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”

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?”

Is What You’re Eating Stressing You Out?

Stress. We hear about it all the time. It’s in our daily vocabulary. We feel the weight of it constantly.

What if I told you that the food you consume is stressing your body out and making things worse?

It sounds crazy, right? When I think of stress, I think of a busy schedule, too many commitments, big life events or tragedies, etc. I don’t think of an internal response. However, the food you eat has a major impact on your stress hormone: cortisol.

nature animal wilderness head
I’m more flight than fight, looking at this!

Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone. The purpose of it is actually a good thing! It is supposed to protect your body during times of stress. Imagine living in the wild and a mountain lion is approaching. Cortisol shoots through your body through the adrenals (hello, adrenaline!) in order to increase glucose for energy to ward off the attacker. Your heart rate increases thanks to epinephrine and you’re able to store fat needed for the fight. After the mountain lion has been killed and the situation is resolved, your body returns back to its normal state. All is well.

Here’s the problem with our current diet. When we eat lots of sugar and refined or simple carbs, our blood sugar is frequently crashing, signaling to the body that we’re under attack and need an increase of cortisol. So glucose is increased and fat is stored. This is super taxing on the adrenals, because due to the carb-sugar cycle we are always in, our adrenal glands are ALWAYS shooting out extra cortisol, way more than was intended in human design. Our cells soon become resistant to cortisol. What does this lead to? Inflammation, a poor-functioning immune system, type 2 diabetes, fertility issues, inability to lose weight, cancer, thyroid problems, depression, chronic fatigue…the list goes on. Continue reading “Is What You’re Eating Stressing You Out?”

Living With a Stigma

little me

This little girl didn’t know that in 10 years she would wish for death. She loved her family, her new siblings, and Jesus, too. Much like the Tom Petty song, she was about to take a free fall – down the path of a broken brain.

She was a preacher’s daughter with a genetic disposition to mental illness. Add on to that various health issues like chronic ear infections, asthma, allergy shots, antibiotics and steroids… and a budding sugar addiction, due to poor gut health. She was all energy and filled with curiosity, wanting to know the how and why of everything. So one day, when the darkness closed in, she would questions why she couldn’t just pray it away.

Continue reading “Living With a Stigma”