Waving Through A Window

evan.jpg

 

Last weekend, my mom took my sister, my best friend and I, to the Broadway show, Dear Evan Hansen. The show, the music and the story has been sticking with me. Like... I can't stop listening to the music. Like... got up early Thanksgiving Day to watch a performance of it at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. Like... googling youTube videos of the cast performances on late night TV. Like asking everyone I come in contact with if they know the show so we can connect on how amazing it was/is.

My take away from the show is that everybody deserves to be seen, and deserves to be heard. Its a simple human right. Not only do we deserve it, but we NEED to be seen and to be heard to live as fulfilled beings. The bummer of it is though..when struggling with the depression, we retreat inward, often unseen AND at the same time...in hiding. So its two fold. The crazy thing of it is though, this is when we need to be seen and heard the most only to hide even deeper.

I think we all thrive when we are seen. Maybe that annoying kid you grew up with or the co-worker you struggle with or the loved one who makes it really difficult to love ....maybe they just need to be seen. If perhaps we pause, take a breath and really see... we wouldn't be waving through windows, but rather opening them up.

 

Those damn monkey bars!

IMG_8564.PNG

I cry a lot. I cry at parades. I cry when I visit an old folks home. I cry when I see any kind of human compassion or kindness.  Especially when it is directed toward me or my husband or my kids. I cry when I am frustrated. I cry when I am scared. I cry when I am happy. I cry when I hear beautiful music. I cry when I visit aquariums.
 

However, this past weekend when my daughter broke her arm and she was in a lot of pain, I didn't cry.  A few hours later when she was told she needed to spend the night in the hospital and have surgery early the next morning...i didn't cry. When the floor we were admitted to had many many sick kids and sad families all around us...i did not cry. When they rolled her into surgery, I did not cry. Waiting two hours for the surgeon to let us know the surgery was over...i did not cry and watching her quiet and still and peaceful under anesthesia... i did not cry.

We came home form the hospital and she was in a lot of pain. A couple days later...We managed the pain and on Halloween which is also her birthday, she decided to go back to school. I walked her in, gave the nurse her pain medication should she need it and talked to her teacher about what happened.

I said good bye. I got into my car. And... I cried. I cried hard. The entire weekend caught up to me. I cried all day and not really sure why. I guess the stress of it all was stored in my body, and I was strong for my daughter and for my husband and once subconsciously or consciously i knew everyone was  fine and I could let me guard down...the tears came.

Now, I know I am lucky this was just a broken arm. In the hospital I saw moms dealing with much much worse and needing to be much much stronger than I needed to be. But it was nice for me to see and to learn that although I may seem mentally or emotionally fragile to some... I know that I am strong and i just proved it to myself. And... at the end of the day, its kind of just nice to know.

I Am

handstand.jpg

The yoga studio where I work is starting a social media series on all of us instructors. When my friend who was filming said I can talk about anything I feel like sharing..."You could talk about depression maybe..." because she knows I am so open about it. Sometimes I feel like that is all i talk about - definitely a lot of energy is put in that hat. I decided to talk about handstands instead.

Driving to work yesterday morning I was thinking about who I would have been if depression never entered my life. Would I be a yoga teacher? Would I even do yoga at all? Would I be able to see other people's pain like i can now?... With every lesson learned a different trail is blazed. I guess we all have our defining moments. Those moments that make us who we are...the ones that toughen you up and the ones that make you soft. (Neither has judgement attached by the way - it just is)  Its all a part of the journey. Today in class I said , " You can't win at Yoga" ...You have to just go with the flow and enjoy the ride - the struggles and the joys. Same goes for living -you don't win - you just live. 

I am much more than my depression, but I am who I am because of it.

Embrace Your Crazy

As open as I have been about my struggle with depression, I find there are still things I kind of hide on a daily basis. Its not really hiding, it more just sucking it up so one has to be bothered by what I am dealing with.

A couple months ago my anti depressant stopped working. It just stopped. Out of nowhere, all of those old quiet symptoms of a dark depressive episode started to sneak its way in. This time I was prepared though. I see a doctor regularly and I am very open and clear with my husband when things are getting a little out of control. My doctor was fairly certain my meds just stopped working. I didn’t even know that was a possibility.  After not much discussion I decided to try a new med. This means I needed to ween myself off my old med. 

I was open to the idea of the new med (Wellbutrin) . Of course I read up on the side effects…they were essentially 1. Suppressed appetite, 2. increase in energy and 3. no sexual side effects. (there are many other possible side effects but these are the three that stood out. ) Essentially I would lose weight, not be so tired all the time AND actually want to have sex. Sign me up. 

I started a low dose right away and was very much looking forward to feeling better. What I didn’t anticipate however was my body’s reaction to getting off the former medication. It proved to be extremely difficult. Difficult as in extreme dry mouth, dizziness and complete confusion. Like I went to the gas station to get gas and couldn’t figure out how to get gas. (I shouldn’t have been driving!!!)

As I was in this state…I was also co -producing and speaking at a Mental Health Awareness event. My brain was severely needed. 

It was a bit scary because I was unsure how long my brain was going to remain in such a state and part of me was scared that I was never going to get my brain back. 

At the event I just kind of hung in the background (a place a tend to hang out anyway) so I am not sure anyone could tell. I mentioned my state of mind to the other producers of the event and they had my back…. But when it was my turn to speak.. I unexpectedly opened up. I figured, if anyone was going to be understanding about me being crazy in this moment it would be 125 people who just paid $50 to raise money to end the stigma of mental illness.  

I can not remember a thing from that night. I am sure I had conversations and connected with new people but unfortunately it is all a bit of a fog for me. All I remember is that I felt a lot of support, a bit paranoid and so unbelievably thirsty!!!!

In the past I would most certainly hide this mental state, but that night I just owned it. I let go of the idea of looking good, I was somehow ok letting everyone see my crazy.

Now, I realize you have to hide your crazy sometimes. Some people and employers and family just don’t understand. I think the trick is to find your people, with like minds, so you don’t have to hide the crazy you can just embrace it. 

 

Project Semicolon

The girl who created the semicolon campaign died today. Her name is Amy Bleuel and she was 31 years old.  She called her Mental Health Awareness campaign, Project Semicolon.

 An author can use a semicolon to create a pause in a sentence....where a sentence could end... but the writer chooses to keep the sentence going. Her campaign has been followed by many who struggle with depression. It can symbolize someone who could end their life, but choose to go on.
 

I have friends who have a semicolon tattoo. I believe in her campaign and symbol. When I was starting to figure out what to put on my bracelets, the first prototype had a semi colon on it because of her campaign. I am very sad to learn about Amy Bleuel this morning. She ended her own life. I am sad, that even someone out in the open like she was, couldn't find the strength and support to keep going. It makes me sad for the thousands of people who believe and support Project Semicolon. Depression and Mental illness are cruel, relentless and deflating. They need more awareness and discussion. I have been quiet over the winter but look out...this just fired me up.

Google Amy's project. Keep talking, keep sharing.

Actively Alive

GoodDayRoch.jpg

This morning I was on our local Rochester morning TV show called,"Good Day Rochester".(ABC/FOX). I was nervous - couldn't feel my fingers nervous and couldn't eat breakfast nervous and couldn't sleep the night before nervous. As we walked into the news station in Henrietta I said tomy husband, "It sure seems like I am getting myself into situations I don't want to be in lately, don't you think?" Although I appreciated the opportunity to be there, my brain goes right back to the space of, not good enough, i'm boring, and I certainly don't have a face/body for TV.

My husband Mark said ,"You are here to talk about Depression and perhaps reach a different audience. You are here to tell your story and tell people it is okay. You are here to help one person realize they are not alone."
 

(Love this man by the way!)
 

I took a deep breath and followed the sweet producer, Mike,to the set. Jennifer Johnson, whom I have met before, put me right at ease. I sat down and answered questions from the two woman leading the interview... Reminding myself to stay present and stay true to myself. Reminding myself to just relax, be myself and share myself and experiences. That is all.
 

I find myself in these unique situations..the ones that scare me. But I'll admit, I kind of like it. What I like is pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I like to see what is possible, I like doing something new. I am starting to like being vulnerable. I get myself into situations where I am out of my comfort zone - it's that scary feeling I need every so often to remind myself what it feels like to be actively alive...and thank god I am! 

 

If you would like to check out the news segment here is the link.

http://foxrochester.com/news/good-day-rochester/bringing-people-with-depression-together-with-a-simple-bracelet

 

 


 

 

Embarrassing Bravery

I've been quiet here and everywhere lately...I haven't been feeling great, so I sit back. It hasn't been a bad couple of months, but definitely a bit of a struggle to be happy each day. I always talk about how it is important to BE OPEN and SHARE...but you know what - when you are struggling - it ain't easy my friend.

I haven't been feeling great, and I have come to realize that even someone like me, who is open, who now because of this website, all my friends and family know whats going on with my experience with depression...it's still incredibly hard to discuss and even admit to myself when I am not feeling good. If I am feeling good, you can't shut me up about it, but when not good - its my instinct to hide.

The good thing about being open with, specifically my husband or a trusted friend, is that they can see it before me. For them to say something like, "How are you feeling?" "Are you OK?" kind of brings it out in the open so i can not hide and can not retreat into the darkness..at least with out a fight.

This is hard stuff to talk about. Its really hard. When I am feeling low, its the last thing I want to share with anyone! And for those first timers...those that are going through this right now who maybe have never admitted this illness exists within them. I feel you -I get you.

I am thinking about a quote from the movie We Bought A Zoo:

"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." - Benjamin Mee

If you (we) can talk about things even when they are hard, You (we) will realize we don't have to fight this alone.

'Be brave - Its scary, but its worth it.'  - hey i think i just said that..that could be a quote i could quote;)

Fake Eyelashes

I had my first speaking engagement Friday night, May 20, 2016. I was really nervous about it...i even had a panic attack before hand. I have never had a panic attack before...i have many other issues;)....but panic attacks aren't one of them.

Ill set the scene...I actually think it is hysterical now...if you can't laugh at yourself...this life wouldn't be very much fun.

I am sitting at Scott Miller Salon and Spa in Pittsford NY. I had just got my hair done, a blow out...i just wanted good hair if i was going to be standing up in front of a bunch of people. Everything was fine during my blowout but then I was walked to the waiting area for the Make-up girl to get me. (I never wear makeup and wanted to feel put together - she even gave me fake eyelashes and I have never felt more beautiful) However, as I was sitting still waiting for Cory to come get me, my emotions started to roll in like a storm.  Isn't that when things happen, in stillness. When we are busy busy getting things done, we can ignore our emotions, but when you come into stillness, that is when the thoughts roll.  I started thinking...'What did I get myself into? I can't do this! What if I am boring? What if someone else says the same thing? Why did I say YES?!' then....the tears...in the middle of Scott Miller, and then full on sobbing and freaking out. Other customers came up to me asking if I was ok, employees where staring and concerned. I ran to the bathroom to try and pull myself together...i couldn't. I thought i did.. but it was just getting worse. The crying where you can't catch your breath worse. Finally Cory came and I asked her to sit down with me for a minute. I told her that I was having a panic attack, she said all the right things. "Come into this side room so you have some privacy. What can I do, would you like some water or some champagne?" I took some champagne. Cory - listened. She just sat and listened. I knew if I just talked about what was making me so anxious I would probably be ok. The first thing out of my mouth was,"I am speaking this evening about anxiety and depression, and I am having an anxiety attack!" We both thought this was hysterical! and burst out laughing...at the irony of my situation.

I finally calmed down enough to get those fake eyelashes on and I truly had never felt more beautiful. The evening came and went and I am very proud of what I had to say. For some reason, the minute I stood up and started to speak, all of my nerves went away. I had something to say that needed to be heard. Depression/anxiety is a mental illness. The stigma attached to them is ridiculous. We are who we are and we are better for it. Stop hiding, start talking and end the stigma. If you would like to see this talk hit this link- it is 6 min and quality is not good, but it starts the conversation and brings awareness to this illness and I hope it makes people feel not so alone or helps people understand friends and loved ones who struggle. The Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n8THu7Sgis

On A Southbound Train

I was with my small family of 4 visiting NYC this week for the school break. Our number 1 train stopped for about 20 minutes before they evacuated the entire train. When the train stopped, I wasn't too worried about it, I had lived in the city a lifetime ago and this happens. But after 10 minutes and the train shut down, I started to worry. The conductor announced that everyone needed to exit the train by walking to the front car. Police entered each car, to keep everyone calm and assist.

The first car of the train was at the 23rd street station and that is where we all were able to exit. When we got off we were met by around 20 firemen and police officers and some EMTs. They would ask, "Are you OK?"

By the time we got off and were on the platform, I knew exactly what happened. Someone jumped in front of the train or perhaps they fell...but in my heart I just knew someone jumped. On purpose.

I am having a hard time getting it out of my mind, and I can tell my 9 year old daughter is too because every person we run into since, she tells them what happened.

Obviously, I don't know the entire story...and there are many Crazy's in NYC. But either way....I know what it feels like to not want to go on another day.  To see it happen in front of us, hit me hard in the heart.

It hits anyone hard (i know for sure my 9 year old), but it hits hard because I know what it feels like to not want to go on. It hits hard, because, had I made other decisions, that could have been a choice I could have made. It is hard to say out loud or put on paper or type on a blog, but the fact is - it happens.

I wish there was a magic crystal ball for my self at times and for each of you suffering, a crystal ball to let you know when the pain will go away. For some reason, it is easier to endure if you know in 2 months you will feel better, or 1 year you will feel better.  

We don't know when, or how long it will take...but you will feel better.

For me, I think it was meant to be to be on that train on Thursday. If anything, to remind myself that starting this website was the right thing to do. Also, to remind myself, in the dark days to come , when things start heading south....  to hang in there and hang on tight to a crappy ride that will come to a halt...and you will be able to get off that southbound train at it better stop. I promise you and I promise myself.

Just Feel What You Feel

A friend of mine reached out to me last week that she has been having a tough few days. I told her something that my husband always says to me when I have a tough few days. Mark has said to me on more than a few occasions, "Take a day...watch a movie, go to yoga, just give in to it for the day, and you might feel better tomorrow."  For me, in a way, him saying these words to me , gives me permission to just surrender to the dark feelings. (now, I have the type of job that allows me to check out for the day and i know not everyone can do that) However, for him to just say that to me, makes me feel OK with the feelings. Otherwise, I'd be fighting the feeling all day, coming into hiding (yes i still have to try and not hide). Putting all the energy into fighting to feel better, and hide the darkness...makes it worse the very next day. But him giving me permission, saying it's 'OK...Feel what you feel.'  ...usually allows the darkness to pass right through.

This is a huge theme in Yoga. Feel what you feel, feel it all. For example, Chair pose...for me and for many this is a tough pose to stay in for a while, even though your legs are the strongest muscles in your body...for me, the minute i get in, i want to get out. It is uncomfortable, it takes an overwhelming amount of mental energy to stick with this pose. The "practice"  in this pose and often through the yoga practice is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. What happens when you are uncomfortable? Feel the feelings, surrender to it, breathe and be OK with it.  It kind of sounds pretty similar to what my husband has been saying to me all along. Ha! I knew deep down inside of him lived a yogi - if only i could get him to a class;)

 

Say It Out Loud

The first time I told someone I was struggling really, really badly...was in 2001. A friend of mine...He encouraged me to tell my folks. I had just moved back in with my parents after having been in NYC. I was out of my mind and didn't know how to tell them that i needed help and that I was going crazy. He shared with me that he and some of his family members have had depressive episodes and that you get help and you climb out of it. My friend had a sister who had an experience with depression, so I reached out to her. I was thinking, we are both girls  and that I might relate to her a bit more since we were both girls...?  and was hoping she would talk to me about her experience. She wrote me a letter describing what she had gone through, all that she felt, all that she overcome. It was beautiful and in fact I still have it today. 

This letter saved me.

This letter saved me because, I could relate to EVERYTHING that she wrote. Some one else that I knew, knows my pain. Most importantly, this letter saved me becuase I showed it to my parents. You know how sometimes you want to say something but the words can't come out...they just can't, you can't speak. Have you felt that? Well, I just could not open up to my family, I could not speak to them about what was happening and I am not even sure why. But after I received my friend's note, I showed it to my folks. The only words I actually had to get out of my mouth were, "Read this. This is me, this is happening to me." 

This started the dialogue between me, and the people who could help me. They helped me get help for myself. They were starting to understand, but most importantly...  there for support. All things I needed, all things you can not do alone when you are in such a state. 

In 2014, at the tail end of Depressive Episode #2, I asked the yoga studio where I teach if I could give a workshop on Yoga and Depression. They said YES, and I think it was a turning point for me. As I spoke to over 60 people, I think I touched a nerve, because many had tears in their eyes as they were listening. Many wanted to chat after about their experience. I knew after this happened, that I needed to keep talking...I needed to keep sharing...I needed to keep my eyes open for others who are struggling. 

The people I am most inspired by, are the people who just let it all out. Let themselves be vulnerable, let themselves be them selves. The good, the bad and their dark selves. This is what I decided on how I was going to be moving forward. 

If you are stuck in the dark place, and haven't told anyone yet...you can do it -tell the people most close to you. You will climb halfway to the surface by just getting it off your chest. You will breath easier by just saying it out loud. I KNOW how hard it is, but I also KNOW it can get better by telling people who you love the most. It is the quiet that hurts us, and possibly kills us. If you can not speak the words, write the words down...and let someone in.

 

 

A Little Gray Cloud

clouds.jpg

Now that I'm out in the open with Depression, many people have asked me what it feels like. Unless you have experienced it first hand or know someone close to you, I know it is difficult to comprehend. I am no expert in Depression. I am no professional councilor or doctor. However, I am an expert in my experience...Perhaps you can relate to some of what I am saying.

There is a gray cloud. It isn't necessarily over my head all the time, but it is always in my periphery. I am afraid of it. I am afraid of it parking over my head for another year. If I feel tired one day and take a nap...I always think the sever depressive episode is coming back... when actually I was just getting sick. 

I do everything in my power to keep the gray cloud away. There are some things I do that help blow it away from my head. Yoga. Practicing Yoga. Teaching Yoga. Sharing Yoga. Skiing on a sunny day finishing with beers on the deck and soaking in the sun. Talking therapy. Eating healthy. Medication. My body/brain needs medication , it isn't for everyone but it is for me. Listening to myself and being an advocate for my self. This one is kind of new for me. There are so many "should's" and "could's" out there. Especially being a mom and taking care of everyday life. I should do laundry, I should grocery shop now, I should play barbies with them, I should play some make up game where the rules keep changing every minute.... I should, I could, I should, I could, I should, I could. Yes. There are many things that should and could be done...but also, could it wait? Should you take care of yourself and do something you might want to do?  I look for opportunities to do these things that make me feel better..i.e., keep the gray cloud to the side.

Maybe you are thinking, geeze, that is a lot of fear over a little gray cloud. Or maybe you are thinking, everyone gets sad and takes naps sometimes. For me, this Gray Cloud represents a year or two of darkness.  A year or two of trying not to cry at every single interaction I have with another human being. A year or two of waking up everyday with no hope or lightness. A year or two of not wanting to breathe.  

I read this quote once, and I wish I could remember where I saw it or who said it, "Having cancer you are fighting for your life, you fight to live. When you have depression you are fighting not to die."

If you have a gray cloud over your head right now, and it seems like its been there forever, PLEASE know that is doesn't have to stay there. It can blow away or at least in my case, it can blow to the side so you can let a little light in. You may even need to buy some sunglasses.

That is who I AM!

photo.JPG

I launched this website on FB two days ago and the response is 100x beyond what I have imagined. The orders started rolling in - one order purchased 10 bracelets! The love and support shown has been truly unimaginable and I am a bit overwhelmed by the love. 'Thank you' are not strong enough words to describe my gratitude. My heart is smiling.

What touched me the most were all the private messages I received.  They were from people who were afraid to "comment" or "like" the post but they wanted to let me know how much they liked the post. These people shared a bit of their stories and struggles. You are the ones I get! You are the ones I hoped this site would reach and you are the ones who I want to let know that you are not alone. I feel you, I get you.

At my Baptist Level 2 Yoga Teacher Training each of us had to state a declaration in front of the room. (about 215 people). My heart starts beating fast just thinking back to that week and that task. The declaration started with "The hiding I give up is..." We each gave it a lot of thought,  like 4 or 5 days of thought, examining what we hide and what we deep down want to give up. We had to state it loudly in a commanding voice. We had to state it as a powerful truth.  When I spoke the words that week, I have to say I didn't really believe them. In fact when I first spoke them- i kind of laughed through the sentence because I didn't really believe it could happen. But you know what I just realized right now in this moment, as I write this ...My declaration finally became truth! 

"Right now, the hiding I give up is not wanting to be SEEN and I create myself as OPEN and REAL.  That is who I AM!"

Let someone see you. Let them in. I promise deep down they crave to be seen too.

Yoga Brought Me Here

childs-pose.jpg

Yoga has been such a support while living with depression. I could go on, and on, about yoga and depression and over time I might touch on all my thoughts.

One of the many things I love about this practice, when done in a studio, is being in a community, with people, breathing, moving, having a common experience without having to say a word. 

In Yoga, I can kick off my shoes, enter a studio, roll out my mat and sink right into child's pose. And, it is all socially acceptable ;) Where else can you enter a large space with many people and settle into an "inward" focused pose without saying a word. 

And, if I feel like talking and sharing and connecting, the community is there for me. Even strangers, we are all there to practice yoga, and usually the room is filled with openhearted, kind and caring people. 

So even on the hard days, when I don't want to see a soul, I can walk into a yoga studio and by just making it to my mat, the rest seems easy, the day feels better after connecting with people even without saying a word.