Diamonds Are Whatever

Tatoo Time?


I always laugh at how appalled my children get when I tell them if I lose all my hair  (read about my hair story here.) I’ll get a tatoo of an orchid growing up my neck and the back of my head. My kids are not tatoo fans…which part of me is happy about.

I think doing such a permanent thing to your body can be the cause of future regret, because we are never the same person we are in the future that we were in the past.

As a psychotherapist, I’ve also read tons of studies about tattoos, their addictive nature, and findings that seem to show that lack of affection in childhood might be the root cause of self injurious behavior…in which category tattoos get lumped.

At the same time, in working with clients and staff, and having friends who have beautiful, deeply meaningful stories behind equally beautiful tatoos I am reminded, “For every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Now, when I’m out and about in the world, and see a tatoo that catches my eye, I always ask about it, and I always enjoy the story behind it.

And I know if I ever end up getting a tatoo of an orchid, growing on my bare scalp, I will be happy to share its meaning…that the process of losing my hair has caused me to grow in beautiful ways I never would have otherwise.


Our trials are a double edged sword,

Providing us with the potential to fight our fears and cut out the crap.

How Do You Fight Stigma?


 In their research, Corrigan and Rao write,

“…a key to challenging self-stigma is to promote personal empowerment.  One way to do this is through disclosure…the strategic decision to let others know about one’s struggle toward recovery.”

I wasn’t sure I trusted this statement.  But I had been inspired by both of my co-workers Jackie and Paul, who had been open at work about their mental illnesses.  Their vulnerability, their strength, their integrity…and most of all, their effectiveness with their clients touched me deeply.

Who they were and my admiration of them helped me to reveal something I had been keeping secret all my life, the fact that I struggled with a severe mental illness.


I decided to reveal this truth about myself and submit a proposal to speak at Los Angeles Department of Mental Health Transition Age Youth Conference regarding stigma and it’s impact on healing.  I asked if any of my co-workers would be interested in presenting with me, and Jackie and Paul quickly volunteered.

Our proposal was accepted and we presented last month and during the workshop the audience was engaged in the conversation, asking meaningful questions, and I noticed several people crying.


 On SAMSHA’s website a clinician diagnosed with a mental illness states, “I’ve asked many of my patients what it has meant for them to know about my history, and there is one consistent and resounding refrain: HOPE!”

And that is the feeling I felt in this room. Hope. Hope, because even though I struggle at times,  I am OK.  Hope, because I have been able to lead a productive career in a field that I enjoy. Hope because even though I have very dark days, I often feel joyful and at peace with the world.

Hope because this room, filled with row after row of people intently listening to what we had to say weren’t judging us with the kind of judgment we three had all feared throughout our lives, but were instead inspired by us…grateful for us…touched by our stories, our hearts, and our words.


I had several people come up and speak with me after the presentation was over, and one in particular stands out in my mind. A young, beautiful girl, perhaps in her mid twenties. She told me she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia several years before, but had been able to receive good treatment and was doing well.

She was in a masters program and engaged to be married.  My husband had come to the presentation and while speaking I shared my experience of disclosing my mental health history to him for the first time as well as other stories about the impact of my diagnosis on our lives. In his charming and humourous way, he bantered back and forth with me from the audience.

This young woman wanted to know how my husband and I had handled the issue of in laws. Did we disclose my diagnosis with his parents before we got married? If so how had they handled it? She had a sincere desire to handle this issue with integrity and honesty, but was nervous regarding the ramifications.

I was touched by this woman and openly shared my experience with her. I was touched because she was trying her hardest to make the wisest decision for everyone involved. She did not want to make a decision from a fear-based place and hide her truth, but she also wanted to maintain good boundaries and a strong sense of self and the right to personal privacy.


She is an example of what I have had the opportunity to witness many times throughout my life and my career…she is someone with a serious mental illness who is displaying emotional wellness and making wise decisions. One can have a brain disorder and be emotionally healthy. They are not mutually exclusive.

Yes brain disorders have symptoms, and those symptoms can sometimes be very disconcerting. But the symptoms are not the person. I dated a guy once that told me he’d never date anyone that was bipolar. That that was a total deal breaker.

My relationship with him didn’t last, and I never disclosed to him that I had been given that diagnosis. He’s now divorced…and my husband and I are still married…married and in a healthy, thriving and enjoyable relationship.


Yes I have “flaws”. And yes, at times, those “flaws” have been disruptive. But with good self-care, a good treatment team, and great family and friends I do really, really well. And those flaws don’t make me unloveable, or unlikeable.

In this amazing room, at this presentation…my flaws actually made me more loveable, more real, more human. Even more useful at that moment than I would have been without my flaws.

I believe everything happens for a reason. But I also believe we have a hand in creating what that reason is. And in that moment, my reason my illness happened to me, was so that I could have a conversation with that young, beautiful, thoughtful woman preparing to get married and wanting to go about it in the most wise and conscious way possible.

My reason was so that I could connect with another struggling, striving human and share the hope that health and happiness are possible, no matter what cards we are dealt with in life.




Paul Jefferson me and Jackie Vargas




So when I’m feeling down in the dumps, some of the things I have found that help, are being creative, doing something for someone else, hearing an inspiring story, or connecting with my spiritual core (I collect all kinds of spiritual pendents, amulets and charms…cause…I figure I can use all the help I can get.)

I’m combining all those here and giving away one of my handmade necklaces for free.  One day I plan on opening an Etsy store …but until then these little guys are just sitting around and are in need of a pretty neck to hang onto.  You could be the one to choose which one from the choices below.  Free shipping too!  Just let me know where you want it sent.

Tell me one of the hardest things you’ve been through in your life and what you’ve learned or how you’ve healed from the experience.

Check out the pieces below and let me know if any of them speak to you.  I’ll pick the new owner of one of these pieces sometime in the next week.

Choice #1

A sterling silver Ichthys (also known as a Jesus fish).  I won this sweet little charm on an ebay auction.  The small little silver charm in the upper left is a lotus flower.


Choice #2

A sterling silver Shield of David (also known as a Star of David).  There’s also a small little lotus flower on this one in the upper left corner.  Won this charm at an auction on ebay as well.


Choice #3

A pale pink Our Lady of Guadalupe pendent.  I also won her at auction on ebay.  So very sweet…I just fell in love with her.


Choice #4

A soapstone pendent that looks like a Mandala.  Soapstone helps to “widen ones horizons” and assist in times of change. It allows us to be ready for new situations & challenges.  Mandalas come from both Hinduism and Buddhism and signify the universe.


Choice #5

A pale green Hindu Ganesha necklace.  Lord Ganesha is the god of beginnings, knowledge, wisdom.  As the remover of obstacles, He is one of my favorite spiritual symbols.


Choice #6

A pale pink and black Ganesha.  Thought I’d throw two Ganesha’s in there…facing lots of obstacles right now that need removing.


Looking forward to hearing your stories of strength, hope and healing!



The good in me is inspired by the good in you!

Unpolished or Perfect?


 So I fell into a bit of a depression over the last month or two. A lot had happened the few months prior. I had started up a blog, revealing to the world my struggles with mental health issues that I had kept secret my whole life.

I had shared that truth with my co-workers and bosses, been selected to present at a huge conference in Los Angeles, been nominated by my employer for a prestigious national award call the SAMHSA Voice award, finished my book Damsel and Depression and finalized it’s publication on Amazon Kindle, all on top of my regular life of fulltime work, marriage and the parenting of two teenage girls.


I received great feedback about my blog from many people and knew I needed help learning more about how to get it out there and seen. I hired a blog consultant and also bought his on line blogging class.

Some of the feedback I received from friends and other professionals was that although my blog was great, it’s look was too homegrown…too unpolished. To make it really successful I needed a high-end look, because “high-end” is what sells these days.

So I also met with a brand consultant for a few hours and shopped around for a photographer to do a high-end photo shoot. I got the feedback that I shouldn’t brand myself as “Damsel in Depression”…because that was, well, too depressing. But that I should use my name and create a brand around that…because personal brands are what’s big right now.

And I should do all that before I worked to get any more followers so that I had an established brand in place before I started to build a platform.

During this time my youngest daughter was preparing to get her black belt in tae kwon do, and my older daughter was competing in CIF championships for swimming and both were also preparing for year-end finals.


At some point I hit a wall. I stopped utilizing my blogging and brand consultants. Instead of backing off and taking a realistic view of what I am and am not humanly capable of, I started slipping into a spiral of negative thoughts and depression. I eventually stopped blogging altogether.

Had those few months where so much had happened simply been a manic episode? Were my blog and my book and my hope for their success simply grandiose ideas rather than planned and thoughtful steps toward a future reality?

Having been hospitalized, I have a raw understanding of what the results of my symptoms can be. The results can be four point restraints, being locked up and having all my rights taken away for weeks at a time.

If blog and book equal grandiose mania, what am I doing even attempting such a thing? Am I being an erratic drama queen putting everything all out there on line? And what does it say about me if I put it all out there and then drop it all…give it all up? I became increasingly more and more paralyzed and depressed.

And then a young woman I know, also diagnosed with bipolar disorder asked when my next post would be coming. That she couldn’t wait to read it. That she had spent hours that week reading my blog from beginning to end and wanted more. She also said she couldn’t wait for my book, and had been checking on Amazon for access to it.


Her comments were so heartwarming and sweet. They touched me and made me happy…and then I immediately felt incredibly sad because I had been surrendering to the belief that it had all been a manic swing and it was time to give it up.

What was the truth? Bipolar swing, or just unrealistic business followed by some fatigue. Good writing and ideas with the potential to help others, or grandiose attention seeking with the sharing of the intimate details of my life.

My husband noticed my fall into depression and asked me about it. He knows I try hard not to burden others with my “symptoms” and as a result often end up depriving myself of the normal human need to release deep and raw emotion.

Stepping out of my shut down and closed up box, I ended up talking it through with him.

He said that although I hadn’t been noticeably manic the last few months, I had been incredibly busy. And although everything that had happened had been good, it had been a stressful time.

He commented that maybe there had been a bipolar aspect to it, but was that necessarily a bad thing?


“I can’t really tell most of the time if you’re hypomanic or just being creative.  A lot of that could just be your personality. I never really know for sure.

There’s really no way to untangle one from the other. If you’re enjoying yourself and there’s nothing worrisome involved, why does it matter? You like writing, though. So why not just write? Forget the other stuff.”

After our conversation my daughters and I took off for a stay at a beach in southern California. They were going to hang out on the beach while I commuted in to work each day.

But while there, I walked on the beach each morning, and spent time on the beach each evening.

And in that time I tried to center, connect with my higher self, allow myself to envision what brings me happiness and purpose. And writing this blog has made me happy. Whether or not it reaches thousands of people, it serves a purpose.

It serves a purpose for me…to explore my truth, find some grounding, help me grow and sort out my shit.


Instead of being hard on my bipolar self for spending money on consultants and not following through with them, I am going to allow myself the ability to have taken a chance, taken a risk, and having the risk not turn out as planned.

I’m going to allow myself the ability to make a mistake and let it be because I am human, not because I am bipolar.

I am going to love myself and encourage myself to do something I love, even though the process brings up feelings of confusion, and insecurity, fear and lack of control. For now I am going to write…write because I love it…on my homegrown, unpolished, Damsel in Depression blog.

I am going to write…and leave it at that.




Tide pools near Aliso Beach Park in Laguna Beach, CA.


Selfie at sunset.  Didn’t quite capture the sunset.


Tin foil dinners with my daughters and brother, who lives near the beach.


Sea lion lazing in the sun.


My two girls playing in the sand.


A walk on the beach.  Rethinking, resting, rejuvenating.

Meditation Tip for the Manic Minded

Don’t Chase the Boys

So I broke my back over 20 years ago in a snow skiing accident. At least that’s what a chiropractor once told me. I was trying to keep up with some cute boys, went over a jump, and landed horribly. The terrible landing wasn’t what did it, though. When you go skiing and you fall down, your skis are supposed to pop off…but mine didn’t. So I rolled down the hill in a bumpy, lopsided fashion, when you’re really supposed to be able to do more of a roll.

I’ve had back problems ever since. A chiropractor told me I fractured a bone in my back that healed slightly crooked. I didn’t go to the doctor at the time, so who really knows. I’ve been to many doctors since, and they’ve never mentioned a broken bone, but they’ve given me all kinds of drugs, tens units, epidural shots and more. None of these treatments ever quite worked for me. But a good chiropractor, a long walk, and a massage therapist can do wonders.

The chiropractor told me because of the break, my spine is slightly crooked. (I’m imbalanced in more ways than one.) Because my spine is crooked, my muscles on the right side of my back and into my buttocks have to work really hard to try to keep me straight. So they end up sore and knotted up much of the time.


Bed of Nails

Welcome to my torture chamber. I have a Bed of Nails to lay on to loosen up the knots. Some people use these beds of nails, not for back pain, but to meditate. I end up using it for both. You can’t do much else while lying on a bed of nails. It’s a little hard to hold a book, or to fall asleep. I can’t really prop up my head to watch TV because I have to lie perfectly flat. So I just lie there, and zone out…or zone in. Zone in on nothing…cause that’s what happens when you meditate. But because you zone in on nothing, there’s more room for the everything. The All in the All…or something like that.

And when you zone in on the everything, you realize that life is not that bad…that there is magic in the air. You focus on what there is, instead of what there isn’t. And there’s a lot. I have some favorite magic Merlins I have come across in my lifetime, that have made lots of something out of seemingly very little.

Nick Vujicic tried to drown himself in a bathtub when he was a child. He was born without arms or legs, and because of that he thought he’d never be able to have the life that others had. He’s now written a book called Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridculously Good Life.

Kris Carr was diagnosed with with stage IV cancer ten years ago on Valentines day. She now calls Valentine’s day her cancerversary and feels like her illness has been one of her greatest gifts, her best teachers.

I grew up Mormon, and there is a scripture in The Book of Mormon where The Lord speaks and says,

“…if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I’m not as Mormon as I once was, but I still love that scripture. All of us on Earth have weaknesses, in our bodies…in our minds. But faith and humility go a long way. When we surrender to our circumstances, and hand them over to The Lord, (or the universe, or the divine, or mother earth, or to unicorns…I hand mine over to anyone and anything that will take them) our weak things will be made strong.

Nick Vujicic, has learned how to throw a tennis ball, surf and play soccer, without any arms or legs. Kris Carr has an incredibly healthy body, despite her cancer. I was once locked in a mental hospital but now I am emotionally well and sound of mind.

Sometimes we have to pass through the torture chamber to get there. But magic is possible. We can ride our faith to wholeness. To happiness.


No matter what our circumstances, our faith can take us there.

The Lord Rises (Happy Easter!)

So I try to go walking while I’m at work two or three times a day. It clears my head and gets my back moving (which stiffens up from a 20 year old skiing injury.) There’s a nice man I often run into on the way and we always stop and chat. I’ve assumed that he is homeless. He just kind of has that look. He always tells me how beautiful I am even thought he has thick cataracts covering each eye.

One day I was almost done with my walk and I heard him yelling after me. I turned and he was running down the street with something in his hands, arms outstretched. When he neared me he handed me a small plastic box with a cross and a rosary inside and said, “This has been for you.”

I broke out in a huge grin as tingles spread throughout my body. He said, “I’ve been saving this for you. “ I nodded my head and thanked him, still smiling from ear to ear. We hugged and I continued on, staring at the gift in my hands. It’s one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received and I showed it to my staff when I got back to the office. They knowlingly nodded and said, “It’s a sign.”

I smiled and said yes. I told them about a jewelry line I had been working on and planned to launch on Etsy called Wise Woman Wares. It is based on the rosary concept, with various spiritual amulets and charms as the rosary focal point.

There are beautiful signs everywhere we look in this world. Signs that we are loved more than we realize. The Lord rises up in the strangest places every moment of every day. And I am grateful.

May you have a most beautiful and blessed Easter morning as The Lord rises for you.


The love in me toasts to the love in The Lord.  Cheers!







How to Conquer the Korean Spa

Not Your Regular Spa Scene

So a friend of mine introduced me to the Korean Spa experience in Korea town L.A. about two years ago.  I talk in depth about it in my book in the chapter Called Armour.  It’s a trippy place…not your usual Americanized spa trip.  No cover ups allowed.  These ladies are hard core.

So a woman in the hottest sauna started chatting with me and we ended up hanging out for over an hour together.  I love the saunas.  The hot ones, the warm ones, the salt ones, the jade ones.  I’ve always loved the heat.  But the cold.  The cold I just can’t handle.  There are cold pools just outside the saunas that you’re supposed to use to cool down.  Then, when you start to get frostbite…you hop back in the sauna again.

I think it’s kind of a yin and yang thing to create balance in the body.  I have a high tolerance for the heat…I can sweat it out longer than most people.  But the cold…the cold has always been a little too shocking for me.  Obviously I’m a little imbalanced in more ways than one.

But today this woman and I were having a good chat and without thinking about it, I walked out with her to the cold sauna.  I started to climb in and saw some women from across the room give me a look.  I quickly realized the woman I had been talking to was rinsing first before she jumped into to the cold pool.  So I followed suit and rinsed off with a bunch of freezing cold water before jumping in the cold pool.

I Got the Evil Eye

The woman explained that you’ll get the evil eye from the older Korean women if you don’t rinse off between each step.  And who wants the evil eye?  I suppose it depends on the context in which it is given to you.  I received an evil eye once as a gift from a Turkish woman.  In Turkey they believe in an eye for an eye.  An evil eye charm to combat the evil eye someone may place upon you.  The evil eye she gave me is made of blue glass and is the size of a square coaster.


People always have their reasons for giving you the look of an evil eye.  These older Korean women didn’t want my sweaty sweat in the clean water  People’s evil eye will inform you, if you let it.  When people give you an evil look, you should always be curious about why it’s being given.  Try to learn the purpose behind it.  Maybe they’re just having a bad day.  Maybe you’re making a mistake and didn’t realize it.

Instead of using my blue glass evil eye to protect me from the evil eye, I think of it as a magic translator.  Helping me understand the evil eyes given to me by others.  I guess understanding other’s evil eye is protection anyway.  And there’s always good reasons behind evil eyes if you take the time to understand them.

The Angel Eye

We can transcend evil eyes we might receive from others, and just let it be an “eye.”  A single eye.  In Buddhism they call that single eye the “urna”, and it symbolizes devine vision.  That third eye provides us with perception beyond what our regular eyes can see.  And when we use our inner eye, we can turn an evil eye into an angel eye.  Those Korean women gave me the evil eye, because they want the Koren spa to be a safe, healing and enjoyable place for all.  I used my eye for an eye and magically translated their look to mean such.  That magic translator changed the evil eye into an angel eye, and everyone was protected well throughout our day at the spa.


Let all those eyes be your armor.

The Millionaires

So I am the clinical director of a pilot project in Los Angeles County that provides preventative family therapy for youth at risk of developing a psychotic disorder. The treatment modality we’re using is called CAPPS (Center for the Assesssment and Prevention of Prodromal States).  There are some pretty clear-cut “pre-psychotic” symptoms that my team and I have been trained to assess for when finding people to include in the program. Telecare Corporation, the company I work for, sent us to Yale to be trained by three Yale professors (Dr. Tyrone Cannon, Dr. Mary P. O’Brien and Dr. Barbara Walsh), in the treatment modality as well as the assessment tool called the SIPS (Structured Interview for Prodromal Syndromes.)

The project is funded in part by Proposition 63 or The Mental Health Services Act which was passed in 2004 and imposes a 1% income tax on personal income over one million dollars. It was pretty funny flying to Yale to be trained to assess for these symptoms, because…I would actually qualify for the program. I’m kind of “pre-psychotic” most of the time. And I was not the only one in the group that felt that way. A couple of us were like, “Ummm…yup. That’s me.”

The treatment is very research and outcome based and if the pilot goes well, the program has the possibility of becoming a more permanent fixture in the Los Angeles mental health world. On so many levels I have felt quite privileged to be a part of this program. I love the 15- 26 year old age group with whom we work. I love family therapy. I love training great, new, eager, talented therapists. And I love people diagnosed with mental illnesses (and those at risk of being so.) They’re my peeps. Except for the L.A. commute, things couldn’t be more perfect.

I work for a great company (Telecare), that for the last fifty years has dedicated itself to helping those with chronic mental illness heal and recover.   My whole team loves what they do, and also feels grateful to be a part of this pilot program. They are dedicated to this population and go way out of their way to make sure the clients needs get meet to the best of their ability. I could go on and on, but enough raving about us and our program. Now I want to rave about the millionaires.

One percent many not seem like a lot, but it’s far more than a little, and I’m grateful for every penny of it. I’ve seen miracles happen with peoples’ hard earned tax money. I ran into somebody the other day that I worked with years ago. He was attending UCLA when he had his first psychotic break and I worked at a great mental health agency called The Alcott Center on the west side of Los Angeles near this university. He was part of the TAY group we had there.

TAY is an acronym used by the Los Angeles Department of Mental health and stands for transition age youth. It includes youth 16-26 years old. Programs specifically for the TAY population were just starting out in L.A. county when I worked at the Alcott center back then, and I ran a group for TAY individuals and participated in several of the start up meetings with other agencies providing services to this newly identified group.

This UCLA kid was incredibly smart and charismatic, but was also very ill, had been violent, and ended up spending some time in Patton, a California state run forensic hospital. He eventually graduated from UCLA and went on to get a law degree. He now does advocacy work for the mentally ill and I ran into him at an event where he was speaking about his story. I’d venture to state that he would not be doing what he is doing today as well as he is doing it without benefitting from tax payers money.

There were pivotal moments in my life where I believe if I didn’t get the treatment that I did from the treatment providers that I did, my life could have turned out completely different than it has. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Believe me. Good treatment makes a difference. And not just for the individuals who get the treatment. But also for everyone with whom those individuals come in contact.

I have always wanted to sit down with some California millionaires and truly thank them for their one percent. Share with them stories of the kind of difference that one percent makes. Because it makes a huge difference…in millions of peoples lives. It makes a difference in many concrete ways that we can measure, but it also makes a difference in more intangible ways that only God knows. Prevention and early intervention is always the best way to go. The aftermath of things gone bad is never pretty. You never know when a mentally ill person’s future hangs in the balance.

If you’re a millionaire…if you know any millionaires…Please! Make yourself known to me. I’d love to take you out to dinner and tell you thanks. I’d love to take you on a tour of our two program sites and introduce you to our staff.  They’d want to thank you too. My husband is the president and CEO of a group home for boys called Pacific Lodge that also benefits from Prop 63 money. He’d love to take you out to dinner and tell you thanks…show you around The Lodge. My good friend Jessica Wilkins is the clinical director of The Alcott Center, which also uses Prop 63 money. She’d love to thank you and show you what your money is up to as well.


The love in me toasts to the love in you. Cheers.