Phrases to Push You Forward

Each day I come closer to better understanding myself. Every day, I get a better idea as to what truly motivates me, what truly peeves me, and most of all how to cope with these realizations and apply them to being a better version of myself. I’ve found that self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

I mean, Sheryl Crow says it best, “Everyday Is a Winding Road”

Most recently, I’ve grasped that niceties, frequent compliments, telling me, “Awe it’s going to be okay” – none of that motivates me, none of that means anything to me. It will go in one ear and out the other, the same as when someone apologizes to me. When someone apologizes to me, just the simple word, “sorry” has me shut down. I’m not listening to you anymore, I’m taking your words with a grain of salt, they mean nothing. You’re sorry? Cool story, bro.

I’ve understood that I’m very actions-based (my love language is acts of service obvi), and the only time words motivate me are when they’re unexpected or blunt. But nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t do it.

Some phrases in particular, mantras if you will, that I’ve found myself saying on a loop in my head, that push me forward:

Pick your pain.

This phrase comes from Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I read this book in January and this is the phrase that has stuck with me since. When I’m having an exceptionally terrible day, thinking about quitting everything and shipping off to live off the land as a hermit… I remind myself that pain, hinderance, it’s everywhere. It’s the biggest sign of life. You can’t get away from it, but you can pick the pain you want, choose which pain is most manageable.

I usually follow up this mantra with, “The devil you know.”

Cheat death.

This came from graffiti I saw on my way to work one day. I was having a super rough morning, one of those, “I need to take a mental health week…” type of days, and there was something about seeing this phrase that just gave me the kick in the ass I needed that day. Like hell yeah, let’s cheat death today, gurl.

I’m doing it for me.

There are times when someone takes ages to complete a task, and I’ll find myself annoyed AF and just do it for them. I’m pissed the whole time, adolescently slamming things and huffing as I do it, “Why am I doing this for them, they don’t do it for me.” Then one day it just clicked: They’re not doing it for me, and I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing the damn thing for me. In order to make myself more at peace, this task needs done ‘now’ – so I will do it just to bring myself some peace.

Sometimes I need to make a selfless situation feel selfish in order to boost my mood, it is what it is.

No one’s coming.

I recently came across this video about parenting yourself and it hit hard, because it’s true. As an adult, no one is going to come and force you to go on a walk, force you to go to bed at a certain time, and no one is going to tell you that microwavable mac and cheese is not dinner. No one is going to just automatically come and help you. And I’m not telling you that you’re alone in life, but if you do need help you have to ask for it.

It’s not personal.

I’ve typically always taken everything personally. If someone says an idea I have is stupid, I think that they’re telling me I’m stupid. If someone yells at me on the phone, because of something I can’t control, 8 times out of 10 I’ll start crying because they’re yelling at me. But it’s taken a long time, and I’m still working on it, to just not take things personally. Almost everything that anyone does, isn’t personal to you but it is personal to them – so leave it that way.

Not everything is about you. You aren’t stupid, but maybe your idea isn’t as well thought out as you envisioned (and that’s okay.) The person screaming at you on the phone is definitely just mad at the situation it puts them in – it has nothing to do with you (they don’t even really know you.)


What’s important is to understand what type of communication is most effective for you, the above phrases may be completely toxic to you and get you in a negative headspace. You have to sort that out for yourself. I’ll say it again: self-actualization is the epic learning curve of life.

Wedding Planning: COVID Edition

“…they can eat corn dogs and sit in their cars.” ~ Iliza Shlesinger Unveiled Netflix special

That’s pretty much how I feel right about now when it comes to wedding planning. It’s overpriced, overrated and would not recommend. One star. Before I go any further talking about wedding planning during the second part of a global pandemic, let me go back to August 2019.

The Proposal: August 31, 2019

Eric and I have been together a little over a year and a half. I had moved in with his family the month before, right after my parents had moved to Florida and I had started a contract job hoping it would lead to a full time position (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

At some point, one of Eric’s family friends had given us tickets for a cruise on the Belle of Louisville which we had been saving for a fun date night. He finally had a Saturday off, so we seized the day and got ready for a day on the river. We didn’t have the lunch cruise ticket, so we got some snacks on the concessions and ate lunch – we’re pretty low maintenance.

We were sight seeing on the boat and I was talking about angles for photos, when he abruptly told me I might what to put away my phone. I turned around and there he was on one knee, proposing to me with my mom’s ring. I was so happy, I immediately said yes. Then I FaceTimed with my parents a few minutes later and then my little sister when she was on break; I just could not contain my excitement.

When we got back to the house, we drank sparkling juice and went out to lunch to celebrate, our friend Libby (who gave us the tickets for Belle of Louisville) came out with us to celebrate the news. I soon found out the story of how he had asked my parents permission about five months earlier, I was so happy and touched. We then told our remaining family and friends before we made the official announcement on social media later that day.

The Planning

The original wedding date would be our three year dating anniversary, January 2, 2021. That would give us a year and a half to save up. Then March 2020 happened: COVID came to Kentucky.

I was unemployed for almost six months when I started a retail position at the end of March; so I had to train for a new job while being six feet away – which is probably as awkward and effective as it sounds. Through all of the societal changes though, we were still planning the wedding as usual. Hoping things would be better as it got closer.

During the summer, we had our original plan and a back up plan in case COVID was still a thing come 2021 (Spoiler alert: it is.) I was having a Sunday call with Mom, she could tell I was overwhelmed and stressed about essentially planning two weddings. So Eric and I talked and we decided in October we would make the call if we should move the wedding to a new date or not.

October came and we decided on May the Fourth for our wedding day, for obvious reasons – the wedding and reception is Star Wars themed. So having the wedding on May the Fourth (aka Star Wars day) made sense and felt serendipitous. We decided to have the reception that following Saturday. I know this means I would have to do hair, make up, wear my dress and all that jazz twice, but we have to adapt.

We decided to have a small in-person ceremony and live stream it for our other guests. I created a group for the virtual wedding on Facebook and I created an account on a streaming app. Then I just share the link so guests can sign up for notifications on when it starts. (Reach out if you want pointers on how to do this!)

The Nightmares

THE VENUE

We had three venues we liked. The Louisville Planetarium, my church, and the Olin Guest House. The planetarium still isn’t open, due to COVID they may not open until the fall or spring of next year. The church will be in the middle of remodeling during that time. So luckily we still have the guest house.

THE FOOD

I am so tired about hearing about issues with food. Yes, I want people to have good food. I wanted a pasta bar, well there was an issue with people not wanting to get red sauce on their nice clothes. I compromise and say, okay I’m doing a taco bar. No body wants to eat finger foods at a wedding reception. Mexican food and pasta are my favorite foods (not at the same time though.) Here’s my thought… eating food can be messy, accidents happen sometimes people spill food on selves and that’s why it’s called accident. You can be the cleanest person and still have a drop of queso on your shirt, it happens.

THE NEW SOCIAL RULES

I think this speaks for itself, *ahem* CDC guidelines.

What I’ve Learned Throughout This Mess

You can’t make everyone happy. It’s our day, I want to do want makes us happy. And this experience pointed out it’s important to be flexible and I’ve learned to adapt, like really adapt, to challenging situations. In the end it’s about Eric and I getting married and wanting to spend the rest of our lives together, not the venues or food. I just want to be happy and have a good time. That’s all.



Ways to Fight Your Anxiety Demon

**DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional, but just someone who’s suffered for years with anxiety and has come out on the other side mostly unscathed. Always seek the advice of a medical professional first.


I first started having severe anxiety problems when I was about 14. I distinctly remember being at my grandmother’s house on vacation with my mom and experiencing what I thought was just shortness of breath, which turned out to be a full blown panic attack. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to be able to say, “Oh yeah, that’s anxiety”. Instead, I ignored it and said my back hurt. For years, the physical symptoms of anxiety plagued me without any real thought towards it. My most common symptom was muscle spasms in my mid and lower back that made breathing nearly impossible. This would strike at seemingly random times, often when I was no longer ‘worried’ or ‘anxious’ and on one occasion took me all the way to urgent care.

The first time I had the can’t-catch-your-breath-pacing-around-like-a-weirdo attack was while working at my local movie theater. I was working the concession stand, which is essentially a long rectangle with a stock room in the back. It was a midday, boring shift but something triggered me. Maybe an ex came with their new beau? Maybe a surprising text message? Who knows, surely I don’t remember now. But what I do remember is pacing, panicking and meticulously counting the concrete blocks that formed the managers/box office right ahead of me. Over and over and over again. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. And again. And again. And again. Why eight? I don’t know honestly. Maybe it was from dance lessons as a kid or maybe something about eight just resonates with me.

But in the end, something had to give. After a breakdown call to my General Physician who referred me to a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed as high-functioning panic disorder and prescribed therapy and medication. I first went to therapy my second year in college when I realized that what I deemed my ‘crazy’ was affecting those around me negatively. I’d had some latent realizations of trauma from my past and it hit me like a freight train at 19. Therapy was amazing for me, but that isn’t a universal experience. From a spasmodic 14 year old girl to now, over a decade later, here I am kicking it with my Anxiety Demon like I would a friend. I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks over the years, so here they are. I hope they can at least provide a reference if not a helpful trick or two to anyone else that suffers.


Learn the early signs

The tightening in your chest, the tunnel vision, the suddenly-fuzzy hearing, the rush of heat to your face and neck. Learning the early signs of an anxiety attack can be the most crucial thing. By learning the trigger signs, you may be able to slow or completely avoid a panic attack. That’s how I was able to truly control my little Anxiety Demon – because I figured out how she operated. As soon as I feel those few rushed heartbeats, I take deep breaths and try to relax. Normally, whatever I’m worked up over doesn’t really matter. 

Don’t mix medication and caffeine

I learned this the hard way one night while working at the local haunted house. I took my prescribed medication because I was panicking – then immediately chugged a Monster Energy drink because I was tired. BOY – was that the worst idea. Never in my life have I felt what my body felt during the next hour after drinking that energy drink – I could feel my heart palpitating in slow motion. (In general, high levels of caffenation will make your anxiety worse no matter what, so be careful when engaging with coffee, energy drinks, etc. if you’re not used to it). 

Find something simple and stupid that soothes you

When I started out, counting made me feel better for some reason. I have no history of OCD or any other numbers related ailments, but counting my breath, counting the ceiling tiles, counting the steps it took to get around a building mid-attack was comforting and soothing. A lot of relaxation apps will have you count your breath as a wind down activity, so there must be some reasoning to the numbers. I also used to run my hands under cold water, especially if I had an attack while working. I wanted to cool down – bring my senses down – as quickly as possible. I wanted to extinguish the fire roaring in my head and chest and by running cold water on my hands, it almost immediately brought a sense of ‘Oh yeah, I’m back now’.

Just know, as it starts it will also stop

One of the toughest things about anxiety is that you truly do believe that you will die. That you will always feel this way. That you will never be able to have a deep breath ever again. But that’s the thing: anxiety is just a mental block. It will stop, you will breath again, you just have to let it either pass or run it course naturally. You can create a mantra to remind yourself of this during the attacks or just let yourself feel the flow and know that it will end. 

Create a safety net

Whether it’s an aromatherapy inhaler, special bubble bath or your favorite food, create a small cache of things that make you feel better or grounded. I carried an aromatherapy inhaler in my purse for years that my grandma gave me after my first panic attack. I still have it and occasionally use it when I’m feeling full of lightning. Certain scents are good on the senses and can help you unwind like lavender, jasmine, bergamot and chamomile. 

Download apps or find books to help

These days, I’m sure you find yourself mindlessly scrolling social media, creating an even worse social anxiety experience for yourself like we all do. Sometimes taking a break from social media while staying connected to your phone can help. I’m a personal fan of Candy Crush (proud level 644) or a meditation app like Headspace. Not a phone person? Never fear, books are here! Over the last year, I’ve built quite the arsenal of books to help me understand my issues. From Emotional Detox to First, We Make The Beast Beautiful, there are plenty of books worth checking out about emotions and anxiety.

Talk to someone

The easiest way to come down from a panic attack is to discuss it with someone. When you’re walking someone else through the panic and fears you have, it may be easier to realize how outlandish or wild they are. Whether it’s your therapist, a friend, or a partner/spouse, talking it out can release the hold that your Anxiety Demon has on you. It can ease the tension while allowing you space to breathe. 


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.

It Bothers You More Than It Bothers Me

“Your bra strap is showing.”

“I can see your panty-lines.”

“Woah, is that a gray hair?”

Bra straps, panty-lines, and gray hair – oh, my!

How many times has someone made one of the above offhanded comments to you and suddenly you’re sent through an anxiety spiral? You’re now frantically rushing to the bathroom to pluck that stray gray hair you shouldn’t even have because you’re only 25 and what 25 year old has gray hair? You’re also trying to figure out if there’s a way to hide your bra strap and panty-lines… you’re only one “no f*cks given” away from freeing the titty and going commando to hide the lines and straps that society has forced you to wear but is somehow mortified to actually see evidence of on your body.

As your anxiety spiral continues at full force, all you want is to go back to your calm, cool, and collected vibe you had moments before that comment about your appearance was made. Now you’re in a position where you’re uncomfortable with your own body, wondering how you can fix it, or if it can even be fixed right in this moment.

Pro-Tip: If you want to say something about someone’s appearance in order to “help them out” – make sure it’s something they can fix immediately. If they can’t fix it immediately, don’t comment on it.

  • Tell someone:
    • They have something in their teeth
    • They have a visible booger or something on their face
    • They have toilet paper stuck to their shoe
    • Their makeup is smeared/lines are harsh (something they can quickly swipe and fix)
  • DON’T tell someone:
    • That you can see their gray hair, they probably know it’s there and are mildly self-conscious about it. What are you gaining in telling them you see it? They can’t dye their hair right this second…
    • That you can see panty-lines or bra straps – they’re just the visual constructs of society holding our shit together. Don’t hate the lady – HATE THE MAN!
    • That their lack of makeup makes them look tired/sick, “Are you ok?” not anymore homie…

Honestly, just don’t give unsolicited opinions about someone’s appearance – unless it’s something that will boost their self-esteem and make them smile. You’re not helping anyone by knocking down their physical appearance.

Even Regina George knew that…

. . .

The comments that get the most under my skin are about gray hair. Yes, yes – I am 25 years old with quite a few grays. I have rather dark brown hair, and I’ve been assured this is why it seems I have more than most of my friends, but it still makes me feel self-conscious. My lighter haired gal pals either get their hair dyed more frequently or their graying hair is maybe a lighter blonde?! We’ll never know 😉 (and that’s annoying)

Personally though, I’ve had several hairdressers assure me that I truly don’t have as much gray hair as I think and also that 25 isn’t super radical for grays to start showing face. Graying before you turn 20 is a bit early for grays, but after 20 is more in that “normal” sector. Whatever normal means anyway.

Through my frantic research of “is gray hair in your 20s normal?!” I found awesome terminology for the grays – some call them your “wisdoms” or “wisdom highlights” – and I’m obsessed with this. Gray hair confirming I am one of the wisest of them all? Yes, please.

“A little gray hair is a small price to pay for this much wisdom.”

. . .

As much as this article starts out by saying “DON’T RAIN ON SOMEONE’S PARADE BY MAKING UNSOLICITED REMARKS ON THEIR APPEARANCE!” People are still going to do it, they’re going to make a comment if you rapidly lose or gain weight, if they can see your gray hair, if your eyebrows need done, etc. People will always talk, always. You can’t control what they say, but you can control how you react. You have the power to decide if their opinion is of value and worthy of your stress, or if you completely disregard their remarks, maintain the headspace you had moments before the words left their mouths, and don’t let them live rent free in your head.

I think we can all agree the latter is the better option here.

Karen Smith Mean Girls Movie GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

. . .

The One Where She Went Skiing

Newsflash – Indiana is flat AF. Straight roads go on for miles and miles, the most exciting a road can get is if you hit a pothole that sends you flying.

Indiana is so flat you can watch your dog run away for two weeks.

Indiana is so flat

Okay, ok – done.

Indiana is flat, but something weird happens the farther south you go. The Earth begins to rise and these mounds of dirt begin to emerge. One of the more hilly towns of Indiana is that of Paoli – home of Paoli Peaks. Paoli Peaks is a ski resort in Orange County and built on a natural hill at a 900 ft. elevation with a vertical drop of 300 ft. For well traveled skiers, this may seem like a bunny hill of a feat, but for those who’d like to ski somewhere between Louisville and Indianapolis… I’d say Paoli is the Aspen of Indiana. If you want to get real fancy on this ski-escapade, you’d stay in the West Baden Springs Hotel and drink in that wealth before hopping over to the slopes – that hotel and its entire grounds are seriously impressive and sets the tone for a lush experience.

January 2014 is when I got my first taste of Paoli, and my one and only go at skiing – and my God, was that something to behold.

If I told you I excelled immediately and was a natural born skier, my pants would burst into flames because that would be one of the biggest lies of the century. The amount of times I fell, and cursed the children who were expertly skiing past me as I lie staring at the sky were insurmountable. The number of times I threatened the lives of others, both on purpose and accident, were shocking. But the amount of times I fell and got up either by myself, or with a helping hand… were impressive.

Clearly I learned some existential things during my time skiing in the Aspen of Indiana:

You can’t just waltz in somewhere and think you’ll be perfect right off the bat. Sometimes it happens, but a lot of the time… to be really good at something, it takes time. Not just several hours either, but days, weeks, months, years to be really good at something.

So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect at something new. In fact, go in with the mindset of “I might suck now, but I’ll get better.”

I can’t emphasize enough how enraged I was, each time I fell to the snowy ground and saw these children just expertly skiing past me. It was unfair, I was older and supposed to inherently be better – it’s how it works.

But it’s actually not, is it?

Those children have been skiing as long as they could walk, maybe. But also the way young minds absorb new things is completely unparalleled to an older/adult brain.

In all walks of life, it is highly likely you will come across a younger person who simply knows more, or does something better, than you. Don’t be bitter about it, be better and maybe even ask them for help. Don’t let pride and ego stop you from being better.

I’m really, really terrible at asking for help. I’m an incredibly determined person and fairly confident in the fact that I can do anything. There’s not much I can’t do on my own, and I quite like it this way.

But do you know how much quicker something can get done if you invest in an extra hand? It took me a couple hours into skiing to just finally ask anyone and everyone for help on that slope. And it’s so crazy – the more people I asked, the more friends I made, and the more enjoyable the day went on to be.

It’s so important to try new things, but sometimes trying a bunch of new things all at once is too much. It sends your body into a bit of shock and can ruin the vibe pretty quick.

By the time I got the skiing “down”, down as in not falling every few minutes, I was quickly convinced by a friend to try snowboarding. I should’ve drawn the line and said, “No, thanks – I still want to focus on skiing and get this solidified before the days done.”

But no, I of course agreed and created this new obstacle for myself. Within moments of trying to snowboard, my body, well my mind really, was just like “Girl, you’re maxed out for the day. You’re done. Also, you now hate everyone.”

Setting goals is just as important as setting limits. Respect yourself enough to do both, and communicate your boundaries to those around you.

It really is as simple as that – don’t let one mistake keep you from trying again.

Epic fails = epic character building.

. . .

Emily at Paoli Peaks in 2014

What is Home?

I’ve never really stayed in one house for a long time. It partially comes with the territory of coming from a divorced family, not only the loads of back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s, but also when one parent moves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other parent won’t move in the same time frame. By that I mean, separately parents may not move a lot, but when you combine it for the kids… it stacks up.

Looking to my mom, who coincidentally has moved a lot, with her I grew up in seven different houses, and with my dad I grew up in three different houses. Then when they were married, there is one house in my active memory. So we’re looking at eleven different houses I lived in from the time I was born until I graduated college. Speaking of college, you could even increase the places I’ve lived since I lived in the dorms throughout that time, and then my senior year a friend and I got an apartment off campus. I also did a semester in France which was a whole other type of living situation!

After reflecting on my adolescence, and now looking towards my adulthood – almost the minute I graduated college, I shipped up to NYC for an internship that turned permanent. Upon first moving to the city, I lived in a small sublet in Harlem and my room was literally the size of a twin size mattress. Two months later, my sublet was up and I moved to Chinatown for a little over a year and that was an experience! After that downtown escapade, I booked it back uptown to Spanish Harlem for a little over a year.

All sounds complicated and all over the place, right? Am I done yet? Am I getting to the whole purpose of this overshare yet?

Thanks to Miss Rona, things only get more complicated.

My lease was up in Spanish Harlem July 31st and the friend I planned to live with, Zoe, couldn’t move until October. So we were faced with two options:

  1. We find a place for August 1st and sublet until Zoe can move in.
  2. I go home – I’m working from home anyway, so why not spend some time at home, save some money, and move back to the city in the fall?

Two was the obvious option, but the not so obvious is the thing I had to ask myself – “Where is home?”

My nomadic mom is currently posted up in Pittsburgh, which isn’t too far from my uncle and papa along with many other family members. My dad is where he’s always been, in Kentucky, along with many family members. But then I have my nana and aunt and nearly all of my friends who are tucked away in Indiana.

So, again, where is home? Where do I go?

I essentially did what I always do, and that was split up my time and touch ground everywhere. Which definitely isn’t COVID Kosher, but I was essentially homeless, so sue me.

I did some time with all of my family and some friends – sprinkling my sass and two-cents along the way, lending an ear to those who needed it, and offering support when the situation called for it. It was nice to be “home” for a little while. But honestly, I couldn’t help but be hyper-focused on the term, “home“… what is it? Where is it? Do I have one, do I have many, or do I not have one at all?

My mom always says, “Home is where your mom is.”

But I don’t think home is that simple, or maybe it is.

I think home is a feeling. It’s something that comes natural, but it’s also something that can be manifested. For instance, both my grandparents houses always feel like home, the Catholic church I grew up in feels like home… but everywhere I’ve ever had my own room I’ve seamlessly created a notable “cozy-homey vibe” that gets riddled with compliments on how comfy it is.

It’s as if I’ve always understood that with a few adjustments, you can make anywhere feel like home. I have some things I always do, nearly as a reflex, whenever I settle in somewhere in order to make that place more comfortable – to make it mine.

1. Your bed is a sanctuary, treat it as such.

Make sure you have a bedspread that you like to look at, and honestly – the more pillows the better. Even if you only use one pillow to sleep – during the day have your bed coated in pillows. Those decorative sacks of fluff and feathers are so inviting, there’s no such thing as too much, I promise.

Once you like your bed – make it every single day. There was a time not too long ago where I didn’t make my bed everyday; I found I didn’t have time, what’s it matter, etc… I was full of excuses. But what was funny were the days that I didn’t make my bed in the mornings, I would almost instantly make it the minute I got home – because there’s nothing better than slipping into a freshly made bed.

Just respect yourself enough to make your bed in the mornings – respect the evening version of you who just spent a hard day at work and deserves a freshly made bed.

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2. You look at each wall more than you think, hang things that bring you joy and peace.

Think of every wall in your space as a mood board.

Fill each wall with pieces of art, photos, or shelves of knickknacks that evoke positive emotions. This is where you can put plants, real or fake, to encourage growth in your space and to feel grounded and connected with the earth. Fill your walls with whatever brings you peace and happiness.

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3. If it smells great, you’ll feel great.

I adore candles. I love them not only for the smell, but I enjoy even the simple flame. The sense of warmth I feel when I see the lit candle and then the scents that beginning coating the room, it brings so much instant peace. I love fall scents the most, like vanilla and hazelnut, but sometimes these scents don’t translate well in the summer. I found that my safe-ground is finding earthy candles that smell of amber and oud.

Go find your scent – be it floral, fruity, earthy, or fresh… find it and do what you gotta do to maintain that smell in your room. Be it candles, incense, oil diffusers, or wax warmers – just give your room a scent that you associate with comfort.

. . .

I’ll be honest, sometimes doing all of the above isn’t enough. You can go the whole nine yards on your space and still feel like a fish in the wrong bowl. Like you’re a pretty fish in a decked out aquarium, but you kind of miss your old bowl for some reason.

AKA -> homesickness.

All I’ve gotta say to that is to think long and hard on what you’re homesick for, what’s missing. Would you be happier back where you were? Or do you find you’re actually missing specific moments and feelings expressed in the old space?

I find that most of the time, my homesickness is for a time and not a place.

Once I realized this, it clicked that going home won’t fix anything, it won’t fix my homesickness. The only type of “going back” that will erase my homesickness is “going back in time” but that’s not possible, obviously. This type of homesickness can really only be healed by some intense self-reflection, maybe even some therapy, in order to dig up what the real root of the problem is and to truly understand what you’re missing. In realizing this, in understanding what it is exactly that you’re homesick for, you can then move forward and adjust what you must in order to find that mental balance and manifest your “home vibe”.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you are deserving of feeling at home wherever you’re living.

Hey Insomniac, Have You Tried…

How’d you sleep last night?

I always have trouble falling asleep – my brain runs a mile a minute the second my head hits the pillows, and sometimes I cannot seem to just chill out.

I think about my day, everything I could’ve done differently and how I could’ve used my time more wisely, I think about what I have to do tomorrow, what time I should wake up, and if I go to sleep right now exactly how many hours will I get to actually sleep?

It doesn’t stop there folks, I think about something I said in third grade that was so embarrassing that I’m convinced everyone else must randomly think about it too, I mean if I am then they must be, right?

I think about how many more days I can put off laundry, when I should get groceries, and I get so restless that I think about whether or not I should create a new Spotify playlist that fits with a certain mood I may or may not feel tomorrow, simply because I want to do something semi-productive in the midst of my sleeplessness.

When I say my mind doesn’t stop, it truly doesn’t stop.

So I’ve tried several tricks over the years:

  1. I’ve tried medication, but I always do this terrible thing which is me suddenly feeling “fixed” and like I don’t need them anymore *eye roll*. I’ve been prescribed medication, but I’ve also done over the counter sleep aids, and good ‘ole Benadryl always does the trick to knock me out.
    • One major thing to note with sleeping meds is that the minute you start taking them, your body becomes somewhat reliant on them – so when you stop taking them the best thing to do is wean yourself off to avoid the most sleepless night of your life. More info here on sleep aid medication
  2. I’ve tried teas – these help, but sometimes I just don’t feel in the tea mood and well… that’s how that goes.
  3. I’ve tried pillow sprays, like the ones from Bath & Body Works, which also help – but sometimes they’re a bit out of budget, and sometimes I simply don’t want to smell that same smell every night.

So as you can see, my self-sabotage game is strong! But I’ve identified my main problem is that I’m incredibly fickle-minded, I need something that is flexible and takes minimal effort in order to stick with it.

The first major milestone in conquering my sleep issues was discovering the Sleep Pillow app.

Sleep Pillow not only offers various sounds to soothe and distract the mind, but it allows you to create your own sleep mixes. I find water incredibly soothing and grounding, so what works great for me is a mix of rain splashing in puddles, waves crashing, and a strong thunderstorm. But they also have various other noises to mix in like a crackling fire, whale sounds (lol), and other relaxing noises.

I used this app for a hot minute, but then my fickleness showed face and Sleep Pillow suddenly wasn’t right, or enough, to drown out my late night thoughts. That being said, I still have it downloaded on my phone, just in case 😉

I tried the Calm app for a few weeks and had people like Matthew McConaughey tell me stories, which was oddly relaxing. But then this app cost some money that was more than I was willing to spend, especially on something my fickleness could deem useless in X amount of time.

Then a major breakthrough happened: the Breathe app.

Guys, this app is a game changer. What makes Breathe so different than my previous explorations, is that it’s multi-functional. It’s not just a sleep app, it’s a mindfulness app for anytime of the day – and it’s free. There are meditations in there for a quick mid-day mindbreak, yogic meditations, tracks for quick power naps, and my ultimate fave – hyponotherapy sessions.

Whenever I mention hypnotherapy to people, their eyes widen a bit and I practically hear their thoughts of, “Hypnotherapy?! Why would you fall asleep to getting hypnotized! What if they’re putting false thoughts in your head?!”

All I’ve gotta say is scroll back up and read through what are just a fraction of my late night thoughts. I’m sure you’d be desperate to do what you gotta do to shut yourself up. And ultimately, you just have to trust the process. Breathe has stellar reviews, the people speaking have reputable backgrounds, and I can put on literally anything by Glen Harrold and I fall asleep within 20 minutes. There are other folks on there, but his voice is what is the most soothing to me, I highly recommend bouncing around the various speakers until you find someone whose voice works for you.

I’ve been using Breathe for a little over a year, and I’m sure you’re wondering, “Does the hypnotherapy actually work? Like WORK, work?

If I’m being honest, I genuinely have no idea. Since it’s so psychological, I do have a hard time telling if I’m in a better mood or feel more rested because I switched up the track that night, or because I did stick with the same track every night one week, or maybe it’s simply a better day… it’s hard to tell. I should also note that I don’t necessarily use this app every night, only when the thoughts are significantly loud – which I would put at anywhere between 50-85% of the time.

One thing I will say, is that the last two nights I’ve been listening to Glenn Harrold’s Transformation & Miracles track, and each morning I’ve woken up incredibly well rested and hopeful for the day. Which, I’m sad to say, is a rarity for me.

The last tip I have to share, if you’re not into apps, white noise, or meds, is a breathing trick: get comfortable in bed, take a deep breath in (count to 4 or 5, whichever feels more comfortable), hold your breath for three seconds, then slowly exhale (counting to 4 or 5, whichever feels more comfortable.) The deep breathing slows down your heart rate, and concentrating on counting each breath gives you something to focus on, bringing you to a state of mindfulness and bringing your mind to the present: which is that your day is done and it’s time to sleep.

Made on Canva by Peachy Keen Collective

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So, my fellow dwellers of the night, I’ve shared my tips and I’m eager to know some of yours! Please share your sleep hacks in the comments! My fickle mind could come into play soon and I may need a new fix 🙂

Easy Ways to Interrupt a Depression Spiral

A close friend texted me this week saying, “Three things you do to get yourself out of a slump. Go.”. My answer was go for a walk, clean the house/rearrange things and to light candles. While rushed, the answer is still mostly accurate but I wanted to elaborate more on the whys behind them.


First things first, depression affects everyone differently and can manifest in a variety of ways. Personally, depression comes in waves almost like clockwork. I can feel myself slipping and before long I’m sitting at the bottom of the pit, living there for a while. Two years ago, I hit my roughest patch which consisted of regular depression naps every Saturday at 2PM (which genuinely became a concerning joke amongst friends and family), overindulging in food/alcohol and spewing self-deprecating depression jokes to everyone’s displeasure. I’ve watched friends suffer through these depths numerous times but for the first time I was miles away from the surface with no sense of what to do. I spent months in this proverbial hellscape before drifting slowly upwards. Before long, that heavy weight I’d been carrying was gone, without a note goodbye. Here is my easy guide to interrupting a depression spiral.

  • Learn your warning signs – Inevitably, if you’re experiencing depression, there’s a good chance that it’ll happen again and that’s okay. It’s normal. Like I mentioned earlier, depression can be like a wave: it ebbs and flows. Comes on in a hurry then leaves. Push and pull. While it can be scary to think that it will return, especially when you’re already feeling low, it can instead be a positive situation because you have time to prepare for the next fall. Common signs can include: sleeping too much or not at all, disconnected emotional changes, overeating or under eating, overall numbness or lethargy. 
  • Find simple tricks to give yourself joy – When you’re spiraling, there’s not much that can bring you joy or even a glimmer of hope. Thankfully, I was able to find a consistent, low-energy trick: watching weekly Jenna Marbles videos on Youtube. I have been a fan of Jenna Marbles for nearly a decade and it was easy to go ‘Oh, it’s Thursday – I bet there’s a new video up’. That simple act was enough for me to hold on to. Did I really care about the content of her videos? No. Did I routinely watch them just to get a chuckle or two? Yes. The most important part of this trick is to find something that requires barely any effort on your part but is scheduled: a show on cable, a weekly youtube video, a podcast. 
  • Create a self care kit – For the most part, self care goes out the window during a depression wave however, by having a go to kit of your favorite things, it may be enough to slow the impending tide. Whether you’re a shower or bath person, keep on hand your favorite candles, gels, bombs and scents. Another part of your kit can be productive like art supplies, your favorite book or maybe just an extra comfy pair of sweats. Scents to look for: lemon and orange for energy, lavender and jasmine for calming, bergamot and rosemary for alertness. 
  • Care for something outside of yourself – Loving others is another way to energize yourself. From plants to pets to people, being able to respond and love something can help you feel a little more connected when in the pits. My boss gifted my coworker and I tropical plants last fall that I was determined to keep alive. When my coworker left her position, she gave me her plant to take care of. Tropical plants in central Indiana? Goodluck. For the record, I do not have a green thumb and can barely keep myself alive let alone a plant. They never bloomed, but they’ve sprouted new growth and are something I’m proud of now. 
  • Try something new – Routines can be great but they can also be smothering. I crave routine and structure but once I start falling down a pit, routines make my skin crawl like I’m growing too quickly from the inside and my skin can’t hold me. When you’re feeling a funk come on, try something new. Say yes to an invitation from a friend. Take a different route home from work. Walk a new path at the park. Watch a new sitcom just to change the perspective. We are so comfortable in our own worlds that sometimes breaking the routine and experiencing something new can be liberating and cathartic. 

What worked for me may not work for you perfectly and that’s okay. The goal is to try things that you may not have considered previously if you find yourself descending the steps into the pit. If you’re fully in the trenches, these things may not work or work as well and you should always confide in someone you trust about your feelings. 


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.

Honesty: Humility: Growth

This part of my story is pretty real and raw. This is the part I am not proud of. However, it’s important to share because even after I left John Doe, I struggled with self-identity, structure, discipline, and self control. I decided to make a few decisions that ultimately put myself in terrible predicaments and changed my life, but in some of the worst ways. I searched high and low for closure and answers, but all I found was temporary satisfaction, disappointment, and trouble.

There were weeks I spent several nights at bars, drinking heavily. I made many new friends and developed a social life I never had before. I was getting attention from people, but not all of it was positive. I decided to explore the dating scene and embark on a new adventure to “find myself”. Well I admit the alcohol abuse played a part in some, if not all, of my poor decision making. I found myself getting involved with a few people and making decisions I should not have done. I was naive and very trustworthy of people when I should not have been. They lied to me and I should have known better because I always have acted better in that sense; I have always preached to my friends about being safe and making good choices and not jumping into things without completely evaluating everything. I have always told them to think about the consequences before acting. I have failed to listen to my own advice. However, feelings and actions do not justify an individual hiding important information from a person.

I refer to these few months as me being crazy and doing things I never had the chance to do. So many people told me it was okay, and that this was normal. Now looking back, it wasn’t. Or if it was, I didn’t want my normal to be like that. I changed my behaviors and decided this way of life wasn’t for me; I stopped casually dating and became very selective. I have been left with physical scars now and life has been altered for me in ways I never thought would be. I never thought it’d be me. My advice here is never forget who you are. Try to stick to your morals and be very careful who you surround yourself with. Acknowledge that theses mistakes may be made and if they already have been, understand how you got there and try not to do it again despite the temporary satisfaction and attention.

One evening I was leaving a bar and I made one of the most terrible decisions ever, I chose to drive home. Well, that ended with me in jail for the night and with a criminal charge. I was beyond embarrassed. I did the very thing we all should never do – drunk driving. Thankfully, I was not in any accident or anything like that, but it still scared me and changed my life in many ways. I stopped drinking heavily and set limits. My advice here is clear, do not rely on substances of any kind to cope with heartbreak, depression, or grief. I know it’s harder than it sound, trust me, but this was one of the worst things I ever did and I have residual effects from it. Again, trust your friends, family, therapist to help you through hard times. Talk about your feelings.

Another topic to touch on is what I realized and came to accept and admit to. I looked back on my relationship and saw things I did that contributed to an issue, unknowingly. I realized I was going out to bars more, spending more money than I should have. I also acknowledge that listening to your partner is important and communication is key in working things out. In my recent article, I mentioned that I would ignore John Doe’s requests of being left alone when he was in a fit of rage, all because I thought that was the right way to handle it all. It wasn’t and it was wrong of me. However, being honest with yourself and others is a growing process too. I was also an enabler and turned a blind eye to a deeper issue at hand for years. Admit your faults. I will never deny what I did during and after my relationship because it was a stepping stone for me to find my peace and it allows transparency. Again, doing these things still do not give a free pass for anyone to be abusive. It is important to understand that.

I went down a path of destruction, and nothing I was doing was benefiting me. I was getting no answers. I had no closure. What was I even doing?

My decisions I made during and after my separation were wrong and foolish. I made choices and rolled the dice of life. I’m not perfect and I will admit this and the things I’ve done. I’ve used these experiences to help educate others who are struggling with coping from loss—that be of a loved one or maybe even a divorce, failing relationship, stress, etc. I was ashamed but again, it’s part of journey. It’s also to make people aware of how important it is to be honest with oneself and grow from these things. It’s a chapter in my life that has closed and left me with valuable lessons.

My advice here, is anyone trying to overcome such things like stress, divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, whatever it may be — should seek out help. This is something I never did until later. I could have avoided the trouble I got in after the separation if I just had better coping skills. My advice: keep communicating with people. I will say this time and time again, talk with your family and friends. Maybe seek out a therapist or counselor. Whatever you need to do to be safe and healthy while you heal from the wounds that life left you with.

What is just as important as healing, is being honest with yourself, learning from your mistakes, and taking back control of your life. We all have one chance at life, and we need to respect ourselves more. We are worthy of that.

If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-9474.

You are not alone.

Emily’s Roommate Guide

In all my 25 years of life, I’ve never had my own apartment (excluding my brief semester abroad, but let’s be real I was hardly in that little dorm.) I’ve always had one or multiple roommates; and there’s not one place I’ve lived where I don’t have a crazy story to share – both good crazy and bad crazy. Just to name a few, I’ve had roommates hide under the bed for days at a time, I’ve had roommates accuse the entire apartment of tackling their 5-gallon jar of pickles (gag), I’ve had roommates with no sense of pride in the space we both call home, and I’ve had roommates where we don’t even remotely speak the same language.

Each and every one of my living situations could not only have their own blog post, but I could write a whole series of books, accurately titled: “Emily’s Series of Unfortunate Roommates:The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

But this post isn’t a tell-all on past roommates – sorry to disappoint you, you gossip ready scoundrels. Instead, I’m roaming the higher ground here. I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned through these good and bad situations, and most importantly: questions you should ask yourself when in the market for roommate.

Blanket Question: What is important to you?

This may seem like an obvious question, but clearly not since at 25 – 7 years into the roommate game – I’ve only just learned how to properly answer this when on a roommate search. Let’s breakdown what could be important to you, you just don’t realize it yet:

  • Which spaces always have to be tidy or you’ll have an aneurysm?
    • Even if you think you’re pretty chill, not too much of a neat freak, I’m sure there’s actually one or two things that get under your skin. For me, I’ve realized I need the toilet to always be pearly white, uncluttered kitchen counters, and absolutely nothing permanently (or even semi-permanently) planted on the stove – excluding a kettle – I also cannot cope with dishes overflowing the sink for more than like 3-4 days. So if you get roped in with someone who ends up being more on the messy side, voice the spaces that matter most to you.
  • How do you feel about entertaining guests?
    • Granted, in Covid-Culture, this question is answered way differently now then it would be if all was right in the world – or for some of you, maybe not! Either way, it’s important to sort if you’re content with guests frequently coming and going, staying for short or long periods of time. Especially if you live in a major city, it’s common for friends and family to want to come visit often and for longer than just a weekend. So figure out how you feel about this, if you’re content with strangers coming and going – potentially running up utility bills during their stay 😉
  • Speaking of utility bills, how do you feel if it seems your roommate may be causing spikes in bills?
    • If I’m being honest, I never even realized that this was a thing until very recently. In my books, you’re in a contract with your roommates to go half on everything. If there’s a spike in the bill, it sucks but that’s just it – it sucks. Even if the other person may have caused it, you couldn’t possibly confirm that, so you have to buck up and pay your half and everyone aim together to be more conscientious for the next bill cycle. Trying to pin a spike in a bill on someone is a slippery slope, because what about the months you had several guests staying for a week or two at a time? Or how about there’s a month where you’re using the washer and dryer more? Do you see what I’m getting at? It opens a door that you probably don’t want to open. But either way… if this is your little psycho tick… sort it out now before trying to screw someone over. Have fun with that future conversation! Side note, if you don’t bring this up and try to con a roommate into paying more of a bill – shame on you.
  • Your sleep schedule?
    • Most of the time, you know if this is important to you – so voice it! Make it known that you’re a night owl, or make it known you go to bed at 8, grandma 😉

Blanket Question: What are you looking for in a roommate?

This is not just finding a cool person to live with, nor the same as simply finding a friend. While the above questions definitely facilitate sorting this question out, below is a breakdown of how to sort out the type of person you’re looking for:

  • Do you want someone with the same daily schedule as you?
    • Having the same schedule as someone is great, in theory. It opens doors to be able to hang out together after work and sleep schedules should be fairly similar. But also, it means they are always home the same time you are. For me, I’m not into that. I need alone time, I need the space to myself, and I hate fighting over the freaking bathroom. I’ve realized my ideal roommate’s schedule is someone who wakes up at the ass-crack of dawn and leaves the apartment before I wake up. Then I get to have a quiet morning to myself and get in the right head space for the day.
  • Are you looking to become best friends with your roommate?
    • This is fine! Moving to a new city and seeking to befriend whoever you live with is a smart way to get established and such an easy way to make friends. So think about what characteristics you like in a friend, but also think about how that translates into a roommate. Party people are fun, but do you want a party apartment? Bubbly, outgoing people are great, but are you someone who needs alone time to recharge? Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into!
  • What’s the ideal vibe?
    • It’s super important to me that my apartment is cozy, decorated, and smells heavenly with candles frequently lit. Maybe you’re wondering why this didn’t go in the first blanket question, but this is totally a personality thing. I’ve had roommates who just emit comfort from their very being and it translates into the apartment setup, I also have had roommates who see the apartment as just the place they sleep and aren’t into the whole decorating thing, or they have a minimalist vibe and aren’t into knickknacks and decorations. So while it’s important to understand your vibe, it’s equally important to sort out your roommates vibe – then you can create a conducive atmosphere that makes your space more than just an apartment, it makes it a home.

Blanket Statement: Know your boundaries.

If you understand what your boundaries are, what you are comfortable with and what you’re not, the roommate search will be more fruitful. If you’re not that clean, there’s no point in lying about it just to get the dream apartment with someone. If you need alone time, voice that and most people will respect it.

One thing I casually began doing to better understand what gets under my skin, is starting a “When People…” note on my iPhone. Whenever someone does something that rubs me the wrong way, even slightly, I write it down – just the action, not the person’s name, this isn’t a list of grudges! It has things like “When people interrupt others when they’re speaking,” which equates to the fact that basic manners are incredibly important to me, and another one is “When people flake on responsibilities,” and that one I don’t think I need to explain 😉

Creating a simple list of pet peeves is a great way to understand not only what you don’t like, but also what you do. Ultimately, it’s important to know yourself in order to know what you need from others so that you can flourish.

DISCLAIMER: While I hope this guide helps you, I think shit roommates are major character building experiences 😉

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PS: the featured photo is that of me and one of my best friends that’s survived many roommate horrors with me ❤

How to Heal a Broken Millennial Heart

My fiancé left me a week before our wedding day. On a Saturday night last fall, with no apparent reason after nearly 8 years together. (Not to mention a house with a mortgage, two pets and a few thousand dollars in wedding expenses.) I was told, “I need space,” and he left. It’s safe to say my life felt like it was in complete shambles, decimated in the course of three words. Never did I think I’d find myself at a Starbucks at 5 am on a Sunday sending out cancellation emails and texts. Personally, I was wrecked; but professionally, I was in the midst of the busiest and most important weeks of my life.

This is what I learned on this wild healing journey.

  • You can’t heal where you were hurt. I didn’t feel comfortable in my house anymore, it just reminded me of the years of memories and time spent there. I went on my honeymoon to Paris with my mom (begrudgingly); thankfully she was able to get off work at last minute to come with me to the City of Lights or Love or for me – the City of What Could Have Been. The trip itself was fairly miserable, with many days spent lying in my hotel bed or walking endlessly through the city so I could try to feign sleep. However the physical distance allowed me to detach. (Note: This is a phrase that I would tattoo on my forehead just because of how perfectly true it is).
  • Support may come in surprising ways. I’m a fairly private person naturally, so when my private life was catapulted into everyone’s eyes, I was mortified. I would go to work and be met with sad, wondering eyes which only made it that much harder. Not to mention the endless embarrassment. Some people in my life, who had once been just on the periphery came forward to help support me; including a long-extinguished old flame, a casual coworker and even someone I’d known for only two weeks. These people without reason or explanation, stepped up and took care of me at my worst.
  • Sometimes there’s no real reason and that’s okay. As a long-time sufferer of high-functioning anxiety and depression, it’s hard for me to accept something that is gray. I need to have a black and white world. Right and wrong; good and bad; yes and no. Not ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I can’t explain it’. But sometimes, things are truly murky. Sometimes, there’s no good answer or reason. It was a tough pill to swallow. But every day I had to remind myself of what was true; actions.
  • Take your time. There is no perfect path to healing, or a one-size fits all plan. I tend to keep myself occupied when I’m anxious – but that prolongs the healing because you’re not actually confronting what happened. Sometimes you need to feel it – even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time in a safe environment. I spent a whole day of my honeymoon, cooped up in our hotel room, watching shitty French murder documentaries and purging myself of everything I’d been avoiding. I made myself confront what happened in its entirety, piece by piece before neatly letting it go. My one-time old flame was the one who really brought me to my senses. He told me, “he doesn’t care right now. I know it hurts, but you need to hear that.” Which was 100% true. As much as it hurt, I was wasting a perfectly nice vacation and being sad about someone who clearly did not care in that same moment. That mindset really helped me to take that first step.
  • Get it out of your system. Holding on to something from the past that is beyond your control is just draining. There will be no good ending. Having spent a solid two years in therapy during college, I consider myself to be fairly familiar with coping mechanisms. I chose to write a letter (technically an email while wine drunk in the bathtub, but hey, it still counts). I wrote to physically manifest my thoughts and feelings into something that could be set free, therefore releasing its toxic hold on me. I wrote to let go of all of the questions, thoughts and feelings that I’d been drowning in. The local radio show I listen to in the Midwest set a standard – “for however many years you’ve been together, take one day to mourn.” By that logic, I had 8 days to mourn. It was closer to 15 but giving yourself a deadline can help. I was determined to not spend an ounce more energy or time on this.
  • Only talk when you’re ready. After such a public catastrophe, everyone is bound to have questions. Even those with the best intentions will still want to ask questions that will feel like nails being driven into your always shattering heart. It took me months to fully open up to friends and family about what happened. On the other hand, you may have to ask close friends and families to stop mentioning it – stop treating you differently. It drove me nuts when people would look at me with sadness or remorse or embarrassment – no matter how well intended it was. I wasn’t some broken puppy in a cast or a bird with a broken wing so don’t treat me as such.
  • Healing isn’t linear. You will have good days and bad days. Maybe even good weeks with a few bad days sprinkled in. You will have nights of crying so hard, you’re sure the walls are about to cave in. But there will be joy. Remember that just because there’s a few slips on the journey, doesn’t mean you’re done moving forward.
  • Get out of bed. Physically. Metaphorically. While yes, those blankets and pillows may feel like your only comfort right now, but you’re not helping yourself by staying there. It may be painful and annoying, but you must get up and move a little. Don’t get me wrong, you need time to feel and process (see previous point) but know that there is a point where enough is enough. Even if it’s just to get a drink of water, get out of bed. I continued going to work (albeit at a heavily modified schedule) just to not be in my house. Was it easy? No. Was it comfortable? No. Did I want to accost every person who looked at me with sadness? Absolutely. But it helped give me space and to see that everything is still moving.
  • Heartbreak is temporary. While in the moment and for weeks or even months and years later, it hurts; little by little it will fade. You will rebuild – yourself, your life and your heart. You will become a stronger version of yourself. During this journey you will learn endlessly about yourself, your expectations and those around you. It may not ever be the same as before, but you’ll be better for it.

While everyone will surely have their own experiences, these were the few ways that I was able to move through my situation a little easier. Rely on those close to you and reach out when you’re feeling down; you are not a burden.

Winnie’s Story: Young and Diagnosed

On the outside, Winnie H. looks like any 27-year-old woman: beautiful, thin, tan and well put together. She works two jobs, like any other twenty-something, tries to go to the gym as often as possible, has an enormous library on her kindle and is completing a job certification. However, on the inside, she is in constant pain. Winnie has Fibromyalgia.

I met Winnie at the age of 14. I, like most other teenagers, was full of energy and eager to do anything for fun. I knew that Winnie had some sort of illness, but I never fully understood why she hated giving me hugs or why some days she felt like she couldn’t get out of bed. As I got older and talked more with her, I learned more about the “disease” Winnie had and why it affected her the way it did.

Today, I sat down with Winnie to ask her more questions about what Fibromyalgia was and how it affected her.

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How old were you when you realized something was wrong? What kind of symptoms were you feeling?

I was 10 years old. It was after I had my appendix taken out and I figured all of the pain I felt was because of that, but then it started to get worse. The pain got to be unbearable. I didn’t like the feeling of my clothes on my body. I couldn’t let anyone touch me at all. Even when family would try to hug me, it hurt too much, so I’d run away from them. I pretty much avoided “goodbyes” at family gatherings.

To describe the pain…on good days it feels sort of like body aches from the flu. On bad days, it feels like pins and needles, like when you sit on your foot for too long and it falls asleep– that numbness and needle-prick feeling. My legs were the worst back then. Sometimes they’d randomly give out on me.

The pain all over my body would get so bad that it made me vomit or would send me into panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening or how to handle it!

How long did it take for doctors to diagnose you with Fibromyalgia? Were you wrongfully diagnosed at first?

Before they figured it out, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, really anything mental because they thought the pain was all in my head or I was faking it. One doctor would say it was one thing and the next doctor disagreed and said it was something else! I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at 13, almost 14, years old.

What different kinds of tests or treatments have you tried over the years?

I went to many different therapists, like VERY different. One was super peppy and was all like “LET’S COLOR,” and another was just like, “here’s your meds, ma’am.”

I also tried these breathing treatments for awhile at the children’s hospital. It was actually kind of fun though, like a video game. They hooked me up to this heart monitor that was attached to a screen and I’d stare at a tree or build a bridge with my breathing patterns and heart rate.

In middle school, I had to wear a heart monitor for a week because apparently I had a heart murmur too, so that’s really cool. They had me wear this helmet thing too to measure my brain waves or something.

My back doctor wanted to try giving me shots in my spine but I was like, “HELL NAH!” That’s kind of funny though because now my back is where my worst pain is.

I tried a lot of physical therapy and massage therapy. Massage Therapy was my favorite. I also tried hydro-therapy where they change it from really cold to really hot but that was the worst! Extreme cold makes my muscles tense up. I can’t handle temperature changes very well.

What about medications? Did you experience any bad side effects?

Once I was on an antidepressant that made me hallucinate! I saw all kinds of weird stuff. I saw a glowing, blue, f***ing bird everywhere! It swooped down at me once at Walmart and I looked like a lunatic trying to dodge that damn bird. I always tried to laugh it off though.

The thing about medication is that if it has possible side effects, I’m probably going to get them. I guess I’m really sensitive to meds. Even the antidepressant I’m on now makes me so nauseated that I’ll usually throw up once a day. I just have to try a lot of things to see what works.

The biggest problem I had though, was that I went to like 5 different doctors at once and they never talked to each other. I took so many medications at once that I had these things I’d call “mini overdoses.” I’d be awake but lying there, unable to move or speak, and it was really hard to breathe! Those were the scariest moments of my life. As soon as I came out of them I’d run down to my mom, freaking out about how something was NOT right.

What kinds of medications or treatments do you use today?

By the time I was 18, I was on 22 different pills a day. My boyfriend at the time cheated on me and our breakup gave some sort of wake up call. I decided to go cold turkey on all my meds at once. I was withdrawing so bad that I was hugging the toilet and shaking for what seemed like forever. After that, I chose my own medications.

Now I’m taking a new antidepressant. There’s no “happy pill,” but this one really helps. I honestly didn’t plan on living past 18 years old. I had plans to kill myself. I still have some passive suicidal idealizations, but I want to live now.

Aside from that, I’m now taking Vyvanse, which is usually for ADHD, so it seems weird that I’d take it with Fibromyalgia. It helps with the brain fog, I call it “fibro fog.” I can sort of handle the pain nowadays, but I can’t deal with the fog. I literally have fallen asleep from it, standing up, at work!

“Fibro fog” is where you can’t think clearly or remember anything. It’s like my thoughts are moving through oil in my head. Answering simple questions like “What did you have for breakfast today?” are too difficult. I’d be like, “did I even eat today?” The fog is the hardest thing for me, even though my pain is still at an all time high. I hate it because I need to work; I need to study and think. It’s all too hard to do with the fog.

I also occasionally will take a muscle relaxer. My spine swells and locks sometimes at night and the pain keeps me from sleeping, so a muscle relaxer helps me get to sleep.

How does Fibromyalgia affect your mental health?

For so many years, people told me my disease wasn’t real and people still think that today. It really f***s with me. Even doctors who are educated on the disease have written me off like I was faking it.

I have severe depression. If I go into a bad swing of depression, my fibromyalgia flares up, because my mental health and physical symptoms tie into each other.

I used to have panic attacks that were so bad I’d black out at school and my mom had to pick me up and bring me to the hospital. My anxiety is still very present in my life today, but I struggle more with depression.

Has Fibromyalgia ever affected your ability to live a “normal life?”

I couldn’t get my driver’s license when everyone else did because I was having absent seizures. When my seizures got better and I got the OK to get my license, I too afraid to get it. I was worried that I’d have a seizure while driving and kill a whole family! Fibromyalgia has made me fearful of so many things.

I used to drink a lot to numb the pain. In middle school and high school I’d drink a vodka and orange juice before school even! I continued to take my meds when I drank too. Alongside alcohol, I used to smoke pot a lot to ease the pain I felt.

Maybe this is TMI, but sex is very difficult with Fibromyalgia! Having sex on your bad days is nearly impossible. On your good days, you’re in a lot of pain, but you can still orgasm. Don’t get me wrong, I love sex and still do it! It’s just very difficult to enjoy it as much as you could without Fibromyalgia.

Tell me about why you decided to pursue massage therapy.

I had a massage therapist in middle school and high school named Nina. She helped me through SO much. When she first got me, I would tense up and squeal every time she touched me. She helped me build up a tolerance for physical contact. She also truly listened to me when I told her I was in pain and really worked with me.

One day on her massage table, I looked up and told her I wanted to do what she does and she told me that I could. All of my doctors shot down my dreams and said I wouldn’t be able to do anything. They said I’d be in a wheel chair by the time I was 45. Nina believed in me.

I want to help people that are like me or even older people. One time I got to help a special needs girl who was ready to live on her own and get a job, but she’d never been touched!

I want to help people the way that Nina helped me.

What advice do you have for anyone dealing with Fibromyalgia?

Cry as much as you need to, but make sure to laugh it off.

F*** the people who say your disease is just in your head. It’s real. Don’t let them make you second guess yourself. No one truly knows what you’re feeling except for you. Fight for yourself.

I think the the most important piece of advice I have is to find your support group and hold on tight. If I didn’t have my mom who did anything and everything she could to make me feel better, I don’t know where I’d be. If I didn’t have such understanding friends who supported me and never let me be alone when I was sad, I don’t think I’d be here today. Being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia is not lucky, but being blessed with my support group was the luckiest thing that happened to me.

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Winnie H. has been through so many trials and tribulations due to her early diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Her mother did everything she could for her, but still worried that one day she’d come home to find her daughter dead. Thanks to Winnie’s strong soul, determined mind and loving support system, this inspirational young woman is on her way to change lives. She has overcome the odds and will continue to do so throughout her entire life.

Those of you who are reading this and suffering from Fibromyalgia, know that you are not alone. Your pain is REAL.