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Double the Madness


depression green road sign over storm clouds

A few months ago I wrote about how I had again received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As many of us know, one of the major characteristics of bipolar disorder is mood swings. My doctor prescribed medicine that worked quite well in stabilizing my mood–that is until January 27, 2016. On that day, I had a hysterectomy.

Last year I was diagnosed with Stage IV endometriosis. The only permanent treatment is a full hysterectomy. After six months of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant, we made the decision for me to have the surgery. After I healed, the physical difference was amazing, particularly in regards to my lower back pain. I can now walk long distances without much discomfort. Yay me! Mentally is a different story.

One of the side effects of a hysterectomy is that you are thrown into menopause, and one of the major things about menopause is that you have mood swings. Bipolar disorder and menopause is no joke. Although I’m on medication, the emotional upheavals were unbearable. I found myself getting irritated at little things (an aspect of hypomania) although I’m regularly taking my medication. On the flip side, I was crying for no reason at all. Because of these things, I made the decision to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Along with my medication, HRT has helped with the irrational irritability and crying spells, however I still struggle with one mental challenge. I can only describe it as the most horrible mix of depression and anxiety that I have experienced since I was a teenager. On a good day, I constantly think about my own death. Not in a suicidal ideation type of way, but always thinking that I will be dying soon, either from a horrible accident or from fatal health issues.

On a bad day, the thoughts and feelings are so bad that I don’t like leaving the house, and I even feel shaky trying to drive–shaky in the sense that I’m panicked and hyper-aware of other cars because I’m waiting for the car accident to happen. You would think that being hyper-aware would make you safer, but I don’t feel safer so I usually find someone else to drive. Even then, I’m still looking out for disaster.

My daughter likes to sleep in the same bed as me to have mommy snuggles before slumber. I’ve gotten so panicked about me dying in my sleep and not wanting my daughter to wake up with her dead mother in bed with her that I’ve started refusing her requests. I don’t tell her the real reason why, but focus on her getting older and needing to sleep on her own.

Trying to sleep is a whole other issue. Not only am I plagued by thoughts of dying of a heart attack in my sleep, but anxiety over a house fire or natural disaster keep me up until the early hours of the morning. I will lie in bed and plot exit routes out of the house, safety precautions in case of or a tornado, or I’ll just cry because I don’t want to die yet.

This is no way to live. I’m hoping my doctor can switch my medication so that the madness can end. Until then, I’m writing more poetry just to get it all out of my head.

This is just a glimpse into mental illness and bio-chemical changes within the body. The next time you encounter someone with these issues, please remember this post and be compassionate–that person has enough hurt and worry to deal with without the need for social sanctioning or ostracizing.

Getting Real about Getting Healthy


hope concept

Much has happened since we moved to the Chicago area.

I spent a month on the couch in severe pain. Testing showed that I had ovarian cysts and a tumor, which required surgery. After the surgery, we learned that I have Stage IV endometriosis. During the first surgery, much of the endometrial tissue was removed, along with my left ovary and fallopian tube. Unfortunately, since I’m Stage IV, I still experience continual discomfort with random episodes of sharp stabbing pain. To treat this, I will be having a full hysterectomy in January, which will mean six to eight weeks of more healing time.

Given my physical health challenges and a familial episode that was sparked by my sometimes illogical sense of aggravation, I decided it was past time to really be serious about my overall health–for my benefit and my family’s benefit, particularly my daughter, Maya, because she deserves a healthy and happy mom. To this end, I decided to accept the diagnosis I was given when I was twenty-six. I went to a psychiatrist for re-evaluation and was finally honest about some things that I had never told a mental healthcare worker before–specifically about my compulsive spending, days of elevated irritability, and episodes where things seem to explode and my behavior becomes erratic (which often leads to self-injury). The psychiatrist confirmed what I was told fourteen years ago–I have bipolar II with hypomania. I’m not rejecting the diagnosis anymore.

For now, I’m on new medicine, and so far the change has been so amazing, I’m mentally kicking myself for not doing this sooner. Of course I will likely have to fight the urge that I had so many years ago–once I feel good for a while, I will need to resist the urge to convince myself that there’s nothing really wrong with me, those episodes were just me having a “bad day.” More recently I had justified all of this by saying that I had an intolerance for a**holes. Like I told the psychiatrist, with so many different episodes with different people, the only common denominator was ME. Therefore, I need to get over myself and accept the fact that I’m the one with the issue so I can treat it and go on with my life.

So that’s what I’m doing. As you can expect, you will read much more about my journey in upcoming posts. Until then, health and blessings to all.

It Was Nice Knowing You


shutterstock_175036412

A scream not of terror, but of relief. On October 20, 2014, I gave notice at the office job that I’ve had for twelve years. Actually, my twelve-year anniversary will be the last day with the company, November 25, 2014.

The good news is that I will be taking a couple of months off from the corporate drag and focus on my writing. I will FINALLY have the energy and will to complete “Mining the Dark.” My ability to complete my own projects will be astronomical once I don’t have these other distractions.

The GREAT news is that I will devote much of this time to my daughter, spending the holidays with her and being more present at her school.

This time away from the grind will also allow me to continue my path to healthy living.

In a nutshell, I cannot wait for this next chapter to begin.

Expect more on these topics over the coming months as I continue to process the impact of it all, and how my life is getting better because I said ENOUGH.

The Complexity of Simplicity


scary+poltergeists (1)WARNING: Possible triggering material.

Oh, God, I forgot the belts….

That’s the first thought I had when I read the details of Robin Wililams’ suicide. I forgot the belts.

A little over twelve years ago, I was working as a Human Resources Specialist. I became friends with one of the managers there, a young man named Andrew. He was quiet, not very social, timidly nice with a dry, sardonic sense of humor. We were “work friends,” meaning that we interacted as friends at work, but not in our personal lives.

Then one day I got the call. I was sitting in my office, doing my normal duties and Andrew’s manager called me. She had Andrew on the line. She was worried because he hadn’t showed up for work, so she called to check on him. She wanted me to talk to him because he was emotionally distraught and close to the edge. I anxiously accepted the call. In a cautious voice, I said, “Hello, Andrew. What’s going on?” He replied, “I don’t know. I’m thinking of killing myself. I was getting the rope ready when she called.”

In one way I was numb. In another way, I went into crisis mode. Thankfully while I was in college I had done some peer counseling and was even trained in crisis counseling. I continued talking to him, mostly listening. Letting him talk. Giving him the opportunity to let out whatever he felt comfortable releasing. Once I felt that he was in a calmer space, I told him I was coming to his apartment and had him agree to do nothing until I got there. I then transferred the call back to his boss and directed her not to let him hang up, but to keep him talking. 

My boss was unsure as to whether I should go when I explained everything. I told him that I had done peer counseling with depressed people, I had experience (didn’t mention my own failed attempts), and I knew I could help the situation. His boss was adamant, I should stay at the office because it was too dangerous. What if Andrew did something to me? That possibility was the farthest thing from my mind. I was confident that he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me, but my boss’s boss wasn’t sure. My boss, although he was a jerk most of the time, finally agreed with me and told me to go. When his boss asked what he was going to do if something happened to me, his only response was, “Well, then it will be one helluva worker’s comp claim.”

I arrived at Andrew’s apartment. When he opened the door, the only word I could think to describe him was hollow. That’s what his eyes were…hollow. Almost like Andrew wasn’t there anymore. He was, but wasn’t. He invited me in and said that his boss was still on the phone and wanted to talk to me. His phone was in the bedroom. I walked through the living room, and the first thing I saw was part of a rope hanging over his bedroom door. The rest of the rope snaked on the floor around his bed. I stopped and just stared at it, a weird, unreal feeling filling me. I had to remind myself that I needed to take care of this, deal with my own baggage later. So I hesitantly, and painfully, stepped over the rope to get to the phone. I let his boss know that I had arrived, things were fine, and I would take over from there.

Andrew and I sat in his living room and talked more. Again, I just let him say whatever he needed to say, keeping my facial expression as neutral as possible. Given my own struggles, it was hard – and rather triggering – to hear some of the things he was saying. But I couldn’t let him see that it was upsetting me. That wouldn’t have helped him and would have likely made things worse. After talking for about thirty-five minutes, I got him to agree to go to hospital. I didn’t want him to be surrounded by strangers at this critical time, so I offered to drive him. He thanked me. It was the first spark of him I saw in his eyes. 

We arrived at the local mental health hospital. After briefly discussing things to the admin, we were escorted to a private room so initial assessment could be done. After taking basic information, the woman told Andrew that she needed to know more about what was going on, and if he felt comfortable, she could talk to him alone. I started to get up, saying that I would wait in the lobby. Andrew looked at me and said, “No, please stay.” In that moment, although we were close to the same age, he reminded me of a lost child, desperately wanting someone…anyone…to take care of him. I sat back down and listened.

I learned more private things about him that day than I ever knew about anyone in my entire life. It was the rawest, realest experience I have ever had. Andrew didn’t just have a case of the blues. He and I actually had some things in common, although I had never told him. As a child he experienced sexual and repeated physical abuse. On two occasions a family member had tried to kill him. Once by stabbing him in the left side above his hip. The second time by hitting him in the head with a baseball bat, an injury that had caused frontal lobe damage. As if this weren’t enough, he had been wrestling with something that he hadn’t been able to control – the voices. He heard voices. Sometimes the voices told him to kill himself. Other times the voices told him to kill other people, just randomly kill people. He said he just wanted it to stop.

After he explained everything as best he could, he was admitted for inpatient treatment. I gave him a hug and promised to visit him the next day.

I couldn’t return to office. I drove back to my apartment and finally let it all wash over me, crying the entire time and even after I got home. I hurt for him. I hurt for myself. I hurt for the number of college students that I had talked to who were also on that ledge. One thing was clear…I was committed to helping Andrew. 

I visited him in the hospital every day. Since he couldn’t leave, I would bring him whatever he wanted, which was usually cigarettes and Mountain Dew. I would spend my evenings just talking to him, letting him know some of my story, and teaching him different ways that I meditated. During this time he told me what the official diagnosis was – schizoaffective disorder. He had been prescribed multiple anti-psychotic medications, in addition to group counseling and individual Christian counseling. He spent his days working on himself, then would spend the evenings with me just trying to relax. 

Unfortunately, his insurance only paid for two weeks of inpatient treatment, so after fourteen days, although he was not much better, the hospital released him under the guidance to continue the medicine and counseling sessions. During that entire time I visited him every single evening. His parents didn’t visit him at all. Along with his childhood experiences, the fact that his parents couldn’t be inconvenienced to visit him in the hospital was a fact that caused a great deal of anger within me. I seriously felt like the abuse was continuing. Even if it was no longer physical abuse, it was emotional abuse…the scars of which can be much worse.

The day he was released, I drove him to his apartment. The first thing I did was gather up all materials in his apartment that could be used to hang himself. Rope. Cords. Neckties. I placed everything in the trunk of my car and told him that once he felt more comfortable and wasn’t tempted to use these things, then I would return them to him. 

But I forgot the belts. 

The weeks following were tumultuous. He continued the treatment and tried to work some. He would come over to my apartment and hang out with me and my friends. Our friendship grew even more. Although we were only friends, our shared experiences created a bond between us that wasn’t necessarily romantic, but it was a type of chemistry that in some ways went beyond anything you would feel in a relationship. We were kindred souls. A memorable time was one evening at my apartment, we had been chatting and drinking with friends. I had drank a little too much and was quite tipsy. Because of his medication Andrew hadn’t drank anything but Coke. When he went to leave, we were standing on my porch. I tried to hug him, but in my slightly drunken state I almost fell the few feet off the porch. Andrew caught me. As he held me in his arms, I looked up into his face, and he whispered, “Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall.” After everything he had been through and was going through, he wouldn’t let me fall. It was one of the most precious moments in my life. That’s how we were. Nothing romantic, nothing sexual, not “normal” friendship, but that closeness that can only be created when people find comfort in each other. 

Not long after this, Andrew was hospitalized again. This time he recognized the warning signs and took himself to the hospital. He called to let me know, and again, I spent almost every evening visiting him (I did miss one evening of visitation with the second hospitalization). This time, his parents finally saw fit to visit him…one time.

As I saw everything that Andrew was going through, I had a bit of a moment of clarity. Up until then, and because of my own experiences, I was adamant that suicide was a great evil. Everyone who has these thoughts should get help, and it will get better. With Andrew, I realized that we had come a long way in science, medicine, and our understanding of mental illness. Unfortunately, we haven’t gone far enough. The bleak reality is that for some people, the only way to truly get the pain to stop is to end it themselves. I’m not saying that I support suicide, as I would never encourage it or suggest that it’s the only way out. I’m just saying that I came to an understanding where the sadness and anger over it melted away. I knew, without a doubt, that regardless of what I did, what medications there are, what therapists said…if a person decides to end it, they’ll end it, and the only thing that I can really do is be a friend.

So for better or worse, I had one of the most difficult conversations that I could with Andrew. We sat on his hospital bed together, facing each other. I told him that I had come to realize that with some people, even him, this is a decision that is made because the pain is just too overwhelming. I said, “I know that regardless of what I say or do, one day, you might make this decision for yourself. I won’t judge you. I won’t think less of you. I just want you to know that for as long as you’re on this Earth…whether it’s a few more days, a few more weeks, or until the age of ninety….there’s at least one person who cares. And if you ever do make that decision, please try to find a way to say good-bye.” He nodded, told me if it happened, he would say good-bye, and that he loved me. It was both the most heart-wrenching and peaceful conversation I have ever had in my entire life. 

He was shortly released. Again, his insurance only paid for two weeks, although again, he wasn’t much better.

Because of all of the missed work and pressure, Andrew resigned his position. We accepted his resignation, and to me, it was in part a blessing. I knew that the stress of work would only aggravate his condition, and it wasn’t healthy for him. The problem was that without income, he made the difficult decision to move back in with his parents. This option scared me. With what I knew and the anger still brewing inside me, I felt like going back to his parents’ home was like going back to the lion’s den. It would be just as dangerous for him as work was. But, I couldn’t afford to take care of him myself, and he felt like he couldn’t “inconvenience” any of his other friends, so he went back to his home, the place with so many dreadful memories. 

He tried his best. He continued treatment and given his situation, he applied for disability benefits. As happens too often, his SSI disability claim was denied. I was shocked. How could any rational person think that he, in his condition, was able to work? Even more, with having a history of hearing voices that told him to kill other people, isn’t there any other implication of having him in the workplace with others? Still, his claim was denied, and he became desperate. He wanted money so that he could move back out from his parents’ house. Yet, without the disability, he did the only thing he knew to do – he got another job. I was convinced that work stress would only land him back in the hospital – or worse – but tried to be as supportive as possible. 

During this time I took a different job. I was just getting settled into my position when my sister called my office. Thankfully I was able to take the call when the phone rang. She said, “I wanted to call and tell you because I didn’t want you to hear from someone else. Andrew is dead.” I just nodded and took it all in, saying, “okay…okay…okay…okay….” When I hung up the phone, I couldn’t keep myself from sobbing loudly and uncontrollably. Thankfully a dear friend took me outside and walked with me, just being with me, until I was calm enough to drive home. 

When I got home, I turned the TV on to a random station, just to have the background noise. I then called his parents. I had never met his parents because quite frankly, I didn’t trust what I might say to them if we were face-to-face – they lived over an hour away, so there wasn’t even the possibility of a chance meeting, for which I was thankful. But given the circumstances, it felt like the right thing to do. His dad answered the phone. When I identified myself, he gave the phone to Andrew’s mother. They had already had the funeral. The arrangements were made very quickly. They found him in his bedroom. It happened November 27th, the day after my birthday. She said, “I know we’ve never met, but Andrew talked about you all of the time. He really thought the world of you.” 

After I hung up, I became very angry. I was angry that he didn’t find a way to say good-bye. Logically I knew that in that moment, most people are not going to notify anyone, once they have made that final decision. Doing so means that someone might try to stop things. Still, I was angry. I paced back and forth in my apartment, crying, screaming in frustration. Music from the TV caught my attention. It was a song I had never heard before, and it had a very somber melody. I started listening to the words, which made me cry even more. In that moment it was as if he was giving me my good-bye:

In the gloaming, oh my darling
When the lights are soft and low
And the quiet shadows, falling 
Softly come and softly go
When the trees are sobbing faintly
With a gentle unknown woe
Will you think of me and love me
As you did, once long ago?
In the gloaming, oh my darling
Think not bitterly of me
Though I passed away in silence
Left you lonely, set you free
For my heart was tossed with longing
What could have been could never be
It was best to leave you thus, dear
Best for you, and best for me
In the gloaming, oh my darling
When the lights are soft and low
Will you think of me and love me
As you did, once long ago?

I don’t think bitterly of Andrew. I think fondly of him. I’m honored that he shared some of his life with me. I take peace in the fact that his pain has ended. 

And that’s what it comes down to. When talking about mental illness and suicide, though circumstances are complex, your response should be quite simple. We don’t need your approval or disdain…your support or encouragement….your judgment or understanding. All we need, quite simply, is your compassion

Sometimes the Sweetest Dreams are the Scariest


**WARNING: Possibly triggering material.

tree+moon+purple+sky
I’m a published writer. I’m a successful Learning & Development professional. I’m a loving and protective mother. I’m a caring wife and partner. I suffer from depression and anxiety. And I’m a survivor of attempted suicide.

For those of you who have known me in school, work and social activities, you have often described me as independent, sometimes domineering, and often a bitch. One thing many have said to me is that I glow, I have a confidence that is sometimes intimidating, and above all, I work to accomplish my goals with success that exceeds expectations. This is the person that I want you to see. This is the person I aspire to be. But ultimately, it is very much a performance for me. A social act based on the hope that you will accept me, because something inside has always told me that if you knew the real me, you would walk away without looking back.

This is the burden of depression. Where it began, I can’t honestly tell you. It’s a darkness that seems to have always enveloped me. There was a time when I was seduced by that darkness, truly believing in my heart that the only entity in this world that would accept me unconditionally was death. And so I walked down that road, yearning for death’s arms, but failing miserably even in that.

Let’s start at what might be the beginning. Like many, I didn’t have a happy childhood. It’s not something that I ever told anyone because in the hills of Appalachia, you don’t talk about such things. Family business stays within the family, even when constant gossip pervades the neighborhoods. Still, no one would have guessed what pain I felt in my house.

I saw and experienced many things as a child. Fights in our home would sometimes turn violent. On one such occasion, I was taken by the police and put in a children’s home. I’m sure it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, to protect a child from the horrors of the home – a safe place to be while the adults worked out their issues. I was scared to be there because I didn’t know anyone. I just remember staring up at the ceiling from my cot, praying that it would all go away. The next day, most of the kids went to school, except me and a few others. In the struggle, confusion and fear, a teenage boy sexually assaulted me in this alleged home of safety. I was five years old at the time. It’s one of my earliest childhood memories.

Once I was returned to the home, I was happy to be back with the family I knew and loved. Unfortunately the fighting continued. My father had a sickness that affected those closest to him. Although many viewed him as one of the nicest men in the community, behind closed doors he could be the most cruel and emotionally abusive person I have ever met. In my staggered attempts to find my way, I never felt that he wanted me, and his self-medication was more important than his children. He always chose that over us.

Through the fighting and feeling of being all alone, even with people around, I began to think…and later believe…that no one could ever want me. Something about me was obviously defective if my own dad didn’t want me. And with what happened in the children’s home, I must only be good for one thing….

Adding to my mixed emotions, my dad would do things and finally realize the hurt, he would often say he was sorry by giving me ice cream or candy, because food makes it all right. I know now that this is one of many things that contributed to my binging to deal with emotions. It never works, and the guilt you often feel afterwards only contributes to the cycle of anxiety and depression.

I guess by the age of nine years old I started trying to emulate what I thought people wanted to see. I became a walking rendition of Cooley’s looking glass self, creating myself in the image that I thought others wanted, of their perceptions, or just to get their acceptance. And as children can be just as cruel, it didn’t stop the teasing and hurtful behaviors that kids can be so very good at displaying. At this point in life I was already overweight, and some kids would make sure I was reminded of that fact, as if I could forget. One schoolmate even gave me the nickname Shamu. I did the only thing I could think to do – I smiled and pretended that it was funny, even when I was dying a little on the inside.

This barrage of darkness that surrounded me and the hurricane of hormones that accompanies puberty made for a potentially deadly concoction of self-loathing and hopelessness. I began spending more time in my room. Sometimes I would write poetry and short stories. In an area where you don’t discuss family business, and talking about it with the offenders and survivors that surround you was not an option – writing about my feelings helped. My writing became very bleak, as if I were obsessed with death. From the teenage boy, to violent fights, to being made fun of because of my looks, I romanticized any figure that would accept me. And I intuitively knew that death would accept me, with open arms, without condition. To be wanted in that way…it’s all I could hope for myself.

The writing melded with fantasies. I would often lie in bed and think about dying, or think about an alternate reality where everyone loved me just the way I am, without pretense. I started sleeping more and more for the simple fact that being unconscious was better than being awake in a world that didn’t want me. When my thoughts almost continuously edged toward shrouding myself in death’s arms, I began thinking of how I would die, specifically, how I would kill myself. Overdose seemed like the most sensible, taking so many pain pills so that they would kill the pain and take me with it. But I also began liking the sight of my own blood, from a scrape or a self-inflicted wound. Seeing it made me feel alive, it stopped me from feeling like a walking shell, a puppet performing for everyone so that they would think everything was happiness and light, because no one wants to be around that darkness. It’s too inconvenient. And for some, it’s too scary because it’s like looking into a mirror. All of it was exhausting, and I just wanted it to stop.

I began sneaking around the house, gathering up as many pills as I could find. Usually this was limited to a bottle of Tylenol, but I would take whatever I could get. I would sit in my room with the door closed, listening for any footsteps coming down the hall, methodically counting the pills…twenty…thirty….more. Sometimes I didn’t even count, just chugged the bottle like a shot. More often than not, I just fell asleep for hours, as many as sixteen hours at a time. My mom did take me to the doctor trying to figure out why I was sleeping so much, doctors even suggesting that I had a sleeping disorder. I just nodded, knowing that I could never admit to them that I was in a dance with death, praying for that final dip where I would drop off the face of existence. The shame associated with it, and more importantly, having to explain why, was oppressive enough that I kept all of it locked inside, managing the weight of things as best I could.

One evening I took too many of whatever pills I had. I got to the point where I became so drowsy that I was fighting to keep my eyes open. Yes, fighting. A part of me was scared to die, wanted to survive, and I began panicking to take it all back. I stilled for a moment. It was the path I had chosen because I couldn’t deal with my life. I erroneously thought I needed to accept my choice because I would not have gone in that direction if there weren’t reasons. I lay in bed, covered myself and tried to accept the fact that I would never wake up again.

I did wake up. My face and shirt were covered in vomit. As I cleaned myself up as best as I could, I began wondering why I was still alive. I was so close to the end, yet something kept me here. Maybe it was a mistake, an act of God or the workings of simple biology, I was still alive. That had to mean something, right?

Although I had this new view to ponder, I could not escape the shadows of the past. I continued my daily performance, but struggled to keep it going. I began to withdraw from school activities, preferring my bedroom to being around other people. In hindsight, it’s interesting to me that no one noticed. The warning signs were there, but no one picked up on them. Maybe because they were too busy with their own lives, or maybe the truth was too ugly to comprehend, or maybe I was just that good of an actress. Still, I continued to try to make sense out of all of it on my own.

My high school boyfriend was one of the first people I told about these things, specifically the suicide attempts. I had told a school friend before, even after a botched attempt to cut my wrists. Her reaction was to scoff at me, accuse me of seeking attention, and distancing herself from me from that point on. My high school boyfriend was different. He accepted it, was genuinely concerned and even more so, made me promise – on my honor, with what little I had – that I would never try it again.

For whatever reason, that clicked with me. I’ll be honest, thoughts of death do still raise their ravenous heads to this day, but I always remind myself of the promise I made to him. There was at least one person who didn’t want me to die, and I believed him. It has been like an anchor for me.

Still, I go on. The darkness still surrounds me. To this day, even when I have reasons to celebrate accomplishments, a voice inside me says, “Don’t they even realize you’re faking it? What will happen when they wake up and realize you’re not who you say you are? That you really are unattractive and worthless, no use beyond a few minutes of physical gratification. What will they think of you then?”

Although thirty-three years have passed since that day in the children’s home, and multiple years since other traumatic events, I still deal with the fallout today. Even recently I had a panic attack in my office which was directly related to being triggered with a past event, the fleeing response had me scrambling to put distance between me and everyone else, for my own protection. This is the reality of anxiety – I went to the ER on this occasion to rule out a heart attack, and the ER doctor said it all: “You’re heart rate is elevated, your blood pressure is elevated and you have lowered oxygen levels in your heart…but there’s no medical reason for any of this.” That is the reality of anxiety. And worse, the feelings of worthlessness because of these events brings depression back to the forefront to the point where you can’t even get out of bed or leave your home because it’s just too much effort, and nothing seems to be worth it. Your bedroom is safer, although for me, when I was younger, the bedroom was just another way to embrace the darkness.

Part of the pain, like many people struggling with these issues, I logically know there is no reason for any of these reactions, feelings or thoughts. But yet they still come, and I have to wrestle with them in the best ways I know how, always reminding myself of the promise I made.

So, I continue the performance. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Remember this when dealing with others because we never know the struggles that others are shielding from the world.

I’m exhausted with all of this. Be gentle. And for those of you who have read my book, I realize now that the main character of Emma was highly influenced by the thoughts I have about myself that I dare not speak for fear of what you would say. Her internal dialogue that has repelled some of you? That’s what I deal with on a daily basis, keeping it inside, protecting everyone from that discomfort, all out of fear. Not anymore.

No more shame.

Bullying is Bullying


This post has some content that may be triggering – bullying, abuse.

I had the fortune to read the recent blog on bullying by my favorite geek Wil Wheaton. I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.

It’s a very personal post and quite poignant. Many of us were bullied as children. Some suffer far worse bullying than others. However, the fact remains the same – an individual is so significantly and emotionally impacted by bullying that even after twenty years the memories can bring us to tears.

I was bullied. I was taunted for my weight issues and even called Shamu. My father approached my entering school by saying that if anyone ever hit me, if I didn’t beat the hell out of them (even if it was a guy), I would get my ass busted when I got home. Was it appropriate for him to say this to me? Maybe not. But I do remember holding my own when physically confronted – even by boys. Yes, I had a boy threaten to beat me in elementary school. When he got up in my face, I got right back up into his, standing nose-to-nose…all while I was trembling with fear. Thankfully it worked, and he walked away. Because I did things like this, I was fortunate to never be physically attacked. Many are not so lucky.

My torment was verbal and emotional. I remember so-called friends turning on me and saying they hated me for some silly misunderstanding. I remember being teased for the way that I looked, wearing glasses, having braces and being overweight. The person who was my best friend in middle school shunned me. It was during that time that I started having suicidal idealizations and even attempted a couple of times. When she found out about one of the attempts, she laughed at me and said I was just doing it for attention. Did I want attention? Hell, yes, because I was in pain and her response was to laugh.

The closest thing to the physical I got was when a girl on the bus put chewing gum in my hair. Still, flashbacks to those episodes are no less unnerving just because no blood was shed. Many times the worst scars are the ones that we can’t see.

In Wil’s post he describes the father of the bully. When I read his description, my first thought was, “No wonder the boy acted that way.” Although that helps me understand the behavior, it doesn’t excuse it.

Aside from being a writer, I’m also a learning and development professional (my day job). I see the challenge in teaching teenagers that bullying is wrong because the seeds of bullying were implanted LONG before they became teenagers. It’s always much easier to teach something as new then to attempt to change a behavior/beliefs that have been internalized for years.

As adults, but most specifically, as parents, we all have a duty to teach our children – starting early in their lives – that this behavior is wrong. I have regular conversations with my 5-year-old that saying and doing certain things can hurt others. I don’t just tell her they’re bad, although they most certainly are. I emphasize the impact it has on the other person in hopes that she will learn something that many people lack today – empathy.

I couple these talks with talking to her about how she should react if she’s confronted with bullying. We discuss some of the reasons why people bully – how the behavior is learned, many are acting out for various reasons and quite simply, the individual just doesn’t feel good enough about herself/himself to the point s/he has to attack others to have some sense of self-esteem.

Is my approach better than my dad’s? I don’t know. All I know is that I want my daughter to be able to think about these things, stand up for herself with confidence and view others with integrity rather than mocking them for their pain. I feel that this is the least I can do.

The Upside of US Airways


Now that I have cathartically cleansed myself of the main negativity of the experience (writing is good for cleansing), I want to talk about the positives. And I mean more than having some interesting character inspiration for future novels.

Just as my good friend Raymie White pointed out, “we should try to take time to send notes on really good customer service people too.” I actually did take the time to do this, but I admit that I could have done much better.

It’s all on me – I failed in the respect that I didn’t make the extra effort to get the names of the people who demonstrated just how good at their jobs they really are. I provided as much identifying information as I could to US Airways so they could be commended for their commitment to performance quality. Because of this entire experience, I’m going to commit myself in getting the names of those extraordinary people who not only take pride in their jobs, but who also interact with the public in such a way that they are the foundation for building brand loyalty.

Again, I apologize that I don’t have their names, but much heartfelt thanks go out to the following individuals:

The female flight attendant on the flight from Seattle to Charlotte, NC on September 4, 2013. She was not only gracious, but she made my daughter smile, which actually meant more to me than just about anything.

The younger male counter clerk at HTS on September 20, 2013. I know his job with interacting with me was made difficult by the interruptions, but he remained calmed and poised and never once said anything out of the way. Others could most certainly learn from his excellent behavior.

The flight attendant on the flight from HTS to CLT on September 20, 2013. She was not only efficient and polite with her normal duties, but she showed urgency layered with good manner when addressing a passenger she thought was smoking. He wasn’t – he attempted to puff on an electronic cigarette, which is also not allowed. Through the whole episode, she maintained a good, but firm demeanor. Even in the face of confrontation, she handled herself professionally. She is truly to be commended.

The female gate agent at gate B4 in Charlotte for the last US Airways direct flight to Seattle. After the debacle with the special assistance I was supposed to receive, I was in an extreme amount of back pain. She not only showed concern and sympathy, but she even checked on me after I boarded to make sure I was okay. I don’t know her name, but I will never forget her.

The male flight attendant on the CLT to SEA flight on September 20, 2013. He also made it a point to check on me to see if I needed anything and showed concern when he saw me crying. He didn’t have to, but showed the type of humanity and concern for others that is a step beyond the normal expectations for a service position.

Looking back on the experience, I’m saddened that I didn’t get these people’s names. They deserve that much, and I feel like I have disrespected them for not doing so. That was never my intention, and I genuinely hope that US Airways follows through on recognizing them for being the outstanding examples that they are.

Bravo to all of you. You all were truly a refreshing reminder that it’s the individuals that make the impact, not the company.