The Truth About Me: Part I

The picture on the left was taken about six and a half years ago.  The picture on the right was taken in January of this year.  Can you tell the difference?  Lately, I’ve been posting about weight loss and positive changes, but you are on the wrong track if that is what you are looking for here.  Oh, I have lost a lot of weight.  I have worked hard and I am proud of that.  Physically, I’ve never felt better.  However, with both pictures, you aren’t seeing how sick I am.

On the left, I had never been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, yet I can tell from looking at my face and what was going on in my life that I was in the lowest point of my life, emotionally speaking, of course.  Within a month of that photo being taken, I would hit a rock bottom that I am still not ready to share fully.  It would also be my first steps to recovery which involved therapy, medication, and a lot of support from loved ones.  This was the first time I learned the lesson of who walks away and who stays when it gets hard.  I remember how much my dad, my stepmother, and my friend Beth helped me at that point.  I’m sure there were others of you, so forgive me if I don’t name you, but those are the three that I really remember helping pull me through that dark time.

I had a few more low points in the intervening years.  They never lasted very long, so it was comfortable to feel that I had walked through the worst of it.  It never felt as bad as 2011 did.

Until now.

I’ve shared before that last year was a tough one.  I had strained relationships with some friends and some family members.  I was unemployed for over five months and did not have a place to live (surviving on the kindness of friends and family) during that time.  It was a tough, tough year, yet the depression and the anxiety never fully caught up with me.

Then I slowed down.  I stood still.  And they appeared.  They were bigger and they were stronger than ever before.

I want to share why, but I haven’t processed all of the information yet.  What I can say is that I experienced a childhood trauma so horrific that it would leave anyone reading this who knew me as a child shocked (and this is even beyond the childhood trauma I described in a previous blog post).

This is a very challenging time for me.  The smiling face from that photo in January should not fool you.  It is the face of a depressed, anxious and traumatized individual.

So, what’s the difference between the two photos?  Well, the current me asks for help much sooner.  The current me steals power from the darkness by speaking it into the light.  The current me draws strength from vulnerability and truth.  The current me has a plan in place for recovery and knows with 100% certainty that this is a chapter in my life, but it is not the entire book and it is not how the story ends.

What I am saying is that, I am stepping away for a little while.  From blogging and my social media.  I did this for awhile last year without making a formal announcement and I guess I hurt some feelings when I did that, so I wanted to explain why.  I’m stepping away because I am not healthy right now (emotionally, I should qualify.  Physically, I have never been better).

I will be back and I will share my story.  I’m no longer afraid of protecting those who harmed me.

Why do I share these things?  Why don’t I just keep these unpleasant topics to myself?  It isn’t because I need attention.  I do need support, but I don’t need attention.  I do this because everyone reading this has either experienced a trauma like I did or knows someone who has.  If you have experienced a trauma, I want you to know you aren’t alone.  I want everyone to know that a smiling face can be hiding a lot.  Ask questions.  Offer support.  Tell people that you love, support, and believe them.

I will be back and I will be strong enough to do all the things I have wanted to do.  Build my own business.  Achieve my fitness goals.  Develop authentic relationships with people.  Show people the real me.

One final note.

Someone told me recently to stop posting about myself so much.  Apparently I sound ridiculous or embarrassing or I don’t know what.  Well, to this I will say, from now on I will speak louder.  I will speak more clearly.  And if you can’t handle it, you are welcome to excuse yourself.

I love you all and I will be back to introduce you to the healthiest version of myself, physically and emotionally.  I hope you will be around then!

Misunderstandings

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I had a terrible experience recently.

I’ll back up first.  I’ve blogged before about how 2017 was the most challenging year of my life.  The struggles were so strong and I continue to deal with the fall-out from the challenges to this day including major depressive episodes and PTSD.  I can’t say it gets better with each passing day, but I do have a nice two steps forward, one step back model going.  I have alluded to some of these challenges on my blog before and other ones, I have left out entirely for various reasons.

One of the biggest fall-outs from last year was loss of relationships with people that I used to be really close to.  As I was surrounded by pain, I retreated into myself and withdrew from everyone but a small circle of support.  I purged all of my social media.  I wanted so badly to erase the things that I had walked through and start fresh.  I miss all of the information I purged, but as the same time, I know it was what I needed to help myself survive during that time.

I also wrote a blog post awhile back about eliminating toxic people from your life.  This is something I still believe very strongly in.  If they don’t add to the quality of your life, they don’t deserve your time or energy.  I didn’t specify who I was talking about when I wrote that post for a couple of reasons.  First, I didn’t want to put the information out there regarding who I was talking about.  Secondly, I always hope that my blog can touch on universal thoughts and feelings that we all experience and by keeping it general then it might be easier for other people to transpose themselves into the narrative I am describing.  Maybe this was a mistake though because I’ve heard from a few people that they assumed I was talking about them because they hadn’t heard from me for awhile.

I can’t emphasize enough how much that was never my intention.  I hope nothing came across like a passive-aggressive way to make digs at someone and call them toxic.  When I wrote that blog, I was in a very dark place and I was referring specifically to a former employer and a former partner from an abusive relationship.  Therefore, if you haven’t employed me or dated me, you can cross yourself off the list!  There’s also plenty of people who have employed me and dated me that I adore and am so grateful for their time in my life so even people who meet that criteria shouldn’t assume I am talking about them.  Actually, it is most likely that anyone who has access to this blog isn’t one of the people I am referring to.  It breaks my heart to think there would be more people out there who thought I was referring to them as toxic that I never heard from.  If anything I’ve ever written has hurt your feelings, let me offer my sincerest apologies right now.

On this path of vulnerability, I will still make mistakes and, without meaning to, hurt someone’s feelings.  So, when you hurt someone’s feelings, you say you are sorry.  Also, even though I am trying to embrace more and more vulnerability in my life, there are a lot of things I do not share.  I hope to one day share more details about my challenges last year, but I need to fully recover from them first.  I will get there one day, but I am not there yet.

My wish for all of us, navigating this complicated path called life, is for less misunderstandings and more communication.  I hope this experience makes me a better writer, better blogger, and a better human being.

And I appreciate and love you all.

Thanks for reading.

Support Systems

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Real talk time.  The start of this year has been a tough one.  My first three months after moving to Houston were like a honeymoon phase.  I loved my job, I loved my house, I love my roommates.  I really felt like I had found my home…if not for forever, for a very long time.

Unfortunately, over the past four weeks or so, an old friend has come to visit.  This old friend is one that I don’t particularly care for and is never invited, but likes to pop up at least once a year or so.  This friend will stay for anywhere to a week to several months.

This old friend is no friend at all.  It is depression.

When I first diagnosed with clinical depression about seven years ago, I was thinking that a few months of therapy and a dose of antidepressants would get me on the right path.  Actually, that worked!  At least, temporarily.  Life doesn’t allow that to last too long though and eventually, depression will come back around.  Sometimes because life hands you stress and other times, it will just sneak up out of nowhere.

That is what is has felt like for me lately.  Seemingly overnight, my coping mechanisms no longer work as well, I lost interest in activities I used to enjoy, and small annoyances become major triggers.  Most people are surprised to learn that I suffer from depression and just how bad it can be because I am so high functioning.  I can really look like nothing is wrong, but I promise that my depression is like a duck sitting on top of the water.  From above the water, it just looks like a duck out for a pleasant float on the lake.  Underneath the surface, a frantic pace of treading water just trying to stay afloat.  This is how I feel when I am depressed.

I feel fortunate that my recent bout seems to be nearing an end, although I know there will be more in the future.  I will manage them as they come, just as I managed this one now.  I also feel fortunate because I have an amazing support system.  This is not something that can be done alone.  You have to have a support system and if you don’t have one…find one.  There are good people out there who want to help.

My support system is my roommates.  They have been so patient and understanding as they watched me cry tears they didn’t understand.  They didn’t grow frustrated when I didn’t want to participate in activities that in the past I would have, rather they found other activities that I did feel up to.  Sometimes, they simply sat and held space for me.  I am eternally grateful.

Our ego often wants to tell us to go it alone in this world.  We don’t need anyone!  We don’t need help!  Your ego is not your friend in this situation.  Send it packing along with your depression.  Ask for help.  It will also be the easiest and the quickest way of finding out who your real friends are.  If someone can’t be there for you when you are low, then don’t allow them to be around for the highs either.

So, this post is a thank you note to my roommates or anyone who has been a support system to someone suffering from depression.

If you yourself are suffering right now, please ask for help.  You deserve it.  It is all going to be ok.  I promise.

London Calling

I recently got to go to London for a business trip, but managed a little site seeing as well.  I traveled with my co-worker Kaydee, who is also a good friend.  We left Houston at 4pm on Wednesday.

 

 

We arrived in London at 7 am (their time) so we were sleep deprived, jet-lagged, and exhausted.  Yet, we couldn’t get into our hotel room until After noon, so we wandered around London in a daze and enjoyed a traditional English breakfast, saw the London Eye, visited Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, and then fell asleep in the hotel lobby (Kaydee was literally in the middle of a game of Candy Crush).

 

It was chilly in London, but the sun was shining until our last day.  We were busy with work most of the rest of the trip, but I did get to visit the Natural History Museum.  We also go to visit the Bond in Motion exhibit where I saw various props and cars from James Bond movies.

 

It was also really cool later when we went out and happened upon the theater where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was being performed.  Wish I could have seen it, but just the view of the theater was spectacular!

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Saturday was our last full day and we were busy with work the whole time.  Our fair was held at the QEII Conference Center which is right across from Westminster Abbey.  It was raining and cold by the time we left that day and we were completely exhausted.

 

For our last night in London, you think we would have wanted a special dinner, but we were so tired that all we managed was to go to the Burger King up the street from our hotel.  Burger King in England is so different from Burger King in the States.  They make mozzarella sticks that ACTUALLY TASTE LIKE MOZZARELLA!  It actually hit the spot for these two weary travelers and we decided, if given the opportunity, we’d make it a tradition to always eat Burger King after the fair.

IMG_0802It was a short trip, but a good one!  I’m happy to be home though and settling back into my routine.  Hope to see you again next year, London!

How to Be Happy: Part 1

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This morning I work up with a message on my heart that I wanted to share.  First things first, are you happy?  Not content, not fine, not ok.  Are you HAPPY?  Do you wake up in the morning with a smile on your face?  Is it still there when you go to sleep at night?  I’m not talking about naively ignoring the tough challenges we as individuals and we as a community face.  I’m talking about doing the best you can to feel as comfortable and happy with your situation as you have it right now.  If you don’t have that right now, it is totally possible.  I’m going to write a series with concrete steps that can help you level up your happiness.

The first step, you have to BE YOURSELF.

It sounds so simple, right?  Just be yourself!  How many times have we heard this in our lives?  As if we just have a switch on our backs that we can flip and turn our real selves on.  It isn’t that simple.

However, you can do action steps every day to get you closer and closer to discovering yourself.  The challenge comes from the fact that we have let the outside world, the voices of parents, teachers, friends, co-workers, social media, TV, movies, magazines, influence our thought patterns and the way we make decisions and live our lives.  So, you’ll need to sell all your belongings and go live in a cave by yourself for six months.  You’ll emerge completely in touch with your truest self!

I’m kidding (although you could try that if you want to aim high!). I don’t think I would be interested in being myself if it meant I couldn’t share and interact with the world.  There’s also nothing wrong with letting those outside influencers in, but they have to be positive influencers!  And you have to be able to discern the difference!

We all have that voice deep inside of us that knows who we are and who we are supposed to be.  However, right now, it might not have a loud voice.  Let’s give it a megaphone.

Here’s the first action step.  For the next few days, whenever you are about to make a decision NO MATTER HOW SMALL, ask yourself, am I making this decision out of fear or out of love?  If you are making the decision out of fear, that is most likely not your truest self.  If you are making it out of love, it probably is.

Try this with everything from big decisions about relationships and family to deciding what to eat or what to wear.  Are you choosing your food out of fear (which can also masquerade as boredom, loneliness, anger, sadness) or out of love (wanting to provide your body with nutrition to strengthen and energize it)?

Try this for a few days.  If you want to send me a message and tell me any reflections on this exercise, I would love to hear about it!

Check back next week for the next action steps.

Thank you for reading!

Snow Day

I loved snow days when I was a kid.  I would spend the whole day outside, sledding, making snow angels, and occasionally running inside for a mug of hot chocolate topped off with marshmallows.

As I got older, when I was in high school, if we had a snow day, I would be inside watching TV.  What a waste of time that was!  I can’t believe the amount of time I have spent watching TV in my lifetime.  It used to be such a pacifier for me, when things were tough just put on a show (even one you’ve seen before) and turn your brain off so you don’t have to feel what you are feeling.  These days, I watch very little TV.  I’m not opposed to kicking back and relaxing.  There are times you need to veg out and turn your brain off for awhile, but when it is being used as a coping strategy because you are avoiding socializing or other problems, its time to reassess!  Do you think anyone looks back on their life and says, “Man, I really wish I had spent more time watching TV!”

Texas got surprised with a couple of “snow” days this week.  It doesn’t take much winter weather to shut Houston down!  We got hit with an icy, wintry mix and I was home from work for two days.  Luckily, we live in the digital age and I was still able to get a lot of work done from home, but the cabin fever definitely hit me anyway!  Normally, I would have spent any non-work time watching TV to pass the hours but I’m making a real effort to challenge myself to find new ways to occupy my time and mind that actually contribute to improving the quality of my life rather than numbing it.

Here are some things I found to do during my “snow” days:

  1. Read a book!  I’m currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now.”
  2. Clean the house.
  3. Purge your closet.  I’m finding most of my clothes are not usable for me anymore because of my weight loss (separate post on this coming soon!). It feels good to go through and pick out things that are no longer useful to use that can be sold, donated, or given to a friend.
  4. Play cards.  If you don’t have anyone to play with, Solitaire is always an option.  Use real cards though, don’t play on a computer or phone!
  5. Get creative!  I like to write poetry, sketch, or make other crafts.
  6. Bake.  I challenged myself to make up a cookie recipe.  My banana/almond/raspberry cookies are a little strange, but they still taste good.  Also, they are 100% vegan!
  7. Get outside if you can!  There wasn’t real snow to play in, but go for a walk and explore.  Just make sure to dress appropriately for the weather.

What do you like to do on a snow day?

Do you still have fun on snow days as an adult?

Thanks for reading!

Will You Be My Friend?

This weekend, I had an amazing time spending time in Dallas.  I’ve driven through Dallas before, but never really visited.  A couple months ago, after I relocated to Houston, I remember that someone I used to work with at camp was living in Dallas now.  Most people would call her Morgan, but to me, this delightful human will always be Moosh (the nickname she used at camp).  I was Moosh’s boss when I first knew her.  She worked for me at camp for two years and although I really enjoyed her as an employee and she really enjoyed me as a boss, we never became friends because it wouldn’t have been appropriate given the perceived power dynamics of a supervisor/employee relationship. However, that’s not the case anymore!  When I realized we both lived in Texas, I reached out to reconnect in what could basically be the equivalent of the way in elementary school you could just walk up to someone and say “Hey, you seem cool.  Do you want to be friends?”  Why can’t we do this as adults?  It is so simple and the payoff is so great!  I asked Moosh if she wanted to be friends and she said yes!  Look at that!  Anyway, we had a fantastic time in (abnormally freezing cold) Dallas.

First we walked around the neighborhood of Deep Ellum and saw interesting sculptures and wall murals.

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Next, we visited the Dallas Art Museum.  I took some photos of some of my favorite pieces.  I really like this one because it reminded me of the platform tents that we had at the camp where I first met Moosh.  It felt very appropriate!IMG_0274IMG_0276IMG_0279IMG_0281IMG_0283IMG_0288

Being as cultured as Moosh and I are, we couldn’t help but notice this classic piece depicting the choreography from Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” music video.  If he liked it then he should have put a ring on it, indeed.IMG_0289

Next we headed to the Perot Science Museum.  Unfortunately, it seemed every family in Dallas decided to visit the Science Museum that day.  I guess it was a good out-of-the-house activity to do with kids on a freezing cold day.  The museum had some good exhibits, but it was very, VERY crowded with tons of young children which made for an overwhelming experience for these introverts.  I’d like to go back sometime when it is a slower day.IMG_0290

This photo is for my dad.  He and I have a very special appreciation for the four states of matter.IMG_0291IMG_0298IMG_0306

See that guy in the middle?  He is living his best life.  I aspire to be like him!IMG_0311

Our favorite exhibit was the one with gems and minerals.  The photos don’t even begin to do these literal gems justice.IMG_0315IMG_0323IMG_0324

We were low on energy after the Science Museum so we stopped at the Cool Haus food truck for a treat.  I highly recommend this food truck.  For an ice cream truck, they even had a delicious vegan alternative!  My vegan ginger cookie was amazing!

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The next morning we had brunch at Mudhen Meat and Greens.  This was an incredible farm-to-table restaurant.  For a refreshing beverage, I recommend the Watermelon Cooler which has watermelon, mint, agave, and club soda.  Anyone visiting Dallas, this restaurant is a MUST STOP.

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Basically, it was a truly amazing weekend and it was so fun getting to hang out with someone who is both an old friend and a new friend.  It really made me realize the great things that come out of a little vulnerability and risk.  If I hadn’t asked to be friends, we never would have had this great weekend!  Sure, it might sound a little weird to (as an adult) just ask someone to be your friend, but it will also be a great experiment to see who can be a great friend.  The ones that react badly to that question are probably not someone you want to be friends with anyway.

So, I hope you’ll reach out to someone and ask them to be your friend!  Maybe it will be me!

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Me Too

This is what I looked like when I was 11 years old.  This is the age I was when I was first sexually abused.

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It actually started around the time I was 10.  An individual that had access to me would try to touch me inappropriately.  I was always able to avoid any actual contact for a long time.  One time, I couldn’t.  I was caught my surprise and I wasn’t strong enough to fight him off.

He came up behind me, pulled up my dress, and plunged his fingers into my underwear.

When I tried to tell an adult that this was happening to me and that this individual, who continued to have access to me, was still attempting to touch me, the adult dismissed me. I was told not to talk about such an unpleasant topic.

For the next four years, he would try to do this again.  Sometimes he would try to fondle my pre-pubescent breasts.  Every time after that first time, I fought him off or prevented him from having access to me to even attempt another act.  If no one else was going to keep me safe, I was going to provide as much safety for myself as I possibly could.

Upon reflection as an adult, it was amazing that I was such a tiny warrior at such a young age that it never happened again.  I’ve always beat myself up for the one time I let my guard down, but I really should be celebrating all the times I triumphed when no one else was there to save me or offer me help.

I couldn’t speak of this for almost fifteen years.  To this day, I’ve only ever told a handful of people.  The pain didn’t end after I started talking about it, but it did change.  There was new pain, such as when I told my dad for the first time.  I could tell he felt responsible that he hadn’t known or kept me safe, so while a part of me wants to keep quiet to prevent that type of pain for people I love, I also know that silence is not the answer.  Silence prevents conversation which prevents healing which prevents education which prevents knowledge which prevents prevention.

I wish I could say that my story is unique, but it happens far more often that one would think.  One in five girls and one in twenty boys has a story like mine.

I hope in sharing my story now, I can have an impact, in some way no matter how small, on this narrative.  Children being kept safe.  Adults intervening because they know what to look for and they understand what the long term effects will be.

If you are reading this and you have a similar story that you are not ready to share, please know that I have so much compassion for you.  I hope and pray that one day you will be ready to share it so that you will feel the incredible lightness of stepping out of the dark shadows of someone else’s demons and into your strength, resilience, and power.  Until that time, just know that you are as brave as anyone that is able to share their story.  We are all in different phases of this journey.  We honor each other through every step of this process.

One in five girls and one in twenty boys.

These numbers are appalling.

Not good enough.

Never good enough until these numbers are zero.

So for now, I say, “Me too.”

I’ll keep saying, “Me too” until we can all say “Never again.”

Thank you for reading.

National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673

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Identity

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I came across this image on Pinterest recently and it really resonated with me.  I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately and what makes us who we really are.  Ultimately, we are the sum of our experiences.  However, this gets more nuanced when you consider that some experiences are the result of choices and some are the result of what has been done TO you.

Anyone that has experienced some level of abuse understands the long lasting effects.  Being a survivor of abuse can leave side effects that manifest for years and years afterwards.  These side effects can be phobias, health problems, anxiety, insomnia, depression, just to name a few.  If you start to live a little bit smaller inside of these side effects, it can start to feel like this is the real you.  YOU don’t like heights or have IBS or needs an Ambien to fall asleep at night.  Your identity can become some entangled with what you CAN’T do that you don’t have any idea what you CAN do or even who you really are.

The idea of having your identity challenged or questioned is extremely unsettling and difficult.  At a certain point, if your identity has become so clearly connected to abuse that you suffered you are dealt a double whammy.  Not only have you experienced a trauma, but if you want to make positive changes and move forward, you have to let go of the person you have been for a long time.  Those types of changes are scary under the best of circumstances.

I wish I knew a magical answer to this problem.  Unfortunately, I don’t.  I think of my personal experience with these issues and the strategies I employed to push through the hard times.  Finding a strong support network that will encourage you even if you are undergoing a metamorphosis into a person they haven’t met before.  Show yourself so much grace and compassion.  Be patient with yourself.  Also, fight!  Fight like hell!  Put up a fight for yourself.  You deserve to be living your best life and not giving up any more of your life to your abusers.  Be strong.  You can get through it and it will always be worth it in the end.

Thanks for reading.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

 

Phone a Friend

I’ve written previously about how tough this past year was for me.  Part of that was releasing old relationships that weren’t serving me anymore.  Sometimes I think we are fearful of this because it is a change and it is sad to no longer be so closely connected to someone that once meant so much to us.  It can also look like being ok when someone wants to release you.  I think the right relationships (familial, romantic, friendships) are in our lives for finite amounts of time and when they no longer add value to your life, it is completely ok to let them go.  The amounts of time may vary…one month…one year…ten years…twenty.  Each relationship is so unique and different and only the two individuals involved can judge when it is no longer adding value to their lives.  Sometimes one person might be ready to walk away when the other isn’t.  This can be extremely painful, but trust your gut because the short term pain is often contributing to some long joy for you.

However, along with releasing the old relationships is the beauty of new ones!  I’ve met some amazing new people this year.  In addition, I’ve been surprised by how many old friends have walked back into my life after many, many years without communication.  My dear friend Katie was one of those.  We were roommates our junior year of college and then completely lost touch for thirteen years.  This past year, she was such a support system to me and I got to be a part of her labor and delivery story with her daughter!  Such a special time!  Now we talk or text daily!

Last night, I reconnected with Kearston.  She was a good friend of mine in college as well.  We bonded in the theater department when we first met eighteen years ago!  My memories of Kearston back then were many laughs.  She was such a class clown!  It was amazing after losing touch for so many years to catch up on life events (having children, career changes, moves) and feel like you were picking up right where you left off.

I write this now as encouragement.  If there is someone you are hesitating to reach out to because you feel like it has been too long, what’s stopping you?  Pick up the phone!

Also, if you are an old friend of mine, I’d love to hear from you!  You never know who is going to walk back into your life and add value.  Keep your heart open and see who circles back around.

I’ll see you tomorrow!