Tag Archives: balance

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.


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


Making the most of Monday

I’m glad that it’s still Sunday night and not quite Monday morning. I still have the chance to get my mind right about going back to work tomorrow. If I wanted to be glass-half-empty about things, I’d focus on the weight I’ve gained since I’ve last seen my coworkers and how much work might be waiting for tomorrow. While I’ve behaved like that a thousand Monday’s before, tomorrow will be different. Why? I intend for it to be different. I can start the day with a positive glass-half-full attitude. No one control over my attitude but me. In the past, I’ve gotten particularly caught up in listing the challenges and things that have gone wrong. My goal tomorrow, is to stop and take a small break and refocus on being positive if I feel overwhelmed. Even that little word “if” in that last sentence is a new step. My typical M.O. is to say “when” I feel overwhelmed. I have found if I declare things, they manifest. Some might find that hokey or roll their eyes, no problem, you can have your own opinion. However, when I stopped saying “This is making me crazy!”, fewer things made me “crazy.” I don’t want to give labels power over me that they don’t deserve. I am determined to keep telling myself how great I am and how capable until I no longer need the reminder but I believe it. Sadly, I don’t right now. My self esteem is a little low and it’s up to be to boost myself out. Counting on external “atta girls” and compliments, is a losing proposition. I’ll be happier to do the best I can, recognizing that being good enough, is just that.

I am looking forward to a better balance. Of leaving home and home and work at work. I’ve talked about that before and it’s time to renew that commitment to better living through balance. That won’t look the same to everyone. It was also require an adjustment period to those who are used to interacting with me a certain way. Before in my life, I’ve had to ask loved ones to “Please, give me a chance to do and BE different.” Unpredictability can be intimidating and unsettling to people. Not everyone I know will have read my blog and realize that I am kicking the Reinvention of Rebecca into high gear. Some may have. So long as I offer those around me the compassion and patience that I would like to receive, WITHOUT paying any attention to what I am receiving, I will stay on the right track. To share the love of Jesus with those around me can be so simple. I LOVE to make things complicated, people have said about me. I don’t love it, I’ve done it, sure, but I don’t love it. I don’t want that anymore. I intend to simplify tasks without second guessing or judgement.

I may struggle and have periods of failure and I can manage those times without despair and self-loathing. I don’t necessarily know exactly what that might look like, and that’s ok.

This weekend camping with the family was fast-paced and busy. In the stillness that I found on the beach at Waldo Lake, I did spend time reflecting on what I want to keep and want I want to leave behind. What I want to keep is being transparent and sharing what is on my heart. This blog gives me a chance to do that. If no one reads it, no worries. The words and thoughts and feelings are here to remind me where I’ve been and even where I’m going. We discovered this weekend that our compass is upside down. A funny thing for a LetterBoxer who prides herself on being prepared for everything. I didn’t cringe, I laughed it off. No negative self talk or self depreciating comments came from me. What I can give to the world, staring with myself, is more encouragement and cheer-leading.

Cairn design and photo by Preston B.

Balance, on the shores of Waldo Lake

Dear Lord, Thank you for giving me each new day, ESPECIALLY Mondays, to wake up and praise your name and be grateful for the blessings you have bestowed upon me. You are my ROCK! Amen.