Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:08):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:09):
I've been in recovery for 15 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:16):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health, because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:22):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as cohost.
Beth Demme (00:29):
I didn't hesitate to say yes, because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:34):
We value honest conversations and we hope you do too.
Beth Demme (00:37):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, "Our Darkest Moments, Mental Health Awareness Month."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:44):
Then we'll share a slice of life, and the show will close with questions for reflection, where we'll invite you to reflect on a conversation in your own life.
Beth Demme (00:51):
This is May.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:52):
Beth Demme (00:53):
We're recording in May, and we'll release this episode in May, and it turns out that May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:59):
Yes, and it's also our anniversary month.
Beth Demme (01:03):
It is. Happy anniversary, Steph.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:05):
Happy anniversary. Three years.
Beth Demme (01:06):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:07):
Beth Demme (01:08):
Three years. Although, part of that was-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:10):
Beth Demme (01:11):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:12):
So it's been five years.
Beth Demme (01:12):
It's been forever.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:13):
Beth Demme (01:14):
Yeah. Now, I didn't know that May was Mental Health Awareness Month. I didn't know it when we started the podcast, or on our first anniversary, or on our second anniversary. I don't think I even knew it then.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:28):
I assume it must just be a year old then. I don't know. Have you looked it up and how old it's been?
Beth Demme (01:34):
Yeah, I did look it up, and it was established in the 1940's, way before us.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:40):
No. Last year was 2021, Beth.
Beth Demme (01:42):
So it's always pretty much been-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:44):
Beth Demme (01:45):
Yeah. Mental Health Awareness Month, so I don't know how we missed that, but I was not aware of it. Yeah. I lacked awareness about it, but I like that our podcast launched in Mental Health Awareness Month, because that was a big driving factor for us in even wanting to do this.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:02):
I guess that makes me think, why is there a Mental Health Awareness Month?
Beth Demme (02:05):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:06):
I think that then takes us back to the reason we even had this podcast in the first place, was we wanted to have honest conversations about things that make us different, and one of those major things is mental health. It's something that is not talked about. It may be talked about, but not necessarily in a real productive way that I've heard or seen kind of in the mass, and so that was a big driving force to do the podcast.
Beth Demme (02:31):
Yeah. I think there's a lack of understanding about mental health. I think that there are still-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:36):
It's "those people."
Beth Demme (02:37):
Yeah. Yeah. It's not something... "I don't have a problem with my mental health, but oh yeah. There are some folks over there," and there's like this stigma to it that if you're not... If you're mental health is not whatever it is expected to be, that somehow you're really especially deficient or something, which is so silly. Or even to think about it in terms of mental illness. Well, mental illness, that's like the criminally insane, right? That's like Anthony Hopkins on Silence of the Lambs. They're the crazy people. [But] No, mental health matters for everybody. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:15):
Yeah. I mean, it's different for everybody, so I would definitely say there's different levels of it, but it doesn't matter what level you are on. I mean, I would say that my mental health experience is different than your mental health experience, but that doesn't make yours or mine any less, or any more. I think everyone's journey is different. Everyone has different things they need to work on and kind of learn about. That's part of why we even started this three years ago.
Beth Demme (03:47):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:48):
Yeah. We can-
Beth Demme (03:50):
We seem to accept, culturally, socially we accept the idea that everyone's physical health is individual, and personal, and unique, but for some reason, it seems to me, we're not quite that comfortable with the idea of mental health being individual, unique, varied, but that we kind of want a one-size-fits-all approach.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:15):
In the news, I mean, I still feel like I see it as just like... Recently-
Beth Demme (04:23):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:23):
Naomi Judd died by suicide. I feel like it was just... She was an advocate too, which was even more like, wow, but I feel like in the news, it was just kind of like... I didn't see any kind of concrete conversation about it. It was just sad, which it is sad.
Beth Demme (04:42):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:42):
Obviously, very sad and kind of everything surrounding it, but I just feel like there could be more conversation around it. All I know though, is to talk about my own mental health and what I do. I'm not a professional psychologist, anything like that, so we can't tell people what they should do, which we wouldn't.
Beth Demme (05:05):
We're not shoulding on anyone.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:06):
We wouldn't should on you, no.
Beth Demme (05:07):
No. We don't like for people to should on us and we're not going to should on others.
Beth Demme (05:13):
Yeah. I agree with you that even in the wake of Naomi Judd's death by suicide there... I haven't really felt a shift in the conversation at all. Mental health is invisible until it's not, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:27):
Yeah. But we don't really have productive conversations about it. We just like, "Oh, and we lost another one," or something like that. Like it was a failure, which is complicated, because we had Dese'Rae Stage on who has a whole website about failed or...
Beth Demme (05:48):
Yeah. People who survived their suicide attempts. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:51):
Survived suicide attempts, and that was a very interesting conversation, because she definitely kind of made me think of suicide in a different way, and kind of look at it in a different way. But what was so interesting to me was, I don't know if you've found the detail about what happened, but I guess Naomi, her daughter, and a friend were over and they were together, and then Naomi went and died by suicide.
Beth Demme (06:20):
Oh, I didn't know that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:21):
The daughter and friend were there and it was a split second. That's what Dese'Rae said, is it just happens. It's not something that's necessarily it's something that they've been planning, or plotting, or whatever. It's just something where everything is just too much in that moment, and that kind of decision's made as the only option.
Beth Demme (06:42):
Right. Which is why sometimes... I mean, she talked about, if you could just get through that one moment, that it really can change everything.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:51):
And it almost seems like, in this situation... Obviously, we don't know her life. We don't know everything she was going through, but it does seem like they were doing everything they could for their mom and she was doing her work. Yeah. I don't think there's any easy answers to kind of this, and how the outcome could be differently, and things like that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:18):
We definitely wanted to talk about the fact that this is Mental Health Awareness Month. We think that's important and we kind of bring some light on that. We also wanted to talk about some darkness in our own lives, and we have obviously talked about these things previously, but I think we kind of wanted to just have maybe a heavier conversation than we typically would, because hey, it's three year anniversary. Let's celebrate with some heaviness.
Beth Demme (07:48):
Well, I know you've shared some of your darkest moments with us before, but are there any dark moments that come to mind that you haven't talked much about that you would be willing to share today?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:58):
Well, a lot of my dark moments that I tend to think of are things that happened in my kind of teen years, teen, early twenties. Something that kind of just like... A visual that came back to me was, when I was in high school, I used to... I was really dealing with depression, but not actively working on it. I was depressed, but didn't really know it, or know the words or the ways to work through it. It would take every ounce of my being to just go to school and be a human in whatever the show you're supposed to put on.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:35):
I just remember going home, and I would turn up my music really loud and I would... I had a punching bag and I would just punch the punching bag to get just out all of this anger and all of this resentment, and all these things that I didn't know what they were, or where they were from, or why I had them, but I just would punch that punching bag, and then I would engage in self-injury, non-suicidal self-injury. We've talked about it, but it was really about feeling something when I just felt numb.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:09):
Those were definitely dark moments for me, because it was something that... Those were my coping mechanisms, was to punch a punching bag, which was good. That I will approve of. The self-injury, not as healthy as punching the punching bag, but it's all I could do to just stay afloat. Those were definitely tough moments, and it became routine also, and that was something that was kind of dangerous for me, was that that was my mental health toolkit, was to go home, play loud music, punch a punching bag, and engage in self-injury. If I didn't have that practice, or if something interrupted that practice, then I wasn't able to kind of keep up my show, and that's ultimately what happened, when I moved to Orlando was I didn't have that same system and security that I had in Tallahassee, and why things got even more out of control than they were, because I wasn't dealing with it. I mean, I wasn't dealing with it in a healthy, productive way.
Beth Demme (10:16):
I know that you've unpacked a lot of this and you've done your work on it now to understand the roots of that, of all of those feelings. The roots of the anger, the roots of the need to connect your emotions and to access your emotions, and to be able to see, "Okay, this is why I'm having a feeling or how I have a feeling," but if I didn't know all of that about your story, just the idea of a teenager going in their room and turning on loud music, and then hitting a punching back. Like yeah, teenage angst is a real thing, right? Teenagers, I love teenagers. I would choose teenagers over toddlers any day, but there's a lot of drama being a teenager.
Beth Demme (10:58):
Part of finding your way in the world appears to be just assigning a lot of value to everything, everything matters. I guess, I know that you eventually understood that wasn't just your average or teenage angst, that there were other things behind it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:17):
Yeah, and there's no like, this action is because this. There's no easy answer to say like, "Someone engages in self-injury, this is this, or this is that." I actually knew somebody in middle school that engaged in self-injury. I don't know if there was ever kind of... If she ever discovered why that was something she engaged in, but she told me about it. She told people about it. That was something that was very, kind of an attention seeking thing for her to kind of show what she did, and for me, that was never part of my self-injury. I mean, I worked really hard to keep it a secret.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:58):
It's interesting, because I've now discovered where kind of all of that self-injury, where the root cause of that was, and what I was really coping with and trying to deal with, but at the time I remember working so hard to kind of hide the scars and hide... put on a mask of how I felt. I just felt like just crummy all the time. I remember trying really hard to cover it, but thought it was so obvious. Thought, everyone could tell that I'm depressed, and that I'm engaging in self-injury and everyone's going to know. After I wrote my book and really was honest about everything, everyone that knew me back then was like, "I had no idea." Especially my mom. Obviously, the person that was closest to me, we were close then, still close now, but she had no idea. I did a good job. Hey.
Beth Demme (12:51):
Well it's one of the reasons that mental health issues are invisible, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:54):
Beth Demme (12:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:55):
Beth Demme (12:56):
Yeah. Because we make it that way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:57):
Yeah. Yeah. So how about you? Do you have some darkness that you haven't shared with us?
Beth Demme (13:02):
I think I've talked a little bit about having really severe anger issues. I mean, to me they seem severe. I don't know if there's a scale for these kinds of things, but anger issues when my kids were toddlers. Enough that it made me realize I needed to go to counseling. I needed to get help. That I was out of control in my emotional response and the way I was overreacting to just normal, everyday occurrences and not feeling... just never feeling okay. That was very dark.
Beth Demme (13:37):
I mean, there was a time when I... Keep in mind, I really, really wanted to be a mom, right? I went to a lot of trouble to become a mom. I mean we did infertility treatments, and then ended up adopting both our kids from Russia, and then I'm a couple years into it and I'm like, "Wow, I'm really, really bad at this. I'm just really bad at this. This is painful, and I love these kids so much. They deserve a better mom." Actually, trying to logic through, "Okay, well how do I leave so that Stephen can marry someone who's better, who will be a better wife and a better mother?" That was dark. That was a dark time for sure.
Beth Demme (14:23):
Then when I did start with my counselor, that just felt like... I mean the first few months of that just felt like it was nothing but darkness, because I would get through a layer and then realize, "Oh, we're not done. There's another layer and another layer," and then six months later have to circle back to that three layers up, because it just... I had suppressed so much, there was so much there waiting for me to address it and to really feel the emotion of it, so that I could release it. There was a lot of darkness in that. Accessing old, old grief.
Beth Demme (15:03):
Just about a month before I turned 14, my oldest brother was hit by a train and killed, and I just never processed that grief. I mean, I just was like, "Okay, this is a lot of feeling. I don't want to feel it. I'm not going to feel it." I was starting high school, so there was a lot of distraction, and then I kind of rolled from high school to just college, and then immediately got married, and then law school, and I just had a lot of... I kept really busy so that I didn't have to deal with it, and it just waited for me. It just waited and grew like an ugly, nasty tumor that ended up creating a lot of darkness in my life.
Beth Demme (15:45):
Again though, that's kind of... I kind of relate then, to what you're saying about how on the outside it looked like I was really high functioning. I graduated from high school in 1993 and had a bachelor's degree by December, 1995. That's some pretty high functioning stuff, right? To get a college degree in two and a half years, a four year degree in two and a half years. Then, to roll into law school and made law review my first semester, which means you've got to be in the top 10%. I was functioning at a very high level, and yet in other ways I wasn't functioning at all.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:18):
Do you think a lot of people are like that?
Beth Demme (16:21):
I think so. Which makes Mental Health Awareness Month all the more important, right? To invite people into their own mental health journey?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:31):
Well, and the fact that there is a Mental Health Awareness Month makes me, I think, just actually continues to tell us that it's not talked about enough, if we have to have a month dedicated to it. Why do we have a Black History Month? Why do we have a Women's Month? It's because we need to be more aware of these things. I mean, obviously, the next thing is we are going to need a white man month because... Wait. January, February, March, oh wait, no, we actually have 12 months of those.
Beth Demme (16:56):
We have those [inaudible 00:16:57].
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:57):
Nevermind. Nevermind. We're good.
Beth Demme (17:02):
Do you think there's anybody that doesn't have invisible scars? We call our podcast, Discovering Our Scars. Your memoir is, Discovering My Scars. You have literal, visible physical scars, and also, invisible scars, right? But do you think that there are people who don't have that, who don't have invisible scars?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:21):
I mean, I can't tell somebody what they do or don't have in their life.
Beth Demme (17:28):
That's fair. That's fair.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:29):
I think, that's something that everyone has to answer for themselves and has to choose to be truthful with themselves or not. I mean, I can't imagine not having scars as we talk about them, mental, physical, all that. I don't think you could live life without having some kind of scars of some capacity, whether you've discovered them yet or not. I think it's, to be human is to be scarred. Every day you turn on the TV and there's just something worse and something worse, and it all relates to mental health. It all relates to mental health. I truly believe that. If we, in this country did a better job of talking about mental health, normalizing it, allowing people to have mental health days.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:15):
I know when I worked a nine to five, I used my sick days as mental health days, but I was really like... That wasn't a thing where you could say it was a mental health day. You had to say you're sick, and I'd have to be "... I'm sick," and it's just like, "No. I need a mental break," and that is just as important as a like, "I have a cough."
Beth Demme (18:37):
When I was out of town, Hannah had a day that it was going to be testing at school. There was no reason for her to go, because she wasn't having to take the test, and Stephen emailed the attendance office because that's the procedure, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:49):
Beth Demme (18:50):
If I had done it, I would've said something like, "Hannah's not feeling well today. She won't be there." Which would be true, sort of, right? But he was like, "Hannah is taking a mental health day. She will be absent. Thank you. Please excuse this absence."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:05):
What did they say?
Beth Demme (19:06):
They said, "Okay."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:07):
Beth Demme (19:07):
But I mean, it wouldn't even have occurred to me to be like, "She's going to take a mental health day." Of course, she can take a mental health day.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:14):
Yeah. Oh, interesting, so you would've lied.
Beth Demme (19:18):
I would have not used the phrase mental health. I would've been like, "Yeah. She's not feeling up to going today." That's true.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:26):
So he normalized it-
Beth Demme (19:27):
He normalized it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:28):
... and you went with the old standard that...
Beth Demme (19:30):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:31):
Because when they got that response, they were probably like, "Oh, okay. I get that," but if you had said sick, "Okay. Another sick."
Beth Demme (19:38):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, meanwhile, she's done with all of her classes. There's no reason for her to go to school.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:45):
All of it was a lie though, because she didn't need to go, just because she didn't need to go.
Beth Demme (19:49):
I mean, he was like, "She's at the end of her whole school career. She could have a mental health day. She could take the day for her own mental health or whatever that means for her."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:58):
But is that how she described it? Or she just said, "I don't want to go"?
Beth Demme (20:01):
She just said, "It'll be a waste of my time to go."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:03):
Okay. Both were lies, technically. Technically in this scenario, both were lies.
Beth Demme (20:07):
Or maybe neither of them would've been lies.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:10):
That gets into a whole nother thing. Like why do we have to lie to... You're her parents. You say she's not going to be in school. Why can't you just say, "There's no reason for her to be here today. She's not going to be there"?
Beth Demme (20:21):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:21):
Why couldn't you say that?
Beth Demme (20:23):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:25):
Well, when you were a lawyer, wasn't that your first job?
Beth Demme (20:29):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:30):
Like a nine...
Beth Demme (20:31):
My first career, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:31):
Yeah. Yeah. Would you have even considered... Did you take mental health days?
Beth Demme (20:36):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:38):
In your mind, when you were sick, was it a mental health day or never? You only took sick days if you were actually physically sick? Or you didn't take them?
Beth Demme (20:44):
I don't think I really took sick days. I mean, everybody worked when they were sick. The only time I remember being like, "I really can't go to work," is if I was having really bad cramps, because I mean, I was physically uncomfortable and I was like, "You have to be able to think and read, and I can't do any of that." That's what I really remember using my sick days for.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:07):
Okay. Well, that would be sick.
Beth Demme (21:08):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:09):
Even though when I would call out for cramps or something, I would still feel like it was wrong."
Beth Demme (21:15):
"I can't come in today."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:16):
I know. Because you feel like you need a physical act of some difference to be able to justify it. Which again, I think, is why mental health is so hard to justify, because there's nothing physical, typically, that you could see or say that would, "Oh, I can tell right away that you're..." But... a cough is an act that we all know, "Oh, sick. Okay, great."
Beth Demme (21:41):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:42):
But then when you have cramps, I'm sick, but I don't know how to verbalize that to you-
Beth Demme (21:48):
I've got cramps, yes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:48):
... and I feel like we have to have things be obvious or then it's too complicated.
Beth Demme (21:53):
Right. I'm sick, but you can't see it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:55):
Beth Demme (21:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:56):
Then you feel like it's oversharing to say cramps, or you're highly embarrassed, or... I don't think I ever said that. "I'm calling out for cramps," but I would. I had. I did before, and I called out for mental health reasons, although I felt bad about it. Saying I was sick when I... I definitely did when I had... Kind of my career jobs, I definitely did call out for mental health days, and I wished I was able to say it was a mental health day, but it wasn't recognized that way.
Beth Demme (22:28):
I mean, even with as evolved as you and I are, and all the conversation we've had about it, there's still, even just hearing it, there's just little sense in which I'm like, "Oh, that's just like a skip day. That's like a..."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:39):
Beth Demme (22:40):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:41):
I think if somebody told you I need a mental health day, you'd be like, "Oh, they're [inaudible 00:22:44]-
Beth Demme (22:44):
I'd be like, "Oh, you just need a day off, okay."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:46):
Really? You would think that, even today?
Beth Demme (22:48):
Yeah. I think I would. I think I would.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:49):
Wow. Interesting. If somebody said, "I need a mental health day," I'd be like, "Good for you. Yes. Take your day." I would totally respect it, and I'd be like, "So good for you for recognizing that," but you would think they're just goofing off?
Beth Demme (23:04):
Yeah, and it's okay to goof off sometimes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:06):
Well, then just say you want a goof day.
Beth Demme (23:08):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:09):
I don't know if I've ever taken a goof day.
Beth Demme (23:13):
Well, now, I mean, do you really even work Steph? I don't know. Every day is a goof day now, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:19):
Well, speaking of mental health days, honestly I had a really hard day after we planned our episode yesterday, and right after I had a couple things that really hit me hard, and I had a pretty bad night, because I was over analyzing everything. Then I woke up, and I was just like, "I don't know if I can do an episode about mental health today, because I am struggling with my mental health." I was like, either I'll talk about the podcast or I'm just going to tell Beth, "You know what? I'm not going to be able to do it today." Now that I know if I had said, that you'd been like, "... she's just goofing off."
Beth Demme (23:52):
No, I don't think I would be that way with you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:55):
I don't know. Your face makes me think you'd be like, "Oh..."
Beth Demme (24:00):
I take your mental health very seriously.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:02):
Well, thank you. Is it more important than your own, because that's a problem?
Beth Demme (24:05):
I mean... No, I wouldn't say more important. I would say I trust your evaluation of your mental health.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:13):
I will say, something that I've realized about my mental health specifically, because again, that's all I know. It's very fragile and it's very in balance, and when it's not in balance, I got to get it in balance as quick as I can, because it could go down fast. I always kind of have a level of depression in my life, in just varying degrees, and I can really get low, fast. One of my things that I... One of the best ways I've been able to really keep a very clear head and just something that's been so good for my mental health has been kayaking, and I go kayaking usually about once a week, and if it's been more than a week, I'm antsy and I'm like, "I need to get on the water."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:00):
It's almost a little strange. It's almost like I need a drug. "Where's my drug right now?"
Beth Demme (25:06):
Where's the fresh air?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:07):
Where is it? Where is it? Yeah, I've gotten so used to, this is what I do. If I get to go more than once a week, oh it's gravy. I love it. I love it. I've had a tiny bit of an issue with my kayak, a little tiny hole that keeps reoccurring. It's very annoying, but it doesn't mean I can't use it. And then I had another piece of it rip. Again, doesn't mean is not usable, but it's annoying, and I want it fixed, because it's under a warranty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:34):
I contacted the company and they were not responding with favorable things for me and I was responding back, and then they wanted me to ship them my kayak yesterday, to California, to fix. I was freaking out, because I was like, "No. First of all, it'll take a week to get there. Second of all, what are you going to do to fix it? How long is it going to take to send?" I was freaking out, because I was not going to have my medicine for my mental health for a long time, and so I messaged them back and said, "No. Give me a manager that can explain to me the process." Actually, I got a call one hour later, from California, and they gave me some solutions that I can do myself and they're sending me a part, so thank you.
Beth Demme (26:18):
They're going to let you DIY it. I love that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:21):
Yeah. Yeah. Pretty much, so I'm going to work on that, but still, it gives me anxiety that I don't want to mess it up. I'm all about DIYing, but I don't want to mess it up. It's just, there was a couple other things that just were like kind of ticking away at me, and it was just like, "Okay, I don't know if I can function at a certain level", but I got a lot of things done today and accomplished, so that helped me-
Beth Demme (26:50):
Helped you rally?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:51):
... stay on the right path. Yeah, for me, it's important to stay productive. Not just busy, but productive and moving forward and even little things. Sometimes I just have to set little goals for myself. Sometimes, I really like... I don't love to organize, but I like when things are organized, so sometimes just organizing one thing would be a big accomplishment and that would be enough, but it would be a simple thing. I don't have to use my brain too much. Depending on kind of my mood, I will make little goals for myself, but that's the big thing I've learned about my mental health, is I have to be structured, especially working for myself, and have a plan every day of what I'm going to do. Because this week, actually, I was supposed to go out of town this weekend. I was planning towards that, and then I found out that somebody that we were going to see has COVID, which-
Beth Demme (27:40):
Threw a wrench in the plans.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:41):
... threw a wrench in the plan, and so that messed up my scheduling. That did not help me mentally, to be like, "Wait a minute. Okay. Okay." So that's a big part for me, is just to stay organized, but also stay flexible and plan every day, and I do. At the end of the day, I plan my day of what the next day's going to look like. Even if I don't get those things done, and even if I'm not feeling up to it, I have my kind of punch lists that I can go to and be like, "What do I need to do? Okay. It's written here. I'll go do that. I'll work towards that."
Beth Demme (28:14):
That helps you like...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:16):
Beth Demme (28:18):
Right, so a mental health day in that sense is not a day to goof off.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:24):
Well, so there are times where I'll have my whole day scheduled, and I'll wake up and I'll be like, "... I just want to watch TV," and I'll allow myself to do that, and sometimes I'll just like not get anything done from my list. Or sometimes I'll just get a couple things, but I'll have allowed myself to do other things. Just the other day... because this week kind of got all messed up with the travel plans, so I threw something in the day that I didn't have scheduled, but I was like, "This would be fun, and I could push the other stuff off because my trip has been canceled now." I mean, I do love that kind of flexibility, and if I'm not feeling up to it, okay, then I won't do it, but I try to stay on course, because that is good for my mental health too. To have goals and to accomplish those things, but also not be upset if I don't.
Beth Demme (29:15):
Yeah. Not have to be productive 60 hours a week or whatever random number somebody might decide on.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:20):
Well, we've talked about that before. Not finding value in yourself because you're productive or through being productive. Being productive, for me, is actually helps my mental health. It's not just to be able to say, "Look what I did today." I mean, people ask me like, "What do you have planned today? Or what did you do today?" I'm like, "I don't know. I can show you my list." That's not the thing that motivates me is like, I got 15 things done. Those are things that help me to just be mentally well, and I don't know. That's part of my mental health toolkit, is to have a schedule and to try to stick with it, and I feel good at the end of the day. How about you? Do you thrive on a schedule?
Beth Demme (30:06):
I need to have a general outline of what's going to happen in the day, and I start every morning, once I get to my desk where I'm going to be working, making a list of, okay, I want to try to knock these things out, but I don't always stick to it. I would say that I'm fairly easily distracted, not in an ADHD way, but in a like, "Oh yeah, I could do that project now, or that project, or that project," and so sometimes I kind of bounce between projects, which is often not productive at all, but it is how I can kind of mentally work. Researching something in scripture, and I'll get an hour into it and be like, "Okay, I need to let that settle for a minute and I'll work on something else." I definitely bounce around, but I would say that days where I really don't accomplish anything, I have to categorize them for myself. It's like, "Okay, well, that was rest. That was Sabbath."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:13):
Beth Demme (31:13):
That's okay, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:15):
You to have to justify, wow. Okay.
Beth Demme (31:16):
I have to justify it. Yeah, I have to justify it, because I do like to be productive, and honestly, I know this is true for everyone. There's plenty to do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:24):
Beth Demme (31:26):
There's always something that needs to be done. This is a really, really busy time of year, so there's plenty of stuff going around.
Beth Demme (31:34):
One of the things that you say in our intro is that your memoir is about how what's done in darkness eventually comes to light, and then, we've titled this episode, Our Darkest Moments, so what does it mean to you when something is kept in the darkness? What are we referring to there?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:52):
Darkness, to me, is something that we're afraid of. I think, that's something typically when there's things that... afraid of the dark and afraid of things in the dark, so I would think darkness makes me think of something we're afraid of. Something we don't want to see, something that is too appalling or gross to shine, to see in the light. I kind of think of, what is it? Phantom of the Opera?
Beth Demme (32:26):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:26):
Isn't he kept in the basement or something? Or in the shadows, because-
Beth Demme (32:30):
Definitely in the shadows.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:31):
Beth Demme (32:32):
Or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is kept up in the bell tower.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:35):
Exactly, because they're too ugly for the world to see, and I think that is what happens when we keep our mental health in the darkness.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:46):
For me, when I kept mine in the darkness, it was something I was ashamed of. I was afraid what people would say. I was afraid of what I would discover when I truly turned the light on. I think there's a part of probably most of us that think that it's easier when it's in the dark and when there's not light on it, because we don't actually have to look at it. But I think it's actually the opposite, is we give it power when it's in the darkness, because I mean, think about that. What is something that, when it's dark you're afraid of, but when it's light you're like, "Oh that's nothing." You know?
Beth Demme (33:23):
Yeah. I mean there's even that expression, "Skeletons in the closet"?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:27):
Beth Demme (33:27):
Like you're going to hide it away, tuck it away, but I've definitely had that experience where it's late at night, and I'm thinking about something, and it just feels like an insurmountable problem. Then, eventually exhaustion will take over, I'll go to sleep. I'll wake up the next day and be like, "Oh that's no big deal. Why was I even worried about that?" It's something about those feelings. They're bigger in the darkness.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:53):
Mm-hmm. I kayak a lot and something that's during this season, this is alligator mating season, so they're more active right now.
Beth Demme (34:03):
Did not know that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:05):
Yes. April to June is mating season, so be on the watch, but that's not going to stop me from kayaking, obviously, and the more alligators I see, the less fearful. I used to be very scared of alligators, but I can think of... I think it's pretty normal that people are scared of alligators and I'm not, not scared, but I have a healthy respect for them, I would say. I could definitely tell you that if... I don't kayak at night, number one, because when it's dark, the sounds are way scarier, but I can't even imagine seeing like an ... because when you see an alligator, you think you just see an alligator, but when you're in the water you just see like a head, and I can't even imagine seeing just eyes looking at me in the dark, but when I see eyes looking at me during the day, it's really not that scary. It's just like a healthy respect for them. Like, "This is your lake. Hi Gator. I'll go over here," but at night, I mean, I think I would just pass out right there.
Beth Demme (35:07):
I've heard people say that too, about hurricanes. That when a hurricane comes through at night, and you're in your house and you can just hear the trees breaking, and you don't know if that break is the one that's going to fall on your house. How much scarier that is. Just not being able to see it, because of the darkness. I think it's really powerful to flip that around and apply it to our mental health, to apply it to our emotional wellbeing. For all those years, I just thought, I don't have to think about the grief of losing my brother, because I'm just going to stuff that away. No, no, no. Putting it away in the closet, putting it away in the darkness didn't serve me well at all.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:48):
Yeah. And that's something that I strive to keep working on my stuff, so that I don't accumulate the pile, because I did. I had that pile. I had that pile for years and years, and years, and didn't start dealing with it until I was in my twenties. Like you said, those first sessions, the first time you start working on are just so hard and you're just like, "Things are never going to get better. This is never going to get..." Through the years of therapy and work on myself, it has gotten better. It totally has, and when I have issues, I deal with them now, instead of in 20 years, like I was before.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:28):
I think mental health is not something that is one-and-done. It's something that is a constant journey, but it does get easier, the more you are aware of it and the more that you are constantly working on it.
Beth Demme (36:41):
Yeah. There's an irony to wanting to keep something in the darkness and to not deal with it because, "Oh, if I address that, or I acknowledge it, or I deal with it, then it's going to change how I see myself." Right? There's an irony to then how the invisible changes happen and you actually are changed by it, because you don't shine a light on it. There's something to that for sure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:06):
I know people in my life that I've known forever and I can see it. I can see it in their lives, how much they haven't dealt with stuff, and just every year, how they get worse and worse, and their personalities change, and they become like these hardened people, and it's just so hard to see. But that was part of my journey too, is realizing I can't change somebody and it has to always be a personal choice. I can lead by example of my own life, but I can't change somebody, and I can't tell somebody how to live their life, and I can't harp on that. That it is a hard thing to learn. It's also a hard thing to learn just to listen to somebody and not give them all the answers, because honestly, I don't have the answers for them. When I was younger, I thought I had the answers to everything. The older I get, the more I'm like, "No, I have the answers for me, maybe, but I can't tell anybody how to live their life." Life is hard enough to be shoulding on people.
Beth Demme (37:57):
Yeah, it's true.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:59):
Please, when we talk about these things, don't think we're shoulding on you for... I mean, maybe you're better than us at these things. We have no idea where listeners are in these kind of journeys and things like that, but I really try to just focus on my stuff because that's all I know. I don't know anyone else's lives, and I want to know your life. I'd love to sit down and have a conversation with anybody about their life. I really try to be an active listener when somebody is sharing stuff with me, because I know how important it's for me to have that when I'm sharing, so I try to do that for others.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:39):
I do want to say that I have been filming this episode.
Beth Demme (38:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:43):
Beth Demme (38:43):
I had no idea.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:45):
This has been our first episode that I think of, who we've recorded like this. Three years. I have a YouTube channel. Well, I have two YouTube channels. One's called, Mother Daughter Projects DIY, and one is called, Hi, I'm Steph and so on, Hi, I'm Steph, I like to share about my life, and mostly I've been sharing about greyhounds and kayaking, because that's a big part of my life, especially my mental health life. That's how I keep kind of mentally well, but I thought it would be cool to share some behind the scenes of a podcast, and that is what I recorded today's episode, which I didn't even realize was our anniversary episode-
Beth Demme (39:21):
Right, it is.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:22):
... before I planned that, so if you want to see visuals from today's episode, we'll put a link to that below. On our third anniversary, it would be great to remind you that we appreciate reviews of the podcast.
Beth Demme (39:34):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:35):
Reviews in podcast apps, like in Apple Podcasts, you can review at the very bottom, or reviews in person, tell your friend about the podcast, send them a link, it's very easy to do and share it with somebody you think would get some value from it. I will also tell you that if you're looking for some good quality Twitter content, you can find Beth on Twitter at Bethodist the Methodist.
Beth Demme (40:03):
Yeah. I think the handle's actually just @BethDemme. I think it's my name, but I'll put a link to it in there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:07):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:07):
At the end of each episode we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer to yourself. Or you can find a PDF on our Buy Me A Coffee page.
Beth Demme (40:22):
Number one. What does it mean to you when something is kept in the dark?
Beth Demme (40:28):
Number two. What is your darkest moment?
Beth Demme (40:32):
Number three. Do you tend to minimize your own mental health, because, "It's not so bad"?
Beth Demme (40:39):
Number four. What can you do, or start, or continue to begin processing and discovering your own scars?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:49):
Discovering our Scars podcast is produced by Beth Demme and Stephanie Kostopoulos. Thanks for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.