“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Alexa Wyszkowski

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Alexa Wyszkowski:

Alexa holds up a sign that says Despite my diagnosis, I am enough.
Alexa Wyszkowski is more than her diagnosis.

I have allergies. I have asthma. I have anxiety.

These were all the reasons why I used to tell myself that I could not do things, was undeserving of things and could not achieve things. These were the reasons I told myself I was not capable of having great friendships and relationships. The reasons why I felt I could never be enough even when I gave my all.

In high school, something changed as I became more and more involved in my school community. I became someone who was not as defined by their allergies, asthma, and anxiety. Instead, I was defined by how much I cared and dedicated my time to the school clubs and activities.

By my senior year, I had joined as many clubs and organizations as I could and balanced all my time so I could actively participate in as many activities as possible. I loved meeting new people and finding those special people who attended the club meetings and events not just for their resume, but because they wanted to be part of something greater than themselves. Being a part of a club, a team, an organization, an event, an activity involves this feeling of belonging and having the ability to make a difference. I loved being able to help people and show them how they too could help others.

I had good grades, was involved in everything I could be in, was accepted to every college I applied to and even received some awards and recognition for all my work in these clubs and activities. Except all of this was not enough.

I had an opportunity to go to college for free. And yet I couldn’t go to college for free. I had missed the class rank requirement that I needed by less than one percent. I was not enough.

I went into college as a hospitality major because I thought that was the only way to continue on my journey to help others. I thought that the place I started working at in high school was going to be my forever job. And this was all so closed minded of me. If only I had an open mind then maybe I would have made different and better choices, but then I would probably not be where I am today.

Early into the start of college I entered my first relationship and told myself it was okay if they never were able to understand me. I thought that even if they weren’t understanding of my allergies, asthma, and anxiety it would still be okay. I didn’t think I should expect them to understand or want to learn to understand. For some reason, I thought when I gave everything and it wasn’t enough for them that I should just keep giving.

I did this with the first job that I thought was my dream job. I did this with my first relationship.

Until the winter came and I remember for the first time feeling completely alone and empty. I ignored it and continued giving as much as I could. I dived into this mindset to show my relationship and my job that I could be more than my allergies, asthma, anxiety and try to prove to them that I could be enough until there was no room for anything else in my life. I didn’t have time for myself, I didn’t have time for my other friends, I didn’t have time to breathe. I thought I had to change the perspective of my workplace and my partner. That the role I was given was to change both of them, to make them understand.

I cannot change people. I cannot change places. I cannot change things. I cannot change the past. I cannot change fate. I cannot change the fact that I have allergies, asthma, and anxiety. All I can do is work on changing myself, becoming a part of something greater than myself and offering my light even in the darkest moments. Even as a leader I cannot say that I have ever been the only person that contributed to something changing. For something to change it takes many people working together who share the desire to create something more. I can share this passion and give it to others, but I cannot force it. I cannot change people. People can only change themselves and to do that, they have to want to change.

I want to change myself. I started high school as this person who was shy and insecure and did not believe in herself. By the end of high school, I started to become more confident in who I was and what I was meant to do. However in addition to my allergies, asthma, and anxiety, I let not getting free college, the job I had and the relationship I was in continue to tell me that I was not enough. That I could never be enough.

It took me a year and a half into college to realize that what I thought I was supposed to do with my life was not at all what I should have been doing. And this time it was not because I thought I was not enough. It was because I realized I was more than enough all along.

For as long as I can remember I have loved four things: reading, writing, teaching, and giving. And I left high school and entered college thinking that I was not enough to be able to study and have a career in something that involved all of those things. So to start I chose to study hospitality and plan my career around it because I thought I would just help and give in that way.

What I didn’t realize was that there are so many other ways of being able to help and give by also teaching and involving reading and writing. That I am capable to do things that I thought I wouldn’t, couldn’t and shouldn’t be able to do.

There will always be people and places who will tell me that I’m never enough. That I should give up what I have and who I am because it is not enough for them. As much as I used to give importance to making everyone and everything better and happy, I no longer feel the constant need to do so. I just want to be myself with my allergies, asthma, anxiety and all my past people, places and experiences, and still be able to make positive connections with others without feeling that I am not enough. I am enough and thinking that I was never enough is something I am trying to leave in the past.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Faculty Advisor Russ Crespolini

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by CCM Faculty Advisor Russ Crespolini:

Russ CrespoliniTwo decades ago I underwent surgery to repair two ruptured discs at the base of my spine that had robbed me of motor control in my left leg and caused me considerable pain for almost six  months.

At the time I was a junior and an undergraduate and ended up missing a large portion of the academic year. I had just started seriously dating someone and I did not know whether this new relationship could weather the ups and downs of this serious physical infirmity. Epidural and steroid injections, limited mobility and chronic pain had become a steady part of my life. I wish I could tell you that the surgery fixed everything and twenty years later as adjunct professor and faculty advisor to the Youngtown Edition I face each day pain-free.

But I would be lying.

Because it was after my surgery I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. The doctor’s told me that this narrowing of my spinal canal was something I was born with and eventually it the passage would narrow enough to constrain the nerves and put me in a wheelchair.

This was going to be exacerbated by the scar tissue left over by my surgery. Less space in the canal for the nerves to move freely, after all. I was also going to deal with varying levels of pain for the rest of my life. I wish I could tell you that I began exercising and dieting in earnest and did everything I could better my odds.

That would also be a lie.

After surgery, I went back to campus, cane in hand and got special permission to take 25 credits a semester to graduate on time and continue on my path to graduate school. I also ate my way to 400 pounds and dealt with the grinding of chronic pain with prescription anti-inflammatory and pain medication.

Dealing with chronic pain is something that so many people experience but never talk about. The way it may take you ten minutes to get out of bed in the morning when others take ten seconds.  The way it gnaws at your attention span when you are trying to focus on work or school. The way the pain activates your adrenal gland and wears you out. Chronic pain makes you so very very tired. It also makes you jealous. You are jealous of the people around you who aren’t suffering as you do. Not because you would wish this on them, but because they take for granted what they have. That physical normalcy you have been denied.

I wrote this, not because this is a pity party for me, but because I was so inspired and humbled by the previous Despite My Diagnosis columns written by brave authors who shared their stories with Youngtown.

And because I know that so many people deal with varying levels of chronic pain and choose to suffer in silence or be isolated because they are afraid they might snap or be quick-tempered with someone. But chronic pain can also do something unexpectedly beautiful.

It can make you appreciate what you do have.

On the days when your pain is more manageable, you appreciate being able to walk freely, to transition from a seated position to standing without wincing. You appreciate being able to mow your lawn, or walk through a store or take a day trip to the beach. You appreciate the friends and family who love you and care about you and support you. And that builds a reserve of strength you can draw on in your darker days.

But you have to do your part. I did change my lifestyle. I exercise daily to keep myself mobile (it takes a lot of work to look this mediocre) and I did lose over 100 pounds I needed to lose. I no longer take prescription medication for pain management. I take the occasional Aleve.

And I also sought counseling and help.

So for those of you out there with chronic pain, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do not suffer in silence. Don’t be afraid to explain to people what is happening with you and ask for their patience and support. It is ok to have bad days. It is ok to feel depressed and to feel your lot in life is unfair. It is not ok to let those feelings overwhelm you. Lean on those relationships that provide you comfort.

I made it because I had people who believed in me. I had an undergraduate advisor who put herself out there for me and supported me and guided me and set the template for how I treat my own students. I still text her daily. I had family and friends who were there when I woke up in the hospital and continued to be a presence in my daily life. Those relationships that are meant to be will strengthen. That girl I was in the new relationship with 20 years ago when I had my surgery is my wife of 13 years.

For those of you who know someone with chronic pain, do your best to be patient. Celebrate the days they feel well and listen to them when they are feeling down. I still have my bad days, when the pain and weakness creeps down my leg. Usually when the weather changes.

So despite my diagnosis, I am a journalist, father, husband, educator, advisor, improv-artist, video-game enthusiast, Union President, and adjunct professor. But because of my diagnosis, I appreciate, and enjoy, those opportunities more than I will ever be able to express.

Editor’s note: Russ Crespolini is a working journalist and adjunct professor at County College of Morris and The College of Saint Elizabeth where he advises both campus newspapers. He wrote this column in the hopes other faculty, staff and administrators would share their story.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Andres Ortiz

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Andres Ortiz:

Andres Ortiz holds a sign that says, Despite my Diagnosis, autism success.
Andres Ortiz

My name is Andres Ortiz and I have high functioning autism, which means I think differently and often have trouble understanding social cues and knowing how to communicate with others. My autism hasn’t stopped me from being a talented drummer and I’ve been playing in bands for about 14 years. Sometimes it’s been easiest to make friends through my love of music.

I started going to different schools when I was three. When I was younger, I felt that nobody understood me and that caused me to act out sometimes. Once I went to the Newmark School in Scotch Plains, NJ and then Montgomery Academy in Basking Ridge, NJ everything got easier because people there understood how I thought and learn.

In high school, I had ups and downs because I was also diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I have trouble staying awake and my memory is bad sometimes but I continue to try my very best. It’s interesting that my brain always remembers how to play music and facts about it, but I can’t read it. People with autism often know a whole lot about one topic and mine is music.

I came to CCM through the College Steps Program because I wanted to be more independent and I am proud to say I am doing well in all my classes. However, sometimes I still struggle with sleeping, remembering important due dates and details, asking for help at the right time, and communicating with others. Now I have peer mentors, who are also CCM students through College Steps, who help me with these problems as well as note-taking, studying, independent living and social skills, and budgeting. All College Steps students, mentors, and our Program Coordinator, Nancy Tichenor, meet to work on life, employment and community skills to help us with college and life after we leave.

I have made friends in my classes and through my mentors through College Steps and of course, I enjoy the other students in the program. We can often be found laughing together a lot. On May 6, we’re having a big charity event for The Seeing Eye and we’re trying to raise approximately $90.00 because The Seeing Eye is celebrating its 90 birthday. We hope it will be a great success. Come have a piece of pizza and support our fundraiser. And say, “Hi.” Maybe you’ll want to be a mentor next year. College Steps has on campus, flexible, paid positions for second-semester students interested in becoming a mentor. If you are interested in applying to become a mentor, email nancy@collegesteps.org!

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Matthew Bristol

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Matthew Bristol:

Matthew Bristol holding a sign saying Despite my diagnosis, I still find ways to laugh.
Matthew Bristol

I’ve spent my entire life using humor as my go-to way of dealing with adversity. It’s given me a pretty good sense of humor, at least in my opinion, although some of my professors may disagree. No matter how bad things get I still find ways to laugh. My family often says, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, you can always laugh at your enemies!” From my earliest years, I’ve done comedy writing with my family, and one of my greatest passions in life is not just cheering myself up but getting others to smile and laugh.

Even at my lowest points during my time in the hospital I still remember drawing cat faces on medical masks because it gave me a laugh and made others smile. Later in life, this would include such things as wearing a full suit ensemble and a box cut to be a knight’s helmet on my head, to deliver the newspapers.

I sometimes like to joke that my life started at its lowest point, so it’s only up from there. At times that can be debated, but despite all of this, it’s still an upward climb. I was born unable to breathe and extremely ill, and my doctor found that I had encephalitis, swelling of the brain due to infection. Seizures soon followed that has lasted my entire life. Now begins the debate if that was the lowest point of my life. When I was three, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a blood cancer that affects both blood cells and bone marrow. While I went into remission after many years of chemotherapy, I was left with mental and physical scars that haunt my life to this day. Some of them, such as those on my chest, is more literal than figurative. I dealt with this along with some general problems that arose as I grew up. Because of the chemotherapy, I developed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which caused depression and weight gain. I haven’t always been this impressively sleek and aerodynamic.

One of my earliest memories of my mothers sometimes alternative sense of humor was at Disneyland when I was on vacation thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation. A very rude woman approached my mother at the pool where I was swimming and pointed at the hole in my chest and bellowed out “What happened to him!” My dear mother, never at a loss for words simply said back “He was shot.” She didn’t have a response to that.

As I grew older anxiety and depression ruled my life and dictated much of my decisions. One of my biggest struggles in life has always been my Neuropathy that impairs my ability to write or work with my hands. Neuropathy leads to intermittent pain all throughout my body. This on top of one of the other symptoms that are often reported in those in remission from chemotherapy, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, memory loss, and memory loss. Cancer does not only impact you as you go through it but continues afterward, leaving lasting impacts on your body, varying differently from cancers and treatments. The side effects or “late effects” are especially prominent in young children. Lucky me.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve struggled through my classes, and I’ve struggled through my writing. Whether for fun or for classes, I’ve always struggled to keep myself on task. I can’t count the number of times in my life I’ve stopped and simply said to myself “It may not be perfect. But I’m doing it. I will do my best.” I just keep on as a mantra, and no matter how it turns out. I will do it. Even as I write this now, my anxiety hinders me. I stop to rethink every word I say. I think and rethink everything I do.

During my time at CCM, I’ve joined in on many different clubs and taken many different roles. Despite all my troubles, I’ve found myself at home here. I’ve been the vice-president of the SGA and worked for and I run many other clubs and organizations on campus. Despite all my troubles in life, I’ve come to a point where I can get out of bed each morning and know there are people out there, I can’t wait to see and do stuff with.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Catrina Bennett

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Catrina Bennett:

Catrina Bennett holds up a sign saying Despite my diagnosis, I refuse to be a statistic
Catrina Bennett

Despite my diagnosis, I refuse to be a statistic. I refuse to be just a warning story about depression, a vague message on an anti-anxiety poster, or part of a number on a graph. I know that, despite my flaws, I am strong enough to change not just my life but also the lives of those around me. My story isn’t perfect or pretty, but it certainly isn’t over.

Even as a child, my fears ran rampant in my mind and were nearly debilitating. When I brushed death in a near drowning, I was more afraid of non-existent sharks in the water than the waves suffocating me. I had few friends and everyone else made fun of the awkward, chubby girl who cried when she failed a math question. No one, not even myself, saw it, but I was crumbling under the pressure of self-invented expectations. Everything was too much, too overwhelming, and too scary.

Then, my parents got a divorce. I was glad to be rid of the late nights listening to screaming matches through thin walls while attempting to stifle my sobs with a pillow. Now, I was terrified that everything I had worked for was now restricted to a simple statistic. More likely to do poorly in school, more likely to be depressed, more likely to commit suicide, more likely (I thought) to fail. I denied my sexuality and nearly lost my best friend in the process. I stopped going to school and dropped from an AP student to a near drop-out. I stopped seeing the point in living. I was becoming a number to everyone around me: number of absences, number of panic attacks, number of medications.

The people in my life were fighting just as hard as I was to keep me afloat. My friends, family, and even teachers banded together and forced me to begin to focus on where I had succeeded in life rather than where I had failed. I began to participate in classes again. The moments when I would answer a question wrong were still devastating, but each joke and nudge in the right direction from my friends increased my determination that tomorrow I would do better. And I did. I graduated in the top 15% of my class. I started talking to my father again. I took up drawing and other hobbies to fill the time between school and work.

Most importantly, I decided that it was my duty to help others who were struggling as well. Before leaving my high school, I made sure that the GSA (gay-straight alliance) was well supported and able to provide a safe space for struggling kids. I started reading more about mental illnesses and coping mechanisms in an effort to make myself better suited to give advice or resources to others. Upon arriving at CCM, I immediately joined our Active Minds chapter. Its members both helped to restore my faith in myself and allowed me to direct others towards the help that they needed.

Today, I am no longer just a number on a chart in a therapist’s office. I may still struggle with and fall prey to the effects of my depression and anxiety. But now, I refuse to let those facts be the only ones which define me. I know that I have the ability to help myself and others. I know that I can change the statistics.

If you are struggling, please know there is help. Some resources you can utilize are the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line if you text HOME to 741741, and the Counseling Center in the Student Community Center, Room 118.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Marco Mirlas

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Marco Mirlas:

Marco Mirlas holding up a whiteboard which says, Despite my diagnosis, I have the will to focus.
Marco Mirlas

My diagnosis of ADD, which… which president oversaw the end of the Korean War? Sorry, back on topic. If you couldn’t guess, ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder, a fairly common disorder that can be well summarized like this: all of those studies about the shrinking attention span of the modern man don’t come close to what it can be like for us. Sometimes. In fact, as demonstrated in the opening, I am constantly feeling the effects of the disorder, so I can hardly help but let my mind wander. To be clear to anyone who doesn’t recognize the term, it’s actually somewhat dated, at least to the 2000s, and has since been replaced by an equivalent classification of ADHD Inattentive Type.

It can be quite remarkable when I can handle it. If you’re afflicted by it, you may know what I’ll say next. You can be thinking effectively on several things at once, without compromising the task at hand, on a good day. Play a song in your head, think on your agenda for the day, and continue in a conversation without breaking a sweat. On the contrary, during a bad day, it can be difficult to accomplish much of value.

To further elaborate, for the longest time, it was difficult for me to concentrate well enough to do well in classes. But with age comes maturity (sometimes) and more importantly: willpower. It is true that it is difficult to defy one’s nature, but in this instance, it is necessary to try, if you’d rather not resort to medication. You should not see yourself as an irredeemable failure if you miss the mark sometimes, but instead, harden your resolve and learn from your mistakes. To that end, I’m leaving a shout out to the Learning Resource Center, and to the Tutoring Center.

Remember to focus, and above all, to not give up.

The CCM counseling center is located in the downstairs of the student community center in SCC 118 and is available to you as a student. The National Suicide Prevention Line can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Editor’s Note: If you are in the process of recovery we encourage you to join the members of Active Minds, Writers Club and the Youngtown Edition to become more than your diagnosis and to share your story, contact youngtownedition@gmail.com to find out how.

Award-Winning Stigma-Free Essays Shared

Boonton, Long Hill, and Montville Students Honored at March 8 Event

Students from Boonton, Long Hill, and Montville were honored for their winning essays in the countywide Stigma-Free essay contest run by the Montville and Boonton United Methodist Churches, which are members of the countywide Stigma-Free Initiative.

Stigma-Free Essay Winners
Samia Shivon of Boonton; Melody Hart of Gillette, Pastor Donald Kirschner, Skylar Loper of Boonton, and Esme Lockwood from Montville. Photo courtesy of TAPinto Montville

Winners of the contest are:

  • Junior High Winner: Melody Hart, Homeschooled, Long Hill (Gillette), Grade 8;
  • High School Winner for Primary Essay: Samia Shivon, Boonton High School, Grade 11;
  • High School Winner: Esme Lockwood, Montville High School, Grade 11.

The contest was an initiative of Donald Kirschner, pastor of both the Montville United Methodist Church and Boonton United Methodist Church, and whose congregations sponsored the prize awards.

Junior High Winner: Melody Hart

The word ‘stigma’ is a Latin word meaning “a mark made on skin by burning with a hot iron.” In our society, it refers to the prejudice that results from the labels we put on people who have some undesirable condition, such as mental illness. More often than not, it becomes a building block for a jail cell that eventually imprisons the one who is inflicted. I will focus on my experience with my grandfather, the effects of stigma in his life, and how awareness can cause a positive change.

High School Essay Winner: Samia Shivon

Stigma is the disapproval and discrimination against a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other embers of a society. When it involves mental illness, someone views a person in a negative way because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from others. It can even come from an internal place, where people feel embarrassed or ashamed for the illness they possess. It is very important to be stigma-free.

High School Project Winner: Esme Lockwood

I would like to create a drug-free initiative in schools, primarily in New Jersey, called the ‘No More’ project, rather than “say no to drugs” which ignites the ignorance of choice versus illness. Fundamentally, ‘No More’ represents the gradual abolishment of specifically, heroin, and the perpetrators who make money off of their victims. In this project, I would like to recruit members who are or know someone battling heroin addiction.

Read all of the winning essays and project proposals. Congratulations to all who entered!

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Raven Resch

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Raven Resch:

Raven Resch holding up a sign that says "Despite my diagnosis, today I am happy."
Raven Resch

Despite my diagnosis, today I am happy, but I couldn’t always say that. I’ve had days of darkness where my own mind was destroying me from the inside out.

I had learned that there was no place more frightening than the places my own mind can take me. I felt hopeless and helpless; there was a monster inside of me, torturing me. I felt guilt and shame. How could someone with a 2-year-old son and a rather normal life feel this way? But my life was not always normal, I ran from my past, but it finally caught up to me.

You can’t run from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, depression and OCD. You can’t run, it will always catch up with you. I could no longer run from the thoughts that were destroying me, my mind was so loud that even my own screams couldn’t block out the noise. I wanted nothing more than to die, but I know personally how suicide can affect a family. My only way of giving up, was giving in.

I took myself to the emergency room and gave into whatever they wanted me to do. At this point I did not want recovery for me, I still wanted to die, but for my family I knew I had to do something. I was transported to the psychiatric hospital and from there to an acute partial hospitalization program, and it was there in that program where I got my life back.

I was no longer just living, I felt like I was actually alive, a feeling I hadn’t felt for years. At the exact point where I felt I was giving up on life, I was actually accepting recovery.

Today, because I accepted help I can say that I am happy. There is no doubt that some days are still hard but there are no days that are not worth all the lessons I am learning. I am turning my days of torture into days of success. I finally know what I want in life and that is to help people who are feeling exactly the way I felt. To let them know that there is hope even when you can’t see it, to speak out against the mental health stigma, and to end the silence that is slowing killing us inside.

If you are struggling, please know there is help. Some resources you can utilize are the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line if you text HOME to 741741, and the Counseling Center in the Student Community Center, Room 118.

Editor’s Note: If you are in the process of recovery we encourage you to join the members of Active Minds, Writers Club and the Youngtown Edition to become more than your diagnosis and to share your story, contact youngtownedition@gmail.com to find out how.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Student Rachel Eckert

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Rachel Eckert:

Hope.

Hold on, pain ends.

Rachel Eckert holding a dry erase board saying 'Hold on, pain ends.'
Rachel Eckert

I hear this phrase over and over again. Whether it be by professionals or friends, everybody tells me that. I knew it was true. In theory, anyway. But I always had such a hard time seeing that and understanding that. I didn’t understand how the anguish I had felt for so many years could ever end. Even if I only temporarily felt better, it was better than where I was. I never expected to magically get better. Because that isn’t how it happens. You don’t wake up one day and tell yourself “I’m not depressed anymore” and go on your merry way. I know, however, that is how some people think. It doesn’t go away overnight, that sadness deep in your belly. I knew that much, but never thought about what came next. In the past few months, I have learned that when you are so sad and hurt all of the time, a slight improvement feels miles better than where you came from. Unfortunately, that slight improvement also feels like you crawled a mile to get there.

I was at rock bottom. No, I was lower than rock bottom. I was in rock bottoms basement. It’s a place I never realized existed until my rock bottom somehow turned even lower. The depression and anxiety were getting the best of me. I felt awful all of the time. But I am not asking for your pity. That’s not where I am anymore. When you’re in rock bottoms basement, you can’t get any lower. And for that I was thankful.

One morning, I decided to take recovery head on. I had plenty of setbacks and I didn’t feel better immediately. In fact, I almost felt worse because of the fact that I didn’t feel better. It took me months to get where I am now. To some, where I am is still so low. But for me, this is the best I have ever felt.

Hold on, pain ends. Maybe not right now. Maybe not in three months. The way you feel won’t be the same. I am still depressed and I am anxious, but it does not pain me to be alive. It does not pain me to get out of bed every morning. You may never feel 100%, but the way you feel now cannot stay this way forever. So when you are sad and want to give up, have hope. Hold on, pain ends.

If you are struggling, please know there is help. Some resources you can utilize are the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255, the Crisis Text Line if you text HOME to 741741, and the Counseling Center in the Student Community Center, Room 118.

Editor’s Note: If you are in the process of recovery we encourage you to join the members of Active Minds, Writers Club and the Youngtown Edition to become more than your diagnosis and to share your story, contact youngtownedition@gmail.com to find out how.

CCM: Exhibition Recognizes National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Honors the Life of the Late CCM Student Marisa Rincón

In conjunction with the Counseling and Student Success department at County College of Morris, the college’s Art and Design Gallery will host an exhibition to recognize National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September.

photo of Marisa Rincon

Marisa Rincon

The exhibition, titled “Marisa Rincón: An Impression of Life,” will feature the artwork of Marisa Rincón, a 2007 CCM Fine Arts graduate, who died by suicide in February.

The exhibit consists of more than 20 works by Rincón. Also featured in the show are painted portraits of Rincón created by prominent New Jersey artists Tim Maher, John B. Wolff and Lorraine deSmet. The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, runs Aug. 21 to Oct. 13, in Gallery B, which is the outer portion of the gallery.

A Statement By Dee Rincón, Marisa’s Mother, September 2017

Often, people remarked about Marisa’s beautiful face and hair. “Oh, those green eyes and smile would melt anyone’s heart!” However, Marisa preferred being recognized for her intelligence and artistic talent. Few people knew that she was well read and an articulate writer.

photo of "Green Eyes'' by Marisa Rincon

“Green Eyes” by Marisa Rincon

She chose a liberal path. She believed in equality for women’s rights both personally and professionally. Marisa was a feminine, soft-spoken, kind and gentle soul who touched the hearts of many. Although private and reserved, people enjoyed her sense of humor. Marisa liked to read in solitude and play her ukulele. Pop Rock music, her pet hamster and cat, and nature brought her joy.

Marisa Victoria Rincón struggled with anxiety and depression. On February 21,2017, died by suicide in Randolph, NJ. Marisa’s life was as rich and colorful as her accomplished artwork. She was passionate about the art world and its creativity.
Marisa’s legacy: “We are born with innate talents, and those gifts MUST be expressed and shared in order to be happy.”

photo of "Untitled, or is this Truth,'' by Marisa Rincon

“Untitled, or is this Truth,” by Marisa Rincon

It is the hope of the Rincón family that this art exhibit helps those struggling with mental health to seek help from your physician, the County College of Morris, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We believe that is Marisa’s voice, too.

To read more about Marisa Rincón, written by her mother and family, go to www.ccm.edu/pdf/Marisa-Write-up-art-bio-2017.pdf.

A second art exhibit featuring the work of CCM professors from the Photography Program, titled “Photography Program Faculty Exhibition,” will be held in Gallery A, from Aug. 29 to Oct. 13.CCM logo

There will be two receptions for the exhibits:
The first reception, cosponsored by the Art and Design and Counseling and Student Success departments, will be held 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12.
The second reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 14.

The CCM Art and Design Gallery is located in the Sherman H. Masten Learning Resource Center on CCM’s Randolph campus, 214 Center Grove Road. For gallery hours, visit http://www.ccm.edu/academics/divdep/department-of-art-and-design/art-and-design-gallery/.

To learn more about the Art and Design programs at CCM, go to www.ccm.edu/academics/divdep/liberalarts/artdesign/.