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Mental Health

    regular-and-diet-soda

I recently talked about starting back on Topamax, a migraine prevention medication that has a slew of side effects — one being that it makes carbonated beverages taste awful (flat and gross). When I first started the medication, it tasted awful. I didn’t even buy any Diet Coke for weeks, only drinking one (or less) a day, from a previous trip to the store.

Then one morning I drank one with my (healthy) homemade breakfast taco, and it tasted good again. I thought, oh my god, maybe the medicine isn’t working, but I still haven’t had a migraine in a month. And as glad as I was to welcome my old friend back onto my tastebuds and in my stomach, I was also disappointed. Here I go again, I thought, as my daily intake went up and up. Will I never be rid of this dark elixir?

OK, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I was really hoping to get rid of this habit while on Topamax, while it taste badly and needed to drink a ton of water. I’m still drinking lots of water, but every day I seem to sneak in a little more Diet Coke. I know it’s bad for me — friends and family never let me forget — but it’s been the one of the few bad habits I haven’t seemed to have kicked.

I’ve tried quitting at least 10 times, maybe more. I tried switching to coffee (many different kinds) but to no avail. I tried tea, because I felt I needed some caffeine, but that didn’t last either. I tried going cold turkey while on Topamax multiple times before and cold turkey without. Nope and nope. I’ve tried telling myself that it will eventually kill me, but it’s to care when you *think* you’re young. Even though I’m pushing 40, it’s still hard to care. Sigh.

Medical News Today, which I read a lot, says a growing body of evidence suggests that diet soda consumption correlates with an increased risk of a wide range of medical conditions, including:

  • heart conditions, such as heart attack and high blood pressure
  • metabolic issues, including diabetes and obesity
  • brain conditions, such as dementia and stroke
  • liver problems, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Now, I don’t need an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, stroke or dementia. Really, anything they mention. I have enough health problems as it is.

MNT also says that while the precise relationship between diet soda and medical conditions is uncertain and requires more research, it is clear that people should not see diet soda as a healthful alternative to sugary drinks.

Well, OK. That doesn’t exactly help me now. I guess it’s like anything else hard in life — I just have to get through it. I really have to be committed to it and do my best, like I do with my mental illness. I don’t let myself slide on that anymore, so maybe I can’t let myself slide on this anymore.

Have you quit diet soda before? Have any tips or tricks? Leave them in the comments.

Thanks for listening. Stay in the light.

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I recently sent a meme to one of my friends that said, “I am the friend you have to explain to your other friends before they meet me.” She laughed it off, but I feel it’s so true.

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See, I have baggage. A lot of baggage. I don’t mean to bring it with me where ever I go, but sometimes it just sneaks into my daily life. For example, I have retrograde amnesia. I also have trouble with my short term memory — this is due to the electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) I did for my treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. Sometimes I’ll introduce myself to the same person twice (or three times). It’s hard for me to remember things so I try to write everything down. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s annoying and sometimes I come off rude when really I just can’t remember.

Then there’s my anxiety. When I start to feel I’m not in control, I become irritable and I snipe at people. On a good note, my anxiety makes me show up early every where I go. It makes me plan ahead, and I feel like I’m always prepared. But there are times where my depression takes over and I can’t get those things done. Then am I note only irritable, I’m overly emotional and feel very out of control. I hate feeling like that.

My diagnoses include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Migraine disorder

I feel like I’m missing some, but you get the point. I’m more than my diagnoses, but my behavior is hard to explain when someone doesn’t know what I’m going through.

More recently I started a new med for my migraine disorder. It’s called Topamax, and it has helped immensely. I haven’t had a migraine since I started three or four weeks ago. BUT it has the weirdest side effects and when I explain them to people I feel like a “crazy” person.

  • It makes carbonated beverages taste gross
  • It leaves a weird taste in your mouth
  • I’m not able to sweat when I’m exercising so I have to drink tons of water when my body temp rises
  • I have to drink tons of water, period
  • It causes indigestion
  • It causes memory loss (just what I need)
  • Constant eye twitching
  • And it causes brain fog – I’ve literally forgotten words while I’m talking

There’s so much more.

Because I take a karate class, I had to explain to the instructor about the body temperature thing, and boy did I feel crazy. I’m sure he’s never heard that before. Like when I explain to people I have retrograde amnesia from “shock therapy.” It sounds unbelievable.

I shouldn’t care what people think, and normally I don’t, but sometimes I can’t help think I’m making excuses listing off my limitations — are they really limitations?

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I started a new preventive migraine medication about a week and a half ago (Topamax), and it has not gone smoothly. It’s an older pill, with a lot of side effects. I’ve been on it quite a few times before but have never experienced this many effects.

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First, there’s how carbonated beverages tasting like crap. Fine, who really cares? Then there’s indigestion – another slight annoyance. Then my eye constantly twitching. Also, I can’t sweat when my body temperature rises (say, when I’m doing karate) so I have to take lots of breaks and drink A LOT of water. More annoying. There’s major fatigue and tiredness (I took five naps in one day). Brain fog. Memory loss. My thinking is very slowed. Diarrhea. Oh, and there’s a weird taste in my mouth. Fine.

None of this would matter to me if I hadn’t just have started karate. I started training because I thought it was cool watching my kids. I wanted it for me. I was pumped. I wanted to be physically fit. Then I had to switch to this medicine. I lost my confidence. How was I supposed to tell my instructors — hey I can’t sweat so I have to leave the floor to suck down water every five seconds on top of hey I have retrograde amnesia and also I can’t retain a lot of new information so I need to do private lessons, too. I got issues. And those issues are only mine, I’m sure. But I’ve always hated having them. Some of of exclusion keeping me from being like the others. Keeping me from being healthy — that’s what it is. I’ve always hated hearing, “OMG, you’re so unhealthy. You take too many pills. You’re too young to be this way, etc. “

Cringe.

But I tried to keep my instructors up to date. I tried explaining the best I could. I tried to hang in there until I couldn’t possible go any more. I took my water breaks then got back in there. I wanted to more, yes. But I did enough, and sometimes, that’s what it takes.

That’s what it took yesterday when I earned my first stripe on my white belt. It was not given. It was earned, and I truly feel that way. I have loved getting every bruise on my body. I’ve loved every self-defense move. I’ve loved practicing every round kick (which I’ll continue to do). This is for me. And even though my kids were there (supposed) to be watching me, this was for me. I’m proud of me. But tell you the truth, I could have done without them saying, “Mommy is soooo slow.” or “Mommy is not doing that right.”

I did it the way I was taught and I did it to the best of my abilities. And I could totally kick both their asses, should it come to that. Totally kidding.

Another cool thing is that I see and feel my body changing. I’m getting stronger. I’m trying to condition every day — not to lose weight — but to make my training easier. It’s just going to get harder from here. I like the way it’s changing….how I’m changing. Physically and mentally.

If I can do all that I’m doing plus get a stripe while taking the medication from hell, my depressed, anxious, column-writing, retrograde amnesiac, migraine-having, no-sweating, no-Diet Coke-tasting ass can do anything.

Bring it.

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I was hanging out at my desk this morning, waiting on a Zoom meeting to start. I pulled out one of my drawers, just looking around when I saw my Wellness & Relapse Prevention Plan from the Menninger Clinic on top of some papers. I wrote this plan before I left the psychiatric hospital, as everybody does. It’s mandatory before leaving. I was at Menninger for six long weeks, and I was ready. I couldn’t remember what was inside, so I took a gander.

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It started off by saying that triggers and warning signs of relapse will occur, but by preparing the best we can could help prevent another relapse or depressive episode. It urged you to be honest in your answers, share it with you loved ones and refer to it often. It was in question and answer form.

It covered areas of wellness such as Emotional Wellness, Relationships, Physical Health, Work/School, Spirituality, Financial, Leisure, Self-Awareness/Insight and Addiction Management. It asked what did I look like or act like when I looked healthy in all the areas I just mentioned. Under Physical Health I put that I would exercise, eat healthy, stop drinking Diet Coke, not use food as a coping mechanism, I’d have good hygiene habits, and that I’d appreciate my body for what it is. Sounds good, right?

Then I skipped to my Core Problems, my deepest, darkest secrets. I listed all my diagnoses: Persistent Depressive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder. I listed the negative thoughts that too often cross my mind: I’m a bad mom and wife; I’m a burden to my family; I’ll never be good enough; and I’m worthless.

Next I wrote about short and long-term goals I had socially, emotionally, spiritually and physically. For example, for the social goal, I wanted to volunteer for my kids’ school book fair in the following September (I left the hospital in August). Long term I wanted to have a girls’ night at Alamo Drafthouse every month.

I did the book fair (and met a really good friend!) — I was actually in charge of it that year — and the girls’ nights were at least every other month if not every month.

But other things like, “take a daily walk around the neighborhood, go on a healthier diet, go to the gym three times a week, make an effort to go to the synagogue more often,” things like that didn’t become a habit. Not because they aren’t important, but because life happened when I stepped off those hospital groups. I had a four- and two-year-old to take care of. I had to figure out how to be a healthy me — a wife me, a mom me, a friend me, a daughter me and a me me — in just a few hours a day I had to myself. I had just begun blogging, and I knew that I wanted to write, but I was still lost and overwhelmed with all the working parts I was supposed to incorporate into my “new” life.

But, as I look as this wellness plan, I see that a lot of the goals on here I’ve hit. I may have done it in a number of years or taken a different approach, but I still made it. I still go to therapy every week (every other week now because my therapist says I don’t have to come weekly anymore). I am healthier. I work out each week. I eat a healthier diet. I volunteer. I have my own column in the Caller-Times. And that did not come easily. I monitor my self-talk. I check in with friends.

And get this: I can ask for help. I can say, “can you take this off my plate, please?” and not feel the slightest guilt about it.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was filling out that Wellness Plan. I didn’t know what challenges would occur or how hard it would be. I just knew it would be hard. Real hard.

But was nothing compared to hitting rock bottom and being sent to a hospital, away from your friends, husband and children (and other family).

I would’ve never dreamed I’d be this happy. I still have bad days; we all do. That just makes the good ones all the more sweet.

Here is a summary of my strengths from my Wellness Plan:

“I’m grateful for my kids. I’m a good writer. I’m grateful for my husband. I’m compassionate and empathetic. I’m a good friend. My cherished moments include both of my children and my wedding. I have more work to do here.”

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Last week my husband and I took a trip to Turks and Caicos to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. It was totally amazing; I can’t wait to go back. It was definitely hard to readjust to our routine and structure today, but we did it.

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But I can’t stop thinking about the vacation. I’m not trying to relive it; I’m just going over how different I was there. I packed a different dress to wear ever day, heels and sandals. I did my hair and my makeup, something I rarely do in every day life. I was put together, chic, and most importantly, I was confident. So confident. I wore a different swimsuit every day, too. Including a two-piece. I didn’t use a coverup either, something I always do around pools/beaches.

I just felt so fantastic. I even drank a few daiquiris, something that rarely happens also. I remember telling David that Vacation Heather was fun, confident and relaxed. He replied that he loved Vacation Heather.

So I’ve been wondering — why can’t I be that version of myself here at home? Surely there’s a way to merge the two. I realize that it can’t be exactly the same. After all, I’m taking care of two children and volunteering for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi. I don’t get paid, but it IS work. Then there’s bills, taking the kids to karate and waking up at 5 a.m. just to list a few.

My husband also mentioned that when he comes home, I’m already in my sweats and he doesn’t get to see me in “real clothes.” I have to admit, that’s my favorite time of day: coming home after picking up the kids/going to karate and putting on my comfortable PJs or lounge wear. I have to balance this love with David’s need to see me in real clothes. I don’t want that to sound like he’s bossing me around or anything. I think it’s good that he sees me in nice clothes; I certainly like him when he dresses nicely.

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So today I wore a yellow blouse, jeans and nice sandals. I put a beautiful headband on, and I feel good…confident. But adding Vacation Heather is more than wearing makeup and dresses everyday — I need to alter my attitude. I need to relax, especially when it comes to the kids. I want to yell less and be more laid back. My depression and anxiety don’t make that easy, but there’s room to loosen the reins on everything, I think.

I will make an effort to look nice. I’ll put on a dress because it makes me feel light and sexy. I have to remember that I’m a human being, not just a mom in the trenches of parenthood. I’m more than sweatpants and PJs. I deserve to feel good about myself and to show off my personality. I’m more than my depression and anxiety. Sometimes I feel like I eat, breathe and sleep mental health and I get caught up in my conditions, treating them like a ball and chain I’m lugging around, but that has to stop.

From now on, I’m going to be me — the real me who celebrates herself, no matter if she’s on a tropical island or in Corpus Christi.

And I can’t wait to see it.

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This morning was slow. I took the kids to school, worked on a couple things for NAMI and made #MentalHealthMonday videos. Now that I’m typing that, it doesn’t seem like such a slow morning.

After I did all that I turned on the TV and thought I’d enjoy some chill time before my noon meeting. Except I couldn’t enjoy it. I keep thinking that I was squandering my time, and there were things for me to do that I didn’t realize. A blanket of anxiety came over me, and I started to get that uncomfortable feeling in my chest that tags along with anxiety. I kept checking my phone, then Facebook, then back to my email.

I tried exploring the emotions that popped up. Why do I feel anxious? What would help me right now? That’s about as far as I got because then the word “squander” came to mine. Ouch. I hate that word. I’ve been accused of squandering in the past: money, time, energy, etc., so I was sensitive to it.

But was I really squandering time if I have all my “work” completed. Now, I shouldn’t have put work in quotations, but I’ll deal with that later. What’s wrong with watching a little TV and enjoying the silence that blooms once the kids are at school. Later today I’ll have a noon meeting, I’ll pick up my son at 1:45 p.m., then my daughter at 3 p.m. Then it’s karate class at 4 p.m. Mondays are always big days, so why not take a break now while I can get it?

Why must we keep ourselves busy? Most of the time I don’t like to be busy, although I admit it (sometimes) can help when I’m anxious and depressed.

I guess a lot of us measure our worth, our days, by productivity. It’s hundreds of years in the making, but the belief that you are success based on productivity is crap, especially if you have a mental health condition.

Depression and anxiety often dictate my schedule and how my dad will go. Sometimes I want to stay in bed or don’t have the energy to be around people, no matter who they are. And that’s okay. Successful days to me look like taking a shower, brushing my teeth and not yelling at the kids. Sometimes that’s a lot. Hell, sometimes I can’t even do that. For anyone with a serious mental illness, things that are seen as simple tasks can look daunting, like climbing a mountain. We don’t control it— we can manage it, but there’s no cure, and we’re definitely not doing it on purpose.

When I was a lot sicker, just a few years ago, taking a shower and brushing my teeth seemed like monumental acts of greatness that I just couldn’t manage. I’m doing better now, but I still struggle with it sometimes.

Can’t we measure our days by something else? Presence, self-care, being kind to ourselves and taking breaks? I realize there are a lot of people who don’t agree with that, but that’s old school thinking. Our generation is more gentle, I think. The stigma of mental illness, while presence, isn’t as strong as it was with our parents and their parents.

We can define our days how we want.

If all you did today was roll out of bed, that’s something. You are more than your productivity.” You are worthy and more.

And so am I.

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I hear these words far too much, and I’m here to tell you that if you have anxiety (multiple forms), you can’t help but worry.

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For example, I noticed that my left breast had a red spot and I could feel a tiny knot/lump. It hurt a little. This has happened before — I had to get a mammogram then a biopsy. Luckily, it was benign, but the radiologist told me that I should start getting mammograms because my breast tissue is so dense.

Looking back, it wasn’t a huge deal. Was I worried? Yes. Did I ruminate? Oh, yeah. And now that it’s happening again, it seems like my anxiety disorder is in overdrive. Since discovering it, I’ve Googled everything from “dense breast lump” to “lump in breast” and “breast cancer lump.”

I feel like it’s normal for me to do that, but then my brain takes it to another level. I start to think about getting cancer, and losing my hair, and radiation, and whether I’ll be able to work as I’ve been doing. I texted the picture of the red spot to a friend and kept repeating myself, “It’s probably nothing. It’ll be like last time, right?” Then I awaited her reply, searching for assurance. I did the same to another friend.

I realize that it is probably nothing, that I’m overreacting. I also know that my brain is an asshole, always exploring the worst case scenarios. This is what I hate about anxiety. It’s relentless. And what also sucks is knowing that there are people out there who can really tuck an issue away and worry about it later. Or not at all.

It’s important to know a couple of things: when someone has an anxiety disorder, they can’t control it. Also, it takes a physical toll.

The Mayo Clinic reports the following symptoms:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”

Physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Nervousness or being easily startled
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritability

Some people think that anxiety is “all in our heads,” but for me, and millions of others, it affects our everyday life and relationship to others. It’s difficult to deal with. It’s difficult to control with medicine. Believe me, I’ve tried. I even got addicted to Klonopin a few years ago. It’s pretty easy to do.

The Mayo Clinic also reports the following:

Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs along with other mental health problems, which can make diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Some mental health disorders that commonly occur with generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide
  • Substance abuse

Unfortunately it’s not something that goes away. Learning healthy coping skills helps, as well as therapy. It can be manageable, but it’s still a major bummer to deal with it. To say the least.

My whole point during this rant is that I can’t control my anxiety. I try my best, I take medicine and I go to therapy but it’s still there. It’s like my brain just wont turn off. It’s non-stop intrusive thoughts, and I rarely get breaks. It’s just fucking dark in here, y’all.

I know there are others like me, and I’d just like to say that you’re not alone. I urge you to seek help, such as support groups and therapy.

I’d like to hear from you guys and ask what you do to manage your anxiety?

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening. Stay in the light.

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In the past week my son has hit me twice and bitten me, bringing on a dark purple bruise on my arm. All were done during a meltdown. He screams and cries, indignant and out of control. The slightest thing can set him off.

Combined with his hyperactivity and lack of focus, I knew he had ADHD long before a psychologist recently diagnosed him last week.

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The doctor said Eli’s ADHD isn’t severe, just a “mild case.” It doesn’t feel mild, to me or Eli’s teacher, who has been so supportive through this journey. She told my husband and I that we should consider getting him tested late last year. I had already seen him in somewhat of a classroom setting and he couldn’t sit still. He didn’t look anyone in the eye because he was so distracted by the toys, books and desks.

I haven’t observed him in his classroom, so I don’t experience the worst of his hyperactivity. But I have witnessed his impulse control many, many times. I’ve been hit, slapped, screamed at and more. He blows in my face because he knows it will annoy me, but he apologizes for all of this behavior soon after he calms down.

I realize he can’t control it. He doesn’t mean to do it; he just needs to figure out how to control his emotions, which is hard for a 5-year-old, nevertheless one with ADHD.

It would be easy to take all of this personally. When his teacher first brought ADHD up, I felt terribly guilty. I was so sure Eli was experiencing this because of my diagnoses — two types of depression, anxiety and a personality disorder. I went home and googled it, sure enough ADHD kids often have mothers with mood disorders. Obviously I don’t want him to struggle with this. I’ve struggled almost my whole life, and it’s no picnic.

I know it’s not my fault, but it’s hard to shake the guilt and shame that all moms experience.

The only thing to do is learn everything I can, modify our parenting, consult experts and just accept it.

I have to accept it. I have to accept that both my children may have inherited the illnesses I have. It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault. It’s not anybody’s fault.

I’ll do everything in my power to learn more and help him.

But I need to remember: In order to help him I have to work on myself, make sure I’m not pouring from an empty cup. I have to provide structure and routine. I have to set boundaries and actually stick to them.

I’m in recovery when it comes to my mental illnesses. Recovery doesn’t mean I have to be perfect, just that I’m always trying to grow.

I imagine Eli and I will grow together, be stronger because of the paths we’ll walk.

I know in my heart that he’s still the same sweet, loving little boy he was before the diagnosis. He just has his moments.

Lord knows I have mine.

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I spent my summers in high school and college at my parents’ house alone (for the most part). I loved it. I remember I would grab some Chick-fil-a and eat it in from of the TV as TLC’s What Not to Wear came on. I loved that show and was fascinated with the makeover aspect. I had gained a lot of weight in high school, then lost it in college and would try to glean wardrobe tips from the show. Good times.

Recently I searched how to stream the show, and alas, I found it on Hulu. The particular season I’m watching is 19 years old. Holy crap. While the clothes are a little outdated, I still enjoy it. Except for one thing — Clinton and Stacy are downright mean, at times! It strikes a sharp contrast from Queer Eye, which I’m also watching.

I hate the way they make fun of the guests on the show and how push the hair stylist is. In my opinion, how you style your hair is so personal. It can be a security blanket, but what the hell is wrong with that? Back off, Nick!

I love the episodes where the guest actually enjoys themselves, but more times than not, they hosts beat all the creativity and comfort out of them, not always showcasing what makes them unique.

Have I gone soft?

Spoiler alert: I’ve always been soft.

I’ll admit that recently I’ve tried to dress better but only to feel better about myself. It makes me feel more confident, which is hard for me (thanks to body dysmophic disorder). I can’t help but project my feelings on the guests on What Not to Wear. I want to shake them and say, “Don’t listen to them! You do you! You’re perfect the way you are.” The same thing I should tell myself.

We don’t need to dress alike. We’re all different shapes and in different places in our lives. I love that my hair is big, frizzy and wavy (adding about two inches to my height, lol). I love my shirts with mental health slogans — Mental Health Matters, It’s Cool to Go to Therapy, etc). I love my leggings and oh my god I love my Uggs. That’s okay. I like bright colors and baggy clothes even though I know Clinton and Stacy would tell me that adds volume. Screw it, add that shit on. I love fun socks and underwear and my many patterned headbands.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to show out, too, but that’s rare.

Maybe I’m overanalyzing this revered show of mine, but that tells me I’ve evolved from who I was nearly 20 years ago. I love myself more. I’m more accepting of myself. I’m not anywhere near done with my story, but it’s better than I started.

Progress, no matter how little, is still progress.

 

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This past week went by so fast. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is coming up. but I’m excited. I’m even more excited to go get a Hanukkah bush (Christmas tree) with the kids and decorate the house. This is my favorite time of the year, and I’m really enjoying the cooler weather and holiday vibes.

In other news, I’ve been working on a new website for the past year or so and it’s finally going live this coming week. It looks good; a lot better than my plain blog now. I’ll announce when it goes live so you guys can take a look.

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I’ve been struggling lately, but I’m confident that I can push through without getting an ECT. We’ll see. I’m really trying hard to heal right now. I’m examining my core beliefs and trying to shed that person I became to survive to become a stronger person. A new, better version of myself.

I hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving. Stay safe and healthy, and as always, stay in the light.

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