“Invisible” – A Poem

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:

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Invisible

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,

Quickly gone,

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,

Whining, yelling,

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,

Wondering when,

I’ll hear from you,

Asking me where I am.

 

How long will it take,

Before you notice I left?

Walking, wondering,

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?)

Crying inside,

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

 

Mental Health Monday: Poetry “Hidden Pain”

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I had a rough day early last week. When I am having one of those days, I write poetry:

Hidden Pain

I am good at masking my pain,

It is a lesson I learned long ago,

Smile,

For the camera,

With a friend,

Along at work,

Hiding the pain that never ends.

 

I am lonely all the time,

Even with family and friends,

Alone,

When the sun rises,

As the wind blows,

Amongst company,

The negative thoughts always flow.

 

I am an expert at falsities,

Creating an alternate reality,

Growth,

Shame that has prevailed,

Hatred that boils,

Losing myself once again,

Being stuck in internal turmoil.

 

I am beginning to think this is it,

I am meant to internally suffer,

Pain,

Mental, like no other,

A black hole of sorts,

An emotional anguish,

Forever a ring of retort.

 

I am tired of constantly feeling this way,

So drained of strength that I seem to portray,

Tired,

When the sun has risen,

As the faux smile is reborn,

Over and over,

My body slashed and torn.


Stephanie Paige © 9/28/19

Mental Health Monday: My Hospital Roommate

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The first time I was hospitalized for mental illness I had two roommates. The first, child-like but middle aged, I would see years later in the same ward. It is the second roommate I had that comes to my mind right now. Unfortunately I do not remember her name as it was over a decade ago (almost 13 years in fact) but she is now making a vivid appearance in my mind.

At the time she was roughly the age I am now, hovering around 40. She had long wavy dark brown hair and glasses. What I used to remember about her was the fact that her sleep movements were monitored. She walked with a cane for reasons unknown to me and because of it every night the nurses would wrap some band-like contraption around her waist. It was for her own safety, physical safety that is. Mental safety would come later. If she fell out of bed, honestly if she moved at all, this alarm would go off.

I remember it waking me up several evenings. The lights would expeditiously fly on with nurses racing through the door. Sure it annoyed me at first, but I was so drugged up I usually fell asleep again rather quickly among the commotion.

But I absorbed a lot more of her than I realized at the time. An abundant amount that lay dormant until now. I am now becoming her.

Like myself, she was one point of a triangle family along with her husband and child as the others. In her case a 15-year-old son, in my case an almost 13-year-old daughter. A triangle, the strongest shape you learn in geometry (and structures if studying architecture). But, what if one of those points fails? What happens to the others?

This roommate’s husband and son visited her almost daily. She had told me that she has been in and out of psychiatric wards for years, since her son was a preschooler. I remember feeling compassion for her… and pity. I couldn’t believe that she constantly put her husband and son through that over and over again.

Oh karma! What goes around comes around. I understand this perfectly.

While I didn’t know it at the time, she was my future. We, her and I, are the same. Although I have only been hospitalized twice for mental illness, I have been battling and fighting this war for years with my husband and daughter in the middle of the combat zone strategically avoiding the rapid open fire.

Like my roommate’s husband and son, I know my husband and daughter love me. They continuously comfort me in their own weird ways. But I wonder… When will they break? When will they say they can’t handle me anymore? When will I become too much of a burden?

For now I think about this woman, taking in what she had and hoping she still has it as she is my equivalent. She is me, I am her. We are the same, yet different. Both struggling internally on an infinite loop while being extremely grateful for those we have and hope to keep.

True Crime Tuesdays – “I Did It All For You, Jodie!”

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I don’t know much about John Hinckley Jr. All I knew prior to watching the recent Dateline episode (Season 27, Episode 52) was that he shot President Reagan. After all, I had just had my first birthday a month prior. My focus was on taking my first steps, not true crime. That would come much later.

When I saw the Dateline preview for the episode “Hinckley: Diary of a Dangerous Mind” I became intrigued. I never knew why he did what he did. I never knew that when he shot President Reagan, he shot several other people. And I never knew that the reason behind him shooting the president all lied with his tremendous infatuation with actress Jodie Foster.

Within the episode, they had interviewed some of Hinckley’s childhood chums. They described him as this nice kid, friendly, caring. And then something happened. He changed. He became paranoid. As his friends described him, I jumped up from the sofa scaring my husband as I shouted, “He has schizophrenia!” Leave it to my mentally ill mind to know. I, myself, am not a schizophrenic, but know several people who are and the one thing they all have in common is that their symptoms first appeared in their late teens/early 20s. I have to admit, I high-fived my husband when they did finally diagnose him.

But I digress. A little background on John Hinckley Jr.: He was born in Oklahoma in 1955 to well-to-do parents. Money was not an issue in their house. He grew up in Texas through elementary school on and even into his college years. Because of the symptoms of his mental illness, he wound up dropping out of college and moving back in with his parents who were then living in Colorado.

It was here that he came up with his plan, the plan to shoot (and hopefully kill) the president. Why? Jodie Foster. I know, I know, how are the two connected? My husband and I were greatly perplexed by this, sitting on the edge of the sofa about to fall off, staring at the TV with our faces in a puzzling look. Then the answer was given… the movie Taxi Driver.

Ah, yeah, Taxi Driver! I see the correlation. Totally! (Remember, I was a baby when Reagan was shot. I wasn’t even born when Taxi Driver was released).

So, to put all the points into perspective… Jodie Foster plays a prostitute in Taxi Driver (released in 1976). The lead, played by Robert DeNiro, is a Vietnam Vet who is now driving a taxi through the streets of NYC. He slowly becomes insane and starts to plan the assassination of the presidential candidate and Jodie Foster’s pimp.

Okay, now it is making more sense. Hinckley was obsessed with this movie. This movie was where his obsession with Jodie Foster was fostered (hah, like my play on words there?!). This movie’s lead goes insane. Hinckley was going insane. The lead plans to assassinate the presidential candidate… aha! Hinckley plans to assassinate a president.

Now I got it. All the dots are connected.

On March 30th, 1981, Hinckley fired 6 shots into a large crowd aimed at President Reagan. His first few shots hit police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and press secretary James Brady. It wasn’t until the very last shot, that he hit Reagan. The bullet squeezed by through the small gap at the hinge of the car door and hit Reagan in chest. Reagan recovered as did the others shot, although some of them did not fare as lucky as others.

Hinckley is quickly tackled and arrested after the shooting. It is at this point where they have a psychiatrist see him. He was then given the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Throughout this whole time (prior to the shooting and after) he is in constant contact with (who else?) Jodie Foster. He created this romantic relationship in his head. Called her dorm room. Wrote her letters. He was in love, the obsessive, stalker kind, but in love nonetheless. Meanwhile, Jodie thought the complete opposite. Frankly, he was nothing to her but an annoying man.

Hinckley is brought to trial in 1982. Everyone is 100% positive that he will be found guilty. I mean, there are over dozens of witnesses. The courtroom is waiting with baited breath as the jury files in and reads the verdict…

“Not guilty by reason of insanity!”

The courtroom was in shock! No jail time for someone who shot the president?!

It isn’t that Hinckley got off Scott-free. He was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C. During his hospital stay, he decided that conversing with other criminals would be a really good hobby. He and Ted Bundy became good pen pals. He wrote with one of Charles Manson’s women, Lynette Fromme. He tried to get Manson’s contact info but never received it (I guess Manson swiped left on Tinder).

Hinckley did fall in love while in the hospital. He fell for a woman 10 years his senior who was taking up residence there because she shot and killed her 10-year-old daughter. During this tragedy, she cut her arm off as well. The two were crazy about each other and would meet outside, walk together and even enjoyed some sexual escapades. They were so in love that when this woman was released she took a job at St. Elizabeth’s to remain near him. I am not sure how this was allowed by the staff…

In 1987, Hinckley made his first attempt at freedom. He applied to the court for periodic home visits. Because of his correspondence with mass-murderer Ted Bundy, and his continued obsession with Jodie Foster, he was denied.

He was given supervised home visits in 1999. A year later, 2000, the hospital decided he was ready to see the world and suggested unsupervised visits. Not sure what they were thinking, but they quickly realized this was a bad idea and changed their minds.

Throughout 2004 and 2005, Hinckley regained supervised visits with his parents. September of 2005, he requested expanded privileges. He received multi-night visits with his parents, who were now living in Williamsburg, VA. In 2007, Hinckley wanted more. He was denied.

In 2009, he was allowed longer visits with his mother (his father had passed away) and he was allowed a driver’s license. With this he had to have a GPS enabled cellphone to which he had to carry all the time.

In 2011, the hospital deemed him safe and not a danger to himself or society. The Department of Justice disagreed.

In 2013, he received longer visits with his mother, now allowing him 17-day stretches.

After over 30 years at St. Elizabeth’s, John Hinckley Jr. was released on September 10, 2016 into the hands of his aging mother who was 90 at the time. He had a whole bunch of conditions he had to keep in order to stay free and seemed to maintain them all. As of November 2018, the court allowed him to move out of his mother’s house and is live on his own.

I know for a fact that he still resides in Williamsburg, VA as I have a friend there who has seen him. He lives a normal life, goes shopping, has a girlfriend.

But what would a good true crime story be without a good humorous twist?! Am I right?!

As of September 10, 2019, Hinckley is seeking permission to move to California. Why? To enter the music business. The judge is reviewing and requesting additional information.


An interesting side note: Hinckley didn’t care which president he tried to assassinate, there was no democrat/republican angle. He is seen in a photograph standing in a crowd behind President Carter. He just never had the right angle. So Reagan was next.

Okay, okay, so what do I think about Hinckley living a “normal” life?
As a person with mental illness, I think he deserves a second chance at a “normal” life. He spent many years, decades, at an institution. He sees a therapist and a psychiatrist. He is what I like to call “in remission”. Why shouldn’t he deserve another chance at life?!
But to play devil’s advocate… he shot a president! He shot other people as well. No, none of them died (although Brady’s death was ruled a homicide 33 years after the shooting). I often wonder what would’ve happened if he succeeded. But, what ifs are pointless.

 

If you enjoyed this installment, please check out last week’s: “I’m Gonna Be A YouTube Sensation!”

 

Just An Unhealthy Fantasy

I was doing well. It had been over 2 months since I last cut myself. The mood stabilizer was working (thank you Lamictal!). All was good… until it wasn’t.

I should’ve known.

For some reason, I am not allowed to be stable for long periods of time. The last time I self harmed was Saturday, July 13th.

I am not even 100% sure why I did it. It was the first time in weeks that I acted out on my fantasies. These fantasies aren’t romantic, or frankly, happy. It is a constant thought in my head of me with any sharp object, lightly cutting the spot on my body of preference. When I feel sad, the visions are more abundant with the negative thoughts to back them up. I succumbed to them that Saturday evening as I sat with a case cutter and nicked my wrist (nowhere near my arteries). I am not going to lie, it felt good. It felt like a release of stress and tears I so desperately wanted to cry.

But why was I consistently fantasizing about self harming myself?

I attributed the latest episode to a culmination of this delusional thought that I would be laid off and with my daughter leaving for a 2 week vacation in Alaska with my parents soon. At this time, she was crying non-stop about not wanting to go, about the long plane flights, and about missing her father and I. I was stoic in front of her but crying inside. I needed to let my pain out. And so, I cut.

The fantasies still persist.

My daughter left last Sunday. With her away, I have been down and empty, two emotions that feed the depression beast inside of me. I’ve welled up with tears the last few days about how much I miss her and need her with me. It took her going on vacation to make me realize how much I counted on her as a strength for me. My husband, yes is a huge strength, but he isn’t as compassionate and empathetic as my daughter. Once I realized that I relied on her so much, a 12-year-old girl, I felt more shitty. Negative thoughts have been spewing in my brain since then.

On top of my daughter being away, the delusion about being laid off is as strong as ever. Everything that does or doesn’t happen at work I take as a sign that feeds this delusion. I didn’t get a new location to work on… well I must be getting laid off. I am not invited to go see my location that is opening next week… see, getting laid off. It’s August (layoffs happen in February and August), just tell me now.

Stephanie, why couldn’t you be better at your job?! And, on the flip side, if it does happen, what did I do wrong?!

And now, I fantasize about cutting… ALL. THE. TIME.

To take away the pain. To solidify every negative thought in my head. To relieve the tears I can’t physically expel. So many reasons.

But I have remained strong and have not acted on it. And I hope that it remains that way, just an unhealthy fantasy…

*Disclaimer: I am under the watchful eye of both my psychiatrist and therapist. If you are self-harming or considering, 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)*

 

It Takes A Suicide…

July 6th was a rough day for the people in my town. Many somber faces questioning, “Why? Why would she?” They were clueless. All they saw was a happy girl who had a loving family and friends. A preteen about to start the 7th grade in a little over a month.

They didn’t understand. And how could they?!

Unless you have been there or have known someone who has been there, you can’t fathom what would make a person want to take their own life. I understand because I have had that mental pain before, I have suffered from suicidal ideation before. I know what it is like to want to leave the world.

It’s hard hearing when it is a grown adult. Harder when it is a teenager. Definitely the hardest when it is a 12 year old.

My daughter did not know this girl personally. Sophia is a grade ahead and never had any classes or extracurriculars with her. When I showed her a photo, she commented that she had seen her in the halls but that was it. Sophia was saddened to hear about this girl and wondered what we could do.

I, like many others… friends, family, community members, teachers… donated a bit of money to her funeral expenses.

But what more could I do?

How many times I had read articles recently about teens and even preteens in our area taking their life… too many. What could cause this? What could change to prevent this?

I had decided even before this child ended her life to speak to the school about further mental health education at the start of the next school year. Being a huge advocate, I was curious last year when my daughter discussed health class what she was learning. She told me that other than stress and coping techniques, there wasn’t much. We had discussed her anxiety disorder at the beginning of last school year with her guidance counselor. He expressed to us that he would meet with Sophia once a month to check in with her. How many times did he meet with her?

… Zero!

That was when the anger in me started to boil. It was beginning to rapid boil, a pot about to overflow with lava hot water. I was furious. Not necessarily in the case of my daughter because she had a therapist and parents who could recognize her anxiety. But what about the next child? What if that child had no support system at home? What if their parent(s) didn’t believe mental illness is real? What if their guidance counselor was their only support? What then?

That child could have easily taken their own life because no one checked in with them.

We received an email from the school superintendent on behalf of her and the middle school principal regarding the recent suicide of this young girl the day after she took her life. At the end of the email it stated that we should not hesitate to contact either one of them.

I immediately wrote them both an email.

I told them my story about how I was diagnosed at 14 with major depressive disorder but probably had it earlier. I reiterated what Sophia told me about lack of mental health education and wanted to know what the schools were actually doing aside from the one 2-hour grief counseling session. I really didn’t think I would get a response. To my shock, the superintendent wrote me back that same day, a Sunday, saying she would like to discuss this further with me. After much back and forth, we agreed to meet one weekday morning. My daughter came with me.

Prior to the meeting, I was pretty angry with school system. This was solely based off of what happened with Sophia’s guidance counselor and the lack of mental health education in health class. But I went into the meeting with an open mind. I highly doubted the schools did nothing, but I wanted to know what resources, if anything, were available. I was shocked to learn that aside from the 3 guidance counselors (1 for each grade in the middle school) there was a school psychologist and a social worker just for the middle school. All the teachers were learned in mental health first aid. They were using a Tier system model:

  • Tier 1: Mental Health Awareness
  • Tier 2: School guidance counselors, teachers, staff, school psychologist and social worker are brought in to discuss a child’s welfare
  • Tier 3: Police and/or Mobile Crisis Intervention is called

I was glad that was all in play. Very important. Then I asked:

“But what about the kids? What are the kids learning? Do they know where they could go if they are suffering? What resources are available to them?”

Both the superintendent and middle school principal agreed that this was an area they were lacking in. They did teach about stress and feeling “off” in health class but did not come right out and name the conditions (Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar, etc.) which of course feeds the stigma. The principal did express that they were focusing this year on mental health awareness (last year was bullying). They wanted to know if I had any ideas.

Oh boy, did I!

I first told them the story of Sophia and her guidance counselor. Both seemed annoyed that the counselor did not check in with her and were going to make sure that didn’t happen again. They did express to Sophia that she should not feel like she is a burden and to come and see him (the principal) or her guidance counselor whenever she needed.

I said there should be some way to let the kids know that there is a suicide hotline and a crisis text line. They agreed.

I suggested having mental health first aid training for interested parents by supplying a place for it to be held.

I proposed having people who have been diagnosed come to speak to the schools via assembly. I had no shame, I will happily tell my story.

I asked that they let the parents know what resources were available as I, a parent advocating for youth mental health, had no idea. They agreed they would.

And then they hit me with something, a truth, but a big shock: Parents. How do we get more parents involved? After this young girl’s death to the time I met with them (about 2 weeks) I was the only parent to contact the superintendent. I was one of maybe 4 to contact the middle school principal. The dilemma is as simple as what the superintendent stated, “If it is not my kid, it’s not relevant to me.”

The superintendent suggested I sign up for the District Safe School Climate and Wellness Committee. This committee is comprised of parents, teachers, administrators, Board of Education members and even students. They meet about once a month during the school year. I quickly signed up. I am very excited about this and can’t wait for the first meeting.

At this point I was given homework. I am still trying to find answers to my homework. How do I get more parents involved?! How do I put the word out that their kids might be struggling and they might have no idea?! How do I get them to take suicide and mental health seriously when it is not “their kid”?!

And then, when all of the above is answered… how do I get these parents to interact with the schools in finding a cohesive mental health education program that can be used in school and at home for our kids?!

This child that ended her life… it shouldn’t have come to this point to create a year geared to mental health at the middle school. It shouldn’t have come to this point in asking parents to be more involved. This child should not have had to die for the rest of us to wake up. All this said, because of her, I will keep advocating for our children.

Rest in peace, sweet girl. May you not be in pain anymore.

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My New Family… The Barnes & Noble Book Event

I can’t lie, I have fantastic parents. They have grown so much in their views on mental illness. From telling me to keep my mouth shut to being proud about how open and honest I am with my suffering. I have a great husband, whom I chose. He is truly my best friend. He has seen the worst in me and the best and has always stood by me. My daughter is amazing, an old compassionate soul. A kind loving artistic creature and a huge support for me, her mom.

With their support, there has also been some great disappointment with other family members. Since I do not want to upset anyone, I am going to leave them alone and respect them for who they are even if they aren’t very supportive.

They say blood is thicker than water, but I do not believe that. There are plenty of people I know who are adopted or have been adopted and have terrific relationships with their adoptive families. There are many I know that chose friendships over their blood because their blood is just toxic.

I am lucky because I get to have a mix of both. Something a lot of people do not have.

I first ‘adopted’ my oldest and dearest friend ‘J’ as my younger sister. We met when she was 4 and I was 6. For the next few years we had many playdates that included dolls, dollhouses and Lego. Even though there were some years where we were apart, we rekindled our strong friendship and have since been in each other’s weddings and have supported each other with our children. I consider her 3 kids like my own, even though I haven’t met her youngest yet. We try to see each other every year although sometimes it goes longer. And you know what, we pick up conversation as if time hasn’t passed.

Recently, I am choosing to ‘adopt’ more siblings into my tight-knit family.

We all first met online. I know, creepy, right?! You never know who is really behind the online person. We were joined together by who we call our Supreme Leader… CEO and founder of both Stigma Fighters and our publishing company, Eliezer Tristan Publishing. I first met the Supreme Leader through Stigma Fighters as I am a frequent contributor… usually at least twice a year. We met in person at a reading in NYC at the NYU bookstore (wow, that is a lot of letters!) a few years back. What an amazing woman!. I totally love and admire her.

Well, she created this publishing company and was seeking authors who wanted to publish their books. Um, hi, hello, me! I jumped at the opportunity. And hence Rising From the Ashes, the book, was born on October 23, 2018. It is a collection of many of my blog posts here from its birth over 4 years ago until the summer of 2018.

Because of this book, I have met some great people. These people are my family now, including our Supreme Leader.

It all started one day a few months back with a text from the Supreme Leader, “Can you do a book signing in CT on May 17th?” Well, hell yeah I can! She proceeded to tell me that a few other local ETP (Eliezer Tristan Publishing) authors would be there as well. Awesome! I’ve read quite a few of their books and was ecstatic to meet them in person. Well, it got closer to the event, like May 13th closer, when the Supreme Leader didn’t know if she could make it. Usually flying standby, there were no available standby seats.

Panic commenced between the rest of us. We can’t do this without her! It was as if the sky was falling and we were Henny Penny. A group chat was started between us authors to try to raise money for our Supreme Leader and her 2 children, the Little Supremes, to get her here in CT for this event. This chat started out as the “I’m confused” chat because, frankly, we were all very very confused with the situation.

With some begging, a decent donation from myself, and pure luck, we were able to fly the Supreme Leader here. Sadly, one of our fellow authors remained back in Oregon to watch the Little Supremes. This author was my cover designer as well.

Well, in the mass confusion of whether or not our Supreme Leader would make it, Sarcastic Asshole (author of 100) was in a bit of a panic on where he was going to stay the evening of the 16th. Him and the Leader were supposed to be sharing an Airbnb. He was going to back out of coming. Well, I couldn’t have that… no Supreme Leader and no Sarcastic Asshole! No way. I invited Sarcastic Asshole to stay with me.

We had never physically met before. (Insert my mother panicking right now)

So after some mass confusion of which Union Station in CT he was coming into (Yes, we have more than one) and an Uber ride, Sarcastic Asshole landed on my doorstep. Honestly, it was like we were old friends. Conversation was easy with him. We were both very sarcastic people, and some of the oldies of the group of authors. He did think I was going to kill him though as he found my list of what not to do when committing a crime (expect that follow up blog post soon, see the first one here) and quickly took a swig from his bottle of Fireball. But all was well the next morning as we continued our sarcastic banter.

It was time to pick up Young Possum at the train station. After confirming which Union Station we were going to, Sarcastic Asshole and I popped in my car for what would be a fast trip up to Hartford… hahaha. Fast trip on a Friday?! No, CT believes that rush hour starts at 3pm on that day. It took some time but we made it there just in time as Young Possum exited the train station. Now Sarcastic Asshole, of course, started to be a sarcastic asshole with Young Possum but it was all in good fun.

We arrived in West Hartford and was quickly met by Lucky Rabbit’s Foot, her husband, best friend and the cutest toddler you have ever seen. Rabbit was the editor on my book. I admire her so much. What she has gone through and she always seems to have such a cheery positive disposition. Honestly, everyone from this event has gone through so much… so much that some of them shouldn’t physically be here. But that is their stories to tell.

Soon after, Corpse Bride and her mother arrived. I could tell she would fit in perfectly on the sarcasm meter.

But where was our Supreme Leader?!

As the event commencement time was approaching, again, all of us began to panic. What the heck were we going to do without her?! Our anxieties were quelled when she literally popped up in the room.

It’s funny though. If you had attended the event, you would never know that we all had met in person that night. Conversation flowed between us. We read from our books, clapped for each other and had a great panel discussion with the representative from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

I was saddened to see the night end. The drive back from West Hartford to my home was a depressed one for this depressive. I missed my new family greatly. None of us knew when another ETP event might happen. The thought of meeting these great people, brought together by mental illness, and not seeing or hearing from them for who knows how long overwhelmed me with sadness.

This sadness quickly dissipated as our private messaging has continued. I have totally ‘adopted’ all of them. They are not only friends. Each one of them… Supreme Leader, Sarcastic Asshole, Young Possum, Corpse Bride & Lucky Rabbit’s Foot, are now close family.

Totally looking forward to our next family event!

I believe it involves breaking things…


Note: I have used nicknames that we have given each other through our messaging and time together. If you would like to know, my given nickname is How To Get Away With Murder because of the above mentioned list and my true crime obsession. They can call themselves out, but I would like to keep their privacy if they do not want to.

And because I love them, I would like to promote their books (which kind of gives away their names):

100

In The Gray Area of Being Suicidal

Nobody

Stigma Fighters Anthology IV 

Untranslatable

Redeeming The Anti-Fairytale

And although my cover designer couldn’t be there, his book:

Cultural Savage: The Intersection of Christianity and Mental Illness

You will not be disappointed!

They Should’ve Warned Me… The PMAD Addition

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I recently read a blog post (written in 2015/revised in 2017) by Jenny Studenroth Gerson on the Huffpost which left me slightly angry and annoyed. Actually, ‘slightly’ is an understatement. I was pissed. In the post, They Should’ve Warned Me, Jenny explains that throughout her pregnancy, she was told to “sleep while you can”, “enjoy your husband now”, and “You’ll never have time to shower.”

Then she proceeds to explain how ‘they should’ve warned her’ about the immense love she would have the second her child was born. About how crying is happy thing. About how you would love your husband so much more. About how eating healthy would create enough milk to nourish your child. About how even being extremely exhausted, waking up in the middle of the night to take care of your child is so rewarding. About how the little cries and screams wouldn’t piss you off but make you feel like a rock star… and so on and so on.

As someone who suffered from two PMADs (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder), I was angry after reading this. First off, you do not need a ‘warning’ about loving your child. Everything she lists in this post are happy things (and frankly I can’t buy that all of them are true). Who needs a warning that you are going to cry at your child’s birth because you are happy?! Really?! With all this anger, I decided I needed to counteract this post with one of my own that deserves the word ‘warned’ in the title:

They Should’ve Warned Me: The PMAD Addition

12 years ago, I suffered. I suffered first from severe postpartum anxiety that slowly morphed into severe postpartum depression. This is what ‘they’, whoever ‘they’ are, should’ve warned me and, in turn, you about:

  • They should’ve warned me that my anxiety would start right after birth. That I would constantly worry if my daughter was getting enough colostrum. That I would have anxiety attacks in those first few hours in the hospital about why after 2-3 hours she wasn’t brought to me for a feeding.
  • They should’ve warned me that the anxiety would only grow as I had to identify the color of her poop. Is it green? Is it mustard in color? Is it brown?
  • They should’ve warned me that breastfeeding is hard work and sometimes it is not the right answer to feeding your child and that that is okay. Why is she falling asleep on my boob after 5 minutes? Is she eating enough? Oh God, what’s wrong with her?!
  • They should’ve warned me that although crying is normal, keep an eye on it, it could develop into something more than Baby Blues. I cried from day one. Sure it started out being 3-4 times a day but it slowly grew in excess of six times a day.
  • They should’ve warned me that sleep is important and to push for it. Yeah, I get it, you’re not going to sleep much when you have a newborn, but if you have a prior mental health condition (such as myself with depression) then those around you should know the importance sleep plays in your life and allow you to rest for a few hours.
  • They should’ve warned me that my anxiety would worsen that no matter what I tried to eat, it wouldn’t stay down. That vomiting would become my new way of life. That Ensure won’t cure it all and that the smell of chicken cooking would have me running to the bathroom.
  • They should’ve warned me about how my love for my infant would grow into hatred. That with each shriek, I would want to pull out my hair or bang my head against the wall.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would become hysterical enough to make plans to run away, that my husband and daughter would be better off without me. That the whole world would be better off without me.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would scare my family and friends with my hysterics.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would see myself as useless, unworthy and undeserving of love.
  • They should’ve warned me that all this would occur in the first month postpartum and would culminate into admitting myself into short-term psych.
  • They should’ve warned me I would have to be inpatient for 12 days.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would go through many therapy & psychiatry appointments after my stay.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would go through multiple medication changes that first year to find just the right combination.
  • They should’ve warned me that it would be a few months before I loved my child again.

And…

  • They should’ve warned me that it would be a year before I would smile for real.

PMADs deserve warnings. The things Jenny Studenroth Gerson mentions in her article do not. It took me to one year postpartum to feel like myself again. To fully embrace my daughter with infinite love. To know my life is the way it was meant to be. For some women it is longer. Although most women will not be affected by a PMAD, there is a high percentage that are. About 1 in 5 women will experience postpartum depression. That’s just one PMAD. Let’s not forget about postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, and postpartum psychosis. These are things to be warned about.

If I could tell Jenny Studenroth Gerson one thing it would be:

Research your definition of ‘warn’. Most women understand and have the immense love for their partner and child at birth. Most women will successfully breastfeed. Most women will cry tears of joy when their baby coos or cries. But you need to realize that over 20% of the postpartum population will not feel that. They will not see these items as warnings (and they didn’t, I took to my Warrior Mom community with this one). Some will find your article cruel, like if they didn’t feel what you did, they weren’t as loving as a mother as you are. And, if they read this while going through a PMAD, it would just make them feel worse. I understand you enjoyed your postpartum stage (and around 80% of mothers will) but please show compassion for the rest of us.

If you are someone you know is suffering from a PMAD (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder) resources can be found at the sites below:
The Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness
Postpartum Support International
2020 Mom
If you know a mother or are a mother considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at
1-800-273-8255
or text 741741

This Time is Different

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“I feel different.”

I wake up most days and this is the first thought that pops in my head. Since my depression has returned like a cyclone attacking a house this January, I have not felt like me. Most people with depression will understand this. I mean, I’ve been through this countless times before. Why is this time different? Why am I struggling so much? Why isn’t it over yet?

The last diagnosis I was given by my therapist happened about a year ago before depression became a guest in my head once again. He had told me when I asked that he considered me as having, “Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) with episodic major depressive disorder (MDD).” At the time I agreed. Even though I was content with life, I wasn’t ever fully happy. I had immense amounts of love for my husband, daughter, family & friends, but there was always something missing… small, tiny, minuscule as it was, it was a constant reminder that depression was still lurking in the back of my mind awaiting its next visit.

This was PDD. The constant low-level depression that I have lived with over the last few years once my MDD episode #6 was over.

And then January occurred. My husband broke down, broke a few cups by slamming the top rack of the dishwasher and cried. He expressed his anger toward me about everything that happened with my former foster son 4 years ago. The event that sent me into MDD episode #6. I listened. I felt compassion for him, empathy. And while he was shedding tears (which he had every right to) it suddenly hit me that I wasn’t.

Damn Lexapro! A drug I have been on since January 2014. A drug that has stabilized me. A drug that kept me sane. It stole something from me that did not bug me until then. It stole my expression of emotions. I honestly have not cried in 2 years and it has slowly gotten worse to where I can’t even express my compassion and empathy. I just look cold.

While my husband felt better by the next day, I did not. I felt worse. So much worse that I took up the art of cutting. Ashamed the first few times I did it after the act, it was a way for me to feel, for me to know I wasn’t an empty void, that I was human. If I cut and bled, that meant I was human.

Each month, the cutting has been less often. I thought I was done with it. Only 4 times in April, but May has proved me wrong. Because this time is different.

This depressive episode has not been classified by my therapist as “Major”. My psychiatrist is not sure she agrees or not with my therapist’s diagnosis. I would call it moderate to major, only throwing in the word “major” because of the cutting. But it is different. Very, very different.

It has become cyclical.

One week I will be so happy, almost euphoric, and the next I am down in a shit hole. It will be days of not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to eat, and not caring about anything. Then there will be days when I can function but that emptiness and funk is still there. Until one day, I wake up happy and elated. And the cycle repeats.

I had started to Google cyclical depression which led me to cyclothymia. I read the description and thought, “Hmm, this could be me, but maybe not.” My therapist did not agree with my self-given diagnosis because I did not show anything that was related to hypomania and I hadn’t had this cycling for over 2 years.

Yet, still, I complained about the cycling. I have no hope whatsoever that I will get better because every time I have a good week and get slightly hopeful, it is ruined by the bad week.

Through all this, I have consulted my psychiatrist. She put me on Wellbutrin along with my Lexapro to see if that would help with my emotions returning and wake me out of my intense brain fog and lack of concentration and motivation. I took it for 2 months and recently stopped with her blessing. It was not working. In fact the brain fog and concentration has gotten worse. I can’t think of the right words for objects. I switch words around when I speak sometimes. I’ve stood in front of cabinets wondering why I went over to them when I knew 2 seconds prior.

This Wednesday, I asked her, “What now?”

I had 2 options… go back on a anti-psychotic or try a mood stabilizer. After living with almost 2 years of constipation because of the anti-psychotic (Seroquel) I was on, I had no desire to relive that again. I opted for the mood stabilizer. Commonly used for those with biopolar disorder, I wondered why she suggested it. Then I asked her, “Do I have bipolar disorder?”

“No,” she said, “You have never exhibited anything related to mania or hypomania, but what you are explaining to me is cyclical, like bipolar disorder, so I think this will help to stabilize your moods.”

Last night, I took my first dosage of Lamictal (or the generic version). As with all the SSRIs I have been on (every one of them through the years) I will have to wait 4 – 8 weeks for it to fully kick in. This will be months 3 and 4 of my trial-and-error phase with medications. An issue I never had before.

All because I feel different. All because this time is different.

When a Nobody Becomes A Somebody

A Book Review of Nobody by Sarah Fader and Ari Fader-Van Luyn

Have you ever felt alone? Different? Invisible?

I have most of my life. I knew from a young age that I wasn’t like other kids. I could not pinpoint what made me different with the exception to my extreme pessimism. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at 14 that I became aware of why I was different. Because of this diagnosis and the fact that this was the mid-1990s, I was told by my parents to never bring it up. At the time they didn’t know any better since the stigma surrounding mental illness was so much worse than it is today. This just isolated me more. Aside from feeling different, I felt alone. I thought I was alone with my suffering, that no one else felt like I did.

Through the years, I have gone back and forth with depression and now anxiety to a point that I will not hide anymore. It is just too hard to keep it all in. I said screw it to the stigma and have become a huge advocate (and activist) for mental health. I had to, especially when my own child was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at age 6 that was present for two years prior.

She felt alone and scared. She didn’t understand what was going on. She was a Nobody.

What is a Nobody? This is a Nobody:

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And that is Nobody’s dog, Nobody. And they live Nowhere.

This is a children’s picture book written by Sarah Fader (Founder of Stigma Fighters and Eliezer Tristan Publishing) and her young preteen son, Ari. Like my daughter, Ari feels like a Nobody because of the struggles he has been through. Both have felt very “ERRRRGH” and have the need to not feel like a Nobody anymore.

How I wish this book was around when my daughter was diagnosed. It would have let her know that although she is different, she is not invisible and alone. She is not a Nobody. She is a Somebody.

Somebody, that is a human child that finds the Nobodys and tells them that they are important too. That they are seen. That makes the Nobodys feel special. That makes the Nobodys feel like Somebodys. I would love to tell you how it ends, but that would give away the whole story.

This is a great book to read to your young child that feels different, that feels like they do not fit in. It lets them know they are not alone and that there is always a Somebody out there for them.

Nobody is beautifully illustrated by Shari J. Ryan.

Okay, So Where Can I Find Nobody?

You can find Nobody by Sarah Fader and Ari Fader-Van Luyn at:

Eliezer Tristan Publishing: Nobody

Amazon: Nobody