I’m STILL Not Fine and Neither Are You

I get to train leaders of a large company on trauma. Granted, there aren’t gobs of people lining up to teach trauma, however, I get to. My work-wife (aka colleague) and I have to prepare ourselves before getting up in front of a room of very smart and responsible people to teach them how to allow themselves and their employees to be human. We don’t share our personal traumatic histories and stories, however it takes a lot of energy to make the impact we feel is important to make.

Inevitably, there are head nods in agreement and note taking as we continue through our material making good points that deserve highlighting. However, my favorite part is when we give the group permission to not be okay. We get to see a communal sense of relief roll over the group as shoulders release with a chorus of grateful exhales. By simply giving permission for people to be human we allow people to step into their truth so they can then welcome others along with them. When we all show up a little more honestly, we have a chance to truly live rather than survive.

I said these words in the training we facilitated yesterday, “I’m not fine and neither are you. And who wants to live as fine? I don’t. I have no desire to survive life. I want to live and that requires me to show up in an honest way.”

A harmonious, concurrent head nod occurred from the group. I thought to myself ‘my work here is done.’

I’m Not Fine And Neither Are You (scarymommy.com)

I remain proud of this piece and the positive impact it had on people. It was a giant step into the light of truth and vulnerability in writing that I had not been brave enough to share before. I am so grateful I did and so grateful to continue to be on that path with you all!

Thank you for reading & supporting me!

Peace and Love,

Steph ✌️🧡

Healing Through Storytelling

“In the end, we all become stories.” – Margaret Atwood

A good story sticks with you. A character you root for. A setting you find familiar. The story is the vehicle for the lesson shared.

The learned lesson imprints on my mind and soul when it occurs from a story. A cautionary tale which warns of the devastating effects of risky behavior or the how-to directions to decipher through a family recipe passed down through generations are meant to teach us something about ourselves. Whether through someone’s pain or triumph, the lesson remains with me because of the story.  

Whether it’s standstill traffic pissing them off or the agony of loss, as a therapist the story is my glimpse into their experience, their perspective. The lens of perspective is tinted with the individual’s identity, and it is that identity which shapes how they interrupt the world around them. Perspective is key in understanding.

Therapy is essentially three parts. Listening, Validating and Trusting.

Listening is just that, shutting our mouths and opening our ears. Listening to understand is empathizing with one’s perspective or position. Remaining present with the storyteller and holding the space for them to share important details is the active part of listening. It’s not difficult to spot the difference between waiting to speak and active, compassionate listening.

We all need to have our experiences validated. Validation does not require someone co-signing all our life’s decisions. It does allow for acceptance of our purpose. Contentment is finding peace and purpose in our day. That’s it. We all want to know our experience matters and to find a way to rest with solace at the end of the day.

Entrusting our stories and experiences to someone else is a sharing of ethical responsibility. When a person takes advantage of this human exchange, there is an immediate void in the experience. The storytelling then becomes a source of pain and doubt. Trust separates healers from predators.

I do not meet people on their finest day. Most people do not seek help from therapy when life is sunshine and rainbows 24/7. Most people come in hot with their hair on fire seeking answers to extinguish the flames.

Once a person travels the distance to find a therapist, schedule the appointment and then show up to the session they hope to find some relief by unloading the charred baggage at the feet of the authority on peace (who does not exist).

There is no answer waiting to be uncovered or classified document given out to therapists upon graduating therapy school (which also does not exist).

The story is not complete. The next chapter is waiting to be written.

Trust that if you are still smoldering from the fire, your story is not complete.

Trust in the healing of being the storyteller.  

You came in hot and showed up on fire. Your freedom lies in the ashes that remain and the story you create.

When we risk vulnerability and tell our stories, we allow others to learn from and find hope in our experience. We are not defined by a single chapter or event in our story. We are the entire book.

One person’s struggle is not uniquely theirs. Struggle is universal. I don’t have to be you to relate to your struggle. We can find a common ground built on empathy and learn from each other.

I’ve worked with folks from different countries who spoke different languages and yet still we found a place of understanding and healing.

A young, single father let me in his home to listen to his story after being misunderstood most of his life. His story read very differently on paper than it did when I heard it on his living room couch. Since I listened to understand this man who is the expert on his own life, I was able to share lessons I learned to empower him to express himself and communicate his family’s needs. He finished his own chapter as the hero because we both were willing to be vulnerable and learn.

I met a woman who’s story looked familiar from ones I’d seen before. A story which consisted of selling her body to support her addiction. However, when I listened rather than sent her own her way, I learned she wasn’t selling anything. She was the victim who couldn’t find the words to ask for help. I even used storytelling to give her the words she didn’t have to help her find safety and write a new chapter on her own terms.

As a collector of stories, I listen and learn from each person I’ve seen and share these lessons to help the next person. My grandmother, who as a girl walked to school in the snow uphill both ways while dodging a bull in the field, continuously told us that story as we were growing up to define the struggle of actually getting to school. She was very animated when telling about how her father, my great-grandfather would use a pitchfork to keep the bull at bay while her and her siblings would cross the field to get to school each day. She typically pulled this story out when my brother or I would complain about school. She had to fight to go to school and we merely had the privilege of complaining about it. My grandmother went on to graduate from nursing school which was not a typical story at that time. I hold on to her diploma as one of my treasures because her struggle laid the path for me to finish graduate school.

Therapy works best when the storyteller is brave enough to go the distance, learn the lessons and continue their story. A good therapist will not tell you what to do. A good therapist will set the table and allow you to pick your seat and invite the rest of the guests and even plan the menu. They may guide you and make suggestions on the appetizers or wine choice, but you are the expert on your story and your life.

You are the guru at the top of your mountain.

You are the extinguisher for your fire.

You are the freedom in the ashes that remain.

And if the story isn’t going the way you want, there’s nothing like a good plot twist…

The Beauty of Being a Woman

Our ability to use delicate strength as well as brutal force when necessary.

The rainbow of colors and shapes of our hair which pulls back the curtain to tell a piece of our story.

How a trademark ring can be more than an accessory and transform into an heirloom.

When the type of shoes she wears can tell you the kind of day she is heading into – whether it requires shit-kicking boots or the clack of heels on the hallway to get the job done.

A magical kiss of a mother to heal any wound or the silent look she gives to shut down a situation without the need of threat.

The comradery acknowledged using one word between two women… ‘GIRL’…

The immeasurable energy created when a group of women gather and hum of laughter and conversation between friends of any length of time.

We are women and we celebrate each other today for all that we are.

The roles we play in our families, our workplaces, our friendship circles and our communities are vital and irreplaceable. The conventional roles of nurturers and healers for communities are not to be dismissed by but commended in addition to the innovative paths women are paving in careers and solidifying other respected roles.

Our history includes times of pain and grief to ensure our rights as human beings and not the lesser sex. Equal access to health care and even voting was not inherently bestowed to us, so we had to take those rights through whatever means necessary. Those rights were taken by women coming together in support of each other.

We spend far too much time sitting in comparison judgement of one another. Whether it’s through social media posts or carpool lines, rather than celebrating the woman next to us we tend to criticize her for the car she drives, the job she does or doesn’t have and if she is wearing the current trend. Some of these traps to keep us against one another are by design, so let’s breakthrough the smoke and mirrors to come together for one another.

I see you. I celebrate you. I am grateful for you, phenomenal women!

Present for 43

43. An age my father never saw. Outliving your parent is a strange feeling.

Living in a world they no longer exist in hurts. A certain level of fear comes with navigating life without the guidance of the man programed to protect me.

My father died very suddenly one night due to a blood clot in this lung at the age of 42. Nine days after my 14th birthday. One week after my mother turned 40.

In October last year, I was diagnosed with a blood blot. At the age of 42. The irony was not lost on me, however the anxiety exponentially multiplied. One of my first thoughts was, “are you kidding me?” The Universe enjoys surprising me.

This news forced me to examine everything. While testing and appointments and arguments with insurance ensued, I sat with my thoughts. I was the same age as my father when he died. I have two almost 14-year-old girls. I’m now fully aware I am not in control of what goes on in my own body much less the entirety of my life.

Sitting with my thoughts alone is a dangerous path to take, so good for me I have a killer support network. It was a wonderfully enlightened friend who suggested this was my chance to free myself from the fear I carried a majority of my life and accept life on life’s terms. I became open to finding the truth within myself, and accepting that right now, this moment is where life is. Not in the regrets of the past or the fears of the future.

Addressing the medical and physical dynamics of this diagnosis included blood work, multiple procedures and countless appointments. Taxing on my energy. However, the mental and emotional dynamics were continuous, non-stop and all-consuming drain on my daily functioning.

This experience took my enlightenment journey to a new awareness. It forced me to be honest with myself. To pull out my fears from the darkest parts of me and hold them out into the light. I found out there are parts of me I don’t like – parts of me I would rather keep hidden, however I am not pieces of a person. I am a whole person, darkness and light. Altogether beautiful – not only the shinny photo-ready parts.

I fell down.

I made mistakes even when I knew they were mistakes as I was making them.

I covered up.

I isolated.

All of which impacted people around me in a negative way. Not something I’m proud of.

I do not write to you from this euphoric location of enlightenment. I am not “fixed” and sitting on a high horse somewhere. I write to you from the mud – tripped up by a giant pothole. Drenched in failure and questioning all life’s choices. I’m in the middle of the struggle. Continuing on the path.

During my travels so far I’ve learned a simple, yet daring lesson on how I want to live. What I’ve found as the only way I have a chance at being happy and healthy. It takes vulnerability and energy and dedication. You must be brave enough to adapt and accept this way of life.

(Pause for dramatic effect)

Be present now.

That’s it. 

In this moment…

I am healthy.

I write from my make-shift-sick-bed on my couch at home on the other side of major surgery which provided me the solution to blood clots developing in my body, and have been granted freedom from the fear of what may come.

I have a warm house during this cold night.

I have a fridge full of food from friends & family who’ve taken care of me and mine these last few weeks.

I have a husband who literarily held me up when needed during my recovery.

I am breathing.

I am alive on the last night of 42, right now.

(See how I sprinkled gratitude in there without even writing the word).

As this posts, I turn 43 years old. I write that with gratitude and pride. I promise to live in the moment this year. And if I begin to time travel and seek out the anxiety, stress and pain caused by regrets from yesterday or fears for tomorrow, I also promise to be still until I find the moment again so I can live in it.

43 is good for me!  

*I want to give a special shout out to the medical professionals who walked me through this journey and fought for me to get a solution rather than pass me off and continue a treatment that would not have worked anyway. So grateful for the care you took for me!

Dr. Julie Ellis – who found the clot and hugged while I cried in fear of what was to come

Dr. Wangjian Zhong – who patiently explained everything, including the uniqueness of my cases and the possible unique cause and solution

Dr. Charles Bush III – who talked to me like he would his own sister & who found the evidence of my diagnosis which FINALLY secured my approval for surgery from the insurance company (after multiple denials)

Dr. Nabeel Gul – who kindly walked me through the entire surgery and the need for it, who personally called me to explain delays and what he was doing to advocate for me with the insurance company and who operated on me and went the extra step to ensure my care.

Geri at Dr. Gul’s office – who answered every call and message from me with kindness & who advocated for me all the way.

Courtlant, RN nightshift on 5E at Baptist Health – who hugged me through the pain & helped me fall asleep.

(I know there are many more of you who took amazing care of me I was medicated so well it effected my memory 😉

To all the medical staff at Baptist Health, I am so grateful for the care you took in my health. Every. Single. Person myself or my family interacted with was so kind and caring.

Thank you so very much for taking the very best care of me.

Freedom Claustrophobia: The Fear of Disappearing Choices

Claustrophobia is an extreme fear of confined spaces. When my options are limited, I struggle
with the lack of freedom in choices. However, I make choices every day that affect my body and
my life. Choices that I intentionally make with the help of my past experiences.

As a therapist, I assist people with processing their experiences and choices. And while I have
the professional experience and education to help, I am not the best person to dictate decisions
for other people. We are all the experts of our own lives.

Recently, I made a choice to have a medical procedure to improve my quality of life. I did
research. I spoke with my doctor. I asked other women who’ve had this procedure about their
experience. I used my skills to make a choice for me.

As I prepared for the procedure, I was asked questions which limited my access to care. My
answers would not change the procedure itself nor the status of my health. The questions were
asked because the laws around women’s healthcare have changed. My access to care is limited. I
am no longer the expert on me.

I made a choice to be a mother and assumed the risk of pregnancy and giving birth. Our
experience included eleven days in the NICU for our daughter and five days in the hospital due
to complications for me. I had a c-section because my doctor said that was our best chance of
survival, which included major abdominal surgery, a massive needle stuck in my back risking
paralysis, organs pulled from my body lying on my chest while remaining awake to bring my
daughters safely into this world. The recovery was difficult. Sitting on the toilet was unbearable
for weeks, pads filled with bloody uterine lining, and a massive scar that I still do not have
feeling around. And yet, we are lucky this was our experience.

I was pregnant with twins before my daughters. Babies I planned for and wanted and loved. At
20 weeks an ultrasound showed no heartbeats. No viable pregnancy. I got a choice. I could leave
those dead babies in my body risking infection and continuing the trauma of a failed pregnancy,
feeling the loss every minute of every day. Or I could have an abortion. I could end the physical
trauma and start the healing process. In an impossible situation, I got to be an expert on my life.
Only because I exerted my right to choose, three months later I was pregnant with my daughters.

My nephew Karter died in utero. My sister had a healthy pregnancy until she didn’t and she
almost lost her life for it. By the time she made it to the hospital, she was rushed into surgery.
She had to make choices and answer questions no one dreams of when they become pregnant.

Do you want to be awake or sedated while we remove your dead son from your body?
Do you want to hold him?
Do you want to bury him?
Can you afford it?
Do you want an autopsy?
Do you want him baptized?

I question where Karter’s life was documented. A traumatic stillbirth of a loved baby boy two
days from his due date or was his life used as a “late-term abortion” statistic?

The trauma of this loss changes the choices and questions surrounding a pregnancy. Those who
have suffered this physical and emotional pain understand, as perhaps few others can, the risk
involved with giving birth. They are the experts in their experience.

Having children, in any circumstances, involves trauma. What happens to our minds, bodies,
spirits, careers, relationships, finances, and wellness is massively shifted when a pregnancy
happens, no matter the outcome.

I am freedom claustrophobic. I am afraid of losing the choice to do what I want with my body. I
am afraid of limited healthcare and risking death because we are no longer able to be the experts
on ourselves.

The right to a life of freedom and choice is what I gave birth under and what I lost my babies
under. However, today my choices are limited on how I access medical care. While I have the
resources necessary to meet my needs, resources should not be the limiting factor in the
freedoms I have as a woman.

My claustrophobia has spread to realize that confined freedoms are more terrifying than the
smallest elevator or coffin. Our paths are narrowing right before our eyes. I refuse to sit by in
fear while I watch freedom disappear for myself, my daughters and all women. I know the risks.
I know the power in choice. Our lives are worth the choice.

mid-life crowning

Midlife Crisis or Crowning?

As a woman of a certain age (somewhere in my mid-thirties) I swore I would never have a mid-life crisis. With images of hysterical females shoving themselves into clothes they aged out of and watching salt & peppered-haired men driving gas-powered penis extensions, I wanted no part of it. The fear of aging we have been spoon-fed has prompted an entire industry of age-defying potions and tricks to stop a process of privilege.

The fact is not everyone gets to grow old.

Even more ironic, this same brand of magic would have gotten us all an early death throughout history.

So why do we continuously, cut on ourselves and cover ourselves with whatever they say will make us appear younger? And who decided that being younger is the ultimate goal?

I have no desire to be 25 again…it was hard enough the first time around and even with the knowledge I have today, 25 wouldn’t be as much fun as it was when that was my actual age.

As we approach “mid-life” I also ask, who the hell determined when “mid-life” actually takes place?

Is there a crystal ball somewhere or a game clock buzzing indicating half-time?

And if this is in fact the mid-point of my life, what is the point of trying to reduce myself to what I have already been?

Isn’t the point, growth? Change? Knowing better, so I can do better?

A couple of years before my 40th birthday, I made a promise to myself – absolutely no mid-life crisis! Instead, I began work on self-discovery. My thought was, “in 40 years I’ve bound to have learned a few things, so instead of seeking out youth, I want to uncover the lessons of aging.”

Great idea, right?

I thought I had tricked the system! ‘Okay society, you want me to long for my younger years, I’m going to celebrate the aging process!’ Haha!

Upon this brilliant journey, I completely lost my mind.

I uncovered so many pieces of myself that were hard to look at. I charted mistake, after mistake doing the same wrong things over & over expecting different results (aka insanity).

I found traumas I thought I had laid to rest, but in reality I just took a giant step over as I passed by, thinking that acknowledgment indicated acceptance.

While I did not dress like a 25-year-old or purchase a mobile penis, my behavior & mindset were in a full-blown crisis.

So there I was, broken.

Broken promises to myself.

Questioning all my life’s choices.

Berating myself for in fact having the mid-life crisis I promised I would not.

I wanted out of that feeling immediately!

The healing began.

Acknowledging my mistakes & traumas was step one. I had to figure out a way to heal.

Therapy. Meditation. Writing. Making amends (to others & myself).

This was not a weekend retreat & all was right in the world (btw…still in process).

This is accepting the lessons of life so far and actually implanting them in my life.

It’s being brave enough to own my shit and start something new.

This crisis became my crowning. My celebration that I get to move to the next round-I get to keep living & learning.

So I’m going to challenge society (or whoever reads this post), to change our mindset of mid-life crisis to mid-life crowning. We are privileged to experience this moment in time, so let’s embrace it rather than run from it. There are so many who do not get the opportunity.

Let’s aim for being grateful rather than grimaced.

Thriving instead of surviving is a much better place to function from so we might as well get a crown out of it instead.

The Switch Has Flipped

I’ve been robbed!

I’m under attack!

I’m taking on water!

My walls have been breached!

The world I carefully constructed for my babies has been destroyed.

My precious cherubs have moved outside my reach. They were in public without parental supervision (pause for dramatic effect).

Go ahead & roll your eyes, teenage parents. Tell me “welcome to the club”.

I do not want to be in your club. Your club is scary AF.

Yes they are equipped with cell phones.

Yes they are VERY aware of stranger danger (I’m a social worker for the love of all that is holy).

Yes I trust them-it’s the rest of this jacked-up world I struggle to trust with my most prized possessions.

(And yes they are mine!)

I grew these humans inside my body. Mother Nature said “hey lady, here are two humans. Keep them safe from everything & teach them how to be decent. Okay, cool? love ya, good luck!”

Okay, Mother Nature…WTAF?!?

Before motherhood, the world was all mine-wide open and ready for me to explore.

I knew the dangers.

I knew the costs.

And I ran and pushed the boundaries as long and far as I could without suffering too many consequences.

I stepped over the line and got my hand smacked a few times.

I said “why not” and later found out the answer.

I did things that would have made my mom clutch her pearls and gasp (hope she skipped this post).

I have a few good stories and scars to prove it. And yes-I lived to tell the tale.

Then Mother Nature gave me these babies…my world shrunk into a circle big enough for my huge pregnant body and I was the omnipotent ruler.

Everything I did directly impacted my girls.

(*side note these babies were after I lost two, so trauma and grief has a major role to play here.)

When they came into this world, my circle was forced open just enough…like when you park too close to car next to you and you hold your breath to squeeze out of your car-just enough.

I controlled what they ate. When they ate. What they wore. Where they went.

I even manipulated their first steps (can’t have one twin out do the other before the age of 1).

I was terrified to do the “wrong thing.”

I remember in the hospital someone told me, “they will never be as safe as they were inside of you.”

I cocked my head with complete panic and rage…seriously?!? You tell me this now!

This illustration is to show for 12.5 years we lived in the same world. Sure I traveled to different places from time to time. Whether it was work, out with my girlfriend or even a vacation with my husband (aka their father) I expanded my world to meet my needs from time to time. I preserved my sanity.

However, now is different.

These babies want to expand their world.

They have friends.

They have places they want to go without me.

They do not require me tucking them in to go to sleep.

They have inside jokes I don’t get.

And they even get embarrassed by my singing in the car.

I am not okay!!

These girls are growing up.

They are running far and pushing hard against boundaries at every turn.

They don’t subscribe to what society tells them to wear.

They don’t make themselves small and accept what is given to them – they take what they want and make things happen.

They ask questions and make up their own rules – sometimes even making the consequences worth it.

So I will be over grieving the knowledge that my babies are no longer babies. That is my right and that is okay.

I earned the right to miss the smell of their sweet heads, the sound of their precious laughter and their tight hugs gripping my soul. That is what no one told me.

About the light switch from babies to badasses.

Watching this instant shift and hearing the lessons I’ve preached roll off their tongues is exciting. It takes just a twinge of the sting away because I realize they are setting the boundaries in their new world and I’m just lucky enough to help.

So send me your sympathy or laugh and shake your head at me. Either way, I’m swimming in the deep end of my new world so allow me some grace while I figure out how to float.

I’m sure you can remember what this push and pull feels like and if not, let me be the first to warn you – You will be filled with terrifying pride.

It is a strange combination.

This is the part no one prepared me for. Watching these girls jump out of the world I created for them and building their own. I’m not okay…but I will be and so will they.

Haunted by Approval

Next week, I will turn 42 (the good Lord willing)!

This is the age my father was when he died. To act as if that has not been weighing on me would be inauthentic.

I love my birthday. I really LOVE my birthday. It may be due to the fact I was born in the armpit of winter and celebrating my birthday gives me something to look forward to. Or, maybe I am a self-centered, egotistical asshole. Either way, I celebrate all month long and I have no intention of stopping.

Turning 42 has haunted me from the day my dad died. I wanted to achieve so much with my life – do so many things that he would never have the chance to do. My unwritten, unrealistic expectation was to turn 42 with the knowledge that my dad was proud of me. The problem with this plan – it’s impossible!

I would never get that validation, because he would not be here to witness my life.

So instead, I sought out approval from every other corner of my life. From grades, to sports, to career choices, outside validation became the measuring stick of my worth.

Am I good enough? Says who…always you, never me.

My desires, my reasons were never enough.

I required the co-signing of other people’s opinions.

I spent so much time worrying about what everyone thought of everything I did, I forgot that the first person I need to be accountable to and approve of is ME!

If you disagreed with how I did things, my first inclination was to question myself. I couldn’t possibly be right, if someone questioned me.

I feel so much empathy for that girl, today.

So rigid. Functioning out of fear. And judging herself constantly.

The girl who never felt secure – in her thoughts, her actions, her dreams and even her own skin. I didn’t want to be liked as much as I wanted to be right, validated for being me.

Along with my birthday celebration, February also brings the anniversary of my dad’s death. I remember every detail of that morning, to my mother’s voice telling me he’s gone to the emptiness that filled our home with the absence of his presence. I remember feeling helpless and a strong desire to do something, anything that made sense because the realization that my father, the strongest person I knew, was not coming home was inconceivable. Not only my brain, but my soul refused to accept it.

I did not want to be a cautionary tale, a girl with daddy issues who sought comfort in all the wrong ways. I channeled my fear into action and the race to perfection began. It was a game of whack-a-mole.

School struggles?? Nope-fixed it!

Typical teenage antics?? Not me!

Grieving correctly?? Sure am!

“Nothing to see here! I’m fine.”

So at the ripe ole age of 14, I set the expectation of perfection. All the while, managing overwhelming grief from the loss of my parent and not processing this with anyone.

The real achievement is that I am alive to tell this tale.

And my career choice…helping people, of course. Because what better way to hide from my troubles than to dive head-first into someone else’s?

For the next 25 years, I spent my life chasing approval from a ghost, setting a bar of achievement to an unreachable level and berating myself along the way for not being what I was “supposed” to be. I did not do this without many failures and much self-inflicted pain.

The theme of not feeling “good enough” has been heavy on my mind recently.

The pressures from work. The failures at home. The lack of peace of mind. These are common struggles I hear during therapy sessions as well as in my own thoughts.

We all are hurting.

We all have failures.

We all need more peace.

Right before COVID hit, I promised myself I would not have a ‘mid-life’ crisis when I turned 40. I would cross that threshold with grace and embrace aging.

Though it may have looked more like a brace-for-landing situation rather than a graceful entrance into my forties, here I am nonetheless.

What I did have was an awakening.

I realized what I had been doing to myself my entire adult life. I looked around and saw no one was keeping score, but me.

No one (that mattered) judged me for my pain or my faults.

I was my own worst enemy standing right in my way.

With no plan, other than change I promised myself I would learn to love and be proud of me. That became my guiding manta – I would trust myself above all else.

Since that birthday, I have made huge strides in that change.

I am more comfortable in my own skin, but there are days I still cover up and fight that shaming voice.

I am confident in my accomplishments, but there are moments I suffer from imposture syndrome.

I find purpose and peace in my day, but I fight storm of chaos to gain perspective.

What I’ve learned is, struggling does not define my life, I do. I write this narrative. I validate my experience.

I have hard days. I cry often because it heals me. I soak in my bathtub to let go of the day. I talk to my therapist to unpack my baggage. I still have hard days, the difference is I don’t live there all the time.

This is not a how-to-post. I do not know a secret. I have not found an “answer”, I found options. When letting go of expectations, some of my rigid ways went also. The more I let go of, the more my mind opened up to opportunities for a more peaceful existence. I blew up the walls that confined the narrow path I traveled for so long, to uncover unlimited choices for where I want to go next. Empathy and intentionality became more comfortable to me. I started to give myself grace and felt lighter. Grace and options are a beautiful combo.

I have rough times, not a rough life. I define my own narrative. Change promises change. My job is to navigate my journey and be accountable to myself.

My life is beautiful chaos, simply because I say so.

So 42, I am ready for you! I embrace this birthday full of gratitude and a ton of grace to give myself as I mess-up, succeed and enjoy all the moments (even the ugly ones because that is part of my story). I miss my dad all the time. There are still moments I pause to look for his nod of approval. However, I no longer chase that impossible expectation. I am learning to be proud of myself, because I am enough.

I am not finished. More to come.

Death By Silence

At a wedding recently, I was at a table making small talk about work when another guest and I realized we were in similar industries. The other guest worked for a company where I knew someone. As our conversation narrowed to a specific group of people and then to the person I knew, the other guest nodded in acknowledgement of being acquainted with the person I knew. We shared a common human which connected us.

The guest leaned closer to me and whispered, “but didn’t she pass away?”

I replied, “yes, she did.”

“So young, gosh, so sad I mean I heard she was very active so I wondered if it was a tragic accident or something.”

“It was tragic. She died by suicide.”

And with that statement of truth, the entire table froze. It might as well have been the entire reception. I took the silence as an opportunity to start the conversation. Yes she was young and beautiful and successful and smiling and struggling in silence. Her social media posts looked amazing, full of love and fun and happiness, though she suffered with the pain of a chronic, invisible illness.

The entire table lowered their heads and did not engage in the conversation, not because they are assholes and don’t care, but because suicide is the death by silence. We don’t talk enough about how to prevent it because we don’t talk about it when it happens. Death by suicide is not shameful or something to shy away from having conversations about. It is a preventable cause of death, but the prevention is where the work happens.

We HAVE to normalize accessing mental health care.

We HAVE to stop calling people crazy.

We HAVE to talk about how hard life is and stop setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves.

Suicide is more preventable than heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I see ads everyday praising people for getting help to lower their risk of each of these illnesses, highlighting how easy it is to get treatment as well as the side effects from whatever treatment is being advertised.

You know what the side effect of not getting mental health treatment?

Self-harm, deteriorating relationships, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, heart problems and death by suicide.

So we think twice about taking a medication that causes skin irritation or diarrhea, but we suffer in silence with the losing connections to those we love, lack of sleep and thoughts of death?

It does not make sense, because it does not make sense.

There is no one to blame for suicide. (I will type it again) There is NO ONE to blame for suicide.

No one person can make another person end their life.

No one interaction can make another person die at their own hands.

The person who dies by suicide is equally NOT to blame.

They are ill with distorted thoughts.

The evidence in front of them when making this decision is not true.

They are literally dying because of inaccurate information that feels very real.

Feelings are not facts.

In the last two weeks of my professional life, I have come in contact with five survivors of suicide. Five people who lost a loved one in their immediate family! Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children who have questions that will never be answered. A void in their lives that will always be present.

I provide treatment for the effects of suicide on a daily basis. Whether it’s with someone brave enough to ask for help for their own struggles with distorted thoughts or their family member trying to make sense out of a reality that does not. It is by far, the most challenging work I do. I am a solution-focused junkie – I see a problem, I offer a solution. Many times my solution is assisting my clients in creating the solution themselves. When someone is grieving a death by suicide, there is no solution. There is no resolve. There are no answers. Only pain and time.

So I hold the space for their pain and assure them, it will not always feel this way. Grief is not something to get over. There is no end. Grief remains for a lifetime. Grief is something to get through and to learn to manage so that life has purpose – yours and the life you lost.

Did you know if you have a connection to someone who has died by suicide, your risk for suicidal ideation, distorted thoughts, increases? And with each connection, your risk goes up.

Treatment, recovery and peace are possible.

The most heartbreaking question I’ve been asked was by a parent of someone who died by suicide.

“What could I have done differently?”

The only response I have to give is “nothing”.

The answer is nothing because no action or inaction was the cause.

Silence is to blame.

Prevention is the cure. The only cure.

Okay, so we got the cure but what does prevention look like?

Prevention is education.

Prevention is access to care.

Prevention is validating that mental health matters.

Education looks like: Yes, I go to therapy because I need help with dealing with my life (period). That is not a random statement, it is fact for me. I GO TO THERAPY BECAUSE I NEED HELP DEALING WITH MY LIFE. By the way, I am also a therapist. Do you know how many clients I have shocked with this statement? The same amount that relax their shoulders and sigh with relief after I say it because I normalize accessing help for them. They are not crazy. They do not need to be fixed. They need to be validated and witnessed for. And I am their girl!

Access to care looks like: Did you know most employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a benefit which includes FREE therapy sessions? Did you know there are virtual services available at a low cost and even some that are covered by your health insurance provider? Did you know there are free groups and websites full of information on affordable mental health services? When in doubt, ASK about ACCESS! If you don’t know where to start, start with me. Shoot me an email. Message me on Facebook. I will help you find a place to begin. And if I am not your cup of tea, there are A LOT of licensed professionals who might be – keep reaching out until you find one that fits.

Validation looks like: Your experience matters. Your feelings are not facts, that is why we don’t function on feelings alone. However, your feelings do matter and you deserve to be heard. There is not a single thing you can tell a therapist that will shock them enough and send you away. And if that ever happens to you, tell ME and I will report them to their licensing board because they should not be in the helping profession!

Talk therapy may not be the easy-fix-it-button, because there may be more dynamics at play. Taking care of our mental health with self-care is a pie. There are many pieces at play.

Our physical health.

Our spirituality.

Our mentality.

Our activity.

Our connections.

There is not one piece that is more important than another.

We can’t take a pill to cure it.

We can’t pray it away.

We can’t think it away.

We can’t exercise it away.

We can’t love it away.

We CAN eat one piece at a time. One day at a time. And we can find peace in healing.

We have to start talking. We have to remove the mask of judgement and shame.

Share your story, because there is someone who needs to hear it. You are NEVER alone.

What box do you check, today?

I check a lot of boxes.








These boxes are easy to identify roles I play daily. These are roles I am proud of.

However, there are many other boxes I check that are not so clear to the outside world – identities I own, but may not show to everyone.






And still, some identities I own, but am not so proud of.





Our identities dictate how we function in the world. As a woman, the world interacts with me based on that identity. In turn, my identity as a woman shapes how I make my way through my day. People see my appearance, assume I am a woman, and act accordingly.

My identity as a wife also shapes how people interact and communicate with me. The fact I wear two bands on my left ring finger signifies I have someone I share my life with (or that I don’t want to be bothered). It identifies I am married and this identity shapes my interaction with other people and even how I interact with societal structures like government, financial institutions and organized religion.

Other pieces of my identity are not as easy to notice. You may not get the opportunity to witness my relentlessness unless you are a client of mine or working on a project with me. My family and friends can attest to pros and cons of my strong-will. You can simply have a conversation with me or see my social media posts to recognize I am a feminist, but you may wonder if I am religious or spiritual – these identities are not seen with the eye.

And as for the identities I am not so proud of, I go to great lengths to keep these embarrassing little boxes closed and out of sight. These identities are currently under construction and in process of change.

ALL of these identities are pieces of me – They make up who I am.

How I see me.

How the world sees me.

Pieces of a pie that I serve to those who come my way.

And yet, they are ALL able to be changed.

Now you may argue, a mother is always a mother. My response is, yes, but a mother can be a mother in name only. I choose to be the kind of mother I am today. That choice shapes my identity as a mother. Same as being a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a helper. Identities that many also lay claim to but implement differently.

I do not enjoy cooking. (Yep-I said it!) I cook so my family doesn’t starve. I have identified as a bad cook for most of my adulthood – I did try to act like I enjoyed it for a few years in my 20’s but that lie died quickly. I told anyone who would listen, and I preface any food offer I brought to a party, “I am a bad cook.” I lowered the expectation immediately. What came along with that identity was the resentment with cooking and all associated activities. The grocery shopping, the prepping, the planning are all tasks I dread, because who wants to do a task when you don’t enjoy it and you aren’t any good at it.

But what if I am an amazing cook?

What if I decide to change my identity and find purpose and peace in cooking for my family? What if I choose a different identity? I do not have to love cooking to be good enough.

Maybe changing my identity as a bad cook prompts me to ask for help with other tasks at home and improves communication at my house?

Maybe if I am not a bad cook, maybe I am more confident to make food for family get togethers and gives us more time to make memories?

Maybe identities can be changed? Maybe the more knowledge we gain we can adjust our perspective?

The challenge lies with accepting, evaluating, and learning from new information then adjusting my perception of truth to account for this knowledge. I am evolving and opening my mind to acceptance that my identities can change when I open myself up to the opportunity. Maybe adjusting my identity opens doors of opportunity that would remain closed if my mind does also.

💥Maybe I am confident, not self-conscious.

💥Maybe I am vulnerable, not sensitive.

💥Maybe I am spiritual, not religious.

Changing my identity doesn’t negate who I used to be, it validates my growth.

And I don’t grow in my comfort zone.

Maybe I am a good cook sometimes and sometimes I am not. Maybe it’s not all or nothing.

Maybe who I am, changes as I grow. Maybe I get to be whoever the hell I decide to be.💥