As I wrote a while back, I had been hoping to use this year to start working on a project that I’ve had in the back of my mind for some time. My goal was to create a road trip across the U.S., albeit perhaps in pieces, in which I would connect with yoga studios in as many states as possible to teach a one-time class at a reduced fee, and the majority of the money (after that reduced rate for myself) would go to charity. To be honest I’d love to do it all for charity, but I’m not independently wealthy and could not travel across the country for free, so I’d have to at least make up some of that. I was super excited that, even though it might not (probably wouldn’t) fully happen this year, the idea was taking form and it felt like I might be able to pull this off.
Obviously, there’s been a change off plans. There’s no traveling. There’s no in person yoga. There’s no connecting in person with people across the county. And since we really don’t know the course this is going to take, while I could still technically begin planning it, the logistics and details would be foggy at best. It doesn’t feel like the right time to reach out to studios that may be struggling to stay afloat due to lack of in-person classes and ask them to partner for charity. It feels like a bad time to plan travel even if it’s for the future. Everything’s just uncertain right now and it makes for tricky footing.
But I still want to connect with people through yoga and offering support and encouragement and spreading hope. I decided to make a few new signs that felt especially appropriate to the times, combine them with yoga poses, and share them online. I have some other ideas in the works that I hope to share shortly. For now, here are a few yoga poses with messages of hope. Even though we’re all staying home, I’d still love to connect with people from all over the country and beyond. So if you feel inclined to share a sign, or a pose, or a sign and pose, or something else that you’re doing to help spread hope, please share! And if you feel comfortable, let me know where you’re from – let’s see how many places we can connect from, even if virtually.
Tree Pose: “It’s OK If You Don’t Know How You Feel Right Now”.
Dancer Pose (Natarajasana): We Will Get Through This
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana: We’re In This Together.
I know it’s been ages since I’ve written. I haven’t forgotten about this site, and certainly not about Spread Hope Project. I have been in a bit of transition, at least mentally, and my brain has been all over the place. I’ve also been struggling with my depression the last few days, and on and off for a while now, and been trying to work through things, both in my brain, and in my life.
For a while now, I’ve had this feeling of being a bit stuck. I have a lot of things that I care about, that I like, that I’m passionate about, and yet I feel like I’m struggling to find my place, my path. One thing I’m certain of, one thing that I’ve always focused my career and my life around, is that I want to help people.
So recently, as recently as this morning in fact, I sat down and began to think about my experience, my passion, my abilities, and what I feel drawn to, in order to try to make a little more sense of it. And here is what I came up with:
I love travel, I love helping people discover the world, and I have the experience of running my own travel company for 14 years.
I am passionate mental health advocacy, sharing my story, and being able to help those struggling with their mental health however I can.
I am passionate about spreading hope, about letting others know that they’re not alone, and offering them even the slightest bit of light when it seems like the darkness is setting in.
I am a yoga instructor, and and within the field of yoga, I am passionate about using it to help others – both physically and mentally, through the physical practice, but also in giving back through yoga benefit classes and events.
I sat thinking about how these all tied together, at least pieces of each of these, and I thought back to an idea that came about during a twitter chat of fellow chronic illness advocates. Someone suggested that I take my yoga classes on the road, basically a yoga road trip, and tie it into Spread Hope Project. And I loved the idea. I still do. Every day, when I write my morning affirmations, affirmations that I write as if I’ve already accomplished them, one of my big ones is that I’ve reached all 48 contiguous states on the Spread Hope Project road trip (no offense, Alaska and Hawaii, I’m happy to come to you, just don’t plan on driving there).
When the idea of a yoga road trip first took root, of course, like I tend to do with big, exciting ideas, I thought “I could totally do this!” And then, slowly, as I thought about the time off work required, the contacts I’d have to make, the cost of such a trip, I realized maybe it might not happen as soon as I hoped (i.e. ASAP). Still, when I wrote out my affirmations for the first time, that list of things I really wanted to believe I was going to accomplish, it was in there, and it’s stayed there ever since. Slowly, I’ve added to the road trip the idea that, not only could I help people by offering yoga, but that I could turn it into a benefit – and in particular, a benefit for mental health. Each class could be a benefit class, in which I could teach at a reduced rate, and the remainder of the money raised for the class went to mental health organizations/non-profits (to clarify, I’d love to do it ALL for charity, but I honestly cannot afford to travel around the country while working for free).
I realized, in thinking about it further this morning, that this version of the Spread Hope Project Road Trip would truly encompass almost every area I’m passionate about – I would get to travel, and share about those travels, and in doing so, perhaps providing travel inspiration to others. I would be advocating and helping in the mental health area, not only by supporting organizations, but by sharing about my road trip and the organizations it supported on social media and my blogs. And obviously, this would incorporate my passions for both the Spread Hope Project, and helping others through yoga.
I realize this type of a road trip is a huge goal, and I think it’s because of this that I have not brought it more into the light, shared more about my hope to do this, started *really* thinking about how I could make it possible. I realized I was just kind of letting it sit in my affirmations as a “someday”. And so, I decided that I’m not going to do that. I’ve done a lot of the “one day when” thinking lately, and I’m honestly tired of waiting for one day. Instead, I decided that it had been to long since I’d written here, and that this was the perfect post to start doing so again. I decided I wanted to share this goal, to put it out there, not only for a bit of my own accountability, but also to start making some contacts with those that might be interested – yoga studio owners or managers across the country, mental health organizations rooted in their communities that would be interested in partnering for this, and anyone else who is inspired to get involved. I also realize now that I might not be able to make it a full on 48 state road trip – that in waiting to feel like I have the time and money to do that, I could be waiting a lifetime. So I might have to do it over the course a few road trips, or maybe even one-off trips here and there. I also realize it might have to change slightly in the logistical sense. I may need to fly in somewhere and then drive around neighboring states, if that helps me get to each state. But I’m OK with this. I understand that it might not turn out looking exactly like the ideal Spread Hope Project Road trip in my head. But if I’m able to reach people in each state, to spread hope, to support mental health organizations, and to help people through yoga, then I will consider that a success.
As you undoubtedly know by now, because I’ve been posting about it regularly on every platform for approximately the last month, I’ll be turning 40 in less than a week. I’ve been reading quite a bit about choosing theme words for the year, and while I know this feels like something traditionally done at New Year, entering into a new decade of my life seemed like as good a time as any to think about where I want to focus for the upcoming year. Plus, setting these focuses in September allows me to take the New Year, if I choose to use it as a marker like so many do, to assess where I am, and to make any adjustments I feel I want or need. Some people choose one theme word, but life right now (and always) seems so multi-dimensional, and I’ve got numerous areas in which I’m working to grow and refocus, that I thought I’d pick four. Turns out, I ended up choosing five (listed/described below in no particular order except the one in which they came into my head, which we all know is generally haphazard). Also, I didn’t stick to a certain word type (noun, verb, etc). I simply chose what felt appropriate.
1. Intentional. The number of times I find myself checking my social media, getting distracted by something unimportant, letting my mind become a runaway train into the land of “what if” and negative thoughts and so much else, without even realizing it, is a bit startling. I’ll suddenly pause and realize my actions/tasks/thoughts are far from where I planned them to be. So many times on the drive to work or walking my dog, I don’t recall how I got there. To clarify, I’m not sleep-driving or sleep-dog walking. I’m simply not noticing. Yes, I’m noticing the cars moving or stopping in front of me, I’m noticing my dog stop and sit at the corner and making sure it’s clear before we cross. I’m noticing enough to be safe, but I’m not sinking into it. It could be a beautiful morning, sun rising over my neighborhood, flowers blooming, gentle breeze, birds chirping while I’m walking my dog, and I’m going over something in my head or planning my to do list or revisiting an argument or disagreement I had with someone from last week or stressing out over something I can do nothing about at 5:30AM while walking my dog. So my goal is to be more intentional. In my actions, in my thoughts, in my interactions with people, in my being present in the world around me. Social media checking is fine (and beneficial to my business, even). But I don’t want to look up from twitter or IG or FB 30 minutes later and not even recall why I went onto the app in the first place. And I DEFINITELY don’t want to be doing this while in the presence of friends, family, etc, who are actually there with me, being ignored while I absentmindedly scroll.
2. Growth. This year is a growth year for me in numerous ways. I’m growing my yoga business. I’m growing in the writing community, having just self-published my first novel. I’m also focusing on growing personally in numerous ways. I’m working on finding my voice and using it where appropriate (but not to drown out others). I’m working on recognizing dependent and codependent tendencies (revisited shortly here), and adjusting course. I’m learning how to work through parts of growth that can be difficult, triggering, painful. I’m working at recognizing my own faults and missteps and mistakes, and taking accountability, while learning NOT to take accountability and responsibility for other peoples thoughts, words, or actions,which are the responsibility of them, not me (in other words, I’m accountable for me, you’re accountable for you).
3. Non-dependence. I’m not sure this is actually a word, either with or without the hyphen. Originally, I had this as independence, but that doesn’t really explain what I’m aiming for. I already have a pretty independent spirit. I am generally not a conformist, I don’t do things because they’re “cool” or everyone else is doing them. I’m not easily swayed in my opinions or beliefs (other than about myself, and I’m working on that). But, as I mentioned above, codependency (i.e. supporting negative patterns with others by trying to ‘make everything better’, basically) and dependency (believing I’m not good enough/worthy/capable/don’t know enough/others know better and therefore stepping aside and letting others take control, make decisions, etc) are both issues I’ve struggled with for years. So I’m focusing on NOT being those things. On learning those patterns and habits and how I get caught in them, and breaking those cycles. Hence, non-dependence. And to be clear, this doesn’t mean I never accept help. We all have strengths and areas we’re not as strong. I’m not going to refuse to let someone taller than me get something off of a high shelf when I can’t reach because I “don’t want to depend on anyone.” We should all have people we can rely and depend upon when needed. It’s about not doing so at the detriment to myself and others.
4. Reconnecting. Connecting is also my monthly theme for my yoga and wellness business, and you can read about that in my blog post discussing why I chose it. But basically, I’ve become disconnected. My introverted and social anxious nature lends itself to disconnecting from others. Depression doesn’t help when it tells me that people don’t really want to be around me, that I’m a burden, that people don’t actually like me and that they’re just including me or talking to me to be nice. So I’m working on reconnecting with others, and also, examining those connections. Are all the people I’ve been connected to still the people that I should be connected to? Am I hanging on to situations, people, that I don’t need to, that aren’t serving me (or them)? Am I staying around in groups, organizations, etc just because they’re familiar? So I’m doing some re-examining. I’m also working on reconnecting with myself. Knowing who I truly am, deep down. Focusing on my core values, my personality type, my beliefs, my path and goals and dreams, my innate self, and getting back to that person. I’m working on not allowing fear or worry or others’ opinions or values change that (or at least trying not to, as best as I can). I’m learning to be me again. And finally, I’m working on reconnecting with the world around me, especially in nature, through being present. Connecting to the earth, grounding.
5. Letting go. This was a late add, but I realized how important it was. I have held onto SO much. Guilt, shame, self-blame, self-loathing, regret, negative beliefs about myself, fears, that do not serve me. They often aren’t even based in reality, in facts, they’re stories I tell myself. And I can’t ever move forward, ever grow, if I can’t let these pieces go.
And so, as I cross the threshold from my 30s to my 40s, these are the theme words I’ll be stepping into. These are the areas in which I plan to focus. They are not, of course, the only things I’ll focus on, but they will help to guide me when I feel lost or confused or am questioning myself in my decisions and path. They’ll help me to guide myself, both when I come to important crossroads, as well as while I move through every day life.
Thanks for taking this wild ride of life with me. Here’s to 40 more years!
Hi friends and readers. It’s been a while, I know. Apologies. I have been busy, in a great way, the past few months. I thought I’d share a life update, to keep everyone posted on what I’ve been up to. Positive changes in my life are making me feel pretty hopeful about where I’m headed, and while I struggle regularly still with anxiety and depression and mood cycles, this hope stemming from these positive changes helps to keep me afloat most of the time.
First, I graduated yoga teacher training, and am now officially an RYT-200 Yoga Teacher. I have a website for my new yoga/writing/and more business, if you’re at all inclined to check it out. And if you happen to be in the Philly/South Jersey area, I list my upcoming classes on there as well. I have one private yoga client (it’s a family member, but still!), I’m on a sub list for a studio, I’m teaching two upcoming community donation-based classes for charity at The Grant Building where I did my teacher training, and I have a workplace benefit class that’s in the works, which I can’t yet share details about, but I’ll update when I can. So on the yoga front, pretty exciting stuff.
I also sent my novel to the self-publisher, and I received the first 25 copies of the soft cover book yesterday. Technically, my parents received them at their house because I don’t have things shipped to my city condo, so I haven’t seen them yet. I’ll be there Thursday, and plan to open them then. I’m still getting together the book sale details and release date, so I’ll also file that under “more updates coming soon”.
This past weekend, I completed my 6th AFSP Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention. I traveled up to Boston this year for the walk (the other option was San Francisco, and Boston is significantly closer and less hilly), and as usual, it was an incredible experience. I’ve already filled out the “save my spot” for next year’s event, despite not yet knowing the when or where. It’s that amazing of an event, and of course, such an important cause. The walk is filled with connection and community and tears and hugs and sadness over those lost, but also so much hope for the future as we continue to raise our voices and speak out about mental illness and suicide prevention, to let others know that they are not alone.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. It’s been a productive and busy and exciting spring and summer so far. What have you been up to? What’s giving you hope this summer? I’d love to hear!
I have some exciting news to share! I’ve been nominated for the Disability Blogger award by Amber Blackburn of The World Sees Normal. I’m super excited and honored – Amber, thank you so very much! And also, a huge thank you to Georgina from Chronillicles for creating this Award. Amazing work you are both doing!
I love the opportunity to nominate and be nominated by peers – after all, I’m really about community, connecting, coming together and award by peers, for peers, offers exactly that. Here are the rules:
Use the Disability Blogger Award logo somewhere in your post
Copy these rules onto your post
Answer your nominator’s questions
Write 5-15 of your own questions (they don’t need to be illness related)
Nominate 5-15 other disability, chronic illness, mental illness, or special needs bloggers
Comment on each of your nominees’ latest posts to tell them they have been nominated
So, Amber’s questions for me, and my answers.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from starting your blog.
I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s OK to not be OK, and that it’s ok to share this too. I find that so often, when I blog that I’m struggling, having a difficult day, flaring, that far from pushing people away (my concern), I find deeper connection. Often, there are so many people around you (in person, or virtually online) going through similar to what you’re experiencing, and yet each of you feels so alone and isolated. When you share your story, you offer that connection to others, and in connecting, you each are reminded that you are not alone.
What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
With family and loved ones. Activity wise, traveling. I love to travel, and I do so every chance I get, though this year time/money/life have made that less possible. Still, though, I love exploring new places, even if it’s just a new coffee shop in the neighborhood, a new nearby town, something more local.
If you could tell people ONE thing about living with a chronic illness what would you want the general public to know???
That my illness is always there, lurking in the shadows ready to pounce even when it’s not obvious to anyone else. When I have a good day, it doesn’t mean I’m “better’ or that my illness has gone away, or that I’m cured. It means I’m not flaring that day, and I’m feeling better (I have a cycling disorder, so by nature, it changes regularly). But even on my best days, I am always aware of it. Always wondering when it it’s going to get bad again. And so often, even when it seems fine, it’s not. Most days are an effort, and for the few that aren’t as difficult, please, just let me enjoy it without questioning my illness.
Do you prefer sweet or salty? What is your all time favorite treat?
Salty! Sweet actually makes me nauceous and gives me a headache much of the time, so no contest there. Also, I’m borderline hyponatremic (low sodium), so I’m encouraged to eat more salt/sodium. All time favorite treat, hmmm… probably fries or vegetarian nachos!
Why did you decide to start your blog/advocacy work?
When I god diagnosed with rapid cycling cyclothymia, I set out to learn as much as I could about my condition, to connect with others who had the same diagnosis, to find communities. And I found next to nothing. My condition is rare, but I thought surely there were others “out there’ that had this who might also want to connect and be looking for resources. And since they didn’t exist, I decided to create them. I started by blogging, and then forming a closed Facebook group (it’s expanded to mood disorders more generally now), and sure enough, I connected with others also in search of community and learning/sharing about this condition. Eventually, I expanded my advocacy to mental health in general, as I saw the amount of stigma surrounding the topic, and wanted to do my part in combating that.
What is your favorite show or movie currently?
I’m not a big movie person because I have very little attention span for basically anything but reading or writing. Most of the time, I tend to watch shows that are low stress, because there’s enough stress in living with chronic illness and just in life in general, and I definitely don’t want to invite more of it, when it’s not even mine! So I watch a lot of things like House Hunters, Hallmark Channel, Cooking shows, and other such shows that let me relax and unwind without being too intense. I also watch a lot of PBS, and particularly, Call the Midwife. It’s the one of the few “dramatic” shows I like.
So now, my questions for my nominees:
What is your favorite part about being a chronic illness blogger/advocate?
If you could visit anywhere in the world (perfect world, no budget kind of scenario), where would you visit?
What’s your favorite animal? Why?
What’s one unexpected positive thing that you’ve experienced since you started blogging/advocating? (It can be something big that’s happened to you, or something more subtle that you’ve experienced internally).
Mountains, beach, city, countryside, or some other type of geography? Why?
Happy April! It’s been a while since I’ve written. I’ve had a lot going on, both in illness and in life – in fact I still do – and I’ve been needing to recenter and refocus a bit. However, I saw the April Linkup Party Prompts from A Chronic Voice, and these always inspire me to post. This month’s prompts are:
I love each and every one of these, so I’ve decided to write on all five.
Right now, a lot of things seem tiring. My schedule has been intense for the past few months, as it’s been unusually busy at work and yoga teacher training is coming down to the wire (spoiler alert – see educating for more on this). The lack of down time/free time has been tiring. Not in a bad way, per se, as it’s all towards a greater goal, but still, tiring. More so, my brain has been tiring. Because I live with a rapid mood cycling disorder, my brain is all over the place. It spent all of January and February berating me, telling me I’d never succeed, picking at every tiny vulnerability. I was a giant weeping mess for the first two months of the year. Enter March, and things started to feel better. Not sure why, but they did. I’d been doing a lot of work on myself, and though I know my condition won’t ever go away, I thought at least I was pulling through the darkest pieces, and that my intense work on myself was paying off. And then, April hit. Hit me like an emotional ton of bricks, that is. I’m back to gooey, weepy mess, low self-worth and self-esteem, struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel. And this back and forth, this two steps forward one step back, this constant internal struggle and emotional roller coaster, is incredibly emotionally and mentally tiring.
As mentioned above, I’ve been participating in 200-hour yoga teacher training since the end of September. I am due to teach my “first class” (basically practicum part of our final) on April 26th, and I have my written final exam April 28th. The past few months have been tons of learning and educating, in everything from philosophy to the physical movements of yoga and everything in between. I’ve been learning how to put yoga flows together, how to choose the right music, the business and ethics end of being a yoga instructor. We were educated on trauma informed yoga (the basics, it’s something I want to pursue further once I graduate). I’ve been steeped in education.
I’ve also been doing a lot of educating myself on myself – everything from working on my courage and learning how I self-sabotage out of fear, to recognizing my codependent tendencies, to learning how to rediscover myself (if you have any tips for this, I’ll take them, this is still a work in progress), to so much more. It’s been super eye opening, helpful, frustrating, and just about every other emotion possible.
I’m working on learning how to receive compliments/praise/acknowledgement/basically anything positive, either from others or myself. Low self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence make me generally sure that everyone’s “just being nice”, and that I’m not worthy of anything positive actually said about or done for me.
I’m also working on not receiving other people’s negative energy, painful words and actions, judgements, lack of belief in me, or anything else that falls into this realm. To clarify, I’m realistic and value honesty. I don’t want everyone to walk on eggshells or be all fluffy kittens and rainbows with me. But I have often defined myself by other people’s opinions/thoughts/words/actions. They thought the way I did something was wrong? I must be wrong. They didn’t believe in me or doubted me? I stopped believing in or started doubting myself (note: I already do this enough on my own, I don’t need others’ help to do so). This is all part of the codependent tendencies mentioned earlier. It’s still a big issue for me. I”m working on separating my belief in myself and my self-worth, from the negative I receive from others, while still being open to genuine constructive suggestions, alternative ways of doing/seeing things, etc.
I’m a giver by nature. I give time, I give understanding, I give empathy, I give forgiveness, I lend an ear, I help if someone needs help. Sometimes, in fact, I’m too giving. I try to be everything to everyone, except for to myself. So right now, what I’m working on is more focused giving, both internally and externally. For instance, instead of offering to be everything to everyone, I’m working on specifically reaching out to individual people, checking on on them, saying hi, etc. Not like a quick Facebook comment or like, but sending a persona text or message, really reaching out. I’m working on cultivating close relationships, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. It doesn’t mean that I am not there for others. But I am protecting my own energy a little more. I’m also working on giving to myself. Giving myself the kind words, the encouragement, the belief in self that has often been missing. I’ll get a bit more into this in “Quieting”, below.
I’ve been doing a lot of self-work, as I mentioned. Much of this has to do with quieting the negative thought patterns in my mind, as well as reigning my mind in when it tries to run amuck (often). I’ve also been working on spending more time in meditating, yoga of course, prayer, reflection, and body access exercises/body scanning, which all help me with quieting my external environment (I tend to do each of these best in a quieter setting), but also my internal one.
Thanks, as always, for these prompts! It’s good to be back to blogging here again. Don’t forget to go to Linkup Party link in the first paragraph to check out others’ posts for these prompts!
If you live in the U.S, at least the continental U.S., you probably experienced at least some of the polar vortex situation that happened this week. You may well still be experiencing it. I consider myself lucky, since the worst we got here in the Philadelphia were wind chills in the low negatives (I think we had something like a wind chill of -7 Fahrenheit). As I was hearing of wind chills around -40 in other parts of the country, complete with feet of snow and ice and all kinds of wintery mess, I can’t really complain about -7. I also consider myself lucky that I have a home with good heating (albeit drafty windows, but still, good heating) and a roof over my head. I have a very furry doggie that likes to snuggle up with us to keep us warm, so all in all, I am fortunate when it comes to polar vortex-ness.
That being said, cold, dark days where it physically hurts to go outside – because negative windchill is still negative windchill regardless of how cold other places are – often doesn’t feel very hopeful. Unless you’re my dog, who freakin’ loves this weather and must have been a musher dog in a former life or something. The point is, for many of us, especially those who already struggle with depression, hope might have been a little bit tougher this week. I know for me, the fresh air, the sunlight, the warmth all can positively contribute to my mood cycles, and when those basically aren’t an option, it can have the opposite effect. So this week, I had to turn a bit more inward for my daily hope posts.
Hope Is colorful pens for journaling (one of my favorite modes of self-care) and little notebooks to keep on me for when I need to jot down thoughts, inspiration, brainstorms, or anything else. As a writer and creative, I get super excited about things like pens and notebooks, at all the possibilities they hold. These pens could write the first lines that inspire me to start another novel. These notebooks could one day have drafts of ideas for #SpreadHopeProject or other advocacy efforts that I one day look back at and say, “that’s where it started!” So much possibility. And color. And elephants (for those who don’t know, I LOVE elephants. Which is why my personal blog is named Lilies and Elephants).
Hope Is friends who encourage you to be authentic self. I love this sign from our sign-making party. Be beautiful, amazing you. We all have something wonderful to offer, even when we can’t see it ourselves. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you need to be anyone else.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been a rough road with depression lately. This past Monday morning though, I woke up feeling a bit better. No rhyme nor reason to it, it just happened. Not super happy per se but more like myself. I felt more solid, physically too – I don’t know how else to explain it. Like I physically felt more at home in my skin, felt more grounded than I’ve been feeling. I felt more secure in myself (as in not questioning my every move or thought) than I have been in ages. I have no idea why, but I did. I realized that it’s literally been years – like close to 20- since I truly felt fully comfortable with myself, since I felt like I was on the right path, like I wasn’t floundering. Since I felt like I was fully worthy, fully enough. Since I was totally OK just being me.
And I’m not there yet because that kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. At least not for me. Some things tripped me up later in the week that brought back into the forefront a lot of self-doubt and lack of self-love that I’ve been working through. But for the first time in almost two decades, this past Monday morning I thought, “I wonder if this is how people who have good self esteem and self worth feel ALL the time?! (Generally, at least because nobody feels great all the time). It was incredible to feel. It was amazing to think “Hey, I actually don’t dislike myself today.” Which is huge! I wasn’t in a hypomanic cycle, so I didn’t have any of that jittery, anxious “i just drank ten cups of coffee “ feeling, which is always a relief. I was just …me. It felt so freeing.
Hope Is a reminder that you are enough. This sign that my friends made at our sign-making is my mantra many days. So often with depression and anxiety it can feel as if you aren’t enough. But you are. And so am I. We all are. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise.
Hope Is little notes. I wrote this note to my hubs bc I was leaving super early (for 6AM yoga) before my husband was up. I like trying to connect through notes when schedules don’t coordinate in the morning. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know someone is thinking about you when they’re going about their busy day. And it also feels really good to write these!
Hope Is simple pleasures like coffee on a cold morning, and my favorite spring mug and flower to cheer me up. Thursday morning was rough. Some things happened Wednesday night that made me question myself, and made me question others’ belief in me (others close to me not random people). It hurt. Bad. Not going to lie. What hurt worse was that depression likes to cling to those things said by others and convince me they’re true. It also hurt because I’d had three good days in a row. I felt like I was finally starting to believe in myself again, for the first time in probably ten years, and this happened, and the hurt it caused made me realize I still am so far from that point. Others’ beliefs still affect me so, so harshly and get me to question myself. And I felt so disappointed in…everything.
So Thursday morning I sat there journaling and letting tears fall and sipping my coffee, because I just needed to let the hurt, the emotion out. But then I looked up at my mug and my orchid from my parents (who support and believe in me unfailingly) and noticed they kind of matched. It made me smile and the fact that, despite the hurt and pain and tears I was experiencing, I was able to still smile at something so small like, this gave me hope. I can get through this, like I have so many other hurts and disappointments, and hopefully I’ll learn something from it as well. I have to look at it as an opportunity to grow, to examine why it hurts so badly and how I can work on that, to work on getting myself to where I want to be.
Hope Is days of awareness for illnesses so that we can help educate and inform, and bring awareness to the illness. (And of course the advocates that share their stories every day!) Today is Wear Red Day for women’s heart disease. While it’s not an illness I live with, heart conditions do run in my family (almost all males, however) and I have close friends that live with heart disease. Plus, I just think it’s important to bring awareness to as many chronic illnesses as I can, and if I can do a little by wearing a color and posting, why wouldn’t I? Happy Friday, everyone!
Also, I’m always updating my content calendar so if an illness you advocate for has a “wear x color for this illness” day, let me know! I’ll do my best to dress accordingly and post on that day!
This week was a lot of ups and downs, as life with a mood cycling illness tends to be. Perhaps it was a bit more than most, because of internal factors and external factors. What I held on to, when it got tough, was the work I’ve been doing on self-love and self-heeling. If you too, have had a week like this, please remember you’re not alone. And also remember, as I said in my post yesterday, I believe in you!
I believe in you. Whoever you are. Whatever your dreams. I’m serious. I might not even know you personally. I might not know your plans or goals or dreams. But I believe in the human potential. In every human. It doesn’t mean they always live up to it (I can think of plenty of examples in which people took their potential and used it in really harmful ways, or squandered it all together). But the potential is there.
Why am I telling you, potentially a total stranger, that I believe in you? Because from time to time, we all need to hear it. We especially need to hear it if you, like me, have ever shared your dreams with someone or someones, and been told that you aren’t capable, you’re unrealistic, you don’t have the education or training or qualifications, that you’ll never make it happen. Or put another way, that they didn’t believe in you. And if like me, you’ve ever struggled with self-confidence or self-esteem or self-worth or feeling like you’re not enough, if like me you’ve ever battled depression and anxiety that magnifies these feelings, you know that this can feel like someone physically tearing you apart. It can feel like they reached into your chest cavity, grabbed ahold of your heart, and ripped it out. Maybe for you it wasn’t that extreme. For me it is. Because to me, one of the most amazing things you can have in this world, in the darkest moments, the moments when you struggle so hard to believe things will work out, is hope. And telling you that you can’t accomplish your dreams can tear this hope, potentially the only thing keeping you going at times, to shreds. And yes, when this happens to me, is it on me a bit that I rely so heavily on others’ opinions? Absolutely. I’m working on that daily. I’m putting huge effort towards self-love and appreciation, self-worth and self-esteem. But when you already feel like you’re not good enough, and others basically tell you you’re right, it’s pretty natural that it’ll affect you seriously, at least temporarily, perhaps longer.
Now naturally, there are going to be things we’re not qualified to do. I’m not qualified to perform surgery because I haven’t gone to medical school. So if I were to say, “I think I’m going to get a job as a surgeon”, the response of “you don’t have the education and qualification for that” is legit. But if I said, “I think I want to go to medical school because my dream has always been to become a surgeon” and someone replies “At you’re age? Come on, that’s so unrealistic. You’ll never make that happen!” that’s where the dream killing happens. And the thing is, they may be right. I am 39 years old. If my dream was to go to medical school, I’d probably be in my 50s when I finished (I’m eyeballing this, not calculating the actual years so excuse any innaccuracies), and it’s probably pretty tricky to get accepted to medical school at 39, then interneship, residency, get hired for the first time as a surgeon in ones 50s. But telling me right off the bat I’ll never be able to do it? It might be unlikely. It might be improbable. But I likely already know this, so shutting down my dreams in one stroke and saying you don’t believe in me literally serves no purpose. there are ways to voice the struggles, to help someone be realistic, without telling them you can’t. For instance, “This could be really tricky. It could be tough to get into medical school at that age, and it’ll be a long road, but if you really want this, let’s talk about what the next steps could be.” Or maybe you help them “troubleshoot”: “Well, you’d need this qualification to get into school, so maybe start by taking pre-requesites somewhere local. Also, it’s going to cost a lot, so let’s talk about how you’re going to be able to support yourself while doing this.” There are numerous other ways to approach it. But flat out: you can’t make that happen is just a hurtful one. And if you’re anything like me, it’s probably one you’re already telling yourself. So what does someone telling you this actually accomplish, besides making you feel worse about yourself?
So I’m here to tell you I believe in you. I don’t care how silly or weird or out there your dream ism how unlikely it is or how much effort it’ll take, because if you really want it that badly, you’ll put in the effort. (Caveat: I can’t support you in something I think is illegal/unethical/immoral because that would be going against my core values, and we should never ask someone to compromise their core beliefs and values. But I’m going to assume here you aren’t asking me to support you doing something immoral, so with that exception, I believe in you.) If your dream is to dress up in a chicken costume and dance around and make viral videos and get sponsors to make money, go for it. Hell, that sounds fun and I might even join you. If your dream is to travel the world, to restart your career, to start your own business. If your dream is invent something new, to run away to the mountains and build a retreat, to go back to school and get a new degree/desertification/training. I believe in you. If your dream is to find a way quit your 9-5 so you can stay at home with your kids, I believe in you. If your dream is to write a book, I believe in you.
And if you ever need someone to bounce idea off, or someone just to listen, or someone just to remind you that someone believes in you, I’m here. Because there way too many people in this world that’ll tell us we can’t do something. So I’m here to tell you that you can.
As a spreader of hope, I generally try to be… well…. hopeful. But I also try to be super real, because to me, that’s what sharing our story is all about. Yes, I want to offer hope to people, but I also want them to know that I get it, that I understand depression and anxiety and mood cycling (and IBS, and migraines, and other health issues). I want others to know that they’re not alone. That even though I focus on hope, I know that hope isn’t always easy to find. In fact, sometimes, it feels downright impossible. This week was one of those weeks.
It started off well – I was featured on the Voices for Change 2.0 Podcast, which aired Saturday morning. I did well on my first quiz for yoga teacher training. I had a post about my advocacy journey and starting Spread Hope Project featured on What’s The Fix (#WTFix). Several friends and I did our first ever Spread Hope Project Sign-Making Party, and it was a blast – plus, we made something like 26 hopeful signs, which I’ll be sharing more about in a future post. But, cyclothymia is an illness. And it doesn’t care if you did well on your yoga quiz or had your work published or were featured on a podcast any more than, say, cancer would. My depression doesn’t happen because of something. It happens because I have a genetic mental illness that involves depression. Of course, certain things can urge it along, and others can help me feel better at times, but when it hits, it hits. And this week, it hit. Hard.
I share all this because this week really forced me to focus on the tiny moments. I had to dig deep, to look hard to find my daily #HopeIs pictures. I had to look at the mundane that I often ignore. I had to string together small moments to find hope among the clouds of depression and anxiety, of feelings of worthlessness and not being enough. And that’s where a lot of these photos come from. So if you’re struggling this week as well, please know that you’re not alone. And I hope that perhaps these photos will help you find the tiny moments of hope, even if they’re fleeting. Because those tiny moments add up, and they can help us get through those days when the biggest thing we’re going to accomplish is getting through that day.
Hope Is being together (as in support, not always physically together, fellow introverts!). Saw this shirt at Grooveground Coffee in Collingswood, NJ, where I am doing my yoga teacher training. I go to Grooveground to get coffee (and on days where I’m feeling like treating myself, a scone) after 6AM yoga at least once or twice a week. And I love this message. It can mean so many things. But to me, the key is “together”. There’s so many things that seem to divide us these days, but supporting each other and being there for each other can be so crucial. So where we can, let’s support each other, let’s be there for each other, let’s be together. The idea of support and togetherness, the knowledge that I’m part of a community, gives me hope, especially on days I’m feeling alone or badly about myself because of my illness.
Hope Is the calm, purity of a snowy morning before the world disturbs it. I love watching the snow gently fall. At almost 40, I’m still reminded of the excitement of potential snow days as kids- the happiness and carefree nature of a day full of play, of sledding and making snow angels, of coming inside and warming up with hot chocolate. As an adult of course it means shoveling and traffic and all that, not to mention creaky joints and sinus pressure and all that, but early in the morning, undisturbed like this, I can still appreciate all the fun and anticipation snow can bring, and it makes me smile.
Hope Is using ordinary spaces to create extraordinary things. Philly is known for its murals. It’s not uncommon to see incredible artwork beautifying and bringing a vibrancy to what was an ordinary train trestle, wall, building, etc. I love the idea that we can truly make any space a place for hope- weather its through a message written, a story told through images, or just bringing color to a place that might seem to need some vibrancy.
I feel this way about life as well. Sometimes it’s in the most ordinary moments that we find the most extraordinary. It may be having a good where we feel a little better after so many difficult ones. Or a surprise message of courage and support in an unexpected place or from an unexpected person. It may be finally being able to smile, if even for a moment or two, after being in a really dark place with depression. And it may all happen on a cold, dreary Monday when you least expect it.
(Note: The pics of this mural look way more vibrant on our Instagram, so check it out).
Hope Is this colorful bench full of creativity and thoughtful words in the midst of the cold and the snow. “In a dream I saw the new city of friend’s robust love- it led to the rest.” I’ve admired this bench for a while, and with the contrast between the vibrant colors and the white snow covering, it was too good not to snap a picture and share!
Hope Is friends who (drive through yucky weather) to come help you make HOPEful signs of encouragement, and who make you laugh and smile while doing so. As I mentioned a while back, I’d reached out to friends and fellow advocates asking “If I made you a hopeful sign what would it say?”. They replied with some awesome answers, and then my friends and I got crafty (OK they got crafty, I got an A for effort!) making the signs. I’ll have more up close pics of signs coming soon, and I’ll tag those that offered the inspiration accordingly. This is the first of many sign pics.
Hope Is getting through the day even when it feels impossible. On especially tough days, I focus on the fact that when you struggle with illness, even the seemingly basic things are big accomplishments. I’m getting through this day, little by little, hour by hour, and today, that’s huge. So if that’s you too, know that you’re not alone. Much love and hope to you.
Hope Is all the little moments that make up my day, that I can rely on to get me through when depression and anxiety are kicking my rear. Like a warm cup of coffee on a cold, snowy morning. Or the 6AM yoga practice I did this morning. Or the warm car that gets my door to door nice and dry even in the snow. When I’m having a rough time, I try to live from one of these moments to the next. It helps me feel less overwhelmed and makes the days more manageable.
If you’re struggling this week too, please know that I get it, I understand, and I’m here if you need. I hope that you are able to find some tiny moments to string together to offer hope each day, even if just to get you through. Happy Friday to you all!
This week brought ups and downs (as life with a rapid mood cycling disorder is likely to do). I had some really amazing advocacy opportunities that I’m super excited to be a part of, which I’ll be sharing shortly, and I also had a couple of pretty difficult days.
One thing I noticed, as I was posting my daily “Hope Is” pictures on Instagram, is that a good number of them involved light in some way. This isn’t a novelty in the context of hope – we often hear phrases like “the light at the end of the tunnel”, which illustrate hope as a light that leads us from the darkness or a difficult time. Still, I loved seeing that in looking for my daily images of hope, I was literally drawn to the light as a visual representation. I hope that if you, too, are struggling this week, perhaps these thoughts will help give a tiny bright spot in your day as well. I’ve also changed up the format of this one because, well, I really love these photos, these visual representations of hope, and I wanted to make them slightly larger.
Hope Is living by your inner knowledge and strength. I love the inspiration I get from my Yogi Tea bags. Sometimes, we just need these simple reminders. Even when we struggle to see it in the depths of depression or anxiety, we have so much strength within us. Even just getting through the day sometimes takes so much strength. Never forget how strong you are (or at least try to remind yourself repeatedly!).
Hope Is reminders like this that make me smile. We were at a friend’s house over the weekend and I saw this, and asked if I could snap a picture of it. If some asked me to give a brief directive on how to live, this might about just some it up. And of course, be hopeful.
Hope Is a gorgeous sunrise literally brightening your commute to work on a cold, January Monday morning. I take an 6AM morning yoga class at least one day a week as part of my yoga teacher training. While getting up in the 4 o’clock hour to get ready for the day (since I leave for work right from yoga) isn’t my favorite thing to do, I love coming out of yoga to see the sun rising over the main street.
Hope Is the gift of a beautiful orchid in full bloom. I love orchids. I’m not sure how it started, but a while back, each time I was going through a rough time, I got an orchid from… someone… it varied who the giver was, or how the orchid came into my life. But each time, it seemed as if I was on the precipice of something, I would get an orchid, and I would, amazingly, manage to keep it alive, to keep it blooming and beautiful, and this somehow restored my belief that I’d come out on the other side of whatever I was going through and be OK. So the orchid came to symbolize a sort of hope during life transitions. My parents got me this orchid for Christmas, and so far, so good on the keeping it alive front. And as even my not so green thumb knows, orchids need the light to thrive.
Hope Is getting ready for a Spread Hope Project Sign Making “Party”! A while back, I wrote a blog post asking the question “If I Made You A Hopeful Sign, What Would It Say?” I subsequently posted this question on my social media outlets, with the acknowledgement that answers may, unless specifically requested, actually wind up on a sign that I made, and be posted on social media. I got some amazing responses, and now, I’m keeping good on my promise. This coming Sunday, a few friends and I are getting together to make signs old school arts and crafts style. It’s not to late to request a sign, so if you have a something hopeful you’d like to see on a sign, let us know!
Hope Is thousands of people walking 16-18 miles overnight for suicide prevention and awareness. These luminaries lit up the finish line of last year’s walk in my home city of Philadelphia, and how amazing that they spell out the word HOPE!
I just signed up for my 6th Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention. This is an absolutely incredible event that, despite the sadness of loss that brings so many to participate, offers hope that with each step we take, we’re raising awareness, eroding the stigma, and offering hope to those who struggle, so that they know they’re not alone. Shameless plug here – I need to raise $1000 to participate each year. If you’re inclined and able to donate, the link to my page is here. No amount is too small, as there’s no minimum, so you can literally donate $1.
Hope Is the light catching the trees just right, so that even the stark, barren trees of winter look radiant against the lit up sky. I love the idea that even in the cold, dark days of winter, where there’s little blooming (except my orchid!) and life just seems to be stalling, that we can be reminded that if we look at it from the right angle, it can still look beautiful, even in its starkness. I find this can be applied to my life as well. Of course just “looking at it differently” doesn’t magically make my anxiety or depression vanish – they’re illnesses, and you can’t cure an illness by changing your attitude or viewpoint. But sometimes, when I’m really struggling with the way that I’m feeling about myself, it helps to remind me that there may be another way I can look at the situation to get a slightly different view of it. I’ve found that in my advocacy work – there’s nothing good about having a chronic illness, but having my illness has led me to some amazing communities and people, to my work with Spread Hope Project and my other advocacy efforts, and but for my illness, I likely would not have been part of any of that.
If you have pictures of light (literal or figurative) that’s inspired you, I’d love to see them!