Living Your Truth

Your new life

Letting go has never been my strong point…and there’s a tremendous amount of loss that comes with that territory.

But there’s also a tremendous amount of learning, growth, and expansion waiting on the other side of that. Change is constant, and if you try to deny and resist it, you’ll find yourself repeating the same cycles that keep you from moving forward.

Recognizing and working on the parts of yourself that need to heal and change can be messy….and uncomfortable….and hard.

And sometimes you come out a different person than you were before. And there will be people….people you love…. who treat you differently.  You’ll be criticized. You’ll be misunderstood.  And there will be relationships that will never be the same. 

I’ve been learning this in the most painful way.

The thing is…. a lot of us say we’ll love and support our family and friends no matter who they are or what they do.  And I believe everyone truly means that when they say it.  The problem is….when shiz gets real and we actually have to do it…a lot of us don’t know how.

Everything that’s going on inside you looks different than what people have always known, and many feel scared, confused, and even threatened by that change.  A lot of times as those scary, confusing, and threatening feelings surface, they’re processed and projected in the form of criticisms (obvious or subtle), judgements, dissatisfaction and condemning. 

But here’s the thing…. It’s important to understand that the source of all those unpleasant reactions is FEAR. 

Fear indicates that you really care about something. 

These people love and care about you deeply….but fear often distorts the message of those loving and caring feelings and it’s translated into a number of any one of those unpleasant reactions above ⤴️

And that’s okay. Because consciously, we are all on different levels of understanding and growth. Everyone sees and processes the world with a different lens. You and I could have the exact same experience together, yet relate a completely different story when recalling that experience to someone else. We’re all on different frequencies, have unique dna, and thousands upon thousands of life’s experiences collected since the beginning of time tucked away in our subconscious mind that constructs our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, emotional awareness and overall perceptions.
Our paths are not going to be the same – and that’s okay! It’s not our job to make others feel like their way is wrong or bad…. it’s our job to love each other unconditionally, as Christ would.

I really believe people are inherently good, and that we all have different means of coming into that goodness, finding our light, and sharing it with the world around us. Some people have always had a strong sense of their light and self and don’t have to journey through much to get to that place. Others have had very little understanding of self and their light and have to go through the darkest parts of themselves in order to find and really come to know their light.

And then there’s some people who never find it.

I believe there will be less and less people in that last category ⤴️ as we consciously spread our own light and love. And we are only able to love the people around us as well as we love ourselves. If we’re constantly criticizing, shaming, judging, comparing, and demeaning ourselves – and we do it in subtle, sneaky ways – that will manifest in how we love and treat the people around us.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made choices I’m not proud of, and, unfortunately…. I’ve deeply hurt people close to me. Experiences like that can break a person. They have the capacity to keep individuals in shame, suffering, and darkness….or they can hold the space for refinement, learning, growth, and healing.  The latter is the path I’ve chosen to take, and it’s  the one I hope everyone chooses to take if they find themselves where I did.

The path I’m taking doesn’t look like what I thought it would….and I know it doesn’t look like what many people think it should look like.  And again, that’s okay. The way you go through your process is going to be different and unique to you, and, in my opinion, the path you take isn’t as important as long as it ultimately leads us to the same destination, which is; A greater love for and understanding of yourself, of God, and everyone around you.

A greater love and understanding.  More compassion. More patience. More peace. More tolerance (remember, tolerance doesn’t mean acceptance!), and most of all, more love, harmony, and respect for all of humanity.

I am FAR from perfect. Obviously 😂  I’m still learning, growing, changing out old thought patterns, and making mistakes creating more learning experiences along the way.  But I know my path has a purpose, and I feel more in alignment with that purpose everyday.  I will continue to do what brings me the most peace, love, light, and compassion into my life, and I hope all of you will do the same. Whether that’s staying on your current path, redirecting yourself a little, or completely changing course. You’ll know. Trust yourself, and God, to know what’s best for you (maybe there’s nothing you need to change!), and respect the people around you who are doing the same….even (and especially) when their journey looks different than yours.


Finding Myself and Creating a Purpose – A year from “The Call”

I remember sitting in the dirt with my knees hugged into my chest.  I had pulled over near a canyon close to my home, and I was staring across it trying to absorb everything from my conversation with the woman from suicide prevention hotline (I wish I could remember her name….).

I was exhausted.  Mentally, physically….. I just stared over this canyon into the mountains (for what seemed like forever), wondering how I was going to pull myself out of this one.

This beautiful stranger had ignited a tiny piece of hope in me.  She lifted me out of that dark hole just enough to see the light, although…. I wasn’t sure how I was going to move forward.  Her words rang over and over in my mind “Who you are RIGHT NOW is good enough.  You have worth.  You are worthy of love and happiness despite your perceived ‘flaws’ or mistakes.”

I believed her.  Even though this was an entirely new concept to me…. I believed her – and I clung to those words like a lifeline.

My Breaking Point

I think it’s important to share what my life was like leading up to “the call”.  It wasn’t just a bad week, or month, that drove me to delirium…. This breakdown was the product of years of insecurities and feelings of shame.  Years of negative self talk and perfection seeking – fearing I wouldn’t be loved or accepted for anything else.  Years of an eating disorder/addiction that I thought I could keep under control and stop anytime I wanted to.  I might as well have tied a bag of bricks around my neck and dragged them around with me everywhere I went.  That’s what it felt like I had been doing all along…. until the bricks became too numerous, and I couldn’t take one step further. I was suffocating, and something had to give.

I had reached my breaking point.

Can I make a suggestion?  If any of you are struggling with feelings of unworthiness, shame, low self-esteem, addiction, depression, frequent anxiety, anger, bitterness, and ALL OTHER THINGS THAT DESTROY YOU, and you’re not seeking change or help, because “I’m just fine” or “Things will never change”…. PLEASE consider yourself at your breaking point RIGHT NOW.  Don’t wait until you find yourself driving circles in your car, wondering how you can possibly take the mental and emotional torment one more day.  That place is dangerous. That place sucks.  DO NOT get to that place.

The Turning Point

I knew something had to change if I wanted to get better.  You know that saying “Nothing will ever change until you do”?  or “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome”.  I hadn’t really done anything different in the past 5 years to help me get out of the dark place I was sinking further into.  I literally just relied on medications and my own shallow, fragile willpower to pull me out of this nastiness.  No skills, no professional direction, very little change whatsoever in how I thought about myself, the way I did things, the habits that enslaved me…. It was such a vicious cycle.  I had finally reached a point where I needed to do something different to upset that pattern.

I HAD to do something or I would break….

And the first step I decided to take was publicly open up about my struggles. To start this blog.  I felt like this step was the most crucial (for me), because addiction and shame flourish in the dark.  The more I tried to keep it hidden, the more shameful I felt…. and the more shameful I felt, the more engrossed I became in my negative thoughts and patterns…..and I spiraled faster and faster down that lonely path.  Keeping it hidden meant I was accountable to no one.  Zero support system.  Just my own distorted belief that who I was is despicable, that I wasn’t capable of change, and that there was something deeply and profoundly wrong with me.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time

I used to really struggle with the “All at once” or “All or nothing” mentality.  I thought everything had to change RIGHT NOW, whole package, BOOM! done.  It took me too long to accept that change happens over time – in small, steady, and simple ways. I had to learn to be patient and forgiving of myself and to be truly proud of my progress – though it seemed slow and hardly significant.  By being consciously mindful of those little successes, I was re-wiring a part of me that had been neglected and broken for so long.  The part that was positive and hopeful.  The part that felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.

The part that liked who I am.

My self perception had been skewed.  I didn’t understand mental illness like I thought I did (and I thought I understood it pretty well).  I had this concept of myself where all my ‘flaws’ and attributes were uniformly stored into a little box labeled “identity”, and I was unable to see that there was so much more space of ‘me’ to explore.  I wasn’t aware of that space, because I was giving all my thoughts and attention to my ‘flaws’ – to all the things I didn’t like about myself, and all the things I did ‘wrong’.

Basically, I was too preoccupied with watering my weeds, rather than growing my garden.  And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it doesn’t take a whole lot for weeds to take over any garden or yard.  They grow almost effortlessly, whereas it takes time, patience, and a lot of care for the beautiful and fruitful substances to bloom and flourish.  Just like you would pick or spray weeds from your garden, it is equally important to remove the negative thoughts in your mind before they overpower all that is good.  The most effective way to do this ( and I’m just going to regurgitate a concept I’ve frequently mentioned in my posts here)  is……wait for it….. MINDFULNESS. Be aware of how a certain action or habit makes you feel, take notice of and feel all the sensations associated in that moment, then move on.  Don’t dwell, don’t talk negatively about yourself, and don’t absorb it into your identity.  By doing this, you’re training your brain to get rid of ‘weeds’ and give more of yourself to your garden.  It takes time and practice, but this method has been a game changer for me.  Go take a class or read a book about it if you’re unsure of how to do it, or why it’s so effective!

I’m also going to take a sec to recommend (once again) this book by Brene Brown (I’ve heard they’re all great, and I intended to read many many more)!  worthiness  This one, “Men, Women and Worthiness” was also a huge game changer for me.  I was finally able to pinpoint the root of many (not all) of my issues.  My anxiety, my low self worth, my anger…. It all came back to how I viewed myself as a person.  I had no idea I was harboring so much shame and self hate.

There’s one part of the book where Brene’ says that shame does LITERALLY NOTHING to help us become better or happier people.  It does not inspire change, it does not activate positive thought patterns, and it does not direct us towards progress. The only thing it WILL do is generate more shame. “Shame breeds shame” until we view all our flawed actions and habits as part of our identity – allowing little hope for change.  That type of thinking is crap you guys!  Trust me, I spent years with that tunnel vision not understanding (or believing) anything else.  But there is SO MUCH MORE to you – to your life!!  There’s so much more space of your identity to be explored, and your identity will change with every season of life. I’m not completely the same person now as I was 10 years ago…..and thank goodness 😂 You’ll let go of some things, pick up different traits, develop new beliefs and understanding, and discover new talents.  It’s such an exciting and beautiful concept to finally grasp

Creating a Purpose

This past year has been a whirlwind for me.  I’ve been recovering, discovering, understanding, progressing, stumbling, falling, picking myself up again, moving…. slowly inching forward…., standing still, and rediscovering all over again.

Good hell, life is hard.

But, as hard as it gets, I’ve learned (and continue to learn) the most valuable lessons along the way.  The funny thing is; I never would have had the privilege of being the recipient of such beautiful, meaningful lessons and experiences had it not been for the unique and specific trials in my life.

I used to think everything happened for a reason.  I thought God had personally handed all of these things to me for a very specific reason.  And I was just waiting to figure out the purpose behind my experiences with mental illness.  Like, someday I would be totally cured of all things mental, and there would be a moment where the light bulb would flash on and I’d say “THAT!! That’s the reason why I went through all that crap!”  It took me until a year ago, at 31 years old, to realize that I may never be completely rid of these invasive thoughts, these anxious and sad feelings, or obsessive tendencies… and, while yes, I believe God has a plan for me, sometime life just happens, and God doesn’t always intercept because that’s part of our mortal experience and growth.

I finally realized I didn’t HAVE to have a ‘reason’ behind the trials. Instead, I could take what I’ve been through (what I go through) and create a purpose for them.  Take the bag of bricks – the darkness, the struggle, the hurt and sorrow – ALL of it – and give those suckers a calling in life.

Once I was able to find/create something positive from the negative things that plagued my life for so long, I slowly felt their grip on me loosen a little. It was so empowering!

And, just like I mentioned earlier, it didn’t just happen overnight. It’s been one ugly, painstakingly long road. Slow. Full of mistakes. But DANG! It’s one worth taking.

It’s beautiful, unique, thorny, broken, unexpected….and it’s mine.  It makes me who I am, and I have become a better person because of it.  And through it, I have been able to empathize and connect with people in ways I never imagined.

You may be going through something right now.  Maybe it’s similar to what I’ve been through.  Maybe it’s something completely different.  It doesn’t matter…. What matters is the hurt and pain associated with your experience and how you’re getting through it.  Believe that you’re strong.  Believe that good things will come.  Maybe not immediately, but they WILL come.  Believe in change.  Believe in discovery that will lead you on a path full of experience and growth and a deeper understanding and love for the people around you.  Believe that you have something to offer this world, and that your experience will prepare you to help others who struggle the same.

Believe all these things because they’re true.

Who you are is beautiful, this journey is uniquely yours, and you have something no one else has to offer this aching world.  If you haven’t got it figured out yet, that’s okay 😊 Take time to discover what it is….

Then go create your purpose.

20180724_204753Heart Shawnee





The Day I Called Suicide Prevention Hotline.

JUNE 2017…..

I stood in our hallway staring blankly past the new gray paint that covered the walls.  We had recently painted over the old, dank, butterscotch-colored paint and given our hallway a much needed face lift. The light grey really seemed to brighten up our home…..

Except for that day.

There was no brightness.  No glimmer of hope. No future that seemed better and brighter. It felt like I had spent the entire week in a big pit, working tirelessly to get out of it….  But the more I tried to scale the walls, the more slippery and difficult it became – as if every attempt to climb was met with more rocks and debris breaking off the sides, until there was nothing left to grasp.  Just smooth, slick, muddy walls…..and me.  Sitting at the bottom, with my head hung, and my hope buried.

So there I stood. In my home. Expressionless and defeated.

I could hear my husband in the bedroom, and the baby somewhere in the house crying; a sound that ignited feelings of guilt and shame, because his constant crying was evidence that I was an incompetent mother.  If I was a better mom, he wouldn’t cry so often (or so I thought).  The tears started to pour relentlessly as I tried my best to silence any violent cries that might alarm my kids or my husband.  I walked lifelessly to the bedroom and asked Tyson for the car keys.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay”?  He asked displaying intense concern.

“Yeah, I just really need to get away for a little bit.  Be alone.  Clear my head”.

He (hesitantly) handed me the keys, and I forced a little smile in his direction to reassure him that I was going to be just fine and everything was okay.  As I approached the front door to leave, I saw my 7 year old sitting on the rug, watching the blades on our ceiling fan spin.  He turned to look at me with the sweetest, most innocent smile….and my heart broke into a million little pieces.

Because – in that moment – feelings of failing my son and raging shame washed over me. As I looked at that beautiful smile, all I could think were things like:

“I feel so bad that he has a terrible mother like me.”
“He deserves so much better than what I can give him.”

“I am so sorry I’m your mom…..”

And with a new set of frustrated tears, I rushed out the door and took off in the car.

I had been through difficult times before.  Times where I felt hopeless and lost.  Times where I wondered if the emotional suffering would ever end, or if I was just cursed to experience lifelong bouts of sadness and despondency.

But this…this was different.  It was relentless, it was torturing, and completely unavailing.

As I drove, I kept thinking – sometimes yelling out loud – how I couldn’t do this anymore.  I couldn’t live this life and be the person my kids and my husband need and deserve.  I had let everyone down. And I KNEW deep down that their lives would be so much better and happier if I was gone. Maybe then, someone better and more capable could take care of them…..

In that moment, I really, truly believed that.  And it scared me.  It scared me so much, because – in my frenzied state of mind – I desired a way out so badly.  I just wanted to end the emotional and mental torment, and I was convinced that, ultimately, it would be the best thing for everyone.

And, I thought of how I would do it…

That’s when knew I needed to call someone immediately.  But…. I wasn’t sure who.

I didn’t want to call a family member or friend, because I didn’t want to put them through emotional distress too…. and have to face them at every get together with an unpleasant memory hanging over our heads for the unforeseeable future.

Same with my husband.  I didn’t want to scare him, and I was worried I might say something I’d regret.

I knew I needed to talk to a professional, but I hadn’t been to therapy in years and didn’t have any therapists information.

That’s when the thought came to me to call suicide prevention hotline.  Although I’ve never considered myself suicidal, I knew that the thoughts invading my mind were dangerous, and I had lost a significant desire to live…..

So, with my voice breaking and tears still streaming down my cheeks, I asked Google to call the number to Suicide Prevention Hotline.  I pulled the car over and held my breath as I waited for someone to pick up.

“Hello?”  said a friendly voice.  It was a woman, and she sounded relatively young.

I sat there choking on my cries, unable to spit any kind of sentence out. How do I even start this conversation?

“Hi”.  I said a little weakly.

“Hi”, she replied in a gentle, yet reaffirming tone.  It kind of reminded me of how an adult would approach a child who is lost and trying to find their parent.  You don’t want to scare the child away, so you interact with them carefully and calmly to let them to know you can help them and they can trust you.

“What’s going on?” she asked again in the same tone.

“I’m….just…..really having a hard time right now.” still crying as much as ever.

“Okay.  Can you tell me what you’re having a hard time with?”

“I just….I can’t think straight.  I’m a terrible mom, I’m a terrible wife, and I feel like my family would be so much better off without me. I don’t know how I can possibly wake up and do this all over again tomorrow, and I just keep replaying those thoughts in my head….. and I didn’t know who else to call. I’m sorry….maybe I shouldn’t have.”

“I’m glad you called.  This was the right place to call.  I am a counselor and have my degree in psychology. I volunteer here at the call center twice a week, because I WANT to help people like you.  There is no place I’d rather be or nothing I’d rather be doing than talking to you right now”.

“Okay”. I said, feeling a little more relaxed.

“So, tell me why you think you’re such a terrible person”?

I proceeded to tell her all the things I did wrong.  I didn’t give my kids enough meaningful attention.  I couldn’t keep a schedule.  I wished I could cook more healthy, organic meals. I couldn’t keep up with the laundry.  The dishes weren’t done and dinner made by the time my husband came home from work. I’m not organized and projects never get finished. I didn’t graduate college, and here I was, a stay at home mom, and doing a lousy job at that.

I was a failure.

She listened to me spill my guts.  She was so patient, and finally, after I had rambled off my perceived imperfections for about 10 minutes, she said;

“You don’t have to do or be any of those things to be worthy of your family’s love.  They don’t need you to be successful or a gourmet chef or a college graduate – they just need YOU.  You don’t have to live up to any expectations to be of worth.  You just need to exist.  To be here on this earth, breathing.  The fact that you’re here gives you great worth.  And that worth doesn’t change because of what you have or haven’t accomplished.  All your family needs and will ever need is your presence and your love.”

Her words really resonated with me, because I had always lived my life believing that I earned and kept people’s love by living up to expectations….or because of my talents and accomplishments.  I based all my worth on everyone else’s approval, and when I couldn’t be all the things I believed would secure love and worth, I fell to a place of complete and utter despair and disconnect.

With the two recent suicides of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, there seems to be more open dialogue surrounding suicide.  A lot of people are scratching their heads, asking;  “But didn’t they have it all? Money. Fame.  The love of millions, and the love of their families….”

But, you see, suicide doesn’t come from a place where there’s lack of love. It doesn’t happen because an individual feels unloved….  It comes from a place of feeling unworthy and undeserving of people’s love.

Love.  The strongest, most powerful and connecting human emotion one will ever experience.  So when someone feels unworthy of love – or they think they’re not adequately reciprocating that love – OR they think they’ve failed the people around them, then….what’s the point? What else is there to live for? Constant doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and feelings of shame create the perfect habitat for darkness and hopelessness.  Fear, shame, guilt….. Some people are more resilient to these emotions, while others let it eat away at their very core. It gets to a point where it is unbearable.  Excruciating, almost.  And that, for many, can become the birthplace of suicide.

So what can we do? This article shares a very helpful perspective on this woman’s experience and thoughts on suicide.  I would urge you all to read it!

Also, please please please please read or download Brene’ Brown’s book titled “Men, Women, and Worthiness.”  It talks a lot about shame and how deeply it affects our thoughts, actions, and feelings of self worth.  You can download it on Audible, HERE


Be vigilant and proactive with your mental health.

Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Give help when you’re able.  Recognize the times you are barely able to keep your head above water and don’t feel guilty for saying no when you have to.  Likewise, take advantage of the times you ARE able to help others and give of yourself freely, without expectation.  I promise this will enhance your recognition of your self worth.

Learn and practice empathy.

This is something mentioned in Brene’ Brown’s book.  Empathy is very different from sympathy.  Empathy allows us to fully understand one’s emotions and circumstances, rather than feel sorry for them from a distance.  Brene’ mentions that you don’t have to have been through the exact same experience to have empathy for another person – you just need to know the feelings and emotions.  We’ve all experienced some kind of sadness, despair, self-doubt, loss…. use that to bring yourself to the level and understanding of the person who is suffering (it’s important not to pretend or say you know EXACTLY what they’re going through), but rather, be present with them in their grief.

Separate individuals from their actions. 

Sometimes the two become so intertwined, we end up believing that we ARE what we do or say – good or bad. People need to know that they are loved for who they are – not for what they’ve done, or the social or economical status they’ve achieved.  Love your children, your family, and your friends no matter what path they take, and remember to remind them of their worth.  The way we speak to one another has a huge impact on one’s perception of self worth.  Example;  “Wow, you’re so stupid, I can’t believe you did that….”  Versus   “Wow.  That was a really stupid thing to do….” The first sentence emphasizes self and identity and breeds shame, while the second sentence emphasizes action and instigates guilt – which isn’t harmful like shame and can motivate change.  Really pay attention to how you talk to the people you love, AND how you talk to yourself!!! *Read more about guilt vs shame in the book ^^^

Lastly…..Just be kind.

Kindness is so simple, yet it’s effects are so immeasurable.  It can change everything.  Reacting with anger, resentment, bitterness, and sarcasm may make you feel better temporarily, but the domino effect from those actions could be catastrophic and irreparable.  Be kind to those you don’t think deserve it.  You never really know their whole story.  Maybe the rough looking young man who cut you off in the grocery line is trying to stay sober, but the withdrawl is hard and his emotions are heightened. Be patient.  Or maybe the teenager yelling foul language at the pool goes home to an emotionally abusive home. 

Or you never know….maybe the young mother who’s children are throwing raging fits at the grocery store spent hours on the phone with suicide prevention hotline the night before…..  

We are all suffering somehow.  Lift each other up.  Be less judgmental. Help carry eachother’s burdens, be kind and positive, and reach out to someone for the same when you can’t do it all yourself.  We all have SO. MUCH. Worth. The gift and influence of YOU, is great.  It is powerful, it is needed, and it far-reaching. The world is, and will always be, a better place with you in it.

Heart Shawnee

Mother's Day copy



What I’ve Learned So Far: Living With Extras

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month?

Yeah, me neither.

I found out last week when one of my friends posted it on Facebook, and I thought; “Shooooooooooot. Guess I’m going to have to step it up this month.”  I wouldn’t be anything short of hypocritical if I didn’t, because….. I’m pretty much as mental as they come 😂

I put the “mental” in mental health, son.

HOLLA at your girl!!

Okay, but in all seriousness, I’ve been trying desperately for months to write another post tracking my mental health journey…. all the struggles, victories and progress that’s taken place since I first started this blog.  I actually have 4 unfinished drafts just chillin in my file, waiting for their big moment that may or may not come.  For one reason or another (anxiety), I haven’t been able to say what I want to say (anxiety)….. Or maybe, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say (anxiety), or how to frame it all so it flowed nicely (anxiety, anxiety, anxiety….) I guess that’s just one of the ‘perks’ to being a perfectionist AND having ADD at the same time.  OR MAYBE it’s the ol’ anxiety doing what it does best….. #youolddog #thestruggleisreal

So, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve resolved to push past all my lameness and start writing and speaking openly again about mental health and how it has affected my life.  AND I’ll be sharing things that have helped me cope and learn to live a happy life despite it!

Yay For Extras!

Now, I think I’ve mentioned before that I have lived (live, presently) with multiple mental illnesses.  Except, I don’t really refer to them as ‘illnesses’ anymore.  I call them my ‘extras’.

Yeah, that’s right. I have extras. 💪

When I think of them as extras, rather than illnesses, I don’t feel as much of a negative connotation surrounding (my) mental health. This also helps me as I reflect upon the end of a particularly hard day to think about how my extras contributed both negatively and positively.   I feel a lighter, more accepting feeling… kind of like… telling all my issues to bring it in for a group hug, and saying, “Okay, I’ve spent most of my life trying to get rid of you.  Instead, let’s see what I can do with you….”   Then we all give each other a metaphorical high-five…… at which point I realize I really am crazy.

Just kidding.  About that last sentence anyway – I swear I’m not alone in my kitchen giving air high fives to my anxiety, depression, and ocd.

So I’ve decided to break the extras down into 1 per post – rather than try to cram all this awesomeness into one insanely long smorgasbord of MH (mental health) information. I’ll try to post each week discussing a different ‘Extra’ or MH issue.  Woohoo!  It’s your lucky month, people!

So, without further adieu, I will begin first with

……..*drum roll please*………


Bet you didn’t see that one coming 😂😉

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S. affecting nearly 40 MILLION Americans!  And that’s just adults!  Another estimated 3% of children ages 3-17 suffer with anxiety as well.  It can range from mild to severe and can completely alter one’s ability to function normally.  It can also have serious repercussions if left undiagnosed and untreated (poor performance in school or work, strained relationships, substance abuse, self harm etc).

This was one of the first disorders I developed, and the earliest I remember struggling with it is 8 years old.  I specifically remember it starting after watching a scary show at my grandma’s house.  Some of my older, cooler cousins were watching “Are you afraid of the dark?” on Nickelodeon, and I thought it was a good idea for me to watch it too.  Often times there is a trigger tucked away in the minds of people who have a predisposition to anxiety and ocd.  And I think the images in that show were my trigger.  That was the beginning.  The image of that scary ghost man that showed up anytime the letter Q was present. That’s all it took to trigger that part of my brain that was prone to OCD and Anxiety (the two are often intertwined, and I’ll write more about the ocd later, and focus on the anxiety bit for this post).  Like any kid who sees or hears something scary, I had nightmares and couldn’t sleep.  Except, it wasn’t just that night, or that week, or that month.  It went on for months.

And months.

And when the freaky Q guy stopped scaring me, something else was there to take his place.

So these months turned into years.  Years of dreading the night.  Years of small panic attacks every time the sun would start to set.  Years of sleepless nights – wide awake for what seemed like hours….envisioning these terrible, scary things. However, I will say that there were times of reprieve during this phase.  I didn’t seem to be as affected during the fall and winter months, whereas I would have frequent episodes during the spring and summer months.  And even though the light of the morning brought a welcome respite from the night and the creatures of my imagination…. a whole other set of fears were waking up with me to accompany the day.


I would worry that my mom was going to die.  I was worried that I was going to die.  Worried that ANYBODY I KNEW was going to die.  If my mom was out running errands and I heard sirens somewhere in the distance, I thought for sure she had gotten in a car accident and died.   I frequently thought I had some terminal illness or disease, like Cancer or AIDS (how would I even get AIDS??!), or even leprosy.  I was frequently in a state of worry and fear.  Total, irrational fears.

Like AIDS. And Leprosy.

At one point it got so bad that I started to feel a displacement from reality.  Like I was living in a dream and nothing was real….I was just part of some weird mundane dream, and I just tried to go about my business like normal.  That lasted for about a week, and I was 9 or 10 at the time.

Luckily, around 6th grade things started to shift, and the severity, intensity, and frequency of my anxiety started to decrease .  I was less scared and worried, and I stopped having those weird out of body experiences.  YASSSS!!!

Buuuuuut, a few years later it came back.

Anxiety as a young adult vs Anxiety as a child

Some of the anxiety I experienced as a teenager looked a lot like what I went through as a child: The constant fear of death, the fear of becoming ill, or the fear of leaving my home overnight. As a teen I began to worry over seemingly insignificant things (something I did or said earlier in the day and how it was interpreted by others). I was (still can be) completely indecisive, because I was worried I would make the wrong decision or end up not liking my choice.  I’d get this sick feeling to my stomach anytime I had to make a decision…. and that sick feeling usually wouldn’t go away until the event had passed and everything turned out okay.  I began to have small panic attacks anytime I was late to class and had to enter the classroom after everyone was already seated. Bleh, the woooorst. AND I would have panic attacks anytime I felt confined or constricted in an area.  Also, the worst.

Between the anxiety and the developing ocd, my parents decided to put me on medication, and that seemed to lift some of the burden of these magical extras 🙂

So, in full transparency, I have been on medication for anxiety (and ocd and depression…. one pill fits all, I guess) for 17 years.  Since I was 15.

So what does anxiety look like for a 32 year old mom?

A lot the same, and totally different all at the same time. Let me explain:  The things I worried about as a child and teenager have become less intense and less debilitating as they once were.  There’s a few factors I think can take credit for that; 1. The right combination and dose of medication.  2. The learning and experience that comes with age and time.  I still worry about death, probably more than I should, but I’m usually able to let those thoughts pass by quickly, rather than work myself into a nauseated, sobbing blob of pathetic-ness.  I still worry about people’s perception of me, but I’m giving that rope more and more slack all the time, and becoming more comfortable with who I am. I still struggle to commit to attending an activity or go on trips, because I feel safer at home and find comfort in my routine.  I actually love being with people, so the decision of whether or not to go somewhere is a real catch 22 for me and ends up being more complicated than it should be….. the desire to have fun and socialize, but the fear of the unknown as I leave my comfortable routine…. and that knot in my stomach…which doesn’t go away until; a) I get to wherever it is I’m going  OR   b) I stay home.  Even then I’ll wonder if I made the right choice ha ha!  It’s a suuuuper fun way to live, and I highly recommend it…

But not really

Live your life with abandon, people!!!  

Braveheart GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I also still get panic attacks every now and then (probably once or twice a year).  *If you’ve never had a panic attack, let me catch you up to speed.  Just imagine feeling really, really nervous about something for a long period of time.  And that nervousness gets more and more intense until you feel like you’re having a hard time breathing. Your breaths become quicker and more shallow, and you start to feel like there’s a weight on your chest that’s making you struggle for breath.  Sometimes it can feel like you’re having a heart attack and you’re convinced you’re going to die because you LITERALLY can’t breathe. 

*You are now up to speed.*   

So, now let’s talk about what’s different about my anxiety as a mom vs a teen and child….

  1. The way it manifests itself.

It translates as anger and irritability, because so many things feel out of my control.  People with anxiety necessitate control with everything inside their bubble.  If we’re in control, we feel safe.  If we feel safe, we’re at peace.

The problem is, kids bring so much unpredictability to every day life.  Weird, right?  3 rambunctious, free-spirited, filthy, audacious, highly emotional and reactive little boys.  I swear I’m adding lines daily to an already crowded forehead.  The Lord definitely had a sense of humor when he sent me these 3 special spirits……Especially that last, very special, spirit…..


     2. I procrastinate.  A lot.

I’ll admit, some of my procrastination is due to the fact that old habits die hard lol.  But a lot of times I will put things off until I absolutely HAVE to address them, because the idea of starting a task is so intimidating and gives me a lot of anxiety!  Even seemingly small tasks… “Where do I start?  Am I doing it right?  What if I can’t get it done?  What if I start it and the baby interrupts me and it remains unfinished for months?  What if I mess up….”

     3.  KIDS.

 Mary Poppins Gif

Aside from the residual flow of dirt, stink, noise, and missing shoes and socks (they can remember something I said a year ago, but not where the shoes are they took off 10 minutes prior…),  aside from all that, I constantly worry that I’m messing up. Am I giving them enough love and connection to keep them from being addicts later on in life?  Are they going to get cancer because we don’t eat organic and they eat things with read food dye?


Am I teaching them how to be strong, yet kind? To develop their interests and talents, but still have balance?  Am I teaching them how to work hard, but allowing room for a magical childhood at the same time?  Have I messed them up forever because I’ve used my ‘Batman’ voice for the 5th time today??!!

It’s possible

Now, these are all typical fears shared by mother’s everywhere.  The difference is; those with true anxiety disorder think about these things non-stop. Day in, day out, and it affects our moods and attitudes, because there’s always this constant fear looming over us.  Whereas those who do not suffer from anxiety disorder only have bouts of worry here and there and are able to move past it fairly quickly.

You lucky dogs, you.

Rocking Horse Final copy


I’ve HAD to teach myself to try and let go of the things I can’t control – otherwise I’m not giving the best parts of myself to my kids and my husband. I’m not really present or really happy when my thoughts are preoccupied with worry.  I’ve noticed a big change in my connection with my kids the days I actively try to let go of the fear and the worry that fogs my mind so frequently. I’m focusing more on their smiles and laughter, the dirt on their faces and the brightness in their eyes and how much beauty surrounds me in that present moment. 

THAT beats the pants off riding the rocking horse.

It’s definitely a process, and some days and weeks are harder than others, but the more I practice it, the easier it becomes.

What has helped me so far?

  1. Becoming more self aware by practicing mindfulness.

Basically mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique (Google search definition).  I am a complete novice at this, and truthfully I’ve just applied techniques I’ve picked up here and there…but the things I’ve learned and practiced seem to be helping, I hope to take a class on it soon!

If you know little about the practice of mindfulness, and want to learn more  HERE  might be a good place to start!!

2.  Listening to motivational, informational, and inspirational podcasts during my “Free Time” (exercising, folding laundry, doing dishes etc.)

This has really opened my realm of understanding and the way I view the world.  I can’t recommend it enough!  Some of my favorites are:

  1. Ted Radio Hour
  2. Inspirational Living Hour by
  3. Invisibilia

*Leave a comment if you’re interested in my favorite episodes from each one of the podcasts listed above!!*


3.  Using my Anxiety to initiate change

You know that list I mentioned of all the possible ways I could screw up my kids forever?  Well, turns out, my anxiety actually benefits me for this particular situation.  I’m so worried about my mental illne….uh, extras, negatively impacting their lives, that I try harder and make more of a conscious effort to chill out have more of a normal mindset.  You know, because they’ll undisputedly be alcoholics who spend their lives in and out of prison if I don’t lol

The Bottom Line 

Out of the 40 million people who suffer from anxiety, only 36% seek and receive treatment for it.  Which is really sad, because this disorder is highly treatable!  Please, whether it’s therapy, medication, or meditation, find what works for you and make it a priority!  Put your mental health first and live the happiest version of your life!

Even if you feel broken – which you’re not – just remember….

Broken Crayons final

Also, if you’re a parent and you suspect your child suffers from anxiety, DO NOT hesitate to seek help for them.  I’ve heard too many times where parents won’t take their children in for a diagnosis for this or that, because they don’t want to ‘Label’ their children, or they think it will hinder their growth and progress. This could not be further from the truth!  You will be doing them the biggest favor of their lives…. Diagnosis aren’t made to give your child a ‘label’ or an ‘excuse’… their purpose is to allow your child to receive the best treatment possible by teaching coping skills and tailoring treatment to a child’s specific needs.

I can’t imagine you would deny your child insulin if he was diabetic….  why deny him a chance at a more normal life if he suffers from a (or multiple) mental health disorder(s)?

That’s just tragic.

The stigma needs to end.

Like, yesterday.

Mental illness is real, and it is affecting more and more Americans every year. And it’s not going to go away by turning a blind eye to it.  We need more people to step up. Open up and speak honestly about the reality of mental illness. We need to become more educated, more accepting, less fearful, less judgemental, and more proactive.

Otherwise, millions of people will remain silent sufferers in the dark, when – with help and proper treatment – they could be living a more beautiful, meaningful, and happy life.

A life full of color……

A life full of extra.

Heart Shawnee

*Please visit these two websites for more helpful information concerning anxiety. You can find them here:   AND  here:




Maternity Photo Shoot

Maternity photos.


Listen, I’m not judging you if you’re one of them.  The few elite who can take beautiful, half naked glamour shots at 8 months pregnant as if you’re not peeing your pants every hour and don’t have stretch marks plastered from your thighs all the way up to your neck.  It’s fine.

I look at these women and think, “What’s the deal? Why aren’t they wearing their husband’s sweat pants and painting shirts like the rest of us?”

And why do they look so happy?! I mean, did the photographer tell a super funny joke before snapping the shot?  Did someone just offer them free ice cream for a year?  I just can’t think of any other reason these people look so comfortable and content.

*Let’s just take a break for a sec and acknowledge that I understand that the purpose of these photos is to capture the love a mother has for her unborn child and to celebrate the miracle of life.  It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m not trying to disrespect that.*


When I’m 8 or 9 months pregnant, I walk as if I’ve been riding a horse for 5 days straight.  I’m ornery, swollen, and lucky to have brushed my hair once that day.  Every movement is precarious and a gamble on whether or not I’m going to have an accident at any given moment.  I wear my husband’s over sized t-shirts and gym shorts, because Homegirl can’t fit into any of her clothes anymore.  AND I AM NOT going to lay down $200 for a handful of clothes I’ll only be wearing for a few short months.  Also, regular clothes are uncomfortable.  I prefer no pants.


So last year, 2 days before I delivered my 3rd son, I decided to do an impromptu photo shoot. I was at a park with my family – my brother and sister in law were visiting from Kentucky, and he always brings his nice camera along to capture all the memories.  He was gracious enough to agree to be my photographer on such short notice, and I must say….he really captured the essence of my pregnant beauty.

I did a side by side comparison of typical maternity photos with my pregnancy photos, and I have one thing to say about these……

Nailed it!!!




Them Me Wind copy



Them Me Apple copy



Them Me Swing copy




Them Me Tree copy



Them Me Flowers2

I hope you enjoyed these as much as we did 😂  We were the only ones at the park laughing hysterically while on-lookers acted confused…. or tried to look away and keep their distance, afraid they might catch the weird.

I regret nothing.