Life Is Not a Reality Show (10 page)

BOOK: Life Is Not a Reality Show
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After I’d seen just about every doctor in L.A., they all gave up on me and decided I was a hypochondriac.

Then one day I remembered a commercial I’d seen. It said, “Depression hurts.”

Oh my God. Could it be that the pain and anxiety were actually symptoms of depression? Depression hurts—why didn’t anybody tell me that? I finally realized I needed to go see a psychotherapist. For weeks, every time I walked into her office I was hyperventilating. But eventually she made me understand that I wasn’t dying—I was depressed! The depression led to some of the physical pain, and then when I became worried and upset about the pain, that in turn caused more pain.

The therapist also said I had general anxiety disorder, which explained a lot of why I had always been such a worrywart. She wanted me to put me on Lexapro, which I resisted at first. I’d never taken an antidepressant before; I’d always thought, “No, I’m a strong person! I’m a control freak! I’m not going to take anything!” But after a while I said yes to the Lexapro. And thank God I did, because it helped me so much. Between the therapy and the medication I felt like I was finally able to emerge from an endless, dark tunnel.

I eventually weaned myself from the medication, but I still have the anxiety disorder. I’ll always have it, but when it rears its ugly head, I now know the right coping mechanisms, and I know there’s help I can turn to in the short term, in the form of medication and therapy. Doing
Real Housewives
is quite challenging for me because it creates a lot of stress; a big part of the show centers around conflict. When it gets really bad, it can kick up my anxiety disorder, and I find myself worrying obsessively about things. That’s when I’ll get a hangnail and think my hand has to be amputated. Ha! I kid only slightly.

I also know that when that happens, I can turn to my friends, who talk to me and reassure me. I also talk to my mother-in-law, Estella, who is a psychologist and has been so supportive and helpful.

Most important, I talk to Mauricio, who is always supportive and talks me through it. I am so grateful to him for the many nights I have woken him in a full-blown panic attack due to the pain caused by fibromyalgia.

I also try to laugh about it, because laughing is really the only way to deal with it! (If you watch
Real Housewives
, you may have seen the girls teasing me about my fear of flying. They find it funny, and so do I, really, but it’s part of my anxiety problem, which can be truly crippling.)

A little while after I pulled through those horrible two years, the most horrible of my life, I learned that in addition to depression, something else had been contributing to my pain: I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which is a disorder that causes pain throughout your body. When the doctor began asking me questions about the pains I’d had in my life, everything fell into place. Even as a little girl, I had severe growing pains that would make me scream and cry. And fibromyalgia can cause depression and anxiety too! So it was all a vicious cycle.

If you happen to be experiencing pain or depression or anxiety or any kind of suffering, first of all I want you to know that you are not alone. There are people who understand what you’re going through, and you can usually find them by going online and looking for support groups.

My ordeal taught me that physical pain can be a manifestation of the pain you’re feeling in your head and your heart. If you’re ever in a situation similar to mine, remember that.

If you’re specifically suffering from widespread pain in your body that doctors can’t figure out, consider that it might be fibromyalgia. For a long time the medical community didn’t understand fibromyalgia or even believe that it existed. That’s changing, but not all doctors have gotten with the program yet. Make sure you find one who has.

And no matter what kind of pain or health issue you might be suffering from, try doing what I do whenever my problems begin to flare up. At the very first sign of pain or anxiety, I immediately begin to focus on taking extra good care of myself. I try to avoid as much stress as possible, so I cancel anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. I skip the parties and lunches and events. I don’t have any wine. I try to eat well and—this is really important—get lots of sleep. All those things make me feel better more quickly.

Above all, don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. And take it when it’s offered. I’m so glad I did.

Let me tell you a story about my mother and that flashy diamond wedding ring she always wore, which is now mine. One time when my mother was due to arrive at the airport, she had ordered a car to pick up me and Kim at home so we could meet her there. I was about eleven or twelve. When she got into the back of the car, she said, “These men have been staring at my ring. They’ve watched me the whole time I’ve been going through the airport.” Sure enough, these two men got in a car behind us and followed us when we drove out of the airport.

For Richer, for Poorer

One more story about Mom and her big diamond ring.

She had a reputation of having daughters that married well. Kathy married a Hilton and Kim married into the Davises, a very prominent, wealthy family in L.A. who owned oil and entertainment businesses. When I married my first husband, the rumor going around was that I had married a prince. Ha! He was sweet and had such nice manners, but he wasn’t a prince. Still, my sisters married very well; it’s true.

Mom used to say, “You can marry someone with money or without. You might as well have with.” But all my friends’ mothers said this! One of my friends said to me, “Yeah, my mom’s version of that was, ‘It’s just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man. You might as well marry the rich man.’” Then she added, “But I didn’t pay attention!” Ha-ha!

My mother had a funny way of demonstrating the concept. She used to take out this puny little toy ring and say to one of the girls, “Pretend I’m the man. Will you marry me?”And then she’d put the ring on the girl’s finger. I watched her do this.

The girl would say yes, and Mom would say, “Okay, we’re gonna do this again.” She’d put her hands behind her back for a minute, then bring out one hand holding her huge diamond ring and repeat the question, “Will you marry me?”

The girl would go “Oh!” and her eyes would pop, and then we’d all burst out laughing. It’s true, the big diamond added a lot of zing to the proposal!

I hope that story doesn’t make my mom sound terrible. As I’ve said, I don’t care about the money—I’d love Mauricio either way. But I have four daughters now, and I understand where my mother was coming from. She wanted the best for us. When my kids grow up I don’t want them to have to worry about money. I don’t want them struggling to pay the water and power bill or wondering if they can afford braces for their children. That’s why I emphasize education so much with them. Sure, I’d like my daughters to marry men who are intelligent and successful. What mother wouldn’t? But I don’t ever want them to have to rely on a man to get by. Marrying well should not be their life plan!

“Girls, always be aware who’s following you,” my mom told us. “Always watch in the rear-view mirrors!” What a scary situation! No wonder I was such a nervous Nellie when I was a kid—and no wonder I’m so neurotic now! Ha!

Finally my mother told the driver to pull over at a gas station, and the other car pulled right in behind us. Mom got out of the car and marched right over to their window and banged on the glass with her fist! I couldn’t believe it. I was cowering in the back of the car. All I could think was,
Why can’t Mom just shut up?

These guys rolled down their window and looked at my mom like,
What the hell?
She put her ring right up to the tip of the driver’s nose and said, “See something you
like
?”

You have never seen two men more shocked in their lives. Then my mom just whirled around and marched back to our car. She turned to me and my sister and said, “Take that as a lesson, girls. Never allow yourself to be intimidated by anyone.”

Oh my God.

So, like I said, my mother wasn’t the type to keep her mouth shut, especially if someone was being treated unfairly. Mom had a fiery temper, but I always thought of myself as quiet and shy until one day when I was shopping at Neiman Marcus with Farrah and my then-mother-in-law. I was nineteen. A tiny baby was crying nearby and I heard someone saying, “Shh! Shh!” and not in a nice way. The baby kept crying and finally the person who’d been shushing her said, “Shut up!”

It turned out to be a stranger telling that baby to shut up. Can you believe it? So I went up to the woman and screamed at her, “How dare you!” I also used some four-letter words, and my poor ex-mother-in-law, who was truly shy and reserved, was absolutely horrified. She said, “Oh my, Kyle, please, you must not act like this!” Ha-ha!

That was the first time I realized, oh yeah, I definitely have my mom in me. I definitely speak my mind! Some of it must come from that confidence she encouraged in me and my sisters.

She also tried to encourage a sense of humor in us as much as she did confidence. Humor was a huge part of who my mom was, and it was impossible not to absorb some of her enjoyment of life. Some of her wicked wit no doubt rubbed off on us.

We were even able to find humor in things when she was dying. She had an amazing ability to see the comic side of life even when she struggled. At one point, the part of her brain that controlled motor skills didn’t always function properly. So we were at a party one night, standing around talking, and she just suddenly fell over, knocking me over too. We both landed on the floor and just lay there laughing and laughing. We couldn’t stop!

You might wonder, how could we be laughing at that time? But thank God we could. It’s a gift from God, really, to be able to laugh even in a time of sorrow.

My mom died of breast cancer. I’ll never forget when she called me on my thirtieth birthday and told me she’d found a lump. Being the worrier I am, I felt my heart immediately drop. Then I thought,
That’s ridiculous, I know lots of people who have lumps and they’re nothing. And we didn’t have any breast cancer in the family
. I said, “Mom, it’s not going to be anything!”

She said, “It’s pretty big.”

“Well then you need to go and have it checked, and you’ll be fine.” I told her.

She started crying. “Kyle, I’m scared!”

I was supposed to be going away for my birthday with seven couples to Mexico. I told my mom I was going to cancel. She said, “No, no, honey. You go and you have fun. I don’t want you to worry. I’ll go and have it checked.” Just like a mom to insist that her daughter go enjoy herself no matter what she was going through.

I did go on the trip, but I didn’t enjoy myself because, of course, I could never get Mom out of my head. When we came back, we found out it was cancer, a growth about the size of a nickel. They said it was somewhere between stage 3 and stage 4.

She hadn’t had a mammogram in five years. Immediately I realized there was a lesson for me there: you have to confront your fears head on. I know how scary it is to get a mammogram; I never get over the anxiety of it no matter how many times I do it. But a mammogram could have saved my mother’s life. They ended up doing a lumpectomy and radiation, but it was very aggressive, and the cancer kept coming back and eventually went to her lungs and her brain. She survived for three years, though, and I’m so grateful we had that time with her.

My Dad, Ken Richards

My father was an incredibly loving, attentive father. I used to spend every weekend with him at his house in Santa Barbara. He loved cooking, and I remember so many happy dinners with him.

He was so sweet and devoted. Sometimes when I had terrible growing pains in my legs that would make me cry, I would call him and he would drive the hour and a half down from Santa Barbara to wrap my legs. He was already retired when I was born. I just knew he was a wonderful dad.

My mom was always in denial when it came to doctors. After her cancer diagnosis, my sisters and I would sit in the doctor’s office listening to him talk and she’d just look out the window, not even wanting to hear what we were saying. I think she wanted to pretend it wasn’t her he was talking about.

She had never taken care of her health. She smoked (and I hate smoking, by the way!). And I told you above about her chats with the girls late at night when they came home from their dates. Well, the second she snapped on the light she’d grab her cigarettes and light one up. She also didn’t exercise or pay attention to what she ate, so she was a little overweight. I wished I could have made her do the things that would have helped her stay healthy.

My mother gave wonderful advice to her daughters about men, but I used to say to her, “I wish you could give yourself the same advice!” She was divorced three times, and she dated again, but nothing ever worked out in the long run. As much as my mother loved being a mom and was happy in her life, I really think she always wanted to find somebody to love and build a lasting relationship with. And yet whenever there was a man around, well, she wasn’t exactly the most adoring wife! I’m not going to lie! Ha-ha!

My mother actually decided to get married for the fourth time while she was battling breast cancer. I found it so funny. I said to her, “Mom, why are you getting married if (a) you’re sick and (b) you don’t even like being married?”

We had the wedding at Kim’s house, and when the priest said, “Do you take this man … ,” Mom looked at me and rolled her eyes and said, “Ugh … yes.”

BOOK: Life Is Not a Reality Show
11.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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