Good Girl Chronicles

GGC Feature: The Colors of Robin Smith

There are a lot of moments when I think about all things I have lost because I talk openly about my suicide attempt and mental health: friends, family, job positions. Then I question myself.

“Why did I start writing about this dark part of my life?

“Who really cares?

“Why does my story even matter?”
Then people like Robin Smith remind me, a story is most powerful when it is shared. Hearing my story of surviving suicide inspired Robin to start sharing her own. She chronicles her experience in her new blog and is finding new ways to live mentally well. And, like me Robin has found the freedom of sharing your story, and the healing.

“I got tired of living in the shadows,” she says.

I got the pleasure of capturing Smith’s story because she won one on my Instagram contests. The winner receives a free coffee date with me, and a interview feature on my Good Girl Chronicles blog.
Sitting across from Robin, you are drawn in by colors. The purple and teal hair dye that accentuates her light blond hair, her blue eyes, the tattoos that cover her forearms.
It’s a stark contrast to the blue, purple, and yellow scars she bore on her face just two years ago. Those colors covered her fair skinned face when she collapsed in her home and developed Bell’s Palsy. Doctors said it was her body’s reaction to her attempted overdose. They were surprised she survived considering the amount of drugs she had taken.
“It was horrible. I went from two days prior wanting to die, to actually thinking in that moment I was going to die.”
Even scarier, Robin said was the fact that in the emergency room she heard doctors giving her a grim diagnosis, saw the faces of her distraught loved ones, heard their cries; yet could not utter a single word. The entire left side of her face was paralyzed and the Bell’s Palsy also affected her speech. It was if she was trapped inside of her own body.
“I was in my body, but could not move. It was horrible. My face seized up, and my teeth were clenched shut.”
“ All I could do was watch and hope to God that they could fix me,” she says fighting to hold the tears behind her blue eyes. Her face turns red, and her voice quivers as she recalls this day.
“It really is a miracle I survived.”
Robin was released to a behavioral health care unit, but says the prescribed medications did not help much. She rode a roller coaster of with intense manic periods often characterized by feelings of euphoric, erratic behavior, and followed by deep depressive episodes.
“By September, I thought I was losing my mind.”
For six months she struggled to find help from different physicians, and was even rejected admission to a behavioral unit after another suicide attempt.
“I’d go see doctor and they would just ask me what kind of medication I wanted. I thought to myself isn’t it their job to tell me what I need?”
Finally, by late 2017 Robin found care and a new diagnosis that changed got her on track. A clinician diagnosed herb with bipolar disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health describes bipolar disorder as a brain condition that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. The diagnosis explained so many of her mood swings.
“It wasn’t surprising,” she said. “It’s something that should have been diagnosed sooner,  If someone would have taken the time to talk to me and not just throw medication at me.”
Smith takes medication for her mental health condition now, and says counseling helped strengthen her relationships with her boyfriend Mike and her two step daughters.
“Therapy was a group effort. It was me, Mike, and my parents. We all went to therapy together. Everybody works together. Because it (bipolar disorder) did not happen overnight I knew I could not restart everything overnight.”
Smith has learned how to manage the highs and lows of bipolar disorder. She is more open with her loved ones, and has joined a kickboxing exercise community to help her fight through the hard days.
“It still a struggle everyday. Life is tough, but you can be just as tough,” she says.
This is the strength she wants to pass on to her stepdaughters.
The desire to be a beacon of hope is why she why she dyed her hair purple and teal> These colors symbolize suicide prevention. She also has tattoos on her forearms in teal and purple with two quotes that remind her to keep living in the moment.
The tattoo on her left arm reads “We all live with the scars we choose,” and the one on the right says, “No day but today. 525,600 minutes.” An homage to the musical Rent and a reminder that even though her past was painful, healing, and recovery is possible everyday.
“We are not damaged. I am not damaged.”
Smith works at an accounting firm, enjoys kickboxing, and playing with her three Jack Russells.


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