Wear Your Pearls, Girls, on National Wear Your Pearls Day

By Chaunte McClure

Just over two years ago I shared my story of dealing with and overcoming depression in a post titled I Survived, Part 2. That’s definitely not a period of my life that I’m proud of; however, I am glad that I came out of it.

About halfway through 2015, I was in that dark place again after a traumatic experience in February of that same year. This was my second encounter with depression, but this time, I sought professional help.

During my first visit, the counselor read off a list of symptoms and after each one, I acknowledged whether or not I suffered from any of them. There were enough yeses to determine I was in the right place at the right time to get the service I needed.

For many reasons, people often don’t seek support, but it’s necessary. Untreated, my mild case could’ve turned severe.

Because of the stigma of depression and mental health disorders, patients hide in shame and secrecy.

The first time, I was unfamiliar with depression and it was not until I overcame it that I realized I was depressed. Little did I know I was flirting with danger and literally putting my life at risk. Knowing the signs of depression and understanding that it’s a serious illness helps.

Thanks to local author and motivational speaker Deanna Bookert, December 15 is National Wear Your Pearls Day, a day designated to bring awareness to depression and anxiety. National Wear Your Pearls Day Dec 15

Besides her love for pearls, Deanna chose this bead because it represents a process and struggle. She wants sufferers to understand that “although we have hard times in our life, something valuable will come out of it.”

Millions of Americans suffer from depression, including children. Though it’s not a disease to be proud of, it’s definitely not one to be ashamed of either.

Join other women across American on December 15 and wear your pearls, girls, in support of National Wear Your Pearls Day. National Wear Your Pearls Day Proclamation

 

No Regrets – Who You Are

By: Lydia Scott

I am really bad about wanting to be helpful. Therapy has taught me about my “helper” persona and how it’s a blend of being a little bit of a hero and a little bit of a victim all rolled up into one. Helpers, like all the other personality styles out there, are awesome and important to have in our lives. Helpers want to make a difference, find the solution, make life easier, make things happen, and help you excel. We don’t want our needs to be ignored; yet we will be the first to turn down offers of help, questions of “are you okay?” and depressionsuggestions of rest. A little bit hero, a little bit victim. There’s not a thing wrong with our helpful ways, but it can cause us to crash and burn when life gets mean. And I’ve done that – crashed and burned. I was ashamed of it every time, and every time was really unpleasant, but I don’t regret any of it.

On three occasions in my life, I’ve crashed and burned to the point of having to take myself to what I call “the happiness hospital.” Behavioral counseling centers, psychiatric hospitals, inpatient stability centers…whatever you call them, they are where people go to get concentrated, inpatient help for addictions, suicidal issues, severe depression, or even just sheer emotional exhaustion. During one of my stays, I met a lady who said she admitted herself because she needed a vacation from her life and needed to be forced to take care of herself. It can be a really humiliating experience to take oneself (or be taken to) the happiness hospital, even though it should not be humiliating. While none of these experiences were high points in my life (and in fact occurred during the worst times of my life), I don’t regret any of them.

A middle class, stay-at-home mom “shouldn’t” have debilitating depression and severe emotional instability. Looking back at all three instances, I totally see what lead me to lose my grip on myself: feeling completely alone AND not taking care of myself on the inside. I was going and going, losing one thing or person after another, and never stopped to deal with any of it. I didn’t feel like I had anyone who could wrap their arms around me and help me feel stronger and not alone, even when I was married (the first time) and had family trying to support me.

It just snowballs until one day you physically can’t stop crying or you’re researching just how many pills you would need to take to not wake up tomorrow. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize you need help and you’ll stop the world in order to get it, even when the person who should be your biggest supporter responds to your plea for him to take you to the “mental hospital” with eye rolls, protests of “Why did you let yourself get so bad?” or, “Your problem is you need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and try harder.” You keep trying, even when that person instructs you to not “come home until you’re well” when you ask what will happen to your marriage because of this. (Big hint…my first visit resulted in the staff psychiatrist telling me the primary cause of my issues was my marriage.)

Each of my stays at the happiness hospital lasted from five to ten days, and I was on suicide watch for all of them. I learned how to make do without a lot of comforts (my regular deodorant, shoelaces, shaving alone, eating what and when I felt like it), and I learned a lot about both myself and humanity in general.

There was the heavier set lady in her 50s who came in straight from home, had no one to bring her any of her things, and was in tears because she had no bra and was humiliated to be walking around with the girls swinging free. (We happened to be close in size, so I gave her one of mine). There was the elderly lady in a wheelchair who adopted me as her confidant, and would sit next to me for hours telling me about her life and sobbing over everything and everyone she’d lost. There was the high-powered, well-known attorney in the robe and slippers pacing the hallways, who turned himself in for drug and alcohol abuse that resulted from the horrors he dealt with in his cases.

There were wealthy people, homeless people, drug addicts, alcoholics, sad people, exhausted people, confused people, young people, old people, employed people, jobless people. And we all had common ground…we were all here because something wasn’t right and it wasn’t getting better. We didn’t need a new kidney or stitches. We needed teachers, guidance counselors, and friends to lean on, talk to, cry with. We needed to learn who we were and how to live life.

When I had to give up my kids and the alcohol and nightmares took over my life, leading to my last happiness hospital trip, I especially needed an identity and a purpose. I felt useless, worthless, lost, and like the biggest failure to ever exist. That visit helped me learn who I was, deep down inside, regardless of what role I was playing in life at any given moment. I was no longer a wife. I felt like I was no longer a mother, no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, no longer Daddy’s girl (he had passed a few years earlier), no longer had a home, and no longer had my friends. The counselors helped me figure out WHO I was, not just WHAT I was. They taught me to identify people who always wind up hurting me and how to keep those people from hurting me again.

Most of all, although it took three times, I finally learned how to say “I need help” before crashing and burning. I can never regret the incredibly human people I got to know, and the glimpse into the rawness of what really being a human being is built of. It’s built of pain, smiles, and hugs. And it’s built on not being alone.

Have you ever really identified WHO you are, rather than WHAT you are? How hard or easy is it for you to say “I need help?” Did you go through something extremely hard and unpleasant, but don’t regret it? What did you learn?

I Survived, Part 2

By: Chaunte McClure

Hiding behind out masks

Even when we look our best, we can be experiencing some of the worst times of our lives. We smile like everything is going well, yet we have so much hiding behind our masks. Hurt, shame, disappointment, and heartaches are tucked behind our masks because we don’t want to reveal the pain. I’ve been there. I eventually became depressed and I didn’t want to carry the weight of all those negative emotions any longer. Last month, I gave you a peep into my story about depression and now that the I Survived Women’s Empowerment Conference is over, today I will tell you more.

I got to a very low point in my life and I decided that I was too tired to continue living. I was tired of the struggles, tired of being angry, tired of being sad, tired of the stress and tired of fighting. One Saturday I thought I really understood why people commit suicide. I started wondering how I could do it. How can I end my life?

Then I saw the faces of some of my family members – the people whom I would’ve hurt the most. I have no doubt that was God’s way of stopping me from making one of the worst decisions I could have ever made. It was after that moment that I finally asked God to help me. I had been so focused on all of the situations and life changes that eventually led to depression, that God really wasn’t my focus any longer. I was overwhelmed with emotions, but I asked God to help me through it. I was too broken to even try to help myself and I realized that my situation required God’s power.

God said He would heal me, but it seemed like when I got two steps ahead, I would take one step back. I started getting frustrated, because I believed God would heal me, but I would occasionally have setbacks. I pressed forward and I anticipated the day when those symptoms would finally go away. I wanted to be healed right away, but it was a process and I believe God was teaching me patience and how to persevere through the process.

It was a long road to recovery, but I made it! I had to pray and I had to fight the negative thoughts that crept in mind because this was a spiritual battle and a mental battle, but with God’s help, I survived. You can too!

I Survived

By: Chaunte McClure

Women's EmpowermentOn Easter Sunday morning a parishioner stopped me to ask about a flyer in which I was pictured on Facebook. She was referring to the flyer about an upcoming women’s conference I’ll be participating in this month. As I shared information about the I Survived Women’s Empowerment Conference, she was eager to know what I survived. When I told her, she was utterly surprised. That’s usually the reaction I get when I share my story. Matter of fact, when I reflect on the state I was in, I can hardly believe it either. I survived depression. For months I walked around trying to be myself when in reality I felt like someone else was living inside of me. I felt different. I was miserable. I was sad, angry, and frustrated. These emotions were on repeat for nearly two years, but I survived. I survived after not wanting to survive.

How did I become depressed, you may be wondering? A series of unfortunate events led me to a dark, lonely place. Just when I reached a defining moment in my life, it seemed like everything fell apart and landed on top of me, but I survived. I survived because I allowed God to rescue me from that pile of rubble and restore the peace I once had. Was it easy? Absolutely not. I had to fight every single day from the moment I finally asked God to heal me until I was completely healed.

Why am I sharing this with you? Now that I’m healed, I want to encourage other women who are in that same dark place. God “… comforts us in all our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any afflictions with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) I know there are others who need to be comforted and if sharing my story in a blog, sermon or other public speaking avenue will motivate someone, I’ll keep writing and speaking because it’s a matter of life and death – physically and spiritually.

There’s more to this story, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who will be attending the conference to hear my story and the stories of other women who also survived some challenging issues. I’ll plan to revisit this topic in another blog post to tell you the rest of my story.

I’m Chaunte McClure inspiring you to SURVIVE.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or any other mental illness, get help. Don’t let the stigma of mental health hinder you from getting on the road to recovery.

52 Windows Gala, An Evening to Benefit MIRCI

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Did you know that one in four adults — approximately 57.7 million Americans — experience a mental health disorder in a given year? Or that one in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder?  Would it surprise you to learn that about one in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional disorder?

In the Midlands, there is a wonderful non-profit – Mental Illness Recovery Center, Incorporated or MIRCI – whose mission is to provide community based services to individuals recovering from severe mental illness or emotional disorders through counseling, housing and financial management initiatives. They have some incredible programs and 92% of every dollar goes directly to services for folks in recovery of a mental illness.

On May 10, I’m supporting MIRCI through 52 Windows, and I’d like to ask you to consider doing the same.  In this 52nd year of service at MIRCI, 52 artists from around the state have created 52 Windows to be sold at a silent auction beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 10 at 701 Whaley.

Yours truly created a window for the event, a sustainable piece titled Pop. Art. This funky piece is created from 100 reclaimed materials, included soda cans, pop tabs, even a piece of foam core destined for the landfill!

Join us as we celebrate the vision of South Carolina artists through a collection of individually unique hand-crafted vintage windows to benefit MIRCI’s Housing and Homeless programs for Midlands-area individuals facing chronic mental illness.

You’ll enjoy a delightful evening featuring:

  • Unique Works of Hand-Crafted Art
  • Local Artists from the Midlands and throughout the state
  • A Lively Silent Auction
  • Live Music & Open Bar
  • Heavy Hors oeuvres from Aberdeen Catering

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit http://52windows-facebook.eventbrite.com/.  Monies raised will bolster housing and homeless services for those in the Columbia area facing chronic mental illness.