What would I tell my younger self about the Triple Threat Disease?

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Looking back at these pictures taken around the age of 8 (in the left photo) and age 6 (in the right photo), that little sweet innocent girl’s life of a happy childhood would take an unexpected turn that would alter her world drastically in so many ways. At the age of 10, would come the official diagnosis: Depression. And later during college came the ugly stepsisters: Anxiety and Panic Disorder. What would I tell her if I had the chance to bump into her and spend a moment with her? She probably would say: “I don’t talk to strangers. Who are you? And why are you talking to me?” My inner child would think I was crazy if she got a glimpse of her future self. She may say: “Is this what I look like when I’m older? Man, I’m ugly or beautiful.” It would be like the movie “Big” with Tom Hanks. You wished to be a grown up and then you do, and you desperately miss being a kid again. I loved that movie since 1988. (Good, God? 30 years already????)

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This sweet little innocent girl would have no idea how much this diagnosis would change everything. I mean, everything! After the age of 10, my mood and behavior spiraled dramatically. It was like someone flipping me upside down and left me dangling. No longer was I same girl anymore. She was replaced by a different girl with a different behavior (MOODY!) and a different look. I was a happy child and then became I sad (lonely) child in a cruel world. I don’t remember any other kid in school that I knew at that time that was depressed. Probably! I just didn’t socialize like I used to. I became more introverted as depression reared its ugly head on me. I isolated myself and disassociated myself from society, too. The other classmates didn’t know what was going on. My friends didn’t understand either. My teachers saw a difference in me. I didn’t. I didn’t think about anything. I abandoned close friends that I loved since kindergarten and refused to make new ones. I hate being alone and I need to be around people. But during depressive periods, I just want to be alone and that’s very unhealthy. You need people that are supporting and loving around no matter what.

When high school came, I did switch schools and that was really an eye opener. One school was diverse in so many ways. I had friends that were from all different backgrounds and races and I loved that. Then I moved and went to a predominantly, all white school. There was a few classmates of color, but mostly white. Huge culture change. Small towns are usually less diverse than big cities. In that high school, I had a little group of friends that all suffered from depression and other mental illnesses. I finally, found the right group. We were able to talk one on one about depression and we were always there when we needed each other. However, graduation came and we separated. Each one of us went to different schools and even live in different states. We said the same thing that everyone says: “We always be friends forever.” True, but it’s been 16 years since graduation and except for one friend, I have no idea where the other few are doing now.

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When college came in 2004, I could’ve used my “Forever Friends” because the journey was going to get worse. It was at this time, when the ugly stepsisters made their debut in my life. I lived in denial and shut out the entire world for a long time before my breakdown. I denied (constantly) that there was a problem. It finally took a terrifying trip to the ER with a paralyzing panic attack to made me finally realized that there’s a big problem. I finally cleaned the dirty windshield and could now see 20/20. I have the Triple Threat Disease.

This little girl would probably run like hell back to mom if she took my hand and walked through this journey with me. This little girl would’ve let the demons overpower her and would’ve led to her demise. But she doesn’t. I won’t let my past, present and future self throw in the towel at all. I would tell them to put on their uniform and suit up and take it day by day. Fight the good fight, when hope feels lost.  There’s always hope. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. I would engrain the quotes above and below into my inner child, my current self, and my future self, too.

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Life isn’t over because an obstacle comes your way. Whatever hurdles comes your way, tackle it and move on. We’re fighters and that’s our destiny. We will fight the Triple Threat Disease until it’s officially over. Don’t be afraid. This journey has been scary (Oh YES!), but also incredible because so many things have happened. I graduated from high school, and college with a degree in Small Business, extensively managed and spent over 16 years in retail, have a great job with great benefits, just a got a raise a while back, I do have a car, a house, and two noisy Chihuahuas. However, marriage and children are something more in the future than in this moment. It will happen. Why run away from your life? Look at everything that has happened! We did it while fighting with the Triple Threat Disease. We did it.

Life isn’t always roses and diamonds. Life can be frustrating, cruel and hard. You’re going to see a lot of great things and bad things. You get to experience so much in your lifetime and will always, if you stay strong and think positive. No one is going to live your life for you, you live your own life and make it what you want of it. Always remember that you’re amazing everyday even when you’re not feeling it all. Why would you want to trade places with anyone else???

 

The Battle in My Head

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I’m colorblind. I can’t see all of the colors like everyone else sees. They see my face, but they don’t see the battle inside my head and the scars that are on the inside. They don’t know what it feels like on a daily basis. Everyday is a struggle. Everyday, we all want to fight and other days, we don’t. We want to give up. We wave the white flag. Even the best managers of depression can slip and fall.

I want to smile, but I can’t. It’s like someone is forcing me not to smile. The demons inside me won’t stop. I want to see all of the blues, reds, greens, yellows, and the other colors of the rainbow. Sometimes I can’t. Is it my fault? No. Somedays, I feel like I’m drowning in pool that I can’t get out of. I can’t swim to shore nor reach for the ladder to get up. Somedays, it feels like I’m falling down a flight of stairs and it won’t stop until you reach the end.

Look at my body. Look at the damage done. I’m overweight. I don’t sleep well or eat well. I look like a zombie sometimes. I don’t look or feel like myself at times. Sometimes, I can’t recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror. Somedays, I wish I was someone else and inside of their lives for a moment. Why stay in this body of pain, scars and the never-ending war inside my head?

I will tell you why, because I don’t QUIT! I fight the good fight everyday. I put on my uniform and get out my arsenal and prepare for the daily battle. I’m like a soldier in combat, fighting the enemy for the sake of mankind. I’m relentless. I refuse to let the war in my head win. 25 years have gone by so fast and I can’t go back and erase it with an eraser. I would love to, but I can’t. Life doesn’t work that way.

I’m no Fairy Godmother with a magic wand. I’m certainly not God. I’m just me. I’m just a normal person fighting this battle everyday. I don’t think of myself as just another statistic. You can think that about yourself, but not me. Maybe all of this was preparing me for the best in my life and maybe it was foretold at birth? I was born to live, to create, to inspire, to be happy, and to survive. I was born to live and will continue to live and fight until God says: “It’s over, champ! Let’s go home.” I was born to create my own destiny and forge my own path in this world. Make my own history in my life. I was born to inspire by being a good daughter, friend, girlfriend/wife, and human being. Being happy? My life hasn’t always been easy, it’s been fun and happy, too. I learned to be happy during the darkest parts of life by looking at the bright side of spectrum. I learned how to survive and become a champion through trial and error. Do you think that I’ve gotten this right after 25 years of struggling? NO. This takes a lot blood, sweat and tears to get to this point.

Whatever card life wants to throw at you whether it’s a good card or bad card, take it. Pick up the card and handle it in a healthy way. You have the choice everyday to fight the battle inside you or self-destruct. How you handle your life is up to you. I can’t go inside anyone’s head and fight the battle with you. What I can do is support you and encourage you to fight like a champion.

Don’t say: “Why me? Why not someone else?” You don’t want to wish this on anyone. Trust me, if non-sufferers experienced what us sufferers experience on daily basis, who knows what they will do. Would they get the picture that this is no joke or no laughing matter. Would they put on their suit of armor like us and prepare for battle? Would the future finally become stigma free? I don’t know. I don’t have the power to show people what it’s like to live with mental illness. Again I don’t have a magic wand in order to do that.

What we can do is share our stories, raise awareness, and try to end the social stigma ourselves. Sounds overly complicated. It may be. But one person can start the change and lead others to follow suit. Why is it so hard for people to understand this? Mental illness is nothing new and has been around for a long time. We all experience good and bad times, right? Life doesn’t always go our way and we get hurt, screwed, and broken. I carry my war scars with me until the day I die. I’m not ashamed of them and I wear them proudly. Take a good look into my eyes. See the war raging on for the past quarter of a century. See all of the ups and downs, the fights, the screams, the horror and the carnage that plagues my mind everyday. Would you now look at me differently in a great way? Would you be staring at my inner champion at work? See the relentless soldier working tirelessly day after day in combat. No breaks, no vacations. Always on call 24-7.

Look what life has made me: a champion. This is my creation and my reason for living . I live to inspire and I’m forging my own destiny. You can do this. You can look at the glass half full or half empty. Me? I see the glass always full because I’m not ready to call it quits, yet. Life is still getting good.

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In this case, fighting the war on mental illness and the social stigma is everything to me. I refuse to put up my arsenal and say “I quit.” I wasn’t born that way. So what if I lived as a prisoner in my own body for too long, but every day I undo the shackles and take on the day head on with full force and a bright outlook.

 

 

WET Therapy for PTSD

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Oh, how true this is. Everyone has a story. And we all have our ways of telling our story. We write a book about it, we write a blog (ME!), we express them through music and film and or on social media. Whatever way you choose to share your story, don’t be ashamed of sharing your experiences and where you come from.

Honestly, writing about my battle with the Triple Threat Disease (Depression, Anxiety and Panic Disorder) was a story that I kept to myself for 25 years. 25 years of my story bottled up inside me and the only ones that really knew my story were my therapist and  close family and friends. I never told my story to co-workers or even a total stranger. This kind of story is very personal and some don’t know how to react to it and would probably say the wrong thing to me.

I realized that keeping things bottled up in me was eventually cause an explosion. It did. My mother is notorious for being silent about her struggles with Depression and Paranoid Schizophrenia. She would never tell people that she’s attempted suicide many times, has been institutionalized many times, and gets ECT treatments every three months. Why be ashamed about this? The social stigma and the shamers out in this world make it hard for us sufferers to tell our story. We shouldn’t feel this way, but we do.

In late June, “No Laughing Matter Living with Depression” was born. Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations at all when I started the blog and the website. If people enjoyed the blog, great. If they hated it, then they don’t understand what it’s like. I needed to do this for my own well being. I needed to write out what I was feeling on a daily basis. Many therapists will you tell that writing or WET (Written Exposure Therapy) is beneficial for you in so many ways. For me, I never thought about it. For 25 years, you would think that I would’ve written an entire encyclopedia of my struggles with mental illness, but I didn’t.

This idea took a lot of thought and many days even weeks of planning. I talked with my parents and friends about starting a blog about living with mental illness. My dad got me books on “Blogging for Dummies” and “WordPress for Dummies”. He said: “Do what you got to do. I support you.” Thanks, Dad. Friends said the same thing, too. My mother was less than thrilled. She said: “I wouldn’t tell people about my struggles with mental illness. That’s no one’s business.” Of course, but I told her to look at the big picture. Writing does help clear your mind of those irrational thoughts and you may help someone by sharing your story. You just may inspire others to tell their stories without shame or fear. But my mother is a little stubborn. (Probably, the German quality in her! I’m stubborn, too). But if she doesn’t want to share her story then fine! However, she can’t keep that secret forever.

After I started the blog, I had just seen my therapist and we walked about what was going in my life. I told her that I was being transferred to a new store and got a raise along with it, I was having some sleep issues and those got worse after that visit, I said that I’m still recovering from PTSD because of a crime in April. But other than that life, was OK. Life would get more interesting after that visit. I was sitting at home and also at work thinking about writing, but nothing came out. If I was going to do this, I needed to motivate myself and push myself outside of my comfort zone and do this. So I gave myself a swift kick in the butt and started this.

I didn’t realize how cathartic this was going to be from the gecko. Writing helped me. It kind of saved me in a way. No longer do these feelings enter my brain after I write. I can go on with my life with a clear and uncluttered head. What really surprised me is that many people online started “liking” my blog, my website, and on my Facebook page. Wow. Was I doing something right for a change? Probably. Am I helping anyone with this blog? Yes. Everyday, I’m amazed at how many people follow and check out my blog posts and my website. And I always tell people to share. If you enjoy reading the blog, then share it with someone. My story can help anyone.

One of the things that I learned from another sufferer is a newer tool to help with PTSD and it’s called: WET Therapy (Written Exposure Therapy). With this therapy, you write about a specific event that has caused serious ramifications in your life such as: a car accident, surviving a natural disaster, surviving a shooting and/or whatever event caused you to be diagnosed with PTSD. You basically, write out in specifics about your experience, what happened and how it’s affecting you. You tell your story through writing. I’ve witnessed a lot of terrible things in my (almost) 35 years of life on this earth and one of the scariest things I have ever seen was witnessing a crime.

I wrote in a previous post about witnessing a very violent domestic dispute between two teenagers and one of them was brutally stabbed. This happened in the drive thru of my old store and I was horrified. I went outside and went to see what the commotion was. I saw blood everywhere, I saw the long (sharp) knife on the ground. I heard the blood curdling screams crying out for help. I called for help and helped put pressure on the victim’s wounds. I was afraid because I was a witness that I was going to be killed myself. But I didn’t. Let me you that was the scariest thing that I’ve seen. For the first time in my life, I suffered bad PTSD. I had nightmares (daily), numerous unrelenting panic and anxiety attacks, and horrible depression. I can’t even imagine what people go through when mass shootings or bombings happen. No, thank you! I think witnessing that would make me suicidal if I saw that carnage.

For me, I had to take care of myself. I had to keep my calm and keep my blood pressure and heart rate down. When I went to urgent care for bad stress induced migraines, my blood pressure and heart rate were at stroke and heart attack levels. Yikes! So it’s important to relax yourself. Easier said than done. I had to remind myself that it’s going to be OK and I will get through this. But writing this blog has helped my PTSD in so many ways. I highly recommend that if you’re going through a lot of drama and rough times, get out your laptop or legal pad and write it out. Write about what your feeling, write about what happened, and then don’t look at it. Just get those negative thoughts out of your mind and your body. Heed the advice of the quote below!

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Sleep Study Part Deux!

It’s been a hard day’s night
And I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night
I should be sleeping like a logsleep

I dare you to name that tune without looking it up! And which band sang that song a long time ago.

Last time on “No Laughing Matter Living with Depression”, I talked about getting a sleep study done because I’ve been experiencing sleeping problems more prevalent in the past few months. A sleep study was scheduled for Monday, August 13th, when the insurance company denied the approval of a sleep study. Now, I’m going back to my primary doctor to get a home sleep study.

We now return you to your broadcast already in progress: Sleep Study, Part Deux!So, I went back to my primary doctor to see what can be done now since my insurance denied the approval for a sleep study. This is where things get even more funnier: My primary doctor ordered a home sleep study and the sleep center has yet to call me and pick up the equipment in order to do the sleep study. So I made the trip to my doctor’s office for nothing and wasted a 1/4 of tank of gas in my car, just to get the runaround. Now I have to wait patiently for the sleep center to call me. Trust me, I hate the runaround like everyone else. Thankfully, my doctor refunded my office visit because of the hassle that I’m enduring for coming for their office for no reason.

Thankfully after the doctor’s visit was on Monday, the Sleep Center called the very next day and scheduled my home study to start on Wednesday night thru Thursday morning. So I arrived at the Sleep Center at around 8:25am (25 minutes late because I got lost and didn’t read the directions correctly. See why this is important to get a sleep study and why it’s important to sleep! Your body can’t function properly without sleep!) and picked up the equipment and got a detailed list of instructions. Remind you that I’m not a doctor and I can easily screw up just about anything. I kid you not!

The day before my sleep study was scheduled I got a letter in the mail explaining why my sleep study was denied. And as I read the reasons why, I suffered the worst panic attack possible. It was my own fault for not reading it closely and I skimmed it! I can be such a dumbass sometimes.  I forgot to read the part that says “IF” you have one of the following things, you are automatically denied approval. They include your body mass index is greater than 45 (Me! I’m fat!), you have a severe lung disease (Not me!), a disease in your nervous system (Nope! Not me!), a heart problem (No, but I wouldn’t rule it out when you’re overweight!), you have other severe illnesses and physical problems that prevent you from doing the study at home (Nope! Not me!). Not only do I have get my sleep under control, I need to get my ass (Excuse my language!) in gear and lose weight by dieting and exercising. But first things first.

On Wednesday morning, I got up at 7:30am and started my drive towards the hospital. FYI, I take the GPS with me everywhere I go because I can get lost easily (I got lost in downtown Houston when I did jury duty in March and didn’t realized that it was near Minute Maid Park), but I can always find my way. I was scheduled to be there by 8:00am, and well…it was more like 8:25 to 8:30am. Oops! If this were my actual appointment for the sleep study in the hospital and if you’re late at all, then you have to reschedule. Remember, you’re not the only one getting a sleep study in Houston!  When I sat there and thought about it, my therapist’s office is the intersection before the Sleep Center. So if you pass that intersection, the sleep center is on your right hand side in the hospital. DUH. Again, we all have those “I’m a dum dum” or “blonde moments” as I call them. So I parked my car in the lot and went straight into the hospital. I hopped on the elevator and headed up to the 3rd floor and made a right turn towards the right suite number. When I opened the door, it was like walking into someone’s bedroom. NO LIE! I saw a bathroom on the left hand side on your way in and then I was greeted by the sleep technicians. This room was no more than a size of a regular master bedroom. There’s a bathroom, a very tiny office space and then there was a huge king sized bed that looked incredibly comfy. I told the technicians there that if I was approved then I could easily fall asleep there at the hospital. (Remind you that hotel and hospital beds are like sleeping on rocks and are nothing like your comfy bed at home! But I sat on this bed and almost fell asleep. Nice and soft. Not hard and lumpy). In my head, I was expecting the worst. Electrodes all over your body, other patients in their rooms getting their tests done, so much noise and distraction; but nope. It was like going over to a friends’ house for a sleepover.

Basically upon arrival, you speak with the technicians about any and all concerns and questions you have regarding your sleep study. One of my concerns was why the insurance denied me. The nice lady said that happens to a lot of people and insurance companies typically do this because it’s not covered under the plan. (GRRRR! I hate insurance companies sometimes and we will not go down that road of anger and frustration!) She said that it happens and not to worry. The $200 for the home study is what they will bill to my insurance company because I shouldn’t have to pay anything. Another concern of mine was how to conduct this myself. Remember, I got lost in finding the damn place because I’m sleep deprived. So the other (very nice) technician walked me through the process. When you do a sleep study, you go about your day like normal and limit or stop your caffeine intake by 2pm and try not to take any naps at all. And be careful to not eat after 7pm. So, I have to keep myself and my mind busy all day even though I’m on vacation. Oh what to do????? Reading will put me to sleep. Shopping will make me bored. A movie will keep me up. Blasting classic rock music will make me hyper. But I’ll find something to do.

FYI, a home sleep study equipment looks like this and comes in a little briefcase that’s the size of a lunchbox: (In my head, I was expecting the equipment to be a giant briefcase full of crap including electrodes aside from the stuff that I have!)

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Pretty straightforward and simple, right!? Remind you, I can screw just about anything and thank God, there’s detailed instructions that come with it. Inside the kit: there’s a the actual sleep device that records your sleep (a sleep recorder?), nose cannulas, chest belt and a pulse oximeter (God, I hope that’s not noisy! I don’t want to hear my pulse all night and may have to get out my earplugs). You have to attach everything together and place tape on the nose cannulas and the pulse oximeter so they don’t fall off while you’re snoozing. When you get up in the morning, you turn off the machine and throw away the nose cannulas and bring the equipment back. Then the doctor will review the results on Tuesdays or Thursdays and will contact you on its findings. So now, I’m really anxious to see what the diagnosis is and what major life changes I will be making from now on. FYI, results will be next Tuesday or Thursday, so stay tuned for Sleep Study Part Tres!

I was really scared that I was going to look like this guy:

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NO! Thank you! (I’m a tosser and turner and I would probably strangle myself in my sleep because I move).  You may as well strangle yourself with all of those wires and cords. My uncle did a sleep study like this and he slept for no more than an hour in the hospital. He recommends that you do it at home because it’s more comfortable and less invasive. So I’ll end up looking like this guy below:

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This isn’t that bad, right? You’re sleeping in your own bed and so what if there’s a little machine around your chest. I’d rather take that then the guy in the picture above with all the electrodes. Typically, sleep technicians will tell you to sleep on your back and try not to toss or turn. (I make NO guarantees!) You don’t want unplug anything and then have to start all over again. (There is tape that comes in the kit to tape everything down.) So I’ll have to restrain myself and train my brain to not move in my sleep. Easier said than done! But what’s more heartbreaking of all, is that my Chihuahuas will have to sleep in their dog beds for the entire night. (Yes! Los siento, girls!) They usually sleep with me, but not tonight. Imagine the look on their faces when I tell them they have to sleep in their own beds and not in the “big” bed. Very angry Chihuahuas! It’s only for one night!

So, I filled out my bedtime questionnaire and I will not lie during the part where it says:
“Did you take a nap today?”. Yes! It will also asked how much caffeine you consumed today. No coffee, just one diet soda. I actually drank that whole can. I usually stop after a few sips. But mostly, drank water and had my three meals and no more. But it was a short interrupted nap because of a very loud thunderstorm. That woke me up as well as the dogs and motivated me to not go back to sleep. I had a dream that I took an afternoon nap and then didn’t wake up for seven hours. And then couldn’t start the sleep study. Call it my “anxious mind” that would concoct such an irrational dream, but it woke me up really fast after dozing off for 90 minutes.

My goal is to go to sleep at 10pm and stop the test at around 6am. So all day I behaved like a good child and said NO to caffeine, NO to munching after 7pm, and NO to napping. Ok, I tried taking a nap around 1pm and I did. But only for a short 90 minutes. I ate healthy and took my medications. I can’t wait until this over. Hopefully in T-minus 4 1/2 hours, I will be off to dreamland and keeping my fingers crossed when the results come in. I will set my alarm for 6am and I will remember to bring the equipment back tomorrow morning at 8am (As I promised the sleep technicians because they have other patients that are doing this study, too!). I will not get lost this time and not forget that it’s the next intersection after my therapist’s office!

For the official results stay tuned next week Tuesday or Thursday……….for Sleep Study Part Tres!

 

 

 

If depression & mental illness were a Hallmark Card, what would yours say?

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Can I get an Amen for quote above? Shout out if this is you! Only with me, it’s not just one demon that likes to mess with me. It’s multiple demons on my back.

If your depression or mental illness were a Hallmark Card, what would yours say? To be honest, I don’t know where a card like that would be classified under. When you shop in store or online, they always have seasonal cards, birthday cards, wedding and engagement cards, graduation cards, new baby cards, and get well cards and sympathy cards. Personally, I wouldn’t want my card next to a sympathy card or a get well card at all. I don’t need people to feel sorry for me, I just need people to understand what it’s like to live this way. On any given day, my cards would represent the following images above and below.

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Maybe if we all had the chance to write our own Hallmark cards, then we would able to send the message loud and clear that mental illness is no joke. Not every moment in your life resembles a Hallmark card. Sure, I’ve graduated from college and high school but that was years ago. I’ve never been engaged or married nor have kids, yet. I have experienced times when I’ve been sick or badly injured and or suffered the loss of a loved one and someone gave me a card. That was nice. But have I ever gotten a card for living with depression? That’s a big HELL NO. Please don’t send me a get well card or a sympathy card. This doesn’t help the situation at all. Not experiencing what happens everyday to me and other sufferers can’t be bought with a card like that.

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A card is a nice gesture and some what of a social obligation. When someone gets married, or has kids, or graduates, you get them a card congratulating them. But do you get a card for surviving each day through the many storms of depression and sadness? Again, HELL NO. Do you get a card for completing your stay in a rehab or mental health facility? NOPE. Typically, a “I hope you feel better” quote is what you’ll get from the staff after your stay. “I hope you feel better”. Really, am I going to remember that if I relapse and fall off the wagon again? NO.

It’s a daily struggle to survive and trying to live a normal life in a loving and cruel world. Not everyone knows how it feels. Not everyone is well versed in the subject matter. Maybe some just don’t care and say “That won’t happen to me, why should I care?” Don’t be naive. You’ll be surprised as to how life can really bite you in the ass. Those images above are relatable to me to a certain extent. It is rather brave of me to continue when I want for this to end. I do say “I’m fine” a lot even though the writing is clearly on the wall across my face.

Mine would say: “Mental Health SUCKS! Spend a moment inside my mind and see how much fun it is.” Maybe then someone will get an inkling of what it’s like.  A picture as well to caption the moment wouldn’t hurt to help sell it. When you put my card out on the shelves, don’t put me under “Get Well” or “Sympathy” because us sufferers don’t want that card. Don’t categorize us in any box or place any stigma on us. Put us out on the front display so that people can see that there’s more to life than these happy moments. Have you ever noticed that people only take photos when they’re happy? Have you ever looked at your photos very closely? They’re mostly from weddings, engagements, reunions, parties, birthdays, holidays, and other joyous moments. Have you ever took a photo of yourself when you’re sad or going through a rough time? Most people don’t. But did you know that in order to enjoy let alone have these moments, you must experience some bad things in your life.

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These bad times are tough but make the best lessons learned in your life. It helps you prepare and enjoy the good times that you have. Think about it! Life is always going to be a rollercoaster ride and forever will be. What you do with your life is up to you. And how you define success is different from everyone. My greatest accomplishment thus far is surviving 25 years of depression, anxiety and panic disorder even when I wanted it to be over. I survived. I seen the good, the bad, and the very (gruesome) ugly parts of life.

The bad times have changed me into the person that I am today: a fighter and true champion. Funny, the good times did make me laugh a lot, but not strong like I am during the bad times. The bad times put everything into perspective for me. For the first time, I’m looking more confident and more stronger as each day passes. Good luck finding a card that exemplifies the journey that I’ve been for the past 35 years and will  be on for many more years to come! Caption that!

 

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Like Ali, this is what I do fight those inner demons in my life on a daily basis.

Heed the advice of the late legend:

Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

Body & Snapchat Dysmorphia

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Remember the Human Barbie and Ken that made headlines in recent years for their efforts to look the actual Barbie and Ken dolls???? FYI, I loved played with Barbies as a young child in the 80’s and I never really thought too much of their plastic bodies and nor did I want to look like one. Even now as adult, I don’t see why some feel the need to look like this. For me, I find this a little unsettling. Look at the world we live in. Anything and everything we post on social media, there’s always a “Negative Nelly” aka critic that will bash someone for whatever reason. I’ve seen and heard about people being body shamed because they didn’t look skinny like celebrities are. Why look like one? I’ve seen people mom shamed by other moms over breastfeeding and the way they take care of their kids. Remember, it’s not your life, it’s theirs! And a lot of my young teenaged co-workers have experienced and know people who have been personally cyber-bullied.

I say: “Enough is Enough”. Live your life the way you want regardless of what people think about you. So what if you don’t have the perfect body. So what if people leave nasty comments about you on your social media. Who really cares? What really disturbs me the most is our fascination with social media and the fascination of looking like a Snapchat filter.

Again, I don’t do selfies. I will occasionally post a current photo of myself, but I still like my anonymity. I do have a Twitter, Instagram and a Facebook account and but not a Snapchat account. Maybe if I was still a teenager, then I would use it constantly. I admit that the “Dog Face” filter (I think that’s what it’s called? I’m old school by nature!) is cute because I have dogs, but would I get plastic surgery to look like one: HELL, NO! I’m not big into celebrities at all, I used to be. I do enjoy movies and music. But what I don’t follow are the Kardashians (not my cup of tea at all) and the unrealistic message that Hollywood preaches time and time about: “We must stay youthful. We devalue aging and we must look and stay perfect forever.” C’mon, really? We all age! Everyone ages differently than others. The real message that Hollywood and celebrities should be sending is: “Be proud of who you are and accept the way you look on the inside and outside.” Granted, there are some celebrities that feel the same way and others are obsessed with their looks (that’s called being vain).

One of the most disturbing trends now is “Snapchat Dysmorphia.” This is a new mental health condition classified with Body Dysmorphia Disorder that has been brewing for a while. Pretty much when this happens, people will go to the offices of plastic surgeons and tell them what they want done because they have very little self-esteem and self-confidence in themselves. They turn to plastic surgery to make themselves feel better. Typically, people who have low self-esteem and low self-confidence are usually….depressed. They’re unhappy with the way they look and their view of themselves become distorted.

Take a moment and take a good look in the mirror. What do you see? You should be seeing yourself, but really take a hard look at yourself. Examine and describe what you see and ask someone close to you the same question. If you see yourself in a healthy and flawed way, great. We all have flaws! Be proud of those imperfections. Even if those imperfections can include a scar on our faces or on our bodies, don’t be ashamed of them. However, if you look at yourself in a negative way, then you have a problem. Granted, I have a little scar on my eyelid from a dog that gave me a nice bite as a kid. It’s very small and unnoticeable to the naked eye, but is it worth getting cosmetic surgery over it. No. Even if I had a Carrie Underwood injury like she did last year, I would be a little self-conscious but I will still go on with my life and wear my scars proudly.

If you pay attention to the news, there are a lot of people between the ages of 17-24 years old that are so unhappy with the way they look that they get plastic surgery. When I was their age, I had NO money because I had two jobs and college that I paid for out-of-pocket. So my question is: “Where do these kids get all of this money to see a plastic surgeon let alone pay for the surgery?” I don’t know if you realize that plastic surgery is ungodly expensive and there’s so many complications that occur after you have plastic surgery. You can even die. Yes, you can die from those complications. Why take the chance when your life has just started getting good? The most requested things that surgeons get from their clients are: oversized freaky cartoonish eyes and lips, narrow jaw lines, and flawless skin. So basically you want to look like a scary cartoon version of yourself with no imperfections whatsoever on your smoother than a baby’s bottom face? Why?

Again, it’s your own life and you make your own choices whether they’re right or wrong. We learn by making mistakes. But if you do get it done, are you really happy with yourself? Do you now feel more confident and more beautiful than before?? Call me crazy, but I have a baby face and at 35, I’m happy with it. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I look like a teenager, but I’m half a teen’s age in reality. I’m not going to go to a surgeon’s office and say: “I want this and this done. Make me look beautiful.” Reality check, I look beautiful naturally and I’m happy with the way that I look. Sure, I will add a little makeup to enhance that my inner beauty, but that’s as far as it goes.

If I had a daughter in this day in the Digital Age, I would keep her off of social media or significantly limit and monitor her usage on social media. I would instill self-confidence and self-esteem in her. I would tell her she’s beautiful just the way God made her. Love your flaws and imperfections because they really say a lot about you and make you into the person that you are now. Don’t be pushed or influenced into getting plastic surgery because of social media and Hollywood’s unrealistic version of the “perfect woman or man with the perfect body.” Everyone is different. We all look and act different. Why be the same like everyone else? That’s boring. Be you and nothing better. I would even make her look in the mirror and tell me what she sees when she looks at herself and the list great qualities that she has. Stop obsessing over your body and stop being influenced by social media, you can already see the damage that has been done. Be proud of what you look like and who cares (I mean WHO CARES) what people think about you. It’s what you think of yourself that’s important. So go out there and live your best life without listening to shamers.

Shift Work Disorder

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Raise your hand if that’s you! When the alarm clock goes off at whatever time my shift starts, I will often say to myself: “Didn’t I just do that yesterday?” With all foolishness aside, I do enjoy my job, but I also find it very annoying at times. The most annoying about running a business is the crazy hours that you work. In retail, you need to be flexible because you never know when you’re needed. If you’re the manager, flexibility is a huge part of the job.

My schedule isn’t set in stone like others. I don’t work the atypical 9-5pm. Some days, I work the early morning shift, other days it’s the middle shift and sometimes, it’s the night shift. Sometimes I start as early as 5am (I hate it as much as everyone does! I’m no early bird!) and I may also start as late as 2pm. Remind you that I put in over 8-9 hours a day and sometimes longer depending on how busy the business is and if another manager needs a shift covered. Probably, the longest shift that I’ve taken is a 12 hour shift. It’s not that bad when the business is steady, but your body (especially your feet!) hates working those hours.

Because of this unusual schedule it has really screwed up my sleeping patterns and my eating habits. When I usually do morning shifts, I will start at 5am and end at 1pm. So imagine going to bed around 9pm and waking up at 4am to get ready and to open a store. This is not always fun. I don’t like getting up that early and retiring that early in the evening. Evening shifts aren’t my favorite either when I start at 2pm and I have to stay until 11pm. I love my middle shifts because they’re right in the 9-5pm range or you can work 7-3 or thereabouts. With this shift I’m able to establish a healthy routine of both sleeping habits and eating habits. When my schedule is consistent, I can sleep at the same time every night and wake up the same time everyday. I can eat my three meals a day on time as well. But, it doesn’t always work like that and you have to do what you have to do.

One of the things that my doctor and I talked about was “Shift Work Disorder.” My doctor knows that I work at Starbucks and I work ungodly hours everyday. He knows that my shifts are different everyday, too. So when we ordered the sleep study, one of the things that he feels that I may have is this as well as insomnia and sleep apnea. I do snore, and I do have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. And I don’t really go to bed at the same time everyday and I’m very sleepy throughout the day.

So I did a little digging and found a lot of information to be very useful for me. In part, it does make sense that working unusual shifts can cause serious problems like “Shift Work Disorder.” Honestly, when my doctor told me about this, I thought he was just pulling my leg. However, I’m not the only patient of his that experiences symptoms like this and had to have them get a sleep study in order for them to be diagnosed.

Pretty much what “Shift Work Disorder” is where you work outside the 9-5pm norm and work rotating and non-routine shifts. Anyone who works (typically) in the service industry such as retail & foodservice, anyone in the healthcare field such as doctors, or anyone working as an officer or paramedic or firefighter knows what this feels like. If I forgot to mention other fields, my sincerest apologies. Better yet, who doesn’t work long and strange rotating shifts??? We do what we got to do!

Basically, our internal clocks becomes out of balance because our schedules aren’t consistent at all. I know mine is all screwed up. I don’t eat my meals on a regular schedule because everyday is different. When I go to sleep, it could be right after I get off of my shifts. I could go to bed at 2pm when I do mornings. I can go to bed at midnight after working until 11pm (sometimes 11:30pm). Yikes! So you can imagine that I tend to get very sleepy during the daytime. Imagine your store filled with customers and you can’t stop yawning for the life of you. You’re in the middle of an 8 hour shift and you’re yawning at 2 in the afternoon. I’ve had customers tell me to refuel and get some espresso in my body. So true, but remember caffeine stays in your body for hours and affects your sleeping patterns if you consume too much!

Looking at the symptoms of “Shift Work Disorder” fit me to a tee:

  • Excessive drowsiness and sleepiness during the daytime. Me! Those yawns are so unrelenting
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling irritable and not refreshed at all
  • Depression (oh damn!)
  • No energy (low dopamine levels in the body affect your motivation and your energy)

The seriousness of the disorder affects your sleep, you’re overall health (cue my overweight self!), your productivity and your safety (don’t fall asleep at work or on the road!). Your risk of serious illnesses such as diabetes, heart & stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, and high blood pressure are through the roof. But in order for you to be diagnosed with this disorder, a sleep study has to been done so at least you know what you’re going up against.

Remember that any condition is treatable. With this you can use melatonin to help you sleep (I’ve tried this and didn’t work for me), establish a sleep routine as well as eating right, start a sleep log or diary, light therapy (the same trick used for seasonal affective disorder) and medications that are prescribed by professionals. I would be very cautious when using sleep aids because they are very addicting, too. Trust me, I’ve been done that road before especially during college. My mother used to take caffeine pills to stay awake in college so she could study for her exams.

Again there’s a lot of information about this available and it doesn’t hurt to get it checked out! I would be surprised if my sleep study determined that I have this as well as sleep apnea. We will see once that study occurs.

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Me, too!