Searching for the Ultimate High

My childhood, teen years and beyond consisted of a constant desire to increase my serotonin levels. Of course at the time, that’s not what I was thinking. I was just desperate to feel something. Desperate to relinquish the numbness I felt in my body, to stop the chaos that encircled my brain. I continued to use food as a punishment or reward, but not eating was no longer working for me. I was tired, I was cold. It’s literally no fun. Again, thinking back, I was not consciously thinking. Ok, I have got to think of what I can do to absolutely wreak havoc on my body. Hmmm, as I drum my fingers on the table, what could I do that would make me feel better but probably cause permanent damage and cause me to lose time with my friends and family. This next adventure should prohibit adequate sleep and cause mental paralysis if I couldn’t do it. I know, exercise! and, not just exercise, exercise all the time. I would read the magazines and buy the books and take the classes and teach the classes and buy the machines. Whoop, whoop! 🙌

The fabulous benefit of this addiction is I could be skinny, then everyone would love me. Then maybe I would love myself. This was so easy to hide wide out in the open. “Wow” everyone would say, “You are so dedicated”. “I just don’t know how you do it?” “You are amazing.” I would hear. When I started this fabulous undertaking, I could easily slide by with 4 hours of workouts. Teach four 30-minute classes and then throw in an hour workout. You know, because, I really needed to burn more calories. I could spend so much time just trying to stop because I would be convinced that I might have done one extra leg lift on one side verses the other, so then I would have to flip and do one more. How could I walk around in public with one leg bigger/smaller than the other? This would continue on and on. Usually, If I said to myself, ok if you do one more of anything, you will get fat. That always stopped me in my tracks. A sure-fire way to get me to halt.

One of my fondest memories and when I say fond, I mean sad and ridiculous, was running up and down the stairs on Easter morning. I was going to eat candy that day. Did I forget to mention, I also discovered sugar gave me a high like no other. Anyway, I had to prepare to negate the calories coming in with what was going out. There would be no relaxing today! My constant over exercising had caused my body to be in constant pain. A term called OTS (Overtraining Syndrome) led to more depression, loss of period, fatigue, muscle pain. I was so tired; I fell asleep driving. Luckily, I woke up to a car horn blaring as it headed straight at me. All of my muscles constantly ached. There was no active recovery like yoga or stretching or mediation. All of that was for people that clearly did not have to burn calories. People that had an extra hour laying around to add something nonconsequential to their routine. It would take me until my 40’s to realize that yoga was a good substitution for a workout. What?? I assumed a cure for not feeling good was of course more exercise. Made perfect sense to me.

This nonsense continued when I was pregnant. I wasn’t just concerned I would gain weight and not lose it after the baby. I was terrified. How would I live with myself? Absolutely no one would think I am amazing. They would think I am normal and then what? Crap, I’d rather die. I would constantly discuss this with my mom. What happens if I can’t lose the weight? But what happens if I can’t? But, what if I can’t. She would calmly try to convince me over and over and over, you will be fine. You will lose the weight. Well, at least I wasn’t obsessive or anything.

I taught aerobics up until my eldest’s birth and was walking on the treadmill during contractions. Six weeks after my oldest was born, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Queue the applause. Of course, it didn’t matter that I cried most days and nights from post-partum depression and was near psychosis from lack of sleep. Exercise was the cure for what ailed me. It would raise my serotonin I thought. I cried and beat myself up over the fact she couldn’t nurse. My husband and Mom begged me to bottle feed and just go to sleep. None of it really phased me. I could fit in my clothes. Apparently, super important. I think I may have said that before. Somehow, I succumbed to Mono and had trouble holding Kendall because of fatigue. Besides the lack of energy, chronic fatigue and sickness, I was very excited, this could lead to a potential big weight loss. Back in those days, I could eat pretty much what I wanted, which was a lot of nutritious food and A LOT OF SUGAR. I’d have highs and lows like the Rocky Mountains or the Blue Ridge? I don’t know, whichever ones go really high and then really low. I was never diagnosed with hypoglycemia but had all the symptoms. If I only ate carbs in the morning and then didn’t eat exactly 3 hours later, I’d start to sweat and shake, sometimes my vision would go. I’d have to sit down from weakness. One time, this occurred while I was teaching a class. Not embarrassing at all. Of course, it only took me about 20 years to finally come to terms with the fact that I have to eat a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates. You know because this happening about 3,000 times had not convinced me enough that there was an issue. 😂😢

I continued this behavior well into my forties. I started to lighten up in my black and white thinking. I was slowly giving myself permission to live life and do things that actually might not burn the most calories. I read an article about why someone would have chronic pain in all of their muscles and found it could be due to exercising too much with no rest. I don’t know why I was finally listening to my body. It had been screaming to me for years. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe it came with age. I started to realize that no one cares if you exercise a lot. Do it because you want to and when you want to. I took a season off of exercise. Unheard of. I actually made time to read a book, and not an audio book. I sat outside in the summer. I had NEVER done that before. Summers were for working out in the morning and then working in the yard all day and then collapsing at night. Part of this exercise break was forced because I started to get injured a lot. I would work in the yard for a couple of hours and be in tears from shoulder and upper back pain. This intense pain flares up any time I do something involving my shoulders.

I also discovered yoga. Well, I always did yoga, but as an add on. If I finished whatever “Real” workout I had to do, then I could be rewarded with yoga. Now I use it as the workout. Say what? I was also forced to take it easy due to my latest injury. I was sure that doing a marathon would make me happy. It would be THE thing that would finally cause me ultimate happiness. Well, not only have I learned it’s not any THING that will make you happy, it is the actual living that will, but I also learned, the answer, for me at least, is not running. I ran with no issue for about 4 weeks. I did everything they say. Start slow, build up your miles. Then I injured my hip. I recovered from that and then I hurt my foot. It is now a year later, and my foot is just now starting to mend. A year of shots and therapy and hot and cold and massage and laser. It’s been LONG!

The running or as I now call it the “not running plan” sparked a change in me. It made me search for an answer to happiness. It’s not in something. It is in LIVING. Now I’m sure you have heard that before. Go live your life and enjoy each day and blah blah blah. Well, it’s just not that easy. I was depressed and anxious. I felt like my life had no purpose which is especially annoying when you have wonderful children, a great husband, a beautiful house and a great job. Wow, yes, I had it rough. Of course, I was depressed. LOL. Now, if I can’t workout, what the hell will I do? I think they have a legal limit on how much Prozac a person can take before they call the authorities. At one of the running events, I saw a friend who had started a life coaching business. I met with her a few times. I started enacting new habits in my life. Journaling, bible study, and meditation became a daily routine. I worked hard on a mission statement for my life. I studied how to make my life better. I read “listened” to self-improvement books. I listened to positive podcasts. We continued our plan of becoming debt free.

Of course, I would love to tell you that I am cured of all negativity and then I would have to say, “I’m a liar” but I am closer every day. I actually thought yesterday. You know what Samantha? You could live your life like no one is really watching. You could do things because they bring you joy and not because they would look good to someone else. Stop comparing yourself to other people, NO ONE CARES, slow down and focus on the journey.

Samantha

Anxiety

I spent every day tied up in knots over money. Whether we had some or didn’t. I repeatedly robbed Peter to pay Paul. Let me tell you Peter and Paul were well acquainted. They had a seriously dysfunctional, love-hate relationship. Somehow, over the years, I had nominated myself as Queen of the finances and then proceeded to be upset when my husband didn’t want to participate. It’s kind of hard to participate when I do it all and say not to worry about it. Meanwhile I’m seething inside mad at myself for failing and mad at him for not helping. You all know the drill. Can we afford the payment? Yes? Ok, then buy it. Can we afford that payment? Yes? then buy it and on and on until the scales tip from an emergency or repeated overspending, over-consuming, or under earning. I was an absolute rock star at knowing where my money went. Just like my obsession of knowing caloric content, I could tell you to the penny every month how much we spent on groceries or gas, utilities or clothing. I developed budget after budget, meticulously calculating where my money went. Here in lies the problem, I could see where my money went, but I never TOLD it where to go!

I read Total Money Makeover many years ago and of course, did nothing about it. I assumed the PLAN was for people who actually made money, not us. We were living paycheck to paycheck. How could we ever do this? Here is the problem. Every year our income went up and every year our savings did to. Then we lived happily ever after. NOT! WE KEPT SPENDING. It had to stop. I couldn’t take another day of uncertainty and anxiety over our finances. The final push was when they offered Financial Peace University at our church. The plan is super simple, but it is hard. Our group started with about 5 couples and ended with us and one other person who refused to actually do the plan. Hint: you actually have to follow the plan to make the plan work! I was sick and tired of being sick and tired! I was determined to make a change. We followed the plan to the “T”. I have laid it out in simple terms below, but visit his site for more information. P.S. I love to talk about the plan, so ask me anything!

This life changing event has allowed us to dream again. It has allowed us to make plans for the future without a giant boulder sitting on our shoulders. We feel like we have options. It has opened up so much room for me to worry about something else. Wait, I mean, um, N0, I refuse to continue that pattern. Stay tuned! It’s a constant battle to keep from letting the anxiety takeover.

The 7 Baby Steps (fyi: these are not my seven secrets, but super ironic):

  1. Save $1,000.00 emergency fund.
  2. List debts smallest to largest and pay them off. “The debt snowball”
  3. Save an emergency fund of three to six months expenses.
  4. Start investing 15% of your income for retirement.
  5. Save for your children’s college fund.
  6. Pay off your home early.
  7. Build wealth and be outrageously generous.

Control

I couldn’t fix what was swirling in my brain. I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t control it. However, I could try from another angle. In the beginning of my OCD turmoil, I visited the doctor. I clearly remember him saying that I could stand to lose a little weight. I will never forget that. His callous remark would spark years of me using my body as mechanism to try to keep control. Even if I couldn’t control the things in my head or the chaos around me, I could control what I ate. At that time, I don’t remember what I weighed, but I was certainly not overweight by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure what chart he was referring to or what mechanism he was using to measure this. I didn’t care. Those words spewed from his mouth and I would never be the same. I later learned my mother was furious at him. Didn’t he know I was an impressionable adolescent? Didn’t he know what a voice of authority could do to a young molding mind?

I clearly remember this was the beginning of my high stakes game. I would compete against myself and I would win. I refused to let the scale become three digits. I would not eat. I would burn calories. I would do whatever it took to maintain that control. The number one hundred on the scale was the enemy and counting caloric intake was my bible. It didn’t matter if it made sense, I was determined. Maybe my ultimate destination was to disappear. I don’t know, but it felt so good. I got such a high from consuming so little calories that I could barely function. I spent hours tabulating and calculating. I loved staying under 900 calories. A sandwich could easily be a five-course meal. If you take the whole thing apart, the bread is one course, the lunchmeat is next, followed by small bites of cheese and lettuce. The smorgasbord would end with the second slice of bread. There you have it, a full course meal. That was only if I allowed myself an entire sandwich. Usually, it was a bag of raisins, lunch meat, and carrots. I was winning.

My period stopped, and I looked so pale. I was always shivering. I loved that I shivered. It meant that I was lacking body fat. I was winning this contest! My body was starting to develop. The muscles in my legs were developing. I hated it. I liked how it was straight like a board from my hips to my knees. I didn’t want to have muscles. If I didn’t eat, maybe I could stop it.

I also developed these strange habits with food. If I poured cereal into a bowl, I had to put a spoonful back into the box. I could not, by any stretch of the imagination, lick a spoon. I would have to count those calories. I spent countless hours reading and dissecting fitness magazines. If my eye landed on someone who was overweight, I had to find someone on the page that was thin before I turned it. If I couldn’t find that than a lower case “L” would do. That’s a good thin letter. Ok, you can turn the page. Crap! Did you look at something else? Do it again. Ok, look at someone skinny. Now, turn the page. Did you do it right? No? Do it again, and again and again………………………If I saw an overweight person, I would get physically sick. I just couldn’t handle it. What if that happened to me? Apparently, I had convinced myself that looking at a heavy person or licking a spoon would cause instant weight gain.

After I got married, I was so worried that just getting married caused weight gain. You’ve read the stories about weight gain after marriage. I would constantly obsess about this with my Mom. I constantly bounced everything off her. I had easy access since I worked for her. It was enabling at its finest. I tried working for someone else before but was never able to emotionally handle it. Fast forward to my first “real” job 25 years later and my subsequent nervous breakdown. My poor husband. I seriously don’t know how he survived everything. It takes a lot of compassion, love and a large dash of selective hearing. My first pregnancy magnified these petrified worries of “improper” weight gain. I was fearful of gaining too much weight or not losing it afterwards. I was consumed by horrible obsessions and to combat them I exercised, a lot. At the time of my pregnancies I had moved on to over-exercise to combat the demons in my head.

I could write a book on how society affects young girls and their body image. It was hard enough with television and magazines. I can’t imagine growing up in the digital age. Since I have gotten older, I realized, I don’t want to spend my life waiting for the “when”. What I mean is this; I will be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I will be happy when my stomach is flat. I will be happy when I whatever. Guess what, I had all those things and more and you know what? I wasn’t happy. You have to live for now. Don’t spend another second listening to people you don’t care about say you are fat or not pretty enough or whatever. Now, I’m not saying eat crap all day and lay on the couch. What I am saying is LIVE YOUR LIFE. Live it by eating good stuff and sometimes eating bad stuff. Eat in the grey area. You know studies show overwhelmingly that people don’t die from eating crap and not exercising. They die from the constant anxiety of worrying about it. Spend your time counteracting stress by doing things you love. Listen to music, meditate, exercise, take a hike, watch your favorite show, travel, get out of debt and then shop (in that order-it’s way less stressful), do yoga. If you are tired, then sleep. If you are hungry then eat. Do whatever it is that brings you joy (legal joy-have I told you I am a rule follower?) and if that is not the life you are living, figure out how to work towards it. I am not doing what I love right now, but that’s ok. I’m working towards it. Guess what? HINT: I started blogging.

During the anorexia phase and for many, many years after, I only knew of black and white. I was taught that at an early age, and it is a hard one to overcome. You are either good or bad, fat or skinny, naughty or nice. There was no grey area. Personally, one of my favorite colors is greige and now I try to live that every day. Greige in my decor and greige in my life and diet. But I digress. Again, I need to stress the miracle of medication and therapy. However, it is not a magic pill. Another mention is that it is a constant work in progress. It is so easy to fall back into these irrational thoughts. It is so easy to fall into black and white thinking. It takes continued hard work. However, instead of falling down the rabbit hole and beating myself up for hours, days, weeks and months, I can pull myself out of it and snap myself into reality. Do not let the recurring story you heard in your childhood ruminate until you are sick. Just because you heard it over and over, doesn’t make it true. Read every book you can get your hands on that portrays life in its full abundance. Listen to podcasts that talk about positiveness. Surround yourself with people who are positive. Know that God loves you exactly how you are. Life is living in greige. It’s a beautiful color!

Samantha

Society tames the wolf into a dog.
And man is the most domesticated
animal of all.
~Nietzsche

You Make Plans and God laughs

To the outside world my dad was on fleek :). See I’m still hip with the youngins. It made me proud that his persona was a cool cat. Ok, I’ll admit, I’m not hip. My parents were young and cool. My Dad had long hair and beard. I don’t recall what he looks like without it. He wore a feather earring for God’s sake. He rode a Harley and had cool cars. Growing up, my friends would come over and he had an ease and friendliness with everyone. I’d have boyfriends come by that I’m sure were slightly terrified (refer back to beard and Harley) but they would become instant friends. They would talk about how they will come by and shoot the shit again. I’d have to pull them away and remind them they were her for me. Hellooo?? Remember, I am the awesome one here, not my Dad?

On the flip side, I spent so many years furious at my Dad. I now know so many reasons why he reacted the way he did. He was a product of his broken parents. He was a product of Vietnam and later we learned his subsequent exposure to Agent Orange. I spent a lot of time angry that my mom, my sister and I were the recipient of his frequent outbursts. Throughout childhood, many days we walked on eggshells, never quite sure which movement would cause an angry explosion. This is all I will state on this topic today, because all the anger, all the wasted time, all the bullshit. It doesn’t matter. Right now, it doesn’t matter.

This past Sunday morning was a day like any other. It’s wintertime, it’s Chicago, it’s cold. I’m in a great mood, my birthday is in a couple days. I like birthdays. I woke up and ran to church, arriving fashionably late. There are just sooo many songs. Uggh, I just can’t do so many songs. I try to get there on time. I really do try, but I just don’t succeed. I try to give myself grace, but at the same time I think I’m such an asshole for arriving at church late. Sorry God, thou shall not swear. I used to pride myself arriving on time everywhere “bk” (before kids). I was looking forward to my neighbor’s get-together later that day to watch the Packers play the 49ers. I don’t really watch. I chat and drink wine. My sister texted me about 11:00 am asking if I had heard from Dad. No, why? She said she texted him and called him last night and then again, this morning. Hmm, I thought. That’s kind of strange. I wasn’t too worried, but at the same time, the worst scenario flashes in your head. Last time this happened he was out with his friends. I laughed that time realizing I didn’t have to worry so much. He has a social life and he is doing pretty well since our Mom passed two and half years ago, to the date. It also just happened to be 11 years ago, on this date, she was diagnosed with cancer. I told my sister I would run over there and check on him. My 16-year-old son came along to help shovel if we needed to. He’s a great kid. His Mom is also awesome. (Hint: My apologies ahead of time, I use humor to cope, better than crack I guess)

We pulled into the driveway immediately noticing that for the first time in 45 years of winters, not only had we had convinced my Dad that he should not snow blow or if he did, do a little at a time, but he had actually listened. He suffered from really bad acid reflux and the cold exacerbated it. You don’t understand, the fact that he had only snow-blowed from the garage out to the street on one side of the circle drive was mind blowing and I knew then, something is wrong. We rang the doorbell and no answer. Panic sets in and then a flash; Oh, I thought, we can check the garage and I bet his truck isn’t there and he is just out somewhere. His truck was there. Oh my God. We went around the back and I looked in the kitchen window. Fox news was on in the kitchen, ha I thought, that’s a good sign. Then I looked down to the floor and could see my Dad’s legs. I screamed to Brendan to call 911. I didn’t have a key anymore, I have never had to go to the house and open it, my Dad was ALWAYS there. I knew there was a hidden key, but my mind couldn’t grasp where it was. We called my sister and she reminded me the hiding place. All the time I was panicking that I have to get in there immediately because I can do CPR. If I waste time looking for the key this is all my fault. I was the one who didn’t save him. If I get in there immediately, I can try to save him. I tried the back door; the screen was locked. I ran to the front and unlocked the door. I flew into the kitchen and immediately new it didn’t matter if I had a key or if I was a minute faster. My Dad had been gone for a while. My son is seeing this. I can’t comprehend what is happening right now. My husband is on his way. My sister and husband are on their way. The paramedics are on their way. I run out to the driveway and calmly tell them. It’s too late. It’s just too late. He’s gone. It’s too late. My mind was reeling, I couldn’t focus. This….. is….. not…… happening.

We knew this would happen one day. According to our plans it would be in about 10 years or so. My mind recalls the saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I had no idea it was a quote by Woody Allen. My dad hated him. Not sure why. His Dad, my grandpa, lived into his 80’s, so that is what we had in our silly misguided plans. The next 10 years would give us time to comprehend the inevitable. We had 9 years to say goodbye to our Mom who valiantly fought stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. At the time of her death, her suffering had been so long, it just couldn’t last another second. It wasn’t easier per say, but it was gradual. We had so much time to come to terms with what was inevitably going to happen. We grappled with the fact that we would have to help our Dad. We couldn’t believe that she went first. We prepared ourselves for the agony of not having our Mom on earth. She was the rock of the family. She was the glue. Selfishly we thought, there would be no buffer between us and our Dad. Little did we know in her always unselfish ways and concern for her two baby girls, she probably planned all of this. She planned to go first so that we would be forced to mend our relationship with our Dad.

Mending is exactly what we unconsciously did. My sister and I spent the last two and a half years helping my Dad figure out the ins and outs of how to live on your own. We taught him computer lessons. On Wednesday I helped him place an order on Amazon with a gift card we gave him for Christmas. Monday, I found a copy of a practice withdrawal slip he saved in a folder. We met him for dinner. We listened to his problems. We listened to him talk about how much he missed our Mom. We listened to his dreams and hopes for the future. We listened to his endless Trump talk and complaints about “liberal snowflakes”. He missed Mom so much, but I don’t know that he was ready to go. We listened to his worries. He just visited the VA and they asked him to schedule tests to look at his heart and esophagus. He talked through how he would just do better. He would just eat better and then he wouldn’t have to do anything. He reluctantly agreed to do the recommended stress test. He conceded to an EKG. He adamantly told me there was no way in hell he would do an endoscopy. That’s too invasive he would say. 30 years ago, he had a heart attack. Well, the doctors told him he did, and he said they were incorrect. He refused to let them do anything. To his absolutely aggravating stubbornness credit, he immediately changed his life. His focus and work ethic were beyond anything I have ever seen. He quit smoking. He changed his diet. He began working out. We had him another 30 years. That is pretty incredible. Did I tell you was stubborn?

He didn’t trust doctors. He didn’t trust the government (meaning democrats) CNN and the liberal media. I think in part he had a great life. He had a great wife and kids (if I don’t say so myself :). I worked at my Moms company and brought the kids with me every day. He loved being a grandpa. He was the best grandpa. My middle daughter found the pacifier he made of an eye bolt and a washer for her doll because we lost the one that came with it. We now find that hilarious. He built them horses and bought them real saddles. They played “The Saddle Club” and pretended to run a company in the basement. For the life of me he probably did the same for my sister and I when were kids, but I tend to remember the crappy stuff. Ugg, my damn brain. He and his Dad built a playhouse for us in the basement in the 70’s. It gave our family millions of memories. To this day, my childhood friends will talk about it. He continuously and meticulously refurbished our childhood home. He had so much pride in that house. He made many pieces of Early American furniture. He cherished antiques. He built the entire kitchen by himself. He built my bedroom in the basement. He worked with my Moms business and did anything she asked. He did anything she needed and was forever loyal. He had a garage so clean you could eat off the floor. He also struggled. He had a lifetime of struggle with anxiety. (refer to garage floor) My unschooled, but knowledgeable self, had diagnosed him over the years. You’re bound to learn some things after 25 years of therapy. He joked with me on Wednesday. You know I think I have OCD about this whole heart and Acid Reflux thing. Really dad? THAT’S BECAUSE YOU HAVE OCD. THAT IS WHY YOU ARE OBSESSING OVER THIS! THAT IS WHY YOU SUFFER ALL THE TIME!!! He suffered in silence. He suffered out of denial and out of pride. He suffered because he should be able to handle it himself. He wasn’t weak. He suffered because his entire generation didn’t believe in mental health. You just suck it up. You move forward and you suck it up. He suffered because he thought psychologists were idiots. He thought the whole medical field was a bunch of clowns. He successfully took Prozac a couple of times but would talk about feeling so much better and the fact that meant he didn’t need it anymore. Remember that devil called OCD that lies to you and says you are fine. It lies and says you don’t need medicine anymore. You can do this yourself. I would try to convince him that he feels better because he is on Prozac. He would chuckle and then not take it. Right before I went to my Dad’s on Sunday I started crying to my husband. As he hugged me and talked me through it, I was telling him this blog is so hard. It’s so hard to spill my guts. It’s so hard to make it all more real, to drudge up a painful past and air my dirty laundry. This next sentence breaks my heart. As I sit here typing with tears dripping down my face, I said to him, well, at least I don’t have to talk about everything. I can gloss over some parts for now. You know I can’t talk about everything until my Dad is no longer here on this earth.

Samantha

Secrets

Are you wondering what I am doing? Why am I posting these pictures?   Am I looking for external recognition?  Am I a narcissist?  Do I need to post these so that you love me more?  Are you hooked yet? I, like many women, tend to see the inadequacies, the parts that can be improved. But that is not what this particular entry is about. I am playing a trick to keep you reading.  I am trying to get the teenage girl to listen.  The teenage boy to pay attention.  I want to call attention to a newlywed, the college student or middle schooler. I am trying to get the new mom to keep reading. I am begging you.  I believe society is desperate to hear this. This is about a secret.  A long-held secret that tormented me for most of my life.  

The first symptoms I recall started as a child.  However, I was not diagnosed until the age of 14 and finally had it under control after my second child at age 28.  I suffered in secret.  I was diagnosed in 1987, the exact same time a new drug was introduced.  You may have heard of it?  Prozac.  Yep, I have been on it since it was invented. Yikes, true story. I was an absolute professional of hiding it all through grade school, then middle and high school.  The only people I let in on the secret were my family and husband. In 1987 I was so happy to have a name for what tormented me.  

The pictures I posted are to show you the face of someone with OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  OCD is a disorder categorized under the anxiety umbrella.  To cope with the obsessions and compulsions, I consistently grappled with one addiction or obsession after another. From the outside, many of them were perceived as healthy. The first coping mechanism was Anorexia.  I was just eating well, or so they thought.  Because 90 lbs. at 5 ft 6 in is totally healthy. Then, I moved on to a new plan which was way easier to overlook; Over-exercising.  This was back when Buns of Steel and Jane Fonda were all the rage. “I really like to exercise. It’s so good for you” I would say.  Of course, running up and down the stairs on Easter because you had too much candy from your Easter basket is “like totally normal”.  (Que the 80’s music. 😊) Don’t forget the destructive relationships. You know the ones where you were going to fix him?  Classic!  Why date the guys who were well adjusted? Since I was so well adjusted, I thought I could fix “him” or how about “him”?  I know, I will pick this one, who is an absolute disaster. So laughable.  I grappled with perfectionism.  Of course she is doing well everyone would think. She has an older boyfriend and she gets straight A’s and she has a great car and several jobs and she teaches aerobics and is on Student Council and, and, and. I was haunted by generalized anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and the list goes on. 

Does it sound exhausting?  It was. It is.  It is life threatening, but it is also treatable.  Thank God for Prozac.  At that time, it was presented as a new drug that may be able to help me.  It did help. It actually saved my life.  However, OCD has this creepy way of lying to you.  I would take the prescribed dosage. I would get better.  OCD would lie. I would think I was cured.  I had everything under control. I didn’t need medication anymore.  So, I would take myself off it.  I liked to do that over and over and over.  You know, for some fun variety. Add some spice to life. After finally coming to the conclusion, I mean listening to my psychologist beg me to stay on it. I did so.  A few years later though, I purposely weaned off the medication for each of my pregnancies.  Those were super fun times. My husband knew we would be married forever when he was able to survive three pregnancies and then subsequent post-partum depression.    

I am happy my pictures caught your attention and got you to keep reading.  That is what I was hoping.  Those pictures were of me at age 17, deep in the trenches of mental illness. I bet you though I had it all together.  I bet that is what everyone thought. The world needs to know this because someone needs help.  Maybe it is you, maybe it is your neighbor, sister, friend, parent?  I am begging you to listen, to observe those around you, to ask for help, to offer help.  I suffered even though I had access to the best therapists and medicine.  Imagine someone who doesn’t have access to any of this?  The desperation at times was overwhelming even with the massive support I had.  I have wanted to talk about my story for many years, but it is so hard.  I am 48, um 49 in a week now and the thought of telling the world this (or the 2 people that will read it) makes me sick.  My stomach hurts.  What if everyone thinks I am crazy?  What if no one cares? I have to push that feeling aside.  I felt compelled to tell me story.  I feel compelled to try to help.  Mental illness needs to come out of hiding.  Everyone struggling needs to know that they are not alone.  It cannot be an ugly secret anymore.  There is such a stigma to mental health or the lack there-of.  It cannot be like that anymore.  There are people whose lives depending on it!

It is time to stop the shame.  It is time to move your life in a healthy direction.  It will take time.  It will take therapy and many times medication, but it is possible.  I am living proof.  I have been in the depths of despair with no hope for the future.  I know what it feels like.  With the help of family, I have worked so hard to dig myself out of this hole. It is so hard, but it is so worth it.  Please join me as I discuss my journey.  I will discuss what tools and tricks have worked for me, the many recent issues I have dealt with outside of OCD but under the anxiety umbrella as well.  I will touch on my recent epiphany that life is worth living.  This came from some hard, internal work, the help of a life coach and a long-needed medication tweak. “Hint, don’t use your general doc to prescribe your meds.”

I want you to know that life can be spectacular.  It starts with mental health.  It is the foundation of your entire existence.  You want to be happy?  You want to succeed.  You want to have better relationships? Better clarity? Better anything?  It starts with mental health! The families, schools, government, the world, has to listen!  If everyone has better access to mental health care….if everyone is able to discuss mental health openly…If we remove the stigma, maybe we can save a life. Maybe you can save your life.  

So, the dictionary definition of beauty may be what someone sees on the outside, but real true beauty, a beautiful life has nothing to do with what is on the outside.  Real, true beauty is living a life of purpose.  It is living a life full of health, spiritual wealth and mental clarity.  It is a life surrounded by family and friends and one that is worth living. Cathy Heller from Don’t Keep your Day Job says it perfectly. “The opposite of depression is purpose.”  I hope that you will accompany me or forward this story to someone who may need it, as we traverse forward and design a life that is worth living.  A life with purpose.

 Yours truly,

Samantha

Be sure to check out the following people that I have recently discovered in my walk towards mental health.