Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Darkness Returns

When I entered into my recovery after months and months of pain and determination, I thought that I was there to stay--mentally healthy forever. I'm aware that people relapse, and I know I'll have this disease my whole life, but I thought I'd be symptom-free going forward.

I was wrong.

The last few weeks (I'm not sure how long this has been going on) I haven't been feeling so well. I first noticed that something wasn't right about two weeks ago when I became angry inside. And I'm not talking just normal irritation. I was focused on little things that shouldn't be making me feel that way. It scared me because I knew that it was completely irrational. And as I thought about it, I realized that I had been declining for a while, but I didn't even know it. I examined myself more and more and eventually came to the conclusion that I was probably suffering from a relapse. Something I thought I'd never have to go through.

But realizing it wasn't the scariest part--that was reserved for telling my parents what was happening. Although I had no reason to be afraid, and I knew they'd be supportive and understanding, I almost didn't do it. I was afraid of their reaction and unsure of how to say it. I'm not good at communicating my feelings. I'm just not. But I summed up all the courage I had in me, reminded myself of the advice I give others, and told my mom that I wasn't feeling well and I wanted to see a therapist (I talked to my dad that night when he came home from work). And, yes, they immediately jumped to help me in any way possible, including asking me if I was suicidal.

If I was scared, imagine how they were feeling.

We talked. A lot. And as we talked, we were able to isolate the main symptoms I was experiencing (it pays to know the them well) and possible reasons and triggers. Signs for me included interior anger, predominantly, but I was also feeling a lack of energy, obsessiveness/anxiety, and just plain down. That all crept up on me when I wasn't looking. I made an appointment with a counselor for the following week and saw my spiritual director (a great Miles Christi priest) within a couple of days.

I've been doing whatever I can to treat these symptoms in a healthy way, such as going to bed at a regular time, eating right, talking with friends, and letting my parents know how I feel. I thank God that I'm not suicidal, but that's why it's important to recognize the signs early. I'm starting to climb out of the cave, and now I'm having good days and some not-so-good. But this is life with depression--and I'll take it over not living.

My first reaction was to keep this quiet. After all, I'm the teen who beat depression and suicide, and now educates thousands of people a year on how to overcome it. But I am unashamed of this disease and want to be an example to others who relapse after recovery. If I can't be transparent and real, then I won't be able to save as many lives.

So my advice from what I'm experiencing right now is to recognize your depression, grab it by the throat, and defeat it--again and again, if you have to.

I'll keep you updated on how everything's going. And I ask for your support and prayers. Thank you so much for being a part of my journey. You can't imagine how comforting it is to have the love of so many people while I'm in the midst of murky waters.

You are my life preservers.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Signs: Keeping Secrets

Keeping secrets is one of the most common--and most destructive--symptoms of teen depression. So that's why I made it the subject of the Signs video for this month of June. Check it out! #UnleashtheSigns

Friday, June 5, 2015

Second San Diego Support Group--Boom!

Well, I had a great time yesterday at our second support group meeting here in San Diego. I just want to give a quick update to let ya'll know that more and more teens and parents are coming and benefiting from being around people who understand. We're building a wonderful community of awesome people.

Remember, if your teen is suffering from mental challenges, you are welcome!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

New and Improved

Well, I've got some exciting news! After a year and a half, I'm completely redesigning this website. The new look will be live on the night of May 31. But that's not the only thing going on that day.

I'm inviting you to a free event where I'll be speaking at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in San Diego, CA at 6:30 p.m. Go to my Calendar page for more info. I hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How to Talk to Your Kid About Depression

One of the most common questions I'm asked from parents is, "How do I know if my kid is depressed?" To which I reply with something like, "Look for the signs and talk about it openly."

One of the most common follow-up questions from parents is, "What if they're hiding it really well and don't want to talk about it?" And this is where the going gets tough. But there are ways to bring up the subject, do what's right for them if they're suffering, and find recovery.

But why should you bring up the subject at all? Because according to the CDC, more than one in four (29.9%) of high school-age students are suffering from clinical depression, and once they turn 18, you have no control over their medical decisions. I've seen firsthand how parents lose all ability to help an adult child. So statistically speaking, if you have four kids, one might be depressed. I know in reality it doesn't work exactly like that, but the possibility is there.

A good approach is to mention the topic of depression in age-appropriate discussions, which serves to remove the stigma. Then if your child experiences any symptoms, there won't be hesitation in communicating it to you. This should lead to assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. That's the best possible scenario (other than not being depressed at all). However, I again realize reality doesn't always work that way.

A less acceptable outcome is that your teen suffers quietly and is completely resistant to treatment. This is tough, but not impossible to handle.

Let me tell you what made the biggest difference to change my thoughts about my parents once I entered treatment. Most importantly, they always expressed their love and reinforced those words with actions. Doing what's best for me even when I was not happy about it. Of course, they did this for my mentally healthy siblings as well, but with me, they were even more sensitive and careful about doing what was best. They also chose their battles. They didn't try to fix everything at once. And after a while, my impression slowly changed. But it took time. 

Keep in mind that St. Monica prayed for her son, St. Augustine, for 17 years before he gave up his wild and harmful life for a deeper search of truth and happiness. Persistence pays off.

I want to give you hope that healing and recovery can come. Persistence and patience can lead to a future of contentment, success, and a contribution to society for your child.

Accept that depression is real, and it can impact your own children, relatives, neighbors, or friends--and something needs to be done about it. Use your judgement and be aware. Do what's right for your kids. Love them. 

And be strong for them.

Friday, May 15, 2015

4 Days, 6 Talks

Yes, you read that right. This was a pretty busy week for me, but boy, was it awesome! Speaking to the students of Carlsbad High School twice on both Tuesday and Thursday, and to their parents Monday night, was a highlight in my life. They were an amazing set of teens and parents. I also spoke at the San Bernardino Diocese Behavioral Health Conference. So happy I could give my testimony to all those church leaders!

Talked to so many people after the San Bernardino conference

The first day at Carlsbad High...

...and the last day at Carlsbad High.


A big thank you to PTSA President Kym Szalkiewicz for not giving up in finding days to schedule my talks at CHS!

Oh, and today is the feast day of this ministry's patron, St. Dymphna!

What a fantastic week of spreading hope and saving lives!

Monday, May 11, 2015



The first video of my new series is now online! Please share this with your family and friends as a resource to help them learn a little bit more about depression and mental illness (and don't forget to add #unleashthesigns to your social media posts). You'll also hear more details of how I overcame certain symptoms of my depression.

Look for the second installment next month.

(If you're one of my awesome subscribers and you're reading this in an email, please click here to watch the video on my website)