Not goodbye. Just see you later.

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Yesterday was one of THE hardest days in my life. I had to say “see you later” to one of the greatest people I have ever known. (Our story is here: https://stephssoapbox.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/matt-my-friend-my-love-my-heartbreak-my-inspiration/ ) I choose to say “see you later” rather than goodbye because I hold tight to the thought that I will be reunited with Matt, my mother I lost in 2005, my baby girl Dara I lost in 1997, and so many other friends and family that have passed on from this Earth. It is what keeps me sane on days like these past few.

The service for my Matty was so beautiful. Anyone who knew Matt could tell that he had a hand in what was done. He was there in the room with us. I got chills followed by a warm feeling multiple times as I was sitting and watching it all unfold. At one point, I felt a gentle touch on my leg even though there was no one sitting next to me. I knew that touch. Some will totally get that, some will say I’m crazy. I don’t care. I know it was him comforting me and letting me know he was there. Others that were in that church have said similar things. Matt was one to give a comforting touch or lend a shoulder to cry on to anyone who needed it. I think he wanted each and every person who loved him to know that he was now happy and out of pain. He was letting us know it was OK to morn, but that he would always be with all of us forever.

I will forever remember the words that were spoken, the songs that were sung (especially the one his step-brother sang http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz1N8W8phec ), the tears that flowed from every eye, and all the hands that reached out to embrace the family and friends that were in need.

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The military salute and the presentation of American flags to Matt’s parents was the one thing that made me beam with pride. Matt was a man that took pride in his country. He rarely spoke of his days in the service with me, but when he did, he spoke with admiration and pride. He was a great soldier. He loved his country and his fellow man. I believe his stint in the military was one of the things that shaped him into the man he became.

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When his young, but incredibly strong, teenage daughter read a letter to her father there wasn’t a dry eye left in the room. She spoke from her heart about how great a father he was to her and her younger brother. I was in my early 30’s when I lost my mother and that was hard enough. I can’t imagine going through it at 16. Matt had fought so hard to get custody of his children after his first bout with Leukemia. I am so grateful that he was able to win and for the precious time he got to spend with those kids. They still need their father. They still have so many more memories to make together as a family. I know he will be watching over them and guiding them along life’s path. I am thankful that they have an amazing family that they can lean on for support in the next few incredibly difficult days, weeks, and months to come.

Two images will remain in my memory of his children yesterday. His son was given Matt’s military jacket. His son put it on and looked so handsome and so much like his father in it. I was brought to my knees by a flood of memories of Matt from his Navy days. I decided it was time to leave after that and started towards the exit. I took one last look into the sanctuary where Matt’s funeral service had been held. I was again heartbroken by the image I saw. His daughter was sitting in a chair in the front row staring at the spot where Matt’s casket had been just a short few moments before. She was wearing a baseball cap (something that for years her father was never without) and a single beam of sunshine shined in through a window and touched the top of the cap. I know that was Matt shining down on her saying he would be with her forever.

The heartbreaking memories will stay with me forever, but I gained so much from the past few days. I saw how one man could touch so many lives in just a short 40 years. I saw how people I hadn’t seen in years and people I was just getting to know comforted me and each other in this time of need and remembrance. I saw how two young lives were touched deeply by their father. I felt sorrow. I felt love. I felt comfort. I gathered with those that loved Matt the most and shared memories of the past and hopes for the future. I felt Matt’s hand guiding me towards his friends to help me get through. I hope to keep these new friends in my life for a long time. These are people that love Matt as much as I do. We will be able to share memories and laughs for years to come.

Matt will always remain a major piece of my heart. My life would not have been the same without him. I treasure each and every moment I was blessed to share with such an amazing man.

As you once told me in a letter (and I repeated to you yesterday as I gave you one final rose),

“I will love you forever. I will for always. I will love upside down and sideways. No matter how close or how far apart, you will always remain a piece of my heart.”

See you later my Matty.

 

 

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No pain, no gain?

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I have been on an emotional high lately. Not sure if it is a mania swing or I am just feeling happy and healthier than I have in quite some time. Either way, I have been embracing it and hoping that it isn’t temporary.

Because of this change, one of the things I have decided to do is start exercising again. I was walking and stretching, but I started to kick it up a notch. I have been doing low impact aerobics and lots of floor work. Things were going great until yesterday.

I was on the floor doing “crunches”. I had just started my third set on my left side when I felt a tearing sensation, then a pop. I screamed out in pain which sent my cats out from where ever they were sleeping to investigate. I stood up slowly and tried to stretch it out thinking that would help. WRONG! The pain just intensified. I hadn’t felt that much pain in quite some time.

I applied heat. I took Tylenol. Nothing was helping. I gave in and called my husband and he took me to the hospital. After an exam and talking with the doctor, we figured out that I more than likely had torn my internal oblique muscle.

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I was sent home with Percocet and told I was to take it easy for the next two weeks. Taking it easy and knocked out on meds is where I was prior to this high. Sigh…Hoping it is just a temporary set back and I will be back to my healthy, happy self soon.

Inspiration: What is yours?

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OK. Admit it. You have had one of those days where you just can’t find a reason to get out of bed let alone find inspiration. I have been there so many times it would be impossible to count. Yet, most days, we do get up out of that bed and get on with our day. What inspires you? What makes you say, “OK. I can do this.”?

I have many things to motivate me. Most days, it is my family. I know I have to be there for my daughter, to be an example. She needs me to be her rock in these arduous teen years. It’s hard enough for her to get out of bed some days too.

If that doesn’t work, I turn to music. As I have mentioned, music is emotion to me. I have certain songs I know I can go to for comfort and encouragement. It’s kind of cliche, but I still love Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” for those days I need an extra boost.

But, my biggest inspiration for quite some time came last week. I met a friend from high school for lunch. Other then seeing each other in town every once in awhile or talking for a minute or two on Facebook, we really hadn’t had much contact for about 18 years. It was a bit awkward at first, but then we just started to talk about life and our struggles. He had been diagnosed with Leukemia and was now almost 2 years into remission. He went through so much in that time and came out on the other side with a great attitude. He said to me with a smile, “Every day I wake up is a good day.” That hit me hard. With all of my struggles with my own health I had really gone into a depression and most days couldn’t see the good in life. What he said made me think, “Wow. If he can be that positive after all he has been through and will continue to deal with over the coming years, why can’t I?” I decided that day to start seeing things differently. To start noticing the things and people around me again. To truly open up my heart to the world again. I am scared that I will get hurt again. I am scared that my own health issues will continue to make life hard. But, I feel I should really try. I don’t know how long I will stay this way…when the depression might seep back in or the pain in my body will cause me to doubt again. I just know that I owe it to myself, my family, and my great friend to be a bit more positive about life. I lost so many years and relationships because of my depression. I want to heal that pain and start a new journey in life.

Today is a new day and I will embrace it. What will you do? I hope you find your inspiration and have a great day.

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The Music In My Heart

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Those that know me in real life know I love music. I’m fairly certain I have been singing as long as I have been been talking. I’m no Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, or the amazing Ella Fitzgerald, but I can carry a tune. I have been in multiple choirs/groups throughout my life. Everything from church to show choir to acapella. My taste in music varies widely…from Bach to Beck.

I have been known to just bust out singing for the hell of it. It doesn’t seem to matter what mood I am in, I can find a song to match it. If I am in a bad mood, I can break out the angsty tunes by Avril Lavigne or Alanis Morissette. Lighthearted mood, gotta go Colbie Caillat or Jason Mraz. Straight No Chaser is always a good pick-me-up. You get the picture…

Music, to me, transcends boundaries. There is no color, no nationality, no prejudice. It is notes on a page magically brought to life by talented artists. That’s how I choose to see the world. We are all artists bringing our unique talents to the world. Each of us have a different melody in our hearts, but together we make beautiful music.

Take a moment today to find the music in your heart.

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My ride on the bipolar train (with multiple diagnosis stops along the way)

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I came here today not knowing exactly what I wanted to write about. I have had a multitude of subjects running through my head the last few days. I’m sure I will hit on those subjects soon enough. I decided to look through the blogs I have been following for inspiration. It hit me as soon as I saw this: http://acanvasoftheminds.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/blog-for-mental-health-2013. Being new to WordPress, and blogging in general, I had no idea how many people blogged about mental health. I began to read through several of the blogs listed on this site. I was moved, truly amazed by the honesty that people were conveying.  They made me feel less alone, like they understood me and what it means to live day in and day out with a mental illness. These are just a few that touched me today:  http://disorderlychickadee.wordpress.com/ http://sitdownatatypewriterandbleed.wordpress.com/   http://shemustbemental.wordpress.com/   http://adaywithdepression.wordpress.com/

They all had the bravery to tell their stories, so here is mine:

I knew from a young age that I was “different”. I always felt over emotional about everything. No matter how hard I tried, or how much I knew I should stifle my emotions in public, they always came pouring out. Sometimes at the most inopportune times or inappropriate ways. (Who knew laughing in the middle of a funeral would be so frowned upon?!) Back then you were labeled as “spirited” or “odd” or, my favorite, “mental”. There was no running to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist for help. You were just told you would grow out of it or it was just a phase you were going through. I just went through my early teens thinking I was “different” and didn’t think much more about it.

When I hit high school and my hormones really started kicking in, my emotions heightened drastically. I would laugh uncontrollably at the stupidest things. I could cry at the drop of a hat if someone looked at me the wrong way. Dare to piss me off or yell at me, and I would be inconsolable for days. It would get so bad that my physical health would take a nose dive and I would have to miss days of school. I knew this wasn’t something “I would just grow out of”. I knew this was something that I would have to endure for the rest of my life. I knew I needed help. I remember explaining all of this to my mother one afternoon after having a rough day of school in my junior year. We cried together while sitting at our kitchen table. She promised to get me the help I needed. Shortly after, I started seeing an amazing therapist that helped me to understand that I was not alone in this world. She asked me if I had ever heard of a condition called “bipolar disorder”. I shook my head “no”. As she explained it all to me, I remember nodding my head as she listed off the symptoms. Racing thoughts? check Mood swings? check Hard time completing tasks? check Uncontrollable laughing or crying? check and check The more she listed off the symptoms, the more I felt a little bit of the heaviness lifting off of my shoulders. It all made sense now.

Shortly after that conversation, I was sent to a psychiatrist to be properly diagnosed. He told me the depression side was a bit more prevalent so he wasn’t sure the bipolar diagnosis would be correct. I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Although it wasn’t the diagnosis I thought I would receive, it was a relief to finally be able to put a label on what I had been dealing with for years. I was put on Prozac for the depression and was told to watch for and severe changes in my anxiety. When the medication started to work, I could feel my emotions start to balance out. I felt better than I had in years. Like I could take on the world.

Then the bottom dropped out. My Senior year of high school was full of highs and lows. I was finally part of a show choir I had been wanting to join for 2 years. It felt amazing to be up on a stage singing and dancing. I finally felt like I was a part of something, like I mattered. I was making friends and having a great time. It was a place I could let loose and let my emotions go. But, I was also dealing with an on again off again relationship that had encompassed my world for 2+ years. My boyfriend had moved on to college and was finding his way in life, and I was still in high school still trying to figure out mine. Late in my Senior year we decided to finally break it off. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had planned on dedicating my life to this person and now he was gone and I was lost. I went through the motions of the last days of high school feeling moody and depressed. Too depressed. I would here things from my friends like, “What’s your problem?” or “Why are you being such a bitch?”. I no longer had the energy to talk with them to try explain what I was going through. I was done. I felt myself slipping down that slope of no return. I knew that I didn’t want to exist anymore.

I had it all planned out. The night of my graduation party I was going to drink a bottle of whiskey I had pilfered from a friends parents liquor cabinet and swallow down a bottle of pain killers I had found in my Mom’s bathroom. I went through the motions of the party, exchanging pleasantries, thanking people for their gifts, etc. A fake smile plastered on my face the whole night. Everyone had left and I was getting ready to go upstairs to my bedroom and start my “goodbye party” when I heard a car driving up the driveway. It was a good friend of mine who I didn’t think was going to show up. My first thought was to tell him to leave, but then something changed inside me. I knew I needed to talk to him, even if it would be the very last time. We ended up talking into the wee hours of the night. He helped me realize that life was still worth living. After he left I took a good hard look at the pills and the bottle and knew that this was a cowards way out. I could do this. I could live. I ran to the bathroom, poured the liquor down the sink and flushed the pills. I made a promise to myself that day that I would never commit suicide no matter how rough my life would get. I had no idea how hard that promise was going to be to keep.

My first marriage was turbulent. We met, fell in love, found out I was pregnant, and got married all within a span of less than a year. We were both quite young and had no clue what we were doing or how to handle any of this. We faced it head on, but just couldn’t make it work. (Much more happened to me in that marriage to make me who I am today, but that story will be saved for another blog.) I moved out and back into my parents house, 1-year-old in tow, and filed for divorce. I was now forced to start my life over while trying to raise a young child.

I, somehow, was able to pull it all together. I got a job. I was raising a child. I was saving up for a place my daughter, Darienne, and I could call our own. Oddly, I was happy. I finally felt good about life again. My daughter and I moved into our own apartment in the fall of 1996. Things were as good as they could be. I had met a new guy, David. (My now husband of 14 years.) I was in a good place emotionally. Then in June of 1997, the bottom dropped out again. My beautiful, sweet little 2-year-old Dara was dead. (Another looooong story for another day.) My world was over. I fell into a state of shock and despair. I moved back in with my parents. I took a leave of absence from my job. I just holed up in my room wishing it was all a disgusting nightmare I would wake up from at any moment.

Things after that are a bit hazy. (Most of this paragraph is what I can piece together from different things people have told me throughout the years.) I was staying over at my now husbands house one night woke up with no recollection of who he was, where I was, or how old I was. I had regressed to where I thought I was about 8-9 years old. I overcame pieces of that, but still needed help. Shortly after, I was admitted to a psych ward and was diagnosed with retrograde amnesia and PTSD. My mind just couldn’t process the trauma any longer and it had to shut down to protect me. (I still to this day cannot recall a good section of this period in my life. It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle where no matter how hard you try none of the pieces will fit together.) I now can look back and call that a blessing in disguise.

I eventually, with many months of psychotherapy, meds, and help from friends and family, was able to get my life back to normal. As normal as one possibly could, anyway. I went back to work and moved back out on my own. I was in love again and happy. I found out in 1998 that I was expecting another daughter. I was happy to hear the news, but completely scared and panicked that something would happen to this child as well. I pushed that thought aside and David and I got married. In 1999 we welcomed Caitlyn into our lives. I went into protective overdrive. Which sent me into deep postpartum depression. I was having panic attacks and crying all the time. It was time to get back on my meds after having to off of them while I was pregnant. I recovered with the help of the meds and therapy again. I was happy. I was a Mom again. I was in a great marriage. Things were looking up.

Then in 2004 my Mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had 6 months to live. BOOM! My bottom dropped out again. I went back into therapy. I knew it was the best thing I could do for her and for myself. I held it together the best I could for her, but it killed me inside to see her slowly fading away from this world. She passed away right before Christmas 2004. I went through all the stages of grief quicker this time. I was afraid of falling back into that deep dark hole of despair. I was depressed. My anxiety kicked in vehemently. But, I was able to keep myself stable. I had strength inside me I had never known.

That inner strength has kept me going through many things. I have had my own medical issues over the last 10+ years. (I will write about that at a later date as well.) My daughter, Caitlyn, (now almost 14 years old) has her own string of diagnoses – ADHD, ODD, and possible bipolar. With what I have been through, I have been able to help her understand why she is the way she is and guide her through her tough journey. I just hope that hers is a much less bumpy road.

Recently, I was sitting down with a health advocate introducing myself and explaining what I had been through and all the mental health diagnoses I have had throughout the years. After a long pause and lots of consideration, she looked at me and asked if I knew what bipolar disorder was. I literally had to laugh out loud. I had come full circle. After all this time and all these different meds, it was true. I am proud to say, “I have bipolar disorder!”

Thanks for reading my LENGTHY story. I know I went off subject at times, but that is how my mind works. It was important to me to tell you about my life and how I ended up where I am today. I know there are many gaps to fill in, but I didn’t want to go overboard. I will write about those things and whatever else comes up in my life soon. I welcome all comments and questions.