1-800-273-8255

Within a week’s span two well-known individuals lost their battle with their illnesses and committed suicide: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. We were unable to see the pain and suffering that they endured from their illnesses. We were unaware of their struggles.

I suffer from major depressive disorder as well as an anxiety and panic disorder. It took me 25 years to come to terms with this. It took me 25 years to seek help. It took me 25 years to overcome the stigma of having a psychiatric disorder. I have had days where I could not stop myself from crying. I could not calm myself down. I had no motivation to lift myself from my bed or my couch. I have had days. I have had weeks. I have had months. I have been confused and hurt and angry. I have doubted the purpose.

The CDC released the U.S. Suicide Rates/Trends by State from 1999-2016 and they are nothing short of horrific. We need to divert public health resources. We need to offer assistance to not only those with mental illnesses, but also their family members. These statistics are astounding.

All too often people do not seek help for their illness because of the stigma surrounding mental health. All too often people do not recognize psychiatric disorders as actual illnesses because it is an illness you cannot physically see. This needs to end. I know of multiple individuals whose healthcare has been mishandled due to their symptoms of a physical illness being attributed to their mental illness. This needs to stop too.

The number of individuals who commit suicide with no known mental health condition is higher than those diagnosed with mental health conditions for men and close to the same number in men. People go undiagnosed for decades because they are afraid of the repercussions of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. They go undiagnosed because we live in a society that is full of judgement and not support. We live in a society of hate and fear, not love, compassion, and empathy.

I am shouting to the rooftops over this. PLEASE: Get help. PLEASE: Reach out to those who you think may be suffering. Reach out to those who seem completely fine. Reach out to the strongest people you know and the weakest. Let each of them know that they are important and that you care. Offer a judgement-free environment for them to express themselves.

This is not okay. We are not okay. We need to be better. We need to do better. We need to work together. We need to help and support one another.

I’m making this up as I go.

In less than 2 months, I’ll be 29. A year from 30. I am not having some sort of oh-dear-god-I’m-getting-old moment. Graduating high school and starting college at 17, I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I thought I wanted to be a nurse. I screwed up in college. I temporarily lost my scholarship, and I never got into nursing school. There have been numerous times throughout my life since college where I have chastised myself for screwing up. I started working for a hospital in Florida shortly after graduation, and ended up there for 6 years before relocating to NYC. Once again, I started working for a hospital here in NYC. For the past 7 years, I’ve learned so much about healthcare, pediatrics, clinical trials, patient care, etc. Most importantly, I’ve learned so much about myself: who I am, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what I want in life.
To quote Evan Hansen:
“Does anybody have a map? Happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell, but this is me just pretending to know. So, where’s the map? I need a clue, ’cause the scary truth is: I’m flying blind … and I’m making this up as I go.”
For the past few years, when I would think about my career, I consistently shaped it after what I was currently doing and what I thought that I could achieve instead of what I want to achieve. I didn’t have a map. I was familiar with the maps that others have followed to get where they were. I didn’t have a destination point on my map, so I had no idea how to get there.
This week, I sat and thought about it. I stopped worrying about what seemed like the easiest plan. I stopped worrying about what fit with my job experience thus far. I thought about who I was and what I was passionate about. I am passionate about improving the quality of healthcare. I am interested in chronic disease epidemiology and Public Health & chronic diseases. As someone with both major depressive disorder and an anxiety & panic disorder, I am passionate about mental health awareness. I am passionate about pediatrics. I am driven to reduce the prevalence of diseases that we can research and hopefully, one day, find the cure to.
So, here I am, with my answer: I want to research pediatric psychiatric disorders. The WHO predicts that by 2020, child neuropsychiatric disorders will become one of the five most common causes of morbidity, mortality, and disability among children. We are not doing enough to address this. There is still too much of a stigma around mental health disorders. Too often children go undiagnosed, or poorly treated. The resources available to families with children with psychiatric disorders are few and far between.
I felt revitalized by coming to this realization/conclusion. The first person I had to tell was my best friend. My best friend, who was diagnosed as a child with bipolar 1 and PTSD. My best friend, whose son has had a wide range of neuropsychiatric diagnoses thrown his way from different doctors: autism, bipolar, ODD, intermittent explosive disorder … and who knows which diagnoses are actually correct. I have learned so much about dealing with children with psychiatric diagnoses through my work experiences, but it’s my experiences with him that have taught me the most.
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I look forward to pursuing this. I look forward to the day where we can discover the reason(s) for the increase in prevalence, and develop public health initiatives to address this increase.

Hear the Children Crying

When I see people blaming mass shootings on bullying, it really grates me down to the bone. Not every mass shooter has been the product of bullying. Bullying has been a decades-long issue. However, the widespread ownership and use of military-grade weapons has not.

When I was a child, I was a scrawny, quiet, female. I had a teacher who bullied me. Anytime I wanted to say something in class, he made sure to demean me and diminish my worth. It was because I was small and quiet. I lacked confidence and he made sure to point it out. He continuously called me “mouse girl.” A boy in my class also rode my bus and he liked to bully as well. He caught on to the teacher’s name-calling and proceeded to make fun of me the entire drive home from school on that big yellow school bus. I was a victim of bullying, but that bullying did not result in me wanting to shoot up my school or hurt others. Yes, I would like Mr. Mullin at Ammons Middle School to not have a job anymore – to not be able to harass, belittle, and bully anyone else. You look online at RateMyTeacher and boys continue to praise him in their ratings for being funny while numerous female students mention his bullying. He continues to bully middle school children – children who are at a very delicate stage developmentally and emotionally.

I remember Columbine. I remember being stunned. I vividly remember a student at my cousin’s middle school being stabbed to death in the bathroom in 2004 while my cousin sat in his classroom as they tried to determine who the killer was. I remember everyone being in shock from the violence. We now face these situations all too often. Our once stunned and confused reactions are now anger-filled. No one is shocked. We are living in a sick world where this has become the norm. Thousands of children are Marching for their lives. They aren’t marching because they don’t like the school curriculum or because they like the attention. They are marching because there are so many who cannot. They are marching for their future and to ensure others have a future.

Open your eyes and look within,
Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?

Jah come to break down oppression,
Rule equality,
Wipe away transgression,
Set the captives free.

I look back throughout history on generations of demonstrations, marches, and protests and see their strength in the students Marching today. The older generation belittling these students’ opinions and speeches because they are young, yet their generation was around their age when they fought for the freedoms they currently have the pleasure of having. Isn’t this what democracy looks like? What made them forget the past? What made them forget how we got here?

This is how history repeats itself.

Get up, Stand Up: Don’t Give Up the Fight!

My mother, who will be 70 this year, retired after well over 30 years in the school system. She is a healthy woman and stays active. She retired, continued traveling, volunteering at Fairchild, and enjoying life. She volunteered for the 2016 Clinton campaign and went door-to-door in the rain supporting what she believed in. She attends church every Sunday and volunteers through the church. She is now substitute teaching at a school that opened because of a grant she wrote. She is not equip to face an active shooter situation. My mother was a young adult in the 60s-70s and has experienced the hell out of life. She has traveled and continues to travel the world and experienced and embraced other cultures. She combines her experiences in life with what she believes is right and forms her opinions on that. She is a journalist. She always investigates so she provides factual information. She is an educator. Not just of English, journalism, or technology, but of life. I watched generations of her students rely on her for mentorship and guidance. Growing up, she taught me to know the difference from right and wrong. She taught me independence. She taught me to form my own opinions and beliefs. Best of all, she taught me to fight for what is right – she taught me to speak up when something isn’t right. She and I talked about how inspiring the students from Parkland are. How proud we are of them. It’s unacceptable that such tragedy has put them in the limelight and we didn’t do anything to prevent us from getting to this point.

I frequently see individuals from my mother’s generation berating people from my generation for our push for what is right — on Facebook, while criticizing our generation’s use of social media. Pushing against the current generation’s action to protect others from non-sense violence such as school shootings. Pushing against the current generation’s actions against the actions of the putrid man running our nation. These marches for gun reform, healthcare, and gender equality are what democracy is made of. I know of the baby boomer generation as being one that fought for what they believed in because of my parents’ lives. I know that their generation protested the Vietnam war — I know my mother lost friends to the Vietnam War. There seems to be a closed-minded portion of that generation that sees themselves superior to the current generation, instead of embracing them and allowing the younger generations to learn from their experiences and allowing themselves to learn from the younger generations. Every generation is different. Over time we have new technological advancements, fight different wars, struggle with different things, but we can all benefit from understanding one another.

Watching the numerous protests around the world over the weekend has been so incredibly inspiring. The thousands of people worldwide supporting our students. Our soon-to-be-voting, educated, powerful students. They are being raised in a time where a wealth of information is at their fingertips. They are the generation of now. And now they’re using that information and their experiences to fight for their lives and the lives of others.

Protest

You see that little blonde girl in her school uniform holding up an “Are you afraid of what I have to say?!?” poster? That’s me. My mother was a journalism teacher for high school students. She taught me about censorship and the importance of free press. She taught me to speak up when I think something isn’t right. I protested alongside high school students and adults. I learned at a young age to fight for what is right. And thank god I did, because we’ve got a lot to fight for these days.

I’m ready to fight. Let’s do this. Let’s continue to March. Let’s continue to be heard. Let’s vote them out. Let’s continue to do what is right. Let’s continue to support one another in this very long journey to improve our nation.

Differences

Looking back on old pictures from when I was a kid, I see that my love for wearing big shirts and no pants has been lifelong. Most of the pictures I come across are from the beach, skiing, or sporting events. When I think about my childhood, it feels like I lived in a completely different world from the kids growing up now. Don’t get me wrong, we totally played video games and had some “screen time” too, but it wasn’t the same. We played outside in the neighborhood. We didn’t sit at the dinner table watching/playing with a tablet. We went to school, came home, did our homework, and played outside with friends. I grew up going to Marlins games and Dolphins games. I grew up collecting pins to wear proudly on my Marlins cap to every game. I grew up valuing the outdoors. Kids these days don’t seem to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors or the beauty of actually interacting with others.

It is too often that I go out to eat and see a family sitting at a table with their kids sitting there staring at a iPad or iPhone screen with headphones in. We wonder where the social issues come from? Right there. I was expected to talk about my day and participate in conversations with my family. What good are we doing our children if we don’t interact with them? I understand that sometimes you just need a break from your children, but if that’s the case – hire a babysitter to take the kids off your hands when you go out to dinner. And don’t hire a babysitter who is going to sit there and watch TV with your kids all evening. Hire a babysitter who will read with them, read to them, play with them, and engage them.

Before I started working at the hospital in October, I was filling my days with babysitting and nanny jobs. I understand that it is hard to keep a kid engaged for hours on end – I’ve had to do it, a lot. I have been around my best friend and her kids since birth. Prior to moving to NYC, I was around those two kiddos 3-7 days a week for years on end. I’m not completely against letting kids play some games on a tablet or watch some TV. I’m just saying that the ratio of screen time to other activities needs to change! We need to engage our children before they complacently sit by and allow the world pass them by.

Connect

I feel like I will never have a stronger connection to music other than the music I grew up with. Whether it was the Rock ‘n’ Roll I danced to in the family room with my dad as a child, or the music I listened to when I was in middle school and high school, I feel like I have such strong memories associated with those songs.

Growing up, it seemed as though classic rock music was always flowing through the house. I remember falling in love with Lynard Skynard and Jackson Browne’s music and stealing my dad’s CDs to play in my room on repeat. Living in Miami, we often would open the windows and sliding glass doors, and let the music play loudly through the whole house and out into the backyard. The 90’s felt so free. I remember dancing throughout the family room, my feet on my dad’s, while the music blared. I listen to Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne and think about it’s relevance to life.

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand
 I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can
 Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long
 ‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams
People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it’s later than it seems
 Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if it’s too late for me
 Doctor, my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize
For having learned how not to cry

Once I was in middle school, I started picking up on music coming out at the time. Throughout high school, I listened to mostly rock, “alternative rock”, punk rock, ska, indie, and emo. I have a playlist on my Spotify of a bunch of the music that frequently spilled through the speakers in my room back then. There is a certain comfort I find in the music that I fell in love with back then. There is a certain magic to the lyrics – and a lack of lyrics filled with materialistic and empty words.

Nothing Worse

There’s nothing worse than hearing your parents cry and not being able to do anything about it. Moving out of the house at 17 to go off to college and not ever moving back to the same city has it’s tough moments. The main one being the anxiety you get over not being able to be there when things happen. Over the years, I’ve had to face these moments and no matter how many times it happens, I struggle. I struggled when my mom called me to tell me that my dad’s best friend passed unexpectedly. I struggle every time my mom calls/texts me about my dad’s health. I frequently struggle with thoughts about what I would do if something happened to one of my loved ones and I couldn’t make it in time from NY to Florida to say goodbye.

I always have my phone on vibrate and I pretty much always hear it. This Sunday morning, my phone was lost in the mountain of king-sized blanket piled up with me on the couch. When I came across my phone next, I had a missed call, voicemail, and text message from my dad. The text message read: “Give me a call please.” No context clues. As my parents get older, the more edgy I get when things like this happen. A knot rose up and settled in my throat as I quickly called my dad back. He picked up – his voice was shaky. “Jaime died.” At first, I thought he was referring to his friend Jaime, until he kept talking and then I realized it was my second cousin, who was only 9 days younger than my brother, that he was referring to. My dad pushed through the beginning of the call while he told me about Jaime, intermittently crying.

Jaime was healthy. He came home from work, went out for a run, came back and hung out with his parents in the kitchen. His dad told my dad that Jaime was talking about how happy he was and how he felt he was in such a good place in his life. Jaime then went to the other room and sat at the computer to play some games. A few hours later his mom went in and found him slumped over the computer dead. 32 years old. When we were kids, he and my brother were best friends. Thick as thieves. Partners in crime. (featured photo: my brother [left] and Jaime [right] laughing away)

Did you know it takes 6-8 on average to get the results of an autopsy back? 6-8 weeks of waiting. 6-8 weeks of agony. 6-8 weeks of the unknown. 6-8 weeks.

Goodbye Jaime. I’m glad that you felt you were in a good place when you passed. I’m glad you were happy.  You are so loved.