Letter from a Parent by Yoly Martinez
Updated: Feb 15, 2020
Hello my name is Yoly, I am going on my seventh year as retired banker, I'm co-founder of Grace's Table, a wife, but most importantly a mother of 15 year old named Noah and an eighteen year old, Grace. My life changed almost overnight when I gave birth to Grace. This, I know now, was a lot more than the " baby blues". It wasn't until I returned to work from maternity leave that I got help. Three months later I was put on a low dose mood stabilizer by our family physician and left it at that.
Looking back on those early weeks, I remember I locking myself up in our bedroom crying with my newborn baby and not allowing my father-in-law to see and meet his one and only grandchild (that was NOT normal behavior).
Three years later I had a healthy son. The degree of my mood changed and my depression went off the charts (according to my doctor postpartum gets progressively worse with every pregnancy). Still, I didn't tell my husband...though he endured my wrath. I told no one. I simply continued the same medication and dosage given to me previously. "I'm strong," I told myself. "I've been through hell and back before I will eventually get over this moodiness, this is not me." My little girl is six years now she is in kindergarten.
Things are great, during my lunchtime I pick her up and take her to my parents. My husband and I have always been very involved in our children's education and get to know their friends. Grace's Meet the Teachers events and progress reports were always expected and never a surprise. "She is a very sweet girl, a pleasure to have in class, always on task, she has a lot of friends," and her progress reports for the most part were A's and B's.
When my little girl turned thirteen, my father had just passed away. Remember the "baby blues"? Yes, I was still taking the same meds. My father's death was unexpected, and it undeniably hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, I lost 60 pounds, lost a lot of hair, and lost my confidence. I lost my mind. Depression got a hold of me and to this day it has not let go. My depression came with anxiety, panic attacks, and I developed agoraphobia.
We decided that it would be a good time to retire from banking after a lifetime of service. We also brought my elderly, ill mother to live with us, so we could care for her 24/7.
One day I got a call from the schools counselor she needed to speak to me immediately about Grace. Whoa?!
I didn't think much of it as Grace had all her bases covered. Her grades were great; her behavior was awesome. I had no idea what it was regarding. So, I enter the office and there is Grace with red watery eyes with the counselor. The counselor proceeds to ask me about Grace's behavior at home. Has it changed in anyway? Grace, not because she's my daughter, is a great daughter, a great big sister, and an exceptional granddaughter. "Other than the sadness for the passing of her grandfather, she's been OK," I tell the counselor.
The counselor tells me that Grace is being bullied at school and has been ever since kindergarten...
I stopped hearing her. I looked at Grace in disbelief, because I taught both of my kids to defend themselves. Grace does not like confrontation, but part of defending yourself is speaking up and standing up for yourself- not necessarily physically, but at least saying something. The next thing I see is my daughter taking off her sweater to show me her arms. She had cuts up and down her arms. Grace had been cutting to, in her words, "release the pain." Again, my mind left that office, while looking at the cuts on my daughter's arms, some scabbed, some scars. All I could think was that this was my fault! Did I mention we live in Arizona there was no need for a sweater? Though, I did question her about this before and her excuse was that her math class was chilly. This is how she covered her arms. I was blindsided, mute. I didn't know what to say or do. Luckily the school's counselor told me what to do.
I immediately went home called my insurance. They directed me where to schedule an appointment to see a child psychologist. "Dear God," I thought, "what did I do? I am home all day, the least I could have done was check on my baby girl." I wondered if we needed to hide all scissors and knives. Take the door off her bedroom, maybe? She got this because I have it. What can I do? How can I be most effective in this situation?
A couple weeks go by. School is coming to an end, and it looks like her therapy sessions are really helping her. The therapist recommends we enroll her a special program called Connect to Lead. This was an all girl program. Socially, it helped her out tremendously. She was also their youngest graduate ever. Grace was doing very well. She did a whole 180° turn a round. Later that year we were on vacation and I accidentally walked in on Grace as she put on a shirt and I startled her a bit much so I figured she was hiding something. I asked her to show me and she turned around. I saw her... she had CARVED the word FAT on her stomach. "My God! Grace what happened?" "Are you OK? What else have you done? We thought you stopped!" She had stopped, but before break someone felt that the verbal, mental and physical bullying was not enough to make my little girl's life a living hell now they went cyber on her. Yes, someone put up a hate vine video about my thirteen year old, because of her weight.
This time we got the police involved. This was our turning point. I started doing random checks on her for cuts. With the help of her therapist she continued to learn tools to cope with bullying. She learned about standing up and speaking for others who can't, or won't do it for themselves. Grace is pretty open with us now; she is pretty assertive. At thirteen, she received a Special Congressional Recognition for her Anti-Bulling Initiatives. Her confidence level went through the roof. Grace was then sought out to do Anti-Bullying speaking engagements in conferences from primary schools to Universities. She's been featured on TV, radio, and print media.
Grace is now eighteen and graduates high school in May of 2020. We are very proud of the young lady she's become. She's a confident inspiration for many, and a promise that tomorrow will be a new beginning. As for me, I look back when I was a child and remember my mother being depressed (to the point of threatening suicide various times). Back then, mental illness was not something we spoke about. Perhaps I inherited it from my mother. The fact that my daughter, Grace, was bullied for years did not help her depression which, I am sure, she got from me.
I'm on different medication now, and I see a therapist. Some days are better than others. My family is my engine. Mental illness is very serious. It's an epidemic, and we must treat it as such. Talk about it, talk to your doctor. If you see it in someone you know, say something. Don't overlook it. Don't turn the other way.
Thank You, Yoly Martinez