acceptance

Its Ok To Not Be Ok #bellletstalk

Our readers who have been following for awhile may remember my post last year paying respect to Bell's "Let's Talk" media campaign raising awareness for mental illness. I have the utmost respect for this campaign. I feel like while there are lots of gimmicky things out there, this truly does open eyes in the right way.

Last year I came out to the vast and judgmental internet world on this very blog and disclosed that I have Bipolar 1 disorder. Like, the real deal. I know a thing or two about mental illness. I know what its like to be treated, educated, and extremely functional; and I know what its like to be untreated, uninformed, and have no idea what kind of animal I was dealing with.

Flash back to my late teens and early 20s... I would suffer either crippling bouts of panic, anxiety, paranoia and depression, or I would go on a manic trip when I was a really good time, and loved to recklessly party, spend a lot of money and make generally poor life choices without ever considering the consequences. #hotmess

In fairness, I'm still a good time and I still like to spend a lot of money. Wine and shopping anyone? To that extent, no matter how in control I am, I still have to evaluate how I'm doing on the regular and do some self-reflection. I've recently been under an extreme amount of stress and realized as a result, I was a starting to lean the wrong way on the batshit spectrum. I had to have a laugh at myself, remind myself I'm smarter than that, and to and to get myself in check. I often get myself in check and clear my head through exercise and I think I've put over 40km on my treadmill this week alone. I wouldn't have done that before. I would have just boarded the crazy train and found out where it was headed later. Happy travels! Not.

Since I've become quite open about having BP with the #1 reason being helping others, the most common thing I hear is "Really?? You would never know!" No, you wouldn't. I know my body and I know when I'm headed for a low or a high, if a panic attack is coming, and more importantly, how to deal with it. I know to trust the feeling of anxiety and use it as a compass  as to what is going on and what could be coming. For instance, if I wake up in the night with a song running through my head, that's a clear indication that a panic attack is coming. I've learned this many times the hard way. I know that trying to breathe it out, or trying to go back to sleep won't work. I get my ass up and take a little orange pill designed to cut that sh*t off at the pass. Back to sleep, crisis averted. Modern medicine is fabulous, don't ever discount that.

It's 100% true. Unless I told you, which I just did, you would never know. I'm living proof that you can live life as a normal, totally functional, successful person. I make poor decisions and do dumb stuff just like anyone else, but they are almost always a result of too much wine and have nothing to do with my illness. Let's be real, I keep Kim Crawford in business... and girls? We be cray. Its in our DNA. #whoruntheworld?

The thing is, in my job I talk to people all day. I mean it. All day. I'm even known to answer my emails while on the treadmill, which is both difficult and nauseating. Whether it be via phone, text, email, instagram, facebook, snapchat... its always ongoing. The physical act of holding my client's hands or trusting their bodies to me head to toe during appointments, capturing the moments between them and their loved ones, or putting faith in me to make them feel their most beautiful on their most important of days... I get to know people more than anyone realizes. It makes me understanding, wise, sympathetic, intuitive, empathetic, and I've become all but a master of figuring out what makes people tick. I firmly believe trying to understand others makes you a better person, so ask questions and really listen to the answers.

That said, getting to know people in that capacity has taught me something very valuable. Mental illness, as we've come to know it in the media, isn't always a diagnosed condition. A specific ailment. Trust me, I'm the last person to downplay a diagnosed disease (yo, I have one), but people without these lifetime genetic, chemical ailments suffer too.

Perhaps you've suffered a crisis in your life and you've been shaken to the point of unbearable stress, or something epic has taken away your ability to trust others. When these things rock your world, then your actual mental health also suffers.

If you've endured day after day of stress at home with your kids, job, or partner that leaves you really tightly wound, your mental health will suffer.

If you find yourself lost because you can only identify with one role in your life, be it your career, as a mother, or a spouse, you may start to feel unfulfilled and it will eat away at you without even realizing it.

Don't even get me started on money, post-partum, sexual assault, domestic abuse, childhood trauma, critical illness, or PTSD. The list is f*cking endless.

Regardless of the reason, if you are struggling with anxiety or depression, don't discount it just because mental illness has become all but a catch phrase in the news. Talk to someone who has been through it and has come out on the other side. They will understand, trust me on that one. That's where you will get the seriously honest and effective advice. An expert on coping with mental illness is undoubtedly someone who has one and manages it; empathy is a powerful thing.

One thing I know for sure is that when your mental health suffers, your physical health will follow suit and vice-versa. Just like everything in the world, it's all connected. If you are going to get down to brass tacks, you have to take care of yourself. There are 4 non-negotiable pillars that connect mental and physical health. I can attest to this because I've put them to the test time and again. (Except hygiene that is, hot showers are the best and I love dental floss.) The keys to the kingdom are this:

1.            Sleep

2.            Nutrition

3.            Exercise

4.            Hygiene

It's easier said than done to keep all four of those in check all the time. You may think you do but are you getting 45-60 minutes of exercise that elevates your heart rate every day? Do you have a balanced diet within your calorie range? Do you catch enough zzz's? Do you drink enough beer? Oops, did I say that last part? See? Harder than it sounds.

All that said, I've learned over the years that the effort it takes is well worth the outcome, so keep those things in your back pocket and remember them.

Its ok to not be ok. What isn't ok is accepting that you have to live like that.  You don't. Its ok to have a layover in Crazytown (its a popular place, kind of like Vegas...) but don't unpack your bags and live there. You are ultimately the only one who can take control of how you choose to live. Life can change in a heartbeat and you have no idea what kind of plot twists are on the horizon. Don't be afraid to take risks, do some dumb things, laugh at yourself if you're acting batshit, and roll with the punches. And never, ever be afraid to ask for help. 

No matter the circumstance, you are worthy of happiness. The world is at your fingertips, so grab that sh*t and make some magic happen. You deserve it.

Until next time, remember that you are never alone and the only way out is through. 

Katie xoxo

#bellletstalk

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Make Your 2018 Amazing with These Great Reads

Are you one of those people who sets New Year Resolutions? Or are you someone who knows yourself well enough to avoid making such a preposterous 365 day promise? Maybe you prefer bite-size goals so you set 30 day goals or three month goals. I have been both but, this year, I’m saying to hell with it. No New Year Resolutions for me. Bye, Felicia! This year is going to be about daily intentions and habits that will lead to a better year and, of course, a better life.

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If there’s one thing I learned in 2017 it was to basically stop everything I had been doing: stop seeking, stop dieting, stop punishing myself, stop the negative self-talk and stop planning for things beyond my control. This was not an easy task for a stubborn control freak like me. When I thought I had stopped those things, I stopped myself again and stopped some more.

Because of those 2017 lessons, this new year is about being present. Mindful. Grateful. Peaceful. And while I have a few small goals in mind, like paying down more of my student loan, I am not committing to anything that will stress me out. All of my intentions revolve around cultivating peace and presence. My 2018 is about daily mindfulness and habits that will ultimately lead to a better life. For instance, a daily gratitude practice and eating healthy are important to me. But I'm keeping it relaxed so it doesn't become a chore or a bombardment to my days.

Similarly, the undesirable self-care acts are on my radar as well. Saving money and budgeting with intention and mindfulness aren’t fun but will result in a better future for our family. 

My friends reading this are probably floored. I am usually the girl with 14 resolutions that have failed by April. I’m starting one workout while thinking about the next. I’m weighing what diet will be most effective for losing 20lbs. I'm also the one with the stack of bedside books on the self-help/personal development; the one constantly trying to change, grow and be better than I was the day before. I always feel crappy so I am the friend who’s trying on a new diet as often as I buy shampoo. I’ve tried paleo and keto and Whole30 and gluten-free AND dairy-free. I still feel crappy, despite all the restrictions, so I’m done! No more dieting!

This year is about tuning in and listening to my body. After my recurrent miscarriages (four in three years) I disconnected from my body. I subconsciously shut off that link because of the grief, guilt, shame, resentment and anger. Now, I am rebuilding that relationship by getting quiet with myself, listening inwardly and fulfilling my needs. If I crave chocolate, I’ll have a piece and enjoy - nay! - savour every single nibble. Lately, my body wants peanuts. A few months ago it was steamed broccoli. If we stop dieting and just listen, I truly believe our bodies will tell us what it needs and very rarely will it say a Big Mac with supersized fries and a fountain Coke. But, if it does occasionally, go for it with zero regrets! Move your body because it’s a beautiful vessel capable of running, jumping and floating. I am called to swimming and yoga lately and it feels so much better to exercise because I like to than to do a cardio workout because it’s a part of my scheduled fitness program.

I’m done body shaming and judging my body in the mirror. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate and love my body. I no longer feel shame for what it cannot do or what it looks like. I am grateful for my perfect working limbs and my curves, muscle, cellulite! All of it! Most of all, I am loving the woman who stares back at me. I’ve worked hard through reading, self-reflection, journalling, counselling, learning and so much more to become the person I am falling in love with today. I see a woman who is kind, thoughtful, funny and resilient. She’s also stubborn, short-tempered and a little self-righteous at times. She loves yoga and running and dislikes broken promises and flaky people. She is finally confident in her skin now. 

I need not seek externally for everything I was seeking was waiting deep within. It’s within you too.

I’ve read so many incredible books that have helped lead me to this point. Fall and winter 2017 were spent reading books that actually intrigued me and interested me rather than reading to change something about myself. Oddly enough (or, perhaps, not oddly if you are a Universe energy-loving type like myself), the few books I picked have actually been life changing.

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I feel so liberated and amazing, gliding into 2018 with small pieces of inner peace, an abundance of gratitude and a mantra to be present and mindful. I feel lighter now that I’m not weighed down by unobtainable goals, self-loathing and a diet. I feel freer not being attached to a fitness regime. I feel happy not having any New Year Resolutions.

I see now that the present moment is all that matters. How I want to be tomorrow is determined by what I do today, not what I did when I was 16 or what my mom said when I was 7.

I never thought I’d get to this point and I hope some of you want to know how you can get to this point, too. Maybe you hate your body or you have an ego the size of the moon. Maybe you have anxiety over the future that paralyses you from good decision-making skills. Perhaps you have a relationship with food that needs examining. Who knows?! But, if you’re still here reading this, I want to give you a few books that have literally CHANGED MY LIFE. If you like to read, read these. If you need a change of mindset, read these. If you want awesomely amazing things to happen each day, read these. If you want to love your body and release the death grip on food, well, you get it, read these:

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1.       Mastering Your Mean Girl: The No-BS Guide to Silencing Your Inner Critic and Becoming Wildly Weathly, Fabulously Healthy and Bursting With Love by Melissa Ambrosini

We all have that inner voice, that inner bitch. You know the one; the one who tells you are fat, ugly and stupid. The one that tells you you’re not good enough for the promotion or the one who tells you to stay home because nobody likes you. We all have it. Some of us are just better at silencing it than others. In Mastering Your Mean Girl, Ambrosini gives you tangible tools to overcome your Ego/Mean Girl and change the way you think. It’s light, funny, loving and gives you simple tools to help you squash the negative self-talk for good!  For instance, she asks you to make a gratitude list. That’s an instant connection to happiness. How can you be upset or angry when you’re thinking of your kitten, your warm bed, your partner’s kisses or your kid’s giggles? She asks you to write a letter to yourself dated one year from now. They’re simple tasks with big results and stunning clarity.

 

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2.       The Goddess Revolution: Make Peace with Food, Love Your Body and Reclaim Your Life by Melissa Wells

Every woman who has ever thought she was fat, been on diets, counted calories, or loathed what she saw in the mirror NEEDS to read this book. Mel Wells teaches you to tune into your body, to really listen and to appreciate it for what it is at this exact moment. She shares her own personal story and struggles with an eating disorder and how she’s overcome it. Using testimonies and “fitspiration”, you’ll fall in love with your body a million times over and kick diets to the curb once and for all! Using logic and love, she teaches you how to change your thoughts and stop judging yourself. She helps you heal your body image. If you love your body you will ultimately want to treat it right, right? So instead of restricting calories and denying yourself delicious meals, focus on what makes your body feel good and then do more of that!

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3.       Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout

Just thinking about this book gives me goosebumps. Since reading this book in early November my life has actually changed. Or rather, my perception has changed so, therefore, my life has changed. Grout shows you how incredible it is to be a living, thinking, miraculous human and how each day is a perfect day to be overwhelmingly grateful to be alive. She gives you tools (which she calls Party Games) to find the gratitude in EVERYTHING. She gives thanks for everything and everyone. Since I started doing the same, I’ve seen an increase in my skin care company, requests to do workshops, more visitors to my blog, an appreciation for everything, and a bubble of happiness that sits in the centre of my chest, waiting to bubble over and out, omitting love and laughter everywhere. Sounds cheesy, I know, but wow, her words are incredibly powerful and waking up to the divine existence in ourselves is even more powerful. She encourages you to wake up every morning and, before even getting out of bed, proclaim something awesomely amazing is going to happen that day. It’s a beautiful habit to adopt. It's actually one that my best friend and I are doing. We text each other every morning and share three things we're grateful for. It sets a good tone and vibration to start our days. An attitude of gratitude, for the good and the bad, is truly magical!

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4.       Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani

This is a book that will blow your mind. Moorjani, a woman riddled with cancer, falls into a coma and has an incredible near-death experience that actually heals the cancer that is killing her. Not only is her story a medical miracle and completely unbelievable, yet awe-inspring, but the wisdom and love she finds on the other side of the veil is poetic, romantic and beautiful. One thought she shares that sticks with me is: what if Heaven is Earth? We all strive for a Heaven above but, up there, you can’t taste chocolate or feel a hug. Maybe Heaven is here and we’re meant to be expressions of heavenly love. Isn’t that wonderful? Her words also give me great comfort in dying. I can honestly say (being a healthy woman so hey, this could easily change in the face of death) that I’m not afraid to die. She actually brought me peace with this inevitable fact. Death may not be as bad as I thought it was. It’s not religious but it’s deeply spiritual and life-affirming. Love, she says, is the answer. Always.

I hope you enjoy these incredible books and they make impactful impressions upon you like they did for me! Please let me know if you've read any of the above OR if you have any further recommendations to add! Which magical books are on your nightstand this January?

 

 

It's Okay to Be Okay...or not.

The other day a new friend, a fellow Phoenix mama, expressed sympathy for my four recurrent miscarriages. She apologized for the losses and said, “oh, your poor heart.” While I certainly appreciated the love and her sweet, kind heart, I didn't feel the sting of pain. In fact, I felt nothing.  There was no sadness or anger or angst like there had been for years before. Instead, there was just gratitude for her acknowledging my journey and my angel babies. But I spent the next 24 hours examining myself. Was my depression creeping back in? Had I lost all capacity to feel somewhere between the second and third loss? Was I numb? Truth be told, I panicked a bit.

A few days later, I asked another friend for some blog ideas and she suggested this exact topic. She too was a Phoenix mama: she lost her son at 23 weeks. We discussed at length these feelings, or lack thereof, and that it wa scaring me. She reassured me with her own similar feelings and how, with time and grieving and support, we heal and that's okay. But yet, we still feel guilty for it.

It’s as though we think that if we move on and find happiness after the loss (and this can be any loss-not just infant or pregnancy) we are betraying them. We think we aren’t allowed to experience joy again when our world had previously crumbled. We think our happiness isn’t deserved and somehow, the loss needs to stay with us in some negative, cloud-hanging-above-us way that prevents us from forgetting what happened. Because, of course, if we’re happy and moved on, we think we will forget them.

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Similarly, when we find this strength and resiliency after a loss, we feel guilty for that too. I know I especially do. When I miscarried the third time, I had quite a bit of time alone to cry most of my tears and grieve. Plus I had a few tools under my belt for bereavement so I was able to process more quickly that time. A few days later, I had two friends bring meals for us (at separate times) and they both cried while standing in my living room while I awkwardly consoled them. I understood their pain in knowing their friend was going through a terrible loss but it was weird to be okay when it was happening to me and they weren’t okay. I felt like I was supposed to be hysterical and upset to show others how awful the loss was to us. I felt that if I wasn’t crying and grieving outwardly, the loss didn’t matter to me. I also felt like my strength portrayed me as unfeeling and bitchy. It can be strange to see someone be fine so soon after a loss but we all grieve in different ways and at different stages. It's never linear and it's never the same with each loss. When my friend’s dad died, she was more relieved he wasn’t suffering anymore and her grief didn’t show itself as hysterical tears when she told me his death story. Grief isn’t a one size fits all. And that’s okay.

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I’ve since learned that it’s okay to be okay. I can’t imagine any lost loved ones are looking upon us and wishing us ill will for moving on and finding happiness again. I’d like to believe my angel babies want me to be happy after suffering so many times before. Once in awhile, in a seemingly random and unexpected moment, I'm hit with that wave of sadness again but then I think about where I am in that exact moment and am thankful for the hardships because I am the best version of myself for that time because of what's happened. Moving on doesn’t mean we will forget them, not if we don’t allow it. That’s why many people want their loved ones recognized. When we say their names or send kind messages on anniversaries, we keep their memory alive. When we hang pictures and tell stories and shoot a shot in their honour, we keep them alive in our hearts.

And in our hearts is where it matters most.

I’ve also learned that it’s okay to not be okay. Sometimes grief is so heavy it smothers us. We feel like we can’t breathe and getting through the day seems damn near impossible. I rarely have these days myself now but I know many people that do. Your job as the okay person is to love them through it. Check in daily whether through email or text or a phone call. Bring a meal or a book or a bubble bath kit even if they say they don’t need anything. We always need something in times of grieving but can rarely decipher what it is so opt to saying, “It’s okay, I don’t need anything.” Grieving people don’t want to feel like a burden on others so more often than not, they don’t reach out. Thankfully there are so many online and in-person support groups now that grieving can be felt in a safe, healthy space with people who are also grieving. Many people are not okay, and that’s okay. There is always someone to listen, to cry with, to hug you, to bring you anything. We grieve to process and then heal. We only hope we come out of the other side of it strong and healthy, ready to move on with love and acceptance.

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To be okay is okay. To not be okay is also okay. We are all perfect souls in imperfect bodies trying our best to make the most out of this life. Whether you have healed and are okay or haven’t healed yet, there are many people in your corner rooting for you, including the ones you’ve lost. They’re in your heart, you memories, your energy awaiting your triumphant rise a new kind of happiness once again.