8.5.15

Truth From A Skewed View

If you follow my blog at all, then you have probably noticed that the last few months I have been somewhat mia.  Often it's because, as I sit down to write, I don't really want to share where my thoughts are at.

That's why my new instagram has taken off. It is very easy to post a picture of something versus writing a post. This is a space I want to always be honest in and so, lately, rather than being disingenuous, I have just stayed away. Not that what I post on instagram isn't reality, it's just the part I want you to see.

If you follow my infertility struggle at all, you know that for the past year I have been weaning off of my medication in order to become pregnant.

To say it has been more rough than not would be an understatement. I have an amazing team surrounding me and we knew this was more of a probability than not (thanks Ted Wells for basically making that a dirty word to me now) but I think I shrugged it off. 

For almost 20 years I railed against my parents, doctors and then my husband when they tried to get me to take the medications. The side effects that plagued my body wreaked havoc in unimaginable ways and I was basically a shaking zombie. That all changed almost four years ago after a two week in patient stay at a psychiatric unit, my doctors found a mix of medication that not only worked, but left with with minimally  invasive side effects. 

The problem lies within the fact that none of them are safe to be on while pregnant or trying to become pregnant. at all. And so, with much thought and a team of doctors and a plan if things derailed...I slowly weaned off.

I have never been more sure of my need for medications to regulate my mental health. It has been dreadful. Mania and depression had just become second nature to me and being relatively mentally healthy for over three years has led to the realization of how good it can be versus what it is. 

 I am also no closer to a baby than I was last year at this point  prior to my last surgery for endometrioses and eventually I have to come to terms with whether or not enough is enough. I have repeatedly said I want to be a mother but not at a risk to myself or my child. If you are one of my friends of faith, I covet your prayers...not necessarily that I will become pregnant but that no matter what happens, I am able to come to terms with it.

I have often wondered when I would  be back to share where I was at in my journey because, after speaking in front of the legislative branch of NC regarding how far I had come with my illness and working closely with our  local NAMI chapter...admitting where I am now feels  like I am a failure and almost a fraud.

But this illness doesn't care how well I did for a time, it comes back to visit when visiting hours are closed and it doesn't even bother to knock.

The hardest part of my illness is when people try to help by asking "what's wrong? Why are you depressed? and I have no answer for them.

This leads to me only feeling worse about the situation and almost guilty.

My life is great. Honestly, my past was pretty traumatic and horrific, but now? Yes, the infertility weighs heavily, but quite honestly...that's not it. My husband has a great job. I love what I do. We have a nice home. We love our families ( for goodness sake people, I hit the in law jackpot) We travel all the time. Our friends are awesome. The Lord has been more than good to me.

Still,  the answer to what is wrong with me is quite simple.  I have depression.  Depression doesn't give a damn about how good my life is. It's job is simply to be a wrecking ball. 

 It's kind of an ass-hole like that.

The decision to share my where I am at now was chosen for me today when I clicked on ESPN late last night and read the story of Madison Holleron. A 19 year old student athlete at Penn University. She was a beautiful girl who appeared to have it all. before she jumped off the side of a parking garage. 


The first thing I saw when I pulled the story up was the title "split image" and then, as I read and realized her name was also Madison, I knew the time was right to share where I am with my illness.

I owe it to her memory and anyone else that may be struggling to not hide again just because it's tough. I've been honest and very transparent about my illness since the blog began. 

I will just say it's much easier to talk about your illness when you are doing really well and another level when you are really struggling. 

I want to be very clear that I am NOT Suicidal right now, but I know how easily that can happen for people and I want to parlay how much help there is available.  I may be in the depths of it now, but I am so aware of the symptoms and know to reach out for help if it gets that bad.

 I spent 20 years pretending my past never happened before I embraced being a voice for mental illness. I cannot walk away now.

Before I was 19, I had spent almost a year total (over 4 years and between 13 different hospitals) as a in patient at psychiatric facilities.  I am struggling mightily right now but not to the desperation Madison was that day, but it was a feeling I knew well. My story could have easily ended 21 years ago if any of my suicide attempt's had been successful.

I survived because of my faith, a husband who stayed when most would have left, my family who have fought the battle right along side me for 20 plus years, my friends...and I (unabashedly) say medication and therapy. They may not be the answer for everyone, but they worked for me.

This is where my story differs from most. Of all my many weeks and months as a patient in the units, I had multiple visitors a day. The majority never had a single visitor the whole of their stay. This is one of the few illnesses that people find it easier to walk away from than stay and fight for you.

and that breaks my heart.

Mental Illness is the hardest hurdle I have ever faced.

I was molested from the age of 3 to 5.

I was brutally raped at 14.

After the rape I was severely anorexic and then bulimic to the point I almost ruptured my esophageal lining.

I was embroiled in an abusive relationship at 19.

The past ten years I have dealt with miscarriages and infertility.

The struggle with my bipolar and depression have been a much steeper hill to overcome because while these incidents "happened" to me...

My illness is a part of me. The constant companion. A shadowy figure that never lets me from its grip.

The smiling face. The constant travel. The dinners and amazing food. They are the story of a good life, which I absolutely have and I am beyond grateful for it. 

It's only part of my story though.

When I capture a photo and share it...the view you see is skewed by the lens I choose.

May is Mental Health Awareness. If you or someone you know is struggling, there is help. There is a way. I do not promise it will be easy. I make no pledges that there is a "fix it" answer out there, but,  I do promise there are people who want you to succeed, who want to champion for you.


5.5.15

Italia

My husband and I travel often and to many places. Sometimes our trips are week long extravaganzas but normally they are a few days here and there set aside to explore smaller towns full of character. There are many trips that have been memorable. Quebec City and Montreal. Jekyll Island, Georgia. Ten days trekking along the Blue Ridge Trail in North Carolina and Virginia. Napa and Sonoma. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but last year we went on a trip to Italy with my husbands family and it easily became the best. 

Narrowing down what I want to touch base on and show photographs of is going to be tough! There is just so much to show, but I will do my ten favorite stops, what I loved most about each and I will try to keep it to a few photographs per place. 

Wish Me luck.

We went on this trip to celebrate the 80th birthday of my husband's great uncle, he still lives in the small village in Tuscany that my husband;s grandparents are from. And so does about 35/30 other cousins/aunts/uncles. My husband's 98 year old Nonno even made the trip with us. The two of us went out a week earlier with my in laws to see Venice before meeting up with the rest of the family.  We stayed in a lovely village about 20 minutes outside of Venice, Montegratto. It helps when your father in law is fluent. 

Venice Region

Venice. I will admit that Venice itself wasn't my favorite part of the trip. Way too busy when we were there in August, if you can, go during the off season. I still enjoyed myself. And, I cannot stress enough, don't get a private water taxi, get on a public one. Just as easy and way less expensive!!!



Burano/Murano.
These are two of the Islands just off of Venice that you can take by a water taxi. Murano is the glass blowing capital of the world. You can pick up some awesome trinkets here. Burano is more known for its lace...and for being one of the most colorful islands in the world. The houses were stunning and so bright. 

If you only have time to visit one of them...my vote is for Burano.



Padua.
This enchanting city is full of universities and museums.  Galileo taught at the university and a majority of The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare takes place here. One of my favorite sites is the Prato della Valle, the largest square in all of Italy and one of the largest in the world. It is stunning.

Montegrotto/Villa dei Vescovi
We stayed in the lovely city of Montegrotto, about a half hour train ride from Venice and about 15 from Padua. It is mainly a spa town for European tourists and everyone commented mutiple times how exciting it was to have Americans in town as there are not usually many staying there. I saw bourbon at the bar of our hotel one night and the bartender clapped and told me he had purchased it years before in the hopes an American would want it, well, this one did;) When we picked up our car at the end of the week, we checked out the beautiful Villa dei Vescovi, the summer home of the bishop of Padua. 

Then, I just knew we were going to die with my husband driving on these tiny Italian roads. Spoiler alert, we survived and at the top of this mountain I snapped the most glorious sunset I have ever seen and then we came upon the walled city with the best name ever, Arqua Petrarca. 



Lake Como Region

Lake Como, what can I even say to bring justice to this majestic place? Words escape me. No questions asked, my absolute favorite place in all of Italy and it stole my heart.  It took my breath away, on multiple occasions. 

Torno.
This is the small village we stayed in while in Lake Como. We had to walk down about 55 steps from the village center to the lake where our hotel was situated. It was small, intimate and bare bones. The family that owned it was incredible. The food was knock your socks off good, every single bite.  The water ferries were super easy to grab right outside of our hotel entrance. 

However, maybe the best part, Robert De Niro stays at this hotel when he comes to Lake Como and they have a huge picture of him in the lobby. Tony's nonno was the oldest guest they had ever checked into the hotel and they took his photo and are placing it next to the picture of Mr. De Niro. When we were leaving and heading to the family land in Tuscany, they ran after us and gave us wine and grappa to enjoy with our family upon arrival. 



Bellagio and Cernobbio. 

We went to quite a few towns in the surrounding area of Torno, but these were the ones that stood out the most to me. The pizza I got in Cernobbio was the most scrumptious meal I have ever had, at least pizza wise. The view of the Alps from Bellagio blew my mind. 

Tuscany. 

This was the main purpose of this trip. To see family, to see where my last name originated, where lots of family still live. Family members I have met on their trips to the US and to our wedding, but so many more that, until this trip, were just part of a story I had heard. Now they belong to my story. 

 Nonno and Nonni are from a small village in Tuscany called Gassano. It is in northern Tuscany and about half an hour from Pisa and 45 minutes or so from Cinque Terre. Most of the family still lives in the sweet homes the families have lived in for hundreds of years. One cousin now owns an inn and vineyard and we were beyond lucky to be able to stay there for the duration of our visit.  in the Inn at Pretola is located in Grangola, about 20 minutes away from Gassano. Robert, the chef...perfecto. It was perfecto.

Gassano/Grangola
Be still my heart.  The sheer beauty of Como was my favorite place, but being in Gassano is what gave me all the 'feels', if you will. Our family, being with them in their everyday world, was the absolute best part of this trip. We arrived to the birthday party for Antonio and the food, oh my gosh, it just kept coming and coming. and it was incredible. We went to the village of Gassano and saw into their homes, built in the 1490s!!! We went to the top of the mountain and I discovered that yes, I can indeed get car sick.  I vomited for a few hours and Nonno, at 98 years young, walked circles around me! I didn't even care, that's how enchanting this place and its people are.

 The beautiful vineyard. The small church from the 1500's at the base of the family land. The bar. The view from Zia Maria's house. The castle that was at the top of the mountain and surrounded in a mist of clouds every morning when we woke up. I savored every part of it. 




Cinque Terre. 
I had seen so many gorgeous pictures. I had heard multiple people describe it as heaven on earth. Coming from the ferry and the first moment that I spotted the bright homes jutting out from the cliffs, one glimpse and I was hooked. I did so love this spot. The gelato was heaven. My risotto bolognese was to die for. The boats dangling in the sea. 



Lucca. 
 I must admit, of all the 'cities' we visited, this sweet walled one was easily my favorite. There was a slight drizzle to accompany the grey skies of the day, but nothing could dampen my mood. Actually, all of the colorful umbrellas were one of my favorite sights of the day. This was not a city I had really heard anything about before we took the trip and I cannot urge you to plan a visit to this charming place if you are going to be in Italy. Get here. 



Pisa. 
If you have a chance, you must see the tower and baptismal. It's almost surreal. You turn a corner and bam, there it is. It appears superimposed, even in person.  I wish I had better verbiage to describe it, but quite honestly, it's just really freaking cool. 




Calling this a trip seems to minimize what this experience was for me, for it was such a great adventure. Spending the time with my in laws, having my father in law teach me a few Italian words/phrases and actually being able to use them somewhat frequently (and correctly) by the end of our trip. These are memories that I will keep in my heart forever, but the ones that stand out to me the most are when my husband saw his family's land and where they came from the first time. I teared up witnessing that moment. 

When we were leaving Gassano, Tony's great aunt, Maria, hugged me and kept squeezing my cheeks and calling me "bella" while she cried. I didn't quite understand what she was saying, but the love she had in her face, transcended language. 

The other biggest memory maker for me was taking this photo. They have all been to Italy a multitude of times, but this was the first time ever that Nonno had all five of his children there together and this captured the essence of the moment perfectly. I only wish Nonni had been there in person to witness her kids, but we got signs from her all trip.