Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Will Your Verse Be?

I've actually been sitting on this post since February 2012. I felt like it was too personal too share, too out of the realm of my niche as "plus-size personal style" blogger. But ever since I saw the news of Robin Williams' death last week, I keep coming back to this post. It's not the easiest thing to read, or to write, and there are no cool fashion photos---- just to give you a head's up before you continue.

Much has been written in the past week about Williams' suicide and how mental illness, if it doesn't affect you personally, is hurting the people closest to you. Many people have written eloquently on the topic, and I have shared multiple articles on my personal Facebook page. I have seen outpourings of love and affection for a man that many admired, but so few actually knew. It gives me hope that the stigma that has long surrounded depression and other mental illness is lessening, and it has been staggering to see the number of people in my life (both real life and online) who have come forward and announced that they too struggle with the dark side of humanity. Do I have anything new to add to this ongoing conversation? Not necessarily, but sometimes a story just needs to be told.

It creeps up on me when I least expect it. Like the sun being blotting away from the winter's night sky. It's so subtle, I don't even notice the change. And then suddenly I am alone- cold and in pitch-black darkness. Depression and anxiety belong in the night. They are dark, creepy subjects most people try to ignore or brush off.

I can't really determine when this latest wave hit me. For some reason I am usually the last person to notice when I have fallen into a "funk". I think I realized last week that I had been really "tired" lately. I'm always tired- it's a combination of deep-set laziness and slight medical issues. I've already blogged about how much I love naps. But this is always different. It's not the decadence of a midday nap, it's the necessity of crawling into bed as soon as I get home. It's not getting up when the alarm goes off the first time or the fourth time. It's waiting all day to get back under the covers and sleep away the world.

I am pretty sure I can pinpoint my first depressive episode to eighth grade. I don't remember much (it was a long time ago!), but I remember missing a ton of days and being so incredibly tired. I struggled off and on for years with depression and anxiety, always too afraid to ask for help. In college the stress of working full-time and going to school full-time finally became too much for me, and after some encouragement from a close friend, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist- one of the scariest AND bravest things I've ever done.

And thus began my ten-year journey through medicated depression and anxiety. It's a vicious cycle- I would go on an anti-depressant because I just couldn't survive anymore. Then in a few months when I felt better, I would take myself off of the drug (often with disastrous side effects and withdrawals). A few months later I would begin to feel bad again, and go to the doctor for a different anti-depressant. And so the cycle continued year after year. I have been on nearly every available anti-depressant on the market and can recite the litany of side effects like the commercial voice-overs.

To prepare for conception, I again took myself off my anti-depressants. I was wracked with depression and anxiety. I was sick with worry and finally, halfway through my pregnancy, admitted my problem to my OB who immediately put me on, you guessed it, another anti-depressant. I have already blogged about my experiences with post-partum depression and anxiety here at ModaMama, and it wasn't a fun experience. Looking back on it seven years after the fact, I can clearly see how those months following Sean's birth, which should have been the happiest of my life, were my darkest moment.

In the past three or four years I have continued my cycle of on-med/off-med, until this past May. As I sat at our high school graduation ceremony, I found myself struggling to breathe. I was sweating and nauseated. I was panicking, imagining the humiliation I would experience if I vomited on stage during graduation. The people sitting around me could tell something was wrong. I spent the entire ceremony planning my exit from the stage and desperately willing the time to go by faster.

As I recounted the incident to my physician, she gently told me I had experienced a panic attack, and despite the fact that I am an armchair physician and a WedMD hypochondriac, I had never realized I have panic attacks with some regularity. And then she said something that in the past ten-plus years no doctor has ever told me. She told me I was never going to get better. That my anxiety and depression were never going to magically go away, that I would probably need to be on an anti-depressant forever. For some people this may sound like horrible news or  discouraging, but this was exactly what I needed to hear. It's not my fault. It's not something I can control or fix on my own.

In high school I took a creative writing class, and in that class I expressed for the first time the depths of my pain and sadness. Now we are required by law to report students exhibiting suicidal or self-harming tendencies, but the laws must have been more lax because I just can't believe that I didn't get locked up immediately. I recently tracked down my journal from that class to share with my current creative writing students, and I was shocked at the contents. Yes, there was plenty of super-cheesy, lovey-dovey poems, but the vast majority reflected the inner demons I was battling on a daily basis. In one, dated just ten days after my 16th birthday, I wrote: "I remember the first time I wanted to die/ The gun held against my head/There were no more tears left to cry/ I felt I was better off dead."

Original poetry and artwork, my poetry journal from 11th grade and me at 15-years-old
I know that this dark side will always be with me, sometimes just under the surface and sometimes pulling me down. I know the fragility of human life and the tragedy of suicide. I have lost people close to me and I have mourned the death of a man, that through his beloved characters of Peter Pan and Genie and Mrs. Doubtfire, was more of a father figure than anything I had in my life at the time. I know what to look for in my own son as he gets older. I know that there is help available if you are able to ask. I know it can get worse. But I also know it can get better.

Please know the warning signs of depression and suicide. Please don't be afraid to speak up if you need help or if you think someone else needs help. Too many people have complained that the media and others have glamorized Robin Williams' death and made suicide mainstream or cool. I don't see that at all. I see that through his tragic death we've all been able to open up about a topic that is too often ignored or trivialized. However, I do want to end with probably the most touching tribute to Williams I've seen. Have a tissue handy because if you haven't already seen it, you will probably tear up.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Celebrating Teachers with Style

There are two types of companies I love more than any other- a company that celebrates ALL women (not just cookie-cutter models) and a company that celebrates teachers. And when I heard what Foxcroft did this summer, I knew I had to share with you. I teamed up with Foxcroft in the spring (see my posts here and here and here) and loved the shirt I received, but they've really outdone themselves this time. 

This summer they chose twenty deserving public school teachers from Brooklyn and gave them head-to-toe makeovers. Teaming up with L'Appartement Salon and celebrity hairstylist, Laurent Dufourg, Foxcroft celebrated teachers at  P.S. 31 Brooklyn, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, recognizing all teachers for their hard work and devotion to their communities.

I just finished my third day of school today, leaving home at 6:30 AM and getting back at 5:30 PM. I feel physically beaten up and mentally exhausted. While teaching is rewarding, many people gloss over how truly challenging it is every day to get up in front of a captive, yet usually disengaged and uninterested, audience and try to spark a fire within them.  Some days I'm so excited, I feel like Leonardo Dicaprio crowing "I'm the king of the world".  Some days I am so discouraged, I hide under the covers in the morning and whine like a petulant child, "You can't make me go!"

This morning. Seriously.

So if you are a teacher, I thank you for your hard work and dedication. I know many times it feels fruitless and thankless. If you know a teacher, I promise that right now, they could use some encouragement. The first few weeks of school are tough, really tough, so reach out and let them know you are thinking about and rooting for them to have the best year ever!

Foxcroft is helping to make one of my readers experience what it's like to be a Foxcroft Style Star ! Please visit Foxcroft Collection and in the comments below let me know your favorite blouse. One Hems for Her reader will win the blouse in the style and size of her choice!

For more photos and some great giveaways, check out Foxcroft's Facebook page!

Giveaway ends August 31, 2014. Giveaway is open to residents of the USA only, and winner will be chosen at random. You must have a valid email address in your Disqus profile/signed in with a valid email address or else include it in your comment to be eligible. No need to provide size, if you are the winner we will contact you for details.  If winner doesn’t reply to winning email within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.  Good luck!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ikat Wait for School to Start Back

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by J.Jill. As a member of the J.Jill Life Stylers, I received a dress for review. All opinions are my own, as always.

If I look tired in these photos, there's a good reason--- school started back yesterday and I am really dragging. I've been going full-speed since Monday, and I really feel like I am about to drop. I'm trying to juggle all this stuff at once, and not doing it successfully. Each year I get so stressed out when school starts back; I feel like I'm starting my first day of high school over and over again, like Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day. It's really ironic because I hated high school so much, and sometimes I wonder why I torture myself by going back! 

Yet, I go back again, every single time! Naturally my favorite part of going back to school is finding the perfect outfit for the occasion, and when J.Jill contacted me and offered me a piece from their Ikat collection, I couldn't resist this breezy linen dress. There's something so classic about black and white, and the Ikat pattern  was different then anything else I own. I paired it with a bright turquoise cardigan to keep me warm in our sub-zero lunch room, but by the time I took photos after school, the temperature was nearly 100 degrees, so that cardigan didn't make the pics!

Dress= c/o J.Jill, currently unavailable, other printed linen dresses here , here, and here
Wedge Sandals- Kohl's(old, similar here)
Necklace- Premier Designs (Similar here)

Here's hoping I can continue to be all smiles next week, as I get to know this new crop of students and navigate my way through my new creative writing class. Hopefully, I won't fall asleep at 7 o'clock anymore, passing out from pure exhaustion!

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