Mental Health Awareness Month


Celebrate what you want to see more of.

– Tom Peters

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’m not sure if that’s meant to be that we should be aware of the mental health struggles going on for the people around us and to give some space and grace or if it’s also supposed to be for ourselves to recognize our own struggles and be aware and self-aware of our own mental health and the triggers as well as the coping tools we carry with us on a daily basis.

It is so appropriate that today of all days, the first of May, and the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month that my day got unexpectedly set on its head. It was nothing outlandish or incapacitating, but change is hard, especially for people like me who like their lists and like their day mostly planned out.

Today was my non-day. I was going to sleep in late and then attend to the mess that is my dining room table. That’s where I work and the last two weeks have been filled with so many things the table got away from me. Again. As always. And then I was to tackle the list my daughter and I made last night.

I awoke to a poke in my side and my son standing over me.

Son: Do you want to drive me to school?

Me: Do I want to drive you to school? No. But I will, I laughed. When do you need to be there?

Son: 2 minutes.

Needless to say while his school is not far, it is also not two minutes away.

His regular ride hadn’t come and he couldn’t reach him by phone. These things happen. Of course, growing up a not-popular, bullied kid, my first reaction is to wonder if they’re still friends because his friend can’t have simply overslept or forgot; he must hate my son for some unknown reason and now they’re no longer friends. I did not express any of this out loud. Even in my internal despair for my kids, I know how irrational this is.

I did break the land-speed record for getting dressed and got to the car. He drove. He was a few minutes late, but he drove under the speed limit; he’s a careful driver and he’s still learning. (As an aside, he’s the exact opposite of my daughter who is also learning to drive – she drives a bit faster, stops a bit too slow, and just is more cavalier about the whole thing. Not that she’s unsafe; she’s not, but their personalities really show through on their driving styles.)

Once he was at school, I could go straight home and begin work (and know that I’d get nothing written) or make a different plan.

I made a different plan.

I grabbed breakfast through the drive-thru, and went to the library, where I am currently sitting in the new local history room typing on my Kindle.

I could have let the sudden change defeat me, I could have gone back home, curled up on the sofa, and went back to sleep, and it would have still been okay. Even though I was interrupted, I had planned on sleeping late. I could have gone back to sleep and not even felt an ounce of guilt. I could have started over tomorrow and that also would have been okay. But I made a different choice, and that was because I reevaluated my day, my priorities, and my mental health.

I admit to being hyper self-aware of how I’m feeling and what my triggers are when they happen, but you can recognize the things that set you off down a path of stress and anxiety and readjust. Use your tools. Think about what tools you have in your own mental health toolbox. Some of mine that I used today include:

1. Take a deep breath and reevaluate. In today’s scenario, I wasn’t able to do that until my son was dropped off at school, so I sat in the parking lot for five minutes to regroup (and readjust the mirrors).

2. Did I want to buy breakfast or eat at home? If I ate at home (whether or not I bought breakfast), would I be able to eat and then seamlessly move into my day’s work? I didn’t think so.

3. What were my alternatives?
a. Eat at McDonald’s (or elsewhere)?
b. Eat in the car?
c. Eat somewhere else?
d. I chose to eat in the car and then drive to the library.

4. I found a nice quiet corner in a new room and I’m writing.

5. Before I leave, I’ll make the plan for the rest of the day. Dinner, two kids off to work, put my teaching stuff in storage until the end of summer. It’s not much, but it’s doable, and today that’s the most important part. My list would include a master of everything that needs to be done, and then sort out what is the most important and what can be done easily and quickly.

And of course, all of these coping tools and compromises will depend on how stressed and anxious you are. I have an underlying anxiety about not having a therapist. I think I’ve decided to look for another one because it was helpful, but is that because of seeing a therapist or seeing that therapist for eleven years? I’ll need to figure that out.

Every Monday this month will be a Mental Health Monday on the website, and there will be other posts throughout the month talking about mental health – yours and mine. I am always happy to give voice to the readers so if you have something that works for you, please add it in the comments. While this isn’t a social media, it is a community, and especially where mental health is concerned, we need to support one another for wherever we are in our continuing journeys.

Awareness is half the battle.

Mental Health Monday – Re-opening Stress


​I’ve kind of put this off for most of the day. I didn’t intentionally procrastinate. I did need to get groceries, and I suppose I could have not bribed my son to come with my by promising him a trip to the bagel shop and Starbucks for a frappechino, but I did. And while I do really need to sit down and finish my lesson plan for RCIA next Sunday and contact the printer for the handouts (that need to be mailed since we’re meeting by Zoom), I still really did not intentionally put this off. There were also people WRONG ON THE INTERNET that I needed to take care of.

It is true that this Mental Health Monday comes at the beginning of the last week for us in New York for NY Pause. While the entire state won’t be opening up, and the emergency orders are still in effect, the formal Pause expires on Friday, and I honestly don’t know how I feel about that. It gives me stress just thinking about it. That is partly because I will continue to isolate at home, as will my family; I will continue to wear a mask when I go out, and I will stay six feet away from you, and I will expect you to stay six feet away from me. Being cautious doesn’t make me paranoid. After all, sometimes they really are out to get you.

Seriously though, the stress associated with opening up the states is almost as viscerally debilitating as closing them down was in the first place.

My main advice to you is the same that I’m giving myself: Take it slow. If you’re not ready to go to the store when everyone else is there, don’t go. I can tell you that there is food on the shelves. Today when we went they didn’t have everything I wanted but I just picked alternatives, like in pasta – cavatappi instead of penne, thin spaghetti instead of angel hair. They didn’t have Bertolli’s pasta sauce but they did have Prego. Meats were all on sale and we got everything we came for. The only thing we didn’t get that was on our long list was Alfredo sauce. 

My church is still livestreaming on Facebook Live four times a week. If they came back on Sunday, I would still not attend. If you’re not comfortable, there is no reason for you to go to the building for your worship service. There are appropriate alternatives.

If you’re working from home, see if you can extend that. 

If you’re in a house, get outside once a day. You don’t have to go anywhere – just breathe in the fresh air. Of course, if it’s snowing, like it was here in New York on Saturday, maybe avoid that. If you’re in an apartment, go for a drive. I will take a drive at least once a week (and not go through a drive through) just for a change of pace.

Go to bed earlier than usual. Turn off the electronics, get away from the internet and social media, take a quiet half an hour before sleeping. I may have mentioned that I’ve been sleeping with an eye mask. The light pressure of it has a way of calming me down for sleep, which surprised me, but it seems to work for me; maybe it will work for you.

Share some of your coping and stress relievers in the comments so we can all benefit from each other. We are all in this together.

Happy Holidays!


This won’t publish until tomorrow morning, but as I write this it is many things for many people today: it’s the day after Christmas, which makes it the First Day of Christmas. It is also the fifth night of Chanukah. It is Boxing Day. It is the first day of Kwanzaa. Please add your holidays in the comments, and I can add them to my yearly calendar for next year.

I had so many intentions for writing and publishing last week, and part of the week before, including a a reflection on gratitude, a short commentary on something my priest said during a homily about everyday is Thanksgiving or at least the opportunity for thanksgiving, the emotional legacy I feel for the new Star Wars movie as well as something Supernatural finale related, holiday photos of our family’s menorah and Christmas tree as well as other shared instagram-type posts. The one thing I really tried to get done was a special Mental Health Monday before Christmas with ways to avoid holiday stress.

Instead of writing about it, and offering some advice I decided to take my unwritten as of yet advice, and not worry about writing and posting (among a few household things). For one thing, every time I looked at my ever increasing list of writing projects, I blanked. I closed the computer or the Kindle, and I walked away. There were presents to be wrapped, cards to be mailed (which had its own special stress for the lateness that they were received by me and losing my address book), our tree wasn’t up yet, our stove wasn’t working and I wasn’t sure how we were going to prepare Christmas dinner*. I tried to write to avoid the stress of the holidays that were on a timeline, and in making an editorial timeline at this time was really stressing me out. Each time I postponed a day’s planned posting, it increased my stress. And this isn’t why I write. While there is good and valuable stress that comes with my writing choices, this last week and some days was truly giving me bad, debilitating stress.

Once I made the decision to not write until after Christmas Day I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

There are six days left to this year, and it’s been quite a year. It is not only a year ending, but an entire decade. It’s kind of a big deal. I will write again before the New Year and then after as I discover which direction I want to travel in with my writing.

My advice for the rest of this week is:

TAKE TIME FOR YOU. If you’re working, spend your break times eating, hydrating, meditating, reading or whatever it is that you do for you. At home, take time for you. You’ve worked hard all year; take a little time for yourself.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and have a Blessed and Peaceful upcoming New Year.

*A quick note on these things:

The presents got wrapped.

The cards we ordered from an online photo card store didn’t come, but we did receive another family’s cards. It took a little longer to get our own cards, but we did. No big deal, and an unavoidable delay. I sent the cards out in waves, and it turned out all good.

I found my address book that has ALL of my addresses.

We got our tree and lights up. My son put his Santa hat on the top, and it looks very cute.

Our oven hasn’t worked for months and we are buying a new stove. Unfortunately, it won’t be delivered until the weekend. (My son is already planning on baking a pizza the first night!) Fortunately, a generous friend offered us her countertop convection oven, and Christmas dinner was saved!

It all works out in the end, doesn’t it.

My Recent Medical Scare (but it’s all good now)


Recently, I had a cancer scare. I’ll preface by saying that I’m fine and in the end, they didn’t find anything, but on the way there, things were a little tense. When these big things happen, I tend to get quiet, listen, no thinking and okay a lot. I did it when I had my first child:

There seems to be a problem.


We’re going to –


That didn’t work. Emergency c-section.


This is when my don’t question authority, your elders know better than you mindset kicks in. I think some of that is generational, but more than that it is growing up in polite-don’t-rock-the-boat society.

And so when a routine ob-gyn visit turned less than routine, I faced it with my usual aplomb. I told no one at first, not until the biopsy was scheduled and then I told my husband and my closest friend.

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