How Do You Say Goodbye?

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How Do You Say Goodbye? A tribute to my grandmother who lived her life with kindness and a never ending supply of hugs. Her legacy of love will live on through us all.

You think you know what it means to watch someone waste away. You’ve seen it on television. You’ve read about it in books. But until you see it, with your own eyes – watch it happen to someone you love – you realize you had no idea. The emotional impact is unfathomable. You want to cry. Yet in the pit of your stomach you know you should be strong. So you turn your head. You hide your eyes. You don’t want show up unless you have to.

When I walked into her room, she was asleep. A small teddy bear holding a heart rested on her chest. Her face was sunken. Her skin like glass. The damp cloth on her forehead hid the fact that all her hair was gone now. Yet at the same time somehow made her seem more substantial. There was oxygen in her nose. And from time to time she’d make a terrifying sound as she breathed through her mouth.

She woke up a short time later. Almost as if she was frightened back into her dying body. She begged for water. Water she couldn’t have for fear it’d end up in her lungs. She couldn’t swallow. So we made do with a sponge dipped into a cup of that life giving fluid.

There were no IV’s. There were no life saving measures. Instead there was pain and panic. It was if she knew there were people with her, but she saw through them. From time to time she’d panic, her feeble heart racing. Buying it’s time to hang on just a little while longer. Yet the panic left her terrified she was choking. Swearing to us she couldn’t breathe.

There was another dose of morphine.

………….

When I was little my Meemaw, as she was known to all her grandchildren, took care of me. She always gave me as much paper and scotch tape as I’d like. And even after I cut my finger on her sewing scissors, she let those scissors find their way back into my hands again.

I drew pictures and cut paper. I built cities that expanded through an ever growing amount of Scotch tape so my Hot Wheels would have new places to go. Journeys to make and parking spots at two dimensional grocery stores.

I drew homes. And in those homes there were always closets. I created pretty dresses on hangers with crayons to fill them. Because with her, I always felt at home. She was home. She was a force of happiness and kindness that welcomed everyone throughout her life – including strangers.

………….

As an adult, when you get the call, you go. It is not an easy thing. You want to run away. You want to be strong. You’re terrified to leave. It’s a mix of emotions that are at times overwhelming. Yet somehow, you find a way to make sure your loved ones know they’re loved in the end.

That was not my grandmother in that hospital bed. That was a shell of who she was. Her body gave in, and let go, a few short hours later.

So I drew her a house, a closet to take with her. And in that closet was a single hanger. On it, a pair of angel wings.

While her body is now for the earth, her spirit is for skies. Her legacy was, is and will always be love. Her spirit, living on always, through all of us blessed enough to know her.

Treat Yourself This Valentine’s Day

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Four unexpected yet easy ways to treat yourself this Valentine’s Day! (Because not every love affair needs to be about someone else.)

Treat yourself this Valentine's Day! When was the last time you spent money on you? As women, I think we're conditioned to look out for the needs of others first. So instead of buying something for someone else, why not treat yourself? Buy something that sparks your creativity. Make more time for yourself to do the things you love. Take care of your physical needs. Four unexpected ways to treat yourself for Valentine's Day - or any day! #treatyourself #selfcare #healthandwellness

I’m not the biggest fan of winter. Granted, snow is fun – to a point. But we’ve just not had enough snow to hoot and holler this winter. And that polar vortex that dipped super south this year? It left me huddled inside feeling the full force of those winter blues. While Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, it’s not really a day I’m looking forward to with any sort of zeal. To be truthful, I’d rather stay inside where it’s warm and cozy until spring. So in addition to – or perhaps just instead of – celebrating Valentine’s (or Galentine’s Day) why not simply treat yourself with one of these easy self care ideas?

4 Ways Treat Yourself for Valentine’s Day

#1 Treat yourself with a gift on your wish list.

When was the last time you spent money on you? As women, I think we’re conditioned to look out for the needs of others first. So instead of buying something for someone else, why not treat yourself? Buy something that sparks your creativity. Or splurge on that new pair of shoes or that eyeshadow pallet you’ve been dying to buy, but simply can’t justify. (I’m thinking about buying this linocut printmaking kit right now.)

#2 Treat yourself  by making more time for the things you love.

You can also invest more time in your passions, by skipping those last minute trips to the store. Whenever we even get the threat of snow here in Southwestern Virginia, everyone freaks out. This makes going to the grocery store for a regularly planned trip to pick up toilet paper feel like you wandered into a madhouse. Everyone else is cleaning out the milk, eggs and bread. And all you want is few extra rolls of toilet paper because you’ve been using yours as tissues for the past week. Why torture yourself?

Treat yourself this Valentine's Day! When was the last time you spent money on you? As women, I think we're conditioned to look out for the needs of others first. So instead of buying something for someone else, why not treat yourself? Buy something that sparks your creativity. Or splurge on that new pair of shoes or that eyeshadow pallet you've been dying to buy, but simply can't justify.

Sign up for Grove and get your everyday products delivered monthly right to your door – all when you need them! I love that I also have the option of receiving the things I need early – or simply skipping a month – depending on what I may need or my financial situation. Plus, right now, Grove is sending out some pretty incredible freebies for new customers. Things like treeless toilet paper and paper towels as well as dish and hand soap and scrubber sponges. Practical items – all shipped free with your first order of $20 or more. (I like to throw in holistic immunity boosters this time of year as well.) So you can take back that hour of chaos and bank that time to do something you actually enjoy. Check it out!

If you have a love of learning, then there's no better gift of give yourself than the gift of knowledge. The Herbal Academy just introduced their revised and expanded their herbalism courses for the new year. Not only are they coinciding this with an awesome spring sale, there are some super sweet freebies that come with select programs. They also now offer PRINTED course guides! (For those of us who are constantly mourning the loss of paper books.) You can take advantage of sale pricing at The Herbal Academy through February 20th. New students will receive a $25 discount off registration through February 20th. Plus you'll receive a free herbal goodie bag ($70 value) with any textbook package order!

#3 Treat yourself with the gift of knowledge.

If you have a love of learning, then there’s no better gift of give yourself than the gift of knowledge. The Herbal Academy just introduced their revised and expanded their herbalism courses for the new year. Not only are they coinciding this with an awesome spring sale, there are some super sweet freebies that come with select programs. They also now offer PRINTED course guides! (For those of us who are constantly mourning the loss of paper books.) You can take advantage of sale pricing at The Herbal Academy through February 20th. New students will receive a $25 discount off registration through February 20th. Plus you’ll receive a free herbal goodie bag ($70 value) with any textbook package order! Sign up here.

With winter here, however, staying active can be a challenge. But with the legalization of CBD oil across the country (with some restrictions) we are now able to turn to healthier options for chronic pain like arthritis and fibromyalgia in addition to our overall health and emotional well being. Don't like the taste of CBD oil tinctures? You can now support your body's endocannabinoid system with natural CBD oil infused treats!

#4 Treat yourself by supporting your ECS.

Last year I learned that our bodies have an entire system that supports everything from pain sensation and pregnancy to fertility, mood and appetite. It’s call the endocannabinoid system (ECS.) Voluntary exercise naturally boosts our ECS which can lead to exercise induced euphoria. (Source.) With winter here, however, staying active can be a challenge. But with the legalization of CBD oil across the country (with some restrictions) we are now able to turn to healthier options for chronic pain like arthritis and fibromyalgia in addition to our overall health and emotional well being. Don’t like the taste of CBD oil tinctures? You can now support your body’s endocannabinoid system with natural CBD oil infused treats!

For more lifestyle and wellness ideas, as well as natural beauty recipes, sign up for my semi-weekly newsletter so you never miss a post. You can also follow me on Pinterestfacebook and instagram.

How to Deal with Holiday Stress Even If Your Family Is Insane

I may receive compensation from links on this site. See my disclosure policy.

This post is sponsored by Wiivv. All opinions are my own.

Let’s face it. The holidays can be tough. Not only is there more to take on during the holiday season, but family can make the holidays even more stressful. There are ways, however, to lighten that emotional load. Keep reading for my tips on how to deal with holiday stress. So maybe this year you can start enjoying the holidays again.

Tips on how to deal with holiday stress.

The day before Thanksgiving I actually broke out in hives. So I understand how stressful the holidays can be. Thus illustrating not just the emotional, but also the physical toll, that the holidays can have on our health. Because I have fibromyalgia, stress – especially the kind of stress that the holidays bring – also affects my pain level. So doing activities that I actually do enjoy – like our local star drop in market square – brings with it some challenges. Specifically when it comes to footwear.

I want to be like everyone else and wear my pretty holiday party dress with the super cute shoes to match. What I don’t want to have to worry about however, is my feet hurting a half hour in and not being able to walk the rest of the night. Luckily, I scored a pair of Wiivv’s 3/4 Length Custom Fit Insoles a few months ago. Their not only custom designed to fit my feet, they also fit into every single pair of shoes I own. Even those cute party shoes. And, while they may not help me to deal with the stress of the holiday season, there’s a good chance I’ll be doing a lot of dancing into the New Year.

I really love that my Wiivv insoles allow me to feel physically feel better, not just at holiday parties, but in my day to day activities. This in turn takes some of that extra stress off my mind, so I can enjoy doing things more. Let’s face it though. Dealing with the stress of family obligations and events throughout the holiday season isn’t tackled by great footwear alone. Sometimes you have to take the time out to consider what’s more important to you – your sense of duty or your emotional health?

To help you make the holidays season a little easier to deal with, I’ve been together a few tips on how to deal with holiday stress.

Tips on How to Deal with Holiday Stress

1. Say “no.”

There’s nothing saying that you MUST attend family events during the holiday season. Maybe you have an emotionally abusive mother or a racist uncle that puts you on edge. Or perhaps it’s just overwhelming trying to find the time to attend every event, clean your house and shop for gifts all on top of work, kids and personal relationships. If you need a break, for whatever reason, it’s okay to say “no.” Stay home instead and indulge in some self care. You shouldn’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself. And believe me, I’ve skipped my own fair share of events.

“Sorry, I won’t be able to attend this year. Aunt Margaret will be there and if I have to even look at her face after the things she’s done… Well, I will not hold back. And no one wants that at a holiday party.”

2. Self medicate.

Yeah. I know. This sounds bad. But as someone who’s dealt with agoraphobia, I understand anxiety. And sometimes you just need a little help. I’m not suggesting drinking yourself into oblivion or anything. However, if there are events that will turn out worse for you if you don’t attend them, then go prepared. Cbd oil works wonders for anxiety when you can’t avoid those extra challenging family events. (It can also help with the inflammation from all those carbs!) However, if CBD oil isn’t an option for you, you can try other herbal remedies such as valerian and skullcap root to ease anxiety and reduce stress.

“Hey, Carla! Your dress is awesome. Hopefully your attitude will reflect your look this year. But if not, I’ll just be chillaxing over in the corner tonight with my phone on video… I can’t wait to replay your antics for all my friends! They all loved Don’t Trust The B- In Apartment 23!”

3. Avoid politics.

At all costs, do not discuss politics at family gatherings. If your family is like mine, then everyone has a different opinion on the state of our country. Don’t make a relatively agreeable holiday gathering into an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While your brother may act like a demon, it’s best not to call him out on it. Your therapist may refer to this as setting aside your differences. I also suggest making it very clear there are to be no political discussions during holiday events. Threaten to never attend an event again – I did! – and someone is guaranteed to have your back.

4. Take a breather.

Overwhelmed? Sneak outside and take a break. One of my best memories of Christmas was not only family free (I was going through a divorce) but it was spent with a friend skating on the ice in Market Square in our tennis shoes. Alternately, mediation is supposed to help as well. Unfortunately, my brain stays on overdrive and that is something I definitely struggle with.

5. Get some rest.

Staying up late to try to tackle your entire to do list will just make the next day more trying. You are not a Stepford wife. (Thank goodness.) You’re a grown ass woman. So if you want ice cream for breakfast and a midday nap, just go for it. If anyone is judging you, it’s simply to make up for their own shortcomings.

With that said, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season. Even if it means taking a pass. And, if you have tips for how to deal with holiday stress, I’d love for you to share your success stories in the comments. Also don’t forget that those custom Wiivv insoles in case you need to make a mad dash for the hills without breaking a leg. Your family likely won’t thank you, but your feet definitely will. However, learning how to deal with holiday stress can help you have a happier holiday. So if you’re up for it, then give it your best! (Or at least find a way to make it entertaining.)

There Is A Way to Beat Seasonal Depression. And It’s Not What You Think.

I may receive compensation from links on this site. See my disclosure policy.

There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it’s not what you think. Keep reading to learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy lifestyle tips.

Seasonal depression. There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it's not what you think. Learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy tips. #depression #seasonaldepression #mentalhealth #emotionalhealth #healthyliving #naturalalternatives

Winter can be dreary. It’s only just fall and it’s already getting dark sooner. The leaves are starting to change colors and the sky seems to be gray a bit more often. (Although it’s possible part of that is due to the insane amount of rain we’ve had lately.) As the weather cools off we also find ourselves stuck indoors more than we’d like. This in turn can lead to those dreaded winter blues.

This year I’m determined to keep my spirits up and skirt seasonal depression all together. I’d like to say I’m going to be one of those ridiculously happy people who’s always positive and never stops smiling – but that will seriously never happen.

Resting bitch face aside, I tend to get emotionally involved in most things I do. I scream, cry and clap at television shows. I get that weird bizarro paranoia that something is wrong or I’m gonna screw up somehow when my monthly cycle hits. And the current state of our political circus leaves me terrified even when I avoid the news and filter my social news feed to hide the drama.

With over forty winters under my belt I’m no stranger to seasonal depression. Managing fibro on top of that is no easy feat. So I completely understand the challenges you face when you get those winter blues. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill you can swallow to send your seasonal depression packing. Nutritionally, however, there are options that can help improve your symptoms as well as potentially prevent the occurence of seasonal depression all together. There are also actions you can take to get your head back in the game and off those dismal sidelines that trap you in an unhealthy emotional cycle.

Seasonal depression. There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it's not what you think. Learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy lifestyle tips. #depression #seasonaldepression #mentalhealth #emotionalhealth #healthyliving #naturalalternatives

What Is Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal depression, also now called seasonal affective disorder or SAD for short, can strike at any time of the year – not just fall and winter. While most common during the fall and winter months, the symptoms of seasonal depression are much the same regardless of when it occurs. Symptoms include feelings of depression, trouble sleeping, low energy or fatigue, changes in weight or appetite, difficulty concentrating, agitation or anxiety and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.

What Causes Seasonal Depression?

There is no clear cause for seasonal depression. However, it is widely believed that there are three main factors that can lead to seasonal depression. This includes changes in your biological clock caused by a decrease in sunlight. The reduced levels of sunlight during both fall and winter are then believed to result in a drop in serotonin levels in the brain. It can also cause changes in melatonin levels. This can disrupt sleep cycles and affect mood.

Seasonal depression. There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it's not what you think. Learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy lifestyle tips. #depression #seasonaldepression #mentalhealth #emotionalhealth #healthyliving #naturalalternatives

How Can I Reduce My Chances of Developing Seasonal Depression?

Much of modern Western medicine seems to focus on treating the symptoms of depression rather than the cause. (A sad result of big pharma.) This in turn leads to an endless cycle, riddled with side effects, and no real recovery. (Much like my struggle to find natural treatment options for fibromyalgia.) The good news is, you don’t have to take anti-depression drugs, such as SSRI’s which increase levels of serotonin in the brain, to manage your seasonal depression. In fact, it’s possible you can prevent your seasonal depression completely by taking steps to improve your gut health.

Rectifying my own gut health has been paramount in both my physical and emotional recovery. I spent a good part of my adult life struggling with depression. Now that I no longer struggle with depression like I used to, I am completely sold on treating health issues through nutrition as a first step.

The Gut-Brain Axis

It’s widely believed that the gut-brain axis has an impact on both our emotional health and physical health. Not only does the gut-brain axis help regulate our bodies, it also maintains homeostasis through the biochemical signaling that takes place between our gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system. Additionally, the gut-brain axis also refers to the role that our gut flora plays in our bodies. This interplay is referred to the “microbiome–gut–brain axis” which explicitly includes the role of gut flora in the biochemical signaling events that take place between our gastrointestinal tract and our central nervous system. (Source.)

A diet that primarily consists of high fat/low fiber foods decreases the gut microbiome diversity in our bodies, disrupting the gut-brain axis. When this happens, our bodies become more vulnerable to physical illnesses. Recent studies have also indicated that poor gut health affects our emotional health as well. Therefore, not only does poor gut health cause depression, it can also lead to worsening depression. By eating a healthy diet that supports gut health, you can also help support your emotional well being.

Seasonal depression. There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it's not what you think. Learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy tips. #depression #seasonaldepression #mentalhealth #emotionalhealth #healthyliving #naturalalternatives

How Probiotics Can Help

Probiotics offer an easy way to help improve and restore gut flora in our bodies and thus improve our gut health. These live microorganisms help to improve diversity and increase healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and kombucha. However, you can also purchase probiotics as an easy to take nutritional supplement in pill form.

Recent medical studies have offered compelling evidence that probiotics can also help alleviate depression. (Source.) Therefore, I highly recommend consuming probiotics to help prevent seasonal depression or to help improve symptoms.

When purchasing probiotics it’s important to buy probiotics that will survive the trip from your gut to the intestinal tract. So be sure to research any brands you’d like to try before making a purchase.

I personally recommend Love Bug Here’s The Skinny Daily Probiotics as they contain not only probiotics, but also prebiotics. Prebiotics are a natural fiber that feeds probiotics. Here’s The Skinny Daily Probiotics contain eight targeted strains of beneficial probiotics to help aid in digestion, reboot your metabolism, and elevate energy levels and mood. In addition, this product also combats unwanted digestive issues like bloating, constipation and leaky gut by rebalancing your microbiome with beneficial bacteria. Each tablet has 10 billion CFU and uses a patented time-release delivery technology, which protects the probiotics from stomach acid and releases them gradually, making them 15 times more effective than standard capsules.

You can save on your monthly purchase of Lovebug Here’s The Skinny Daily Probiotics by purchasing them from, one of my favorite online shops, Grove Collaborative.

What Are Other Ways I Tackle Seasonal Depression?

In addition to supplementing your diet with probiotics, there are also other natural ways that you can help prevent or improve your seasonal depression.

Adaptogens

You’ve probably been hearing a lot of buzz about adaptogens lately. Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, ginseng, mushrooms, milk thistle, gotu kola and holy basil are believed to support overall health and wellness. They work as non-specific remedies that increase our bodies resistance to a broad spectrum of harmful factors of different physical, chemical and biological natures. They are also believed to help our bodies adapt and respond better to stress.  By incorporating adaptogens into your daily diet you can further support your emotional health.

Adding a vitamin B complex along with ginseng to your daily supplements is a simple way to help boost energy to overcome fatigue and exhaustion caused by seasonal depression.

CBD oil is another example of an adaptogen. It has been shown to help support our mood, sleep, appetite and hormone regulation. In addition it can also reduce pain and boost immune response. Further studies have also indicated that CBD oil, in addition to helping with depression, also has numerous other medical indications including anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation, cancer and chronic pain. My own personal experience with CBD oil is that it has greatly improved not just my fibromyalgia pain, but it has decreased my anxiety and improved my mood as well.

Exercise & Activity

Getting up and just doing something can be a challenge if you’re already depressed. However, by staying active prior to and during fall and winter, you can help prevent seasonal depression from taking hold. Studies have shown that by simply walking ten minutes a day outdoors, you can boost the levels of serotonin in your brain more so than if you were taking SSRI medication. While staying active does require a small commitment of your time, it will not only improve your mood but your physical health as well.

Seasonal depression. There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it's not what you think. Learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy tips. #depression #seasonaldepression #mentalhealth #emotionalhealth #healthyliving #naturalalternatives

Get Creative

There are scores of studies that have shown that art has the power to heal. Not only is art a great way to express yourself – and a lot of fun! – it’s another natural alternative to big pharma medications. A powerful therapeutic tool, art and other creative activities have the ability to ease stress, anxiety and depression. Additionally, it can also aid with communication challenges and help stop cognitive decline.

What’s so great about creativity, is that you don’t need to possess a natural talent in order to express yourself through the things you create. Anyone can draw, paint or knit. And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy. So put together that photo album you’ve been putting off. Color a mandala or create a paper mobile. Anything that allows you to relax and have fun.

If you’re not sure where to start or the type of projects you’d like to do, give a DIY craft kit a try. Alternately, websites like Creativebug, offer many wonderful arts and crafts classes that you can access online from the comfort of your home. And, of course, you can also find a ton of great DIY ideas right here on Soap Deli News blog. From homemade soap recipes and bath and beauty DIY’s to DIY craft projects, a simple search will turn up years worth of inspirational projects and ideas.

Seasonal depression. There is a way to beat seasonal depression. And it's not what you think. Learn natural ways to relieve symptoms of seasonal depression as well as how to possibly prevent seasonal depression completely with these healthy tips. #depression #seasonaldepression #mentalhealth #emotionalhealth #healthyliving #naturalalternatives

As I create things for a living, one of my favorite ways to feel like I’m not working is to engage in group classes and projects with friends. Crafting with friends or in a class setting allows me the opportunity to make mistakes and just have fun. I also find that socializing is immensely helpful. So host a DIY nail polish night or a pumpkin painting party at your home. Or take a class at your local community center or art center. I guarantee you will feel better for having done so!

Have you ever suffered from seasonal depression? I’d love to hear your story. Feel free to share natural remedies or activities that helped you beat your seasonal depression in the comments below.

If you’d like to receive notification of new articles from Soap Deli News blog, be sure to follow me across all of your favorite social media platforms. You can find me on G+PinterestFacebookTwitterBlog Lovin’ and Instagram. Or, alternately, you can also subscribe to Soap Deli News via email for future updates, DIY projects and recipes.

The Year I Lived With Agoraphobia (And Other Things We Don’t Talk About)

I may receive compensation from links on this site. See my disclosure policy.

Sometimes we catch ourselves in a trap of our own making. Which is exactly how I came to be diagnosed with agoraphobia in the first place.

The year I lived with agoraphobia. (And other things we don't talk about.) Sometimes we catch ourselves in a trap of our own making. Which is exactly how I came to be diagnosed with agoraphobia in the first place.

The feeling you get.

Have you ever felt your chest get tight going over an interstate bridge? It’s followed by this onset of panic. You feel like you’re just not going to make off that bridge unless it’s over the side. Any second you could lose control of the car. And so you grip the wheel tighter. Your knuckles turn white. You’re gritting your teeth. Then, finally, finally, you’ve reached the other side.

Where am I going?

I was never one of those career driven people. Like many of us, I didn’t really figure out what I wanted to do with my life (job wise) until I was in my mid-30’s. At that point in my life, I already knew people entering their 40’s who still had no clue what direction they were headed in. So I didn’t really stress over it as much as some people do.

It’s funny because we’re expected to know what we want to do with our lives as soon as we graduate high school. Very few of us are that far sighted. Which is why so many of us change our major at least once, if not twice, in college. Many of my friends, in fact, aren’t even working in the same field as their college major. As for me, I graduated college with a BA in fine arts after 7 1/2 years (and my son along the way) and still had no idea what to do with my life.

The past three years or so have been a whirlwind for me. I’ve started over a few times. I’ve moved a lot. I took a brave leap and quit my day job to become a writer with zero savings. My only business plan was to “write more.” I got married and then divorced again – all in under a year. Most of my friends know me as being extremely gregarious. I’m occasionally overbearing. I ask too many questions. I treat strangers like family. So it’s a surprise to most people when they find out I was once diagnosed with agoraphobia.

How did I get there?

Well, like all stories, this story requires some backstory. The story, as it was told to me, begins around the time my brother was born.

I was 3 1/2 when my brother was born. My dad, who really enjoyed hunting at the time, had promised that he’d stay home to help my mom with my brother. Seeing as he was born in October, however, he sort of maybe took off on a hunting trip instead. So my mother “sent me away” to spend the weekend with my aunt. That way she only had one child to contend with and not two. (And believe me, as a once upon a time single mother, I completely understand.)

My parents also started spanking me sometime around this age. They’d planned on being progressive baby boomer parents who didn’t spank their children. However, I was apparently so “out of control” at this point that they didn’t know what else to do. So, as their parents had done to them, authoritarian punishment was dealt out for childhood infractions – often with a belt. (Which I was told was the better choice when compared to a switch or a paddle.)

Also somewhere within this time frame, I almost drowned at the beach. I also almost choked to death on a popcorn kernel. But then, again, who haven’t these things happened to?

Nonetheless, I was an incredibly shy child around strangers. And new kids. And very often in new places. Looking back I would definitely say I experienced a high level of anxiety when placed in new situations even as a young child.

I would scream and cry whenever my mother dropped me off at daycare. (This upon realizing having a second child meant she had to go back to work.) And I was bad. There was one day that she was forced to take me to work with her because I’d worked myself up from tears into dry heaves.

When I started school for the first time, and every year after throughout elementary school, that first week was always accompanied by a terrible stomach ache each morning.

I did not like the Easter bunny. Nor did I like Santa. These fictional characters were strangers to me. And to be forced into having my photo taken with them meant more tears – and the occasional cry/screaming that emitted by young children in terror.

While I can’t say with any certainty one way or the other if these events had a significant impact on my life, the fact that I remember them (prior to the discovery of the why) is telling. As were the eventual results, which included severe bouts of anxiety, depression, and eventually, agoraphobia.

When I was fourteen, I was the survivor of a much larger trauma. (#metoo) One that I never told my parents about. This of course led to its own unique outcomes and consequences. Destructive behavior. Cutting. Drinking. Behaviors that led to another similar incident when I was sixteen. Something I’ve since learned is way more common than many of us ever realized.

When did it happen?

Fast forward to just before the agoraphobia started. I’m married to my first husband. My son is in elementary school. I’ve been seeing a psychologist for depression and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder.)

The ironic thing about me seeking help for my depression and OCD is that it actually led to my agoraphobia. I had started talking to a mental health professional in an attempt to wrangle my obsessive compulsive behaviors and bring it back under control. I was also exhausted, sad. I slept a lot.

I was exhibiting obsessive compulsive behaviors both at work and at home. At work I was perfect folding shirts and jeans like a crazy person. At home I was also perfect folding shirts and jeans like a crazy person. I was cleaning obsessively and checking and rechecking that everything was always perfectly in place.

What therapy taught me, was that the OCD was my coping mechanism for my anxiety. When I got the OCD under control and stopped those behaviors, that’s when the panic attacks began. The one thing that had helped me cope was taken away. Yet I was still left with unanswered questions on how to heal the root cause of my depression and anxiety to begin with.

Modern medicine offered SSRI’s as the answer. In the end however, holistic therapy was the only thing that addressed the core problem.

It’s all in your head.

I had that first panic attack shortly afterwards while at work. I remember it so clearly. It was the start of the holiday season. Online sales had yet to entirely change the face of retail at this point. So holidays meant hoards of people, many of whom were impatient.

I working at Gap at the time. And as I was walking across the crowded hall of the mall from Baby Gap to Gap, it hit. It’d been so long since I’d had a panic attack that I didn’t really recognize it as one at first. From there however, my condition spiraled.

I could only avoid having panic attacks at work if I was intensely focused on a task, such as resetting a wall display.

Then it got worse. And it kept on getting worse. However, because the attacks would happen so quickly in succession, and last for so long, I didn’t recognize them as panic attacks. I thought maybe I had developed adult asthma.

I went to my regular doctor. He told me that what I was experiencing was all in my head. I didn’t believe him. My mind wouldn’t let me see those attacks for what they really were. Maybe that meant giving up control to view them that way. I don’t really know. What I do know, is that I was – and still am – quite stubborn.

Testing, testing. 1. 2. 3.

I had my doctor refer me to another physician to be tested for asthma. By the time the tests for asthma came back negative, I wasn’t able to work at all. I had started having panic attacks in the house. Room by room until only my office and bedroom were panic attack free.

Eventually, the only time I didn’t have a panic attack, was if I was in bed reading or watching television.

I couldn’t have a normal conversation. I had panic attacks during telephone calls. My panic attacks were so intense, and lasted so long, that I literally had to pause after every word when talking to catch my breath. It was like I’d run a mile and then tried to have a discussion. My heart still pacing. My lungs still gasping to find air.

My now ex-husband used to come home at lunch while I was in the shower upstairs. He’s sneak into the bathroom just to scare me. When I started locking the bathroom door, he’d jimmy the lock. So I started having panic attacks in the shower. This led to me taking showers in the downstairs basement – where it felt like I could breathe.

I finally accepted my condition as being in my head. I accepted that I was having panic attacks. And, I was diagnosed with agoraphobia. At this point my panic attacks were so debilitating, I was told, had I not been so stubborn, I would have been housebound.

So I started taking an SSRI drug to manage the agoraphobia. Even with a high dose of SSRI medication, I would still have panic attacks. They were what one might consider a “normal” panic attack at that point, accompanied by debilitating tension headaches. So I took benzodiazepines to manage what the SSRI’s couldn’t. (These days I take CBD oil for anxiety, stress and the resulting pain that manifests from these symptoms. Use coupon code: ref0716498 for $10 off.)

Life is all about changes.

I decided to quit my job. (I had the luxury to be able to do so at the time.) For eight months I was a stay at home mother and wife. I mostly learned how to cook – though I’m SO much better now. I read more books than most people do in two lifetimes.

One day, while shopping at Target, I started talking to a stranger in the sales aisle. That was the day I knew I had to do something else with my life. I needed to be a part of the world.

I decided to apply to sell my handmade soaps at our local farmers market on a Monday. I interviewed with market management on a Tuesday. Wednesday, I set up my soaps on top of the concrete tables to sell. I met amazing people. I learned so much. Not just about selling on the market, but about other people and life. I grew. And ever so gradually, I conquered my fears.

Soapmaking, and in turn, selling my handmade soaps on the market, more than anything else, was what really pushed me forward. It’s how I tackled the agoraphobia and anxiety once and for all. It’s how I began to slowly become the person I am today. More than anything, however, it’s how I started healing and finally learned how to be on my own and figure out what I really wanted for my life.

The things we don’t talk about.

Once my first husband and I split up after 9 1/2 years of marriage, I moved back home. Within a few days I’d stopped having panic attacks. They literally just stopped.

Six months later, and during the recession, I finally found a part time job. That job went full time. I learned how to take care of myself. And now, well, I’m here. Growing. Writing. Figuring out the growing and the writing in tandem along the way.

There are lots of things we don’t talk about. But I’m glad, that now, I finally am.

More to explore.

If you enjoyed reading about my journey into and back out of agoraphobia, then I hope you’ll also read my other related article, Online Dating in Your 40’s Is The Equivalent of Running Head First Into a Brick Wall.

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