Monday, July 17, 2017

Stop the Stigma

I haven't been great about posting in here, and sometime I think it's because I fear that I should "be over it" or that I am not deserving of the emotions that I experience. If I've learned anything in the last 6 years, it's that most of our society is anything but sympathetic to those who suffer chronically with their mental health.

But checking in, and sharing is part of the reason I decided to start this blog in the first place. For all the things that we tell ourselves we have to keep hidden, the tears that are withheld, in fear of the judgement that may be placed upon us by others. The shame attached to anyone suffering from one of the many forms of mental heath issues keep us quiet, and I for one am sick of it.

While it may seem simple to say "don't let it get to you" or "just get over it", there is often something much deeper hidden behind our tears and bad days. It wasn't until I started documenting my highs and lows after my Father's suicide, that I really started to find the hidden release in not holding back. But I struggled for years with not allowing myself to really feel what I needed to feel. Why? Fear of judgement, fear of abandonment, stigma. So much stigma.

I worried that everyone would label me as crazy. What's worse, is the people that did.

Why is there an age limit to being able to cry openly when hurt? Why is it that a 2 year old child can throw themselves on the ground and cry over spilled milk, but an adult cannot cry and grieve openly without it making people uncomfortable. When did we decide that our feelings had an expiration date?

We are quick to run to a crying child, to offer aide, and to smother them in affection in hopes of limiting their pain. But we don't offer the same to someone grieving the loss of a loved one, or someone who is battling depression and deals with sadness almost daily.

If we offered the same kindness to everyone, regardless of age or reason, imagine the impact. Imagine the souls that could be mended and the tears that could be avoided. While I may personally have no issue with discussing my struggles, the shame surrounding mental illness prevents so many from talking with friends, family and health providers honestly about their struggles. It limits the ability to teach and enforce prevention when those inflicted are weary of even talking to anyone.

We don't want to be treated differently, but we are. From the dodged conversations, the friends and family that stop calling, down to the way medical staff treat us once they read of an attempt, or hospitalization. The scarlet S for STIGMA is stitched to our chest for all to see, and no amount of treatment will erase it.

If you truly want to help, reduce stigma, and ensure that future generations can come forward with their feelings without fear of being branded, listen. Offer up your ear, and just listen. Free from judgement. Ask questions, be engaged with us. Show us that you care. Stop by with a hot meal on a bad day, send a handwritten note with a fond memory. I promise you the smallest act of kindness means the world to someone who is suffering.

If you see a stranger in a store and they look unhappy, smile and say hello. If you know an anniversary of a death is coming, shoot a text. Go donate time, board games, books or fresh flowers to your local mental health facility.

It takes very little to make an impact, an that impact can have a ripple affect that can and will save lives.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Now that the smoke has cleared

One of the biggest struggles along my path of healing after my Dad's suicide, is being able to see how badly it affected me and those I love dearly in so many ways.

Now that the smoke has cleared, and I am stable and happy, I am finding it important to take responsibility for the things I've done or said that I wish I could take back. 

Suffering through such a horrific experience really changed me. I became bitter and spiteful. I took everything personally, and I pushed a lot of people away. The depths of depression took years from me. Years where I was a shadow of the person I wanted to become. 

Before that day, I was strong. I was kind and I was someone you could count on. I listened and did anything I could to make someone smile or laugh. I worked hard and played harder. I smiled until my face hurt and my eyes leaked. I laughed until I snorted, and I loved with all of my being. I was a super mom and a ride or die friend. 

But, trauma and depression change things. It clouds your judgement and puts thoughts into your head. Telling me I was worthless and unloveable. It haunts you at night and rules you all day. It made me tired, and sad. Always so very sad. I could go back to that day at any moment. Like I had a film reel replaying in my mind. Hearing myself scream. It's just one thought away. I became so engulfed in the darkness that it took over. 

I just couldn't find even a single ray of light. I felt like I was always on edge and a second away from crumbling into oblivion. It was a black hole that surely no one could return from. Then it was just darkness. Years of darkness. I have gaps, conversations I can't remember, memories that seem to have been erased. It's so hard to even explain what it feels like to have a brain that is working against you. It's exhausting. 

I lashed out a lot, I pushed away friends and family that I grew up with. I wasn't mentally around enough for anyone. Let alone myself. It was just too hard to think about anything other than anger. I simply couldn't deal. It was all too much to handle. 

My Father, My Daddy, the most important man in my life chose to leave me. That's hard to swallow. Let alone see splattered across the backyard of the home you shared. Every precious memory I had of him overshadowed by the madness. 

I wanted him back. There wasn't anyone who could fill the void. Nothing made the pain better. I tried every medication a psychiatrist could prescribe, I have done enough therapy to pay for my kids to go to college twice over. I am the master of coping skills. I am very well versed in PTSD and depression and am always up for anything that betters my mental health. 

It came down to time. Patience, and a lot of mistakes. I hurt people I wish I didn't. I said things I would love to erase, but know life doesn't hand out that luxury. 

I hope that those that I have wronged can forgive me. I don't expect it, but I'd love to think that if they weighed the bad vs good, that the good would forever outweigh the bad. The darkness that clouded what once was good. 

I have changed a lot. I have grown, and I can finally say I am so very proud of the woman I've become. I am laughing again, I am singing and dancing and enjoying the simplistic joys in life. I have come to find a wonderful peace with my Dad. While the memories of that days will never be erased. My life, my brain, and my spirit are healthy and happy. 

It may have taken over six years, but I think the smoke has finally cleared. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Just cry it out

There are those days that just creep up on me. It doesn't matter how amazing things are going, I have an internal struggle with the clings of lingering grief. I sit outside, hiding from my children so I can just cry. "A good healthy cry can cure almost anything" said my Daddy everytime I came to him in tears. I don't like to cry. I hold those tear drops in like the hoover dam. Problem, when I do open up, there is a flood. But, afterward, a calmness, and a sense of relief. I don't know why I feel like I have to keep my composure at all times. But it's especially difficult when it's my Dad's Birthday and while editing my very first ever wedding. I was scrolling through the first few galleries, and was overcome with a bit of anger. He would have been so proud of the images I took. He always told me I had a special talent and to never give that up. Which is what drives me to this day. He inspires me to always keep learning and growing and staying humble and honest. I just really miss him. But, I know that he is proud, at peace and we will be reuinted one day in that magical pallace in the sky. I love you Daddy. Happy Heavenly Birthday. Xo

Monday, February 22, 2016

Becky, Becky, Bo-Becky

In this day in age, where instant gratification is everywhere and the virtual world seems to rule. Our lives are becoming overburdened with the need to share everything we do. This burden carries a load that I personally think is greatly affecting our quality of life. This need to share our perfect moments. A burden that, unfortunately can be quite harmful to ones self esteem when paired with photo after photo of people's happy moments while you, yourself are anything but happy. I know this was really hard for me after my Dad's suicide. Seeing photos of people with their Dad, people just living life. Being happy. It hurt. Not because I didn't want others to be happy, but it was just a constant reminder of what I didn't have. What I didn't feel. No one else is to blame for that, but having it in my face in today's digital capacity was hard.

As we scroll through our news feeds each day, we see carefully curated moments in the lives of our friends, family and sometimes, total strangers. These well thought out, carefully framed snapshots into their world give us perfection in one post. You know, the posts that make you feel like you are totally slacking on all things life related. 

An example:
Becky shares a post with a photo of the 4 dozen fresh blueberry muffins she made this morning after her 5 mile jog with her twins. Who were strapped to the back of her Camelpack that was filled with spring water from her 10,000 mile hike up the holy peaks of Mt. Whogivesacrap. She then shares another snap of her and said twins who are angelically napping in their crib with a caption that reads "I wish they never slept, it's been hours" or "I could just hold them all day." Followed again by a photo of a huge spread of a dinner for two. Steak, lobster, the works! You can almost smell how good it tastes just by the photo. Wow, Becky is a badass. Then, she ends her picture perfect day with a sunset silhouette snap of her and her Husband kissing with cocktails, kids are of course sleeping soundly again with no interruptions.

Ahhhhhhhhhh I wanna be Becky. Becky has it all.

We all have a Becky in our newsfeed. We have all been a Becky. But, what we don't seem to realize, is that Becky is screwing with our realities. She is forcing us to believe in unrealistic lives.

Becky isn't real. Her life isn't real. She is pulled straight from a fairytale. Becky is the highlight reel. Becky is the 1 good day out of a thousand bad ones.

Becky fails to show us the 2am feedings, in tears. The hiding in the laundry room so you can sneak a bar of chocolate without hearing the dreaded "can I have some" She doesn't beautifully frame a shot of explosive diarrhea on her hand as she changes one angel while holding on to the ankle of the other as it crawls away screaming. The lighting doesn't stunningly strike her face as she tirelessly mops floors for the umpteenth time. She doesn't show us real life.   

Life is hard enough without a Becky making us feel inadequate, and being an adult can be exhausting. But, we need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves. It's not about what you post. Stop trying to find moments to share and find more moments to live. Stop comparing yourself to a false reality.

When you are feeling like you can't hold on any longer, remind yourself that in the real world, you are not alone. We are all holding on with just one hand, some days a single finger. We are all winging it, trying to make it through another day. We are all fighting some sort of battle, but the time has come to stop the one within ourselves.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some Facebook life. But, I would much rather live it with you. Call me. Text me. Let's get together, get out and live.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

5 Years

5 years ago today, the skies were a brilliant blue, etched with puffy white clouds. The weather was crisp and cool, filled with gentle breezes of winter air. Everything was as it should be. Until I returned home from picking up my son from school, and entered the kitchen to a handwritten note.

Call 911
I'm sorry

In one instance, on a small crumpled piece of notebook paper, my entire world was tipped upside down.

My Daddy, the most important man in my life, sat himself in a kiddie pool on the side of the home we shared, placed a shotgun in his mouth and ended his own life.

While that last sentence might make you uneasy, I can assure you reading it is nothing compared to the aftermath I walked out and witnessed. I fell to my knees beside him, unable to speak or breathe. My Daddy was gone. Dead. And he did it to himself. Suicide? No. Not him.  

If you ever got the great pleasure to know my Dad, you know he would be the last person you would associate with suicide. He was the life of the party, always cracking jokes and smiling. I have very few memories of him ever not in a great mood. He had an uncanny ability to see the positive in every situation. He was my rock. When I needed a good talk, he was always my go to call. I would call sobbing, and he would somehow end the conversation with a smile. He was magnetic and such a joy to be around. He was not who I would have flagged as someone with depression, anxiety or at risk of suicidal tendencies. Before that day, I wouldn't of even given it a second thought.

It's amazing how people can hide their pain. How they can hold in so much and put on such a brave face. How such bright smiles can be masking so much hurt. While we think we may know what is going on in someones life, at the same time, we can be so wrong. Celebrity suicides seem to shine a bigger light on this. You'd think endless amounts of money and resources at your disposal would safeguard you from mental health disorders. Nope. It does not discriminate. The statistics are shocking, and the chances are you have or someday will have some sort of encounter with one of the many forms. This doesn't make you weak, or crazy. Your brain, like any other organ, needs to properly function. Seeking treatment to ensure you are healthy is so vital, and lifesaving!

These yearly anniversaries used to really get me down. Flashbacks would haunt me, and I felt an overwhelming amount of grief. Finally, last year, I lost myself. In a moment of desperation and despair, I gave up. Succumbing to the immense depression that ruled my day to day life.

What I never expected, was that I would wake up the next morning, with an undying will to live. Ending my life was not the answer. Starting my life was. See, my life didn't end the day my Daddy took his life. It started the day I decided I wasn't going to let it end. The day I made my mental health a priority, and admitted myself to intensive inpatient care, was the day I started living again.

I sit here, 5 years later, a better person than the day before it happened. I know now that there is nothing I can do to change that day. There is no way to change my circumstances, but you bet your ass I can change the way I react to them. The only person in this universe that can control my happiness, is me. So, I must do all that I can to ensure that I do what I can to make my life full of things that bring me joy. I also learned to watch my thoughts. To stop self doubt and self sabotage before it turns into action. I learned the importance of seeing my psychiatrist regularly, and that my mental health is just as important as my physical well being. There is no shame in seeking treatment. I'll say that again. THERE IS NO SHAME IN SEEKING TREATMENT!!

I want to thank every single person reading this. Near and far. This blog is full of my bleeding heart. It's not an easy read, and yet so many of you have continued to keep reading my posts the past 5 years. I am so thankful for all of the support and love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Today a local news station shared a story about a new mental health facility that is being built. The neighborhood it is proposed to be built in, is jokingly referred to as "Snobsdale" due to higher priced homes and the reputation some who reside there embody. Picture designer clothes, luxury cars and lots of bling. Apparently, neighbors are not too fond of the thought of having a mental health facility "in their backyard".

These people who are so upset, clearly don't know that mental health does not discriminate. It affects all ages, races, sexual orientations, religions, countries, and even, dare I say, social classes. Sorry to burst your bubble.

If you live in Arizona and suffer, like I do, from any one of the many form of a mental health illness, you would know that there are very limited resources. Especially when it comes to the kind of intensive care that this 78,000 square foot facility would provide. The lives that it can potentially save, the very significant likelihood that it will help decrease petty crimes due to drug usage due to untreated mental health issues. Those who go seek treatment in an Emergency Room are soon shuffled out the door like any other patient that fills the halls each day. Left to somehow make it through another day. These people who are left untreated, can have devastating results.

Let me put my own personal story in here to help give you a better understanding of what I have encountered here in Arizona's struggling mental health system. I have suffered from anxiety since I was 11, after being sexually abused daily for over a year by my best friend and neighbors father. Then in 2011 I found my own father after he shot himself. I now battle severe depression and PTSD as a result of the traumas. For the first few years after his suicide, I was in a state of total denial. I refused to really understand or even come to terms with how bad I was suffering. I didn't sleep, I barely ate, and I was always, always sad. There was this cloud that loomed over me. No matter how great my current life was, I couldn't seem to fight the constant grief. Sudden loud noises would send me into instant shock. My entire body would shake and I would suddenly start to get short of breath. I would have horrific and all too real nightmares of the scene I came upon when I found him. I would wake soaked in sweat and crying uncontrollably. I pushed away friends and family, unable to understand my own anger. I was paralyzed by suffering. I finally got to a point where I felt there was no hope, where I would only ever be a burden to my loved ones. I very regretfully attempted to end my own life. What's worse, is how difficult it was to obtain proper care afterward.

The morning after, my Husband, friends and Mother feverishly called hospital after hospital. Hours upon hours of searching before we were told to come to the Emergency room to attempt to expedite the admission process. While I was quickly taken to the back and placed on suicide watch, I waited over 36 hours in a hallway while they waited for a bed to open up at the next available mental health facility. When I was finally taken by ambulance to the facility, I then waited for over 8 hours in a waiting room alone. I'm a pretty strong and independent woman, but that time spent alone was the roughest and most emotional hours of my life. All I wanted was a hand to hold or a loved one near. I even had to give them my phone.

I can promise you that anyone who suffers, if given the choice, would love the ability to seek proper care. To obtain a sense of normalcy. We don't wake up in the morning hoping we can feel dead inside. It is not in our human character to want to suffer. But when you do suffer, it is almost certain that we feel the need to fight it. This fight is not possible without help. Licensed, therapeutic help by a professional from the mental health field. When the ability to even try is taken from us, and we are left fend for ourselves, our disease can become fatal.

I say we proudly. We are a family. We are not alone. We are Mothers, Fathers, Wives, Husbands, Daughters, Sons, Grandparents. We are your community, your Teachers, your First Responders. We are people! Just like anyone else. We suffer and we fight, and just like anyone else who needs medical assistance, we need voices.

So I ask you, each of you who may someday face having a mental health facility "in your backyard", to think about all of us. We need you. We need your support, we need easily accessible care. We need you to understand that by building this facility, you aren't destroying your neighborhood, but enriching it. By supporting those who seek treatment, you are slowly breaking down the walls and stigma surrounding mental health. By building this facility, you are saving so many lives, in so many ways.

Shares are greatly appreciated! We need your help to get our voice heard!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mental Health Awareness Month

It has been 5 months since I tried to end my life. That is hard to even type, let alone openly blog for anyone to see. But, the most important thing I have learned in my journey, is to be open and honest. If only to help erase some of the stigma attached to suicide and mental health.

Things have changed so much since my hospitalization. I simply cannot explain how free I feel. How at peace I have become. I am often shocked to find that I rarely actually think about the day my Daddy took his own life anymore. Grief no longer holds a tenacious grip on my everyday life. A beautiful release came the day I chose to live, and to seek out treatment.

This doesn't mean that my depression, anxiety or PTSD have suddenly dissipated completely. I am just finally able to cope and deal with my disease. Yes, DISEASE. I suffer from a mental health disease. One that without treatment, almost killed me. Without the proper medication, therapy and coping skills, my disease can and will destroy my ability to handle everyday life. This took me 4 years to admit to. I was so ashamed of my own feelings, thoughts and actions.

I hated myself. I hated the thoughts of doubt that consistently filled my days. I hated my own reflection staring back at me in the mirror. I had convinced myself I was worthless, and unable to love. I hated that this disease was killing all the things I once loved about myself. I hated that I couldn't make it through a single day without seeing flashbacks of my Daddy in our kiddie pool filled with blood. I hated waking up, simply because I knew it meant it was another day I had to suffer.

I had completely convinced myself that this world was better without me. So much so that the only thing I wanted, was to die. I daydreamed about my own death. Hoping some freak accident or heart attack would finally put a stop to the never ending agony. That my death would bring peace to those I loved or even those I have wronged. I was totally obsessed with finding a way out. Until the thoughts turned to action.

5 months ago, I sat on my bed, feverishly swallowing hundreds of pills. I desperately prayed that I wouldn't wake up. That my pain would be forever erased from existence. What I never expected, was to wake up the next morning with a will to live I've never felt before.

That will to live is still thriving inside me. It keeps me motivated, confident and sure of my path. I now know that my story needs to be shared. That there are so many others out there suffering that need a voice to speak for them when they cannot. I have always said that I was going to use my misery to help ease someone else's struggle. While at times it has been hard to share my deepest and darkest moments, I know that removing shame and stigma is the ONLY way we are going to make mental health a priority.

Life is hard enough. If you are struggling with your own mental health, I urge you to seek treatment. If nothing else, take advantage of the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Use this month of awareness to get your mental health back on track. YOU MATTER!