Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Mourning

Karen (Me), John, and Pat
(Sorry John, had to post it. You're handsome.
And besides, you don't read my blog anyway!)

Happy Thanksgiving! 

There. I said it, albeit with gritted teeth. No, seriously. I do wish you a happy Thanksgiving, but it's a little hard today to be happy on mine.

Monday of this week, my brother (Pat, above) passed away from brain cancer. I will blog about this later. For today, I am going to trryyyy...try, try, try to be grateful. I know it's the right thing to do; and in trying to set a good example of mental wellness, I am going to force myself to do it.

I am grateful for:
  • My brothers: They are (yes, 'are') more than just brothers. They are my best friends! They are handsome, intelligent, witty, thoughtful, and unbelievably creative and talented! 
  • My parents: They loved us and worked very hard to provide us with food, clothing, health care, and shelter. On top of that, they nurtured our religious, spiritual, and moral growth; ensured we had the best education; broadened our life experience with travel across the US and in Europe; encouraged the development of our talents with sports, music, and other extracurricular activities and training; shared our cultural heritage (Irish American) and holiday traditions; and stressed the importance of family and friendship bonds and love.
  • My husband: (Whom Pat introduced me to in the first place.) He is a wonderful, caring, loving, intelligent, creative, talented, and incredibly handsome (HOT!) man, wonderful father, and my best, best friend!
  • My daughters: (One of whom wouldn't exist if it weren't for Pat introducing me to my husband.) They have both grown into beautiful, smart, witty, talented, creative, caring, kind, and loving young women.
  • My father- and mother-in-law: I am so, so, so lucky to have great in-laws! I just adore them! They are loving, comforting, generous, and fun to be around. I am also very proud of my father-in-law in particular {and YOU KNOW WHY!}
  • My sisters-in-law: Again, I am so damn lucky to have these gorgeous, kind, intelligent, and strong women in my life! I love and admire them. They set a great example for their children and my daughters. They inspire me to be a better woman myself!
  • My brothers-in-law: They are all strong, intelligent, incredibly handsome, and fun to be around!
  • My other relatives: I come from a wonderful family on both sides. Even though there is geographic distance between us, they are always close within my heart.
  • My "Royal" Friends: (Whom I met exclusively through Pat.) They are kind, caring, thoughtful, generous, talented, smart, and completely fun to be around. [You know who you are!!]
  • My Other Best Friends: They are also truly kind, caring, thoughtful, generous, talented, smart, and completely fun to be around.
  • My Pets - Shade, Bella, and Sunny: Here are some pics that make me happy right now.

  • LIFE: Even though there is sometimes suffering and pain, I am grateful...I am trying to be grateful, that is - that I am alive. That every day is a new day with new possibilities and hope. That I can see, hear, touch, and taste the physical world around me and if I'm quiet and still enough, can sense the world beyond.
What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Vortex Vent

"Shadows of Us", by Karen Clarke
[My brother and I.]

So I am NOT doing a very good job of staying out of the Vortex. I am not handling this very well at all. Who would?, I suppose.

Quite often, I am a two-year old in the body of a 50-year old. Occasionally, though, I am a little bit strong. I am typically at my best when I am with my brother actively doing something to help him, talking to him, and/or just sitting next to him. On the other hand, I am at my worst - as today - when I am back at my own house. I feel empty, helpless, and hopeless.

I really, really, really wanted to share with you tips on protecting one's mental health when dealing with serious illness, dying, death, and grief, but I've got nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing to share from my own journey through this experience to inspire you and set a good example of self-care that helps you help others. I totally know it's wrong to say, but I don't really give a damn about my own mental or physical health at the moment.

I know what I should be doing, but I am simply unable [unwilling] to do it. I know well the metaphor of the importance of taking care of oneself in order to best help others - like a parent putting on their own oxygen mask before putting one on their child in an airplane emergency. I have loved tossing that one around at friends and family coping with caring for others, but now it feels trite.

Wait...Actually, now that I think about it, this blog post is a part of self care. Venting one's emotions, as painful as they are, is therapeutic. The other day, I was thinking about the myriad feelings and emotions I cycle through daily, and I wrote the poem below**. Writing that too was therapeutic. 

So I guess I do have a tip for you after all: write (or draw, etc.) your feelings and emotions - painful and dark as they may well be. Share them or not, just get them out of your head and onto a medium. It is a pressure release to prevent full throttle explosion as emotional pain and suffering continues to layer your heart.



Like a sculptor working stone, pain carves me from the inside out –




I am angry. I rage 

                        and lash out like a fork-tongued serpent, fangs bared at the world.

I cry torrents of tears,

and thrash about like a wounded shark. 

I weep and wail til my heart’s squeezed dry. 

I am hollow.

I am full.

I am strong.

I am weak.

I am pain.

I am numb.

I am loss.

I am love.

I am grief.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Brain Cancer Sucks

Dear Readers:

A million and ten times over the last year I said I was getting back to blogging, but never 
did. As I mentioned at one point in a previous post, I've been going through some emotionally trying times with a suffering loved one. [See Pat Clarkewritten by his best friend, my husband Greg.] Though it consumed me and I desperately wanted to write about it, I also didn't want to share too much out of respect for his privacy - until now.

My brother is dying of Gliomatosis Cerebri - one of the rarest forms of brain cancer. {God! I've never used that verb before when referring to his illness!}

As you may well know, staying out of the Vortex of major depression and addiction has been (and always will be) a constant battle. This past year, however, tested the strength of my recovery more than any other time in my life thus far. So now more than ever, I need to return to blogging as cathartic therapy. I'll share with you what I've been learning as I've walked (and still walk) this long, hard journey with my little brother. 

Additionally, as soon as possible, I'll be updating to a new blog site and expanding the content to include a broader range of topics such as: brain cancer, grief, and more of an emphasis on maintaining mental wellness in general.

That's all I've got energy for now. Have a happy and healthy week! 



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What's in a Number?

I'm back at it again. I've abandoned the idea of waiting for my blog's update and improvements to be complete before writing. I apparently love blogging. I love writing. It's very therapeutic for me.

Since last I posted, I've been navigating the stormy seas of the spirit, and am in the throws of an existential crisis. I'm 49, teetering dangerously close to the edge of 50's deep, dark, rocky chasm. 

Why do we get so hung up on the number of times we've journeyed around the sun?

Yes, it provides an estimate on quality of life and time left, but clearly it's not perfect. There are young people who leave us far too soon and there are many others who live over a century. It's said, "Age is a state of mind", "40 is the new 30; 50 is the new 40..."; but I can't seem to let go of the notion that time is running out for me. Lately, these are the questions swarming around my head:
  • Can I really start a new career in my 6th decade?
  • Will I ever be able to get out of (bad) debt?
  • Will I ever be able to move to a bigger house?
  • Will I ever move out west - Arizona or Colorado? Or am I cemented here because of myriad commitments and relationships?
  • Will I ever be able to complete my bucket list? Will I have enough money? Will I have enough time??!
  • And as a woman, what is becoming of me physically? Yeah, I know. Beauty is only skin deep; and inner beauty will (hopefully) shine brighter everyday. Fine. Tell that to men...and society. Although, why should I care? I shouldn't. I know...but I least for now.
[Addendum: The last bullet point in particular is very egocentric. I don't apply the same rules to others that I apply to myself. When I see almost all other women who are approaching or over 50, I easily see their attractiveness and beauty - both inside and out. I see the power, strength, wisdom, and self-assuredness that comes with age (and strikingly absent from youth). Depressed thinking is very myopic indeed. I'm keenly aware of this, but it's less scary to just roll up like a burrito in my blanket of self-imposed rules and self-loathing and burrow under my emotional rock.]

Yes. Yes. This is a mid-life crisis, and I hope to emerge from it one day self-assured, strong, and better than ever. Eh...

For now, just wallowing. 



On the lighter side of things...

College classes began for me today. Excited to get back at it!

My College Planner - Fall 2016 (#filofax), 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

a heavy heart

Dear Readers:

Yes, I am waaaay behind schedule...


I am - my family and friends are - overwhelmed with a dear, dear loved one's critical illness. Everyday, I try to muster up the strength and courage to maintain optimism, hope, and and positive energy. Sometimes, however, the weight is far too great and I fall apart on the floor of my darkened bedroom and wail for an hour.

My heart is in a perpetual state of breaking...

Sleep is the only respite. Then I wake up in the morning and remember the monster that awaits. So, I put one foot in front of the other and start all over again. 

Thus, my plans of revamping this blog, creating a website for it, and creating recovery tools for my etsy shop, have been stalled for the time being. 

I am very surprised, however, that I am not having a complete breakdown right now - a testament to medication, I suppose. That and amazing and supportive friends and family!

I will return to blogging again, however. I know it is good for my mental health, and hopefully you get something out of it too.


Saturday, May 14, 2016


{If you're new to this blog, check out this post in the meantime: Pink Hi-Top Adventures. Thanks for stopping by!)

Dear Readers: 

Sorry I've been offline a lot during these past several months. With this blog now 3.5 years old, I've been thinking about ways to improve and enhance the content and presentation.

I LOVE blogging! It's been very therapeutic these past few years, but I've reached the point where I want to go beyond that and dive deeper into providing more education, resources, and wellness tools to support YOU - from my perspective as a patient and psychology undergrad. {Please, please always keep this in mind - I am not a professional, i.e., clinician, professor, doctor, therapist, etc.}

So, I'm currently in the process of serious planning, prep, and writing, but don't you worry! I'll be returning in June.

In the meantime, if YOU have any ideas or suggestions for topics, etc., please, please feel free to drop me a note here, on the Facebook page - Pink Hi-Top Adventures, or by email at:

See you soon!

Love, Karen

Friday, April 29, 2016

Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives (Call To Action)

{Crikey - here {I hope} is the correct link!}

Everybody Dies...

Singing the praises of this from the rafters today! 
Just what I needed to hear and I wanted to share it with YOU.  

WATCH and listen. 
Then watch and LISTEN again. 
THINK about the message.
Then get out and DO!

Are you truly living? If not, what is holding you back? 
How can you remove or go around, over, or through any obstacles in your way?

Food for thought...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Grey Veil Descends

I'm still working on the alcohol posts that I promised. They are coming, really, it's just that the grey veil of depression has been slowly descending on me once again. Last week in particular, I expended more energy than I had just to accomplish the bare minimum.

So as therapy and to continue to shine light on the darkness, today's topic is:


Serotonin (one of the happy 
neurotransmitters) t-shirt. 
I lost it...

One of the most pervasive mental illnesses is major depression. Almost 7% of all Americans above 18 have at least one episode each year. Like most things, though, there are gradations. At one extreme, are those theoretical individuals who are self-actualized and physically well - who are continually optimistic and roll with life's punches as they come. (I have yet to meet any of them, by the way.) At the other extreme, of course, are those who are suicidal. Most people who experience major depression fall somewhere in between. {I know there is data on this...I'll dig some up in the future. No energy for it now...}

As I’ve mentioned before, depression, the illness, is much more than being sad or "having the blues" induced by a negative life event. It's systemic, altering emotions, cognition, body function, energy, and soul.

DEPRESSION AND                                                

If you have experienced or are experiencing major depression, you can probably relate. Though I'm not experiencing all of these symptoms now, when I am or have been in a major depressive period, it feels like this:
  1. Physically:
    • I’m tired more than usual, and take frequent naps.
    • Even when awake, it feels like I’m wearing a lead suit. Just trying to get out of bed or off the couch is overwhelming.
    • ...just noticed he Coke too.
    • Sometimes I eat a lot of junk food, and other times I eat practically nothing. For example, last week, I bought a small birthday cake - because why do you have to wait for birthdays to buy one - and I ate 3/4 of it in one night! (The other 1/4, the next day.)
    • Doing any task takes forever. 
  2. Mentally:
    • Negative thoughts cycle around my head continuously like trapped flies in a jar.
    • I scan the past and present for evidence that I am inherently flawed.
    • I am easily distracted and have trouble staying focused - more than usual.
    • But I hyperfocus on the negative.
  3. Emotionally:
    • I'm volatile.
    • easily get irate, though only in the presence of close family, for fear of confrontation with or rejection by friends, colleagues, and others.
    • I don’t necessarily cry a lot, although I sometimes do.
    • I personalize everything and become very, very sensitive to criticism.
    • I tend to hyperfocus on people, negative news and issues in society, pop culture, politics, etc. that make me angry or upset. This in turn feeds my vision of a futile future for me, humanity, and the world.
    • I hate myself.
    • I wish I could disappear.
  4. Socially:
    • I worry, annoy, aggravate, and frustrate loved ones and friends, making it difficult for them to be around me, listen to my irrational thoughts, or even find me attractive. Subsequently, I feel even more unlovable.
    • My personality flatlines, but I hide behind a smiling mask when interacting with others – even at times my family.
    • Maintaining the above fa├žade takes an enormous amount of energy and subsequently I drop out of life.
  5. Work/School:
    • Given #s 1-4, therefore, I frequently absent from classes and/or work days. Once again, I feel even worse as negative thoughts get further ingrained.
    • When I am able to work or go to school in spite of depression:
      • I am more forgetful.
      • I feel less competent, make careless mistakes, and of course, feel even worse, which makes me feel even more incompetent having once again proven that I truly am incompetent. {...and I am more likely to write run-on sentences too.}
      • I miss deadlines (e.g., this blog)
      • I'm less confident and I project it; I shrink, rather than assert.
  6. Self-Care: 
    • I don’t care about my appearance and want to blend into the background and go under the radar. 
    • I shower infrequently.
    • My hair is plain and unstyled, and I wear no make-up. Not that I go overboard on these when I’m feeling well, but I definitely hide myself, lest I be judged. (I can’t be judged if I’m invisible.) This lack of attention to physical appearance is more about hiding and shame, than it is about preferring less or no make-up and wanting to express a more natural appearance. (The latter would be self-confidence. One can be very depressed and hide behind make-up and hair.)
    • Finally, my clothing is subdued and "good enough" to get by. I dress to blend into the background.
Oh, and I hide, hide, HIDE this from loved ones, friends, and even therapists. It's counter-intuitive, but I'm keenly aware what a burden my depressive symptoms, so I try to manage it myself. And well, I'm sure you know how successful that approach is. 

So, that's it in a nutshell. I will tell you one thing though. In spite of my mood downturn, I have written many, many draft posts on several different mental health topics - including alcohol. Stay tuned.

(in sloppy, non-academic format...)

*  “Major Depression Among Adults”,  National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Mental Health.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Pink Hi-Top Adventures


Pink Hi-Top Adventures is my first blog ever. Started back in January 2013, it's a chronicle of my ongoing recovery from depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. 

About ten years ago, I entered treatment for alcohol addiction; and at the time, I thought this was the source of all my problems - that this was the thing holding me back. Though alcohol played a very, very LARGE role, I discovered that addiction was only the tip of the iceberg. Recovery drained the pond, and exposed the real disease at the bottom.

Growing up, I was always anxious and often depressed, but I thought this was the normal state of things. I certainly didn't think I had a disorder. I just assumed I was innately flawed, abnormal, weird, and didn't fit in. This self-concept stuck with me through adulthood.

Then, three and a half years ago, I finally imploded. I spent three weeks in bed - unable to work, unable to shower, unable to function. My thoughts were turning darker too. I fantasized about death and hurting myself; and for the first time ever, it felt comforting and logical.

Fortunately, I shared this with my husband {in passing}. He reached out to my therapist; and after an ER visit, I was whisked into a partial hospitalization treatment program {PHP}. There, I was diagnosed with major depression, dysthymia {long-term, low-grade depression}, and generalized anxiety disorder. I was {am} very lucky to have a very supportive husband; and at PHP, the doctors and therapists were wonderfully caring guides as I started down the path to wellness.  

A few months later, I started this blog to chronicle my continuous recovery and progress toward achieving my goals - one of which is graduating from college with a psychology degree and substance abuse counseling certificate. Writing is part of my ongoing therapy, but I also hope it will inspire and inform you, dear reader, along the way with personal stories, education, and wellness tools.

The blog title, by the way, is inspired by my favorite pair of Converse Chuck Taylor’s that I wore at one particular time in my youth when I felt happy and free.

Also, about two weeks ago, I opened an etsy shop - an offshoot of this blog: PinkHiTopAdventures In addition to earning some cash for college, the goal is to "Encourage mental wellness through creativity." Check it out. Note that I'll be adding more craft and art supplies every week, and later this year, I'll release a wellness tool of my own.  

Finally, it's my hope that Pink Hi-Top Adventures becomes a place for you to share too. Please feel free to comment and discuss - either here or on the blog's Facebook page. Connect with me on Twitter - @pinkhitops84, or by email at

Thanks for reading!

***It is important to note that I write as a person with mental illness and as an undergraduate, psychology/addiction counseling student. I am not a professional. This blog should never be a substitute for psychological or medical help, although in it, you'll find some resources and links to organizations who can help.*** 



LOVE, Goddammit!

World Domination Plan (March something, 2016) ;)


One Step at a Time (9/28/13)


Alcoholic or problem drinker? (10/14/15)
Crossing the bridge and letting go... (9/29/15)
The Anonymous People (9/14/14)
The Raging River (3/13/14)
Thoughts from my addiction (2/27/13)
How do you help and addict (6/19/13)
Take me out to the ballgame! (8/12/13)


Carousel in the Crazy House (4/12/15)
Thoughts (7/7/14)
Obstacles (5/22/13)
Social Anxiety (5/29/13)


KC's Top 10 (11/11/15)
Depression (10/7/14)
Depression Sucks! (11/24/13)
Symptoms of Depression (10/28/13)
Notes from the Vortex (2/11/13)
Life (3/7/13)
Lifeline (3/8/13)
Grey veil...again?! (3/16/13)
Overcoming...inertia! (3/19/13)
Can't sleep (4/23/13)
Do the next right thing - part II (4/25/13)
The daily struggle (6/6/13)
Taking down the wall (6/7/13)
Contained emotions (6/13/13)


Schizophrenia (10/9/14)


It IS an Illness (10/7/14)
Medication Stigma (4/29/14)
"Nervous breakdown" (3/6/13)
Depression is not a character defect (3/27/13)


KC's Top 10 (11/11/15)

Renew and Refresh (4/5/15)
New Hobby (10/3/14)
CBT (6/29/14)
Physical Wellness - Getting Back on Track (5/3/14)
Pet Therapy (3/24/14)
Coming Out! (3/14/14)
The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness (about Stephen Covey's, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People):
 - Introduction to (1/25/14)
 - Habit 1: Be Proactive (2/2/14)
 - Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind (2/12/14)
 - Habit 3: Put First Things First (6/23/14)
Trip to Roanoke, Virginia:
 - Rain Clouds (10/12/13)
 - Roanoke (10/12/13)
 - Heading Home (10/14/13)
Never underestimate your own power! (2/26/13)
Acceptance (3/1/13)
Recovery step #2: sleep, damn it! (3/5/13)
Rebirth (3/30/13)
Wellness part I: physical (4/26/13)
Change is possible part II (6/27/13)
Seven steps to mental health (8/2/13)
Take me out to the ballgame! (8/12/13)
Climbing back up (8/18/13)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The "I Don't Know What to Call It" Post for Spirit Sunday, First Edition

I do love this quote, but...

when I've been in the throws of depression, and when I was an actively using alcoholic, I felt (and sometimes still feel) like I had (have) very few talents. I felt like I didn't fit in - that the world would be better off without me, that I've been a liability to my family and a drain on my friendships, and that perhaps God* may have made a mistake letting me slip by on the assembly line. 

In addition, now that I'm in recovery and six months away from turning 50, very, very often I feel like I've wasted any talent I was given and wonder if it's too late to start applying it. 

I know intellectually, that this is not true. If someone else told me this about themselves, I'd say that it's nonsense and I'd do my best to help them see things more clearly.

Easier said than done, though, when these thoughts are on auto replay in your own head. 

Yes, I do realize how flawed thinking like this, negative rumination, and self-deprecation cause one to spiral downward and inward and away from connection with God and Life. And I do truly believe that, just because my spiritual antenna is malfunctioning, doesn't mean God isn't broadcasting. 

If only I could fix this damn antenna for good. I can't help but feel that I'm running out of time.


*For writing ease, I'll use the spiritual terminology with which I'm most familiar. I'm fully aware, however, of the diversity and breadth of human spirituality. Please replace "God", for example, with Creator, Allah, Hashem, Great Spirit, Universal Power, etc. as suits your philosophy or beliefs. :) 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spirit Sunday

Happy Easter and a Happy {belated} Vernal Equinox to all!

Spring is the season in which life emerges from death - renewed, refreshed, and beautiful. For us too, the journey through life is punctuated with little deaths along the way; and if we choose to accept it and move forward through our own suffering and struggles, we too will emerge renewed, refreshed, beautiful - and transformed.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses thwart this transformation, keeping the individual trapped in a perpetual cycle of suffering. If one can accept and move through her/his disorder, however, she/he too can eventually emerge renewed and transformed.

Of the many tools which can help break the cycle and catalyze transformation, is spirituality. According to Lolak, Minor, Jafari, & Puchalski (2016), spirituality is defined as the "...ways in which individuals seek and express meaning and purpose...and connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred." 

Though spirituality is not the equivalent of religion, most true [i.e., non-wacky packy] religions nurture the spirit and provide individuals with the guidance and opportunity to live a spiritual life. There are myriad other non-religious ways to nurture the Spirit as well: nature, art, good literature, love, contemplation, meditation, etc. All people can experience spirituality.

While current scientific data on the mental health benefits is mixed, there is a growing acceptance among practitioners and patients that prayer, meditation, and spiritual contemplation are a critical component of whole-person treatment, and can be beneficial in improving health and quality of life. (Lolak, Minor, Jafari, & Puchalski, 2016)*

Okay, that said...

Starting next week, each Sunday, I'm going to share some spiritual fuel for mental health. The sole purpose is to offer you more resources for your mental health tool kit. I won't be preaching, and I have no intention of turning this blog into a platform for theological debate. I'm going to do my damnedest to not let my own beliefs skew my posts either, and I'll be posting a variety of faiths and philosophies.

This is one aspect of my own recovery that has been seriously neglected, and I look forward exploring it with you.



Andrade, C., & Radhakrishnan, R. (2009). Prayer and healing: A medical and scientific perspective on randomized controlled trials. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 51(4), 247–253. 

Lolak, S., Minor, D. K., Jafari, N., & Puchalski, C. (2016). Complementary and integrative therapies for mental health and aging (C. F. Reynolds, Ed.). Oxford University Press. 

NAMI - the National Alliance on Mental Illness - Faith and Spirituality

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

PinkHiTopAdventures on Etsy!

Since starting this blog, my goal has been to destigmatize mental illness by sharing my journey of recovery from depression, anxiety, and addiction. It's purpose has also been to help those suffering, their friends, and their families feel less alone, and to share resources and tips I've learned along the way.

I'm now expanding on this mission - the "resources" part in particular; and this week, I opened a store on etsy - PinkHiTopAdventures [go figure...]. Check it out when you get a chance:  

The purpose of this fresh new store is to promote mental wellness through creativity. As of today, it has 18 items, and more will be added each day. I'm starting with craft supplies manufactured by other companies, but in a few months, I'll be releasing a new product created by Pink Hi-Top Adventures exclusively. Stay tuned!!

As I've mentioned before, creativity is a great way to calm and focus the mind, and a perfect outlet for expressing emotions and communicating experiences that are difficult to share face-to-face.

A great example of creative, mental wellness tools which have become very popular recently are coloring pages for adults. [See Google: coloring pages for adults,, Barnes & Noble.] My husband bought me one recently, and I have to admit I was a bit dubious at first. When I gave it a try last week though, I was amazed at how relaxing and almost meditative the activity was.

Sculpting, painting, drawing, dance, music, writing, knitting, and gardening are all creative tools for mental wellness. Can you think of more?  Share your ideas with us here or on Facebook!