalta more, that I was laid-off, and only have insurance through mid-June. She checks my account and says, it is showing me you have no insurance coverage.

What?! Wait, did I miss something in the awfully confusing COBRA paperwork?! Of course, I did. One needs a lawyer to fully decipher that thing.

I hang up with this ‘delightful’ lady as she works diligently contacting my doctor’s office to fill the expired refill. This is the 3rd full week in May (take note of this date, it is necessary for the end of this post). I need to also mention that my psychiatrist is now out on maternity leave (ugh, I see Murphy’s Law is in play).

As if talking with Express Scripts wasn’t enough, I now decided to contact COBRA. A different ‘delightful’ woman looks into my file and tells me, wait for it, you never elected coverage. You are not insured. What?! The letter I received from my now-defunct job said I was covered for two months! I am so confused and rapidly falling into an anxiety spiral. I am trying to explain this to her and we ultimately go back and forth between “You are not insured. You needed to elect to be covered” and “But my job sent me a letter saying I was insured.” Ultimately, I lost the battle.

Okay, Stephanie, let’s regroup. You are not insured. Your psychiatrist is out on maternity leave. All of your Express Scripts prescriptions have been canceled. And, most importantly, you now have five days left on your antidepressant. FUCK!

I quickly call the doctor’s office and explain to the receptionist what happened. Her voice tells me she isn’t quite convinced of my story. I’m gathering her first instinct is that I am a patient dying to get my hands on some good ‘stuff’. Yes, that is definitely it… Cymbalta, Gabapentin, Lamotrigine, and Trazodone. Those are definitely drugs I can get high off of and sell on the street for some mad dough (note sarcasm, none of them are). I am on the verge of tears about the Cymbalta. She informs me that she will have another doctor send it in. I have her send it to a local grocery store pharmacy where it is cheaper. Remember, not employed, GoodRx to the rescue (or are they?)!

I will avoid telling my twisted tale concerning GoodRx until my next blog post. We will just say that all my prescriptions were filled on time. I now have at home over 120 pills of Trazodone, Lamitrigene 25mg, and Gabapentin. My prescriptions are for 90 days. The pharmacist doesn’t even bother putting my Cymbalta tabs in another bottle. I receive the original bottle the pharmacist received. I am a at around 100 pills for the Lamitrigene 100mg.

So I am well stocked for the next few months.

Then, my husband finally adds my daughter and me to his insurance. I meet with my psychiatrist over the internet once again at the end of July. She already has my new insurance. She automatically sends my prescriptions into CVS. I hadn’t realized she had done this until I received a text from CVS letting me know my prescriptions are ready. I go to the CVS I think they were called in to pick them up. Nope, not that one. They were put into the one near my former employment. Because I know myself, I knew that passing by would be very emotionally triggering for me. I went online and had them mail them to me for free.

So if you are doing the math right, here are the current totals (remember two months have gone by):

  • Cymbalta: Around 120 capsules
  • Lamotrigine 100mg: Around 120 tablets
  • Lamotrigine 25mg: About 320 tablets (I take 2/day and had plenty to start)
  • Trazodone: Around 120 tablets
  • Gabapentin: Around 120 capsules

Too many, right?! Well, remember when I told you to keep the 3rd week in May in mind? The time the ‘delightful’ lady from Express Scripts was going to contact my doctor to fill the expired prescription? Yeah, I almost didn’t either.

Guess what showed up last week… that prescription. Only 3 months late! Add another 90 tablets of Lamotrigine 100mg to my list.

I can now put CVS out of business!


*SSRI is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor which increases the amount of serotonin your brain produces. To note, serotonin is mass-produced in your gut but this serotonin does not travel into the brain.

*SNRI is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. As you probably has guess this class of drug not only increases your brain serotonin levels but also your norepinephrine levels. Both help you to feel happy.

*COBRA is a confusing and expensive way to continue your health benefits after you have been let-go or fired. Really, don’t use it unless you really need to, and then there are still cheaper options out there.

A Look At LGBTQ+ Adolescents Concerning Self-Harm & Suicide: What Can We As A Community Do?

Image by Jasmin Sessler from Pixabay

I have been asked in my current Introduction to Mental Health Counseling class to take the population I most desire to work with and discuss a particular issue that exists and what we, as the public, can do about it. Because of the suicide of a 12-year-old girl last summer, I have become a huge advocate in youth mental health. The public school system where I live, has started to educate students at the middle school level. Still, instead of calling out the names of these mental illnesses, they group everything under “stress” and “social-emotional well-being.” My first thought is good, they are doing something, but I think as younger adolescents are affected, schools, parents, and the community need to do more.

My Desire To Work With LGBTQ+ Adolescents

As I researched further, I saw a more pertinent need in helping adolescents that identify as LGBTQ+. This need first arose in me after having a friend back in the late 1990s stay ‘in the closet’ because he feared he would be ostracized. When he finally did come out, we told him that he could have told us sooner. We loved him for him, not for his sexual preference.

This yearning increased as my daughter would continue to tell me about friends and classmates in her middle school who were in the sexual and/or gender minority. I felt compassion and empathy for them because they had to keep everything hidden for the same fear my friend had all those years ago. Some of them had to keep it hidden from their parents as well, thinking they would not understand and would disown them. All of this hiding puts stress on LGBTQ+ youth and can, in turn, cause a severe episode of depression. This depression can get worse and lead to self-harm and suicide.

The Facts

I am no professional so I sought out peer-reviewed scholarly articles, meaning they are reliable and trustworthy.

For reference, when I speak of gender minority, I am discussing those that identify as nonbinary, transgender, gender-queer, gender-fluid, and gender nonconforming (Ross-Reed et al., 2019). When I speak of a sexual minority, I am referring to those that are gay, lesbian, or bisexual (Oginni et al., 2019).

One of the first articles I read concerned a study done in the Avon area of England. The group that was studied was 4,274 children from infancy up to the twenties. They were observed at several points throughout their lives including at the ages of 15, 17, 18, and 20. They were looked at for sexual orientations and the relationship to depression, self-esteem, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. It was noted that the individuals who identified as in the sexual minority were more likely to develop depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation due to the societal stigma that surrounded them (Oginni et al., 2019)

Then, I reviewed a survey performed by the schools in Albuquerque, NM. This was one of the few school locations that looked at gender minority students with regard to their cisgender counterparts. The survey looked at the likelihood of developing violence victimization and self-harm as well as support systems in play for adolescents. The overall consensus was that the gender minority group had a higher percentage of victimization and self-harm than their cisgender peers. They also had significantly less support from family, school, the community, and peers (Ross-Reed et al., 2019).

A similar look at the under-served population of gender minority adolescents noted that these teens had a higher percentage of depression and suicide than their sexual minority peers. It was suggested that there is a clear need for prevention and intervention programs to serve this population especially due to the lack of data that is available. In one study it was noted that 83% of gender minority youth reported feeling depressed, 54% of them contemplated suicide, and 29% of them attempted suicide compared to their cisgender peers (Price-Feeney et al., 2020).

What Can We Do?

So, what can we actually do to help our stigmatized sexual and gender minorities? I am not going to lie, this is a tough question. Support is key. These adolescents need to know there is someone that supports them. They need to know that there is an adult who will advocate for them whether it is a parent, a neighbor, a teacher, or someone in the community. Once licensed, I will be their advocate with the schools, their parents, and the community. Adults that support this population need to come forward and publicly let these students know they are there for them.

One way my town supports our LGBTQ+ youth is that there is a yearly Pride Parade at the beginning of May. This event was created by two eighth-graders for their final middle school project. Every year there has been a large turnout. There is a walk which includes several local groups, including Free Mom Hugs, which I am apart of. There are many tents that have valuable information regarding the LGBTQ+ community as well as supportive local organizations.

We as a whole population need to learn acceptance and have empathy for LGBTQ+ adolescents (Ross-Reed et al., 2019). To just imagine the struggles they are going through breaks my heart.

What suggestions do you as my readers have to help the LGBTQ+ youth feel accepted?

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Important Resources for LGBTQ+ Adolescents

National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK

Crisis Text Hotline: 741741

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860

References

Oginni, O. A., Robinson, E.J., Jones, A., Rahman Q., & Rimes, K.A. (2019). Mediators of increased self-harm and suicidal ideation in sexual minority youth: a longitudinal study. Psychological Medicine, 49(15), 2524-2532. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/10.1017/s003329171800346x

Price-Feeney, M., Green, A.E., & Dorison, S. (2020). Understanding the mental health of transgender and nonbinary youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 66(6), 684-690.

Ross-Reed, D.E., Reno, J., Penaloza, L., Green, D., & Fitzgerald, C. (2019). Family, school, and peer support are associated with rates of violence victimization and self-harm among gender minority and cisgender youth… Head To Toe Conference, April 25, 2019, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Journal of Adolescent Health, 65(6), 776-783. https://doi-org.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/101016/j.jadohealth.2019.07.013

Covid-19: A Glimmer of Light

I have been absent, silent, and honestly, very confused by Covid-19. The world of US residents has been turned upside down since mid-March, and we are just now slowly climbing out of our dark holes. Although most of the country is experiencing something similar to what professionals deem “the second wave,” I would like to stay in the bubble of New England where (knock on wood) we have flattened the curve.

How can there be any light among the despair of a global pandemic?! The rollercoaster ride I’ve ridden these past four months had mostly drops instead of inclines. I had no positives in my life except for the health of my friends and family. I had lost my job. I had lost my uncle. I had lost the intimacy of actually spending time with friends face-to-face. I was spiraling fast, and it was not a place I wanted to go again.

At the urging of my therapist and psychiatrist, I made concrete schedules for my former workdays. I had to keep myself busy; otherwise, my brain would wander off to the wonderful (note sarcasm) negative thoughts that have plagued it for decades. The schedule worked fine for a while, but soon it was becoming mundane. I needed more. I needed a light bulb to go on.

And then it did.

I decided there could be a positive outcome from this pandemic for me. I decided to pursue a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The pandemic had given me the time to reinvent myself, to change careers.

I started at a CACREP accredited university on June 1st and am almost finished with the first quarter. There are two classes per quarter with a one week break at the end of the courses. The first two classes were Foundations of Graduate Study in Counseling and Introduction to Mental Health Counseling. The former was only a 6-week course, which I finished with an ‘S.’ I know, I know, only an ‘S’?! This course had two final grades: ‘S’ for satisfactory and ‘U’ for unsatisfactory. I have to say, though, the ‘S’ really deflates the 99.95% I had in the course.

My Intro to Mental Health Counseling course has proved to be very informative and interesting. While this is an online program, we have a professor and classmates which we interact with on weekly discussions. We have had a brief overview of the history of mental health, self-care, ethics, and multicultural counseling.

I just finished my assignment for this week, which was a reflection on our own biases and differences and how, as a counselor, this could affect us. We had to examine our self. What I have realized upon reading all the material and taking a few self-assessment quizzes, is that although I am a relatively unbiased person, I do have some slight prejudices. I accept this and will learn from this assignment that I will always need to self-assess and, of course, put my clients first.

The final project for this course is to interview a licensed counselor who works with your desired population. I tended to flip-flop on the population I want to work with. First, I wanted to work with women from postpartum to post-menopause. Then, a local girl took her life and that changed everything for me. I understood this girl because I was similar to her in my adolescence with severe depression. At the point I read about her suicide, I decided if I ever went back to school to become a therapist, I would counsel youth and adolescents. I believe helping this population can have staggering effects on their future as adults. Luckily, I know a fabulous child therapist. She is the one my daughter sees and has done wonders with her.

For next week’s assignment I need to advocate for my desired population concerning a topic that affects them. We can present this as a Powerpoint presentation, brochure, flyer, and blog post. What better way to express my advocacy than doing what I have already been doing through my blog!

So, in the next day or two, you will see a new blog post from me. It will not be in my usual format as I am required to use a couple of citations, but it will concern the mental health of our youth. I am sure many of my parental readers will find value in it.

I hope that you, my readers, will join me at the end of the tunnel, where the glimmer of light shines in this currently dismal world. Maybe by reading this post, you can find your own glimmer of light, your own glimmer of hope.

Poetry and Covid-19: “Droplets of Red”

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

Eyelids heavy,

eyes darting beneath,

left to right,

What else would

happen on this

wretched night?

One body,

Two bodies,

lain on the floor

Within a

few days

are many more.

For them it was

the virus that

took them alive,

for me it was

the mental pain,

a plunging nosedive.

Ashamed

to admit this is a

selfish disease,

trying to think of

others as I ignore

my brain’s pleas.

Makes me

solidify my guilt for

feeling this way,

but we all have

valid feelings,

isn’t that what ‘they’ say?

I have felt

loss so great

in the last week or two,

my career, a loved one

and myself

to name a few.

I do not

deserve sympathy

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

crimson red,

and for the first time

in a long time thinking,

maybe, I should be dead.

No longer

contributing to my

family’s worth,

pondering

so much especially

my birth.

The bitch within

screams I am

no longer needed,

And at times

I believe

she has succeeded.

Living last year

severely depressed

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

Chronic Depression and COVID-19

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’re useless!”

“You’re worthless!”

“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.

My Frenemy Relationship with Food

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.

True Crime Tuesdays – “Fotis, You Should’ve Read My Posts”

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:

  • Money
  • Lust
  • Custody

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. Within this 35-page arrest warrant (which you can read here there is a long list of debt that Fotis has racked up in the last few years. We’re talking about A LOT of money… close to $4.5 million. This does not include the money being disputed in the civil case or the mortgages he had taken out on a few construction properties of his company, Fore Group. Fotis was in major debt! But somehow he was able to post his required percentage on a $6 million dollar bond?!

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?!

Hartford Videos:

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!

The Bike:

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.

The Truck:

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.

Stay tuned!

Knock, Knock… Who’s There?

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.