24/7 Hotlines: Call or text 988 or text 741741

April 2024 Themes!

April 2024 is here, which brings us the first full month of spring!

As always, check out our content flyer for April 2024 below, and reach out to us if you or other teens and young adults in Connecticut are interested in submitting content:

Friendly reminder that content doesn’t have to be limited to what’s on the flyer. They’re just a few ideas to help get the brain flowing 😄.

New Story: Ashton

It doesn’t matter how “bad” your coping skills (self harm, purging, suicide attempts, smoking, vaping, drugs, etc.) are; you are valid and deserve help.” – Ashton

Read Ashton’s story of struggling with self harm, their turning point, and the aftermath HERE. And check out Our Stories to see mental health journeys of other teens and young adults in Connecticut!

Queers & Peers: A Virtual Peer Support Group for LGBTQ+ High Schoolers in Connecticut

TurningPointCT’s Peer Support Specialist, Quinn, is hosting a virtual weekly peer support group for LGBTQ+ high schoolers in Connecticut. The group is held Friday evenings from 6:30-8pm on Zoom. Participation is free, voluntary, and confidential. Participants will have the opportunity to talk openly with their peers about mental health, identity, stress, joy, community, and more. To register, click here. Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive the Zoom link via e-mail.

Queers & Peers is a space for teens to build connections, to learn together through mutuality, to receive validation and understanding, and to support each other in moving towards their goals. Together, participants will create a set of group agreements to ensure the space is safe, supportive, and meets their needs.

This group is absolutely free and open to all CT high schoolers who belong to the LGBTQ+ community. For more information, contact Quinn at qjannetty@positivedirections.org or call/text (475) 999-2605.

Want to Upload Your Content?

You can upload your content of your choice at any time of the day! View our interactive PDF flyer below!

Can’t view the interactive PDF? No problem!

You can submit blogs, art, and poetry by clicking “Express Yourself” on our Creative Expressions page. You can also share your story by tapping “Share Your Story” on Our Stories page. Go to our Videos page and upload your content by tapping “Share Your Video”!

Just want to add your favorite places for peers to see? Visit our Map page!

You can also email the TurningPointCT team at TurningPointCT@positivedirections.org MP3 recordings of your topic or for more information to join a podcast episode!

I’m The Proud Sister of A Transgender Teen

I’m the proud sister of a transgender teen boy. That transgender teen boy is my little brother Dante.

Dante decided to come out as transgender in March of 2020. He has always struggled with his gender identity. I remember that he would tell our mom how uncomfortable he felt in his body but she just brushed him off. He never enjoyed playing with dolls or dressing up, he just always wanted to be one of the boys. He knew he wasn’t meant to be a girl. And sure enough, he was right.

This is my brother Dante proudly posing with his transgender pride flag 🙂

If you asked me a year ago how I felt about having a transgender sibling, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. The whole thing was completely new to me but it has absolutely changed my life in more ways than one. Dante has taught me so much about not only himself and what he’s been through but also about myself.

Being the sibling of someone who is transgender is not easy but absolutely worth it to me. I am fighting battles for him that I know he may not be able to fight on his own and that’s okay. I will always fight for him. He needs to know that there will always be someone in his corner, even if it’s just me.

People constantly misgender him when we are in public. Sometimes, Dante is too shy to correct them so I know that I need to step up and say something when he feels like can’t. I don’t always catch it right away and later find myself feeling bad. He often reminds me that it’s okay if I don’t say anything because he knows I would have if I heard it but I still feel bad because I know it bothers him. He doesn’t deserve to feel that way.

I don’t want my brother living in a world where people are unkind to him or don’t respect his pronouns. He absolutely deserves to live in a world where he can be free to be whoever he wants. My brother has grown into a wonderful young man. It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him in my whole life. He doesn’t care what other people think because at the end of the day, he knows who he is and that’s all that really matters.

Dante is proud of the person he’s become and he shouldn’t have to hide that. He inspires me to be a better person. I want to become a better advocate and make the world a safer place for trans teens like him to exist in. My brother is almost every part of the reason that I am who I am today.

I’m the proud sister of a transgender teen and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will always fight for my brother and his right to live freely.

I love you, Dante.

You can also check out Ariane Thornton-Mason’s article about having a transgender sibling here.

Under Turning Point CT’s Support by Topic, you can find a list of LGBTQIA+ resources, feel free to take a peek!

Podcast: Gratitude

Hey guys! We’re back with another podcast… this time we talk about gratitude. We will be talking about what we are grateful for, and what we are thankful for overcoming. Also, we discuss what we are appreciative to have on our horizons and how gratitude affects our mental health. Here you can read studies on how giving thanks can actually help your mental health. It can create an optimistic outlook and positive change.

Also, during our holiday party we ran off to the side to record a quick podcast together and reflect on the things we are grateful for.
Joining us today are Cindy, our other Cindy, Dri, Nahjeera, Jonathan, and me- Eliza!
Check it out and let us know what you’re grateful for!

Click here to check out an older discussion on gratitude I started two years ago!

Want to practice appreciation yourself? Gratitude has real benefits towards your mental health- but sometimes its hard to practice when the world seems dark or overwhelming. Looking for something in life to feel grateful for having (or for not having) can help change your world, and self view for the better. Check out this article on gratitude journals and tips for starting one here.

Free Summer Cookout in Norwalk

Here at Turning Point CT, we decide to make our August Monthly Antics a back to school cookout for teens and young adults. Part of our SMART Recovery Group is that we do an event every month for teens and young adults in the community and we call it our Monthly Antics. These past months we have done escape rooms and painting classes. If you want to be a part of our Norwalk Teen SMART Recovery Group, check out this page. If you want to see more you can check out our social media pages.

This cookout is a fun event where high school teens can come blow off some steam before the incoming school year. There will be a bunch of fun activities for teens to participate in. It’s a great way to have a lot of fun before the school year starts. We know that there is a lot of stress and anxiety that comes with school. So we decided to have this so you could start the school year off with a bang!

If you want to attend this event, respond to the forum post here.

If you want to help us with this event, please spread the word. Share this on your social media, and/or reach out to us.

This cookout is going to be Saturday, August 31st at Shady Beach in Norwalk, CT from 12-3 pm.

We hope to see you there!!

Summer Check In Video

Hey guys! We are here with the TurningPointCT interns: Adrianna and Nahjeera along with Eliza and Adrianna’s aunt Woodeline!

We left the office for a little while to go across the street to The Norwalk Green and enjoy the sunlight and Summer air.

At the start of every SMART Recovery meeting we all check in with highs and lows- now we are at the Norwalk Green to hang out and check in about our Summer!

How is your Summer going? What is your low and your high of the season and break? Check in with us on this post!

 

To see more of our interns check out our YouTube page here

and listen to their other videos and podcasts in our media room here

New Story: Nahjeera’s Journey with Self-Harm, Depression and Anxiety

Hey guys! We have a really great new story about depression, anxiety and self-harm.

Nahjeera is a senior in high school and this Summer she is interning with us at TurningPointCT.org

Her journey will mean something to anyone who has ever felt alone- she talks about her struggles with depression and anxiety, and how she used self-harm to cope with things.

Nahjeera also talks about her hope and recovery– how she no longer self-harms and instead helps other people at her school who might be struggling, too.

If you have ever felt alone, know that you are not. Check out our stories page to read about other young people just like you.

Click here to read Nahjeera’s story

And, click here to talk to Nahjeera and welcome her to TurningPointCT.org. Join TurningPoint to reach out to peers like Nahjeera.

Furthermore, if you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety, or self-harm, visit this website. Here you can find information and resources to make the most out of your treatment.

Vaping Podcast

In this podcast we spoke about vaping and smoking. All of us are in high school, some of us just finished our freshman year and Nahjeera is is graduating this year.

Emma, Adrianna and Nahjeera all vape, but Cindy doesn’t and really does not like smoking.

We all talked about why we vape, and when we started. Some of us were in middle school when we started, and others tried it and then stopped for a while.

We spent a lot of time talking about why people vape, including our friends. Vapes come in a ton of flavors, and a lot of us only do it for the taste, or because friends suggested it for stress. Eliza lead us in a conversation about why our friends like to vape, and if we want to stop.

our views on vaping and smoking, why we smoked and why don’t.

Some people smoke because of popularity or  as a coping mechanism. We also talked about how advertising makes people smoke more, and why some of us wouldn’t try certain flavors, like tobacco.

A lot of our friends in high school vape, and we talk about how addictive it is and if we think we are addicted.

We all talked about how we would quit if we ever decided to, and how we could help our friends quit if they asked us for help.

If you have ever vaped and want help, or just want to hear about it from the perspective of a high school, then check out our first summer podcast!

 

 

A few months ago, Eliza and Diamond (our SMART group facilitators!) were at one of our high schools, talking about vaping during lunch. To check out what that was like, click here.

Vaping Podcast

 

In this podcast we spoke about vaping and smoking. All of us are in high school, some of us just finished our freshman year and Nahjeera is is graduating this year.

Emma, Adrianna and Nahjeera all vape, but Cindy doesn’t and really does not like smoking.

We all talked about why we vape, and when we started. Some of us were in middle school when we started, and others tried it and then stopped for a while.

We spent a lot of time talking about why people vape, including our friends. Vapes come in a ton of flavors, and a lot of us only do it for the taste, or because friends suggested it for stress. Eliza lead us in a conversation about why our friends like to vape, and if we want to stop.

our views on vaping and smoking,why we smoked and why don’t.

Some people smoke because of popularity or  as a coping mechanism. We also talked about how advertising makes people smoke more, and why some of us wouldn’t try certain flavors, like tobacco.

A lot of our friends in high school vape, and we talked about how addictive it is and if we think we are addicted.

We all talked about how we would quit if we ever decided to, and how we could help our friends quit if they asked us for help.

If you have ever vaped and want help, or just want to hear about it from the perspective of a high school, then check out our first summer podcast!

 

 

A few months ago, Eliza and Diamond (our SMART group facilitators!) were at one of our high schools, talking about vaping during lunch. To check out what that was like, click here. 

 

This podcast also appears in our media room, here.

Growing Up: The Coming of Age Podcast

growing of age podcast

In this podcast we talk about coming of age as teenagers and growing up. Also we explain our experiences and stories of coming of age.

Check out TurningPointCT’s newest podcast- our Summer Interns are here! And they are introducing themselves and taking about Coming of Age. What does that mean? What defined coming of age for you? How do you navigate growing up and becoming a teenager or a young adult? Click this link to watch their podcast, or if you would prefer to watch it as a video, check out this link!
Please welcome Adrianna, Cindy, and Nahjeera to the TurningPointCT team and check out their very first podcast and video!

 

If you want to say hi to us go to our forum here

New Story: Marco’s story

We have a new story on our stories page!

“I became aware of my possible depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder in high school…Once I allowed myself to be vulnerable with the universe, and more specifically my therapist, I noticed gradual changes in my psyche…”

Click this link to read more of Marco’s story

New April Feature: Panic Room Norwalk

Hi everyone! We have a new April Feature up!

On Saturday April 6th Eliza, Ally, and 10 teens from Norwalk and Fairfield completed an escape room at The Panic Room in Norwalk! It was really fun, and we finished with a few minutes to spare!! Stay tuned to see what next months free wellness activity for SMART Teen Norwalk will be!!

Until then, check out our feature here! 

We need your help! Donate today to TurningPointCT.org

We are asking for your help! 

Donate to TurningPointCT.org today or on Giving Day (Thursday, February 28)!

 

TurningPointCT.org is Connecticut’s peer support community by and for teens and young adults. We’ve got your back!

 

Our website offers a safe space online to share your story, talk about your problems, get information, and connect with resources. Our staff runs SMART Recovery support groups for teens in Norwalk and Fairfield… with more to come! We connect with other young people at schools and colleges across the state through speaking events, workshops, and resource fairs.  Whatever you’re struggling with–mental illness, addiction, homelessness, bullying, family problems–we’ve been there too.

Help us raise $10,000 to support our small part-time staff of young adults in recovery to be able to keep reaching out to schools, making connections with young people, improving our online support, and running support groups! We want every young person to know that they are not alone.

Donate to TurningPointCT.org today or on February 28th–Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

 

Click this link to Donate today, and share this page with your friends and family so we can reach our goal.

 

Giving Day runs from 12:00am to 11:59pm on Thursday, February 28th. Help us to reach our goal of raising $10,000. 

Your donation may even help us get a bonus grant if you’re one of our first or one of our last donors on Giving Day! If we get at least 25 donations of $25 right after midnight when Giving Day starts, we can win an extra $1000. So think of us Wednesday night before you go to bed and just stay up a few minutes past midnight! If you miss that chance, then please donate Thursday night between 9pm and 11:59pm. If we get enough donations during that time period, we may even win a $2,500 bonus!

Whether you can give as much as possible, or you know people who care about mental health who can donate, we need your help. Click the link to give what you can, share this page, and ask your friends to give what they can.

Together we will raise $10,000 to support young people struggling with their mental wellness! 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

Click the picture to donate!

 

(If you want to learn more about Fairfield County’s Giving Day overall, click here.)

 

Eliza’s Recovery Video

September is Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Month.

Eliza is talking about why she fights for recovery, what her life was like, and how it has changed.

Share your recovery story with us, too and tell us why you fight.

Submit your video here

Watch the video on Vimeo, Youtube, and TurningPointCT.org

Not Getting Notifications From Us?

 

Hey TurningPointCT.org! We have recently switched up our system to improve this site. So if you’re wondering where your email notifications are, check your spam folder! Remove us from spam so you can get up-to-date posts and other info. Have questions? Email us at coordinator@turningpointct.org

Bullying and Suicide

I’m sure a lot of you have seen or heard about Jamel Myles.

He is the nine year old boy from Colorado who committed suicide after coming out and being tormented by bullies. He had been bullied the year prior by the same kids, however this year, it took only four days of suffering at school for Jamel to decide to end his own life to escape the pain. He had just come out to his family and friends over the summer, and his mom said that he was happy to come out to his classmates, because he was proud of himself. Instead, Jamel was told to kill himself by his bullies.

The fact that a child could be so tormented that he decides he does not want to be alive anymore is heartbreaking. It’s sickening and tragic and horrific. And it brings me to a level of pain for two reasons.

When I was twelve, I tried to commit suicide multiple times. The most serious was in a psychiatric hospital, where in my bathroom at 2 am I hung myself with a pair of pants and woke up in a emergency room.

As a person who has struggled with mental illness for all of my adolescence and for a great deal of my childhood- I understand that pain. I understand the urge to end your life. I have felt the pain that Jamel was in. I feel the fear of death, dulled by a overwhelming desire to escape a pain I did not understand would one day feel so far away.
And as a mother, who fears above all else, that my daughter will one day struggle with the same things I have- I cannot begin to imagine the pain and deep, unbearable despair his mom, Leia must be experiencing. Truly, I cannot even try to imagine it without feeling as though I may burst into tears. While I understand the pain and desperation that fueled Jamel’s suicide, as a mom and an adult- I know what often drives suicide is a need to escape a pain that will not last forever. And that the impulse to escape overrides fear of death, love of your family, and any other logic or feeling that could stop you from ending your life. But when your young- especially as young as nine- pain seems like it is inescapable.

I am so, so sad for Jamel and his family.

And I am so hurt that bully is so prevalent that it brought a child to end his life, after only four days back at school.

R.I.P. Jamel

Podcast: Is Spirituality What Young People Need?

spirituality

Hi TurningPointCT.org! Today we sat with Chris, Connor, Ally, Beth, and Olivia to talk about spirituality.

We answered questions like:

Is spirituality always religious?

What does the term ‘spirituality’ mean to you?

How has spirituality helped shape your mental wellness?

Join in on the conversation by answering these questions too: https://turningpointct.org/lets-talk/topic/podcast-is-spirituality-what-young-people-need/

Stress

Stress.

I have been stressed.
Not every day, and not all the time.
If my stress were a rock, I would be small but very dense and very heavy.
Small, rigid, bumpy, sharp, molten lava.
Bouncing around in my pocket all the time.
Some days it feels so heavy that my hips hurt and my gait is off.
Some days I forget it’s there until I bump my leg against something and the rock digs it’s raged corner into my thigh.
And then I feel like falling over.
But I can’t- and so then I become sad- no, angry.
Hot and heavy, scared and tired. My chest gets tight and my breath becomes hot and thick. So that it weighs down my chest, and constricts my lungs.
I feel suddenly as though I am drowning.

And then I lose it.

Maybe for a moment, because someone needs something from me.
But how dare they need me, don’t they know there is molten lava in my pocket?
Of course, they don’t know, it’s too small to see.
Although, maybe they notice it ripping a hole in my pants, and they ask me if I’m ok, with a certain sincerity that rips my heart from my chest and makes my knees heavy. And then I just want to cry.
And then it becomes an ocean.
An ocean with huge waves and I’m stuck in quicksand being pummeled by huge gusts of cold, salty water.
And my eyes are red and burning, and I cannot see.
My lungs are full of salt and water, so I cannot breathe.
My mouth is full of sand and seaweed, so I have no words to say.
And I’m too scared to figure out how to move.
So like a deer in headlights, I let myself get hit by a car.
And I see it coming but cannot move or speak.

I am alone in a crowd.

A crowd of people who feel the same way as me.
But its all a big secret, and so together we all feel alone.
Then one day I find a word- or all the words. And I find someone to tell.
Maybe they are the right person; they give me goggles, so I can see through the waves. And give me a snorkel, so I can breathe. They show me my feet and tell me how to pull myself from the thick, sticky sand.
And they cannot stay with me the whole time, but maybe they can sit with me on the shore while I catch my breath.
And then the sun can begin to rise, and the mist may clear and life begins to feel ok again.

But it always seems to cycle.

And soon again, I’m drowning.
Or maybe not always, but often enough that my knees are bruised and my elbows are scraped from falling again and again.
But I feel ok for just long enough to catch my breath.
And one day, I hope, I will have my goggles and snorkel with me always- and I won’t need someone to bring it to me. My legs will be strong enough to carry my small, heavy rock. My thigh will be calloused enough so that when my molten lava hits it, I do not fall over.
Until then, I feel happy to know there are lifeguards on the shore, and that some days my rock sits quietly in my pocket and I’m able to forget that it’s there.

And there are other things that make me feel strong and steady and very happy.

Like Willow.
And I’m not always perfect, and sometimes she throws my rock in my face and I melt into the ground and grow into a monster. And when the rock shrinks back into my pocket I feel so sad and guilty.
But I can hug her and say sorry.
She always seems to forgive me for being imperfect. And I’m learning how to forgive myself.
She seems to feed me a steady stream of light and love, which gives me strength and makes me feel safe and happy.

And I tell myself again and again,
“I will be ok, I will be ok”.

Willow Moon, my sun my moon  and my stars.

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.

Podcast: How to Survive Freshman Year of High School

freshman

TurningPointCT.org blogger’s Olivia and Ally sat with Norwalk High School teens to talk about their experiences being a freshman. Listen to Ben, Emma, Nia, AJ, and Caesar share their fears, challenges, successes, and advice to incoming freshman & current students.

They want TurningPointCT.org listeners to know how to survive your freshman year and ways that teachers can help with giving their students’ an awesome high school experience.

We asked them & now we ask you:

What was the transition to high school like for you?

What kind of challenges did you have and still have?

What do you think should teachers should know?

 

Keep the conversation going here: https://turningpointct.org/lets-talk/topic/freshmanyear/

 

Listen to the podcast here:

Today, I Was Triggered

Today I was triggered.

It happened early in the day. I woke up tired, so tired. But I was happy, I was ok.
I looked out of my bedroom window. My small bedroom inside of a shelter, where I sleep alone with my daughter.
It wasn’t raining, just wet, it was dim and the air looked wet. It looked so comfortable.
I blinked, not a normal quick blink, the type that lasts years and years and sends images of memories running through your head. I was in Redding, waking up for school, living with my mom and my brother.
And for a moment, without quite realizing it, I became sad, so sad.
My eyes got heavy, and my mind became wet with thoughts and feelings.

Then, in the shower, with soap all over my body, the water pressure slowed gradually until nothing came out. I stood there for a few moments, trying to wash the soap off myself with the final, cold drips falling from the pipes.
Willow smiled up at me and reached to be picked up.

While we were getting ready Willow began to cry. She whined, and reached, and yelled a few times. She wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was.
I made a conscious effort to keep hold of my patience and not become upset with her. We both just felt a lot and needed a moment.
So we sat in bed, half dressed, and read a few books and had some quiet time.
By the time we were ready, we both felt a little better.

Then, leaving a few minutes later than I intended, I stepped outside.
Again, I was triggered.

The air was filled with a smell and a feeling and a look that filled me with a feeling of memory.
Someone came from behind me and hit me in the back with a bag of feelings and thoughts and half-memories.

Nostalgia.

The memories weren’t whole; they were feelings that were happy and sad, and thoughts that were too fuzzy to really be thoughts. No actual memories came. It was a feeling of memory.
As I walked, I felt somber.
I was also really content. The air smelled so good, and I felt very mindful. I enjoyed the foggy air, and I felt calm and able to observe everything around me.

Suddenly, I would feel sad, or have an intense longing for something, although I wasn’t sure what for exactly.
I would look at a building, one I see every day, and it was as if I had just noticed it was there. Suddenly, I would be clubbed with this feeling of memory.
I saw the water through the buildings and felt a strong urge to wander.
I felt no urgency or sense of time, almost as if I had been suspended into my own universe, within the outside world but separated by a strong sense of awareness.
Or something like that.

As I continued to walk, I thought about how I felt, I wrote about it in my head.
My contentedness grew into a subtle happiness. I felt so calm.

The wind blew my hair over my eyes and nose. The smell of shampoo filled my nostrils.

Again this wave hit me.
No actual memories.
But the bodily sensation of being somewhere I wasn’t.
The nostalgia.
A vague mixture of happiness and sadness.
And many thoughts I couldn’t quite place or identify.

Today I was triggered.
And I’ve never quite handled it so well, and I’m so glad I was.

Spring is almost here! To celebrate, here is Willow destroying nature. (P.S. I do not pick flowers or disturb nature, someone gave this to us)

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)

Thinking About Everything and Nothing

Friday, March 16, 2018
Life is weird. It’s horrible and wonderful and fun and scary and exciting and sad. All of that is loosely wrapped into a pattern of wrapping paper that you don’t chose, that doesn’t change the contents it holds or matter much, but is what many people will judge us based upon, without looking inside. Then we throw in feelings; lots of feelings. Thoughts, too- which are different from feelings, but maybe they are exactly the same. I’m not sure. There are also experiences, both good and bad. Whether we perceive them as positive or negative, they happen, and they change us. And they help us and they hurt us: and supposedly we have control over that, but I’m not always quite sure of that. Then there’s time. We can’t control it, have little understanding of it, and are unaware of how much we have. And time changes and it changes us- constantly. It’s like this river that can grow into an ocean or shrink into a puddle suddenly and without clear cause. And finally there’s uncertainty; lots of that.
We are thrown into life holding these packages that grow and grow, or maybe they stay the same for a long time, or maybe they shrink; we don’t know, or at least I don’t, and usually we don’t even know or understand what’s inside of them. Then we are sounded by millions of other people and their packages and their feelings and confusion. And we are constantly bumping into them or holding their hands or pushing them away. That’s mostly what life is made of. I think.
Sometimes I think my anxiety or my depression or whatever it is: something in me that I don’t like, but should probably try to make friends with, forces me to try to define things. So constantly, I am attempting to place reason upon the unreasonable. This futile attempt to define many small things, alongside the one big thing- life- is not good for me. I mean, maybe it’s not all that bad. Sometimes I come to a reasonable understanding of something. Or maybe it gives me a unique lens to look at life through. But I think more often than not, it either causes me to romanticize that which is unhealthy or sad or negative; or it causes my mind to run in circles, chasing its own tail, desperately attempting to catch something that will never reach my fingertips.
But I am not all bad, and neither is life, or the people in it, or the packages glued to our palms. And today is a beautiful day, and spring is coming which fills me with happiness and hope. Recently, I got a new camera, and that means I can be creative again, which I used to be able to do constantly. And Willow and I had a beautiful night and morning today. I cannot wait to bring her for a ride on her new tricycle-thingy. And I’m happy and content, and the sun is pulling the sorrow from my skin and replacing it with hope. Right now I am happy, for the most part, and today is a good day. And all I can ever ask is to be good enough, and anything after that is extra. Someone I love told me that, and I like to hold onto things which make me think of people I love, and I like to think of life in lose but concrete ways, if that makes sense. Because even though everything is always changing and always will, right now it is how it is and that is ok.

Fighting with time

Willows’ Birthday Week

February 21, 2018

Every night, since the day Willow was born, I have nursed her to sleep. For almost 1 year, no matter where we were, what we did, or what was going on, chest to chest, we would lay down together and willow would nurse until she fell asleep.
Tonight, Willow fell asleep without nursing. We laid in bed together, calm, tired and peaceful. Willows cheek on my chest. We looked at each other and spoke softly and touched each other’s faces and smiled for almost 30 minutes until Willow fell asleep.
These small moments of independence are incredible. In that, they are painfully difficult to experience and simultaneously exciting and wonderful and amazing to witness.
This beautiful small person is doing what all small people do; which is to grow up and change at an alarming rate.
And I am left only one option, which is to hold on to a rope which is constantly running through my hands, knowing one day I will have no choice but to let go of it.

February 22, 2018

Willow will be one on Monday. I am filled with this gut-wrenching feeling.
Although I am incredibly happy and excited, I am filled with sadness and guilt.
I look at her, and she looks exactly the same as the day I lay in a hospital bed in New Haven, and a wet naked newborn was placed on my chest. But then, I blink. And suddenly, she’s not an infant, not a baby, she’s a young girl. I see her face and the world behind her bright eyes. Her fierce spirit shines through and pierces my heart.
I feel like throwing up. I look back at pictures of her months ago and suddenly realize that she has changed so much, and so quickly.
It feels as though all these changes have happened slowly yet suddenly; somehow each time I turn my head she changes, yet most days it’s so subtle that I don’t realize it’s happening. Then one day I’m looking at my newborn baby, but she’s not really a newborn; she’s almost a toddler, and I fall to pieces wondering how time has flown past me without even realizing it.
And I cannot get time back- when it leaves me it’s gone forever. My baby is both the youngest she’ll ever be again and the oldest she’s ever been. Each moment I’m suspended in this incredible fight with time. Watching my child grow, joyfully as I am in awe of what a beautiful little person she is. And fearfully, as it is constant and fast and terrifying.

Guilt sets in as I ask myself,
Am I taking it all in? Am I really appreciating this relatively small amount of time I have with Willow? Or am I constantly rushing? Ignoring life and constantly finishing ‘tasks’. While my focus on what matters blurs and I hone in on things that sneak into my vision; drudging forward, while pushing aside small moments that may slip through my hands like water flows surely through a stream?

Thankfully, I have one thing that returns power to my shaking hands.
That is, that I know of time. I know of time, and it’s constant flow, I know of the pain it will cause if I handle it incorrectly.
And I have power. Power to change the way I look at life, change the way I prioritize everything that “matters”. I will hold my mistakes tightly- I won’t let them slip pass me, with the intention of self-love. No, I will carry them in my pockets, and pull them out when I need a reminder of who I want to be and what is truly important. And someday when they become dead weight, I may let them go.

And to my beautiful girl, for whom my heart beats,
You are the most important thing in my life. The love I feel for you is strong enough to cause my heart pain. I know that may sound silly and odd, but one day you may understand. Happy Birthday, Willow Moon.

The week before your birthday

Willows Birthday Week

February 21, 2018
Every night, since the day Willow was born, I have nursed her to sleep. For almost 1 year, no matter where we were, what we did, or what was going on, chest to chest, we would lay down together and willow would nurse until she fell asleep.
Tonight, Willow fell asleep without nursing. We laid in bed together, calm, tired and peaceful. Willows cheek on my chest. We looked at each other and spoke softly and touched each other’s faces and smiled for almost 30 minutes until Willow fell asleep.
These small moments of independence are incredible. In that, they are painfully difficult to experience and simultaneously exciting and wonderful and amazing to witness.
This beautiful small person is doing what all small people do; which is to grow up and change at an alarming rate.
And I am left only one option, which is to hold on to a rope which is constantly running through my hands, knowing one day I will have no choice but to let go of it.

February 22, 2018
Willow will be one on Monday. I am filled with this gut-wrenching feeling.
I am so happy and excited, but so incredibly sad and guilty.
I look at her, and she looks exactly the same as the day I lay in a hospital bed in New Haven, and a wet naked newborn was placed on my chest. But then, I blink. And suddenly, she’s not an infant, not a baby, she’s a young girl. I see her face and the world behind her bright eyes. Her fierce spirit shines through and pierces my heart.
I feel like throwing up. I look back at pictures of her months ago and suddenly realize that she has changed so much, and so quickly.
It feels as though all these changes have happened slowly yet suddenly; somehow each time I turn my head she changes, yet most days it’s so subtle that I don’t realize it’s happening. Then one day I’m looking at my newborn baby, but she’s not really a newborn; she’s almost a toddler, and I fall to pieces wondering how time has flown past me without even realizing it.
And I cannot get time back- when it leaves me it’s gone forever. My baby is both the youngest she’ll ever be again and the oldest she’s ever been. Each moment I’m suspended in this incredible fight with time. Watching my child grow, joyfully as I am in awe of what a beautiful little person she is. And fearfully, as it is constant and fast and terrifying.
Guilt sets in as I ask myself,
Am I taking it all in? Am I really appreciating this relatively small amount of time I have with Willow? Or am I constantly rushing? Ignoring life and constantly finishing ‘tasks’. While my focus on what matters blurs and I hone in on things that sneak into my vision; drudging forward, while pushing aside small moments that may slip through my hands like water flows surely through a stream?

Thankfully, I have one thing that returns power to my shaking hands.
That is, that I know of time. I know of time, and it’s constant flow, I know of the pain it will cause if I handle it incorrectly.
And I have power. Power to change the way I look at life, change the way I prioritize everything that “matters”. I will hold my mistakes tightly- I won’t let them slip pass me, with the intention of self-love. No, I will carry them in my pockets, and pull them out when I need a reminder of who I want to be and what is truly important. And someday when they become dead weight, I may let them go.

And to my beautiful girl, for whom my heart beats,
You are the most important thing in my life. The love I feel for you is strong enough to cause my heart pain. I know that may sound silly and odd, but one day you may understand. Happy Birthday, Willow Moon.

Stages of life

This week I have been thinking a lot about the different stages in my life.

Luz posted something on the forum about changing your expectations of yourself, and reaching goals you may have never thought yourself capable of. She talked about what her life used to look like, and how she once did not believe she was capable of achieving “normalcy”.
That made me think a lot about my past; where I’ve come from, where I’ve gone, where I’m at now. And most importantly, how I got there, and here. What did it take to go through each age and stage of my life? Where did I go (both good and bad) that I never imagined myself going? How did it change me?

Then today something else happened that hurled me years and years into my past.

I met someone- well didn’t meet, more met again. When I introduced myself she instantly remembered me- we were roommates and friends in the hospital together when I was 12.

That was over ten years ago, and the first time (of over 15) I was put in a psychiatric hospital.
At that point in my life, it was one of the most profound experiences I’d ever had. So much happened in those 7 months (it was technically 3 separate stays, but with only a few days of being discharged in between) that shaped and transformed me.

I cannot help but find myself entombed in thoughts and memories. Reminiscing about a time in my life that was both incredibly painful, scary, and difficult; but also comfortable, safe, and sometimes even very happy. These memories are similar to falling in a rose bush. I’m surrounded by beautiful flowers, and covered in wounds. I feel a small light in my stomach, but enclosed within a deep pit full of sadness.

And then I begin to think about what happened after I left the hospital.

From there my life fell apart.
From there my journey with mental illness began; and has not ended since.
And from there I grew and changed in many ways- both good and bad.

From memories of my first hospitalization, come painful memories of all that ensued afterward; essentially my entire family falling apart both separately and together over a period of 5 years.
What each tragedy encompassed.
How it felt, and I don’t just remember the feeling, I experience it.

I am once again a 14 year old girl stuffing 200 pills down her throat.

Then, I am 16 years old, saying “no” to a 24 year old man, who was too high to listen.
I am 17 years old and waking up from a coma after a suicide attempt I don’t remember making, because all the seizures that resulted from it damaged my memory.
Again and again I am experiencing the traumas I left behind years ago.

And it’s like being beaten with a bat.
I cannot catch my breath enough to beg for it to stop.

Where am I in time and how do I find my way back here?

How do I accept all that’s happened and the place I’m at now when all I want to do I reject it and bury my mind in a deep pit of sand?

It’s so strange how things continue to change at such a rapid pace. It’s all the time and we have no say as to whether or not it happens. Against our will we are under a constant transformation that will only cease to exist when we do.

How do I swallow the fact that I once wanted to die?
That many times I tried to kill myself?
That I hurt myself every day for years?
How do I move forward knowing at one time in my life I would cry thinking about how much I hated myself?
And that at one time I was a teenager and watching my life crumble before me; terrified and powerless.

I ask how do I do this because really, it wasn’t that long ago. And really, I’m still the same person.

Except now I have a daughter and life and set of responsibilities that I was never supposed to have.  I was never supposed to be here. I don’t think I ever planned on being 22.
Yet against my own will, transformations occurred. And somehow, without my knowledge or consent, I began to get better.

What about the times that that old, familiar dark place seems most comfortable?

It’s funny how small things can begin large, unmanageable spirals. Like hearing a song, or smelling something vaguely familiar. And how simple things, like writing this blog post can begin to bring me back into realignment- even if it’s without my consent or intent.

I come back to a place of normalcy where I remember that sadness is not safety. And that I’m no longer a child, and no longer without control or power.

And most importantly, I am responsible for a little girl. Who needs me and wants me. And it’s my job to be there for her, and be good to her. And I promise to her, and myself, and the entire universe that I will not fail her and I will always try as hard as I can to be what she needs.

Trying to be perfect in an imperfect world

I am a perfectionist.

 

Many people may believe that perfectionism is a good quality to have. Yet those who live with unrealistic standards and crippling anxiety understand the plight of someone who sets standards they cannot possibly reach, and the sorrow of the continuous failure and disappointment they must deal with when they believe everything must always be perfect. This is what it feels like to be a perfectionist…

When I was a little girl, I had so many ideas about what my life was supposed to be like. I thought everything had to be perfect; especially me. I had a carefully arranged and thoroughly thought out plan of what perfect was. When things deviated from that, I fell apart.
As I got older, it became harder and harder to live up to the expectations I had created for myself. People rarely lived up to my ideals. Slowly, this began to break me.
It was strange, the way I fell apart; in many ways, my demise was self-created. Yet, even with a sense of recognition, I could not stop myself. It was a cycle that I had made with my own two hands, stepped in willingly, but could not find the strength to jump out of. My brain had begun to betray me at a young age and has not stopped since.

I remember being in Elementary school, and deciding quite concretely what it took to be ‘successful’, which was synonymous with being ‘good enough’.

I had to get good grades, which meant I had to get all A’s because being good enough wasn’t good enough and in order to succeed, I had to be the best. When I graduated High School with my perfect grades, I had to go to college. But not just college; I had to go to Harvard. I had to follow the expectations I had set, and thrive within the pressure cooker I had built around myself. If I faltered in even small ways, it was a massive, unforgivable failure on my part. And worse than failure was being a disappointment, which was, by all means, the absolute worst thing I could do.

Unfortunately, the world did not follow the standards I expected it to, and I felt powerless to change it. I could not stop my mom from dropping me off to school late every single day, yet I still cried like a baby and yelled that I would never go to college if I couldn’t get to second grade on time. People would put things back in the ‘wrong’ place, and I would crumble. I, like everyone in the world, would lose control constantly. Yet, unlike the rest of my peers, I seemed unable to swallow this and move forward without first falling to the floor in a puddle of tears, or hitting my head against a wall, or screaming and screaming until my little lungs cracked and burned.
As I got older, I began to reason that if things were imperfect, out of my control, or lower than my standards, that rather than accepting the loss of control and disappointment, I would willingly fail. Willingly handing over my power was easier than having it fall from my grip, despite my efforts.

Now, I am no longer a little girl.

I still struggle with the expectation of perfection I unconsciously set for myself. Yet, consciously I fight the notion and try to set new standards.
If I ever spoke to Willow the way I used to speak to myself, my heart would shatter into a million pieces. If she ever spoke to or thought of herself in the way I used to think of myself, I don’t believe I could carry the sadness that would veil my heart. So instead of teaching her to love herself, I will learn how to love myself. She will watch her mom be kind and forgiving to herself, see how she accepts the ebbs and flows of life, and witness her open her palms to the universe to receive what is handed to her. And with time, she too will do the same.

perfectionist

My mom and me in my Great Aunts’ house in Jacksonville, FL.

perfectionist

Me, in my favorite hat

perfectionist

My anxiety due to the high standards I constantly set for myself peaked in my freshman year of High School

perfectionist

My beautiful daughter, who is and will always be perfect simply for being herself

SMART Recovery Teen Group In Fairfield, CT

Join us for a free SMART Recovery Teen Support Group on Friday’s in Fairfield, CT!

Learn ways to gain control of your life and sort through it all in the company of your peers, run by trained TurningPointCT young adults.

This is for anyone struggling with anything: stress, school, peers, family, self harm, mental health and substance use disorders, bullying, fighting, etc.

Snacks are provided and monthly social activities with peers (that you get to help plan!)

We can help with transportation.

Starting Friday, February 16th from 3:30-5:00pm
First Congregational Church
Wakeman Hall
148 Beach Road, Fairfield CT

Need more info?
Contact Ally:
203-840-1187 (Office)
akernan@healthymindsct.org

P.S. if you are a high school student that enjoys mentoring or a social work/psychology student and see this as something you would like to get involved in, please contact us!

Join the conversation here: https://turningpointct.org/lets-talk/topic/smart-recovery-teen-group/

Guilt, Anxiety, and Fear: Motherhood

When I wake up it starts.

I probably didn’t sleep very well- or maybe I did and I wanted to sleep longer.
I probably got woken up a few times last night to nurse you back to sleep. There were probably a few times you were restless and tossed and turned while you tried to get comfortable.

Guilt;
I remember being woken up over and over again, exhaustion, panic because I know I’m tired and need so much more sleep than I will get. Frustrated because I so desperately want to sleep as peacefully as I imagine you do. Anger because I cannot and anticipation of how exhausted I will feel in the morning.

Fear of never being able to sleep again.

Dread;
I dread waking up in this place, putting you in daycare, being alive and monotonously going through the day.

Collapsing into a puddle, I break, I lose my patience. I’m not fully awake and not fully human. Maybe I harshly say,
“stop.”
Or angrily beg you to go back to sleep. Or worse, maybe I just lay there, don’t look at you or talk to you, just sit in a heaping puddle of uncomfortable emotions.

When I wake up, probably a little while before you did, a realization comes to me as I see how beautiful and peaceful you are. I realize the impatience that took over me hours earlier.

I’m a terrible mother- a terrible person, in fact.

I lost my patience. I scared you, upset you, and damaged you. An intense wave of sadness covers me and I feel desperate to go backward in time. A pit grows in my stomach as I know I cannot do that and must only go forwards. I want to hold you, I want to cry, I want to be perfect for you and I want to be happy with you always.

Regret, fear, dread, anger, exhaustion, guilt, sadness.
Over and over again, every day.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. There are many, many things I know; many mistakes. I wonder how much they are damaging you, and in what ways.
I want to fix them all- be perfect and wonderful and exactly what you need and want. But when I try to think of my wrong-doings I cannot pinpoint them all.
It’s looking for hay in a haystack- it’s all there and it’s all the same, and it’s all wrong. I can hardly do anything right for you. Maybe I do what I believe is good, but soon I will find it is, in fact, wrong. I have hurt or damaged you in some unknown, and therefore gigantic, way. Worst of all, I cannot take any of it back.

Paralyzed with fear but continuously pushed forward by the current of life.
I’m stuck in a riptide.

But my love for you grows each day. It’s a painful love that fills me simultaneously with joy, and a deep despair and fear.
I wonder about all the things I must prevent. All the possibilities. So much can go wrong. So many scary, seemingly unpreventable things swirling around us in this world. I want to protect you but fear I cannot.

I feel out of control.

But then a beautiful day happens.
You grab my checks with two soft, warm hands and look into my eyes.
Or you crawl to me, laugh, kiss me.
You let me hold you and hug you and you hold me back.
And for a moment, my fears melt away, so that I’m standing in a deep puddle, soaking wet but dripping dry. We stand alone in the dark for a moment, and my brain gives me time to love you in peace.

I realize that these moments can grow. That if I make myself a farmer and equip myself with fertilizer and pesticides and gain the knowledge to grow a garden that we can be happy. I can rake out sadness and anxiety to make room for big, bright, beautiful happiness.

I will call myself a farmer and you will be my seeds, my water, and my sun.

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

Are our youth over-medicated?

We’re back and this time we are talking our experience with medication and asking the question, are our youth being overmedicated?

Listen to Ally, Olivia, Eliza, and Michael

overmedicated

share their experiences with medication for behavioral health issues as teens and young adults. In this podcast episode, we talk about both our struggles and successes with medication and how we are influenced by it today.

Join in on the convo right here and share your thoughts — are we overmedicating our youth? What has your experience been like? https://turningpointct.org/lets-talk/topic/podcast-medication/

 

This too shall pass

Yesterday Willow turned 8 months old.
It’s hard to believe I have been a mom for almost a year.
Part of me feels as though I have been doing this for nearly a decade. Another half of me feels as though it was only a few weeks ago that I was holding my newborn daughter.

I remember when my daughter was born. Not as vividly as I thought I would recall it; I imagined years later, remembering the color hair tie I wore and the exact emotions I felt as my screaming, naked baby was placed on my chest.
But I remember it.

I remember saying,
“Fuck, fuck, fuck”
in pain- in front of my boyfriends mom, who never heard me swear before. I wanted to apologize, but was too shocked by the pain of labor to actually do it. I remember as I got closer to pushing, the strength of my instincts. I was too focused to doubt myself, so like a dancer preforming a routine I knew by heart, I followed my body’s commands. I went from bed, to ball, to shower, to toilet in a matter of minutes. I groaned, I leaned, I ignored all the noises and people around me. I went inside myself and flowed through the motions of labor.

Then I remember fear.
While I sat up in bed, with my knees by my cheeks, I felt terrified.
The pain I was feeling was more intense and unavoidable than anything I had ever experienced in my life. I knew, that even though I was feeling a pain more intense than I had ever experienced, I could not stop. I could not back out, nor did I want to.
I remember telling my amazing midwife,
“I can’t do this, I can’t do this”
She was calm, confident, and fearless when she told me,
“Yes you can. You’re safe. You’re doing an amazing job”.
Being told I was safe was exactly what I need to hear. I was terrified of the pain I was feeling. It was so intense it felt as though it could kill me. With eyes closed and arms out, I had been flung into a foreign place. I could not see where I was, nor did I know where to go; but I had to find my way through.
I let go of my fear and hesitancy as I listened to my body and ignored my brain. I continued pushing through a level of pain that I’ve never felt before, and through that experienced a new, greater level of pain. I pushed and pushed , with eyes closed tight running forward, I continued, unsure but faithful.
Then a nurse told me that I could reach down and feel my babies head if I wanted to. I put my hand between my legs and and felt my daughters hair.
With new determination, I was sure of what I was doing.
Suddenly, as quickly as it began, it was over.
As my midwife held up my daughter at all I could say was,
“Oh my God, oh my God”.

I had done it. I looked my fear, doubts, and hesitation in its eyes, and continued forward with open willingness.
Giving birth filled me with an ecstasy and pride I had never experienced.
I had known going in to the hospital that millions of women before me had accomplished childbirth. I knew I wanted to have a natural birth. I knew that one way or another, I would have my daughter.
Regardless of this knowledge, of my attempted preparation, I was filled with intense doubt and fear.

I learned, from giving birth many things about myself.

I learned the power of intentions; and that I can do anything I set my mind to.
I learned that discomfort and pain won’t kill you- despite your fears it may. That if you can harness the strength to sit with it- to go through it, not around- that it will end.
I learned about love- real love- and that I had never experienced it before meeting my daughter.
And I finally began to understand the importance of loving myself.

I hope that I will continue to love myself more each day. That I will learn that I want to change for myself, because I love myself; not just because I want to be a good mom.
And I hope that one day soon- I will be the woman I want my daughter to be.
And the woman I want to be.

For now, I will sit with the discomfort of not being in the place I wish I were in.
I will sit with the discomfort of living in a shelter, being employed part time and very poor, and of not having a degree.
I will sit with the discomfort of being a work in progress.

I will continue to move forward, through the pain and sadness of not having the life I want for my daughter, not yet.
I will go through this pain- and during that time learn a great deal more about myself and my life.

And one day soon, Willow and I will be ok.

A Day at the Courthouse

As my morning alarm went off and I slowly got out of bed, my anxiety started to kick in. I was getting dressed and heading to Bridgeport Superior Court and all I could think about was the last time I was there, three years ago.

On April 1, 2014, I was sentenced to prison because of the consequences of my heroin addiction. Part of my sentencing included 3 years of probation. I had already completed two and was now eligible for “early termination”, which meant that I had a chance to be let off one year early. Aka, no longer being property of CT’s judicial system.

As much as I would like to say that I had outstanding performance, unfortunately I didn’t. In fact, in my personal life, I completely failed. I had relapsed after a year of sobriety which led me into a four month long relapse. During that relapse, I had experienced the deepest amount of sorrow I had ever been in, and I’ve been in some deep ones. According to probation standards, I was to remain sober, not have possession of any firearms, complete community service, and to not get arrested again. I had done everything but remain sober. Probation had record of a positive urine toxicology test and had told me to “come back in 30 days with a clean test and this test will not cause any violation”. I had already been off of all substances, but the reason my test came out positive was because I still had marijuana in my system after I had left my detox treatment facility. So, staying sober, I came back in 30 days and gave a negative test.

I should have known better that probation keeps record of everything and that every record will affect me, some way or another. Although I did not get an official probation violation, that positive test resulted in probation making a recommendation to the court to continue my probation and NOT grant me early termination.

That’s fine, I understand, I technically didn’t keep the requirements of probation.

However, what I did after I sought treatment for my relapse, was substantial. I became an advocate for recovery, maintained continuous recovery for almost two years, started working in the addiction recovery field, started school full time, and received recognition and awards for the advocacy I was doing. I even had an offer to work with the CT Department of Corrections, but I could only accept the position if I was granted the early termination. Probation was holding me back and becoming a barrier in many aspects of my life.

So, I decided to attend my probation hearing with letters of recommendation and proof of my progress since that last test, in hopes that the judge may decide to cut me a break.

I was dreading going to that courthouse. My last memory of that place was me leaving in handcuffs and being sent away to a correctional institution. I was addicted to heroin, extremely underweight, and had no hope or purpose for my life.

I walked up the steps of the courthouse and waited in the line as people went through the metal detectors. Hearing the buzzing of the detector started sending me back to the year that I was in and out of that courthouse fighting this case. At every court date I was either high or in withdrawal.
I went through the routine of coming to court as if it was second nature, which was a bit disappointing for me. It was pathetic to me that I knew how to navigate the court house and system so well because I was a defendant so many times. I bee-lined around people looking lost and went to a bulletin board that hung all of the docket numbers of that day and which court room they were going to be in. I found my name and proceeded into the court room. Of course it was the exact court room that I had gotten sentenced in and hauled away in handcuffs.

I sat on the wooden bench and then the waiting began. Court is full of waiting, no matter what court house you are in or what you are in court for. As I waited, people began to fill the court room and defense attorneys were pulling their clients aside to speak with them.

Instantly every single dreadful memory came back to me at once. I then heard a door located on the side of the court room open and I knew exactly why it was being opened; a prisoner was being transported to a different section of the courthouse. Then, a panic attack started coming on in full force. At first it started off with general anxiety, but the second I heard the chains of the handcuffs, full panic mode set in.

“Breathe, Ally, breathe. This is totally normal. This isn’t you. You are walking out of here today no matter what. Everything. Is. Going. To. Be. Just. Fine.” I said to myself.

Knowing that the judge was going to be approaching the bench at any moment I couldn’t get up and leave. So I dropped my head and began to pray; my go-to for extreme panic situations that I literally cannot get out of.

After finally bringing myself to a sustainable level of anxiety, the judge approached the bench.

My name was called and I approached, with each step remembering all of the times I had done this.

The judge looked over my letters, looked at me and said, “Wow. Miss Kernan I never see this. Unfortunately, many people that come in here with a case like yours, do not make it. You not only changed your life completely, but you now help others. Based on the substantial amount of information that I am seeing, I have no issue with terminating your probation.”

She then turned to the prosecutor and asked if he had any objections.

The prosecutor said, “I absolutely have an objection. She is a FELON. It shows she has a dirty urine on her record. I cannot agree to this, AT ALL.”
My heart stung as he emphasized “felon” and “dirty urine”. Even the language of that term alone is unprofessional.

The judge then looked at me and said, “What do you have to say about the urine result?”

I replied, “Your honor, I had a relapse which probation has record of. I take full responsibility of it and that’s why I came here today, despite probations’ recommendation to continue my probation because of that test result. I’m here to advocate for myself in hopes that the court can reconsider and grant the early termination so I can further my career in the addiction recovery services.”

The judge said, “Well I see your progress and I don’t think this one test should hinder you. I want to grant early termination,” she then looked at the prosecutor and said, “Again, I think you should reconsider and you should take my recommendation. This woman has no purpose of staying on probation.”
The prosecutor would not come to an agreement and the judge had to continue my probation because of it.

Aka… I was to continue probation for another year.

The judge apologized to me and even expressed her embarrassment for the state’s inability to agree with her recommendation. That alone was humbling to hear.

So although I was disappointed that I had to continue my case, there was so much to be grateful for that day:
I was still in recovery.
I was walking out of the courthouse with no hand-cuffs.
I was sober in the court room!
I was healthy.
I was even mistaken for an attorney!
I had shown a judge that recovery is possible.

But most importantly, God is still in control and was the entire time. That fact alone kept me in so much peace. Instead of complaining, I changed my perspective.

Recovery teaches me to change my perspective on situations and people. Being a Christian teaches me to have thankfulness in every situation.
I am so thankful that I am still in recovery. I am so thankful that I will continue to never allow probation be a barrier to maintain my recovery and help support someone else’s.

This experience also taught me more about the judicial system and made me think of new things that I can advocate for.

I’ve been blessed in my road of recovery and if I made it this far on probation, I can absolutely continue!

And one last thing I was thankful for: I faced a place that I thought would forever haunt me; sober.