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”

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”

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.

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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?”

Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?

Aside from epigenetics, one discovery that has completely changed the way I view my body’s healing ability is gut health. Learning how to take care of my gut transformed my mental health.

5 years ago, the term was a mystery to me. I thought probiotics were only necessary when taking an antibiotic. And it’s true – considering the fact that most of the food we eat contains antibiotics, probiotics are a necessity.

The reality is, the state of our gut bacteria determines much of our health and well-being, from our immune system to mental health to most chronic diseases plaguing people in the 21st century.

From a young age, I was on antibiotics, steroids, and various medications that disrupt gut bacteria. I suffered from intense sugar cravings and yeast infections, major signs that my gut needed balancing. The state of my gut health, those genetic predispositions I mentioned earlier, and witnessing a traumatic event at the age of 9 are what I believe led to my mental illness crisis in my teens and 20s. It’s alllll connected. Continue reading “Gut Health 101: Part 1 – What is Leaky Gut?”

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”

Spring Reset

Over the last couple of years, I have learned how transformative the power of food is for this “broken brain” of mine. Using food as fuel has benefited my mental stability in so many ways. Adding in specific anti-inflammatory foods is a game-changer…and I can’t keep this knowledge to myself.

My new 12 day coaching group starting April 8 will take you through the same “brain health boot camp” I went through not long ago.

This group will give you an arsenal of tools to improve mental clarity, help you pay attention to your hunger signals, decrease inflammation and benefit whole body health!

This coaching group will give you personalized attention for only a fraction of normal client costs. Bonus – you’ll receive coaching from two holistic health coaches in this group!

Contact me for more information.

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”