Faith over fear

An Interview At Sanctuary Girl Grand Social

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On June 14, 2019 over 100 ambassadors from Sanctuary Girl gathered for our first annual conference, which we affectionally called “Grand Social”. Our company is a direct sales company like no other, and this conference was a conference like none other. Friendships were formed, aha moments occurred, lives were saved, and healing began.

On Sunday, there was an on stage segment celebrating the seven women who were featured in the Sanctuary Girl spring/summer 2019 catalog. One by one, I watched the six women prior to me being interviewed on the stage, in a state of anxiety wondering what I would be asked and what I would say.

Sanctuary Girl Spring/Summer 2019 Ambassador Spotlight

Sanctuary Girl Spring/Summer 2019 Ambassador Spotlight

I had the privilege of being interviewed by a dear friend Cheryl Swingle, who I have known for the last 5 years. Cheryl is the Chief Igniting Officer of Luminary4Women , a life and business coach and motivational speaker and a dear friend who really knows my story. As I walked onto the stage, I knew she had the ability to hone in on any number of emotional parts of my story. As she began to ask me my question, there was a split second where I knew I could either chose to take the easy way out and only share a glimpse of my story, or I could be vulnerable and speak the whole truth, and probably end up crying. I chose the latter, knowing that in that moment, I had the ability to provide hope and inspiration to any number of people listening. I had no intentions to share this private moment any further than with the woman in attendance at the first Sanctuary Girl Grand Social, however, again, I am presented with an opportunity to inspire others.

Not only did Cheryl ask me about my personal brand, but she also asked me about the ministry work I do with Eastlake Church inside Donovan State Prison. Eastlake Church Donovan has become my home group and my church of preference. Although unconventional to some, it is a place for me to serve, to be inspired, and to grow deeper in my faith far beyond what I could do inside the four walls of a church.

Please take a few minutes to listen to my interview, and if it inspires you, please share with others. This is a piece of my story that until last week, I’ve held very closely to myself. However, the time to share is now. Stay tuned for an amazing opportunity to help Eastlake Church Donovan regardless of your location!


The Wedding That Never Was…

Photo credit:  MIO Photography

Photo credit: MIO Photography

7 years ago I would have gotten married today. It's something I don't talk often about, but today, I will. I thought I was in love and found the one. I had a wedding planned, a venue booked, a wedding dress purchased. I was pretending to plan this fairy tail wedding, but things were far from perfect. Even though I didn't want to admit it at the time, I was being taken advantage of, for everything I could possibly be. My home, my stability, financially. I provided a responsible home for him to have visitations with his son. I supported him financially, all the while I thought he was working, when in reality he was "pretending" to go to work, just to return home after I left. I put all the deposits down for the wedding. I spent years upon years dreaming of being a wife and a mother, and looking back now, it was apparent I was more “in love” with my dreams coming true then I was in love in that relationship.

And, after I learned he was cheating on me, and called off the wedding, I lost everything. Not just the relationship, and the money, but I lost myself. Having to call of a wedding was embarrassing. I felt like it reflected negative on me and the type of person I was. I felt foolish, unworthy, unloveable and heartbroken. As if it wasn’t hard enough to end the relationship and deal with what comes along emotionally with a break up, I had to cancel the venue, the photographer, the dj. I had to continue making payments on a wedding dress that I no longer had a need for. And… I had to tell everyone.

How could someone cheat on me, when I had given them everything. It wasn't long that I spun into a pretty dark depression. A depression that literally had me detach from everyone and everything I once enjoyed. I remember days where I would feel like a zombie, just staring off into space. I disconnected from family and from relationships. I felt empty. I felt alone. And, for a period of time, I remember turning to wine in an effort to literally drink myself to sleep. I literally wrapped up my entire view of self worth based on someone who was using me and didn’t deserve me. I know it now and knew it then, yet somehow let being cheated on completely define who I was as a person- completely unworthy of love.

When I finally went to a doctor, and started medication, my family had a lot of mixed emotions. My father wasn't supportive of me being on anti-depressants, simply because of the negative stigma that mental health has. My father, also uneducated, thought that because I was on anti depressants, meant I was suicidal, which was not the case. If you’ve read “A Cry for Help Meets A Broken System”, you’ve heard me talk about just how difficult it is for a person experiencing mental health to take the step for help. So imagine, working through my own stigma and barriers to go get help, to accept medication, and then hearing my father disapprove, it made things even harder.

I share this today for one of two reasons. Firstly, if you are struggling, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And, it will get better. Had I gotten married, I'm fairly certain my life would be very different. I wouldn't have Bluebelle, I wouldn't have so many amazing people in my life that came after, and I wouldn't be here in California. Life happens for a reason, a reason we may not always be able to see or understand. His path leads you to where you are meant to be. You know the cliche expression “Faith Over Fear”. It’s not so cliche when you think about it. Sometimes we just have to trust. We don’t have to know the when, or the why… but know that things happen for a reason and that reason tends to lead to bigger and better things far beyond our imagination.

Secondly, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it's time we NORMALIZE mental health, and accept that it is everywhere. If it doesn't affect you, it affects someone you know. People aren't choosing to be depressed, to be anxious, to be psychotic. And, many are afraid to get help simply because of the stigma. We need to ban together to support one another. Smile more. Be kind. Say hello. Reach out to a friend, just because. Say I love you more.

You not only need to take care of others, but you also need to take care of yourself. Self care is not optional. It needs to be a priority. If you are like me, and struggle to make yourself a priority, then I urge you to begin scheduling self care into your calendar. Studies show you are much more likely to do things written down and scheduled, so if that’s what it takes, grab your pen and planner and get to scheduling! Positive self talk (positive affirmations) is another great way to take care of you. I have some subtle, and not to subtle ways to affirm myself on a daily basis. Reminding myself of my worth became so important to me that I got it tattooed on my wrist as a permanent daily reminder. Other days, I stack on my Sanctuary Girl “I AM Collection bracelets” to remind myself messages like “I am Loved”. Whatever it takes, take the time to affirm yourself and those around you.

A Cry For Help Meets A Broken System

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If you follow me at all on my business page, you know that I pride myself on remaining authentic. I can even be quoted several times saying that I will always share the good, the bad, and the ugly. When I wrote that, I was serious, however, I still find myself terrified to share some of the ugly. This is one of those terrifying shares. I share because if I can help just one person, then it is worth me putting myself out there. It is my prayer that this post will reach someone. Someone who needs to know they are not alone. Someone who may once be too afraid to reach out for help. And, if I am lucky, it will reach someone who has the potential to make a difference in a system so broken.

A quick google search on depression statistics brought me to the following list from The Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, yet only 43.2% are receiving treatment.

  • Panic Disorder affects 6 million adults, or 2.7% of the U.S. population.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder affects 15 million adults, or 6.8% of the U.S. population.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects 2.2 million adults, or 1.0% of the U.S. population.

  • PTSD affects 7.7 million adults, or 3.5% of the U.S. population.

  • Major Depressive Disorder affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year and is The leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3.

A quick calculation and this equates to 23.8 % of the U.S population experiences depression or anxiety. Even more concerning, are the following statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the US claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 in 2016.

  • Suicide was the second leading cause of the death among individuals ages 10 and 34.

  • There were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) in the US as there were homicides (19,362) in 2016.

Reading these statistics you would think that help was easily accessible. Help should be a phone call away, right? Wrong! I know from personal experience, that I am not alone in my story. I am angry for myself. I am angry for my friends who struggled to receive help. But, beyond my own hurt and anger, I am terrified for those that will not make it, because of the broken system.

I am someone who struggles with depression and anxiety. I don’t talk about it, in fact I like to pretend it doesn’t exist. Which, makes no sense as a professional in the field and an advocate for mental health awareness. Even as a professional, or an advocate, I am still susceptible to fears of the stigma. The stigma existed in my household. I remember the first time I went on anti-depressants my father was angry with me. In his mind, antidepressants made you want to hurt yourself, and that doctor’s overprescribed these “happy pills” and that you should just “suck it up”.

For anyone that has ever told someone to “suck it up”, I hope that you never have to experience the frustration of not being able to suck it up. There is nothing worse then not knowing why you feel down, why you feel unmotivated, or why you are sitting in tears. That, my friends, is called depression. It’s a recognized, diagnosed by certain criteria, medical condition. And, I can assure you that the cure is not “to suck it up”.

I am someone who cycles through depression and anxiety. When it hits, and I recognize it, I toy with the idea of getting help. I’m stubborn, I’m in denial, I don’t have time, I don’t want to pay the copays, It will pass… and every other excuse I create. Inevitably things appear to get better… until it hits again. After spending most of last week crying, and speaking to a trusted friend, I decided to reach out for help.

I cannot put into words how difficult asking for help is. Acknowledging to yourself that there is a problem is one thing, but when you say it out loud to someone else… man, that makes it real. Ive worked in the field long enough to know how to do an in-network provider search through my insurance company. I picked up that 1,000 pound phone, dialed the first phone number, and muttered the words “I’m depressed, and want to go back on meds”. You could hear the fear in my voice, as I hesitated to let these words leave my mouth. And call after call, I was met with appointments weeks to months out. I called family doctors, general practitioners, urgent care locations, and psychiatrists. Call after call, was met with one barrier or another. Worst yet, not one single person on the other end of that 1,000 pound phone asked me any questions about the severity of the depression, or if I have any thoughts to harm myself. Now, let me make this very clear to anyone reading this, I am not suicidal, nor do I have any thoughts to hurt myself… but, no one on the other end of the phone knew that.

Several years ago, in complete desperation, a close friend of mine, who actually was having harmful thoughts, was met with the same experience, phone call after phone call of barriers and lack of help or support. In complete panic, she reached out to her OBGYN, who was able and willing to help her. Following her lead, I contacted my OBGYN and shared the same hesitation and fear on all of my previous phone calls “I am depressed and want to go on meds”. They scheduled me an appointment for two days later. I almost canceled the appointment. If you think it was difficult to mutter those words on the phone, I was literally sweating thinking about having to say them out loud, face to face, with a doctor. I texted my friend on my way to the doctor and told her I wanted to puke.

I got to the doctors and happily paid my $50 copay, thinking that I’d finally get some help, even if it was a starting point. After less than five minutes with my OBGYN, I was met with another barrier “We don’t prescribe unless you are a new mother”. She told me she would get me some resources and would be right back. In that moment, I broke out in tears. I was devastated, angry, frustrated, and overall disappointed. I wiped the tears away, not wanting anyone to see my crying. When she returned to the room, she handed me a brochure on postpartum support groups. In that moment, without any control, I broke out in tears. As she handed me a tissue, I apologized, and stated I didn’t even know why I was crying… but that I just wanted to not feel like this anymore.

That phone call was hard, that visit was even harder, and the let down of lack of help was painful. I cried my entire way back to work from the doctor’s appointment. I knew how hard it was to take those steps, and I know how easy it is to say “well, I tried” and just wait for this to pass… until the next cycle happens. My heart hurts for me, but my heart aches for the 45,000 people who took their lives in 2016. How many of them made that difficult phone call, just to be turned away.

Our system is broken. We, as the mental health field, are not doing our due diligence to properly screen people. There needs to be more availability of provider’s able to see first time patients. We need to be able to capitalize on the moment someone needs help. I know I am not alone in that moment, that fleeting moment, where you are willing to face your fears and reach out. That moment passes, and we need to be prepared to capture people in that moment. Medical provider’s need to be educated and willing to intervene, as a temporary resource, until the proper referrals can be made.

Less than half of the people experiencing depression are receiving treatment. How many of those are because treatment isn’t available. I am a mental health provider, who knows how to navigate the system, a broken system. What about the thousands of people who don’t know how to navigate? This shouldn’t be so difficult. We need to do better.

Facing Our Fears through Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP)

Photo Credit:  SUP Pups California

Photo Credit: SUP Pups California

Fear can be defined as “A feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone”.

We all have fears. Big fears, and little fears. Maybe even silly fears. Fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of being alone, fear of failure.

This past year, Bluebelle and I took Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) lessons more times then I can count. To say that I was fearful when I first started, was an understatement. In fact, it was expressed in the second sentence I communicated to the instructor. Don’t believe me, here is proof:

“Hi! I would love to get more info about lessons! I should start by saying I've never done this and think I have horrible balance, but am so drawn to the idea of doing it with my dog.”

I was horrified, and actually convinced, that I would fall in the water. Actually, I was convinced I would not even be able to stand.

How many of us, as women, make “excuses” for why we can’t do something?

I am 100% guilty of this, and our SUP lessons are the perfect example- I am overweight; I won’t be able to stand up on a board, in the water, because I have arthritis in both knees and can barely stand up from the floor; how will this board stay afloat holding me, and my dog; I have a fake hip, I can’t do this... and the list goes on and on. (side note- what does half of this REALLY have to do with whether or not I can SUP).

We all have fears. The difference is, do you let it define you, or motivate you. Your fears are the only thing keeping you from success. Kick fear in the booty, and get moving! Find that one thing that will motivate you through your fears, through your excuses, through your hesitations. Your “security blanket”, if you will. For me, it is Bluebelle. I would probably have never signed up for SUP lessons; in fact, the idea would have never crossed my mind, had it not involved her. The SUP lessons were more about Bluebelle, and less about me. And you know what’s great- dogs are resilient! Bluebelle fell off the board on week three, but got right back on during week four, and soaked up the California sun for two hours, like it was her job! (If you are in or near the southern California area, and are interested in SUP lessons, be sure to check out SUP Pups California)

The reality is, when you don't face your fears, you may be missing out on something great. For us, we both fell in love with paddle boarding, so much that this past June, I purchased my own board. Buying that board, though, meant I had to face another fear.... going out without the instructor. I can excitingly share that we no longer rely on our instructor, and have spent our summer out on the water, cruising the bay at our own pace, making memories along the way.

Here is our SUP board purchased from Isle Surf and Sup. They are located in San Diego, but ship anywhere. Their selection is incredible, the boards are beautiful, and the staff went above and beyond to help me, a first time buyer. They even went the extra mile to teach me how to properly strap the board to my roof rack. The boards are great, but the customer service and going the extra mile is what won me over!

I challenge each and every one of you to find that “thing” that will help you through a fear, no matter how big or small. For you, it may not be your pet, but maybe your child, a loved one, competition, a prize. Whatever it is, I promise you, you will be left with a feeling of accomplishment, feeling of self worth, and feeling just a little Badass!