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My name is Maribel. I have two wonderful children and a strong faith. I am also a survivor of depression. I want to share my stories and feelings with everyone in the hopes of removing some of the stigma associated with this disease. You are not weak, you are not crazy. It is not a feeling that you can just wish would go away; it is a struggle from day to day. Some days are good, some days are great, other times everything around you seems bleak. The good news is that there is hope, and depression can be controlled. Thank you for visiting my page. I hope you will enjoy reading my thoughts. At times you will find my posts to be educational and uplifting. Other times I am sure they will be raw and personal. My hope is that you will travel this road with me as we continue to explore what is in store for us in this journey called life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Been Away Too Long

Greetings!

I hope you are all doing well. I took a hiatus from writing, but now it's time to get back into the swing of things. I was busy, mostly trying to get rid of some clutter in my life.

Less busy work + more me time = additional time for me to do the things I love!

I also would like to take this time to wish you & your families a Blessed & Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reach for Your Summit

In a week, God willing, I will be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Along with a group of other brave souls I will be Africa-bound, where we will attempt to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world!

Visiting Africa has been on my bucket list since I was a teenager. I have always been fascinated with traveling, and Africa is certainly one of the places I have on my list. I often think of the children that have been a victim of poverty, civil war, and diseases such as malaria and AIDS, among many other things. On this trip I will have the privilege to visit a clinic to meet some of these children firsthand. This is all made possible through The American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA.) AFCA is a non-profit organization that helps children in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as their guardians, who are HIV positive or who have contracted AIDS and lack access to appropriate medical care. 
I also have always felt a connection with the people of Africa. Being Puerto Rican, I can attribute some of my beliefs, vocabulary, food, and especially music to African roots. Puerto Rico had a large population of African slaves that arrived from the Gold Coast, Nigeria, Dahomey, and the region known as the area of Guineas, the Slave Coast. The vast majority were ethnic groups from Nigeria and the Guineas. Their contributions to music, art, language, and heritage have become instrumental to Puerto Rican culture. And what a rich culture it is!

Thinking about my trip brought to mind some questions. How many of us have to live with no running water? How many of us go to the bathroom in an outhouse? How difficult is it for our children to attend school? I grew up in a relatively humble household. We had no hot water and oftentimes we didn’t have any running water for days at a time. Sometimes our electricity would go out and we’d have to get around by candlelight. When the gas ran out on our stove, my mother would have to prepare dinner outdoors on a rustic makeshift stove comprised of stones and firewood. Nevertheless, this type of poor living pales in comparison to the poverty many people still face. No matter how tough we have it, we really don’t know what struggle is when we compare our circumstances to other real-life situations.  
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro will be no easy task. It will take approximately 6 days to reach the summit, and only 1 day to come back down. We will experience several different climate zones, from dense trees to rocky terrain to snow atop the mountain. A big cause for concern is the possibility of altitude sickness, which occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the air. Air is thinner at high altitudes. When you go too high too fast, your body cannot get as much oxygen as it needs. Altitude sickness can range from feeling like you have the flu or a hangover, to more serious symptoms that could result in death.

Life is no easy trek either. It is a lot like climbing a mountain. We will encounter uphill climbs, downhill descents and plateaus. It may take us a long time to reach the top, only to find ourselves at the bottom in an instant. Rushing through life may make us succumb to “altitude sickness.” My advice? Take your time, keep your eye on the prize, and aspire to reach the summit in your life. I guarantee the views from there will be worth all of the sacrifice.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Road Ahead


On the way to work today I found myself doing something I have not been able to do in a long time: daydreaming. Depression had robbed me of that ability for quite some time. After all, one cannot daydream when one is feeling hopeless.

I kept playing snippets of yesterday in my mind. It was such a good day for me that I thought to myself, “If this is an indication of what the rest of my life is going to be like, I am going to be a very happy woman.”

For a brief moment the voice of pessimism reared its ugly head and tried to whisper, “Just remember…it won’t always be this good.”  In spite of this, I find that I am at a point in my life where I could squash that voice immediately and not worry about the what-ifs.

If you would have told me just 4 months ago that I would be smiling, let alone laughing, I would have told you that you were delusional. The darkness I was living in during that time was all encompassing. Nothing made sense, nothing was true, nothing was good. I could not think about the future. Heck, I couldn’t even think about the next day. Most of my days were lived hour to hour. “If I can just get past this hour,” I would say, “then I can continue to put the worst behind me.”

Have I ever been joyful in the past? Of course I have. This time around, however, my joy feels different. My life is far from perfect. I still face debt, worry about my children and their health, deal with my own insecurities, and long to find a mate. The difference now is that I can still feel positive and optimistic about my future in spite of this. It is a joy that I have only been able to find in Jesus. Nothing in this world can trump the love and protection that can only be found in him.

The way I see it is this: we will all face adversity in life at one time or another, but we don’t have to face it alone. I can hand everything over to God and know he will get me through it. Even in my darkest moments, when I can’t see past the horizon, I don’t have to worry. God is leading my way, and the road ahead shines ever so bright.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Divorce – My Own Witness Protection Program


Imagine having to make the decision of whether to stay quiet and remain anonymous, or to come forward and testify in the name of justice.  If you remain anonymous and do not speak up, your life will go on as usual. You will not ruffle any feathers and do not risk losing anything. On the other hand, if you testify you take on the risk of losing many things near and dear to you. You will lose contact with friends and family members, you will have to move to another location, you will have to change jobs, and scariest of all – you will have to take on a whole new identity. Your new life will be lived under the witness protection program.

For me, divorce was a lot like going into the witness protection program.  Some friends remained neutral and offered support, but unfortunately I lost many friends in the process. I lost a whole set of family members: a wonderful mother-in-law and several brothers & sisters-in-law. I could no longer refer to them as my in-laws, nor would I be able to refer to my ex as my husband. I moved to a different house. I no longer lived in a two-parent household; I was now a single mother. I literally took on a completely new identity.

As the one who filed for divorce, I had to make a very difficult decision. People who think I threw a party the day my divorce was finalized irritate me. What was it that I was supposed to be celebrating? 17 years invested in the institution of marriage? No longer having a companion by my side at night? Or should I have been happy about the fact that I was the one who decided to end it? 

Let me see if I can make you understand just how painful divorce is: I would not wish it on my worst enemy! I believe divorce can be compared to death. It basically is a type of death, the death of a relationship. With divorce, you undergo the same grieving stages as you do when somebody close to you dies. Being the one who initiates it does not make you immune to the painful process. I guarantee you that both parties will somehow go through the grieving stages

There are 5 stages to the grieving process: * Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (DABDA.).
  
The five stages of grief do not necessarily occur in that order. Grieving is a personal process that has no time limit. We often move between the different stages before we are able to feel some type of normalcy. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people may outwardly weep, while others may seem like they are over it when they’re actually dying inside. The important thing is to allow yourself to grieve. No one I have ever spoken with has ever told me that they enjoy hurting and crying. However, suppressing and resisting your feelings will only prolong the natural healing process.

It’s been 6 years since my separation and subsequent divorce. I don’t obsess about it, but it is only now that I can honestly say I have moved forward. I am finally adjusting well to life in my own version of the “witness protection program.” I choose to look at it as a new adventure. Having obtained a new identity is not so bad after all.  

 
 *For more detailed information on the stages of grief see http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-grief

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Behind Closed Doors


I’ve heard it said time and time again, “When one door closes, another one opens.” My question is: What do you do with the baggage in your hands? Do you continue to carry it as you cross the threshold of the newly opened door, or do you review its contents and get rid of the unnecessary first? As we stand on the opposite side of that door we have many decisions to make.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the position of facing a closed door. Sometimes I was the one who closed it, other times it was slammed on my face. How I got there matters, but it matters more how I prepare myself before I turn the knob and embark on a new journey.

The last few weeks I have sat back in silence. I have been taking in all that is happening AROUND me, and TO me. I have cried for what I perceived to be losses and have smiled at what I perceive to be new beginnings. I have stood in the background, figuratively speaking, observing the things that bring me joy and the things that bring me grief. The one conclusion I have been able to make is this: grief and anger are good for me.

Am I implying that I am some kind of masochist? Of course not! However, thanks to my last few therapy sessions I have come to realize that grief, pain, and anger can be used for good. You see, when everything is going well for us and we are content, we are not moved to action. We want to feel that way forever. We certainly don’t want to change the way things are and disturb our groove.  But when we are faced with strong emotions such as grief and anger, we are motivated to act. Surely we were not created to feel angry or sad only to remain stagnant.

When God placed the first of his creations in a beautiful garden, he intended for them to live in an environment where all they would experience was beauty, joy and peace. Nevertheless, we can't truly be happy if we've never known pain. We can't truly feel joy if we've never felt heartbreak.

As I reflect, I feel that I have been able to answer my own question. It's perfectly ok to take some baggage with me; I am going to need it. Would you ever go on a trip without packing the things you’ll need and keeping unnecessary items back home? The same principle applies here:

I will use my baggage to store the lessons I have learned, throw away the excuses, and make extra room for the new experiences awaiting for me on the other side of that door.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow

The last couple of days have been a prime example of why I would NOT wish depression on even my worst enemy.   The feelings of contentment and joy that have been a part of my life for the past few weeks have given way to sadness and despair. Still wearing a smile on my face, I manage to get up and go to work and give it my all. I’ve managed to come home and carry out my household duties. My kids ask me what’s wrong and get frustrated when I answer, “Nothing. I’ll be fine.”

The truth is that while it could be worse, I am dealing with some issues that have me feeling down. Some of them are out of my control, others are self-imposed.  Thank God prayer and lots of tears have kept me from falling apart altogether. Last night I read a passage in the Bible that renewed my hope: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Depression has a way of making us worry unnecessarily about things that are beyond our control. The “why” questions and the “what if’s”. The uncertainties of life. Feeling sad but not really being able to pin down a specific reason as to why. Wanting to have someone hold you in their arms, but looking around at an empty house.

I realize that I have much to be thankful for. I am not discounting that. I do appreciate my friends and those who call, text or give me a loving hug. But that is the twisted reality of this disease – feeling unhappy despite all of the good things going on in your life.

I know this fleeting storm will pass. As Annie used to say, “The sun will come out, tomorrow.” In the meantime, I will just have to put up with the rain.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Fragrant Flower

Few vines rival the jasmine plant for beauty and fragrance. The jasmine plant produces beautiful clusters of flowers that can be smelled from a few feet away. The delicate jasmine flower opens only at night. The name Jasmine derives from Persian origin. It means “fragrant flower.” It also happens to be my daughter’s name.

Respectful. Poised. Beautiful. Intelligent. Confident. Humble. Tenacious. Straightforward.

Those are only a few of the adjectives I immediately think of when I think about my daughter.

Notice how I used the word “tenacious” instead of stubborn. ☺  From day one my daughter established her own rules. I was two weeks overdue when she finally decided it was time to enter this world. I was in labor for 24 hours – every time a contraction would lower her into the birthing canal, she would go back up as soon as it was over. Then, when the doctors said that I would have to deliver her via cesarean section, she chose to come out on her own.


Jasmine is probably not aware of this, but I look up to her. I admire her strength and honesty. I appreciate her humble demeanor despite her notable beauty. I wish I would have half of the organizational resourcefulness that she does.

I have learned many lessons from my daughter. Jasmine speaks her mind wherever she is. You see, she doesn’t just say what people want to hear, she tells them exactly what she is thinking. She is not malicious or rude about it. She is merely sincere. With Jasmine you never have to feel deceived or lied to. If someone asks her, “Does this look right on me?” and it doesn’t, she will not try to sugarcoat it. She will say, “You should not wear that.”

She loves children and is very good with them. They always seem to gravitate towards her. She can care for them in the most nurturing of ways and keep them entertained for hours. Nevertheless, when it comes time to discipline she pulls no punches. She is not afraid of correcting inappropriate behavior. She is a great teacher and mentor.

Jasmine immerses herself fully into everything she does. At home she always took her chores seriously; Jasmine will be the first to tell you that she has been doing her own laundry since she was 7. I was spoiled during the summertime when she was on vacation from school. I would come home from work and my entire house would be spotless!

All throughout school Jasmine earned awards, honors, and even completed college credits before she graduated high school. She holds the record for being the only student in a particular teacher’s class to get a 100% on a research paper. I will never forget the time in elementary school when she played the lead role of “Granny” in a play based on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. I was so proud.

Jasmine is 21 years old now, and has been working at the same place since she was 16. At her job she has been noticed for her initiative and impeccable work ethic. She treats the customers with respect and goes out of her way to help them. She helps her co-workers whenever it’s necessary, even though she is a coordinator. Her humble character does not permit her to feel as if she is above anyone else.

As much as Jasmine dislikes it, I sometimes refer to her younger brother as her “son.” That usually evokes a grumble on her part, but even at a young age it was evident that she took good care of him. As I said before, she wasted no time telling him to act right when he would misbehave. She also spared no details when it came to caring for him. To this day she makes sure he eats. She makes sure he takes his medicines. “Do you have any homework?” she asks him. “Did you do what mom told you?” Thank God she is levelheaded, because the influence she has on him is almost scary! I jokingly say that if she were to tell him to go rob a bank he would probably do it, no questions asked.

Reflecting on what I have written makes me realize something: 21 years ago God sent me a lifetime supply of my own personal fragrant flowers in the form of my daughter. The world is a little brighter because she’s in it. I am blessed beyond words to have the privilege of being called her mother.