Our Warrior 🎗🙏🏼

How do you even begin to attempt to tell the story of a person that was taken way too soon by such an ugly/deadly disease? Unless you’ve been through it personally, the answer to that question is that you can’t. But, I guess the closest thing to knowing what it feels like is to watch someone you’re close to or just love/care about go through it.

It is with a huge amount of sadness that I say this is exactly what happened to a very special person in my family, my aunt Stephanie Melendez. She had been fighting and going back and forth with this terrible illness for years. She was fighting until her very last breathe was taken on October 18, 2017 at 4:30 am. Stephanie was 33-years-old; daughter, sister, wife, and most importantly, mother, to three beautiful girls.

IMG_9738

I’ve been thinking about what to say about this for nearly five days. These things/situations are always the worse; it’s like you want to be helpful and supportive but what do you even say? Pretty much nothing you say or do is going to help the person or people in this situation, they just lost a loved one to cancer. I think that’s always the worse part, wanting to be helpful and do all these things to attempt to console them, but feeling so helpless at the same time because you know nothing is really going to help them or make them feel better except getting that person back. Well that’s been my issue since Wednesday morning. So many things I wish I could say and do, but nothing feels right or anywhere near good enough.

I hate the fakeness that tends to come out when people pass away and during funerals. Suddenly people you haven’t seen or spoken to in years starts to come out of nowhere with all these words and feelings, but where was all this when the person was alive? Obviously it’s fine and one thing to express your condolences towards the person’s family and passing, but there’s a difference between that and coming out of left field making it seem like you guys were so much closer than what you really were. It’s not authentic and you’re only lying to yourself. That being said, I’m not going to pretend like I was super close to Steph, because I wasn’t, but I am going to say how I feel about her and everything that’s happened.

I want to do it in a way that describes her but also as a letter to her in a way that says everything I want to and wish I could’ve said to her.

Stephanie had her issues, and she made mistakes, but who doesn’t? There were a ton of things that used to be said about her BECAUSE of the mistakes she’s made, but you know what? She was an amazing freaking mother, and she always put her girls first no matter what. My thought is, you can make all the mistakes in the world, as long as you don’t involve or harm your kids in the process and step up when it comes down to it, that’s all that would REALLY matter. I used to hear a lot of things, facts, rumors, whatever you want to consider it, when they all still lived in New York, but I really didn’t care for 3 major reasons; 1. It was never my business what she did or didn’t do behind closed doors, 2. Her girls were always happy, healthy and taken care of, and 3. When she was around me she was always so sweet and genuine.

You know extended families when you see each other after a long time of not, they ask you the usual questions; how are you? How’s school? Are you in a relationship now? How’s your boyfriend/girlfriend? But it’s just typical stuff, so you don’t ever actually know if they care or simply asking because they feel like they should for the sake of conversation. But with Stephanie, it was different, she would ask these kinds of questions but there was something about it that you could just tell she actually cared about my responses, she always seemed interested and I loved that. And this meant the world to me because I could tell when others would ask and not really care so much. She also taught me how to hold a baby and change their diapers; with her supervision at certain times and even a lot of times without it, I know she trusted me with her girls because she knew how much I loved them and vice versa how much they loved me.

IMG_9734

When Stephanie, her husband and their girls moved to Florida I was so unbelievably sad. I don’t even remember saying bye to them. But it was sad because I was going to be going from seeing them pretty much every Saturday, to really not seeing them at all. They were only in Orlando, so it wasn’t THAT far obviously, but it was far enough, especially since it wasn’t like I was going to be able to travel back and forth to see them. In general, it just sucked. But I guess that’s why social media is so convenient, because we were able to keep up with each others’ lives. On and off through the years I would comment on her snapchats of the girls, and how much I missed them all and wanted to visit. She would tell me she missed me too, so did the girls and that I would always be welcomed to stay with them if I did visit. That always made me feel good and happy to hear. I’m actually jealous of my brother because he was able to go over there and visit them twice; technically it was for school/work but nonetheless he got to go stay with them and spend time with them for a few days, that which I never got to do. I had wanted to for a few years now but for one reason or another it never got to happen.

When I first found out you had been diagnosed with cervical cancer I was shocked and scared for you. I don’t remember who told me or how I found out exactly, but my first thoughts were definitely shocked, nervous for you, and the girls. Now, when I found out how long you were actually dealing with this, but hadn’t gotten any treatment, I’m not going to lie, I was mad at you because I couldn’t figure out how you could’ve known about this but not done anything to treat it. I realize now that was selfish of me, because of course it’s cancer so you were probably terrified. You also had a baby that was dealing with a heart condition that you put before yourself which was typical for you, so it all made sense afterwards.

When I found out you were in remission a few months ago and saw that video if you ringing the bell and reading the sign, I can’t tell you how happy it made me, I watched it about 2-3 times and couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. It was over, you were in the clear and weren’t going to have to worry about any of that again…or so we thought. Unfortunately, about two months later, you relapsed, but it wasn’t an ordinary type of relapse, it was as if this time around it came back for vengeance because it was back and hit harder than ever; but that didn’t seem to matter to you because you were prepared to fight it just like you did the first time….our super woman. And that’s exactly what you did was fight from that point on.

I remember finding out you had relapsed, I was sad again but for some reason not as worried about it, because I knew you had beat it once before, and you could do it again. Things got ugly and serious so fast after that. I’m pretty sure it was Jimito, my cousin, who told me about 2-3 weeks ago that your kidneys were failing so it was really just a matter of days/weeks now. When I heard that I was beyond the point of being at a loss for words. My first instinct was to reach out to Naisha (her oldest daughter). But what the hell was I going to say? Sorry that your mom is dying? Nothing I said would make her feel better or sound like anything she didn’t already know/hear. So, I opted to just being real and ask how she was doing  REALLY, she responded, “I’m okay, no one wants to see their mom going through this.” That alone was enough to break my heart and send me to tears. But I wanted to keep talking to her, I was determined to somehow or another either take her mind off things for a little while or somehow make her feel better. So we started talking about Demi Lovato.

Now, if you know me you know that I absolutely LOVE Demi Lovato and even that is probably an understatement. Recently (through her snapchats) I’ve noticed that she’s been liking her more and more, and (although it’s probably not the case) I like to think I had something to do with that lol. So I started to talk to her about Demi. We spoke about how much we liked her, why we liked her, her documentary and how good it was, etc. She ended up telling me how much she wished she could go to one of her concerts, and with me, so I told her we would, to one of her shows for her tour next year and I fully intend on making that happen for her if it means making her feel just a tiny bit better and putting a smile on her face.

IMG_9748

Fast-forward to a few days after this, we kept hearing about how worse you were getting and my mom and I were thinking/talking about how long it had been since the last time we spoke to you. We knew that although we wanted nothing more than for you to get better, the unfortunate reality was that your time was limited, and we wanted to able to speak to you and hear your voice one last time; so we called you. Actually, we called Naisha to hear her voice for a bit too first and see how she was, then we asked to speak to you, which was a little difficult because this was at the point where you were at your weakest so you could barely talk or move on your own anymore. My mom did most of the talking because, again, I had no idea what to say. My mom said hi to you, wished you well, and told you to keep fighting. With what little strength you had, you said hi to us followed by a series of “mhmms,” because that’s all that you could muster. At one point, I finally said hi and you said “hi…” then asked my mom, “who is that?” and she told you who I was and you were like “Ohhhh hi mama!” You sounded really happy/excited, which made me really happy. Then my mom asked you to sing something for her because she knew you loved music. You were quiet for like 2 minutes, then started humming for a few minutes before falling quiet again from being in and out of sleep. My mom started to end the conversation with you, she said she loved you, then I said bye I love you…and then I broke down. I started crying because deep down I had a feeling that was going to be the last time I ever spoke to you and I couldn’t believe it. It really was heartbreaking…And then the conversation ended.

Roughly two weeks after that conversation was when it happened. The ugly and disgusting monster that is cancer beat her, and as a result, took her life. It was Wednesday morning, I had gotten woken up by a phone call on the house phone, which I found weird for two reasons; 1. It was 7 o’clock in the morning, and 2. We rarely get calls on the house phone, let alone at that time of morning. The person left a message on the machine, but I didn’t hear who it was or what they had to say, I just know it was really weird. So I went about my morning getting ready for work, and then I saw my phone light up with a text from my mom, and for some reason that was it, that solidified the nervous feeling I got in the pit of my stomach. I just knew, or had a feeling, it was THAT text. And sure enough when I opened it, it was exactly what I feared. Stephanie had officially taken her last breath at 4:30 that morning. When I found out I couldn’t believe it, I broke down crying and shaking for about 10 minutes. This couldn’t be real, she couldn’t have actually died. She was supposed to get better and be okay again for Pipo and the girls. What’s going to happen now for them? So many questions and concerns running through my mind, but it wasn’t about me, it was about them and all the love and support they were going to need from this point forward, and now here we are….

Stephanie:I love you. I’m so sorry and sad that you are gone, but so unbelievably happy that you’re finally at peace and no longer in pain. You were an amazing mother to the girls, but you never have to worry about them being taken care of. And although it hadn’t happened in a few years, I’m going to miss the little talks on Saturdays we had when you guys still lived in New York. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be in Florida with everyone to pay my respects in person, but I’m really hoping somehow this makes up for that. 😔🙏🏼

Pipo & Girls: I love you guys so much ❤️❤️. I’m so sorry for your guys loss. Nobody should ever have to deal with this kind of loss, heartbreak, and pain. But you guys are all so unbelievably strong and loved 💪🏼❤️. None of you guys will ever have to worry about being alone or anything along those lines. But I guess that’s what’s great about having a big family, all of the love and support that comes along with that. I don’t want to say that everything’s going to be alright, because 1. I’ve never had to go through anything even remotely close to this before to know that, and 2. It’s not and won’t be for a long time if we’re being completely honest, and I know it may be hard to see and believe right now, but she really is in a better place right now, and this way she will literally always be with you guys. Your guys own personal guardian angel ❤️. And she’s probably up there in Heaven flying high with mamita right now watching over all of us ❤️🙏🏼

To The Rest of My Family: Let us please use this as a reason to become closer as a family, not more separated the way we’ve kind of all been the past few years. As cliche as it sounds, I think this situation can be used as a way to show/tell us to be more appreciative and mindful of our loved ones before it’s too late, because you truly never know when it’s going to be the last time you speak to or see your family or friends.😪

IMG_9703

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. 

These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fill them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. 

Beautiful people do not just happen.”- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross 💪🏼❤️🙏🏼🎗

I know that the majority of you who will read this that aren’t family, don’t know her or her family, but any little bit can and will help them during this difficult time. Click the link below to donate anything that you can.

https://www.gofundme.com/stephanie-melendez-memorial-fund

Hi, I’m Fine.

 

download

Hi Guys,

It’s been a while. Hope everyone had a good, productive week and are ready to kick back and finally enjoy the weekend!

Today’s topic is something that is really personal to me, and many others I’m sure. Something that is severely overlooked in the day and age that we live in, and hasn’t been taken nearly as serious as it should. It’s the topic of mental health.

As always, I’m going to start off with my personal experiences with my mental health, then go into my general thoughts on the topic.

mental health immage 2

My Story

This is something that very few people know about me. I’ve really only told a hand full of people, because it’s not exactly something to brag about; however, it is something I feel that I want and need to shed some light on at least once, in depth.

It’s something I think I’ve actually dealt with on and off for a number of years, maybe 4 or 5 years actually; but it wasn’t until about a year ago that it got really bad, and I realized I had a problem, which is what in particular I’m going to be talking about today.

There were so many different things going on with myself internally that I didn’t understand how or why it was happening. But I’ve been dealing with Anxiety and depression for some time now. Now, thankfully neither of these things are or were ever to extremely serious extents. And what I mean by that, because I know many people when they think depression, their thoughts immediately turn to suicide; so thankfully, it has never gotten to that extent, or even just suicidal thoughts, for me,  and both are somewhat mild I guess you could say.

Many of the most common symptoms for depression are agitation, irritability, social isolation, excessive sleepiness as a result over-sleeping or lack thereof, excessive hunger or lack thereof, lack of concentration, excessive weight gain or loss, hopelessness, constantly feeling insecure about yourself, and loss of interest or pleasure in activities (name a few), all of which I had.

As I said earlier, I was going through a lot of these things (i.e. always feeling down, over-eating, isolating myself, etc.), and didn’t understand a lot of it because I never used to be like that, and all of it had been sort of accumulating over the years. But during my last year of college was when I noticed how immensely it was actually effecting me. It got to the point where I was skipping days upon days of classes and coming up with the most insane excuses for my professors because I literally had NO motivation to go and/or do anything. I would spend days in my room and whenever I didn’t have or didn’t go to class, or when I was off from work, I would only come out to go buy food or something. In all my spare time all I would really do is eat, sleep, and watch T.V., literally all day long.

Some people would say that I probably did all this to myself, and I probably did to some extent, but I also have other reasons that I know played a role in it all. There were things going on with family, school, my health, and work that were not only wearing me down, but also left me feeling like I was stuck in such a repetitive routine that I absolutely hated.

As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, school wore me down a lot. That played a big role in the way I was feeling. It was odd though, because I loved being able to dorm, especially in the apartment that I was in, it gave me a huge sense of independence that I absolutely loved; but I hated the classes part of it, which I know obviously I could not have one without the other.

Another part of me feeling the way that I did was how much I was working. As I mentioned in my Health & Fitness post, my last year of college I was working at The Cheesecake Factory, which in my opinion, working in a restaurant was FAR worse and much more time consuming then working retail, although working in a restaurant could be considered retail in a sense, but I’m talking clothing stores and such.  If you read my Health post, you know that I was working pretty much everyday of each week, and they would be ridiculously long hours. People sort of joke all the time about getting slaved at work, but working at Cheesecake was the purest definition of that. Monday through Thursday I would have classes, and typically end up working from 4 or 5pm- to 9pm if not closing at 11pm. Friday through Sunday, I was working 11:30am (opening) until about 9-10pm sometimes later. Now don’t get me wrong, to an extent I liked it, they were giving me all of those hours all the time because they liked and trusted the way I worked, and in the long run it looked great in my paychecks, which was great, but after a while it did wear me down tremendously. I was exhausted 90% of the time, and it got to the point where I had no motivation to go to school or work, because any type of little free-time I had I just wanted to sleep; OR I would try to create my own free-time by not going to classes or calling out of work.

It was bad. My tiredness and lack of motivation got to the point where I was having more bad days than I was good ones. I was getting so freaked out about what was going on with myself. I just truly felt hopeless overall, and like I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.

I never told anyone when I started feeling the way that I did, because I didn’t even fully know or understand what was going on, so how was I even going to attempt to tell other people?

So for about a month I kept it all to myself; the only one who sort of knew was my boyfriend, not because I told him anything really, but because he saw the way I was acting and had a feeling that something was wrong. Then when I started to realize something was REALLY wrong, I did my own research on it all, what I was feeling, etc., (yeah I guess I was self-diagnosing, and they say not to do that, but I needed SOME type of answer at the time), and sure enough I got my answer. So I started talking to him about it, he asked his questions, I would answer to the best of my ability, and we just talked about it all until there wasn’t much left else to say. He was concerned obviously, and I threw around the idea to him about telling my parents, although I was scared about it. He knew how nervous I was about it, and so he advised to think it thoroughly through  before doing anything, and so I did and came to the conclusion that I would hold off from telling them for a while.

I have a variety of reasons for my being nervous to tell them. And everything I say is in no way, shape, form a way to bash them. It’s just my thoughts, and how I felt through it all. My parents are very old-school, so they don’t believe in a lot of things like depression and the like, especially for people my age if not younger. They believe in the whole “don’t think about it, just ignore it and it’ll go away” method. And I guess I don’t really blame them because they’ve never had to deal with things like that before within themselves or their families. They believe that people my age should never be depressed, because what do we actually have to be depressed for? Personally, I think it’s more an ‘in-denial’ thing, that they don’t necessarily want to believe their child is going through that, because they don’t want me to HAVE to go through that, which in itself is understandable of course, but it doesn’t mean what I’m feeling isn’t there, and I can’t just hide it. I mean I had for a long time, but not anymore.

Although I didn’t immediately decide to tell them, I did end up going to someone else in my family that I thought would be really helpful throughout it all, and that was my brother. I went to him because I figure I would be able talk to him about it, especially since he’s a psychologist, so I thought it would help. Sure enough, it did. I spoke to him about it, and his initial reaction was to be expected: anxious, worried, asking me a million and one question, etc. But there was a certain sense of comfort I got from speaking to him about it all. I also talked to him about the idea of bringing it up to my parents, I told him my concerns with it, but also why I felt like they should know. And him, just like my boyfriend, didn’t force me to do it or make me feel bad for having my thoughts about it, he simply just supported whatever I would end up deciding because I’m the one dealing with it.

I figure if I spoke to my mom about it, she would be more supportive and understanding then my dad would be, because although they both had that kind of old-school mentality, it was more him than it was her.

Sure enough, I made the call and started talking to my mom about it all. At first, her initial reaction was extremely frustrating and annoying, she did and said exactly what I was worried about that whole time. She told me not to think about it, just ignore it and it would go away, she told me I’m probably just over-thinking it, I just need to get up, stop being lazy and be more active to get myself out of that. And above all, I felt like she was trying to scare me when she brought up that if I went to a psychologist and everything ended up being true, they would probably end up making me take medication to stop it/make me feel better. I was so pissed off at everything she was saying. Is she serious right now? THAT’S her biggest concern at the moment? I then proceeded to let her know that everything she was saying was exactly why I hadn’t wanted to tell her or my dad about anything, because those were the last things I wanted/needed to hear.

And then I hung up.

mental health image

Following that day I didn’t want to speak to her or anyone else about how I was feeling again. With each day that passed she would constantly try to ask things like so how are you feeling? Are you better today? And I would give her the same answer all the time, “I’m fine.”

The way I was feeling would come and go a lot, and hit me at the most random times, so it was hard to give her or anyone a solid answer about how I was feeling, because in that moment I was okay, but an hour later I would feel completely different. A few days later, she told me that I should go see and talk to someone about how I was feeling, but I didn’t know how any of that worked or how to go about even finding someone, so I was super skeptical about it all. I ended up finding out that on campus at Purchase, they had this place called the Wellness Center, which I sort of knew about, but didn’t know exactly the type of programs and such that it offered. After looking into more information for that, I came to learn that it was an entire building for things like what I was feeling and those that are in far worse conditions. So, I booked an appointment to speak to a fellow psychologist.

mental health picture

Therapy? Really?? Did I really just book an appointment for that? I considered skipping the appointment altogether and coming up with an excuse for why I didn’t go, but then I figured I should at least give it a shot once and see what happens.

Man, people aren’t kidding when they say that shit gets intense.

It was only an hour and a half, and from that, we managed to touch upon A LOT of hidden ground that I hadn’t spoken about to many people. Some of which is a little too personal to bring up in this post right now.

It freaked me out though, and I didn’t like how vulnerable I felt speaking to this woman that I didn’t know for a hole in the wall. She asked me to book another appointment for the following week, and I did, but I never showed up to that follow-up.

The way I was feeling kept coming and going, and it wasn’t like a headache that I could just take a Tylenol and it would go away within half hour or so. Sometimes it would last a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, and sometimes it would last an entire day. It was hard, but I kept taking it day by day. It wasn’t until my graduation that I finally let it known to everyone what I had been going through the past few months in an Instagram post. Yes, I know it was probably weird and cheesy for me to have done that on there, but it was a post expressing my gratitude and what I felt/thought was strength after finally graduating.

What now? 

Things are a bit different, I’m back home and closer to my friends and family, and have been able to do constructive things to keep myself busy to not think about the negatives. I get to read my books whenever I want, I get to come home from a long day’s work and not have to worry about homework, tests, or quizzes, and I just generally have more time for myself. I’m in a much better place now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with the issues that I had, I still have my days where it hits me hard and I just feel really hopeless. And days where my anxiety attempts to get the best of me and keep me from stepping outside and doing the things I have to, but I try to fight through it each and every time to ensure that I live my life the way I want to, not by the things I go through that I know will eventually will pass, even if I never know how long it’ll take next time.

The Purpose

Following my one and only therapy appointment, during the last few weeks of school, I was watching Thirteen Reasons Why. Although I found it to be a really good, it did nothing at all to help me whatsoever, if anything, it made it a million times worse. To this day, I’m not exactly sure why, but all I know is, when I finished watching the show, it freaked me out so much that I couldn’t sleep for like a week. And I think the reason it freaked me out was because of how weirdly relatable it was to me. No, I never thought about suicide, and no I didn’t have thirteen reasons as to why I was depressed, but the way Hannah kept trying at life, with people, work, her parents, etc., and it kept always seeming to fail, got me. Also, how much she thought and expected for her parents to figure it all out and help her without judging her, but they didn’t got me too. There were so many signs there she gave off, the ways she was feeling, and not a single person caught on to any of it.

mental health

It’s heartbreaking because there are way too many people in the world that are going through or have been through similar situations where they’re depressed and going through really heavy/deep stuff and they feel like they have no one to be there for them. Which, as a result, causes them more often than not to turn to the gruesome alternative of suicide.

I’m not writing this post to get any type of pity from anyone, or to have anyone write me after reading this and ask if I’m okay, and if I ever need anything to let them know; I’m writing this post because I know so many people that have gone through some serious shit, that they’ve felt like in the moment of it happening, they have absolutely no one to talk to. They feel like their alone, which as result causes them to handle things alone. It may not mean much for you to see or hear, but YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And I’m sorry that you feel alone right now, or that you did, but you have to know/understand that as cliche as it is, there is ALWAYS someone there, around you, or that you know who cares. Talk to SOMEONE, a family member, a friend, a significant other; someone WILL care. You don’t have to go through anything alone, and if you were like me, that you don’t know how to explain whatever is you’re going through, that’s okay. You can figure it out along the way, someone can help you figure it out. But you have to talk to someone, don’t wait until it’s too late to do or say something.

And parents, friends, strangers: watch out for the signs. There are always signs there. Yeah, sometimes it may be nothing, but other times it could be a whole lot, and they really do need you. Even if you may be wrong with what you think you see, at least you showed you cared and would be there for them. Don’t force anything from their end, but if they’re going to you and talking to you about something, hear them out, whether they’re old or young. They may not be exaggerating like you think, and they could know/feel a lot more than you would expect, and with whatever it is they’re going through, they could use all the love, help, and support they could get. Overall, just be mindful. Be mindful of what you say and do to people because you really have no idea how big or small of an impact you can have on a person, whether positive or negative.

mental health quote.jpg

 

Food for thought. Enjoy the weekend everyone!

 

-Xoxo Leo Girl.