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WOTM 14 Featuring Sue Wiygul Martin

Remorse and Reconciliation

Sue W. Martin With Her Guide Dog Companion
Sue W. Martin

A book about suicidal depression and new blindness? Sounds, well, depressing. But it’s quite the opposite. At the age of twenty-six, Sue Wiygul Martin was deeply depressed. When the pain reached the point where she couldn’t stand it any longer, she did the only thing that seemed big enough, important enough, to end the pain. She tried to end her life. Her suicide attempt failed but resulted in Martin becoming blind.

When her rehab teacher, now called a vision rehab therapist, came to see her for the first time, she asked Martin to tell her a little bit about herself in an effort to decide where to begin teaching. “In the past,” Martin says, “I’d reach out and grab a few happy experiences and use them to tell somebody something about myself. I’d describe the thrill of arriving at the top of a mountain after a long and challenging hike. I’d describe the feel of mastery as I kayaked the toughest whitewater rivers in the Southeast. I’d share the thrill of speed as I galloped across a field mounted on a huge thoroughbred.

But how could I do that this time?”

Martin explains that she felt as though her entire way of life had been lost.

After thirty years, all of those activities, and then some, are, again, part of Martin’s life. And now she’s a woman on a mission.

“I’m passionate about suicide prevention,” Martin says. “I’m on a mission to de-stigmatize depression and suicidal thinking.” “Only when it’s okay to talk about depression will it also be okay to ask for help.”

Out of the Whirlpool Book Cover
Out of the Whirlpool

Sue W. Martin is a graduate of the University of the South and holds a master’s in blind rehab from Western Michigan University. Following a twenty year career as a blind rehab professional she now works for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in the office of Information and Technology. Martin has recently published her first book, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation.

Martin lives and writes in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau where she lives with her husband, Jim.

The above entry written by Sue Martin for today’s post was so poignant to me I wanted to present it in its original format. Having dealt with depression for most of my life I was immediately drawn to Sue’s book Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation and purchased the Kindle version.

If you haven’t suffered depression first-hand you are most fortunate. Speaking from experience I have wanted nothing more than to be “normal.” The problem is I don’t really know what normal is but as Sue so eloquently puts it in her news station interview “even if you have to stay alive minute to minute and hour to hour – stay alive and ask for help. And life can just be so wonderful.” I’ve learned to live within the moment especially if I’m in the grips of depression.

…I awakened to the familiar feeling of paralysis. What was wrong with me? I should want to do this. I should be excited. I should be leaping out of bed in anticipation of a thrilling challenge. But I was none of those things. I was a failure. I had failed at marriage. I had failed in my career attempts. Now, I was failing to even get out of bed. ~Sue Martin

It’s difficult for me to find the appropriate words to describe the joy I derive from writing these Fierce Friday articles and Sue Martin’s is no exception. When I received an email last week about Sue being featured on CBS42 WIAT news station in Alabama and Maria Schriver’s blog concerning suicide prevention I instantaneously knew I had to reach out to her. To view the news interview you can click HERE. To read Maria Shriver’s blog How To Save a Life: Talk About Suicide you can click HERE.

Depression is so insidious and with the staggering numbers of over 8 million attempted suicides throughout the US on a yearly basis we have to get beyond the stigma associated with this disease. I’m so thankful that Sue had the courage to write about her struggle and is now speaking out on this serious issue. I’m also extremely grateful that she responded to me and granted me the opportunity to share her inspirational story with you. Like all of the women that I’ve profiled on Friday’s Sue is one fierce lady and I’m honored to present her to you.

Following are social media links to Sue’s website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sue W. Martin, Author, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation
Website: www.outofthewhirlpool.com
Twitter: @swmartin
Facebook: Out of the Whirlpool

 

 

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Wardrobe Triage

Trauma to Tranquility

Hydrangea Pinterest via  bhg.com
Hydrangea
Pinterest via bhg.com

If you saw my post on Saturday you know that my son, Arian, was rushed to the emergency room with a back sprain. After convalescing at my place he is still on the mend and comfortably back at his home.

I wanted to thank everyone who reached out to inquire and extend well-wishes to Arian I greatly appreciate your kindness. Needless to say, having to babysit my grandson and son over the past couple days, I’m still a little frazzled but looking forward to tomorrow.

My friend Marcel, artist extraordinaire, is also a gifted photographer, writer, speaker and now that I think about it I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do he’s so awesome. Out of the blue I messaged him through Facebook last week we scheduled a call, and set up the photo shoot for tomorrow afternoon.

In preparation and anxious anticipation I go to my closet to choose several outfits, it’s then I discover my issues. I can’t fit most of my clothes as I still have a way to go to reach my goal weight, and I’m a little disgusted to find I have fewer colors than what I originally thought. Not one to give up easily I think to myself “I need help” so I call my cousin Chae (pronounced Shay).

Tangled Web Weaving

Chae is one of the funniest people I know. Every time I’m around her she always has the zaniest stories to tell and we just laugh till our sides hurt. Chae has always been an unapologetic foodie and was so committed to her love affair with food she almost choked to death eating a meatball sandwich.

Before Chae begins her emphatic account she tells me she needs me to understand that these sandwiches are categorically unsurpassed. She came home late from work with her elite take-out sandwich in tow. She sneaks into her garage and begins to wolf down her meal but in the midst of eating she starts to choke. Since her husband and kids don’t know she’s home yet they aren’t aware of her distress. She eventually dislodged the obstruction but the crazy thing is once she did she felt honor bound to finish every last bite because she didn’t want to share it with the hubby and kids. So I knew if nothing else got accomplished yesterday I would at the very least have my own comedic entertainment.

After trying on several combinations of clothes I now have 3 outfits and accessories for the photo shoot. While I wish I could wear some of my spring-like attire, looking like a stuffed cabbage is not the look I’m going for. If all goes well, I’ll have some good pictures to post within the next couple weeks.

Since I am unable to wear some of my favorite springtime colors I have uploaded a beautiful Hydrangea that reminds me of the breathtaking Nairobi blue Prada gown Lupita Nyong’o wore to the Oscars.

Have a great day!!

“When the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it may be that they take better care of it there.” ~Cecil Selig

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WOTM 13 Featuring Stephanae McCoy

You don’t know what you can’t see when you can’t see it…

Steph McCoy
Steph McCoy

The first time I put on eyeglasses was a little over 44 years ago. The feeling of seeing clearly for the first time stole my breath away. The transition was like leaving a dark movie theatre and stepping outdoors on a bright sunny day. It took time for my eyes to adjust because suddenly everything was so clear and focused as if all my senses were reborn; sound was keener, flavors more savory, smells more aromatic, touch more sensitive and sight — well, sight was indescribable. Depth perception was strange, crossing streets and walking down stairs was a little precarious as I acclimated to what is considered 20/20 vision.

For 37 years I was blessed with perfect vision provided I wore corrective lenses. That all changed 9 years ago with two words, “macular hole.” It began when I removed one of my contact lenses, looked in the mirror, and to my horror, half of my face was missing.

The diagnosis, while grim, in my situation all the statistics pointed to a favorable prognosis; One, I was considered very young to experience a macular hole, two, odds were it would not occur in my other eye and three; I had a 95% to 99% probability of having my vision completely restored in my affected eye.

What a relief to know that this unfortunate incident was only a minor inconvenience. When my retina specialist explained to me that he would perform a vitrectomy I jumped at the opportunity.

Vitrectomy is an outpatient surgery done under local anesthesia where the surgeon inserts these tiny instruments into the eye, suctions out the eye fluid, repairs the damage at the back of the eye, then inserts a gas bubble. It was kind of eerie being able to discern light and see the shadows of the instruments moving within my eye while at the same time talking with the surgical team. Afterwards I had to keep my head in a constant downward position for 3 weeks to enable the gas bubble to seal the hole in my macula. This first vitrectomy was not successful and a second surgery was repeated 5 months later.

Fast forward 4 more years with trips to my retina specialist, regular ophthalmologist, low vision specialist and Cleveland Clinic I had a total of 6 procedures/diagnosis:

  1. Detached retina with laser surgery repair in the left eye.
  2. Epiretinal membrane that developed into a small macular hole in my right eye, experimental gas bubble injection during the office visit (I never imagined that I would have a needle literally stuck in my eye while completely conscious – mental note I will not EVER do this again).
  3. Vitrectomy in my right eye to repair the reopened macular hole.
  4. Cataracts
  5. Glaucoma
  6. Ruptured blood vessel which occurred after the last vitrectomy required an injection of medication to stop the bleeding.

Though exhausted from all the procedures and diagnoses when my brother suggested returning to Cleveland Clinic one last time I agreed.

The news was devastating. “Ms. McCoy,” the doctor said, “I’m so sorry to tell you there is nothing more we can do for you.” Those simple words confirmed my worst fears and violently shoved me into the dark abyss of despair. I am now legally blind.

After all I’d been through, I was numb, like an out-of-body experience, I could hear the echo of my heartbeat and I had a difficult time focusing on the doctor’s next words. After what seemed like an eternity, he continued, “Ms. McCoy, you have lived with this condition (high myopia also known as severe nearsightedness) all your life and you have done everything you should do by regularly visiting the eye doctor but you have reached the point where your vision can no longer be corrected.”

By the way, high myopia is a severe form of myopia where my eyeball stretched and became too long. This can lead to holes or tears in the retina and can also cause retinal detachment. Abnormal blood vessels may also grow under the retina and cause changes in vision.

Today, after the removal of the cataracts the left eye is now the good eye with vision measuring 20/600. The vision in the right eye is “finger counting” a measurement used when standard methods no longer work. Out of curiosity I asked my eye doctor what follows after finger counting and was told “hand waving” and “light perception.” Even with these different means of measuring vision because of the vast spectrum of vision loss what one person sees with a specific condition, may not necessarily be the same for another person with the same diagnosis.

Losing my vision feels like being enveloped in a thick, never-ending fog. I sometimes dream that I can see only to awaken with the knowledge that it was only a dream. Throughout the past 9 years, as my eyesight has deteriorated to legal blindness, I’ve learned so much about visual impairments, coping strategies, and advocacy.

Through this experience I have met and worked with the most exceptional people and organizations. Some of which include the Checkered Eye Project, Foundation Fighting Blindness, American Council of the Blind, Pennsylvania Council of the Blind, Golden Triangle Council of the Blind, Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh and VisionAware. I am so honored to be able to serve on the various committees that are part of some of these organizations.

Have a great weekend!!

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” ~Helen Keller

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Spellbindingly Surreal

 We all possess the thunder of pure fury and the calm breeze of tranquility.  If it wasn’t for tomorrow, how much would we get done today?  Whatever your purpose… embrace it completely.  Get lost in the clouds every now and then so you never lose sight of God’s wonder.  ~Paul Vitale

Yesterday I was bemoaning the fact that I’ve been feeling miserable with the time change of last week then later in the day as I was visiting other blogs my spirits lifted. When I started blogging three months ago my intention was to reach and give voice to a targeted audience and though the mission hasn’t changed my world has opened up in ways I did not anticipate.

Sure, I imagined corresponding with fellow bloggers to seek your guidance/exchange thoughts/ideas however I did not consider the breadth and depth of the blogosphere. Through my travels within this virtual world I am transformed by, and in awe of, the extraordinary talent of you who have honored me with your visits, kind words and encouragement.

Each time I visit each of your unique communities I am greeted with wondrous works of creativity through many mediums and I am always provoked to learn, laugh, cry, reflect, or relate. Who would have thought many years ago when we were first urged to write to pen pals in other parts of the world that we would come to a point where all it would take is a literal click of a button.

Meeting and building relationships with people on the other side of the world blows my mind. Being able to experience what matters to you; your travels, your joys, your sadness, your life’s journey is beyond captivating as I am able to partake of your adventures from the relative safety of my personal universe.

Since I’m able to travel with you I wanted to return the favor and take you on a recent trip of my own. Come with me if you will to dinaillustration.com who posted an illustration titled “Your story…” This illustration (you have to use your imagination here) is of a frame with someone in the lower left corner peering upwards. There is one ominous dark cloud from which raindrops are falling, 2 lighter clouds behind it all on a white background with a tiny sliver of blue sky in the upper right corner of the frame. Dina, the artist posed this question to her community:

“My goal in running this blog is to create illustrations that resonate and stir your curiosity and imagination. So, I’m putting this out there. I would love to hear if this illustration has any meaning to you.. or in some way prompts you to tell a story that is only limited by your imagination…”

I was very intrigued by the feelings inside of me that came to the surface upon looking at the picture. My response was “The thought that popped into my mind almost immediately was a cartoon character in the Flintstones. The character always had a dark cloud following him everywhere and the thing that struck me was putting myself into the drawing and watching the cloud/rain from the relative safety of “indoors” but at the same time realizing that the rain is falling on someone out there. There was a time when I related all too closely to the character and thought I’d never catch a break until I learned to quit struggling and just live. Great drawing.”

Here’s where the journey got interesting. In response to a Bold Blind Beauty visit I went to holisticwayfarer.com and like so many others of her followers found the eloquence of her writing exceptional. So I stayed for a while soaking up the beauty of her words and came upon thesprightlywriter.com, a blog she recommended to someone else, so I traveled there.

Remember the drawing I spoke about a minute ago? Well here’s what thesprightlywriter.com wrote about “One day I noticed a bit of blue sky peeking from behind gray clouds, and snapped a photo of it, because it feels just like that.

The blue sky is always there, behind the clouds. My spiritual journey has taught me something: My loving consciousness is always there, hiding behind the deceptive and sometimes gloomy veil that is my ego.”

As soon as I saw her photograph and read her interpretation of it I remembered the illustration from a few days ago. I do not believe in fate but what I found interesting was the commonalities of both posts in two entirely different mediums.

After I exercised my philosophical muscles on the above three sites I needed to do something a bit daring. An adventurer I am not so when presented the opportunity to go to Taiwan I could not resist. Wehavepizza.com had the most amazing pictures of FantaSea, Thailand’s famous Elephant Show, canoeing at James Bond Island, Phi Phi Islands with sparkling blue/green water and these mountainous green covered rocks or maybe mountains sprouting out of the water. Being able to enjoy this trip through my computer topped off my day and I found myself completely uplifted.

Then there are the very first bloggers I connected with Glenda of So What to Twenty, Alicia of Spashionista, Fatmatta of Maono Ya Chini and Shelley of Living with Shadows. I just want to thank each of you for your inspiration and motivation. I’ve always believed that we are all interconnected and being able to experience this first-hand through the miracle that is the internet is a wonderful gift, thank you.

If you’ve read this entire post you may be wondering what all this has to do with jewelry. I’ve given it much thought and come to the conclusion that while I do enjoy the sparkle of jewelry, people are the most valuable gems.

“All of us have wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them.” ~Charles Dickens