Happy Birth Month

I spend most of my days (Monday through Friday) asking people to verify their birth dates to either give them test results, complete their appointment intake, discuss treatment options, or talk about anything confidential. Birthdays are bitter-sweet for many people. It’s a day to mark when our earthly journey began and to celebrate the lives we have lived so far along with the life we have yet to live. As you get older, birthdays sometimes become lackluster and lose their appeal. Many people decide not to celebrate them at all. I have always been a birthday enthusiast and celebrate the whole month of September as my “birth month”, but as I have gotten older (my last birthday in particular), I found it difficult to get excited about the day’s arrival.

When you are a kid, birthdays mean gifts, parties, and attention. When you reach the age of ten, you are finally “in the double digits”. Being a twelve year old means being a preteen. Thirteen is the beginning of teenage years. At sixteen you can get your driving permit. Being eighteen years old means that you are “officially an adult” and being twenty-one makes you legally able to drink and go to clubs (not that that has ever been my choice location to inhabit). But after that, birthdays kind of lose their meaning to some people. I have seen women worry about their 30th birthday approaching…and then their 40th. Working with women who are older than me means that I have heard all about “the change” that is menopause and any mid-life crisis that may arise. We focus so much on youth and beauty that sometimes it can be overwhelming to have your birthday as a reminder that your youth is slipping away.

Whenever I tell someone about my over-the-top celebration of my birthday, they are shocked and ask why. Let me tell you why…Because every year that I get to celebrate my birthday is another year that I made it out of this crazy whirlwind alive. It’s another year of love, laughter, happiness, tears, sadness, anger, frustration, heartbreak, excitement, growth, and so much more that I have accomplished. It’s another year of meeting new people, learning new things, and spending time with the people that I hold dearest to my heart. Sure, I am getting older, but why is that a bad thing? Some people aren’t lucky enough to ever make it to my age. I know that I almost didn’t. I could have been stuck as my sixteen or twenty-year-old self in the memories of those I have met, but instead I get to celebrate the life that I am so incredibly fortunate to live. I get to kiss my husband goodbye every morning, be frustrated and then in awe of my Mia puppy, pay bills for a house I call a home, and do my best to help the people around me. No, the sun doesn’t shine brightly every day, and yes, there may be rain clouds that curtain my perspective at times, but I am so grateful to be able to have those bad days because that means that I know what good days feel like too.

So this is my plea to you…please celebrate your birthday. Hell, celebrate your birth month, because life is too short to care about being older and too precious to not appreciate the little things. You have made it another year here on this planet and that’s worth celebrating.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Media Beware

We are our own worst critics. I have met so many women (in my personal life, professional life, and through my photography) that see themselves in the mirror in a much different light than the rest of us see them. Why is that?

How we view the world is largely impacted by what we surround ourselves with. Social media, movies, magazines, advertisements, and the people around us are large influences in our self-image.

Last year I realized that I was following a person on social media that are beautiful and kind, but for some reason would trigger bad thoughts about myself. I tried to adjust my frame of mind, but I was still struggling with self-image when seeing this person’s posts and I decided that it was time to unfollow her profile. I had decided that my mental health was more important than viewing the images of someone I didn’t really know. At first I felt guilty, but then I realized that it was the best decision for me.

A lot of the movies that are screened involve a love interest that is thin and tanned. Magazines include covers with women in revealing clothing to show their petite bodies. Advertisements include celebrities that very obviously train regularly to achieve a particular body shape. Many people (men and women) either repeatedly verbalize their own body insecurities or mimic others due to their bodies. Although all of these women are gorgeous, only seeing one or two body shapes being celebrated continuously can negatively affect anyone’s self-esteem and you need to decide what is/are the most important change(s) that need to be made to improve your mental health.

It’s okay to admit that something in your life affects your mental health. What isn’t okay is to ignore how it makes you feel and continue to allow those things to negatively affect you. You deserve better than that.

Take care of yourself.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Help Yourself to Help Others

Being busy can be a great thing, but it can also be a dangerous habit. I have always been a person who has a million things going on at one time. I love being busy, but it felt like I got to the point where my identity/self-worth was correlated to how busy I was. I didn’t have time to step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy life.

I’ve slowly cleared my plate of extracurricular activities because I am trying to focus on myself more and outside things less.

It’s been bittersweet. I have been incredibly grateful to have the time to work on myself, but I also feel empty at times. Over the years, I have learned to correlate my self-worth with how busy I am. If I’m not filling all of my time with productive activities, I tend to feel like I am wasting my time. This is something that I am working on in my life.

So let’s fast-forward to yesterday. I have been sick for over a week and yesterday it got worse. I ended up seeing a provider in my office at the end of my shift and was sent home. My stubborn self went back into work today just to be sent home when I get there. I was honestly uninterested in going home. I told my manager that I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t know what I would do all day and she reminded me that rest is sometimes just as important as productivity.

If we are going to be the best versions of ourselves, we need to know when it’s time to relax and rest. Our body and mind need that valuable time to recuperate (especially when we are sick) so we can give our best self out to the world.

Have you ever been on an airplane? Even if you haven’t, I’m sure you know about their safety speech that is given before each flight. In the event of issues with air pressure when in flight, oxygen masks are released. They tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others because if you can’t breathe, you won’t be able to help others.

This is the same logic that they teach you for shooting situations at hospitals. They teach us that our firsts priority is to run out of the situation. If we are killed, we can’t help to treat the injured when the situation is diffused.

This is something that I have to work on. Sure, I was out of work for one day, but I wouldn’t have been incredibly productive today at work with how tired and short of breath I was feeling. Instead of ending up in the hospital and out of work for an extended period, I took one day to start recovery.

So take that sick day or mental health day if you need it. You can’t help others if you are not well yourself.

Oh, and being busy doesn’t equal being successful. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. You are strong, but you are also human and there are only so many hours in the day.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Choose Happiness

I don’t know about you, but I look  forward to garbage day. It’s the day that we rid our home of the trash that we have collected over the past week. I always feel more relaxed on those days (Thursdays) because I feel like my life is less cluttered. This got me thinking…what if I could treat every day like garbage day? No, I don’t mean that I want to put trash bags on the curb every day and pretend that the truck picks them up. What I mean is that maybe our physical trash is more like our emotional trash than we realize.

I want 2019 to be the year that I really buckle down and work on myself. I’m slowly learning that the “issues” in my life are largely perceptual. I tend to have a negative perception on certain things in my life and it often results in frustration. So what would happen if I made a conscious decision to not allow those things in my life to affect me so greatly?

Today was my first day toward a less stressful lifestyle. I kept to myself the best that I could – with the least amount of sarcastic remarks that I could handle. Whenever I felt myself getting frustrated, I would close my eyes, take a deep breath in, envision myself breathing in ocean air while watching the waves, exhale, and then open my eyes. And guess what…it worked. When I opened my eyes, I felt calm and knew that I could tackle whatever was coming my way.

It was almost like a mini vacation that lasted only a moment, but helped me to recenter myself.

A coworker of mine has been working on self-peace too. Her uncle recently passed away and she states that has made her feel like a change is needed. Honestly, seeing her at peace has motivated me to be more aware of my emotions. We are both very excitable people and I’ve been thinking to myself “if she can do it, maybe I can too”.

I don’t remember who said it, but I do recall someone telling me at an early age that hatred and anger only hurt the person who feels it. Feeling frustrated in a situation will only affect me negatively and will do nothing at all to change the issue. So here I am, twenty-three-years-old,  feeling as if I am learning how to be myself all over again. It’s honestly an exciting feeling.

I can be anyone I want to be and right now all I want to be is happy.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Outgoing Introvert

I always felt as if I didn’t fit into a category of introvert or extrovert. I thought that if I wasn’t one or the other – then what was I? It takes me a little while to figure people out and get comfortable with them, but once I know you and like you…you can’t get me to be quiet. I’m sarcastic and energetic, but can be analytical and calculating too. I don’t put myself out there to meet new people, but I do hold those that I know closely. Sometimes I am spunky and other times I’m reserved.

Recently I heard someone talking about a book that they read about parenting a spirited child. She said that the book outlined what it means to be an introvert versus an extrovert. This is the kicker: it’s not about how you are around other people, it’s about how you recharge yourself. That made complete sense to me. Some people find comfort and inner peace by being surrounded by other people while others need time to be alone.

This had me reflecting a lot on my life.  When I have had an overwhelming day, I don’t want to talk or be touched or be around other people – I want to have space to reflect on my day and boost my energy. Once I feel relaxed and recharged, I am ready to face what life has coming my way. And that’s okay. Oh, and it’s okay to be an extrovert too! And it’s okay to be a little bit of both.

Ultimately it’s not about fitting into a category and knowing your place in the world, but instead it’s about self-actualization and knowing yourself.

Do you know what makes you emotionally well? What helps you to recharge?

Take care of yourself and find what makes you happy.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

I’m a Pusher, Cady

Have you seen the movie “Mean Girls”? If not, where have you been the past ten years?! Do you remember the part where the teacher tells Cady that she is “a pusher” and wants Cady to do her best? (And then Cady turns the teachers words around to make it sound like she’s a drug dealer.) Anyway, I’m a pusher (but not a drug pusher). I always push myself to work harder, longer, and better. I expect myself to function at my peak performance from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. No pressure..

It’s great to have high expectations for yourself and to work to a high standard, but everyone has a limit and it’s important to recognize when you are reaching your limits and begin to stretch yourself too thin. The last few weeks have been incredibly tough for me with deaths in the family and trying to buy a house. The past week or so, I have realized that I am starting to feel emotionally and physically drained. I can feel myself reaching my limit and I worry that my mental health will be negatively affected. So what will I do? I have been trying to take a moment for a deep breath when I feel myself getting overwhelmed. I remind myself that this feeling is temporary and it will pass.

I was hoping to get a part time job on the weekends (my days off), but I am going to give myself grace and patience. I need to focus on taking care of myself right now while I am dealing with this stressful time in my life instead of trying to be the most productive person possible. If I don’t take care of myself, how am I supposed to take care of the people around me? If I am already stretched thin, how can I find more of myself to help others?

One of the most important things that I have learned in the past five years is to recognize when I am pushing myself too much and how to help myself. Sometimes it just takes a moment to close my eyes and take a deep breath, but sometimes it takes a few hours (or even a day) to let myself relax and do something that I enjoy to recharge my energy. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Just because you can’t see your emotions and stress doesn’t mean that those things don’t matter.

Stress affects everyone differently, but it has the potential to not only affect your mental well being, but also your physical health. When I was about fourteen years old I had some stomach issues. I went to a GI specialist and he found an ulcer in my stomach after completing an endoscopy. He said the ulcer was from stress and he was shocked that someone at my age had enough stress to affect my body in that way. Stress can make your hair fall out, give you a rash, elevate your blood pressure, lower your immune system,…just to name a few.

Start paying attention to your body and how certain situations affect you. Take a mental note when you feel frazzled and if you feel like you are emotionally unwell. Is there something you can do to alleviate the stress?

It’s okay to say no if you feel like you are stretching yourself too thin. Hell, it’s okay to say no just because you don’t want to do something.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Conflicted Feelings

Yesterday was an incredibly emotional day for me.

It all started with us house-hunting. We finally got to see the home in-person that we have been looking at online and we fell in love. We put an offer on it and eventually, after some discussion, we agreed on a price. It was a very exciting moment.

On our way home, my brother called. Our great-grandma (dad’s grandma) is actively dying from pneumonia. The doctor called and said she won’t last another two days with us on Earth. When I got home, my brother picked me up and we went to the nursing home. We met my dad (whom I have not seen in years) and great-grandfather in the parking lot and walked in together. It broke my heart to see how painful this was for my grandpa. She doesn’t remember him anymore and she only moved her arms to move his hand away. Dementia is a horrible disease. It not only hurts the patient, but the family too. They watch their loved one die long before their heart stops beating.

My dad’s father is at the same nursing home, so we went to visit him too. When we got there, a woman (I’m assuming another resident) was sitting in her wheelchair beside his bed and holding his hand. Oh, and he had the nerve to talk about my grandma (his wife) calling and talking with her. All while holding this woman’s hand. It was one of the most infuriating and uncomfortable moments of the week.

Then I had to rush home, change, and go to my Grandma Pat’s viewing. She looked beautiful – the funeral home did a great job. The floral arrangements were gorgeous. The slideshow of photos that I helped my mom with shown on a screen in the back of the room. The photo collages we put together the night before were displayed throughout the room. It was a good way to commemorate a great woman.

When the viewing was finished, my brother took my husband and I out to one of our favorite local Indian restaurants. It was nice to have time with two of my favorite people.

At this point, I felt sick and tired. My nose is running, I’m sneezing, my throat hurts – my whole body hurts, and I have started to cough. My brain feels like it’s in a fog. I think stress has affected my immune system and a virus took advantage of this opportunity.

Some days are more emotional than others. Some days will be great and others will be horrible. Honestly, some moments will be wonderful and others will be horrifying. It was such a conflicting day for me. It’s okay to be stressed out, but do what you can to take care of yourself. Don’t let one bad moment take over your whole day – don’t let one bad day take over your whole week. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with the things that are happening. They too shall pass. Be in the moment, but also allow yourself to take a step back and observe a situation. No matter how impossible it may seem, things will get better.

Live one moment at a time. Every day is a new opportunity to live your best life. Keep pushing yourself and keep moving forward. We all have our own struggles to get past, but we are stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Keep Moving Forward

I know I’ve posted a lot about how difficult winter can be for someone who struggles with mental illness, but today I want to write a little more.

My first admission to a psych ward was when I was sixteen years old. I don’t want to go in detail because I’m scared to trigger someone, but I was in a bad place emotionally. It was December 20th, 2011. Ironically, I’m writing this on the same date seven years later. My anxiety was preventing me from sleeping more than two or three hours per night and it lead to a psychosis. I was hearing, seeing, and feeling things that weren’t there. I was terrified that those things would hurt me if I told anyone, so I dealt with it for a while before I broke down. I was admitted to a children’s psych ward and was inpatient for a month while they stabilized me on medications. I was angry at my parents for sending me there. I missed Christmas and New Years at my family’s house. I missed weeks of school. I missed my anniversary with my then boyfriend. But my family missed my funeral. My family didn’t have to miss me.

When I got out of the hospital, I switched schools. We thought that changing schools would fix me and there wouldn’t be problems anymore (I’ll save more of that connection for another post). It helped for a while.

During my senior year of high school, a friend committed suicide. He wasn’t my best friend or someone I hung out with all of the time, but he was a friend. He was someone who always knew when something was wrong, even if we hadn’t talking in weeks, and would make sure that I was okay. And when he needed someone, I wasn’t there. I didn’t even realize how badly he was hurting. He was always the funny guy, the person who could make anyone laugh. That was a tough time for our whole community. I was in shock. I couldn’t talk for days. For me, it hurt that he died, it hurt that I didn’t help him, but it also hurt because I realized how I would have made the people around me feel if I had ended my life. I promised that I would never again do something to hurt myself.

For a while I did really well. I’m talking years that I never self harmed or had suicidal ideations.

This next part isn’t as clear for me. I remember waking up in a different psych ward on December 20th several years later. What I do remember from the few days before that is just a compilation of stories that other people told me. This was the last time I have seen my father. He was there when I woke up at the hospital and he told me how selfish I was. I told him to leave and never talk to me again. He listened. The guy I was dating at the time never visited because he relapsed and went back to prison (after stealing money from me). I felt horrible. I felt alone.

To be discharged, I had to move back in with my mom and her husband. I returned to work a few weeks later and that’s when my now husband and I started hanging out. So much has changed since then, but I will never forget everything that I learned. I am so incredibly grateful that I wasn’t successful at committing suicide. I wouldn’t say my life is perfect (nobody’s life is), but it’s pretty damn good. I never would have thought I’d go back to school to be a nurse and get married. I never thought I would be in a relationship that builds me up instead of tearing me down.

There is so much about the future that is unknown. Things may seem unbearable now, but trust me when I say it’s worth it to keep moving forward. The darkness will eventually slip away and a better day will be on the horizon.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

It’s in the Genes

The older I get, the more I realize that mental illness is something that a lot of people in my family struggle with. I’m not just saying “my family is weird” because honestly I think all families are in their own way, but there are a lot of diagnosed (and some undiagnosed) mental illnesses that have taken advantage of the people I love.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one-in-five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. Additionally, many studies find that having relatives with mental illness can put you at a higher risk for having a mental illness yourself.

Growing up, I always knew that my father’s mother was different than the other adults in my life. She has never been able to take care of herself and has always been socially inept. When I was a teenager and originally diagnosed with Dysthmia and generalized anxiety, the conversation started with my mom about my paternal grandmother. I eventually had the opportunity to ask my father about her medical issues and the only answer he had for me was “she is bat-sh** crazy.” Mental illness has never been understood or accepted on his side of the family.  He told me that she has mental illness, but he doesn’t know what diagnosis she has.

As I became an adult and was a part of “adult conversations”, I realized that other members of my family have O.C.D., generalized anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and/or addiction. On one hand, I was relieved to find out that I was not the only one struggling with mental illnesses in my family. On the other hand, I was frightened that this is something I could pass down to my children in the future.

Realizing how much distress my mental illness has caused me and my family, I worried that my children won’t have a chance to escape it. Then I realized that although we each struggle with mental illness, our lives are still full of love and happiness. We still have opportunities, experiences, and achievements. Our lives still have meaning and they are worth living.

Mental illness is still a taboo for a lot of people, but it’s a common occurrence among adults and children alike. Chances are, there is someone(s) in your life that struggle with mental illness. Have an open mind and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to understand (or like) what they say, but it is a very real thing to them and you should validate that. Accept their fears and support their journey to wellness.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Addictive Behaviors

Drinking coffee has become such a normalized thing in society. Some people can’t start their day without it. Friends gather at a cafe to drink a cup of joe and catch up with each other’s lives. When did this beverage become such a staple in our lives? Coffee contains caffeine (even decaf products contain trace amounts of caffeine) which is a stimulant. Your body actually becomes addicted to the substance and dependent on it to function correctly. I’m not judging; for years I consumed the drug (yes, you read that right, caffeine is considered a drug).

When I was younger, I used fat burning pills that were practically just capsules of caffeine. I would have tremors, hypoglycemia, nausea, and irritability, but I stupidly thought that a faster metabolism was more important. News flash, it crashed my metabolism in the long term – I feel like after I stopped taking them, I gained whatever weight I lost plus some.

When I switched from a second shift job to a first shift position, I started drinking coffee. This also caused issues with tremors and nausea. I would only drink one cup per day, but it still affected my body. When I first started my blog, I wrote about the episode of chest pain that I experienced. After that day, I was terrified to drink coffee and decided that it was time to quit. Boy-oh-boy, I did not realize how accustomed to caffeine my body had become. Once I stopped indulging, I started having horrible headaches. My head would be pounding all day and I felt incredibly grumpy. My body was detoxing from the caffeine and I went through withdrawals. My body is very sensitive (hence all of the medication allergies and the affects of caffeine), so I should really be cautious with what I put in my body.

When I stopped drinking coffee, I also limited my alcohol consumption drastically. I have never been a big drinker, but we would go out from time-to-time to a bar and indulge in a couple drinks. In the last two months I have only drank twice. I honestly shouldn’t be drink at all. I am happy to say that I haven’t even wanted to drink alcohol recently.

Addiction is an issue that many people in my family have struggled with, so I should be especially aware. Growing up, my father had an issue with drinking alcohol. It was a big strain on my parents’ marriage. Shortly after they separated, my mom met her now-husband who also had an issue with alcohol consumption. Both of my grandfathers had the same issue. So does one of my great-uncles. Let’s just say that I have a lot of not-so-great childhood memories that were due to alcoholism. I don’t think that addiction is specifically hereditary, but I do think that having addicts as closely related family members can increase someone’s likelihood of becoming an addict themselves.

Additionally, I think that some people are more susceptible to addictive behaviors. I guess you can say that I believe some people have “addictive personalities” and I’m one of them. I become obsessed with things easily. Whether it’s photography, crocheting, nicotine, coffee, sugar, food, running…I get hooked. I am an all-or-nothing kind of person and I realize that it’s something I will fight against my whole life. When I started photography, I devoted every free moment of my time to photo sessions, editing, and research. Exercise has been an addiction of mine on and off for years. I will go from not exercising at all to exercising every day. For a while, I was running three or more miles per day plus weight training several  days a week. The same thing happened when it came to eating – whether it was excessive food consumption or minimal food consumption (let’s save that for another post).

This year I have focused a lot of energy toward maintaining balance in my life. No more caffeine and no more nicotine. I have been enjoying the things that I love (food, photography, crocheting, writing, and reading) in moderation and without becoming obsessed.

Are you someone who struggles with obsessive and addictive behaviors? Balance is key to a happy and healthy lifestyle. You aren’t alone and you can do this. Take every day in stride and don’t be too hard on yourself when you have setbacks. Nobody is perfect and progress is all that matters.

Every day is a new opportunity to live a better life.

Love Always,

Elizabeth