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If I Had a Redo

I recently polled my followers to pick a topic for a blog. They seemed to want to know what I would do “If I Had a Redo” – which threw me through a bit of a loop. If you’ve never read EmyD Blog before, I typically like to find purpose in even the worst things. Seriously –  As someone with mental illness, sometimes seeing the silver lining is all that gets you through. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t have regrets, moments of embarrassment, and moments that I would change if I had a redo.

My Answer: College

A simple answer for you: college. I’ve thought about that a lot. All the things that I could have done, probably should have done, but didn’t because of the place that I thought should have been. I’m not here to throw shade at a 19 year old, EmyD. She had enough shit going on. I will, however, tell the things that I wish I did. So, if this blog finds itself on the screen of someone else who might have their true self invested all the way into someone else (or something else) they just might have the courage to take it all on solo. 

Redo 1: I would actually stay at college more!

I went to the University of Wisconsin – Madison. It’s about 40 minutes from my hometown. Throughout my freshman year, I had that drive so memorized I could have done it backward and blindfolded. A job in my hometown was my excuse to come home and see my high school boyfriend every weekend. “I needed to make money,” was the excuse I gave my dorm friends, as if we didn’t live in the state capital of Wisconsin and I wasn’t working at a chain restaurant. In actuality, I was just scared that he would forget about me if I was away for too long. 

Advice from EmyD

Take it from me, friends. If your partner forgets about you, they are not a good enough partner to keep around. Also, if you’re feeling insecure in your relationship enough to need it consistently validated, that’s a conversation that needs to be had. If you’re insecure in yourself that you think you can’t find better, that’s a conversation you need to have with you.

Redo 2: I wouldn’t have transferred!

Transferring did save me a ton of money (and probably mental breakdowns) but it was absolutely not a choice I would make again. At first, I would only tell people that I had transferred for the money aspect and because I was going to end up in law school anyways. In truth, I definitely transferred for a boy; for a relationship. We could both tell that our relationship was coming to an end and began to get desperate in our actions to save what we’d had since our freshman year of high school: moving in together, trying to raise a little puppy, and going to the same university. I still have two degrees and did the damn thing, but I wish it would have been at the better school I earned my way into. 

Advice from EmyD

If there’s one thing I want written on my grave, it’s “Do not change your dreams for your partner!” in the boldest font you can find. I’m serious. Having goals and dreams is really cool, someone that cares about you should want to support you to achieve them! Remember that you are NOT half waiting to be completed. You are a whole looking for someone to compliment your whole self! 

Redo 3: I would have broke it off, honey!

I was about halfway through my freshman year when my long term (and long distance) boyfriend cheated on me with a girl in his dorm. Did I swear off men for all eternity? Yes. Did I also take him back like two weeks later? Also, yes. My roommate was pissed. I chalked it up to her not liking me at the time, but now I realize that she was being a really good friend. The few and far between times that I did go out or go to meetings for things I was interested in I met a lot of cool guys that I really would have meshed with well. It almost always led to fights via text with the boyfriend. After our breakup, I started to realize that the only way I would heal my own negative inner dialogue was time alone. If I didn’t think I was worth someone faithful and kind, I would always turn back to him.

Advice from EmyD

At 19, I felt like I had to be as adult as I possibly could. I had to have a serious boyfriend and settle down as fast as possible. While life is short, you’ve gotta experience it. You should not waste a single ounce of your energy begging for someone’s love, attention, or friendship. You are always worthy of kindness. Even being alone is better than someone who doesn’t see that in another person. 

So, would I really redo it?

Yes. I know that reading this blog makes it seem like I hated years 18-22 of my life. That’s not true at all. I had some of the most amazing moments of my life in my college years. I wouldn’t trade them, or the people within them, for anything! However, there are certainly some parts of college that I would redo if I had the chance. There’s lessons that I absolutely had to learn so that 24 year old EmyD could write this for you today. The good, bad, beautiful, and ugly have all played a part in who I am now. 

What would you redo if you had the chance? Tell me on any of the socials below!

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My Experience: The Covid Vaccine

** This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through one of the links**

I’ve teamed up with Ad Council and Heartbeat to help people get informed about the COVID vaccine! As someone who’s fully vaccinated, it’s easy for me to encourage everyone I meet to also get the vaccine, but it’s so important to have accurate and timely information at your fingertips that are actually CDC-credited. My vaccine experience was really positive and the information from AdCouncil is still helpful over a month later!

My Experience: Dose One

I got my first dose in late March through work. The restaurant in which I work has a contract in which we deliver food to locations where COVID exposure is a possibility. Since we were working with front line workers and those being sponsored by the state, hospitals, nonprofits, etc. we were blessed to get vaccines relatively early compared to others in Wisconsin.

Other than waiting for a bit for my turn, my first dose was awesome! The only side effect that I had was a lot of muscle pain in my right arm. Other than that, I felt great! I had to wait 3 weeks for my second dose as I got the Pfizer vaccine.

My Experience: Dose Two

I went to the same place for dose number two. With so many people trying to get in for their second dose or finally get their first in Wisconsin, the pharmacy was popping to say the least! The turn around time of this one was actually much faster and easier. My experience with dose number two was also really great! To be honest with you, I felt like Superwoman when my pharmacist handed me the fully filled-out vaccine card.

I did experience some side effects with dose number two. Honestly, with everything I had been reading, I was expecting to feel like I was on my death bed. Instead, I felt really run down: sleepy & achey. It was almost like I had a bad 16 hour cold. Truly, that was it, 16 hours of aches and pains to be fully vaccinated.

Would I do it again?

Yes, in a heartbeat. I was extremely blessed to be able to quarantine with my family for most of the pandemic, so I got to see them. The pandemic, though, made me really value just a small get together (and a good dive bar…). I’ve been able to go out to eat without as much stress about contracting the virus and passing it on, seen my grandma, and finally been able to give hugs! Before getting my vaccine, I wasn’t always comfortable in these social situations or I’d at least feel guilty after.

Should you get it?

As your residential mental health & lifestyle blogger, I have absolutely zero credentials in telling you the benefits of getting vaccine versus remaining unvaccinated. However, I think that you should make the most informed decision you possibly can. Preferably, that decision would be made with with accurate and timely information from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Check out AdCouncil’s website for important for you and your age group in terms of the COVID19 vaccine!

Wanna share your experience with me? Connect with me on one of the socials below or head to my ‘Work with Me‘ page!

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A Life Lesson from the Kentucky Derby

I’ll be honest. I don’t really follow the Kentucky Derby, nor do I really feel the need to gamble on that. I mean, how do we really know the horse just isn’t having a bad mental health day? What if they don’t want to run? Alright, I kid. You guys get the point though. This year, I heard that the winner has a pretty good story for those of us in need of a good life lesson.

The Background of Medina Spirit

Medina Spirit was as underdog as you can get when it comes to a big event like the Kentucky Derby. People will pay a pretty penny for the best bloodline of a horse that offers the best chance at winning the Derby. Media Spirit, however, was bought for only $1,000.00 – that’s cheap even for your everyday family horse!

The trainer that would eventually win with Medina Spirit, Bob Baffert, said the horse had “no fucking chance to win.” In fact, he was even pleasantly surprised that such a small and meager animal had made it to the Derby at all. He got on the horse expecting to beat by another horse in the competition.

My client, Lorraine Beato, just made an awesome post about this – check it out below:

The Win

To everyone’s surprise, the small horse purchased for one thousand dollar started in the lead and maintained it through the finish line. Medina Spirit’s worth became $1.85 million dollars on May 1st, 2021 despite even his trainer’s thoughts. 

So, What’s the Life Lesson Here?

There were a lot of people betting against Medina Spirit – literally. There were millions of dollars put on other horses in the race purely because of the horse’s size, muscle mass, and background. Still, the horse ran. The person they depended on most, their trainer, said they had no chance. Still, the horse ran.

There are going to be times in life where the people that we want validation from the most are our biggest naysayers. We still are going to have to run. People are going to scream hatred because of what our bodies look like, what our minds can do, and what our past has been made up of. Still, we must run.

It’s not for the people in the stands or the trainer. The others who raced against you will want to flex that they know you and your story. Running forward despite the setbacks, however, is for you. It’s to prove that the only person on this entire planet that can really set your worth is you. If you choose to show up as a $1.85 race horse, then the world will know you by literally nothing else.

Short and sweet. What are you going to do to show up and set your worth this week? Connect with my on my socials above!

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Don’t Pop My Bubble!

2021 has been the year of the boundary. Well, it’s been a work in progress, but that’s the overarching goal of this year. Last year, everyone was put through the ringer when the world practically stopped turning overnight. Everyone is still wading into “real life” that it’s hard to have goals, be productive, and set healthy boundaries. I’m really moving forward with the mindset that I have a bubble that should never be popped – not for friends, followers, or family. Allowing myself to have boundaries that keep me comfortable and aware of my own mental health is necessary to be the best possible version of myself that I want to present to myself. So, whatever you do, don’t pop my bubble!

Healthy Boundaries at Work

As most of you know, I’m my own boss. It comes with a huge pile of advantages, but also has some disadvantages that go hand-in-hand. For a person who’s a little fixated on control and success, like me, working from home can be really toxic. I’ve been known to wake up and do a couple hours of work in the middle of the night. I can’t get myself to sleep without feeling more productive when my head hits the pillow.

This year, I’ve started to set some boundaries when it comes to working. For one, I’ve stopped lowballing myself, my experience, and my time. I was creating contracts for people for a couple hundred dollars a month that would go for thousands if I was at a private PR agency. Stepping away from corporate life was my choice, but it doesn’t mean that my experience or education level is different from my counterparts!

I started to charge closer to an industry average. When it gets to be too late, I’m only on social media of my own for pleasure, rather than work. Physically, I outlined what I do (or what I expect to do for work) so that I had an extremely clear answer when someone approached me for work. All of my contracts were rewritten and rephrased to have more boundaries like: times in which I can be available, hours I’ll work, and other contingencies I just didn’t have.

When I Didn’t Fit, I Left!

My clients were all really receptive and appreciative of these boundaries. Not only did they benefit me, but they clearly defined my role in their business as well. Prior to this year, I was so concerned about making my business a success that I would stay in contracts that might not have fit what I envisioned my role being with EmyD. After creating these boundaries, I fulfilled contracts and then professionally stepped away when I felt that I wasn’t a good fit for the position, rather than forcing myself into the position!

Healthy Boundaries Online

I’ve written a blog about sharing online already. You’ll definitely come across some bloggers that find a lot of comfort in sharing their story online and hitting publish (like me!) You’ll also, however, find bloggers who don’t produce a lot of super personal content. Is either one better? Absolutely not. Blogs fulfill the needs of those writing them and those reading them, so what’s your cup of tea might not be mine! 

This year, I’ve realized the need for even more boundaries online as my following grows and more blogs are written. I’ve had followers find my personal number and send me sexually explicit images and texts. I’ve had people call me just to “talk”. It’s made me feel unsafe and a little icky. Though most people are very receptive when I express this, I have to constantly emphasize that though I may speak about mental health, it’s not healthy for me to take others’ mental health issues onto myself. I’ve had to clearly draw the line between “influencer” and my real life. Without it, I felt like I was living just to take photos and share them with people I didn’t know. Life was starting to feel catered to social media, which I never want to happen.

Healthy Boundaries with Loved Ones

You all know I’m an empath through and through. Breathing a little differently in my presence could cause me to ask you what’s wrong…even if nothing is. This is also thanks to a little friend I call anxiety, which makes me rethink the words and actions I have for what feels like forever. The lack of boundaries when it came to loved ones was starting to drive me a little crazy though. 

This year, I’ve been really trying to only spend my time and energy on what makes me feel good. That includes the people in my life. For so long, I was terrified of being alone and friendless that I wouldn’t speak up if I felt mistreated or upset. Recently, I’ve realized that I would rather be completely alone than feel upset in a group.

Being social doesn’t just happen everyday for me. Listening to my body and mind about whether I actually WANT to get on the Zoom or go to drinks has been life changing. It’s made me feel a lot more autonomy over my body. Also, when I do see my loved ones, its really really great because I feel good about being there!

Mindset to Help with This

Creating a bubble between you and the people you love is difficult! But, in order for you to be a great friend, sibling, boss, coworker, or whatever else you are, you need to advocate for yourself! One mindset that has really been getting me through is “If someone is mad at me or upset with me, it’s none of my business until they tell me”. It’s one of the first things you learn in Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass”!

It’s much easier said than actually implemented. Those of us with anxiety, however, it can really benefit making boundaries and sticking to them when it comes to advocating for yourself! If someone is unwilling to address a problem with you and validate your boundaries, why would you spend any amount of time thinking about it?! Remember, though, the same goes for your loved ones from you! If you’re unwilling to advocate for your boundaries or speak up about your problems, don’t expect them to spend anytime thinking about it!

The Takeaway

Boundaries are really really cool. As a society, we’ve started to think that social media, television, or gossip is the all-access pass into someone else’s life. At the end of the day, though, we all deserve to feel safe and calm in our own thoughts. Take it from someone who has told the whole Internet what her mental health chart says. Allowing yourself a healthy space so that you can feel autonomy, comfort, safety is essential. Boundaries make you a better person all around and much more empathetic when people are in need of you! So, I’ll say it again, don’t pop my bubble!

Trying to set boundaries? I want to hear about them! Connect with me on any of my socials!

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Sunlight’s Effects on Mental Health

The sun has been shining in Wisconsin for the last week or so and I have been in a really good mood. Not only that, but I’ve been full of energy, ready to work, and productive when I’m awake! There is snow still piled up outside and it hasn’t passed the 40 degree Farenheit mark, but it feels more like July than February over here! I started to wonder why this part of the year makes an annual dramatic shift in my day to day life. Clearly, the sunshine helps a lot, but what are the benefits of sunlight on mental health?

Not Sunlight, Actually Vitamin D

Though sunlight feels really good on your face after a long winter and brings out those cute freckles, it’s not actually sunlight doing all the hard work. It’s Vitamin D! It’s fairly common to have a slight Vitamin D deficiency. According to Healthline, nearly 42% of adults aren’t getting the right amount of Vitamin D. These small deficiencies can lead to depression, lack of sleep, and issues with eating. Big deficiencies can actually end up causing larger skeletal problems and mineralization in your bones.

I’ve been taking a Vitamin D supplement for some time at the advice of my doctor. But, why is this one vitamin so powerful? What does it do for mental health overall?

Vitamin D and Depression

There’s a huge correlation between vitamin D levels and people reporting they feel depressed. Those diagnosed with depression are more likely to be within the 42% of people who have an ongoing deficiency. Also, the receptors that intake all the Vitamin D are biologically in the same place as those that we study for depression. Coincidence? I think not!

Sunlight and Our Everyday Life

In general, sunlight dictates a lot of our routines and rhythms. If you’re in a place where days get shorter/colder during some parts of the year, you know how weird your routine can get with even the smallest of changes. It’s easier to get up when it’s light outside. It’s easier to get long, restful sleep when it’s dark outside – simple as that!!

To recap: Sunlight encourages a normal sleeping pattern which encourages a normal routine! If you haven’t allowed a self help podcast, blog, or book to infiltrate your brain yet, one of the first things they’ll recommend is establishing a routine that you feel confident in to be productive. In most people, increased hours of sunlight usually means an increase in productivity throughout their day. 

The Takeaway

I like to leave you guys with something to take away from the blogs. It might be something new that you didn’t know, maybe it’s a tidbit of information that makes you approach the world differently, or maybe it’s just a little something to make you smile!

As I finish this blog up, it’s rainy and dark outside. The opposite of everything I’ve been talking about in these last few paragraphs. In 2021, I hope that I soak up the sunshine – not just physically, but I soak up the serotonin that it feeds my brain. After a year of what felt like endless rain, we can all remember that sunlight is possible. We can look for the sun’s effects on our mental health every single day!

How is the weather making you feel? Tell me at any of my socials below!

** This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through one of the links!**

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Acne At 23 Years Old

I don’t know which beauty guru God I pissed off, but I’ve been having some serious cystic acne in these big breakouts throughout the pandemic. Acne has never really been a huge problem for me – I swam competitively for years which effectively burned every skin cell on my face. My hair too. The years when everyone else was struggling, I skated by pretty easily. Now, though, I’m feeling the pain because I’m getting acne at 23.

My Skin Type

 should probably tell you that I have combination to oily skin depending on the time of year. I get greasy pretty quickly. Finding a setting spray that actually keeps my makeup from melting off has been a work in progress that I’m still not totally confident in. 

I’m also a picker. Big surprise here: I’ve got some crazy anxiety that manifests itself in some hand fixations. While other people smoke or pop their gum, I’ve always been that annoyance that clicks the pens, picks, and cracks my knuckles. It’s not at all cute. On the brightside, it’s made me a very quick typer and therefore, a good content creator. Conversely, it makes healing blemishes a little difficult.

Stop Obsessing…PLEASE!

I feel like I’ve tried everything when it comes to healing my skin. It’s so cliche to have a big zit that makes you not want to go out in public, but I’m going through that as a full-blown adult! A respiratory pandemic that required masks has made it easier to literally mask some of the acne, but not the annoying (and painful) forehead breakouts. 

Men and women who have struggled with body dysmorphia or self consciousness in some form or another can understand what I mean when I say I’m very aware of myself. I am aware of the space I take up, the vibe I give off, and the cystic zit that sits right at my hairline. Like I’ve said before, the odds of anyone having the time or energy to care about the size of your forehead zit during a Target run. 

Just like with everything in life, the moment your mindset shifts from obsession over the ugliness and hatred for the natural things happening on your face to action or self care is when things start to change. 

Healing Time!

Considering that most of my generation gets their skincare advice from strangers on Tik Tok, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t possibly be the only experiencing frequent breakouts along with her quarter-life crisis. My dermatologist recommended a face wash in the shower called Panoxyl. It’s over the counter but pretty harsh – so be careful! It’s been a game changer for my oily skin, especially when I was in school and touching my face in exasperated sighs all the time. 

Big disclaimer: what works for me, might not work for you; even if our skin types are the same! I used a lot of cheap drugstore products to wash my face my whole life without problem. Now, however, I need to be a little more careful about the things that I’m putting on my skin. I’d encourage you to look up the long words that are in the ingredients list. You don’t have to spend heaps of money on good stuff either!! Brands like The Ordinary are available at Ulta for less than $10. 

I just posted this on my LikeToKnow.It profile! (liketoknow.it/emydblog) where you can find all the things that I use in my routine & where you can get them!

The Takeaway

As I get older, I’ve realized just how much the outside world affects my skin, my hair, my allergies, my appetite, and everything in between. I’m not sure if it’s because we become more introspective as we get older or maybe, it’s because I’m just absorbing too much of what’s around me. Though change in our routines can be scary, it’s sometimes necessary! Unfortunately, I can’t use the same products as when I was in a pool for 4 hours a day because it’s not my lifestyle anymore. 

Along with all of this though, is the reminder that your skin is imperfect and blemished just like every other person’s. We use makeup, apps, and software to make it look perfect… but you’re not unworthy of a photo or event because of a bad skin day. Even the beauty gurus that pop up on our Explore page don’t go through life without a breakout. I’m so tired of hiding my whole face because a blemish makes me feel unworthy. If we’re going to preach body positivity, it better be about the whole damn thing. 

Struggling with acne? Have a to-die-for solution? Connect with me on any of the social platforms below!

** This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through one of the links!**
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Who Am I? Journaling Idea!

Who am I? I could get specific and spout of my ancestry or where my distant relatives came from. I might even divulge that sulfa-based medication gives me hives. Give me a couple drinks and I just might whisper some secrets. But, who AM I? I mean, who am I really in the grand scheme of things?

Events That Answer “Who Am I?”

Believe it or not, a global pandemic helped make this question not as intimidating to me. I realized that it’s a question that doesn’t have to be answered in one day or a moment. That from the moment we come into this world to the moment we leave it, we’re working on answering the question. There are events in our life that help us a little more than others in the solution, of course.

For me, COVID-19 was a big one. It helped me to realize that living my life wasn’t dependent on the opinions of my friends or how many times I was invited to the bars each week. A happy life isn’t dictated by the amount of social engagements on the calendar, but by your ability to love, respect, and find happiness within yourself. At the start of all of this, I couldn’t find those things within myself. I really thought I could, but I relied too much on the validation of outside forces to find love on the inside for who I am.

At the end of the day, who you are is a big melting pot full of the people you’ve met, the things you’ve been through, and the beliefs that were instilled in you from those most important. All of us would like to believe that our melting pot is the best of the best, right?

This year, especially, I’ve tried to be understanding. I’ve tried to empathize, forgive, and understand as never before. I’ve tried to wrap my head around things that just stemmed from hatred without any luck. All the while, I’ve been asking myself where I fit in all of this?

As 2021 began, I was numb. There is not a doubt in my mind that 2020 was the most difficult of my life by far – and I spoke zero words to my ex! I was extremely negative about what 2021 had to offer me as cases of Coronavirus raged, our politics remained hateful, and we were surrounded by really heart wrenching things. I began to realize, however, that 2020 is not me. It’s not any of us.

It’s a chapter, maybe a long one, in our story that affects the overall plot. It takes our character arch through a loop that we never expected. If I didn’t let it, though, it didn’t have to alter who I am.

I’ve started journaling a lot more in 2021. My original journal entries were only so that I had evidence of all the ugly things that my boyfriend at the time was doing to me. As we broke up, it became a place that I could cry. It was essentially a book about a man that hurt me a lot. Now, my journal is a place in which I grow, learn, and wonder about myself and life around me.

My WHO AM I Journal/Goal Setting Prompt:

Who am I, right now,  in 5 describing words? Are these words that I would like someone else to use when describing me? These words are constantly changing. Always and forever. Is there a word that you’d like to change sooner? How has the stuff that made you feel not so good been ways to make you realize who you are? Who do you want to be?

Do you journal? Share with me at any of the social profiles below!

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The Face of Agoraphobia

Before actually getting a diagnosis, I wasn’t really aware of what agoraphobia meant. It seemed like people who avoided leaving the house were like the brother in The Benchwarmers – not people like me. It was even harder to verbalize the panic that I felt outside the comfortability of my bedroom. I was diagnosed with agoraphobia at 19. This is the face of agoraphobia.

About Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is characterized as an anxiety disorder in which one fears locations or places that might induce panic or anxiety. For those with social anxiety, this is A LOT of places and can quickly spiral into something that’s difficult to cope with. Rather than feeling the stress when you’ve entered the place, you actually begin to get anxiety anticipating the location. 

Usually, you feel this anxiety because you’re aware that there’s no “out”. For example, people might feel symptoms of agoraphobia before going on a bus, train, or subway. There’s no easy way to get off and out of those situations.

Agoraphobia in My Life

I started to notice the symptoms of agoraphobia as a college student. I was walking into these huge lectures and being overwhelmed instantly. Worry about a power lecture would start the night before, rather than when I was planted in the seat. That’s a LOT of worrying about one 75 minute class. What if I had a panic attack in the middle of a row of lecture chairs? What if I missed something that was on the exam because I was trying to breathe in the bathroom?

To me, leaving the house was just a chore that I didn’t want to have to deal with. I’ve always been a homebody – but this was on a next level. At 19, the diagnosis of agoraphobia was officially added to my chart. It made sense; a lot of sense.

Treatment of Agoraphobia

Treating agoraphobia is similar to the treatment that one goes through for anxiety. You can be prescribed medication, like I was, that takes some of the edge off of entering those anxiety-inducing locations. You can go through therapy, also like me, to try and restructure your thought process surrounding these stressful moments.

In my life, treatment of my agoraphobia went hand and hand with that of my anxiety. It’s fairly common for those with panic disorder to suffer from symptoms of agoraphobia. Truthfully, I feared attending class, going out, and just leaving the house in general. I guess I really just feared having a panic attack in public. 

My Life Today

As I’m writing this, I no longer have agoraphobia on my medical chart. It was absolutely not something I just woke up without. There were a lot of therapy appointments, uncomfortable desensitization, and  I still have moments where I experience a lot of anxiety prior to certain events. There are other locations that trigger anxiety within me. It’s been really important to learn coping mechanisms and self-imposed boundaries for the most comfortable living. 

For the most part, though, I don’t worry about working a shift before I have to go work it. Like everyone else, I dread going to the grocery store because it’s lame; not because I’m scared of not having an out. Since most of my panic has subsided, I’ve seen a huge decrease in my agoraphobia symptoms as well. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed by places outside of your room, home, or comfort spot, PLEASE reach out to a professional. There are so many options and treatments that can be used to combat those feelings. You should never feel like the world is smaller for you because of your mental illness, but if you do right now, you’re absolutely not alone. My name is Emily and I was diagnosed with agoraphobia. This is the face of agoraphobia. 

What are your thoughts? Link up with me on any of the socials below!

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What I Learned As a Big Girl

I’m at the point in my quarantine where I’m back to watching movies all day everyday. My list is pretty exhaustive, even if I’m rewatching some old favorites. One that I watched for the first time was “Dumplin”. Originally, I thought it was just about a chubby girl who wants to do pageants, but I was so wrong. It brought up a lot of trauma I didn’t know I had. Weirdly enough, it helped verbalize what I learned as a big girl.

It’s Not ALWAYS Like the Movies

Watching people scream “Fatass,” down the hall made my heart break for the girls in the movie, but it wasn’t something I could relate to. Sure, I had my fair share of venom spit at me, but I wasn’t innocent in the words I let fly. People said hateful things about my weight on anonymous forums like Ask.fm – a place that it was easy to be mean without owning up to your words. Every teen’s nightmare, if you ask me. Little did they know, though, the biggest bully about my weight was me. 

I looked in the mirror and silently repeated worse things than anyone could ever say. The names that I called myself were never actually verbalized. No one took my lunch money because I had thunder thighs. Nah, it’s not like the movies in that way.

 In the movies, it’s like the outward force is the only one that needs to be overcome. You have one Masquerade ball where the hot guy kisses the chubby girl and everyone suddenly thinks she’s also hot. What if that’s not everyone else you have to convince that you’re hot? What if it’s yourself?

The Scars Run Deep

As I literally sobbed at a Netflix movie, I realized that there was still a lot of damage from negative inner dialogue for so long. The scars that I gave myself trying to fit into an unrealistic mold ran much deeper than I thought. I’m heads and shoulders above where I was, but it takes a long time to unlearn that much hatred in your own skin, your muscles, and your being. 

It’s something that I have to bring up in new relationships. My need for validation isn’t because of something my partner is or is not doing. It really boils down to my disbelief that I deserve affection, attention, and love in this form. Like Dumplin said to the cute boy at work, I spent so long thinking “boys like you don’t end up with girls like me,” that it’s hard to unlearn that. 

Cute Boys Don’t Make You Feel Better

I used to think that if I could just get someone to dote over me, all body image issues would just melt away. I held onto a pretty toxic relationship for a long time because if you’re with someone you have to be kind of desirable, right? I’m aware of how humiliatingly desperate that sounds. When you’ve trained your brain that being wanted equates to being beautiful, you’ll take what you can get. 

That also translates to the dating apps. As much as you want them too, having 45 conversations going on Hinge isn’t going to make you feel less self conscious. I’ve learned that no matter how many people you have telling you that they want you or how many comments you get on your photo. Life starts to change when it’s you that’s telling yourself those things. 

It’s Not Forever

Like with everything in life, there are good days and bad days. There are days where you could not get me to wear anything besides a 3XL sweatshirt and leggings. Other days, I will wear a dress and put on lashes. You have to unlearn the habit of talking to yourself like you’re less than. 

I had to learn how to make myself feel good first. There’s songs that make me absolutely feel like a million bucks. I’ve bought lipstick just to treat myself. When all else fails, I remember what I would say to someone I loved going through the same thing. 

I would remind them that the number on the scale doesn’t dictate your worth in everyday life. The way that your arms look in a photo doesn’t mean that the love of your life will leave you. I would remind them (and me) that confidence in the face of vulnerability is the most beautiful thing in the world. We are beautiful today. We’d be beautiful 200 pounds heavier – even if it wasn’t very healthy. God damn it, we are worthy of loving our being – big girl, small girl, nonbinary pal, short guy, tall guy, or anyone in between. 

What I REALLY Learned as a Big Girl

I’m pretty damn special because I’m me. It’s irrelevant to my weight or the way that my stomach looks in a swimsuit. I learned some things about body image the hard way, but my favorite thing I’ve learned is that being me is better than anything else I could be. 

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Social Media vs. Reality

I use my Instagram account to post moments in my life that I want to share. The moments in between aren’t captured in that photo, video, or reel. Truthfully, though, those moments are what make up who I am, how I act, and the person that you see in the posts. I try to be as honest as possible on my social media feed. I’m pretty much willing to talk about anything and everything that’s plaguing my day to day life. One thing that I do want all my readers to know, though, is there’s a difference in my social media versus reality. No matter how hard I try, there’s going to be things that I might not find relevant for a whole post, but that happen to me at the same rate as any other 23 year old woman. 

I Have Dating Problems

I have chosen to put my whole life online. In doing so, I’ve shared stories about past relationships and things that are about as un-sexy as it comes. One thing that I needed to learn was that not everyone signed up for this life. I’ve had to be very cognizant to communicate first, analyze, and only share when I’ve actually gained something worth sharing. 

Anyone can pick up a laptop, open WordPress, and type all the grievances they have with their partner. Not only does that make for highly negative content, but it’s also not great for resolving any issues. So, though you might not see a bunch of content on it, I do have the dating problems like most 20-somethings have. 

I’m on the stupid dating apps. I get ghosted from time to time and take it way too personally. I have absolutely said, “I’ll probably end up alone,” in the last year even though I would smack any of my followers for saying the same. That’s what this blog is about. My mindset about life is not always perfect. The actions and words that I have in certain situations occasionally end up being mistakes. EmyDBlog, however, is a place of acceptance past all of the supporting moments in your life so that you can truly enjoy the IG-worthy ones!

I Worry About Money

I’ve absolutely talked about money problems on here, right? It’s definitely one of my biggest stressors in life. It’s not even because I constantly struggle – I just don’t feel like I have the best relationship with money. When I have a lot, I feel like I should be doing something to make more. When I don’t have much, I feel like a failure.

My parents are ready to transfer money to me when I need it after one single phone call, but part of me would rather sell my kidney. Why is that? I don’t post about money often because it gives me goosebumps and truthfully, I look to other people for guidance. 

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I’m not an expert at finances, saving, or investing. For that kind of information, I go elsewhere. So, unless it could value my followers in a feeling of community, there’s no reason for me to spend time talking about a topic that stresses me out. Be warned, though, when I do finally understand how stocks work and I’m making hand over fist… it’s OVER for you guys.

I Have Mental Health Issues

This is something that I’ve posted a lot about. As a mental health blogger, I’ve been very open about the fact that I have bad days. My bad days are not only the ones that I post online, just like I have a lot of great moments that my iPhone can’t capture. 

Sometimes, my days might be a little too dark to sum up in an Instagram post. It’s not because I don’t want to share it – I feel that’s an important role that I’ve taken on. Nope, it’s because I haven’t always found the right words to wrap round it.

So, yes. I allow you into my struggle most of the time. One of my favorite quotes, though, is “just because I’m carrying it with ease doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.” In other words, just because I’ve gotten used to sharing and being vulnerable doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still take courage and motivation every single time to get through. 

I Have Body Image Issues

My friends and family are quite literally saints. They’re willing to take one million photos of me just for me to say none of them are good enough. Usually, I hate the angle, the way my chin looks, or how my stomach looks just a little too big. As a body positivity blogger, this is problematic.

Every word I’ve said about loving your body is true. I have learned to stifle out the hatred for my body with love. It doesn’t, however, mean that I don’t have to constantly work at having a positive mindset. I have days where I change out of my dress to wear leggings instead. I have bad days just like any other human being! 

When you see the photos of me being a strong, confident queen, that’s the truth. But, you also need to realize that I have moments where I have to work on my inner dialogue and be nicer to myself that you don’t see on those tiny Instagram squares.

The Takeaway

Social media can be a beautiful thing. It can also be horrendously ugly. Each post is a snapshot of one moment, one event, one memory in time. It doesn’t include all the other tiny things leading up to that photo – both good and bad. 

The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side. But, rather than obsessing over someone else’s grass… why don’t we try watering our own? Why don’t we start to love what we’re posting because it makes us FEEL good? What if we operated under the assumption that everyone’s social media is the highlight reel of their life because no one is going to include the embarrassing fumbles or screw ups in there. Even those of us who are willing to share some of the screw ups still can only share snapshots in time. I can’t share both sides, the whole thing, or every emotion even if I wanted to! Social media is not reality, my friends. Remember that. 

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5 Tips to Help Seasonal Allergies

** This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through one of the links! **

Seasonal allergies have got me absolutely miserable some days. I’m not sure if it’s some sick joke, but on the days I need to be the most focused my allergies seem the worst. I didn’t start dealing with allergies until my late teens, so learning to deal with them has been a process. Unlike kids with a lot of allergies already, I wasn’t used to keeping Claritin or Benadryl around at all times. However, I’ve done some research, suffering, and thriving through allergy season that gives me 5 tips to help seasonal allergies.

Nasal Spray

I’m not a huge fan of things up my nose, but nasal sprays have done me well in allergy season. Any brand of saline nasal spray will work, but I typically reach for Flonase. I have to blow my nose all the time, so any sort of relief is appreciated. 

In this time, we’re wearing masks which seems to make the sniffling even worse. I’ve found that using a nasal spray has been a cleaner way to subside the sniffles and sneezing for an extended period of time.

Definitely follow the directions on the box, though! Every nasal spray has a maximum amount of times you’re supposed to use the product per day. OVeruse may have an opposite effect on your already allergy-ridden nose.

Hot Showers

Hot showers are a year-round thing for me, but they’ve been Heaven-sent for me during allergy season. I had bronchitis a couple of years back which seems to stick with you whenever you have respiratory issues.

Adding some hot water vapor into your life can soothe your airways and it can also relax the muscles that tend to tense up in allergy season. It’s a cheap way of getting the effects of a humidifier without the actual machine & very quickly!

Putting eucalyptus in your shower is also insanely helpful. You can buy it at Trader Joe’s or other grocery stores. Once you set the fresh plant in your shower, it will release essential oils to help you out!

Essential Oils

I’m not overly knowledgeable about essential oils. A simple Google or Pinterest search would answer a lot of the questions on why these things work. I just know that they really do work for me, especially when I don’t want to load up my body with allergy medication. As I said before, I’ve used eucalyptus in it’s all natural form. I’ve only really worked with a couple forms of essential oils, but they can be purchased through actual dealers or online!

My allergies cause me to get tension headaches with which I don’t want to take medication on top of my allergy pills. I’ve chosen to reach for rollersticks that contain peppermint. Again, I’m not sure why this voodoo magic works…but it does. It relieves a ton of tension in my head and neck! I have this one, if you’re looking!

Sometimes, I have trouble getting to sleep as well. I use lavender spray for my pillows along with melatonin to get as much sleep as possible! Allergies can keep you up and definitely make you toss around. This way, I feel as comfortable as possible in bed in a natural way. I tried it for the first time with the Bath and Body Works brand, but there are cheaper options that are a little more Apothecary-like (this one). 

Heating Pad

I actually discovered my undenying need for a heating pad accidentally. My lower back was killing me. I bought a heating pad thinking that I’d use it until it felt better and then it would collect dust. NOPE.

Similar to the hot shower thing, keeping that heat on my back or chest while I sleep has been hugely helpful in easing muscle tension. When I sneeze it doesn’t feel like all my bones are about to break (as much). Plus, it’s super comforting! For single queens like me, it’s nice to have a little warmth in your bed!

I picked mine up at Target! It’s in the size XXL so I can move around and even wrap around my shoulder or my hip if I need to! However, I just found one from Sunbeam on Amazon that’s the exact same size and cheaper. If I can’t get the savings, you guys should!

Medicine

Since most of these are pretty natural ways of combating seasonal allergies, I also want to include my daily go-to. Allergy medication has pretty much saved my life for a couple years. I personally take Benadryl, Claritin, or an off-brand non-drowsy! 

As I’ve said before on EmyD, I’m not against taking medication when it’s necessary. However, it’s not something I would love to do if there’s other options. There are certain days I wake up feeling like someone is holding my nose. I start those days out with coffee and Claritin.

Even though you can pick up allergy medication just about anywhere, it doesn’t mean that it will affect everyone the same way. Benadryl still makes me unreasonably sleepy when I take it. In fact, I’m so tired I probably shouldn’t be operating machinery. When I first started taking allergy medication, I found that having any residual caffeine in my body along with the pill would make me feel intoxicated. Weird, right? 

Like every other medication, be safe about your use with it! Talk to your doctor if you have concerns when it comes to other medications or your lifestyle! They may even be able to give you something that’s prescription and personalized for you! 

The Allergy Takeaway

Allergies totally suck. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about that. Fall is too pretty to spend it absolutely miserable though! You deserve to get out to the pumpkin patch, go one walks, and have your windows open without feeling like you’re going to sneeze out the contents of your brain. 

Like I said, fall is way too cute to miss out on! Check out our balcony!

This year is even more tricky! We’re trying especially hard not to get sick. On the bright side, though, everyone is being more cognizant of washing their hands! That means tracking a lot of the things we’re allergic to from outside to inside might be lowered. 

If you’re feeling totally exhausted from allergies, I feel you. I hope that you find relief in any of these five tips to help with seasonal allergies. If not, I hope that you find your own way to work through them. (And then share it with me!) We’re in this together!

Do have allergies? Tell me your tips and tricks through my socials below!

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The Biggest Mistake A Budding Influencer Can Make

It doesn’t take a magic spell to become an influencer. We’ve all been at that moment where we’re questioning whether we’re hot enough, successful enough, and talented enough to become one. The answer is if you’re dedicated to having a following and providing value to it, you will become one. I’ve seen a lot of stuff and guided some people through some online mistakes. However, I’ve narrowed down one biggest mistake a budding influencer can make.

Influencers are All Different

I work with a lot of different types of influencers. I work with women who are younger than me and working on brand deals. Each day I text moms that are just kind of breaking into the space. I have two clients that have written successful books you can find on Amazon!! Crazy. 

No one follower in your audience is the same. Sure, they might share interests. Like you and I, however, they all have different experiences and lives that make them really relate to different stories. Where one follower might go nuts with GRWM (Get Ready With Me) video from one influencer, makeup might truly not be her thing at all.

The need for influencers of different age ranges, sexual orientations, career paths, interests, ethnicities, and just general focuses is SO important. It’s what Instagram pictures are different when you’re scrolling through. It is also what provides valuable information to EVERYONE on the platform, rather than just Gen Z users.

The Big Whammy

If there’s one nugget of free PR advice you take from me when it comes to Instagram, it’s do NOT participate in buying followers. Buying bots to act as place holders for real people on your page does nothing for your journey to making money on IG. Sure, that number looks really pretty but it essentially means nothing. 

Companies can tell the quality of your interactions and your followers. When they see that you have 35 followers with a different variation of “@Sarah123456” you don’t look like a credible person to partner with. Also, you don’t really have a “following” to promote their product to as they’re not looking to market to bots. 

Engagement Rate

I’ve come across accounts that have hundreds of thousands of followers that get 1,000 likes on a photo. That’s a problem. That means that the quality of your following is low. Even if they are real people, they’re not actively participating in the content that you’re posting. Again, that’s a red flag that you couldn’t sell a product for a company aka no brand deals!

My clients at EmyD Media and I are ALWAYS working toward the golden 20% engagement ratio. It’s absolutely not easy and requires time, patience, and good content. Even with an amazing engagement rate, brand deals are not a given! For more information about where your engagement rate can use some tweaking, contact me through the “Work with Me” tab!

Bonus Advice

Just because I like you guys so much, I’ll even give you a little more information. Stop participating in those buy-in follow giveaways. It’s a waste of money to watch your engagement rate absolutely TANK.

If you want to do a giveaway where you’re spending money, buy the product/giftcard/etc yourself as an investment that you would have spent into the buy-in. Make yourself the ONLY person that you have to follow in this transaction. No user wants to follow 15 other accounts for a chance to win a gift card. Also, odds of all those people interacting with you after the giveaway is over is small – again, tanking your engagement rate.

Unless you’re consistently doing little giveaways, they are just another way of buying followers. Your content should be what attracts people to your page, not your money! Believe me, there’s influencers making a LOT of money who aren’t paying their followers a cent of it monetarily. They give back in more quality content, better equipment, and more opportunities to connect!

Was this helpful to you? Get in touch with me through any of my socials below!

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Being Proud of Your Decisions

Today, I listened as my brother stood his ground about a decision that was really hard for him to make. Like many other eighteen year olds, his first year of college was not what he planned on or dreamed about for years. Thus, like many others, he decided to defer for a semester – to work, save, and learn how to be an adult while the pandemic has it’s way with the world. Unfortunately, he was made to feel bad about his decision. He stood his ground and confidently listed the reasons why staying home felt the best for him right now. Truthfully, he grew up right in front of my eyes right then and he taught me a little something about being proud of your decisions.

Queen Indecisive

Nothing is promised to you in this life. There’s nothing that we’ve learned more clearly in a global pandemic than that lesson. Honestly, it makes being indecisive a little easier when you feel like a lot is riding on virtually every decision that you make. I mean, sure it might just be what we’re having for dinner but what if the love of my life is at the OTHER place. Yes, that’s dramatic; however, you get the point.

For a majority of my life, I’ve absolutely not been good at making decisions. I really dislike disappointing people and I don’t want to be the one to blame if things go wrong. I eventually learned that it’s a little thing called Social Anxiety that inhibits making decisions that involve others. As my mental health got worse, I was indecisive because I didn’t want the attention to be on me. It was the perfect storm.

There comes a time, though, that you have to start making decisions. If not for everyone in the room, at least for yourself. You can make them and think about all the things that could have been. Or, you can make them and be content in the decision that you made. 

What Could Have Been

I’m sure we all have a moment in our life that we would take back if we could. I’ve absolutely said things that should never have come out of my mouth. I have also dated men that were just plain old bad to me. I’ve gone back to men that were bad to me.

Honestly, a lot of the poor decisions that we make come from a lack of confidence in our own decision making ability. We seem to second guess ourselves and think of all the things that “should’ve, would’ve, or could’ve” happened. Things definitely would have turned out differently, but better? Nobody will ever know. Nothing is promised in this life. Spending your time wishing you’d gone with another decision rather than leaning into the one you’ve already made seems like a BIG waste of time. 

Mistake Versus Decision

I made the conscious decision to go back to men that were not treating me very nicely. Even when I talk about it now, I don’t think that I’d change it. Some part of me needed to learn what I was worth through heartbreak and a bunch of tears. Saying something that you don’t mean, however, is a mistake. Like, decision-making, it’s important to come to terms with your mistakes, take responsibility, and move the eff on! There’s nothing worse, however, than someone standing by a mistake as if it was a decision they consciously made. 

For example, if you’re wrong about information you said and a friend calls you out on it. Unless you preemptively planned on spreading false information, it was a mistake. You don’t have to stand your ground to be right when you make a mistake. All the cool kids are saying sorry about behavior, thoughts, and actions that aren’t right these days – get with it!

Being Proud of Your Decisions

I watched Sullivan tell a person of authority from his school his truth. He was proud of his decision to take a beat. He knows that though it’s not right for everyone, it’s what’s right for him. Making decisions that are best for you, your mental health, finances, or just your happiness feels good! You are allowed to feel good. 

It can be as simple as, “I don’t want to do that.” Decisions don’t have to be made resentfully or in haste. Giving yourself power and autonomy in sticking to them can greatly increase your quality of life – not to mention the quality of those you surround yourself with! So, what’s are YOU deciding for YOU today?

Tell me about something you’ve done for you lately in the socials below!

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There’s Too Much On My Plate!

If you follow me at all, you know that I’m a busy lady. I’ve been taking photos as a side hustle since 2017. I launched a podcast, then re-launched it, in 2019. This blog is now a year old. I also make money through a survival, service industry job and freelance my PR to start my dream profession! It’s a lot. I love being busy. My “To Do” list is almost never empty – it would drive some people crazy, but it reminds me that I’m becoming successful! However, there’s a fine line between workaholic and breakdown because of stress, right? These days, there are moments where I have to remind myself to slow down and repeat “there’s too much on my plate,” when other things to agree to come up.

A Helping of Work

This weekend was one of the busiest in a while. For my business, the couple days surrounding the end and the beginning of each month are absolutely insane. It’s about getting insights done, contracts written for the upcoming month, and being diligent about the Public Relations changes that we’ve made throughout the month. The transition from September to October of this year was one of the busiest for my business. For that, I am unbelievably blessed. However, I’m also taking on challenges like I don’t have the clientele and following that I do. Sometimes I need to slow down!

Slowing down, however, means pumping the brakes on something that I’ve been working on for so many months now. It also means finding priorities in my days. Some things have to wait until tomorrow. Other things, like the needs of my clients, need to be done quickly and successfully. Yes, it’s a lot. However, it’s something that I’ve been working on for so long. I’m blessed to be busy with my work. Rather than thinking, “Ugh, I wish I wasn’t so busy,” I am going to reframe it as “I’m blessed to call what I love work & if I wasn’t supposed to be doing this, I wouldn’t be.”

A Helping of Birthday

This weekend was my beautiful roommate, Shelby’s, birthday! We celebrated her on Friday with a small group of friends at our house. The pandemic always adds a layer of stress to things that would otherwise go off without a second thought. This year, we hosted the event at our apartment, since we’re not going to go to bars! I’ll say it – I’m an AWESOME hostess. I was happy to put out food, grab a little cake, and clean the house.

It was an amazing day to celebrate a great friend! Entertaining is always high maintenance, but even more so in a pandemic. I wanted to make sure that all of our surfaces were not only clean, but completely disinfected. It was important that everyone had somewhere to sit. By no means was this party imperative, however, my friends mean the world to me. If we can have a night of normalcy to celebrate our girl, that’s a priority to me! I was happy to take it on my plate. So, instead of “I have to clean the house,” it was “I get to see my friends.”

A Helping of Marriage

I had the absolute honor of photographing the wedding of some of my favorite clients. Photography has absolutely taken the back burner to the other aspects of EmyD. I’ve had amazing success with EmyD Photography, but it’s not what I want to do as my full-time job. However, having big shoots like this always lights a fire under my butt to get more creative and inspired with my content.

Someone’s wedding day is the Big Kahuna of photography. As much as I love senior shots, you can always get another beautiful day to retake if necessary. You can’t redo the elements of a wedding that the couple wants to capture forever. There’s moments like the first look, the kiss, and the dances that are so “in the moment” that they become high pressure.

Maybe the reason that I don’t want to be a full-time photographer is because I’m so tense and perfectionistic when it comes to my work. I’ve had lists and Pinterest boards preparing for this wedding for weeks. Emily, the bride, is also a planner which made me feel a little more sane. She was so organized and amazing. Honestly, her preparedness calmed everyone around her down, but I like to walk into my shoots with that same level of confidence and organization! Though it was a mentally exhausting day, it was amazing. I’m so happy to have been a part of it. So, instead of “I have to prepare for this long day of shooting,” it became, “I am blessed to get paid for doing things that make me feel creative, inspired, and motivated.”

Reframing a Full Plate

Yes, I put a lot on my plate. I always have and truthfully, I don’t see that changing any time soon. The way that I look at it, there’s a couple ways to go about being busy in life. You can be resentful that your life is busy or that you didn’t have to get up to go to meetings with clients. You can wish that you didn’t have to post consistently, but that would mean that your following would decrease. 

Or, you can do what I do. I choose to run with it. There are some days where I absolutely just need like 12 hours of sleep which came to me at 8:30pm this Saturday night. However, I wouldn’t trade being busy for being bored. If I didn’t feel pressure to post, it would mean that I was still hustling for a following. If I didn’t feel like I had to prepare content, it would mean that I wasn’t signing clients. photoshoots like weddings are a lot to prepare for, but without them I wouldn’t be able to get creative for a job!

Sometimes, I have to ask for help in carrying my plate. I’ve asked Sullivan to help me at shoots. There’s been moments when my lovely clients are patient with me so that they get the best product. But agreeing to the things that you want to do, loading only what you want onto your agenda, and being your true self will make being busy so much more enjoyable. Yes, there’s too much on my plate… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.


What have you been really busy with? Let me know in my socials below!

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Having the PR Perfect Instagram

A Public Relations degree has always been my safety net. Pretty much every field needs a Public Relations professional doing work as they reach a certain level of business. God knows that if something goes wrong, you absolutely need someone in PR to help sort out the chaos. Basically, my degree in PR was job security in something that I was decently good at. I’ve also gotten really good having the PR Perfect Instagram.

Did I think that I would be doing freelance PR at 23 years old? No, not really. In a global pandemic, we’ve all had to get a little creative in how we’re earning our money, how we’re planning on doing so in the future, and how we’re keeping ourselves sane. For our essential workers, that means leaving the house everyday. Teachers have to completely change how they connect with children and focus on the best ways to do so through a computer. For those of us in the internet sphere, it meant a lot more people and businesses entering the game. 

Listen, that’s not always a bad thing. From a PR perspective, quantity means more potential clients to hire me. However, also from the PR perspective, I only keep those clients if they see big, noticeable changes – which is hard in a super competitive space!  

As part of my consultation process, I offer an Instagram Profile Audit. This process basically takes a look at one’s profile through the lens of Public Relations. It asks the questions that businesses ask before they approach influencers for brand deals such as follower count, engagement levels, demographics, insights, active audience, and such. Follower count is something that anyone can see from just looking at your profile, right? Easy. But, if a company were to glance through your Instagram right now, would they see that you’re taking advantage of all the tools IG has to offer?

Having the PR Perfect IG

Obviously, I go in-depth with each of these in an actual consultation. My clients and I go over how just one word in your bio can change your look completely to a company! These three things, however, are something that I’m constantly touching on in my consults with influencers. They are something that I always ask them to think about and consider changing.

The PR Perfect Bio

I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on you, but writing a bio is extremely important when it comes to brand management and follower growth. A mentor of mine, Abby Helfer, once told me about my own Instagram that it’s like a boutique window. It shows us the pretty things to expect before we venture into the store (or our profile). 

Working with a PR Strategist to get this worded right can be game changing for your business. Like I said before, a simple change from the label “blogger” to “content creator” can be insanely effective. My biggest thing about bios is using the link that Instagram provides. My Instagram has links to my most recent blog post as that’s what I would like to direct traffic to. If you’re wanting to direct followers to a website, put it there. You can absolutely put a streaming channel like Twitch or Youtube in your bio. If you want people to click on a GoFundMe for Black Lives Matter (another one of my recent links), PUT IT THERE. 

However, don’t have it be a floating link. By that, I mean, that it’s an influencer’s job to explain why a click on that link is necessary. What value would that link give me as a follower?

The PR Perfect Highlight

If the bio is the boutique window, the highlights are the the first things you see when you walk into the store. They are the new releases, stuff on sale, and just beautiful ads that keeps everyone walking deeper into the store. 

Obviously, the way that you organize your Instagram highlights are up to personal preference. In terms of the best look for a brand, you want it to match the aesthetic of your profile. If you have photos with bright colors, highlights with those chromatics might be a good addition. If you post a lot of greens and landscapes in your photos, it might be worth your time to look for covers that match. Good old Pinterest has a ton of highlight covers that can be downloaded and used to your heart’s content.

At the end of the day, make sure that your highlights represent what you’ll find within your profile. They’re called highlights to be the absolute best moments from your story! Cohesive and clean are always best, but make sure that they’re representing you, your brand, and your product!

The PR Perfect Profile

Instagram allows us 30 hashtags per post. That’s 30 chances for people to find your content in a place where thousands of posts are going up every second. There is a debate amongst digital media experts about just how many hashtags you should be using in each post. Some say that you shouldn’t clutter your post – saying that 15 is enough. I, however, am part of the team that says that you should use all the tools that you’re given. If there’s an opportunity to use a hashtag, I say take it. You can see that in pretty much all of my IG posts. 

If I’m the first person to tell you that you should be using a call to action in your captions, I’m so sorry for the PR injustice you’ve been put through. All of your captions should call your audience to action in some way. It could be urging them to comment on the post (increase that engagement!), encouraging them to go to another page, or providing them with codes to buy your product or service!

Public relations that are more specific to and your profile are available with a FREE Instagram audit. Head over to the “Work With Me” tab to book yours!

Invest in Yourself and Invest in Your PR

Like every other business, you need to invest money to get it off the ground. For example, if you want to have a really successful blog, you will have to buy a domain or maybe invest in some writing courses!

Public relations and marketing online is absolutely worthy of your time and money investment. The best profiles have their target audience, collaborations, and business goals in mind when designing each part. Doing freelance PR has made me realize just how effective little tweaks in your profile can be. Your bio, highlights, and profile on Instagram are your first step in making more money online and connecting to your target audience!

Do you have questions about how your profile looks in terms of PR? Contact me on any of my socials below!

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Having a Type A Personality in a Pandemic

I would love to sit here and tell you that I’m a Type B personality. I would love to embody those characteristics. For a while, I even had myself convinced that I already did. I might have some in the bag, though. As I sit here and write a blog on a website that I built from scratch, I’d like to believe I’ve got a little bit of creativity in my blood. I am also queen of the “Tendency to Procrastinate” category. College for me was a bunch of nights doing papers in 6 hours that were assigned 3 months prior. But, alas, I am a Type A personality. Let me just say it: It’s difficult having a Type A personality in a pandemic. 

After having a pretty rough week, I wanted to be a little more analytical about my personality, routine, and mindset within this weird time. Why are there certain moments that rub me the wrong way while others I can digest being in a pandemic perfectly fine? 

Type A Personalities have a tendency to multitask

I don’t fit the mold of a “typical blogger” and I’ve accepted that. Part of the reason I got my Mac was so that I could answer a bunch of emails/texts while I was writing. The amount of tabs open on my computer at a given time are enough to make anyone go crazy. But, it’s always been the kind of worker I am!

In a pandemic, it gets a little overwhelming. There’s so many things I can be doing for my budding business that the piles on my plate seem a little too big sometimes. Unlike with school, I don’t necessarily have deadlines pushing me to finish or grades to guarantee a good product. All of that motivation has to come from within.

As most of you probably know, juggling eight balls is much more difficult than throwing one ball up to catch it again. When you have a lot going on your form can get sloppy and you might even drop something. In reality, multitasking doesn’t really work… for the best work. Yet, those of us who HAVE TO juggle a lot of things at once still do it. We learn how to juggle them all best and hopefully, we learn when to say no to adding more to the mix.

Type A Personalities tend to be competitive

I’ll say it. I am ridiculously competitive. You challenge me in a board game and my trash talk might scar you for a while. I know, I know, positivity blogger. Seriously though, I’ve had a need to be the best since I was a kid. I don’t even think it’s necessarily because I like people to know that about me. Maybe I just want to know it about myself.

Type A competitiveness at WERK at a show choir competition in high school.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that it could be an ongoing battle with my own self image. Being competitive and therefore good at most things gives me the ego boost that I need sometimes. Being competitive as an adult is not cute, for lack of a better term. In the pandemic, it manifests itself in comparison with others – other bloggers, writers, and businesswomen. 

Truthfully, blogging is such a warm and accepting community. Those within the field want others to succeed too. So, when you have a competitive personality, you put pressure on yourself to be better, do better, and write better that does not need to happen. It’s a lot.

Type A Personalities are very organized

My patron saint is St. Organization. Color-coding got me through a double major program in the same amount of time I should have gotten only one degree. Now, having two planners, many lists, and ongoing Post-Its are what allow me to get through the day without pulling all my hair out. 

Check out my organization blog for actual tips!

It might be a little much to the outsider, but having this level of organization allows me to have control in my life that has a LOT going on. (See multitasking above.) There’s not a ton of certainty in a pandemic which means not a lot of things that can be organized. 

You almost don’t want to plan for the future in fear that the world comes to a grinding halt again. One day, in March, I was managing in the morning and laid off by night. For Type A-ers like me, the inability to make future, set-in-stone plans really inhibits our organization skills. All in all, pandemics are not great for this girl’s need to plan out her life.

Type A Personalities spend much of their time focused on work

I’m proud to say that Type A personalities are goal-oriented. That’s a characteristic about myself that I absolutely love. When you’re worried about getting sick or those around you making poor choices, your options are limited to staying in your house. Staying in your house means that your list of possible activities are also very limited.

During COVID, I’ve turned a lot to screens. All of my work can be done from my phone or laptop. Thus, I almost feel guilty when I’m NOT working because it’s so easily accessible within the pandemic. What I’ve had to realize, though, is that even though my job is available to me at all times on the computer… I don’t need to be working at all times to be considered successful. 

I have big goals when it comes to the blog, the podcast, and the PR business but spending too much time focused on work just promises to burn me out faster. In a pandemic, you have to be dedicated to scheduling yourself breaks. You have to make sure that you’re not spending all of your time sleeping, working, eating, or bingeing Criminal Minds on Netflix (it can’t be just me). Even though it’s within my personality to dive headfirst into my work while I have the capabilities and the time, it’s been a struggle to set limits for myself when the goals seem right there. 

Type A all Day

There was a time that I didn’t like who I was. I spent a long time learning to love my personality, mannerisms, and characteristics as they were the things that piled up to form me. Realizing where you might be struggling, however, is an emotionally intelligent thing to do at any stage of your life. 

Personally, there are personality traits that lead me to go a little crazy within the bounds of the pandemic. Some days, I have to actively remind myself that multitasking can be overwhelming. There’s moments where I have to be okay with going with the flow unlike ever before. Lastly, I have to remind myself that it’s okay to take breaks and reward yourself even when your goals are huge. 

Whether you have these traits or not, this time has been completely weird for all of us. Understand that you’re not alone if you’re feeling a little goofy, off, or just plain stressed. As we learn to live in a time that we never thought we would have to, we are all getting through it. One day at a time. 

How are you holding up during these times? Hit me up on social media and tell me your story!

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New Mama, New Blogger, New ME!

Hi, I’m so happy you’re here. My name is Sarah Bell & I am very new to the blog life so thank you for your love & patience as I get my feet wet.

A little about me – I’m 29 (almost), married to my best friend, Bryan & we had our beautiful son, Carter in March of this year! I’m sure most of you, if not all of you can agree that 2020 has been a whirlwind to say the least. I could go on for days about everything that’s happened to us over the last 9 months but I thought instead, I’d share some positive pieces with you. Thanks to COVID-19, I was laid off in August. Up until now, I have always had a full time job & even when I was pregnant with our son, I told myself I always wanted to have a career AND be a mom. My view point on that quickly changed when I was home with CJ & got to see him roll over for the first time! I immediately burst into tears thinking, OMG, what if I was at work when this happened & I only got to watch it through a video? I know most families don’t have this luxury, so I truly feel blessed to be able to experience being a SAHM, even if it’s only for a little while.

In just a few short weeks, we are moving to our new home & I could not be more excited. My focus for this blog is going to be affordable home décor finds, fashion for every season & A LOT of mama/baby moments. Currently our townhome is an absolute wreck, & that does not vibe well with my OCD tendencies so you can imagine how ready I am for this move to be over & we are all settled.

When I first came up with Being the Bells, I was working full time at an investment firm & didn’t have the opportunity to put the time or energy into it the way I wanted to. Soon it was on the back burner just like every other dream I’d had & quickly disappeared into thin air. Once I was laid off I took a good hard look at what I REALLY wanted to do with my life. What was going to make ME happy? It’s never been just about the money for me. I’ve always wanted to find a career path that I would love & could be profitable from. I knew if I was going to do this again, I needed to really dedicate myself to it & did just that.

This quote really says it all… taking my doubt & fear of failure and turning that into my motivation & determination to be successful in this line of work. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long way to go & a whole lot of work to do but, I have met some of the SWEETEST women re-starting this journey & they have given me all the confidence in the world to push through and succeed.

Being the Bells is me. It’s my husband. It’s my son. It’s my passion. Anyone with a dream…chase after it. Don’t stop until you’re so in love with your life that everything leading up to that moment was worth the struggle. Everyday I’m at this I hope to learn & grow with each and every one of you. We may not be able to change the last 9 months of this year, but we can certainly go out with a BANG to end it. Thank you all so much for checking me out, I really look forward to sharing more with you!

Stay tuned & God Bless

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Instead I Live on National Suicide Prevention Day

I know that National Suicide Prevention Day isn’t a national holiday. It’s a day dedicated to the prevention of suicides around the world celebrated on the 10th of September each year. Does the general public know of this day? Absolutely not. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know the exact date until I was approached by a mental health organization on IG. So, as a mental health advocate and blog owner, I didn’t know the day of the year that we show our commitment to preventing suicides for the entire year. Something is wrong with that. So, today, I chose to write about my experience, my story, and my commitment to preventing suicide 365 days a year. *TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide, suicidal thoughts, depression*

I would never have classified myself as someone that was suicidal. Even now, despite sharing a bunch of vulnerable stories online, I’m hesitant to put that out there. Suicide feels too dark and real to put online sometimes. But, like everything I put online, I share because it might make someone else feel a sense of community, belonging, and comfort.

My Story

In my file, you’d find a note from my high school years that reads something like “Displays Suicidal Tendencies.” The things I said were in line with someone who didn’t care whether they were on this earth or not. Goals that I had for the future were nowhere to be found – partially because I couldn’t imagine a future. 

My experience with suicidal thoughts or how to combat them is different than others. It’s not the same as what you see in the movies or even on those videos that they show you in health class. For me, everything just kind of was numb. I didn’t care about grades, friends, or anything that had given me joy. All I had the energy to do was sleep & sleeping forever seemed like a pretty good solution to these problems. 

My story as you’ll find, is not a one size fit all. Some people have trauma that pushes them into depression and suicidal tendencies. Some have depression in their biology that deals them a rough hand of cards from the start. After that, problem solving feels harder and harder every time. There’s some like me, who have an amazing life, an amazing family, and essentially all the right tools to make it, yet still fall into the trap of having dark thoughts. Some people fit none of those descriptions. 

The Realities of Suicide Prevention

Understanding suicide and treating it as a reality in our world is always the first step to combatting it. First, let’s just get this out there: suicide exists. Unlike popular opinion, it’s not just 20-somethings who have been mentally disturbed their whole life. In fact, the highest demographic affected by suicide is middle aged white men, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. It’s K-12 students who’ve been bullied, gone through trauma, or just dealt with undiagnosed mental illness. Our elderly population is not immune either. Though we have a schema for suicide, understanding that prevention goes far beyond a classroom or social media screen is extremely important. 

I’m not a doctor, a therapist, or even a volunteer for a mental health organization. The credibility I speak from is having gone through my own issues. Thus, I can’t sit here and say all the ways you can combat suicidal thoughts and tendencies. I can, however, talk about how I learned to live when all I wanted to do was die.

MY Suicide Prevention

I was talking very openly about death (a huge warning sign – follow this link for more info) even if I hadn’t begun to develop a plan. It was clear to those that loved me the most that I cared very little about things that happened in my life – good or bad. In fact, I was ready to disconnect from anything that made me feel committed. Speaking very candidly here, I started to imagine what other’s lives would be like without mine. Would they be better off? My anxieties pushed me to think so, but something about that felt wrong. I couldn’t imagine my baby brother talking about the sister he “used” to have. No matter how irritable, angry, or just confusing I had been I was still his big sister. 

I Started Talking

Thank you to HeartSupport for this graphic and the #InsteadILive campaign that inspired this blog!

The first time I said “I’m not okay” outloud was really difficult. I had been getting through the day, going through the motions, and crashing into rock bottom as time went on. When I finally let those words out of my body, it felt like a tidal wave. 

Talking about my depression, anxiety, and dark thoughts has been hugely therapeutic for me. Even now, speaking openly about things that might be uncomfortable has made me feel empowered to be exactly who I am. Speaking about thoughts that I had allowed my family and I to pinpoint some areas of my life that were at an absolute breaking point, even if I didn’t see them as such. When you’re talking about your feelings, you can also get to realizations faster than just keeping it all bottled up.

It was so hard for the people I love to hear me speak about life so apathetically, but it also allowed us all to work towards a healthy solution to the problem.

I Created

Courtesy of HeartSupport and the #InsteadILive campaign

If you guys couldn’t tell, I do have a blog. LOL. No, but I’ve been writing about mental health and those moments of pure mental anguish for a long, long time. Even before they were under the name “EmyD”. I also used song, dance, and art to express thoughts that I literally could not formulate into words. Throwing myself headfirst into hobbies allowed me to give a shit, for lack of a better term. When all else failed, I had something that actually made me feel productive and a bit more human.

Don’t get me wrong. There were days that I was so mentally exhausted I couldn’t get out of bed. The idea of “perking myself up with a painting” would have made me vomit. Let me tell you, though, learning to live for something is a game-changer. I couldn’t put all of that on my brother because it’s not fair, nor does it give me autonomy as a young woman. I had to learn how to love what I could say, do, write, and create all on my own. 

I Advocate

While I still have a mental illness, it’s been a long time since my mind has had a suicidal thought. It’s not because I’ve grown out of it or completely changed. Rather, it’s because I found value in life that I couldn’t see. I learned coping mechanisms for mental illness that only worsened it. Lastly, I learned that saying “I need help” doesn’t make you any less of a badass. 

These days, I still have really bad days. They come much more in frequently now. Between them are many really great days to ward off the darkness. But, I still have bad days. I advocate for people with mental illness and suicidal tendencies because living is the best decision I’ve ever made. 

I advocate now because six years ago, I needed someone else to advocate for me. I commit myself to preventing suicide in any way I possibly can on this National Suicide Prevention Day. Even when it gets dark and scary, I have to remind myself that I can defy the thoughts that want to put me down by saying, “Instead, I live.”

Thank you so much @HeartSupport for creating such an important initiative and constantly advocating for important things. Thank you, Taylor Palmby, for encouraging me to look into the #InsteadILive campaign!

Join the conversation on any of my socials or find valuable resources through HeartSupport!

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Behind the Blog: Why I Blog

My sweet friend, Kate, recently sent me a message asking me how I got to where I’m at: how I put myself out there, how I overcome insecurity, and how I don’t worry about what others think. Truth be told, I did all of those things for a long time when I first pressed “Activate” on my own website. There’s still days where it overcomes me. Even if it doesn’t seem like it everyday, there’s a lot that goes on behind the blog. 

Why I Started

As you know, I’ve been writing for a while. I’m a huge advocate for journaling because it’s been one of the only ways I can express my chaotic emotions in a healthy way. Blogging, though, is different. Different in a way that when I finally finished…it was out there. It was on the internet. In a way, sending those words off into cyberspace has almost released the tension from inside my brain.

Along with that release, comes a wave of anxiety about what people will think about what you just wrote. Will they like it? Will it resonate with anyone? Is anyone even going to read this? Truth be told, when you initially post you don’t have any of those answers. If you’re looking for outward gratification in comments, likes, and messages, you’re not going to get it every time. If you’re piece changed one person, though, it was worth it. That includes you. 

When I say that, I don’t mean that every Facebook status is worth posting. In fact, I would like you Baby Boomers to take just one more second before you send that aggressive novel of a status. Instead, I mean that sharing, posting, and relating to others through our own experiences can be hugely beneficial. We can literally make a community behind our blog that makes every post easier. 

Out with the Old

These days, I’ve started to care less and less what old acquaintances think of my blog or what Timmy from church has to say about my way of life. One, because they aren’t paying my bills or contributing to my serotonin levels. Two, because it makes me feel good. So back off, Timmy. 

The motivation behind the blog comes from moments like this… where I’m reminded how beautiful, amazing, and genuine my everyday life is!

Even if this blog had zero views, (which I will brag that it does in fact have more than zero) the fact that I feel more and more comfortable talking about things like addiction, body image, and mental health is worth the price of a website even if no one was reading. It’s worth the time it takes to write. 

In With the New

When you’re on Pinterest, you seem to think there’s two camps of bloggers. There’s the Tumblr blogger that you would only come across in a rabbit hole.Or, there’s the blogger that makes millions of dollars, has all the deals, and has definitely published a book or two. Absolutely not

I was surprised to see just how big the blogging community was. It’s full of people who exclusively post on Instagram in photo blogs. There’s people making a ton of money from their words and definitely will have that book deal we were talking about. There’s also mid-sized bloggers (like EmyD!), specific niche bloggers, and so many others. The coolest thing is that they all support each other. It’s not cut throat and weird like other businesses you could get into.

I was okay with letting go of the hope that everyone from my small Wisconsin hometown was going to read my blog when I saw how many people actually understood me across the world. There were so many people that, like me, just wanted to write, create, and make money while doing it. Suddenly, the dreams that seemed too big for my little town felt too small for the groups I was encountering!

Behind the Blog Today

Thank you Evan MacDougall at E.Mac Photography for this amazing pic!

Everyday there is something different going on behind the blog. One day, I can’t even get a cohesive sentence out. There’s no way a blog is going up. There’s other days were scrolling through Instagram is mentalling exhausting. Yes, I’m fully aware of how unbelievably ridiculous that sounds, but when you work and hustle online you’d want to throw you’re computer out the window somedays too. There’s other days where I literally cannot tell enough people about how cool my job is. 

I consider myself a blogger, an influencer, and a PR strategist. Taking my own life into my hands, I decided that writing and social media was going to be the way that I was going to make my living because it made my heart feel good. 

Are there days where I’m scared? Yes. Do I push the boundaries of my own self confidence to post some things? YES. I mean, for God’s sake I said how much I weigh! But, at the end of the day, would I change a thing? Nope.

Are you thinking of starting a blog? What’s stopping you? Connect with you on any of my social media platforms to learn how YOU can start your own brand and make money online!

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You Could Write a Book Today

** This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through one of the links! **

I was very careful not to put the word “if” at the beginning of the title for this blog. It’s “You Can Write a Book Today” because you can. I know you can. It’s possible. There’s really no “if” to add there.

Every time I go through a bookstore, scour the bookworm hashtag online, thrift for gems in large piles of books, or even just scroll through Amazon, I’m amazed at the sheer amount of books that exist. If you want my all time favorite book, you’d look for The Giver by Lois Lowry. If you wanted my favorite book in the personal growth genre, you’d look for You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. There are genres, worlds, and cult-followings to appreciate all by opening a book. Crazy, right?

Realistically, you could write a book right now, right? If you’re reading this blog, you probably know a good amount of words to string together and formulate a book. Even if it’s not Nobel Prize material quite yet. You could do it.

Swimming and Writing a Book?

Stick with me in this long-winded analogy, okay? It will make sense. Along with all the things you’re reading about me do, I also teach kids how to swim in the summer. I did not swim thousands of miles a day for eight years for it to go to waste.

Let me tell you something about kids… they are in one of two camps. They are either unbelievably unafraid where they jump into the pool with no lifeline and no idea how to swim. This camp is sparse and so refreshing as a teacher. Then, there’s the camp that most children find themselves in when they try just about anything new – terrified of their utter demise.

Don’t get me wrong. You need to fear the water a little bit so you don’t dive into a winding river that is NOT supposed to be swam in. Usually what children fear, though, is their own lack of knowledge. They could swim perfect laps in the shallow end and the minute they know they can’t stand they’ll forget all about it. Arms will start flailing, legs will spazz, and that head goes under fast. When you start telling kids that their bodies, their minds, and their muscles naturally know how to help them to the top, they just have to calm down and let it happen, something changes for them.

I have a kid in my classes that was terrified of the deep end. He could swim like he was on a swim team in the shallow end. He told me that he was still scared of sinking to the bottom no matter how many times I told him I wouldn’t let that happen. When I finally described that his lungs are full of air to help him to the top, his fear washed away with every jump. He yells “When I’m calm, I float!” Which is both adorable and true.

You Body Knows, You Need Calm

Whether or not you want to believe it, your body, mind, and muscles all know how to push forward. They know how to keep you afloat and help you survive. When you take a big plunge like going to college, making a big investment, or taking a year off to write a book, your body reacts how you allow it to.

“I can write a book today,” is an affirmation that not everyone has. However, putting that calm, clear truth into the world allows your body to go with the flow. Giving into the overwhelm and stress is the start of your flapping arms. Screaming at your spouse about alone time while you write your chapters is the spazzing of feet. When you start to resent the action, rather than love the process… that’s your head going under.

So… You Could Write a Book Today, Right?

This goes for any big dive that you take in this life. It’s easy to resent those big moves when you’re exerting all your energy in the process. No, I’m not teaching a group of children that swimming is just letting water do what it wants to you, which is not what I’m advocating for your life jumps either. I am, however, telling you to love the process because there was a moment you didn’t think you could.

Book writing was my deep end of the pool. I was terrified of the utter demise that was putting my words onto paper and people reading them. I’m not like Jen Sincero or Rachel Hollis. They were the Olympic swimmers to me in floaties. As I kept writing, researching, and loving my own mind, I realized that I could write a book today. I could write ten books. It might be scary and take practice, but my heart already knows how to keep me afloat and write the words. 

What’s a big jump you’ve been waiting to take? Would your body know what to do? Let me know in my socials below!

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Why I Wear My Mask

** This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through one of the links! **

I live in a place where not everyone is sold on masks. It’s not like New York City where people want to wear masks because nearly everyone has either had this virus or seen a loved one have it. I live in Wisconsin where open farmland stretches between every big city. There’s a lot more space and less people so the case numbers don’t look so bad on paper. You’d think that it would only push people to wear masks in the bigger cities…nope. I guess I never really had to think about why I wear my mask.

People DON’T Wear Masks?

I’m not going to trash Wisconsin too much in this post. There’s too many die-hard Badgers on all of my social media feeds. Also, it’s still the place that I call home. Milwaukee and Madison make up a huge percentage of the State’s population which tend to be very liberal parts of the state. Smaller counties tend to be more conservative with far less people. There’s obvious outliers like cities with big universities or one’s that are closer to the Illinois border, but you generally see those liberal vs. conservative trends throughout the state. Living in two fairly liberal counties for all my life, I always thought that Wisconsin was split. Then, I started to go up north.

After we all took COVID tests, self-quarantined, and bought enough hand sanitizer to fill a bathtub, my friends and I went to an AirBNB in Somerset, Wisconsin. It’s a tiny little town near the Minnesota border. I would definitely consider it “up north” even if my friends would laugh at me. 

The most outrageous P. Diddy party that you’ve ever seen. We know. But, we got swabs up our nose for this so cut us some slack.

While I’ve been buying disposable masks for my car and researching where to buy good hand sanitizer, I would bet money that half the residents of these small towns didn’t even think to buy one yet. In small town Wisconsin, the threat of a pandemic truly hadn’t brought stress to their everyday lives – not because they couldn’t see it on their TV or weren’t worried about their families, but because they hadn’t necessarily seen it with their own eyes yet.

Why DO We Wear Masks?

As humans, empathy can be hard. We have to watch our role models care about things that might not directly be affecting them. We feel sad when mommy cries even if we have no idea what’s going on. As we grow up, we’re really angry that our friend got bullied on the playground, even if it wasn’t us. We learn that the actions toward others and of others can affect us. Enter global pandemic and perfect opportunity for us to show our empathetic sides!

My sweet friends, Megan and Nathan, have put masks on their children since March. Their kids are a whopping 2 years old and 3 years old (he would tell you he’s about to be 4 and he wants an ankylosaurus for his birthday). They know that taking their children into public places, like a quick Target run, does not guarantee anyone in their house safety. They know that the little piece of fabric covering their child’s face doesn’t protect against everything. They’ve taught their children, however, that masks are what superheroes wear to keep everyone else safe.

Photo credit: Nicodemas Nimmo

They know that they have to wear their masks to keep others safe. So, those little babes and my sweet friends teaching them empathy are why I wear my mask. Because if toddlers can wear masks for a grocery run to keep other people safe, my grown 23-year old ass can.

I Wear My Mask Because…

I wear my mask to keep people like my grandma safe. That little lady has spent the better part of 5 months in her house with only a couple adventures to the outside world. As someone who is extremely high risk, my grandma and other people’s grandparents are braving it to get their errands done. I wear my mask to do whatever possible to keep them safe!

I wear my mask for my amazing hair dresser. I’ve been seeing her for years. Even if I wasn’t picketing with signs about it, my roots were looking pretty rough in quarantine. I’ve done enough hair treatments to sing “Beauty School Dropout” as my theme song. Truthfully, I will be adding those Shea moisture products (here are the ones I use) as a source of amazing self care long after COVID, but a girl needs some stylist attention too! Her business and clients are a livelihood that she depends on for financial security and her own sanity. I wear my mask to keep her safe so that she can snuggle her grandkids on the days she has off. If I want to enjoy the luxury that is going to get my hair done, I can prioritize health in that process.

I wear a mask for my immunocompromised friends who’ve already had a hard go at life. I’ve watched some take their blood sugar before we go out and give themselves insulin. Some have lost a ton of muscle mass just trying to figure out what they could eat. Others can’t even go a week without having a fever. I wear a mask for my friends with asthma, allergies, and colds. Those who normally feel fine but wouldn’t be okay I exposed them to something.

I Wear My Mask Because I’m a Superhero

At the end of the day, I wear a mask for me. I wear a mask because it sends the message that I want to send out into the world. It says that I care about others – that I’m empathetic to their health, well-being, and lives. It shows that I will do what’s in my power to end this weird period of pandemic. I wear a mask to set an example that it’s the “cool” thing to do even though I’m surprised it’s a discussion. I wear a mask because I’m a superhero and they always help others.

Why do you wear YOUR mask? Tell me using the links to any of the socials below! I want to hear your story!

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How A Celebrity Can Change Your Mental Health Journey

I met Demi Lovato in 2014. This is not a story of me magically running into her in the bathroom of my favorite restaurant. I bought tickets to her show. I bought the Meet & Greet package. But, I met her.  A celebrity changed my mental health journey.

** TW: Substance abuse, self harm, suicidal thoughts **

My life was at its absolute worst when I was a Junior in high school. My mental health was undiagnosed and running rampant. I was smart enough to get good grades in school but had become completely apathetic of actually learning or retaining anything. Being civil, I was able to hold it together but I pushed away those closest to me with a sharp tongue. I turned to hurting myself to feel anything at all.

If you’ve never been through this kind of low, it’s really hard to understand. If you’ve never felt the jagged rocks of “rock bottom” in your back as you stared blankly at your bedroom ceiling, this might be hard to wrap your head around. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish this feeling – or lack thereof – on my worst enemy.

My friend, Ross, had already met Demi before. I clung to him that year as one of my only sources of sanity. There was something about his overwhelming obsession with her that I didn’t really understand. Then, I really listened. Instead of staring at my ceiling in my dark bedroom in silence, I did it to the tune of “Skyscraper” coming off of my iPhone. I listened to her pain – something that I could understand. The triumphs in her lyrics faintly reminded me of moments before the depression got so bad. I actually listened to the music.

Ross and I in the second row at my first Demi Lovato concert. I only cried three times!!!

To me, Demi wasn’t a Disney-star-gone-rogue. She was talented and misunderstood. She was forced into a box for so long that she simply couldn’t take anymore – which is exactly how I was starting to feel. As I got diagnosed with new mental illnesses, I felt more and more like a freak show. Suddenly, I went from the blonde, preppy girl who was in everything to the depressed, anxious girl who was constantly absent. I was meant to fit in a box that my undiagnosed mental illness wasn’t allowing me to and the promise of an absolute shit show was looming.

Her honesty about addiction and drug use was something that I found really admirable. Her ability to speak about addiction in young people was something I didn’t even realize was a problem until my college years. By then, I had been following her for so long I saw the red flags a little more clearly. Most of all, I related to her because she wasn’t a Barbie. She was human – flawed, vulnerable, and damaged. Yet, someone that people could look up to. Something that I hoped I could be one day with my mental health.

“Now, I’m a Warrior”

I don’t know if I would have started talking about my mental health if it wasn’t for Demi’s story. More specifically, for the music. I started to pay attention to my drives to school. The actual words on the songs playing out of the speakers in my Chevy Malibu. On the DEMI album, there’s a song called “Warrior” which is my absolute favorite song to this day. So, if you ever need to answer trivia about me, there you go. It truly is about her coming to terms with a story that’s never been made public. That story finally makes her feel like a survivor; a warrior.

Even if I didn’t feel it at that moment, I knew that my mental health was something that I could handle. It was something that would change me forever and it didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I knew that this was just another chapter in the story of my life that I would tell someday to my kids, my friends, or really anyone that would listen. Somewhere inside of me, I felt comfort in the words that Demi sang. Maybe our hardest moments really are there to bring out the warrior within us.

Demi’s influence on love & relationships

Now, six years later, there are still moments where you can see the place I “wear my battle scars” of depression as the song says. My partners have seen me be “ashamed and confused” of the person I was for a long time. 

Demi went through a couple relationships that always looked like love. To me, it gave me hope that someone could love me even if my brain didn’t produce enough serotonin. Demi had breakups, just like me. She sang about them in ways I didn’t think I needed, but I did. She empathized with me in loving someone we no longer had. Ripped my heart out in ballads just aching for them. But, she ultimately reminded me that I didn’t need anyone. I was a baddie just being me. Just like I was still a warrior from all those years ago.

Demi just got engaged. It was kind of like my best friend from kindergarten got engaged. You know the feeling, right? You haven’t seen them in a really long time. They’re not a huge influence on your daily life. But, at one point, they were all you had. In that moment, I was reminded that mental illness, addiction, self harm, and negative body image doesn’t make you less lovable.

The person that I had looked up to as a positive light for all those things had pushed through to find love, but what if she never really pushed through? What if part of our journey to happiness, acceptance, and healing is finding someone who jumps on that mental health rollercoaster with us? What if true love is finding someone to squeeze our hand when our stomach drops? Not make you get off and hold you, but just squeeze your hand. What if true love is someone that will scream at the top of their lungs alongside us at the very top? Not someone who just takes pics for the IG? Demi reminded me that mental illness doesn’t mean you’re half. It means that you have to look a little bit harder to find all the parts of your whole.

STILL, I’m a Warrior

At the end of the day, though, I do feel like a warrior. I know that I’ve survived every single hard day that life has thrown at me. I know that having a mental illness might absolutely suck some days. There will be temporary people who don’t understand. Mean words are going to be flung my way. Never again, though, will I try to fit into a box and deny who I am. 

I have severe clinical depression. I can say I have generalized anxiety. Sometimes, my severe social anxiety is noticeable. I suffer from panic disorder. I take medicine. But, I am me. I am a warrior. Demi was the first person I saw that made it cool to NOT be okay. Her music was the way that I understood the rollercoaster of the struggle and that I’m not the only one riding it.

Have you had a celebrity that changed your life? Tell me about them in any of my DMs below – I want to hear your story!

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My Therapist Left

We tend to forget that therapists, counsellors, and psychiatrists are humans just like us. They have families and responsibilities outside their jobs. They have bills to pay, children to watch, and relationships to foster just like the rest of us. We see them as guides through really tough times in our life. Sometimes, they’re the only voice that can speak to us while we’re drowning. It’s natural that they seem almost untouchable; above our everyday problems. Still, they have them. Sometimes, you might find yourself in my boat: my therapist left.

Clearly, I don’t have any photos with my therapist…. but, this is right around the time that I started seeing her in 2016! Lipstick is killing it. Mental health? Not so much.

The best thing in the world is meeting and working with someone that you click with. The therapist that I’ve had for the last few years has been that. Where others have been quick to prescribe meds, she knew that I always wanted to try another route first. She knew that I was unbelievably analytical, so self-diagnosis was a serious problem if I let myself go too long without seeing her. Lastly, she knew that I was stubborn. I would go to my dying day saying that I was fine. If I had to handle school, work, and stress while dealing with a severe mental illness, I would without help. But, I would do so until I absolutely broke down. 

The Realities of Having a Therapist

Finding the right therapist can be difficult. It’s like a blind date. You’re not really sure how you’re going to click with this person. However, you’re expected to unload a lot of intimate thoughts onto them. I’ve definitely done an intake with someone who I totally did not click with and requested a new therapist.

Sometimes, the therapist you’ve heard amazing things about isn’t taking new clients. You have to wait for a referral from someone that’s higher up the food chain. In the hospitals, where these therapists are more accessible and insurance carriers are more likely to cover it, the faster therapists fill up. Can we all just agree that we need more mental health resources at LOWER COSTS?!

Once you find someone that clicks, you kind of cling to them like a weird stuffed animal. You get attached pretty fast. They become part of your family, but like an objective part that will tell you that you’re being irrational. You know? It’s all part of the realities of having a therapist and being a client. 

My Therapist Left

Another harsh reality is that your therapist might move! As I said before, these people are human beings with families, lives, and responsibilities that exist outside of their offices. In my experience, therapists that have moved practices or from one state to another have done so with ample notice to their patients. Obviously, I’ve been blessed with finding a great couple of providers, but I’ve never called to make an appointment to find out they’ve vanished. Usually, when they leave, they’ll refer you to another therapist that they think will work for you. You get the final say, of course. They give you time to see them and make those arrangements.

All of that being said, however, doesn’t make that loss any easier. Being understanding about the fact that my therapist had children and a life outside, doesn’t invalidate that that is a loss in my life! A therapist is someone that you share intimate thoughts and traumas with and you are allowed to feel a sense of loss – they know that which is why they try to make the transition as easy as possible!

Truthfully, it’s not something that is a “typical” occurrence by any means. You’re more likely to move to a new place or need to switch providers far before you’d ever deal with a therapist moving, but it does happen. When it does, we need to know that it’s okay to feel that loss, feel it all, and reach out for help during that transition.

The Takeaway

Here’s me without a therapist! A LOT of healing has happened since the first photo. As with any human, I still have more to heal, more to work on, and growth to make in this life of mine! Therapy ROCKS because we make it rock, not just because of our therapists…. even if they rock too 😉

Most recently, I called my nurse practitioner about some more guidance in choosing who to schedule my next appointment with. Something that I thought was totally in my own hands was made very comfortable by having a professional walk me through my file and talk to me about therapy I preferred! A quick telephone call can save you hours of scouring the Internet looking for a name to jump out at you, when you might not really know what you’re looking for! There’s NOTHING wrong with asking for help in times of these weird transitions – in fact, everyone involved wants you to! 

So yes, my therapist left a couple months ago. She absolutely rocked. I’m going to miss meeting with her. The relationship that I had with her was so beneficial for me in some of the darkest times of my life. At the end of the day, I’m allowed to miss her! But, I know that there’s therapists that are smart, able, and willing to accompany me in my mental health journey just as she was all those years ago!

If you’re having trouble finding a therapist, getting yourself involved, or just want to talk about other options/my experience with therapy, PLEASE get in my DMs below! I want to chat!

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Setting Boundaries for Online Sharing

My favorite self-help queen, Rachel Hollis, is in what she calls a “difficult season” right now. She’s gracious enough to share these little glimpses of her life as it drastically changes. She’s allowing her followers and readers to see a little bit of her pain through her emails, podcasts, and posts. However, as someone who’s felt pain so deep that you feel hollow, I know that she’s only allowing us a glimpse. She’s set a healthy boundary on what the world is allowed to see into her private, personal life.

For a long time, I’ve broadcasted pain, hurt, and embarrassment online. I’ve told the Internet how much I weigh and that one of my family members called me fat. One time, I told my podcast that I wanted to kill myself for about 75% of my Junior Year or high school. I’ve given you my prescriptions. My stomach sank as I let the world know that my boyfriend was cheating on me. I’ve told you all about my migraines that make me feel like an alien. Still, I walk around with next to zero regret for any of the things that I’ve shared online.

As a blogger, it’s difficult to separate what I should share and what I should keep to myself. In one frame of mind, the more that I’m vulnerable with you, the more you might feel empowered, safe, and strong. On the other, though, where do we draw the line between vulnerability and tearing your heart out?

Here’s Rachel’s argument on setting boundaries:

In her podcast, “Seven Things that Are Helping Me Through This Dark Season,” Rachel talks about how people are really quick to judge what, how, or when we’re willing to share our grievances. For her, they’re expecting another New York Times Best Seller when all she wants time away from her life. In my case, I think I’m expected to put everything I’ve been through online. As if not blogging about it makes it less of my truth; my story.

As Rachel says in the podcast (which I think you should go listen to even if you’re not going through a dark season), no one gets to tell you how to mourn. No one gets to tell you how to handle the things that pop up in your life. Even the therapists that we pay the big bucks don’t instruct us how to deal with our problems. Rather, they help us wade through chaos or mixes of emotions we can’t quite get through on our own.

Truth be told, even as a blogger, there are things in my life that you don’t know about me. I’m a pretty open book, but there are struggles in my life that are no longer relevant to the journey, uplevel, or message I want to spread now! Does that make them any less a part of my story? No. Does someone telling me I don’t have a story make me want to tell them? Still, no.

At the end of the day, when you close all the apps, shut your laptop, and actually power down, you have to be proud of that person laying there. Setting boundaries is one of the healthiest things you can do in any relationship or friendship. It can also be so successful for feeling good about what you’re putting out into the world via social media. Setting boundaries allows you to advocate for yourself. When people try to tear down that wall, a clear boundary is the highest, strongest, fortress you can arm yourself with. 

Having trouble with setting boundaries with your online sharing? Want to learn the benefit of setting boundaries? Get in contact with me using any of my socials below – I would love to hear from you!

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A Morning Routine To Get Up For

My biggest downfall in the self development sector is that my morning routine is not great. Other people that I work alongside wake up at dawn, get a long workout in, and do a full face of makeup. I, however, have learned how to get up at exactly the last moment to get to class, work, or whatever else I have planned for the day.

Now that I’m a graduate, my magical ability to leave the house six minutes after waking from a deep sleep is not nearly as impressive. Brushing my hair is not as “up in the air” for going through an entire day as it was for sitting through a power lecture. Truth be told, those tendencies signaled to the world that I didn’t see lectures as a priority. I didn’t even realize how important a morning routine could be when it came to mental health, preparedness, or quality of life.

I listened to an amazing podcast by Rachel Hollis that talks about supercharging your morning. My jaw dropped while I listened to all the things that she could fit into her morning before her day even really started. Here I am, always complaining about not having time to get my work done, when people like Rachel are tapping into that 6am hustle.

I’ve been experimenting with a morning routine since graduation. I’ve listened to podcasts like Rachel’s, read way too many blog posts, and had a lot of rough mornings. Through all of that, I’ve compiled a list of things that are essential for an amazing morning routine:

Wake up at a consistent time

This was taken at approximately 5:30 a.m.. It’s moments like these that we’re missing out on in the morning.

I used to always use the excuse that my work schedule was consistently changing so that I couldn’t get up at the same time every day. Like I said above, college classes don’t prime most of us to be morning people either.

Simply rising at the same time every day will build a habit in your muscle memory. Eventually, you probably won’t need an alarm, because sleeping past that set time doesn’t feel “right” in your bones. In Rachel’s podcast, she talks about getting up with the sun, but you don’t have to jump from a noon wake up to getting up at dawn. Rather, find a time that works for you, your lifestyle, and serves you the best and stick to it. You deserve that consistency.

  • Here are some tips in how to start that process:
    1. – Use your alarm as an actual alarm – no snoozing!
    2. – Set yourself up with at least 8 hours of sleep the night before
    3. – Jump right into your routine so you don’t fall back asleep!

Don’t reach for your phone first

Technology is the lifeblood of my business. My phone is my alarm clock, list of reminders, and primary contact for everyone in my life. Between my Mac and my iphone, is about 20,000 photos that I sort through before posting every blog. So, not instantly reaching for my phone in the morning has been a hard pill to swallow.

When we grab our phones, even if we every intention of being productive, we usually end up on social media or playing a game. Responding to emails usually turns into mindlessly scrolling through Twitter which is not a way to start out of a productive day. Rather than spending your first couple minutes staring into a phone screen, use them to get out of bed, get yourself together, and clear your mind! Avoiding your phone for even 10 minutes can cut out some of the chaos that technology automatically gives us.

EAT SOMETHING!

My morning routine on my California vacation was actually really impressive. This was breakfast everyday! Thanks, Aunt Peg!

I’m clearly not a dietician. Throughout our lives, though, we’ve been told the importance of breakfast. Whether it was as an advertisement for a sugary cereal or by your middle school health teacher, it’s common knowledge that a well balanced breakfast sets you up for a good day. While sleeping is used to rest our minds, it’s also used as a period of fasting. The term breakfast literally comes from us breaking the fast that we’ve had overnight. So, whatever you’re choosing to break that fast with usually plays a big part in what you’ll eat throughout the day. If you reach for a super sugar breakfast, you’ll probably crave it at lunch and dinner as well. If you opt for something with fiber and protein, your other meals might look a little healthier too.

In general, it’s so important to get something in your body to start your day. Calories, carbs, and vitamins are what fuels us throughout the day. Without breakfast, we’re drawing from whatever we ate the night before which will definitely lead to a burn out.

Make your bed part of your morning routine

You can tell how productive my day is going to be by walking into my workspace. During COVID19, that workspace has been my childhood bedroom with ALL my gadgets stuffed into it. If my bed isn’t made, though, I’m not at my optimal level. I’m not working at 100%. A consistently unmade bed can also mean this in my life, but it’s always a signal that I’m not ready to be working at 100%. Making your bed is a super simple way to clean up your environment and manually remove some of the chaos that we encounter in our day to do. While other moments of uncertainty can not be avoided, we want to prepare ourselves by tackling all the ones that can be!

Make a list.

Bloggers love lists. I mean, for God’s sake, you’re reading one right now. For me, a list has been immensely helpful in ticking off the important stuff and remembering the not-so-important stuff. I typically scribble down lists in my bullet journal, which has become my absolute ride or die. But, if to-do lists aren’t really your thing, there are many other lists that can increase productivity and be a little more entertaining. 

  • Morning list ideas:
    • – 5 things you’re grateful for (I do this!)
    • -10 goals you have for your future self (I do this too)
    • -Affirmations, or really nice things you’d like to say to yourself and remember throughout the day
    • -Habit tracker – this one can get as complex or simple as you want it to, but it’s really interesting to look back and see what habits you think you’re doing that aren’t actually getting done
    • -Bible verse/quote of the day

Not only are these things going to inspire you to put a little pep in your step, but they might get your important head muscle working too. Writing lists like that can be everything our brain needs to wake up and be ready for whatever the day throws at us.

You are reading the blog of the biggest night owl around. I’ve gotten very comfortable with things that should be done in the morning being done before bed.

Like every other habit we build in life, though, morning routines take time, patience, and repetition. There are mornings when 8 a.m is not going to feel great. There are even more mornings where your list will have three points on it. But, you have to keep going. Routines are built when habits have formed in our brain. Sometimes, that means completely reteaching ourselves to be early birds, rather than night owls we’re prone to being. If you don’t have enough time, energy, or structure in your day, here’s one question: What is YOUR morning routine?

What would you do to supercharge your morning? What are you doing that’s totally working? Let me know by sliding into the DMs of any of my socials below – I want to hear from you!

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Review of ‘Knock Down the House’

If you can’t tell by anywhere else on this website, I’m SO into a boss bitch and story of a come up. My brother, Sullivan, and I recently sat down to watch “Knock Down the House” on Netflix. You need to watch this documentary.

It’s the story of four women and their fight for seats in Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who ran for New York’s 14th Congressional District which includes Queens and the Bronx – areas full of working class voters and minorities. Amy Vilela who ran for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District on a campaign that targeted the lack of affordable health care for workers in her community. Cori Bush, a candidate from Missouri’s 1st District, took on Lacy Cook a powerful Democratic incumbent. Last, but certainly not least, the documentary covers the race of Paula Jean Swearengin for a United States Senate seat representing West Virginia.

I’ve been on Twitter for about a decade. I read a lot of political articles and listen to all of the podcasts. I would love to say that I’m not biased, but I do seek out information and media outlets that report on those that I favor in primary, Congressional, and Presidential election. With a Bachelor’s in Political Science, I definitely walk around thinking that I know more than the average American. However, “Knock Down the House” made me reconsider everything I knew about politics.

We’re so used to political campaigns being these huge movements that we see on TV. We’re used to donations of millions of dollars being the foundation to getting anything we want. Usually, those that have that kind of money are corporations or lobbyists that don’t have the collective good in mind. Rather, it’s oil companies shelling out big bucks for votes in favor of fracking or against climate change.

About these political powerhouses

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is known for getting criticism from coming from a life of serving and bartending to politics. However, the documentary shows just how much work goes into a grassroots campaign. While she’s not a millionaire and can’t quit her job, she must work even harder than others around the clock on campaign work.

Amy Vilela, a strong woman running in Nevada, does so to honor her daughter. Because the family lacked adequate health insurance, her daughter wasn’t able to get a necessary test that could have saved her life. Throughout the documentary, Amy runs on the stance that Americans should not have to misunderstand insurance, go in debt to afford insurance, or worry about the death of a family member so that someone in Corporate America can get rich.

Cori Bush takes on incumbent, Lacy Cook, whose family has served Missouri’s first district for many years. Though Cook is also a Democrat, Cori Bush hopes to amplify the voices of those who have gone unheard. Missouri’s 1st District is where Michael Brown, an 18-year old black citizen, was shot by a police officer. Political unrest after the shooting was watched by the entire world from its epicenter in Fergusson, MO. Cori Bush wants people to realize that being a Democrat doesn’t always mean that they’re fighting for the community. She wants to see serious change.

Lastly, Paula Jean Swearengin runs against a longstanding incumbent for one of West Virginia’s Senate seats. West Virginia continues to be torn apart by the government for coal and other natural resources. “If another country was doing this, we’d go to war,” she says about the destruction of mountains that are releasing toxins into the air and water. West Virginia has a high rate of cancers due to the exposure to these elements which are making the citizens die young. As someone who watched her father die too young of cancer, Paula Jean Swearengin uses passion and anger to try and change the tides.

My reaction

I was excited to watch “Knock Down the House” in general. Like I said, I love a strong woman and the story of an underdog. However, I was surprised by how moved I was at the conclusion of the film. I spent all of my higher education studying policies and campaigns that are shown in this documentary. These women break the barriers for what is expected in politics. Like most other parts of life, money speaks when it comes to voting and campaigning. These women aren’t worried about money, fame, or later reelection. They’re worried about the people within their communities.

I took this at a political rally when I was feeling a fire about politics. Look out, guys, it’s back.

This documentary reminded me what I believed politics to be before I studied a bunch of textbooks. It reminded me that people who want who see injustice and want to do good are always out there. Hope now surges through my muscles in a system I had given up on. It made me proud that behind every ambition to change the world is thousands of hours of work, people who support, and vote. Watching this documentary made me feel like I mattered in the world of politics.

If you haven’t watched this documentary yet, watch it. If you don’t have a Netflix account, get one just to watch this. It will change how you view the world of politics. “Knock Down the House” will be the light at the end of your political tunnel.

Have you watched this documentary? What did you think? Connect with me through any of the social media links below – let’s talk about it!

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How To Handle the Haters

I told myself that I wasn’t going to write a blog about accepting internet hate until I had a full-on, blatant troll. I get a lot of passive comments from people who don’t really understand the complexities of mental health. My political posts are subject to debates at times. For the most part, though, people have been super supportive of me and my journey to blog for a living.

Recently, an internet troll got  upset when I used #thickwhitegirl on one of my body positivity posts. Of all things that I could do to upset someone online, it was a hashtag. Who knew?

At first, I was a little taken aback by the comments. What does a comment like “girl, you ain’t thick,” mean? Anyone with working eyeballs can see that the post was not made to accentuate a tiny waist or thin legs. It was about accepting compliments because you always deserve them.  You shouldn’t set standards of perfection for yourself before you allow yourself to feel a little hype.

I warned the user that my page is one exclusively for love. While it’s not part of my protocol to censor what others say, they were walking a thin line between speaking their mind and triggering those that support me. So many people came to comment lovely messages about my beauty, confidence, and content. There were people that I knew and those that I did not. Followers that I had previously interacted with and ones that I gained from the experience.

Body shaming isn’t fucking cool no matter who you are, what you look like, or what you think your credentials are. I’ve been down the whole fatphobic hater train before. In my experience, it’s usually something along the lines of how I’m glorifying obesity or unhealthy lifestyles. Let me make one thing abundantly clear here: being overweight isn’t healthy. When I post my pictures, I hope that what you take from it is body positivity, confidence, and a sense of acceptance. However, my health is something that I speak to my doctor about, rather than the trolls online. I’m not glorifying unhealthy lifestyles or obesity by saying that it is okay to find beauty in figures other than hourglass. Rather, I’m saying that if you want to get healthy, give a shit about your organs, or find motivation to work out, the first step is loving the skin you are currently in. 

I’ve gotten in my fair share of Facebook fights circa 2013. A healthier mindset (and maybe a few therapy sessions) will teach you that the best way to respond to hate online is just to ignore it. It’s so hard. However, bullies thrive on the reactions of their victims. If there’s no reaction, they usually end up feeling stupid. You can also channel the queen of all queens, Michelle Obama.

“When they go low, we go high”

– Michelle Obama,

It’s easy to start spitting fire back. You have every ability in the world to choose confrontation in these moments. The people that we look up to, though, are the ones that can kill them with kindness even when they’re being ruthless.

Haters are always a triggering experience. They say stuff that we say in our heads when we’re having a bad day. They say it online for everyone to see. This user told me to lose 200 pounds. One, doing that would bring my weight to about that of a second grader… Two, those words aren’t just bullets shot at me. They shower down on anyone that comes across that post. That’s why I have such a problem here.

Anyone that came across the comments of that post ran the risk of being extremely anxious about their body image. It doesn’t take a diagnosed illness to see someone spewing hatred and reflect it into our own lives. However, those who struggle with body dysmorphia or eating disorders were especially at risk.

Internet trolls and real-life haters have a way of projecting their own insecurities onto others. In this case, that user probably saw that I had confidence in the photo and lacked their own. People place their discomfort in themselves through anger, sadness, aggression, and hatred. While social media is a beautiful thing because it allows people like me to spread messages like this, the other side of the coin is that it can offer anonymity to people who would never say these hurtful things to your face.

At the end of the day, I’ve been called much worse than fat, disgusting, or unhealthy. It’s not my business how those who don’t support me or my blog feel about me. None of us should take the precious time out of our days to worry about what internet trolls have to say about our bodies. Truthfully, it’s none of our business. The only business that is ours and that we have to attend to is our supporters. Those relationships are ones of value. They will continue to help us grow and thrive. Where is a hater getting you? After the whole ordeal, my friend, Max, reminded me that, “if you have haters you must be doing something right.”

If you’ve exhausted all options, my sweet, don’t be afraid to hit that block button just like I did!  You don’t need that negativity in your life. Haters gonna hate, but that doesn’t mean we have to see it.

Are you dealing with online hate? Have you in the past? Let’s talk about it! Slide into the DMs on any of my social media profiles below – I’d love to hear your story!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the “Work With Me” page!

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7 Signs you have a really good Dad

I have mentioned being very blessed in the family department. We talk very openly and candidly in our home about things that not all families do. It’s made me confident in what I say, who I am, and how I act. I can also acknowledge that this is not the case for everyone. A father figure consistently in one’s life is not something that all kids have. Having a dad that is at all your swim meets, musicals, and ceremonies isn’t something that even those who have those father figures can say. I’m so lucky to have my dad.

He’s one of the biggest blessings I have. Every person that has the honor of meeting him is forever changed by his kind heart, funny personality, and overwhelming need to help others. So, this blog goes out to my dad & all the dads – the unbiological, unconventional, adoptive, random, perfect, not-so-perfect father figures in our lives. Today, if you don’t have anyone who goes by “Father” to celebrate with, I hope you hug your partner, brother, mom, or nonbinary pal a little tighter because here’s how you know you’ve got yourself a good human in your life.

You can call them with all the dumb stuff.

You’re not fully vetted in Wisconsin winters until your car has been plowed in. I’m not talking like kick-it-out-of-the-way-with-your-Ugg-boots snow, but a rock-hard ice and snow mixture that leaves your car in place for days. This winter I found myself in exactly that situation running extremely late for work at like 6 in the morning. On the verge of panic, I called my dad. Keep in mind, my dad is forty minutes away, cannot see my car, and will not be able to aid in getting me to work faster.

You learn fairly early when raising an anxious daughter not to say, “Calm down.” Rather, you have to speak calmly and offer me solutions. About 10 minutes in, I’m crying (duh), but my little Honda creaks over the ice and gets on the road to work. In all reality, I should have called one of my strong friends to push, but I called my dad. Because I know that no matter how dumb the question, how stupid of a situation it is, or how much of a pickle I’ve gotten myself into, he’ll be there to take the call.

He’s hard on you when you need it.

My brother and I are best buds, but it hasn’t always been that way. We have a five year age gap and both craved the spotlight growing up. If you couple that with the fact that we both have some serious anxiety issues, it’s pretty clear that my parents have had to navigate some pretty rough waters once or twice. As I went to college, though, I was full-on mean to Sullivan. I didn’t know how to place my emotions in any other behavior but crying or screaming, so I did at the people that loved me the most.

My dad’s the hardest on me when I desperately need the wake up call. Siblings fight and terrorize each other. That’s natural. There’s a point in growing up, though, when your sibling is over the bullshit. They remember you as just being mean and making fun of them for wanting to spend time with you. If I didn’t figure it out (or get called out by my dad), I don’t know if I’d be able to say I’m close with my brother now. I’ll forever remember my dad saying “Words are like bullets. Saying them is like shooting a gun. You can never take it back. People might heal from the hurt that your words caused them, but they’ll always have the scars.” That seems too big to fit on a fortune cookie, so if Steve Saliby trademarked that absolute wisdom bomb we’ll take the proceeds. BUT, for real, think about it. Good dads are hard on us when we need them to be because they love us, they know what we’re capable of, and they want what’s best for us.

He’s unbelievably proud of you.

Here’s me finally graduating college after 4.5 years of not knowing what in the world I was doing! I can’t tell who’s more excited!

Dads are weird. Sometimes they plaster your face all over their social media with captions like “That’s MY kid!!!” and other times they’ll say it where kind of have to decode it. I’m not sure if it’s because emotional men have always been a no-no in male norms or because it’s just hard for humans to say their proud of other humans. It’s interesting to look for those “I’m proud of you,” moments from dad though.

Like I said before, we are an open and honest household. We use words like “validate” a lot. So, my dad will spend an afternoon making the perfect cover photo for his Facebook that has each and every one of my brother’s Senior photos. He wants the world to know how cool we are (not that I blame him.) Good father figures want you to know that you’re doing a good job. There’s no “right” way to do that, of course. They just make sure that you feel like your work isn’t going unnoticed, you are being heard, and you are loved for exactly who you are – even if it’s acts of kindness, gifts, or words that display that pride in you!

He lets you live through his failures.

I think that it’s part of the qualifications of becoming a father that you go through some weird shit to be able to tell your kids about. Fatherhood means you’re morally obligated to share your failures with your kids, especially when they tend to beat themselves up a lot. My dad’s really good at letting us make our mistakes, learn our lesson, but also loving us through it. 

A while back I was really struggling for money. Rather than asking for help, I stressed myself to the absolute max, a form of punishment for letting my checking account get that low. I was scared to tell my dad because I didn’t want him to be worried or disappointed. At the end of the day, I want him to feel like he raised someone who’s responsible all the way around. When I finally broke down and told him I was needing help, he simply laughed at how worried I was about telling him. He comforted me with some stories from his spontaneous early twenties and how he learned the hard way to have a better relationship with money. He made me feel like these mistakes were just part of life, even if they feel like a ton of bricks in the moment.

Great father figures aren’t scared to humanize themselves for the good of the people they love. They understand that you make mistakes because they have too! Sometimes, their stories can shield us from the pain of disappointment. But when it doesn’t, they can offer their stories as a form of comfort to let us know that we’re not alone. 

My dad helping me LAUNCH A PODCAST!

They’ve always got a plan…

..Even if it isn’t THE plan. Have you ever noticed that dads are weirdly good at things that make no sense? My father can hit a tennis ball with the craziest accuracy and speed – where do you learn that?! I’m not sure that it would serve him in something like the zombie apocalypse, but the notion still stands. They’re ready to beat your ass at kickball, build a deck, or literally anything else that comes up because they have a plan. 

You know you’ve got a good one if he’s always got a plan. It might not be the plan you go with and there might be some big holes, but dammit there’s a plan. People who are weirdly prepared in all occasions (or can fake it till they make it) are the ones we gotta hang on to. Father figures are clinically proven to offer random advice or thoughts about how to proceed – the perfect remedy to feeling anxious, lost, or nervous. Regardless of their ability to survive on a desert island, the pure confidence exuding out of them is something we all could use a little bit more of in our lives. 

He loves you for just being you.

As I said before, I know I’m blessed in the family department. I know that most people cannot say they have the relationship with their father that I do. I’m also aware that a lot of people have had to hold back parts of themselves to make the fathers in their life happy. On this Father’s Day, I want to say that you’re perfect just the way that you are. Sometimes it’s really hard to unlearn the traditional ways we grew up seeing, hearing, and learning. But, you have the ability to change the cycle now! Our generation has the ability to be the parents that love their kids for whatever they look like, whoever they love, and whatever they pray to. We have the option of being with partners who value love and compassion over outdated “morals.” We have the opportunity to be the parents that some of our peers never had. We have the ability to be (and love) REALLY great fathers mentioned throughout this blog.

I also want to say that even if you don’t have a father that you can be 100% yourself around, those of us who do, would love to share. There’s things in my life that are not picture-perfect. There’s parts of my psyche that make me stronger, but that I wish I could better understand for my family. My dad has always loved me – through the most difficult moments to the ones where I was grabbing two degrees – he had my back. When I was confused as to where my path was or where the world was calling me, he let me talk his ear off. He loves me at my worst, which makes loving me at my best so much more fulfilling. Those men, guardians, or unconventional father figures that make us feel okay for just being us are who we need to aspire to be. Loving for the sake of loving is the sign of a really good person.

He reminds you that life is meant to be enjoyed.

My dad is the funniest person I know. As I type this, I’m rolling my eyes, because I know he just wants to hear that on loop all day. The amount of times that I’ve cried laughing in his presence is unheard of. “It’s all in the timing,” he says. There’s always moments of tension or high-emotion that he can break with a well-timed joke.

Not only that, but my dad has always been the “Do it now, because you might not be able to later,” type. When I wanted to launch a blog, podcast, and media company rather than going to law school, Steve was on board. He wanted me to be happy in my career. When I talk about a potential book, he tells me to stay in my childhood bed rent-free and start doing it!

Dads can be hard on you. They’re supposed to teach you all these lessons for the real world. Getting them through that big, thick skull of yours takes some tough love sometimes. You know you’ve got a good one, though, when they’re goal is to help you enjoy the life that you’ve made for yourself.

Happy Father’s Day to whoever qualifies as “Father” in your life. I hope that they’re teaching you lessons, making you feel loved, and setting you up to be the best version of yourself. I know that I’m unbelievably blessed to have a relationship with my dad. This one goes out to the really good people who are doing their absolute best at parenting. It goes out to the single moms who have had to step-up, the unconventional dads who might not look like society’s version of a father figure, and to the dads who never imagined having to be a dad. This one goes to nontraditional, adoptive, and biological alike. This one goes to my dad – a man who’s kind heart has taught me more in 23 years than most learn in a lifetime and has been a REALLY good dad.

How are you celebrating Father’s Day? Do you have a father figure (or someone who’s stepped up in your life) that you want to brag about? Hit me up on any of the socials below! I want to hear your story!

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A Look Into a Depressive Episode

For the most part, I’m okay. I haven’t always been able to say that. I mean, for most of my formative years I would grumble, “I’m fine.” Everyone around me knew that was a lie, but I thought I was pulling it off decently. It wasn’t until I  found myself in writing that I felt comfortable sharing that maybe I wasn’t okay. At that time, I needed help and I needed it fast.

I wrote a blog at the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month about the guilt associated with my  happiness as a vocal advocate for the mental health community. In that blog, I talked about how I have mostly considered myself to be in the recovery part of my mental health journey. The bad days don’t come as often as they used to. When they do, I’m usually equipped to handle them in a healthy way.

You already KNOW that I’m all about habits and habit tracking. I make my bed everyday and try to keep my environment clean….unless I’m in a depressive episode.

That doesn’t, however, mean that I’m cured. I absolutely love to hear success stories of patients who struggle for a bit, go through some intense therapy, and move on with their life leaving depression in the past. I absolutely believe it’s possible. Everyone’s mental health looks so different. What might need temporary help for one person might require lifelong care for another.

Personally, I feel great. I feel healthier and happier than I ever have. The group of friends that I have are ones that I would call my “forever friends.” The things that I’m doing and planning right now are setting me up for my life, rather than just for next month or next year. I’m genuinely recovering. However, I still have my depression and I still take medication.

Like every human on the face of the Earth, I have bad days. Like every person who’s ever gone through a treatment or recovery, I have moments of weakness. You put being a human together with the natural rollercoaster that is “getting better” and VIOLA! You’ve got some perfect storms brewing!

My depressive episodes are nothing like what they were at 16. Even though I occasionally get sassy with my family (Sorry, guys), they’re mostly full of tears and isolation. Here’s an example: During a depressive episode, I won’t change my clothes for  3 days. I’ll sit and cry over seemingly small things, do everything in my power to stay in my bed, and lash out when someone tries to motivate me. Then, I’ll start feeling bad for not working out, showing up for the business, or blowing my friends off and I’ll cry some more. I eat as many carbs as I can find, which I subsequently will beat myself up for later. All of this is separated by about 4 two-hour naps throughout the day to aid my emotional exhaustion.

The aftermath of a few days of depressive episode. Honestly, this is pretty tame compared to other times. I removed the Taco Bell wrappers pre-photoshoot 😉

I don’t want you to pity me. I want you to look at this situation for what it is: reality. To be honest, my episodes are pretty mild compared to those who suffer from bipolar disorder or those who haven’t had any sort of mental health treatment. Episodes look different on everyone, but I can promise with 100% certainty that they’re never glorious

I’m lucky. My family and friends are loving enough for me to approach and explain how I’m feeling to them. We openly talk about mental health a lot. But, being able to explicitly say, “I’m not okay and need some time,” is never easy! If you’re years into this battle or just starting off, speaking the fact that you’re having a little bit of a breakdown into verbal existence can be extremely difficult. But, it can also lead to much easier communication down the road. You don’t owe anyone an in-depth look at your psyche, but simply saying that you need time and space is neither selfish nor rude.

I’ve been hesitant to share my breakdowns on social media. I’m supposed to be a mental health blogger and aspiring coach. In my head, that means I’m supposed to have this knowledge that makes me valuable to you. You know what, though? I have breakdowns. I have moments of weakness when I cry over getting the wrong taco (seriously, that happened). I have times when there’s total chaos and I’m not as centered in my life as I would want to be. But, above all, I am human.

Reading this, right now, so are you. You are a human being with feelings, emotions, weaknesses, strengths, blood, guts, and boogers all making up this beautiful thing that is you. You get to have moments of tears  where you don’t need to flex your muscles. Because you are human, you are bound to have moments when life hits a little too hard. It could be a depressive episode, an anxiety attack, a breakdown, or just a big bitch fit. Guess what? It is OKAY.

We’re not going to stay in that space, though. We’re not going to waste time letting life beat us up. We’ll let out a few cuss words or tears and get back up. Got it? It’s not about what the episode looks like. It’s about how you recover from it. Because yeah, I might have cried over a taco, but you’re damn sure I got Taco Bell right after that.

How has your mental health been? Are you flying high, experiencing a little bit of an episode, or chilling somewhere in the middle? Connect with me on any of my social media accounts below. I want to hear your story!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact information can be found on the “Work With Me” page.

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Finding A Partner That Serves You

The past couple months have been spent bundled up in quarantine. I wish I could say I put my bustling love life on hold to be safe and responsible in the midst of a pandemic. Truth is, though, I stayed safe and responsible because I didn’t have a bustling love life to put on hold.

For a long time, being SO single was a gigantic chip on my shoulder. I mean, who was I to speak on both platonic and romantic relationships if I didn’t have the second half? While in quarantine, however, I’ve realized that being single isn’t an indication of someone being unworthy. In the past, I didn’t allow myself to go on dates or even think about another partner because I was caught up in toxicity that was an on and off again relationship. I was single as a form of self harm – a controllable punishment as a result of a failed relationship.

I wanted my first Valentine’s Day single to be SO performative & impressive, but I was really just hurt and looking for some answers in the people around me.

As things started to heal, though, I surrounded myself with people whose romantic situations all looked a lot different. Some of them had on and off boyfriends that I could absolutely relate to. Others had been dating their partner for six years and still never fought. I had a lot of questions for them. I had hilarious guy friends who remained single by choice because they weren’t ready to settle down quite yet. All of these situations spoke to me in different ways. The people that I loved and respected didn’t have to be in relationships to feel whole.

I started to surround myself with more strong, independent women. We had all outgrown the chasing boys phase we once had and now could be found breaking it DOWN on the dance floor. When we spoke about new men in our lives, the tone was a bit different. Their intelligence and character was almost as important as their looks. More importantly, we didn’t need to have a suitor to be worthy. We didn’t need a partner to warrant the attention. The time that we spent single was used to unlock all that confidence in ourselves.

Below is an amazing Instagrammer (@naturally_nichole_) who recently got engaged & got me thinking about building a life with a partner that actually serves us! Clearly, she found the right one (CONGRATS, girl!) and she brings up an amazing point. Sometimes, we have to leave behind a life we know to build one that better serves us – that includes our love life! Nichole made me start thinking about changes I’ve started to make and those that I want to implement. That is growth, my friends.

Finding a partner that suits you can be extremely difficult. So often, we’re looking for someone to complete us but, we’re not half of anything. We don’t need another human to be whole. We don’t need a significant other’s touch to fix what we might view as broken. Rather, we need someone who compliments us. Sees the flaws as what they are – no sugarcoating, no gaslighting, no bullshit. We need someone who sees the flaws, acknowledges what they mean, and loves beyond them.

A partner that serves us encourages us to think differently, act differently, and behave differently without explicitly telling us to do so. They show parts of their experience that we’ve never seen. They check us when we’re horribly off base. Most importantly, they ask questions so that the confidence within you grows. If it all comes crashing down, they’re there to help you rebuild.

Everyone walks around with a fire inside them. You have it right now as you’re reading this. It could be roaring as you manage a huge business, get your doctorate, and make your sixth invention of the month. It could be just a teeny tiny spark; barely noticeable as you struggle to find your place. Regardless of what your fire looks like now, we enter all adult relationships with it and attempt to nurture it while doing a million other things. A good partner will nurture yours AND theirs. They won’t be intimidated by your glow, but applaud every level of success that you get to. They’ll push you to aim higher, ask what your new goals are, and love you even when you trip up. THAT’S a partner that serves YOU. That serves your fire. 

Guess what?! It’s okay to work on the fire before the partner! It’s okay to be a boss babe that sets all her work goals first. I mean, it is 2020, people. If you want to travel the whole world before you jump on a dating app…. Take lots of pictures! If you want to spend all your time writing blog posts instead of meeting “the one” in a Wisconsin bar… more time to save for a wedding!! The partner that we have for the long haul is for us. It’s not to prove to Nana, Mom, or Cousin Lucy that you’re worthy of love. They’ll see it when you finally have the one that serves you after checking all of your needs off the list. 

If you’re in the loop of “Why am I single?” bah-humbug, try this:

  • Surround yourself with more single people
  • Spend more time making money/projects/things than on dating apps
  • Follow more single people – this one is a life changer that you won’t even realize you did until you do it!!
  • Plan more trips with friends!
  • Let it go – odds are some beautiful sailor (who’s totally into mental health blogs & start up businesses) on leave for one night will magically bump into you when you’re at a girl’s night with all your friends but ONLY when you’ve stopped obsessing over the fact that you’re single

For right now, let the “partner that best serves you” be the people that know and love you most. It gets weird when life presents you with people who would be contenders in the past. The person that was tired of being single would have dated these partners in a heartbeat!! But, after some time being single, you’re actually willing to stand your ground, hold your standards, and wait for the person that’s actually going to serve you and your purpose.

Are you serving yourself first? Are you remembering that at the end of the day the world wants to see YOU it doesn’t care if your single, married, in a relationship, or divorced so show up and show off! Let’s chat on any of my socials below!

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I Don’t Decide If I’m an Ally

There are very few times in my life where I’ve felt a loss for words. I’m full of them. Some of those words come to the surface automatically and make my mom blush. Others are thoughtful and well-rehearsed. I’d like to think I have more of the latter.

Recently though, I  cannot find the words to say. Unless my grandma comes over and starts spouting off lines she’s heard on Fox News, I don’t  know where to start. In my heart, I know where my morals lie. I know which Facebook posts from distant family members make me say “Wow, that’s blatant racism,” under my breath while some Twitter videos make me so prideful to be part of this generation of change. In my head, I know that any black person has a place at my table, in my home, and ALWAYS in the nation I want to be a part of. For so long, I thought that the absence of hate made me an ally, but I don’t get to choose if I’m an ally to the black community. It’s up to them.

Photo credit: Hunter Hanthorn (Milwaukee, WI)

I recently wrote a blog post about my white privilege. It’s centered around the fact that I don’t walk around this world aware of my skin tone. The lack of awareness is a privilege in itself. I acknowledge that I will never know the full capabilities of my privilege because that would be fully understanding the experience of those who are oppressed. I can empathize but I will never truly know what it’s like to have to be aware of the color of your skin at all times.

I chose Political Science as one of my majors because I saw how many men were in the program. My ego definitely played a big part in the decision. I’ve been ready to argue about politics for most of my life. In feeling so “woke,” for lack of a better term, there were times when I thought I was the best ally that I could possibly be. Because I spoke up in my lectures against hate, I pat myself on the back for supporting the movement. Because I retweeted something, I snubbed my nose at those who weren’t educated on politics around the world. Because I had been to a protest or two, it wasn’t my job to keep showing up. Yet, I still thought of myself as doing everything that I possibly could to show that I cared.

In all honesty, I was doing more than most. However, when some people are doing nothing, doing the bare minimum is nothing to feel proud about. More importantly, it wasn’t my stubborn ass that needed to be heard in those lecture halls. It was the black students. It was their experience that I needed to learn from before I spoke.  By encouraging their voices, I could have asked questions and found a path that better suited my allyship. Maybe then, I would have realized that it’s not my place to announce to the world “I AM AN ALLY!”

I don’t want to make this confusing. Announce to the world that you are open-minded, full of love, and tolerant as much as humanly possible. Make it known that you are trying to do better and learn more, but don’t take this time to boost your own ego in being the “performative ally” that no one needs right now. It’s not black people’s responsibility to teach you, however, they have the right to decide if you are an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement or not.

Photo credit: Hunter Hanthorn (Milwaukee, WI)

The movement has done an amazing job in providing resources to donate to, petitions to sign, and events to attend that allow you to be the kind ally that they are looking for. It allows you to be a part of the movement without taking the microphone from the community that has gone unheard. It’s our job to LISTEN. It’s our job to LEARN. It’s our job to CHANGE.

That being said, there are some amazing ways that you can support that don’t always include joining the ranks on the street. Protests are SO important, but so is funding, supplies, and political advocacy all of which you can do from your  couch. There really is no excuse for not getting involved.

Here are some amazing resources that I found (sponsored by the official Black Lives Matter website) if you want to be a better ally:

  • Donate to Black Lives Matter today!
  • Sign the #DefundthePolice petition here to speak out against racism in incarceration!
  • Contribute to the GoFundMe of Brandon Saenz who lost his eye due to rubber bullets shot into peaceful protestors by police in Dallas, TX
  • Start reading about race in this country as it’s presented through the eyes of black authors
  • Call the Louisville Mayor at 844-298-2731 and demand justice for Breonna Taylor who was killed after a no knock warrant was served on the incorrect house. Demand that the officers involved be charged and fired!
  • Sign the Justice For Breonna Taylor petition that’s almost 6 million strong!!

I have done all of these things from under my comforter in my bed. Chapters of Black Lives Matter in your area can be found through their website (most of which will accept Venmo!) if you’d like to see your money going directly to protestors in your community. If you’re uncomfortable being in the thick of it, donate. If you don’t have the means to donate, call, sign, or post. You know what’s best for you. But know that sometimes, doing what’s right isn’t always the easiest path to take. You might get push back. You might feel a little helpless and you might feel overwhelmed, but it’s a big part of learning as you go. 

No, you don’t get to decide if you’re the best ally. You don’t get to receive a Political Science degree and debate some close minded kid in class and think that your work is done. As white people, there’s SO much this movement can help us learn about ourselves, our community, and the fractures within our system that we might have been blind to. You might not get to decide if you can be labeled an “ally” for the cause, but what you can decide to do is learn, grow, accept that your allyship might be off course, and just listen to those around you.

Special thanks to Hunter Hanthorn for these photos from the Milwaukee protests! Like I said, I want to learn & grow to be whatever this movement needs me to be! If you have resources that should be added to this list, please contact me at any of the socials below!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

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To A High School Grad, Sincerely 5 Years Later

This year marks five years since my graduation from high school. More importantly, 2020 is the year that my baby brother can officially be called a high school graduate. By no means was his senior year similar to mine. I had some struggles, but none really compared to a global pandemic that kept me quarantined for two months. I had some rough situations with friends, but none had to be solved over Zoom or from behind a mask. I had moments that I’ll never forget just like I confidently say that he will never forget this year. 

While getting ready for a virtual graduation might look a little different than me preparing for mine all those years ago, there are things that I recognize are the same. I’ve been helping him announce his school of choice to all loved ones and places. I took that classic graduation picture that my parents will hold onto forever. I watched as he wrote essays, cried about the changes to come, and worried about the unknown. I saw glimpses of myself the whole way. While I know that he has to break into this world in his own way and find his own path, I’ve tried to share with him the basic things that I’ve learned in the five years since I hung my hat on high school. 

The mistakes I made, lessons I learned, and moments I had were things that I needed. I wouldn’t give them up or change them for a minute. But, they’ve allowed me to become the person that I am today. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things I wish someone had told me when I  graduated high school. Maybe you’ve already heard these things a thousand times, or maybe you don’t want to hear them at all. Nonetheless, if I could speak to myself five years ago as I was about to graduate high school, there are definitely some things I would say. 

First, there will be more people who are interested in you. I might have specifically needed to hear, “Emily, the boy you met when you were 14 and cheated on you six months in is probably not ‘the one.’” In a more real and broad sense, leaving high school throws you into the world of meeting people like a whirlwind. Classmates, coworkers, and mutual friends all have a way of making it into your phone contacts. Walking into that space with a mindset that the couple hundred people you graduated with are the only ones that are ever going to love you is pure garbage. 

I encourage you to make your own mistakes. Let your heart break a time or two so that you can learn to pick up the pieces for yourself. But, also know that the person you were at 18 and the way you want to be treated is not going to translate five years later. Recently, the wise Sullivan Saliby said, “Sometimes holding on hurts more than letting go.” Letting go of someone that you’ve known all of your formative years is so difficult, but it’s sometimes easier than holding on and continuing to get hurt.

Second, take more pictures. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I took (and take) PLENTY of pictures. I’m not talking about Snapchats that people will see for 24 hours and you’ll see a year later in your Timehop. Take photos that will be saved in your Camera Roll. Get them printed. Put them somewhere. Give them to your mom and tell her about the friends you’re making. Being able to sit with your memories makes them so much fonder during times when you can’t necessarily remember what you were wearing or the boy you had a crush on. Those pictures will say a thousand words that you will hold onto forever. 

Third, learn to forgive yourself, kid. Yes, someone in history decided that eighteen was the monumental year in which you’d be released into society. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to keep making mistakes and learning like a kid. Hell, your 80 year old grandma is still making mistakes! Part of being an adult, though, is learning to take responsibility, say sorry, and forgive yourself. 

We’ve all said some pretty stupid things. We’ve all done things that made the ones around us disappointed. Those things might even make us disappointed to think about. The key to life is realizing that every single person has made mistakes. The star athlete, the self-help coach, and the model alike have all made mistakes that made themselves and the people around them feel bad. What sets us apart though, is our ability to deal with our mistakes and eventually forgive ourselves. 

I’ve told my brother this, so think of it as a little bit of older sister advice. The crappy days and the good days are part of what makes us, us. We build the little day to day experiences in with the monstrous life lessons to get this complex concoction that is us. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to spend too much money. You’re going to have your heartbroken or maybe you’ll break someone else’s heart. You’re going to hurt someone’s feelings. You’re going to fail a test. Damn it, you’re going to make mistakes. There’s no amount of prep work or reading that can prepare you for what the world really looks like. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would want to provide you with the magic words if I had them. You need to learn to navigate all those things to become who you’re supposed to be. If something goes terribly wrong, make sure you have people that will be there to guide you back, but take the risks, spend the money, and forgive yourself.

Lastly, never stop saying you care. Believe it or not, being a high school graduate does not suddenly give you telepathic powers. Another mind crushing fact is that adults need to hear that they’re loved just as much as children do. So, while you might not think it’s “cool” to call your mom every day, she might just need you to pick up the phone. While you might roll your eyes that your Grandma signs all of her Facebook comments “Grandma Sue” as if you can’t see her profile, she might just want you to comment back. We all get overwhelmed with the whirlwind that is entering life. We have all this freedom, pride, and new land to cover. It’s hard not to press ignore a time or two.

When all the new things stop being so shiny, you’ll realize who’s been there for you all along. You’ll realize who the great “forever” friends are that you’ve kept from the halls of high school and the ones that you’ve gained as you aged up. Never stop telling the one’s around you that you care about them, you appreciate them, and you love them. There are some days that you won’t really like them. They might annoy you or hurt your feelings. But, to the ones that matter, make it known that even if you don’t like them at the moment, you’ll always love them. Because like it or not, life has a way of taking away the opportunity to say it to their face sometimes. So, say it often and loud.

I want to say that I’m so proud of the Class of 2020. They have a special place in my heart because I’ve watched one of your fellow graduates grow from infancy to getting his diploma. But, they also have a special place in my heart because none of us will ever know what you’re going through. None of us will ever have a senior year like yours or be tested like you have. I know that you’ve been asked to be strong 100 times already. Believe me, life isn’t going to stop expecting that from you. Regardless of how you finished the race, you finished. You got the medal.

Graduation might signal to the world that you’re ready to enter it, but don’t hesitate to hang out in the world of a kid for a while before rushing into your next steps. You have your whole life to be an adult. No matter what graduation means, move forward in your life how YOU are meant to live it. Love who you want, take in all the moments, and dive into all your passions. Take it from someone who was in your shoes just five years ago, there’s a lot of things I wish I would have known as I was crossing that stage. But damn, I’m so excited for you to come and learn all of them alongside me.

Congratulations, graduates! Tell me about the plans for your next chapter (or brag about your favorite grad) on any of my socials below!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

My brother and I were pondering what could be the most contradictory message that I could sharenon my blog. Maybe something like “You Shouldn’t Talk About Your Mental Health,” where I advocate for everyone keeping their traps shut. There are already many people in this world who spend their time writing articles with titles such as “Depression is a Choice,” so I think we have that base covered. Then I started to realize, I should probably write that contradictory blog. I should probably address all the people that scroll through my website and roll their eyes. 

No, I’m not going to sit here and side with you. First off, it would piss off quite a few people who trust me to write with an open mind and heart when approaching something as delicate as our mental states. Secondly, I wholeheartedly disagree. Every single blog that I write has a goal  of connecting to your inner self, your mental health, and your mind. If you don’t believe that some people might face some problems in that department then maybe this blog will change your mind. Seeing the world as more than just a binary  of “happy” and “sad” will seriously change your life. 

My parents knew almost nothing about depression when I first started my high school cry for help. They didn’t say they were clueless. They definitely didn’t know what to do or where to start when it came to addressing a situation that was unraveling before their eyes. Like most in their generation, they were raised to rub some dirt on it, wipe away tears, and get back up again. For all intents and purposes, this isn’t a terrible mindset to have. I mean, these are the men and women who have fought a couple of wars and whose parents survived the Great Depression. Was there really another way?

Generally speaking, in their generation, problems were dealt with in the home. Even then, no one really had the resources, technology, or knowledge about mental health to advocate for it or understand it like we do now. We constantly say that more and more people have mental illnesses now, but what if people just weren’t willing to be anything other than “normal?”

All that being said, my parents are definitely outliers amongst their peers. When others didn’t really understand or support my confusing disdain for everything around me, my dad was driving the mental health support train with my mom blowing the whistle. I’m blessed. People often applaud me for being open about my mental health journey, but they never think to applaud my parents for taking the leap with me. Being so vocal about my experiences has meant putting some really vulnerable moments online that people don’t always understand, especially when they think that I just wake up every day and choose to have depression or anxiety.

Yes, I did have pink hair & no, I don’t regret it.

I was probably 19 when I first had someone ask why I couldn’t just be happy. The look on their face was a mix of judgement and genuine curiosity. I’ve gotten the whole “I would NEVER take medicine,” thing too many times to count. I still tease my mom about saying “I think you should just get some exercise and you’d feel way better,” when she started to notice my mood shift downward. 

If there was any possible way that I could wake up, press a button, and decide my diagnoses wouldn’t  bother me that day, I would do so in a heartbeat. I’m going to take a leap of faith in saying that literally every single person that has a mental illness would do the same thing. I absolutely don’t blame people for not feeling like medicine is their thing. It’s not my thing either! But damn, you don’t wanna hang out with this homegirl without  her meds because it’s what WORKS FOR ME! Also, I would love to just sweat/eat right/meditate/sleep/work all of it out, but that’s not how it works. 

Mental illness is exactly that: mental. You can’t see my social anxiety from across the room at the doctor’s office, but it’s very much there and it’s very much real! That classic Bob Marley song that I conveniently used as the title for this blog also used to piss me off when I was younger because I was worrying all the time which in turn made me the exact opposite of happy. You know the one. I get it. It’s a song. It’s supposed to make you feel good. But, just because you haven’t felt mental illness in your mind or coursing through your body doesn’t make the experience less real for someone else. 

I haven’t personally broken my leg, but I understand that it would probably hurt. I don’t need to feel my bone break to believe in that kind of pain or suffering. More importantly, I trust the opinion of doctors that study and treat those people in the best way that they know how. Does a psychologist need to put someone’s head in a cast to have the world believe that you can’t just wake up and be healed? Maybe I’m comparing  apples and oranges, but if someone asked why you can’t just choose to start running on your broken leg you wouldn’t know where to start. If they shamed you for taking ibuprofen because when THEY broke their leg THEY didn’t have to, how would you feel? If they told you to just get some more sleep and it would go away, what would you say?

So yeah, don’t worry and be happy, my friends. But know, that there’s a time and place where you or the people around you can’t easily fit into the mold that is “happy.” Understanding each other is the first step in advocacy for mental illness. Even if you’re lucky enough to not have a first hand experience with mental illness, knowledge in the fact that there’s not just two camps of “happy” and “sad” can go a long way in how we love and treat one another.

Even if this blog still seems like some sort of persuasive essay and you still haven’t been convinced, I hope you’ll take a look at resources like National Alliance on Mental Illness who can say all this stuff more technically and less based on personal experience. Moral of the blog: I hope you never ever question why someone’s “choosing” to be sad. I hope you tell your kids, grandma, dog, lizard, succulent, and any other life form that will listen that happiness isn’t a choice. It’s something that you work at. Some of us just need a little support in that department.

Here at EmyD you’ll see an ongoing narrative that if you’re trying your best, no one can ask anything else of you. That goes for happiness too. If you’re trying your best to get up, show up, and just survive, in whatever that looks like right now, I’m proud of you!

Have you ever felt misunderstood or misrepresented in your mental state? Even after explanations, examples, and tears? You are not alone! Connect with me on any of the social below – I want to hear your story!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

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Can you be Intelligent AND Emotional?

I  have a habit of crying when I’m going through something. I mean, I’m a blogger. I should be able to use all of the adjectives, nouns, and adverbs to accurately express how I’m feeling before I get that upset, right? Lately, though, I’ve been having these overwhelming moments where it’s hard for me to separate my emotion from my narrative. It’s difficult for me to say what I really mean without adding some tears behind it.

Normally, this would be a journal post. It would just be a couple pages of scribbles before bed that I would sleep on and only think about when I went to therapy a month later. Normally, this wouldn’t make me think twice. But, I am. I’m thinking twice, three, even four times about this. Why is my mind so caught up on separating an emotional thought from an intellectual one? This week, I officially verbalized that my frustration is that I’ve never felt I could be emotional and intellectual at the same time – even though they are huge parts of who I am as a person. So, the question remains, can you really be intelligent and emotional at the same time?

Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve always been a little too smart for my own good. Take that at face value, of course. I didn’t graduate medical school at 14 or invent something to change the world, but I pride myself on being smart. I let everyone around me know from about the time that I could formulate words together.

After confirming with my parents, I would also say that I’m fiercely independent. So much so that I began to subconsciously believe that the things that my parents wanted me to succeed at were things that I did alone – swim, school, theatre. That’s a conversation we had behind closed doors, but we all agreed that I was obsessed with things that I could do all by myself and take all the glory for. I seem like a gem, right?

I didn’t start getting outwardly emotional until I felt it well up inside me and had  nowhere to put it. Part of adolescence is learning how to effectively express your emotion without punching a hole through your wall or slamming your entire body on the floor. I failed in this area. Sure, maybe my behavior wasn’t as visible to the public eye, but my way of dealing with any emotion was to bottle it up, let it fester, and eventually let it come bursting out on whatever family member was closest.

I started using the phrase “I cry because I’m frustrated,” a lot throughout my late teens and very early 20s. I was especially using them in romantic relationships when prodded about why I was getting so upset. Essentially, I was telling my partner, the world, and anyone that would listen that when I’m emotional I’m not able to coherently speak my truth. Damn, did I believe that truth for so long.

Fast forward to a couple years later and my twenty third year of existence, I’m feeling more woke than ever. I feel more in touch with my emotions and my intelligence in ways that I never thought that I would before. There are moments, though, that make me realize there are still wounds from my past that still need a remedy. There are still issues that I need to realize, accept, speak out loud, and move on from. 

Like I said before, I’ve been getting really emotional for reasons that seemingly go over my head. My dad recently said  I’ve been “overreacting” and I reacted as if he called me the worst curse name in the book. I couldn’t understand what triggered me in that scenario to make me SO upset. 

You can look through my blog feed and learn a little bit about a past relationship that shaped who I am as a person today. I feel so strong and healthy that it’s hard to imagine that there’s still realizations for me to make about why I said or did something all those years ago. There are still connections that I can make to help me better understand myself in all of my relationships.

This is right around the time that I completely compartmentalized intelligent thoughts and emotional ones – never allowing the two to meet.

In those formative years, I thought that I had to make a clear distinction between emotion and intelligence. Every time I let a tear escape my water line, my argument suddenly became a little less valid. When conversations needed to be had, it was to be done without tears and without too much emotion behind my words. Twenty year old Emily began to link emotion to weakness and intelligence to strength. I started to hold my tongue when I knew the tears were coming. I started to question my intelligence if I felt anything in my head. Most of all, I started to question who I was as a person. 

Now, my dad never taught me to think like this, nor did he mean any harm in saying that I was overreacting. But, he did unleash a dragon that felt like her intelligence and emotion could not coincide in the same castle – which absolutely destroyed me.

Let’s just get something abundantly clear here; and I’m saying this just as much for you as I am for me. I am a grown-ass, educated woman. I can properly express how I’m feeling because I know the words to do so, I’ve been practicing them since I was way too smart for my own age, remember? I don’t need anyone to write my narrative for me or tell the world how they think  I feel. Got it? That being said, I am a grown-ass, educated woman! So, me crying because I feel bad does not diminish my intelligence level. If I feel the urge to cry, I can cry! If I feel the need to scream, I can scream! Having emotion does not equate to a lower intelligence level, nor does it make your argument weaker.

You know you’ve felt that prickle behind your eyes of tears at exactly the wrong time, but what exactly makes it the wrong time? Tears can help us put up clear boundaries of where our heart and minds want to go, even when society is pushing us to keep going. Tears can help signal to the world that you fucking care! Tears can tell stories that sometimes, even all the words in the dictionary can’t be strung together to tell. You, my beautiful reader, are not less because of the emotion that you let out of your body. It’s what you do with that emotion, how you harness it, and how you put it back into the world that makes or breaks you. Because emotion and intellect together, they are an extremely powerful thing.

Smart & I cry a lot…. I won’t be sorry for that.

So, I’m no scientist. I haven’t looked at the scans of a brain with all the colors to give an official answer. But, if I could put all my money on one argument it would be: Yes, you CAN be intelligent and emotional all at the same time. Furthermore, anyone that’s telling you otherwise is scared of how powerful you are when you are both… I’m just saying.

Have you ever had a problem separating your intellectual thought from your emotional ones? If so, why are you separating them? Get into the DMs of any of the socials below to tell me your story!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

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Rejection From My Dream School was my Saving Grace

At the spunky young age of 19, I applied to the Journalism school of my first college. Having previously gotten every job I interviewed for, accepted into every college I applied to, and received a slew of different awards and scholarships, I was in for a rude awakening when it came to rejection.

Here’s that spunky 19 year old I was talking about circa 2016.

At the time, I was writing remotely for an online company based out of New York City. I had some pretty good contacts that were ready to write a letter of recommendation. There was published content that was doing well across all of social media. The cherry on top of the cake was that two of my best friends were already in the J-School, and they had both put their seal of approval on my application.

I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. Being one of the twenty percent of admitted students wasn’t something I really worried about or lost sleep over because, in my mind, it was already a done deal. Well, I didn’t get in. I got a big fat rejection email.

Sure, it gave me encouragement to apply next semester, but it felt like a hard slap in the face. Rejection feels like that, ya know? It feels like the reality that you’ve bought into about yourself or your life is just crumbling around you. At the time, there was no brightside. While other friends got to pursue classes within the school and take steps forward, I felt like I was stuck in quicksand. 

I’ve come to accept that everything in my life has happened for a reason. You can read a little more about this in my blog “Purpose From Pain.” Part of that is understanding that rejection also has its place among my life lessons. Getting a big, fat rejection from the school that I thought was my dream was a lesson I needed.

Right about the time when I felt like I was going to make something of myself, even though I didn’t get into the J-School a couple years before.

First, it forced me to give a shit about my writing. If you read a couple of my blogs, you’ll find that they’re very much written in a conversational tone. Most of the time, I’m speaking out loud when I’m writing. It’s always just made me connect to what I was saying more. That might have been what the media company in New York was looking for and what the audience of my first BlogSpot blog was looking for, but it wasn’t for everything. 

Having a highly regarded school tell me that I needed some time to keep working made me realize that I didn’t know everything. I wasn’t the perfect writer that I had originally thought and just because my mom was sharing all my stuff on Facebook does NOT mean I’m ready to write a novel. 

Second, being rejected made me start to rethink my plans. Whether or not it was supposed to, the rejection definitely made me question whether or not I was destined to be a writer. I walked into my first college class thinking that I wanted to write for The New York Times. This rejection is what made me start to consider communication. It made me start to realize that people could make money doing the thing that I was skipping class for; social media. 

I had always wanted to minor in Political Science, but being rejected from the Journalism school made me want to pursue that even more. I declared dual-degree student the semester after with majors in Political Science and Communications. A transfer of schools would just turn into two Bachelor of Arts in those fields. I got more education than I ever thought I would because of that initial rejection. 

The time that I proved that I did make something of myself, without the school I once dreamed of. Reject me and beat me down, but don’t ever expect me to stay there. Rejection was the match that lit my fire.

Lastly, rejection eventually made me find the beauty in the imperfections of my work. Like I said before, the lack of admittance might have made me realize that I was not the all-knowing writing prophecy. It also made me take my writing for face value. There are things that I am ridiculously good at when I write – connecting to people, telling a story, and painting a picture for my audience. It made me realize that I was writing to speak, which is definitely something I want my future career to involve. It made me realize that even though I can write 5-paragraph essays and research papers, I don’t think I want to do that for a living. 

The best friends that I talked about earlier are writing in the perfect way for them. My beautiful editor, Vanessa, writes so eloquently and I won’t be surprised in the least when her first book hits the shelves. She saves all of my blogs from having mistakes up the wazoo and offers so many amazing ideas. We’re two VERY different writers, but that rejection made me see the beauty of the craft again. It made me recognize that we’re artists painting  what we find beautiful. 

So, maybe you’re going through a terrible break up, you’ve lost your only source of income, or you’ve just got the rejection email from your dream school, and you’re questioning everything about you. Rejection hurts. Sometimes, it’s life’s way of putting a yield sign right in front of you so you learn to enjoy the drive. Other times, it’s a stop sign that you desperately needed to realize that your navigation was WAY off. 

Being rejected from my dream school was my saving grace in finding my path and my true self. Maybe, just maybe, the pain you’re going through has a purpose too?

Has anything happened in your life that hurt but you’re thankful for now? Tell me your story by getting into the DMs on any of my socials below! I want to hear from you!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

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I Was Scared of Working Out

I gained an exceptional amount of weight in a short amount of time. I packed on about 60 pounds in three years. It doesn’t sound like a ton when you’re reading it, but it felt like a hell of a lot when I was looking in the mirror.

This is the part of the blog when everyone gets excited because I’m about to uncover the magic recipe to how I lost 60+ pounds quickly and easily. It’s the blog where I tell you how you can unlock the secret too.

A day when I was celebrating two of my favorite people getting married and I look back and I remember how scared I was to take care of myself. I remember how sad I was behind that smile.

SIKE. This is  the blog where I get unbelievably vulnerable about the “rock bottom” of my relationship with weight. It’s about the photos that I would  cry over, because I had no idea where to start. I hated every single part of my body which in turn made me hate myself as a whole. In the perfect story, this would be the part where I went to the gym everyday, only ate things that were green, and lost all that weight and then some. Honestly, though, I was terrified of working out.

I would say I am decently athletic. I’m no marathon runner, but I could swim some damn laps. I wasn’t necessarily a star, but if I put my mind to it I would at least be better than average.

When I looked in the mirror and saw inches in places that I had never seen, I couldn’t even imagine myself back in the pool. Do people get back in the pool when they’ve retired from their high school swimming career? Where do ‘fat’ people go to buy workout clothes? My Nike shorts were so tight at this point that there was no possible way that I would be seen at my local YMCA. So, seriously, where do you start? At that point, I couldn’t even get in touch with the bones holding me together. I felt gigantic. All I wanted to feel was tiny.

At that point in my life, I needed to work out to lose weight. I didn’t care about my health – mental, emotional, or otherwise. Working out because I loved myself wasn’t something I would learn for a long, long time.

When I started to rationalize that paying $15.00 for an Uber was better than walking 3 blocks to the bars, I realized I had a problem. It wasn’t because I had heels on… When I gained a bunch of weight, I didn’t like wearing heels anymore. It definitely wasn’t because I was too drunk. Nope, I just got all sweaty walking a relatively small distance.

So, I had to start at home. I had to do something in the privacy of my own home that I could sweat unbelievably hard and quit after just 10 minutes. (If you’re looking for a workout that you can do at your own pace but that gets you GOING check out TheFitnessMarshall) I started following women who were in the same place that I was in. They validated me, knowing that I wasn’t able to do everything I previously was able to, but they also inspired me to work hard.

Slowly, I started to feel like I could do more. I made it to the YMCA and worked out in front of people for the first time. I felt totally out of my element and I was extremely aware of the amount of sweat falling from my face onto the machines. I loved looking up those body transformations on Instagram and dreaming about what it must be like.

I started to see actual changes; little toned up muscles here and there. I started to dance a little longer at Latin Night without feeling like I was actually going to die. The accounts that I followed started to multiply and turn into body positive ones.

A big part of fixing my fear of working out in public was fixing my mind. It was convincing myself that people weren’t watching every step that I was taking on the elliptical. I healed emotional wounds that led me to a bunch of binge eating fits. I reformed my inner dialogue after many sessions of therapy.

It wasn’t easy. I tried to take the easy way out with pills or crash diets just to see a different number on the scale and avoid facing that fear.  I still have days when I have to work incredibly hard on my positive inner dialogue when I look in the mirror. There are still days when I avoid my workout at all costs because I still can’t do two hours like I could when I was 15.

But now, working out is something I get up and plan. It’s something that I want to do. Now I am an ambassador for FNXFit – a role where I can prove that supplements and gear aren’t limited to one type of person. I am an example that any body type can benefit from fitness. I am a member of a gym that I love (even if I’ve had to get really creative while staying home).

I’m still carrying a lot more weight than I want to be carrying, but I’m not scared of the starting point. I don’t have to hate my body anymore. I am not terrified of the workout. In fact, there’s even times I crave it.

You can also get involved with FNXFit by trying out any of their amazing supplements or gear. I’m not kidding when I say it made me feel like a total beast & made me actually want to workout! My current favorite is Recharge preworkout in Blackberry Lemonade. You can use my code “emyd” at checkout for an additional 15% off your entire purchase!

What is your relationship with working out look like? Are you having trouble getting into the gym? Contact me on any of my socials below to tell me your story!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page!

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Is it Okay to be Okay in May?

May is my month!. It’s my birthday month. It’s also when I would get a break from college, and it’s usually when the weather starts getting warmer in Wisconsin. More importantly, May is Mental Health Awareness Month aka a time when I want all of you to bend a knee because I have a healthy relationship with antidepressants and you all should be made aware.

Okay I’m kidding, but a part of me does want to throw some confetti for all of my brothers and sisters who also deal with the daily ups and downs of mental health.

I’ve already beat it into your head that we’re not waiting for a new day, week, or month to start celebrating the little things. But, sometimes we need that little life sign to jump, ya know? I feel moved to write this and something compelled you to read it. There’s your sign. If you’re not celebrating your mental health for EXACTLY what it is, this is your sign.

Nala, this is not what it looks like…. but look, I’m always cute in May! It’s my month! (18 years old)

Let me explain. Just like I have friends in all shapes and sizes, I have loved ones at all different points of the mental health spectrum. I have friends  who don’t always approve of talking about mental health all the way to friends who write, sing, or podcast about it just like I do. I have family that have gone through similar diagnoses or experiences, and friends who have never even imagined going to therapy. This is a month to celebrate you, your mind, and your mental health.

More importantly, it’s a month all about understanding that no one mental health is identical to another. It’s about awareness – which is so damn cool if you think about it. It means that if you say you’re an ally, no one is expecting you to be an expert. It means that you want to be a part of ending a stigma of the past for people struggling in the present. It means that you want to understand someone other than yourself, which is so important in this society.

I have been talking about and attempting to understand my mental health for years now. Each year, Mental Health Awareness Month comes around and it means more and more in my journey to recovery. When I was diagnosed, I wasn’t aware that there were others like me. My parents weren’t aware of how they could best support a teenager that was doing all she possibly could to push everyone away.

It took me far too many years and far too many Mental Health Awareness Months to realize that I am not defined by the medicine that I took, the diagnoses that still sit in my Mercy MyChart, or even by the stories I already share about my mental health.

For so long, I told myself that one of the first labels that was important for people to know about me was “depressed” or “anxious”. For so long, it felt like the only thing I could talk about, the only thing that was worth listening to. Maybe I wanted them to know that because I wanted to prove the strength that I found. Or, maybe I still hadn’t found a label that really feels right.

Each day, I can choose a different label. I mean, that’s the beautiful thing about the world, right? You don’t ever have to be the same person you were the day before. I’m a daughter, sister, voter, friend, blogger, college graduate, photographer. Saying that I’m one of those things, or all those things, doesn’t change the fact that I know I’m a warrior.

My 22nd Mental Health Awareness Month & birthday when I’m starting to actually realize that time, acceptance, and great company heals wounds. I felt so good. It’s okay to be okay!

I mean, what about when I’m doing really well? Do I still have to talk about depression when the bad days aren’t very often? Do I still have to blog about panic attacks when I haven’t had one for months? Talking about that part of my life is important, especially during months when we aim to spread awareness. The beautiful thing about Mental Health Awareness Month is you get to see people in all aspects of their journey – the confusion, the pain, the anger, the loneliness, the acceptance, and even the recovery. So, a big part of my mental health journey now is understanding that I don’t have to keep validating myself as a warrior. I wear my armor everyday.

Are you feeling okay during May? Or, are you feeling like your mental health might need some extra love? Contact me at any of my socials below – I want to hear your story!