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!

When You Dream About Tornadoes…

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The F3 tornado that hit the University of Maryland College Park Campus, September 2001.

I have lived through 1 tornado in my life and frankly, it was 1 too many. It was senior year of college, September 2001, and I was sitting in class during Architectural Studio, when all I heard was continuous thunder. The booming never stopped. Crack, boom, rumble. Then the papers started flying off the walls. We couldn’t see a thing due to the room only having these slit windows in alcoves, but we were aware of how dark it got outside. Eventually, a professor ran into our room and said we couldn’t go anywhere, there was a tornado. We all just stared at her in shock.

A tornado hitting Maryland?! Kind of bizarre. You would think Kansas or another of the plains states, but Maryland?! This University of Maryland tornado (story here) registered as an F3, with winds as high as 206mph, and killed 2 sisters traveling home. It flipped their car over one of the high-rise dorm buildings. One sister was set to graduate in January, the other was a sophomore. While I, fortunately, was unscathed, many others weren’t. My husband (fiancee at the time) was displaced from his apartment and had to live in a hotel for awhile. Many were injured. Buildings were destroyed and the landscape unrecognizable.

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The aftermath. I lived in that high-rise dorm in the back for my first 2 years at college.

But we persevered.

Now, it was no tornado like that in the Wizard of Oz. It didn’t lift up the building and drop us in a fantasy world filled with flying monkeys, witches, and little people. But, it did scare us all. Not long after…

… the dreams started.

When they first began, they were terrifying. Similar to the double cyclone scene in the 1996 movie Twister starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. They occurred a couple times a week. I was always caught in them, trying to hold on for dear life. Some of the dreams had up to 6 tornadoes spinning in my vision at one time. I screamed, I cried. It was horrible.

After a few years, they diminished in occurrence. The dreams became a bi-yearly event and then one day they were gone. Afterall, the Maryland tornado happened over 17 years ago. I thought I was free of them, that my PTSD-inducing dreams were gone.

Sadly, I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream. My husband, daughter and I were on vacation in North Carolina. We were staying at a hotel. We checked in, received our room keys and ventured to our room. I should have known something was amiss when upon entering our room there was no ceiling over the beds, just open sky. It was actually beautiful in the beginning, laying in the beds at night and staring up at the stars. One day it changed though. Thunderstorms began to roll in. Oddly enough, there was no rain, but hey, it is a dream. I suddenly recognized that never ending roar.

I panicked and ran to the front desk and cried that there was a tornado coming. The people behind the desk laughed, “Silly woman, it’s just one of our typical North Carolina storms.” I sprinted back to our room and eyed 2 funnel clouds in the distance… typical storm my ass, I thought. We were totally fucked. As I entered our room I could see the clouds swirling overhead because remember, there was no ceiling. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was palpitating. This was it, this was how my triangle family was going to die. I could see the headlines now:
“Vacationing Family Gets Swept Up by Mammoth Cyclone and Perishes”

What were we going to do?! I wasn’t ready to die and definitely not by a tornado! In the distance I could hear my daughter crying and rightly catastrophizing the situation. My husband was pulling her into the bathroom. He then grabbed my arm and…

My alarm clock went off.

Shit, another terrifying tornado dream.

Of course since I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, I began to get a bit anxious about what this all meant. Was this foreshadowing another tornado in my life? Was it a metaphor for something else? Googling the word ‘tornado’ within the dream realm, I found out the following:

  • Tornadoes: symbolize a destructive situation in your life. It could be loss of control over your life or your behavior becoming destructive. In addition, tornadoes mean that you may feel overwhelmed and disappointed. (Dreamingandsleeping.com)
  • Multiple Tornadoes: Indicates a strong change in life. (Dreamatico.com)
  • Surviving a Tornado: You’re going to have an advancement in your life. (Dreamatico.com)
  • Chasing a Tornado: someone in your life is displaying power over you. (Dreamatico.com)
  • Being Caught in a Tornado: someone is controlling you and you’re letting that happen. (Dreamatico.com)

This latest dream had me seeing multiple tornadoes and being caught in them. I wasn’t exactly swirling within them but I was stuck with no where to go. I have no idea if I survived because I woke up. If I analyze it then there is something or someone affecting my life in a bad way and I am letting it happen. Hmmm… can’t really think of anything or anyone that falls into that category. Oh, and I am overwhelmed (uh, duh!).

Dreams are bizarre though. There are those reoccurring ones, such as the dream about missing a college class all year and freaking out when you realize it is time for the final. There are random ones that you can distinctly know the meaning of because it related to something you did the day before. Then there are the instinctive ones that let us know what may happen in the future. What these tornado ones mean for me, who knows!

What do you dream about?

Are You A Mom?

If you’re reading this, you probably answered yes to the above question. I mean who out there reads blogs more than us mothers? Am I right? This came up in a hilarious book I just read titled Nobody F#&@ing Told Me: “Mess”ays from Motherhood by Sammie Prescott. Sammie is a mother to 2 young boys, Tater and Tot, and married to her hunky husband, ‘Squatch. In this book you learn a lot about what it is like to be a mother to young children. Even though my daughter is 12 now, I was nodding my head and laughing in agreement through almost the whole book.

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My little munchkin around Tater’s age… man how time flies!

I can relate to Sammie in many ways. We both suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of our children and we both found solace in writing about it. As Sammie says,”Everything I wrote started as a way to make me sane again.” That is how I feel about my blog. This book was a way for her to process her emotions and find a little humor in them.

I found her essay about play dating on par. It is very similar to dating. I remember asking myself the same questions… will I like this parent? Is their child a nightmare? Will they think I am completely weird and run away? It causes so much anxiety that frankly it is so much easier for our children than us.

The one story that really cracked me up was “Humbled: A Weiner Story”. That one you will just have to read for yourself.

But she gets serious too. I completely sympathized as she spoke about how a sick child is like a “passionate Yoga class” because it is a mind, body and soul experience. All you want is to take the sickies away while trying really hard not to vomit as you are cleaning your children’s vomit. Calling first-time motherhood a lonely experience really hit home for me as well. In the beginning you are only with your child. There is a lack of adult conversation. It definitely fed my postpartum depression. And then there are the Mom impostors, when everything in their lives seem so perfect and you wonder what is wrong with you.

Aside from the above, another reason I highly recommend this book is it’s chapter length. These are essays that are roughly 2 – 5 pages. It is easy to pick up and read one when you have 5 minutes to yourself (you know, in the bathroom). It is just the right amount to read when you are waiting for a doctor’s appointment or your child’s school bus. And I guarantee, you will laugh.

My advice for Sammie, since I am past the young child stage:

  • They do eventually wipe their own tooshies. My husband and I threw a party when Sophia could wipe her own ass. I believe she was 5 or 6. It’s coming.
  • You and I are kindred spirits. I, too, wanted to run away after Sophia’s birth. I had everything planned except for a location. All I needed was for someone to tell me I was not alone. That statement is so powerful.
  • Toddlers are rough. That is the worst age so far. You are right. The eye rolling, smart ass sayings, pushing their limits. Ugh. Three was the roughest age. I loved the line you quoted, “Like serial killers, toddlers lack empathy (Bumni Laditian)”. That appealed to my love of true crime as well. It does get better. For me, with a girl, I am told it will get worse as a teenager.
  • Last tidbit of advice, which I think you know… you are the best mom for your children and you are doing an excellent job. You’re right, motherhood sucks sometimes and more of us mothers should speak up about how shitty it can be.

Honestly, if you have spare time, read this book. It will let you know you are not alone and doing a great job while making you laugh. Keep it up.

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Now, my baby is a preteen and she’s taller than me. But, I am doing a great job at being her mom!

Sammie’s book can be found at Amazon in both Kindle & Paper back here.

Cost is not high as the ebook is only $3.99. If you like to hold real books in your hand (like I do), the paperback is only $14.99.

 

*Disclaimer: This post is sponsored content by Eliezer Tristan Publishing

Weight Is Just A Number

“I’ve gained weight.”

 

A statement that is uttered internally by almost every woman at some point in their lives and most likely more than once.  ‘Weight’… we are so focused on that one word which essentially, as my geeky husband who studied physics and astronomy in college would say, is our gravitational pull to the Earth’s core.  Fairly interesting when you realize how heavy you are on Jupiter (for me 321 lbs) and how light you are on Pluto (8.5 lbs).  Now if I thought my weight on Jupiter was huge, using the site https://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/ I can see that my weight on Earth is nothing compared to my weight on a Neutron Star (17780000000000 lbs).

 

Enough about the solar system.  My goal here is to shatter the high standards we as women place on ourselves when it comes to how much we weigh.  I have covered Body Shaming prior to this, but I believe there needs to be more as even since that post, I haven’t stopped shaming myself 100% until a few months ago.

 

I have spent my life so focused on the number that the scale would spit up at me.  I dwelled on it.  I would see my ‘thunder thighs’ and cry.  I yo-yo dieted in college, eating crap during the semester and then following Weight Watchers during summer break.  Up 10lbs, down 10lbs. Up 15lbs, down 15lbs. Up 15lbs… uh oh!  By the time I got married, I was heavy but would not admit it until at age 25, when my resting blood pressure was 150/90 and my cholesterol was elevated.  Now I had to pay attention.  Still focused on that stupid number on the scale, I dove right in to following Weight Watchers day and night.  And it worked.  The number on the scale went down.  At one point, even after having my daughter, I was down to 112lbs.  I thought I would finally be happy with my figure.

 

But I wasn’t.

 

It wasn’t until I hit my mid to late thirties where I said to myself, “Steph, is it really the weight?  Is it really the number on the scale?!”  At first, due to my latest episode of Depression I was suffering from (where I dropped to 104lbs and then proceeded to gain way more back), I answered with a “Hell yes!”  It was hard to do anything during this time.  I had no motivation.  Exercise, ha! That was never going to happen.  Food, if I thought something would make me happy, I ate it.  This went on for 2 years.

 

And then I had had enough.

 

Nothing I was doing was making me feel better.  I sat back and really thought about when I was happy, when I felt… strong.  Whoa, where did that word come from?!  Strong?!  Ah, Stephanie, now you are on to something.  Maybe instead of focusing on my weight so much, I should focus on my strength.  I had mostly accomplished this with working on my mental and emotional strength in therapy, now was the time to remedy my physical strength.

 

I stopped aiming for my previous weight of 115 lbs. and started to focus on what I could do to be healthy and get strong.  I wanted to teach my daughter that weight was just a number.  I watched what I was eating and joined a gym.  My first personal trainer listened to my goals but chose to ignore the ‘lose weight’ aspect.  He heard ‘strong’ and went with it.  I started barbell squatting, sumo squatting and front squatting.  I was doing bicep curls, tricep kick-backs and chest presses.  I was beginning to feel strong again.

 

The number on the scale didn’t budge. And then my trainer up and fell of the face of the planet (really no one has heard from him in over 6 months).  What was I going to do?  I continued with this circuit but knew I was slacking in eating healthy.

 

Then the gym offered a program guided by a different personal trainer.  I was skeptical at first but knew my focus was on strength.  No way was I going to ‘Lose Big’ (as the program is titled).  This trainer provided us with nutrition basics, info on Macros, insightful tips and, frankly, kick-ass workouts!  After the 10 weeks were over, I had lost only 3lbs, but other things occurred.  I dropped several inches and lowered my body fat percentage.  This was working.  When this trainer decided to run this program again, I said “Sign me up!”

 

And… I haven’t lost any weight so far.  I am 127lbs at my 5’-0 ¾” stature.  I am a bit proud of this.  Why?!  Because my smaller clothes fit.  Because this means I am building muscle. And because my body fat percentage is in the Fitness Level.  I can now barbell squat over 150lbs and feel energized.  I sleep better.  My mental health is better.  I feel stronger.

 

And to me, strength equals happiness, not some stupid number on the scale.

You Don’t Have PTSD, You’re Not In The Military: Redefining Our View Of PTSD

My husband told me a story the other day from work.  He forewarned me that I may be a little upset by it.  Uh-oh.  I was a bit worried but once he mentioned the words “Mental Illness” I instantly knew why I would be angered.

“Who said something stupid now?” I asked him expecting some noneducational comment about Mental Illness not being real.

It wasn’t a who this time, but someone’s calendar that offended him.  A calendar?!  Odd, but I had him proceed.  The calendar was created and distributed by the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars).  It was in a coworkers cubicle.  Okay, nothing wrong displaying a calendar from the VFW.  I fully support our Veterans.  My father is a Veteran.  How can a calendar from the VFW anger me?!

He went on to explain that the calendar had pointed out that that particular day was PTSD Awareness Day.  I looked at him oddly, “Okay, and?  Not seeing the offensive part…”

“It wasn’t just PTSD Awareness Day, it was Veteran’s PTSD Awareness Day.  I don’t know, it just made me feel like they only think those in the military get PTSD.”

I thought on this a moment.  I actually viewed it as the opposite.  The VFW created a whole separate day dedicated to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans.  This is big to me.  Actually acknowledging that the illness exists is huge.  A ginormous step in eradicating the stigma behind PTSD.  I relayed my thoughts to my husband.  He understood but still felt that it ignored the many people who suffered from PTSD and were not in the military.

This I understood.  When someone mentions PTSD, most people will instantly think of someone in the military and mainly a male who was in war.  I did this for the longest time until these four letters were labeled to me.  I have never served (many thank yous to those who have).  The closest I have gotten to the military is wearing my father’s dog tags as a teen because that was in style.  So, how did I, a full time working mom develop PTSD?

Trauma.

Trauma is defined as “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience” on dictionary.com   The definition does not limit it to one group of people.  Trauma can impact anyone at any moment.  One can experience trauma from war, trauma from abuse, trauma from rape, trauma from birth, or like mine, trauma from loss.  I cannot say my trauma was as horrible as those that have seen war, but it still deeply affected me and those around me.  To have an experience that distresses you to complete exhaustion and removes you from reality is serious and can affect anyone.

The ‘T’ of the acronym should be highlighted for all to understand.  While the military makes up a large percentage of those diagnosed with PTSD, there are many people with this diagnosis that have never served.  My trauma came in the quick (extremely quick) time frame of fostering-to-adopt, falling in love with this child, and then losing this child because of my Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  What resulted in these less than 3 months was a depleted being who had lost a ton of weight and frankly, her mind.  After my former foster son went away, I fell into the deepest (and darkest) episode of Major Depressive Disorder of my life thus far.  I grieved.  I grieved for him, I grieved for myself.  For fear that I would hurt myself, because honestly I was worried to be alone with myself, I became inpatient at the local hospital.  After being discharged a whole 5 days later, my PTSD symptoms started.

Everything triggered me.  Driving to my psychiatrist was the worst.  I would pass the Department of Children and Families and start sobbing and having flashbacks.  Then I would pass the hospital and cry more.  It didn’t end there.  Once I arrived at my psychiatrist the tears continued to flow.  Songs made me cry and have more flashbacks.  I couldn’t listen to Adele’s Hello or Ed Sheeren’s Photograph for months.  I would find things at home that were Tyler’s and left behind and once again I was thrown back in time.  Trigger after trigger.  It was an endless game.

But the flashbacks were not my only symptom.  Because of them, I tried to avoid anything that would trigger me.  This led to alternate routes to my psychiatrist which just caused me to be late and feel more shame.  I would try to hide in my bedroom or in my cubicle.  I became isolated, not wanting to be around anyone.  I couldn’t concentrate and had insomnia.

Eventually both my psychiatrist and my therapist at the time gave me a PTSD diagnosis, but a mild one.  It took a new form of therapy (God Bless EMDR), a new therapist and time (over 2 years) and I no longer have this diagnosis.

 

 

 

Thank You!

Call it part of a Depressive’s “12-Step” Program, but I feel the need to say thank you to the people in my life that have contributed to my better health and wellness.  Considering the decades that I’ve struggled, this list can become rather lengthy but I will narrow it down to my latest and greatest (note sarcasm) episode of Major Depressive Disorder.  Some people listed may shock you, but all have helped in bringing the strength trifecta back to me.  I now feel strong.

Thank You To:

My Parents:  You have never given up on me.  Although we all struggled to understand exactly what was going on with me in my teenage years, you never pushed my thoughts and feelings aside.  You never told me to “suck it up”.  You never told me to “just get over it”.  From the beginning you both have sought out ways to get me help starting with group therapy, to Cognitive Behavior Therapy and even medication.  You helped when I was a few states away in college.  You both have cried with me, constantly worried about me but never ever left my side.  I am extremely thankful to have you two as parents as many others do not have such caring and understanding parents in their lives.

My Husband: Oh, what we have been through… first and foremost, thank you for never taking me up on my offer to leave me.  I must of told you dozens of times to go, take Sophia and run.  But you didn’t.  You stayed and took our wedding vows seriously.  You loved me when I was “crazy”.  You sacrificed so much when I was hospitalized.  You never gave up on me.  Although now you are unsure of what to say or do when my illnesses make themselves present, I know you care.  As Bon Jovi said, “Thank you for loving me”.

My Sophia, my baby girl:  How did I get so lucky?!  You are the light in my darkness.  So compassionate, kind and empathetic.  You have never made me feel guilty or unloved by you.  You worry about me to extents you shouldn’t but I appreciate it.  You are always there for a big hug.  Thank you for being  you.

My Therapist:  Hmm… I don’t think I would be here without you.  I came to you in the darkest moments of my life.  Lost and completely hopeless that I would ever recover this time.  CBT therapy wasn’t working this time.  I needed something more.  It was fate that all I did was Google EMDR Therapists and narrow it down to who was more convenient in location.  It just so happens that the most convenient turned out to be my saving grace.  I had huge doubts that EMDR would work.  Highly emotionally draining in the beginning, you helped me to reprocess the loss of Tyler and in turn, the loss of Sophia’s infancy, my Postpartum, loss of more children and even the loss of my former self.  Thank you!

My Friends: From visiting me in the hospital to checking in on my through social media and texts, I am grateful for each and every one of you.

My Gym:  Again, another choice of convenience to work and home, the gym has been a wonderful addition to helping me get strength in all areas of life.  Aside from building up my physical strength (I can barbell squat 135lbs currently!), all the trainers, instructors and the owner have made me feel welcome, like I belong.  I am not just a number lost among many.  It is a close knit family that I am thankful to be a part of.  Thank you!

My Medications:  Although the stubborn weight gain and selective side effects are an annoying pain in my ass, I am completely grateful that they exist.  I used to hate taking these tiny pills to feel ‘normal’ but now I am thankful they help me to feel like myself.  We have a strong bond that will never be broken.

And lastly…

Myself:  I think this was the hardest person to thank.  I spent years hating myself, years internally abusing myself.  I didn’t matter.  I didn’t deserve love.  At points in my life, I thought I didn’t deserve to live.  I have come a long way.  Battling Depression and Anxiety both physically and mentally, sometimes draining myself into complete despair…  I’ve finally learned acceptance and because of this have become kinder to all aspects of myself.  I am now happier and understand I cannot change the past.  I am starting to live in the present, enjoying the little things in life… my daughter’s smile, a chirping bird, pretty flowers.  I want to live.  I want to see what the future brings.  Thank you Stephanie, for learning to live.  You are truly an amazing strong being!

 

Living With Someone Who Is Mentally Ill: Interview with My Daughter

My daughter has seen it all. From her oceanic blue eyes in her cherub baby face to now, almost 12 years later. She is a remarkable child who has not only witnessed her mother’s hysterics (& panic attacks, drastic weight loss and days of not getting out of bed) but also her own diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. My daughter, given the name Sophia Faye at birth, is the epitome of the meaning… “Wise Fairy”. Sophia is an old soul and understands so much for such a young person. Many words can be used to describe her but at the top of the list are definitely compassionate, empathetic, caring and loving. There are days I may miss her little toddling body and cheeky grins but I love watching her blossom into the amazing young lady she is today.

When I decided to do this interview series, I knew I had to interview her. I have not hid much from her. In fact 3 years ago I was so foregone I couldn’t. She learned about suicide at the tender age of 8 and questioned me often about it. She knows I grew to hate her as a newborn. I’ve always explained things to her in an age appropriate manner and often worried about her reactions but she has always listened, digested and never ever judged. I am amazed by her and couldn’t of asked for a better child.

Sophia’s Interview

Lounging in her preteen abode full of textured pillows and dozens of Stitch stuffed animals early in the evening, we both relaxed on her bed. There were many giggles beforehand as she pictured this interview as a video recording and not just a vocal recording. She was a little nervous, as was I, and we both tend to laugh a lot when we are nervous:

Me: How did you feel when I told you I grew to hate you when you were a baby?

Sophia: Fine.

Me: How come you were okay with it?

Sophia: Because I knew you didn’t mean it.

Concerning 3 years ago

Me: What did you feel and think when I left the house 3 years ago to stay with Bubbe & Grandpa (my parents) because Tyler (former foster son) was triggering me?

Sophia: I don’t remember that.

Me: It was only 3 years ago!

Sophia: Didn’t I come with you?

Me: You did.

Sophia: It was when he left?

Me: Yes.

Sophia: Oh, I mean, I was… I didn’t even notice anything was wrong with you. Like, I… I don’t really know. I felt fine because I didn’t know you were triggered.

Me: I left the house because I couldn’t stay there.

Sophia: But wasn’t I there too?

Me: I don’t think you came the first night.

Sophia: Oh. I don’t remember. I’m getting old!

Me (after rolling my eyes at that last statement): How did you feel when I admitted myself into the hospital?

Sophia: Scared.

Me: Did you know why I was there?

Sophia: No, I’m not sure. No.

Me: What did you think when you couldn’t visit me in the hospital and had to stay in the cafeteria with Grandpa?

Sophia: I wasn’t happy about it. I mean, I wanted to see you.

Me: You weren’t allowed to see me because they were worried about what the other people might say to you, what you might see.

Sophia: Oh, okay.

Me: Were you scared when I was released from the hospital?

Sophia: No, because I was happy you were going to leave and come home.

Me: You’ve been protecting me since the hospital stay. How come?

Sophia: Because I don’t want you to go back to the hospital.

GAD, PPD, Depression, & Suicide

Me: Do you blame me for your Generalized Anxiety Disorder and it is okay if you do?

Sophia: No.

Me: Do you blame anyone for it?

Sophia: No. Why would I?

Me: Do you wish you were ‘normal’?

Sophia: Sometimes.

Me: If you didn’t worry about the things you worry about?

Sophia: Sometimes, because sometimes it is good to worry.

Me: Do you fear you’ll have Postpartum Depression and Anxiety because I had it?

Sophia: Sometimes.

Me: Do you worry or fear you’ll have a Depressive Disorder because I have one?

Sophia: I don’t usually think about it. I guess, but that is only when I think about it.

Me: Do you know when I was first diagnosed (with Depression)?

Sophia: You were 14.

Me: And how old are you?

Sophia: I am 11.

Me: So you are close to that age.

Sophia: Yeah.

Me: That’s why I watch you a lot.

Sophia: That’s not creepy.

Me: Not in that sense Sophia. I’m not stalking you… Are you worried I will commit suicide?

Sophia: Very much.

Me: How come?

Sophia: You told me how you took that can cutter thing (a case cutter) and almost cut your hand off (almost slit my wrist).

Me: I was 18 then.

Sophia: So?

Me: That was 20 years ago.

Sophia: You also said that if you go off of medicine you’re probably going to want to commit suicide the next time you have an episode (of Major Depressive Disorder).

Me: Are you worried I will hurt myself?

Sophia: Yeah.

Me: Do you think there will be a next time?

Sophia: Yes, just because of events that can happen in the future.

Me: Like what?

Sophia: Like Bubbe & Grandpa dying or like the kitties dying and stuff.

Me: Do you think because of what I have been through that I am too overprotective with you about Mental Illness?

Sophia: Sometimes. There is no reason you should be.

Me: Do you understand why I am?

Sophia: Yeah. Because you don’t want me to get Depression and stuff.

Stigma & Advocacy

Me: What have I told you about stigma?

Sophia: What does stigma mean again?

Me: Hard to define but how people think the Mentally Ill are a danger to our society, that you should be hush-hush about it because people may not hire you, people may not want to be your friend, people don’t believe it is real.

Sophia: You’ve told me.

Me: And what do you think about that?

Sophia: I mean if that’s what they think, that’s what they think.

Me: Because you know that one of your grandparents thinks that way.

Sophia: Well, yeah, but…

Me: How do you feel knowing that you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and you have a grandparent that doesn’t believe it exists?

Sophia: Well, that’s what he can think.

Me: Do you understand why I advocate for this?

Sophia: What does that mean, advocate?

Me: Why I share my story. Why I try to teach others.

Sophia: Yes.

Me: Do you see yourself doing that?

Sophia: I don’t know.

Thoughts on Me, Her Mom

Me: Do you think I am a bad mother?

Sophia: No. Not at all. Why would I think you were?

Me: Do you ever wish you had a mother that wasn’t like this?

Sophia: No.

Me: Did you ever think I was a bad mother?

Sophia: No.

Me: How do you characterize your mother?

Sophia: Worried, anxious, fun, caring, loving, sometimes depressed.

Me: Do you always related Mental Illness stuff to your mom?

Sophia: Like different things other than Postpartum?

Me: Well I have had Depression since I was 14. There have been others thrown in there.

Sophia: When I think of Depression I don’t think of you as ‘Oh, she’s depressed’, I think ‘she is still alive and she is strong’.

Me: You see me as strong and a fighter?

Sophia: Yeah.

Me: What traits do you hope you get from me or do you see you already have gotten?

Sophia: I want to get your determination and your strength and sometimes your empathy because a lot of times empathy is good and I want your mental strength.

Me: Any last comments on me, your mother?

Sophia: I love her.

Me: Would you want any other mother besides me?

Sophia: No.

Me: How much do you love me?

Sophia: To infinity and beyond!

I am truly grateful for this kid!

Living With Someone Who Is Mentally Ill: Interview with My Husband

I was approached by a friend of mine who offered up the suggestion on doing an interview series with family members on what their thoughts and feelings were concerning my Mental Illnesses.  I have to admit, I had been toying with this idea for a long time and at this request, felt it was the time to actually commit to the series.

Since it is May and Mental Health Awareness Month, I knew that I wanted to publish these now.  As much as we (those of us diagnosed) feel and think about when we are deep in the depths of Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc., what do those close to us feel?  Do they feel as hopeless? Do they feel frustrated with us? Are they so angry they are wondering why they are with us?

I interviewed my husband this past weekend (my daughter and parents interviews will follow).  This is a man who has been with me for almost 22 years, since we were teenagers.  He has witnessed 5 out of my 6 episodes of Major Depressive Disorder.  He has been through my hospitalizations, my self-loathing, my hysterical thoughts.  And he stays.  A lot of what I asked him, I knew the answers to (I mean, hey, we’ve been together for over 2 decades!), but he did shock me with a few.

I present below my interview with my loving husband, Jimmy.

The Interview

Picture it, Master Bedroom, a late Saturday afternoon in May in New England.  I greet my husband and thank him for participating.  He nods.  He is not a wordy person which is shocking by some of his answers:

S. Paige:  What were your 1st thoughts and feelings after witnessing my episode of MDD in college where I slammed doors and pushed you out?

Jimmy:  I felt I had done something wrong to make you feel, like, the way you were feeling.

S. Paige:  Were you angry? Were you upset?

Jimmy: Defeated.

S. Paige:  What made you call my parents then?

Jimmy: I don’t remember doing that.  (He did in fact call my parents and filled them in on what was going on with me.  I received a phone call from my therapist that evening and then the campus psychologist the next day.)

Episode 4: Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

S. Paige: Okay, let’s go to something more recent. What did you think and feel when you got the phone call that I was at the hospital after Sophia was born (for severe postpartum depression & anxiety)?

Jimmy: … I don’t know.  I didn’t know what to think or feel.  I didn’t feel.

S. Paige: Were you worried? Were you wondering what the heck was wrong?

Jimmy: No.  I just thought that is what happened (after childbirth).  You had a hormone crash.  You had baby blues.  I didn’t realize you weren’t sleeping well.  I didn’t realize it was a thing.

S. Paige:  Did you realize I was vomiting all the time?

Jimmy:  No, I knew you were taking Ensure.

S. Paige:  Were you and I living in the same house at that time?!  You went to therapy with me.  You went to the psychiatrist with me.  You weren’t concerned at all?

Jimmy:  I don’t recall going to the therapist.

S. Paige:  This is proving to be a really valuable interview (sarcasm)

Jimmy:  I blocked these bad memories out.

S. Paige:  How were those 12 days when I was in short-term psych (I admitted myself exactly 1 month after our daughter was born)?

Jimmy:  Non stop.  I didn’t have time for, like, myself.  I was always visiting you or taking care of Sophia or with your parents or at work.  I had no time for me.

S. Paige:  Did that strain you?

Jimmy:  I’ll never eat at a KFC ever again.

S. Paige: (perplexed) Why? What does KFC have to do with this?

Jimmy:  Because that is where I would eat from the train station on the way to the hospital.  The KFC on North Street.  And I just can’t eat at a KFC ever again because I link the two together.

S. Paige: So it is a trigger?

Jimmy:  Yes.

S. Paige:  How were you able to continue with that schedule?

Jimmy:  Because I knew it would end eventually.  There was light at the end of the tunnel.  I know you didn’t see the light, but I could.

S. Paige:  I feel guilty for that (putting him in this position).  Do you know that?

Jimmy:  It’s what I am here for.  I’m the husband.

Episode 6: My 2nd Hospitalization / A Next Time?

S. Paige:  How did you feel when I went back to the hospital?

Jimmy:  I had gotten used to it.  It’s just like a part of you.  Every decade or so, you’re going to have to spend a couple of weeks in the hospital.  I don’t know.  I’ve just accepted it.

S. Paige:  Are you okay with that?

Jimmy:  Okay-ish.  I would rather you not have to do that.  But, it is part of who you are.  That every time some major event occurs in your life and for whatever reason you can’t adjust to the change it is always a possibility that you could end up in the hospital for a week or two.

S. Paige:  Do you worry about a next time?

Jimmy:  No.

S. Paige:  Do you think there will be a next time?

Jimmy:  Probably.

S. Paige:  Do you ever fear I won’t recover?

Jimmy:  Depends on your definition of recover.  So like hopped up on mega does of anti-psychotics for your life type never recover?

S. Paige:  Yes.

Jimmy:  Yeah, that’s a concern.

S. Paige:  What would you do?

Jimmy:  I don’t know.  I don’t want to think about it.

S. Paige:  Do you fear I will take my own life?

Jimmy:  No.

S. Paige:  How are you so sure?

Jimmy:  I… don’t know.  I’m not so sure, but I am pretty sure.

Stigma

S. Paige:  How did you feel about having your wife in the psych ward?  Did that seem normal to you?  Seem weird?  Did stigma play into it?

Jimmy:  No.  Because… its… its… maybe for the people of the older generation than us.  I might not tell them directly that my wife is a ‘nut job’ and she’s spent time in the psych ward but people our generation and younger are much more accepting of medication and therapy and needing inpatient stuff but I might not be as open to the older generation.

S. Paige:  Taking the older generation into account, how do you feel when your father says…

Jimmy: (cut me off) He’s an idiot.

S. Paige:  I didn’t even get the question out.

Jimmy:  It doesn’t matter.  But he’s my father and its not like I can say anything bad to him because he’s a Catholic father and because you haven’t grown up in a Catholic family you don’t know.

S. Paige:  No, I don’t know.  But you have a wife and daughter with Mental Illness diagnoses’.

Jimmy:  I’m not going to change him so I just accept the fact that he’s and idiot and ignore him as best as I can.

Our Daughter, Sophia

S. Paige:  As a parent, do you worry that she’ll be like me?

Jimmy:  I worry she is going to be like me.

S. Paige:  Why, what’s wrong with you?

Jimmy:  I’m an antisocial, geeky, anxiety riddled ‘nutto’.

S. Paige:  You do not have a disorder.  You have moments of anxiety.  She has one already.  With teenage years and hormones do you worry she’ll follow in my footsteps?

Jimmy:  No, you’re still alive and you’re 38.  She’ll make it through.  It’s part of who you are, it is part of who she is.  I wouldn’t want to change either of you two.

S. Paige:  Do you think because of what I went through, we’re better equipped to deal with Sophia if she does fall victim to depression?  I know we have definitely done better dealing with her anxiety.

Jimmy:  I just hope we’re not biased.

S. Paige: That concerns me.

Jimmy:  I mean you’re super biased towards never going on medication.

(FYI, I am medicated and fine with it)

S. Paige:  It’s not that I’m biased, it’s just…

Jimmy:  … like it’s a sign you’re headed down that slope.

S. Paige:  Yeah.

Jimmy:  And I’m just like yeah, whatever, if it makes the slope less steep than who cares?!

Changing Me

S. Paige:  Did you ever just want to ‘slap’ the anxiety and depression out of me?

Jimmy:  No.

S. Paige:  Do you wish I didn’t have either one?

Jimmy:  Interesting question.  It’s hard to answer.  Because it’s part of you and I love you.  But would not having it make you better or different?

S. Paige:  Do you think we would have had more children if I didn’t have anxiety & depression?

Jimmy: Yes.

S. Paige:  How do you feel overall with this (pointing to self)?

Jimmy:  It’s interesting.  What’s the point of living life if it isn’t interesting?!

S. Paige:  Why do you stay?  Times I’ve said go, leave me, take Sophia.  I’m a disaster, you deserve more.

Jimmy:  I need you.

 

And lastly…

 

S. Paige:  What would you say to a husband/father who was going through this with his wife or child for the first time?

Jimmy:  Persevere, because there is light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t an oncoming train.  It is really the end of the tunnel.  It will get better.

When All You Can Do Is Blame Yourself For Your Daughter’s Diagnosis

I tried to hold my tears back as I stared into my daughter’s oceanic blue eyes.  I could feel them welling up, feel the moisture increasing.

Not here, not now, not in public, Stephanie.

But, to be cliché, the dam was about to break.  A tear or two escaped.  My daughter was concerned and relayed this to her father on the phone.  She handed my cellphone back to me and my husband proceeded to ask, “Are you okay?”  No, no I wasn’t okay, but do I tell him that?  The silence was broken as he asked again.  I told him the truth because even if I lied and told him I was okay, he knew I wasn’t.

I am about to cry,” I uttered quietly so the other patrons could not hear me.  My daughter and I were waiting for our dinner order to be ready at our favorite sandwich shop in town.  It was last Friday evening, the start of the weekend, and my husband’s Friday to geek out and play Magic.  He wanted to stay home with me.  I told him no, I didn’t want him to blame me for not being able to play (even though he wouldn’t, it was all in my head).  I told him this knowing full well that I wanted his support but feeling I didn’t deserve it.

Our food order was ready and we went home passing my husband’s car on the way.  When we pulled into the garage, my tears flowed like a high pressure hose.  My daughter wanted to know what was wrong although she could somewhat guess as she has been a witness to me, her mother, for the last eleven years.

“It’s my fault, it’s all my fault.”  My lamentation increasing as these words escaped my mouth.

“What is your fault, Mommy?”

“That you are the way you are.  It is my fault.”

My daughter has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder since she was 6 and has struggled off and on with it over the last 5 years.  This year has been extremely hard on her and because of it, hard on me.  She has been in therapy since the fall and because of some reactions she has had during her anxiety attacks the past month, it has recently been suggested that she get evaluated by a psychiatrist.

When the recommendation was first made to me by her therapist, I have to say I was a bit shocked.  I guess I never thought that her Anxiety warranted a psychiatric evaluation.  After a few hours, I have to admit the stigma against Mental Illness set in; her seeing a psychiatrist would really mark her as someone who is mentally ill.  I hurt for her.  My husband and I discussed the evaluation with her.  She has learned about the stigma, has learned to stand up to it (from her Mom of course).  But even this, having the word “psychiatrist” associated with her name, caused her to want to hide.  She instantly thought she would be medicated.  Eventually, she became okay with the evaluation that is set to be done in another week and a half.

All this got to me.  It pulled at my heart, tore holes, ate away at it.  The biggest fear I had when becoming a parent is that I would pass on my Depression and Anxiety to her and I have.  Her being in therapy never bothered me.  I am a firm believer that most people would benefit from therapy regardless of a Mental Illness diagnosis.  It was the mention of “psychiatrist”.  To me, like my daughter, I associate “psychiatrist” with “medication”.  Throw in the word “evaluation” and I was losing it.  I held back my emotions for the sake of my daughter, but I knew eventually they would become very visible.

I spoke with my therapist about it.  He told me it wasn’t my fault.  I said, “How?  How is it not my fault?!  She suffers the way I do.  I never wanted her to and now she is.  It’s only going to get worse.”  He logically said that this is something I did not give her on purpose.  There was no way of knowing whether she would be Mentally Ill or not.

“But I gave it to her.  It is my genetics that did this.  She is becoming me.”

No matter how many people tell me it is not my fault (heck, even my intelligent daughter tells me), I still cannot stop blaming myself.  I can’t kick this feeling.  She is already experiencing more than I ever did at her age.  I mean, I wasn’t even diagnosed until 14 and here she is at 11 with 5 years of Anxiety under belt.  Maybe I am transferring myself onto her to an extent, already predicting more suffering in her future getting worse and worse as she ages like it has for me.  No parent wants to see their child endure pain and illness.  In this case, I didn’t want her to endure the thoughts that I have felt, the fear I have felt, the hopelessness that I have felt.  I didn’t want her holding a case cutter to her wrist.  I didn’t want her desiring to stick something in her brain to end the constant negative thinking.

And yet it is beginning.  The fear is already inside of her.  And it was all my fault.  How could I, someone who has battled Depression and Anxiety for over 24 years, not feel blame?  More importantly, how can I stop feeling blame?