Mental Health Awareness Month: Kathie’s Story of Healing

img_3137I am so thrilled that my friend Kathie Pagliaro offered to be a guest contributor in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Like I always say, there is no one size fits all for mental health. Kathie and I met almost 4 years ago at a leaders retreat for our company, and we instantly connected (we even had the same Rosie the Riveter costume idea)! She has 3 kids: Grace (12), Jackson (7), and Vivi Lee (1).

She shares her story in hope that others who struggle – despite being on medication – can be empowered to search for other forms of healing and recovery.


When I think back to May of 2014, my life seems like a blur. Although, I was married to my high school sweetheart, a mama of two precious kiddos and working as a first grade teacher (my dream job), my life was a mess. And I don’t mean the “you’ve got two week old McDonald’s cups and old mail in your floorboard of your car” mess (although I had that too). I mean an actual miserable mess. A life full of anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, sickness and exhaustion.

In order for you to see the whole picture let’s back up…

img_3294Around the age of 22 I began having periods of anxiety. I was in my first year teaching, while also planning our wedding. I thought it was just normal stress stuff so I brushed it off and moved on. Four years later, after the birth of our first daughter I began having major mood swings. I would be crying and angry one minute and full of joy the next. I struggled like this for months until one day felt so depressed and hopeless I considered suicide. Even now, writing those words makes me cry because it was such very dark place. I felt my sweet little family deserved something better than me… that this world would be better off without me in it. Thankfully, God gave me the strength to speak up to a dear friend that morning, and she encouraged me to seek help. I found myself in my doctor’s office crying to him about my situation. He told me it was most likely postpartum depression and if I would just take this antidepressant, within a few moths I would probably be fine and be able to come off of it. At the time I wasn’t on any prescription medication, but I went home with that pill bottle – and a lot of hope.

Unfortunately, the meds didn’t do much for the symptoms of depression and I began experiencing unwanted side effects. So I called back to the doctor’s office, only to have them inform me that it could be a bit of a dance trying to find the right dosage and right prescription. Little did I know how long this dance would last… 8 years to be exact.

After a few different dosages and different pills, we finally settled on one that seemed to have the least amount of side effects with the best results. Continue reading “Mental Health Awareness Month: Kathie’s Story of Healing”

Mental Health Awareness Month: A Postpartum Journey

img_2536In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to introduce you to my former college roommate Cole Gilbert and allow her to share her story. Cole is a homeschool mom to 4 kids –  Ava (10), Grayson (8), Brogan (5), and Livy (3). Her husband is Associate Pastor of Community and Missions at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She is a reminder that there is NO one size fits all to mental health. Everyone has a different story to tell, and we MUST be our own health advocates and trust our instincts. I hope her story touches you as it did me.


 

Chad and I recently went on a date to celebrate . . . Prozac.

Yep, you read that right. I’ve been on Prozac/Zoloft for 5 years and our date night celebrated one week since I had taken my last pill. I’m officially medicine-free and that’s worth celebrating!

But we were also celebrating and thanking God for how much this medicine has helped me these last few years. I’m glad to be off of it, but I have NO SHAME from needing to be on medicine!

If you are dealing with postpartum issues, depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, please hear my encouragement to talk honestly with your doctor and/or counselor and get the help you need. This may be medicine, but it could also be counseling to help process issues (trauma or fear), or someone helping you see changes in your life that need to be made (diet, boundaries, relationships, activities). Whatever it is, you will not regret getting help!

I’ll share my story below for anyone who could benefit from my experience with postpartum anxiety, but if you can only read a little bit, then I want you to know this:

  1. You are not alone when life is hard. There is help available. It’s hard to be vulnerable, but getting help is worth it. You know yourself best so trust your instincts.  If you feel like you are not yourself, please talk to your doctor.  You will have to push through the embarrassment or urge to explain your symptoms away, but it will be worth it.  Fight the shame and fear.  Call your doctor, call a friend, call someone!

  2. You may not deal with these issues, but chances are good that someone around you does. Be gracious. Be a good friend. Check on new mamas.  Beg them to be honest with you about how they are doing. Offer prayers and practical support even when you don’t understand what they are going through. Resist the urge to minimize their issues, judge, and shame. Please don’t suggest that something that is chemical/hormonal is really just a spiritual problem or a lack of faith. Walk through the hard WITH them. The Church can do better at this!

My Story

When Brogan (my 3rd child) was 10 days old, something changed. I was of course exhausted and a little overwhelmed with bringing a 3rd baby in the mix, but this was more than just being overwhelmed. I woke up a few hours after going to bed and was having the first panic attack of my life. I spent the rest of the night having panic attacks, throwing up, crying, and praying. By the time Chad woke up, I was a mess. He took one look at me and knew something was very wrong. In wisdom, he asked me to immediately call my OB. I was so confused because I wasn’t having the symptoms of postpartum depression and at that point I didn’t even know postpartum anxiety was a thing. All I knew was that I was not myself and I needed help asap. Continue reading “Mental Health Awareness Month: A Postpartum Journey”

The Stockholm Syndrome of Dieting

It’s a high in the beginning, isn’t it?

Making lists, planning it out. Calculating the numbers. Feeling in control.

But then…the hunger hits. The panic sets in. Do I eat when it will put me over my limit for the day? Do I choose celery when I really want guacamole? Do I sit there at the restaurant and smile while everyone else is digging in? Saying, “No, that’s okay…I’m not really hungry” when meanwhile, you’re about to eat your own finger???

It’s confusing and it’s awkward.

Some people love it, these highs and lows of dieting. I think some even thrive on them. Because the second that scale goes down 16 ounces, all is right with the world…and it makes it worth pressing on through the pain.

It’s like being kidnapped and falling in love with your kidnapper. Nobody loves being on a diet. But we like the feel of perceived control, the success of the numbers decreasing, the rumbling tummies and the willpower of steel that says, “Nope, I’m not listening to you.”

Is that REALLY how life is supposed to be lived?

What if there was a better way? What if you could become in tune with your hunger cues and find food that makes your body SING? What if you learned to address the emotions behind the urge to hop on the next diet trend. What if you learned how to find freedom in the body you have?

I want to challenge the entire concept of dieting as a means to finding contentment in your body.

I believe that for most people, the weight you need to lose is in your mind. Dieting is being held captive by something you hate to love and love to hate. It is enslaving. It is anxiety-inducing. Though we love it, it does more damage than good.

How do you know you are enslaved by the dieting mindset? Continue reading “The Stockholm Syndrome of Dieting”

Freedom Friday

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit to a yolk of slavery” – Galatians 5:1

Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus took His last breath on the cross. The day He gathered the weight of the world and restored balance in the most unexpected way possible. Talk about a plot twist. God on earth, submitting to a degrading death. For the sake of FREEDOM. Our freedom.

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of freedom. My lastborn’s middle name is Freeman, as tribute to my grandpa (as that was his middle name as well). It’s a fitting name, since the last 2 and a half years that Rhett Freeman has graced this earth I have been on a “freedom journey” of sorts. God is breaking major chains in my life.

The thing about freedom… is that it’s free.

I didn’t pay for my freedom in Christ. There is nothing I can do to earn it or work for it. It is a gift.

I can think of a thousand ways this has brought peace and healing to my life. But lately, this freedom has come in the form of healing my relationship with body image and food. Continue reading “Freedom Friday”

When Before and Afters Hurt

I’ve been having a difficult time with before and after pictures lately. I’m not sure if I feel comfortable with them. I’m not sure if they inspire or hurt. There have been many flooding my social media newsfeed lately and for lack of a better term, I’ve felt triggered.

Many of the women in the “before” pictures look beautiful. They have my “ideal” shape and size, so to see that they want to change that raises so many questions (some subconscious) in my mind. Why did they want to make a change? Was it just for the physical result? Did they have health issues to address? Are they happier in their bodies in the after picture? Would I be happier if I looked like them? So. Many. Questions.

I’ve posted many before and after pictures. That was how I started my health and wellness business, and that was what inspired so many of my friends to join me. What I never before considered is that in focusing on a picture only, I water down the true message of health and wellness. And there isn’t a one size approach to health. If there was, I wouldn’t be writing this.

I’m processing a lot right now, regarding body image, weight, and health at every size. I’m doing a lot of soul searching that, as a nutrition coach, is necessary for me in order to properly help others and reach people where they are.

So let’s talk about my holistic health journey for a second…

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See the girl on the left? She was pretty amazing. She just had her second baby, had just finished running a 5K, and was really loving life and her job as a teacher. There is nothing wrong with that!

Continue reading “When Before and Afters Hurt”

On Guard (Unraveling Grief)

Grief is like an out of season mosquito. You think you’re fine, but out of nowhere it gets you.

I like to think of myself as a very open and warm person. If you met me, you’d probably think I’m nice.

But let me warn you…I have a guard up. We’re all walking wounded – that’s part of life – and we all have ways of handling the twists and turns life has thrown at us.

I was 9 years old when I watched my grandpa die in my front yard. My life was squeaky clean before that, all rainbows and unicorns (literally – hello, My Little Pony). The most traumatic thing I had experienced was allergy testing.

But trauma is relative.

In one instant, I watched the people who were supposed to be in control… lose their control. I watched my grandpa, who was just sitting at my dining room table holding my hand while we prayed the night before, struggle to breathe and fall to the ground. I watched my mom and grandma using an epi pen and performing CPR, to no avail.

I watched his eyes roll back.

When my parents came home from the hospital that night, smiling because Pop-Pop was in heaven… that’s when the walls went up. That’s when I learned an important lesson.

Life as you know it can change in an instant. So don’t get too close. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t love too deeply. Hold everyone at arms’ length. Disconnect.

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I lived like that for a long time. I struggle to be present in emergency situations to this day. The little girl who witnessed her precious grandpa dying likes to pretend she’s in a movie, watching everything from behind a screen.

However, I am learning to flip the script. As a mother, I am learning that there is another way to respond to grief. Continue reading “On Guard (Unraveling Grief)”

Lent is NOT a Diet

I was raised in a non-denominational church. Lent was not something we practiced, and not something I knew of until my late teens. I have grown to appreciate the beauty of this season, but the idea of Lent, of “giving up” something for spiritual discipline, initially appealed to me for all the wrong reasons.

The first person I knew to give up anything for Lent was my sister. She gave up French fries. I remember thinking first that she was SO spiritual, much more sacrificial than me. My second thought was, “Wow, I bet a person could get skinny doing this Lent thing.”

So that’s how it began. I liked the spiritual purity of it, and I liked the fact that weight loss may be an “unintentional” side effect. Lent became a way for me to combine my diet goals with my spiritual goals. Fasting has been a spiritual discipline for thousands of years, but thanks to diet culture and my insecurities, all I could think was how nice it would be to serve God AND get skinny. Under the guise of spiritual purity, I could accomplish something that would appeal to my poor body image.

Looking back I can see how much of a contradiction that is. To “sacrifice” for Christ in order to achieve the body of my dreams. It’s kinda laughable, actually. And of course it never happened. I never followed through, I became discouraged by my failings, and I ended up berating myself for my lack of spirituality and self-discipline.

I don’t think that’s the point of Lent. Continue reading “Lent is NOT a Diet”