Monday, July 23, 2012

Election 2012 "Obama, We Got Your Back" rally July 21, 2012

Saturday was a rather hot and interesting day.  Last minute notification, but hey, I must say it was all worth it.  I am not really sure how or why, but I am sure that MANY people had no idea that Gabrielle Union was paying a visit to the Quad Cities area at a small park in Davenport, IA to help spread the word and campaign that we need Obama back at the white house.  I think the one thing everyone can take away from her speech was "Where you at Mitt?" (Mitt Romney)

The day started off kind of slow.  There was a table with a few volunteers trying to get people to sign up to volunteer and register to vote in the coming months leading up to the election.  I had no idea that they were allowing people to have the option to vote by mail and that option also allows you to have a 30 day early vote with ballots being sent out on or around September 27th.  I also didn't know that Davenport is THE LOWEST ranked in numbers in the whole state of Iowa for registered voters. (smh)  Maybe that is why Gabrielle came here rather than some of the other places in the state, lol

Cameraman Raymond Rodriguez and another guy Andrew McCoy, acting as host as I am cohost for a project in which we taped our first segment.  We were basically going around and interviewing people about the importance of voting, were they registered, and what did they plan on doing to help bring the voting numbers back up and spreading the word.  I think there is one thing that everyone had in common, and that was "Obama, we got your back!"  We tried to interview as many people from as many different age groups, financial statuses, and backgrounds as possible just to get a feel for what everyone's thoughts were and if they were registered or planned on registering to vote.  I think the highlight of this one was the guy who was a volunteer who said that his probation officer made him volunteer.  My response, "hey, everyone is here for all reasons and you gotta do what you gotta do to make your time count for Obama."  We had some serious interviews and then you know me, I had to have a lil fun.  I went around asking people to repeat the Obama saying "YES WE CAN!" That was quite funny.  Some people were very enthusiastic while others just kind of said it like they lost a lil go go juice in the sun.

The event was jam packed with live performances from local artists such as Jay Wright and Playa Plato, free food, music, face painting, and last but not least, the arrival of Gabriel Union with her pep talk.  Honestly, I didn't know if she was really coming.  But she did, and she did a fantastic job.  Many of the things she pointed out I didn't know, which made me think, maybe I should read a lil more into my politics.  If there was anything that I was ever more sure about was the fact that I know where my vote is going and oh how I wished that one day I would get to meet Mr. Obama.  It was funny how I have kept saying that I wish I got to meet the president.  Well, I guess God somewhat answered my prayer.  I got to be present at an event for him in the presence of a well known actress who is doing her part to show the community "Obama, WE GOT YOUR BACK!!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

To believe or Not to believe

These past few months have prompted me to realize more and more that my purpose here is to inspire.  I now know that my calling is to inspire others who deal with mental illnesses to know that there is life beyond the darkness and having a mental illness does not make you any less of a person as the next.  It just means that people don't want to accept you for who you are because of the stigma.  Last night I was invited to speak, to inspire again on my journey whereever it may lead or however far it may reach.

My first appearance at the Moline Club was a rather small audience and had a different purpose.  Here I was Ms. Iowa American Coed 2011 speaking out on one of two platforms, which were both so very close to me at heart.  Mental Illness.  I participated in walks, spoke out in the community, and raised money for places that treated mental illnesses with organizations such as NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illnesses) and the MJL Foundation for Depression and Suicide Awareness.  I spoke as a person who had come out of the darkness and hadn't been there for a while trying to get everyone to understand that this can happen to anyone.  I say to anyone that it makes me feel good and to know that out of every appearance I make no matter what subject it is on, Leukemia or Mental Health I have it least 1 person, not just one, but it least one person that will contact me or come up to me and express their personal dealings.  I can't tell you the number of emails and people that have personally come up to me to express how proud they are that I am able to talk about it.  I am not looking for sympathy, I am looking for understanding and for people to recognize that we are not as different as society thinks we are and we all have our purpose, some people just havn't found it yet.  That alone can be depressing.

Last night I appeared at the Moline Club for the second time, not as a beauty queen, but as Monica Lacovitch, the former title holder and up and coming model who has had her ups and downs with this disease and still pressing on.  My take on the subject was different this time.  The effects on family and friends who deal with people such as myself or loved ones with a mental illness.  Again, kind of hard considering my last episode was so recent and I know I hurt quite a few people and even made them mad.  But hey, it comes with the program and I am kind of used to it.  It's just something we have to deal with.  Close to 20 people or so showed up.  All backgrounds, genders and ages.  There was even a lady there who had a daughter that tried to commit suicide this past week and was in the process of being admitted so I could tell she was VERY interested in what I had to say.  Everyone was very receptive to what I had to say and there was quite a discussion at the end.  People wanted to know, how do you gain support when you isolate yourself?  Do you find that your moods are seasonal like maybe worse in the winter than the summer?  What do you experience in your highs and lows?  How long has it been since you were diagnosed with Bipolar disorder?  Many offered suggestions that were very encouraging such as taking walks, exercising, eating right, talking yourself out of your moods and even meditating.  All seemed to be helpful suggestions, but the key thing is... when you are so depressed you are past being able to talk yourself out of it and you don't feel like doing anything.  I did mention that once I start getting to know more of what my triggers are and being able to catch myself before I fall, which is what my therapist is helping with, these things won't be so hard.  Right now my mood is great! I feel good, I feel motivated and I feel like I can take on the world.  My anxiety, still not so great, but we are working on it as I look at myself as a continuing project to be maintained and finished.  There really was a LOT of support coming from these people who I truely did not know from a can of paint and that let me know that I had carried out my purpose in that session.

As I stated before, there was quite a discussion.  Out of nowhere things took a very downward turn and I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, thoughts, and ideas, which is the purpose for the Independent Scholar's Evening that is held every Thursday night at the Moline Club.  This man out of Iowa City, very well educated in the medical field and such other educational backgrounds decided that he was going to firmly state that mental illnesses are all made up and don't exist.  He says it all dates back to previous centuries when these people were outcasted because they were different and society labeled them as having an illness so they were ostricized and were probed with scaples and hammers to remove parts of the brain.  I understand that in some respects.  He also says that life is hard and people just need to deal with it like everyone else and drug companies are profiting off these people who are "claiming" to have a mental illness and they have been so drugged up that they have lost a sense of who they are.  I can see the drugged part of the argument, but not everyone who has a mental illness is drugged up and yes, some drugs are better than others and have some serious side effects.  I was not a fan of the Prozac and I am glad that I am not on it anymore.  But again, who is to say that it does not work for someone else?  Before you knew it many people were speaking out kind of angerly.  I sat and listened to what everyone had to say.  It is easy for one to think that someone can think it is so easy to just think themselves happy and to just appreciate life. Easier said than done.  Some people just are not strong willed and their brains are chemically imbalanced making this reasoning not possible to bring them out of the depression.  And remember depression is not just a period of sadness like a couple days or weeks.  It is months, aka a long term period of sadness and loss of self worth.  But I can fully see the argument on depression.  Just like I could see the arguments on the ADHD and ADD.  I do agree that more and more kids nowadays are being put on ridilin.  Do they have these illnesses or are they just at the point of no return of being controlled because their parents are not disciplining them the way they should.  Then you have the lady who says she has been diagnosed as having schizophrenia and she hears voices and she asks "so is that made up too?"  I completely agree. Some illnesses are worse than others and some are in a gray area that we don't know what they are or how to treat leading to misdiagnosis and drugs and therapies that don't work.  I thought it was very clever how an older gentleman stood up and said "I don't know about you but I would think that I would want someone who has OCD to work on my car"  His thought was that some people think there is something wrong with them because society thinks there is something wrong when in fact maybe they just aren't functioning in the right place.  Think about it.  OCD, the perfectionist.  How can you go wrong?  Your car will not be returned until the job is done, THE RIGHT WAY.  How clever is that?

I enjoyed all the people that came up to me and congradulated me for my courage to stand up and openly talk about it.  There were many words of encouragement and I appreciated that too.  Despite the fact that this man was very open on his opinion which directly just went against everything I just said, I have to say I admire someone that is willing to drive all that way to voice their opinion on my subject.  Thank you.

So now I have to ask, do you believe in mental illness or is it all made up like he said??  Was the kid who shot and killed/injured all those people at the movie theatre in Colorado mentally sick or was his rage just all made up??

Friday, June 8, 2012


I know it has been a while since I have blogged and I apologize in advance to those of you who look forward to my new posts.  I will say this, my absence has not been from laziness, but because AGAIN, I had lost a lot of interest and motivation in the things I like and love to do. 

Mental illness can make or break a person.  I have been dealing with depression pretty bad in the past few months following a major change in my life with having to just pick up and move all of a sudden because I couldn't handle all the drama where I was.  (thankfully I got through the move with some very helpful people, not sure what I would have done without them) After seeing a new doctor I had a new diagnosis and a change in meds twice in a short amount of time.  He first started to treat with Prozac because of the major symptoms I was showing after I was taken off the Cymbalta.  I cried a lot.  I was down on myself a lot.  I was pulling away from the world.  I did not want to get out of the bed in the mornings.  I was ALWAYS late for work.  I didn't even care to wear make-up or care too much for my appearance.  I quit modeling and I was happy to be done with the whole pageant deal (not normal for me).  I was irritated and on edge a lot as well.  In fact, I wanted to just give up on life.

It was a real eye-opener when I was diagnosed about a month later with a form of bipolar disorder.  When my new doc, which was a licensed psychiatrist and no longer a psychiatric nurse practitioner, got more in depth with what was going on and how I was dealing with my life he was able to diagnose me and give me yet another medication.  Talk about FRUSTRATING!!!  I walked away from that appt. with all kinds of things going through my mind and dealing with other personal things happening in my life and I asked myself, is it worth living for and do I really want to continue to take these stupid medications that don't seem to do anything for me.  I snapped on everyone and I felt like the world was closing in on me and I could not handle it.  I was at my breaking point.  Even my job was telling me, some things have got to change.  That's when I knew it was bad.

I did one of the only things I knew to do.  One of the closest people in my family that I knew was going to "keep it real" and not sugar coat their take on my situation.  I got on skype with my Aunt Daphne.  It was a Monday night, the last day of April...but the next day was the beginning of the month I dread every year since my daddy had passed.  My birthday, his birthday, Memorial Day.  I was already setting myself up for the worst like I do every year.  I told my aunt, "I don't know what to do, take the new meds or not (I quit the prozac for a lil over a week) and honestly I do not want to be here"  She told me that I needed to start talking to the man upstairs AND don't be so quick to not give these new meds a try even though I was sick of taking them.  One of the last things she said to me was "If you gonna kill yourself you better be damn sure you are successful because I will personally come to that hospital and kick your ass". (gotta love my aunt Daphne) Plus not to mention that we had this Vegas trip planned for my 30th bday and everyone had already paid for their tickets, lol  She told me that she would be VERY upset.

If there is one person that I do not like to disappoint is my aunt.  She has always been there for me and always made sure that I felt special even when my daddy was not the father he was supposed to be.  One thing I also took from our conversation was the fact that I did really deep down care what she thought about my look on life and because she had been there for me all my life I thought about what she said when she told me that all she wanted was for me to put all this aside and be happy on my birthday weekend and thereafter because it kills her that I am the way I am because she does not know how to help me and therefore she can't help me.  Honestly, I did not have the answer to that question either...

I laid in the bed late that night and I thought about it.  I searched deep within myself.  I pulled out my bible and flipped to a random chapter and just started to read.  I asked God to please, lift this burden off my shoulders.  I told him I would do anything if it meant I didn't have to keep living my life this way and depending on other people to make me happy.  I apologized for not coming to him sooner because Lord knows I needed him more than ever.  At the end of that conversation I got up. Picked up the pill bottle (a mood stabilizer, no longer a depression medication, and yes, still on anxiety meds by the way) and took my dose.  When I woke up I had a new sense of energy and I was on time for work.  My hair was done, my make-up was done, and I told myself, today is the 1st day of May.  A new month and a new beginning.  No more tears and no more saddness of what I can not change.  I felt beautiful, not appearance wise, but I felt good on the inside. 

I had a Vegas trip to prepare for in 11 days!!  Now that was something to be excited about.  I was going to reunite with my sister after 13 years.  I was going to be with my favorite Aunt and one of my favorite cousins because I knew she was going to make me laugh and smile (we are ALWAYS so silly when we get together and my dad used to always call us just that, SILLY...)  I remembered my last session with my therapist when she told me that I was entitled to celebrate all month long or a week or a few weeks for my birthday.  I decided to celebrate all month long because I was celebrating life.  I CHOSE LIFE.  I bought things for myself, not splurging, but just a lil something here and there when I wasn't receiving early gifts from my mom or cards in the mail.  The closest people to me came through for me.  I was truely happy and not depressed.  I even had an awesome photoshoot with XL Images and the photos turned out FANTASTIC!  May was not perfect by any means with a few hiccups here and there but all in all it was great.  One of my girl's had a lil boy born on my daddy's birthday.  A beautiful thing when you can take the focus off what was gone but now is born.  It was a day of celebration all around. 

I took the last bit of money I had and put it towards another Teddy bear after the party and made a birthday teddy to commemorate my daddy's birthday.  Another "Walter" of course, complete with a party hat, card, and cupcake. It was special in that the birth certificate for the bear had my daddy's birthday on it.  The last bear I made was on the anniversary of his death which I remember shedding just a few tears when it was all done.  This time, there were no more tears.  The only tears I shed in the month of May were tears of joy because I got to hug my "little" sister after 13 years.  NOW THAT is a reason to be happy!!

Remember, only you are in control of your own happiness.  It is easier said than done and trust me, I know all too well.  As of now, I have plans to keep on with my modeling and do more shoots.  Since turning 30 I have stepped back from pageant competing.  I plan on doing motivational speaking (local or far) and working on my inspirational autobiography.  It is important to share with the world, not to make people feel sorry for you, but to show that you can be a person of status, or not, and still overcome and do great things!! IT IS POSSIBLE AND THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL!! DON'T GIVE UP!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Reflection

2011 has just about come to a close.  I look back at the year and think about everything.  All in all, 2011 was a good year.  I could not have asked for anything more.  Accepting the title as Ms. Iowa 2011 brought so much opportunity.  I reached out to a lot of people who were in need and it felt good to be a lending ear for their stories.  Getting out in the community helped me realize that no matter where I am people are drawn to my positivity and I appreciate that.  I came to Iowa, country and all, and the community has accepted me with open arms, lol!  I have been here two years now so I guess I am considered a keeper and an official quad citian even though I don't talk like one.

I have had so many experiences this year from speaking at small class room settings, walking with the mayor of Davenport at the mental health NAMI walk, being the first to walk out in the Live Out Loud Charity Fashion Show before many people in the pageant and modeling industry in Chicago, to sharing my story before hundreds of people in Des Moines about losing my dad to Leukemia.  I did a lot of traveling and a lot of learning and slept when I could on top of working a full time job.  I have to give myself credit and a pat on the back.  I think one of my most favorite things was riding in the Festival of Trees parade with the MJL Foundation for Depression and Suicide Awareness.  The whole community was there and there were people I knew and didn't know who waved back.  I remember the first time I heard someone yell Ms. Iowa at my first pitch for the River Bandits.  A child, a lil girl who said she wanted to be just like me.  It's those moments that warm your heart.

Although my health isn't at its best I am still here.  I survived American Coed Pageant nationals and I had fun!  It's been a wild ride!  Now on to bigger and even better things.  My life is only going to get better and I can't wait to see what 2012 has in store!!! If it is anything like 2011 I can only be even more excited.  MJL Foundation, NAMI, Live Out Loud Charity, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Iowa, I WILL be seeing you next year!!!!!! Ms. Iowa 2011, I will always be me with or without a title.  My platforms and my passions make me who I am and that will NEVER change. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where has the time gone???

Nationals came and went.  No I didn't win, but there is a reason for everything.  I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and that was to retire from competing.  When I say retire, I mean retire from major state titles that have major duties and nationals to prepare for.  I think my body has had enough and I been in the pageant game for like 15 years.  Once I give up my crown in March I will be "hanging up" the crown.  Remember "I will retire with the crown, yes.  No, I am not lucky I am blessed. Yes."-Nicki Minaj  And that I did.

I come to realize that since going through all of this stuff with my health, it probably would not have been a good idea to travel the country with a national title.  I get so tired easily now.  Heck, it took me all day Sunday to put up my tree and I had to keep laying down and taking naps here and there.  The good news, no colon cancer.  So with respect to that, my prayers have been answered on that.  They are still unsure of what is causing all of these digestive problems, but hopefully the medicine works and they won't have to do anything else.  I go back for a follow-up mid next month.  Thank God for my best friend Noemi.  "Miss Nurse to be"  She made sure I was cool, got me to my colonoscopy and back, and we ate good on Sunday.  I couldn't eat as much as I used to, but it was good to have some home-cooked food and not some hospital crap or liquid diet.

So what's next?  Little by little I will get these pictures up from nationals.  The Christmas Festival of Trees Parade.  I am taking a lil time out I guess you could say.  But my haters out there, don't think that I have not been having things in the works.  I may have had to sit down due to health issues but I always have something in the making and I never needed anyone to get anything done or be friends/suck up to people to get what I wanted.  Everything I have worked hard for and people actually do like me for me and not because I am doing them any favors.  I have built a lot of connections through the industry and my causes.  My causes are going to continue beyond Ms. Iowa.  I am my platforms.  This coming year I will strive to raise a lot of money for Leukemia and Mental Health.  I will be starting my own national campaign for mental health awareness.  That's only a tease of what I have up my sleeve.

I can't wait for 2012!!! Where did the rest of 2011 go by the way?  Oh, I guess I was just so busy and sick that it just slid right past me.  Being busy made me sick and being sick made me busy, LOL.  But I will not let any of this hold me down.  It's almost time to start planning for the BIG 3-0!!! I can't believe I am going to be 30 in May.  I am going all out and going to enjoy it.  For once I am going to do what I want to do.  Not what someone else had planned or how they think it should go.  I think I worked hard enough this year that I deserve it least that.

I am thankful to make it as far as I have.  2011 has blessed me in more ways than I can count.  A lot of good things happened this year.  Besides my health, I can't really complain.  Lost a couple of family members but they did live good long lives and nobody lives forever.  For those of you that struggle this time of year, my heart goes out to you.  It will get better.  Every move I make from now on is a step closer and closer to my dreams.  I don't plan on looking back and nothing will keep me from moving forward. 2012 is definitely going to be a good year too! I can't wait!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Seriously, I have never been through such a terrible ordeal in a long time.  Things always seem to happen when you need to get things done.  I started having digestive/tummy troubles around halloween.  I don't think I realized how right the doctor probably was that I just had too much going on.  I think this was probably a major part of it but when I started to slow down I guess it was just too late.  Honestly, I wouldn't change any of it even if it did make me sick.  I helped a lot of people and reached out to my community for good causes.  It wasn't like I was out and on the go constantly doing things I did not have any business doing.  So if it made me sick to make someone else's day or to save someone's life, I would not change anything!!! A person's life and a touched heart to bring hope is priceless...

I started to feel really bad on Monday aka Halloween.  I had to miss taking my pooch to the Davenport Halloween Parade because I ended up going to the Emergency room right after work.  Talk about the wrong time to go.  I didn't have to wait, but this guy around my age showed up with his hand on ice where his finger was almost all the way off.  They say "chainsaw accident".  When I saw the blood and his hand I slunched down in the chair where they were getting information from me on my health history.  I was like "ummmm, I might be here for two different reasons here in a sec."  I felt awfully  They told me they were going to take him first and I was totally fine with that. GET THAT KID OUT OF MY SITE!!! LOL!!!  I don't know why I am like that about blood.  I used to get nose bleeds as a kid and they were bad!! You would figure I would be used to it, but my mind and stomach have taken a totally different turn since I have gotten older.

I thought I was okay when I left the ER.  Got a pain med and blood tests and x-rays of my stomach.  The doc gave me a laxative along with a diet plan and told me I should be fine after that. UM NO... I get to work and I start not to feel good again on Wednesday morning.  It was back to Trinity at around 10:30 am.  Let's just say I probably ruined one nurses day, but I did feel slightly better.  I was sent home with a pain med.  Friday, discomfort again.  By the time Friday night came I was totally uncomfortable.  When I woke up Saturday I was in pain!!!!  Something told me I was not come back home right away.  I just want to say that 53rd street sucks when you are in pain.  I drove myself, stiff as you don't know what holding on to my stomach with every bump and thud on that road.  They want to repave and fix something?  FIX THE ENTIRE 53RD STREET PLEASE!!!!

I come in with all the paperwork from my past 2 ER visits in moline and they take me back to a room.  I was dehydrated from not eating because I was not feeling well enough to eat or drink.  They take blood.  I get shot up with pain meds and hooked up to an IV.  I had never been so scared in my life. A main doc, a nurse, and the internest on call came in.  My vitals were taken multiple times.  No sounds were coming from my stomach.  My blood pressure would not go down.  All I could do was cry when the pain was so bad.  I was good as long as I was on pain meds.  Otherwise it was back to tears and another shot in the IV from the nurse. A resident doctor came in and wanted the full story.  I was like OMG!!!  The last I remember is the doc saying "well, what should we do with you? I could send you home with pain meds but...that does not solve the problem and in fact could make it worse." The next thing I know they are admitting me...

The things I have pulled away from this horrible experience.  GoLytely is not your friend.  It will make you very sick.  It cleaned me out alright. Both ends.  NOT COOL.  The nursing staff was much nicer on the weekend that the weekly staff.  These younger nurses need to learn some things from the older ladies who have been around for a while.  They call it caring and compassion. The medical field is not for everyone.  Don't do it just for the money but because you care about people and want to help them.  The Gastro doc, really nice but I was not happy that he prepared me for a colonoscopy, decided not to do it and didn't tell anyone that he wasn't going to do it and so I was starving and dehydrated with no fluids for over 12 hours until he decided to show up late Monday after his clinic time.  He tells me things to eat, that I have already been eating, I cut out the fast food, and yet I am sick. Nowhere are we saying what has caused this monstrosity of a sickness where I have basically wasted away 30 lbs in a very short amount of time.  Communication between patients and medical providers is key.  ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE STARVING AND THE NURSE WON'T EVEN GIVE YOU ICE CHIPS AND TELLS YOU SHE CAN SWAB YOUR MOUTH AND NEVER SHOWS UP TO DO IT AND HAD THE DOC JUST SAID I AM NOT DOING THE PROCEDURE I WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TO GO THROUGH THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!

okay, I am doing better. I did get to see my mom whom I havn't seen since July, so I guess there is an upside to this ordeal and I did lose some weight so I will look a lil better for the pageant.  But boy did that cost me! lol! I can laugh now, but at the time not so funny.  You try chugging down what is a whole gallon of basically watered down salt water and see how you feel after almost 2-3 cups in. Never again, so I hope.

So later this afternoon I follow up with the Gastro doctor.  I will have my questions ready.  I still have not started eating dairy or hot/spicy food.  I miss it so much. (pizza, hot sauce, cheese burgers, chili cheese fries) you know, all the stuff I was not eating before and now I am not allowed to have but craving.  For now it is turkey, chicken, fish. No fried greasy beef.  Maybe one weekend when I have no place to be I will indulge in a very small cheese burger and chili cheese fries and see what happens. lol Right now I am not willing to take the chance so close to the pageant.

SO much to do and so little time.  I definitely lost prep time being in the hospital.  Didn't get to make any extra money and lost time to actually sit down and prepare my packing list, get out and try to get more sponsorship money, etc.  Only a few hundred more dollars away. like $400.  But in the end, my health is the most important and that is what I need to realize.  You can expect the worst and hope for the best.  It could have been way worse of a situation than what it is.  Nothing can replace your life.  I am just thankful that I am well enough to compete for nationals. 

So here goes nothing!!! Everyone wish me luck as I leave for Orlando next week!!!  I can't wait.  Thanks so much for all the thoughts, prayers, and concerns as I was going through so much being hospitalized.  God answered and I am so thankful for every single person who is in my life that helped me and was there for me in my darkest hours...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NAMI Candlelight Dinner 10/5/2011

I assume that if you are from the Quad Cities that you know what "The Lodge" in Bettendorf is or you it least know where it is.  I drive past that exit daily and I guess I just assumed it was a bank or hotel from the interstate.  My aunt even asked me once what it was when I was driving her and my cousin around town.  I never knew.  Now I know and I must say that it is really beautiful on the inside!!!

The tables were set up so nice and I noticed a lot of people at these tables that were at the walk, including a couple of the guys I had taken photos with.  They all came up to me and gave me hugs and were glad that I had came.  Others hadn't seen me before even if they were at the walk, but now we were in a much more smaller setting.  My seat was at the front table which was labeled "head table".  I guess this was important.  I immediately began conversing with a lady that held a position with NAMI at another location and I started to share some of my story.  Later I heard hers when she stood up and I must say, you never know how bad it can really be until you hear someone else that has been through some things with mental health that don't even touch where you have been.  She has done a lot of great work and she was even given an award.  I was moved by everything she had to say.  One of the things she had said to me was that you see other people when you speak and you can tell who can relate by the look in their eyes.  I don't remember too much these days as my memory has deteriorated since dad's death, but I do remember that.

There were about 8 seats at this head table and one of those seats had my name on it and next to me was Jay Kidwell.  In front of each place was a different flavor of slice of cake.  It all looked so good.  What looked really good was the big slice of strawberry that was in front of Jay's chair.  It's funny how things work out...  At the end of dinner we ended up playing musical cake.  I had lemon, which was fine, but he offered to trade.  It was like we were in school again.  It's the lil things you know? lol I ended up with the strawberry piece he had before me and it was SOOOOOOO good.  I don't know if it was the cake or the fact that I hadn't had strawberry cake or anything of that nature since I started to watch what I eat in preparation for my pageant.

Dinner was done and then the master of ceremonies stood up to begin, that being Jay Kidwell, the person who was the whole reason I found NAMI to begin with.  He really is a great person.  I can't help but think to myself, what is his connection with NAMI?  Apparently, he has been master of ceremonies for the past few years.  I am kind of curious if he has a personal story or if it is just a cause that chose him or he chose.  Time will only tell and I am pretty sure we will cross paths again.  After all, he did give me his business card. 

I was the first person introduced after he talked for a lil bit.  I talked briefly about who I was, where I came from, and how I got involved with NAMI.  Not too long, not too short and I made it through without crying.  I think it was the fact that I knew that alot of people in that room understood me.  They were at this dinner because they either had experienced mental illness personally or they have friends or family that do.  I got to light the main candle in memory of those whose lives had been lost due to suicide and those that still struggle with depression daily.  I could feel goosebumps as I lit the candle and felt really honored to be asked to light THE candle.

They showed a few short segments of a video following about 5 people who live with mental illness.  They talked about who they are and what they like to do, what type of illness they have, how/if they have accepted their illness, the darkest moments they have had, how they cope, and how far they have come.  After each segment people at the dinner were asked to share their thoughts or personal experiences on these subjects.  I stood up a few times.  I mentioned that I don't think I had accepted it until I felt better than I did before I started the treatment.  I also shared that when I am down or need something to occupy my mind I like to color in coloring books or play with my dog.  Animals have a way of relieving a lot of stress and need a lot of love.  Going back to my Miss KY International platform, I mentioned that if they did not have pets or couldn't afford them, there are a lot of animals at the local shelter that need love and attention and that many shelters accept volunteers to do just that.  My Snoopy has been great through all of my highs and lows.  I got him a lil over a year after my dad passed.  They have lots of love to give back and they love you no matter what your mental flaws are. 

One lady said that she loves to bake when she is down.  Someone else said they do big puzzles.  It all makes sense, doing something that makes you happy that you like to do that will distract those dark thoughts.  The lady that loves to bake said you have to be distracted for the period of time you follow the recipe.  You can't walk away or you will forget what ingredients you have added or what step you are on.  It really does as I love to bake too.  I made some awesome pumpkin bread last weekend with some time I had off from making appearances.  I've been too busy to do anything, which has been a good thing.  When I have too much time on my hands my mind wanders...not always good.  I guess you can say that when I made my bread I was coping in a way.  It turned out great and the coworkers loved it.

In the backgroud of the dinner there was artwork displayed from a local artist.  He was also videotaping at the dinner.  His name was Carlos Duran.  Really nice paintings.  He stated that whatever was sold that night that the proceeds would go to NAMI.  After the dinner he approached me and well, after a very long conversation I was more educated on the history of Cinco de Mayo and booked another appearance at a Latino conference in Muscatine on the morning of October 29th.  A lot of youth are supposed to be there and not sure how I will fit in but it is for a good cause and a learning experience for myself.  Afterall, my best friend is hispanic and my middle sister is half hispanic and... Mexican food is my favorite.  I love the culture and honestly I would love to learn the language and the background of it all.  Half of the people I meet think I am one of them anyway, lol and having the name Monica does not help!! LOL!!!!  Nothing like some homemade chips and salsa with jalapenos. :)