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Look at me. I probably look just like a lot of you. Most days, I look a little tired, wearing yoga pants, an oversized sweatshirt and a messy bun and some days, I look cute. But, there are subtle differences, ones you can’t see, bubbling right beneath the surface like well-placed Botox. Lately, I’ve been feeling a sort of way; like I’m walking a tightrope of mental health. Any wrong move could send me toppling and it’s exhausting. I feel like my bipolar diagnosis has been standing at the back of the room hanging out and suddenly, the pandemic has got behind that diagnosis and begin to nudge me uncomfortably forward. This might not make sense to you, if you’re not a person with mental illness but if you are, you know exactly what this feeling is. This is my diary of a manic mom.

My diagnosis of Bipolar 1 came the year after I got married, from the unlikeliest of places, my gynecologist. I know, her specialty is cervixes and uteruses not mood disorders with a side of mania but lucky me, I met a gynecologist who also happened to be the mom of a daughter with bipolar. This is where my journey from broken to bent began. Let me tell you, it is a relief when you realize there is a diagnosis and you are not in fact broken.

The diagnosis was terrifying at first. I had no idea what that meant, which made it even scarier considering everything I’d ever heard about the illness up until that point was limited misinformation and worst case scenarios. The consensus from my doctors is that I started having episodes in my teens and by college, they were at their peak. I can only speak to my particular flavor of mental illness but for me, it waxed and waned between full mania and extreme irritability. My “low” is the extreme irritability that comes from not being able to slow down. It’s like racing towards a brick wall going 125 miles an hour. I see the wall. I know it might kill me. I want to slow down but my mind keeps pushing the gas pedal. It is so bad that I get on my own nerves. That is a new level of irritability.

When I’m in a manic episode, I lose my ability to think rationally. I become reckless in all the ways you can imagine. I also feel invincible mentally, physically and spiritually. I’m naturally an optimist but when manic, its beyond reason and consequences were never considered. I am also inspired because all boundaries are null and void.


My diagnosis was not easy on the Big Guy, myself or the marriage. It took a lot of therapy, medications, research and willingness to embrace my disorder. I had to put everything into accepting my diagnosis, otherwise, I could not have learned to live with it. My husband also had to learn about and come to terms with my diagnosis. From that point on, he became my accountability partner, meaning we’ve discussed it and he knows the difference between my normal moods and reactions and when I’m becoming episodic. I need him to tell me if he recognizes the train going off the tracks, in case I’m not aware.

My experience with a mental health diagnosis has made me a mental health advocate. I had to learn about bipolar disorder. I believe every single person could use some therapy, especially during this pandemic, children and adults alike. My family knows this and we’ve all been in therapy at one point or another. I don’t believe in needlessly suffering when help is available.

I don’t have episodes like I used to. In fact, since the onset and diagnosis, I can only think of two other occasions when I’ve experienced a full manic episode. However, thanks to self-awareness, education and all the work I’ve done over the years to understand my illness, I’ve been able to find my way through them without losing total control.

With the pandemic and some of the situations that has brought with it (quarantining, best friend is a doctor who keeps me abreast of all the latest CoVid news, virtual learning, masks, an election, going back to school, deaths in the family, constantly worrying about the people I love and never being able to hug them), I have felt anxious. I’ve been able to deal with the anxiety. I’m aware it is happening but I push it to the side and move on. However, that constant state of anxiety has triggered what I’ve felt like was a manic episode.

What did it feel like? It felt like running in high heels across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. Other times, it feels like I’m stuck on a roller coaster perpetually going up, violently coming down and going right back up again. When this happens, all I can do is try to process my feelings while separating the noise and chaos from what must be done. Sometimes that means shutting completely down and being still until the attack of everything of the world is hurling at me can pass. I need to make things digestible or I will be swallowed whole. The most important thing is knowing myself and being aware of the symptoms that accompany my illness.

Giving myself over to those old reckless and self-satisfying behaviors is no longer an option for me. I’m a mom. Not only do I need to be mentally healthy for myself, I need to be healthy enough to take care of and love my family. Being mentally healthy is for my family. Knowing how to recognize, treat and work through my illness is the only way that can happen. There is no room for ignoring and denying in mental health because in the end it can mean the difference between life and death. Also, our children are always watching. I want them to know that there is no stigma to being mentally ill, seeing a therapist, taking medications or whatever needs to be done. The important thing is that we can embrace our disorder and love ourselves. 

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As I sit here, I am saddened no I am devastated by the suicide of Robin Williams. I am, however, not shocked. I want to scream and cry and I am mad. Pissed off that this f*cking disease has stolen another brilliant mind from this world. He was a genius, with eyes tinged with sadness who always made everyone else around him happy. We shared something in common, Robin Williams and myself, aside from being from Chicago, a bipolar diagnosis.

I don’t talk about it often because I am so much more than a diagnosis. It does not define me. But, I take this personally. It’s a punch to the gut because many of us who suffer from this diagnosis know that suicide is a very real outcome for our lives. It’s not so much a matter of will he or won’t he kill himself, it’s more of a when will he just not be able to bear the burden any longer because even though our pain threshold is higher than most, even we have a limit to the torture we can endure.

I’ve never suffered from an official diagnosis of severe depression, but I have spent a lifetime suffering from a diagnosis of bipolar 1 which for me has mostly meant teetering between mania and extreme irritability. People love you when you are manic because you are the life of the party. You are fun and funny and everyone loves you.

But when you stay manic too long, you become irritable; irritable at the fact that you cannot calm down from your manic high, annoyed with yourself for being this person; for breathing. You begin to feel out of control and then you become angry and mean. You hate the world. You hate yourself. Then, just to add insult to injury, sometimes you fall from your vibrant mania heaven to the deepest, darkest pit of depression hell. You feel worthless and unworthy of the air you breathe.

I haven’t been “depressed” since my teen years. Like I said, I used to exist between manic and irritable. I’ve been non–episodic for 12 years. I’m 41. I was officially diagnosed when I was 27 but I had been exhibiting symptoms of bipolar from about the age of 15. At that time, I did frequently got depressed. I used to lay awake at night crying trying to figure out a way to disappear; to kill myself because living felt pointless and it hurt to feel that worthless. But the thought of breaking my mother’s heart was too much for me to bear so I held on.

When I was diagnosed with Bipolar, I wept with relief. I was so happy to have a name for this terrible demon that had literally turned my life upside down. When I was diagnosed, I was on the brink of losing everything but I was so manic that I did not care. I was drinking heavily to try to quiet my mind. I would wake up chipper and pleasant and happy-go-lucky and then it was like my engine got stuck, revved up and I just couldn’t stop and I was so tired of being “up” so then I drank myself into a stupor. When I was irritable, I was mean and biting with my words. A part of me wanted to alienate everyone and destroy anything that was good in my life because I didn’t feel like I deserved it when I was coming down. That’s the thing. It’s a shame spiral. You get manic and feel like the king of the world and then you come crashing down and feel unworthy of life and that’s when the demon creeps back in. Sometimes your meds quiet the demons, sometimes they can’t. But you choose to fight, every single day until you can’t anymore.

I am non-episodic but I know every day could be the day that I become manic. I know that every day could be the end of my life as I know it. I fight. I fight to stay here to be here because today, I know how wonderful it can be. Right now, I am living as close to normal as I’ve ever been.

Robin Williams was 63 years old, he fought his demons every day for all these years but today he was too beat down to fight back and we lost a comedic genius, a father, a husband, a friend. Today, I lost a fellow warrior. He has fallen and my heart is heavy. My thoughts and prayers are for those who loved him that he left behind, may they find the strength and courage to carry on. May he finally rest in peace.

Don’t let his death be meaningless. Don’t let one more person die in mental health vain. We need to be more open, remove the stigma and support one another. Bipolar disorder, manic depression, depression or whatever it is that you call your demon can only be defeated when all the warriors stand tall and share our stories and own our issues. I won’t lie, Robin Williams’ suicide scares me because it makes me feel vulnerable.

There should be no shame in being sick, there should only be compassion and understanding and HELP! Share your stories. Come out of your mental health closet. #RobinsWarriors If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. You are not alone. Don’t give up.

24-hour Hotline

National Suicide Prevention Helpline

1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

Do not go gently into that good night…rage until you can no longer draw breath into your body. Rage warriors, rage harder than you ever have before.

Robin Williams, there will never be another you and you will forever be missed.


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carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia

Today, in some bizarre twist of fate, the moment Rogue One began to play on the screen, my Apple watch flashed the breaking news, Star Wars icon, Carrie Fisher, dead at 60. Her big, beautiful heart just stopped beating. Just like that, she was gone and all the air was sucked out of my lungs. It was a cosmic punch to the gut. I sat there in shock in the dark theater as the words, in a galaxy far, far away flashed on the screen. It was surreal and the most ironic thing I’ve ever experienced.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

I spent the duration of the movie watching from behind tear-filled eyes, stifling inappropriate sobs. I wasn’t crying over the loss of Princess Leia, that was just a character that she played in a movie. I was devastated by someone that I felt a kindred spirit in so many ways.

Carrie Fisher was a hero to me for her outspoken, feisty, live out loud female empowered way that she lived her life but she was particularly my hero because she was a survivor. We survivors, we recognize scrappy in one another and we admire it. I admired her.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

She survived addiction and Bipolar, and believe me, if you’ve not had to survive either of these you have no idea just how strong this woman was. She faced it head on and said, “Fuck you! I’m not going down without a fight! Bring it on, bitches!” (That’s NOT  a direct quote but a sentiment sort of an inner warrior princess battle cry.)

When we are children and young adults, we naturally gravitate towards heroes to emulate that we recognize glimpses of ourselves in. I saw myself in Carrie Fisher. I loved the way she just told it like it was. There was no time for bullshit. Life is too short, especially when your mind takes you on a perpetual roller coaster ride.

She came out publicly about her struggles with addiction and her bipolar diagnosis in the mid-90’s. She inspired others to do so too. Soon after, I was diagnosed bipolar 1. When you are suffering undiagnosed and self-medicating just to try to feel “normal” it’s like you’re not even really living; you’re getting by. You feel broken and to find out that there is a name for it, to find out that you are merely bent and not broken, is sweet relief. I could identify on so many levels with her on this. We shared that experience and its sort of like sharing cancer or war together. It etches that person on your heart in a way most others can never be.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

After I was diagnosed, I made it my mission to learn everything I could about the disease. Not only did I see my psychiatrist and psychologist weekly and religiously, I read every book I could get my hands on, including the DSM. I gave books to my family and friends so that they could educate themselves and understand why I was the way I was. I learned all of my comorbid diagnosis and how to cope with them; some with medication and all through behavioral therapy. I learned what made me tick. I embraced the madness. I even took it a step further and took a few graduate clinical psychology courses just to wrap my brain around it as much as possible. I learned how to diagnose not because I wanted to diagnose anyone but because I wanted to recognize, educate and help anyone else who was feeling broken.

Every time Carrie Fisher spoke up about mental illness and advocated for mental health, she made it easier for the rest of us. She also inspired us to be honest to tell our mental health truths. Having a mental illness diagnosis is not like having a physical illness diagnosis. When you have a mental illness, somehow the world sees you as defective by your own choice; as if you did something to deserve it or it was some punishment for being weak-minded but no one would ever say that about someone with diabetes or cancer. Carrie fought those stigmas at every chance because once you can separate yourself from the disease and see with that intuitive clarity, you just want to help anyone you can.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one

Carrie Fisher’s bravery inspired me to share my own stories; my diagnoses. I told the world things I hadn’t even said out loud to most of my friends because I was ashamed they would somehow think less of me or make every fault about the diagnosis. I was terrified to tell you my deepest, darkest most stigmatized secrets but I wrote them out and became an advocate because by being open it destigmatizes it just a little bit for the next generation; the next group of sufferers. That’s who Carrie Fisher was to me. I saw myself in her and I will miss her. She gave me hope.

In the last 5 seconds of Rogue One, just when I thought I couldn’t possibly hold it together for one more second, there on the screen was Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) turning around to face the audience, beaming in the way only Carrie could, and she said, “We have hope.” It was one last serendipitous pep talk from a woman who has inspired me to be strong and brave when I was at my most vulnerable. Rest in peace, my fellow warrior.

carrie Fisher, bipolar, addiction, Princess Leia, star wars, rogue one


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Kanye West is in the middle of what appears to me to be a shit storm of a manic episode and I should know because I’ve lived through my own fair share of shit storms of manic episodes. They’re not pretty and coming out of one is the worst part. It’s like being held hostage while your mind spins out of control and explodes all of your relationships. Surviving marriage with a bipolar partner is one of the hardest things anyone can experience. Of course, I never had my manic episodes in full view of the public. I was never a celebrity and thank God for that because what an asshole I was. I am Kanye West.

Bipolar is a mental illness. I don’t even know how to accurately describe it as I’ve only ever known it from the inside out. When I’m non-episodic, I can look back with a clear vision and see the outrageousness of the manic me but in the throes of it, I couldn’t recognize it if you paid me. This is why the Big Guy and I have a system in place.

He doesn’t blame every bad mood on my bipolar 1 and I don’t get away with bad behavior because I have a diagnosis. We both know that when I’m flying high, the last thing you can do is try to reason me down, so when/if I have a full manic episode, he’s my rock to keep me grounded. He agrees to be my reality check and I agree to give him that power. It’s the greatest trust you can give to anyone else. This is surviving marriage with a bipolar partner. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this. There is a point.

I’ve seen what Kim and Kanye are going through. More importantly, I see what Kim is going through. It breaks my heart because I’ve been Kanye. I’m telling you this because I read Kim Kardashian’s Insta Stories posts and they got in my head and in my heart. You see, I’ve been watching Kanye and I see myself. I’ve been him. This is mania. Mania is a gift and a curse. It’s like having wings; you feel invincible. You just keep rising higher and higher until no one can touch you. And then, just as suddenly and unexpectedly, you come crashing down in one of 2 ways, you either fall into a pit of despair and depression or (like me) you get stuck on “ON” and you can’t stop and your body gets exhausted but your mind won’t turn off and you are trapped in a mind and body at war and you’re the hostage. It is exhausting, it’s irritating and in the end, it’s terrifying to never be able to turn off your on switch.

READ ALSO: How my diagnosis saved me

You’re asking yourself, why not take medicine? If only it were that easy. We’d all be chemically balanced. Well, I did take medicine and many years of behavioral therapy because after accepting your illness, you have to learn to live with it. But it’s not easy figuring out the drug cocktail to a definitely not one size fits all mental illness.

If you do get the right drugs, you have to get the right amounts and you have to constantly monitor for changing moods and chemicals. Think of it as having an imaginary balance scale that you’re constantly needing to adjust so that you don’t chemically topple in one way or the other. On top of all of that, you have to be cognizant that your actions can be catastrophic to the people you love. It’s a lot especially when we are usually known for our creativity, so we’re assholes from the beginning.

It’s like being Icarus, you go so high you touch the sun, you get burned, catch fire and turn to ash and the world watches on. You watch on, held captive by your manic mind, only to come down to be confronted by all the destruction you caused while eclipsing the sun.I went through the worst of mine as a college student and newlywed before I had kids and before I lived my life online.  Still, even without kids, for the Big Guy surviving marriage to a bipolar partner was almost impossible. Our marriage would not have survived if I hadn’t gotten help.

I am Kanye West

Kanye has had to live his Bipolar episodes under the scrutiny of the public eye and I would not wish that on my worst enemy. Anyways, back to why I am writing this, Kim Kardashian. She wrote some powerful words about the disease. Words that only a person whose been through it or watched someone they love descend into madness could write.

 Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian

Kim’s words of love and compassion are a true commentary on what it’s like loving someone with bipolar. It’s brutal. Like seriously fucking hard. My husband, I don’t know how he stayed but I’m glad that he did. I was as difficult as anyone could possibly be. I had no boundaries and no respect for consequences. If you know me now, you wouldn’t think that about me but I am who I am because I went through what I went through to become who I am.

Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian

READ ALSO: I am Robin Williams


Surviving Marriage with a Bipolar Partner, I am Kanye West, bipolar disorder, mania, Kim Kardashian

So when I say that Kanye is acting crazy, it’s not an insult. It’s not me being flip about mental illness, which I think some people thought that from a post I put n Facebook. I forget that not everyone knows my business. I’ve written about it quite a few times on here and I guess I take it for granted that everyone’s a fan.

It’s me recognizing my illness in someone else, having compassion and empathy for Kanye. Hoping that his marriage can weather this storm because of all the things we are forced to sacrifice to our illness, our partnerships shouldn’t have to be one of them. It’s rooting for him to come through this on the other side without damaging too many relationships or ruining his career.

Kim deserves to know the road map for surviving marriage with a bipolar partner.

The thing with mania is when we’re manic, we don’t think beyond the moment. We’re not capable. It’s a very id serving illness and you can’t tell us any different because we can’t be reasoned with because we are not in a rational state of mind. This is not a choice we make. Honestly, the recklessness is something that comes along with the mania and drags us along for the ride. The easiest way to recognize someone with bipolar is reckless behavior. It’s a red flag. Pressured speech. CHECK. Speeding. CHECK. Spending a lot of money. CHECK. Insomnia. CHECK. From the outside, I was fun on steroids and then I was hell on wheels. There was never an in-between for me. I was all or nothing and it ruined relationships, friendships and opportunities.

READ ALSO: Carrie Fisher the Warrior Princess who gave me hope

Now, I live in the in-between with slight ticks up and falls down but nothing like before I was diagnosed. It’s still hard. There is no cure. You learn to live in the in-between. I have moments when I can feel the mania coming on but I don’t give myself over to it anymore. Instead, I hold on and I do whatever I can do in my power to minimize damage and destruction to my life, to my family and to the person I am today.  The luxury of just riding the wave and feeling it all isn’t an option because the price is too high. I say all this with the clarity of education, therapy, wisdom and experience because I’ve been living with this illness most of my life but diagnosed for the past 20.

My diagnosis did not scare me. Hope is in accepting the broken. Relief came in knowing. Ready to embrace the disease by the time I received it because I was so weary from surviving it. I read everything I could to learn more; immersing myself in understanding. Giving myself forgiveness and grace because it was the only way to move forward and separate myself from the disease was the only thing to do. Otherwise, the shame spiral would have been too much to overcome.

We all do things that we otherwise wouldn’t, especially when chemically imbalanced. We have no control before we know what the problem is, we accept it as it is who we are. Just because we are bipolar doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be loved. But it’s not easy to love us. We’re difficult even on our good days. I am Kanye West and this is what surviving marriage with a bipolar partner looks like.

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Kate Spade, Kate Valentine Spade, Andy Spade, Davide Spade, Suicide, Beatrix Spade, fashion, depression, bipolar

Like many of you, I was shocked and then immensely saddened by the passing of style icon and designer, Kate Spade. I was out shopping with my daughters, ages 11 and 13, when I read the CNN blurb of her suicide, I was speechless. It felt tragically personal. I had so many questions.

Then the news began to report the details. A red scarf. A note to her daughter, Beatrix. Suicide by asphyxiation, similar to that of Robin Williams. We all know how I felt about that. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It all feels a little too close to home.

I’m still shocked that Kate Valentine Spade is gone. By all appearances, she seemed so vibrant and happy-go-lucky but, that was the brand, right? I, of all people, should know that life is not always what it appears to be. Sometimes there is madness just beneath the surface, holding us down like an anchor around our necks.

It’s not like we all go around shaking hands with every stranger saying, “hello, my name is blah blah blah. My diagnoses are…” That would be weird, right? Helpful, maybe but definitely socially awkward. Instead, many of us walk around with our illnesses on our shoulders like some sort of punishment and never seek relief out of shame. The shame is what kills us because it makes us too afraid to seek the help we need.

READ ALSO: When Mental Health is Marginalized

You’re probably wondering when is she going to get to the “personal” Kate Spade story. My story is personal and it relates to Kate Spade in the way that I can personally relate to her circumstances and depression. I have no “that one time I met Kate Spade” story for you today. But, in a way, aren’t we all Kate Spade’s, that’s part of what made her so beloved.

Kate Spade, Kate Valentine Spade, Andy Spade, Davide Spade, Suicide, Beatrix Spade, fashion, depression, bipolar

She was an American Dream success story. A girl from the Midwest who made good in the big city. She took nothing but a dream and built it into an empire. She hustled her ass off and in the process, we all fell in love with not only her bags, shoes, clothes and accessories but the woman who made them. I’ve always admired the woman as much her designs.

“Don’t rest on your laurels. The end result isn’t as important as the effort that goes into it. Jump all the way in. Don’t be afraid. And don’t worry so much,” Kate Spade.

I’ve always fancied my personal style as Carrie Bradshaw meets Audrey Hepburn meets Coachella. It all depends on my mood, as are many aspects of my life. Kate Spade helped me keep it classy; she brought the Audrey to my wardrobe. I’ve owned many of her pieces over the years and I wore them each proudly because it felt like I was finally a grown up. Her pieces are classic yet edgy. The touch of Holly Go Lightly we all so desperately crave in our lives. Even my girls love Kate Spade.

I don’t know what her diagnosis was nor would I try to guess. Diagnoses are very personal and indiscriminate. You can’t share them until you are ready and every single one of us are different. Some of us can’t hide them and everyone knows that something is “off”, some us of blend into normalcy and you never know the anguish we are suffering through on a daily basis and some of us would rather die than reveal our diagnosis.

For me, before my diagnoses, I thought I was broken. That feeling is daunting and overwhelming and nearly too much to carry. Definitely, too much to carry alone. Hearing my diagnoses said out loud gave me so much relief that I cried tears of joy because I realized then that I was only bent. But it was a humbling experience that I mostly got to experience in private surrounded by those who loved me unconditionally.

I didn’t come out to the world as mentally ill (see, I still cringe when I type that because I know that to someone, somewhere that diminishes what they think of me) until 2012. I was diagnosed in 2000. It took me over a decade to be able to be completely open about it and yet, it still bothers me to say “mentally ill” out loud. I feel like the moment anyone hears “mentally ill” they conjure up images of people in padded rooms in an asylum wearing straitjackets. I can’t imagine how someone of Kate Spade’s notoriety would deal with a diagnosis or if she even had one.

It’s obvious that she was depressed; that’s usually a given in a suicide. I read that her sister is claiming that she suffered from undiagnosed Bipolar. As I am Bipolar (I just cringed a little again) I know a little more about that disease. I know firsthand that it can make you depressed and it is a fact that 15 % of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder will commit suicide, half will attempt it and 80% will contemplate it.

I was part of the 80% in my teens. It was over a decade before I was diagnosed but your brain doesn’t need an official diagnosis for you to feel the full weight of the symptoms. You just do. And when you don’t know what is causing that pain, it’s so much worse because you assume there is no relief. You assume you are terminally broken, so what is the point of trying to live? If you’ve never felt this kind of melancholy, you are lucky. If you have, you know exactly the depth of despair of which I speak. It is unmistakable and sometimes feels unlivable. Many of us have been here.

I only dwelled in darkness for brief moments of my lifetime. For me, the darkness gave way to mania and immense irritability. My natural state is a revved up motor stuck in neutral which can be, at times, equally as painful. Imagine being chronically up and never being able to turn your brain off; that is your brain on mania.

I know it seems like I’m rambling now but my point is this, you never know what someone is going through in their life or in their minds. We all wear our protective armor and some of us are better at hiding the pain and misery than others but that doesn’t diminish how strongly we feel it, only how clearly you can see it from the outside.

I am sad that the world lost Kate Spade, absolutely gutted. I don’t know if she had a formal diagnosis, I hope that she did, if only she knew what it was because the feeling of being terminally broken is so much worse than being mentally bent. I also know for a fact that even when we are at our lowest, we can still know that we are loved and love others even if we feel we don’t deserve it. I hope she had that too. Sometimes the reasons are outweighed by the anguish and that has nothing to do with the people who love you. They are enough but you feel that you are not.

Unfortunately, there is only one way to survive this kind of depression and it is to get through it, which is much harder than it sounds because it hurts unbelievably. You have to get the help you need, whether that be getting the initial diagnosis, medication and therapy all the way through to making the choice every single day to keep fighting through the excruciating pain you feel on some days just to breathe.

If you feel depressed or you are thinking about harming yourself, please call the 24-hour Hotline National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

I know when you are in that dark place, it feels like there is no way out but there is and it starts with letting someone throw you a line; someone listening and making you feel heard. Talking through it can provide enough relief to get you through to the next day.

READ ALSO: Carrie Fischer; the Warrior Princess who gave me Hope

And if you are someone who sees a loved one hurting, depressed, overwhelmed with sadness let them know that you are there for them. Listen and encourage them to get the help they need but know that you cannot force someone to feel better and they can’t simply cheer up. And no matter what their life may look like to you from the outside, you have no idea what they are going through on the inside so don’t diminish their pain by telling them that they need to “get over it”. It’s not that simple. They need your support and unconditional love. Full stop.

Kate Spade, Kate Valentine Spade, Andy Spade, Davide Spade, Suicide, Beatrix Spade, fashion, depression, bipolar

I hope her legacy is the immense joy her pieces brought to so many of us and will bring to future generations of young women. My thoughts and prayers are with those who Kate Spade left behind and though they will never fully be able to understand or accept what she has done, may they find peace in knowing that she is no longer in pain.

What is your Kate Spade story?



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Leukemia, Pediatric cancer, leukemia & lymphoma society, how to survive leukemia

My nephew was diagnosed with Leukemia at 2-years-old. I don’t normally share this story because it’s not my story to share but today, it’s time to speak the words.

“My nephew had leukemia.”

To be honest, I’ve been too afraid to say the words out loud like somehow the words themselves might give the leukemia power and bring the blood cancer fates down on us again.

As a mother, one of my biggest fears is losing one of my children. I often say that I don’t know how I would survive it but the truth is, I know exactly how one survives it. I just don’t ever want to have to.

In 1996, a decade before I was a mother, myself, I was an aunt. Yes, I was that crazy, (probably) over doting, obnoxious aunt to my first nephew, Alex. I’m serious, I had his baby pictures on my nightstand. It scared many of a date when I was single.

I come from a large Latino family and, in our family, family is everything. Mi casa es su casa. What’s mine is yours and we love each other’s children as much as we love our own so baby Alex was fair game as far as all of us were concerned. Alex was the pride and joy of my brother, Carlos and his wife, Jodie. Alex was the first of the next generation of the Cruz kids and we loved that kid more than a fat kid loves cake. If only love could make you immune to the cruelties of the world.

Leukemia, Pediatric cancer, leukemia & lymphoma society, how to survive leukemia

When Alex was only 2-years-old the unthinkable happened, Alex was diagnosed with T-Cell A.L.L (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).

With that diagnosis of leukemia, as a family, our world crashed down all around us. The world as we knew it ceased to make sense. I questioned everything I’d ever believed or knew because how could this be happening to a child.

I wasn’t a mother myself at the time so I couldn’t fully understand what that diagnosis felt like as a parent. Hearing my brother’s voice on the phone, hundreds of miles away, with no family around; the pain and anguish in his voice was palpable when he delivered the news. I knew he was broken but he was stoic for his son.

I hung up the phone and sobbed, cursed and prayed. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening. I just knew that this couldn’t be happening. That moment changed all of us. In many ways, it has defined the person I am today.

Experiencing that kind of vulnerability and helplessness makes you realize that every single day is important. Every moment counts. Every word, deed and action of your life means something because your moment may be someone else’s lifetime so embrace life.

Life is fickle and just as quickly as you are crying tears of joy as they are laying your precious newborn baby onto your chest, you can be holding back tears of sadness as you fight for their life. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are someone’s everything.

My brother and his wife are two of the strongest people I know. When you are a parent of a seriously ill child, you lose the luxury of choosing to collapse in a pool of snot and tears when the world beats you down, you just have to suck it up and be strong for your children no matter how broken and vulnerable you are feeling yourself. Once you get behind closed doors, you can collapse, cry, scream and rage against the world.

You have to be brave for the both of you. You stay strong for your child until you make it out the other side; healthy and happy. My brother and his wife are still two of the strongest people that I’ve ever known.

Back in those days, I was terrified every time the phone rang when I saw North Carolina on the caller I.D. On one particular night, I saw my brother’s number. I held my breath and answered the phone, as I always did in those days. My brother recounted the day’s events, heavily uttering the words that he had to lay across his toddler to hold him down so the doctors could do a spinal tap as my confused 2-year-old nephew screamed,

“I hate you, Papi!”

I could hear my brother’s voice cracking as his heart was breaking.

That’s cancer. Doing the hard things to save your loved one even when it breaks your heart. Watching as the person you love is in pain, wanting desperately to take their place and being helpless to take it away.

This all happened when Carlos was only 22-years-old. My brother and his wife survived Alex’s leukemia with grace, love and hope. Thanks to so many amazing people (doctors, nurses, family and friends) including Wake Forest Baptist Medical Hospital and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They went on to have 3 more beautiful children.

Leukemia, Pediatric cancer, leukemia & lymphoma society, how to survive leukemia

Alex went into remission and has not had any relapses. Today, my beautiful nephew, the firstborn Cruz grandchild is a 21-year-old sweet, caring young man. He is our miracle. He is a survivor and we are blessed every single day that we have him here with us. Other families are not so fortunate.

Since then, my brother and his family have hosted countless events to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. It’s the one charity that I never say no to when asked it donate. How can we ever repay the debt of a child’s life?

This year my brother was nominated for the honor of being The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) 2017 Man & Woman of the Year campaign. He deserves it. He is a devoted husband and father who is a pillar of the community and does his best to give back to a world that gave him his son back.

Leukemia, Pediatric cancer, leukemia & lymphoma society, how to survive leukemia

As a family, we have set a goal to raise $100,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society between today and June 1, 2017. I know it’s ambitious but that’s how we Cruz kids roll. We go big, especially when it’s such an important cause.

I am humbly asking for your support in our efforts to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in its mission to find a cure for blood cancers and to assist patients and families as they battle this disease. No donation is too small or too large. Every single dollar counts towards finding a cure. Your donation could help save another parent from having to live through this excruciating experience.

There are two easy ways to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society find a cure:


  1. Make a personal gift. (Your donation is a tax-deductible contribution.). Go to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society campaign Web site and make your contribution at https://www.mwoy.org/pages/in/neindiana17/dbeckp


  1. Invite your business or organization to be a corporate sponsor.

$25,000 – Presenting Sponsor

$ 15,000 – Platinum

$ 10,000 – Gold

$ 5,000 – Silver

$ 2,500 – Bronze

$ 1,000 – Bronze

$1,000, $500 or $250 – Grand Finale Program Ad

I want to personally say thank you from all of us; it truly means everything to us.If you want to learn more about what the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is doing please go here for latest updates.

Leukemia, Pediatric cancer, leukemia & lymphoma society, how to survive leukemia

If you can donate to help us meet our goal of raising $100,000 by June 1, 2017 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society please go here and donate whatever you can.

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gun control, san bernadino, mental illness, parenting, parenting in the time of chaos, throat punch thursday

My mind has been swirling with all the mass shootings and talk of gun control or should I say, lack thereof? Between Trump, shootings and racists using a burned out van to vilify all the Mexicans, I felt I was due for a Throat Punch Thursday post.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately feeling nostalgic for my “good old days of blogging.” You remember, the days when I used to stay up to all hours of the night documenting my trials and tribulations of early motherhood after the babies went to sleep? I miss the whole exhausted, cut your wrists, open up a vein and bleed all over your keyboard days.

I miss the days before monetization, SEO and giving a damn who was reading and who I might be offending. I really miss my regular Throat Punch Thursdays so here I am, opening up my veins.

I know sometimes I’m controversial. I know that I’m political and opinionated but I think you come here to read the real truth through my mom goggles not rose-colored bullshit that’s strictly politically correct. Nothing I say should come as a surprise. I’ve never changed my opinion on gun control, ever.

Anyone who has ever met me knows that I am a lot of things but politically correct is not one of them. I have a giant heart with all the feels and not a lick of filter on my words. I’m passionate and I need to write things out to navigate the mucky waters of my mind.

Which brings me to todays rant, first Throat Punch Thursday in awhile, gun control. If you have ever read me before, you know that I believe that there should be stricter gun control. My belief is that people with guns kill people. Guns are not necessary. They were once, when we needed people to readily mobilize into a militia but we are way passed those days.

We live in a world where we’ve had more mass shootings this year than we have days in the year. We are no longer shocked when we hear that there has been another mass shooting, we expect it. We simply hold our breaths until we find out that our loved ones are not within range and then we exhale and pray to make it through another day. It sickens me that this is what it has come to.

Every single morning that I drop my daughters off at school, I kiss them and tell them that I love them. I watch them as they walk into the building. I watch them until they are through all three sets of glass doors and then, as I pull away, I pray that no one shoots them while they are trying to get an education, trying to grow up. I hold my breath every day until they walk back through the door. Every siren makes my heart jump into my mouth. This is what the world has come to.

My daughters have “drills” they do on the regular to learn appropriate protocol for what to do in case a gun wielding “madman” gains access into the building. I pray a lot. The Democrats say we need stricter gone control and the Republicans say we need better mental health. I agree with both.

Honestly, I wish we lived in a world where there were no guns. I hate violence and I think most people who have guns don’t need them. We live in a country where a person dies every 16 minutes from a gun. The scariest part is that people are being shot in places where they should be safe, where people are most vulnerable. No one is expecting to go to church, the movies or school and get shot or die.

Current gun control is not acceptable.

The staggering reality is this, anyone can buy a shotgun and almost anyone can get a handgun by applying for a license and waiting a few days. There are no required classes, training or enforced restrictions on keeping and owning a gun. Simply apply, wait, take your gun home and hope you don’t shoot yourself of your kids don’t find it.

This is what REALLY scares me. I had an actual conversation with someone I know, who appears by all accounts intelligent and worldly. We were having a deep conversation about mental health and a suspected diagnosis. My suggestion was get help; make an appointment, see a psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis and a psychologist to talk it all out.

On mental health, I am a firm believer in get help. Screw “what people think”. I’ve been on both sides of it and it’s always better to seek treatment than to try to deal with it on your own. The response I got shocked me, “I’m afraid to see a psychiatrist because if I have an official diagnosis in my record, it may restrict me from being able to purchase a gun in the future. “ It was everything I could do to not let my jaw hit the ground. This is a person who already owns guns and is not a hunter. These guns are for protection but with an undiagnosed, untreated diagnosis his biggest danger to him is himself.

So basically, our gun laws are just making those who might be mentally ill avoid getting treatment because it might interfere with their right to bear arms. Is this really what we want? Mentally ill people ignoring their mental illness so they can have guns in a full on state of crazy? Wouldn’t it just be safer for all of us if there were no guns?

What kind of world do we live in where the mentally ill are so afraid of the stigma of illness that they’d rather be suicidal and a danger to themselves and others than go to a doctor and have to disclose that they got help for a diagnosis? Wouldn’t we rather people be treated and healthy than undiagnosed and on the loose buying guns at will? How did our values get so screwed up? When did we start vilifying sick people? Why do we need so many fucking guns anyway?

I feel like I’m ranting but it’s because I’m mad that this keeps happening. Isn’t this the exact definition of insanity? What is it going to take for people to realize that its time to change our policies? I don’t want to be afraid to send my girls to school. I’m tired of being afraid that every trip to a public place could be our last.

gun control, san bernadino, mental illness, parenting, parenting in the time of chaos, throat punch thursday

We need more than just thoughts and prayers, we need deeds and actions if we want to make this world a safer, better place for our children to live in. I’m sick and tired of living in a world where every time I see my girls walk away, it could be the last time.

What are your thoughts on gun control, San Bernadino and all of this?

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Tonight, I’m sitting here with a lot of feelings swirling around in my heart and a lot of thoughts and unanswered questions in my head. At the top of that list is how to help your child survive depression and anxiety. There’s been a lot of big things happening around here. Yesterday, we celebrated Bella’s Junior day at school. How can my first baby be a senior and be leaving for college soon? Sunday will be the 10th anniversary of the loss of our third baby and it’s tinging every day this week with sadness.

Today was the day that I’d been dreading my entire life even before I had my children. The one thing I hoped would never happen, the thing that has filled me with guilt and sadness since even before thinking of becoming a mom.

Today, my daughter verbalized what most adults cannot… she told me that she no longer feels any joy in her life.

I was diagnosed Bipolar 1 when I was in my 20s and back then, I was very regularly manic. That’s how my bipolar presents mostly, I fly so high that I can’t come down so I fly erratically until the extreme irritability and anger kick in. Then, I become unbearable. So, I was relieved when I got my diagnosis because it meant I was bent not broken and that felt kind of like a miracle to me. It felt as good as being cured. But the one thing that scared me the most was the possibility of passing it along to my children. I’d rather live my life dealing with the harsh reality of highs and lows than ever let my children feel one moment of unrest but we don’t always get what we want.

Because of my own experience with mental illness, I am an advocate for my children’s mental health. I’ve raised them knowing that everyone could benefit from therapy and that there is no shame in having a mental illness diagnosis. It just is what it is and all we can do is get a good psychiatrist, a compassionate psychologist and work the plan and take our meds. We have to do the work and it is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do but it’s the only way to get through it.

Today, my worst fear was realized when I heard my child, whom I love more than my own life, say that she could feel no joy and thought maybe she needed more help than I alone could give. On one hand, I was so proud of her for advocating for herself and for being so self-aware at such a young age but on the other hand, I was absolutely terrified. How can this be happening?

I’ve done everything I could think of proactively because of living with and learning about my own mental illness. My girls have been in therapy for the past 2 years. I keep a close eye on their mental health and well-being, we talk about everything openly and I look for the signs because I know how torturous it is to go through it alone. But there are some things you can’t stop from happening. You can only be there to help them find their way and mental illness one of those things that you can’t stop from happening. No matter who you are, how much money you have, where you live or who you think you are, mental illness does not discriminate. The difference in the outcome is whether you get the help you need or not.

In my 20’s, I was very manic almost exclusively but when I was my daughters’ ages (really from about 14-18 years old) I was highly suicidal. But it wasn’t just ideation, I had a plan. I had backup plans to my plan. It was so painful to live that I often felt the only way to stop the pain was to disappear into the abyss. I wanted to die more than I wanted anything else. Honestly, I used to pray for the strength to do it but there was one thing that stopped me, my mom. I just couldn’t get past what it would do to her and the thought of me being the cause of her feeling like she wanted to disappear into the abyss was the very thing that prompted me to keep fighting. I never told a soul and the fact that my daughter discussed her mental health with me, I feel, is evolved beyond what I was at her age.

I knew that if I killed myself, I would essentially be killing my own mother and I could never do that to her so I kept living. One day at a time, some days, one minute at a time and on others, one second at a time. Living during that time felt cruel and unusual but it was my only option. I think that’s where my unbreakable (or as my daughters call it unbearable) optimism comes from. I had to find a way to keep going through the darkest time of my life, alone.

My point is that life is a struggle for all of us in its own way. Sometimes life is so hard and scary that it’s almost impossible to see clear of the darkness. But I promise that eventually, the darkness lifts and becomes bearable. Learn to read between the lines and hear what your teenagers are feeling, beyond what they are saying. It’s not easy being a teenager in today’s digital world. There is so much pressure to be perfect in a world where everything is filtered and curated.

At the end of the day, all I want is for my girls to be happy. I want them to feel loved and filled with hope and a sense of purpose. I want them to know that everything is possible and no dream is too big. But mostly, I want them to feel real, genuine joy and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that I safely get them to a place where they can and they do. It’s been one of the hardest weeks of my life but I am grateful that she felt comfortable enough to talk to me because it terrifies to think about the alternative.

Have you ever been faced with the fact that your child may have a mental health issue and need help beyond what you can offer as a mom? What did you do? How did you get through it and comfort your child in a meaningful way without trivializing or catastrophizing their situation? How did you learn to listen beyond their words?  

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keith Vidal, Throat Punch Thursday, mental illness, Schizophrenic teen, Schizophrenia, Bryon Vassey

The family of 18-year-old, Keith Vidal, called their local police for help when their son was behaving erratically during a schizophrenic episode last Sunday night. The 18-year-old from Boiling Spring Lake, North Carolina, was first tasered by two police officers and on the ground when shot and killed by a third officer, Bryon Vassey, from the neighboring town of Southport.

According to this emotional video by Keith Vidal’s stepbrother, Mark Ryan Wilsey, Keith was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia and was coping while dosing was being figured out.

Vidal’s father, Mark Wilsey, called the police Sunday night because his son was armed with an electric, six-inch screwdriver and was threatening his mother. According to the family the two officers had the situation under control, with the 100-pound Keith Vidal on the ground tasered, when Officer Vassey entered the premises and within 60 seconds said, “We don’t have time for this.” Then he shot Keith Vidal in the chest, killing him. I can’t get the disturbing image out of my head of someone putting down a lame dog.

Officer Vassey first said he was ‘defending himself,” only to later say through his lawyer he was defending another officer. How could deadly force be the only option when there are 3 officers and a Taser involved to subdue one skinny teenager?

My heart breaks for this family. Any person who has ever dealt with, loved with or been mentally ill knows that getting the right meds dosage is critical. Sometimes it takes months or even years to find the right dosage. Meds can alter your state of mind sometimes even worse than the mental illness itself.

This kid was 18-years-old and recently diagnosed. Can you imagine what a pill it is to swallow to be told that you have a mental illness and will be medicated for the rest of your life just to be “normal”? I can. When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar 1, I was at a point in my life where I had been ill for years with no help. No diagnosis. I felt irreparably broken. I felt alone and severed from everyone around me.  I can’t even describe to you what it feels like to feel so broken. The closest I can compare it to would be like living in quick sand and you are being swallowed whole by the disease but the more you struggle to resist, to survive the deeper you sink and the more likely you are to lose yourself. It is terrifying because you don’t know why this is happening to you. Was it something you did or didn’t do?

When I finally got a diagnosis, I was terrified but relieved. Relieved that there was help to be had and to find that I wasn’t so broken as much as really bent. It was a struggle to get back to “normal”; whatever that is. I’m not sure I really know. Normal is relative, I suppose.

It took months of highs and lows. I was originally misdiagnosed as depressed and given enough anti-depressants to kill a horse, which made me ever increasingly manic. In the end, I was at the brink of psychosis. I saw madness. I felt it. Touched it. Lived it. It was the biggest part of me.

Eventually, anti-depressants were taken down to next to nothing; stabilizers and Ambien entered the picture. Where mania once ran rampant, now zombie like living: walking into walls and all-consuming lethargy had become part of who I was. After a few months, I was finally regulated and began to feel “normal” for the first time in years; maybe ever.

It all seems so cut and dry when you write it out but it’s not. The part I haven’t told you that before my medication dosage was right, I was highly erratic. I was like a ticking time bomb. What was going on inside my head was so distracting that it left me annoyed and irrationally angry with myself and everyone around me. Later, through therapy, I realized that the irritability was directly proportional to my mania. My body and mind were pissed off because no one ever turned the lights off. My body and mind were exhausted and there was no off switch to be had.

I did irrational things just to feel alive because I ALWAYS needed to feel alive; I drove fast, lived fast and never considered consequences. I teetered between feeling invincible and wanting to die. I drank a lot. I know now that I subconsciously did that to shut things off. It’s actually pretty common. I alienated family and friends because I overreacted to everything. Sometime between high school and college graduation, I had spun completely out of control. The insomnia was just fuel to the fire.

I fully accept responsibility for my behavior in those days though, honestly, I had no real control over a lot of it. I never wielded a weapon at my parents but I did throw a friend’s belongings off my balcony and came pretty damn close to tossing her as well during a particularly manic episode. I used to be quite good at pushing people away. I think I was afraid they’d see the real me and know something was “off ”. Even before I knew what it was, I knew something wasn’t right. I hoped and prayed that there was a reason for the behavior.

My whole point for this very long and drawn out story is that if you met me today, you’d know that I’m not the same person I was at 18, 21 or even 25. I am the mother of two, a wife, and even a room mother. I am just like you but maybe I wouldn’t be if someone decided that they had no time for me to get help; to learn to live with my diagnosis. Perhaps, this is the problem with the world, we resign ourselves to believe that those who are mentally ill are dangerous, less than or even worthless. We forget that they are people, just like you and I.Well, more like me than you, I suppose:) My point is that just because someone is mentally ill doesn’t mean they can’t be valuable members of society or good human beings. It only means that they might have a more difficult journey than the rest of us.

Officer Vassey might have been scared and felt threatened because sometimes in the midst of an episode, the person suffering looks scary. The fact remains that if two officers had Keith Vidal tasered on the ground, what possible reason could there have been to shoot him? Unlike me, Keith Vidal is dead and now, will never have the chance to learn to live with his disease; to grow up, to have a family, to be a dad or a husband.

What are your thoughts on this tragic story? What would you do if you were Keith Vidal parents?


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