Prompting another post about mental health awareness and suicide prevention, was the loss of Chester Bennington of my favorite band Linkin Park. I was devastated by this news. Such a talented young man at the height of his career, gone in an instant. It serves to tell us once again, that mental health issues do not discriminate.
Whether you have childhood traumas, chemical imbalances in your brain, chronic stress, an addiction, going through a rough time, dealing with loss, have anxiety and/or depression, or the many other mental health disorders, mental health care has never been so important. It is easy to tell those suffering to “get help”. It is a whole other ballgame to get help when you are in the throes of depression.
We not only need mental health care for EVERYONE but it should also be readily accessible with experienced professionals. It should not be $150 a visit (b/c they only take BCBS-and there’s only 1 specialist in your state!), and you should have an ample selection to choose from. No more of this closed panel or 2 yr pending statuses with Drs trying to get in-network. Also, there should be a reasonable limit on visits, based on your doctor’s discretion. It often takes 3 “getting to know you” visits and at least 5 to start really tackling whatever is going on.
I cannot tell you the hurdles it often takes just to get an appointment to see a therapist. You’ve finally made up your mind that you need to talk to someone. You go online to look at in-network providers. You get a list of 20 from the insurance company. Six are men. You want a female. Two no longer take your insurance. Oopsie on the insurance company’s part. Five aren’t taking new patients. Five are booked solid for the next 2 months. One isn’t a psychologist and you’ve tried social workers in the past with little luck. One left. You finally get a slot a month from now. And it took 3 days to stop playing phone tag. You see her and you just don’t click with her. It happens. And it’s so important that you click. Then you begin the process all over again. There are also many doctors, in general, whose office hours are 10-4, 9-5, 11-5 so if you work, getting an hour+ off of work once a week isn’t viable.
If you are someone who is in dire need of help, this can be a truly overwhelming, exhausting and disheartening process. I would not be surprised if people gave up after the first couple calls.
Having said all that, please do not get discouraged if you do want professional help. You will get that appointment, you will find a therapist you love and begin the process of healing.
13 Reasons Why is all anyone can talk about recently so I decided to tune in. I admit I got sucked in rather quickly and wanted to see how everything unraveled. In a nutshell, there is a high school student who has a run of bad luck, then is bullied and taunted, and eventually horribly raped. She ends up committing suicide and leaves 13 tapes behind to all those who contributed to her outcome.
I am incredibly torn on how I feel about this show. Having dealt with depression for most of my life, I find it a bit refreshing that the topic is being addressed. As a huge advocate of removing the mental health stigma, I think this is so important. However, the main audience who is watching this are pre-teens and teenagers. I personally feel this is entirely too much for anyone under 16, and should be watched and discussed with parents if they do watch it. I agree that mental health, bullying, depression, rape, drinking, and suicide all need much more awareness brought to them. So for that, I think the show is a good thing. On the flip side, I think this show can be dangerous for those who are battling severe depression, and possibly even glorifying suicide. Allow me to explain.
The main character who kills herself ends up getting community-wide attention. Through these tapes, a wide circle of students are constantly talking about her and reliving things that happened, reflecting in their part in it all and figuring out how to cover their asses. Parents in the community are offering sympathy, and the entire school is shaken up by it all. The message portrayed is suicide=attention. If someone is bordering on suicide, this just may push them over the edge.
Hannah, the main character, also takes things WAY too seriously. Being put on a list for having a great ass is not the end of the world. Granted, the only social media we had growing up was MySpace, so it was a different time. But the photo of the girls kissing was not a big deal to me. Or people spreading rumors. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but we dealt with things like that ALL the time in high school. Sometimes you had a bad week or two and then everyone moved on. You either laughed it off, cried or hid as much as possible, and I’m pretty darn sensitive so that is saying a lot. Here is some of what I went through:
I was bullied by a gal named Lisa in one semester. She was a total bitch to me for absolutely zero reason. She went out of her way to humiliate me on a daily basis in our class together. I seriously had no interactions with her EVER. She just decided she was going to target me. I hated her. I wanted to kick the shit out of her. I really did. I threw out one of her class projects when no one was in the room. I messed up another. I had a friend who had a car and we gave her house a “lawn job”. It was my small way of exacting revenge. I’m not saying it was easy. I cried, often. I shrunk down at the beginning of each class and prayed today wouldn’t be too bad. I ignored her. I had a great time with those at my table. But inside I was cringing and counting the seconds until I could get out of a class that I actually loved.
I also was bullied, badly, by this shithead named Danny if I remember correctly, on the bus, who was like 2 years younger than me and a total waste of air. Despite me being older, despite me having plenty of friends, despite me ignoring him or swearing at him, he still made fun of me every day, out loud, for the whole bus to hear. So I ended up walking to school. It was like a 2 mile trek everyday, but I did it just to avoid him. I’m pretty sure he’s in prison now.
There were 2 Amy’s that taunted me. One was on the swim team, one was in my gym class. The latter was a fat ass (at least compared to me at the time), loud mouth who wanted to be an actress or something. She was the definition of obnoxious. So when she went to town on me, the entire room heard. They both teased me when I would change in the locker room because I’m Hispanic and therefore hairy. I had hairy arms and hair on my back. I always shaved everywhere else. I tried bleaching my arm hair, using Nair, wax, nothing really worked. I eventually shaved my arms. Actually, I was teased for this since 5th grade and to this day, am still self conscious about it. We’d be on the pool deck during a meet, and the other Amy would start on me. She was nothing to write home about so I figured it was her own insecurities but it still sucked.
My point to all this is that so many of us dealt with shit growing up. It’s par for the course. It’s a rite of passage. Were there kids who had it a lot worse? Absolutely. Was I an asshole to some kids? Sure, I definitely wasn’t perfect in high school. I tried to be nice to everyone who was nice to me, and I had friends in all circles because I didn’t care about that crap. Everyone wants to fit in on some level and high school can be brutal and drama filled. However, if I let every one of those instances haunt me to the point of being suicidal, then they win and I was NOT about to let them win, nor was I ready to give up on life. The show portrays Hannah as having 2 loving, caring and supportive parents. Yet it made no difference to Hannah when I think in a lot of cases it would.
I do remember vividly how certain athletes, especially male, could do no wrong. They got away with all sorts of things. The show has a whole lot of people covering up for a rapist, who is a top athlete. It’s extremely disturbing to me and although I wish this was far from the truth, we’ve seen plenty of examples of rapists getting away with it in real life. Brock Turner, David Becker, Nicholas Fifield, and John Enochs anyone?
The show portrays 2 graphic rape scenes. I personally did not see these as necessary. You can get the point across without showing it. But the show has a lot of shock value, and I think the intention was to show just how traumatic it is for women who have been victims. Possibly to make someone think twice. Possibly to encourage someone to come forward.
The show also graphically shows Hannah slicing her wrists open in a bath tub, bleeding out and her parents finding her. This literally traumatized me on some levels and I’m 36. I’ve known at least 6 people who have tried to commit suicide. To see it in action was horrific. Was it a scare tactic to show how awful suicide is? Was it to show how much pain she was in? Why show her slitting her wrists? This could be so triggering.
The show never addresses any mental conditions per se. I think it is implied that Hannah was severely depressed. I wish it would have explored this a bit more on a deeper level. I did appreciate how the show showed her visiting her guidance counselor in an effort to seek help. That sadly did not go anywhere. But I wish they would have showed her maybe talking to her parents about it or talking to Clay, trying therapy, trying medication, calling a suicide line, something else to emphasize she saw it as absolutely her last resort.
My hope in those young, vulnerable minds watching the show is that they see suicide as a very last resort, if not an option at all. If they are engaging in self destructive behaviors such as self mutilation, heavy drinking, etc. maybe this will be an opening to seek help. Maybe guidance counselors and teachers and students know what signs to look for now. It isn’t always so black and white and obvious. Maybe kids will think twice about what they say and do to others. The potential impact it could have. Overall, I’m glad discussions are taking place around these serious and all too common issues. I just hope the second season brings about more understanding and education.
I don’t know if that was 13 reasons or not, but who’s counting?
We are bombarded every day with people hurting other people, committing crimes, people who want to do harm to others, people disrespecting every type of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and a president who represents xenophobia.
It’s hard to remember sometimes that there are good people in the world. It’s hard to focus on kind deeds the people who really do hold this country together do, and the people who make this the best place in the world to live. I have seen remarkable kindness, especially in the last year that I would like to share.
These such kindnesses have been overwhelming. As a new mom, as someone who has struggled with postpartum depression, with someone who has had a preemie, someone who lost her job, someone who is in a constant state of financial worry, and someone who has had one really, really, trying and tough year, I’ve been able to keep my head above water because of the kindness I’ve been shown.
Family has been tremendous. Truly coming to the rescue on so many occasions.
What surprises me most is how virtual strangers have come through to help. Tons of moms have come forward to help another mom in need; another mom struggling. Not only do I have 2 wonderful groups of women who I met this year, some only virtually, who offer comfort and advice and encouragement, but they’ve also been so generous. Moms in Facebook groups I’m in, who don’t know me at all, giving me bottles or toys or sending gift cards. I’ve gotten bags and boxes of clothes, jugs of formula that weren’t going to be used anymore, a jumperoo and so much more!
I’ve been helped by organizations that are dedicated to assisting new moms who are struggling, offering free support in a variety of ways from diapers to therapy to even some free shopping fun.
My therapist who is amazing!!! is now out-of-network with my new insurance which has a $6K deductible. She has offered to only charge me my copay so I wouldn’t have to find a new therapist. This meant THE world to me.
People that gave away their moving supplies. I got about 40 boxes, bubble wrap and foam wrap for free. Saved me not only money but time going store to store asking for their boxes.
A landlord who knew of my struggles and why I had to move, who let me out of my lease early with no penalties and an offer of a reference for the future.
People offering to review my resume, keep their eyes peeled for positions for me.
People offering to babysit while I unpack our new place, or go for an interview or if I just want some “me time.”
When there was an issue with my WIC check at the grocery store and an older gentleman in line behind me offered to pay for my baby food.
I truly believe there is still good in this world. You sometimes have to search for it or be present enough to notice when it’s happening, but it is there. And it is not just in big gestures but the smallest of kindnesses that need to be acknowledged.
I wish for a day when the news is filled with more good than bad. When the media decides to focus the shift from celebrities and killings and just the most ridiculous stories to things that matter, acts of kindness, people saving one another, and true American heroes.
I do partially blame the media for this intense negativity that seems to just bombard us from every direction, on every social platform, every TV station, every magazine you open; it’s everywhere. Seek out the good stuff. The stuff that makes you smile. The stuff that encourages you. The stuff that makes you believe in humanity. So I wanted to do my little part to remind everyone that there are good people in this world and to have faith.
Let me get this straight. Trump and his republicans dont want abortions. They pass an executive order basically making it almost impossible to get an abortion.
But wait! They also want to defund Planned Parenthood who provides contraceptives, educates on safe sex, helps will family planning (whether that involves having a family, adoption or abortion).
Then they also want to get rid of the ACA which would mean contraceptives for women would no longer be covered by insurance as it previously was.
Let’s not forget how crazy expensive adoption is, and how difficult they make the process.
Then the systems that support new mothers who need help, they do not want these either.
Guess what? You cant have it both ways. Are you going to pay for my $25-35/month birth control? I thought not. Are you changing adoption laws? I think not. Are you providing other organizations similar to Planned Parenthood sans the abortion stuff? Nope.
I dont hear anything about sterilizing men or saving precious sperm. Why is all this on the women? All these laws restricting what we do with our bodies, our lives? Are we not allowed to engage in sex anymore because the consequences are too dire?
So best of luck ladies.
I’m opening my blog up to guest posters. If you’ve always wanted to take a stab at writing or just have something important to say, or funny to share, here is your opportunity. You can be anonymous or not. My only stipulation is I have final editing rights. Feel free to send me a message if you’re interested.
I cannot wrap my head around how people who support Trump can sit back and say that we all need to come together now. And it is being said by many, many of them. Trump was, and is, dead set on dividing us and creating more hate and emphasizing our differences and you voted for that. So how can you now say we need to come together when you just voted for what this man stands for? It’s completely hypocritical, completely contradictory, and makes zero sense. The same Trump voters who are telling us we should come together and work together are the same ones who fought Obama left and right. They spewed their hatred of him over the last eight years, didn’t support anything he tried to accomplish, and he couldn’t accomplish much because Congress refused to cooperate. Where were all of these “come together” people when all that was going on?
That’s all the Hillary supporters wanted, was for us to come together. To respect our differences. To treat each other like actual people. To stop the hate. By electing Trump all that goes out the window. How is it that people can’t see that?
*I know I am generalizing and not all Trump supporters hated Obama
The NICU. My second home for 46 days. It has taken me a while to write about this topic. I will try not to be redundant of previous posts. I want to start with the positive.
We were, by far, incredibly blessed that Nathan weighed as much as he did (go mama for eating for 3 when there was only 2), that he didn’t have any serious problems and that he grew and got better each day.
Some of my absolute favorite comments from the nurses that made me chuckle, helped comfort me, and helped me get through the day:
“Nathan, there are ladies present,” when Nathan let out a loud fart.
“It’s okay to touch him. He’s yours” when I was so afraid of doing anything, even touching him early on.
“We’re gonna call you ‘chubs'” when he hit 4 lbs.
“He’s getting a reputation,” on his explosive poops that most of the nurses had to clean up.
“Everyone wants him. We’re fighting over him.”
“He has so much hair!!!”
“He’s been pretty crabby today,” when he was wearing his little crab outfit.
“I will take care of him like he was my own,” when I was hesitant to leave him early on.
“He will be okay. I will check on him again right now,” when stopping at the exit door, hesitating to leave and crying.
“God bless ya. You are a fantastic mother. I would have given up a long time ago,” on my struggle with producing enough breast milk.
“What is wrong? Are you sleeping? Are you eating?” when I didn’t look so hot and a nurse was checking in on me, making sure I was taking care of myself, in that scolding but well-meaning European manner.
“I am happy, I am good,” in a sing-song voice from Nathan’s point of view upon my arrival
“He yanked out his feeding tube. I guess he wants out,” on walking in one morning to see his feeding tube on the counter (and not in him).
I know there are so many I’m forgetting, but these stood out. I’m sure it’s not easy trying to do your job while also keeping parents at ease and these ladies definitely try their best.
I think the roughest part is the first couple weeks. You’re still reeling from the shock of everything that just happened labor-wise and coming to terms with not bringing your baby home. You’re still recovering from delivery. You know everyone means well, but you don’t have the energy to constantly send updates. The last thing you want right now is visitors. You’re exhausted, your breasts are hurting and raw, you’re obsessed with germs, you’re so depressed and anxious from what life has just thrown you. The NICU is DRAINING. Mentally, emotionally, physically draining. You have no choice but to trust the people caring for your son. You feel helpless. While still in the hospital yourself, you have to get “delivered” to the NICU every time you want to visit. This involves paging a nurse and then waiting to be wheeled down and around. It’s a long walk for someone who just had a baby. The second thought constantly on my mind was about money. How the hell are we going to pay for this? What will insurance cover? Will we have bills for the next 5 years?
You want all the information. Asking what all these machines and tubes do. You want to know what each alarm, chime and beep means. You’re coming up with a schedule of sorts to coordinate visits with your baby so he is left alone the minimum amount of time. You have to adjust to them doing a ton of tests on a regular basis to check everything. You look at the very long checklist of things your baby needs to achieve before you can take him home and wonder if that day will ever come. You have to LEAVE your baby. Every single day.
I had more than one meltdown having to leave. Those first few days my husband and I just hugged and cried and reassured each other that he was in good hands and that we’d be back in the morning. It also helped so much that we could call to check-in 24/7. Sometimes you just needed that nightly report before you went to sleep.
I will say it is difficult when you get a new nurse. You get used to the first set that are the primary nurses and they all have a system in place. You know the routine. You know how they are with your son and it comforts you. It makes it so much easier to be away. When a new nurse comes in you begin questioning if they are attentive, if they care, if they will get his care right. There was one time when I was not comfortable leaving because I felt my son wasn’t being attended to. I cried at the exit, and then hysterically sobbed in the car for 15 minutes deciding if I should go back in. I think that was my first big release of pent-up worry.
Day in and day out, I would race to the hospital filled with anxiety, like I couldn’t get there fast enough. You enter Fort Knox by identifying yourself to the camera and waiting for the doors to be unlocked. Never a worry about security there which was awesome. The lovely gal at the front desk would always greet me with a warm smile. I walked down the same hall, smelled the same smells, heard the same chimes and beeps. Said hello to all the familiar faces. Knew 80% of the nursing staff’s names.
Once I got the morning report telling me everything was still okay and saw my little angel, I immediately calmed. Your days are filled with staring at your baby from the couch or chair, pacing, touching your baby and holding his head, lots and lots of pumping of breast milk, labeling breast milk, cleaning pump supplies, endless breastfeeding crap. Making lists of things that need to be done, watching and learning from your nurses, coloring, 200 bathroom breaks, texting updates to family and friends. You also scarf down some food somewhere in there too. You quickly realize you will need all kinds of lotion to combat your cracking, red, dry hands from so much washing and anti-bac. You become willing to pay anyone your life savings if they can just stop your nipples from hurting. You know you’ll need to bring in a box of Kleenex because it’s either tissue paper kleenex with 5 sheets in a box or sandpaper paper towels to choose from. You want to pop-in to other rooms and say hi just to have someone to chat with but you’re not sure if it’s allowed or welcomed. You feel so bad for other babies that have it so much worse. You try napping on the couch or in the chair but your nerves are too fried to sleep, plus it’s cold and there are so many interruptions. You sleep with your phone on high volume and your heart stops every time it rings.
Once I got encouragement from the nurses to touch and handle my baby more, all I could hope was that he was comforted by my touch. I talked to him all the time. He’d often struggle with eating via tube, spitting up or squirming with gas. I’d always say “mama’s here, it’s okay” and I swear he’d calm down even long after we brought him home when I said this. I did worry quite a bit about if he would have any attachment to me with me not being there all the time, and all these other people caring for him.
I must point out the large majority of staff were phenomenal. The amount of time spent and detail given when nurses switched shifts is mind boggling. It shows you just how on top of it all they are. These little lives are literally in their hands and it takes a special person to hold that job. All the doctors gather each morning at each room to review the progress and any problems and the plan for the day for every patient. Someone was always there if you needed anything at all.
There was nothing like getting to hold him for the first time which we had to wait I think 5 and 6 days after he was born. You look at all the tubes taped to him and you’re thinking “how on earth am I supposed to hold him?” They just bundle them all up! I was instructed to wear a tank top and as I pulled it out at the chest area they placed him right in there and covered him with warm blankets and a knitted hat. We were obsessed with that cute little handmade hat. He was snug as a bug. It’s crazy how his whole tiny little body fit perfectly in there. He would always be so calm when we held him. Like he was so at ease. You study his every feature. His ears that keep folding and staying folded over. The little hairs on his face, his perfect and peeling lips. How his nipples are SO tiny. How his fingers are perfect. It was always the highlight of our day. We would want to hold him for hours but at some point, nature calls, your arms are numb, you are dizzy from not eating, you have to pump, and so on.
We, and anyone visiting would always be so amazed by how much this little boy moved and stretched. He was constantly shifting. They’d put him in the middle of his incubator and he’d end up in a corner. Every time they checked on him or adjusted something he’d stretch on and off for a good 5 minutes. He held his head up on day 2 while lying on his stomach. Day 2! And his faces. This boy was dubbed “the man with 100 faces”. Every few minutes he’d be making a new face. It was SO entertaining.
Wide eyed and saying hello
One of his many faces
When you have a baby in the NICU every single thing is a milestone. An accomplishment. One more thing getting us closer to home. Every time he opens his eyes you gaze into them and whisper how strong and handsome he is, into his incubator. Removal of the throat tube thingy. Then removal of the nostril oxygen. Every tube that gets taken out deserves a cheer. His IV line taken out was huge. Going off caffeine. Increases in feedings. Licking breast milk off a Q-tip. Taking formula for the first time. Poop! Poop is a big deal. Poop is a celebration. Holding our finger. Hiccups. A gassy smile. Self-regulating his temperature in the incubator. Being able to wear clothes. Latching on successfully. Every time a sticker on his progress train moved from red to yellow. And our first green sticker! Most important of all: weight gain! Every ounce up is significant and every pound hit is huge. There were so many celebrations. Even still, I’m so proud of him for every new thing he does. I’m just in awe of him.
I felt I had become an honorary nurse after the first few weeks. The things I learned about the development of the brain, nervous system, heart, skin, bones, lungs; things the baby books don’t go into detail about. I knew acronyms and fancy terms. I knew how to do everything the nurses did from watching them so many times. I knew how to work his feeding machine. I knew what the numbers on the monitor meant and what alarms were urgent and which were not. I could take his temp, change his diaper, rearrange his cords/tubes, take him out of his crib on my own, and fix his incubator “pillows” and sheets. It was a pretty neat feeling as a new mom to have so much knowledge about your baby. Not that I wasn’t still scared shitless when he came home.
Celebrating his 1 month birthday in the hospital was hard. But we brought the stickers and made it work, doing our hospital photo shoot.
Shortly after he removed his feeding tube we started trying bottles. Then he was graduated to an open incubator, then an open “crib”, each huge progress. The morning of our delayed baby shower we went to visit Nathan beforehand. We had walked in to see him in the open incubator and we were overjoyed at the unexpected surprise. As he gained more and more ounces, the nurses were starting to prepare us for bringing him home. There’s a certain criteria babies have to hit in order to go home. It involves 5 days without spells. Spells involve their own criteria with alarms going off for very specific things for a certain duration of time. You have to wait until day 5, or the very last-minute, to find out if you are officially bringing your baby home that day. Even with several baby books, years of working in a daycare and babysitting, I still had a zillion questions. I guess I didn’t trust that he was a normal baby like any other. There were some things that were going to be different of course, but overall, same rules applied. I kidnapped a couple of nurses asking pages of questions. They reassured me that I knew what I was doing. And they were so gracious with answering all my questions. They did have other patients after all.
That last week was very stressful. I felt like everything was crammed into 5 short days. All kinds of preparations. A heart ultrasound, blood tests, car seat check, other final tests. It was a LOT. When we came in on that 5th day hoping he would be going home, we found his train had all green stickers and a note saying he was ready to go!
We had his official hospital photo shoot which was a lot of fun. We packed up so much stuff! We watched a baby CPR video. We asked our final questions. We held Nathan. We cried. We thanked the nurses personally, 2 of which will always hold a special place in our hearts, although they were all great. How do you properly thank people who kept your son alive, safe and healthy? Words cannot do it justice.
I suddenly forgot how a car seat worked, I was so nervous. I don’t know what the hell I did, but the one nurse was laughing at me. I was like, oh boy, I can’t even get this right. But in my defense, neither could my husband. We made this cute sign and Nathan provided the perfect pose. He’s like “Hear ye, hear ye…”
As we were being wheeled out I could not believe we were taking him home. Finally. It was bittersweet. We had gotten to know the staff and they were our second family for the past month and half. I was going to miss them like crazy. I was actually going to miss those rooms, the halls, having experts care for my son, those beeps and chimes. I so wanted to kidnap a nurse, for real this time. It was a bit terrifying that it was actually happening. It was over.
We made it through day 1 at home with only one panicked phone call to the NICU asking what to do. There were days I couldn’t believe this was happening to us, days when it didn’t feel real at all, days that were bleak and grim and days that held hope. But we made it. Nathan is a happy and healthy 8-month-old and we are all stronger for the experience.