Sunday, December 29, 2013

Accepting Help

I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first panic attack.

It was my freshman year of college.  I was having a girls’ night with my friend Alison.  We were in the middle of watching a movie.  I was sitting on one bed, and she was sitting on the other.  Everything was fine. We had been laughing our asses off to Neil Patrick Harris, eating food, and having a great time.
And then my thoughts turned frightful.  I started to be filled with a cold fear.  My boyfriend at the time and I had been having trust issues, and I knew that he was hanging out with other girls.  I tried to calm myself, but I couldn’t.  Cold fear gripped me.  One second I was on the bed with chest pains.  Before I knew it, I was on the floor, shaking like I was having a seizure.

Alison called in some of my other friends, one of which was Matt, a Pre-Medicine major.  I don’t remember much.  One thing I do remember, though, was Matt kneeling over me as he took two cold soda cans and placed them on my neck to calm me down.  Several other girls on the floor had come by to see what all the fuss was about.

Someone decided to call the police.  By the time the cops got there, I had calmed down.  When they asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, I turned them down, saying that I “knew how to handle it.”  Of course, that was a lie.  What the hell had just happened?  Sure, I’ve been stressed before, but never to the point that medics had to be called.

Over the course of the next year, I actually did end up taking offers to go to the hospital.  I was in the emergency room every other week.  Hell, I remember sitting in the emergency room for hours after having a severe panic attack at a church convention.  One of the other women who had gone with me to the convention, an education professor at my school, sat with me, rubbing my back and getting me water in an attempt to calm me down.

I was too proud.  I never sought help from anyone.  I never breathed a word of it to my professors.  What if they were the types that didn’t believe that these kinds of issues existed?  Instead, I burdened my friends and my boyfriend at the time.  I didn’t want to be left alone (my roommate had moved out, leaving me alone at the mercy of my attacks).  I was always clinging to someone’s arm.

Over time, however, the symptoms began to… change.  The panic attacks lasted longer.  I would wake up some days and feel anxious non-stop.  Sometimes I would wake up and feel an overbearing sadness or a manic high, instead.  I would begin crying for no reason.  The symptoms worsened and worsened until I attempted suicide on April 3, 2013 by jumping down a flight of stairs.  Of course, I never made it to the stairs themselves.  Several of my friends, who had come by to visit me (I hadn’t been out of my room in ages), stopped me.  It took several people to hold me back and drag me kicking and screaming back to my room.  Someone on the floor who had seen my attempt called the cops.  I was taken to the hospital that night and placed on suicide watch.  I was released late that night, after insisting that I was all right.  I didn’t want my family to see me like this.

The next day, my boyfriend at the time dumped me.

I was stuck in my room after that.  I didn’t eat a thing.  I didn’t go to class.  I don’t think I even remember showering.  All I did was wake up, cry, watch comedic YouTube videos in an attempt to make me laugh (to this day, I credit the Nostalgia Critic for essentially saving my life), cry some more, and go to bed. 
It was at this point that I realized that I finally needed to accept the help that others were offering to me.  My friend Ashley drove down to Morehead from Versailles to stay with me for a week.  My friend Tyler drove us to Walmart to pick up food and supplies to have a “girls’ week.”  Matt became an even bigger part of my life; he would often come by my room and bring me food.  I began to hang out with him more and more, until I found myself falling for him.  He asked me out on April 19, roughly two weeks after my attempted suicide, and we’ve been dating ever since.   Needless to say, he’s been more than accepting of my journey.

And as for my family?  Well, I knew that I couldn’t keep them out of the loop forever; if I was going to get better, I needed to accept their help, too.  I told my parents everything: the panic attacks, the depression, the suicide attempt.  They were worried, yes, but they stood by me in getting treatment.  Even to this day, we don’t see eye to eye on some things (readers of my blog Ravings of a Coffee-Crazed Writer will know what 
I mean), but I hope they know that none of this is their fault.

Where am I now? 

I am pursuing a degree in English Education.  I have a successful, healthy relationship.  I have an amazing support group of friends and family.  My professors have been more than understanding of my problems.  I am much happier than I was back then.

So, why am I going into so much detail about my mental health?  Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that one shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if they need it.

Love and Coffee cups,

Monday, December 23, 2013

'Fitting In...'

I never knew what depression was. I was always a happy kid despite the set backs of being different. I was the girl with the curly hair and light skin although my father was black. I was always proud to be different. Then you should know the stereotypical next part should be; I became a teenager. 

It seemed everyone accepted my sister better than me no matter how crazy or outgoing I was. I was between 15 and 16 years old when I just felt completely different. Nothing made me happy so I thought this was all my fault. I had people say I was being unhappy on purpose and of course I believed them. I also brought myself to the conclusion that I was the reason my father left when I was ten years old---I just wasn’t good enough.

This went on for a while. Math class in high school created much hassle for me. I was never good in this subject so I failed miserably and wondered after high school how I passed that class. So, the feelings of—maybe the teachers felt sorry for me—and helped me pass by altering my test scores.

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I went back to the therapist with the suggestion to my mom. When I was a teen my mother forced this on me even though I agreed I didn’t want to argue too much but believe me we did fight a lot but that one moment of going to a consoler terrified me and I never went back. The doctor was male, he was serious when he asked me if I was depressed. All I knew about depression was nothing. I just thought it was being sad…and everyone got sad so I thought it was normal until he explained it further and I refused to believe him. I got mad at the doctor and my mom and tried not to be depressed because I thought this was an excuse. Until it got worse.

I began cutting further stressing my mother out. It really hasn’t stopped until recently in my adult years but that’s another story for another time. I felt bad causing further depression knowing what I was doing to my mom. She’s always supported me and loved me and I couldn’t do that for myself. So I got diagnosed again for depression and tried many medicines until I found the right one.

I handle this depression now by being creative. I write a lot which I’ve always loved doing. I remember telling stories to anyone who would listen or reading Stephen King at 12 years old. Books and writing have been a part of my life. I never knew that I could make my hobbies into a career. Aside from writing I do create earrings or I paint with my nephew. I try to keep my hands and introduce anything crafty into my  day. Yes, sometimes I do become lazy and I watch the same movie over and over or I go on YouTube to watch scary movies being played but as long as  I know I’m doing something that I enjoy my depression doesn’t rear its ugly head.

This is my story and how I’ve come so far. Like any other story, I’ll see ya next time!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Then vs. Now

Here are the stats:

*27 Book Publishing Contracts
*9 Books out
*4 Amazon Bestsellers
*1 Memoir (self-pubbed)
*Several successful blogs
*Mentoring writers
*Mentored by the likes of Tom Sawyer (Emmy winning shower runner for Murder She Wrote), Rich Ridings (actor from the television series, Highlander) and Grant Wilson (from Ghost Hunters)
*Awards from Preditors & Editors, Moondance International Film Festival, NYC Midnight Madness Short Screenplay Competition, and 2013 Fright Night Film Festival Best SciFi Screenplay Award
*Graduated from therapy to case management and asked to speak before the Board of Directors at the Mental Healthcare Services where I received my treatment

That's now. That's December 2013. Let me tell you about then, October of 1999.

In October of 1999 I moved from Kentucky to Texas to be closer to the film industry with my best friend, and co-screenwriter in crime Missy Goodman. And then? In October of 1999 I was fast losing my grip on my sanity.

Missy and I had traveled to Austin, TX for the AFF. Austin Film Festival. Known as one of the toughest, yet most prestigious screenplay writing competitions we entered what, at the time we thought of as a brilliant screenplay. The only thing it proved was that Missy and had figured out the 3 Act structure. Which was very important. But as far as creative brilliance, well Missy and I know better now. LOL.

The signs of bipolar disorder were all there. Crying jags, I once cried for 8 hours straight down there. I couldn't take care of myself. I mean we're trouble bathing. Trouble cleaning house. Trouble physically getting out of bed. I threw things. I said things I'm not proud of and when I was first diagnosed I had no compunction about screaming and yelling and I treated the one person I had in my corner down there horribly. I made the Exorcist look like a walk in the the park. At work I locked myself in the bathroom and cried on three separate occasions. My dreams of the New York Times Bestsellers List and winning awards for my screenplay were fast going up in smoke.

My year living down in Texas was like an adventure in some ways. But it was a turbulent year marked by my fight to get stable. For the first six months down there we had no furniture. We ate spaghetti 5 nights a week and hot dogs the other two. It got to where I went to bed hungry and woke up the same way. None of this helped me in my fight to get stable.

But let me tell you what I did accomplish through the help of an underfunded and understaffed Texas healthcare system. I wrote a script. I wrote a novella. Both bad in every sense. But the important thing is, I wrote them. With Missy's help and few other angels we auditioned over 500 people including the great Vicki Jones whom we would have the great pleasure and honor to work with later on another project for You're the Reason. We found out what it was to go without. We experience Christmas without a Christmas tree. Missy was blessed with parents who sent her a package full of goodies and my mom enabled us to stay down there a bit longer by covering rent one month. Thanks to angel named Patrick, I don't know where the boy is that we worked at the movie theater with, but he enabled us to have a great Thanksgiving feast. We learned that men looked at porn on the internet on the internet. And that people like Myra Hutton believe the mentally ill have no place in the workplace, (but that's another post for another time). Thanks to her direct treatment of me I suffered a second breakdown before coming back home to Kentucky. BUT thanks to Anthony Casebeer we got to take a draft of You're the Reason to our favorite actor, Maurice Benard, well, one of my favorite actors, who also battles bipolar disorder.

Suffice it to say it was a long, hard road back. Filled with a lot of therapy, psychiatrist appointments, blood tests, and medication. Yes folks medication. For me it is a key component in my stability. I know there are those out there that frown upon it, but you don't have to be scared of it or ashamed of the fact you're taking it. But that's another post another time.

So, when I thank Missy, she was there, right by my side, and she still is. She was truly angel sent from above. She comes from a great family. Harold, Neshea, Shannon, Jessica and I have all been especially blessed by her presence in our lives. She has a kind and nurturing nature which can be tested at times, but she is a loving best friend family member. She's also writer for this blog.

Pamela Turner has been great too. When I'm depressed and need to get out, or schlepped to doctor appointments, or my medication paid for she has been fantastic! I love you Pam, couldn't do any of this without you. She too is a writer on this blog.

You'll learn a lot about me through this blog. As you will the other fabulous writers bravely and courageously joining me in talking about their journeys. Whether coping, just beginning, or living with it, they all have something valid and unique to add to the conversation.

Staying balanced on the see-saw of life,