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Fall 2019 Edition


R e i l ly

Recovery: When a Mindset Changes from survive to thrive

HOW-TO: Balance Your Hormones Naturally

I n spiring

From Self Pity to Self Confidence: An Interview with Hilary Billings



A Life Update from Winter 2019’s Morgan Govert

Recovery Issue

Read about different women’s roads to recovering from divorce, miscarriage, body dysmorphia, And more! Also find your hangover cure, your new jewelry obsessions, and your next place to visit.


Photo By: Amanda Vick Creative

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[Table of contents] [Me] Letter from the Editor


[Real} Recovery: When a Mindset Changes from Survive to Thrive 2 Getting Real About What We See in the Mirror 8 [Vulnerable] The Heartbreak of Miscarriage 10 [Love] Recovering My Identity After Losing My Virginity This Is... Divorce An Update on Life

14 17 20

[Failure] Kicking (My Own) Ass Through Life 23 [Opinionated] Shit You Shouldn’t Say to People Going Through Shit 27 [Adulting] Sabrina’s Story 32


A 20-Something’s Guide to Feeling Less Weird About Food 37 [How-To] Balance Your Hormones Naturally 41 [The World] A Place to Heal Your Soul


[Inspiring] From Commiseration to Confidence: An Interview with Hilary Billings It Was Magical

47 50

[Healthy] My Healing Story Recovering from Myself 54 The Ultimate Physical Recovery 58 Hangover Helper 61 [LOL Worthy] The Vagina Chronicles


[Newsworthy] Chloe + Lois


[Generous] Little Steps to Help the Earth 70 [Party Time] It’s Time to Party, Pity Party 71 [Good Shit] Project Moment Designs’ Reawakening One’s Story 72 The Secret Power of Vibration 76 A Warrior’s Cry 77 [Yours] Athleisure So You Can Recover at the Gym or On the Couch 79

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A letter from the editor.


i Friends!

I find recovery fascinating. I think my fascination with it is due to how personal it is. Not just because what it looks like is unique to each person, but because the actual meaning of recovery is also different for everyone and every situation. But no matter what, whether you’re recovering your identity, recovering from health issues, recovering a healthy perspective or recovering from something else, recovery is beautiful because it’s so human. And yet, I feel like we don’t talk about it while we’re in it. We like to talk about it once we’re on the other side (if we ever get there) and show the world how far we’ve come and all we’ve overcome to obtain the elusive “Recovered” status or stamp of approval. But when we’re in the thick of it - relapsing, struggling to keep our promises to ourselves, or simply just not “recovering” as quickly or as gracefully as we’d like to be - we tend to keep it to ourselves. No. Thanks. With this issue, I want to bring light to as many stages of recovery and as many forms of it as we can within our limited pages because recovery is a (to borrow a word from the Bachelor franchise) journey and it’s hard and it’s not always achievable. Just ask our cover girl, Mandy, who has embraced her various recoveries with the selfawareness that she will never be “recovered,” nor does she want to be because to her, that means she’s no longer growing and improving herself. And as we get real about recovery in this issue, I will start by getting real with you about this issue – I think my subconscious picked this theme before I could consciously know I needed it. A year ago, the Fall Issue featured me on the cover and if you read my accompanying story you know that I talked about my biological father who is an alcoholic (sometimes in recovery, sometimes not) who I hadn’t seen or talked to in five years. Well, this summer he suddenly re-entered my life and exited just as quickly. It was a week-long whirlwind. And while in the past this probably would have rocked my world and left me reeling, this time I was able to recover regardless of his recovery status. I took back the power I had given him in the past – it was mine again, I had recovered it. I no longer felt the guilt I used to feel, and I no longer felt like I owed him anything – I recovered my freedom. Later in the summer, I was feeling overwhelmed with all my responsibilities and honestly wished this magazine wasn’t an obligation of mine. Not because I don’t enjoy making it but because it was feeling like it was just another thing on my to do list. That is, until reading your stories of recovery. Your stories of recovery recovered my motivation, inspiration and purpose behind why I keep putting this magazine together each quarter – because your stories matter and they deserve to be told and other women deserve to read them to know they’re not alone. So with that, thank you and This Is… The Recovery Issue. Happy Reading + Recovering!


Photos By: Amanda Vick Creative

This Is... By: Tatum Garino


andy Reilly has always taken care of other people. Between home hospicing her grandmother while working and attending school full time, helping her parents through their sicknesses and aging, dealing with the sudden death of her live-in uncle and helping her son navigate his great uncle’s death, marrying her husband with special needs at 20 and giving birth and then raising their son who also has special needs, Mandy has neglected her own. This neglect led her down a road of depression, anxiety and bulimia controlling her life until she chose to shift her mindset from survive to thrive. “My road to recovery has been realizing that I can’t pour from an empty cup and that I need to take care of myself before I can help anyone else,” Mandy said. As Mandy and I talked about her ongoing recovery, it was evident that life hasn’t been easy on her and she’s let it knock her down a few times - but she always gets back up. Tatum Garino: Throughout your life you’ve had this theme of helping others before yourself, so walk me through what that has looked and felt like a bit. Mandy Reilly: As long as I can remember, probably from 16 onwards, I have been taking care of someone. My grandfather passed away unexpectedly when I was 16 and I was kind of holding the family together. Then I went away for a semester for college and something was tugging on my heart to come back home and that something ended up being an unexpected back surgery that my dad had to have due to a work injury. After we were able to get him taken care of I had to take my brother to school. Right after we took care of him my grandmother unexpectedly had a stroke on the operation table when she had heart surgery and that was a huge blow to our family because we were basically told that this was going to be a lifelong condition for her. Someone that was so vibrant and so active - seeing her struggle with only half of her body - she couldn’t move the left side of her body - it was hard for all of us, and it made us realize that she was truly the foundation of our family. To put it in a little more perspective I’ve always lived in a three-generation household. When I say that we home hospiced my grandmother that was in our house that we all shared. So, when I was 19, I was working about 32 hours a week, I was in college full time and I was helping take care of her when I had any free time. I worked a hoyer lift, I worked a bedpan, I knew how to physically move her from her bed to her wheel-

chair, I knew how to thicken her foods for her. And then the day of her funeral was actually the day that I met my husband for the first time face to face. He lived in New Jersey and we met online, and he had always intended to visit me in Wisconsin but the way the timing planned out the day that he flew out was her funeral, so two hours after we met face to face, he was next to me holding my hand at her funeral. A year from the day that we met we were engaged. He moved here, we got married. And marriage is taking care of someone - it’s helping them be the best person that they can be so that you can be the best couple that you can be, and I don’t recommend getting married young to anyoneTG: Yeah, how old were you? MR: I was 20 and he was 23 so we didn’t know ourselves well enough I think.Being married at 20 is without a doubt one of the hardest things I've ever done. We've knocked on divorce's door. We both have treated each other like gold, and we've both treated the other like dirt. I don't recommend young marriage for everyone, but it's kind of incredible that I've gotten to truly grow up with my life's love. We grew individually and together at the same time, which, that’s a lot of growth, and it was really, really hard. Then when I was 23, I had my son - so there’s always been that caretaker role in my life. More recently it’s been helping to take care of my mom - she has COPD. And my father two years ago had a stroke. Miraculously he walked out of the hospital two days later but we're noticing that there's definitely some things that he used to do that he can no longer do. So, I guess the theme to my life is, like you said, taking care of others before I take care of myself and I realized that I need to start making myself a priority. TG: So, what did that turning point of realizing that you needed to take care of yourself look like - what did it take for you to finally realize it? MR: I would love to say that it was just one moment, but I think it was just a buildup of spreading myself so thin that I just couldn’t give anymore. And for me the turning point was realizing that I needed to see a therapist, that I needed an unbiased person to talk to through this. Talking to my family about it would be difficult because you’re talking about your family to your family. Talking to my friends - there’s a bias there that your friends would love to do anything to make things easier for you and it’s very difficult to understand our family dynamic when you're not in it so it's very difficult for them to understand that we


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want to help take care of our family because it's kind of a tradition for us. But a therapist is someone that I can talk to that doesn't cast judgment, who sees both sides and sees the whole picture and helps me see the whole picture as well. Seeing a therapist has definitely been key, an appointment that I look forward to because it’s a safe space, because no one expects anything of me except me. TG: That’s awesome. After realizing that you needed to take care of yourself after going to therapy how did your mindset change? To elaborate, I guess I’m assuming that going from taking care of people to realizing that you need to take care of yourself first means that you're going to have to loosen up the reigns a little bit on how much you're there for people, at least in the beginning until you can figure out your boundaries. So, was there any guilt associated with that or was it instantly like, “This is the right thing” and as soon as you switched to taking care of yourself first you were like, “Yeah, this is what I should have been doing because it makes me a better caretaker?”


MR: We actually talked about in therapy that I use guilt as a coping mechanism because I like having control of situations - I like having the reigns and when I don’t have the reigns or there’s something that I can't control I throw guilt in there to make myself feel better but inevitably I feel worse about it all. So it's something that's as easy as I do my therapy after work, so my appointment is from 5:30 to 6:30 so I’m missing out on dinner, I’m missing out on time with my son and I remember actually cancelling a few of my earlier appointments because I wanted that time, and I remember sitting one day and I wasn't getting anything from that time with him because he was on his game system and I was like “I am missing therapy for this,” and I can't do that anymore. I can't put my life on hold to watch someone else live there’s. And I think that's really difficult as a mother. I want to give him the best life that he can have, but I need to realize that I'm still living my life too. TG: So how we you able to? How did you overcome that feeling of other people are more important than

Photos By: Amanda Vick Creative

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you and how are you working through that? MR: For me it as simple as I color code my calendar and I realized last year that I had never given myself a color. I had a color for my son’s appointments and a color for my husband’s appointments and a color for the family, but I didn't have a color for myself. So, it was just something as simple as realizing that I not only deserved it, but I should have put that in my head right away instead of making myself an afterthought. So, holding that pen and putting my own appointments on the calendar and realizing that I needed to keep those just like I needed to keep all the rest of the appointments was huge. TG: So other than therapy, how are you taking care of yourself and what does take an active role in your own recovery look like and feel like? MR: One thing is definitely having a schedule for me to workout. I found that working out gives me a relief that I didn't have before and for so long I looked at exercise as a punishment for my body, so it wasn’t anything I ever looked forward to. I changed my mindset and started working out because I love my body and because I want to be the best version of myself, and that doesn't necessarily mean skinny - that has been key - I want to be stronger, I want to be healthier. I can't be there for other people if I’m not around, so I need to take care of myself, and mentally there’s therapy but physically it's just being active and finding something that I enjoy. It took me awhile, I fell into an MLM scheme, but I found a workout plan that’s really worked for me, and it's actually with the girl from My Big Fat Fabulous Life, Whitney Thor, and for me it's great to see someone like me doing the workout, because so often you see these super skinny, super fit people doing the exercises and you can't do what they do because my body is different. So, it's key to find someone that looks like me who I can see doing the exercise and doing the modifications and it’s realizing that I need to take care of my whole self, and that is both mentally and physically. I used bulimia as a way to control situations around me but in reality, I was just hurting myself. And I needed to realize that my body wasn't the enemy and that my body’s done some incredible things. I gave birth, I climbed a 50-foot building four times. Mindset and working on just being a more positive person regardless of what life has thrown at me - there's always a silver lining if you're willing to look for it but so often we’re caught up in the negativity of the situation that we’re blind to the positivity around it.

TG: Before we get into what recovery means to you, I’d love to hear in your own words what do you think it is that you’re recovering from? MR: The most obvious answer would be an eating disorder and mental health issues, but I feel like on a deeper level I’m recovering from self-hatred. The first time I realized I was different than other people was when I was seven and I went up to a group of boys who were flexing and being silly and I wanted to show them my muscle too and one of the boys jiggled my arm and called me fat and that was the first time I really remember being called out on what my body looked like and [realized] that it was different from other girls. I was anorexic as a result of that, I wouldn’t eat breakfast, it was just a thing that we didn’t do in my house, and I didn’t eat lunch because I told my teachers I was full from breakfast, and I wouldn’t eat dinner because I told my parents I was full from lunch. And this went on for weeks. The only way that I was caught was actually my mom found all my lunch money in my sock drawer and she took me to the doctor and the doctor said that there was nothing wrong with me but if I was feeling low about myself that my parents could put me on a diet. And that still resonates with me that the two have been correlated - that if I’m feeling low about myself that maybe if I went on a diet then that would fix everything - and I feel like I spent so much of my life in this pattern that at the core of it all I hated myself for what other people saw me as. The other thing is I was valedictorian of my high school class because I thought maybe that would give me worth. I went and got all these scholarships because I thought maybe that would. Your self-worth cannot be validated by the outside is ultimately what I’ve come to find out and it took me until my 30s to realize that. Because at 34 no one cares that I was valedictorian - I don't care that I was valedictorian! I spent four years of my life working towards something that doesn’t matter anymore. However, had I really tried in high school to work on myself as a person instead of my book-smarts maybe I would have realized things earlier. TG: So you're recovering from self-hatred, is kind of the bucket term that you used, and I think that is so true for a lot of us, and I love that you kind of put a label on it so you know you can almost name what is the enemy, it's not your body it’s this self-hatred type of thing. And so you’re recovering from that but what does recovery actually mean to you? MR: Recovery means that I have kind of a sense of freedom. That I don’t hate looking in the mirror, that


This Is... I don’t hate shopping for clothes, that I don’t allow myself to be affected by the size of my jeans. I don’t know about you, but I have jeans in my closet that range five different sizes. And I remember putting on a pair of pants one day and feeling unstoppable, and it’s based on the fact that it was the lower size of my closet, and then the next day I had a pair of jeans on that was the highest size in my closet and I felt horrible. I felt like there was something above my head and everyone could see that size and that size determined what they thought of me but at the end of the day it was what I thought of myself, so I cut the tags out. TG: That’s awesome, wow. MR: We have this vision in our heads that everyone is always thinking the worst of us. But if I could see myself the way my husband sees me, or the way my son sees me, or the way my best friend sees me I would love myself like they do but I always think the worst of myself when in reality it should be the opposite. TG: Yeah and you previously mentioned that recovery happens when you switch your mindset from survive to thrive, so can you talk a bit more about that concept? MR: When my son was diagnosed with autism, we were having marriage trouble and I don't remember much from that time which leads me to believe that I was simply surviving. I was looking at pictures on Facebook from that time and I don’t remember those memories and I do remember being in survival mode. I remember waking up to go to sleep, just doing what I needed to do to keep the plates spinning. But at the same time no matter what I was doing they were all crashing and that’s not a life. And I realized


that survival mode isn’t a place that anyone should be long term and I wanted to thrive, and I tried to put a timeline on it. I was like, “Okay, by the time I’m this age we’re going to have a, b, and c figured out, and we’re going to have this paid off and we’re going to start saving for this and we're going to have gone here, here and here,” and I put too much pressure on us. Because life is what happens when you’re busy planning everything and once I figured that out then my mindset kind of changed and it allowed me to enjoy the moments again and it allowed me to be more present. It allowed me to realize that I could stop and take everything in and remember the small moments that I used to brush off because I needed to do the next thing. If my son wants to come cuddle with me for five minutes in the morning, it’s cuddling with him instead of thinking of everything I need to do - it was realizing that I can only do so much and if it doesn’t get done it’s going to be okay. TG: Do you think that you’ll ever be “recovered” or is it an ongoing journey for you? MR: I definitely will never be recovered from my depression and anxiety. And I’m a big proponent for talking about mental health, for taking away that stigma. If someone is on medication for their allergies or their high blood pressure there isn't a stigma around it, people are very open about talking about that, but if you tell someone that you’re on an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication I feel like automatically they’re judging you. So, I’m very open about having taken medication since I was 18. I’m very open about talking about my son and my husband, with their permission of course. We all have mental health issues that we are seeking help for, and we’re a better family when we’re medicated, like we really are. If one of us isn't on our medication,

This Is... we can tell. I feel like there is no recovery for mental health. I feel like you’ll always be in recovery because your body will change and there are always ebbs and flows to mental health and I think that's the same for everyone regardless of if they see a therapist or if they’re on medication. There are outside factors, there are hormones, there are unexpected life struggles. So, I never want to say that I’m in recovery because I feel that it means that issues have been solved, and I can’t solve my issues by myself. I need my tribe, I need my therapist, I need my medication in order to be the best person I can be. And in terms of my eating disorder, I will never be recovered from that either. There are still times where things seem out of control and I want to go back to old habits and I’m really lucky that I have a husband who is supportive and who I can go to and tell him what’s going on now and he can help me through it. It hasn't always been like that and it took a lot for him to realize my personal struggles. And I also have friends that have been through what I’ve been through and others who haven’t that are understanding. In terms of recovering from self-hatred, right now is a really great time in my life. I have months where I feel unstoppable and something will just knock me in my tracks, and it will just leave me in bed and just stop me for no reason. I guess that’s part of mental health. As great as things are, they will never be perfect. So, I think when you say “recovered” that things are settled, that there’s this definite end to the means and I think that recovering is a constant process that allows you to better yourself. I don't think I ever want to be recovered because I always want to be evolving and I want to grow. There are ebbs and flows and highs and lows and I want all of that because I feel like that’s living.

your life, you don't necessary categorize the things happening to you as trauma. When you're allowed to feel your feelings, you can recover from them. Therapy has been key for me because it's allowed me to put the pieces of my past together. Without my therapist, I wouldn't have been able to complete the puzzle of my past which has allowed me on the path of recovery. I feel like everyone should have a therapist. If you're questioning whether you need therapy or not, I highly recommend going and seeing what you can get from the experience. Even if you think everything in your life is going well, therapy can still help. We take care of our bodies with physicals and take care of our cars with oil changes, and our mental health is very similar. When things are going well, I still go to my therapy sessions. The most helpful step I've taken is realizing that I am worth it. Therapy is an expense for my family, even with health insurance. It's also time away from my family. But the benefits of therapy far outweigh the costs for me personally. I am a better wife and mother after therapy. I am a better person after therapy. I give so much of myself to other people, including love. Realizing that I am worth that same love was key for me. Self-care is not selfish, and I think that for the generation in our 20s and 30s we’re so used to hearing that we’re selfish that that’s part of the reason why we put everyone before ourselves. At least I can say that about myself. And it doesn’t always have to cost money - self-care isn't always pedicures and face masks. Saying “no” is the best form of self-care that I’ve realized. There’s so much power behind the word no that for me. There's so much guilt behind the word no but there’s so much freedom behind it too.

TG: And so, what’s the best thing that you’ve done for your own recovery that you would recommend to others? Even though there’s no one size fits all. MR: Yeah there’s definitely no one size fits all for anyone's recovery, but I really feel like therapy has been huge. And I had gone through therapy for my eating disorder, but I didn’t do it on my own. I kind of went to “graduate” from it so that I could be done with it. It was to appease my husband because he was worried, and ultimately, I went back to my ways of self-destruction. So when I started to give my all to therapy, to not hold things back, to get real and raw and gritty and not sugar coat everything, because I'm definitely not a perfect person and have not always done the right thing, so when you can be real with that therapist and let them know the things you've done well and the things that you haven't and they get the full picture they can really help you. Therapy has allowed me to recognize that there has been trauma in my past. When you're in the midst of


Getting Real About What We See In The Mirror

This Is... By: Bekah Hibbert


he thing about recovery is that we forget that it is an ever-evolving journey. It won’t all be fixed in one moment, it will take many moments over time, and we will face setbacks. Without this understanding and the ability to grant ourselves some grace along the way, too many of us will be afraid to share our stories, afraid that our vulnerability will lay bare our imperfections. What we forget is that our imperfections, failures, and shortcomings are not only what make us human but also make us relatable and allow us to affect change in the world around us. For too long I believed that to write about the topic of body acceptance I had to be fully “fixed.” That in order to talk to others I had to provide a story about someone who had risen from all their self-doubt. What I have come to realize is that I need to provide an honest account of my struggles because people don’t need to hear a happy story, they need to hear the truth. Everyone will find their own way through recovery and we get to self-acceptance in different ways, but if we don't talk about our struggles we are doing ourselves and those around us a disservice. And the more we pretend that they don't exist, or that we have to be perfect to be relatable, the more we miss out on the chance to have conversations that mean something, and that have the ability to change the narrative that society has created. For me it began when I was sixteen years old. That year I started a job at a retail store. I had been there for six months when a brand representative arrived to make suggestions on how the store could improve sales. As I walked past my manager the brand rep asked to speak to me. The conversation that followed would shape the way I perceived myself for years. I was told that my scars, from a recent ACL repair, "weren't in line with what the brand represented" and they asked that I wear capris or pants instead of shorts or skirts. Imagine what that does to a 16-year-old girl, who before that saw those scars as something to be proud of. I had been proud of the hard work I put in to come back from an injury and return to my sport, but that moment just made me self-conscious about the scars on my knees. And so, it began - self-doubt, self-judgment, and looking in the mirror and seeing what I perceived as imperfections. I turned their comments inward after that day and started to see a reflection full of faults instead of beauty.

with her and it infuriates me. But remembering that girl also drives me now. She deserved better, and I can best serve her by fighting back. I still wrestle at times when I see something that I consider an “imperfection” - do I need to hide this part of me? The answer is no, no matter how long it takes me to get there, I will find my way to “no” for her. The journey to recovery from judging my body harshly started with a changed mindset. Age and maturity have significantly helped my outlook. Working with young women throughout my career has also changed me. I hear them say terrible things about their bodies and I immediately go to work to help them find their beauty and their own body acceptance. What I realized is that I had to start doing that work on myself as well. I try not to have toxic people in my life and yet there were days I was the provider of those toxins and those harsh selfjudgments. I had to stop fighting myself and instead find within me the ability to accept my body. I found weight-lifting, which makes me feel strong. I started writing more, which allowed me to be fully honest about my struggles. I started volunteering with organizations that work with young women, and that helped me learn how to encourage and uplift the next generation - I found myself helping encourage other women in my life, which helped me be kinder to myself. I also became more aware that I have one life to love and live the best way I can, and in order to find joy in my life I could no longer hold myself back with negative self-talk. One of the best things that comes from that change in mindset is that it allows me to be less judgmental of others, as well. There is never a perfect answer for everyone, and we are all a work in progress, but we cannot allow the outside voices of judgment to become the inner voice that speaks to us. When I think of my 16-year-old self, the young women who I have worked with, and the amazing women in my life, I am reminded that we have to help each other fight not only the judging eyes of others, but also help fight off the eyes that can judge us the most harshly at times: the ones staring back at us in the mirror. That is how we find our way to recovery.

I think back to the girl who knew who she was until some retail store told her something was wrong


[vulnerable] The Heartbreak of Miscarriage


This Is... By: Crystal Rausch


t’s weird for me to be writing on this topic because it feels like just yesterday I was scouring the internet to find something similar to read while I was experiencing my miscarriages. I desperately needed to read and connect with other women’s stories to make my experience feel less lonely, but I struggled to find anything that helped. That’s why I decided to share what I went through with you – hoping that if you need this it helps, even if it just reminds you that you aren’t alone. Pregnancy #1 My first pregnancy was healthy. My husband and I stopped birth control with the thought that it would take a year to get pregnant, but we ended up pregnant before I even got a period. It was relatively uneventful, and I felt good for the pregnancy. I remember the excitement I felt when I got the positive stick and then feeling that same level of excitement for every appointment after that. I had zero worries about complications because I didn’t even know bad things could happen, nor had I heard of anyone else experiencing it. Pregnancy #2 We started trying again after my daughter’s first birthday. We expected it to be as easy as the first time, but it took eight months to get a positive pregnancy test. It was a faint line, but my friends told me that it still counts. I made a doctor appointment, but my OB was no longer there so I was assigned a new one. I went in for a blood test to ease my mind over the faint test and my HCG level came back low – like less than 34 low. I remember the frustration waiting for the result. My doctor office wasn’t calling me with the results. I waited nearly three days to hear from them, even after putting in a call to the nurse line and receptionist. They ordered another blood test and it wasn’t doubling. Nobody explained much to me about what that even meant, so I took to Google and read all kinds of bad things on websites and forums. I can’t tell you if I was more upset that it was happening or that I wasn’t getting any support from a doctor. I ended up going to the Emergency Room because I started bleeding. I was four weeks pregnant at that point. It wasn’t super heavy and barely even got on a pad, but I had blood every time I wiped. I didn’t have cramps either. I know this is TMI, but I wanted the gory details when I was trying to find other peoples’ stories, so I’m going to share it all in case you’re like me and want that, too. Since everything I read said only heavy bleeding and cramps meant miscarriage, I had a hope that I

wasn’t miscarrying. I also read horror stories about ER doctors being terrible to people going through this. I was lucky enough to have an amazing ER doctor that I felt more supported by than my own OB at the time. They did all the tests and concluded that I had a threatened miscarriage/abortion. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s such a shitty term. Threatened Miscarriage They sent me home and instructed me to take it easy and follow up with my OB to do more blood work, so we could “wait and see.” Since this was a Friday, I didn’t talk to my OB until Monday and again, it took lots of phone calls before I even got ahold of a real person. They wouldn’t allow me to talk to a doctor on the phone since I didn’t have an appointment. More blood work happened over the next week and my HCG went down to zero. I bled from Friday to Tuesday and then it was done. It was never enough to fill a pad. I never had cramps or pain. By the following Friday they concluded I had officially miscarried. They told me we could start trying as soon as I got my next period for dating purposes. OB Follow-Up I went into my originally scheduled six-week new baby appointment and used it to talk to the OB about why the miscarriage could have happened. I shared that I had concerns of hormonal imbalances (important info I forgot to share – I went through postpartum depression after my daughter and was on and off antidepressants for a few months and also went on and off the birth control pill) and asked if they could look into that so we could rule it out. I was essentially told no, but she said they would check my progesterone the next time I got pregnant. I also asked about infertility. I was so worried because it took 10 months to get pregnant and I didn’t want to wait that long. She told me that I would not be able to have additional testing for infertility until I went a year without getting pregnant, and said that even though I miscarried, she was still happy that I was able to get pregnant. In hindsight, I know it’s a good sign, but in the moment, it felt like a slap in the face that she said she was happy I got pregnant. Pregnancy #3 Fast forward a few months. I had miscarried in August and found out I was pregnant again in November. The pee stick was uber dark this time, but I didn’t feel a lot of excitement. I called the OB (I got assigned to a new one) and she ordered the blood work. I was three+ weeks and my HCG came back at 9,900! My progesterone was 2.1, which was below the “normal range” they provided me with. My


This Is... best friend, Google, taught me that this was a very concerning set of numbers according to my dating. I called the nurse line to explain my concerns and speak with a doctor before my six-week appointment, I was told they would call me back when they had time to talk. It took two days to hear back and the doctor told me it’s not a big deal and I didn’t need to worry about it. I felt so unsupported and unheard. I knew in my gut something was off, but I wasn’t feeling pain and I wasn’t bleeding so I was trying to be

work and meet me at the E.R. They did another blood draw and my HCG only went up to 9,990 (only +90 from two days before when it should have doubled), so they knew something was wrong. They should be able to see a gestational sac and even a yolk sac/fetal pole with levels that high, but when they did the ultrasounds, they couldn’t see anything.

excited. I called a new office in a different city to get a new provider.

intake and then every few minutes once I was in a room. I almost passed out every time and from what my husband describes, I just looked gray. I had a full bladder from all the fluids they were pumping in me, but I couldn’t pee. I was full of morphine for the extreme pain. They thought it was ectopic but couldn’t see a thing on the ultrasounds. They considered kidney stones, but the ultrasound showed nothing for that either.

E.R. Visit Five minutes after getting off the phone scheduling an appointment with a new provider later that week, I had to pull over in my car because I was having such bad cramps. I knew something was wrong and called my husband crying. I asked him to leave


I started having extreme pain on one side of my body. My blood pressure kept tanking from the moment of

This Is... I was so out of it, but I remember the rush of doctors and nurses in and out of my room and the whispers while they stood outside my door exchanging notes. My husband overheard the doctor tell another that they needed to get me to the operating room as soon as possible. Within minutes, a surgeon came in and told me that I would die if she didn’t operate right now. My abdomen was filling with blood and they couldn’t confirm what was wrong, but they strongly suspected a ruptured ectopic. Abdominal Ectopic The surgery took three times as long as normal because they found the baby attached to an abdominal cavity between my colon and vagina. Somehow, this child fell out of my tubes/uterus and implanted itself in my abdomen. Ectopic (or tubal) pregnancies occur in 1% of pregnancies from what I’m told, but an abdominal ectopic occurs in 1% of the 1% of ectopic. Pretty crazy and rare. It had ruptured and that’s what was causing the bleeding. The good news was the doctor was able to check all my lady parts and they looked perfect. She only needed to do the surgery laparoscopically, so I just have three tiny scars and the recovery was not bad. I was couch-ridden for a couple days, then sore for about a week. I still took it easy and refrained from exercise for the recommended six weeks, but I felt like myself after about a week and a half. We were instructed to wait to get pregnant again until we tracked my HCG levels down to zero. Pregnancy #4 I went on a three-week trip over Christmas and before I left my HCG was down to 50. I didn’t get any blood drawn during the three weeks and I even got my first period since the surgery. I assumed this meant I was at zero, so my husband and I did the deed in January without protection. We found out we were pregnant two weeks later and I called my doctor. It was super stressful because she explained that you can still get a period even if you aren’t down to zero and they were very concerned that I had old tissue that implanted again, and my body could be faking a new pregnancy. I did a few blood draws that were the appropriate levels for my timing and were doubling every two days. Good news. Then I had a five-week ultrasound to check where the gestational sac was. It was in the uterus. Good. Then I had to wait a grueling three weeks for another ultrasound to see if we had a heartbeat. We did. Good. It was such a waiting game. Worries Peeing on a stick will probably never be exciting for me again. Now that I know all the things that can go

wrong, I think I’ll always have an anxiety attached to the “what-if” things. My heart pounded visibly, and I was sweating so much during the two ultrasounds I had, so scared that we wouldn’t see a baby or a heartbeat. There was zero excitement over these appointments, just worry. I have been praying that I still get to be excited for this baby and feel what I felt for my first. I’m happy to share that after the last ultrasound, it feels like I can breathe again. I know things can still go wrong, but to see my baby’s heartbeat brought so much peace. We are celebrating and dreaming of what he/she will be like, thinking of names and already talking about ideas for the nursery. Relating I know going through a miscarriage is hard. Until you’ve been through it, you will never truly understand what it feels like. I had so many well-wishers say things like “your time will come” or “at least it happened early on” and it made me so angry. I was hurt and felt like they didn’t care. I felt attached to my two babies, even though they left me so early and some comments made me feel stupid for getting attached. I know that my time will come, but that felt like it took away from the sadness I felt in the moment, almost making it feel invalid in a way. I know that nobody intended pain when they made these comments, and I’m not bitter about them now, but I share this because if you know someone miscarrying, please don’t say things like this. All I needed to hear was that I was cared for and loved and that my babies were loved. If you want to help someone through a miscarriage, send a meal or a coffee. Come clean their house while they recover from surgery. Even be open to talking about the baby if that’s what Mom wants to do. Just don’t point out a “silver lining” of it. Hope And sadly, I know miscarriage can take away from the beautiful, amazing parts of a good, healthy pregnancy. I want to leave you with this. There will be hope again. There will be joy. While I truly pray that it comes in the form of a healthy pregnancy, the truth is that it might not. You may need to find another way to grow your family and it will be okay if that’s what you need to do. You just need to allow yourself to feel that whenever that feels appropriate to you. For me it was once I saw a heartbeat. For some, it might be making it to 12 weeks. For others it might be something else not even pregnancy related. But I want to challenge you not to rob yourself the joy of dreaming of your little one’s life before they come into the world. And if it happens again, at least that little one felt your love and joy before they left this world.


This Is...


This Is...


lost my virginity when I was 25. Yes, I know, I was late to the party. My virginity was a choice, though. It was my choice. When I lost it, I felt like I lost myself. A little backstory for you. I grew up in a Christian home (you may already know where this is going), which came with a whole set of expectations around sex. I was told my virginity was a gift, a gift I could only give to one person. Once I gave it away, that was it. If I gave it away too early or to the wrong person, I would have nothing to give my future husband. If you’re still reading, you’re likely furious by now. Believe me, I am furious too. This message is unhealthy and far from the truth. But that was all I knew, and I believed it. So, at a young age, I made the decision to wait until I was married to have sex. From that moment on my virginity became a part of my identity. And the older I got, the more and more it defined me. In high school, being a virgin may not have been the norm. However, it was respected, and I wasn’t the only virgin out there. Fast forward to college and it became less and less common and certainly less popular. Now fast forward to a year ago when I was 25 and pretty much the only virgin amongst my peers. Most of my Christian friends were already married and my non-Christian friends were out there living their lives. Then, there was me—the 25-year-old virgin. In the Christian community I was admired for waiting and in the non-Christian community I was constantly questioned for my decision. I dated around but most guys didn’t last too long when they found out I was a virgin and wanted to wait until marriage. My virginity became a dating roadblock. No matter someone’s beliefs, my virginity was a lens people saw me through. It wasn’t just a part of my identity, it became my identity. Yes, there were times I questioned why I was waiting. I had many opportunities to give it up, but I always held back. I don’t know if I was saying “no” because of my core beliefs or if I was saying “no” because I didn’t know who I’d be without my virginity. So, there I was, 25 years old, still tightly holding onto my virginity. I started dating a new guy and, spoiler alert, I lost my virginity to him (that relationship is a story for another time, maybe you can read about it in another issue of This Is…). This guy was not my husband. I did not wait until marriage. So why did I say “yes” this time after saying “no” to so many others for so long? Why now? To be honest, I don’t

know if I can fully answer those questions even now. I don’t know if it was my naivety, the drinks, or if I was just done with waiting. I’m still trying to figure that out myself. The “why” aside, I want to share my journey to recovery—recovering from losing my virginity, losing what I thought was my identity. “Virgin” was no longer a label I could wear. It was no longer mine. It was no longer who I was. At first, I felt like I was living in a dream, or maybe a nightmare. It felt like someone else’s life. There was no way this was my reality. I was numb. For 25 years I was a virgin and then one morning I woke up and that was no longer the case. After the initial shock wore off, I was forced to face my decision, face my reality, face my failure. I failed myself, I failed my parents, and I failed God. As a people pleaser and an achiever (enneagram 3, anyone?) failure was not an option for me. It is not something I’m even remotely comfortable with or used to. But there I was. Failing Myself This was probably the hardest to work through. I’m the type of person that doesn’t just set goals, I achieve and exceed them. After losing my virginity, I felt like I wasn’t myself anymore. I lost the most important thing to me, or what I thought was most important. I used to envision my wedding with a man I had saved myself for. I imagined sex for the first time on my honeymoon. I couldn’t wait for that day, that marriage. I was excited for sex with my future husband. But then I didn’t wait, I had sex with some guy I was dating. I failed myself. There was no undo button. I really didn’t know how to begin to process this. My wedding day, or night, will look different now and I really struggled with that realization. I had this expectation for myself, for my wedding, my marriage, my future, and it vanished. Failing My Parents Exceeding expectations doesn’t stop with my own, I strive to exceed the expectations of others. Having sex outside of marriage failed my parents’ expectations. My parents have always been so proud of me and not that they aren’t now, but this tainted their view of me. It isn’t what they wanted or planned for me. I know they still love me, but it’s different. It’s obvious I’m no longer their innocent daughter. I failed them. Failing God Initially, I felt shame and guilt. I felt inadequate and unworthy to be called a Christian. In the church, sex before marriage was looked at as the ultimate sin. You were impure if you had sex before marriage.


This Is... People may not say that explicitly, but it is certainly implied. You are only considered “whole” if you wait until you’re married. This message is destructive and far from the message of Jesus. There is grace, redemption, and restoration. It infuriates me how the church talks about sex. Now don’t get me wrong, do I understand God’s design for marriage? Yes, I still think it’s beautiful and purposeful when people wait. However, if you don’t wait, you are not unworthy of God’s love. And if you do wait, you are not anymore perfect or worthy of God‘s love. Is sex before marriage different than any other sin? No. Is there still grace and love for you if you’ve had sex outside of marriage? One hundred percent and one thousand times over. To be honest, I don’t think I knew just how much I let my virginity define me until I lost it. I didn’t know the weight it carried or stronghold it had on me until it was gone. I think if I did the “Christian thing” and waited and got married young, I would have never known or realized the unhealthy messages I believed and internalized. I’m thankful this is my story. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m proud of my decision, but I am proud of who I have become. As I came to accept my decision and process my failure, I came to a realization: my virginity should have never been my identity in the first place. I am so much more than that one decision. It is not my identity. My virginity (or lack thereof) does not define me. It does not define my worth. And that—is freeing. I am freed from that label and suffocating identity. My wedding day will be different, and that’s okay. I’ve had sex, and that’s okay. This doesn’t make me any less whole or less worthy. It is part of my story, but it is not me. I am not my virginity. I am me and I am learning what it looks like to follow Jesus. I am not a virgin. I am not a failure. I am just me. And that is beautiful and oh so liberating.


By: Shandon


was 35 and divorced. I waited. I didn’t get married too young or too fast. But there I was anyway. I’m going to give y’all some context and history. This is about recovery - though, I was barely a factor in my own life for years, and that’s not the case anymore (spoiler alert- this story has a very happy ending). This article isn’t going to be an ex-husband bashing kind of article. This shit is about MY recovery. But you still need to know a bit to understand why it’s a big deal and how far I’ve come. I met him in college. I was 20. We dated, broke up, lived very fun, very single lives separately in different states, and then got back together. I think I was 27 then but the timeline doesn’t matter. I was working for breweries. I was moving to new cities alone and making friends and getting promotions and having the time of my life. I was confident and happy. Then we got back together. He worked for a company that at the time was growing and is now probably one of the biggest companies in the world. I’m not going to fact check that, but it’s a big fuck-

ing company. He made a lot more money than I did. I had a bad case of wanderlust and was constantly ready for the next adventure, so I ended up leaving whatever job I had at the moment and moving whenever his company told him to. I think you can see how my self-worth would start to falter, or maybe I just needed to increase mine. It doesn’t matter the why, but I started to feel like an accessory or an assistant to his career, one he was good at, but I wasn’t convinced he actually cared about for any reason aside from the money and status that fed his ego. Still, I wanted him to be happy. And I wanted adventure. We had been in Cincinnati for 10 months when we got the call that we were moving to Seattle. Seattle was my end goal - the place I wanted to move when I was done moving. I wasn’t ready to settle in a city until the day that I was. I have NEVER been a student of moderation. I’ve always been all in or all out. We got the call and I was ready to be done moving around. Both of our entire families were in Ohio, so we decided to get married really quick before we

This Is... moved. We thought that we could celebrate with them easier, I guess? It made sense at the time. We were hosting Thanksgiving at our house and both of our families were driving down. We decided it would be funny to go to the courthouse and get married and then just wait for them to notice the rings. So that’s what we did. We went to the courthouse on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, used their justice of peace (who was a self-proclaimed “parrot head” that showed us YouTube videos of SNL sketches while he typed up the paperwork), realized we didn’t have witnesses so went to the bar next door and offered two busboys $5 to come witness, and then we were married. It took all of 20 minutes. I threw up all morning from the nerves. He walked in from work to get me so we could go, and I was sitting in the kitchen alone doing shots of straight bourbon. Hindsight, man. It’s good to say here that it takes 20 minutes to get married and FOREVER to get divorced. Seems a little backward,but whatever. We had four years of being married. This is where I’m going to skip almost all of the details and anecdotes and nights of crying. But, one Sunday morning, I walked downstairs at 7am and he was standing in the kitchen, drinking coffee. I said good morning and asked what he wanted to do for the day and out of nowhere, he said very matter-of-factly that we should discuss me getting liposuction at some point, because “we have the money and you work out all the time but just keep getting fatter.” I never had body issues before that. I was happy with who I was, but, all of a sudden, I started to hate what I saw when I looked at myself, because I saw myself through his eyes and he clearly hated what he saw. I was 140 pounds and 5 '6 on that day, by the way. I lost all my confidence and gained more weight and cried every day. Things got worse. He came home and my stomach would sink. I was never excited to see him. I was scared of how we would spend the day tearing each other down. Then he started cheating on me, even though he thought I didn’t know. Then, I got pregnant. I never wanted kids, and I had been on birth control for 15 years. But it happened. I realized I would never let him treat my child the way he treated me. It changed how I saw a lot of things about the marriage. I’ve always been like that. Do me wrong, and I’ll deal with it, but fuck with the people I love and I’ll destroy you. I miscarried a few weeks later, and I know that’s tragic for a lot of people, but it was the best thing that could’ve happened for me. That night, I was on the couch, still physically


cramping and going through it, and he came home from work and asked me why I was in a bad mood like I was annoying him. I think that was the moment I was done. I looked at him and realized that I had stopped hoping good things happened for him. I didn’t want bad things to happen to him either, I was just completely indifferent and didn’t care anymore. At all. Still, it’s hard to leave a marriage and stay resolute when life is about to get a lot more difficult. Then a couple of weeks later, he went out of town and the bank called me in the middle of the night to verify charges. He had spent $1200 at a strip club in a couple of hours just “getting dances”. Needless to say, I started keeping an eye on our finances. After I discovered $6000 over the course of 4 weeks, any doubts I had were gone. I made him get an apartment. I filed for divorce. I didn’t cry anymore. I was all-in the marriage until the day I wasn’t, and then I had no emotion about it. I just wanted to figure out the steps to take and get out. The divorce took almost a year to finalize. The only time I cried was out of frustration. Clearly he didn’t want to be married to me so I couldn’t figure out why he was making it so difficult. He slept with one of my best friends the weekend he got the new apartment, and then told me he hated me for showing her husband the Uber receipt that showed him going to their house at 1am and not leaving again until the morning. Everything was a fight, but I didn’t care about fighting with him. I just wanted out. My grandma had always told me when you’re fighting with your spouse to not tell your friends and family every single detail, because you’ll forgive the person but the people that love you will not. I still think that’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received, so my friends and family didn’t know the extent of what I had been dealing with. However, when I started telling my friends and family about the What and the Why of the divorce, nobody was surprised and just about everyone was relieved that they wouldn’t have to endure him in order to spend time with me. That support system, man. It’s the best. During the divorce, I asked my best friend why I did it. I’m smart. I’ve always been independent and stubborn. Why did I get married to someone that I knew would never see me as a partner, but an accessory? She told me that because I’ve always been all-in or all-out, I had to get myself all the way in to figure out how to get out. I’m the worst sometimes. After the paperwork was finally filed and we were waiting the 90 days for the official document from

This Is... the state, I finally started to figure out what the rest of my life looked like. I didn’t want to be in sales anymore, nor did I want to be traveling three weeks out of the month when I was going to be on my own taking care of two elderly dogs. I had always wanted to open my own store. I started looking at retail space and found a spot that I loved. I never would have had the confidence to start my own business before that - I never would have thought I was good enough or smart enough or motivated enough. The emotion that gets overlooked in divorce is that you’re mourning a future you had already seen and planned in your head. You can know that your life might hold unknowns - where you’ll live and if you’ll have kids- but you know when you’re married that you’ll always have that person by your side. Even when you realize that it’s not the right person for you, you still have to come to terms with the fact that the future you once KNEW looks completely different now. I stood in this open retail space looking around trying to picture a whole new future and started to feel hopeful for the very first time in years. I decided to pull myself out of mourning and look forward to what was ahead. I had a big “fuck it” moment and decided to get my confidence back. I signed the lease, started a checklist, and filed for an LLC. I went full speed ahead with my new version of a future and it was awesome. During all the planning and still working my sales job, I opened a credit card and booked a few solo trips that I couldn’t afford but it’s still some of the best debt I’ve ever gotten myself into. I went to music festivals with my friends, booked a trip to Bali with my best friend, and really last minute decided to go to Prague, the #1 place on my must-see bucket list. It was at the end of September so I decided to go to Munich for Oktoberfest before Prague. I partied alone there and met new friends and decided I was ready to let another man touch me for the first time in years. One that actually wanted to touch me. I met and took home a (super cute) 26-year-old German that randomly, of all the people that I could’ve met, had worked with my ex-husband and hated him. It was a sweet and weird way for the universe to give me a little bit of self-satisfaction. I moved on with my life, my new awesome life. I lost 50 pounds over the next year. Some of it was from the stress of having a new business and some of it was from not waking up dreading being judged anymore. It was a great combo.

ious and depressed and not knowing how to fix it. Here’s what I’m telling you: divorce sucks. Ending a marriage shouldn’t be taken lightly and nobody likes to be a quitter. But if you’re in it, just remember that while the year or month it takes to go through it is scary, it’s way scarier to have it be ten years from now and still crying in the shower every morning. One day all the bullshit is just pointless. The time spent frustrated and upset and arguing your points and fighting tooth and nail to simply be an equal partner in your marriage, will result in a day when he’ll start a fight with you and you just won’t care. The result of whatever fight would ensue doesn’t matter. It literally doesn’t make a difference if he never sees your point. It doesn’t matter if you stick up for yourself, because who you are in his eyes literally has zero impact on your life. Here’s the thing: I have no regrets. I went through what I went through and I’m here. This is the happiest I’ve ever been and while I have a different set of stresses now, they are MINE. They are problems that I’m privileged to have because they are the result of me living my dream. So often, we look back at a time in our lives and realize that it was the best time of our lives, but don’t appreciate it in the moment. I have been in that time ever since my divorce and I know it. This, right now, is the best time of my life. I have discovered so many things about myself and found out what I am made of, and it’s something I’m really proud of. I’m not trying to discount how hard it’s been. Sometimes I’ve had no idea how to afford to feed myself. I’ve been robbed and scared for my safety, lost friends, and had a hard time relying on any other person, because I’ve done that before; and in the end you are the only person that is 100% going to be there. That also gives you the freedom to give yourself the grace to make mistakes, to fuck it all up and know the world won’t end and you have the margin of error to pick yourself back up again, to look honestly at who you are and know you can take a deep breath and start again if you realize you’re not in a place you are proud of, and to know that you don’t have it all figured out but that’s ok, because we are always working on ourselves and we can try and make better mistakes tomorrow. You don’t have to spend every single day crying. You can literally spend every single day surprising yourself at how strong you are and what you’re capable of.

I know there are people in the middle of it right now. People crying every day and feeling crazy and anx-


An Update on Life

From Winter 2 0 1 9 F e at u r e Morgan Govert

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ife is shitty. It’s tough. It’s not some fairytale that you imagined it would be. But I have learned in my short 26 years on this earth that maybe the shitty things that happen, happen for a reason. I know, how cliché, but think about it. Think about all the terrible things that have happened to you or bad choices you may have made in the past or even the present. There is always a lesson to be learned from it. It might not be a lesson that you thought you needed, but at some point in your life you’re going to pull out that memory and use it as a tool. Long story short- I was married to my high school sweetheart who knocked me up and then overdosed on heroin when I was 5 months pregnant. I can’t forget to mention how he lied about being an addict for years, wasted tons of my money on drugs, totaled countless vehicles and was a big piece of shit to me. When you read that you could assume I’m pretty angry about it. And I was. But I’m not anymore. I used to think about how much he took away from me - all the years I wasted, sad moments in life that should’ve been happy ones. I don’t anymore. Now I look back and actually, in a weird way, I guess I’m happy it all happened. Because of all of that bullshit I went through, I became a strong and independent badass, and I also received the best gift: my daughter. To be honest, I am so sick of even talking and hashing out my past. Yeah, it happened, but it’s over with, so let’s move on. The point that I really want to get to is how I have recovered from that and if anyone is in a deep dark place, they can know that there is hope and happiness out there. It might not happen overnight but it will happen and it is possible even when it seems seriously impossible. The hardest part I had with my past was that I thought no one would ever understand or relate to what I went through or am currently going through, so I never talked about it and I still don’t really talk about it. I just figured at the end of the day no one is going to really understand what I went through so what is the point of even sharing or talking about it? But then I met an amazing person and he shed some light on things. He said that no matter what a person’s story is, there is a feeling or emotion that comes along with that person’s past experience and that is the part that people can all relate to. In my past I felt alone and betrayed. Just because someone’s story isn’t the same scenario as mine doesn’t mean that person didn’t feel alone and betrayed during their own story and realizing that made me

look at things a lot differently. I almost felt like I had a chip on my shoulder and a “fuck you” type of attitude toward people. I figured no one even got me or my life so screw them all, when in reality everyone has shit. Everyone has a story. NO ONE has a perfect life. Now, there are people out there who ask how you’re doing just to talk some tea, but there are others out there who ask you that because they truly want to make sure you are doing okay. Those are the special ones and you should keep them close. Even when you really don’t want to tell them how you’re actually doing because you might get an answer you don’t want to hear. You have to. You have to let the people you love and care about know how you are doing. You have to be honest with yourself. Lesson learned: Do NOT stick your head in the sand. For example, if you think your shit husband might be a drug addict, he probably is. But you’ll never know those answers unless you are honest with yourself. Over the last year I have been living the single mom life. I lived with my parents until my baby was around 7 months then I moved back into my house. Living on your own with a baby is no joke. The simplest jobs become very hard to accomplish. I do lots of lawn mowing, laundry, and dishes after dark. If I’m lucky I might even get to shower. Although, I feel a lot of this is my own fault. I have wonderful parents and friends that are willing to help me but I am a very stubborn lady. I am independent and like to do things myself. Note to self: try to let people help you. The one thing that I have allowed to help me over the last year is running. My mom and I set a goal to run a half marathon in May of this year and we did it. I have wanted to do one for years and I finally did it 8 months post-baby and it was amazing. Now, if you are not a runner and just read that and thought holy shit that sounds horrible, it’s not. It is so therapeutic and stress relieving. It is a time when I can be alone and listen to my music and space the fuck out. I never used to be a runner and now I cannot live without it. I seriously recommend. So, after all that bullshit happened with me, I would find myself thinking about how I was a broke 26-year-old divorced single mom. Hm, that is definitely not where I thought I’d be but here we are. I always figured it would be me and my baby taking on the world. I didn’t think anyone would ever want anything to do with my situation, and I was okay with that. But then I met someone amazing. Can you believe there are actually decent human beings out there that are willing to step up?


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Circling back to the beginning when I said I am happy all that BS happened to me, that is one of the reasons why. If none of that had happened to me, I wouldn’t have even met this person. I never thought I would be able to trust anyone ever again. He motivates me to become a better person and has shown me what it’s like to actually be in love. True, real and raw love. Most of all though, he treats my baby like she is his own and that, to me, is one of the most beautiful things to witness. Just know that no matter what you are going through, you’re going to make it out on the other side. You have to be strong even when you don’t think you can be. You have to fight and find that strength within. Don’t let whatever situation you’re in win. Trust me, looking back I had some dark, dark days. I still have a hard time thinking back on certain things that happened but that is all part of the process. It takes time. Things always get better even when you think they won’t. As I finish up this article, I am sitting on a blanket on my front porch waiting for my love to get here. It’s a gorgeous Wisconsin summer night. The sun is setting, baby is sleeping, cat is curled up on my feet, hot tea is steaming, and all I can think about is how happy I am. The thought of my healthy, beautiful baby sleeping inside the house gives me so much bliss. If only I could tell myself a year ago that everything was going to be okay. Life is so hard, but the obstacles are worth it. Something unexpected always happens at the finish. Enjoy the journey and fight for what you want. Love the people you love. Don’t overthink everything. Be honest with yourself. Make sure you deserve what you are receiving. Be a fucking savage. Xoxo , Morgan



have crippling anxiety, and it's easiest for me to admit that now as I'm in my most vulnerable nonmedicated state because by the time this article is published, I will be in my 8th month of pregnancy. I likely inherited the base of my anxiety through genetics due to both my parents suffering from different degrees of anxiety. For as long as I can remember, I was anxious. In kindergarten I cried everyday due to separation anxiety and in high school I had small panic attacks over forgetting my homework. But, lucky for me, I also have post-traumatic stress, resulting in situational anxiety. At 17 I was a passenger in a car accident. A friend was driving and made a left turn at a four-way intersection cutting off the car coming in the opposite direction. I have vivid memories of the accident because for whatever reason, my mind didn't black out. I can remember saying "that car isn't stopping� and hearing the impact, the windshield cracking in front of me, and the airbag punching me in my face.

I think the most important key to my trauma was the feeling that if I had been driving the accident would have never happened. We all walked away unharmed, but that night when I was home safely in my bed the shock settled in. As early as the next day, I started to have panic attacks when riding in the car with other people. And there began my long journey of car-associated anxieties. The accident happened the same summer I got my license and I suddenly struggled with bringing myself to drive, but it wasn't until college when the severity of these anxieties appeared. There were times I couldn't even bring myself to get in the car and had to cancel plans, or sometimes I felt the immediate need to get out of the car I was riding in at that exact moment. I couldn't drive with new people, whether being the driver or the passenger. And I limited myself to driving only on residential roads. The opportunities I missed (i.e. internships) were endless.

This Is... For a short period of time I went to cognitive behavioral therapy, where I worked to associate good thoughts with cars. I say short period of time because I have a track record of never sticking with therapy long enough to see actual results (said to me by my current therapist). In fact, over my lifetime (31 years if you’re counting) I've done six stints with different therapists. And don't tell my current therapist, but after three months, I'm ready to "quit" her too. I think I have a love affair with the thought of therapy only and I'm smart enough to know that to some degree, until the underlying cause of anxiety is treated, I'll always have anxiety. Really, I get it, I need to re-train my mind, associate positive thoughts with things or situations that give me fear. I am selfaware enough to know when my anxiety is irrational (like when my panic is triggered because my dog is home alone and would have no one to help her out of the house if there were a fire.) I have tried selfmeditating; this specifically tends to be my pregnant go-to. I have mantras that I repeat during a panic attack, "I am in control of my body, my body is not in control of me." I have seen how easy it is to wash a bad day or a panic attack away with a bottle of wine, and since we're best friends now and I know you'll have my back... I can admit that I can so easily see how addictions begin. I've always said I do not have an addictive personality, if that's even possible. My willpower is outstanding, which I think makes perfect sense. It relates back to my anxiety as I've learned that a lot of this stems from feeling out of control. So, when I say I'm going to lose weight by eating a strict junk food free diet, I do it. Like for real, I've lived the "before and after story” life, losing 80 lbs. I’ve done it twice actually and I’m preparing to do it again, once I’ve physically and mentally healed from the birth of my second daughter. But, as much as I know I have the willpower and strength to say, “only one French fry and walk away,” or “I’m going to take a few months off from drinking alcohol to detox,” I have also experienced spirals down into the lowest of pits. I’ve experienced the most horrible overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear, which in those moments have controlled my life, and I would have done anything to not feel that way. Before I keep going with my story, I should probably explain to you why I differentiate between “crippling” anxiety and anxiety. As a person with an anxiety disorder, every single day of my life I feel anxious at some point, to some degree, medicated,


treated or not. Simple tasks are harder for me, like on a bad day interacting with friends might be the last thing I want to do. Getting in the car for a long car ride or sitting in the crowd at a baby shower both might seem like the end of the world. But ya know what? I do it. I do it EVERY SINGLE TIME. And to top that, I do it with such control that not one person around me would know how anxious I feel. Don’t get me wrong, in low moments I’ve had actual full on “I can’t feel my face, my hands are going numb, hyperventilation is setting in and I’m going to die” panic attacks in public, but those are few and far in between. I have dealt with many people who treat anxiety like it’s a weakness or treat me like I’m fragile, but the strength it takes for me to live a “normal” life by working through my anxiety proves that I am a su-

This Is... perhero and I am so much stronger than my invisible illness. Many times, the majority of the time even, my anxiety does not control me, but when I refer to “crippling” anxiety, those are the moments I just can’t imagine how I’ll ever get through the feelings I have. Those are the exact moments where I’d give anything in the world not to feel the way I do. So back to my story, in conjunction with my first round of cognitive behavior therapy, I began taking an antidepressant to assist with my anxiety. It helped, I had no complaints, which is likely why I found it easy to quit therapy! But at some point, I believe when I got engaged and began thinking about the possibility of having a family someday, I decided it would be a good idea to try coming off the medication and live a more natural life. I think I lasted a year before the “crippling” anxiety crept back in and became unmanageable. At the time, I worked in a very unhealthy environment where fear was drilled into every employee by the mentally unstable owner. I went back on meds with the addition of an “as needed” Xanax. A few years went by until I again came off my meds to prepare for having a baby, and so began one of the worst years of my life. To be fair, I didn’t have the easiest experience as my very first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at seven weeks and the trauma I experienced from that left me afraid, detached and anxious when I did become pregnant with my daughter three months later. Looking back now, as I’m experiencing that same fear induced anxiety, I don’t even know how I dealt with it. But I did, a lot more quietly than I have been this time around. Once my daughter was born the anxiety was immediate, in fact postpartum may be one of the first times that “crippling” anxiety really took over. I went back on meds within a few weeks of birth, but that first month of the medication building up in my system before it could start working and adjusting to having a newborn was tough. I was pretty much handling everything on my own because my husband’s work schedule at the time left him unavailable. And I should tell you, I am a very selfish person, the motherly instinct to put someone else’s needs above mine, or even just care for another human being was, really still is, not first nature to me. On top of that I spent the first six weeks postpartum dealing with an unsupportive employer and looking back, I feel like they stole that healing time from me. After a few months, things got back to my normal and life was manageable for a few years. That is, until I found myself back in an unhealthy working environment. It was a fast paced, demanding, perfection-expecting environment. Overall, it was anx-

iety inducing for people who don’t have anxiety disorders. And in this environment, I was judged and criticized like I’d never been in my life. I was broken and beaten down so quickly, the crippling anxiety came back. I felt trapped so many days I couldn’t see a way out. I was falling to the bottom of that deep dark pit. I noticed my Xanax intake was increasing, I wasn’t sleeping at night, and I was drinking a shit ton. See proof above, and I mean geez, you get one head injury at Christmas and people start to say you drink too much! PSA: Contrary to the way it looks or my lighthearted jokes, I feel obligated to say that my drinking was never out of control and addiction is a serious illness. End rant. Finally, when those “ear ringing I’m going to pass out” panic attacks came back and I slowly felt like I couldn’t imagine feeling this anxiety every day, I knew it was time to increase my daily regulated meds. And then, I was fine until I became pregnant this


This Is... year and once again had to come off my meds. My “crippling” anxiety has been horrible, I think even worse than my last pregnancy, and this time around I have asked every person imaginable for help, as I am not suffering in silence. Besides for the obvious, the lack of control, the fear of what could go wrong, fear of the unknown, and the fear of the known, I also struggle with the thought of passing my anxiety on to my children. That is a real uncontrollable possibility, that people love to remind me of when I’m already struggling. Let me tell you, just as “calm down” has never once calmed someone down, hearing “you need to relax for the baby” or “you’re going to give the baby anxiety” also makes EVERY SITUATION WORSE. I never want my daughters, let alone anyone, to feel the way I have in my worst moments. But the reality is, just like any other genetic disorder, I have no control over what I pass down to them. But here’s what I can do: I can calm my daughter when it’s apparent that she has a fear or seems anxious. I can watch the language I use in front of her in reference to my feelings of anxiety. KIDS REPEAT EVERYTHING! On that note, I can excuse myself from her presence when I feel a panic attack arising. And finally, I can be real with her, set her expectations that things won’t always go her way, toys will get broken or lost, disappointment will happen, but I will be there to support her no matter what. While I am currently working with a therapist to manage through this time, I am counting down the days, the minutes even until I am reunited with my one true love - medication. Because that is the one thing I am addicted to. And I’m using the term addicted very loosely because I’m not talking about an unhealthy relationship with Xanax where I take way too many and for unprescribed reasons. But rather, I like my life 100 percent better when I am regularly medicated, which I plan to be moments after giving birth and forever on. In a world of millennials who prefer holistic treatments, I am totally okay with choosing medication. I know, I’m going to poison my body with chemicals instead of struggle through natural approaches. And if you really want to know how horrible of a person I am, I also highly contemplated and researched exposing my unborn child to these same chemicals because you know what, and I say this loudly, because someone out there really needs to hear it: me and my wellbeing is just as important as the child I am growing and the one I am caring for. Let that set in for a minute, really digest it, my well-being is my top priority. I can’t care for anyone if I am not caring for myself. There were days where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to “do” this pregnancy without the support


of the medication, but with the help of my therapist and the support of my doctors, I ultimately decided to struggle through. I’m surviving, but it has been very difficult at times. I must tell you, writing this article gives me anxiety. Talking about my pregnancy too much gives me anxiety. Knowing that I am putting this out into the world so far before the end of my pregnancy scares the shit out of me. Talking about my previous pregnancy and bad experiences freaks me the fuck out, as if talking about one too much will affect the other. Pregnancy has been the one thing in my life I have ABSO-FUCKIN-LUTELY no control over. And I’ll NEVER be okay with that. To be honest, I do not like being pregnant, I know, it’s such a beautiful miracle and I am BEYOND blessed to experience this twice. However, I don’t like it, and in theme with everything else I’ve mentioned in this article THAT’S PERFECTLY OKAY! Sometimes I’m not even sure why I got pregnant again to begin with, I didn’t like it last time, I don’t like it this time, so why repeat that process? I’m excited about having another child, cautiously now, but I’ll be fully excited postpartum, when anxiety meds have kicked in, the post baby fears start to subside, and I feel like my normal self again. When the theme of recovery was announced for this edition, I immediately thought I had nothing to write about, as I am so far from being recovered. Many times, while writing this article I thought, “should I be this honest?” And I’ll tell you, I tailored some of this with the thought that my family will be reading the article, and I’m not as open with my struggles as I should be. To the world, I strive to be seen as that superhero who’s got it all together. I put up a tough exterior and it’s only in my worst moments that the people close to me are exposed to how hard I struggle with this. Not only will my family read this, but a previous/current/future employer could read this; will I be doing myself a disservice by disabling myself and branding myself as someone with a character flaw? I thought “How can I express this without sounding dramatic, because I’ve had many people tell me anxiety isn’t real or it’s something that they don’t believe in. (Isn’t it sad, that we still live in a world that doesn’t fully understand mental illness?) But this is my story, in it’s almost completely raw form. This is the life I struggle with every day, and with that, every day, I so very much wish to be recovered.

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ave you ever been going through something really taxing on your mental and emotional health and someone…a “good Samaritan”, comes along and just says the most ignorant thing to you, with the thought that it was helpful? Yes, we all have, that’s why this opinionated article is called “Sh*t you shouldn’t say to someone going through sh*t.” At some point in your journey to healing, someone has entered THEIR opinion on what THEY think you should or should not be doing at that particular point in your journey. We don’t have to name names, but right now you are silently thinking about all the sh*t some relative has said to you about the breakup, the miscarriage, the divorce, the health diagnosis, the pregnancy, and thinking WHY THE HELL DO PEOPLE SAY THOSE THINGS? Well, to be fair, it’s human nature. Not everyone says these things maliciously. Sometimes they are saying these things because they don’t know what else to say, they feel awkward, or they are trying to make themselves feel better about what you are going through. I mean, I have done it, because it’s normal . . . however, that doesn’t make it right. So along with the help of my Mental Health Counselor best friend Brittany, let’s see how we can change the way we make people feel worse, while making ourselves feel better. “It’s been X number of months since you broke up... you need to move on” - Family Member Laura: Dear Aunt Sheila, stop putting time periods on hurt. Sometimes when things fall apart, people need to figure that sh*t out. Is it me? Is it them? Our minds need time to rationalize, hurt, start to heal and move forward. Grief isn’t just for death. It can be loss of time, loss of a life plan, loss of a relationship. Also, last time I checked, you telling me to move on isn’t going to dry my tears, make me happy and get out there again. Ice cream is, so let me eat my ice cream, watch sad movies and figure out what the hell I’m going to do with my life. I get why she’s saying it. She wants you to be happy again, and she’s worried about what’s going on, but it’s coming off as downplaying the severity of what you are going through. Brittany: Laura hits the nail on the head here guys. You’ve been there. You’ve felt it. Maybe you’ve even said those things to someone else and now you’re feeling bad about it. It’s okay. That’s what we’re here for. To try to help all of us do better next time. There is absolutely no time frame for grief. Yes, if you want to get really technical, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, if you are experiencing depressed mood or loss of interest in addition to a few other


symptoms for two or more weeks you could be diagnosed with depression but it can, and likely is in a situation like this, still be temporary. Do you really think it’s appropriate to take two weeks to “get over” a loss? Maybe if it was your great uncle’s dog that you met once or twice or the guy you started dating a couple weeks ago. But I’ll tell you what, it’s been YEARS for me and I’m still grieving some losses, and THAT’S OKAY! There are some that you may live with heavy on your heart for a long time. Anyway, know when a loss is too great. Too great for you deal with on your own. If it’s been two weeks and you still can’t get out of bed, it's probably time to ask for help or take some of the unsolicited advice you received. Open the windows. Take a shower. Make your bed. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to WANT to be in your feelings for a bit. It’s not okay when the extent of your feelings is negatively impacting your life/health/well-being. “When are you guys going to get started on having kids” - Your Family, Friends, Your Family Friends, Coworkers Laura: First off, let’s stop asking this. 100% STOP IT RIGHT NOW. No one wants to be asked this, EVER. Maybe we don’t want kids, and we definitely don’t want to be lectured on what we are missing out on. Maybe we love kids, but we don’t want to worry about all the health issues they will inherit from us. I legit was just in a conversation a few weeks ago where this was the answer. He has some genetic mental health things he is worried about passing down, she has some medical issues that are genetic she doesn’t want to pass down. So, for the sake of their potential children, they aren’t risking it. They are sacrificing the things they want because those children might have a horrible quality of life when born. If you ask me, that’s commendable. Then we finally come to the elephant in the room that no one knows how to approach: Miscarriage. I’ve never been pregnant so I’m leaving this part of the topic all to Britt. Brittany: Being currently pregnant with baby number two and Laura recently married, these types of questions come up far too often for us, and we know for others too. If your single it’s, “When are you going to find a boyfriend?” When your dating, “When are you getting married?” When your married, “When are you going to have babies?” Sorry to let you down but it doesn’t stop there! My son was DAYS old, technically not even supposed to be born yet, and people were already asking what the plan was for the next one!! Give us a break Aunt Sheila! Side note: It takes about 18 months for the female body to completely heal after carrying a child.

This Is... Growing a human inside of you can be a very scary and stressful thing for some. Those who have been through miscarriage may not have shared their losses, so when you ask them when they are going to start trying or have another you may not be aware of their loss. Maybe they have been trying to get pregnant and haven’t been able to. Maybe they know that they cannot get pregnant without some extra efforts that they can’t afford right now. Maybe they even tried those efforts, spent all of their savings, and STILL can’t get pregnant. Is this you? Have you been there? If not, could you possibly imagine someone telling you why they haven’t had a baby yet when you asked, and they tell you one of those things because they are just so sick and tired of people asking? Then how would you feel? Not so great, huh? So maybe, just maybe, we should keep the “bedroom questions” in the bedroom! The answer is none of your business unless you’re in bed with the person. Laura: Speaking of pregnancy, let’s head into that world, shall we? “Wow, you are ready to pop, when are you due again, how much weight have you gained?” - Distant Cousin Sharon who you see once a year. Laura: First off, you wouldn’t say this to a normal NOT PREGNANT woman. Why would you think to say this to someone!?!!?!?!? Weight is a sensitive issue for me. I know when I decide to have children it WILL be a trigger for me. Why does anyone besides a doctor think it’s okay to “worry” about someone’s pregnancy weight? Because that’s what they think they are doing. They are “doing you a service because they love you and care about you,” right? Wrong. This is WRONG WRONG WRONG on SOOOOO many levels. Brittany: These questions and comments were something that were really weighing heavily on me due to some circumstances surrounding my pregnancies. With my first pregnancy, I gained 60

pounds and my son was almost six weeks early (with no known cause/reason). I CLEARLY remember being halfway through my pregnancy, being on the phone with a family member and her actually asking how much weight I had gained! I didn’t even really have time to think of the absurdity of this question and just blurted out “24 pounds so far”. Her reaction was full of disdain, her telling me how little she had gained with her pregnancies and how I need to be careful and it’s going to be hard to lose the weight. On Christmas another family member jokingly asked, “When are the triplets due?” I was only 25 weeks at that point. These kinds of comments are so beyond inconsiderate and unnecessary. People assume because someone is pregnant, they are allowed to ask these questions, but, no, no you are not! The effect that pregnancy has on the mental health of the woman is something we really cannot even begin to understand, let alone the mental health of the father. There is no telling how a comment or question is going to manifest in the brain of a pregnant woman. She can’t even predict it because, well, hormones. So, especially here, let’s keep away from the weight comments. No need to tell a woman she is ready to pop, looks like she’s carrying multiples, or should be careful about her weight gain. If she is going to the doctors, they are monitoring it so don’t you worry. If it’s a problem she’s already hearing it enough from them. In addition, there is also absolutely no need to tell the father that he is gaining pregnancy weight too. Joking or not, DON’T DO IT! Men struggle with body image, self-esteem, and weight struggles just like women. “Is there even a baby in there? I hate you, you


This Is... don’t even look pregnant, I wish I were that skinny through pregnancy” - Family, Co-workers, Random Strangers in the store. Laura: Again, with the weight thing. Everyone is different, maybe if you are THAT nosey, ask about recent doctor appointments, how they are going, are you still measuring for the same due date. Try to hide your concern. But really Britt needs to weigh in (no pun intended) on this one. It also happened to her. Brittany: Oh boy does this one hit home! The amount of absurdity you hear while pregnant is majorly head shake worthy. Being that I was almost six weeks early with my first pregnancy this time around I am considered “high risk” which SOUNDS scary to begin with. The beginning of pregnancy for me is a bit scary to begin with, so adding high risk to it had me on edge. Until I get to that 20-week ultrasound where you see an actual baby or start feeling the kicks it all seems surreal. This time around it was even tougher because I wasn’t really “showing”. So, yes, I heard it all. Even the “Is there even a baby in there?” comment, which was probably the most heart wrenching! You never know what is going on with someone, what they are feeling, thinking or going through. Did you know that some people get so sick during pregnancy that they actually lose weight!? Every baby, every woman, and every pregnancy is completely different so there is no reason for comparison. “Are you still single? How come you haven't settled down and met someone yet? -Everyone at Thanksgiving Laura: Because this doesn’t scream, “Hurry up your ovaries are dying, and we are worried you are going to be alone forever”. Okay, I get it, if you’ve ever read a Jane Austen novel or anything from 1800’s England, you will realize the amount of pressure put on a woman to be the best she can be at the earliest age so she could get a good husband and an even better dowry. Thankfully we are in 2019 and if I don’t want to “settle down” till 30 or 40 or 50, IT’S OKAY. Women have the option now to do whatever the hell we want. PLUS, maybe I feel really shitty about myself because I AM ALONE at 30 and you are basically telling me there IS something wrong with me because I can’t find a mate. Thanks for the tough love, Brenda, ‘preciate it. Brittany: The nerve! Maybe your family is so dysfunctional or judgmental that someone is actually keeping their relationship a secret because they don’t want to subject their significant other to your antics, just sayin’. Anyway, like Laura said, it’s 2019 and we can do whatever we want! If we don’t want to “settle down” we don’t have to. Why is it assumed


that we HAVE to do that to begin with? So that you can start asking us about the baby questions!? No thanks, Aunt Carol. Maybe it is that you can’t find a mate, but maybe it is that you don’t want to! Maybe you are so in love with your life how it is and don’t want anything to change. Yes, someone will remind you about, “What about when you get old?” Who’s to say you can’t “settle down” at 60? I’m pretty sure a couple just got married in their 90’s. In regards to mental health here, these are just more comments and situations that people are DREADING and avoiding as many family functions as possible. In some instances, they are already feeling bad about themselves or their situations and now they are feeling worse because they know they have to face Grandma Marg in a few weeks and her interrogation. So now, the anxiety, depression or just general sadness they feel about their “situation” is amplified and they are thinking about it more often than they would without your input. So, you see the trend here, right? Keep your comments to yourselves! “At least (Whatever you are going through) isn’t (Fill in the blank with something worse)” Laura: This is actually a duplicate answer when I polled my Instagram friends. But, how many of us hate things we are going through being compared to something worse or something that has absolutely nothing to do with the thing we are going through? Yes Brenda, I know it could be So. Much. Worse. Can’t you just validate that I’m having a rough go with my circumstances and don’t need your “look on the bright side” mentality? Brittany: Barrrrrf! Can’t we all just stop competing with each other over every damn thing?! I’m not going to lie, this is something I struggled with and did not realize I was doing until a couple years ago when I started really hearing it from other people. It was just normal conversation, right? This is what we do, this is how we communicate. Just strings of complaints on who had the worse day, why I am way more tired than you or why my burden is much, much heavier to carry than yours is. My tolerance is different from yours, and yours is different from Billy Joe’s, and anyway does it REALLY matter whose day was worse?! Why not allow the person speaking to vent about their feelings, help them to feel understood and maybe offer a way to help them feel better or what you do when you are in a similar situation? P.S. there is no need to go into the story about your similar situation. You can simply say, when I dealt with something similar, I found X to be helpful and maybe you could find it helpful too. When you are Anxious “Just relax, you’ll be fine”

This Is... Brittany: As a mental health counselor I hear this being told to clients allllllll the time. I’m here to tell you, it does NOT help. You cannot possibly tell me when your husband, boyfriend, mother or whoever tells you to relax that it does not make your blood boil. There are so many better things that can be said but honestly a lot of the times the person feeling anxiety may not want you to say anything at all. They may just need to get their thoughts and feelings out so that they can hear them aloud. Anxiety is not the same for everyone, it doesn’t look the same, it doesn’t feel the same. Similar things can cause anxiety for two different people but the anxiety that they are both feeling over starting a new job, going on a first date or becoming a parent will manifest completely differently. Instead of telling someone to relax, try to help them rationalize the situation. Maybe even ask them if they want advice or if they just want to vent about what’s going on. That’s something I often tell friends, “Do you want Counselor Brittany or Friend Brittany?”. Laura: I have 100% been on the end of the “Who do you want to join in on this conversation?” piece with Brittany. To be honest most of the time I want the person who helps validate my feelings. I am a person that likes to feel my feelings. I’ve had only one real panic attack in my life. I wound up in my closet crying hysterically because there was this heaviness on my chest I couldn’t shake, and I felt like the entire world was on top of me. Guess what I didn’t want to hear in that exact moment? “Laura, you are being dramatic.” My now-husband was not met with a very nice reply text, I can tell you that. Eventually the feeling passed, I stopped crying and I tried to recoup my day from the extreme negative head space I was living in. What helped get there was my partner realizing that telling me “to chill” sent me over the edge. We want to feel secure when our world is crashing down, not even more alone and cast aside. So, try reaching out and hugging and holding someone, or offering to come by and just sit with them and be there, help be their anchor in a storm, instead of the wind that helps perpetuate it.

just vent? This is the difference between relationship building or taking a 2013 Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball to their feelings. Brittany: If you are looking for a book to help with understanding your partner or your child better, or really just anyone in life, I highly suggest The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman. I recommend those books to almost every client I interact with. Try to see and understand things from other perspectives. Think about how your words or questions can impact the person you are speaking to. If you are genuinely curious about something that may be a bit of a sensitive subject, ask permission to speak on the topic first. Tread the water carefully here because if it isn’t your sister, best friend, or close cousin it might never be appropriate for you to ask certain questions unless it is a topic, they are open about. If you don’t understand anxiety, depression or mental health as a whole I highly suggest you doing some research and even seeking out a therapist. Everyone has struggles whether they want to admit them or not. Everyone can use the help and support of others, even if you’re a “loner”. Humans THRIVE because of interaction with other humans. Having a therapist can help you realize things about yourself and others you never knew existed. Why not give it a try, uncover some pretty cool realizations and help yourself as well as those around you become better humans and live better lives?

THE END Laura: I think that, all in all, what we are trying to get across in this article is, everyone says sh*it they don’t mean to be mean. But, in 2019 it’s time to be better. It’s time to think more before you speak. To dive deeper into relationships, to know how to be there for friends. If you know what your partner’s favorite ice cream is, or which side they like to sleep on… work harder to figure out what their communication style is. What works for them, can you give them tough love, or do you need to sit down and join the pity party for the 20 minutes they need to



Sabrina’s Story

This Is... By: Sabrina Josephson with help from Tessa Radovanovich


hen people find out I adopted my siblings, my mother’s children, they usually remark that I am brave and loving; I’ve heard many times that I’m a hero to my brother and sisters. Never quite sure how to respond, I usually nod and smile with a lighthearted comment to the effect of, “Yes, I love them very much.” I leave such interactions, not uncommon given the optimistic and enthusiastic attitude I’ve always exuded, often feeling like what people know of my life now is merely a summary from the back of a long novel full of twists and turns. The full story, the inside of the book, is much more complicated and, perhaps unsurprisingly, begins with my own relationship with my mother. Like most little girls, I looked up to my mother as if she could do no wrong. She loved makeup and music - two influences in my life that remain a strong passion; I have fond memories of her and me putting on makeup at her vanity with music blasting, laughing away. My mom loved being outside, so camping and floating the river are memories that really stand out in my mind. I get my attitude from my mom; she exuded a loving personality and had the biggest heart, making friends wherever she went. In contrast, however, some of my earliest memories from childhood are marked with bright red flags of neglect, abuse, and trauma. One of my earliest memories is being locked in a closet while my mom went out to party. My mom had me at the age of 15 and because she had multiple partners at such a young age I, unfortunately, didn’t know my dad growing up. Before I finished elementary school, I was living with my mom’s mom and her husband, my grandparents, and months before my 17th birthday I got emancipated. As a kid, I never saw my mother engage in activities beyond drinking but hindsight and maturity lend me the eyes to see she was consuming more than just a friendly drink from time to time. She was not a stable person. Things started to get really bad when we were staying at the YWCA, a women's shelter in Tacoma, Washington. My mother had suffered from a breakup that left us homeless and instead of trying to get back on her feet she abused the state system to take care of us while she stayed out partying all night. Most nights my brother Ray, age six at the time, and I were locked in our room with no access to the bathroom while my mom partied her life away. You may be asking why there wasn’t a curfew

or why my mom was allowed to stay out all night. As I mentioned earlier in my story, my mom had a way with people. At this point, age nine, I told a counselor at school what was happening at home - the partying, the neglect, and shortly after I was placed in a receiving home. I remember seeing my mom when the police officer took me with him - she and I locked eyes and I developed a pit in my stomach. I was terrified of the repercussions that would follow and I knew that she would make sure I would pay for what I was doing to her. After a few short months, and the help of a family friend whom I called “aunt” my grandparents were able to get guardianship of me and life resumed as normally as it could. They lived on a quiet lake; I grew up externally happy, outgoing, and confident - I’ve always been told how positive I am and how brightly my smile shines. I am known for making other people laugh, for bringing out the silly in anybody. My childhood wasn’t perfect, but I was grateful for the stability it provided me; from very early on I remember clutching to an awareness that I had to use that stability to get out. I didn’t have the words for it then, but I moved through adolescence with an innate feeling that I was meant for more. I got decent grades, I had good friends; of course, I faced my share of obstacles and flirted with danger a bit but, overall, I had found myself on a solid foundation which I kept building upon. As soon as I could, I was working two jobs in the summer between my sophomore and junior year. As the years with my grandparents passed- through middle school into high school, I saw how my environment was less than ideal. My grandparents were alcoholics and as soon as I began physically developing my stepgrandfather began looking, and later commenting, inappropriately. That awareness I had felt from the beginning of moving in with them began to burn within me - I had to get out of that house, out of that town, out of that family and life. After one last unacceptable conversation with my grandfather, I moved out of my grandparent’s home and into my “aunt’s” house just before I turned 17. I learned quickly, though, family trauma never disappears. Meanwhile, over those years, my mother became addicted to opiates. Her husband, Phil, became addicted to amphetamines. They struggled for stability and eventually lost custody of my brother Ray. After some time in jail, Phil entered a Narcotics Anonymous program and my mom transitioned to methadone. After some time, my mom had two of


This Is... my younger siblings back to back, Philip, now 16, and Samantha, now 15. Shortly after I graduated high school, my stepfather Phil called my brother Ray and me to help stage an intervention with my mother as he found needles in the kids’ toy box when he was cleaning. This required me to quit one of my two jobs and break my lease, but I did it willingly to help my family. After months of struggling to keep my mom out of the house I realized that all of the work I was doing was being undone by my stepfather who was seeing her and allowing her back into the house behind my back. Lonely and miserable, I decided to get in contact with my old boyfriend from high school. Shortly after we connected, he was offered a job in Silicon Valley, and I jumped at the opportunity to get as far away from my family as possible. I spent two years in California and towards the end of that time I found myself in a relationship that mirrored the men my grandmother and mother had loved. I had a realization that my happiness was entirely reliant upon him. Again, I was struck with that feeling – I knew I had to get out. In the moment, it felt impossibly hard. He was who I had given myself to, the first I had opened up to and been vulnerable with, but I knew I could not live with such toxicity. After months of misery, I left him and came home just in time for the birth of the last of my siblings, Serenity, to be born. I met the man who is now my husband and best friend that year, and the following September we had our first daughter, Lilian, together. As most mothers will tell you, having her opened a world of love I had never known. I remember looking down at her and feeling so overwhelmed with happiness and connectedness. Reversely, those feelings solidified feelings of resentment towards my own mother - I couldn’t understand how she could treat me so carelessly. I had my second daughter, Molly, 15 months after Lilian was born. Postpartum depression and the gentle nudging of my caring husband lead me to therapy for which I am eternally grateful. With therapy I could put words to feelings I experienced my entire life. I learned my smiling face and confident exterior were survival techniques. I learned that I had grown comfortable finding people to laugh with rather than reflecting alone with my feelings. In addition to words, I was given tools to navigate my childhood: questions and scenarios to give me deeper and broader perspectives, challenges to rewire my own destructive thought and behavior patterns, opportunities to reflect and grow. Ultimately, therapy helped me see what I had instinctually known all along - I was a part of a cyclical pattern I had to break. I attended therapy for three years and in this time, I moved beyond a life of


surviving and into a life of thriving. As an adult, my relationship with my mother was off-and-on. At one point she was doing well and off drugs. She would come over with my siblings and we were spending time together as a family; she even began watching Lily and Molly for a couple of hours here and there between my husband’s and my hectic work schedules. It was around this time that she began acting erratically - asking for money randomly, not showing up, not answering or returning calls. I cut her off completely and hadn’t talked to her in over a year. One day I received a call at work - it was my mom telling me she was going to go to rehab in Florida. It was the call I had waited for my whole life. I remember that weekend vividly - I bought her a new bag and filled it with new clothes and toiletries. She was supposed to stay for six months; I took the kids during that time to help support my stepdad. After just three days of my mom being there, she frantically called me about money. I knew she had checked herself out. I wasn’t even sure if she had ever arrived or if she just used the sponsorship to get to Florida. I had no choice but to cut her and my stepfather out of my life. They made no effort to get help and I just couldn’t stick around to enable them. Every year from the time that I was 16 years old, my brother Ray and my step-sister Loginne would call CPS in the hope that our siblings would have a better chance at life. Not one time did CPS visit. Not one time did we get a returned call from anyone to follow up, but we continued to try. In May of 2017 I received a call that my stepfather Phil wasn’t doing well. He died in the hospital very shortly after. I jumped at the opportunity to take my three younger siblings. I was finally at a spot physically and financially that would allow me to help. The day after he died, I filed third party custody. My mom was prostituting herself for drugs, food, and shelter so I couldn’t track her down to serve her the custody papers. I went to court with the intention of filing an extension but when I walked in my heart stopped at the sight of my mother. It turns out, when I had filed for custody, she was filing for custody herself, so she had been informed of the date. When I think about that day in court, I still shudder a bit; I had no idea how triggering that moment would be. I felt the same way I did as a kid telling my counselor what my home life was like, being questioned by CPS, facing her. She looked at me with those Mom eyes that made me feel like she was going to make me pay for the trouble I was causing her. On the other hand, she was frail, practically naked and looked as though she arrived from the local whore house. Seeing my mom that way broke my heart. Al-

though I couldn’t fully understand the life she was choosing, I knew it was a sad life. I knew she was lonely, and the worst part was that I knew there was no way I could help her because she wasn’t ready and willing to help herself. She pled to the judge for my siblings - that she wanted to get on her feet, that

she wanted to be a good mother. I had never doubted that what she said was true, and when my fight for custody over my siblings began, I always held out hope that my mother would find herself stable enough to take care of her kids again. But her inability to love herself conquered her ability to love her


This Is... children. I was granted temporary custody that day. We had a few more court sessions and every time I saw my mom, the feeling was the same. I was scared and sad for her. Because my mom signed a joinder, in August 2017 I was granted full guardianship of my three siblings, Serenity, 8, Samantha, 12, and Philip, 13 at the time. My siblings finally have the life they’ve always deserved. They each have their own room, a stable roof over their head, a family to eat dinner with every night, family to show up during awards ceremonies and concerts. Family to meet with teachers during conferences and push them to be better versions of themselves. Family to spend time with that love them unconditionally. My mom had a lot of hate for me after I won custody. She would send me nasty messages on Facebook and voicemails telling me I’m pathetic for taking the only children that she loved from her. My mom would say a lot of things to me, and although I knew it was her addiction talking, it still hurt. I wanted so badly for her to know that what I was doing was for her and for my siblings. In November of 2018, I received a call that my mother was nearly dead in the hospital. To this day I feel torn about her fate - I had always hoped for more, I had always feared this was how it would end for her. The Mother’s Day before she died, I felt compelled to call her, and, surprisingly, she answered. She was doing well. Her sponsor from rehab was with her. That conversation gave me the kind of closure only fate can provide. She spoke with each of her children, my siblings in my care, and told them how happy she was that they were somewhere safe, somewhere loved, that they were with me. She told me how proud she was of me. She spoke with clarity and optimism. Between that phone call and the time of her death, there were signs she had gone downhill that I only witnessed through social media. My brother Ray and I made the difficult decision to take her off life support. It's been six months since she passed and although I wish I could have seen her bypass her addiction and gain her life back, I’m thankful for all the good things about her that I remember. Those are the things I get to share with my siblings. We choose to remember her laugh, her silly sense of humor, her love of treats and crazy meals she would cook up. We listen to songs she loved, watch movies she adored. I even keep gardenia candles in the house because it was her favorite scent. I didn’t have the most ideal mother, but my mom taught me to love unconditionally. She taught me to laugh at myself because life was too short. She taught me to stick up for what I believe is right. That’s what I did. I am not perfect but I’m brave, strong, smart and loving. This


life has given me the strength to be there for my siblings and to give them the life they deserve. Serenity, Samantha, and Phillip are now 11, 15, and 16. Although our life hasn’t been easy, there is not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for the opportunity to raise them. They’ve grown so much in these few years and I cannot wait to see where life takes them. If I can leave anyone with one thing from my story it is this: life is entirely what you make of it, so find a way to use your circumstances to better your situation and keep growing rather than living in regret or pity. My past shaped me into who I am today. With the strength and courage I built from situations in my past, I was able to take on the responsibility of raising my siblings. I went through years of therapy to learn how to use this pain to gain the strength I have today. I no longer have anger or hatred toward the people who took advantage of me when I was younger. Instead, I’ve learned something from each experience that I can reflect on and be thankful for today. I try to use what I learned in the actions I take in raising and loving my children each day - all five of them.

This Is...


college friend from out of town, my boyfriend’s former roommate, came to visit us this past summer. He’s a talented home cook whose mouthwatering Instagram feed is populated with his various culinary adventures creating everything from vegan meat substitutes to his own fusion cuisine. Naturally, during the week he crashed on our foldout couch, he wanted us to feel no pressure to take him out to eat. “We can cook a few meals together with whatever you have,” he said. Then he saw our fridge in all its sad, empty glory: it held only iced coffee, oat milk, half a stick of butter, and an amount of LaCroix that no household of fewer than six people should have any business hoarding. This is a common occurrence for me. When I lived alone, I’d go through periods of time when I’d be inspired in the kitchen after seeing a cool dish on a blog. A handful of weeks a year, I’d churn out a stupid volume of fig and fontina paninis, iced lavender chai cookies, and even a few ill-advised Charlotte Russe desserts. In between these flurries of activity, however, there would be…nothing. The fridge would contain, at most, half a dozen eggs, a milk substitute, and a package or two of pre-cut, pre-washed vegetables. And in my kitchen drawers: a dull knife, one cheap pot, one cheap pan, and an ancient spatula. I think friends and family assume that I have a poorly stocked kitchen and a set of cooking implements that look like Fisher-Price toys because I’m a lazy adult who never grew up and can’t be bothered to cook. The uncomfortable truth is that I’ve had a long and difficult relationship with food and have spent every year of my young adulthood trying to recover from it. I’m not sure when I first became aware of food and body being connected in a consequential way. It was probably a constellation of childhood or preteen moments all interconnected: the time someone told me my favorite foods were fattening, the time a friend’s mom unfavorably compared my body and eating habits to her daughter’s, the time a friend said we should skip lunches together (and we did). Maybe it was those moments combined with the fashion magazines I consumed in the early aughts, all packed full of ribs and clavicles. But tracing the earliest sources of my food issues is a meaningless exercise because so many elements have fed into them over the years that nothing can be disentangled. What’s more critical to recovery


is to know how those issues impact physical and mental health. Across the span of my teenage years and beyond, I developed quirks and rituals meant to stave off what was, at the time, my biggest fear in the world: gaining weight. Most of those rituals were easily disguised as healthconscious habits and didn’t look suspicious to observers. Terrified of heavy restaurant food, I’d gulp down a few glasses of ice-cold water to make me too full to eat – but who could fault me for staying hydrated? Obsessed with minimizing my intake, I started a food journal to itemize what I ate each day in high school – but who could fault me for mindful eating? In college, I’d get mean and cranky on days I couldn’t squeeze in an hour or two of HIIT at the gym because of coursework – but who could fault me for having a fitness routine? Other rituals, however, were harder to rationalize. At one of my lowest points as a teen, I collaged clippings of bony figures from my old fashion magazines as if to tell myself, “This could be you if you tried hard enough!” In college, with the advent of Pinterest, my collaging habits worsened. My food diary escalated into a meticulously kept Excel spreadsheet of calories in, calories out. After college, everything I perceived as a binge (read: normal, reasonable indulgences) had to be balanced out the next day with dramatically reduced consumption. The tipping point came after I took stock of just how much of my life was getting eaten up – pardon the word choice – by food. Daily, my thoughts were almost entirely occupied by food worries. I measured the passage of time in a day meal-by-meal. I’d cancel social plans based on how fat I did or didn’t feel at the time. At the store, I’d buy the same ten “safe” items (a combination of fruit, fish, vegetables, and low-calorie drinks) over and over. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d sometimes look at photos of comfort food that I couldn’t bring myself to eat. Even in rare moments of treating myself, I’d run through an internal script that kept me focused on food and body: “You have no discipline. This is why you can’t lean out.” It would suck the fun out of eating, which would make me feel terrible, which would make me self-comfort with food, which would start the cycle all over again. My visiting friend’s shock at the state of my pantry and fridge was my most recent major reality check. Until my friend expressed his amazement, it hadn’t occurred to me that my ill-equipped kitchen was in any way out of the ordinary. My empty fridge was a tool of avoidance: a way for me not to take full ownership of what and how I eat. All of my at-home food

This Is... habits, including subsisting off of energy bars and low-calorie microwaveable things, not stocking my kitchen, and not having the right equipment, were the results of an unconscious desire to think about food as little as possible, and to make sure that scraping together a meal in my own home would be as difficult as possible. Although I’d been taking steps toward recovery for a number of years already by the time of my friend’s visit, that moment made me realize how much work I still have to do. --Recovery is a big undertaking. I’m still learning how to be a functional adult and caregiver to myself in this area, which involves consciously shedding destructive habits and adopting healthier ones. Along the way, it has helped me massively to read up on strategies, talk to professionals, and get support from trusted friends. In particular, I can’t stress how important emotional support from female friends can be. We’re a demographic that’s been force-fed decades of commercial messages that we should aspire, mainly, to be thin and beautiful – so why not band together to reject those messages? There’s something quietly revolutionary in that. Seven key practices and perspectives adopted from my readings and conversations have gotten me through the worst of my food issues over the past few years. If you’re like me and find yourself on a long and bumpy road to food and body image recovery, may the suggestions below be a map of sorts for you: 1. Be flexible about so-called routines and habits. It’s true that it’s easier to be and stay healthy if you cultivate consistency when it comes to fitness and eating well. However, it pays to be flexible about those habits from time to time. If you’re on vacation and can’t get to the weight room for five days, that’s okay. If you’re at the store and some chips call your name, that’s totally okay as well. Cultivating good habits doesn’t mean that you never, ever deviate from plan, and thinking too rigidly will be unsustainably stressful in the long run. Having good habits just means that generally, you’re on the right path. A little flexibility and self-forgiveness will go a long way in terms of your mental health.


This Is... 2. Find ways to make food feel joyful in your daily life. If you’ve spent years feeling anxious about meals, try introducing new rituals to offset the old ones, thereby decoupling negativity from making and eating food. Your mileage and preferences may vary, of course, but for me, it helps to add beautiful and/or useful things to my cooking space: a cute dishtowel, fridge magnets, a toaster and kettle that match the appliances. The more positive I feel about being in my kitchen space, the more comfortable I become with actually using it. 3. Heed your emotional responses. In the past, each time I started a new diet, I’d feel great for three weeks before my mood fell off a cliff. I’d get anxious and irritable while trying to stay the course, and when I inevitably slipped up, I’d berate myself thinking there was something wrong with me. Actually, our emotional responses to misguided diets are 100% worth listening to! If a routine is getting you down or making you physically feel worse, that means your body feels deprived. That routine is not right for you, regardless of how many celebrities supposedly swear by it. A healthy and sustainable routine that is right for your body doesn’t require you to sacrifice your physical or mental health. 4. Don’t weigh yourself – or just weigh yourself infrequently and don’t dwell on numbers. It personally helps me to never weigh myself at all, because a numerical weight reading can’t tell you anything about your metabolism, fitness level, muscle tone, or nutritional intake. But if you do prefer to track your weight, know that there’s not a lot of value to doing it very frequently. Weight can fluctuate wildly and rapidly even under normal circumstances. Plus, frequent weigh-ins can add unnecessary emotional pressure. 5. Filter your social media feeds. No matter how much progress I’ve made toward being mature and mindful about food and body image, seeing my favorite bloggers post photo after photo of their salads and bikini bodies on Instagram can still knock me down a little. Rather than go cold turkey on social media, which would prevent me from keeping up with friends and artists I enjoy, I periodically unfollow or at least mute feeds that I know can derail me. Over time, their impact upon me has lessened as a result. 6. Consume “fitspiration” content critically. While there’s value in getting a wealth of fitness and diet tips from coaches and content creators on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, not all fitspiration comes from a good place. For every trainer who is genuinely invested in health, there are a few who are


peddling weird supplements, encouraging extreme behavior, or asking you to fixate on looks. Ditch any fitspiration source that embodies those red flags. They’re not looking out for your best interests. 7. Know that you don’t have a responsibility to eat or diet a certain way for anyone. All that guilt that you and I might feel about having dessert or a side of fries is understandable (thank you, years of toxic diet messaging directed at women)…but misguided. Save your guilt for real mistakes and real obligations. If you promised to take your cousin to her swim meet and then forgot to do it, should you feel guilty? Yeah, you messed up. But if you ate ice cream after dinner, should you feel guilty? Hell no. Who exactly are you letting down? If you want a scoop of ice cream, you can have a scoop of ice cream! --None of this is to say that full recovery is imminent or even on the horizon. It’s a process, and I still go back and forth with alarming speed. There are amazing days when I feel like my food and physical insecurities are as far behind me as the retreating road in a rearview mirror. Other days, all I want to do is lie on the couch, scroll on my phone, and complain to my cat about how I’ll never have the willpower to eat as responsibly as Miranda Kerr seems to do each day. I swing between adding a burger and fries to a cocktail order, and ordering a fashion model-recommended supply of prepped meals that will help me rebalance my life and “eat clean.” I still jump from fad workout to fad workout, hoping that one will eventually click with my body. It’s all giving me more than a little emotional whiplash. The good news is, I’ve outgrown my most troubling behaviors, and things are looking up. I’m sharing delicious meals and wonderful conversations with friends and family without rejecting every dish or falling into a dark mood for hours afterward. I’m letting go of food guilt. I’m curbing any unhelpful online content I consume. And I’m learning for the first time what a responsible adult’s kitchen needs – a real knife, better cookware, herbs and spices, a variety of fresh ingredients – and knowing that it’s time to take healthy ownership of what and how I eat. I’m feeling less and less weird, by the day, about food.

This Is...


Balance Your Hormones Naturally


This Is...


ere’s the thing, there’s nothing fun living in a body that feels out of balance. It’s like living in a home with an unstable structure, how can we ever feel at peace? We simply can’t. Just like an unstable home might look completely fine from the outside, when our body is out of balance, we can’t always physically see what the problem is. We can feel it though. With that being said, a lot of times when we feel like something is off, it’s hard for people to understand what’s really going on because we look 100% “normal”. Hormones are one of those things that can get under our skin in that way, really making their imprint on us and typically affecting us internally first. My personal hormonal journey has been really tied with my cycles, driving me wild for years! Little did I know back then that I had the power to do something about it. I’ll share with you a little about my personal story and how I've been able to regulate my hormones naturally and how you can, too. It all started when I was 12 and started my cycle. I was the first of my friends and at that time it wasn’t something too many people openly spoke about. Not knowing much about how cycles worked, I started my period and bled for one month before I told my mom. We visited multiple doctors to find out what was going on and finally on day 48 of bleeding, my doctor put me on birth control pills to stop the bleeding. It worked, but by that point I had developed anemia and was just a couple days away from needing a blood transfusion. Being 12 and on the birth control pill was helpful to stop the bleeding but didn’t solve the root of the problem: the hormones. One year later, I got off the pill and this time actually had cycles, but they were irregular, extremely painful, and my mental health was always affected by them. Whether it was the anxiety or over sensitivity, I was not myself for at least two weeks every month. If you do the math that’s 168 days out of the year. At that time, I was not aware of natural medicine and for the next couple years of my life I would drown myself in Midol or Advil. When I was 16, I went to the doctor for the painful cramps and was put on a birth control pill once again. Skip forward to age 19, I went to the doctor for a check-up because I wasn’t feeling myself and had been wanting to get off the pill. Turns out I had developed a benign breast tumor/cyst, an ovarian cyst, and my uterus lining was thicker than usual. After asking the doctor what was going on with my body, she explained it could have been due to the hormones in the pill, but she couldn’t be sure.


The hormones in the pill. That stuck with me. What had I been putting in my body and how do my hormones play a role on my health? I did some research and talked with natural doctors and found out a hormonal imbalance could be the root cause of all the symptoms I was feeling. It seems that all that the pill was doing was masking a lot of the symptoms, so I decided to get off the pill. Unfortunately, my cycles were a mess and I still felt off and not myself most of the time. I became dedicated to finding a way to bring balance to my hormones naturally. The result: three years later, my ovarian cyst is gone, my cycles are regular, my cramps are bearable, my emotions are positive, and my breast cyst has decreased in size. What did I do? I changed my lifestyle and added some key ingredients to my food. So first, what really are hormones? (The simplified version) We can best describe them as chemical messengers in our bodies that stimulate cells and tissues in our body into action. Simply stated, they are responsible for how our bodies act up. If we were a boat, they’d be the commander in charge of assigning different tasks to the crew. There are certain things that can intervene with the messengers leading them to go nuts and our bodies feel these effects as symptoms and go off balance. If you suffer from any symptoms related to hormonal imbalance, here are some things you can do to balance your hormones naturally like me: Mindful Stress Management Stress is one of those things that can manifest in different ways for everyone. For women though, stress can get in the way of the natural flow of our cycles by throwing our hormones out of balance. Preventing stress can be stressful in itself. A better approach would be to have a healthy way to manage it when you feel it, and by managing I mean a stress release Some suggestions for a stress release are to take deep breaths, listen to soothing music, develop a regular yoga practice, write down your thoughts and feelings and tune into the things that make you feel relaxed. Questions you can ask yourself: What brings me peace? What is something that makes me feel recharged? Regulate with Adaptogens Adaptogens are considered herbal pharmaceuticals. They help your body deal with the effects of stress and bring back anything that is out of balance, including hormones. The following list is of different adaptogens that will help balance out hormones and

This Is... also help with other specific imbalances: Asian Ginseng- helps with natural energy, brain function, and supports your health and immune system. Holy Basil- very soothing and powerful against stress and anxiety. An ancient herb that helps support hormonal function and the lymphatic system. Milk Thistle- helps hormones and reduces stress while supporting the liver and digestion. Ashwagandha- sharpens the mind and increases energy. Helps your body handle and balance out stress. Rosemary- supports reducing stress and regulating hormones while protecting the heart, soothing digestion and nourishing the liver. Astragalus- helps detoxify the body from harmful toxins, protects the kidneys and helps bring balance to the hormones. Licorice Root- promotes healthy metabolism, regulates stress and hormones in the body and soothes any symptoms of indigestion. Sleep & Movement Two things that affect our hormones and how balanced or unbalanced they are are sleep and movement. Sleep and hormones have an interesting relationship. Little sleep leads to hormonal imbalances which then leads to sleep deprivation. Movement is a way for our bodies to release what is not serving us. When we move, we breathe, sweat, and activate our digestive fire. This allows for toxins to be released. If we lack movement these stored toxins can interact with our hormones and cause an imbalance.

ishing blood. For heavy bleeding: Ginseng – great to minimize heavy bleeding. Lady’s Mantle – helps regulate cycles and also prevent heavy bleeding. Cinnamon Bark- reduces menstrual flow and relieves uterine cramping. For PMS: Dandelion tea – helps detoxify the liver and flush out toxins and reduce bloating. Raspberry leaf tea- helps to relieve discomfort associated with menstrual cycles by bringing comfort to the pelvic area and nourishing the blood. Valerian root- reduces pain, stress and distress helping with period cramps and headaches. For missed or late periods: Hot ginger tea– ginger promotes uterine contractions and helps a late or missed period arrive. Drink about two cups. Parsley tea – boil water and let parsley soak for 2-5 minutes to help with menstrual cramps and relax the cervix.

The goal is to develop a healthy sleep and movement routine. With busy lives it is hard to stick to a goal or new habit unless we schedule it into our routine. Take time to go into your calendar and book yourself time to be active throughout the week. Then think about how much sleep you are currently getting and how much sleep you want. A good trick is to turn your cell phone off or on airplane mode at least an hour before your desired bed time and set the mood for a relaxing night. This could be lighting up some candles and turning down the lights, making tea and reading a book for fun or getting intimate with your lover - whatever floats your boat and helps you destress. Relaxing before bed will make it easier for you to go to sleep at the “right” time. Additionally, here are some other natural herbs and plants to help you balance out your cycles: For uneven cycles: Vitex – this herbal supplement helps regulate hormones naturally while also helping normalize ovulation and regulating cycles. Dong-quai- helps bring harmony to cycles by nour-


This Is... A Place To Heal Your Soul By: Kendall Ring


have been very fortunate to travel from a young age. As a dual citizen between the United States and Australia, I’ve crossed the Pacific Ocean more times than I can count. Traveling is second nature to me; my body, my mind, and my soul literally crave it. I’ve grown to become accustomed to the traveling lifestyle and all the breadth of experiences and wonder it can inspire. There is one place in the world that my mind goes to when I think of recovery; when I think of what my soul needs. Not everyone’s souls are the same. What my soul needs to recover may not be the same as what my husband’s soul needs to recover, but this is a place that has something for anyone’s soul: Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s fourth largest city, nestled comfortably in a valley in northern Thailand between the foothills of Doi Suthep National Park in the west, all the way to Chae Son National Park in the east. It is a metropolitan city fringed by wild rainforest, unpaved roads, deep mountain caves, and lush, beautiful waterfalls. The area is home to almost one million people. One million friendly, smiling, warm, amazing people. There are over three hundred wats, or Buddhist temples, and the old city is still surrounded by crumbling razed walls and a moat, a callback to Chiang Mai’s original defenses against the Burmese and Mongol rulers centuries ago. It is a city steeped in history, and like any other historical city, its heritage sites and culture are breathtaking. In June of 2012, I found myself on a plane to Chiang Mai, my single suitcase deep in the belly of the plane below my feet, my heart beating wildly, my mind racing a mile a minute. I was with my father who'd been living in Chiang Mai for the past four years, so it wasn’t as though I was embarking on this journey alone. Still, I had no idea what I was doing. How long would I be here? I had no return ticket, just an extended visa from the Thai government and that single suitcase. When I arrived in Chiang Mai, the sun had set. It was warm; the humid air clung to my skin, wrapping me in the breath of the night’s air. It was mid-June, the rainy season was just beginning, and the airport parking lot swelled with the retained moisture of a recent rainfall. The last time (also the first time)

I’d visited Thailand was in the summer of 2007, five years ago. Since then, my dad had moved permanently to Chiang Mai and rented a small property in the foothills that I’d yet to visit. It was a spellbinding drive from the airport to my father’s home. The drive itself was only twenty minutes, but I had my face pressed to the window the entire time, drinking in the sights, the sounds, the energy. This new place, that I knew nothing about, was now MY home. My heart beat faster still. We drove through plumes of smoke that billowed from open-air barbecues. Thai chili peppers roasted, entangled with the smoke, drifting in through the car vents, stinging my eyes and making my mouth water. When I arrived at my new home, I was greeted by the wagging tails of two Thai dogs that my dad had adopted off the streets: Lady Marmalade and Lady Gaga, he’d named them. Lady and Marmi, we called them. The cicadas sang loudly, announcing the nightfall. The bamboo forest that surrounded my dad’s property swayed listlessly as dark rain clouds pooled above us, unnoticed. As the rain began to fall, my dad’s wife, a Thai national, greeted us with a homecooked meal. Being that it was my first night in Thailand, I was expecting to eat some real, authentic Thai food. I was shocked when she served my father and me spaghetti and meatballs while she ate a Thai curry that she’d made herself! I asked her, “Can I try some of your curry?” She told me I wouldn’t like it, that it would be way too spicy for me! I told her “Bring it on!” as I downed a robust spoonful of her curry, the coconut milk and lemongrass and peppers melted in my mouth. And then the heat. I was coughing and sputtering, the back of my throat lit up from the Thai chilies she’d used. They laughed and laughed, my dad shaking his head at me, knowing that would be the reaction to his wife’s curry. But I’d tried it. I didn’t go all the way to Southeast Asia to eat spaghetti and meatballs! As I sipped my milk and ate my pasta, I found comfort in my eagerness to try new things. Little did I know how many new things I’d be trying over the next four months! While living in Thailand, I recovered from what had been an intense four years of studying and exams. I opened my heart to new experiences that I never would have lived through had I not said yes to living, albeit temporarily, in Southeast Asia. Beginning with the spicy Thai curry on my first evening, in my adventures to come, I sat on the lap of a Burmese


This Is... captain and navigated a freight barge through the myriad of tiny islands in the Gulf of Thailand in the middle of the night. I ate pig knuckles and dancing shrimp and roasted crickets. I sang karaoke with strangers deep into the night. I learned to speak Thai, to negotiate with my tuktuk driver confidently, to navigate my way through the city. I visited temples and scratched tiger bellies and swam naked in the moonlight. I loved on puppies and mama dogs and picked up feral cats for cuddles. I played in waterfalls, learned to ride a motorbike, rode the night train, got food poisoning, and had my wisdom teeth removed (without going under anesthesia, but that’s a story for another day). I spent nine hours sitting on a bus next to a young man from France who didn’t speak any English, but we played Fruit Ninja on my iPad and shared snacks and at the end of the day became Facebook friends (and we’re still friends, 7 years later). Chiang Mai showed me what it meant to actually live my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but the entirety of my time spent living in Thailand would take my soul to another level. It healed what I didn’t know needed healing. I spent invaluable time with my father, met amazing, beautiful new people and heard their stories, discovered new places that looked like something straight out of a National Geographic centerfold, learned a new language, and tried foods that I never thought I’d ever eat in my lifetime. When I stepped onto that plane and returned to Seattle, my life had been forever changed. Thailand had changed me. I know that no matter what it is I’m seeking or experiencing in life, whether it be heartbreak, loss, confusion, helplessness, hurt, or pain, there is one place that can heal me. Thailand is a beautiful country, from its stunning beaches in the south to its dense jungle in the north, but Chiang Mai is a life-giving city. It is a city that gives you back as much as you put into it. It welcomes those who are weary with its rugged hilltops, lush surroundings, tantalizing flavors, smiling faces, metropolitan buzz, and unforgettable Khao Soi. It is a city that everyone should visit at least once. Although it’ll never be just once. Not for me, anyway.



From Commiseration to Confidence: An Interview with Hilary Billings

This Is... By: Maddi Kuligoski


oday, Hilary Billings is a prior Miss Nevada, red carpet interviewer, confidence and self-worth coach, and soon-to-be podcast creator. It’s hard to believe that at one point in her life she found herself being treated by the nursing staff at Urgent Care after suffering burns to her face and chest, losing her own self-confidence. Her story is filled with inspiring moments of mental toughness and tenacity that have the potential to help anyone currently struggling with issues like body image, rejection, or simply not knowing where to turn next after tragedy strikes. Continue reading to pick up some pro-tips on how to stay positive and turn traumatic experiences into opportunities to grow. Hilary Billings is no stranger to adversity. After getting rejected from all of the graduate schools she applied to, Hilary decided to travel as a way to escape. “I didn’t know how to deal with that,” she confessed during her interview with Tatum Garino, editor-inchief of This Is..., “so when I went to Nicaragua initially I was just going to hide and commiserate over the fact that I thought my life was over.” However, as time went on she embraced the adventure and curiosity her travels brought about and turned her rejection into something positive by starting her own travel blog. She intended for the blog to merely be a way to keep her family and friends updated while she was away, but as time went on she said she “started to become vulnerable and share [her] stories and tribulations that [she] was going through and these thoughts that [she] was dealing with” that others related to, causing her audience to grow to reach over 120 countries. “Being able to have that conversation with people around the world was really powerful,” she said.” As life often seems to do, as soon as things started looking up adversity hit again, this time in the form of a firework to Hilary’s chest. “Suddenly doctors didn’t know what my healing time was going to look like, if I would look normal- I mean I spent six months just holed up in Vegas with only my circle that was directly around me knowing what was going on,” Hilary said. Not only was she experiencing body image issues and struggling with feeling beautiful in her own skin, she also had to deal with the guilt of not telling her blog readers about her injury


as it would mean she would be unable to travel. So, how did Hilary pull herself out of this negative mindset? By entering a beauty pageant, of course! Hilary had been encouraging her readers to go out of their comfort zone in order to grow as individuals, so she thought listening to her own advice might be beneficial. “Nothing seemed more terrifying at the time than being on stage in a bikini and having someone judge me based on my appearance, so I entered the pageant,” Hilary said when explaining why she entered the Miss Nevada pageant. Before the pageant she was feeling self-conscious, but even after she won and became Miss Nevada she was still facing judgment for “not looking like a Miss Nevada.” “What I learned to do was perceive that I’m breaking their preconceived notions of what a beauty queen is supposed to be and that’s actually a big win in my book, but it took having to move away from the external validation, which looking back on it was so influential for building my self-confidence,” Hilary explained. The pendulum in Hilary’s life had begun swinging in the other direction, as things only went up after winning the Miss Nevada pageant. She got her start as a journalist on USA Today on a six week trial. It was during these few weeks that she worked her first red carpet at the iHeart Radio Music Festival. Now, Hilary is an experienced celebrity interviewer, on-camera host, and has her own podcast called Red Carpet Confidence. The podcast strives to share interviews with celebrities in which they recount times where they had to overcome feeling inadequate in the hopes that listeners who may be struggling with the same thing can connect with these high-achievers. Hilary said she’s “a big believer in sharing those stories and having those authentic conversations to bridge the gap between the filtered media that we’re seeing,” and that “the more we use social media the more anxious and depressed we are, so [she] wanted to provide content that negates those negative facts of our culture as well as share those stories so that people might pick up tips and tricks from their role models.” With that being said, Hilary herself is also a great source of tips and tricks on how to make your recovery process easier and work on your self-confidence. We gathered up a few of her top bits of advice she gave during her interview.

The first suggestion is to go out and travel, and yes, this may be a bit obvious coming from a successful travel blogger, but she’s got a point!


“I recommend it especially for young women to get out of their comfort zone. Even if it’s just going to a different city nearby or a different county or living somewhere else, or whether that might mean hopping across the world and living in a country where you don’t speak the language. There is something very empowering that we don’t often give ourselves a chance to do in daily life by having these types of adventures and achieving those small victories.”

Next tip: surround yourself with people that build you up during your recovery, not tear you down. “Start with where you are in your recovery and what thoughts you’re battling against, belittling beliefs and what you feel are the negatives and really working to ensure that the people around you understand your recovery goals and whether or not the circle of friends and women you choose to be around really take that seriously. Protect your calendar, protect your schedule, and make sure that the people around you are going to be supportive of you in these environments.”

2 The third piece of advice has to do with post traumatic growth, ever heard of it? I hadn’t! But Hilary kept bringing it up, so I looked it up. Post traumatic growth has to do with seeing trauma recovery as an opportunity to grow and to be open to the idea that positive changes can happen through negative experiences. Hilary suggests paying attention to language to aid in this growth.


“There’s a list of things that go with it as far as why someone is more apt to have a growing experience and look at the stress and trauma in their life as being a positive versus something that works against them, and some of the biggest parts of that are your circle and your community and who you can talk to and the language you choose to surround this situation. Be mindful of how you’re talking about the situation, if you’re talking about it as this horrible thing that happened to you versus this opportunity that was given to you. I’ve taken that very seriously as I’ve moved through my life and wanting to ensure that the language I attach to anything, but especially myself, is either positive or neutral.” Building on that positive thinking, the next tip is centered more on confidence and has to do with figuring out how to turn things you view as negatives about yourself into positives.


“Finding how things you think are negative could actually be valuable and how someone else might find them valuable will help you to really interpret and be able to communicate to others your self-worth. I think it becomes easier at that point because once you’re able to show those that you think are going to be your biggest naysayers why this is an okay thing gives you the permission to get out of your own way and just start going after things. Once you get through that first major hurdle, whether that’s competing at a pageant, interviewing for a job, trying something new, it’ll get easier and just continue to increase your self-confidence and reassurance that you have you regardless of what comes next.”

The fifth and final tip is to start looking at how far you’ve come instead of how far you are from your goal.


“We love to measure how far we are from the goal that we’ve set for ourselves and we usually utilize this as the measure of our self-worth. However close we are to that end result is what we consider to be how successful we are when in reality we need to measure how far we’ve come. If life is about progress and continuous growth then we’re always going to be fulfilled but if we’re chasing this end goal or how far away we are from something then we might never get there, just by life or things changing. And even if we get there, we’ve spent all this time conditioning ourselves to not be happy so once we reach that moment of achievement it’s really hard to be happy, so it’s important to teach people how to look at growth and connection as the success instead of that external result.”

If you want to learn more about basing self-worth on your progress, something Hilary calls gap measuring, she has a free workbook, 4 Steps to Quick Confidence, where she goes into more detail on the subject. You can find her workbook and more information about her podcast, Red Carpet Confidence, on her website,


It Was Magical

This Is... By: Haley Phillips


t was magical. Instantly upon meeting our first son I knew I was made to mother. It was the colliding of all my skills. You know, moments that feel perfect are rare, but when they happen it is heaven and earth colliding. You know in that instant it’s the best of life. We loved being parents, it was and is the best part of our days. My job seemed less stressful and, honestly, less important. We had felt called to simplify our life, to sell the house we built, have less, experience more and make a life where I could be home taking care of our littles. We wanted more kids as soon as possible so we quickly became pregnant again when our first son was nine months old. July 5th, I took a pregnancy test and carefully wrapped it in a box to later surprise my husband and he was pumped to be adding another little one to our crew just as I knew he would be. I was due in March. Our house had been on the market and we waited and waited to sell. Months passed. We got an offer and were quickly scrambling to find another home. I was in over my head working for a large retailer while trying to pack a home and care for a toddler. We made a hasty choice on a home and had 30 days to move. Did I also mention we lived hours away from any family? The night before we moved, we were deep in packing our garage full of junk and bickering and sweating in the heat of August. Suddenly, I could feel liquid rolling down my leg. It was a little early at this point to be wetting my pants but hey, life happens. I looked down and a pool of blood was on my kitchen floor - instant panic setting in. We made a late-night trip to the ER, which makes me sick to say it would be the first of literally countless. The nurse was emotionless and cold. I will remember his face for the rest of my life. We had the chance to meet again a few months later, which I’ll get to later. In the ER, they could see on the ultrasound that our son’s heart was beating. It was love at first sight. He was measuring behind by a few days but was doing alright. I was diagnosed with a sub chorionic hematoma. Basically, there was a hole in my placenta that was causing the bleeding. They assured me that the baby was doing okay and that lots of times these heal on their own. They told me hopefully the bleeding would stop in a few days and they took out my IV and I went home and slept the day away.

Back to work I went. Back to moving I went. The stress of work, adjusting to a new home and now this very complicated pregnancy was adding to the stress of our marriage and our family. We pressed on. I bled for eight straight weeks. So much for just bleeding for a couple of days. I bled through my work pants, on friend’s bathroom floors and on my car seat. It finally became unbearable to work and at 16 weeks I was put on bedrest. If I wasn’t depressed before, I was now. I spent my days alone, worrying for my baby and unable to care for the one I already had. Like I said, I was made to mother. This was the stripping me of my soul. I could not even protect the life inside me. I was able to throw my son his first birthday party back in Minnesota and that was the last happy day I remember having that Fall. I would spend those eight weeks taking it hour by hour and day by day, and making roughly three more ER visits and countless trips to the OB. Wednesday nights we had small group because I was fed up and decided I had to do something and get out of the house in real clothes and be with people. My husband was picking my son up from daycare and then would pick me up to head to group. As I was waiting for them, searing pain dropped me to my knees. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t get to the bathroom. I called my husband and said we needed to get to the hospital immediately. I wouldn’t admit that it was labor but now I know that is exactly what it was. We walked in the ER and there was the nurse who was a total jerk before during my first visit. I told them no way am I going with that guy. I requested to be sent to labor and delivery. They said they wouldn’t take me up since I was two days short of 20 weeks, but I guess I can be pretty persistent because up to labor and delivery we went. They checked me into a room for C-section patients. I was put on constant pain killers and because of that a lot of details are incredibly blurry. My nurse that night was my person. I didn’t know it then, but she was going to walk me through my darkest days. This incredible perinatal specialist, who would later play a huge part of my mothering story, took an ultrasound of our son. She said very little because there was very little to say. I am glad she let me have the smallest hope to carry me to the next day. I needed help, so I had told my parents to come down from Minnesota. I had no idea how long I was going to be in the hospital, my husband had burned all his sick days taking me to the emergency room,


This Is... the four of us. We gave him a bath. My parents held him. My husband and I took turns holding him. They carefully dressed him. A man carried him out in a white basket. My baby would never be mine to hold again. We walked out, the shades over the nursery of new babies. Hand in hand but with no son. It is hard to describe pure emptiness when you feel like everything around you should stop. I kept thinking, “Don’t these people know my child just died?” My world was completely shattered. The loudness you can hear in the silence of night was deafening for weeks. The next few weeks my people carried me. My parents, my friends, my co-workers, my church - they brought meals, took my kid on playdates, drove to see me, sent gifts. They made the unbearable bearable. Amazingly, I saw God is still good.

we had a one-year-old and a dog - it was getting out of control. My parents took turns during the day visiting, my husband right beside me by night. He had stayed with me Thursday evening and I was exhausted - I slept for four hours straight and woke up around 4am. I called for the nurse and, because of the drugs, I had probably been laboring some time without knowing. I remember asking for an epidural - no way did I want to go through the pain of childbirth if I was losing my baby. I was four weeks away from viability. She looked into my eyes and told me I had dilated to10cm - it was time to push. It was magic. Just like the first time. All the emotions were just the same. The first time I held him I knew I was made to mother. It is a sacred pain to hold your child for the first, the last, and the only time. We spent the morning loving him. We took a picture of


We had moved, making our finances more manageable, but we still weren’t totally prepared for me to quit my job. I did it anyways. I will tell you losing a child will make you look fear straight in the face and laugh. People say all the time "I don’t know how you did it." Well, I am not that amazing. I did not have a choice. I did not choose weeks of bedrest, hardly seeing my toddler, or natural childbirth for my stillborn son. There was no cure, no fix, and honestly giving birth to Fletcher is still one of my greatest gifts and victories. I will say, there is something about going through what feels like hell and coming out stronger, refined, and more empathic that makes you feel empowered. After all, giving birth is one of the most empowering things a woman can do. Months passed and the bills came and came. From the ER visits to the labor and delivery bill. It was more than we paid for our first son and I didn’t even have a baby. I was livid. It’s always great when your insurance company calls you and says congrats on the delivery of your son then lays down a nice fat bill after your child died. It was sickening and a giant burden to deal with. I remember going through the packet they gave us when we left the maternity floor and not one single thing mentioned help with medical costs after a loss. Fletcher was here for a very short time on earth but taught us so much. My pregnancy with him taught me reliance, patience, and how scary it is to feel out

This Is... of control but how freeing it is to know how strong I could be for him, my family and myself. He taught me and my husband a lot about ourselves. A lot of faults, fears and darkness can lurk beneath grief. Baggage that we, being married a whole two years, had no idea how to deal with, and honestly sometimes still don’t. We knew we wanted to do something to honor our son. We started researching and statistics are pretty consistent that one in four women have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. Running a non-profit seemed pretty scary and we knew nothing about it. Remember what I said about going through hell and coming out the other end? Well, that taught us to laugh in the face of fear and months later, The Fletcher Foundation was born. We are able to celebrate families that have heavenly babies and are on a journey of grief. Memorializing these children’s due dates, loss dates, and a mama’s pregnancies after loss is a great joy of our foundation. Monthly donations and one-time gifts are made by our supporters to our clients to help pay for outrageous bills accumulated by miscarriages and stillbirths. The season of grief after losing a baby does not have a timeline, and we treasure being a part of that journey. It is magic, being a mother, being made to mother - one that should always be celebrated. We wanted a place for families to grieve and a space to feel supported, emotionally and financially. In complete transparency, we are learning as we go, but I can tell you that helping mothers and families in this season brings me life. Remember that specialist who took Fletcher’s last ultrasound? She was a miracle worker for my third child and kept my body from going into early labor at 20 weeks and is the very reason why we have our eight-month-old beside us today. I carried that pregnancy until 37 weeks, I had a picture perfect (to me) birth story and I delivered a perfectly healthy baby girl all on my own. It was redeeming in all forms. Our daughter doesn’t ease our grief, but she does make me believe in joy during and after grief. It makes me believe that all parts of motherhood are beautiful even when they are heartbreaking. Because really, motherhood is magic.



[Healthy] My Healing Story Recovering from Myself

This Is... By: Lorin Sisco


at more, sleep more, exercise less, is what the doctors told me when the they told me I had Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a condition where menstruation stops due to a problem in the hypothalamus in the brain. It's pretty much a fancy term for stress induced amenorrhea or loss of period. This is usually caused by acute weight loss, chronic anxiety, and stress. It is an endocrine disorder that involves a problem with the hypothalamus, the center of the brain that controls reproduction. Basically, it’s when ovulation stops caused by a failure in the hypothalamus to signal to the ovaries. In high school, I found my passion for fitness and proper nutrition; working out has been a part of my life for six years now. Up until now I would work out five to seven days a week, sometimes twice and eat a 1000-1200 calorie diet. I thought I was being healthy, and thought that this was treating my body right, until I realized I was striving to be this “healthy” weight that took my fertility away from me. I was 125 pounds and I was 5’4” at age 15, by the time I was 18 I was 114 pounds and my body fat was at 17.1 percent. My period? Gone. I had my last period in November of 2014. It was not until a year went by before I realized that I needed to see a doctor. I saw a naturopath, a gynecologist, and an endocrinologist, but all of them told me they didn't know what to do because every test I took came back normal. My hormones were fine, my brain was fine, my body seemed perfectly fine. It was not until I was referred to an endocrinologist that specialized in fertility that I finally received an answer to why this was happening. She was a Harvard Medical School graduate and had done her thesis on the effects of low leptin hormone in those who suddenly lose their periods. When I met her, she immediately tested every hormone that could possibly be off track. If you could guess, the only hormone that was abnormal was my leptin hormone and she immediately diagnosed me with hypothalamic amenorrhea. Leptin levels are usually low in those who have been through periods of starvation, so the body never wants to stop eating when there is finally food around them. I never purposefully starved myself, but I will admit I became obsessed with eating right and exercising, to a point where being “healthy” was very unhealthy. My brain never shut off thinking about what I was putting into my body. I logged everything I ate and when I went over, I mentally beat myself up about it. According to the doctors it was crucial for me to gain

weight to start menstruating again, even though I wasn’t underweight to begin with. But being obsessed with body weight, I had to make a tough decision; suck up my pride and up the scale five to ten extra pounds or to say goodbye to my period for good. Once people with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea hit the six-year mark, only 20 percent of them ever get their periods back. I made the conscious decision to gain the weight they said I needed in order to start menstruating naturally again. It had been almost four years without my period, but I had to make it a priority to work hard on keeping my mind and body happy and healthy. During the recovery process, the doctors had me on a 2,000 calorie per day diet without any exercise. I used meditation and yoga to relax my mind and body. I also kept a diet of only eating whole and nutritious foods. Sometimes it was hard for me to be because I had to eliminate all exercise from my life, but I knew that it was what I needed to do for myself. Keep in mind, I studied kinesiology in college, which is the study of movement of the body, so exercise was a critical part of my life. Giving up exercising for as long as I did was the most challenging part of all this, but I knew I had to do it for the sake of my body’s health and for the sake of having children one day. I kept these practices up for roughly a year before most of my doctors didn’t know what to do anymore and just told me to give it time. I felt really alone; I just wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout all the research I've done on this condition, it was hard to find other women's personal stories with this condition, which was the one thing I was dying to find. Personally, I needed to know that there were other people with my same condition who were able to successfully get their periods back and eventually get pregnant on their own. I started Googling Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and started watching YouTube videos of other women documenting their experience with this. It honestly helped me realize that I wasn't alone in this. I heard the stories of those who had been dealing with this for six or more years and eventually got their periods, which really gave me hope. Now, at 22 years old, I am very excited to finally announce that after four years of missed periods, I started cycling again, completely naturally and have been cycling normally for the past two years. After seeing four different doctors, getting an MRI, having several ultrasounds done on my ovaries, and spending thousands of dollars in medical bills, doctors still didn't completely understand why my peri-


This Is... ods vanished or why my hormones flatlined, but they said it was most likely due to the small amount of foods I was eating combined with the amount of exercising I was doing. Many doctors told me that the only way I could have a period again was by taking oral contraceptives and the only way I would be able to get pregnant in the future was by getting fertility treatments. However, I was able to listen to my body, find out how to heal my body, and was able to say

made, but to learn that I could heal my own problems by changing my lifestyle choices was an incredible lesson for me and I am very grateful.

goodbye to hormonal contraceptives forever.

conscious, but I had to let go of the obsessive working out and calorie counting habits I had made for myself over the years.

This has been a long, spiritual journey for me and my personal growth. I think having a condition that affects your ability to get pregnant will change you to be more in-tune with yourself in all aspects. I am overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude that my body has positively reacted to all the changes I've


I've learned a lot about myself in the process but more importantly, I've been able to open up about my condition with others and have been able to help others seek help for their eating disorders and other traumatic events. I have always been health and body

If anyone who is reading this is struggling with an eating disorder, I strongly encourage that you seek professional help because it is something you will struggle with forever. You're not alone in this.

This Is... Stay well, and don't forget to love yourself. --Things I did to restart my cycle and tips on how to regulate menses naturally: 1. Acupuncture & herbs - I was shocked to see how fast my body reacted to acupuncture and herbs. Going to an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility is my biggest recommendation. Finding a good acupuncturist is hard, some are better than others. If you happen to be in the Denver metro area, Acupuncture Denver is an incredible place to go. They are very personal. They set up an entire lifestyle plan personally for me and I got my first period only three weeks after taking their herbs. I honestly believe acupuncture changed my life; it is an incredible practice and has a lot of evidence-based research behind it. 2. Avoid cold foods - According to Chinese medicine, cold water and cold foods are blood restrictors. Choosing cooked foods over smoothies, raw foods, and salads, is recommended. I also recommend wearing socks at home to keep your feet warm and taking warm showers instead of cold. 3. Yoga over cardio - Yoga is a great mindful practice that keeps your body and mind in shape. Cardio causes a physical stress to the body, although it is a positive stress, it still releases hormones in the body that can reduce the production of leptin. Leptin is a key hormone in this endocrine disorder, which cannot be given orally. It is important to keep leptin hormones regulated, which is normally low in many women with HA. Anaerobic exercises are a good option to keep your bones strong. Osteoporosis is a higher risk for women with Amenorrhea, so keeping your bones strong is essential. 4. Mindful meditation - I've been using the app "Head Space" to help me meditate 10 minutes every day. Meditation helps relieve stress, enhances happiness, and increases self-awareness. 5. Avoid drinking alcohol - Period. Alcohol is a toxin, which really does not belong in your body during this time. 6. Exchange coffee for non-caffeinated teas - Because of the high amounts of caffeine in coffee, it’s good to avoid drinking it. Caffeine in general is something to avoid to keep stress levels low. 7. Try not to focus too much about what your body isn't doing and more on what it is - My body was slowly progressing every day, but it required a lot of patience. Focusing on the positives versus the negatives was a good practice for me. For all things, not just my period. 8. Supplement - Some supplements that were recommended to me were: Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6 & B12, multi-vitamin (Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin A, E, K, etc.), Selenium (this can also be supplemented by eating Brazil nuts. They have high amounts of selenium in them.), NAC (an antioxidant that helps regulate cycles), and Vitamin D3. 9. Keep a healthy and balanced diet - Making sure my diet was healthy during this entire process was probably the most important thing I did. Eating a variety of different foods is always good for your body. It's important to not go on any "extreme diet" that could potentially cause stress to your body. Fasting, cleansing, and detoxes are not recommended. Completely eliminating carbohydrates, like a keto diet, is also not recommended. Avoiding simple carbohydrates is different that avoiding carbohydrates in general. Eating whole grains and lots of veggies is important. It is also important to avoid foods with a lot of hormones in them like red meat, chicken, and dairy products.


The Ultimate Physical Recovery with mental & emotional side effects

This Is... By: Anna Pritchard


t was a beautiful February afternoon for Ultimate. The group of 15 or so players warmed up as we normally did and jumped into a quick game. I made a change of direction on the field and felt a pop in my left foot, but it wasn’t painful and I didn’t think anything of it. It was a little tweak, I would ice it when I got home and give it a few days of rest – standard procedure. That expected few days of rest became weeks of imbalance, swelling, and mystery around what the hell was wrong with my foot. A first x-ray of my left foot was inconclusive, and I was recommended to see an orthopedic specialist for a better look. The second x-ray of my left and right feet side by side was far from inconclusive. It showed a dislocated bone in my midfoot (called a dislocated Lisfranc) and the surgeon cautiously explained that surgery was the only way to fix it. I’ve had injuries in my time playing sports, it’s something that happens, and the next step for me was usually to rest and adjust my mindset to get back at it. But those typical thoughts of “I can push through this” or “This is what I have to do to get healthy” went out the door as I sat bawling in the surgeon’s office. I felt in denial and disbelief about how such a small event required fusing my bones and holding them together with a bunch of screws. I hadn’t had the surgery yet, but this was the first part of my recovery journey – accepting, understanding, and preparing for the impact of a major injury on my active lifestyle and, in particular, without the sport I love. Quick recovery mindset shift: I was only 24 and I wanted to be active for the rest of my life, of course I would have the surgery! And of course, I would come out ready to recover, I’d be just like new! That’s how surgeries work, right? My mindset started that way after the successful surgery, but fast forward about 12 hours and everything changed. I hadn’t figured out a painkiller schedule yet, so my foot was on fire most of the time. The recovery started with eight weeks of nonweight bearing so I got to ride one of those rad knee scooters, but I was terrified of falling and breaking the screws in my foot. This fear and sadness was a large part of my recovery journey. The doctor’s orders were to elevate my foot as many hours a day as I could, so I spent a lot of time on the couch thinking and a lot of time crying. I had thoughts that I

would never be able to walk, let alone play Ultimate again. I had fears that something went wrong with the surgery. I felt distant from my social circle as I scanned the Facebook newsfeed for the 25th time. I knew the physical recovery would be hard, but I wasn’t prepared for the mental rollercoaster. Life moved forward and I figured out how to get around on one foot or with my scooter. This was a period of growth in my recovery journey, but it also came with some frustrating and, at times, comical experiences. During those eight weeks of non-weight bearing, I never really perfected getting in and out of the shower or up and down from the toilet on one foot. I tore down every towel rack, shower curtain, and shelf in my bathroom during this time. I had a set of stairs to get in and out of my apartment, and for six weeks I hopped up stairs carrying my scooter, scooted to my car, and put the scooter in my car to drive to work (my doctor said I could drive!). One day after work, I was so tired and pissed off at how ridiculous this was that I chucked the scooter down the stairs, hopped into my apartment and left it outside for a few hours. I apologized and brought it inside later. Frustration often got the best of me and I always tried to supplement it with a laugh when I could. After the non-weight bearing period, easing back into activity was slow and frustrating. I started with crutches, moved to partially walking with crutches and partially walking with a boot, and then after 14 weeks I could walk with a pair of shoes as long as the shoes fit and I could stand it. At every stage of this I wanted more, I wanted to recover faster, and I wanted to push myself as I had often done in the past. I started physical therapy at the suggestion of the surgeon, and I was a terrible patient. “It’s been three weeks and the farthest I’ve gotten is standing on one leg for 60 seconds? They don’t know what I need, I’m never going to recover and be the player I want to be at this rate.” I stopped going, which I definitely don’t recommend. Many of the feelings and frustrations during this time could have been eased by help from or a conversation with a family member or friend. I had a strong support system, but it was difficult for me to ask for help because I didn’t want to feel like a burden. I believed I could do everything myself and even if that was true, it was exhausting and affected my progress and overall health. In the three years since that time I’ve made physical progress with yoga, walking, jogging, strength training, and I’m now back on the field four times


This Is... a week. Also during this time, I’ve made significant progress with gratefulness, cheesy as it may be. I am here and I am healthy, I am a dislocated-Lisfrancrecovery success story. My friends and family support me and the Ultimate community never gave up on me even when there were days that I wanted to give up on it, thinking I would never be impactful as a player again. I remember seeing teammates and other Ultimate players from afar who had recovered from injuries and were back on the field. Without even saying anything to me they were an inspiration for me to keep going. When I was ready to play again, local players were supportive and encouraging. The saying “it takes a village” was so relevant in this journey and I am so grateful for my tribe. Will I ever be the same player I was before? Probably not. Do I still have lows? Definitely. Even today, years after the surgery, I panic when I feel nerve pain in my foot or a tweak to another body part because the fear of surgery floods back. Through my recovery I’ve learned to listen to these thoughts and feelings, make adjustments, and grow from them. Every week I try to find something to be proud of and something I can work on. And always, ALWAYS find something to laugh about.


What is Ultimate? Ultimate is a sport played with a flying disc often described as a mix between the player movement of soccer and the throwing and scoring movement of football. The sport is self-officiated and is governed by the Spirit of the Game, a concept that places responsibility of sportsmanship and mutual respect on each player. Opportunities to play exist for youth all the way up to professional leagues, but college is where myself and many other players learned the sport. I was burnt out from high school soccer and joined the Ultimate team as an outlet for my competitive edge and desire to be in a team sport. I was hooked after my first tournament and for the five years that followed, I ate, slept, and breathed ultimate.



By: Camila Agurto

This Is...


angovers suck. You wake up early in the morning even though you went to sleep super late at night, or maybe even earlier that same morning. Your head feels heavy. The light hurts. You are incredibly thirsty, nauseous, and your stomach is tender like it lost the bar fight against the vodka or wine you said you’d only have one glass of. After your third glass, you said you would drink enough water, but didn’t so your stomach and liver are tapped out. I’ve been there, as many of us have. In fact, I have hit the point in my life where two glasses of wine is too much and I need to drink twice the amount of water and some vitamin C just to avoid waking up with a slight hangover, but sometimes even that isn't enough. Well, during my studying of herbal sciences I discovered the wonderful plant Silybum marianum, also known as milk thistle. Its Latin name is fun to say and believe me, it will be your best friend after, or even before, a fun night out. Silybum marianum is a part of the Asteraceae family, the same as the more popular dandelion and chamomile. Milk thistle seeds have been used as a remedy for liver problems for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They have an ability to protect the liver from alcohol damage among other poisonings. The main constituent responsible for being hepatoprotective (a liver protector) is silymarin, which can be found in the seeds of milk thistle. One of the ways it protects the liver is by stimulating DNA polymerase in hepatocytes, increasing ribosomal RNA and protein synthesis, which can stimulate liver cell regeneration1. The main theory behind hangovers is the buildup of acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol after it is broken down by an enzyme in our liver known as alcohol dehydrogenase and the antioxidant glutathione. Each individual differs in how much of the enzyme they have and make in their body. Glutathione (made of cysteine and threonine) tends to run out quickly, leaving the acetaldehyde hanging out for much longer while the liver makes more. Acetaldehyde likes to bind proteins in the liver, causing normal functions to alter and potentially cause side effects like nausea, headaches, and vomiting, AKA: a hangover. So, if you choose to enjoy a few drinks, milk thistle can be your answer to a hangover cure or even prevention. It has the innate ability to help your liver process alcohol among other functions! In order to access the silymarin, the seeds must be crushed or ground. Do not attempt to eat them whole without grinding them, because you could chip a tooth! I can speak from experience that ingesting some milk thistle before and after drinking has prevented me


from waking up with a hangover. I would recommend a full dropper full (30mL) of milk thistle tincture in water, or two 500mg milk thistle capsules. In addition to the milk thistle, you should still stay as hydrated as possible while you’re drinking! A good trick is a small glass of water in between drinks. Other wonderful hangover allies are ginger tea and candies for nausea, eggs that are full of cysteine to help replenish glutathione, and beets for more liver support! If you are new to the world of herbs, I would HIGHLY recommend Organic Olivia’s “Liver Juice” blend that has milk thistle in it along with other wonderful liver-loving herbs. She is not a sponsor of any sort, but when there is a product that works, I feel it should be shared. If you decide to befriend milk thistle on your next night out feel free to share your story with me on Instagram @thisplantmami. 1. Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects *These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always consult with your healthcare professional before taking herbal supplements.

This Is... It was the summer of 2000. I was thirteen and had been invited to go spend Saturday at the brand new Hurricane Harbor water park that had just opened when Six Flags had taken over what we formerly referred to as Riverside. I was stoked. Going to Riverside was a treat - those bring-a-buddy passes were like a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar. Lucky for me my best friend and her family were season pass holders, and when the invitation came on a perfect summer Saturday, I couldn’t have been more excited.

Quick background - I’m flying home from a week in Europe back to the states. I’m standby and I got super lucky and found myself sitting in business class (hello, lay flat seats). I’m incredibly out of place and don’t know how to even operate the dang seat recliner. As we are waiting to leave the gate and take off, I feel it. The big red apple came. For those of you that were super comfortable with your body in middle school and didn’t need to nickname things, the big red apple was my family’s code word for having your period.

Unlucky for me, the morning of our adventure, Girl Problems decided to turn up. Seriously?! Now what?! I panicked. My mom came to the rescue. She brought me what I’d only read about and seen in her medicine cabinet. A pastel yellow paper wrapped tube-like contraption with serrated edges to tear and open. If it wasn’t clear already, I’d never used a tampon in my life. I was pretty new to this whole Girl Problems thing. There were no instructions given, just “Don’t worry, you can still go swimming at the water park if you use this. Go try it up in the bathroom.” So I did.

Anyway, big red comes and I flag a flight attendant down to ask him if I can quick use the restroom. He says yes so I walk past everyone in business class to quickly go check. Confirming that I was going to need new undies, I realized I didn’t have any tampons with me. They were in my husband’s carry-on, and he was seated further back in the plane. I weighed my options and decided not to ditch my soaked undies yet, but stuff TP in them until we were in the air and I could get the goods.

I walked up to our bathroom, ripped the pastel yellow paper open and just guessed what I was supposed to do with it. Remember it was 2000 and this was one of my mom’s tampons. So it was a tough white cardboard applicator, stuffed with a dry cotton looking wad with a string running down through to the bottom. There was no compact - “click” or intuitive instruction about it - just a cardboard tube that had cotton poking out of the top. So I did what I thought I was supposed to do. In it went. And I mean The. Whole. Thing. Cardboard tube and all. It was painful and I was pretty confident I hated it. But if I wanted to go down the lazy river, damn it, I would suffer through the pain!! My mom came to check on me (probably because I had taken an age trying to figure the thing out) and I asked her if it was supposed to feel so uncomfortable. I questioned if the entire thing was supposed to go up there. God Bless my mother. She must have done everything in her power to suppress laughing at me and instead offered comfort instead. “Oh my gosh, no!” She quickly grabbed another to show me how it was supposed to work; that the cardboard tube was supposed to only help get the dry cotton wad with long dangly string up and out, and that I shouldn’t be able to feel anything. I was embarrassed, but grateful and my second attempt was much more successful. I grabbed my bathing suit, shoved it into my minibackpack, snagged a few spares for post-swim, armed and ready to take on Hurricane Harbor, Girl Problems - overcome! Sincerely, Cardboard Vag ------


I get back to my seat hoping nobody notices the waddle in my step or smells the blood (I couldn’t smell it but I still had a fear that this classy people have fancier noses than me and would). We get note from the pilot we are going to be delayed a few minutes for maintenance and we were free to take off seat belts. YES!! I get tampons from my husband and put a wad of them in my bag so I have enough for the 10 hour flight. I go into the bathroom again and take the tampon out of the wrapper. I bought the compact travel ones (less space to take up in my bag, duh), but I’d never actually used one. I attempt to pull it out but I somehow broke it and the Cotton part shot out of the end and fell to the floor. Not useable. I leave the bathroom and go sit back in my seat deciding what to do. We were still able to walk around, but I didn’t want to go to the bathroom a third time in front of all the business class passengers. That’s just weird. I grabbed one more and went to the bathroom in coach instead. I put it in but it only went up halfway so it was stuck in the birth canal. Anyone who’s ever not put a tampon in all the way knows how uncomfortable it is. I walked back to my seat thinking maybe it just needed me to walk it into place. Nope. Shit. I grab two more and go back to the coach bathroom. Fourth trip to the bathroom on the plane and we still hadn’t even taken off. I give it two more unsuccessful tries and I can only get them partly in. Pulling out dry tampons hurts. It really hurts after you do that three times. I found a panty liner and decide that’s just going to have to work for the 10 hours in the air and plan to ask a flight attendant for one during the flight. Thankfully (can’t believe I’m saying thankfully) our flight got cancelled with the maintenance issue so we

This Is... got off, went to a hotel and I got to shower, change my underwear and figure out the tampon situation. After FaceTiming with someone, I figured out you have to click the thing into place so you can fully insert it. Who knew? Sincerely, Halfway Vag ----My husband and I have an Echo Dot in our bedroom. We use it for an alarm, lights and on a rare occasion music. One time we were getting it on and I asked Alexa to play romantic sex slow jams or something stupid. It was more a joke but also kind of serious and the station it played wasn’t half bad. We have a big Alexa downstairs that we use for music all day every day. One day, me, my husband, our friend that was living with us at the time and our two-yearold daughter were in the kitchen hanging out. We usually take turns telling Alexa what to play. I said “Alexa, play some music” Her response, “Alright, here is a recent playlist called baby making slow jams” and it starts playing some serious sexy music. I can’t remember our friend’s exact words but it was so awkward for all of us involved. I tried to quickly change the station and he said, “Welp I’m just gonna leave the room right now.” Sincerely, Baby Making Vag --There was this time I went and surprised my best guy friend in New York for his high school graduation and it was so hot all night and I had been tossing and turning and lifting my leg and flinging it over the blankets and he came in the next morning to wake me up and when I stood up (while he was still in the room) I totally queefed - and not a small one, like a loud ass queef. We both stared at each other and him to me in horror and I finally said, “Whoops” and kept making the bed and went on with my day

on hand were tampons and so I went into the bathroom and tried to figure out how to get this thing in my hooha - mind you again I’m like 12 and have never explored down there, I don’t know what’s going on, what hole to put it in, what I’m doing, and my mom’s not there but my crazy aunt was and she’s screaming through the door asking if I’m okay and if she needs to come in and do it for me or if I want my best friend who was with me to come in and do it for me and I was mortified! After about an hour I gave up and put on a pad we managed to find but realized we needed to go to the store to get some and my aunt went and came back with pads but not period pads - like surgical pads like I had just given birth and needed to use pads! So, I put one on and we were headed to the beach that day. Well once we got there none of the adults wanted to get into the ocean with my 6-year-old cousin and so I said I’d go in. Well no one realized or even thought about the pad I had on so when I went into the water it blew up like a freaking balloon! And I had to get out of the water and could barely walk because it was so filled up! I had to squeeze this thing out and it was like a gallon of water falling between my legs. I’ve never seen my grandma laugh so hard in her whole life. Sincerely, Balloon Vag ---We were in Costa Rica when I was a pre-teen and I still wasn’t wearing tampons and I was on my period and we went into the jacuzzi (myself, grandma and grandpa) and when we got back into the room the pad I had on when I went in was no longer there! Well, I couldn’t figure it out. But we walked past the jacuzzi on our way to dinner and there it was sitting on the side of the jacuzzi!! While people were in the jacuzzi! I was so embarrassed! I made my grandma go and grab it and throw it away for me!! Sincerely, Padless Vag

Sincerely, Queefy Vag ---I was like 11/12 and in France for a couple weeks with my family visiting family and I had started my period while we were there. I had had my period for about a year so nothing new but I still didn’t use tampons. Well I wanted to go swimming and the only thing we had



Chloe + Lois

This Is... By: Maddi Kuligoski


hen you think of recovery, some of the first things that may come to mind are bouncing back from an illness or getting back “out there” after a breakup. Although maybe not as obvious as these examples, removing yourself from the corporate world and getting out of a negative mindset and environment in order to start over is also a form of recovery - and it’s exactly the recovery Brooke Anthony chatted with editor-in-chief, Tatum Garino, about. When she decided to leave her corporate job and follow her passion by starting her own jewelry company, Chloe and Lois, Brooke found her path to recovery. Tatum and Brooke discussed the history and future aspirations of the up and coming brand, Brooke’s advice for other women struggling with whether or not to act on their dreams, and the inspiration she hopes to give through her story. Tatum Garino: First I want to hear in your words how you would describe what Chloe and Lois is. Brooke Anthony: Chloe + Lois is simple, versatile and beautiful jewelry for strong women who want to look good as they conquer life. TG: I love that. And so, with the jewelry itself, how would you describe the aesthetic and style of it? BA: Simple, versatile and beautiful! Chloe + Lois offers a stunning assortment of sparkling stacking earrings, rings and necklaces set in solid sterling silver, with 14k gold and rose gold plating that feature beautiful glittering Swarovski crystal, glowing simulated opal and sparkling cubic zirconia detail. They’re the perfect pieces for the girl who loves dainty jewelry with a whole lot of sparkle. TG: And when it comes to the designs do you pick them or, I don’t know if you manufacture them, like what does the backend look like? BA: First, I sketch. And let me tell you - I sketch terribly. My running joke is that my sketches look like a four-year-old did them - I’m so happy that I can take credit for them at 33 years old! I send my sketches on and collaborate with another designer at my manufacturing firm who comes back to me with a 3D rendering and we work on the product details from there. This part can get pretty stressful and extremely time consuming because there is a tremendous amount of back and forth that needs to be done to iron out the specifics. Once all of the details are put into place, we then fire it off to production and then I pray for two things: 1. For my vision to be on point, 2. That my customers love it and will want to buy it (major key). I have a strong, solid

vision of the overall aesthetic of Chloe + Lois- so I always stay true to it. TG: And do you have like a space or something that you draw your inspiration from specifically? BA: Oh gosh, I’m inspired by a lot of things- I love simplicity, versatility, and beauty (the more sparkles the better!). The overall inspiration behind Chloe + Lois comes from a few different areas. First, my love for jewelry that was “handed down” to me from my Grandmother, Lois. When growing up she would always buy me jewelry. I think a lot of women can relate to this: I feel naked when I leave the house without jewelry on! My grandmother Lois was an avid QVC shopper and I always joke and tell people that I was the youngest kid in the United States to own Diamonique jewelry from QVC because she bought it for me at such a young age! The inspirational peak that really got Chloe + Lois moving happened back in 2017 the day after my husband and I got engaged in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The following day we set out to shop in an area called The Nine Streets and I walked into a boutique that had this incredible assortment of delicate earrings hanging on a display in a multitude of colors- they were so simple, and each was more beautiful than the last. When merchandised together, they looked absolutely stunning; I am very driven by colors and beautiful things- so I was on complete sensory overload. I bought a pair (that I wore on my wedding day!) and returned home on a quest to find something similar for my bridesmaids but had no luck. This is when I started doing sketches and envisioning a line of super simple, versatile and beautiful pieces. TG: Okay, so you briefly mentioned it when you mentioned your grandma but explain to me the name Chloe and Lois and how that came to you and what it stands for. BA: Chloe is my 13-year-old Yorkshire Terrier- my buddy. She has been alongside me every step of the way while building this business. She loves her car rides to the post office to drop off orders and is always alongside me in the office early in the morning and late at night (I have another pup named Maddie also, she’s always with us too!). I adore her- she’s the light of my life and she brings so much joy and happiness to me and others. Then there is Lois, my late Grandmother who also brought a ton of love and light into my life. She was always my cheerleader, and of course- the one that got me hooked on jewelry. Put simply, I just love the way that the two names sound together! TG: I love that, wow. Now, take me back, you have


the name, you have this inspiration, you come home from getting engaged on this magical trip with your fiancé. So, what were the first steps, like you get this inspiration like, “I’m going to do this, it’s going to be called Chloe and Lois,” what do you do from there to actually make it happen? You mentioned that your hustle is the thing that got you to where you are but what were the first stages of that hustle? BA: The first stage of the hustle was definitely the determination stage. I’m a firm believer in the saying “when one door closes, another one opens”. Back when Chloe + Lois was just an “idea”, I was asked to interview for what would be a promotion at my last job, and I ended up not getting the position. I had received a call from my superior explaining that he didn’t think I was “ready” to take on the position. At that moment I knew I no longer wanted someone else to be in control of my fate. I’m well aware of who I am, what I can handle and what I am capable of. I wasn’t even upset that I didn’t get the promotion, that moment was a tremendous turning point for me in my life because I knew that there was something greater out there for me, and it is Chloe + Lois. I stayed on board with the company for another year. I spent a majority of that time on the road in different cities across the US until I committed myself to Chloe + Lois full time in July 2019. It’s funny you ask, “What do you do to make it happen?” because when you believe in your mission you do anything and everything that you can to make it happen. I hear a lot of people say that they can’t start a business, but they just don’t have the time. You do have the time - you just have to find it, and you certainly have to make sacrifices and re-prioritize your life. In my opinion if you don’t- you don’t want ‘it’ bad enough. I didn’t sleep a lot when getting Chloe + Lois up off the ground. When I got started, I had no idea what I was doing, but I just had this insatiable hunger to learn how to make Chloe + Lois happen. In the early stages, the foundation of my business was built between the hours of 3:30-7:00 am, either behind the wheel of a car or on a plane, listening to podcasts about how to build a business. TG: Okay and then when you’re at that stage of researching and all of that, what are you setting out at that point to do? What was your original intention and purpose behind Chloe and Lois? BA: So originally I wanted to create a brand that was really centered around “keeping the joy of gift giving alive”, because as I had previously mentioned, My Grandmother Lois always gifted me jewelry and I have so many great memories around receiving those gifts, so I wanted to be a part of those special moments with my customers and their loved ones. That was where I started, but certainly not where I have ended up with the brand. In a short year I have made this crazy transformation personally and professionally- this business

This Is... has changed with me to become what it is now. TG: And what is that? BA: Chloe + Lois has become a brand centered on supporting other women, because my customers are strong, supportive women! Starting this business has changed me for the better- and it’s thanks to those women. For a very long time I didn’t feel so great about myself, I lacked the confidence to believe that I was capable of doing great things in life. Once Chloe + Lois launched, this incredible support system emerged of women cheering me on and supporting me, and I was moved by it. It legit changed the way I look at myself. TG: How would you say your business experience before Chloe and Lois affected the experience you wanted to have and create with your own business? BA: My experience with Corporate America left me feeling lost. I felt like I was just working and working and had really no goal that I was working toward. Chloe + Lois has given me so much optimism and a renewed sense of purpose. It’s my dream that as this business grows I can provide an incredible work environment for other women (and men too) to come to work, exercise their talents, learn, grow and feel supported and appreciated. This is all so important to me because just about every job I had in Corporate America didn’t offer me those opportunities. TG: So with this being the recovery issue, you mentioned that corporate America kind of got you down and made you doubt yourself and so how, despite the fact that Chloe and Lois is obviously your passion and you knew that you were doing the right thing, how do you recover your identity in the working world and recover that confidence that you were lacking when you were coming out of Corporate America? BA: Toward the end of my journey with Corporate America, I worked really hard at shifting my mindset and the way that I look at things. Instead of pulling the “woe is me” card, I started to take every negative experience that was thrown my way as a learning experience. I also relied on faith- and the saying “everything happens for a reason”. I have always had a solid sense of self- I was just set in “Corporate America” autopilot for too long and it went dormant. I was waiting for the right opportunity to come up rather than fight for what I wanted. During the everyday motions of running this business my confidence builds and builds. Whether it be when I receive a kind e-mail from a customer saying how much they love their purchase, or when I get excited text messages from my retail partners telling me that my pieces are off to a running start in their store. I’m so grateful that I have something that I

can I put my heart into and have such a solid community of supportive customers and women backing me, they have played an integral role on building me back up, and for that I am forever grateful. How you view yourself is a work in progress, your view on yourself certainly isn’t going to shift overnight. And you certainly can’t let the opinions of others change you. TG: It sounds like you got a lot of your confidence but also your positive energy from community, whether that be a virtual community through podcasts or your direct community of customers that then became friends. So, I would really love to hear about your transition to being full time at Chloe and Lois and all of the emotions that it’s bringing because I would imagine that there would be a lot of obviously pride and excitement but also a lot of fear. BA: The excitement outweighs the fear, for sure. I would say, if we had to gauge it, I’m 99% excited and 1% scared. I added in the 1% of fear because I’m still learning a lot. Maybe its not even fear and its anxiety? Not sure- either way, I feel good. TG: Nice, that’s a great ratio. BA: And listen, I’m going with it. And not only that, but it’s the positive energy and influence coming from the customers and retail partners around me keeping me on that path. I’m a firm believer that failure isn’t in the cards for anybody who believes in themselves and pushes hard enough. TG: That’s a very positive outlook to have and I should probably adopt it a little bit more than I have. So now that you have all this time that you didn’t have before to focus on Chloe and Lois I’m assuming that you have a bunch of plans for the future, so I want to know what is your overall goal with Chloe and Lois and what do you hope to accomplish? BA: I want to continue to provide women with beautiful jewelry that help makes them look and feel their best. I’m going to continue to grow the line and eventually I would like to expand into a few other areas when the time is right. TG: From what it sounds like it’s not just about giving women this confidence through jewelry because it makes them feel beautiful, it’s also helping give these women confidence that they gave you just by sharing your story and motivating people to do what you’ve done and motivating people through your experience. BA: I will to continue to tell women my story in hopes to inspire and remind them that they are capable of doing great things in their life regardless of what anyone else says. The magic begins when you start believing in yourself!



Little Steps to Help the Earth By: Ashley Wiesner Rumor has it Global Warming is real and it’s up to us mere mortals to get this situation under control. But, what can we actually do? SO MUCH. There is so much we can do. No, you don’t need to stop driving a car or using hairspray or eating meat. You can still do “you” while actually making an impact. Let’s face it, we aren’t all going to be Green perfection overnight, but everybody giving 50% is way more impactful than a few people giving 100%. I think we all know the basics: Recycle, take shorter showers, etc., etc. But what else can we do? And, better yet, how do I incorporate these things into my daily fuss without making a scene? It’s actually pretty simple and mindless and fun. Here are five pro tip ways to help the earth without going full granola. 1) Stop using plastic straws. But you love straws? Yeah, same here. Find an alternative straw. There are so many options out there (silicone, glass, metal) that you can carry in a little pouch in your purse. Plus, there is nothing more chic than light pink silicone straws with your green juice, or a rose gold metal straw with your vodka soda. 2) Thrift shop! According to the UN, fast fashion creates 92 million tons of waste a year and produces 20% of the world’s wastewater - talk about yikes! Instead of running to the mall when you need a wardrobe update consider sustainable secondhand stores. If you aren’t down to hunt for your gem consider more curated secondhand environments like Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads or hop onto Poshmark and browse by designer. Pro tip: sell your own unwanted clothes when you’re done to make some extra cash. 3) Use a reusable shopping tote (and don’t forget them in your car). Seriously, this is so easy and if you live in a green city you’ll save 10 cents a bag on your shopping trip. If you’re forgetful and always forget your shopping bags in your trunk, try a more compact option that you can keep in your purse. Canvas bags are a great option, but my favorite is a French market bag. It’s tiny, holds a deceiving amount, and you’ll look cool as hell. 4) Invest in a wool dryer ball. Yeah, ditch your dryer sheets and grab a wool ball. Think about how many dryer sheets you use in a month, now multiply that by everyone you know. That is a lot of chemical soaked polyester sheets stacking up in a landfill. Wool dryer balls are easy to find (hey, Amazon) and easy to use (you just throw it in there). 5) Invest in a reusable water bottle or cup that you will actually want to use. Not a dingy plastic one with water stains, not one you got for free at a charity event, but a sleek and trendy piece that will fit with your lifestyle. My top choices are stainless steel water bottles and glass tumblers. You will look real cute with a water bottle coordinated with your sneakers at the gym, trust me. There you have it, five tips that will help the Earth and, quite frankly, upgrade your life. Who doesn’t want to be the green trendsetter in the group with a chic water bottle and shopping tote?

[Party Time] It’s Time to Party, Pity Party By: Ashley Wiesner


o, you just got dumped, fired from your job, or saw a really inspiring ASPCA commercial and have mascara streaks running down your face. You’re glued to your couch and don’t know what to do. Well, I know what you need to do. Throw yourself a pity party. That’s right, bask in the sadness you’re feeling, let the tears flow and the tissues fall to the ground. In order for a proper pity party the following items are needed: ice cream, wine, playlist with early 2000’s hits, 3-5 romantic comedies, Mean Girls, more ice cream, 2-5 friends, tequila, pizza. Got it? Good. Let the festivities begin. A good pity party starts with a bottle of wine (per person) and a sing-along to the early 2000s classics. Think Britney, Mariah, Backstreet Boys or anyone else your pre-pubescent self desires. Get sloppy drunk and pretend you know the Genie in a Bottle dance. Trust me, the memories of your shit day will slowly disappear.

Next, spend 20 minutes eating pizza and decide what romantic comedy you want to watch. Chances are nobody is going to agree on what one to watch and you’ll just watch Mean Girls, for the 100th time. Take a shot of tequila every time you see a trend in Mean Girls that is coming back in style (Hint: it’s a lot, maybe take half shots instead). Binge eat ice cream the entire time and then Postmates some more because you will probably be out. All good pity parties end with you crying again, but this time it’s not because you were fired or dumped, but because you love your friends so much and “OMG you have the best friends ever.” Fall asleep and wake up to the sweet headache of a hangover and the memories of the night before outshining whatever put you in a funk to begin with. Remember, the whole point of a pity party is to remind you of the amazing life you actually have and if you want to switch out the wine and tequila for Diet Coke and La Croix I don’t blame you - as long as you dance to Britney Spears the pity party was a success.


[Good Shit]

Project Moments Designs' Reawakening One's Story

This Is... By: Jessica Santander


f you were to ask me what recovering means to me today, yesterday, or five years ago, I may have responded with various answers, but all would have stemmed from the same foundation - which is the journey of listening to your heart. As I approach my 29th birthday, there have been numerous times when life asked of me to listen to my heart (sometimes I did and other times I thought I did). Those moments where life experiences are accompanied by learning lessons definitely seem to outweigh the ones where the first choice turned out to be the best one. From moving back home to finish college after one year of trying to adopt a tough skin in New York City to receiving more “Nos” than I could’ve possibly imagined with job applications, life has tried and tested my confidence and true persona. The way that I like to (and choose to) see all of this is with a purposeful, positive perspective: such tough experiences all happened for a difficult reason, but also for a stellar one - the reason I’m here today telling you and all the rockstar women out there that there’s boundaryless opportunities just for us to create and even re-create our story. The journey to realizing this point-of-view has been a whirlwind, filled with stepping stones that have defined just what I want to do with my life - starting with the rock and foundation to it all, my mother. Growing up, I was shy, but had a vivid imagination as to who I wanted to be as an adult. From a doctor to detective to even an academy-award winning actress, all roles were firmly ingrained with my belief that I could become whatever and whoever I aspired to be because of the influential role and story of my mom. This story is of a young woman who moved from her home country of Brazil at 19 years old to the United States in an effort to have the means to provide educational opportunities for her entire family - putting others first and giving everything to help her loved ones is what has nurtured a humble and grateful heart that I carry to this very day. My mother’s bravery at such a young age has truly cast a light upon me where I’ve always tried to listen to my heart and chase my dreams. In fact, for quite some time I thought I was chasing after my biggest dream of pursing an acting career (investing in acting classes, auditioning for feature films, preparing for applications for Juilliard), until I thought about the odds of “making it.” I then closed this door, accepting this dream as more of a deep fascination I would treasure and moved onto the next journey of pursuing a degree in Marketing and International Business (because how exciting would it be to grow

a career overseas?!?). Soon, I realized my lack of fascination with traveling on planes and then went for more of an exploration with what I could do in marketing. At this point in my life, I gave my heart more of a say as to where to go next and made a leap of faith to pursue my Master’s in Marketing in Tampa, Florida. For the small-town girl growing up in Delaware, this was an exciting and scary new change as I’d be far from my family and be living in a city that I wasn’t familiar with at all. This move was both a remarkable and challenging decision. Much of my recovery with my story and purpose has taken place within the past three years. One would’ve thought (or at least I did) that graduating with a Master’s degree would make life a tad bit easier. Yet, reality hit me hard with what felt like 1,000 “Nos” in a time frame of almost two years of job applications and interviews. In the beginning of my job hunt, I started with a fierce mission to get into a beauty and/or fashion company around the Tampa Bay area. This was the industry that excited me and resonated with my fascination that I’ve had ever since a child. Yet, after attempting this path and robust mission for a year, I was faced with one of the hardest decisions to have made - to let go of that childhood imagination, close the door of believing in life’s limitless possibilities, and just go after any opportunity. The saying that where one door closes, another one opens, is a powerful truth if you choose to believe it. I did close the door on pursuing a fascinating profession, yet the power of faith showcased a novel opportunity (more like two in one!) where I landed my first job upon my Master’s degree graduation within the field of Digital Marketing. The excitement level and gratitude were definitely at an all-time high as I felt this was everything I ever needed to feel proud of myself. However, it didn’t take too long for me to reflect upon the reasons as to why I should completely close the door and “give up” on pursuing that creative spirit within me. As the firm believer that I am with living life abundantly and never quitting on one’s dream(s), I couldn’t give myself a valid excuse for not trying again with the passion and vivid energy I thrive from fashion and the arts. It did take a lot of self-talks and heart-felt conversations with my family to push myself to take a full leap of faith and start something new - something that would forever be a discovering journey and reflection of all who I am. This new footstep resulted in this moment I’m sharing with you now - Project Moment Designs. Change is certainly scary, especially when it’s some-


This Is... thing you’ve never experienced or done before. For me, I was beyond scared of welcoming an immense new change into my life, but I was also just as captivated with what could come from all of this. In a period of four months, I registered, organized, and launched my fashion and story-telling jewelry line of Project Moment Designs. Why jewelry? From a personal standpoint, it’s because of the journey that can be created, experienced, and awakened from the endless ways of expressing your soul and vision with one powerful jewelry piece. Amidst the brainstorming nights of starting my business, I recalled the many times where I always smiled upon the bracelet I was wearing and tattoo of my dog’s name on my wrist right before walking into an interview - reminding myself that I have all it takes to be the confident woman God created me to be and would do my best in this interview. This vivid memory was my “a-ha” moment of putting together the what of my business. Project Moment Designs is that reminder for me, for you, for all women to own this very moment with the most beautiful confidence that only we possess and design the life that we always imagined. Six months into learning more about my business, I took a new leap of faith and left my full-time job. This decision was by no means a simple one. Yet, my heart was speaking in greater ways for me where there were long nights of envisioning all of what can be from this passion and the beautiful light that I could instill back into the hearts of others. I made the decision to listen to my heart, even with fear, knowing that there’s an immense purpose behind this vision. The vision I have with Project Moment Designs is not only to help women feel empowered to take a new step forward into their dreams, but also to believe they most definitely deserve to do so and are capable. The why behind my brand story mirrors my own journey and challenging recovery experienced from closed doors. Having gone thru so many rejections without understanding “why me” caused me to feel sorry for myself and doubt my own potential. This period in my life was an unhealthy one, a time where there was a scary realization that I’m not the only one who has experienced these hardships. This wake-up call has laid out the foundation for my brand and why we as a brand and community exist. I want to speak to all women who have gone through challenging times and show them, guide them, and empower them to take the lead in their lives and reawaken that childhood spirit – to allow themselves to welcome back the belief that all things are possible. With this bountiful imagination and firm confidence, a new story is waiting to unfold before you


- it’s just asking for you to take that very first footstep forward. To encourage a childhood imagination is certainly easier than embracing it, but I find that’s the beauty of it all - just move forward and go for it. Imagine if you believed that nothing is impossible, you are in charge of the journey ahead, and life is cheering you on to be your very own miracle in the making. These thoughts are what empowered me (along with the blessing of having my family’s support) to just take the chance and re-create my story. This firm belief is way healthier than what I had done earlier in my journey and giving consideration to “the odds of making it.” Life is simply too short to give our time and energy to the “what-ifs” and our journey can reveal a better, brighter direction when we listen to our hearts and stick with the belief that instilling life into our dreams is so worth it. Though it’s only been seven months since I re-created my story with my business, I can honestly say that I’ve learned so much about the soul I am, the energy I possess, and the limitless imagination I aspire to live out than ever before. This entire experience has felt like a deep dive - an exploration - of me, and it all makes sense - as if life and its challenging moments are putting the pieces to the puzzle together and I now know the next piece. This piece will be a lasting one that’s forever shaped by the stories of many other women and our one connection - our dreams. I hope each and every day that I’m able to reach out to others and encourage the greatest gift one can give for themselves - the gift of self-love and belief. In doing so, this world can certainly be brighter, with more star-lit eyes that can move mountains and create rock star stories - starting here, now, and in this moment.

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The Secret Power of Vibration By: Jessica Carraro Kathleen Haden greets me with a hug before guiding me into her retreat center. Kathleen and her husband John Anthony run Good Vibrations Music Co. They are a non-profit frequency-infused music and vibrational therapy company that designs, creates, and markets frequency-infused music and vibrational products that promote health and wellness. Sound therapy is founded on the premise that all matter is vibrating at specific frequencies and that sound can be used to heal and access higher levels of consciousness. Every sound is vibration that touches each cell of our body. Users of the music have improved their sleep, decreased their pain, and recovered faster from injuries and illness. They have donated their music to help causes including Autism, Alzheimer’s, PTSD, Parkinson’s, trauma and abuse. They have 75 original albums that help treat 1,000 conditions. Their most popular albums are for stress relief, increased energy, sleep, and pain relief. There is a set of albums just for pets that help conditions such as separation anxiety and fear of thunder and lightning. Kathleen encourages skeptics to give the music a chance; “Change Your Music, Change your Health. If you will just try it, it will work.”


The company records all of their own albums, most in the ancient tonal scale known as Solfeggio frequencies of 432 hz. It is believed that this frequency is tuned to the vibrations of nature itself. (Most music is tuned to 440 hz.) The low frequencies can be felt but not heard, unless you are using a delivery center such as one of the company’s patented tables that allow the user to feel vibrations of frequencies. These “delivery systems” include a yoga acoustics platform, and Vibrational Frequency Technology (VTF) sound table. They also sell small handheld sound speakers that play their music. Kathleen has me lie on the VFT table, which looks like a massage table. She places an eye mask over my eyes and puts large headphones over my ears. She tells me later that listening to the music through headphones is more effective because of “binaural beats”. Our ears hear the beat in each ear and creates a third beat. The beat is raised enough through this process for us to hear the frequency. The music begins and after a few minutes I grow calmer and melt into the table. Kathleen slowly takes the headphones off after the session and I return to reality. I have a similar experience trying the vibrational music chair where I listen to music through head-

This Is... phones while sitting in a chair with a pad against my back vibrating in rhythm with the music. I try a few yoga poses on the yoga acoustics platform and feel a light vibration under my feet that vibrates up through my body. When I go home, I download songs from the website. I fall asleep to the sleep soundtrack. I listen to the energy soundtrack during work. I play the pet soundtrack for a dog I am watching. After a few days the music becomes a comforting part of my routine. Brenda O Brien is a believer. She says, “At its worst, my Lyme disease, has robbed me of a vibrant, joyful enthusiastic life. It has left me unable to function mentally, emotionally and physically. It has left me feeling hopeless for my future…I was looking for an alternative approach. I met Kathleen at Good Vibrations Music Company and was so impressed with

her and the frequency-infused music, I wanted to try it for myself. It is helping me with so many of my symptoms and over time, listening daily in the background, the improvements continue to add up – even my dogs random limp is gone, and my nearly dead plant is thriving! You deserve to be well, you deserve Good Vibrations’ music!” Visit to learn more, download music, or make reservations to visit their retreat center. The Safe and Sound soundtrack for trauma and abuse healing is their latest initiative and available for free download. The soundtrack of healing frequencies are for victims of abuse or anyone else needing healing. Kathleen can be contacted by phone 1.561.318.1578 or email

A Warrior’s Cry By: Marianne Lile

In my dream. My heart hung. No strings attached. The slight curve at the bottom stopped mid-air, hanging just above a fire’s small flames. An organ alone. An inhale. And then an exhale. A small burst of air scattering sparks. A tired and quiet beat. A worn-out fighter. Any available oxygen seemed filled with defeat and immense fatigue. The fire was small but brilliant. And with each breath came a slight caress of heat, a warming and then a

flutter of sparkly lights. Living organisms floating upward. Flying stimuli illuminating the surroundings. It was safe. My heart hung. From around the fire, a slow and low sound began circling. Rhythmic and soothing. A soft hum. A hum of blood and love and strength. A song of life. And it was sung with patience. It came from the keepers. Women and men in a semi-circle around my hanging heart and the flame. Their spears held vertically in their left hand, moving without sound, with the back and forth rhythm of the song. A chorus of concentrated voices, in unison. Purposeful. Calm. In no hurry. A slow chant. An adult’s lullaby. A serenade of healing and protection.


This Is... I noticed my ribs. Strong and white, these curved supports were suspended protectively like a tent around my heart and my warriors as they sang. Then the hum split and multiplied as different tones took over and then collaborated and swelled. It expanded in complexity and it grew in strength. The keepers swayed harder, moving together and apart. Each one seemed to have its own importance. Its own solo. And as the voices reached a gradual crescendo and lifted their faces upward, I felt the liquid oil being poured from above. Over the top and trickling down. A cool, soothing sustenance meant to repair and fill the spaces left dry. My heart hung. This was my dream at the beginning of the summer. My third eye gently massaged and opened, to reveal my heart’s hurts surrounded by my generous and loving warriors, ready to move forward when I was sated and mended. In the days that followed, my mind turned back to my dream’s images. On my walks with the dogs. At the barbecue as I grilled dinner. Sipping red wine on the deck. I went to bed thinking about my heart and my warriors standing in a circle around me. I let the oil sink in. In late summer, while reading on our cabin’s porch, I glanced up at the sky. Huge cotton ball clouds sailed across. Shape shifting across the sky, only to suddenly pause. The reveal: a perfect heart drawn into the brilliant blue sky. And although it wasn’t quite like the great singer, Annie Lennox, my own inner voice sang, “and my heart said follow through”. My heart hung. My heart said follow through. My warriors hummed. Now it is Fall. My body stretches into it – the sweaters, the comfy socks, the food. Soup. Autumn squash. The last tomatoes grilled and married with hot pasta, mozzarella and basil. My heart. Is she ready to follow through? Have the hurts been healed and tucked away in that drawer labeled “History: The hard parts”? Is she strong enough to move without the fear and


trepidation of a weaker organ? Could I move, heart open, knowing that the hard parts always show up again. Can I face the inner critiques? “That isn’t right for you”. “You’re not qualified”. “You can’t do that”. Would Fear, that old dance partner, put out their hand to swing me away from that song? Could I find my old friend Curiosity? That bar of steel that brings a light in my eye and a tingle down deep. The one that says, “what if” and a “why not”. Can I be that gal, again, who shouts out a quiet “mother fucker” and smiles at the naysayers and avoids the bullies. This is the cost of living - a phrase I am shamelessly stealing from an amazing book I read by Deborah Levy. To live life, there will be costs. Some will be beyond extraordinary. Some will bleed you dry. With me, my heart leads. She soars and swells and sings. She laughs and races with excitement. She loves. She has also been betrayed. She has been bruised. She has been punctured. My heart hung. My heart said follow through. I wake and with my beautiful spear-carrying warriors, I look forward, because my heart said follow through. My beautiful heart, still ready to inhale and exhale. Big, deep mouthfuls. The humming was the rhythm of these life breaths. And through a dream, I saw the grace and power of my core. I found out I have warriors. And that my heart, despite the deepest hurts, will mend.

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This Is... Magazine Fall 2019  

This Is... Magazine Fall 2019  

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