The Mind and Mental Health: How Stress Affects the Brain

Recently, a friend reminded me how much stress is affecting me. For the umpteenth time, I will have to talk to my doctor about a full neurological workup because I am not myself at all. Dizzy, anxious, burnt out, exhausted to the point where I can barely keep my eyes open, yet I am not getting the right amount of sleep. Last night, I broke down and took the prescription I had previously mentioned. I slept under seven hours, but was mentally awake for most of that time (which means I was not hitting a real REM cycle); I just couldn’t move, and when I did, I would drink some iced hibiscus tea, which I keep in a big Starbucks cold cup, and go right back into finding a comfortable spot, especially since I woke up a little before midnight with a cat firmly attached to my feet. She doesn’t usually spend her nights with me, so I knew she was worried about me. That’s when she becomes maternal. I then woke up from a headache and an anxiety attack which piggy-banked into a full blown panic attack. At 1:30 in the morning. For no obvious reason, and by then, she had wandered off.

Stress can break you down. I should be calm and a little more laid back as certain things in my life are going really well, but for some reason, my mind is not on board. I hope there’s a way to find out what’s wrong and get the help I need before I am hospitalized and having to relearn how to do things. It is scary, but this has happened in my family, so I am well within my rights to be concerned.

I am trying to take it easy, limit stress, and hopefully I can manage this without lashing out at my doctor later this month. I feel he has been hesitant and irresponsible when I’ve presented all the lead up symptoms to what I m currently experiencing. If he blows me off again, I will schedule an appointment with someone new, and fire him by year’s end. Unfortunately, I feel this is is something I need to do if he refuses to take it seriously. I can’t exactly go to Urgent Care with something I’m deeply unsure of. Yet, I know my body and I know something is wrong. I’m praying it is something that lifestyle adjustments will fix, but part of me feels it’s worse.

Praying for less stress and better days.

Stepping Away From Stress

Stepping away from stress

Sleepless Nights, Stressed, & Making Lists


I’m having so many difficulties sleeping, and it’s pissing me off. I wish I could blame that on the incessantly mouthy little dogs next door and above me (They must know I’m trying to sleep, because the second my head hits the pillow, they start barking.), but the truth of the matter is, I am simply stressed beyond words. There is much to do between now (Friday evening) and Sunday morning. I know this because I’ve been making lists.

Like many writers, I get things done by laying things out on paper. Moving is no different. It is stressful, physically & emotionally difficult, not to mention expensive. I have slight envy (not in a serious sense) for anyone who can simply pack their stuff up in a truck and move on to a new town, city, or state without a lot of effort, and without assistance from another human-being on the physical end of things.

It doesn’t matter where you move, if you’ve inherited 2-4 generations worth of “stuff” it costs money to keep that “stuff” safe until you are able to successfully sort through everything, keeping only what is most precious to you (and oftentimes you do not have the time to do that, so you just move it all.). I hope that in the future, my children don’t ever have to say “Wow! Mom had a lot of stuff. What should we do with it all?” I’d prefer they have tangible memories, photos, and a million special moments of family to reflect upon. I’m not saying one shouldn’t keep things, but outside of jewelry, books, DVD’s, music, and a few precious items that I will always hold dear, I’m pretty minimalist, and I try to achieve that “less is more” part of myself with every passing day. I am perfectly content to sell “stuff” I don’t want or need, and I am just as content to donate things when the need arises.

And yet, I am oddly attached to what I do own. I remember working hard for these things, struggling, and being excited when I was finally able to call something mine. But now? My health has to be my biggest priority.


Earlier this week, when I thought I was about two seconds away from an epic meltdown, my brother pulled me aside and said “You think you’re breaking, but you’re SO strong. You don’t even know how strong you are. I see it.” And yet, I continue to lose my temper on a damn near daily basis. Sometime between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM each day, I become a psychotic lunatic that you cannot speak to. It’s scary, because I have no control over it.

Tonight I am trying to do laundry so that I can pack all that is necessary (basically, everything I’ve worn in the past week. All the goodies I found in my bags are, mostly, worth taking with me.), swap things out at the storage unit tomorrow when I grab my suitcases and TV (I figure by putting my clothes into my suitcases, I am eliminating the need for excess boxes.), and then run a few small errands so that I can get some rest before the big journey with what will surely be two crying cats, at least for a little while. Thus far they have proven to be good little travelers. I pray that is true on Sunday, which is precisely why I will wait until next week to wash their blankets. Even though it won’t be cold on Sunday, the familiar smell of “home” will help them transition a little more smoothly, especially since they will be meeting another cat upon arrival. These are two tough little girls, so Mama’s going to be clipping their nails to ensure they’re not physically aggressive. I’m sporting some scratches myself from “play”, so I can’t imagine what they might do if they think they’re protecting themselves. Two against one is only acceptable in hockey. We do, however, suspect that their new roommate was a drunk hockey player in a past life. You never truly know. 😉

I’m desperately trying not to take anything with me if it’s not 100% necessary, but there are some things I cannot negotiate on. I’ve already gotten rid of two boxes full of crap that didn’t seem like crap at the time, but felt good to toss. I consolidated four boxes into one, etc. If you don’t know when you will use something, you probably don’t need it “right this minute”. Breathe, and let it go.

Thankfully, I am pretty sure I only have two more loads of laundry before I can call it a night. I will throw dinner together between now and then, and maybe nail a beauty routine down so that I don’t have to waste time tomorrow. If I over-think it, nothing will get done properly, so I need to dial it back and calm the fuck down. Sleep is NOT a crime, especially when you’re terribly sleep-deprived, but I need to allow myself a good 6-8 hours so I don’t become a psycho tomorrow, or Sunday for that matter. Note to self: Eat regularly, stay hydrated, and pack some snacks.

I’ve got this.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Situation Or Depression? There’s A Difference

I had a major meltdown Monday. I can’t recall the last time I felt that alone, that isolated from my friends & family, or that upset. I’m certain it’s happened before, but Monday was simply too much, too soon, and way too intensely upsetting. I vividly remember scrolling through my contacts list at one point, and realizing that I could not call a single soul in it. I reasoned that I didn’t want to bother anyone at work. It was quite sobering.

When a strong woman says “I’m tired of being strong.”, it’s honest. When a strong woman says “I feel broken.”, that too is honest. But when a strong woman seeks help so that she does not harm herself, knowing the potential is there, and gets told “There’s a nine month waiting list to be seen.” or “We’re booked solid until January, so you should go to your nearest emergency room.”, it is astounding.

When you go to the emergency room with a mental health crisis of any kind, it is my experience that you will not be taken seriously unless you’re bleeding or have overdosed and were brought in on a stretcher. Does it really have to come down to that? I think it is a horrible approach and I wonder how many other people have experienced this.

If a mother can go to a police station, fire house, rescue squad, or hospital, and legally surrender an infant (Known as the Safe Haven Law) without fear of being deemed a criminal for child abandonment, then I should be able to go into any medical establishment and say “I am worried for myself, I need help.” without fear of judgment or criticism, or being mistreated. Instead, I spent several days talking to my insurance company, who are utterly useless, trying to find a way to get immediate care. But no such place exists without an extensive waiting list. They just keep telling me to go to the emergency room. I didn’t break my leg, this is not an emergency room situation unless I have hurt myself or someone else. G-d forbid!

I don’t need to be hospitalized. I know that, and so do the few people who support me, but do I need additional support and someone to talk to? Yes. I reached out to my psychiatrist for a prescription, asking whether or not I should go back on medicine I already have or medicine I used to take, the latter of which would require him to call a prescription into the pharmacy for me. Unfortunately, medication is always very tricky, and side effects are generally the reason I stop taking them. That, or the fact that they don’t make me feel better. I can’t function when I’m deathly ill from side effects or I can’t physically get out of bed from the drowsiness certain medications provide at even a low dose. I have yet to meet one that truly works without making things worse.

It’s almost 2016, and there are still so many people ashamed to talk about their use of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication during difficult times in their life, or daily to manage very real issues that aren’t their fault to begin with. I would be far more embarrassed pretending I was okay when I am not. Suffering in silence makes the suffering one hundred times worse than it is if you simply reach out to someone and ask for help. But here I am, and there’s no one willing to help. It’s like being outside in -50 degree temperatures and having someone throw ice water at you. It is also incredibly hurtful and insulting.

The past few years have taken an immense toll on me, I’d never deny that, but the last two and a half weeks have been like bleeding to death slowly. And yet, as I sit here with a cold that came out of nowhere, I find myself unable to handle answering the phone or responding to a text message (I wish I could say they were simple, but they’re not. I currently have the Do Not Disturb feature on because listening to my phone vibrate all day is getting to me.). I’ve reached a point where too many people want immensely large pieces of me, but none of them are willing to grant me so much as an inch of kindness, compassion, or understanding. I take a few days to take care of myself and get told I’m horribly selfish, which is the exact opposite of who I am. I’m considering the asinine source before buying into such nonsense. Sometimes employing a “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that” filter is a good idea.

I am the first person to say that it’s important to advocate for your own mental health, and your overall health in general. It’s important to question everything, especially when you aren’t receiving legitimate answers. I also feel it is important to take ownership of your own crap. That being said, I feel like this particular situation is what’s affecting me and making me physically ill. It’s not depression in a traditional way, it is the situation causing how I feel, but it is still difficult and I’d prefer to be prepared for anything more that comes at me, as opposed to pretending nothing affects me. I’m human, and it’s not a crime.

I might not have been in a good mood to begin with, but come on, this has merit.

I got home late from the hospital Monday night. They keep the rooms outrageously hot in that particular part of the hospital. I kept putting eye drops in to counteract the heat drying my eyes out, and I kept disinfecting things because every other person was coughing or sneezing. I already knew I had something in my system, but now it’s affecting my head and chest. For a period of time yesterday, my voice was but a whisper. All I was capable of doing was sitting and today hasn’t been much better, except that I have my voice back and have been able to do a few things in and out of the house. My head feels like there are multiple hot pokers stuck in different directions, my sinuses are killing me, and my eyes and throat hurt like hell. The weather, all dark and grey, complete with rain, is only adding to the pressure in my skull. I find it insulting to get sick when I am already dealing with enough insanity.

My brother is still in the hospital. They wanted to discharge him on Monday, but his blood oxygen levels weren’t good and they were talking about doing another procedure before discharging him. By Tuesday, his levels were almost 100% improved, the second procedure was determined to be okay a month post-op, but not now. There was also a major snafu when one of his surgeons discovered a potential infection on an x-ray. He wasn’t sure what it was, but wanted to run some tests to figure it out. They have since discovered that he indeed has infection, but they aren’t 100% sure where or what it is. He’s been saying he “feels hot” since last week. They kept telling him his vitals were good and it was merely a side effect of the anesthesia and medication. Last night, the nurses argued once they discovered he had a high fever, because apparently the two nurses prior to the shift change failed to report that he had one at all. His primary surgeon was called at home around midnight and was, quite obviously, very concerned. He ordered a laundry list of tests, some of which were performed immediately after the phone call, and others were done earlier on, with a few more ordered for later today. My brother, in perfectly dramatic fashion, blamed me for this. It is, naturally, all my fault. How could it not be?! Lord knows I walk around with a veritable petri dish just waiting to unleash it on my own flesh & blood. <rolls eyes>

I’d like to blame that psychotic comment on his medication, but I have no idea where he gets the idea that I’m some kind of monster trying to keep him in the hospital (If I was, he’d be chained to a bed in a mental hospital.). Because I’m honest? Because I’m direct? Because I don’t coddle him? No matter what I say or do, I am wrong. It’s like being married, except this isn’t Arkansas (That was a snarky comment, not a statement of fact, lest someone become offended and lack the ability to decipher my sense of humor.).

Quite frankly, I’d like him to recover in someone else’s home, tormenting them. If I hear about his dietary restrictions one more time, he’ll be lucky to get a loaf of bread and a gallon of water each week upon being released into my “care”. I offered to bring him something when I go back to the hospital and was told I “can’t be obvious about it” because I brought him a request Monday and apparently someone asked how he got it or something along those lines. I didn’t know I was committing some evil act by trying to do something nice. He’s a grown man, what am I supposed to do, bring him a teddy bear?! His vocal cords are healing (If you watch Chicago P.D., I can tell you that, at the moment, he sounds a lot like Jason Beghe.) at a slow rate, so I’ve made an effort, but all he does is piss me off with the unappreciativeness. I don’t have a lot of patience to begin with, so insulting me is not the way to get what you want or need.

People don’t rely on me for compassion, they rely on me to get the difficult shit done. I realize he feels he deserves some kind of “compassion pass” at the moment, but I don’t have it in me to change the core of who I am. I handle and face situations, but I’m not going to be someone I’m not, regardless of what a situation may be. In life, there’s no room for sugar-coating, and I certainly don’t expect people to do it for me either. Deliver the facts, I will deliver solutions, but don’t play games with me. It can seem cold and dispassionate to people, but I am actually quite passionate. If I wasn’t passionate, I wouldn’t do a damn thing for anyone. I would absolutely be selfish and self-centered, but I’m not. Sometimes when people are going through something difficult, they imprint their issues onto you, because their coping mechanisms aren’t strong enough to hold them together emotionally.

Ultimately, medication or not, I know who I am. This week has been a bad situation and it upset me to an ugly point, but my survival and success rate are 100%. I’m not going anywhere.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Family First


Yesterday morning my brother was admitted into the hospital with what is, as of now, a form of heart failure. The doctors are baffled; stating that they don’t know how this happened because he is far too young. Unfortunately, he is far from being out of the woods. He is scheduled for a serious procedure today, and I am sadly all too familiar with it.

My original post probably won’t go up today because I’m sitting here speechless, sick to my stomach. I have words, there are things I want to say, but I feel the need to keep it inside for now.

I don’t talk about my personal life an awful lot, and there’s a reason for that. Most of you that know me off of this page are my friends in everyday life. You have the ability to call me, e-mail me, text, or visit, etc. But for those that do not personally know me, my heart, or the deeper aspects of my life, I tend to keep those things to myself. There’s plenty of people telling their life stories on blogs, but this is not a blog for me; it is my platform as a writer. I am a writer, I have been for 28 years. I’m not a blogger, at least not here, but perhaps that is just semantics for some people. I, however, stand by those words.

This week, I worry (It’s a Jewish woman thing.). I will try to push past the pit of hell inside my stomach. I pray for healing, for modern medicine to do what it’s supposed to do. I pray that some dietary changes reverse this, as a doctor told him it could/would, with some serious effort on his part, but only if it’s a specific type of heart failure.

The words “Life Vest” were used. That kind of technology did not exist when a doctor wanted to crack open my mother’s chest ten years ago and attach a defibrillator to her heart. Her doctor was over 80 (I wanted to punch this man at least three times, but it would have been disrespectful. I told her if he’d been 60, I’d have knocked his teeth out.), did not care to explain the procedure in a gentle manner, and was so rude that he only managed to turn the issue into a “Hell no!”, as opposed to “Can we discuss this?” Everything is being thoroughly explained to my brother, and for that I am grateful. He’s also smart enough to ask questions that other people might not think of and then discuss his options with me, that way there’s a proactive person involved in his recovery.

I know that many of you will understand if I am silent for a while; that family comes first. Today, and maybe most days, I am my Grandmother’s granddaughter. I do put my family first, but I am not afraid to handle the tough stuff. That’s why during the worst times in my life, I handle what needs to be handled, even if I’m not happy about doing it. Even if it breaks me.

Lack of a family unit has really bothered me these last few years. As I sat here yesterday making calls, I realized that about a dozen people did not need to be called, because they don’t give a fuck on a good day, and I will not give them the satisfaction of lapping up misery. I appreciate the people who offered up prayers, but I very nearly told someone off who made an off-hand comment without knowing precisely what is wrong. I had to take a huge step back, realizing that I’m emotional and snapping when you’re upset is not conducive to quality communication with others.

It would be hard not to be upset, angry (because I have tried for YEARS to take every bad thing out of his hands when I knew it was being over-done.), frustrated, and scared. I wouldn’t be human if I felt nothing. But I do feel, and I pray that this procedure holds answers as to the how and why. I pray to all that is holy that this is merely a bump in the long road of life. I pray that my brother sees the error of his ways, realizes he is being given a second chance, and takes that opportunity instead of squandering his brilliant mind.

I thank the doctors and nurses caring for him and the four different people who stopped him from an attempt to sneak into the parking lot for a cigarette! I’m embarrassed he’d stoop so low. They all yelled at him (His words were “They bitched me out!” I said nothing, because I feel he deserved it.), and he was later given a patch, so I am praying this is the end to me saying “You need to quit smoking before it kills you.” My brother may not be receptive to my direct honesty, but he’s taking it from doctors and nurses and I think that in and of itself is a positive thing.

I hope I’ll be able to say something more definitive in the next few days. In the meantime, I’m packing and trying to do all that I can for my brother. Because no matter how big a pain in the ass he is, and my GOD, I swear I inherited a big baby, he’s still MY brother. No one else alive can say that, and I told him the same thing. “No one else alive can say that I am their sister, so stop acting like no one cares about you.” I yell because I care, so when I stop yelling, he’d better start worrying.

As of now, I do not know with any certainty whether his medical expenses will be completely covered. If they aren’t, I will be posting a link at a later date to a fundraiser where even the smallest donation will help, but I will only do so if there’s a huge issue.

Thank you for listening to my insanity this morning. Have a good Wednesday, everyone. 🙂

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Breaking Point


I think it’s admirable when people say “Keep Fighting”, but in actuality, they do not know what you are battling, they do not know your mind, they do not know your heart, and they do not know your breaking point.

We all have lines that, once crossed, send us into different modes of survival. It is perfectly normal to freak out, panic, cry, scream, be incredibly angry, etc. It’s also okay to want to curl up into a ball and not emerge from that position for a while. It is okay to think your feelings through, in your own time and in your own way. When you’re going through something rough, something most people will never have to face, no one wants or needs to be yelled at like a dog that just shit on a persian rug.

I am going through something tremendous at the moment. It is terrifying, heartbreaking, cruel, evil, wrong, and a plethora of other things that I will refrain from saying. Maybe in a year from now, I will feel comfortable sharing the story without feeling as though I am being judged.

There may reach a time when I am not able to be present here on a daily basis. I might be able to check in once a week for a few months, if that. I hope that you can all be patient and stick by me through this, but I will also understand if you don’t. I’m not going to take it personally, but I do feel it is better to be honest in advance, as opposed to simply disappearing for a while without any explanation. I do not intend to abandon what I have.

I LOVE what I do here. It brings me an immense sense of peace and contentment. It is a daily reminder that I’m not just “some person who writes” or “likes to write”, but an actual writer. There’s a difference between the three, but I don’t have to explain it. A great many of you “get it”.

For now, I will remain as present as possible. I will let you know through my work when the insanity is going to start and hopefully have a “I’m going to be back full-time” date as well. Please know I am doing the best I can, trying to remain sane, and trying very hard not to cash in my “life chips”. I am reminding myself this morning that I have survived all of the worst days of my life up until this point. That’s a 100% success rate, and now I just have to keep moving forward, despite wanting to shut down and lose my temper.

In the meantime, I really want and need several solid weeks of uninterrupted sleep each night. My allergies have decided to become a full-on pain in the ass out of nowhere, so I took half a Benadryl last night before going to bed (Because that’s all I had left, or I would have taken two.). My eyes and parts of my face are still itching and burning with no logical reason whatsoever, except that I am stressed and already have eye allergies. Even my eye drops are utterly useless, providing absolutely no relief. Stress, it turns out, manifests in a myriad of ways.

Stay healthy and safe everyone. I’ll be around until I say otherwise.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.