Ah, clickbait headlines. The bane of any serious journalist. This story ran in Good Housekeeping under the title, "My Father's Bipolar Disorder Made My Life Better." Of course, my father's illness did not make my life better, and I would give anything to have him healthy. However, through his illness he has taught me many lessons that I otherwise would not have learned.
... "Your father's book saved my life," she said to me, indicating his poem that was initially meant for children, resonated with adults. "You are so lucky to have this man as your father."
I never forgot that woman's words. She was right. I was lucky. My father's unconventional way of thinking showed me that it is possible to construct the life you want, and assured me that it was okay to stand out from the crowd.
However, through the years of dealing with my father's acute illness, I was able to look back on the foundations that were laid during my childhood. My parent's rejection of stigma allowed me to bypass the shame that many family members of people with mental illness feel. That woman's remark about how special my father was got me through the darkest time. After all, how many people can say their father saved a life?
I've taken my dad's greatest gift – writing – and now use that to advocate for people with mental illness and their families. I hope that, like him, I can touch lives with my words.
My father is doing better now, although he has never returned to the gregarious man I remember. Looking back, I can see how his illness shaped every part of my life with him. During the good times his larger-than-life persona could be attributed in part to his disease. During the worst times, it was clear the toll that bipolar disorder had taken.
Through it all, I can see the man who my father is, apart from his disease. This man is my father; he is the person I love; he is the man who raised me. He has bipolar disorder. But that does not define him. It isn't who he is.
Read the whole story at Good Housekeeping.
The turn around in my father's health in the last year has been nothing short of miraculous. In large part, that's because of the group home where he lives, which has given him top-notch care and enabling him to get back on his feet. I am incredibly passionate about sharing this story, and am thrilled to share it with the far-reaching audience at Vice.
"You father is all set to be released tomorrow," the social worker said, her voice cheery, as if this were good news.
And yet, as I heard those words, I was overcome with nausea. I sat in the May sunshine outside my New Hampshire home, pulling on new blades of grass, focusing on the small physical details of the lawn as I tried to maintain my composure. I lived out of state with an infant, and was unable to take my father in for both practical reasons (he would lose his Massachusetts state-sponsored medical insurance) and personal ones (I couldn't care for an ill father and an infant at once). My three siblings, all in their teens and early 20s, were just starting their lives—living abroad, launching a business, and going to college. None of us were equipped to handle our father's needs.
In that moment, my biggest worry—that my father was going to die—was replaced with a new, more pressing concern: Where would he live if he survived?
PLEASE read the rest of this important story on Vice, and share. People with mental illness are our loved ones and they need our advocacy.
Today is Harriet's second birthday, and my father's 53rd. She is currently outside running around with her Papa, a testament to the change she has brought into his life, and all of ours.
My daughter’s first birthday—my father’s 52nd—was celebrated in the psych ward. There was no candle, and a nurse held the knife used to cut the cake. I had to call and plead in order for the baby to be allowed to visit my father, speaking first with a nurse and then with the unit manager. Normally, children aren’t allowed beyond the locked doors that mark the start of the psychiatric wing.
“Please,” I begged. “It’s their birthday. Both of them.”
My father was my sadness, and my daughter was my light. I couldn’t celebrate the joy of her first year without thinking about the deep sorrow that year had held for my father. I couldn’t bear to celebrate another melancholy birthday with my dad, or find hope for his future, without the healing balm of my baby’s smile. After all, without the baby, we may all be forced to confront the lunacy of singing “Happy Birthday” to a man currently hospitalized for depression.
Read the rest of this story in Brain, Child Magazine's blog.
Although it may seem grim, this story was an absolute joy to write. If you haven't read the blog for Headspace (the meditation app) head over there now!
I’ve been preparing for my Aunt Margaret to die since I was nine years old.
I called her Auntie, but Margaret was actually my great-aunt, the oldest of my grandmother’s four siblings. When I was a child she was the only grandparent figure that lived close enough—and lived long enough—to be involved with me and my siblings. She was our grandmother figure, for sure, but with all the expectation and none of the warmth. Instead, my maiden aunt who never married or had children of her own frustrated me with her curt speech and outdated wisdom. But despite that, I loved her deeply.
“Be kind,” my mother reminded me after one particularly enthusiastic scolding when Margaret, at 70-years-old, was mortified to see a me riding a bike while wearing a skirt, and I, at 8-years-old, was full of righteous indignation that she couldn’t see me as one of the boys. “She won’t be around for long.”
But Aunt Margaret never died.
At 73, she broke her hip, and the doctors weren’t sure she would make it through surgery. I remember hearing the fear in Margaret’s voice when we visited her in the hospital.
“In her day, a broken hip was a death sentence,” my mother explained, so at 11, I overcame my own fear by focusing on the practicalities. “We’ll have to get Auntie a bed,” I said, remembering the Spartan cot that Margaret slept on in her studio apartment.
But she didn’t die. She didn’t even stop walking around the immigrant city where she grew up, an area where Italian bakeries had given way to bodegas.
Spoiler alert: She's still going. Read the rest of the story on Headspace.
Last year, my husband and I bought our first home. When we crunched the numbers we realized that we were comfortable spending much less than the bank had approved us for. I talked to real estate and finance experts about why this is a good idea for this article on Daily Worth.
Since the 2008 financial crisis (which was fueled in large part by a real estate bubble), regulations have been put in place to cut down on predatory lending, most notably through the Title XIV of 2010's Dodd-Frank Act, which is called the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. The act established national underwriting standards for residential loans, but some consumers are still approved for mortgages that are unrealistic for them when it comes to monthly payments.
Tasha Bishop, director of strategic alliance and business development at Apprisen, a financial services nonprofit sponsored in part by the United Way, estimates that about 35 percent of mortgages that are approved are unrealistic for consumers. What’s more: Many people “really trust the lender’s numbers and think that if they’re approved, they must be able to afford it,” Bishop says. But this isn’t always sound financial advice. Just because you can get approved for an expensive house doesn’t mean you should buy it.
Even with regulations in place, remember that banks are in the business of creating loans. Lenders “have incentives to give out mortgages, and to be positive and aggressive,” says Liz Miller, a certified financial planner and president of Summit Place Financial Advisors in New Jersey. Be skeptical and look out for your own interests. To avoid taking on more than you can handle, here’s what to keep in mind during the home loan process — and why you shouldn’t hit the top of your approved price range.
Read the rest of the story at Daily Worth.
I never imagined I would be flying to Australia with my child before she was a year old. However, when the baby was just four months old a health crisis in the family brought my husband – an Australian – back to his home country. Not one to miss an adventure, I quickly arranged a passport for the baby and met my husband in Brisbane three weeks later.
Although the trip stemmed from a crisis, it ended up being a great adventure, even more so because the day we landed our family member received good news medically, which freed us to enjoy our trip. We were able to introduce the baby to her grandparents, and enjoy an adventure through Queensland, Australia, bringing the baby to places my husband had visited as a child and that we had enjoyed during the 18 months we lived in Australia.
My love for the country’s striking natural beauty and laid-back people was deepened after visiting Australia with baby. Here’s what we did – and didn’t do –during the trip.... Read about our trip on Have Baby Will Travel.
After trolling the creative gigs section for weeks, I saw the ad I had been waiting for: Figure models wanted, for trade. The photographer would be experimenting with new lighting techniques, and in return for posing, I would receive edited copies of the images and maintain all the rights. I sent an email, and after a quick reply from the photographer, we set a date and signed a contract.
When I stepped out from behind a partition in the studio, I was wearing just a sarong and a pearl set that my husband had bought me. I blushed, thinking about how silly it was to wear anything at all. Moments later I would be naked, my body studied through a camera lens.
My first pose–on a stool, with my knees folded into my body–was a classic setup, and exactly what I was hoping for. I wanted simple, beautiful photographs.
Over the course of the three-hour session, I did a bunch of poses: sitting, standing, and lying down. In some, I covered my breasts. In others, I turned away from the camera. But my favorite images from the sessions ended up being full frontal nudes, where I was hiding nothing. As the morning progressed I went from "I can't believe I'm doing this" to "Damn, I feel beautiful."
...Read the rest on Marie Claire.
I was boarding a flight from Chicago to Boston with my 18-month-old daughter when the apologies began.
“Sorry,” she said, as we bumbled down the aisle, brushing against passengers who were already in their seats. “Sorry.”
As we made our way to the back of the plane, the baby apologizing the whole way, passengers were giving us a certain look, one to which I had become accustomed to receiving when with my daughter. The one that says, How cute.
I, however, was shaken.
Had I really taught my daughter, all of 1½ years old, that she needs to apologize for herself? That because she was noticed — rather than slipping quietly through a space — she needed to say “I'm sorry”?
Read the rest on Ravishly.
"C'mon baby, let's go."
I hear myself and cringe. My foot presses the lock on the stroller and I double back toward my toddler, who lags about 20 feet behind me.
"What did you find?" I ask, watching as she sifts through layers of damp leaves. In the distance, the dog sprints from tree to tree, determined to cover more ground than we will.
Of course, the pace of life changes when you have a baby. But even a few months ago we would cover miles in this park, my daughter tied contently to my back and my legs carrying us through the thick woods.
Now things have changed. We're on toddler time. We've been walking for 20 minutes and have not even made it out of the parking lot.
"Buddy, bring me a stick," I say to the dog, accepting that he won't be tired out by our walk alone. As I toss it to him, I praise each leaf, rock and stick that my daughter picks up. We never make it out of the parking lot.
On the way home, I begin making a plan. We'll eat lunch, and then its naptime. Time to compress a day's work into two hours, if I'm lucky. I eat and pee before the baby falls asleep so that I don't need to waste any of that precious time. Forty minutes for an edit test for a new website. Another forty if I would like to write for them as well. I'm swift and focused, moving through each task with clipped precision. With seven minutes left on the timer, a cry breaks my focus. I quickly wrap up the test, submit it and walk to the nursery.
Being a mom - especially a working mom, and even more so one that works from home - is all about balancing. Sometimes that balance looks more like juggling. I'm learning that the key to keeping everyone happy is knowing when to speed through the to-do's, and when to just take it slow.
In the afternoon we go for another walk. We make it half a block before my daughter spots a sewer drain.
"Wow," she says.
I smile to myself, finding joy in her wonder. I sit down on the side of the road and find rocks for her to toss into the abyss. I don't know whether we are there for 20 minutes or 45. I just wait until the novelty has worn out, and that little voice says, "All done."
I spent an afternoon this week in the Emergency Room with a loved one (everything turned out just fine, thank goodness). As I rocked and shushed the baby and watched the seconds click by excruciatingly slowly, patients came in to and out of the bed next to ours. And while I tried to mind my business, those hospital curtains don't hide much.
Over the course of that afternoon, five patients came into that bed while we waited. The first four were all talking and calm. Their ailments ranged from a torn ACL to a sore shoulder. All four were prescribed opiates. The fifth patient was an opiate overdose.
As the editor of Renew, I often see stories about the opiate epidemic sweeping the country. I write about prescription monitoring programs, and report on HIV outbreaks tied to drug use. But to see how easily opiates were handed out in the ER was eye-opening. One patient said "Tylenol will be fine," but the doctor insisted on bring him Vicodin. Another said his pain was a 6 on a scale from 1 to 10, and was given powerful painkillers.
I was surprised at the ease with which the pills were dispensed, but the last patient - the opiate overdose - brought home the issue. As the young patient wretched and sobbed and begged the nurses and police officers not to call her parents, I thought of facts I researched for a writing assignment last week:
That girl (and she was a girl) in the ER was just one of 7,000 Americans who are treated in emergency rooms across the country for prescription drug overdoses each day. And just imagine how many prescriptions are handed out.
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