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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.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Delayed, But Not Detained


So you’re driving along, on your way to that dream vacation you’ve planned for months now, when one of the tires on your vehicle blows out. You skid, you pull over, fix the flat, turn around and go home. Right? Wrong! No way are you going to turn around now! Your trip may have been delayed by half an hour, but you have put way too much time, effort and money planning for this trip. Better late than never!

You know, life is much like that dream vacation we yearn for. We have goals (or at least SHOULD have goals) that we strive to achieve. Some may be short-term, others may take longer to accomplish. Regardless, they are important to us. If we are truly committed, we will do whatever it takes to reach that goal. If you’ve ever reached a goal you set for yourself, you know just how good that sense of accomplishment feels!

Sometimes we are cruising along on the road called life, having a good ole time, when we encounter a little bump. Other times we run face first into a boulder! We become frustrated. We stub our toe on the little bump and it hurts too much. We look up at the big boulder and become convinced that there is no way to climb over it. But what if, instead of doing that, we would take a step backwards and looked at things from a different perspective?  What if we realized that we could try to find a way around the obstacle?

I encourage you to take advantage of times like these and use them as an opportunity to re-focus. Remember that you’ve been down this road before, and have somehow survived. Not only have you survived, but came out stronger on the other side. I know because I have been there, more times than I would have preferred!

“It’s too difficult!” “This is taking too long!” “I’m too tired.” These are some of the negative things that I have said to myself when the going got tough. However, I am a dreamer by nature. I love life and am always planning my next adventure. The years are going to pass me by anyhow, and darn it if I’m going to sit back and not challenge them! “Yes I will rise, out of these ashes rise. From this trouble I have found, and this rubble on the ground, I will rise. ‘Cause He Who is in me is greater than I will ever be…” (“Rise” by Shawn McDonald).

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.