Get a Grip

The remainder of this month is most likely going to pose a struggle. I am elated over my move and my sleep has been out of sorts understandably.

Additionally, as noted before I have been on edge with eager anticipation of the unknown that lay ahead. The constant buzz in my mind is certainly making it hard to focus on or enjoy the time remaining with work. Although, I’m sure it doesnt help that I’ve been requested to assist a lawyer for the remainder of my time with the firm. I generally don’t work with this lawyer or the area of law he practices, so this task it just adds a stress I would have otherwise been free of (argh to timing).

I love my job, but I’m ready to hit the highway. I’m ready to get this show on the road. I know I’ll relax a lot more once we are packed and on the road because it will mean the next chapter can start and I can start meeting new doctors and looking for new work. I am just out of sorts to be frank, not that I’m unorganized, but rather I think its because one foot is out the door and I still have 2 weeks and a bit to go before the other one can join it.

Additionally, I’ve been working on a bit of a project with respects to my blog. This blog is quite the trigger my dear friends – if I take it too seriously I go up, up, up and away and get uber excited and the ability to sleep or focus on anything else is a wee bit difficult. But who doesn’t love to be excited, it’s great right? Of course it is! But fun fact, when I start to get elated over my blog I tend to freeze like a deer stuck in the headlights. I am frozen and paralyzed with the pressure I put on myself and as a result my blogging suffers. I am trying to navigate the excitement, navigate my plans for my blog. Rather than weeks or even months to complete this project, I’m giving myself an easy year. I am trying to educate myself and prepare myself for exciting strides forward with this blog and my platform, yet be reasonable with what I expect from myself. I know this sounds like a familiar tune BUT this time I’m really trying to approach this blog in a sensible manner.

You get out only as much as you put in. And if you go in recklessly it generally doesnt go as well as you hoped for, speaking from experience.

I’m looking forward to what is on the horizon. Two more Mondays! That’s all I have to get through.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week.

– Steph

Beauty In My Bipolar

This post stems from a conversation I had with one of my sisters. We were discussing my health over the past 5 years and she was commenting on how I’ve grown.

And what of this growth? Can you have growth if there is no beauty or joy in the journey? Alas, there is most certainly joy and as the conversation played out it became clear that in my life I’ve experienced more joy so to speak because of my diagnosis, literally because of the very fact that I live with bipolar II.

Wait a minute!

Nope, you read it right, I have experienced more joy than afforded to others because I have bipolar. Let’s be clear, I have also probably experienced more-ish intense feelings of pain, confusion, and mental struggle than the average joe as well. But let’s focus on the joy for now.

My diagnosis is fairly controlled at this stage in my life, I have my roller coaster moments, but I am not plagued with the savage extremes that once controlled my life. Everything is more mild and manageable. Thank you for modern medicine!

One thing that however remains intense so-to-speak is my sense of feelings. I feel very intensely; for instance when I feel joy – I really feel it. Not just a little but a lottle.

I experience things much more intensely than the average non-bipolar person. If you have bipolar, you can relate that there is a fire in your soul that can have gasoline figuratively poured on it to grow exponentially in an instant. This fire and gasoline are what I relate to the intense feelings I have in a moments time. That’s not to say it only occurs in a positive way BUT I will remind you that is the focus of this post.

Without darkness there can be no light, as Kelly Clarkson’s song states “everyone has a dark side…” , its just the nature of life. But the difference is do we let it consume us OR do we try to draw closer and focus on the light that is in us.

I have experienced so much joy in my life, and I have experienced it on a level that my family cannot comprehend and at times they shake there heads and laugh because I am so elated over such simple things. But that is the beauty of bipolar, because there is beauty with this diagnosis (please don’t forget that fact). If we try hard enough we can find beauty in all things even hard things such as living with bipolar (because let’s be honest, it’s not easy).

I accredit my creativity and pursuits for education and learning to my diagnosis. My passion drives me and leaves other people baffled because of my conviction. The joy these pursuits bring me. The love I have for others, it is intense my friends and duely it yields joy beyond measure.

To experience joy, you must address and navigate the ugly. Unfortunately, there can be some pretty ugly parts to bipolar, but we must not dwell on that alone. Find the good, appreciate the good and you will feel better about the diagnosis and what it offers in your life. The diagnosis is a part of you but it does not define you. It is NOT YOU, and you are NOT bipolar, you merely have bipolar. It does not dictate your life, you do.

And in my life, I’m acknowledging that bipolar in it’s own unique way brings me joy and can in fact be beautiful.

– Steph

Brace Yourself

The time is at hand for another major change in my life. And all I can say is, “bring it on!

We are moving closer to family and doctors! Primary reason is we want to start thinking of building our own little family and it’s just not realistic to even think such thoughts while living in our current city.

1. It’s crazy expensive. Which to put it simply means – good luck living off one income for any amount of time; and
2. The doctors ….. are no bueno.

Am I sad to be moving? Not really… yet at the same time a little bit of a yes.

I LOVE (which could even be considered an understatement) where I work. I hit the jackpot with this law firm and literally everyone who works in it. I have great benefits (my medication is 100% covered) and as an added benefit they even pay for my multi-facility gym pass. Literally, living the dream. Did I mention that I have my own office?! I will be sad to leave it/them all behind BUT I am trying to be optimistic that I will find a similar fit in my new city. **fingers crossed**

Something I am grateful that I get to take away from this particular office is that I feel 1,000,000 times more confident in my career as a legal assistant. The value placed on my work has been so rewarding and positive; literally 2 bonuses in 1 year (this is not to brag, but emphasis how valued they have made me feel and might I add that it goes beyond the fiscal gesture).

This work experience was exactly what I needed after my last gig. Gee wiz, I still get sick thinking about it. But that’s another thing, in 1 year of work at this firm I’ve litetally called in sick 4 days!!!!! (And that was 98% due to my insomnia) That’s insane! I didn’t even use all my sick days! Which lets just say was not the case previously. It blows my mind how having positive peers and a great work atmosphere can impact your mental health at work so drastically. Let’s just say I missed more than 4 days at my former place of employment and dreaded going to work more often than naught.

But seriously, in short with my career and my marriage I have to say this move has been so rewarding. I think moving away in its entirety even with the medical support and financial struggles was the best decision we could have made as newlyweds. (We struggled, but we learned to budget and have come up with a pretty sizable downpayment towards a house #goal2021) We clung to each other and strengthened our relationship, because it was literally just the two of us with no one else around. We both didn’t have wild social lives, so we pretty much did everything together. Don’t get me wrong we had our own personal space, but I think it was the perfect amount of “us time” , before we considered bringing other family or baby(s) into our bubble. I definitely feel grounded in our relationship.

** Side note: I think I’ll make a post about what I’ve done to keep my part of our relationship healthy and comment on what my husband has done to keep his part of our relationship healthy. It’s been a learning process for both parties. And I feel like in the journey of being a newlywed I can admit I did not post a ton of content – let’s just say I was enjoying the moment and finding my stride amidst a ton of changes.

But holy cow! I am going to be reunited with my parents, sisters and all my loveable nieces and nephews andddd grandparents! Excitment is an understatement!

My husband and I are both excited and nervous for our move, it is happening at the end of the month. I’m trying to be as pro-active as possible with preparing the details such as renting a carpet cleaner, booking the moving van, finding boxes and packing paper for FREE, getting moving equipment to colour coordinate – that’s right my friends, I am colour coordinating our moving boxes and I’ve started packing already. Additionally, I’ve posted some furniture to sell. We ship out November 30th so I am hoping to relax as the day approaches by doing the bulk of the work in these earlier days.

I do have to say, and I can admit – my mood has been a wee bit touchy lately. I don’t know if it’s a combination of sheer excitement and nerves of anticipation, but I’m a bit on edge. I have been having a hard time sleeping and I think it’s all blossomed into me being quite agitated. I’ve caught myself tipping the scale of rationality with things that generally would not solicite such a dark reaction. Gratefully, my husband accepts my apologies when I take it a little too far.

I literally told him he was never allowed to build furniture again, I didn’t yell it, I just simply stated it (the drama! I know) all because there was a 3 pieces put on backwards for a bedside table he built. Did I notice the error earlier? Nope, it obviously wasnt that significant. However, the level of OCD OMEGA was real- I was almost in tears and the table was already sold and taken. Just knowing it was built wrong hurt my heart. Silly things, I know. It makes no rational sense to be so upset over it and today I can say I am free of those negative feelings BUT oh how in that moment the all-or-nothing distortion had me out of sorts.

It is times like these that I lean on my former counselling. Times like these where I try to narrate my life so I can hear it aloud for myself and realize it’s not as complicated or stressful as I’m making it out to be in my head; talking myself off the ledge so to speak.

It’s a move back to my former province, back to family, not to Mars! It’s silly how changes can impact me so much. It’s simple, yet, I’m so overwhelmed I could cry not even because I’m sad. I’m happy, just overwhelmed. I have a check list of things we need to do before and what needs to be done in the first 2 weeks of landing (figuratively speaking – because in actuality we are driving 16 hrs).

Again, trying to stay organized and planning with wiggle room for adjustments (something I didn’t allot in my former years of planning styles). I can plan, colour coordinate and have everything ready to go BUT I’ve learned that doesnt mean its going to go the way you intend it to and rather than fall to pieces like my former self would – I roll-ish with the punches and re-navigate to get back on course as smoothly as possible.

Big changes, but exciting changes. Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain some consistency with my blog posts during and after this move. I have some hot topics on my mind. I’m just the worst at writing in advance. I generally work on my post throughout my week and BAM post it when its complete. I read how some bloggers have posts months in advance… I dont think that quite works with my style of blogging. Se la vie.

Thank you for your constant support. Here is to a new chapter being written in my book of life!

– Steph

Know Your Options

I have been thinking a lot about my mental health support system within the city I currently live. I went from seeing a psychiatrist every 6 weeks to a psychiatrist who just gave me a year supply of medication because she literally doesn’t want to see me or check in on me. If you want to feel like your mental health has no value and that you’ve been dismissed by healthcare professionals this psychiatrist definitely did the trick.

Luckily, I do have a strong foundation based on my previous health care providers and their general care and concern for me. I know my mental health has value – I’ve worked hard to develop stability and I’m not going to dismiss myself just because some whack-job doctor does. And my friends in case you have terrible doctors, let me remind you YOUR MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS TOO! If possible change doctors, with my psychiatrist that wasn’t an option… counsellors are another story.

In this terrible situation I can say that I do have one reason to be grateful to my assigned psychiatrist. Shockingly, she did take the time to adjust my sleeping medication which also affected my anxiety (that’s one thing in her favour). The follow up after this medication was prescribed was essentially non-existent, but it worked so hey, I’ll take it. I am sleeping which I wasn’t doing last November, so props for that.

So, what of my counselling? Well I saw a few different counsellors all of which were paid sessions. Previously, I received my counselling through a hospital outpatient service and it was free of charge. My therapy had been quite intense at the start of my diagnosis. Once a week for 2 years, than once every 2 weeks for a year and than once a month for a year and then I moved and everything I knew and routinely acquired went out the window.

After my move I made a point to see counsellors, but I never found a good fit (there are some really weird people out there, oh my!) However, the last one I tried was a good fit. The fit was actually great BUT the price tag for the sessions were not. I am fortunate because I have coverage with my employment BUT unfortunately it was used up in prior months this year. The flaw with my coverage is that my its not that much and all my sessions are $$$.

One of my sisters suggested online therapy. I personally have not tried this as of yet, but the idea has continually crossed my mind. It seems to be generally less expensive than traditional therapy BUT my question and concern is, is it as effective. I like the in-person sessions where you can see expressions, pick up on body language and intonations.

Funny enough I was contacted by a group who had performed an analysis dedicated to online therapy (ConsumersAdvocate.org). I read through their guide and found it fairly interesting. The intent of their guide is not to sell you on any specific company or app, but rather let you know what is out there with their pros and cons. Conveniently enough, they did use examples of different providers that they tested and tried. This allowed them to collect data and provide the pros and cons to this type of therapy. I am in no way suggesting you do online therapy or saying that this type of therapy is the way to go BUT if it is something you didn’t know about or something that you have been considering, this little guide gets pretty indepth with what can be expected.

Linked listed belowthat’s right, keep on reading.

For the most part I found the content and examples of the therapy providers catered to the United States, but I am sure there are providers for different countries, I believe there was a focus group testing a swedish program (you will just have to do your research for your country and region). Again, I am not saying or recommending any specific company but I am recommending becoming educated with the options especially if it is not feasible to pay a traditional counsellor $120+/hour like I was forking out… gross.

Some help is better than no help. For me counselling is a necessity. It doesn’t have to happen weekly (for now), but I know I am happier and more stable and grounded when it does happen consistently. It alleviates stress and pent up emotions, which we all know when experienced at intense levels for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health and ability to function healthily and happily.

Will I do online therapy? I don’t know. At this point, my husband and I have decided to move back to the province I was living in before we got married. (Literally so excited!) Closer to family and the health care system is a million times better. Had we decided to keep living in the city I live in presently I am not sure I would be shutting the idea of online therapy down completely BUT for now I’ll attempt to resume therapy with in-person care.

To add a disclaimer the online sessions DO NOT and CANNOT prescribe medication. They are solely therapy not psychiatry. You will still need work with a psychiatrist to manage your medications. Hopefully, you will have more options than my small mental health care pool in my current city and your psychiatrist actually does/will care about you. Ughhh, how some people are in this profession blows my mind. Bedside manner here = fail. The city hospital unit for mental health has a 1 star rating with people expressing they felt worse after visiting, which I can testify to. Sometimes you just need to grit your teeth and go regardless. This was the psychiatrist I could see here and not having my medication was not an option. Did I almost have a panic attack everytime I actually did see her? Sure – but did it kill me? Bad joke haha, but seriously it was a necessary evil in my life to keep my medication going.

Another disclaimer: this post is not sponsored, I was contacted with their content and read it thru to see if it was legitimate and aligned with the tools of self care and mental health that I advocate for on my blog. And I can say I appreciated their approach to this topic. As a courtesy for sharing their link I was extended a shout out (very kind of them) on their social media. I will not be making a commission for you clicking on their link, however you will be provided with a detailed analysis to educate yourselves on online-therapy if that is something you are interested in learning about. When you click the link you will note that they do have affiliate links on their page and should you choose to register with one of their partners they will earn a commission (this is how they fund their studies, which seems reasonable to me). As mentioned above, I am not dictating who or what you should try. I am merely providing a platform to learn more about a new approach to therapy. It might be the right fit for you- it might not. It certainly doesn’t hurt to read and see what it’s all about.

Education is a powerful tool, the more you know about your diagnosis, the more you know about yourself, the more you know of options and ways to help yourself – the happier and healthier you will be. It’s a simple enough equation, yet I’ll remind you it does require some work at the end of the day.

Now what you’ve all been waiting for the link. It is as follows: https://www.consumersadvocate.org/online-therapy

Also if you want to know more about the organization, this is their abouts page link: https://www.consumersadvocate.org/about

Side note, it’s a long read, so give yourself a generous amount of time to go thru it.

I want you to be aware that there are options for help with your mental health and one shoe doesn’t fit everyone and that’s okay. The key is to not get discouraged and to keep trying to find the right fit – you are worth the effort.

– Steph

Do You Say What You Mean?

I’m 28!

In short it was an incredible birthday, it’s fair to say I have an incredibly thoughtful and romantic husband. #blessed

Additionally, I had an amazing 1 year wedding anniversary, we reigned it in at home. Our anniversary landed on a Sunday and we avoid going out to restaurants and spending money for religious reasons, so we enjoyed it together in our apartment. Overall, it was a great day and I consider it to have been absolutely perfect.

Also on another note relating to my anniversary – my husband is by far more than I could have ever asked for. He indulged me and agreed to write a letter the day before our wedding. This letter for all intent and purposes was to be opened and read on our first wedding anniversary. So folks, that is exactly what we did, we exchanged letters and it was beautiful. We decided to carry on the tradition and both wrote letters to open on our second anniversary… corny BUT oh how I love our corniness.

Back to my birthday. The past few years I’ve generally liked to have a goal specifically focused around my birthday. My birthday goal for this year is to be more intentional. Yadda yadda yadda.

I keep saying it, but I am really trying to implement intetional-ism in my life (we are allowed to make up words, right?). I want to live more fully, be more in tune with myself with respects to my entire being; my mind soul and body. I want to delve deeper. Be more present in my life and in my relationships.

I have always tried to be intentional, particularly with my speech – what I write and say is the real deal my friends. I don’t say things just to elicit a reaction, whether that is positive or negative. Words are powerful tools and should not be tossed around without consideration of their impact.

I try to avoid putting myself in a position where I have to retract something I said out of anger. People generally do not forget hurtful words spoken in haste or the heat of the moment. This being the case, I have committed myself from a young age to speak only what I mean and not spit fiery hurtful words when I am on the verge of turning into the Hulk. Has this been challenging? Definitely. Am I perfect at living this principal? Not at all, but I know I’ve saved a lot of hurt by putting a sock in my mouth so to speak when needed.

This type of intentional lifestyle with my words is what I want to apply as passionately towards all manners of my life. This is my goal and what I am striving for in my 28th year of life.

I feel it in my bones – some big things are coming my way, and I am very excited to think of the possibilities ahead of me. I want to be prepared for what my life has in store and the best way I feel like I can be prepared is by really knowing myself; being vividly aware of how I function – for better or for worse.

I know everyone is not religious and not everyone believes in God and I don’t think I’ve ever posted with respects to my religious beliefs – BUT for the record I do believe in God and my mind has been shook recently with how aware He is of me and my loved ones. When I take the time to look for the ways that God has touched my life and blessed me, it is unbelievable. This blog is documenting my journey and this simple paragraph is part of that journey. I don’t think I need to delve deeper or expand on this topic but I am grateful for my blessings.

Take the time to look at the good in your life with a grateful heart my friends. The results of this activity will never disappoint you. You don’t need to be religious to practice gratitude – but I assure you the more gratitude in your heart, the happier you’ll be and you will be more adept to see even more good in your life.

This simple practice of seeking out the good has really transformed my life. When you challenge the way you think, when you challenge yourself to be positive, when you look for opportunities to add to your character – this is the way to overcome life’s hardships. Do the hardships go away? Not a chance, BUT they do become more bearable AND you become more confident in your abilities to face them. You become more confident in your capacity to rise above the turmoil.

Positivity does not solve life’s problems, lets be clear on that. But as a wise man once said it is important to find “joy in the journey”, find joy as you face your obstacles (which is something I struggled with for years).

Something small can bring insurmountable joy – you just need to look for the good and believe me you will find it. At times in my mental health journey, it was the smallest glimmer of good that kept me holding on to life. Not the grand spectaculars of life. Small and simple things are the foundational building blocks to finding more good in your life. When you appreciate the small things I guarantee you’ll feel more satisfied with what you have.

It’s so easy to find the bad with ourselves or our lives. Afterall, that is what society has conditioned us to do. Never be satisfied with who we are or what we have, always trying to sell a product or procedure to “fix” us. The toxicity of social media in this day and age is overwhelming. So much fakery it at times seems unbearable. Younger and younger generations even older generations are becoming obsessed with altering themselves or buying things of no value all in a plea to keep up and make themselves feel valued by society and all the while feeling worse about themselves. Anxiety and depression are running rampant and I believe a lot of it has to do with the constant comparisons of what we don’t have to what we think other people have. Filters on photos and lives – please, please, please caution how much attention you give to other people’s lives and start paying attention to how much you give to your own.

Flaws with our lives are inevitable. Tip** When you focuse on all the opportunities you do have – all the good that you do havenot the good that you don’t have, your perspective will shift and your priorities will follow. Thereafter my friends, I hope you will be able to join me on this journey of gratitude and intentional living.

Here is to a week of being 28 and feeling like I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.

– Steph

Take A Good Look In The Mirror

Who do you see yourself as? This is a loaded question BUT I think it is an important one that we need to ask ourselves.

Lately, I have been asking myself if I am the person that I want to be when it comes to both the inside and outside package? And if I am that person, can other people see it for themselves as well? Personally, I am starting to feel like I’m getting there in certain regards – yet in other areas not quite so much.

The topic I want to focus on with respect to the above noted comments begins with the what we see on the outside. This may at first seem superficial, but I can assure you it goes much deeper than what our eyes merely see – so please humor me and see where I am taking this post.

In short it is fair to say that my blog has captured my journey working on my mental health. This should come as no surprise given the name of my blog and to be honest I feel like I am actually on the cusp of becoming the physically and mentally stable version of myself that I have strived to achieve for over the past 6 years. Great news, right? Perhaps even fantastic news. Yet, there is a part of me that has not reflected this change and it is who I am looking at in the mirror, literally.

How we choose to dress, how we choose to style our hair, how we choose to groom ourselves – makeup or no makeup, shave or no shave? This has all been on my mind lately, not in a vain way but in the sense that I had to ask myself if I was whole heartedly presenting myself in a way that I felt showcased to the world who I was. My personal brand so to speak. Does my outward appearance reflect how I feel about myself inwardly? Never underestimate the power of a good outfit or hair cut. The psychological impact that our outward appearance has on our lives is immeasurable and should not be taken lightly.

Have you ever heard the phrase that you should “dress the part” or perhaps “dress for success”? Let’s be clear when I say that I am not suggesting you go out and buy a $2000.00 power suit to make you feel better about yourself – what you spend on your clothes or grooming has absolutely nothing to do with what I am talking about in this post. What I am saying though, is that part of our identity is how we outwardly present ourselves. Please let me emphasize how important it is to not neglect this very crucial and critical part of our identity (speaking from experience). Our objective should be dressing in a manner that allows us to take pride in our appearance and feel the utmost confidence.

So lets have some real talk about personal style and the impact it has on our identities – I’m emphasizing it’s importance, but to be honest at this point in my life I’ve come across a hard pill to swallow (which doesn’t happen often because I take tons of pills) – ladies and gentleman I do not have a personal style (it is presently a work in progress). Say what??

Believe it or not, I have changed since my early adolescence and early 20s. I have grown. I have evolved dare I say matured and yet I took notice that my wardrobe has remained the same and does not reflect this change. Perhaps, this is not a big deal for most people, but I think there is more than meets the eye (pun intended).

Next month I will be having my 28th birthday and as I am sure most people do, I was reflecting on the woman I have grown into the past year. When it came to my outward appearance, I concluded that I was jipping myself. Where had I gone? When I was in my earlier years I would definitely say I was a diva  – I loved me some glam on the daily BUT when I took attendance the past few weeks I realized that the young diva I once knew and loved had indeed retired and left the building. Not in a bad way, I just finally admitted that I no longer felt as diva-esque or connected to that version of me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this particular fact, it just means that I’ve changed – and yet the clothes I have been wearing contradicted this.

Having personal style, or perhaps to be more clear: a sense of self with how we appear, is a big deal. Not tiny, not insignificant BUT MUCHO GRANDE. Personal and may emphasize personal style helps us to feel more comfortable in our skin no matter what shape or size we are (more on this point later…). It grants us the ability to “hold our own”, a wee bit more then if we were just wearing any old thing with no rhyme or reason.

I’ve always strived and generally maintained a personal style, marching to the beat of my own drum from a very young age (I was in fashions class all through high school, fashion was in my blood). I dressed and felt killa’ confident in what I wore – I did not dress for society; to fit in with people or get their approval – or “likes” as is a plague in our present society. However, on this recent journey of self-reflection I realized that my essentially non-existent style was the makings of the past year(s) at a minimum. I have been swaying with no direction, I have been trying to fit into the versions of myself from a time when I did feel confident with my aesthetic, but that shoe no longer fit. For example, I have been wearing pieces this past year that perhaps I felt confident in 5 years ago but presently they cause me to feel insecure. Note: insecurity = what we don’t want.

Example time.

I previously wore lots of patterns and colours, is there anything wrong with that? Not at all, but what I’ve noticed is that when I recently paid attention to how I felt while looking in the mirror, I can easily say I feel more comfortable in natural tones and muted colours – cream, beige, brown, black, grey, soft pinks, greens and blues. If I am drawn to a print or pattern it is usually subtle and delicate rather than bright and bold.

My former style, when I owned it as I mentioned before was more diva-esque, bold, bright and dare I say loud. It was more on the street fashion side of things, however today in stark contrast the look I envision for myself and that I am working to achieve is more subtle, classic, timeless and at best chic.

Fun tip, a strategy that is helping me rediscover my style is words. I ask myself, what words do I want to emulate? This is a question you can ask yourself if you were like me drifting with no real direction for your aesthetic. When you have a handful of words see if they coordinate with one another or if there are any outliers and if there are maybe ponder the question, why? See if the words compliment your current wardrobe. I don’t have the answer for you, but I assure you that as you refine your words and zero-in on the look you want to achieve it won’t seem as daunting of a task, especially if you are like me starting from scratch.

My goal and objective as I enter a new year of my life is to invest in myself. I want to be more intentional when I take care of my outward appearance and pay attention to the fine details. A little off topic but another example of self care is that I started doing face masks once a week for the past 2 months and it’s amazing how such a small effort can impact your appearance and your frame of mind so drastically. A face mask people!! And I make this face mask from 2 kitchen ingredients in my kitchen, so you can guarantee I am not paying for this mask with my unborn child.

Anyways, what now? As is the case with any ambition, it requires work and effort. So, that is exactly what I have been putting in. Last weekend and week, I purged my wardrobe – clothes, shoes, belts, bags, sunglasses. Literally everything that I own was assessed and if the piece complimented and coincided with the aesthetic I am trying to achieve I kept it. If the piece did not align with who I want to present and represent myself as, it was placed in a pile to donate. I was cut-throat and brutally honest with myself. It is fair to say that my wardrobe shrunk dramatically, which at first scared me as I am used to having tons of clothes and accessories ** confessions of a former shop-a-holic ** I formerly had a walk in closet crammed full of things and now I have all my clothes fitting on a single bar holding very few select pieces.

The fear I initially felt was soon won over with a sense of accomplishment and peace. My vision was coming to life. My wardrobe was actually starting to reflect who I saw myself as. I can proudly say that it now contains pieces that I love and I know make me feel comfortable and confident when I wear them.

My wardrobe is not complete, let’s be clear about that (this is not a one-day feat), but it is going in the right direction. My focus will be to add to my collection BUT add with more intention, rather than buying a piece because its on sale. I want to ask myself if it compliments or detracts? Take a moment to think about the shift of perspective that your mind just had by reading the word “collection”, rather than clothes. Saying “collection” automatically makes me feel like my wardrobe has more umph and should be taken a bit more seriously and is worth investing in.

I have been researching articles and watching YouTube videos for inspiration and ideas on how to navigate more effective shopping. I want to invest in my collection a.k.a wardrobe and when I say invest, I mean buy timeless pieces. I also want to do my best to avoid fast fashion. I want to steer clear of spending money on pieces that can be worn a few times and then look shabby thereafter. I want to buy pieces that are made from good material and actually pay attention to the labels and dang-nab-it – dry clean if it says dry clean.

Going back to the concept of investing, you do not need to shop at high end stores to have well-made pieces. I am all for thrifting; I found an amazing Jones New York blazer for $8.00 that looks like a million bucks at my local Value Village. I dry cleaned it, pressed it and it looks like new. The blazer was a win, but let me remind you that the purpose of my shopping now is for quality not quantity – don’t get sucked into buying more because the price is right. I don’t want to be in the habit of buying something just because I like it in the moment. In the past I have literally bought something and then “had to” buy 3 additional different items so that I would have something to wear it with. Ummm?? No. How is that being friendly to your pocketbook?

Rewinding a bit, I want to clarify why there is a gap between my budding style now and the one I refer back to when I felt confident in my early adult life. I am turning 28… what happened to my style between 23-27. That my friends is the age bracket where I really feel like I lost and essentially let myself go. I was going thru school, I graduated and then I was working I was working on my health – but what of my exterior? I did something that I want to advise you not to do and if I could go back and talk to my younger self I would say as follows:

Weight does not make you or break you. You do.

After I started a certain medication, I gained an easy 40 lbs very quickly… welcome my ages 23-26. I lost my confidence, I felt terrible about myself and in frustration I threw in the towel. Don’t throw in the towel! I lost any desire to try and wear anything aside from gym clothes (even when I wasn’t going to the gym). When I would get ready for work, I would wear anything I could that I felt hid my weight and it didn’t have to necessarily be something I liked; whatever was baggy enough. I honestly, didn’t like who I saw in the mirror and rather than trying to work with what I had – I just stopped. I stopped doing my hair, I stopped wearing makeup, I just stopped caring about who I presented myself as AND my confidence suffered because of it.

Fast forward to when I was able to lose some weight, I was then trying to fit into clothes that I formerly wore and formerly felt confident in BUT as the long post went on to explain that just didn’t jive. I had mentally changed.

I just wanted to put it out there – style is not size specific and confidence is not reserved for petite waist-lines. I never want anyone reading my blog to feel insecure, that is not why I blog. I have always had a severe distortion when it comes to my weight and the value I place on my self because of it. At the end of the day my mantra over the past few years has been progress not perfection.

I am presently 20 lbs heavier than I would like to be BUT I feel beautiful. I feel confident. I feel great in my skin. I feel like I am putting my best foot and face forward regardless to my size and I am proud of who I see. I have noticed a huge impact on my mental health from just taking the time to care how I look – it has made me stop and take notice of myself and love myself a little more because I matter. The number on the scale doesn’t (as long as you strive to be healthy).

This journey to curate my wardrobe and aesthetic is exciting. I feel like I’m really paying attention to who I am in my entirety. I am taking in to account my lifestyle, my medications, my sleeping patterns – literally everything. Is it realistic for me to wake up and do a full face of makeup? Maybe for you, but for me that’s a hard no. Nor would I want to. Part of this fun journey is discovering how I like to wear my makeup – again. For now I’m thinking more minimal, while still looking polished and put together. Hair… that’s another story. My goal is to create a signature look that I can do with my eyes closed.

Let’s face it, I have bipolar. I have lows. I have days wear putting a look together is too much effort let alone having a shower or doing my hair. So, what I am trying to do is combat those days (or weeks) by putting in the effort now; curating my wardrobe, makeup and hair – so that I can pull together a look from top to bottom without trying on the days that life is a bit too much BUT please note: I will never surrender my sweatpants, there is a time and a place for all things my friends.

Long post with a lot of different avenues, but I hope you were able to see the bigger picture– care about how you look on the outside because believe it or not it dictates a lot of the inner voices we hear on the inside. Love yourself whatever size you may be and know that you have your own identity and that is priceless.

– Steph

Busy Was My New Drug

I once read an article that stated some people are addicted to being busy. Prior to reading this article I had never considered busyness as a form of addiction, yet this concept is something that has stayed with me for years and has really been hit home as of late. Have you ever considered “being busy” as an addiction? I don’t think that it is a topic that most people look at with concern. But I think perhaps we should…

I’m fairly confident I have lived with this particular form of addiction on and off throughout my life, and for the past few months we could say it’s been in full swing. I have kept myself preoccupied with tasks and activities Monday – Sunday for the last few months, and with each new addition to my calendar I felt a sense of empowerment.

Alas, that feeling came to an abrupt halt last week when I realized I am not okay; when I acknowledged that my mental health was/is not okay and there were one too many straws on my camel’s back so to speak – and it broke.

Being busy – it is what I have always strived for. When I think of being successful, my mind looks to that of someone who is busy (bizarre I know!) For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed having a schedule and the more that was scheduled the better I felt about myself. Let’s say that the older sister in the sitcom Even Steven’s was a role model with all her colour coordinated notes, calendars and day planners.

But why? Why am I so addicted to being busy, especially as of late? This was a question I had to seriously think about and it finally hit me after a couple conversations with different family members – being busy is a way that I prove to myself I’m “okay”, that I have my life together. The more I do, the more “stable” I am, BUT being busy everyday till late into the night – that’s not okay my friends.

Responsiblity is good, diverse activities are great, but there has to be a balance and I threw that out the window the past few months.

My mental health has not been okay and no matter how many things I kept adding to my to do list or calendar nothing was going to change that fact it was only going to worsen it.

At this point I have taken a step back, I’m regrouping, refreshing and re-establishing a routine BUT ensuring it is a healthy one. It’s been a week of doing nothing essentially aside from going to work. I’ve just been relaxing, thinking about how I am going to proceed with my mental health in mind, while enjoying leisure activities. If you don’t think you can over-do it by doing things that you enjoy, I am hear to tell you, you are wrong.

I work Monday-Friday 9 am – 5 pm, each day I would come home from work which takes me approx 20- 30 mins (I pick my husband up on my way home) I take my dear little dog for a walk for a good 35 – 60 mins, eat dinner with my husband and then if it was a Monday or Wednesday I would head to aquafit classes, Thursday guitar lessons, Friday date night and Saturday spanish lessons and Sunday I attend church and up until 2 weeks ago I would be teaching a class every Sunday. Mind you, in-between lessons and classes throughout my week I would be practicing my guitar, studying spanish, calling family who live far away from me, playing with my dog, reading books and obviously socializing with my husband when he wasnt studying or at work. It may not seem like a lot, but from dusk till dawn I was busy and I was even going to the gym during my lunch hours because I couldn’t find enough time in the evenings.

I’m not bragging to let you see how busy I managed to make my life BUT rather I’m trying to illustrate how we can be doing good things, fun things, but be suffocating our mental health. I was robbing myself of a peace of mind, constantly in go-go-go mode, not taking the time to think about how I was actually feeling. I was so busy trying to do so many things that nothing was being done properly. Quality not quantity.

I am an addict to being busy. It’s a mental game I often play and lose because again, I’m fixated on the ideal that being busy equals having a successful put-together-life.

As of late I realized I wasn’t enjoying anything anymore, everything I was doing was merely a check off my list. The passion that I was seeking was being buried and I was lacking luster.

I have been more stressed out and trying to fill a void with the lack of medical support I have in the city I currently live. I was trying to convince myself that I’m perfectly fine because I was doing all these things and clearly if I wasn’t fine I wouldn’t be able to manage as well as I was. Right? I was trying to convince myself I didn’t need the medical help that I haven’t been able to find, because I could do it all on my own.

Frankly I couldn’t and I can’t. I am all about being self aware and I can admit that I was ignoring all of my red flags that things were going downhill.

So what have I done aside from pull the chord on my extracurriculars? I changed my pharmacy. Random statement, but powerful. Since moving to my new city I have used a pharmacy a couple blocks away from where I live – they have literally made an error everytime I’ve gone in to pick up or pay for my medication, whether my medication was the wrong quantity or wrong price or whatever other thing you could imagine. Stressful is an understatement BUT because of the location I stayed with them for almost a year! No more my friends! The other week when I called myself out I googled the highest rated pharmacy in my city – is it as close to me as the garbage one I’ve been going to? Nope, but when I went in they talked to me like I mattered, when I gave them a prescription to be filled – no errors and they knew who I was when I came to collect it. Did I instantly feel a sense of relief that I didn’t have to stress over errors and lack of concern towards me and my medication? You better believe it!

Next I booked an appointment with my psychiatrist, she didnt want to see me for 7 months, well guess what??Thats too bad for her – I need to feel like someone is aware of me and have a check in, so I bit the bullet and booked an appointment. She didn’t even give me the right medication from my last appointment so that needs to be fixed and I can’t just put my head in the ground and pretend like it will fix itself…like I was planning on doing. Yikes!

Lastly, I attempted to find a councilor AGAIN. I have talked with 4 different councilors and/or psychologists, no connections, for the most part I found them to be quite wacky and weird. I don’t think anyone will compare to my old doctors but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised (mental health is not a priority in this particular city) but I am trying to make a comeback for my mental health and take the burden of being my own pharmacist, psychiatrist and psychologist off my shoulders. I met with someone last Saturday and she seems to be…….. nice. She didn’t talk over me, or imply she knew what I was thinking or tell me what I was thinking. She listened and was aghast at the treatment I’ve been offered here or lack there of.

I can’t do it on my own, I have a loving family from afar and a husband who supports me and without them and him I would be no where near as capable as I am to manage my health BUT they are not my doctor(s) and I don’t want to burden and exhaust them (especially my husband) with things that medical support are there to do.

I have been walking a happy path this year BUT I also think I’ve been more stressed than I needed to be and that was my own doing. Positive attitudes are great being actively engaged in our lives is awesome but there needs to be balance and honesty with what we can handle and what we can’t.

I couldn’t handle certain things and tried to compensate by killing myself over being what I considered ideal. I neglected my mental health and dismissed my feelings trying to be what I thought was the epitome of success in order to be considered stable in a city where I feel more vulnerable than I have in a very, very, very long time.

That is the truth my friends, long post but I hope it made you think about how you occupy your time and what busy means to you. Don’t drown yourself – make changes even if they are small, sometimes that’s the best we can do.

– Steph