Tag Archives: anxiety and depression

Life got better. From Suicidal Ideation to Scholastic Art Award for Photography.

The information and photography in this post is shared with permission from Preston Blackburne. It is our hope to continue to spread the message that Life Gets Better. 

Yesterday, I watched my 16 year-old son, Preston, accept his Scholastic Art Award, a Silver Key, that he won for his photo “Into the Digital Age.” The ceremony was held in the Pickney Hall on the campus at Central Oregon Community College in a large auditorium with several hundred people. He stood amongst his schoolmates, while his photography teacher and mentor, Mr. Fox, handed out each award. I struggled to hold back tears. No one knows Preston’s story like I do…

In the fall of his freshman year, he fell into the black hole of a “severe depressive episode”. I learned of how broken he was when he exhibited dangerous behavior and admitted to suicidal ideation that required immediate emergency intervention. He spent several days at our local hospital on a one-to-one psych hold, waiting for an inpatient room to become available in Portland, 4 hours away. Fortunately, time has allowed some of the painful details to fade and the memories are no longer so vivid. I do recall that I kept telling him how much I loved him and I wasn’t upset with him. There was no judgement from me and frankly I was proud of him for being brave enough to save his own life. All of a sudden parts of my own dark, depressed past shifted into place and I knew what to say, when to shut up and how to make the hard decisions to get him the help he needed.

His psychiatrist is an incredible man. Previously, I was personally resistant to using medications for depression and anxiety. During our decision making progress about which modalities to use for Preston, Dr C made a great analogy. He said to me, “If someone is drowning, do you just hand them a life-jacket and hope for the best? Or, do you give them the life-jacket, throw them a life-ring, call the Coast Guard and others with expertise to help?” Obviously the latter. He started medication, which has been modified as the crisis episode passed, that he still has chosen to continue to take. The mundane details of his inpatient hospital stays, he had two of them, aren’t important. Just believe me when I say I’ve seen this kid at his lowest points. One noteworthy moment is when he came out to me as bisexual. I said “So?” It was such a nonissue for me. I want my kids to know love and I don’t care what parts their partner has. I honestly could NOT care less. Despite all the emotions Preston was experiencing, he slowly began to believe, with some testing, that I do love him unconditionally.

At the end of Thanksgiving weekend in 2013, he showed again that he was in crisis and when we met with Dr C on Monday morning, Preston asked to go to residential treatment. That isn’t something you say “No” to. It was overwhelming and took a lot of work to arrange but we did just that and he had to wait, as an inpatient, for the bed to become available. Going to the Children’s Farm Home run by Trillium Family Services in Albany was what Preston needed. I drove the several hundred miles at least twice a week, once to visit and once to participate in family therapy. Through this process, I learned what expectations I had set and behavior that I had shown, that was damaging to Preston’s spirit. I took responsibility. I apologized. I committed to changing. (Other people in his life were unable to take less ownership of their negative contributions and those relationships have suffered.) I rarely yell now and I’ve changed my expectations about school success. Preston knows that we expect him to go to school every day, do his best by completing assignments. We no longer press about getting a specific letter grade. Instead, we encourage him to develop good behaviors and habits that will help him be successful in life.

He has really embraced the life he is building for himself. Preston has a diverse group of friends and shows them the same love and acceptance that I showed him. As a family, we have moved away from concerning ourselves with the gender binary and often have open discussions about the LGBTQ community. Life is open and honest and Preston knows he can show us all of himself. I’ve told him time and time again that I am not scared of his truth. I will be here for him no matter what.

Due to his hospital stays, he ended up without credit for the first semester of his freshman year. It was a difficult hole to dig out of, but within the last two weeks, he has completed the last credit recovery classes and is caught up!!!!

As Preston has grown into his own person, he has started sharing his artistic talent with the world. His artful expression that gets the most energy is his photography. He has some incredible photos that you can see on his website gallery https://prestonblackburne.wix.com/preston-blackburne#!photos/c1zeq . It’s a work-in-progress, but his site shows he is getting his feet wet.

He has some incredible photography mentors that include, but are not limited to; Doug H., Brian Z., and An V. With the encouragement of his photography teacher, Mr. Fox, he entered three photos into the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest for 2016. There were 300,000 entrants nationwide in grades 7-12. His photo, shown here, won a Silver Key. The accomplishment of winning a Silver is admirable in it’s own right. However, when you know where this young man has come from, overcoming the obstacle of major depression and suicidal ideation, it means even more. Just two short years ago, at this time, he was just going back to school after missing 2.5 months of school. Preston was able to go into a grocery store and get our shopping done, without having to rush back to the car in a panic. He’d only just started sleeping in his own bed, alone in his own room. Life gets better. Fast forward to yesterday, he wove through the crowd in the gallery, with his girlfriend of 15 months, to see his own photo hanging on the wall with the rest of the Silver Key, Gold Key and Honorable Mention winners. He was relaxed and seemed 100% comfortable in his own skin. As he told me, artists can dress the way they want so he was wearing jeans and one of his two Millenium Falcon t-shirts. His best accessory was his easy smile. I tried really hard not to be all mushy and cry. I failed. As I sat in the college auditorium, with his younger brother, Logan and my parents down the row, I felt overwhelmed by the feeling that he had ARRIVED! Life has gotten better.

I know that thinking “what if?”, is usually a useless past time. However, I can’t help but thinking what Preston, and the rest of the world, would have missed out on, if he hadn’t made the commitment to save his own life. Regardless of my decisions, which medical providers or facilities he went to, his success at life is because of the pain he walked through, that he faced and dealt with.

I’m so grateful that he has shared his talent and made his photography publicly available. I share his story so that other hurting people can have hope that life gets better.IMG_7715.JPG

“Into the Digital Age.” Photo by Preston Blackburne, Age 16, Scholastic Art Silver Key Award Winner 2106.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Wishing you a Happy New Year while in my recliner, wearing a fuzzy pink bathrobe and fuzzy, pink pig slipper socks. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea…I was dressed, went to work, came back home because of a sick kiddo, busted out several hours of chores in my kitchen and this is my reward to myself. Comfy, cozy attire with my kiddo and pets nearby. This is bliss for me, a mellow time at home, with my loved ones and my computer. My new favorite playlist on iTunes is comprised of the songs from the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy. They are what I, at age 36, consider older songs. I especially enjoy “Spirit in the Sky” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” but they are all great songs. However, I find it a little hard to write while singing.

Wow. My last post was way back on December 18th. That seems like a very long time ago. Since then we’ve had lots of great family time. It was awesome to have Preston home this year, sitting next to me on Christmas Eve service at church. It was hilarious. He and I both wanted to sit next to my husband to listen to him sing the harmonies with the all the Christmas songs, so we kept playing music chairs. We were all completely engaged in service. Although I received many great presents this Christmas, that moment where my entire family was mentally healthy and experiencing happiness together, was incredible.

Now that the Christmas season is behind us for this year, there is talk of the new year and for many people that involves New Year’s Eve celebrations and New Year Resolutions. I prefer the quiet passing of one year to the next. We stay home as a family and spend time together and this year, we were all asleep by 9:30pm. To be honest, I’d rather stay on a “regular” sleep schedule and have time for introspection.

I spent part of New Year’s Eve thinking back to the challenges that myself as an individual and my family have faced. Mid-January was the hardest challenge I’d faced. While Preston had already spend 4 weeks in residential treatment, he still could have benefitted from more time when his insurance decided they were done paying. Even though he still had thoughts of suicide and self-harm, it was my turn to provide the 24- hour-a-day-supervision and emotional support and stability and provide a safe environment. What had been performed by a team of trained professionals, fell squarely on my soldiers. While I was thrilled to have him within arms reach, I was terrified and overwhelmed. Preston had done a lot of work in the 7 weeks he had been gone but was still a fragile, anxious, depressed and overwhelmed teenager. Having him home with his needs meant that my husband and I lived in a state of alertness that pumped our bodies with adrenaline and cortisol, that made me feel like I was hunkered down in a foxhole. I worked to learn Preston’s cues, use the right lingo, be available, appear confident and make decisions for him about outpatient appointments and follow-up and chaperone him nearly every minute of the day. The transition home was a long one. For awhile, he slept in my king-sized bed so I was close by and there for him. We talked each other to sleep, listened to music or read. When he was ready to go back to his own room, his choice, I slept on the floor in his room so I was available. Our whole family learned to live life at a different pace. On more than one occasion, I lost hope, couldn’t see the forrest for the trees and wailed in despair. I’ve never felt as broken as I did when Preston was broken. Parenting is always a large responsibility but when you are responsible for keeping a resourceful 14 year-old from self harm, it reaches a different level of critical living. Life was far from normal. My husband and I would grab a few minutes to talk to each other in hushed tones but quickly returned to the boys. We hadn’t found a book that was a very good guide for what we were tying to navigate. While Preston was sad/depressed/anxious, he still remained polite and respectful, which appears rare from many of the descriptions I’ve read about teenagers who experience a mental health crisis. If we said, you need to stay in this room, right there in that chair until I come back from the bedroom, he listened. The most worrisome times for me were if I tried to take a shower, I would be in a state of sheer panic the entire time that something would happen. This time of high intensity existing didn’t last long. Within weeks, we’d learned new patterns for communicating and behaving that helped Preston to feel loved unconditionally and safe. Asking ” Are you ok?” stopped happening and we asked for a check-in or directly “Are you safe?”. It’s really easy to lie and say yes to “Are you ok?”. I am pretty sure that Preston eventually learned that is NOTHING he can say or do that would make us stop loving him. I think he knows that we love him unconditionally and will be here for him in his life, no matter what. I keep showing up. That is what matters. I talk about the hard things. I am honest in all things. I model a strong faith and a commitment to continue to learn to love myself and improve myself so that I can be there for my family.

I choose not to have New Year’s resolutions. I embrace learning new ways of processing life, of showing love and living gratitude and peace no matter what day, month or moment it is. During some of the more challenging times of this holiday season, I slipped into old habits and forgot to do Heart Math. I suffered for it. Instead of feeling energized and hopeful, I became worn and depressed. I did somethings in a mindful and skillful way but in other things I fell far short of the mark. When I realized where I was heading, I made a determined effort to improve my situation by improving myself; coping, attitude, behavior and gratitude. It looks like I need more visual reminders of ways to live an emotionally healthy, positive life so I’m collecting Bible verses, internet tidbits, Pinterest slides and other positive, encouraging words. I will continue to use the Heart Math tools with heart focus and heart focused breathing. I also intend to share my positive attitude with others and spread less negativity when times are tough. Those may sound like resolutions, but I don’t care for the pressure that comes with resolutions. I give myself permission to fail one hundred times and one hundred and one times I will try to get it right. We do the best we can with what we know at the time. When we know better, we do better.

I can and will be looking past myself and my family to the needs of those around me, while maintaining my boundaries and not over committing to anything.

I wish for you a day, a month, a year, a lifetime of emotional wellness, peace and happiness.

Love and hugs, Rebecca

Happy Thanksgiving, happy way of life.

Lately, my posts have had a recurring theme, finding freedom from stress, regret, remorse, depression and anxiety, instead I’m living my life as a grateful being. It’s really amazing. Today was my first major holiday since I attended the Heart Math class and learned the tools they taught. Typically, I would be very concerned with the meal, planning meals sometimes weeks in advance and making numerous trips to the grocery store. This year, my husband bought a white-meat-only-turkey. It only had breasts and the legs and wings had been cut off. I could NOT fathom this deviation from the tradition of a whole turkey with lots for left overs. I do recall that when he told me he had an idea about this new, weird, turkey, that I told him it was blasphemy. (What he didn’t tell me at the time we were “discussing” his idea that he had ALREADY bought it and it was at our home.) After he told me that he had purchased the fresh turkey and had it at our house, I said that we wouldn’t need to get the right turkey. I agreed that we could try the one he got. For such a control freak as I am about food and special meals, this was a really big deal. I made lots of jokes about the turkey and most people I talked to about said turkey, also found it strange. Instead of listing recipes and their ingredients and demanding that we needed all the stuff long beforehand, I gave the list to AJ and he went on Wednesday night after work. I am learning that I don’t have to do everything and being a martyr is b*llshit and does NOT suit me.

In addition to wanting to make Thanksgiving dinner, I knew that after work on Wednesday, I would need to drive 170 miles to my parents house where our younger son had spent 5 nights so I could drive him 200 miles home on Thanksgiving day. There was no anxiety or paranoia about getting all of those things accomplished. I did not overplan or obsess about checking the road conditions. It was enough for me that I know the road really well and have my winter tires on my fun & comfy car. This is like a whole new life for me! If someone would have told me that this would be me and my behavior, I never would have believed them. I made it to my parent’s house before 9pm and was relaxed and happy when I arrived, despite having worked 9 hours and driven 3.5. I had great snacks and sang a lot along the way. I kept checking in with myself to see if I was really as stress free and comfortable as I was. It was so strange. Typically, under those conditions, I would have a neck or head ache, maybe a gurgling stomach or be angry about the inconvenience of such a drive. Believe it or not, I enjoyed myself. Knowing that I was going to fetch my son who was really looking forward to seeing me, was a treat. I drive long distances with two comfort items. One, my One Touch snuggle pillow, tucked underneath my left arm and the two, Sniffy, a soft piece of fabric draped over my right shoulder. I’d be lost without my music. Living and driving much of the time in a rural area, I’m thrilled to have my satellite radio. Now that my self reflection doesn’t include berating myself, feeling guilty or being angry, I am almost giddy after these check-ins with myself. Some of these check-ins I share with you here on my blog and others are just for me.

Logan and I left Beaverton before 7 am this morning and made it home by 1030. I was looking forward to being home and getting on with the day so we kept on the road, only stopping for gas and make great time. AJ had gone to the grocery store as promised and had gotten the items needed for the menu I had planned to go with the weird turkey. I think I had been home about 15 minutes we had discovered that our turkey roasting pan was undiscoverable. AJ looked everywhere. I had mild panic at this point. When I stopped rambling on about it, I had a great idea. I asked AJ to ask our neighbor/family member, Owl, if he had a roaster and if he’d like to come to dinner. Fortunately, he did have an electric roaster that had belonged to AJ’s grandmother that we had given him. We didn’t think we would ever roast anything small enough to use the pan! Not only did Owl have the roaster, he did NOT have an invite anywhere for Thanksgiving. (This made me realize I was a JERK for not inviting him sooner.) An electric roaster saved the day. The turkey injector broke but I found a way around that. AJ and I had great teamwork and ironically, the only thing that didn’t turn out well was BOXED STUFFING!!! That makes me want to laugh my ass off. Hey, I am the chick that burned Jell-O once upon a time so it’s not that big of a surprise. The turkey was amazing and we will have plenty of leftovers.

Is there a point to this post? I think so. I think my point is that I’m not standing in my way anymore. I’m not carrying around anger and fear and letting them live in my body as depression and anxiety. Learning the Heart Math tools and then getting out of my own way to let it work for me, is the single biggest thing I have ever done for myself and my family. I’m not saying I was a pathetic loser, but this positive impact is huge and will have long and far reaching effects for my children. I can finally model the behavior of what I want for them. Telling them “don’t be like me” is ridiculous. Showing them how to not be like the me I was, is vital.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my God, health, family, friends and the many luxuries in my life, including this blog and the opportunity to connect with others. May God Bless you, today and always. Happy Thankful life…Rebecca

My name is Rebeccca. I have anxiety.

For much of my life I have struggled with anxiety. It has been noticeably absent this week. While I am experiencing happiness on the heels of my first mom’s visit, I attribute its’ absence to being away from my office. I feel like a different person with much more patience, kindness, love and compassion for my loved ones. Unfortunately, I choose to work long hours and have struggled with boundaries between work and home for quite some time. My family is understanding of my dedication and is more supportive than any three humans should be. My goal is develop better time management for myself. I’d like to quickly reorganize and reprioritize with greater efficiency. The root of my problems are my insecurities. While I am successful, my paranoia about being perfect and doing everything for everyone, interferes with my ability to stay calm.

I will admit that my anxiety is significant enough that I take medications and participate in counseling to manage it. I am NOT ashamed and do not buy in to the stigma that surrounds mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. You will find an ally in me, if you choose to share your own stories with anxiety and insecurities. 

I want it to be as simple as telling myself over and over again that I am good enough. This week, I decided that what is missing in that phrase is “I am good enough BECAUSE I am made in His image.” Why I keep this struggle to myself and don’t ask for God’s help and guidance in this, baffles me! I’ve asked him to help heal my cold and bring peace in our lives. I think that my fear of making a change and being someone healthy, scares me somewhat. The other changes I’ve made in my life have worked for me and have benefitted those around me. I need to put this down and STOP picking it back up. 

I’ve never been very good at making goals. My strong desire to avoid failure at all costs, makes it difficult for me to risk it by setting goals I may or may not be able to attain. However, lately I keep coming across inspiration messages and writings of others that it pointing me in the direction of making goals. I don’t need a natural disaster to get my attention to make a change, as I have previously in my life. What better time to jump start a new way of doing things after I’ve been away from work for 8 days. I realize that I will likely start out behind. I will likely have coworkers who are upset with me for being gone and putting more of a burden on them. I know that a new workflow was started while I was away that I am responsible for. My small, attainable goals include, praying about being calm and letting anxiety go and showing up on Monday with a good attitude. I will let other goals come to the surface as I get to work and surveil the day and will take challenges as they come instead of inventing them ahead of time in my mind.

I am going to live the life that God intended. I can do ALL things with Him who strengthens me. 

I’m reinventing Rebecca… 


Photo taken by Caroline Kippenbrock Dixon

Rebecca at the Fall River Falls