Friday, February 19, 2016

AM~Erica Sees Signs of Lent

So anyway...

Mardi Gras is over, and Lent is in full swing.
(some of my reflective Lenten thoughts, HERE)

In this past year, and the year going forward, I made a decision to keep my heart, mind & soul open to what God needs from me.
No, this is not a Lent-specific thing...but certainly a challenging one!

Many times, Christians will "preach" about being open to God's will...and blah-blah-blah! I find the non-Christians rolling their eyes & giving retort, usually; or just ignoring Christians completely.

But hear me out, OK?

I'm a visual-learner, mostly. But I try to keep my senses open to what may be asked of me.
Lately, when I feel my heart being opened to something else, I try to keep my whole being open to the Spirit, and in full-on prayer, to see where I am being guided.

If you have read some of my blog posts opening up about my struggles with depression & my failed suicide (reminder HERE, or you can click on that tab ^^^ up there about "My Struggles (Depression & Suicide), you will see that I try to stay open in a very scary subject, but try to remain open in what I should do next.
Actually...I have something coming very soon. I'm not ready to share yet. I'm freaking out, but so super stoked to be a part of it! But that will be another time...

Right now, I want to point out that I don't really ask God for signs. OK...sometimes I do, but I mostly ask for guidance & then stay as open as possible to possible signs of where I should take on next.

And it scares me! But that's how I know God is leading me. God wouldn't lead me to it if the task were to be easy. So I have to cling onto strength in Jesus & keep God in sight.

With that said, Lent is usually a time of reflection. I have tried taking on devotionals, reflecting, and then trying to put what I've learned relevantly into my life. And sometimes signs show up!

Several years ago, I remember getting ready for church on the first Sunday of Lent. As I got around, I walked into the living room, and nearly fell over when I saw what the sun was projecting onto the wall of the parsonage (aka - pastor's house; aka - clergy living quarters) when we were living in St. Louis:

YES! That's right. It was the sun shining thru the blinds on from the other side of the room!
I obviously had to get picture proof. I don't know if people would have really believed me if I just tried to tell them. I mean, c'mon! We are in the Show Me state. And I had to take my camera (it was just before the times of camera phones, kids) with me to church so I could bring some proof of what I'd found to any doubting Thomases I may have encountered!

And it really happened on the first Sunday of Lent that year. I'm still blown away by that moment on that morning.

Now, as I remain steadfast in the sense of being open to what God needs from me (again...not always so easy), I try to stay vigilant of any signs letting me know I'm heading the right direction, or that I need to change direction. Believe me when I say that I have certainly received signs! Even if I didn't ask for them.

Through the years, I have seen many inspirational photos going around. Some of the more intriguing ones seem to be what is seen in the sky, usually in the clouds. Usually it's forms of angels & things.

Today, the 2nd Friday of Lent, my hubby & I were on our way home from our weekly trip to the store. We were just talking about different things...and then I saw an amazing cloud right in front of me!

Pretty amazing! Right? A truly Divine sign in this moment.
And then my hubby commented that it looked like Ash Wednesday clouds...even if it was over a week later than Ash Wednesday. We discussed if it was a sign of Jesus coming back soon. But that is ALWAYS on the table, people! Don't ignore that fact! "Soon" to us is a much different timeframe than "soon" to God!

We were just shocked over the cloud formation. So much so, I decided to bring up the photo again...but then I noticed something above the clouds in cross formation, and was stunned!
(sorry for sounding like ridiculous click bait)

Do you see that? Do you see the winged clouds in the sky above it? It's like an angel or a dove, but definitely a Divine vision!

People, just know that God leaves us signs EVERYWHERE! And it's not always in visual form. Be aware. Just as God can take any form necessary to get a message across, God can also leave any God-sized sign for us. We just have to be open enough to figure out if it is as obvious as these clouds, or as small as a song lyric in a much-needed time.

We are in a time of wilderness, on a journey to seek out Easter. Though it is a solemn & spiritual time, we should enjoy the view along the way.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

AM~Erica's Beady Talk

So anyway...

As we begin Lent (my take on the season, HERE), we are recovering from a string of celebrating from Super Bowl, Lunar New Year, and Mardi Gras.

Many will prepare to have ashes spread across their foreheads in preparation as we remove celebratory decor that adorned our surroundings for the past few days, even weeks.

I surprised my family by pulling out a lot of my Mardi Gras decor and putting it up around the living room & dining room for our own celebration. Hadn't had a chance to do that in the past few years, so I was glad to be able to have some time, and energy (finally), to spruce the place up to look festive.

But, alas, the party is over, and decor must come down.

And as I was pulling down the masks & beads, it reminded me of something:

The beads really stuck with me, especially seeing them all together in a big bunch. I thought about the large number of beads at the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks.

I've said it before (from my first walk - HERE, and my second walk - HERE) that looking at the layout of beads seems to have a very Mardi Gras/Carnival-type look at first glance.

These beads you see adorning necks at the Out of the Darkness walks have deep meaning. Each color is representative of someone in your life, as it relates to suicide survivors and the relationship they have with those they lost or with those who struggle (even themselves).

As amazing & beautiful it is to see these colors everywhere, the pain behind them is all-too real.

On any given Mardi Gras, I have no shame in loading up my neck with the green, purple & gold/yellow colors. I'm completely ridiculous like that. This fact really isn't news.
However, when it comes to the AFSP event aspect, the green stays around my neck. My struggle is painfully real. (check out my list of posts concerning my struggles HERE)

Since I know I'm not the only one who struggles, I wear the newest color addition to the spectrum: teal. There's those of you reading this, right now, who I know go through this hurt. Because you've told me. Which is a brave thing to do - to step up & just say something to someone.
I feel weird saying it's a brave thing to do. I say it, however, because I've been told the same thing. And I realize when you tell anyone - whether it's for the first time saying it, or if it's to someone new - it's completely nerve-racking! So it does take some courage to say something. And I'm so proud of you!

Because so many of us do struggle with surviving our own attempt &/or intense suicidal thoughts, I know I never want anyone else to got through that. So I support the cause. That means I wear a blue strand of beads, too.

My bead color combo is very different than anyone else's at the walks. There are so many who sport several of the colors, maybe a couple of the same color. The color combinations are nearly as unique as those who wear them around their necks.


As we enter into Lent, my focus is as different as the sets of beads, between Mardi Gras & AFSP. Though a beautiful time, it is much more solemn. We now enter a journey leading the beauty of Easter, just as the journey each of us who are part of AFSP hope to get to the beauty of no more suicide anywhere.

Anyway...beads. I was just contemplating the difference in the beads, how much they look alike, yet how different they really are. Just like each one of us - some of us may appear to be from the same mold, but we aren't.

Many times, we are all actually wandering through our own wilderness looking for Easter.

Keep going. Sometimes it gets darker before the day breaks. Good Friday was hard & excruciating, but it leads to the beauty of Easter.

Keep going.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Saturday, February 6, 2016

AM~Erica's Dark Side of Despair: There's Work to be Done

So anyway...

Quite some time back I made a decision to be as open & honest as possible about my mental health.

I hit a hard low, very recently. It had been building, but the depths of despair became unbearable. It was to the point that I knew I had to make good on a promise to find help.

Luckily I'm blessed with friends who can oddly sense when I'm entering a dark place - even when they are no where near my vicinity.

I hit a major low. It had, apparently, been slowly building...apparently. I just know I had a new symptom kick in that I am not used to: sensory overload. I have not been handling it well, and it has been affecting my actions & reactions. Irritability, snap reactions, all the sound being too loud & garbled at a level 12 through the air, people (yes, even my family) are just too close in my bubble, everything is making me feel claustrophobic - like I'm slowly melting & collapsing on the inside, as well as not handling the ebb & flow of an ever-changing schedules well. Yeah - that. It was leading to empty despair that I was getting lost in. A deep, dark abyss was swallowing me up - I was drowning on dry land.

My hubby wanted to bring it up, but didn't want to scare me & possibly bring me down any more. I have a very dear friend who messaged me to see if I was OK.

As I am training for a big race coming up, I am needing to get some hard running in. I had a plan of how I would work in a couple miles of hills, not too long ago:
My hubby headed back to work from his usual extended lunch at home, so I had some time to perfectly work in the time needed to get the hill work in before the hustle & bustle of getting the kiddos picked up was to commence. I was coming onto AND on my first big hill when my phone was vibrating like crazy on my arm. I knew I needed to cut the run short, knowing I at least got one hill in. As I looked at my phone, I realized my hubby AND daughter had been trying to call me! I called my daughter back first, and she exclaimed, "Oh! thank God! You're alive!" I was very confused by that, and really wrote it off as usual over dramatics. She told me she was done with work...and hour & a half early! Without getting to get rehydrated, proteined or changed, I had to take my semi-sweaty self, still in full layered running gear, to pick her up. I was NOT happy for the shake up.

I usually tell someone when I go on a run, but I was just going to be gone a short time. I didn't have to start getting kids for at least an hour, plenty of time to get my run in...and didn't figure my hubby would be calling since he JUST left the house with some meetings to prep for. So, I was just going to work it in...

Come to find out, I had been exhibiting an upswing in my odd symptoms, and when neither by hubby NOR my daughter could get a hold of me, they truly thought I'd taken drastic measures with my life.


When my friend flagged me down (one who lives NO WHERE near me), she said she was worried about me. She gave me the number to NAMI so I'd have it right in front of me so I could call & get help. Because I already knew I was probably at that point to make good on a promise that I would try to see someone if I started to become consumed by the abyss.

I got myself together, called NAMI, and a guy very quickly asked where I lived, then gave me a number for a very close by place to call, and that was it. So, I took another deep, and labored breath to call the place. Since I'd never been before, I actually had to leave a message in hopes someone would call back with help.

In the meantime of the wait, I broke it to my hubby that I had called to find help. That's when he said he was glad, and started breaking down all of the signs I had been showing for longer than I'd realized. And here we were, at my lowest point in a very long time.

I sat nervously wondering if I'd get a call back from the ONE place I was given a number for. All of my energy was put into those two phone calls: NAMI & place NAMI gave me the number to...

In my estimated guess (because I was in a slump of time in this moment), it took anywhere from 3-4 hours to get a call back. My thought process, in this time, was feeling forgotten by a place you were told could help me. My thoughts were going to dangerous places. If I couldn't get help, and if I couldn't deal with everything going on around me, and if I was truly frightening my family with my apparently-obvious burden...well...

...however, when they finally called, I had a release. I told them my despair & why I needed to see someone. I let them know I was given their number by NAMI, who's number I was given by an important friend. I let them know what I was going through, and that, yes, I had thoughts of taking my life...but I wouldn't. My safety net is that the means my brain goes to for using isn't allowed in the house; I don't have the energy to seek it out, either.
I was put on hold to see what they could do for me...
Then I was told they didn't have much room for me, that they really only help the uninsured & those in financial need, and, "'s some numbers for you to try. But if you can't get to them, please call us back. Make sure you have the crisis line close by incase things escalate for you. And take care of yourself." I was told this after hearing what I was going through AND acknowledging the tearful despair in my voice!

I took down the numbers, but here's a basic rundown of options I was given, even in the state I was in:

~ Call you insurance & maybe they can give you some numbers of doctors in your network

~ Here's numbers to two different psychiatrists if your insurance covers them

~ Write down the crisis line to have handy if you think you will truly hurt yourself

You know what? It took every fiber of my being just to call this place. After two phone calls & waiting for the second to maybe call back...I was spent.

I looked at my list of numbers, and I knew I physically & mentally didn't have it in me to call any of them. My despair became even greater...

My hubby just kind of stood idly by. Not because he didn't care, but he was shocked by the despair & the lack of help this place was willing to give me. He reminded me of a counselor who comes highly recommended, and someone I have met before. He gave me the number (of course), but I wanted to be able to just quietly research each of these names I was given...

I couldn't get any reviews of names I was given, and the list on my insurance was too great to try to get through or to make heads or tails of to even know where to begin.

So I looked up the counselor, and this one didn't take my insurance, but had a list of questions I SHOULD CALL MY INSURANCE ABOUT BEFORE MAKING AN APPOINTMENT!!

At this point, when someone is so low in despair & pain, one should NEVER have to deal with this kind of runaround. Ever. Because, if I'd had the means necessary, that would have been my problem solver rather than having to make even one more phone call...even to the crisis line.


Here's something I need you to understand about me:
I thought I had my depression under control enough that I could shake it when needed. I knew what to do & mostly how to deal with it. I was NOT prepared for a new symptom to kick in. I didn't know how to deal with it. At all.

I haven't seen a doctor about any of this for a VERY long time! Why? I had this in the bag! Was I cured? Nope. Just figured I had a good enough handle on it.

I was wrong.

As I advocate for people to go see someone when they need to, and I am such an advocate for mental health & suicide prevention, nothing truly prepared me for this shake up.

This is where I'd been oblivious & selfish. I thought I had a grip on all of this. Not in a pompous way, just really thought I didn't need to see someone at this point. I didn't need medication & I could get a handled on my down times.

So now I need someone. And someone who needs help so badly can't get the help they need in that moment...

Imagine someone who's never been through this before:
They get to a point of needing to call someone, and they get just enough energy to do so. But it turns out they have insurance & make too much money to get to the one place they were told to call. They have no idea they shouldn't have a means to take their life, but they can't deal with calling another number, even the crisis line they are told to keep handy, along with 3-5 other phone numbers. There's not energy to call anyone else; there's no energy to call yet another they do all they can think to do to get rid of the pain since no one is taking time to help them get better...

We are in amazing times right now, people! Right now, mental health awareness is at an all time high! The stigma is lowered, but not gone. So, we are in a time when healthcare is supposed to be great for all of us & taking care of all of us, especially with mental health...
...but it's not. The system is continually failing those in need. When someone is in desperate need of help, the last thing that should be happening is to be given the runaround & told they need to go elsewhere with a list of numbers they cannot make sense of, or energy to call.

We wonder why we lost yet another wonderful soul to the devastating abyss of the fatal outcome of suicide because no one was willing to help them in the mental illness state of their health.

This is deplorable.

People can't get meds when they need them, people can't get in to see someone when they are in desperate need of someone professional to get them back on track. So, when they can't get the help they need WHILE in their time of need...we are about to lose someone else.
If a place is supposed to be there to help, is willing to listen why they need help, but won't help them, it's like a diving instructor helping someone dive off the diving board into an empty pool.

Those of us who do suffer with a mental illness are still expected to live our lives.

These illnesses do not discriminate. They don't care your gender, your color, your height, your financial situation, your living situation, who you love, your relationship status, your age, your religion or beliefs, your nationality (background)...and it certainly doesn't care what you've got going on or what your plans are. It will strike when it wants to.

I have a summons for jury duty. And, right now, I cannot get a medical release for my state of being. I have to try to help the system when the system is failing me greatly.

I am trying to be an advocate for those in my place, right now, as I am battling to stay afloat - even while trying to make plans for greater advocacy.


Now then, as part of our overall health, we should have a counselor (at the very least) to be able to see when things aren't going so well. Do this while you are not at a low point. Give yourself time to get to see someone. Because they won't help you get started when you're at your lowest.

This is a sad truth right now. You want despair? There it is!

As for me, I'm on a slow upswing...
I'm not back to where I need to be, but wow! I have sure learned a lot about my dark side, as well as the dark side of the system - you know, the ones who are supposed to be stepping up to help those in despair.

But I'm working on myself right now. I will get to those phone calls when I have the energy to talk to someone about them. Someone new, anyway.

So let's all get behind each other, know how to handle each other in an actual mentally ill state, and let's get set up with someone professional so that you can have better access when you are in those horribly low times. Because I never want anyone to be passed around while they just need the help of one person.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

AM~Erica's Dealings With All at Level 12: It's Too Much

So anyway...

Believe it or not, I've been working on this blog post for almost 2 months. Stopping & starting with every little distraction around each festive corner.

I literally scrapped what I'd worked on & decided to start fresh & new. After several days & weeks of not completing a blog can begin to wander.

Look, I've been struggling. Big time. More than I realized.

Me today. Not all of my days are full
of happiness - this is one of them.

My depression has kicked up. But it's different this time.

Something has kicked up in me, though, that I need to make note of: sensory overload.

This has thrown me off. This happened to me only once before only a few months ago.

I had been down one day. Someone brought up heading to a book store. There's a Half Price Books close by, so I thought I'd go over there to see what I could find...however, when I walked in the door, something happened...
...I began to look around, and it became too much to deal with. Too many choices, too many books, too many stuffs. I began to have a near anxiety attack just thinking of having to choose a book from any section - from walking by the featured section & the knick-knacks up front. Just. Too. Much.
I promptly held my breath, spun a 180 on my heel, and bolted out the door! I couldn't take it!
A book store.
A book store was too much for me to deal with.
That seemed ridiculous.

Now it only happened that once. I don't remember anything to that magnitude ever happening before.

Until a few days ago:
My hubby & Teen Boy enjoy some back & forth about politics along with world happenings. But deep & nearly debating - loudly. They both know how to project anyway...but each sentence gets a little louder, and then a little louder...
I don't deal well when a "casual" debate strikes up as it is, but it got over-the-top! I actually went & hid in the master bathroom to get away from the seemingly tense air of the discussion. They weren't even arguing - just discussing. But it was too much to deal with. I couldn't do it.

Then, regularly, we get verbal interwebz. What does that mean? It means at least one of the kiddos has come across something (generally a list of some sort) on the interwebz, and then just launch into reading it ALL to us/me. Often. No prep - just BOOM! Random interwebz list.

Now then, this can generally happen from Teen Girl as she tries to talk over the ridiculously loud politico discussion happening...while...a video game is going on & someone is probably verbally showing disgust in how it's going - loudly.

Now then, when does it bubble up? When I'm trying to research something, read something, discover something, create something. I cannot focus on what I would like to, or even need to, because there is SO much other stuff happening. All at once.

Then, we only have 2 cars. So when the kiddos need to be somewhere or need picked up, it's up to hubby or I to take care of that. When we have at least a good idea of schedules, something always seems to happen that switches things up: a different or shifted lunchtime, a different work schedule, last minute pickup change...
So, when I'm trying to plan to have things done, it doesn't happen. Why? I'm dealing with the schedule changes within the household.

All of this has been happening at once!

Hence the ever changing feel & tone of this very blog post that I've worked on, changed, trashed, restarted since the beginning of December.

Good things have come with the new year. I swear. But at this moment, I'm overwhelmed, irritable, can't deal with being questioned about everything (ever get to the point where you feel like you have to tell the family you have to go to the bathroom or just walk to the kitchen?), micromanaging for what THEY are wanting/needing & forgetting there's others...and only 1 me.


I'm running on empty. I can't seem to get footing on some of the things I love being a part of. I'm too busy dealing with everyone else, the schedule changes, the lack of audio courtesy, the being pulled 8 other directions - even last minute.

Today, I had hoped to get in a bit of a run: hill work. I'm working training for a big race! (more on that another time) So, I waited until my hubby went back to work from an extended lunch time, got myself bundled, stretched, hydrated, and headed out. I wouldn't be getting Lil Guy for about an hour, then off to pick up Teen Boy, then over to get Teen Girl from work. This timing would work. Not a long run, just enough to get in about 3 big hills - and maybe just under 3 miles.
In the midst of one of my big hills, my phone was vibrating like crazy on my arm...they would have to wait. I'm in the midst of focussing! But it kept buzzing - I looked & saw hubby was calling. Looks like I might need to cut things short. I finished that hill & one more that would get me back home. Not even a mile & a half, but realized Teen Girl had been let off an hour & a half early! Now all was thrown off - again. I took my sweaty self over to get her so I could get back to actually rehydrate, then change quickly to get Lil Guy, head straight over to get Teen Boy AND let hubby know I was fine. Angry & frustrated, but fine.

This has been happening so often!

When you suffer with a mental illness, it's important to get in "me time."

Bad thing is, I can't get footing to get any of that done.

I don't have time for my steampunk stuff lately.
I don't have time to bake too often (I will make sure a King Cake is done for Mardi Gras)!
I don't have much time to play with my new dresses - except for church. There's SOMEWHERE!
I don't have time to work up any dances.
I don't have much time to blog anything (this post should be some proof of that).
I don't have time to enjoy running. It's all about training.
I'm barely getting in celebratory time.

I'm constantly working around others' schedules. Yes, yes...I'm a mom! I know! But there's a point when I can only give of myself so much.

If I could go away for a day or two, that would be awesome. But I can't.
There's too much other time being filled with other stuff happening. Not even counting my summons for jury duty soon.

I'm just trying to keep afloat. I know the crisis line incase I need it. Because I feel like I've been close. I have a jumping reality as I'm trying to deal with this new overwhelment of sensory overload. Trying to figure out if it's something new, or if it's a new onset symptom of my depression.
I don't get anxiety attacks. At least not too often. I can generally explain the few I get. But these last couple coming on with the overwhelming sensory stuff has thrown me, for sure.

Until then, I need everything coming at me at a level 12 to be toned down to at least a 5. But not sure how or when that will happen. I may need help in dealing with this very loud air. It's tense. I'm not dealing well.

Hoping putting it down here will keep me in check.

It's nice to be needed...but at the same time, I don't have much left give...something needs to change.

Let it be known that I truly love my family! The mental illness I struggle with is just making it difficult to cope.

I made a promise to a select few that if I was feeling worse, then I would find help. It think the time has come...

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica