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Mental Health video by young adults!

Guys, check out this awesome video!

“From award-winning documentary filmmaker Arthur Cauty, comes Faces of Mental Health, a short film which challenges stigma and encourages open conversation around mental illness and suicide in young people.

Students in Bristol were offered a space to open up and share their thoughts and personal experiences of mental illness and suicide, with a view to encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds across the country and around the World to step forward and speak out.”

It’s on vimeo, and definitely worth a watch and a share!!

Check out the video here on vimeo

Plans for the Fall

August is almost over… HOW?!

summer

It’s almost time to kiss Summer goodbye, and say hello to wonderful, amazing Fall!
I love the Summer, but I love the Fall so much.
Still, even though I love the Fall, and I’m no longer in High School, the end of Summer gives me a knot in my stomach… I get so nervous and anxious, no doubt because school was so anxiety provoking for me as a child and teenager, and Fall often meant depression, anxiety, hospitals… a lot of pain.
With time, my love for Fall is beginning to come back into the forefront when I realize Summer is nearly over- but I still cannot escape the dull lull of anxiety that sits within my and grows bigger as leaves begin to change and nights become long.
It’s also kind of sad!

fall

So, how do you guys feel? Are you happy/sad/nervous/etc? What does Fall mean to you and what are your plans this Fall?
If you struggle with this time of year, what specifically do you struggle with? What makes it better?

We are here for you all during this seasonal transition and transition back to school!

Rest In Peace, Kate Spade

The fashion designer and creator of the brand Kate Spade, Katherine Brosnahan (aka Kate Spade), was found in her apartment on Tuesday after committing suicide.

She left behind her 13 year old daughter and husband, and many many fans who looked up to her accessible, pretty, and classic handbags, accessories and clothes. Since the 90’s Kate Spades beautiful, simple handbags have been known to almost everyone with even a remote interest in fashion. In middle school, Alexander McQueen (RIP) and W Magazine introduced me into the beautiful, fascinating and almost space-like (very pretty, very far away, and very hard to get to) world of high fashion, modeling, and women’s wear. Since then, my love for fashion grew- I coddled my fashion magazines like they were priceless heirlooms, woke up at 3 am to watch fashion week on my computer, live from various European countries, and maintained my first blog- a tumblr for high fashion and editorial photography- as though it were a full time job. When I was 15, Alexander McQueen committed suicide, and I cried as though he was a close friend.
Now, a young single mother, I have very little time to pursue personal interests and passions (fashion and drawing in particular) however, the news of Kate Spade’s suicide brings me to a place of sadness for many reasons. Though Kate sold her empire years ago, she provided the framework for a brand that would flow through the lives of so many people, and inspire many to love fashion. On a personal level, I am touched by the impact she had on me as a teenager, her handbags and accessories where some of the few designer pieces that brought the sparkling and elevated world of fashion close to my finger-tips. On another level, as a survivor of many very serious suicide attempts, including a attempted hanging when I was 12, I am touched and heartbroken by the silent suffering she endured. I feel so very sad for her that her pain was so immense that suicide seemed a relief to her and her family. I know that feeling well, and I know the feeling of regret, fear and happiness. I wish so much that we could speak more openly about suicide, before tragedy strikes rather than after.

Rest in Peace, Kate.

And to her family and many loved ones, a random girl in Connecticut was touched by Kate for many years, and found peace and happiness in her empire, even throughout her own depression and pain.

Uncomfortable, For Now.

**I posted this blog on March 23rd, and accidentally deleted it while editing** Repost**
March 23rd, 2018

I hate where I live.

Yesterday, as a group, we were told that we would be on lockdown. For three weeks. Three weeks trapped in the house, being punished for the actions of the other women I live with.
I feel angry, so incredibly angry.
And I want to scream and be juvenile; I feel the strong urge to act out, show them how stupid and senseless this is.
But I am trying so very hard to resist this urge.
I am reminding myself that what is most important, is my daughter, and her wellbeing. I am going to remind myself that she will not realize how unhappy I am unless I show her. But I am struggling.

I live in a shelter, and I am constantly being judged based on the assumption that I have wound up here by some wrong-doing I have committed.
In reality, I came here as a result of domestic violence.

I lived in my own apartment, paid my bills, and had a savings account.
And then my relationship changed. Or maybe it didn’t really change, maybe I just woke up one day.
My awakening happened so gradually that I rejected each sign that I should leave.
And when I tried to look at it, it was only for a moment.

Slowly, the savings account disappeared. My belongings were taken or broken. I was convinced that my friends and family were horrible and no good for me. And I was no good, too.
I was promiscuous, crazy, a druggie. I flirted with everyone I spoke with. Said too much, was so embarrassing and stupid. Dramatic. I was so lucky to be loved by him and would never be loved by anyone else. I was so hard to love, I wasn’t too likeable. He was special for putting up with me.
And sometimes, I was a good mom, I tried my best, even though I was usually still bad. I was good company sometimes.
I believed it all, and never questioned it.

He handed me a mask, and I taped it to my face without any thought. At some point, I forgot it was just a mask.
Then I realized I was unhappy, and as I realized one thing was off, it all suddenly came slamming down in front of me.

And then something scary happened.
It wasn’t the first time.
But it pushed me out, I had been looking for a good excuse to leave anyways, but this was a reason to run.
And so I did.

I looked back a lot at first.
And now, months later, I feel happy. I’m feel proud. I am beginning to feel like myself again.
I still see him, talk to him, I still think of him as my friend, sometimes I think maybe I love him. Sometimes I hate him, so much. But things feel weirdly normal, and I am ok.

I cannot wait to leave this place, this dark angry place. This shelter is hard to be at.
But I remember that nothing lasts forever.

I remember staying up late at night, crying, laying next my sleeping baby because I felt so trapped. And I wanted to escape, and get out but I didn’t know how and I didn’t even know if I had the right to feel that way. And then, slowly but suddenly, I did. I set my intention, and I left. And I know that nothing lasts forever, and that is especially true for things that are painful and uncomfortable.

Life is not supposed to be good always.

And it is not bad always, and it won’t be. One day soon, Willow and I will wake up in our own bed, in our own home and we will be happy and comfortable and at peace.

(My beautiful Bear a few months ago around Christmas)

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time, there was a girl.
When she was born she was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. She had a brother, a mom, and a dad.
Very quickly the world began to creep through the stone walls surrounding her. The world was dark, and black, and thick. It oozed through the walls and lay heavily on and around her. It weighed her down and made her sad. Sometimes the world was nice and bright, it shone through the windows of the house and melted some of the black goo away. But the black goo was always there, it would never all melt away. Even still, sometimes when the goo was gone it left thick, dark, painful scars. It hurt her a lot, but made her happy, too.
The girls father went away. She was too young to know what it meant to miss someone, so she didn’t. Then another man came to be her dad. He went away too, though. Her mom got sick and sad. Her and her brother built and armor for each other. It was thick and strong, but very dark and heavy. Nobody could get through the armor. That was good sometimes, they thought they were keeping out all the goo of the world. But one day they realized they couldn’t get out, and when they tried to let someone in they had forgotten how to take it off. So their skin grew hard and clung on tightly to the metal around it- soon the armor wasn’t really armor, it was just them.
Inside the armor they were very sad, and angry. And underneath that they were scared. And under that, they were small soft babies who needed love and warmth. But the world was mean. It pushed them over and looked away when they reached out and cried. So they learned not to.
One day they left the stone walls. They fell into the goo. The girls brother swam out, but she was stuck. Her brother tried to tell her how to swim, but she couldn’t hear him; he tried to throw her a rope, but she couldn’t see him. When she looked around, she couldn’t see how he had swam to safety just to help her. The world grew into a monster and whispered in her ear. It told her he left her, he abandoned her. She was alone. He told her that he wasn’t ugly, but all of them were. All the ugly people, and deep down she was hideous too.
So she pushed out the sadness and fear. She nursed her anger and helped it grow big and strong. She climbed on his shoulders and she felt big and strong too. But he sucked the life out of her. He made her smaller and sadder, but from her perch on his shoulder she could not tell.
One day she fell. From the hole in the bottom of the goo, she could finally see where she was. And she knew she didn’t want to be there anymore.
She started to try to climb out, to reach for people to help pull her out. She kept coming close. But she fell many times. She fell hard, and sometimes it was a very long way until she stopped falling. Sometimes she felt so sad in her hole that she took a very long time to pick herself back up.
One day she found out she would have a baby. She was so happy and scared, and very sad because she didn’t want her baby to be born in the goo. She started trying harder and harder to climb out. One day when she was halfway up, the baby was born. She was still in the goo, but she wasn’t stuck. She realized it would take her a very long time to get all the way out, and when she made it, it would still take time to clean the goo off of herself and her baby.
But the baby was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And the girl wasn’t a girl anymore, she was a young woman. And the armor didn’t stick to her skin so much, in fact some of it fell of on its own. And one day she realized the goo was lighter some days, and that even from the pit the light could come through.
Once Upon A Time There was a warrior. She had a baby who was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And each day together they fought off the goo of the world, and searched for the light. She knew one day they would find their way out together.
The End

Me and My mom

Me and my brother, Harry

My mom and me

Harry and me in Montana 

Harry, my mom, me

Me and Harry after he graduated Naval Boot Camp (Chicago, IL) 

Me, 8 months pregnant- the night of my baby shower

Willow, 1 day old

Me and Willow, first day home

Willow, 1 week old

To those who helped me

Having anxiety feels like I’m swimming. I’m in a giant ocean, and my body is heavy and exhausted. I’m doggy paddling and struggling to keep my head up at all times. I keep swallowing water, and going under, but somehow I don’t drown. Somehow I’m able to keep going. There are moments when big waves swell up and carry me where I need to go, with little effort on my part. Sometimes I get to dry land and lay there, exhausted, and rest until I’m able to swim once again.
Having anxiety with a baby is like when you were a kid in the pool, barely swimming yourself, when your friend suddenly grabs hold of your shoulders for stability and pulls you under. Its a terrifying moment, and you can’t yell for help without swallowing water.
Being angry, and overwhelmed, and tired, and hungry are normal. They’re parts of everybody’s life. When you have a child, sometimes you feel like a child, too. On the verge of a meltdown, with no way of calmly expressing your feelings or needs, feeling like they don’t matter, anyways. And you have to push away what you’re going through because it’s not your child’s fault, and they need you, and if you were to break, who would be there for them? But sometimes it feels like I need my mom. Sometimes it feels like I want to sit and cry because its almost 6 pm and I barely ate, and I’m tired, and life is too much in this moment. And I want my mom to hold me and tell me she understands and loves me.
Being a mom feels lonely sometimes. It feels like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and I’m the only one who can hold it, and if I were to put it down something terrible would happen.
Sometimes I feel guilty. So guilty I feel like I cannot sit with my feelings or thoughts without breaking.
Sometimes I feel angry and I don’t know why.
Sometimes I feel stuck; so stuck. And so angry that I feel stuck, and guilty that I’m angry, and lonely because I must be the only person going through this and everyone else must be handling their lives and their feelings so much better than I am.
And then I remember, this is not the first time in my life I felt as though I was drowning.

Right before my family reached a climax of suffering, and we all broke, and then somehow, although not perfectly, rebuilt each of our lives seperately; we moved. We moved from our house in Redding that we had lived in since I was 8, to an apartment in New Canaan. I was 16. The suffering that we as a family experienced both induvidually and seperatley increased rapidly, and would not stop or slow down. I was so scared. And sad and angry and confused.
I described this feeling as being in the middle of a big ocean. I was on a rickety raft that was barely afloat. Holes kept popping up and threatening to drown us, somehow I stuffed whatever I had into these holes and kept us alive. I kept calling out for help. Screaming frantically with tears streaming down my face; but it felt like no one could hear me. Like those nightmares when you’re yelling, but nothing comes out. Sometimes a boat or Island would pass and I would scream and wave my arms for help. Most of the times we would pass by unnoticed- sometimes a life jacket would be thrown, just missing us, and we would float away.
I remeber one time the police got called. We were all fighting. 211 came. We were referred to see a counselour in Stamford. His name was Larry.
Immediately he recognized the suffering and dysfunction we had all learned to cope with. He spoke to my brother and I as though he knew we were drowning, but also knew we were too afraid to ask for help- or maybe too beaten down by life to expect it. My brother clung to him- I pushed him. He told us he understood what we were experiencing- all of it- even the hideous anger I had learned to greet the world with. He didn’t hate me for it, even though I hated myself for it.
We were at an odd age, where the state allows you to refuse help, and I did exactly that. He could not force me to take the life jacket he was offering. So I didn’t, even though I had hoped for it, and I don’t really know why I did that. Maybe I thought it was littered with holes, or filled with sand. Often I told myself my suffering wasn’t that bad. I remember not wanting to get my mom in trouble, or tear our family apart. So I became big and strong enough to push him away.
I wouldn’t go to school. He came to my house one day. He told me he wanted to help me. I told him I didn’t need or want any help. He said that he knew me, he knew that when I said no, I didn’t mean no, that sometimes I was too afraid to say yes. I told him he didn’t know anything about me, and that that wasn’t true; even though I was shocked by how true it was, and by how much he must have truly understood me. In my head I was begging him to help me, to disregard everything that came out of my lying, terrified mouth.

He knew I had little motivation to do anything, much less go to school, he said he would believe that I didn’t need help if I went to school every day that week. We both knew that was as likely as one of us hitting the lottery. But I said I would. I asked if he would leave me alone if I went to school every day that week, and believe that I was fine. He said he would.
For some reason I went to school every day that week. It was the first time in years.
I never saw him again.
It’s something I’ve felt regret, guilt, shame, and sadness about many days since then.
In the past two or so years, I’ve thought about Larry many days. I’ve wanted to call him. To thank him and apologize, and tell him about my life now, and cry to him about how everything fell apart shortly after he left. But tell him that I was ok, that we were all ok, and he was right.
But I have never been able to do it. I don’t know why.
On Thursday, I found out that Larry died last year.
I was immediately filled with guilt. Guilt for pushing him away when all he wanted was to help me and my brother, to understand us, and give us what we needed. And sadness, a lot of sadness. Because I would never be able to thank him, or more importantly, to apologize for my anger and fear.
I sat outside a little after finding this out and closed my eyes, I allowed my head to become filled with sadness. I tried to connect my spirit with the universe to send him a message. Tell him what I would have over the phone, not with words, but with my love and energy.
If I could speak to you right now, Larry, I would only be able to thank you. You pulled me out of the depths of the ocean, and brought me to dry land. I only jumped back into the waters because it had become my home. Larry, you showed me what was, and what could have been; you accepted my anger, and reminded me I deserved to be taken care of.
You took part in a life-long task many amazing people have attempted; which is to heal me.
I’m so much better now, and I’m still trying to go further every day. I have a beautiful daughter, and I will be so much better than our moms were to us.
Thank you. S.I.P.

There are many people who come into our lives for both short and long periods. I’m reminded constantly, that its not the quantity of time these people are with us, but the quality. Death and regret remind us to be calm and be slow. To say thank you and I love you and I’m glad that you’re here.

Remembering Those no Longer with us… and Tough times during the Holidays

The holiday season may be tough for some people for a variety of reasons. For some, it may be a constant reminder of negative, perhaps traumatic events that have occurred in their past around specific dates. For others, it may be uncomfortable to be forced into situations or not-so-familiar environments with family that they only see on special occasions. For me personally, I both love and have a difficult time with the holiday season. I love the colored lights and decor, I love giving presents and seeing the joy on my family’s faces and I love the great food we eat and the wonderful memories created when we get to spend time together. Nevertheless I have lost a couple of people that have been close to me at one point or another in my life during this season, and although I find peace knowing that they are in a better place, it hurts me to know that I can’t spend time with them anymore and see them continue to grow into awesome individuals.

On December 26th, 2012, God called home my childhood best friend. She was an awesome person, a cool person to hang out with, a great singer, a compassionate soul. I will always remember sitting in the cafeteria in elementary school and laughing at her as she drank her chocolate milk out of the carton with it turned sideways. Back then I thought I was cool and whenever we would get dissed by the “cool kids”, my phrase of choice was “you freakin’ asteroid”. Although I did keep in touch with her over the years, we did grow apart and were no longer best friends like we used to be when we were in elementary school. Her death was not easier due to this though, as guilt settled in and I definitely wished I had spent more time reaching out and talking to her as we got older. R.I.P. C.M.D

On December 31st, 2015, God called home another one of my best friends. Man was this hard to swallow. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and I can still recall as clear as day when I was on her Facebook profile and was a little confused as I saw so many people posting R.I.P. on her timeline. I didn’t understand why they were doing that, I had just spoken to her, and we had agreed to cancel our weekend plans of going to Walmart because she had decided on spending time with her sister instead. Everything seemed fine, although underneath it all I know not everything was. S.E.K. was the funniest, most random, best softball player, most determined and strong individual I have ever met in my entire life. I will forever be grateful of our weekly car rides to and from groups, our detox sessions at Sweet Frog afterwards that helped us unwind, our random conversations, our trips to Charming Charlie’s to purchase gifts for other people because the Lord knows neither of us would be caught dead buying something in there for ourselves. I definitely miss her more than words can explain, and every time our song comes on the radio or Pandora, I honestly feel like she is with me. R.I.P. S.E.K.

Are there any reasons why the holidays are especially tough for any of you?

Sad girl; strong mom

When I was a kid, there was a lot of uncertainty in my life.
One day things would be amazing; hopeful, happy, and calm. Suddenly, without warning or clear cause, things would dramatically change. Whether it was my family’s financial situation, my moms mood or pain, or my own mental wellness- there was no stable branch for me or my brother to lean on; if there was, the continuance of that stability was always unknown.
I think we both learned at an early age, that it was our expectations which caused the greatest disappointment, and our disappointment that caused the greatest pain.
I remember when I was about 7, my mom got sick. I remember it like a dream; I know there is a vivid memory somewhere deep within my subconscious, but I cannot assess it, so when I try to retrieve it, it’s choppy and blurred. Regardless, I remember feeling as though nothing was wrong, and then suddenly everything was. I remember a lot of confusion. I was scared, and I missed my mom; I remember confusion and fear mostly. She was taken to a hospital. We had no family, and my mom had very few friends, most of whom she barley talked to. So for a week or so, I went to our closest family friends house. They lived in the city, we used to go to school together. It was fun to be there, it felt like a long sleepover. Then after a short time, they had to go on vacation. From there, we had various babysitters who stayed with us and watched my brother and I. Most of them we didn’t know as well as we should have, some of them we barely knew. That is one of my first “black-hole” memories. When I think of that time I feel a deep pit, that extends from my heart to my stomach and makes me close my eyes for a moment. Its hard to think about.
When she came home a long time later, I had turned 8, and she had turned very, very sad. She had more than one back surgery while she was gone, gotten a severe staph infection, and began to suffer from chronic, debilitating pain. She was so different.
I had barley seen her that entire time. I was so happy she was with us again, but she was so different.
We had babysitters stay with us because she was too sad and in too much pain to fulfill her duties as our mother. She had her own black hole.
She wore a brace, and took a lot of medication that made her sleepy. When it wore off, it made her very sick and uncomfortable. She yelled a lot, and was hardly happy, it felt. I took on a new role. I don’t remember if I decided to take on the role, or whether it was shoved into my arms and was simply too burdensome to place down. Regardless, my job suddenly became to make her better. I don’t think I knew exactly what that role entailed or how I would fulfill it. I began desperately trying to pull happiness from her, take away her pain, make our world happy and light.
I, of course, failed over and over again. I became a failure. Yet, I could not stop myself from delving into this role each day. Although each failure brought new and more intense sadness upon me, this was a disappointment I could not seem to walk away from.
Even as a teenager, angry and solemn and horrendously resentful against my mother and life, I continued to step into my heavy shoes each day and walk into fire. I laid down each night, still burning, and woke up to once again be the fixer.
Although I no longer live with my mom, and I’m no longer a confused child or angry teenager, I find myself fighting the pain it created each day.

I don’t know how to be a good mom. Most days I wake up and try to wing it, or go with what feels natural and right. I feel sure that I’m failing once more each day. And yet, like I did as a child, I continue to throw myself into a role I’m quite uncertain of how to fulfill.
I pray to the universe, or whatever I believe in, that I don’t fail Willow. My heart is so heavy at times and my head full of thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams.
I know for certain there are many ways to be a good mother; to raise Willow to be a strong person and healthy adult. I’m quite sure as well, there are even more ways to fail her.
I wish I could read a book, take a class, or swallow a pill that would turn me into the mother and person I wish I were.
I guess the only way to become that person is to continue to do what I’m doing; wake up each day and dive into the flames. Although I know there are things I ought to leave behind as I move forward, perhaps I will shed them naturally, and evolve organically into the person I’d like to be.
I hope that as each day ends I become a stronger, happier, and better mother and woman; and that one day Willow remembers her childhood will happiness and love.
Until then, I will continue to walk through flames for her.

Willow and I on Thanksgiving, Willow on Thanksgiving, and me when I was six

The Piques and Pits in My Life

This is the first moment in the last 24(ish) hours that I’ve sat down and actually formed a thought. In between putting on my “socialization doesn’t scare me” costume, Christmas shopping, wrapping Christmas gifts, and studying for a giant test that I have to take tomorrow, I haven’t had a true moment to myself to reflect on my week and my peaks and pits.

So here it goes.

This week (month/year) hasn’t been easy. I’ve been swimming through an ocean of stress, which stems from my school anxiety, my lack of organization, the weather changing. I haven’t been my best me. There are all kinds of changes happening in my life right now and I am struggling to find any kind of constant. This is an everlasting cycle that has occurred for 23 years. I stress, I search for a constant, I find a constant, I get attached to my constant, something gets in the way of that constant, I stress. It repeats. On and on.
I have a mountain of homework that I can’t find any motivation to do.

I am almost done with classes in my Master’s program. This is terrifying. I don’t know how to not be a student. I may not be the best, but all my life, I have always been a student. My identity is changing and I don’t know the best way to deal with that.

My peaks:
I am going to start by getting out of bed every day, rather than hiding like I usually do. I am going to dance twice this week, which is making my heart happy just to think about. There is one month until Christmas, my favorite holiday. Almost all of my Christmas shopping is done.

This week, Eliza said to me, “You are going to be the best teacher.”. I bought Sophia and I Ugly Christmas Sweaters and we are going to be the hit of Christmas Eve. I’ve spent time with family that I don’t get to see often, and I was reminded of how proud I am of my last name. I’ve held three babies this week. I am going to see my favorite nephew man tomorrow afternoon. The butterflies I get just by seeing your face.

This coming week, I am going to focus more on my peaks than my pits. And to you, my reader, I encourage you to focus more energy on your peaks than your pits. Because the peaks will always outweigh the pits. And as always, if you need help finding a peak, I will happily give you one of mine. Remember how important you are in this world. Remember that you are here for a reason, that you are strong and powerful. Remember how much this world needs you in it.

Gratitude

Since this time of year makes you think a lot… about what you have, what you don’t, and what you wish you had lets talk about gratitude!
What are…
3 things your grateful for?
2 things you want to change?
1 thing you want to accomplish?
I’ll start!
I’m grateful for…
1. My daughter
2. Having a open mind and heart
3. Being loved and liked by my friends and family (even if I forget it sometimes)
I want to change…
1. My anxiety and have a positive state of mind and let things go that I cannot change
2. Living in a shelter
I want to accomplish…
1. Going back to school!

Letting go of the past and looking forward to the future

It was another hard week. It moved slowly yet quickly, and I struggled to catch up with myself almost every step of the way.
I met with my psychiatrist on Tuesday. We talked about starting medication again. It was a continuance of an ongoing conversation; one I will probably never stop having with my providers.
When I got pregnant I was taking a handful of different medications. Each did something different, and supposedly they held hands and worked together to safely guide me through my days. I didn’t really know how they made me feel. It was hard to tell if they helped or not, and which ones worked: or if only one worked and the rest simply hid behind one another. When I decided to keep Willow it was clear that I had to come off of all my medications.
So, for the first time in nearly ten years I was raw. I had had periods of not being medicated in the past, but these were short-lived and unsupervised.
Being pregnant and un-medicated was Hell. Not just for me, but for everyone around me. When I reached a peak of suffering, I ‘gave in’. I know, really, I was only doing what was best for me and Willow; the stress I was under was worse than what any medication could have probably done to her. The relief I felt from only a little bit of Zoloft was almost miraculous. For the first time in almost 7 months, I finally began to enjoy my pregnancy.
After giving birth, I was on a cloud; I was incredible, strong, and resilient, I was a powerful woman, and needed nothing. I was in awe of my perfect, precious baby. Seeing her in person made her seem so much more fragile. How could I take medication while breastfeeding, not knowing the potential risk? Besides, I felt amazing. So once again, I stopped taking my medication because I thought it was what was best for my daughter. Almost nine months later, I am still not taking any medication.
But I wonder sometimes. Is this really the right thing? I know I could feel better than I do, that taking a small dose of something would probably lift me up a little, relieve me of some of my anxiety; of the obsessive thoughts and worrying I have about Willow. But what would it do to her? Her brain is still developing-what would messing with her serotonin levels do to her? Once I start down that road of thoughts- I have to shut myself down. Instantly, I begin to worry, to panic. I get a headache and my eyes feel heavy. The unknown is too much for me. Maybe the stress I feel every day is worse for Willow than an antidepressant creeping into my breastmilk. Maybe it’s fine. But what about the vast grey area of the unknown? The area where I’m falling and falling, and reaching for something to grab hold of- but can never quite grasp? That space is too frightening for me. As scary as life is sometimes for me right now, that area is much more terrifying. So my doctor and I decided that right now I’m ok without medication, I’m not as good as I can be, but I’m ok. I’m in a place where having control over whether or not I take the medication is ok. And that feels good to know. Still, some days I’m unsure.
Am I being the best mom I can be? Am I damaging my amazing daughter? How much of my anxiety is she picking up on, and what is it doing to her?

Yesterday, I cried in front of a stranger. I didn’t mean to; The tears had been building for a few minutes- but I kept catching them. Snatching them and stuffing them down as quickly as I could. But as I sat in front of a guidance counselor at NCC, talking about school, and time, and energy; things I don’t currently have enough of; I could do little to hold back my intense sadness. I cried for a moment, then moved on; embarrassed of how crazy and out of control I must have looked to her. I knew she was probably judging me. Thinking about what a poor, uneducated, helpless young mother I must be. My poor child.

As I sat in the cold waiting for my bus, with Willow sleeping on my chest, my sadness grew. I thought of my life. The life I had before my pregnancy, and the life I was supposed to live; or at least the one I expected to live. Not the part of succumbing to my mental illness, but the fantasy and hope I had, that one day, I would get better. I imagined going to school, having some fun, making money. Building myself up so that one day, I would be able to grow up and have a family. Then I thought about how none of that was possible anymore, at least not how I had wished it would be.

I couldn’t sit in a dorm room with my peers and do homework, and smoke weed, and go to class; couldn’t save up for silly vacations or go on road trips; I had to rush back “home” to make my 6 o’clock curfew. I had to give my daughter a bath and put her to bed; take community college courses one by one, while working, and raising Willow. I have to throw aside my selfish wants and needs and drudge forward for the well-being of my child.

In that moment, I regretted becoming a mother. Not because I hate it, or because I don’t love Willow with every force within me; but because I wasn’t ready for motherhood. And I had to sit with the sadness of knowing I had committed to a life-long task I wasn’t prepared to take on. Knowing that I can’t turn back, or press pause, or share the weight of Willows life with anyone but myself. And again, I cried. In front of many strangers. Except this time I couldn’t wonder what they must have been thinking because I was too full of sorrow.

When I got on the bus I called my brother. He and I went through Hell and back with one another. The Hell I’m referring to is our childhood. But he had a separate burden to bear. One that I had the privilege of ignoring. That burden was watching me self-destruct. Nonetheless, he never once left my side; even though I accused him of doing so many times, even though I tried to push him away and lock him out, and even though at many times, I was a horrible sister.
He made me feel better. Not just because he spoke in an Australian accent and made fun of Trump. He and I are proof that even the most traumatic and damaging childhoods do not have to ruin a person. That despite prolonged suffering, a hurt child can still grow into an intelligent and kind adult.
And that reminded me of another thing, although I’m “not where I (want) to be, (at least) I’m not where I used to be” (Joyce Meyer). In the past years, I have grown tremendously. I remember in my adolescence, one of my best friends told me, in a very serious but loving way, that she felt certain one day I would kill myself. That was not the last time somebody told me they were prepared to mourn my death. And I knew, too, that one day I would die, and I felt certain it would be by suicide.
That girl is no longer me, I know she still lives deeply inside, sad, and scared, but she no longer greets me in the mirror. I have made progress in my life I would have never imagined possible, and come to a place I dreamed of several years ago. So while I know where I want to go, and know there is a long way to go until I get there, I find peace in the knowledge that I can look back and see the tremendous mountain I have managed to make it up. I know that it won’t be long before I can look down again, and bask at the progress I made. That will make me a better woman, and a better mother. And although my life won’t ever be perfect, it can be good, and I won’t stop until it is.

Willow Bear thanks you for reading this week!

Good momentum leading to bad days

Do you ever feel like the more you go, the easier it gets?
Until suddenly you realize you’ve built so much momentum that you’re rolling down a hill full speed and can’t stop. Suddenly, you hit a tree, or a wall. And you sit there exhausted, hurt, and dazed. Suddenly, a bunch of debris comes tumbling down the hill and smothers you.

And for a while, you just lay there, underneath it all, unable to bring yourself back up.

But leaves and branches fall from the tree, more debris comes down the hill.

You tell yourself,

“it’s ok”

You’ll take care of it all when you’re able to pick yourself back up.

Then suddenly you’re ten feet deep, and you have no clue how you’ll get yourself out. And the thought of getting yourself out is so overwhelming, that it takes all your energy to even consider getting up.

By some feat, you end up getting up and out. You clean up some of the pile, and the less imposing parts get swept aside. You start back down the hill, and the cycle continues.

Is there a way to stop that cycle? To slow yourself down? Breathe a little more everyday? Be a little more productive? Some how stay on top of your tasks, and your child’s tasks, and your wants and needs, as well as your family’s, and have fun, and eat well, and sleep 8 hours, and go for walks, and plan for your future, and so on and so fourth? Is that possible? Or do you simply gain momentum, moving forward amazingly in one area, or a couple areas of your life, while sneakily neglecting the less pressing parts of your life. Until suddenly, it all catches up with you, and you get knocked over.

I had a hard day today. Nothing in particular happened, or was wrong. A couple of small scratches on top of an old wound and suddenly it’s infected.

I’m worried about my brother. I’m always worried about my mom. I’m mad at Willow’s dad. I hate where I live. I wish I could make more money, go to school, and be the perfect mother. I have about 7 trash bags of clean laundry sitting in my closet that I need to fold and put away. The next 2 days are going to be very busy- and so is most of next week. I have about ten things on my mind that I need to remember. But I know I’ll forget them. I can’t write them down; if I write them down, it’s another to-do list to add to my 20 or so existing to-do lists. I was short with Willow today, all day, because I was so stressed out, and I’m mad at myself for that. It’s the holidays and I’m wondering how I can have a happy thanksgiving and Christmas with my daughter and make it back to the shelter for my 9pm curfew. There are are lot of things about where I live that I dislike and disagree with, and I feel helpless to change them; and angry about that. Willows dad has to move from our old apartment at the end of this month. And even though it’s a new beginning for all of us in a way, I’m heartbroken over the symbolic permanence of the end of our family.

And more and more.

And my mind won’t let up.

I keep trying to remind myself to release these difficult emotions into the universe. To allow my higher power to take some of the weight off my shoulders. But I resist letting go of these thoughts and feelings; I hold on tightly to my anxiety and stress. Why? I don’t know.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath in and out. It’s a relieving breath, that makes me realize I haven’t done that nearly enough today. I open my hands, palms up, to the sky, and allow my mouth to relax and lips to curl into a soft smile (thank you, DBT).

Today wasn’t all bad. I had a small win with my bank (they reimbursed me an overdraft fee). Then I celebrated by getting subway since I was technically $40.00 richer (not really, but I let myself pretend). I talked on the phone with my twin brother, which I do not do nearly enough. He made me laugh, and forget about being angry. I got my laundry done (even though I didn’t fold it or put it away). Willow took a nap in her crib for about 15 minutes; which was incredible considering it’s happened only a handful of times in her 8 months of life. I felt loved by willow. I ate Halloween candy.

I guess what I need is, is to have these days.

Days where everything is hard and stressful and I barley make it through. The kind of day where, when your mom asks you how it went, all you can do is cry.

Sometimes all I can do is open my palms and allow them to come. Sit through the hard days, weeks, and months. Do what I can to survive, and be ok with just surviving.

I can give myself permission to struggle and get behind, and stay behind for a while.

And know that when I’m able, I’ll stand up, pick up the pieces around me little by little, and move forward once more.

I need to keep enjoying my small wins, and finding happiness where it finds me.

I must remember that although it may feel like forever, it’s only for right now.


And this, too shall pass.

Split

My parents’ divorce is a piece of my life that I want to share with you, not because I am looking for sympathy or for advice.

But because it’s an integral part of who I have become, and I think it’s necessary to understand some of the reasons why I am the way I am.

I’m choosing to share these bits of my life with you because I want you to know. I want you to understand.

We lived in the same house for 22 years together.

Their divorce was long awaited. It should’ve happened 10 years earlier. As selfish as I feel my parents had been, staying with each other until Sophia and I were adults was the most selfless act I could imagine a parent could do for their children.

Despite being a full grown adult when it happened, the feelings were still just as hard to process as they would have been had I been a child.

The divorce process began in September of 2014, was finalized in June 2016, and sometimes it still feels like I am in the middle of it.

We are still in Year 1 in terms of being a separate family. Sophia and I made the conscious decision to separate from each other.

There are 2.1 miles in between our homes.

Sometimes it feels like there is a whole world that separates us.

Living as a family of four was a struggle. It was like four tornadoes moving in four different paths of destruction. Living as a family of four was killing us slowly.

Now we live as two sets of two.

In the three years since this started, I have never once allowed myself to have a feeling about it. I’m not condoning that. I’m not saying that’s healthy. I’m not even saying that’s a good idea. In fact, I think it’s a terrible idea. But I feel things too deeply to start to pick apart that burden at such a crucial point in my life.

I’m writing this for you today not because I need to or have to, but because I want you to know that

good things can come from broken pieces of broken homes.

The relationship I have with my dad has been tested and tried and it is stronger than ever. He knows everything about me. He listens when I have to complain. He lifts the heavy groceries when I can’t.

On the opposite end of the equation, the relationship I have with my sister has a completely different dynamic than it’s ever had. This summer, we were able to drive 627 miles in one car together and we both made it out alive, with all limbs intact, and collectively, we only suffered three panic attacks.  It took us 19 years to get to that point.

My family is on a long journey of recovering our broken pieces. We have come so far and we have so far to go.

"On Point For Pride"

So it’s officially Pride Month and I don’t think that I have made an official post about the start of another month of celebrating the diversity and inclusion that is the foundation of Pride. For sure, this has been a very busy month. With my Spanish class, getting ready for another school year and working on my housing situation, it has been a slow start for me into the celebrations. But I am definitely happy that if there is no other time throughout the year to feel special about who you are, Pride Month gives everyone every reason to and that is something I hope will one day, not only be something to celebrate in our park and on our streets but also throughout every aspect of our lives.

Waking up these days and knowing there is so much to look forward to throughout the month is encouraging. Pride is more than just community, it is about family. And that’s why every year, pride events mean so much to so many people. Local community centers come alive around this time of the year and of course, if you are in Fairfield County and feel that you need somewhere to be this Saturday, Pride in the Park, Norwalk makes a great date.

Triangle Community Center’s annual Pride in the Park is is the core of Fairfield County’s Pride events. It’s the center’s largest fundraising event and it brings together people from in and out of Fairfield County. Some of your favorite LGBT performers and drag queens may show up as well. The list of performers this year includes Trixie Mattel from RuPaul’s Drag Race, comedian Julie Goldman, and musician Crystal Waters. And these are all free live shows.

To find out more about other events throughout the state (maybe in your town), Triangle also recently released it’s Pride Guide, you should check it out. Find something near you and support and share with the community. I included the link here: http://www.ctpridecenter.org/2017_pride_guide

On another note, hard work does pay off. I could call this my pride gift… I have received a scholarship through the Point Foundation. A bit thrilling, considering that I almost gave up on believing that I would ever be considered. But yes! I did it!

A little about the Point Foundation… this is the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBT youth. It has mostly assisted disadvantaged LGBT scholars to make a successful transition throughout college into their individual field of study.

I would encourage any LGBT youth to apply for a scholarship with this prestigious institution. This is the link if you would like to learn more: https://pointfoundation.org/thepoint/mission/.

I will share some more about this incredible experience, as well as Pride in the Park this weekend.

update

sorry i havent been around in awhile. i have been fighting a lot with different people to get things i need to help me with my illnesses. so my school would not accept my hamster and for the first few weeks i thought it was because they just didnt want him to be there. i find out it was my doctors fault and she had been avoiding my calls and it was making me very annoyed i learned that she told them i didnt need it when i made it very clear that this is something that i need. so now i am back at school i have a new doctor and i am going to work on getting my hamster in my room at school for the mean time he is living with my boyfriend in his condo and having a great time.
another thing that has happened since being diagnosed with panic disorder is that i had my worst panic attack in a year. i was at my cousins wedding and those of you who have panic disorder being around alot of people isnt really the best type of situation to be in. so i am sitting there and then all of a sudden i start to feel nauseous and shaky. my skin started to get really hot and i couldnt breath. i knew i needed to get out of the situation so i got up because it was communion and i fainted. all i remember and standing up and after that i remember nothing till i got to the back of the church. i cried for about 2 hours just in shock that it just happened. all i could do was say how i ruined the wedding and how it was all my fault. knowing a panic attack could be triggered by almost anything is really scary i hate thinking that something like this could happen again today is my first day of class and i am ready to start school again and post every week i will post another one later today talking about my plans for the year but this one was just a quick update on what was going on in my life.

Mental Health… A Family Affair

I wanted to share a moving article I found on a father’s journey with his son in the mental health system. It is a powerful story and a reminder to keep going!

http://wnpr.org/post/former-connecticut-lawmakers-son-lost-mental-health-systems-revolving-door#stream/0

Michael

Tis the Season to Be Criticized

It’s that time of year where everyone gathers together to celebrate the holidays. Although it’s supposed to be cheery and festive, the experience might feel as overwhelming as it was for that turkey before he landed on your dining room table for Thanksgiving.

I don’t know about you, but I have a large family who LOVES to drill me with awkward questions about my future (specifically my job and school), about my appearance (gained/lost weight), and my social life (has my boyfriend “popped the question” yet?). I honestly have to rehearse what I am going to say and see if I can answer their questions in under three minutes, so my whole night isn’t ruined. I know they don’t mean to criticize, but sometimes I want to hide to avoid those dreaded questions.
And then there are family members who do like to criticize because…well, I don’t really know why?

So, what do we do to survive the criticism? We need to enjoy the celebrations just as much as the next person!

Psychology Today has introduced to us “5 Tips for Surviving Criticism From Family Members!”
1) Start viewing criticism as misguided caring.
2) Speak up! Let family members know how they can better express that they care.
3) Encourage prioritization.
4) Give gentle reminders that you are worthy of unconditional love.
5) Understand that purposeless negativity is just that. Purposeless negativity.

Click below to read the full article:

5 Tips

or here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-art-closeness/201511/5-tips-surviving-criticism-family-members

Some people are affected by their families so much that they decide not to show up at holiday events because it’s too overwhelming. Attending the Christmas bash at Aunt Susie’s house may urge you to drink or use other negative coping skills to manage the unwanted feelings of shame, embarrassment, anger, etc. So hopefully this article will help you identify how to survive this season.

We want everyone to be able to enjoy the delicious homemade decorated cookies without wondering which person is going to comment next.
Peace to you all! And may you survive the battle of the criticism!

Family is TOUGH!!

Have any of you experienced difficulty accepting family members for who they are? Does anyone find that they are more sensitive around certain family members or around certain holidays? If so, what do you do to cope with the stress?!?! HELP!

home for the holidays

So I’m home from college until January 10th for my winter break, and being home is kind of stressful. In general, the holidays are a pretty anxiety filled time for me. Does anybody else feel uncomfortable / agitated around the holidays because of family stuff?