Sunday, May 25, 2014

Split

At least once a day I say to my children: " How many hands/arms do I have?"
My daughter says "Two" and gets the cue to be patient.
My son says "25" and continues to try to get me to meet his need for the moment.

This morning I came downstairs after my morning of sleeping in until 8:30 and within seconds I was pulled farther and faster than saltwater taffy. I wanted coffee and my breakfast. That is all.

I have to get the kids medicine.
I need to make the juice, but I have to do the dishes first.
I have to get a band aid for my daughter's hang nail.
I have to get food for my son who just ate breakfast.
The kids want to feed the fish, I have to ask husband if he already did it.
I kill the ant on the floor,
I  trip on the markers on the floor,
I run up and put deodorant on because my husband is now out of the bathroom and if I don't do it right at that moment, I will forget and be smelly.
I see husband on the bed feeling like crap from a cold, the laundry unfolded on the bed, as it has been for days (not on the bed, just put back and forth between the basket and bed).
I run back downstairs, the kids are fighting.
I  start the DVD my son chose,
I put their dishes on top of the huge pile of dishes in the sink.
I spell words for my daughter who wants to write a letter to her friend.
I make my breakfast and coffee.
As I am eating my breakfast, I fix the dvd that decided to skip at the same moment that I sat down to eat.
My son is hungry. He Is told he needs to wait until I finish my coffee.
I am exasperated and split between twenty things and my mind is like a grapefruit being segmented into a hundred different sections.

                                                              And then it happens.

Daughter is quietly drawing a picture for her friend. Son is watching the DVD and says to me :

"I need you. I love you" and he curls up next to me.

We sit in quiet for one minute.  The segments become whole.


And then my daughter wants to make necklace for her friend. And she takes out the beads and before I can stop him, my son jumps off the couch, takes the bucket of beads and dumps it on the floor. I put down my coffee and I begin to split again.





Parenthood is hard. Mothers typically are able to multitask more easily. I do it to a fault. I keep saying yes to the requests, seemingly simple requests, until I have no more sections in my brain left to process the information around me. And then I pause, regroup and take care of things in priority. And I do it over and over all day.
I am a mom, I put myself last. My mother did the same. She is the queen of multi tasking. And like her, I thrive off of it. But as I get older, I realize, there are some things I like to do for myself. I like to  drink my coffee hot. I like to write when the mood strikes me and I like to notice the quiet seconds in between being split.

Lately, I have been thinking about how to teach patience to my children. I realize I must exhibit it myself more easily. I realize that it is going to mean that I let them do for themselves instead of jumping in, I realize that I am going to have to say "no" and "not right now". But it's a behavioral change for me. And it's going to take time. And practice.

Because, seriously, Momma needs her coffee. Back up and wait.








Friday, May 16, 2014

Stamp it out: part , Aftershocks and my beef

Stamp it out : part 5, Aftershocks and my beef

Previous posts in the series:

Just Keep Swimming
Branches of a Tree
She's the Happiest girl in the world... until she' snot
Fear of the bottom


Once on Prozac, I was able to sort out things more easily. I was able to figure out what to get upset over, what to let go. My drs helped me through the process and I went to a psychiatrist until I was 25 ish, off and on. I never had to find the dr myself though, my parents helped me. And later when I tried to navigate the process of finding a therapist, I understand why they pitched in.

I became closer with my father and found solace upon picking up the phone, saying " I am depressed" and not having to explain everything, because he knew. I miss that.  I had bouts of depression but nothing I couldn't get out of. I soon moved to a maintenance dose of Prozac and had my Primary Care    Physician prescribe it.

When I was 26, I met my husband. For all purposes he was the opposite of me. Cool, collected, not artsy, analytical and not crazy. The day came when I had to explain my crazy to him. Explaining my crazy to a non crazy person is intimidating. But he didn't care, he loved me anyways.

He saw glimpses of my depression, and has been supportive through it all. When we decided to have children, I was scared. My bottom from before had occurred from pregnancy hormones.  When a doctor advised me against taking Prozac I said "no way" and the Dr agreed it was in my best interest to continue my maintenance dosage.  Now of course I had my crazy pregnancy moments, but they were moments and nothing else.  I continue on with my maintenance dosage and I am in constant check of myself to make sure I am on the right path.

I worry about the day I have to talk to my children about their genetics, but I think if I educate them and treat it like their allergies, as will be well.

Here's the beef:

I fear the day I need a therapist. Want to know why? It's difficult. Really difficult.  After I call my insurance to figure out how much is covered, I have to look up Doctors that take my insurance. Then I call them. I am put on hold to learn that my insurance is no longer taken or there are no appointments for four weeks. Or I can get an appointment, but it may be with someone who won't prescribe medication and is only available when I absolutely cannot be available. And so I call the next doctor on the list and the same scenario plays out.

A little comparison: I had a sinus infection last week. I saw a dr within 24 hours. A sinus infection is not life threatening. But there is no problem getting to see a PCP in a timely manner for whatever physical ailment there is.

Now I am a (relatively) sane person. I can deal with this nonsense. But do you honestly think that the person who can't get out of bed can deal with it? And then the world is in an uproar when a shooting or stabbing occurs by someone with mental illness. Ever wonder why?  Maybe that person, that teen, was giving signs off about their mental illness. Maybe the parent had begun investigating resources. But it takes so long to get help, that so many things that are detrimental can happen in the meantime.

I don't have an answer, I wish I did. I do know that the stigma needs to go away about mental illness. I do know that the resources available need to effective and easily accessed.

Anyone have an idea? Anyone?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stamp it out: The fear of the bottom

Please read the prior three posts in the "Stamp it out" series:

Just Keep Swimming
Branches of a Tree
She's the Happiest girl in the world... until she's not.


Throughout college, I was on and off of Prozac. I tried to go without it and in my senior year, yet again, I faced myself. I was in a relationship with a guy that I thought was the one. I was young and stupid and believed I was fine. I was just stressed with what my next step would be. I was normal. But I wasn't. I was depressed and psychotic and all over the map. My boyfriend and I grew apart and we were giving it one last ditch effort and then... I got pregnant.

It was April of my senior year. My boyfriend was a year younger. I had delusions of grandeur that we would have the baby, he would stay at school. We would get married and I would visit with the baby. I was young and dumb. A week later, I miscarried. And while the loss of a life is not a thing that anyone wants, it was one of the best things that happened to me. A week later, my boyfriend and I broke up.

I was devastated. My world was swirling in chaos and hormones. I was beyond crazy. I felt as though  I had lost my future husband, baby, life, best friend and self within a period of two weeks. I was a mess. Despite the hormonal war going on inside my body, I finished the year out ok. I graduated four weeks later.

I went home after graduation and I had no idea what was next. I had been a psychology major so I sent my resume out to future employers. It was impossible to find a decent job that would pay the bills.

Despite my heartache, I was still not on prozac. I thought I was ok. I was going to the gym, working out. I was social and responsibly trying to find a job. I bought a car with the help of my parents and was somewhat even.

But I was fooling myself.  My brain was breaking down despite my efforts. It was failing and sleeping dragon of depression was waking up.

I decided to switch my plan of finding a job in psychology to administrative assistant positions. Given my prior work experiences, I landed a job quickly.  To link back to my psychology major, I received a scholarship to complete a training to volunteer for a suicide hotline.  I secured a place to live and was going to move out of my parents' house within the month.

I was on the path. And then the bottom. Here's the thing with every person with mental illness. They fear the bottom. It's a constant fear that is just floating around waiting to drop. Everyone with mental illness has this fear.  At this point I had no idea the bottom was so near to me. I had a fear of it as I always had, but I didn't know it was right around the corner.

It was a Friday and I realized that despite all of the positive things in my life, I thought I was destined to die. I honestly thought the world would be better off with me watching over them than being on earth. I had my mind convinced. I called my ex- boyfriend and said good bye. He was confused, and I think he knew the real meaning behind my good bye, but he didn't say anything. I have thoughts about that but it's not worth my energy to type it out.

I went out with friends at a local bar, one of them was Bobby, had a good time and drank a good deal. My friend dropped me off at home. I said goodbye. I knew what the goodbye was, but they didn't.
The next day I woke up knowing my purpose, knowing it was my last morning. I felt calm and euphoric. I went to Old Town Ellicott City and walked around. I thought maybe I would go see a psychic to determine if I was correct in my presumption of my fate. I couldn't get the courage to go in. I went to the store and bought a box of Tylenol PM. I wandered the mall, drove around and returned home around 6 pm.

My mom and I had an argument and it sent enough adrenaline through my body to go upstairs and consume 14 Tylenol PM. What I didn't know is that when someone is severely depressed, the shot of adrenaline can push the depressed person to taking action. I looked at myself in the mirror after taking the last pill and screamed. I ran downstairs and told my parents what I had done.

The next 24 hours were a blur. I was trying not to fall asleep in the ambulance. I was given charcoal and forced to throw up. I was questioned by the resident psychiatrist and released into the care of my parents. I was quiet and numb.

The thing my mom always says about that night is that she never knew. She never knew what was going on inside me. I think she felt guilt but then realized quickly that no one knew. Not even my closest friends. I was that good. I was the happiest girl.

Obviously, I retracted the scholarship for the suicide line. I did take the job and I started three days after my suicide attempt. I moved in with my friends in September instead of July. I began seeing a psychologist immediately and taking prozac.

Later, I realized that the hormones from the miscarriage threw a wrench into my normal detection of depression symptoms. The hormones hid my normal "signs" and essentially woke up the dragon.

I had reached my bottom. And on some levels I was relieved. I had no where to go but up.

Next up: My view on depression since 2000.

If you or someone you know is depressed or having suicidal thoughts, get help. Call a suicide hotline or make an appointment with a doctor.



I'm Blogging for Mental Health. http://www.yourmindyourbody.org

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stamp It Out Part 3 : She's the happiest girl in the world...until she's not.

Previous posts in the Stamp It Out series: Just Keep Swimming and Branches of a Tree


When I was 14, I was hormonal as most 14 year old girls tend to be.  I was a drama queen because I lived and breathed theatre. I played different characters everyday. What my closest family didn't know is that my best acting job was the role I played everyday: myself.  When I had an outrage of epic proportions I was labeled "dramatic" or "hormonal". But what wasn't see was the way I acted behind the scenes. I would crawl in the corner of my closet with my knees to my chest, sobbing hysterically because I didn't know how to control my intense emotions. I thought I was an annoyance to my peers, a burden. I would sob over not knowing what the next scene would be in the little play called "my life".

I remember one time I was really depressed and I wanted to slit my wrists. I tried to do it with a safety pin. The wrong way. Which actually resulted in scratches on my wrists. I showed them to my friends the next day and my friends just looked at me as if I were crazy in a dramatic, crying for attention way. And I was, but looking back on it, I was depressed and trying to find an answer of some sort.  Pathetic, yes, but an early sign to future problems.

Despite these hidden interludes of madness I was a ray of sunshine and happiness to most people. Don't ask my mom, though, she will tell you, with good reason that I was the exact opposite of sunshine to her. But that is for another blog...on another day.

When I was 17, my depression decided that hiding was not an option anymore.  In November of my senior year of high school, my grandmother had multiple heart attacks and almost died on the operating table. In December, my father was pushed out of very prestigious position in a federal credit union. I began looking for colleges, my boyfriend broke up with me and I was a general disaster.  We went from a family who never had to count pennies to a families who was pinching pennies. I began to lose myself quickly and my world was spinning out of control.

In January, I stopped eating. I know that when I am severely depressed two things happen: I like to sleep a lot but wake up consistently at 5 am. I also stop eating. I started smoking for two weeks, I began failing my classes. My mind was in crazy town. I ripped out magazine pictures if skinny girls, hid them in my bathroom. My loss of appetite became a moment of seeing how thin I could get. In the beginning of January I was a size 6 and 120 lbs. three weeks later,  I was a size 3 and 109 lbs.

I was in a show at the time and I was being measured for costumes (by my mom) and the measurements were drastically different than they has been in the past. I was secretly elated and then terrified my mom would notice.  She noticed, but didn't say anything to me at that point.

In February, my English teacher talked to my mom about the differences she had seen in my behavior. You see, no one said anything before because I was a really good actress. I was the happiest girl in the world, right?

My teacher noticed that I was withdrawn and didn't care about my work. My grades were sliding in an epic way. In fact, I fell out of the National Honors Society because of my lack of work in January and February.  That English teacher saved my life.

My parents confronted me one night and I lost it. I went catatonic for over an hour. I showed nothing, no emotion, no desire for anything. It was at that moment that I knew there was something bigger than my usual mood swings, something I couldn't control. I didn't know when it would end. It scared me to no end. I eventually came out of my catatonic state. I begged my parents to send me to a mental hospital, anything where I wouldn't burden them.  I went to bed and when I woke up the next day, there were appointments being made to see a psychiatrist.

I missed three dates of school, the first three of many mental health days I would take. I was evaluated by a psychiatrist. I fell into the "happy go lucky" girl during the evaluation. The dr was hesitant to prescribe medications. But with my parents persistence, I was put on Prozac. In the first 48 hours of being on it, I was sick. The dosage was too high but I auditioned for the spring musical in between sick episodes. My medicine was adjusted and I stayed on it. It kept me level to deal with life. The medicine along with my first psychologist helped me navigate my way through stressors.  

The interesting thing is I still had no idea what depression was. I had no idea it was genetic. I had no idea what was going on inside my brain.

When I returned to school, it was clear that people knew something had happened with me. But it wasn't discussed. I was "sick" and it was thought that I had the flu. There was shame in it all. I kept it hidden. Everyone knew and at the same time, no one knew.

More to come....
The fear of the bottom
If you need help, get help. Talk to a professional now. There is no shame in it.
  I'm Blogging for Mental Health.http://www.yourmindyourbody.org

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stamp it out: Part 2; Branches of a Tree





If  you would like to read part 1, click here.

One half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. (1) Despite effective treatment, there are long delays - sometimes decades - between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help. (2) (derived from the NAMI fact sheet, references at the bottom)

I was born with allergies. I am allergic to the outside in the spring and ragweed in the fall. I received allergy shots through most of my childhood, and was on medication from when I was very young for allergies. I dread spring and know what I must do to take care of myself to be healthy. When I was 9, I developed asthma. Again, I took medicines and learned misery when I skipped a dosage. I quickly discovered that the spring time jaunt in a field of flowers was not worth the misery of a stuffy nose, swollen eyes and lack of breath. I stay inside in the spring. I take a lot of medications. I take a lot of showers in the spring. It is what I do to take care of myself and my lack of natural antihistamines. It's who I am, who my children are and who I will always be. And so when I tell someone, "I have allergies", it's accepted and unquestioned and no big deal. 

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, (AAFA), 1 in 5 Americans have allergies and asthma. (4)

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, (NAMI), 1 in 4 Americans have Mental Illness in any given year. (3)

Yet, if I state that I am not feeling well because I have depression, it opens a HUGE can of judging worms. 

Beginning of my story (the family tree):

When I was a child, I knew something was "not quite right" with my father's side of the family. My grandfather had been ousted, my Aunt was the "crazy" aunt. She was Normal but had kooky way of doing things. She was dramatic and histrionic. She had obsessive compulsions and was quick to blame. I never knew why she was like that but I was always told "She just is like that and she is family so we love her anyways." 

My grandfather on my dad's side was a pro of verbal and sometimes physical abuse. He knocked my father, aunt and grandmother down with hurtful words daily until my grandmother divorced him and he was banned from the family; long before I was born.  We weren't to talk about him. When he showed up at our door unannounced, we were told to go to our rooms. (That only happened three times in my life). Our phone number was unlisted because of him until he died in 1999. His genes travelled through the family tree in a quiet and sometimes very loud way. 

My father, may he rest in peace, was a loving man with some very weighted genes. He, like Bobby, 
(click here to read about Bobby) was constantly swimming to the surface with weights on his ankles. He had difficulty communicating because he did not have a positive role model of a father to look to for guidance. His words would hurt and it would cause major turmoil in my house. He would get help often and be on and off medicines, always trying to regulate and sort it out. But the weights kept returning. 
When I was a senior in high school, he lost his job, all eyes were on him. We were walking on egg shells. Would he rise to the surface or sink in deep depression? He did a lot of both. However, in that time of him being unemployed, he realized that he had clinical depression and he began to figure it all out. (For more information on Clinical Depression, click here) He was on anti-depressants for the rest of his life. It took him until he was 50 to figure out his mental illness and how to treat it. If he had figured it out as a young child, my life would have been so different. If there wasn't a stigma and we had talked about it, I would have understood so much more at a younger age.  

The mental illness in my family wasn't discussed and yet it was a HUGE part of who I was and what my family was and is. 

Oddly enough, I am somewhat thankful for my mental illness. It was one of the bonds my father and I shared. It was the catalyst of us having a real relationship. 



Dialogue: 

Have you had a "Kooky" relative who actually had a real mental illness? Was or is mental illness talked about in your family?






























1 Kessler, R.C, et al. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 593-602. 
2  National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2005). Mental Illness Exacts Heavy Toll, Beginning in Youth. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jun2005/nimh-06.htm 
3 NAMI: http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf
4 AAFA: http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=30

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stamp it out part 1, "Just Keep Swimming"

May is Mental Health Awareness month. NAMI, the national Alliance on Mental Health is joining together with other mental health organizations to bring to Mental Health the forefront of the Health industry. According to NAMI, 1 in 4 adults in the US have mental illness in any given year. 1 in 4. How can we NOT be talking about it more?

There is an organization, Stamp Out Stigma, which has been gaining popularity in the social media. It aims to have people talk about Mental Illness as a real and valid health issue. It aims to have it viewed as equal as other debilitating physical illnesses such as heart disease etc. I highly recommend checking the site out as a portal to not only understanding Mental Illness but to join in the cause to Stamp out the Stigma against Mental Illness.

Over the next few blogs, I want to focus on Mental Health in its many forms. I want to have you, my readers, understand this important issue, and I want to share my story.

First, I will start with the story of a friend of mine.

Bobby.

Bobby was a happy go lucky, carefree soul; one with an incredible smile and a genuine and loyal heart. 6 years ago, he ended his life. He was also coincidentally one of the last people I saw before I tried to end my life, some 15 years ago. But more on my story later. This is Bobby's story.

Bobby and I became friends when he was 13 and I was 14. Our best friends were dating and we were often left to hang out while they were enjoying "alone" time. We got along like siblings. We squabbled and fought but knew we had to get along or else we would be bored out of our minds.  I remember one day, in the summer, when our friends were off on their own, it began raining. It was pouring. Bobby and I decided to  go dance in the rain. The song, "No Rain" by Blind Melon was popular at the time and we went out, sang the song and danced like crazy people in the rain. We were drenched and he ended up wearing a pair of my pants while his pants dried. Ironically, the lead singer of Blind Melon, Richard Shannon Hoon died tragically at a young age from substance abuse problems.

And so, at a tender young age of 14, Bobby and I danced like crazy people; not really understanding or knowing just how "crazy" we actually were.

I like to think of Bobby as someone who was a VERY good swimmer. Due to family circumstance, he had weights on his ankles from birth and was always swimming to the surface to rise above the constant pulling of the weights. He was surrounded by friends and their families that aided in this swimming, but ultimately it was him that got to the surface over and over again. Mental illness ran rampant in his family, so he was susceptible to it.

Despite these weights, he recognized his intelligence, took difficult classes, strived to push his mind further everyday. He entered the Army at 18 and paved a road out of his circumstances. Upon returning from deployment, he got a degree and became successful in the IT industry. He met a woman whom he married and within the first year of marriage they adopted his niece and nephew. He had risen above. He had made it. Or so we thought.

As we got older, Bobby and I didn't have a ton of communication. We kept up on our lives through emails and mutual friends. As I understand it, the month before his death, he had had a tough month. The weights were dragging him down. His close loved ones were trying to pull him up. But he gave up. The weights were too heavy.

When I received the phone call, I was so sad. Sad for his new wife, sad for his new children, but mostly, sad for Bobby. There were hundreds of people at the viewing and funeral. It was a clear indication how many people loved him and supported him. Some people were mad. Some people were beside themselves with grief and thoughts of what else could they have done. But no one said the taboo word "Suicide". No one talked about mental illness. It was just stated that Bobby had "weights".

I remember screaming "WHY?" at him in my brain when I said my good byes to him. But I knew why. I knew why. I had been there and I knew why.

There are times when I wonder if we had actually had more of a dialogue about our mental commonalities, would we have been at the surface, never underwater.


Dialogue: Why is it that a 6 year old can tell you all about Cancer and Heart Disease but can not talk about why someone has Depression?

What do you think? Should the brain chemistry of mental illnesses and learning disabilities be taught alongside of other physical diseases?




Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Just like riding a bike....

On Sunday, I had the privilege of being on the stage with 13 amazing women.  My fellow cast members and I participated in the 2014 Listen To Your Mother, Washington DC show at the Synetic Theatre.

I was tingling with electricity throughout my body. I was going to be on the stage again for the first time in 17 years.  I woke up in the middle of the night before utterly excited about being on the stage again. I was confident and elated as the day went on.


When we walked backstage to the green room and the dressing rooms, I smiled from ear to ear. There was a part of me that was very much at home in that dressing room with the big round bulb lights and the green room with the old yet comfortable furniture.

Despite that I rarely wear makeup anymore, I quickly applied my stage make up. 17 years ago came flooding back. How to apply the eyeliner, the concealer. It went on quickly and effortlessly.

I chatted in nervous excitement with my friends and cast mates and anxiously awaited the tops to tails rehearsal. When we went to the stage for the rehearsal, we walked in the darkness, eyeing the few glow in the dark tape spots so as not to trip on the stairs to the stage. A black curtain came back and BAM there I was 17 years earlier.
But I was not a character. I was myself. My 36 year old poised self. And it felt awesome. The lights blinded me and it was awesome. My heels clicked on the stage floor and it was awesome. The mike boomed and it was awesome.

I got up to the podium to rehearse the beginning and end of my piece and I was home. Just me, for a moment, in the light.

In the actual performance, I searched for my family and friends, and located them moments before it was my turn to speak. The lights were warm and the audience was warmer. I was a storyteller, a person who needed to share her story to an audience. I had something to say and it was important to 250 people that day.

It was electrifying.

And in so many ways completely comfortable.

Like riding a bike.


Thank you LTYM for reminding me a part of myself that had been hiding for a while. Thank you to my cast members for helping me to feel so comfortable back on the stage.  Thank you to the women in the cast for inspiring me in so many ways.

The video of my performance will be on You Tube this summer!