This Roller Coaster Called Life

Sometimes I’m amazed at how quickly our emotions can flip, flop, turn around and change. Saturday morning I was feeling sad and lonely as I thought about my first Christmas as a single mom, how my kids were going to be spending most of the next week with their dad. Then, that afternoon I took my kids to a Christmas party at my aunt and uncle’s house that my cousin had invited us to. They gave us a delicious meal, talked and laughed with us and even had presents for all three of us. I sat there, feeling so overwhelmed, holding back tears. I hadn’t even seen my aunt and uncle or most of my cousins and their kids in years, and yet, they welcomed us in with open arms, and I suddenly remembered what it was like to have a family, to be accepted as I am, to not be judged and condemned because of perceived imperfections. I left feeling so incredibly blessed and happy.

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Sunday was a good day, as well. I got to play a beautiful arrangement of What Child is This/Coventry Carol on my flute at church. That night my kids and I read a couple of Christmas books, then read about Christ’s birth straight from the scriptures. My six-year-old even shared his first real testimony of Jesus with us which had my heart swelling with pride and joy. I’ve always loved staying up on Christmas Eve to wrap “Santa” presents. Yet, after I’d finished and put everything under the tree and sat there looking at it all, I felt sad and alone again. I had no one to share in the joy with, no one to go to bed with. I felt cold and empty inside. Then I looked up at the picture of Christ above the tree and remembered my Savior, remembered all He has done for me. Again, I was overwhelmed, thinking of how blessed I am for the hope I have in my religion. I do believe that Christ was born for us, that He suffered and died for us, and that He lived for us—to give us an example of how we should live our own lives.

Some people might think that belief or faith in a religion will take something like mental illness away. It doesn’t. Just like it doesn’t take any difficulties in life away. Bad things happen in life—sometimes for no reason other than that that’s simply a part of life, just like sometimes good things happen for no reason. It is all a part of our experience here on this earth. But for me, my faith and hope in Christ does bring a sense of peace and comfort, a light and warmth that gives me reason to keep going even when I’m sad and lonely, even when life gets dark and depressing.

I think life is a roller coaster for everyone, full of constant ups and downs. Sometimes it’s a steady rise or decline, other times it’s a speedy ascent or sudden drop-off, but the one constant for myself is my Savior and my Father in Heaven. For that, I am always grateful.


Still Hoping

There are so many things I want to write about, so many ideas crowding my head just waiting to be set free. I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

I’ve been plagued by memories recently. Memories of happier times, simpler times. Not that right now isn’t good. I’m still feeling better than I usually do at this time of year, and I recognize and acknowledge the many blessings I have to be grateful for. I know this, but sometimes it’s just hard to feel it.


It’s my first Christmas as a single mom, and I will admit that I’m feeling incredibly lonely right now. I know I have friends, family, neighbors who are there for me, who care about me, but I still feel lonely and sad, especially when images of good times in my marriage surface in my memories. I still haven’t found a way to look at those times and just be happy about them, grateful for what they were. It’s like there’s this big, black slash through them now, marring the happiness that should line the memory. Maybe one day I’ll get there. For now, I look at my life, reflect on the memories and wonder how this is where I am right now—so far from where I thought I would be, nowhere close to where I wish I was.

I have plans, and yes, even goals, for my future, but they’re still vague and general at this point. Maybe because I think I’ll fail once I set that goal for myself. It seems as though I’ve failed at so many things in my life, that I’m never quite good enough, and I don’t want to fail again. I know there are people out there who want to see me fail, who can’t wait to shove it in my face, and I’m so tired of that. Yet, despite it all, I still see this glimmer of light in my life, in my future. Hope. There are times when I don’t want to hope anymore because I’m afraid of being let down, afraid that my whole life is nothing but smoke and mirrors, and when you take them away there’s nothing real left. Somehow, I can’t let go of it—of hope. It trails me, bursts in front of me, and I can’t help but cling to it.

The Masks We Wear


I started wearing masks when I was in high school. Actually, I probably started wearing them sooner than that, but high school was when I consciously made the effort, knew that I had them on. I’ve discovered a lot of people who dealt with mental illness for a long time—like many years—before actually being diagnosed with it. For me, it was closer to six months, maybe. Before hearing a doctor say I had depression, I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t know why I felt so sad, didn’t know why everything felt so difficult, didn’t understand the darkness that had washed over my entire life. I just knew that I felt different, and in high school different is bad. It means there’s something wrong with you, and I didn’t want to let people see that. So I put on a mask.

Every day, as I walked the 4 ½ blocks to school, I got sicker and sicker, until I felt like I was going to vomit, thinking about being surrounded by people I had to pretend for. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t normal, but as soon as I got to school I put up the mask that said I was. It was torture each day. And each day, sometime after I got home, I would go into my room and cry. Then at night, I would cut my arms and shoulders. It felt so good to distract my brain from the mental pain I was suffering and focus it on a physical one.

As time went by, and I discovered there were other people like me, that I wasn’t as alone as I thought, that there was a name to what I was going through, I was able to throw away some of those masks I wore. I didn’t hide my scars. If people asked what had happened, I told them. If they judged and condemned me for it, I didn’t care. I let the vibrant colors inside of me show through in the tie-dye t-shirts I wore, the peace necklaces hung around my neck, the beads on my wrists and rings on my fingers. And yet, I could never completely break free of the expectations people held for me. I knew the person they saw me as, and even though I didn’t feel like that was me, I felt like I had to pretend to be that person. And so, on February 2, 2001, my senior year of high school, I wrote a poem about it. I entered it into a poetry contest my school held each year and got an honorable mention.

I still wear masks sometimes—I think all of us do. But lately I’ve learned to be happy with who I am, whether anyone else is or not. Part of trying to educate people on mental illness has meant completely opening myself up. I don’t hide who I am—in real life or on this blog. I am Tacy Stine, I have mental illness, and I’m going to be open again and share my poem. I look at it now and don’t think it’s one of my best, but is still one I treasure. Here it is.


And the Moon Can Dance
by Tacy Stine

The music’s pounding in my head as the pain thunders in my gut,
and I just can’t take this monotony anymore –
the same old room, the same old bed, the same old scene.
Sometimes, I just wanna tear out my hair and scream!
Then rip off all my clothes, jump out my window
and run around naked in my backyard during the cold winter night.
My bare feet would prance over the old, hardened snow,
and I’d dance with the bright, yet waning moon – ’cause the moon can dance.

Have you ever seen the moon smile over Central America?
The moon is just different there as it dances their dances
and reflects their smiles.
So, I wanna rip my hair out and cha cha naked with the moon –
but there are conventions and expectations of society.
There are conventions and expectations of me . . .

So I wonder, what if I threw a chair and a table over
at my friend’s wedding reception amidst all the boring small talk?
What if I answered questions in class with intellectual ease
or became a talker with words on my mind,
because they’re always there – I just don’t say them.
What eyes would bulge if I came to school dressed like me – a hippie?
Would conventions condemn me?
‘Cause I wanna throw the chair; I can answer the questions; I am a hippie;
and the moon can dance!

To Pessimists

Sometimes it pays to be a pessimist. Bet you never thought you’d hear someone say that! I am a pessimist. I know this, and I will never deny it. Normally, it’s not a good thing, and other people tend not to like to be around pessimistic people. But I discovered once that it can have its benefits.

Awhile back, I had a dentist appointment at noon. My ex-husband (we were still married then), who worked close to home, said he would come home early for lunch to watch our son while I went to the dentist’s. Quarter to, he hadn’t gotten home yet. I decided to call him just in case, but he didn’t answer. I didn’t panic because he often didn’t pick up his phone. But after a few minutes had gone by and he still wasn’t home, I got anxious. I called again. No answer. Heat rose in my stomach. I assumed he had forgotten because it wasn’t uncommon for him to forget things. The reason I was upset was because we had had a conversation/argument about it the week before. I’d told him I understood that he was forgetful—so was I, which is why I took steps to help myself remember, like setting alarms all the time. I’d hoped it would make a difference to him, but now it seemed as if it hadn’t.

Ten to twelve and I needed to leave for my appointment. I called him again. Went to voicemail. So I left a rather angry message about how I had to leave and would now have to take our five-year-old with me.

When I was almost there he finally called and said he was coming home. I told him he was too late. He said he would come pick up our son at the dentist’s office. Okay, whatever. A few minutes after I’d been taken back to get my teeth cleaned, he showed up and took our son home with him.

By the time I got home, some of my annoyance had worn off, but I still asked him what had happened. He said he was in a meeting that went longer than expected. “I set an alarm on my phone,” he said, “but left it at my desk.”

Okay, so he had learned something from our conversation, but it still hadn’t done any good.

“What’s the point of using the alarm on your phone if you’re not going to keep your phone near you?” I asked.

“I didn’t know the meeting would go so long. They usually don’t last that long.”

And that’s when I realized that sometimes it’s good to be a pessimist. As a pessimist, you assume that everything is going to go wrong. This is the way my life has rolled for so long that I’ve learned to plan accordingly. If I had been in his shoes, I would have assumed that something would go wrong with the meeting or something would have interfered with what I was supposed to do, so I would have absolutely kept my phone with me to be sure I heard the alarm go off.

Being a pessimist is one of the things that has driven me to be a preparedness freak. I admit that sometimes this can get annoying. Like when we go on vacations I always overpack—just to be safe. Even when we go on day trips or hour-long trips I pack the car full of stuff (jackets and coats, shorts and pants, tons of snacks and water) because I assume the weather is going to change on us or the kids are going to get hungry or thirsty and complain up a storm. That’s not to say that optimists don’t know how to prepare, but when you assume everything is going to be just fine, you don’t need to over-prepare. And let me tell you, there have been so many times that I’ve been grateful for my over-preparedness! So, here’s to all you other self-proclaimed pessimists—or perhaps I should just call us realists. Carry on, my friends. Carry on!

Hendrix Helps, Too

I was feeling a bit sad this morning, thinking of someone who hurt me, still confused as to why it all happened. So I turned on some Jimi Hendrix. There’s just something about Hendrix, about his music, that stirs my soul. It’s pretty much impossible to be depressed when rocking out to Jimi!


Heat and Light Therapy

I’m experimenting with a new treatment for my seasonal affective disorder—heat and light therapy. This place has a sauna, a hydration bed, red light therapy, a hydro-massage bed and more. I try to do at least one, hopefully two, and possibly three of these services three days a week. I’ve only been going for a few weeks now, but I’m already noticing a difference.

Normally, at this point in the winter I stay inside, away from the coldness, as much as possible. It also gets pretty hazy where I live. We get an inversion that traps the cold air, with all of its awful pollutants, under a layer of warmer, clearer air. It’s incredibly depressing. Yet, last Saturday I motivated myself to brave the cold and walk along a trail at Farmington Bay, near my home. Yes, it was cold. My ears froze, my nose ran, but it was so incredibly beautiful! Peaceful. Still. Needed.

I took a bunch of pictures, I was outside, moving around, feeling happy. I even saw a bald eagle! As I walked back along the trail to my car the sun reached this perfect angle. All of the tall, yellow grasses glimmered golden in the light; the reflection in the frozen water, clear and mesmerizing. I actually felt good, happy, confident. It’s not the sort of thing I normally do in the winter, and I’m not suddenly gleefully happy all of the time, but I do think the heat and light therapy is helping to keep me more optimistic and motivated than I usually am. I’ll have to do an update in a couple of months. February is usually when I’m at my worst in the winter. Hopefully the new treatment will continue to help. It feels so good, like a weight lifted off my shoulders, to finally find something that is helping after so many failed attempts with medication and lack of funds for other therapies. But that’s why you keep trying—until you find something that works or at least helps.


This time of year tends to make me nostalgic. There’s not much else to do in the cold, dark winter than reflect on the past. I wrote this poem sixteen years ago when I was first away at college.

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A firm bed in a small, but comfortable room.
Beaming faces of friends and family.
Rough, wet tongue from the dog washing my face.
Splashing in curbside puddles.
Dancing barefoot over old, crusted snow
in the chill November night with the fingernail moon.
Bathing in tingly, salt-scented raindrops
that feel like millions of little kisses
smothering the bare parts of my body.
Romping through the knee-high, amber grass
while drinking in the warmth of a sunny June day
that tastes of freshly squeezed lemonade.
Listening to a solitary bird sing from the silence
while watching the sun lay her head
to rest behind distant western peaks –
the sky above a mixture of swirling pastels.
Gulping down the brine shrimp odor
of the Great Salt Lake on a gray-clouded March afternoon…

Clinging onto memories – letting them make up
for a current life of mere survival.

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The Way My Mind Works


I hate doing things wrong, and I hate disappointing people. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist. Yes, the picture above is an accurate depiction of what my house looks like most of the time! I do, however, like certain things done in a certain way, and I like them done right. I have often been that mother who corrects her kids’ grammar, though I’m trying harder not to because no one likes to be corrected. I don’t like to be corrected—because if I am, it means I’ve done something wrong or I’ve disappointed someone, and that causes my own feeling of disappointment and guilt.

Classic example—yesterday I made a mistake at work. I did something wrong. It wasn’t entirely my fault. My boss could have communicated better, sooner, exactly what she wanted or meant, but as her employee I have a job to do, and I’m supposed to do it the right way. I felt terrible when I discovered my mistake. Like knife-in-the-gut terrible. I tried telling myself it was an honest mistake, that it wasn’t really my fault, but the lies didn’t work. I continued to obsess about it, to feel bad about, to think about what I should have done differently, and wondered what my boss must be thinking of me. That one is the worst—to go over all of the things she could be thinking about me and what a bad employee I am. In reality, she’s probably not. She probably understands it was just a mistake because she’s a really great person, but . . . what if? What if she regrets hiring me? What if she is disappointed in me? What if she despises me? How could I have done something so stupid and wrong? These are the thoughts that plague my mind when I don’t do a job the right way.

More on OCD

In my last post I talked about my struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is so much more than what I wrote. One reason I started this blog was in the hope of helping other people come to understand what mental illness is and what it does. So I have to say even more about OCD.

One of the other things that consumes my mind, that I obsess about, is bad things happening. This is something I’ve heard others with OCD say happens to them, as well. I often fear the worst case scenario. Any time something out of the ordinary happens, I just know it’s going to end up in some horrible way. I have often let fear drive decisions in my life because of this. It’s something I have gotten better at controlling lately, better at recognizing, but it still flies into my mind and makes it hard to make a rational decision.

A recent example was from back in September. I was going out of town to visit a friend for a few days, so my ex-husband took the kids. He decided to take them to Southern Utah (about a 4-5 hour drive from the city we both live in) for a fun little adventure. At first I thought it was a great idea. But as time went by I kept getting these images in my head of bad things that could happen. I imagined them getting in a horrific car wreck where my kids died, my ex died or they all died. I imagined my son slipping and falling in the lava tubes they were going to visit at Snow Canyon State Park and cracking his head open. I imagined a shooter coming to a restaurant they might go to and shooting them. I finally decided I needed to tell my ex that he couldn’t take the kids, that if it meant me canceling my trip to keep them safe, I would do it. Luckily, by this point, I can usually recognize when it’s my OCD as opposed to reality. I calmed myself down, told myself that everything would be fine and didn’t mention a word of it to my ex. I went on my trip, they went on theirs, and we all came back safe and sound.

In the past, I would have given in. I would have gone to extreme measures to stay in control of these thoughts I’d had. This shows you what OCD can do to a person’s life. But it also shows you that there is hope. OCD doesn’t have to control every second of every day of your life. Like many things in life, it can be extremely difficult, but like I always say, you can do hard things.

Explaining Some of My OCD


It’s only been about five months since my first post on Breaking the Silence. Since then, I’ve been amazed at how many other people I’ve found who have similar blogs, other people who are trying to educate the masses on mental illness and help stop the stigma. I felt so alone as I started this journey, wondered if I really would be able to make a difference. Now I see that there are others, and if the many of us can affect even a few, a difference has been made, and that makes it all worth it.

I recently read a post on another blog from someone who doesn’t have mental illness, but was grateful for someone she knew who had been open about it and educated her on what it’s like to have OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’m grateful, too, that people are coming to better understand, to see, to be more compassionate. Yet it’s such a big hurdle to jump, I’m not sure we’ll ever really be done. I’ve written about my depression and anxiety, and I had a friend share what it was like for her to live with OCD, but I haven’t gone in depth about my own struggle with OCD. I guess it’s time.

Despite understanding that has opened up about OCD, I think it is probably still one of the more misunderstood forms of mental illness. Someone hears OCD and the immediate image that comes to mind is a germaphobe who won’t touch anyone or anything and constantly has to wash their hands throughout the day. Or you may think of someone who won’t step on cracks, someone who has to do a certain thing a certain number of times each day. While this may be true for some people who have OCD it isn’t that way with all of us.

I’ve never cared much about the germ thing. I do take precautions when I go out, like wiping down a cart at the store before I use it, sanitizing my hands after I put gas in my car, washing my hands before I cook something, but I don’t obsess about it. It’s one of those things I just sort of throw from my mind. For me, OCD hits hard in the “obsessive” department. One of the biggest things I obsess about are things I say. I’m a somewhat socially awkward person. I definitely express myself better through the written word than the spoken word, and I feel like I say stupid things in conversation with others all of the time. It’s one of the reasons for my social anxiety. I often try to give myself excuses to stay away from social functions, not because I want to be alone or because I don’t like other people, but because I’m so afraid of saying something that I will later obsess about. Now I’m sure everyone says things at times that they regret, but I think about those things for weeks, months. Not just think, I obsess about it. I replay conversations or things I’ve said in my mind over and over and over and over again. I worry about what the person I was talking to thought of what I said over and over and over and over again. Did I offend them? Did they understand what I meant? Do they think I’m stupid now? Do they think I’m weird? Do they think I’m a bad person? Do they hate me? Will they ever talk to me again? Do I need to try to explain myself the next time I see them? Did I completely screw up my entire future because I said the wrong thing to that man in the grocery store? (Yep, that happened once.) The way I try to combat the obsessions, the compulsion, you could say I use, is to imagine up a different conversation. I imagine what I should have said, how they would have replied, with all ending in a much better scenario. But then I obsess about that for weeks and months as well. It’s like my brain thinks that if I think about it enough, if I replay it in my mind enough, it will make it true, or it will make it so the original obsession stops bothering me.

It might not sound so bad, but these obsessions mess with my life. I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about them. I often miss turns or exits when I’m driving because I’m so focused on the obsession. I don’t pay attention to my kids because all I can see and hear are the obsessions. That, in turn, makes me feel like I’m a horrible mom, and I’m wracked with such intense guilt.

It might be hard for someone who doesn’t have OCD to grasp just how intrusive and debilitating this illness is. I have, at times in my life, been able to manage my depression and anxiety, but OCD is one thing I still haven’t completely figured out. Maybe one reason I haven’t taken it more seriously is because of other people I have known who seem to have it so much worse, so I think mine must not be that bad. Yet I feel that it’s getting worse as time goes by. Perhaps this should be a new goal for me—to learn what I can do to get help for my OCD. Pesky goals. I just hope I don’t fail at this one.