Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Journey with Depression and Anxiety

Hello, beauties. Earlier this week, the world lost the inimitable Robin Williams. To those on the outside, he was known for his over the top humor, heartwarming soul, and kind spirit. On the inside, he spent years battling the demons of addiction and a depression that he ultimately could not overcome. People have wondered what a man with his level of talent and fame could possibly have to be depressed about, as if those things should be enough to stave away the inner turmoil that would lead someone to take their own life. The truth is depression cares not for how much is in your bank account, how big your house is, how many adoring fans you have, or any other marker of success. It strikes without warning and without discrimination.

The tragic death of Robin Williams has ignited a conversation about the realities of depression and how we as a society treat and, in many ways, demonize mental illness. It has also inspired people all over the world to share the stories of their own battles with mental illness. If you’ve followed my blog or my social media, then you may have seen me make mention of my own struggles. I’ve never shared the full story publicly. Not until now. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to write this post, but in the end I felt that if it helped one person, or if it helped someone feel like they weren’t alone, then it would be worth it. So, here it is. This is my story.

me-at-13
Me at 13. I'd already started having anxiety and suicidal thoughts by this age.
I can barely remember a time without anxiety. By the time I was five or six, I was already starting to experience physical symptoms that were brought on by intense feelings of dread and anxiety. I can remember being bullied on the bus and being physically ill when I’d think of having to face the kids who tormented me. Suicidal ideations didn’t begin until I was 12, and soon after at 15, I began to self-harm. I’d cut and carve to relieve a pain I had no idea how to cope with. I hid it from my friends and family by doing it in places no one could see like my stomach and thighs, and I carried a deep, unrelenting shame over it.

I experienced my first breakdown when I was 16. That was the year I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. On top of that, I contracted mono and spent a semester out of school dealing with my physical and mental health. By the time I returned to school the next year, I was loaded down with meds and seeing a therapist every other week and things finally seemed to be looking up, albeit with strange lapses in memory (I still have parts of my 15th and 16th years that I don‘t remember). But that wouldn’t be the end of my journey.

I went off to college the summer I turned 19. I decided that I wanted to go to a school a couple of hours from home, but by the end of the first semester I was beginning to struggle and transferred to a college close to home. At first, things settled, but early 2008 saw a return of old patterns. Soon I was self harming again and my mental health was spiraling downward, but I did my best to hide as much of the pain that I was experiencing as possible. Then, my grandfather died on New Year’s Eve. After that, it was like a rock sinking to the bottom of a well.

me-in-nyc-christmas-2008
Me in NYC over Christmas 2008. Mere weeks before my grandfather passed and my second breakdown.
Spring semester of 2009 was the worst of my college career. I tried to escape my grief by sleeping all day, leaving my bed only to grab a bit of food or use the bathroom. My friends would stop by my room, banging on the door and begging to be let in, but I’d ignore them until they’d inevitably leave. I stopped going to my classes and saw my email inbox fill up with messages letting me know I was failing. I shut my phone off and holed myself up at my then boyfriend’s house not letting anyone know where I was. Not even my own mother. The next time I turned on my phone, I had messages from friends and family begging to know where I was, and when I finally talked to my mother she insisted I come home and get back into therapy.

Again, I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and was started back on medication. Unfortunately, it was too late to salvage the school year. Even with my psychiatrist writing the administration asking them to be lenient due to my mental state, I was denied the ability to take incompletes and was failed in all of my classes. Depression and anxiety were not considered reason enough to miss class. Mental health issues were not regarded as something to be taken seriously.

Over the next few months, I gradually started to piece my life back together, and eventually I found myself back on solid ground. In 2010 I met a fantastic man, and in 2012 we were married. We honeymooned at Disney World, we made plans for our future, and everything seemed to be falling right into place. All that was about to change.

me-summer-2013
Last summer after being diagnosed bipolar.
In the spring of 2013, right after our first wedding anniversary, I started having health problems. The maddening search to find out what was wrong led to me experiencing the worst breakdown of my life. I was fearful that I was dying and got to the point where I couldn’t be left alone. I was in a constant state of anxiety and the rollercoaster of emotions led me to being seriously suicidal for the first time since I was a teen. It got so bad that my husband ended up calling a crisis team out to our home in the middle of the night. I can’t even convey how surreal it felt having a counselor and social worker sitting at my dining room table discussing immediate treatment options, including the idea of having me committed to a hospital.

Luckily, we were able to get me in to see a psychiatrist in the next 48 hours, which is what kept me out of the hospital. This time around I had to see the psychiatrist once every three weeks, and I had to see a therapist each week. As before, I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, but when I didn’t respond as hoped to my new medications, my psychiatrist started digging further. Soon I had a new diagnosis to go alongside my anxiety. Bipolar. I was stunned and afraid. Depression had been bad enough. What would people think? Would I ever lead a normal life?

With a new regimen of medicines, loads of therapy, and new tools to take into the world, I was able to reclaim my life. Getting back to an even place hasn’t been without it’s casualties. The medical bills wiped out our entire savings. With the frequent need for doctor visits and needing to be monitored as much as possible, we had to give up the apartment we were living in and move in with my mother. Needless to say, the last thing a grown child wants to do is move back in with their parents, especially when they are married. Another lovely effect was that my medication left me with a little parting gift of near 50 extra pounds, but it was a worthy trade off to be healthy again.

me-summer-2014
Me now, and things are definitely looking brighter!
It’s the summer of 2014 now. I’m off medication and no longer needing visits with a therapist. My husband has got a new job and we’re actually looking to buy a house by the end of the year. Things are so different than they were a mere 12 months ago. But the knowledge of what I have lingers in my mind. The likelihood of another episode somewhere down the line is high. Each time I start feeling down, I worry that I’m hopping back on the Bipolar rollercoaster (and let me tell you that it is a shit ride). I can’t say that it doesn’t make me concerned for the future. But at the end of the day, I can only hope for the best.

Throughout my years dealing with mental illness, I’ve had all sorts of nasty things leveraged at me. I’ve been called a waste of space, worthless, weak, and a loser, among other things. I’ve been told that I need to get over it and learn to deal with life like everyone else, and that I should stop being overdramatic. You’d think it was a switch I could just turn off with the way some people talk about it. It shows just how little people understand mental illness, and that there is still an ugly stigma surrounding it.

I’m so lucky right now to have a husband who supports me and loves me no matter what. I have friends who understand what I’m going through and would be there at the drop of a hat without judgment. I’m also so happy to have this blog and all the fantastic people I’ve met because of it. I started this blog as I was coming out of things last year, and it was a large part of what helped me heal. Having something to focus on, to be proud of, to feel like I had a purpose for once, made such a difference. I don’t know where I’d be today without it.

So, that’s my story in a nutshell. Am I nervous about being judged or laughed at? Absolutely. I’m scared that admitting out loud to the world that I have a mental illness might change how people see me. At the same time, if my story can help anyone feel less alone or open to getting help, then there will be a firm positive from it. With a diagnosis, I better know how to care for myself, and am able to create a better life than I surely would have had if I’d never reached out my hand for help. I am alive, and there is nothing I am more thankful for.

If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, please call one of the hotlines below:

US & Canada: 1-800-273-TALK
UK: 08457 90 90 90
Australia: 13 11 14

Please know that you are loved and you are never alone. Know that there is always someone there ready to help. Don’t give up. This world would not be the same without you in it. xx

SHARE:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment - Review

tata-harper-aromatic-stress-treatment
Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment*, $80.00
Hello, beauties! Whether from work, family, friends, or relationships, stress is something we’ve all experienced our fair share of. Not only can it affect our moods, but it can affect our performance, our weight, and even our health. When that dreaded anxiety hits, we want something that works to help calm the mind and soothe our worries. Aromatherapy treatments with essential oils have been studied and used for centuries, with their healing properties becoming more popular worldwide in the last few decades. So when I was contacted to trial a new stress treatment from organic beauty brand Tata Harper, I jumped at the chance to see whether a choice concoction of oils could really settle the nerves and give stress a fair kiss off!

The Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment is a natural solution to your stress woes. It’s blend of essential oils is meant to help dispel anxiety while promoting harmony and wellness. Linden blossom serves to relax the mind and is believed to help reduce blood pressure, which can easily skyrocket in those more nerve wracking situations. A note of rose otto is uplifting and is thought to have antidepressant properties, a positive for when times seem at their worst. A layer of neroli oil helps relieve tension and soothe the nerves, keeping you relaxed and in control. And lastly, famed frankincense means to ground you through daily turbulence.

The Aromatic Stress Treatment comes in a 5ml rollerball for easy on the go application. There are two modes of use. The first is to apply the oil to your pulse points such as the wrists, behind the ears, and the temples to engulf you in long lasting calm. The second way to use this oil is to apply it liberally to your palms, cup them over your nose, and take in five deep breaths for quick, potent relief. The oil is all-natural and not tested on animals, so you’ll be doing something good for the body and the soul alongside the mind.

So, the real question is does it work? I have been an anxiety sufferer for over ten years. I’ve tried all sorts of medications and alternative therapies. No, this will not work as well as a prescribed medication. However, if you have less frequent stress, this can absolutely be a useful tool in your arsenal. It’s no secret that the right blend of scents can relax us. Add this along with the ritual of applying the oil to the pulse points and taking a few moments to breathe it in deeply (deep breathing being a mainstay of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and I’ve found that for day to day moments of unrest, the Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment works to center me and untangle my thoughts. A win in any book.

If you are looking for an all natural solution for stress and anxiety, I definitely recommend giving the Tata Harper Aromatic Stress Treatment a keen look. And if the scent of natural oils is your thing, this can double as a rich, heady perfume. You can purchase a vial of your very own at TataHarperSkincare.com.

What are your natural stress solutions? What do you like to do to relax after a hard day?

Stay gorgeous, peaches!

 

southern-charmed-blog-disclaimer Image Map
SHARE:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tips for Getting Your Best Brows Ever!

tips-for-eyebrows, brow-shaping-tips, brow-grooming-tips

Hello, beauties! It may come as a surprise, but our brows can make or break our faces. Whether you like wearing your brows thick and natural a la Cara Delavigne, or sharp and thin like classic movie stars, well groomed brows add structure to the face and make proper frames for our eyes. Today, I want to introduce you to some of my favorite tools and products that can help you achieve your best brows ever, and have you wanting to perfect that sexy brow raise!

The first thing you want to do is gather together all the tools you'll need to whip those brows into gear. Well-shaped brows are the best foundation for you to apply your choice of product. So to get them properly plucked and groomed, I recommend investing in a great pair of tweezers like the Tweezerman Studio Collection Slant Tweezers, $22.00. The sharper the tweezers, the easier it will be to pluck stray hairs with precision and less pain, which is always a plus.

eyebrow-tools, brow-tweezers, slanted-brow-brush

Once you've gotten a proper pair of tweezers, you're ready to shape your brows. Looking in a mirror, take stock of your natural brow shape. When grooming, you want to tweeze only the stray hairs outside of your natural brow shape. To minimize pain, pull the skin near the brows taut, and pull the hairs in the direction they grow. Pulling them straight out is far more painful than pulling them in the direction they grow naturally. And if redness occurs, taking an Ibuprofen will cut the inflammation down dramatically!

Next, you want to make sure you've got the proper brushes at your disposal to apply and blend your products of choice. If powder products are your thing, you'll want to have a nice angled brush. A lot of bloggers swear by more expensive brands, but I personally love my angled brush from EcoTools. It's sturdy and applies my powder products evenly, and you can't beat the budget price! I also suggest a double sided lash comb and brow brush as it helps to blend powder, tame unruly hairs, and removes excess product for a flawless finish.

When it comes to brow products, there are typically three different types of formulas you'll be dealing with. For a quick and easy, barely there look, gel products are the ultimate go-to. Much like a mascara for your brows, one swipe can give you a bit of tint and all-day taming power that is perfect for the girl on the go. One such product that I wholly recommend is Benefit's Gimme Brow, $22.00. It's so easy to use and perfect for brow beginners.

eyebrow-products, brow-powder, brow-gel, brow-pencil

Another type of brow product is the trusty brow pencil, and commonly what most women first experiment with. Pencils are fantastic at filling in sparse areas and adding a bit of extra drama for both day and night. For the most even application, start from the inner edge of your brows and pencil in short, light strokes all the way to the outer tip, staying within your natural brow shape. Blend by brushing your brow brush through your brows several times. This removes any excess product, and keeps your brows from looking markered on. When it comes to pencils, I love the budget friendly Wet n Wild ColorIcon Brow and Eye Liner, $1.49.

Lastly, if you are looking for glam, dramatic brows, you can't do better than a lush powder product. Applied with an angled brush, powder is a great way to get well-defined brows. Not for beginners, this is a product that should be worked up to as it requires a light hand and loads of precision. If you think you're ready to graduate to powder, a firm favorite of mine is the Urban Decay Brow Box, $29.00 . With your angled brush, dip it into the powder product that either matches your brows or is a shade or two darker. Then, with a steady hand, gently brush the powder through the brow. To add in that wanted red carpet feel, make sure to define the inner corners and outer points of the brows. Finish with a light brush of brow wax or a gentle swipe of clear brow gel to set your work.

Taming and defining your brows takes a bit of practice, but once you've got the basics down you'll be well on your way to getting glam, gorgeous brows! Today's tips are a great starting point. Remember to experiment, that practice makes perfect, and above all else, have fun!

What are your tried and true brow defining tips? What products are your favorite for getting the perfect brow?

Stay gorgeous, peaches!

SHARE:
Blogger Template Created by pipdig