Kanye, Bipolar Disorder, Religiosity, and My Thoughts

While my entire Facebook feed is filled with articles and comments about Kanye West’s new album and recent conversion, I have stayed silent. Why?

Because number one, I don’t really know anything about Kanye to begin with (other than the time he hijacked Taylor Swift’s speech on the VMAs and the famous rant about George Bush not caring about black people). He has kids with weird names and a wife with an awesome body. That’s about all I know. Superficial? Maybe. I can’t tell you the name of any of his songs. They’re not on my running playlist.

Number two, what he does or says doesn’t have any affect on me personally. If he wants to sing songs about being rich and famous or songs about Jesus – cool. I typically don’t speak up about issues in pop culture unless I feel they have some kind of heart-twisting impact on me and my life… or if they have some kind of mental health connection.

So when I heard he suffers from bipolar disorder, that’s when the light bulb turned on. How did I miss this? Talk about a plot twist! It led me to take an interest in all the Kanye news of the last year or so. While many out there are debating whether his conversion is real or a publicity stunt, my first thought upon learning this is – is this all a manic episode?

Continue reading “Kanye, Bipolar Disorder, Religiosity, and My Thoughts”

“You Can Make a Difference in How You Feel” – Interview with Dr. James Gordon

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. James Gordon, Harvard trained psychiatrist, Director for the Center for Mind Body Medicine, and author of the new book, The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma.

Our conversation blew my mind on many levels. Not only is Dr. Gordon an expert on dealing with trauma, he gives practical steps for addressing trauma that anyone can do!

What follows is a short transcript of the interview highlights, but the full recording can be heard on my show page here. Continue reading ““You Can Make a Difference in How You Feel” – Interview with Dr. James Gordon”

Living with the Stigma of Bipolar Disorder – Podcast Premiere

Exactly 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

But I didn’t go public about it until last year.

Why? The stigma. The jokes. The complete misunderstanding and misinformation about what bipolar disorder really is. 

Here’s what it is: 

  • It’s like depression with some really fun occasional breaks in between that help you get stuff done… but it can completely wear you out and shut you down. 
  • It’s like the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” mixed with Gary Jules’ “Mad World.”
  • It’s like Texas weather, dropping 50 degrees in a day, for a cold front that is unexpected, with a duration that is uncertain. 

But most of all – it IS manageable and it doesn’t have to hinder quality of life or functioning.

SWitunesLike I said, I hid it for a long time. I’m learning to manage it through a variety of tools – gut health, nutrition, movement, sleep, talk therapy.

On the first episode of my new podcast Sparking Wholeness, I share my entire journey in a way I never have before.

If you haven’t struggled with mental health issues, that’s amazing and I’m so happy for you. But chances are, someone close to you needs hope. Someone close to you needs a step toward healing. And that’s what this show is intended to do – it’s just another way to spark a little fire towards wholeness. 

Click here to download and listen to this episode, or click here for my show page – and to be able to subscribe to my podcast feed (please subscribe). It will be available on iTunes soon.

Please share this message with a friend.

Diet Before Diagnosis – Is There a Connection?

“I’m not blonde, and I’m not skinny. Therefore, I’m not attractive.”

That’s a line straight from my journal in 1999.

I have healed from many things in my past, but I don’t think I ever grieved for the young girl who thought that people would only like her if she was skinny.

According to my January 1999 journal entry, I was on a mission to weight 130 pounds. Thanks to Zoloft, I had gained a good 30 pounds or so from end of sophomore to beginning of senior year, and by the first semester of my senior year I spent a lot of time isolating, reading historical romances, and pining away for a college soccer player I cared about who played me like a fresh fiddle.

This diet gave me new life. A new identity. A new way to really love the skin I was in  – because it would come in a much smaller body. According to my journal, I was drinking two special protein drinks a day and going off of carbs, sugar, and caffeine. I was supposedly “retraining my body” to digest and store food, and there was an 85% chance I would NEVER gain my weight back. Continue reading “Diet Before Diagnosis – Is There a Connection?”

Fatty Coffee

Why in the world would I load my coffee up with fat? Does that sound weird and backwards to you?

Well, I’ve been doing it for almost two years now and it has changed my health in many ways. Here are some benefits I’ve noticed:

  • Less “hanger,” more blood sugar control
  • Decreased sugar cravings
  • More alert mentally
  • Able to practice intermittent fasting, which increases my BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor)
  • It gives my brain the right kind of healthy fat it NEEDS for optimal function

Also, it tastes really really good. Like my own homemade foamy latte.

When I start my day with a processed refined grain like cereal or a bagel or English muffin, which I did for many years, I would be hungry within a couple hours and my brain would be mush.

Starting my day with fat-fueled coffee (also known as “bulletproof coffee”) fills me up so I can prolong my brain-boosting fast, it provides butyrate and MCT oil for brain health, and it keeps my blood sugar from going crazy because I don’t need to sweeten it! I have energy throughout the day and I have a clear head to make more brain-nourishing nutritional choices.

Here’s the thing that throws people off – this IS intended to replace a meal. But listen to your body. If you are hungry right after, EAT! Fuel yourself with high quality animal protein, a healthy fat, and colorful fruits and veggies. Sometimes I prolong my fast by drinking my coffee this way, sometimes I’m ready to eat not long after. Every day is different, depending on the activity level.

This coffee is not intended to be a starvation/weight loss tool. It is just another option for those who are already drinking coffee and loading up on artificial flavors with creamers and sweeteners. Those will fail your blood sugar, every time.

This is an alternative that will make you feel good and provide health benefits. For so many, coffee provides the highest amount of polyphenols they will consume in a day. So let’s make it even better!

Here’s how I do mine: Continue reading “Fatty Coffee”

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”

Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?

Now that I shared what leaky gut is and how it starts, I’m excited to share my top tips for nourishing your gut! If you’re already feeling nervous or annoyed that I’m going to share a long to-do list that will overwhelm you, scroll down to Tip #4, then come back up to the top and be encouraged! Learning to take care of your gut is such a rewarding process.

First things first – because I love all things food, my inclination is to start there. But that may be backwards.

See, if you don’t take care of external triggers, it doesn’t matter what food you eat.

img_2229

Tip #1: Manage Stress

We can’t avoid traffic, work deadlines, soccer practices, family conflicts, etc. But we CAN handle how we manage the stress they create.

The best thing I’ve done for my stress levels is learning to breathe. Guided breathwork has been so beneficial. There are various studies into why and how they assist the parasympathetic nervous system, but let’s focus on this – deep nostril breathing will decrease the stress center in your brain. It will instantly calm and soothe you. Just a few minutes of calm, steady breathing can be a game-changer for your stress levels.

One other thing that helps lighten my stress load when my mind is racing is taking a bath with Epsom salts. I am NOT a bath person, and I’ve never been a fan of just laying there, but an extra hot bath that leaves me alone with my mind and deep breathing practices is something I’ve come to depend on during stressful times.

I’m also a big fan of a gratitude journal, either first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Reflect on what went well the previous day. Try to list 3-5 things. It’s hard to be stressed or fearful when you’re acknowledging the positive in your life. Being grateful changes your brain, the expression of your genes, and improves your gut health!

Tip #2: Eat Real Food!

…And eat it slowly. It’s no secret that processed food is damaging for us. But we all know that, and we just keep on keeping on with our gut issues. So while ideally, one would focus on cutting out the triggers, for some it is a much more realistic approach to crowd in the most fueling foods. Eating slowly and mindfully gives your digestive system time to digest and process the food. Taking breathers between bites and chewing slowly gives your enzymes a chance to do what they need to do and break down your food.

Vegetables contain prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in our gut. They detoxify our bodies and provide much needed vitamins for our brain health. They also help produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate, which is so important for mental health and has even been studied to be helpful in reducing symptoms of mania. Side note – butyrate is found in grass fed butter and ghee, so by cooking vegetables in either of those you’re increasing your fat-soluble vitamin content AND getting a double dose of brain goodness!

Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 2 – What Do I Do?”

How Dirty Are Your Genes?

“Our genes load the gun, but our environment pulls the trigger.”

Have you heard this before? We are not stuck with our genes. We can change the expression of our genes with every bite we take, step we take, thought we think. This is the concept of epigenetics.

I recently found out I have a copy of a gene mutation called MTHFR. Because I refer to this in many of my recipes as my motivation for eating the way I eat, I want to break it down in an easy, Cliffs notes kind of way. There are many websites out there that can explain it in depth (like this and this), but here are the basics:

An estimated 30-60% of the population has at least one copy of this gene. When you have MTHFR, your body cannot fully convert folic acid into methylfolate, the methylated form of folate, and some experts suggest that ANY folic acid consumed will block the absorption of folate – even that which you consume in whole foods. This is detrimental to our brain health, because neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine need methylfolate for production.

Common health concerns sometimes associated with MTHFR include:

  • ADHD, autism, mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar)
  • Autoimmune disease/thyroid disorders
  • Digestive issues
  • Migraines
  • Recurrent miscarriages
  • Infertility
  • Hormonal issues, like PCOS
  • Blood clots, stroke, embolism
  • And many many more (it’s a rabbit hole)

Continue reading “How Dirty Are Your Genes?”

Learning from my December Lows

The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is living with a chronic illness.

Meaning, I have to be aware of my triggers, the things that make me sick, at all times. Excess busyness, excess activity, excess inflammatory foods and alcohol… all those things are difficult to escape in December… but they take a toll on me in ways most people don’t have to worry about.

I go big. I love parties. I love people. I love LIVING life. Until it all becomes too much, and I crash.

This last week I felt a crash. Minimal crash compared to the destructive collisions of the past. I have an excellent support system, I am self-aware, and I am learning to communicate when I need help. So to be clear, I am OKAY. But I knew something was off. I thought I was getting sick. My chest felt tight like I couldn’t breathe, my body felt heavy, and I couldn’t get through my typical yoga practice without taking multiple child poses to rest. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to read my new nutrition book (big sign something was off). I was negative with my husband and my kids, who I love more than the world.

photography of barrel wave
Crash: (noun) a sudden failure which puts a system out of action

Continue reading “Learning from my December Lows”

Being Med-Free: My 4 Year Anniversary

They told me I’d need medication the rest of my life.

4 years ago this week, I was weaned off my last medication, 10 milligrams of Celexa. I had vertigo for 3 weeks. Some days I felt like I was riding a roller coaster. After 18 years of being medicated, it wasn’t an easy transition for my body.

My doctor said I was ready. I was eating healthier, working out regularly, and sleeping consistently. I would never have done this without her support. This wasn’t the typical bipolar action of, “Hey, I’m going off all my meds!” It was something that took years in the making. It wasn’t a decision anyone took lightly.

It took time to adjust. I needed to actively monitor my stress levels. I needed to remember to slow down and rest. I took my supplements diligently. I ran. A year and a half later, I found yoga.

Today I feel better than I ever have.

img_6299

Continue reading “Being Med-Free: My 4 Year Anniversary”