#leapfear Day 17 – Hema

Hema is another extraordinary woman in my life.  I am either an idiot or very clever in surrounding myself with powerful, intelligent and beautiful friends. I subscribe to the notion that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  I would settle for being able to breathe the same air as these people.

Hema is passionate about everything she puts her mind to.  She is one of the best teachers I have ever met, her love for her family is unmatched and her drive to be the best person she can be inspires me to be better than I ever thought I could be.  She is an encouraging and thoughtful friend and a complete nerd.  Ask her about the photo of her with the cast of Star Trek the Next Generation.  My. Hero.

Her story reminds us that even when it isn’t easy, it is important to be accepting of help and to focus on what you can change.  Hema’s force and determination is not something to be played with.  Only her love is greater.

 

What changed that made you realize you were living a life of fear?

After my son was born, I was diagnosed with Post Partum OCD.  It was incredibly scary for me – everyone hears about Post partum depression, but I was happy as pie.  It was my thoughts though, that were out of control.  Eventually with my second pregnancy the condition became incredibly worse until my daughter was born, where the illness almost came to a direct halt.  I then went into a deep depression which later turned into manic depression, which I still have.  Aside from my mental health, over the last couple of years we have been learning more about my son’s challenges – he has sensory processing disorder, which is a very misunderstood condition.  I became afraid that I wasn’t capable of helping him live a life with special needs, when I myself needed so much help.

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Once you realized that you were living a life in fear, what stopped you from moving forward? What held you back for so long?

I was mostly afraid of how my family would react. I come from a culture, where traditionally mental illness isn’t considered as legitimate as it is here. It was also difficult for me to accept my diagnosis. Here I am a philosophy teacher, talking to students about mind and matter, and at the same time, I’m experiencing the realization that my mind is sometimes not me? And that my mind is sometimes beyond my control? That was the most difficult realization for me.

With my son, I still feel like I am being held back. Not many people have heard of sensory processing disorder, so many people in our lives still attribute his challenges to behavioral problems, or parenting styles. It’s still difficult for me to decipher between all of the above still, and it’s hard to sometimes just be a mom, when I can’t even figure out what my son needs. This is the most difficult for me, because honestly, sometimes I want to be allowed to screw up, I want to be allowed to make mistakes, but I feel like I can’t for fear of being judged, and because so much of my current energy is devoted to understanding how to make my boy better.

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Once you did take the leap, what did you have to let go of?2016-02-17_0003.jpg

I had to let go of what others thought about me. I had to accept the unconditional support that my partner gave me. I had to let go of my mistrust issues, because I needed my family in the end. Mostly, I let go of the stigma I associated with mental illness. Having manic depression doesn’t define me, but it does contribute to who I am – for good and bad!   Yes I have my moments of depression or mania, but I’ve learned some great tools to help me cope.

As for my son, I had to stop being so upset that so many misunderstand him.  He is a bright young boy with significant challenges.  If people want to be in his life, they will take the time to understand him, I can’t force that on anyone.  I’m lucky that those who surround me are taking the time to learn more about SPD

Mostly I had to let go of the guilt associated with my needs as a person with manic depression.  I need a lot of outlets for my manic energy.  I need space, I need fresh air, I need to be alone for a little while every day.  I can not be a good mother, wife or teacher if I don’t have my mental down time each day.  This is especially difficult with 2 young children, but I’m lucky to have a partner that understands.

 

Once you let go, what did you find on the other side that was worth taking the leap?

2016-02-17_0004.jpgBeing an advocate for mental illness for my students. It’s important that these kids have role models in their lives that aren’t afraid to speak about the struggles, challenges, and beautiful things about having mental illness.

In terms of my son, I’ve learned to just get to know him as him. He is a stunning, loyal, and beautiful young boy. He’s brilliant, and I love him so much. I’ve also tried spreading awareness about SPD, hoping that others will understand my son’s fun little quirks.

I’ve also taken the time to tattoo my arm as a reminder of just how much strength I can have.  I’ve chose a cherry blossom tree in the shape of the world, with me meditating underneath.  Beside that is a lotus flower that says “be here now” this is my daily mantra, it helps me remember not only to live in the moment, but to understand each moment, to slow down, and not succumb to my manic thoughts and impulses.  I still have trouble with this sometimes, but I need to remind myself that I’m still learning about myself as this mental illness develops.  I have another small tattoo of Beethoven on my back – listening to his music is very motivating to me – imagine writing the most beautiful music while realizing you’re going deaf?  I find a lot of power in his music.  Though I also feel that way about Metallica – though a little harder to tattoo 😉

2016-02-17_0007.jpgWhat would you tell someone whose fears are still holding them back?

The hardest thing is letting go of what others think. It sounds so easy, but it’s not. Even harder still is accepting yourself for who you are. Once you fall in love with yourself, amazing things happen – just let your soul shine!

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Is there anything else you would like to share with people on the blog?

I love Anita.
Teaching makes me a better mother, being a mom makes me a better teacher.
I am surrounded by incredible family and friends
If life could only take place in my classroom, I would forever be content