True Crime Tuesday – “I’m Gonna Be a YouTube Sensation!”

IMG_20190906_200106_275.jpg

A tale as old as time…

Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Boy marries girl. Girl hires hit man to kill boy… whoa, wait a minute!

This is the story of Dalia Dippolito, of Boynton Beach, FL who met her husband Michael Dippolito when she first appeared on his doorstep one day as a hired escort in 2008. Four months later (yes, I said four months) they were married. Hmmm… how much do you really know about a person in 4 months?! Their quick-to-the-altar marriage started out euphorically. All sunshine and roses, until it wasn’t, you know a few months after that. Why do I say a few months? Because Dalia started to plan Mike’s murder in 2009!

Maybe the sex wasn’t good, she didn’t like him anymore, who knows?! But he had to die! Why? Because the easiest most profitable way to get out of the marriage was to have him killed.

Detour here… I don’t understand what goes on in the criminal mind. You want out of a marriage and you want money. Ah, let me murder my spouse! Okay, I see that train of thought, BUT, and a big, BUT, criminals are stupid. They seem to get stuck on greed, that they don’t realize they will be caught and then instead of seeing all this insurance money & freedom, you’re seeing the inside of a prison. Just mind-boggling to me.

Back to the story. So Dalia wants her husband dead so she can collect his life insurance. Not original by any means. Greed is the #1 instigator of murder. Money talks. While she is planning his death, she starts stealing his money, $100,000 of it.

She begins with plans that only involve herself… poisoning his drink with antifreeze, attempting to steal a gun, trying to get him back behind bars on a probation violation (yes, Michael was not a saint by any means). All this backtracked her. She had to bring in reinforcements.

Enter her boyfriends.

She went first to Mike Stanley telling him that they could be together if they got Michael out of the picture. He helped put a townhouse Michael owned into Dalia’s name only. He aided in making phone calls to the U.S. Department of Treasury reporting Michael for fake money scams. This wasn’t enough.

She then enlisted Mohamed Fawzi Shihadeh. With this, Dalia makes the biggest mistake of her life… she tells Mohamed that she wants her husband dead. Oh Dalia, you broke one of my rules, disclosing your plan to someone else.

Well, at least the boyfriend isn’t as dumb as Miss Dalia. He takes his smart thinking directly to the local PD where he informs them of Dalia’s statement. The officers and Mohamed strike up a deal. Mohamed, now an informant, is to tell Dalia that he has found a hitman for her. Of course, this soon-to-be hired hitman is actually an undercover cop. This plan is the beginning of Dalia’s demise.

Dalia meets with the uncover cop, I mean hitman, in his car. Naturally, being an undercover cop there is not only sound recording devices in the car but video as well. Oh Dalia… She can be heard on the recording stating, “I’m positive, like 5,000 percent sure I want it done!Well, at least she is, like 5,000% sure and not only 100% sure. The video became an internet sensation.

But not as much as a sensation as her “grieving wife” video.

She goes back and forth texting the hired hitman. After the time and date is decided, the cops disclose to Michael Dippolito his wife’s plans for him. He was a bit shocked but not “Oh my God! No way!” shocked. He decides to play along to the cops plan… fake his death. Good thinking Michael! When no one was home, the cops went in and staged a murder scene and then waited for their prey to show up.

Soon enough, they get their wish. When Dalia arrives home, the cops tell her that Michael is dead. Without hinting to her involvement, she starts dramatically sobbing, falling into an officers arms. It is an absolutely fabulous performance. She is then taken back to the precinct for questioning. They bring in the ‘hitman’ and tell her he is an undercover cop. Then they bring in Mike, back from the dead. Dalia is utterly shocked, in tears and begs him to come to her. (Watch all this in the video below)

Well, if the story hasn’t brought you to tears of laughter yet, it is about to. Remember, criminals are stupid. Dalia’s defense at trial is that it was all fake. The murder plot was a sham. She wanted to become a YouTube sensation because, she thought, YouTube would lead her to her own reality show. (Insert head smack here). Her defense didn’t work and she was found guilty, sentenced to 20 years in 2011. (The texts and the video didn’t help your defense Dalia… not one bit)

But, in an unforeseen turn of events, her conviction is overturned. (Gasp!) A 2nd trial in 2016 wound up having a hung jury. Because of this, she was sent home on house arrest until the start of trial #3. In this short period of time, she gets pregnant and has a baby. Her 3rd trial happens in June of 2017 and she is found guilty once again and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Her ex-husband, Michael Dippolito, expresses his joy with a little play on words, “I am 5,000% happy with the result.

At this point the residents of Florida, and frankly anyone who has been following this case, is so exhausted about hearing about Dalia Dippolito. But, sadly, we are not done. A few days ago, her name appeared in the news once again. She filed for an appeal. In the smartest decision of the Florida Supreme Court, they rejected it.

She is due to be released in 2032 at the age of 50.

So much for living that carefree life with all that insurance money!

 

Seen on:

Snapped, Season 8, Episode 20, Dalia Dippolito,

Dateline “The Sting” Season 25, Episode 13

Cops, 20/20, American Greed & Crime Watch Daily

True Crime Tuesdays: A Place to Discuss Most Suburban Moms’ Obsession

crimescene

So I had this idea… nothing too original, but with my huge obsession with true crime, I thought I should write about it  more than once a season. I know I have written about the stupidity of criminals but I wanted to do something else.

Enter True Crime Tuesdays!

Each Tuesday, I will analyze a case I have seen, heard or read about giving a fresh look from this suburban working mom. Of course there will be some humor, but also seriousness as I will be discussing murders.

I welcome any suggestions on cases. If you have any, please comment below or email spaigewrites@gmail.com

There will be cases from Dateline reviews, Snapped reviews, Cold Justice, A Lie to Die For, Buried in the Backyard, In Ice Cold Blood, Forensic Files… the list goes on and on…

There will be cases from podcasts such as Wine & Crime, True Crime Obsessed, True Crime Brewery, My Favorite Murder, Moms & Murder, Martinis & Murder…

There will be local and national news stories…

All that and more every True Crime Tuesday!

Who’s excited besides me?!

 

Join me next Tuesday for my first installment.

The Stupidity of Criminals… Part 2!

handcuffs-2102488_1280

Earlier this year I wrote about the stupidity of criminals. With all the true crime I watch, read and listen to, I had to speak up… criminals (99.9% of the time) are stupid! In the blog post I wrote back in March, What Not To Do When Committing A Crime… The Stupidity of Criminals, I had an influx of things I missed told to me from other true crime fanatics. I was shocked. How could I not have picked up on a few of these?! Because of this I feel a second edition (and possibly a third) is needed. And so, the saga continues:

Don’t Like Your Own ‘Wanted’ Post on Facebook

I can’t believe I just typed that. With the rise of social media, local and federal authorities have started to post ‘Wanted’ posts on Facebook and Twitter. The more people that see it and share it, the better.

Meet Levi Charles Reardon from Cascade County, MT who back in 2015 liked his ‘Wanted’ post on Facebook. He was tagged on the post on the Crime Stopper page and made himself known. Stupid, you just gave away your IP address… the cops came and apprehended him.

Meet Anthony Aker from Richland, WA: He liked his own ‘Wanted’ Facebook post from the local police department and even told them he would be turning himself in. Then when he didn’t show a whole chat ensued online between him and the local PD. This honestly began to make the police department look stupid until, low & behold, he actually turned himself in about two weeks later! He just needed to get his affairs in order (so he said).

And of course, there was a Florida man (isn’t there always one?!).  Mack Yearwood was apprehended back in 2016 after the Stuart Police Department did a simple search for him on Facebook. They not only found him, but dude used his ‘Wanted’ poster as his profile pic.

If  you are looking to NOT get caught, stay off of social media.

Do Not Research ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

Yes, I know, How to Get Away With Murder is a popular TV show but researching this is not only going to bring you websites of the show, it will show you a lot more. Just like my previous post on this topic with cell phone & credit card use, whatever you search for online is hidden on your computer even if you delete your search history. It amazes me how many criminals search for poisonous plants, which weapon kills quicker, and my fave, how to dispose of a body and not be caught.

Clue #1, if your are searching online, the cops will know you are guilty.

Going On Vacation With Your Significant Other…

…and only buying 1 round trip ticket.

I really do not think this needs an explanation. But, if you are going to be taking that special someone on a romantic getaway and that person turns up missing and they find out you only purchased 1 round trip ticket… looks kind of suspicious. Don’t you think?!

In relation, do not attempt to ask for a refund if you do purchase a round trip ticket when your significant other is missing. Again… suspicious.

Don’t Give Away A Person’s Belongings…

Especially if they haven’t been missing a long time.

Most notable on this topic is Josh Powell, now deceased, whose wife, Susan Cox Powell turned up “missing” December 6, 2009. Within a month he had sold their house, moved, and gave away most of her belongings. Um, dude, do you know something about her disappearance because it sure looks like you do!

Sadly, Susan’s body has never been found. She is presumed dead. In a tragic twist, Josh Powell beat their two sons and then lit the house on fire with all three of them in it.

Taking Out Life Insurance Right Before A Death

Because money is the #1 cause for murder, this is a no brainer. So many episodes of Snapped, Dateline, etc. where someone loves money more than their significant other. They are worth more dead than alive. Life will be easy. Kill them, collect their insurance money, say $500,000 and live happily ever after…

… except, when you get caught. FYI, insurance companies will not pay out if you are a suspect in a murder or convicted of said crime.

Some examples:

A typical husband and wife scenario: In July of 1997, Nuzzio Begaren, of Anaheim, married his wife Elizabeth Wheat. Three days later, he took out a $1,000,000 life insurance policy on is wife. Nuzzio then contacted some gang members to kill his wife. Elizabeth, who worked as corrections officer, noticed a car following her one day. Her smart thinking eventually led to the arrests of Nuzzio & 2 of the 3 gang members as she jotted down the license plate number of the car. The 3rd is still at large.

A father, Karl Karlsen, of Waterloo, NY took out a life insurance policy on his own son just 17 days prior to his son’s death. Because of the nature of his death, it was initially ruled as an accident and Karl received $707,000. Well, because he got away with it, he took out a policy on his second wife. Turns out Karl is known for this. He received $80,000 for the deaths of his horses and wait, you guessed it, $200,000 on his first wife. It is really sad when a parent kills their own child for money.

Seen recently while binge-watching Forensic Files (Season 11, Episode 13 “Undertaken”:  Frankie Pullian was an errand runner for a funeral home in Paterson, NJ where E. Lee White was the director. Frankie had some neurological impairment. He was making no more than $10,000/year back in 1980 before his death. The police who arrived at the scene noticed a few inconsistencies at the site of where Frankie’s body was found and began to research his employer. Turns out the funeral director, his wife, and two other men began taking out policies on Frankie 8 months prior to his death having someone pose as Frankie and forging his signature. They stood to gain $980,000 with a bonus of $350,000 if Frankie died in an accident. Needless to say, they never saw any payment as all 4 were found guilty.

Pastor hires hit man to collect life insurance. This is a sad story. A pastor of all people, Kevin Jerome Pushia of Baltimore, MD, would trick mentally challenged individuals into applying for life insurance and naming him as the beneficiary. He took out a $200,000 life insurance policy on Lemuel Wallace, a man who was both blind and disabled. In addition to himself, he listed the victim’s brother as a beneficiary. Eventually he admitted his guilt and is serving a life sentence.

If you can’t trust a pastor, who can you trust, right?!


*Because this addition is already so long, a 3rd one will be required. Stay tuned for The Stupidity of Criminals Part 3 where I will discuss arson and more!*

*Disclaimer: I am in no way encouraging any of my readers on what to do to commit the perfect crime. This is an article about how stupid 99.9% of criminals are. I am formally saying, do not commit a crime. Just don’t.*

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.

1200px-Lifelinelogo.svg    Crisis Text Line

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!

The Reality of Being a Shorty

I’m not going to lie, I’m short. I was never the tallest in class growing up and through the years, I slowly moved towards the front of the line (the short side) in height. Genetics were not in my favor. My mother is a shorty too. My father is not tall. I guess I should have known what to expect.

When I was school-aged, I watched my older sister grow up and admired her final height of 5′-7″ (although I am not sure where she got it from?!). Those recessive genes became my biggest desire. I would compare my stature to all of my friends and get disappointed as each one surpassed me in height. In 7th grade when my ‘special friend’ came to visit, I thought “This is it! Now is my time!” Every morning I would wake up and look in the mirror. I looked taller. I felt taller. I mean my body was maturing in many other ways so why not height, right?!

And then I went for my yearly physical to only be disappointed. “You grew 1 inch.”

What?! Wait a minute?! I got my period so shouldn’t I be going through some sort of growth spurt?!

Height was never meant to be part of me.

After many years of complaining to my parents about my height, how it was their fault I was such a shorty, I finally gave up. What was the point? Complaining wasn’t going to make me taller. I arrived at my final height of 5′-1 1/2″ at 16 and remained there until I hit 30. It has only been downhill since then. At my latest physical (age 39) I only measured 5′-0 1/4″. Don’t ask me how I shrunk 1 1/4″ already. I am a bit shocked myself.

Being a shorty has its pros and cons. Not going to lie, it does suck most of the time.

The Cons

  • I am constantly getting neck aches from looking up at tall people. At home, I am currently the shortest. My husband is over a foot taller than me and my pre-teen (almost teen – EEK!) daughter surpassed me about a year ago.  At work it seems as if every person there is ten times my height. Not only do I look up all the time, I take 4-5 steps back. At my in-laws I am the shortest as well. For once it would be nice to be taller than someone.
  • Clothes… not sure who created Petite sizes but it wasn’t a short person. According to most fashion lines, Petites is for those 5′-4″ or under. Basically, no matter if I buy Petites or Misses, I am hemming my pants. It is a good thing I come from a long line of women who sew. I have gotten really good with a needle and a sewing machine.
  • But pants are not the only item that there are issues. Tops are usually too long and well, you can’t hem a top that has writing on it. You might hem part of the inspirational quote off and be left with “Strong As A…” (wait a minute, I am sure the word ‘Mother’ was there before…).
  • Then there is the kitchen. I have gotten very used to climbing on top of the counters and praying there is no food on them when I do. It just seems that everything I need is on the top shelf of the upper cabinets. Why do you ask? Because my husband is selfish when it comes to the kitchen. He puts what he needs on the other two shelves of the upper cabinets because that is his eye level and my stuff winds up in the heavens of the top shelf. He does this with the fridge too. For now I am mobile and in shape enough to climb the counters but what happens when I am 80?!
  • Cars. We are a 2 car household and we never share because of our height differences. We would constantly bitch when we would need to share our cars. My husband’s car is set for a tall person: seat all the way back and low. My car is set for a short person: seat all the way up front and high that you wonder how a person can fit in the car to drive. Driving to Florida in one car this past October was a nightmare.
  • The aisles of the grocery store are fun as well. The product I need is always, ALWAYS, on the top shelf. And half the time, in the back on the top shelf because supply has run out. If you see a woman scaling the racks in  your store, it is most likely me, Spider Woman. I climb the metal racks, the freezer racks, any and all of the ones I need to reach. I don’t care if I get yelled at by employees. Hey, if the shelf isn’t full and the item is on top, that isn’t my fault. And yes, I know of liability. Just make sure the shelves are built correctly. I am sure they can hold my petite shortiness.
  • I look young. I look so young and being short just aides in how young I look. I have never looked as old as I am. Some see this as a good thing, but honestly, it hasn’t been. When I had my daughter at 26 I was often mistaken for a teen mom. I saw the dirty looks I got from people in the mall as I walked around with my daughter in a stroller. Even now, many think I am 29 instead of 39. I remind people I have a 12 year old child but it doesn’t help. Embarrassingly, I can fit into kid clothing. Couldn’t you just picture me wearing clothes from Justice?! The worst part of being short and being mistaken for someone younger is I have never ever felt like a real adult. Sure, I am a loving wife and mother and am an adult in that sense but when I dress or wear makeup, I feel like a little girl playing house. In prior employments I was never taken seriously because I was the short little girl. I’ve been viewed this way so often that I see myself as that.
  • You become someone’s arm rest. Everyone thinks that since the top of your head is available that it is an invite for their elbow or arm. Let me just say this… no, my head is not your armrest. Do not stick it there or I will smack you.
  • And… I am always the last one to know when it is raining…

The Pros… Yes, There Really Are Some

There aren’t many. But when looking at the reality of something, even though I am a hardcore pessimist (hello depression!), I should look at the positives. At least that is what my therapist tells me…

  • I can fit in kids clothes.  Yes, this is both a con and a pro. Although it is embarrassing, it can also be helpful financially since children’s clothing runs cheaper than adults. My womanly hips are not fitting into any pair of jeans in that section but I have bought several plain tanks and tees. It helped as well in Disney World when I wanted a sweatshirt with Donald Duck (my fave!) on it. The kid size was $5 cheaper. Score!
  • I can fit in small spaces. Hide and seek proved well with me. If I need to be alone, I can just squeeze myself into the bottom of the coat closet. And, being serious now, God forbid, if an active shooter came through at work, I could easily fit in the corner underneath my desk. Maybe not so positive is that I am the only one who can fit in our crawl space. Not exactly a grand beautiful place to be but it does house the wine we are aging. So if I wanted to, I could sit down there, hide and get drunk.
  • My tall child can’t complain to me that’s she’s tall. She has done this and I just stared at her perplexed. I actually asked her why she was complaining about this to me, the short one. Then I sent her whiny butt over to complain to her father for passing on his genetics.

My list of pros are short (ha ha, see, I used a pun there!) as am I, but I don’t let it bother me as much anymore. I will never be able to change it and at this point, I am not sure I would want to.

They Should’ve Warned Me… The PMAD Addition

FB_IMG_1444310081795.jpg

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

sad-505857_1280

“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:

Nobody_Cover_Sarah_Fader

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