Kelly Marie Showard often wears a smile during her job as community relations director at Erie County Medical Center.
It’s not a facade, though she has struggled with mental illness during her adult life, and tried to kill herself with an overdose of prescription drugs in September 2013.
“People see me and they say, ‘Kelly, you’re great, you’re so put together, your job is great, you’re so kind.’ But I’ve got all this stuff back there,” said Showard, 39, a Buffalo native who had two kids by the time she was 21, and during roughly the last decade has landed two college degrees, including a master’s from Canisius College. “My philosophy is that there’s not one person on this planet who does not have issues.”
Showard plunged into a depressive episode before her suicide attempt. During her recovery, which started with a two-week stay at BryLin Hospital, she created the Front Seat Chronicles. The social media effort allows others to submit a photograph behind the wheel of a car and share their back stories – both the challenges and successes – on her website, fscthehopemovement.com.
She will share her story in person next week during the “Positive Steps” Health and Wellness Fair, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square. The fair, which is free and open to the public, includes a 10 a.m. tai chi class as well as line dancing, mindfulness and meditation sessions, a talk by Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein on opiate awareness, health screenings, chair massages and healthy sliders for lunch. Showard will talk at 10:30 a.m. in the Ring of Knowledge. Philip L. Haberstro, of the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, will lead a downtown walk at 1 p.m.
Q. What have you written on your website?
I have long suffered from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and a mood thing that some professionals call bipolar and others just call a disorder. I have been on a host of various antidepressants and other little drug company moneymakers that I’m not quite sure work. I’m not quite sure they don’t work either so I tend to err on the side of caution and carry half a drug store in my purse.
Q. How has the site changed you?
I live in the front seat. I’m conscious about the decisions I make. As someone living their life, driving their car, I can’t prevent others from hitting me. I can only drive my car to the best of my ability. I can’t help that it’s raining. I can’t help that it’s snowing. I can’t help that there’s lots of people on the road. All I can do is live my life.
That’s where the health fair comes in. I’m not sure how much I’ll share about my back story, but instilling hope is free. By taking charge and being responsible for yourself, it means you have to look at your health. Health is more than your blood pressure, more than your weight. It’s how you feel about yourself. This health fair is in an environment of learning. It gives people the opportunity to learn about themselves. Everybody’s on a different road and we have to take bite-sized pieces out of our journey … and everybody has a different way of getting healthy.
Q. What role will you play in the health fair?
I’ll be speaking on my journey toward a healthier me, from a mental health perspective. If your mind’s not right, your body’s not right. You don’t care what you’re eating. You don’t care if you’re doing well at work.
Q. How did your family relationships change after the suicide attempt?
The relationship with my children was weird for me and weird for them. ... All I can do is live so that they understand that was something that happened in the past and is not a path that I will go down again. I told them, “If you’re upset or disappointed or hate me, you can share those feelings with me. I’m not fragile. I will not break.”
Q. How are you addressing your depression?
It may seem really weird, but if I look in the mirror and I don’t see a beautiful person, I know something’s wrong. Not pretty, but I want to look in the mirror and say to myself, “You’re all right Kelly and you are beautiful.”
I see a therapist. … I still take an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer religiously, and I have medication as needed for anxiety and panic attacks. Now, do I sense depression when it’s creeping up on me? I do. I know the signs and I know it’s time to counteract it before it sets in. If I’m overtired, I know that’s something I need to pay attention to. If I am very short with people and everyone is annoying, I know something is not right and I need to pay attention and stay in tune with what’s going on. I make sure I do have a safety net. I will send out a text to 20 people: “Somebody call me right away.” Or I’ll get on the phone. There still have been times I know when I need to be proactive. I learned that at BryLin.
Individuals or families with concerns that they or a loved one may have a mental illness or be struggling with suicidal thoughts should call Crisis Services at 834-3131 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.