Playing in the Sand



A few weeks ago my family and I had an amazing vacation in Hawaii. We spent much of our time strolling along the white sand beaches of Maui. The water near the shore is crystal clear. Shades of aquamarine, turquoise, and deep blue spread out into the ocean. It’s pure bliss to jump into the warm sea and bob in the soft waves. Total relaxation.

Mackenzie, Talee, and I took a walk one morning. We wrote in the sand, making pictures of happy faces and hearts. I wanted to write “Peace from Panic.” So I did. The waves kept coming too close, washing it away. And honestly, I wasn’t doing a great job.

That’s when Talee took over.

The above picture is Talee putting the finishing touches on. I posted this photo with her permission.

By the time we (she) finished, we were super hot and sweaty. It was unseasonably warm that day, with no trade winds. So, what to do?

Jump in the ocean to cool off!

Here’s Talee’s finished product:

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We’re In This Together

Last week I attended a class presented by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  The twelve-week course, called Family to Family, is designed to help family members of someone living with a mental health condition.

I’m taking the course because my daughter and I have experienced panic attacks. I volunteer with NAMI and want to gain a better understanding of the programs they offer.

There was a mix of parents, spouses, siblings, grandparents, and other family members in attendance. They’re desperate for help, desperate for answers. Their loved ones have different mental health issues. Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and others.

One of the topics was how stigma affects us. Some shared how they’ve hidden their loved one’s problems and how they try to pretend the issues don’t exist. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness. Shame and embarrassment seem to affect us all.

As people spoke about their challenges, I noticed a common thread.

Their outward appearances didn’t hint to the deep turmoil in their lives. If I weren’t in that room with them, I’d never know they carried around so much pain.

I kept thinking how these men and women are in my community. If I met any one of them in the grocery store, out for a walk, or at a sporting event, I’d be oblivious to the suffering they endure.

However, I was just about to find out that I actually did know one of them.

As I looked around the room, one man looked familiar. But I couldn’t place where I’d seen him. During the break, he came up to me and introduced himself. Oh, of course, I know you. He’s a business acquaintance of mine and my husband’s. I’ve always thought of him as calm, happy, and easy-going. I’d never guess he’d been having severe challenges with a family member.

The thing is — we just never know. And all the more reason to be compassionate.

This meeting reinforced the fact that we’re not alone. Everyone has difficulties. And there’s comfort in knowing we’re in this together.

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A New Venture


I’m really excited — and a bit nervous — about my new venture.

For the past couple of years, I’ve thought about volunteering at NAMI. I finally contacted the local chapter office and met with a program coordinator to find out how to get involved.

NAMI educates people about mental illness and is dedicated to building better lives for those affected. It’s the largest grassroots mental health organization in the nation. They advocate for reform, and offer free classes and support groups for those with a mental health issue, and also for their families. NAMI strives to help end the stigma.

I’m looking forward to participating in a program for high school students. It’s called Ending the Silence. It aims to raise awareness about mental illness among teens. I’ll be going through a training program. After that, I’ll help present and speak to the students.

I feel very close to this, as I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks since I was a child. I know what it feels like to be in school and think I’m the only one experiencing frightening symptoms of panic. I hid it as long as I could. I was ashamed.

My daughter started to have panic attacks at age ten. I understand how difficult it is to be the one going through it, and as the parent, watching my child suffer.

When I was first diagnosed with agoraphobia, I found out I wasn’t alone and that I could receive medical help. That was life-changing. I had no idea that millions of others felt the same way. I honestly didn’t think anyone, not even a doctor, would understand what my scary symptoms were, or what to do about them.

Now I’m panic free, and so is my daughter. I’m passionate about showing people there is hope. I’m nervous about my volunteer work because it’s something new. I’m reaching out of my comfort zone. My life is heading on a slightly different course, as I’m spreading my awareness and experiences to  more people.

I can’t wait to go back to high school and let those kids know how far my daughter and I have come. And that there’s hope for them too.


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EO1The smell of lavender soothes me. When I’m stressed, I reach for my small bottle of lavender oil and dab a little on my wrists and neck. Instant relaxation.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the benefits of essential oils. But other than taking a whiff of lavender oil and putting it on like perfume, I don’t know what else to do with it. So I did some research.

What is an essential oil? The definition: a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.

Essential oils can be used to help fight a cold, the flu, and other illnesses. But I narrowed my search to those that are helpful for anxiety and depression. They have calming and relaxing qualities. And lots of delicious scents — jasmine, lemon, marjoram, rose, and roman chamomile, to name a few. Frankincense is known to be one of the best oils to slow down your breathing, which helps reduce nervousness and stress.  Basil and wild orange have uplifting scents that help with feelings of sadness and anxiety.

What do you actually do with these oils?

One method is to put a few drops into an oil diffuser. There are several kinds to choose from. A nebulizing diffuser can attach directly to the bottle of the essential oil. This type is considered the most powerful because it doesn’t need water or heat to get the essential oil into the air.  An ultrasonic diffuser uses water and essential oil to create a fine mist. There are also heat diffusers and evaporative diffusers.

Another idea is to rub some oil on the palm of your hands and inhale. I have high blood pressure and take my readings at home. I sit in a comfortable position and take slow breaths. Then I open my bottle of lavender oil and breathe in the calming scent.

Massage is a nice way to enjoy the soothing aromatherapy of essential oils. Mix 10-12 drops of your favorite oil, with two ounces of a carrier oil. A carrier oil is a vegetable oil that can be used to dilute an essential oil. Good ones to try are sweet almond, jojoba, or grapeseed oil.

I think massage is a great idea if you have an anxious child. Talee has always loved back massages. She could’ve benefited from an essential oil massage when she younger and having severe panic attacks.

I’m a lotion-a-holic. I’m always using creamy lotions on my dry hands and feet. So I love this next idea. Make a calming rub with two tablespoons of a natural, unscented lotion with 5-10 drops of essential oil.

A friend of mine mixes a few drops of lavender oil and water in a spray bottle and mists her pillow. That sounds lovely.

I can’t wait to try these techniques. Now to decide which essential oils to buy and which type and brand of diffuser. There are so many options, I’m confused and overwhelmed.

Maybe I should go rub some lavender oil on my wrists.


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misconception1My daughter Talee had severe panic attacks in fourth grade and couldn’t go to school for weeks. One thing I worried about (among many others), was that I didn’t want anxiety to define her. There was so much more to her than that. I didn’t want her to crumble under the label of panic.

I was concerned that other people would have misconceptions of my little girl. I worried some kids might tease her, or not want to play with her because she was different. I imagined parents thinking, “What’s wrong with that girl? Why don’t her parents force her to go to school?” And I didn’t think Talee’s teacher would understand why Talee couldn’t simply walk into the classroom. They had no idea how great our struggles were.

It’s human nature to size someone up during a first impression. To think the worst, based on outward appearances. To discriminate, without knowing the facts. Or to judge a person without even meeting him, like I did once.

It was when we were about to purchase our business. My husband said he had something to warn me about.

“I think everything’s fine, Honey. It’s just that a guy, a homeless guy, lives in the storage room.”

“What?” I wondered if I heard him right. “Does he have to stay?”

“Yeah. He’s lived there for fifteen years, he kind of comes with the place. He cleans, so we don’t need to hire a janitor. His name’s Charlie.”

“Is he okay, I mean, is he normal?”

“He’s fine,” my husband said. “I’ve talked to him, and he’s nice. He’s maybe early to mid 70s. The previous owner said he works hard.”

I don’t like to admit this. But I had a picture of what I thought this homeless man would look like. Dirty and disheveled. Unshaven, with scraggly, ratty hair. And an odor emanating from him of alcohol and cigarettes.

The first time I visited the store, Charlie wasn’t there. I was curious to see where he slept. My husband unlocked the door to the back room. I peeked inside. It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the dim light. Spare parts, tools, and mops littered the room. I felt invasive, like I was sneaking into someone’s personal space. I was.

My husband pointed to a tiny area. “That’s where he sleeps. He puts a bunch of blankets and a sleeping bag down. I’m not sure if he has a pillow.”

I stared at the space, which was no larger than 3’x6.’ It was sandwiched between the hot water heater and a wall of dusty shelves. Charlie slept on the cold, hard, cement floor. At the foot of the makeshift bed, there was a wood desk, chair, and a small TV. A mirror hung next to the breaker box.  A comb and razor were on one shelf, and books lined up, tallest to shortest, on another.  Many of them were self help books, on positive thinking and power of the mind.

I met Charlie a week later. I was shocked. His healthy, rosy face was clean shaven. It looked like he just got back from the barber, with his gray hair styled short and neat. A striped buttoned down shirt was tucked into his navy slacks. His voice was gentle and kind. He told me I have a beautiful smile.

So much for stereotypes. I felt ashamed that I judged him. In a way, it paralleled my situation with Talee. I didn’t want people to think negatively of us, because they didn’t understand what we were going through. But I did the exact same thing to Charlie. I labeled him, and figured he’d fit into my narrow perception of a homeless person. He didn’t.

This man could’ve been anyone’s dad or grandpa. Charlie had a life, and he was quite social. He took the bus all over town, to the book store and restaurants. He met friends for coffee and doughnuts.

Charlie had family about half an hour away, and he was welcome to stay there. He chose not to, as he wanted his independence. He was close to our customers, they were his friends. For Charlie, our business was the equivalent of a friendly neighborhood.

As the months went by, I never told Charlie that he was teaching me an invaluable lesson. Not to judge someone based on what they look like or how they live.

Common misconceptions are just that. MISconceptions.

Charlie had a productive life prior to becoming homeless. He encountered difficulties that led him to his situation. The challenges he faced didn’t lessen the fact that he was a wonderful human being who contributed much to society.

I’m thankful Charlie lived in our storage room. Because of him, I’m more compassionate and aware of other’s hardships. I’m hopeful that many people will gain this insight, and view children like Talee and those with mental illnesses or other challenges, with openness and caring.

My only regret about Charlie is that I wish I would’ve known him longer. About six months after working for us, he caught pneumonia. He went to live with his son. Soon after, Charlie passed away.

I’ll always remember the priceless lessons that Charlie unknowingly gave me.

And that he said I had a beautiful smile.


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Encouraging Thunder


Thanks so much to one of my very favorite bloggers, bylaurenhaley, for nominating me for the Encouraging Thunder award. I’m a relatively new blogger, and Lauren’s blog was one of the first I came across. I was really excited that she nominated me 🙂 Thanks again Lauren! Check out her fabulous blog.

So why do I blog? I started because I wanted to share my experiences with anxiety. I’ve had panic attacks since I was young. My daughter started having them when she was ten years old. Thankfully, our panic is now under control. But there was a time when I truly thought I was alone. I never dreamed that other people felt the way I did. It’s extremely helpful to know that I am not alone.

When I started on wordpress a couple months ago, I thought I’d find a handful of blogs from other people with anxiety. I found TONS! And every day I find more. I’m amazed at the wonderful, supportive community that’s out there to help people with mental illness.

We’re all at different points in our recovery journeys. I think we all help each other because of that. Sharing our experiences can encourage others in ways we don’t even realize.

I’m a writer, and I enjoy making people happy. My hope is that my blog is inspiring, motivating, and informational. I love photography, so I’m having fun incorporating  my pictures into my posts.

Here are my nominees, some of my favorite bloggers, who all encourage me. Please check them out!

Nominees for The Encouraging Thunder Award:

Only I, know the true me


The Persistent Platypus

sophie’s cloud

Gentle Kindness


Adam Chats

Fight or Flights

through the tunnel

The Rules:

  1. Post it on your blog.
  2. Grant other bloggers the award.

What you cannot do:

  1. Abuse or misuse the logo.
  2. Claim that it is your own handmade logo.

What you should do after receiving the Encouraging Thunder Award:

  1. Enjoy the award!
  2. At least give thanks via comments, likes and/or mentioning the blog that you received the award from.
  3. Mention your purpose in blogging.

Happy Blogging!

Do You Like You?

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About a year ago, my daughters and I watched the video to this beautiful song, Try, by Colbie Caillat.

The song is about loving yourself for you, and not for what you think other people want you to look and act like. At the beginning of the video, women are wearing makeup and their hair is done perfectly. By the end, they’ve washed off all the makeup. They are their natural, beautiful selves.

They’re empowered and free because they’re showing the world who they really are. And not the image they’ve been trying to live up to.

This goes much deeper than putting on or taking off makeup. We all have flaws. Some we can cover up, others we can’t. Our imperfections aren’t just cosmetic and physical. They’re inside us too.

My mental imperfection is anxiety and panic attacks. Have I tried to hide this? To shield it and pretend it wasn’t happening? Yes! For many years, I never told anyone about my frightening symptoms. How could anyone possibly understand this without thinking I’m crazy?

I tried desperately to hide behind a mask. It’s not easy to let people in and risk being judged and possibly ridiculed.

The thing is, once I reached out for medical help and told my family and friends, I didn’t have to cower behind a wall anymore. That felt wonderful. This is me. Anxiety, panic attacks. It was a relief to accept me for me. Flaws and all.

It’s hard to accept yourself when things aren’t going right or when you’re sad, anxious, or sick. I’ve often wondered, why do I have to have panic attacks? Why does my daughter have to have them?

One day I complained to my doctor about having to take one more pill. He said, “These are the cards you’ve been dealt. You have to deal with it.” I wasn’t too happy with that comment. But I knew he was right.

It’s taken years, but when I look in the mirror, I don’t see an anxious, scared woman. My reflection reveals all my experiences, good and bad. Those experiences and challenges have molded me into the person I am today. And made me stronger.

I accept that. And even love that.

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Today I’ve been browsing some blogs I follow, and something clearly stands out to me. We all have different stories, and varied issues and challenges. But the same thread strings us together.

We are all fighting, or have fought through, insurmountable problems. We all strive for a happy, peaceful, fulfilling life. We want our children’s lives to be easier.

Personally, I’ve dealt with mental health issues that have plagued myself and my daughter — anxiety and panic attacks. I’m grateful and proud to say that both of us have made it through the darkest times. Not that there aren’t going to be anxiety-ridden days ahead. The difference is that now we’re able to control our panic symptoms.

We’re all at different points in our recovery journeys. But once you’ve been there, you get it. You understand the frustration and pain of others going through similar struggles. You can listen, sympathize, and support.

The most important part of my recovery was to realize I wasn’t alone. I truly thought no one in this world would understand me. How could anyone get why I don’t want to drive or go certain places because I know, I just know, I’ll freak out and panic? The symptoms are SO scary! 

But there are millions of other anxiety sufferers who DO understand. It’s such a comfort to me to know that.

I am not alone. And neither are you.




Safe Travels, Talee


I’m filled with mixed emotions. Excited, anxious, and a little sad. But most of all, I’m   proud.

Talee (going into her third year of college), left this morning to study abroad for six weeks. She’s with three of her closest friends. The trip of their lifetimes is waiting for them 6,000 miles away.

Years ago, I’d never think this could be possible. My little Talee. My painfully shy, anxious girl, with panic attacks that ruined a part of her childhood.

Talee is what I call a “home girl.” She’s always wanted to be close to home. I first noticed this part of her personality when she was a baby. She wanted to be with me — just me. She’d scream and cry when grandparents, aunts, uncles, and sometimes even my husband, tried to hold her. But I cherished that time and figured it was fine. She’s just a baby.

When Talee was a toddler, she’d tightly wrap her arms around my legs and say, “Mommy, I’m scared.” I’d ask her what she was afraid of, and she never knew. She needed me close by every waking moment.

Talee was three years old when I signed her up for a “Teacher and Child” class at a local park. It was for an hour once a week. All the kids had so much fun. Well, all except Talee. She cried the entire time, and wanted nothing to do with that class.

Her separation anxiety continued when it was time for preschool. Talee cried every day for the first couple of weeks. She slowly adjusted, but I knew it wasn’t easy for her.

Mackenzie (a couple of years older than Talee), was the complete opposite. She was independent from a very young age, and didn’t want or need me around nearly as much. One summer, Mackenzie went away to Girl Scout Camp. Talee had zero interest to follow in her sister’s footsteps. I asked her if she’d like to go to camp one day, and she replied, “Mom, you know I’m NOT a sleep-away girl!”

When Talee was ten years old, she experienced much more than separation anxiety. She started to have panic attacks. The symptoms frightened her so much, she was afraid to go to school. She saw a child psychiatrist and took medication. Thankfully, she had fewer panic attacks and was able to be a normal fourth grader.

Anxiety doesn’t just disappear forever. Talee has had setbacks. But the good thing is panic attacks are treatable. Talee is able to control her panic and live a normal, productive life.

I’m thrilled that she’s able to travel — something I never could’ve done at her age. There’s no way I could’ve flown out of the country when I was in my early 20s. My anxiety and panic attacks were uncontrollable, as I hadn’t yet reached out for medical help.

I got the goosebumps this morning at the airport, as I watched Talee walk toward the boarding gate. She held her passport in one hand, while rolling her carry on luggage with the other. She turned around, waved, and flashed a huge smile.

The best part was, I’m sure she wasn’t even thinking about her anxiety or panic attacks. She’s confident and happy. And close to panic-free. I couldn’t have dreamed of this moment ten years ago.

There is hope.


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