Virtues from Motherhood: The Mental Health Monsters

In August artist and Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington took his own life. He like many other immensely talented individuals, was not immune to their own minds and tragically Chester lost his battle, my condolences to him and all those who love him.

Mental health issues have been in the headlines for healthcare, judicial and medical reform for years; it is the animal that everyone can see but everyone is scared to address for fear of waking an untamable beast. Anyone who has gone through a point in their lives when they struggled with depression, anxiety, panic disorders, multiple personalities or any other mental health issue, knows that it is not just about winning a battle, it is a war you fight, in silence, in your own head, every day. Some are lucky, they are able to overcome the obstacle in their minds, they are able to seek help and find a way to manifest and overturn those heavy stones that make it almost impossible to move day in and day out. Others though, they aren’t so lucky and the disease wins, those who take their own lives don’t want to die, they just want to the pain to stop.

In high school, I had a classmate take his own life, he was such a great kid, he was always smiling and laughing and he always wanted to be friendly with everyone. Nobody could believe it when the school told us that he’d passed away. It was then that I realized that you could be trapped in your own mind, with what feels like no way out. I have anxiety, I imagine I’ve probably always had it. In high school, I saw a psychologist once a week, my parents sent me and at the time I just thought they were punishing me but looking back maybe they saw something I couldn’t maybe they knew they could help me by sending me there, I don’t know. At the time, I wasn’t making the best life choices, I was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on what I was feeling, I just reacted.

That doctor was the first person who ever suggested that maybe what I was feeling was anxiety, she asked me if I ever felt this way or that way, and a few of them resonated with me but I wasn’t sold on the idea. What could she know about me anyway? My parents hired her, she didn’t know me or what I was about, so I dismissed her and eventually stopped going.

Fast forward years later, I was now a young mother. I was now responsible for a whole other life, not just mine and every single thing I did not only affected me but her too. That was a whole lot of pressure, that I tried to carry in stride, but eventually the thoughts got to me and followed me around. What if I never finished school? What if I was stuck in my parents’ house, what if, what if, what if. The racing thoughts made my stomach drop, I felt like I’d eaten rocks and it drove me to act irrationally. I got academically dismissed because I couldn’t sit still or focus in classes and I missed my finals. It took me years to get my mind in a place where I could get through school, and even now there are days when I don’t want to walk into the classroom.

Today, I still have anxiety and some days it’s quite and other days it’s a roaring noise that deafens me. The weirdest things might trigger my anxiety and I’m not proud to say I’ve just gotten better at hiding it rather than dealing with it. What people don’t understand though, is that sometimes I seem really mean or disconnected with them or a situation and I seem angry, but I’m not and it’s just my anxiety manifesting itself that way. Sometimes a situation makes me anxious, sometimes there are too many people in a room or too many conversations happening at once and it overwhelms me. Some days I have a ridiculous fear that anxiety is just making worse and approaching me just triggers a nasty reaction that I don’t mean to give you. Anxiety is heavy, it’s random and sometimes it hangs around for a few days and makes me want to just lay in bed and avoid people and places. None of it means that I’m mad at anyone, that I’m antisocial or that I’m blowing you off it just means that today my mind got the best of me and I thought myself into a corner that I need space and time to get out of.

Mental health issues are not a joke, and you never know what the people around you are dealing with, so be kind, always. And let the people you love know that you love them because some days the battle they’re fighting might be too large for them to fight alone, they need you. Mental health issues are not a weakness, they are a disease and they are debilitating, so the next time someone asks you for help, listen.


If you, or someone you know is struggling here are some resources that can help. Never ignore the signs.

Suicide prevention hotline

Half of us

NYC Mental Health

Virtues from Motherhood: Have a heart, protect a dream

Image via Google Images

Imagine coming home from work one evening and being told you had an hour to pack your things because you’re going on a trip. Now imagine this trip is to a totally foreign place that you know nothing about. Finally, imagine being told you’re never going back to the only home you’ve ever known, and being left in this unfamiliar place.

Sounds like something out of a Hollywood box office, right? Wrong. It’s reality and it is the possible fate of thousands of DACA kids living in the US, working and going to school and striving to build a future. DACA stands for deferred action against childhood arrivals and it was enacted by former president Barack Obama in 2012. It prevents the deportation of children whose parents brought them here illegally when they were children and gives them a chance to stay in the country they know and love.

On September 5th, the Trump administration rescinded the order, throwing into limbo the fate of thousands of Dreamers lives, and chance at a continuing to build their future. I could not imagine this kind of uncertainty, it is pure disregard and inhumanity against a group of individuals who had no idea what was happening when they came to America. They however, made America their own, they know our culture and our customs they go to school and they hold jobs to maintain the chance they feel so lucky to have.

In what world is it fair to tell people who were brought here unknowingly as children or babies that they have no place here and have to return to a country, a culture they know nothing about and have never been a part of. DACA kids went through rigorous tests, background checks and meet regular criteria to remain enrolled and many have earned higher education degrees, made advances in fields like medicine and engineering and have bought homes. Your neighbors, coworkers and classmates might be dreamers but you’d never know because they are Americans. They radiate the American dream and achievement and this decision is a crime against the American values this country was founded on, against these kids that call America their home and always have and against humanity itself. I stand with the dreamers and I urge anyone who believes otherwise to do research on DACA, talk to a dreamer and most of all imagine what your life would be like if your life was suddenly thrown aside because of a choice your parents made while you were in diapers.

 

Virtues from Motherhood: A Letter to my Friends

A Letter to my Friends,

In a few days, all three of you will walk across the stage at the Barclay’s center, solidifying the end of a chapter in your lives. I am so proud of each of you, and it has been a privilege to watch you grow and find success. I know each of you will bring such light and greatness to wherever you go next. Though I’ve only had the fortune of knowing you for two years, it feels like we’ve known each other decades and I know I’ve made lifelong friends.

My journey here at City Tech was shaped by you, your presence, your support and all our shared moments of laughter, triumph and at times relief. Until I got here I never had a real college experience, I was never apart of things on campus and I never felt like I belonged, but you all changed that. I looked forward to coming to school every day and sharing classes and breaks together made me feel like I was meant to be here and that I was going to be alright.

I will miss each of you so much when I begin my final semester here in the fall but I’ll share all the great experiences and values I had with you three with the peers I encounter before I leave. When I think back on all my attempts at college and all the times I tried and failed, it no longer seems like such a big deal because I’ve found such great success, and great people here. I want to thank you amazing ladies for letting me into your lives, for sharing your time and input with me, for dealing with me when I was on the brink of a meltdown and most all for being a friend when I felt like I had none. I will always look back on this time of my life as a flourishing, happy and most of all one filled with love and I will always tell my daughter about the experiences I’ve had at City Tech. Congratulations!

Your friend,

Samantha

 

Samantha and Mariah- New Tech Times relaunch 12/15/16

Samantha and Jodieann- New Tech Times relaunch 12/15/16

Samantha and Pam- New Tech Times relaunch 12/15/16

Virtues from Motherhood: Am I out of the loop?

Let me start by saying, all things considered I believe myself to be relatively close to the loop, or what it represents but not totally there-yet. A few years ago, though I was so far from the loop it was semi embarrassing, I hadn’t earned any degrees yet, I was working an aimless retail job and just began supporting my kid. In 2014 I started to get my shit together, well the most important parts of it anyway, education, career and all that fun stuff like bills, car insurance and so on. So needless to say, socializing and dating took a backseat, so even when I tried to dive back into dating, I was somewhat taken back by the dating scene, and I still don’t know if it’s me or if my generation is just a mess.

If my generation is just a mess, I won’t feel so bad but I find myself grappling with the same issues every time I date, granted not all at once but the same themes recur. Now I’m not trying to nit-pick or bash anyone or anything I’m just sharing my qualms with the dating world as a 20-something year old single mom.

Let me start with the nice guy, who’s also painfully lazy, this guy is dynamite he’s friendly, social and patient but he lacks motivation. He either just has a HS diploma, some or no college and is totally complacent with it. Back tracking for a second, some people do just fine with only a HS diploma because they get into a trade, union job or open their own business, the kind of guy I’m talking about is okay with his 15$ an hour, he doesn’t want more. That’s totally fine, but not for me, I worked too hard to be complacent and I worked too hard to share the fruits of my labor with someone who doesn’t share the drive I have. I’ve gone on dates with really nice guys that I just can’t bring home because they have nothing to bring to the table other than their charm.

The next guy on this list is the too over bearing guy, he’s got it all together he has a career a portfolio he’s established, but he has no social receptors at all. I went on a couple of dates with a guy a little older than myself who on the third date started talking about marriage, buying houses and so on. Absolutely not. That’s just too much, because not only am I sharing my life I am sharing my daughters and that kind of zooming relationship isn’t going to work for me as a mother.

The last kind of guy, or theme, I seem to find in the dating field is the “I’m working on it” guy, which wouldn’t be an issue if he was working. I don’t mind too much when a guy doesn’t drive, because after all its NYC, you don’t HAVE to have a car, but it just shows a little added responsibility and a sense of mutualism in a potential relationship (I won’t always be picking up and dropping off). But, when you’ve been in the same place for years and don’t seem to know how to bring it all together I can’t stick around, while I’ve had my fair share of struggles but I also knew when it was time to kick it into gear.

All in all, I want an equal I want someone who might be a work in progress but the progress is real, it’s tangible and we’re both able to grow. I don’t want to ever be the “bread winner” I want to be a teammate, someone who I can hustle with, in careers, in education, in life and in experiences and I’ve yet to find it. Some have one but not the other, some I’ve tried to stick it out while they figure it out, but the short of the long is I don’t have all that time to spare. It kind of feels like I’m missing something, is there some dating power card I didn’t pick up along the way or was oblivious too. I see my peers with these great relationships or flawless ability to date and I’m like“what gives?”  Maybe that’s the next part of my life I’ll figure out, and I just have to be patient or maybe life is telling me to wait I have much more growing to do.

Virtues from Motherhood: A Poem for Mom

My Mom and I 1993

Let me tell you something about this woman and I.

Ten years ago, I was a rebellious teenager and we didn’t get along, but she loved me anyway.

Eight years ago, I got pregnant as a teenager, but she loved me anyway.

Five years ago, I was struggling to find a balance between who I wanted to be and where I was, but she loved me anyway.

Two years ago, I graduated college with my associates degree, and she was there to cheer me on.

A year ago, I said I wanted to take more credits to finish college faster, and she was there to cheer me on.

When I can’t make sense of something, she’s there to calm me down.

When I’m not seeing the whole picture, she’s there to shine a light. When I just need someone to talk to, she is there to listen.

When I feel lost in the world, she is there to guide me.

You see no matter where I’ve gone in life, or how many times I’ve strayed from the path, she has always been there calling my name, holding me accountable, and for that I will always be thankful.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and best friend, I love you.

Virtues from Motherhood: Who’s really there?

I can’t begin to explain what a blur the last 6 months have been for me. The night before thanksgiving my grandfather was taken to the hospital with pneumonia, I prepared for another tax season, final projects started heating up and I barely knew which way was up. It feels like organized chaos that I just dove into and somehow managed to hold my breath long enough to survive.

I can hardly wrap my head around the fact another summer is beginning. I’m not entirely sure how I got through this rollercoaster year but I am certain the company I keep has a lot to do with it. A lot of relationships changed for me, friends and family alike, but so many more blossomed. I have met so many great people and been apart of so many great things that I might not have been part of had someone not literally dragged me to it. But that is what made me realize, people who really do care about you are going to force you to see your potential when you’re too distracted to see it yourself. I am grateful for the people in my life and the energy that’s surrounded me these last few months, not all are blessed with what I have.

For instance, some of the residents of the rehabilitation home my grandfather was in had nobody at all. These people are all alone in the world, nobody comes to visit them, their spouses have passed and some have children who don’t call, if they had any children at all. The night my grandfather arrived at the facility I was frazzled and confused about his condition and I didn’t really pay much attention to the other patients on the floor, I feel bad in retrospect because they were just trying to be friendly. After though, we found out most had no family at all, wives or husbands gone and now confined to the facility because they couldn’t live alone. Some seemed so sad and lonely and it really broke my heart, so whenever we go up to see my grandfather I make a point to say hello to anyone I see too.

I think it’s easy to get lost in our own lives, our own troubles and gripe about what we don’t have but we should all make a point to realize all we do have. While no family is perfect we should be grateful we have a table to sit at. Despite the people in our lives not being perfect, we need to be grateful those people are there for us, because some people sit quietly in solitude because those people in their lives have gone.

Virtues from Motherhood: The People you meet

Mariah, Samantha, Pam and Jodieann. My very first friends at City Tech <3

 

Throughout your life you’ll meet hundreds if not thousands of people, some significant and some not, but all a part of the mosaic of our lives. As my journey at City Tech enters its final chapter I find myself reflecting on my very different experiences in college. I started my journey in college at John Jay, made a brief stop at Kingsborough and now I find myself here. Every school meant something for me, and occupied a different time in my life. When I arrived at John Jay I still wasn’t sure who I was, let alone what I hoped to find in college and it was a very lonely and turbulent time and I don’t have any fond memories there. At Kingsborough, I was just starting to get my life and my goals back on track so I was more focused on getting what I needed to do, done.

When I got to City Tech though I had a better idea of who I was, I knew I was going to achieve what I set out and I wanted to make the most of my experience here. I made friends the second week I was here, and they’ll be lifelong ones at that. I’ve become a part of so many things on campus, met so many great faculty members and peers as well and that alone is invaluable to me. I found when I opened myself up to new experiences and wasn’t afraid to contribute my voice and ideas, that great things happened, like being a part of The Buzz.

As you move through different chapters of your life, don’t be afraid to stop in and say hello, to your peers, your professors, a nonprofit group, a school program or even a free event. Just say hello, share what you have to give, your great ideas, your voice, your artistic abilities because you never know just how valuable you might be to someone or someplace. I’ve been blogging for over a year now and I have met so many great people, bloggers, advisors and mentors that I will carry on with me even after my time at City Tech ends.

With that I would like to extend my well wishes to Phil Kreniske, who will be leaving The Buzz for another great, and well deserved, opportunity. I wish him well and thank him for him time and contributions with The Buzz and its bloggers, you will be greatly missed.

Virtues from Motherhood: All things bloom in the spring

A flower from one of my weekend wanderings

If you’ve been outside in the last ten days you’ve noticed that the weather has begun to get warmer, trees are blooming and tulips are waking from their winter slumber. If you’re like me you’ve looked in the mirror and realized just how much you missed the warm breeze and sunshine, so I’ve made a pledge to not waste a moment of it. Earlier this month I went to the highline with Ava and my best friend, Mariah. Although I’ve been there before this was the first time I was there when the shops and food vendors were up there and I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and delightfulness of the treats.

After visiting the highline I started scavenging Facebook and twitter for other public parks or spaces that have vendors, like the ones in Prospect Park or Williamsburg. Before the weather gets to sweltering to tolerate I want to get lost in the small treasures of this city, with Ava, and show her all the city around her has to offer. I’ve posted about my love for wandering the city before but I want to give that to Ava as well because one day she might look for things right in her own backyard.

Sometimes in the haste and bustle of our every day lives we forget to stop and smell the flowers, admire the skyline or even taste a street cart treat. I’m on the cusp of turning 27 (next month) and as my 20’s near their close I want to start making memories that last, experiencing things I hadn’t before. Though I’m learning age is just a number, as is time, none of us are immune to father time and one day we won’t be so fortunate to be able to walk 20 city blocks on a whim or take the steps to the subway 2 at a time.

So in the meantime, I challenge you to stop and look around, look at the flowers, stop in a new coffee shop, get off the train a stop early and check out the mom and pop shops in the area or just treat yourself to a take out goodie.

Virtues from Motherhood: Family is key

When I say family naturally I mean those who are related to you, parents siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, but I also mean people who although absent of biological connection still feel like a family member. The people who’ve known you your entire life, helped raise you or even silently routed for you from the sidelines are the people who see the best in you. People who see the best in you bring out the best in you.

Over the past decade I’ve learned that family really is everything. Though I pushed them away and alienated them in my teen years they’ve still been a constant in my life. At every holiday, birthday party and get together and through every family crisis or hard time they offered a helping hand and a year ago as I walked across the stage to get my first college degree I realized that all the people that I chose over my family were notably absent from my graduation, my family was there. So as my 26th birthday approached I thought more and more about how I wanted to celebrate it. At first to be honest I didn’t really want to celebrate it at all I just wanted to relax after a really long 6 months of working and going to school. After some more thought though and the warm summer sun peaking put I decided I’d throw myself a BBQ and have my family and just handful of friends over to celebrate, laugh and just relax. I could have planned a night on the town and gotten dressed up but I truly did not feel like doing it because not only had I done it for every birthday since I turned 21 I was just lazy.

So I bought some BBQ food, some snacks, a few drinks and got to work. It was the first event I had planned for myself that every person I invited RSVP’d and showed up, it was also the first family gathering where I invited more than one friend and didn’t cringe when everyone co-mingled. It was truly a great experience and so worth the time and money that went into it because instead of a fancy dinner in a room of mostly strangers I was at my house, with my family and friends, enjoying the weather and one another and after I had cleaned up the yard, put away the tables and closed the lights I realized I felt light, happy and I was thankful.

As I’ve gotten older I have learned countless things, sometimes the hard way, but mostly I’ve learned that family is forever and some people despite not being related are family and are stronger forces in your life regardless of how long they’ve been there. Life weaves together this tremendous basket for us, one that keep store our keepsakes in; life lessons, memories, fears and ambitions. In the fabric of that basket, woven deep within the stitches lie the people who’ve helped create the basket, both past and present. However some people weave stronger stitches in our basket than others and are part of our main stays. These are the people I want to celebrate birthdays with and these are the people that make me smile and drag me out of the house when I least feel like it. Though I am far from perfect, no human being is really, I can say that I’m happy with a low key celebration as I age because memories like that will live on for me for years to come. Family is constant, supportive friends are crucial and I am lucky enough to say I have both and for that I’m tremendously thankful.

Virtues from Motherhood: Learning to be a leader

A few years ago I read a fortune from a fortune cookie that said “ Leadership is the ability to hide your panic from others” and I thought, this is the strangest thing ever. You’d assume a leader is a leader because they have it all ironed out and have no need to panic, boy was I wrong. Aside from the very obvious form of leadership, motherhood, I had to develop and fine tune my professional leadership, which is very different from my role as a mom. As a mom my leadership is tiered and drawn out over Ava’s entire life, but professional and peer leadership is very “at the moment” focused.

My cultivation of professional leadership was thrust upon me at 23, when I became the office manager for an H&R Block location. I had recently become a certified tax pro and my district manager felt I was ready to lead an office, I was flattered but also nervous. I was the youngest employee in the office, and now I was the boss? I had to manage people twice and nearly three times my age and that alone seemed intimidating. The other component was meeting all these goals, deadlines and expectations where there was little or no room for error and sometimes that meant thinking on my feet. Spoiler alert, I still have my job so clearly I did something right but at times it felt like I was just winging it and that’s when that fortune cookie saying made sense to me, panic but don’t show it.

I didn’t really grow into myself or feel comfortable speaking to people until I hit my mid twenties, before that I would grin and bear it but I would turn really red, stumble over my words and rush through whatever it was I was saying. This job role, as well as my time at City Tech, helped me groom and polish my speaking and leadership skills because it showed me that when you have something to say people will listen, they will regard your words.

Leadership doesn’t come easy though, I have classes with peers who are deathly afraid of speaking to the class and during group projects they hide behind the podium and happily let me speak. As I’ve taken senior courses though, more and more professors stop me and call them out, because I have this skill and rather than do it for my peers I should teach them or encourage them to be able to do the same. At first this annoyed me (because I hate group work and my doing the whole project is just easier to me) but then I realized that at one time it was me who was hiding beside the podium and being a wallflower. I had a math professor who made us present algebraic equations in a group project and I am awful at math so I took a back seat, but this professor wouldn’t leave me alone she made me read and do more than half the work when we presented, and I though I’d die. Clearly I didn’t die because I wrote this blog post but I do recall the fear and anxiety that moment gave me and I realize why my professors now ask me to not just do the project for them but show them how.

Leadership is a learning curve and sometimes I am absolutely winging the sh*t out of whatever it is I’m doing, but I know if I don’t get it right there’s a lesson in there, be it don’t wait till 3 days before or how to better use a computer program, there is a take away. Leading is always going to be a give and take because a good leader knows sometimes the best form of leadership is stepping aside and taking notes, we can’t all be good at everything and a good leader knows that they don’t work above the team they work with them.