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“I’m a schizophrenic, and so am I.”

17 Sep

I love this movie, “What About Bob?.” Bill Murray at his finest. “I want, I want! I need, I need!” If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Now, I don’t have schizophrenia. That was just the hook to draw you in. Note: I do not want to demean schizophrenia. It is a very serious mental illness. I liken myself to Chandler Bing. I make jokes, no matter how serious the situation, to lighten the tension. I love to laugh. Laughter has been great medicine.

I went swimming with my kids the other day. The water was chilly and I’m not a “dive right in” kinda gal where the discomfort is that initial shock, and then you’re neck deep in the water. I need to slowly sit into the discomfort before being emerged in the water. Take for instance, right now. I’m easing my way in because what I have to say here can feel quite uncomfortable and a little unsafe. But, here goes.

I have Bi-Polar II Disorder.

Should I announce it to the world? I’ve struggled with this blog post for weeks. It’s scary announcing to the world that you struggle with mental illness. This is a part of who I am and what do I want to do with it? Who do I want to be?

I want to be an Mental Health Advocate.

The reason I feel this fear of exposure is because of the stigma that goes along with mental illness. It’s not a wound you can show someone. It would seem easier if I could show you this big, gaping wound that is an obvious physical illness. But, I can’t. It’s a “silent” disease that is very difficult to treat. And even more difficult to explain. I emphasize “silent” because you can see the illness without really knowing that you’re witnessing it.

Let me try to explain that last sentence. Anxiety. Anxiety is a part of every waking moment of my day. I call myself an “extroverted introvert.” I love to be around people and to laugh and joke and talk. It feels so good in the moment. Then you go home and you analyze every single detail of your interactions with people. “Why did I say that? What did they mean by what they said? Was I too loud? Was I too obnoxious? What do they think of me? Am I annoying? Could I possibly be charming? Maybe? Just a little? Or am I just too much for people to really deal with?” The analysis of interacting with people can put a damper on actually wanting to go outside and mingle with others. And when you go to your daily job, you’re forced to interact with others. Everyday I come home asking myself all of those questions. It’s this constant drive, dare I say this desperate need, to validate my purpose in this world. Then I fear that maybe I can’t, which is a huge weight against my self-worth.

Did all of that seem mottled and uncomfortable and rambling? That’s because it is. That is anxiety, and it is merely one aspect of my illness.

I can’t blame everything on mental illness. Everyone has their character flaws. However, the byproduct of dealing with mental illness is draining. On you. On your family. On your friends. On your life.

This all seems so dark and dreary. But, there’s a good part. It took almost twenty years to find the right diagnosis but when it happened, the changes were evident and amazing. I found the right doctors and continue to work with my doctors to find the right medications. They are not a fix-all, but they stabilize me in a way that lets me go into the world and actually enjoy life.

All of that leads to the best part of this journey. The Advocate part. I have a friend who knows about my health. She’s working with a group of people putting together a documentary on mental illness and it’s stigmatization. She sent me a survey the producers put out for potential candidates. I was very honest about my desire to quit hiding and start talking. I was chosen to participate.

I have begun working with ‘Stories Without Borders.’ The anxiety of walking into the meeting room for the first time was overwhelming. Everyone will know exactly why you are there. They know because they are there for the same reason. Which sounds like it should’ve been a bit of a cushion, some comfort, but it wasn’t. I still felt emotionally naked and exposed. The people in the room can actually see my big gaping wound. I need to become more comfortable with this. Or at least be able to sit in the discomfort, if that makes any sense. I’m going to be telling my story. In front of a camera. To be shared with others as a tool to show the incredible need of mental health support and care. To show people that what I struggle with is not a mental or emotional weakness. It is an illness that deserves that same type of care that any other illness does.

This will also be a tool for me. I need to be comfortable in sharing my story. I need find my self-worth from me more than I need it from anyone else. I need to advocate for myself… to myself. That, in itself, will be the ultimate triumph.



Does My Hair Look Bad or Does this Dress Make Me Look Fat?

12 Jul

I know, right? Wow, is that a no-win question.  I guess you can imagine what Paul felt when I threw that little ditty at him. As the obvious analogy goes, deer in headlights. And then deer on the hood of my car as those lights go slamming into him (if we’re going to carry out that analogy, which we should).

When I was in 8th grade I was in science class with Ms. Anderson. She was the absolute caricature of a mean ol’ crotchety teacher because 1) She was old, 2) She was mean and grumpy, and 3) She had a hunchback. I exaggerate not. I know that I exaggerate and speak in superlatives at times but this is not one of those times. She was a mean ol’ crotchety hunchbacked teacher.

We were discussing human biology and metabolism. She had me and this dude named Tori (who I had a major crush on but that’s not really part of this story) stand up. Tori and I were very thin and she used us as examples. If memory serves she said something like, “See Tori and Teresa. They’re very skinny now so they are probably developing bad eating habits. But, once their metabolism slows down those bad eating habits are going to work against them and they’ll become fat.” I’m summarizing what my thirteen year old brain heard and that about sums it up. Mean, right?

I think that may have steered an impressionable girl into an eating disorder. That didn’t happen to me. I just kept eating whatever I wanted and let my fast little metabolism do it’s work. No exercise needed. A senior in high school, I was 4′ 11″ and 87 lbs. And you will never guess what happened! Ok, maybe you will. While what that mean ol’ crotchety hunchbacked Ms. Anderson did and said something horrendous to a thirteen year old girl, she was right. The witch was right! My metabolism slowed down and I was like, “What? I can’t eat a footlong subway sandwich with a large soda and chips anymore without packing on a few pounds? ‘A moment on the lips, forever on the hips’ is a thing for me now? Dang you, Ms. Anderson! Dang you to heck!”

I gained quite a bit of weight. Especially with my pregnancies. I never realized how overweight I had become until I lost some of that weight and looked back at pics of me. I’m so short and petite, every pound shows. And I feel it. I dream of a flat stomach again. To have a nice butt. (C’mon now. Who wouldn’t like a nice butt? Let’s not get squeamish here.)

Recently, I went from a size 12 down to a size 6. Not too shabby. I’m not going to kid you. It wasn’t a healthy weight loss plan. My life was in chaos and I forgot to eat. I asked close friends to randomly text me to remind me to eat. So, now life has settled and I’m back to where I was before. Poor habits.

Why I am writing this post? Because we have to let others know that we all struggle with these issues. We’re not alone. We’re a sisterhood who struggles with our weight and looks, and all the other issues we women have. Let’s not hide it. I’ve been reading this fantastic book by Brene Brown called “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t).” She talks about how shame is a negative motivator. It draws you to disconnect and isolate. So, I’m here to say, “Hi, my name is Teresa and I have issues with my weight and looks.” I’ve had people tell me that I’m beautiful and I can’t even accept the compliment. I look around and ask, “Who me? Are you sure you meant me?”

Here’s my plan, cause you gotta have a plan:

  1.  I’m going to work on finding MY beauty. What I want to see as beautiful. Some days I see it as I wash the makeup off my face at night and see that my kids may be right. Maybe I do look okay without makeup. And then my big ol’ schnoz gets in the way. It would be nice to say, “It doesn’t matter what you look on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” I want the beauty on the inside to be more important that what’s on the outside. I also want to like what I (Me, Myself and I) see on the outside.
  2. I’ve been doing yoga regularly. That’s new. I started running again. And when I say running “again,” it means that I picked it back up from when I stopped at six.
  3. I’m going to reward myself. In ways that make sense. My reward system right now goes something like this: “Hey, I just did 40 minutes of yoga. Let’s go get a milkshake!” “I think I might, maybe go running today. Good for you, Teresa for thinking about that. Let’s go get a cheeseburger and milkshake!” (I’m sure thinking about exercise is just as good as the real thing. Am I right?)
  4. I’m going to continue to work on loving my body just as it is. I won’t let shame make me hide. Being me is what makes lasting relationships. Not my looks. And, for the record, my husband thinks I’m pretty hot. (That wonderful, beautiful, little liar.) Jokes aside, I know he believes in my beauty, in and out. And he’s proven to have fairly good judgment.

So, come on, ladies! Dive in! Let’s share secrets on how we hide the pudge and enhance the beauty. Let’s share our shame. Shedding a little light on it might just be a way to let the beautiful you on the inside come on out.



What I Am is What I Am

2 Jul

Do you ever have those weeks that just start off with an onslaught on your soul and spirit? Yeah, me too. Last week was one of those weeks.

I’ve been trying to figure out how I wanted to put all of this to words. It started suddenly. I met with someone and it was one of those conversations where it seemed nice but then you just walk away somehow feeling a bit humiliated and demeaned and wonder, “what the hell just happened?” I didn’t really know how I felt until the next morning when I told my mom about it and I just started crying and I was able to put words to my feelings.

And that was just Monday.

My child will probably have to have surgery and that is quite unnerving. But, when your son has strep throat twice in one month, you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s his tonsils and lymph nodes and I know that it’s every day surgery. But, it’s surgery. On my child. My firstborn child. My 9-year old child. And the thought scares me a bit.

So far my emotions are: a bit humiliated and demeaned, and scared.

Shall we continue? Yes, let’s.

Work! I’ve got this wonderful job that allows me to put my role as a mother first. This amazing job that just sort of landed in my lap. “What would your ideal hours be?” “Hours where I can drop the kids off and pick them up from school and be first on call when they’re sick? Is that something you can offer?” “Yes! When can you start?” “Right the flip now!” All that to say, I’m incredibly grateful for it. And there were some bumps this week. Dumb mistakes that you just have to own. When I’m coaching my kids through dealing with the natural consequences of their mistakes, I sometimes say, “Kid, sometimes, you just gotta take your lumps.”

This week, I just had to take my lumps. So, now my emotions are: humiliated and demeaned, scared and beaten down.

And to top this wonderful week off, I’m sick. Again. Which is just exhausting. I’ve been sick almost every month this year. But, I’ll keep chugging along, trying to find new ways to boost my immunity. I’m sure it will involve something like ‘more exercise, more veggies, more fruits, less cheese.’ I’m just trying other things first, okay. Because cheese and I go a long way back and I can’t just walk away. Cheese and I will have to talk about the future of our relationship. The outlook is not good. “I can’t quit you, Cheese.”

Now we’re at: Humiliated and demeaned, scared, beaten down, and exhausted. (And sad cause I’ll probably have to break up with Cheese)

Are you keeping score? Because I am.

Paul asked me if it was a test of my character. Was it? I took pause to think about that and yes. Yes, I do feel it is a test of my character. Who am I? What do I offer the world? What do I put out into the world? Am I quick to anger? Am I quick to defeat? Do I get defensive or do I stand up for myself? Do I know the difference?

I think I’m still answering some of those questions but I know the core part of me. Some good, some that need growth and improvement.

  1. Not to get all religious here but I’ll proudly say, I am a child of God. That is no small thing. It takes a great deal of faith to stand firm on that belief. I won’t give the platitude that I don’t follow a religion but have a personal relationship with Jesus. It goes deeper than that. It’s in the depths of my heart. The scripture that is really speaking to me right now is Isaiah 49:15b-16a  “Indeed these may forget, but I, I will not forget you! Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hand.”(NIV)  How amazingly powerful that scripture is to me! It gives me great comfort that God has not forgotten me and nothing can separate me from him because I am like a tattoo on the palm of His hand. My spiritual life goes to the depths of my core. Frankly, it is my core. That cannot be changed.
  2. I love people. I have a bleeding heart for people. That drives so many of the decisions I make. Yes, even my politics. I try not to talk about it because the conflict of some who may think being a Democrat is not very Christian. Yet, I have friends who have felt the heartbreak of abortion and I would never, EVER, call them murderers. But, I sit with them as they mourn and cry. I know amazing people that are my friends and happen to also be gay. They’re not my gay friends. They’re just my friends. Period. I weigh all of this in my politics and I’m sure you can figure out which way I lean. I’ve been a closeted Democrat. I guess I just came out.
  3. I can be angry and stay angry. It takes a lot for me to free myself from the chains of offense. But, I’m trying my best to take a look at myself and see where I can change and the parts I have played (even though it’s mostly the other person’s fault. j/k, j/k). Anytime there is a disagreement, it takes two. I’m becoming more aware of that everyday. I don’t always do it well. What is the difference between standing up for yourself and getting defensive? Those lines are blurred for me and I’m trying to make those lines a lot clearer.
  4. I’m an emotional being. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Which makes me vulnerable. I’m learning how to guard my heart. Even though it’s exposed, it’s still precious and tender. I’m not sure I’ve learned how to power that part of me for good or for destruction, that destruction being mostly to myself.

These are core parts of who I am. As Edie Brickell sang, “What I am is what I am, are you what you are or what?” I am what I am. Growing everyday. With the beautiful parts, warts and all. And I grow confident of the woman I’m constantly becoming, warts and all. I’m learning to love me, warts and all. And just like a kid with growing pains, these are character building pains. Most importantly, I’m starting to believe I can withstand that pain and step into it instead of run away. As any horror movie will tell you, you can run but you can’t hide. I’m choosing not to hide any longer.

I also watch t.v. with the subtitles. I like to read while I watch, because I don’t want to miss anything. So there. There’s that.

Building character.jpg


You Had to Be Stupid in Your Twenties

31 May

I just turned 40. I just turned 40. 40 is an age, and I just turned it. 40 is a number that equals the number of years I’ve been alive.

I’m pretty sure that I’m having a bit of a mid-life crisis. What have I done? What am I doing? What do I want to be when I grow up?

What do I want to be when I grow up?! That’s it! I’m grown up! I should know what I want to be by now because I’m 40 and that’s an age that sounds grown up.

I still have dreams. I haven’t “arrived” yet. I have a degree in Music, which is wonderful and, well, sort of useless at the moment. Paul and I have discussed grad school but we are not in a place for me to go to make my dreams come true just now. But, I’m 40. Shouldn’t my dreams have come true by now? And what are those dreams, exactly?

Actually, quite a few of them have. I lived pretty hard in my late teens and early twenties. I never envisioned that I would be wife. I dated a few great guys… and a few lemons. None were on the path of marital bliss. And then this man came along. He pursued me in a way that I had never experienced. He freaked me out, frankly, and I, essentially, told him to get lost (he still has the email). One evening a friend pointed out what a great guy that Paul Petroski was. “Then bang! Crash! And the lightning flash!” I realized that I turned away quite an amazing man (extra credit for those who know that reference). I had to see if he would still want someone who had so cruelly sent him away. He would. And he did after I apologized. (He still has that email, as well.)

I never imagined I would be a mother. I never imagined I wanted to be a mother. Yet, a funny thing happened after I said, “I do.” My womb came to life and begged for life. The change in me was absolutely insane. After a few years, my womb received it’s wish and I became a mother. A few years after that, I became a mother of two. That’s a dream realized that I didn’t really think would be one of my dreams.

I also never, EVER, saw myself as a stay-at-home mom. One day I’m a working mom with a 9-month old son and the next day I’m a stay-at-home mom to that 9-month old son. I didn’t know what to do with him. I didn’t know what to do with myself. An incredible thing happened. This beautiful boy taught me how to be a stay-at-home mom. He showed me the ropes. Then, let’s add a little girl to the mix to make it more crazy and delightful. Well, there’s a dream that I never saw that came and hit me in the face.

Now, both of my kids are school-age and I’m working at a tax agency. My boss asked me to put together a bio. I told her my bio was simple: “Teresa has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music but found that it’s not very useful so now she’s working at a tax agency.”

I look back at my life and see things I could’ve done differently. I could’ve worked through what I really wanted to be when I grew up. Combined my passions. Had a portfolio of careers. Been more diligent in my getting my degrees. Treated people better. Drank less. Smoked… not at all. Did less drugs… What? Did I say that? I never did those. I just read some very descriptive books about them… some scratch ‘n sniff…

Here I am now. 40 years old. And I can see, I still have so much time ahead of me, God willing and the creek don’t rise. I get to take stock of my life and see the incredible beautiful tree God has created from all the dirt it came from. I get to jump back into the workforce and meet people and converse with adults again on a regular basis (except on those days when I really don’t feel like “adulting”). I get to see the world again from another colorful lens. I can say to myself, “Teresa, you have an incredible husband, two beautiful, healthy and happy children, and you can be anything you want to be when you grow up. Go ahead. Get that grad school degree that you had no idea you wanted 20 years ago. Get that tattoo you’ve wanted for the past 20 years.” (That tattoo thing has been awesome. I already know which one I’m getting next.)

I put together a playlist of songs that formed my musical tastes in my late teens and early twenties. It’s been on repeat for the past few weeks. I told my co-worker, 15 years my junior, how I’ve been pondering my life and reminiscing and dwelling in. How I see all the things I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done differently had I known better. This fairly wise 25-year old woman said, “My aunt always told me, you can’t be wise at 40 if you’re not stupid at 20.”

I guess it was good to be stupid in my twenties.

For My Awesome Lil’ Bro Who is Not on Facebook Because He isn’t Hip to it Yet.

7 Jan
A message from Orlando (Owy) Lopez:
“Really looking for people to pray and keep their ear and eyes open to any opportunities they may find.  I believe the Lord is at work here.
Our situation: credit is not good enough to buy, our landlords needed to sell the house we are in currently in.  They sold the house and it is closing on 1-31-17.  The new owners plan to finish the basement and sell the house themselves.  That means, we have been asked to be out of the house by 1-31-17.
At the beginning of this Journey about 2 weeks ago the Lord told us to look for what is needed and wanted, not to go into a poor or poverty mindset. But with a mindset that my Jesus, my God, can do all things and because of that I can do all things. He will make way.
This is what I’m doing:  I have been set up on an MLS portal. This is where realtors look for homes to sell. In this portal I am looking at homes that fit our criteria below. I have been calling the listing company or agent to see if they would ask the owner if they are willing to consider  a lease to own program.  I have been driving through neighborhoods, called on many houses and I am still looking.
I really appreciate your prayers and help with this situation.  God is really stretching our faith and we are excited to see what He will do.  I would be a liar if I did not say I am up and down in my emotions. One moment I have peace and another I am afraid.  In it all the Lord keeps reminding me to seek and worship Him first and we will make a way.
Below is what our family is believing for in a home. We sat down as a family to discuss what we want in a home.  This is what we came up with.
1 Acre lot or least close to
5 acre preferred more is ok
Chicken accepted Neighborhoods
Areas we prefer:
South East Aurora
Castle Rock
Also willing to look any where if it fits our needs.
Also looking for:
Newer or updated house
Newer windows
4 bed rooms with office or 5 bedrooms
Some brick or stone
4 bathrooms (3 full)
Jetted bath tub
wood Burning fire place plus gas fire place
2 car garage or more
Some wood floors
Finished basement
Deck or porch
Bay window
Front Yard finished
Back yard finished section
Peep hole in the door
If possible, a mother-in-law suite, (for my awesome Mom!).
Fun things if possible:
Whole house audio
Half Basketball Court
First Goal is to own
Second option lease to own.
Thank You again for joining my family on this journey we covet your prayers, let us know if you have any opportunities we can look into.”

2016 Can Suck It!

29 Dec

I’m saying the same thing everyone else is saying. “2016 sucked!” “Let’s burn down 2016!” “What the f*%& happened in 2016 just now?” Some dude opened a Go Fund Me page to save Betty White from 2016. Similar sentiments all around for those who entertained us and inspired us throughout our childhoods.

This morning I heard of Debbie Reynolds passing not but one day after her daughter, the majestic Carrie Fisher. I don’t call Carrie Fisher majestic merely for her portrayal of my childhood modern-day-but-not-modern-day princess. She spear-headed many causes but the one that touches me the most is her advocacy of those with mental illness. But, that’s another blog for another time.

Anyway, I heard of Debbie Reynolds and I just cried. Not because I’m a Debbie Reynolds superfan. And not even due to the tragic deaths of daughter then mother. Celebrity deaths make me sad but I don’t really get emotionally involved in them. (Except for Bowie and Prince. Those hit me hard.) I cried because this has just been a shitty year. Not a blanket statement for everyone. Some people had a banner year. Like, say, for instance, Donald Trump. But quite a few people I know and love had the ever-loving-crap kicked out of them in 2016.

Personally, this year has been the hardest of my adult life. It threatened to crush me. I’ve been tested to the very core of who I am and what I am made of. Who will I be when the dust subsides from the rubble? Will I stay buried underneath the rubble in fear of another onslaught of attacks. Or will I stand in the midst of the rubble, dusting myself off, ready to fight for what is most important to me.

I have many friends who have gone through other difficult trials.

A friend diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and his only treatment is to do aggressive chemotherapy indefinitely to lengthen his life, but there will be no cure. He’s phenomenal. He said he was going into this thing head-on because cancer would not crush him. And, for the most part, it hasn’t. He’s extremely tired (massive understatement) and communicates when he can. He’s so gracious and always wants to know how I’m doing. He also apologizes for not communicating very well. I refuse to accept these apologies because he doesn’t need to give them. I’ve told him as much. People always say, “They are the last person that deserves this.” And to be honest, nobody really deserves it. But, seriously, he is the LAST guy to deserve this.

I have friends who lost their unborn child almost half way through their pregnancy. They were able to hold their sweet fragile child before laying him to rest. And they’re digging themselves out from the rubble.

I have multiple friends who have had severe mental health diagnoses: bi-polar, ADD, depression, post-partum depression. All so ugly and difficult to find the right way to maintain. The battle seems uphill at times, finding the right medications to settle what it is going on in your brain and body. And the shame of it only adds to the depth of that struggle. Another reason for my love of Carrie Fisher. She said what she had and said she was not ashamed. It’s a hard aspect to accept about yourself. “I’m here! I’m bi-polar! Get used to it!”

Multiple people who have gone through divorce or separation. The 10-13 year mark seems to be the kicker. It’s hard to know what to do when your marriage isn’t what you thought it would be. Or you grow apart. Or you don’t know how to talk to each other without defenses being up. That’s all I can say to that.

I could go on but does anymore need to be said?

Then you add on the celebrity deaths. Some that were very hard to take. It’s not that we hold these people up to be gods (most of us, anyway) but because they influenced our lives. David Bowie influenced my life. I went through all of his phases from Glam Rock to him “Dancing in the Streets” with Mick Jagger. I haven’t brought myself to listen to his posthumously released album. I’m not ready. Isn’t that weird? I never knew him but I feel I did. I’m not ready to go through his things yet.

And Prince. Dear Lord, Prince. As a kid I felt like such a rebel listening to tracks like “Darling Nikki.” Because I was like, 7, and it was rebellious and wildly inappropriate. (Fun fact: He’s the reason you see Parental Advisory warnings on music now). He could shock you but he was a guitar virtuoso and you could hang on every note strum from each string. I sat there as he played from his guitar in the shape of his Love Symbol at his Superbowl Half-time Show. I sat there, mesmerized. And in his concerts he would just move around the stage, just slaying each instrument he put his hands to. Have you seen him on the drums? Watching him perform was an ethereal experience. Also, do you know how many songs he wrote for other performers? “Nothing Compares to You” by Sinead O’Connor… Prince. “When You Were Mine” by Cyndi Lauper… Prince. “Just Another Manic Monday” by the Bangles… Prince. There’s more recent stuff. For instance, songs sung by Alicia Keyes. I just happen to reside in the 80’s. You should just do the research. I can’t do all the research for you.

Back to my point. 2016 sucked. For those who inspired us from afar to those who inspire us near home. You pray that illnesses will not defeat them. You pray that their relationships will survive and be stronger than they were before. You pray for healing of losing a child, and not even knowing exactly how to pray for that one unless you’ve been through it.

Me? I’m standing here…upon the rubble…dusting myself off.

2017, please be nice to us.


I’m Teaching Here

26 Jun

Blah Blah Blah.


This =