Category Archives: courage

Challenge Yourself and Reach New Peaks This Year!

Wearing my "Girls That Lift" shirt #GoBearOrGoHome

Wearing my “Girls That Lift” shirt #GoBearOrGoHome

I’m a 42-year-old mom of two kids (5 and 8 years old), and I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I was hospitalized during Christmas 2009 because the anti-depressant a psychiatrist prescribed made me suicidal. Thankfully, while in the hospital, I was put on a different anti-depressant, which works much better for me. It doesn’t make me feel happy, but it helps me think clearly enough to use the coping strategies I learned during 16 months of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

I’m 5’2” and Chinese, which means I have low bone density. Before I got pregnant with my son in 2006, I weighed 113 lbs. After he was born, I got down to 109 lbs. Due to the stress of my daughter’s pregnancy in 2009, and then eating at Starbucks every day (sometimes two or even three times per day), I weighed 130 lbs. by the end of 2015. Diabetes runs in my family and eating poorly gives me bad mood swings, so I was very excited to discover the My Peak Challenge.

My Peak Challenge (MPC) was created by Scottish actor Sam Heughan, one of the lead actors of the Starz TV show Outlander. He created the MPC with his trainer John Valbonesi of Fight Camp, The Box Magazine, and Bear Strength Clothing Co. He wanted to encourage his fans to get in shape, eat healthy, and to support his favorite charity Bloodwise, the U.K.’s largest blood cancer charity.

People can donate directly or buy items from the sponsors. Fifty percent of the profits goes to Bloodwise.

  • Bear Clothing offers an MPC Supporter Pack (a T-shirt, signed photo of Sam, wristband, sticker, and badge)
  • There’s an MPC Prep Program that includes a 60-day training program with more than three hours of video footage of Sam demonstrating proper exercise techniques, a 60-day meal plan, access to a private Facebook group where participants share their challenges, successes, encouragement, and much more.

The Box Magazine featured Sam Heughan on their January/February issue

Here’s a great video of Sam explaining the My Peak Challenge.

While many people choose to eat healthfully and exercise, MPC 2016 is adaptable. Each person chooses what they would like to accomplish, whether it’s writing a book, meditating every day, or anything else that helps them get out of their comfort zone and see things in a new way.

Going hiking every weekend with my mom, hubby, and kids

Going hiking every weekend with my mom, hubby, and kids

I have a crazy long list of things I’d like to do for MPC 2016. I’m what my therapist called an “achievement junkie.” I’m just excited about pushing myself and seeing what I’m capable of.

Eating vegetarian plus eggs and fish
I’ve been vegetarian plus seafood before, but I stopped for about eight years. Since December 29th, I’ve been mostly vegetarian plus eggs and fish (salmon and canned sardines). I’ve decided to have meat for a few days before I donate blood (every eight weeks) and before my period. I really want to make sure I maintain a high enough iron level to donate blood.

Exercise every day
I get bored easily so I’m trying to have a lot of variety in my workouts: running on a treadmill, running on the road, hiking many different trails, weight lifting, and doing core exercises.

Run the Bay to Breakers
May is the official month of the challenge, so I will run the Bay to Breakers, a 12k from downtown San Francisco to the beach. I’m also thinking of running the San Jose Rock ’n’ Roll half-marathon in October.

Overcome my dermatillomania
Dermatillomania is a disorder where a person compulsively picks at their skin. I’ve had it for years, basically as an unhealthy coping mechanism for my anxiety. Cutting out sugar (my vice is soy mochas, which apparently have 27g of sugar) should help considerably. I’ll also practice being mindful, noticing my emotions and my urge to pick at my skin. Observe the urge, then let it go.

Drive for Uber
I want to have many new experiences this year, so I signed up to be an Uber Partner. I’ve only driven for a couple of weeks. For me, it’s really more about providing a service than making money. I’m planning to drive on Super Bowl Sunday though, which should be pretty interesting. Uber will pay for cleaning your car should riders soil the interior.

Learn to ride a motorcycle
I’m going to take the CHP (California Highway Patrol) motorcyclist training class in February. I’m slowly trying to learn all the skills to become an action hero. Being 5’2”, you could call it “Little Woman Syndrome.”

Attend Comic-Con this year
My friend goes every year, and I’ve always wanted to join her, so this year, I’m going to leave my poor husband with our two kids for about three days. Who knows, maybe I’ll catch a glance of Sam from very, very far away. If I ever get the chance to, I’d love to shake his hand, look him in the eye, and say, “Thank you for inspiring me to do what I’ve always wanted to and now believe I really can. Fancy a pint?”

The best coincidence is that I recently turned 42. Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.”

Whether you join MPC or not, what challenges will you tackle this year?

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Does a Family History of Suicide Mean I Have Bad DNA?

My father and my uncle both committed suicide. Other members of my family have been diagnosed with depression. There are times when I wonder whether I’m simply living on borrowed time.

DNA strand

Photo by Svilen Milev

I do still have dark moments when I feel worthless, exhausted, and broken. Sometimes I feel too afraid to deal with life and wish I could let go of the obligation to go on.

I have a husband, two children young children, and we’ve recently adopted two rescue dogs. It’s as though to compensate for my temptations to prematurely exit my life, I’m gathering reinforcements or reasons for me to stay. It’s harder to justify continuing to fight depression for my own sake than for others’.

I am aware that one or both of my children may one day experience what I experience. I suspect the hormone surges of their teenage years may trigger depression in them although my depression didn’t really manifest itself until I was in college.

Will I let my children believe that suicide is written in their DNA? Hell, no! I will teach them coping skills like mindfulness. I will let them know that they will feel depressed sometimes, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. I will remind them that they are never truly alone. People near and far love them and are frequently thinking of them. I will tell them that they MATTER. They bring gifts to the world that no one else can.

I know that I can’t protect my children from everything, but I can keep them surrounded by people who love and cherish them: their cousins, aunts, and uncles, and close family friends.

If the time comes when counseling and/or medication would be helpful, I will get it for them.

I used to think taking an antidepressant was a copout, a way of ignoring your problems. Then I understood it was something I needed in order to clearly see and resolve problems, and especially to recognize when there isn’t a problem, just intense emotions that need to be expressed then let go.

I’m sad that my father and uncle never got treatment. I’m grateful to the many people who helped me find worth in myself and my life, find courage to be open about who I am, not just as someone with depression, but as the real, genuine person that I am, and find companionship, sharing their own struggles and doubts.

My DNA defines that I am right-handed, but I can still write with my left hand. My DNA made me short, but I can stand on a step stool. My DNA may make me experience depression, but I can use healthy coping skills, use my family and friends as a sounding board for my fears and doubts, and live happily, hopefully long enough to witness my children teaching their children that they are not alone and that they MATTER.

And Bartolo Makes Seven

A year ago I thought my life was pretty busy, taking care of my husband, our two kids, and our cat Smokey. Last August we adopted Maggie, my first dog ever, and it was an adjustment, but she’s pretty much a lapdog, and our life was still busy but manageable.

About a month ago, we adopted Bartolo, a German Shepherd mix that the rescue group Doggie Protective Services (DPS) claimed doesn’t need a lot of exercise. I’ve since realized their idea of “a lot of exercise” is much more than mine is.

The photo that first made me want to adopt Bartolo

The photo that first made me want to adopt Bartolo

Because Bartolo loves to run, I started taking the dogs to the dog park. I realized it was good for Maggie too since she barks and growls whenever she sees another dog. Overall, it’s been a good experience. Bartolo runs fastest and is happiest when he’s chasing another dog or being chased. I’ve taken him jogging, I’ve ridden a bike with him running alongside me, and he tolerates it, but he really lives for the chase.

Bartolo only gets tired from fetching these footballs

Bartolo only gets tired from fetching these footballs

There have been a few incidents at the dog park. One dog walker kept yelling at Bartolo to stop barking at her dog, to the point where I decided we might as well leave. Ironically, she said nothing to Maggie who barked incessantly at another of her dogs. Being at the dog park isn’t unlike being at a playground with your kids. Some people you’ll get along with, others not so much.

I describe my way of navigating the world as “learning by tripwire.” It’s trial-and-error, but much more filled with being oblivious then regretful. I brought a Duraplay squeaky football to the dog park. A guy was there with his dog, let’s call him Ethan and his dog Buster. Ethan usually walks around the dog park fence without ever coming inside. I asked him why, and he said Buster was a rescue dog and wasn’t well socialized. Buster knew the other two dogs who were in the dog park that morning with us though, so Ethan thought he’d try having Buster come inside.

Me, being my usual, optimistic, naive self, encouraged Ethan. For the most part Buster and Bartolo ignored each other or growled then backed off. The other two dogs left with their owner, and I started throwing Bartolo’s football. Buster would chase it but then let Bartolo take it. Until he wouldn’t. They started fighting, and Ethan stepped in to pull them apart. In the process he got bit. Of course both dogs were up-to-date on their rabies, so at least we didn’t have that to worry about. Ethan said he wouldn’t bring Buster back into the dog park again. He told me after the fight that Buster had already recently gotten into a couple of fights.

People say he should have known better, and he probably should, but I still feel responsible too. I don’t bring dog toys to the park anymore. In the future, if anyone brings in their dog and says it isn’t well-socialized, I’m going to take my dogs out before anything happens. We’ve gotten to know a few of the dogs already, and there’s plenty of dogs Bartolo does get along with that we can play with in the mornings. I won’t let this incident keep me from going to the dog park, but I can certainly be more careful.

Bartolo wishes we had a bigger pet door

Bartolo wishes we had a bigger pet door

I admit I had my doubts early on whether we should keep Bartolo. I thought that adding one dog after already having one wouldn’t be a big deal. Perhaps if we’d gotten another small dog, but it was really stressful trying to keep Bartolo from running out of the yard when we opened the door, from jumping up when trying to put his food bowl in his dog bed, and from lunging while on the leash. I actually had a talk with my husband that I was afraid that I wasn’t a “good enough” dog owner to be able to control and take care of Bartolo, and we might need to consider giving him back.

Thankfully, dog owners from the dog park and the neighborhood gave me great suggestions for how to train Bartolo. He has to sit and stay before we open the yard door, and he doesn’t try to dash out anymore. I bought a Gentle Leader headcollar that pulls his head towards me when he tries to lunge. I hook two loops (skipping one in between) on his SnapLeash, removing some of the slack, and wrapping it around my waist so that he has only enough leash to stay right beside me.

My husband is taking Bartolo to obedience training, and it seems to be going well. Bartolo was surrendered to the rescue organization by his former owner, who got ill and was no longer able to take care of him. He is an absolute sweetheart, and one day Maggie will stop growling at him. Probably.

Our lives are crazy busy now. I’m walking about 6-7 miles per day now between running errands, picking up and dropping off my kids, and giving the dogs lots of exercise. I’m also happier than ever. I promised my husband I wouldn’t ask for any more dogs. Now we joke that we should adopt an orange tabby cat. Thank God DPS never seems to have any.

Our whole family (minus Smokey the cat)

Our whole family (minus Smokey the cat)

Have you ever had two or more dogs? Was it a big transition adding each dog?

How Do I Tell My Son His Friend is Now a Girl?

A girl and a boy

Please check out my guest post on My Migraine Family about explaining to Zach about his friend being transgender.

Coping Strategies When I’ve Forgotten to Take My Antidepressant

I woke up grumpy, irritable, and inexplicably angry. It took me a few minutes, but then I remembered that I had forgotten to take my antidepressant yesterday morning. I didn’t realize until last night around dinner time. I took it then, but that was a whole 12 hours without it.

My four-year-old daughter was whining a lot at breakfast, and just the sound of her voice grated on me. I had no patience for her or her brother. My face felt permanently set in a scowl. My husband seemed to notice the change in me right away but didn’t say anything. It’s likely I would have snapped at him no matter what he said.

My only saving grace was that I was aware that I was being unreasonably angry and impatient. I focused on breathing more slowly and deeply. When I asked my daughter to get dressed, I watched as she futzed around and noticed my urge to yell at her to hurry up. Instead I asked her to “please focus.”

When focusing on my breathing stopped helping, I noticed how my toes felt touching the carpet, or later, the inside of my shoes. I noticed what my knees felt like touching the fabric of my pants.

All of this noticing is a form of mindfulness. We can only pay attention to one thing at a time. We think we’re multitasking, but what we’re really doing is task-switching very quickly. Paying complete attention to one thing in my body helps anchor me in the present moment and briefly pause the rage going on in my head.

There’s usually some story I’m telling myself that I don’t even realize. I feel like my kids are misbehaving just to piss me off. I feel like everything is going to go wrong, and I’m powerless to change it.

I need to be somewhat calm to do this, but I try to come up with another narrative. I look at my daughter screaming at me and think, “She must be tired. She’s struggling to find words to express what she’s trying to say, and she’s frustrated.” My son is making loud noises and being hyper because he wants some attention, not attention for its own sake, but to feel connected to us. Coming up with another story gives me understanding, and that understanding helps me develop patience. I feel powerless at times, but so do they.

I used to feel so guilty for losing my temper in front of my kids, like I was failing them somehow. It took a long time, but I realize now how important it is, how valuable, for my kids to see me not only lose my cool, but then work really hard to regain my composure. I can explain coping strategies to them until I’m blue in the face, but nothing will be as compelling as modeling it for them.

Calming down requires forgiveness

Calming down requires forgiveness. I have to forgive myself for getting irrationally angry in the first place, and I have to forgive my kids and myself for not being perfect.

I’m still going to have to practice calming myself after the kids get home from school. It doesn’t help that it’s going to rain all day, but while they’re in school, I’m going to try to “fill my bucket” with positive experiences so I can start from a more fulfilled place than if I just run errands and “get stuff done” like a workhorse.

A friend is coming over to hang out while her house is being cleaned. I’m going to ask her if we can watch the latest episode of “Castle” on Hulu, which is my weekly Tuesday gift to myself. I’m going to take my dog Maggie for a walk in her new doggie raincoat. The thing that best alleviates my depression is reconnecting: with people, with my dog, and with nature.

I will yell at my kids again, if not today, then tomorrow, and/or the day after that. I will never be “cured” from my depression. It’s a constant, ongoing process. But I’m not powerless or alone in this. That’s what gets me through it every time.

How do you get through times when you’ve just had it but don’t have the luxury of getting away from your triggers?

Maggie: Our Adoption Story

We quite suddenly adopted a dog two days ago. My husband was wary of me visiting the dog adoption clinics at a local pet store, and I assured him I wasn’t ready for a dog. I said we’d probably wait until next year when our younger child turns five.

Maggie

Then we met Maggie. When I first saw her, I thought, “I should really ignore that dog. She’s probably not right for us.” Then a volunteer offered to let my kids pet her. So I pet her. The volunteer started spewing off Maggie’s qualities: she’s 4-5 years old, she’s a Bishon Frise Maltese mix, she doesn’t shed, she’s hypoallergenic (so even people who are usually allergic to dogs could be okay around her), and she’s crate-trained.

Her hair is incredibly soft and thankfully short. When she was rescued, she was covered in foxtails, even having some in her mouth, and seemed like she hadn’t been fed properly for awhile. Doggie Protective Services cleaned her up, shaved her hair, vaccinated her, spayed her, and put her in loving foster homes until she could be adopted.

We were not planning to adopt a dog, not yet. Many people say though, “you don’t adopt a dog, they adopt you.” That’s really true in our case.

I’m beginning to think Maggie had some help from other four-legged friends. My sister-in-law has a small dog, a Silky terrier, and I got to walk him quite a few times in May. Then another couple we know got my daughter not to be scared of their Shih tzu Vinnie. My son Zach loves Vinnie so much, he asks to have play dates with him.

I follow quite a few animal lovers on Twitter. Many of them are also big advocates of pet rescue, Anne Wheaton and Ricky Gervais in particular. Anne Wheaton does a charity calendar each year, with proceeds going to the Pasadena Humane Society.

My kids are four and seven years old. I’d like to think that I’m not just trying to fill some void left behind of not having a baby or really little kid anymore. I suppose it doesn’t really matter what my intentions were, just that I stay committed to taking care of Maggie for the rest of her life.

I’ll admit, I’ve worried a tiny bit that I’m a flake, I’ll get buyer’s remorse and decide I can’t take care of her. The funny thing about suffering from anxiety is it makes you anxious about having anxiety.

Thankfully, Maggie has been so easy to take care of, and we’re all adapting so quickly, I haven’t had any concerns about not being able to take care of her. I’m a little nervous about when it starts raining a whole bunch, but since we live in California and we’re having a drought, it seems like I can punt on this for quite awhile.

I’ve never owned a dog before, and my husband hasn’t owned one for about 30 years. I feel somewhat irresponsible adopting a dog without prior or recent experience, but my friends and neighbors who own dogs, DPS Rescue, and the salespeople at the pet store have been really helpful.

Maggie’s going to take awhile to get adjusted to her forever home, but one day I hope to train her as a therapy dog. It’s supposed to be good for her and for the people she visits. I already feel more stable and relaxed having her, and it’s only been two days.

Ever rescued a pet? Share your story in the comments below.

Don’t Give Up Yet, Just Wait

Just Wait - It Can Get Better

I have thought about committing suicide many, many times over the last 20 years. As a child, before I even knew what suicide was, I had wanted to disappear. I had wanted the fear, the pain, the loneliness, and the anger to go away, forever.

I’ve been extremely lucky to create a network of supportive, loving friends, and family. I didn’t always have that though.

When I was 22, and I first really started to think about committing suicide, I had almost no friends and I was estranged from most of my family. I had an unfulfilling, low-paying job. Luckily I did have a bike and a car. I numbed myself by riding my bike 42 miles every Saturday. When I felt the suicidal thoughts bouncing off the walls of my apartment, I drove up and down PCH (the Pacific Coast Highway). I sought out whatever beauty I could find: in the ocean, the trees, the sunlight.

I basically procrastinated, and doing so saved my life. Even after doing over a year of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), taking an antidepressant, and creating a life worth living, I still feel the pull of my depression. I still sometimes think:

  • I am worthless
  • I don’t deserve my husband or my kids
  • I’ll never amount to anything
  • I’m tired of fighting myself all the time
  • I can’t do this anymore
  • I just want the pain to go away forever

I honestly feel like I’m living on borrowed time. My father committed suicide two years ago, his brother committed suicide twenty years before that. Who knows when I won’t be able to fight anymore?

Then I remember that we’re all living on borrowed time. Every minute we have is a gift. Every moment, we have the choice to say, “Not yet. Not today. Just wait.”

There are nights when I lay in bed beside my daughter, and I’m just exhausted by my guilt at not being a good enough mother, wife, friend, writer, human being. I think about how much I wish I could definitively end all of the pain with one fell swoop. It’s not enough to think about what it would do to my friends and family. It doesn’t help to think about how damaged my children would be.

Sometimes all I have the strength left for is to say, “Just wait.” Blues Traveler wrote a song called “Just Wait”:

In time you just might take to feeling better
Time’s the beauty of the road bein’ long

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s the thing, I have to wait and see. I need to be here to find out what more I’m capable of, what more I can contribute, how much more love I can experience and share. I do think about needing to be here to guide my children through their depression some day, should they experience it.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to fight, but I know that I’m not alone. I will fight alongside Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry, Andrew Solomon, and my many friends and family who struggle with depression.

As the Barenakedladies wrote:

Nothing worth having comes without a fight
Gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight

I am deeply saddened by Robin Williams’ death. The love, joy, and inspiration he shared will live on through his work, his loved ones, and his fans.

If you or someone you know is deeply depressed, please get help. Call a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You cannot be replaced. You matter. You are needed.

Even if you can’t imagine a moment beyond the pain, just wait. It can get better. Wait, reach out, wait some more. It can, and it will get better.

The Catch-22 of Offering Help

I see you.  You matter.  You are not alone.

I was elated that dropping my daughter off at her first day of Pre-K went smoothly. She’d been “acting out” so much for the past few weeks. I guess I was distracted by my relief.

I went to a Starbucks to write, and when the woman in front of my held up her phone to the cashier and asked, “How do I get the bar code to show up?” I blurted out, “You can just shake it.” She didn’t look at me, but she said, “I don’t LIKE to shake it. That’s why I’m asking!” I stood in stunned silence then mumbled, “sorry.” She said, “it’s okay,” but still didn’t look at me.

Twenty minutes later I still feel stunned, but most of all I feel ashamed. I imagine other people can brush off these things, but immediately I feel my self-hatred flare up and start shouting in my head, “Who the hell do you think you are, you obtrusive fuck? No one asked you! No one gives a damn what you think!”

The thing is, it seems like most people want it both ways. I see on Facebook all the time people complaining they don’t get enough support and simultaneously how dare people stick their noses in their business!

I do worry about butting in where I’m not wanted, but I’m more afraid of being apathetic. I, not surprisingly, have serious baggage about feeling abandoned by my parents and also guilty for not being able to stop my father from engaging in illegal activities or to cure his depression and anxiety, which ultimately resulted in his suicide. The next time you’re irritated when someone offers to help, consider that they might share my “rescuing complex” or “compulsive need to help.” It doesn’t excuse it, but it might shed some light.

Blurting out an answer to a question directed to someone else, I can see I came off as meddling, and maybe the woman thought I was judging her for not knowing how to get the bar code to come up. Maybe she was already having a crappy morning, and I just made it a little worse.

I’m tempted to stop offering to help altogether. It would save me the pain of these confrontations. If people needed help, they’d just ask for it, right? Who DO I think I am anyway?

I am a mother, a friend, and a neighbor. I couldn’t survive without all of the people in my life who help me get through parenthood, and honestly, who help me just make it to the end of the day. Isn’t it still a good idea to “pay it forward” once in awhile?

I realize that a lot of it has to do with timing and approach. Things go better when I pause to assess whether this is an appropriate situation to offer help. I’m a Sagittarius though, so thinking before speaking is not my strong suit.

When I see someone juggling a bunch of stuff and usually a couple of kids, I ask, “Can I give you a hand?” or “Would you like some help?” Sometimes they say, “yes, please!” with gratitude mixed with relief. Sometimes they say, “That’s okay, I got it.” Either way, I’m grateful to be in community with that person for just a brief moment.

I have this Margaret Mead quote on my About page, and I really do believe it: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

So even if I get a metaphorical door slammed in my face once in a while, I’m still going to offer a helping hand now and then, even if it’s just looking a person in the eyes, smiling, and expressing, “I see you. You matter. You are not alone.”

How do you balance offering help without butting in?

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Voices from BlogHer ’14

When people ask me how BlogHer ’14 was last week, I get speechless. There were so many great speakers and panels, and I met such friendly, welcoming people, it all rushes over me like a wave when I try to talk about it.

Business cards from BlogHer '14

Some of the business cards I collected

Here are a few important messages I took away.

We are all BlogHer
I used to think of BlogHer as just the media company: its co-founders, its editors, its administrative staff. BlogHer ’14 showed me that all of us who read, write, and share blog posts are part of something so much bigger.

I was struck by how egalitarian it felt. A few of the speakers were high-profile people like Arianna Huffington and Kerry Washington, but most of them were bloggers just like me. The Voices of the Year writers, the 10×10 speakers, even Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess, were once quiet, still-in-the-shadows attendees like me.

It made me realize that I have just as much chance as anyone else of being on that stage one day, and I have so much more to contribute.

We are capable of more than we think
Alexandra Rosas of Good Day, Regular People spoke about how much she has achieved over the last decade, first by getting published for syndication on BlogHer, then by proposing and sitting on a panel at a BlogHer conference, to speaking at BlogHer ’14 as part of the 10×10 series. She was really inspiring. She encouraged us to “surprise yourself with what you can do,” and remember that “just because you can’t do something now doesn’t mean you can’t learn.”

The blogger behind Busy Dad Blog described the influence we can have. Whereas celebrities can create exposure or raise awareness, “Bloggers have the ability better than anyone to change the conversation.”

Kerry Washington expressed her gratitude to Shonda Rimes for making her the star of the hit TV show “Scandal,” and she encouraged us, “Fulfill your dream, or you’ll be robbing someone else.”

A closing keynote speaker urged, “People are waiting for you to make a difference.”

We need to take care of ourselves first in order to thrive
At the same time we support our families and our communities and be the force for change, we also need to care of ourselves first. A few speakers used the analogy from airplanes of “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

Arianna Huffington talked about her book “Thrive,” which calls on us to “redefine success and create a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder.” She recommends making more time for sleeping, detoxing from digital devices, and learning from other people’s “wake-up calls.” She pointed out that we pay more attention to the state of our digital devices than of our bodies.

Kerry Washington juggles multiple projects, including being a new mother, starring on “Scandal,” and working with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. She explains that she budgets 80% of her time on where she can make the most impact and 20% doing whatever brings her joy.

We’re all in this together
Even though there are a multitude of topics bloggers write about, whether it’s food, parenting, politics, elder care, or dog training, there are issues that affect us all.

Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress said, “You don’t need to be an expert to change someone’s life, you just need to give a crap.”

Feminista Jones said, “You don’t have to be black, gay, or poor to know when something is wrong.”

A person asked how to help when you don’t belong to a group that’s being treated badly. Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan said, “The first step is listen. The second step is listen. The third step is listen.” She said after that you need to “amplify” the group’s message, by sharing and retweeting their messages.

We are unique
Many speakers talked about focusing on what we love, the thing inside us that “glows or sparkles” and makes us shine. Elisa Bauer of Simply Recipes said, “Blog about what you love because life is too short to blog about anything else.”

Regardless of whether other people blog about the same topic, each of us has our unique point of view. We need to be who we are without apology. Courageously being ourselves, we can work together and achieve great things.

Please share your BlogHer ’14 stories in the comments below.

What I’m Hoping to Get Out of BlogHer ’14

Crowded conference hall

I’ll be attending BlogHer ’14 tomorrow and the day after. It will be my first blogging conference. I’m nervous, excited, and apprehensive.

Reading about and preparing for BlogHer ’14 has made me take stock of what I want to get out of blogging and what I’ve accomplished so far.

My page views are few and far between. The only sponsorship offers I’ve received have been from scammers. I’ve started and already abandoned an eBook idea.

Still, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had 10 posts featured in various categories on BlogHer. I’ve had two posts published by ScaryMommy. I successfully completed the Ultimate Blog Challenge in January, publishing 31 posts in 31 days. One reader wrote to tell me that my “What My Depression Looks Like” post prompted her to schedule an appointment with her doctor to try again to get her chronic pain treated.

I hope one day to have enough material to publish an eBook, probably about parenting while living with depression. I hope that slowly but surely I am building a welcoming and safe space for people to talk about mental illness without fear of judgment, to share their experiences of being vulnerable and authentic, and to call out shame when we feel beat ourselves up for not being perfect.

As scared as I am of being surrounded by bloggers who probably have way more experience, much larger readerships, and are actually making money at blogging, I’m going to remind myself to use this intimidating experience as an opportunity:

  • to soak up every bit of wisdom and encouragement they have to offer
  • to be inspired by other people’s passion, dreams, and ideas
  • to broaden my perspective on what is possible through blogging
  • to get one-on-one feedback about how to write and edit effectively
  • to meet new people who share my interests, my values, and my enthusiasm
  • to find people who can guest post on my blog and/or will let me write for their blog
  • to have a great time standing in my right to be there and owning that “I am a writer”

Check out my Twitter feed for updates from the conference.

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Blog & website of children's book author Tara Lazar

Honest Mom

You belong here.

Scary Mommy

A personal blog about parenting while living with anxiety and depression

Honest Mom

A personal blog about parenting while living with anxiety and depression

Illustrated with Crappy Pictures™

A personal blog about parenting while living with anxiety and depression

Miss Bookish Girl

Writer, reader, cook, cat lady. Not always in that order.