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Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm Waking Up at 4:00 a.m. on My Birthday

Yep, you read that right. Actually, I might not even need to wake up--maybe I'll just stay awake. 

But the reason for that seemingly crazy choice is that I'm formally announcing my "18 Seconds to Save a Life" campaign on the Son Rise Morning Show this Wednesday, October 1. Since it airs from Ohio, and I'm in California, well, need I say more? Do the math. It's not pretty, but I'm more than happy to do it.

I was on the show last January, and I'm so excited to be a guest again! I hope all of you can catch it--just click on the link above or find it on your local Catholic radio station broadcast schedule. I should be on at 7:20 a.m. EST (live) and 9:20 a.m. PST (the way the timing works is super confusing, as I learned the last time I was on the show and my segment didn't air in my area that day).

I would have never guessed that God wanted me to wake up so early on my 18th birthday, but as you know, that's just one of the few ways His plan has surprised me in the last couple of years. 

Almost there!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

From Another: The Stumble

I've had depression since I was 8. I grew up in both a toxic but also wonderful household. I battled biological depression, as well as numerous environmental factors that affected my depression. After living through several traumatic events, I have started a blog about my most recent loss, the death of my father, and my most recent positive step, TMS treatments. 

I have been through several types of treatments, including therapy, medications and hospitalization; all of which helped me in different ways. 


You can read more about Libby's story on her blog, The Stumble: living with depression.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

4th Time's the Charm

I had a blast on the Setting Things Right radio show today! It was my fourth time, and I enjoyed it so much. The hosts have such a dedication to breaking the stigma of mental illness and making real changes throughout the diocese, so people who need help can find it at church. It's always a positive and fun experience for me. I hope they ask me to be on again soon.

In case you missed it, here's the archive, or you could listen to the replay on AM 10000 at 9:00 p.m. tonight.

I joined the three amazing hosts of the Setting Things Right radio show.
From left: Linda Arreola, Kent Peters, Deacon Jim Walsh, and yours truly.

Trying to get the head phones just right. And, remember . . . don't breathe too loud.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Two Weeks to Go!

Get ready!

In two weeks, you'll find out what all the excitement is about. Yes, it will be my 18th birthday. And that's pretty exciting. But there's more. Oh, so much more . . . so stay tuned.

If you absolutely can't wait, you can get the scoop early by listening to "Setting Things Right" next Wednesday, September 27, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One Day, Two Events, Three Talks

I don't think I'll do that again. And although is was a hectic and tiring day, I was able to meet so many people who shared their stories of depression and suicide with me. Now that Suicide Prevention Week is over, I'm gonna step back and take a breather.


The Benedictus breakfast was packed, and the audience was great! I really bonded with the men during those couple of hours.

At the Church Ministers Conference, it was standing room only for both talks! The audiences consisted of some teens, but most of the people were seeking advice on what to do when church or community members ask them for help. I also learned the sad news that a student of the high school where the event was held had died by suicide last week, and one of his teachers was in the audience.

verall, I enjoyed my time with attendees and felt that I reached those who were meant to hear my message! (And thanks to my mom who stood at my booth while I was at the breakfast, and my dad who drove to all these places).

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Body

You might have noticed that a whole lot of people in our society today are obsessed with being super healthy. That's good. I applaud that. And, I have a confession: I'm one of those people.

Immediately after the crash, my parents spent their energy making sure I was safe. Then after a little while, they turned more attention to my recovery. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and was placed on medication, but my parents knew that wasn't enough. They knew I couldn't just pop a pill and recover.

So good. Oh, so good.
My mom has always tried to have us eat healthy, and fast food and junk food started making me sick, so we ate even healthier than before, but something was still bothering me.

Through trial and error, we found I had a slight intolerance to gluten. I mean, imagine being sensitive to wheat when that was almost all I ate. That certainly didn't help me during my four years of depression.

We did, and still do, the best we can about the whole bread thing, but it doesn't always work out. I do my best given my active life. (And if you doubt what you eat can affect your mental health, check out this article on the gut-brain connection--there's plenty more out there, too).

But my parents realized that taking care of my body isn't just about eating right--it's getting exercise as well. I know almost every kid on the face of the earth has been told at least once to go outside and play. "It's good for you," our parents say. What most people don't know, however, is that the chemicals in your body interact with your mind when you exercise. It physically makes you feel better, and it's proven to help with depression

My parents made it a rule for me to go outside and do some kind of exercise every day during my treatment. I played soccer or foursquare with my siblings, we rode our bikes, and I always participated in pick-up sports at different gatherings.

That helped me a lot, but I received one of the most helpful pieces of advice from a dear friend of the family. He recommended going to bed at 10:30 every night, and waking up at 7:30 every morning.

I think I was frozen in shock. You want me to do what?

I didn't want to do it, but I tried it out. And now, if I'm off the sleep schedule, it throws my entire day out of whack. And later, when I was preparing my talk, I did my research to make sure it's not just me. I found it is proven scientifically that good sleep habits can help with depression.

I wanted to feel better, so I followed the advice that made sense. And look what happened--my healing progressed in an upward pattern. Don't discount the little actions you can take to attain recovery. They add up. 

I'm still healing . . . one rice noodle at a time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

From Another: Behind the Mask

Life is a miserable road
Made so by this heavy load
Makes me cry, cry, cry,
Tired, just want to die
And never wake up again...

My body in sync with my soul
Thus it also takes the toll
Makes my head dizzy, dizzy, dizzy,
Head’s pounding like crazy
Don’t want to wake up again...

Sometimes it’s hard to understand
Need to hold on to someone’s hand
Please save, save, save me
Tired, and scared I’ll see
Myself never waking up again.

The above verses came from a poem I wrote several years ago (now whether or not I have any skill to write poems is a topic for another discussion) while on a family vacation.  I was a 17-year old high schooler, a piano student-teacher with more than a dozen students, had great friends, good health, and a stable, close family.

But something was really wrong.

I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t grateful, excited, or energetic. In fact, I didn’t care about anything. Life was, as I had written so poetically, miserable, dark, and hopeless. I’d start crying for no reason…every other week, day, or minute. I was hopeless and hated everything-but mostly myself. I was a failure, something evil that had to just disappear. There was no reason to keep on living. Nobody cared anyway. I was alone and empty. The thoughts and feelings continued to get worse. I’d spend my nights thinking about how to kill myself. I couldn't seem to keep it all bottled in--when it got bad, I would write hate letters to myself, participate in self-harm, or mark up my hands and thighs with sentences like 'you’re a failure', and 'You don’t deserve to live'. It seemed important for me to never forget that.

But my story today isn’t all about how unhappy I was about life. It’s a story of hope.

You see, I was dealing with a case of undiagnosed clinical depression and high anxiety, and was not receiving the proper professional and medical attention for this mental illness. Just how people who are diabetic could be completely oblivious to the fact that they’re dealing with a serious health issue and think that the symptoms they’re dealing with are part of normal life, so was I living day to day not sure if I could ever leave the nightmare I was stuck in.  

But that all changed the day I accepted the idea that I was sick and needed help. I was tired of the hell that surrounded me. Tired of being tired, exhausted all the time, and the constant crying. I wanted to change, and to learn to love life. And because things seemed to only be getting worse, I decided to search for some answers. I googled 'major depression', and I found several helpful links that listed a variety of depressive symptoms--the same symptoms that I had been experiencing on a daily basis for nearly six years. All of a sudden, I realized that my reality was warped--and that I was not the only one who was feeling this way.

The road to recovery is not easy, and it’s not short, either. But when you are getting the help you need, and seeing the people who can help get your health back, you know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel--maybe you can’t see it yet, but it’s there. 

No one likes to tell people they’re seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist (in my case, it was both), let alone harbor the thought that they are. There’s enough stigma associated with mental illness as it is--no need to add family and close friends to that list. But sometimes we have to swallow that false sense of pride to see the truth. And if we’re hurting, that’s a sign that something needs to be fixed.

I am still in recovery at the moment. It’s been almost 3 months or so, and I wanted to share with you a bit about what my life looks like now: I wake up in the mornings with the energy to get up, a bucket list of things I want to get done during the day. I have a strong sense of peace, more confidence in myself than ever before, living in the moment, and loving life! I can spend evenings with my friends, and I go to social functions willingly (before I was dragged). I laugh a lot more, and I’ve realized that I like to crack a lot of jokes--something that was hidden from even myself. But best of all, I’m not crying anymore, and I don’t feel lonely, empty, or a failure. Yes, I’m still seeing a nurse practitioner to monitor the medication I’m on. Yes, I still have some 'low' days. After all, I’m only human. But where I am now compared to where I was in January is so vast that all the therapy, different medications that I’ve had to try, constant doctor visits, and even the nasty side effects (weight gain, we all hate it to begin with) was SO worth it.

Depression is an illness. But it is treatable. I want my life to be an example to others who suffer from mental illnesses that there is still a bright future for them. There’s hope, and they deserve the best of life, too.

I once thought it was impossible to use the words 'depression' and 'happy' in the same sentence. No more--and I say it with pride--I am a victim of depression, and I am living life with the truest sense of happiness! 

--Mariam Mouawad

If you have a story to share, just fill out the contact form on the right. Your struggles can touch so many, just as Mariam's using her story to help others. You can also hear her on a radio show we taped in July, 2014.