What If?

‘What’ and ‘if’ are generally very non-threatening words when on their own. But, when put side by side they suddenly become a very loaded question.

“What if?”

Suffering from anxiety, I fall victim to the constant “what if?” battle. It has gotten so much more controllable for me to handle since I started therapy and medication which has made a world of difference for my quality of life. But let’s rewind to just over a year ago when I was at my worst. Back then, the struggle of the “well what if this happens, and then this happens because of that?”, would send me snowballing into panic oblivion.

Now, if I find myself slipping back into the “what if” cycle I can talk my way out of it thanks to the things I have learned from my therapist. But, that’s not to say that I still don’t give in to it now and again. We all do, because we are human.

A Bumpy Journey

In general, the what ifs of our lives tend to hold us back from opportunities and adventures. I know that I have on many occasions been held back by them.

My entire life I felt held back by my fears of what other people thought of me, or the fear of failure. My anxiety and OCD which i have talked about before did not help this. I truly cared what people’s opinions were of me, and after being the subject of some pretty cruel bullying in my delicate middle school years, it was, “What if they make fun of me?” that I feared most. All I wanted was to fit in; standing out to me was bad.

By the time I graduated high school I had more confidence in myself, but it would be short lived as during my freshman semester at Utah State University I would be a victim of sexual assault mere weeks after starting school. The trauma of that incident, coupled with the persecution and threats I received afterwards by people who I thought were my friends made me feel like I was to blame. This spiraled me down a very dark path for a while. I once again had no self confidence and zero drive to take any risks. I wanted no chance of standing out. What ifs once again ruled my life.

Marriage, Motherhood, and Medication

One of the reasons I loved Jess so much from the start is that I never once felt judged by him for anything I had done in my life. When he and I met, I was still quite a mess from my freshman year at Utah State. He made it easy to be myself, and not be fearful of what he thought of me. Pretty early on in our relationship I felt my walls come down, and for the first time in a long time, I felt safe with someone.

He was just what I needed to “get my groove back” that summer, but I never dreamed we would end up getting married a year and a half later. It was a decision though, I have never questioned or regretted. There were zero of those pesky “what ifs” with him.

Three years later, our first child was born and I was plunged into motherhood. I love being a mom, despite how hard it has been for my mental health. My anxiety came back with a vengeance when I was pregnant, and I suffered postpartum anxiety like nobody’s business. It got increasingly worse with each pregnancy, and by the time my youngest was born, and he was rushed to the NICU because he was turning blue I suffered a nervous- breakdown in the maternity wing. It’s not my best moment, I’ll admit. I had come unhinged to a spectacular degree. My body physically shook for 8 hours afterwards.

That night taught me a lot about how connected moms are to their children- even just hours after birth. My doctor came and checked me over and heavily sedated me so I could calm down. He then advised that I be discharged and would recover easier at home. I joke with Jess to this day that they didn’t want to handle my crazy anymore so they sent me home!

I love my children and have been very blessed that I have not had to work and can stay home with them. Being a mom though, is not easy and it’s natural to compare yourself to other moms. I found myself doing this, and those little “what ifs” crept their way in. “What if I’m not doing a good job?”, “What if my kids aren’t learning enough?”, and “What if they grow up to resent me?” were all questions I would ask myself. These what ifs did nothing but make me feel inadequate which of course was not the case.

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. I have come to realize though is that we as moms do what we can for our kids. Our best, even though it may not feel like it, is enough and our kids love us no matter what.

What If It Was a Good Thing?

The what ifs of life are inevitable. A valuable change of perspective that I have learned is that what ifs can be positive! Here’s an example:

“What if I try and fail?” (Negative)

“What if you try and learn something new about yourself?” (Positive)

Like in the example, it’s easy to fear failure. Putting yourself out there is so scary. If you choose to switch the focus from on how it didn’t work out this time, to what went right or what you learned, it will be a much different experience.

I have always loved this quote:

“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”

It’s such a great reminder that the failures will be inevitable, but we should focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong. Changing your paradigm to a positive one no matter what will be a life changer. I know it has been for me.

Being a blogger and an influencer has been scary for me. Like I’ve said, putting yourself out there for the world to judge is scary. There are plenty of what ifs that have tried to hold me back. “What if no one reads my blogs?”, “What if I’m just not as popular as other influencers?”, and “What if people think I’m a joke?” are just a few. There also have been, and will be trolls who live to tear others down. I’ve experienced my share of them already, and it’s extremely hurtful if you allow it to hurt you.

I chose to be brave and put myself out there despite all these doubts and fears. It’s still scary for me, but I have learned so much about myself from pushing through and doing what I really want to do. My what ifs have started to turn positive. “What if my blog helps someone who’s struggling?”, “What if I inspire others?”, and “What if I actually succeed?”.

Honestly, you’ll never know the answer to any of those what ifs unless you take that leap of faith and try. Go ahead, you may just surprise yourself.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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The Open Road Part 1

This past Saturday morning I took my minivan through the car wash and then proceeded to vacuum and clean the inside. 45 minutes later, I was still cleaning. I must have filled an entire 60 gallon trash can with garbage too. The amount of smashed and ground-up food on the carpet was beyond gross, and there were some particularly nauseating items that I could not even identify that were swiftly thrown out as well.

It’s amazing what three small humans ranging in ages from 9 to 4 can accumulate in a car when you’re on a road trip.

Even as I was what felt like elbow deep in crushed up goldfish crackers, I could not help but smile as I went over the 16- day epic road trip our family had just gotten home from the night before. The mashed up crackers were worth it for the amazing memories we had just made driving to Tennessee and back.

The Pup

About a week before our road trip I was stressed about where our beloved Riley was going to be during our trip. We would have just brought him along, but we were going to be staying in some hotels that weren’t dog friendly along the way, and our cabin does not allow animals in Tennessee.

Thankfully, my Aunt Debbie and her husband Brian in Denver told us to bring him to them. They have a 13-year-old Shih Tzu named Poky, and are dog lovers so we knew Riley would be well loved with them.

So, we packed up the van and made our first 8 hour day drive to Arvada, Colorado. Our first day went pretty well, although we ran into pretty heavy snow in Vail which seemed so surreal! Other than that slow down, the kids all did great so we were hopeful the trip would go without a hitch.

Since we were only spending the night, we stayed up and talked late with Debbie and Brian and let the kids stay up late too so they could get some wiggles out. It was so nice to catch up, and Poky and Riley hit it off immediately so I was relieved about that. Riley is like my fourth child, so knowing he was in good hands helped me feel a ton better to go on our trip.

Nature Sucks!

Our first major stop after Denver was to be Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see my birth mom Sherri. She is currently a Creative Writing Professor at Marquette University, and we worked out our trip schedule so that we could arrive on a Saturday and spend the weekend with her when she was not teaching. It would take us two days to get there from Denver, so we decided to stop halfway in Omaha, Nebraska.

I found us a cheap hotel on Booking.com and unfortunately we got what we paid for! It wasn’t the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in, (I need to write about the Miami hotel that had a horrifying pool of blood on one of the beds!That’s a whole other story) ,BUT this hotel had an indoor pool! So we were able to take the kids swimming that night to help wear them out. We all showered after and went to bed after feasting on some amazing tacos from a local place right next to our hotel that I CANNOT remember for the life of me. The kids thought eating in bed was the best thing ever, but let’s just say I didn’t have to sleep in their bed afterwards!

Like I said, the hotel was not the best. It was also not in the greatest neighborhood, and we arrived on a Friday. So, there was quite a rowdy gang of people who decided it was okay to party in the hallways until 4 AM. They were so rowdy that I got up to double and triple check the sturdiness of our door locks!

The next morning it was no surprise that we slept right through our alarms and missed the free breakfast (but I’m gonna be honest and guess it was probably a blessing in disguise!)

We instead packed up the van and stopped by a local grocery store for some muffins, bananas, and yogurt and filled up on that. Then even though we had another 7.5 hour drive ahead of us to Milwaukee, we decided to check out downtown Omaha since neither of us have ever been. I have driven through Nebraska plenty of times, but we always stayed in Lincoln.

We were impressed with Pioneer Park, which is a park right in the center of downtown which was dedicated to the Pioneers who trekked across the plains. There are many large bronze statues of different groups of pioneers. The kids may or may not have climbed all over them, but we figured it was okay.

It was a good little place to explore before we hit to road to Milwaukee.

This third straight day of being in the car was really starting to wear on the kiddos. We decided they needed to not watch the movie player the entire day so we turned it off and urged them to draw, color, read, or play with some of the things we brought along to keep them entertained. Jess even gave them the suggestion:

“Just look out the windows and enjoy nature!”

Memphis was completely enraged by this idea and yelled out in reply:

“Nature sucks!”

He did not appreciate us getting a good laugh about it either.

Unfortunately this drive also involved me getting pulled over somewhere in Eastern Nebraska. Thankfully the officer lowered my speeding ticket by $100 so it was only $87.

Let’s just say we were all relieved to pull into Milwaukee proper around 8 PM and go up to Sherri’s apartment knowing we would be staying put for two nights.

Don’t Be Curt About the Curds

It was so nice to see Sherri again. I haven’t seen her since early August when she, along with all of my sisters and my grandparents met up in Blackfoot, Idaho to attend a funeral for my Papa’s brother, Lin.

It was nice to be able to see her for a day and a half in Milwaukee. I flew out to see her two years ago, but Jess and the kids had never been.

Sherri’s husband Rick sadly was not there. He is currently in Albuquerque for a construction job that he started in September. So we were bummed to not see him, but grateful for the time with Sherri.

She was ready for the littles- and even had cute fish cupcakes already made (she’s an amazing baker), and cute little Halloween sticky window decals that were perfect for her apartment full of windows overlooking downtown.

I have zero doubts that her entire building knew we spent the weekend. Let’s just say my children don’t know how to be courteously quiet in apartments.

That first night we caught up, ate some pizza, and talked until we were exhausted. We slept in her front room where she had a full size Purple mattress for guests, and the kids were surprisingly super stoked to sleep on the couch or a nest on the floor so we were happy they were content.

The next morning once we all got up and readied ourselves, we drove out to the lakeside to explore. Lake Michigan is a marvel to see in person! You don’t realize just how huge it is. A ferry takes about 4 hours to cross it! We walked along the shore where there’s a cool kite shop, and a really unique looking art museum. We discussed whether it was a whale or a sting ray, and decided any answer is right.

The cafeteria was on the bottom level, and there was a cool art display made by locals of interlocking cardboard blocks that had all be drawn, painted, or decorated in some way. They formed various archways, forts, and shapes. The kids had fun running through them and picking out which ones they liked best.

We made our way back to the van, and headed to get some lunch because the children were displaying symptoms of extreme hangriness.

After lunch, we made our way to the central downtown area in the hopes of showing Jess the Bronze Fonz statue. If you didn’t know, the show Happy Days was based in Milwaukee, so what better way to commemorate it then to make a bronze statue of Fonzi am I right?

Well, due to some unforeseen construction and road/sidewalk closures we were unable to reach him! Jess assured Sherri it was alright, and we enjoyed walking along the Milwaukee River which runs through the city. As we made our way back to the van, Jess wanted to go into a cheese store. We all sampled various yummy cheeses, and Jess was overjoyed to get himself a bag of cheese curds that weren’t fried. Apparently, Milwaukee’s “thing” is to deep-fry everything, including cheese curds.

The kids had fun trying on various “Cheese Head” hats in the store too.

That evening we made some dinner and watched Sunday Night Football and pretty much talked until Sherri needed to go to bed. She had to work in the morning and needed to be up early. So we said our goodbyes that night, although she did wake me up in the morning for one more hug which I was so grateful for.

We slept in a little bit, and took our time getting ready because our next stop was Chicago and the drive was only an hour and a half from Milwaukee. So we hit the road again, thankful to not be in the car for 7-8 hours bound for the Windy City. More on that in my next post!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Golden Girl

Colours are the smiles of nature – James Henry Leigh Hunt

One of the things I love most about the change from Summer to Fall is the changing of the leaves. Here in Utah, the changes start up on the mountains around late August. By the end of September, the mountains and surrounding canyons are an explosion of red, yellow, and orange.

The vivid colors never cease to not impress me, and I always find myself saying “Oooh!” And “WOW!” like a cliche tourist. But I’m not ashamed to say that these beautiful colors ignite my soul, because they do. We all ought to enjoy the beauty of nature and her canvas of color in Fall.

Mellow Yellow

A popular drive this time of year in Utah is called the Alpine Loop. It’s a 20 mile loop from Sundance to the American Fork Canyon that takes you through gorgeous Aspen trees, views of the Wasatch mountains, and Mt. Timpanogos. I had the opportunity to drive up there three times this past weekend and enjoyed every minute of it!

One of my favorite things in the loop is the groves of Aspen trees. The impressive white trees are just as dreamy in real life as they are in photos. They were definitely my favorites this weekend, and their leaves right now are a gorgeous yellow.

I felt myself very drawn to the yellow leaves more than the red and orange ones. I found it interesting that yellow would be so prominent with me this weekend when it is not a favorite color of mine. I have talked before about colors and their meanings in reference to chakras. The Solar Plexus Chakra is located in your diaphragm and is associated with the color yellow. The meanings associated with this chakra are:

  • Will power
  • Taking Control
  • Independence
  • Identity
  • Making Decisions
  • Confidence

What’s interesting to me about this is that lately I have been making some huge decisions with what I want to do with my life. I have been setting goals and making dreams and taking certain steps recently that will hopefully make them become a reality. It was scary to take these steps, because when isn’t it scary to venture out of your little comfort bubble? But I have felt more free and confident in myself than I have in a long time now that these things have been set into motion. Even though things are a bit chaotic and unknown at this point, I feel settled and peaceful with where life is headed.

That Sunny Warm Feeling

My mom has been visiting me in my dreams every night for almost three weeks now. I go through periods where she doesn’t appear to me at all, and then like now, she will come to me every night. I revel in my time with her in dreams, and I have found myself waking up feeling comforted and given a little boost. I know she has been visiting me because I have been making these big decisions that have been hard to do.

On top of that, being a mom lately has been very hard. Some incidents have come up with my children and I have felt lately that my hold on the reigns of mothering my children has not been the firmest. Specific things have happened that I was in no way prepared for so it threw me off, and have caused a lot of heartache and crying myself to sleep. There have been so many times lately I have ached for my mom, and she knows it, so coming to me in dreams is the only way she can.

Also, the yellow leaves. Yellow was her favorite color, and will always remind me of her. She painted two kitchens in two of her different homes yellow. At her funeral we ordered her casket spray in a beautiful yellow display which was absolutely stunning in the middle of bleak February.

As my husband and our kids hiked around yesterday amongst the aspens with their yellow leaves, my heart felt very full, and my mind was drawn suddenly to my mom. I knew she was communicating to me that she was there and loved me.

Hiking in the crisp mountain air, hearing my children laughing while hand in hand with Jess I felt a sense of calm. Being in nature in general always settles the anxiety storms inside of me, but this weekend I felt like the difficult life choices and work I have put in lately are not for nothing.

Also, this unmistakable warm feeling came over me and helped me to see that I am not failing quite as bad at this mom stuff as I think I am.

Going into this next week, I will try not to doubt myself like I have been. I need to give myself a little more credit than I do. We tend to be our own worst critics am I right? So here’s a word of advice to all of you:

Cut yourself some slack!

I need to take my own advice here too. We are all doing the best we can with the best we have been given in this life. That’s not to say we cannot improve ourselves, of COURSE we can. But when you’re giving it your absolute best, there really is no shame in the outcome.

So, go out there this week and lift your head a little higher. You have so much to offer, and are valuable and can contribute so much. Use that Solar Plexus chakra and think happy, positive thoughts.

Better yet, make them sunny yellow ones.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Photo by Jeremy Robert Photo

Teeth Whitening With No Pain?

Hey guys! This is my first ever blog post where I am collaborating with a company. What is this company you ask? None other than Smile Brilliant!

I may or may not be a little obsessed with having white teeth. I have tried many whitening strips, and although they may give good results over time there is always one common problem: sensitivity!

I have naturally sensitive teeth to begin with so whitening is always super painful for me to go through.

When I came across Smile Brilliant, the thing about their whitening system that peaked my interest was the sensitivity gel you put on BEFORE you whiten. They claimed that there would be ZERO sensitivity or pain. I was in!

They sent me a kit in the mail to make a mold of my upper and lower teeth. I sent them back in (at no cost) and about a week later my personalized whitening trays arrived!

The system itself is easy peasy to use. You fill a thin ribbon of the whitening gel onto your trays and then insert them onto your teeth. Then you can leave them on anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on how white you are wanting your teeth and how sensitive. But, if you use the desensitizing gel beforehand you will have NO pain! I’m not lying when I say I had absolute no sensitivity and pain! It was the best!

Now that my teeth are the shade I desired, I only have to use my trays maybe once every week or even every other week!

If you are looking for a great whitening system, look no further than Smile Brilliant- and that’s the honest tooth! 🙂

Before

After

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Fists of Fury

“5 Activities to Help You Be A Good Mom”

That was the caption under a pin on Pinterest I scrolled across a few days ago. No sooner had I read those words, an intense rage boiled up inside of me. Not just normal rage- “Momma Bear” rage. My husband likes to joke that I am sweet until someone brings out the “Philly Fire” in me and then people better watch out! And nothing stokes that Philly Fire more than my momma bear instincts. Why was this stupid Pinterest pin making me so angry? I wanted to punch the fake smiling mom in the photo in her face. Okay, that’s a tad violent, but who is she to tell me I’m not a good mom? And why would her activities ensure I was a good one? She doesn’t know me or my life!

I truly believe this is why so many women feel like they aren’t good enough. There’s this constant flow of ads on tv, magazines, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram making us feel like we are falling short. Social media in general can make one feel extremely bad about themselves if they are not careful.

Mantras For Mommas

Repeat after me ladies: I am NOT a bad mom!

Whew! Doesn’t that feel good to say out loud? Take it from my own experience: I hear at least once a day from one (or all) of my darling children that I’m “stupid” or that “I’m ruining their life” or that I am the “worst”, etc. etc. – you get the point. Normally these just bounce off of me because I know they don’t mean those words, but on those occasional bad days when their words do cut me down, actually saying I am NOT a bad mom out loud to myself helps! I’m serious! Next time you are feeling pretty low about your ability to parent, just repeat those words to yourself (or any personal variation) and you will feel better.

Some other popular mantras I like to repeat to myself are:

It’s Almost Bedtime

Mommy Is Not A Maid

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Mommys Need Time-outs Too

They’re All Alive So I’m Calling It A Win

I mean, this list is pretty much endless, and yes most of these are supposed to be funny! I would not get through most days without a little humor (and caffeine!)

If you’re day is going south fast, just take a few minutes to yourself. Take a breather, take your caffeine source of choice, sneak one of those treats you hide from the kiddos, repeat a good mantra to yourself and head back in there! It will all be okay.

The Year of No

By May of this past year I was feeling extremely burnt out. Between my kids sporting events, art classes, my sporting events, our church callings, Scouts, traveling, Jess needing to leave for Boise in April until September, my work with the American Cancer Society and with the Rape Recovery Center I was feeling at the end of my rope. We were just TOO busy! I felt like we weren’t spending enough time as a family unit, and it was starting to show. Not in any huge obvious way, but as a momma I could tell my kids were struggling with it.

In June after the Hope and Healing Gala I helped with for the Rape Recovery Center, and my epic trip to Rwanda with my Grandpa, the kids and I made our way to Boise to spend the rest of the summer with Jess while we worked. After the first week of pure summer fun and no plans whatsoever I felt so recharged, happy, and steady. I decided I needed more of that in my life; this coming school year, we would start saying NO!

This means that other than the things we have to do, we will not add more to our load. If we don’t need to commit our precious time we could be spending together, then we won’t. Our kids actually WANT to be with us, and who knows how much longer we can enjoy that? I really felt like we as a family needed some time without extra responsibilities and stress. We are going to focus this time on spending it together and strengthening our family unit while the kids are still little. I stepped down from helping with this year’s event for the American Cancer Society because frankly I was feeling so burnt out, and I needed to spend that quality time with Jess in Boise. Coming home only after a week or two would have not been a good decision.

Without any prompting, our kids have started saying no as well. Calvin after much debate decided he didn’t want to play football. I was proud of him for making that decision on his own, because I knew it was hard for him. Jess and I did not put any pressure on him to play or not, and he felt like it was not something he wanted to pursue this year. He has many years ahead of him left for sports, so I am not worried at all about him “falling behind” or any of that mumbo jumbo. Him not playing  has been a huge change for us from last fall in a positive way. He had practices every day and games every Saturday and by the end of the season he, and us were exhausted! It was fun, but a lot of time commitment. It was also a time commitment that Memphis and Shay had no say in.

So far this school year has been easy peasy. Our days aren’t as hectic and full as they were last fall, and it’s just what we needed right now.  I’m sure next year we will pick right back up and be busy with activities, but I am glad I listened to my gut and decided to start saying no.

Put Up Your Dukes!

As a mom it’s extremely easy to get offended and defensive when it comes to our kids and our ability to raise them. A prime example is me and that pin that made me so angry. I mean really, I have no reason to get so riled up by 9 words, I already know I am an amazing mom to my kids. The word that sticks out in that sentence is MY. These children are mine, and I am the only one who knows them intimately, and know how to cater to their individual needs. No one else would be able to do that! Each child is different, and each family is different.

All I know is, that I love my children fiercely, and I try my darndest to do my very best to raise them right. I make sure they go to bed every single night with kisses and knowing that they are loved. My husband and I parent together with what we feel is right for our family, and what’s right for us isn’t right for the next family- and that’s okay! Every family has unique challenges and beliefs and that’s what makes this world so diverse and beautiful. Our differences and acceptance of those differences is what makes a community better.

So keep doing you moms of the world, cuz you’re doing great!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Remember to Never Forget

“No, my Mom is dead.”

I had to flat out say that to someone a few weeks ago, someone who KNEW she had passed away, but forgot for some reason. It made me cringe to say those words and watch the realization and horror cross their face. They apologized profusely and really, it was fine. It’s not like it was news to me or anything.

Unlike them, I haven’t forgotten and never will.  Even coming up on four years of her being gone, I still think of her daily. It seems impossible for such a huge loss in my life to be forgotten.

You would think the same would apply for huge world events to never be forgotten, but every year when September 11 rolls around it seems like on Facebook and other social media that everyone has to let the world know they haven’t forgotten what happened. Obviously any of us who in some form witnessed that horrible day will never forget any of it. But we have all forgotten in a way, haven’t we? What I mean by that is on September 12, 2001 American pride was booming. Flags were flying off the shelves and were literally everywhere outside. Whether you agreed with your neighbor or not it didn’t matter anymore. Your sexual preference, race, religion, social or economical status, what kind of car you drove, and how big your house was no longer mattered. We were all Americans and proud of it. The coming together of the people was so inspiring to witness, but the news these days shows a much different America.

17 years later, and America seems to be filled with so much hatred, violence, and death.  I think the Black Eyed Peas said it best:

“Where is the love?”

Well, I could go into what I think happened, but honestly, that’s not the point of this post. The point, is what I think we should do to be proactive in mending this broken country in our own little way. Obviously, I’m a stay at home mom in Utah who doesn’t have a huge impact on the world, so starting small seems logical to me! Small and simple things can make big changes too.

Today, for instance I sat down and hand wrote out five cards to people that I haven’t seen in a while that I love dearly. Writing out these personal notes became very emotional, and as I sealed and addressed them all I felt accomplished. Maybe it’s not much, but for me, receiving snail mail is so thrilling because in the days of email, a hand written note seems like a relic. It’s also more intimate and heartfelt. I hope those 5 people get the same amount of love and joy I felt writing them.

We get sort of deceived by social media that we are in touch with the people we love and care about, but it’s all kind of a counterfeit relationship. Social media is sort of  smoke and mirrors effect of the good, which I mentioned in my post here. As we scroll through our feeds we feel like we are in touch with people, but really it’s just a small portion of their life. It’s scary sometimes to think of the impact social media and smart phones has had on people and relationships.What should we do then? If they live close, go see them! Not close? Call them! Really catch up with people and keep your relationships strong.

Speaking of smartphones, put it down! Our phones seem to have become another appendage on our bodies. My four year old the other day called me out and said:

“Momma put down your phone and look at me!”

I listened and put my phone down and focused solely on him and we had a great afternoon together of play-doh and transformers.  So maybe once a day, or at a certain time of day, put down the phones! It’s amazing how much fun you can have when phones aren’t involved. Good, old fashioned fun.

Another thing I suggest is to get to know your neighbors, all of them! One thing I love about the city we live in is that every September 11 we have an emergency drill. Each neighborhood has a “block captain” and when the drill happens we all have to check in with them. If we don’t show up, they need to call us. This drill is to ensure if there was a real emergency that we would know where everyone was in our block, as well as have a record of specific tools and supplies we all have on hand. I love it because we are all taking care of one another, and isn’t that how it should be? I know all of my neighbors in our cul-de-sac and can rely on one or all of them if I’m in a jam to help watch kids or anything else. We have had help shoveling snow without being asked many times, had food brought when tragedies have occurred, and treats for the holidays. I feel very blessed for the great neighbors we have.

Its hard sometimes to see the good when watching the news and hearing story after story of injustice, racial profiling, murders, hate crimes, and the chaos that is Washington D.C.. Sometimes we have to be the light when there is none to be found. Spread a little love, do something kind for someone else, be that good example that people need to see. I have always loved this quote:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” -Dumbledore

If you can’t see any light around you, be that light. Others will notice- believe me. So on this September 12 let’s all try a little harder to be that light we need right now, so people can be reminded to never forget.

XoXo

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Photo by Christine Todd Photography

 

I almost drowned once. I was an adult too, 26 to be exact. I was snorkeling on a reef in Belize, and I had wandered from the main group following a group of fish. Unknowingly I had gotten pulled by a current into the dangerous part where these enormous waves crashed down onto the edge of the reef.

Before I realized the danger I was in, a wave crashed onto me. It engulfed my snorkel and sent a tube-full of water down my throat. I began coughing, but the salt water made my throat close. I began to panic, gasping for air and nothing was going in. When I finally felt my throat opening again, another wave hit me and flung me into the reef. I inhaled water again and was flailing around in the confusion of the waves and the rocks. When I resurfaced  I was still coughing and managed a ragged breath before another wave took me under. I was terrified; I was going to drown. I have been a swimmer since the age of 6 and a lifeguard for 4 summers in high school. Swimming has never been a problem for me, yet here I was about to die in the ocean.

I was suddenly being brought to the surface by my friend who had been close by. She saw me struggling and bravely came to my rescue at the risk of being tossed around like I was. I was still struggling to catch my breath and she held onto me and slowly swam me to safety. At this point our guide spotted us, (like hello? Where were you this entire time?!), and jumped into the water in extremely dramatic fashion, and helped me back into the boat.

Obviously, I’m very glad I didn’t drown that day, but I can’t help but think of this story as I reflect on a year ago when I almost drowned a different way.

The Perfect Storm

Last summer, my anxiety began to become uncontrollable for me. I talked about all of this in my blog here. By the end of July when I was back in Utah, it had gone from being an occasional issue to a daily issue. Pretty much as soon as I woke up, the panic would start. I would honestly dread the mornings and what the next day would hold for me. I attempted my best to hold it together but it got so bad that I eventually broke down. I’m not sure I know anyone who would not have broken down after enduring the nonstop panic. Thinking back on how fuzzy and how detached from my body I was is scary. I never felt like I was “all there”, and constantly worried about the next panic attack. I didn’t feel comfortable even in my own home and would try to escape that feeling by leaving and staying busy, but being in public also made me feel panicked because I did NOT want to make a public scene if I had another attack. I was exhausted but couldn’t shut my brain off at night, and being so sleep deprived exacerbated everything astronomically. I was literally feeling like I was losing my mind.

As scary as it may be to say, I got to the point where I understood why people with severe mental illness commit suicide. I was never contemplating it, but it was such an exhausting mental cycle I would go through every single day, that I longed for it to be over. I just wanted all of it to stop and to feel like myself again. I had a full fledged breakdown on the day when everything came to a head last summer. It was so bad that my husband drugged me so I would just go to sleep because I was so spectacularly  hysterical. I felt like I was drowning in this mental anguish.

S.O.S

I was clearly in trouble, and my ship was sinking fast. Thankfully, I had the good sense to reach out to people that I loved and trusted to help. I sought help from my doctor who prescribed me life-changing medication for my anxiety. By the next day I could feel a huge difference and that fuzzy fog-like feeling I had was lifting.

I also started going to a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders, and even after my first session with her I felt SO much better. Over a few months she helped me develop some mental tools to help me combat my anxiety when it would rear its ugly head. I finally was feeling myself again, although it was a rough road at first.

The best thing I did for myself was to ask for help. Instead of enduring this scary anxiety- filled world alone I made sure I had my people there to help me. If I had tried to go it alone, I’m not sure where I would be today, or in what mental state.

For anyone out there who feels like they are drowning in their own mental health issues, just know that you are NOT alone. Here is the number for a suicide hotline:

Suicide Prevention

1-800-273-8255

XoXo

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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