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Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Monthly Archives: October 2016

This week was pretty great. I know as the days and weeks add up I’ve been saying that they’ve been getting better, but let’s be honest some of those weeks had shitty days. This week hasn’t had one bad day. I know that’s so optimistic it’s almost adorable. But it’s true.

On Monday, JP went to work and I went to the gym. He had Starbucks for breakfast and I made myself pancakes. Pancake Mondays are what is right with the world.He did his usual on the way to work thing and I did my usual post-work out thing. We didn’t eat together and I didn’t see him until dinner time. We didn’t text all day – something that is 100% unusual for us. But when dinner came, we could actually say “Babe, how was your day?”

You see, when he was in Indiana we would text all day and night. Around bedtime we would get on Facetime and then fall asleep that way. I know, we’re crazy and thankfully there’s wifi. It was a “we live long distance, but are still dependent on each other in some kind of way” relationship. During work hours, we would sometimes switch to GChat because of poor cell phone reception. We were long distance for two years and I’ve already told you the story about the tree. If you don’t remember it, check out this Instagram post. Anyway, there’s a lot of stuff we’ve never had the chance to do, like spontaneous date night or vacation.

JP moved home at one of the best and worst times because everything came crashing down, and while he definitely added to it and I’m going to get to that, I don’t know what would’ve happened if he wasn’t home.

So this week was great because JP was gone. Because while I was so excited to have him home, I was dealing with everything else and we never had an opportunity to adjust to each other. Yes, he was home for about seven weeks during my recovery, but the us we where then, is different than the us we are now. You see, he moved home and was hit from all sides. After driving 16 hours, we had a family party to go to, where I heard multiple family members ask him how it felt to be unemployed. I’m not saying they meant harm, but what I am saying, is some people can fit both feet in their mouths. He had already been putting pressure on himself to find a job and then that happened, they piled on the pressure unknowingly. I know I added some too because we just couldn’t live the lifestyle he wanted on my salary.

As we were dealing with this, I was dealing with my own problems and while he knew what was going on, I don’t think either of us realized the extent of the damage everything was causing. From this to my car accident, to not having a car for about a week to medical leave – we have been by each other constantly. I wish I was kidding. I’ve told him he’s needy and boy he fucking is. I lay in bed and he immediately cuddles on me, it’s cute until you can’t handle the touching. And sometimes, with my anxiety, I can’t be touched. It makes me more upset – he doesn’t understand this. We would be playing cards at the bistro table and he would ask if I wanted to cuddle and I would blatantly tell him “no, I’m already out of bed and I don’t want to get back in bed.”

His need to help me was turning into suffocation.

On Monday when JP asked me how my day was, I said it was really good. He asked why and I was honest. I told him it was because for the first time in a few weeks I was able to get up and workout and then come home and relax. I was able to make breakfast and show, but then I could get back in bed and write or watch TV. I was able to go to a new to me coffee house and not have to worry if JP wanted to come or not. I just got in the car and went. I didn’t have to be concerned if he was interested. I looked at him and said, “I think you can go to the car show on Saturday alone with your friends. I don’t want to go, I’ll find something else to do.” He asked how come. I explained that before he had moved home going to the car show meant that I lost hours with him. Since he’s here I don’t feel like I need to follow him around. He said “you mean we can have separate lives?”

Yep, that’s what I’m saying.

So the last piece of this puzzle of feeling torn down I think was taken care of this week when JP went to work. I know that sounds terrible, but the past few weeks we really were smothering each other and now we finally can learn how to live together as a couple. That’s scary and weird and crazy, but we haven’t really had the opportunity to do that. We kept saving each other, supporting each other when we felt down. But we haven’t been able to just live with each other, enjoy each others’ company and just be together. This week we got to do that.

Tonight we’re going out for date night and we’re dressing up. We never get to do this.

I’ve told him about all of this, so writing this isn’t a surprise in this house, but it doesn’t make it easier to say or easier to read. This has been hard on both of us and still is. This is the first week I’ve felt more like myself, but I also recognize that I’m starting to get tired quickly and need to relax during the day. Yesterday, after I got out the apartment for dessert and lattes, I felt exhausted, but knew that if I went home I would just nap in the middle of the day and that would impact my night… so I kept myself out and went to Target to pick up a few things. Surprisingly, I didn’t go overboard with all the things pumpkin, but I did get a few things that were necessary… new colored pencils for example. I may have also had some fun in the dressing room…

Therapy

So many people have asked me how I’ve gotten over mental health issues, but if you’ve been paying attention, I haven’t. I’m working through them every day. I’ve been journaling on my own. I’ve been keeping myself busy and trying to get out so I don’t feel confined within my apartment. Just because I don’t have meetings every day doesn’t mean I should stay shut away. I’m also going to therapy and working with someone who specializes in trauma and disorders that are an extension of trauma. It’s the same therapist that I saw this summer about body dysmorphia – which turns out is just a coping mechanism for my anxiety. Most of his clients have PTSD and other disorders that are connected, like me with anxiety and binge eating disorder. I’m clinically diagnosed. These aren’t terms you through around lightly. These aren’t terms that you joke about. There’s a difference between over eating and binging. There’s a difference between indulging and binging. Yes, you can eat a little too much when indulging, but looking down at the bowl and realizing you ate all the popcorn versus binging the popcorn intentionally. There’s a difference in mentality. When I’m going through a binge episode I’m hunting. That’s how I feel. I feel like I’m searching for what I’m looking for without truly knowing what I’m looking for. I know it when I’m eating it because I then feel satisfied.

This week we talked about the adventures I was going on. I mentioned JP starting his new job and how relieved I felt. We talked about some of the triggers that started this whole ordeal and the original events the created those triggers… childhood. Some things you just can’t truly escape. I felt good during the session and after I felt like we accomplished what I wanted to, so until next session.

That gym life

My workouts this week were really good. I started the PH3 program by Layne Norton that is on bodybuilding.com. You can find the program here. It’s a new lifting structure for me and focuses on strength. I was skeptical at first because the first few days don’t seem like a lot, but as more volume was added throughout the week I started to feel myself really pushing through the workouts. I’m working the muscles differently than I’m used to, so this week was the first time in a while that I was sore, but in a good way. My shoulder after Sunday was pretty sore from benching… something I don’t do often or heavy or really like doing at all, but as the week continued it definitely got easier and my shoulder became less sore the day after the lift. Since I’m trying something new I figure this was a perfect time for new gloves… mine are falling apart. Literally ripped at the seams. I also bought a lifting belt because I feel as I want to get heavier in my lifts, I want the support. I don’t want to rely solely on it, but I feel like it may help prevent my form from weakening as I increase. One thing I did that the program doesn’t really do is to make sure I’m hitting my steps by walking on the treadmill for about 15 to 20 minutes after my lift. While lifting works the body, you’re not moving a lot, walking on the treadmill after my lift let’s me stretch out (sometimes I do long stride lunges), but I can still hit my step goal for the day without exerting too much energy or over working my muscles. So one week down, three more to go with this lifting phase.

Sunday’s lift Big 3

Tuesday’s lift lower body emphasis

Wednesday’s active rest day

Friday’s lift – lower body emphasis

Checking in

This morning I checked in and I was down .6 pounds from last week and I’m really happy about that. I feel like chemically, my stress levels are going down and settling so cortisol is going down. Most people don’t realize that stress increases cortisol, which prevents other processes in the body to occur and weight gain can occur or weightloss can stall. This paired with the binges resulted in a dramatic weight gain in a short period of time. I’m happy to say that I’ve lost 5.4 of the 10 pounds that I did gain through binges.

Physically, I’m feeling better. I mentioned earlier in the week that the gain was pulling at my abdomen around my scar. I was pulled so tight in surgery so bloating can be painful and well, that also means that kind of weight gain can be too. So 136 – I was 126 about a month ago, is a lot for my body. Today I was 130.6 and that feels pretty good. I’m hoping to keep my fluctuation between 128 and 130.

Mentally, I’m getting comfortable with this weight and how my body is looking since developing a range of macros to stay within. The range allows me to have some wiggle room in case I want to eat more one day, but I don’t want to eat as much another day. I’m loosely tracking and below are some of the things I ate this week that weren’t easily trackable, but still allowed me to loose .6 pounds.

Monday’s coffee shop adventure at Sweets and Java in Holden: butterbeer latte + chocolate chip cookie

Wednesday’s coffee shop adventure at Crema Cafe in Cambridge: black coffee + cashew butterscotch cookie

Wednesday’s dinner at Boston Burger Company in Cambridge: half a  Vermonster – apples, onions, bacon, maple mayo and cheddar

Wednesday’s dinner at Boston Burger Company in Cambridge: half a King burger – bacon, cinnamon sugar banana and peanut butter

Thursday’s adventure to Birchtree Bread Company in Worcester: black coffee + white chocolate cranberry cookie

Thursday’s dessert split with JP: jumbo peanut butter cup from Lolli and Pops

Friday’s adventure to Bean Counter in Worcester: pumpkin, chocolate and marshmallow latte + chocolate raspberry tart

Friday’s dinner at Nu Cafe in Worcester: Southwest Salad with chicken, no tortilla chips and dressing on the side

Yeah I know, here I’m like let’s balance out our weight, and then I’m like ooh latte’s and cookies. But for me, being able to fit these into my daily life and still loose or maintain or whatever the goal at the time is truly is balance for me. Tomorrow was a little more indulgent than normal, latte and tart, but both were excellent and there were no regrets.

Class because I still have that going on

I got my grades for class this week and I got a 100% on my quiz, homework and discussion. My grades slightly slipped when all of this started, but I was honest with my professor about what was going on and she said if I needed extensions to let her know. I told her I didn’t need that, but I wanted her to know that the quality in my work wasn’t normal and I wanted her to know why.

I’m excited for the upcoming week. It’s week two of the lifting program. JP is at work and I’m figuring out my adventures.We have a wedding next weekend and the rehearsal dinner on Friday. I’m hopeful it’ll be a good week all around like this week was, but if not every day is perfect, it won’t be the end of the world.

We’re watching movies and lounging in the living room until it’s time to get ready for date night. So I’ll talk to you guys later.

❤ Cristina

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 When I emailed with Sarah, she told me that she had pushed aside her anxiety out of how I might sound to someone else. She’s not the only one. There are so many people that have experienced various traumas, almost all of which are out their control, but yet they take on shame. We are not the problem. It is not our fault. Sarah’s story hit me in the stomach. As children we don’t understand our surroundings and the experiences are created for us. People don’t realize that when children experience violence, that they will become adults who remember and react to violence.

I can not remember a time in my life where I did not have anxiety. My home life was a war zone in my eyes. I was the third of four girls. My mother was a full-time single parent and my dad was as drunk as he could be on a daily basis. We never knew when he would come in smelling of whiskey and ready to yell at my mother. He never was physically abusive, but we watched him verbally abuse my mother for years. We tried to protect her, but four little girls can only do so much.
This home life caused me to be a little girl that was terrified of everything. I would cry as soon as the fire drill went off in class, I would have to held aside to walk with the teacher because the anxiety over took everything I had. I wasn’t afraid of the loud noise or the chance of a fire, I was upset by an unplanned commotion. It reminded me of home and how happiness could be burst like a bubble. My eldest sibling poked fun at me for my anxiety and called me names like cry baby and scaredy cat. As a little girl those names hurt and when you can’t describe why you are so shaken with fear, you then yourself brush it off that you are just being a baby. I can recognize now that I had anxiety issues as a child, and a 2nd grade teacher even wrote to my mother suggesting that I see a child psychiatrist, something my mother felt was not needed, or she just didn’t have the time for. I got better with my anxiety at school but at home it always remained alert.
As I entered middle school my father was sent to prison. He ended up in and out of jail most my teenage life. It was always weird to me because he would get sober there, come out and I would have to get to know a different person. Just for him to turn around and within months to maybe a year be back in jail. We wouldn’t have contact with him other than a shared phone call on the holidays or letters he wrote. I held a lot of resentment towards him. My mother saved us all by staying strong but we watched her suffer a lot. Once my father was out of the picture, my eldest sister took the role of verbal abuser. I watched her treat my mother and siblings like we were garbage, say horrible things to us and insult anything we did.  It didn’t help that we were all chubby in my family. I think my mother felt if we were fed well we were being taken care of. My older siblings had a bigger weight issue than myself and my younger sibling but we all suffered and struggle with it. I can’t even get into all the problems we had though my teenage years. We dealt with suicide threats, cutting, bulimia, anorexia and extreme low self esteem at times. I had thought we had the worst behind us as we all started to become adults. The worst was yet to come.
My sister who shared the middle spot with me was starting to show symptoms of a mental illness. In the next two years we would be on a roller coaster from hell of never knowing if the police or someone would call saying she got in trouble or was sent back to the psych ward. We tried to help her in every way we could. It became more difficult to help because she kept getting into trouble with the law and taking things out of our hands and hers. In May 2014 I came home and saw police cars and ambulances all parked in front of my house. I remember leaving my car parked in the middle of the road as I ran to the door. No officer would let me in, they said they didn’t want me to see her that way and that she was gone. My father was the only one there. He was the man who helped her buy a gun, she convinced him that it was hobby. I was there alone waiting for my mother to get home from work. I had to break the worst news to all my family. I was numb. For the year following I would have breakdowns and depression that I just couldn’t control. My boyfriend (now husband) would try to comfort me but we both knew that neither of us knew what to do.
 Since then my life has continued on but with different struggles. My oldest sister is an alcoholic and my younger sister is basically one foot out the door of never talking to anyone in my family again. It will be five years this May since my sister passed. I always say to my husband, I don’t even know what part of my life has caused me more pain. And I don’t think I ever will. What I have come to realize that helps me is that I can’t control what caused the pain but I can control how I deal with it. I get anxiety and depression to this day and I feel horrible when I think I am not being the partner my husband deserves because I mentally and emotionally am not there. I continue on and refuse to give up.
I believe I need to be strong for my family and try to help keep together what little bits we have left. I do not want to give up. My sister wouldn’t have wanted me to give up. Before she was sick she was every one’s cheerleader. She was brilliant and beautiful and I do not want to let her down. I know she is my little extra push when getting out of bed is the hardest thing for me to do. I have learned from being skinny to being over weight, the scale number never matters. I always want to think it does because it is the only thing I can control. Bad things , anxiety, and depression have all happened to me at all different weights. What I want is to be healthy now and listen to my body and not with a diet. I want to be healthy to keep my mind healthy not look skinny.
I am going to be 31 this Jan, and I want to get it my best yet because I believe I deserve it. Thank you for giving people, including myself, this outlet to express their story. You are an amazing , strong and very intelligent woman. I know I will continue to look forward to your many adventures, stories and personal shares.  I wish you nothing but the best on your journey.

If you or someone you know is at risk for hurting themselves or others please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

Many of us have a hard time pinpointing the moment we realized we weren’t feeling like ourselves. We struggle to determine the time in our lives when depression or anxiety started. I think we have an idea, but I think some of us dismiss our own behavior as typical.
Below is Meredith’s story. She even says that labeled herself as a typical teen, but now realizes that her behavior wasn’t very typical at all.

Depression for me started at a rather young age, it was probably when I was about 12 or 13 years old, however, I wasn’t actually aware that I had it. My parents thought I was just a “moody teen” and I of course gave them the “well, you just don’t understand me, mom and dad”. I had an very negative outlook on life and while sports and friends helped me through high school, when college hit, it all went down hill from there.
I was a freshman in college and I was really lonely my first quarter of school. I felt like no one was like me. They wanted to drink and party all the time and I wanted to do more than that. So instead of try to seek help, I went to food and I ended up gaining 50+ pounds. I would eat entire cartons of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting multiple times a week. I would eat grilled cheese, fries, chicken tenders, pizza, etc. hoping to mask the pain. I remember crying almost every night because I hated my school and I just wanted to hide because I’d never fit in.
My depression took a real turn for the worst when I was a junior in college. I remember one Saturday it was gorgeous out: sun shining, 70 degrees, a perfect day to go out and enjoy the city. However, I just couldn’t get up. I physically would not get out of my bed. I was so drained emotionally and I just didn’t want to do anything and enjoy life. My boyfriend (now husband) tried to get me up time and time again, but i just laid there and did nothing, feeling sorry for myself.
One night I got into an argument with a friend and I got really upset. I then texted a few friends and told them that I wasn’t worthy anymore and I was going to commit suicide by walking in front of a train. I was miserable. One of my friends called the school safety and in the middle of the night they came and got me and took me to the hospital for my own safety. I was admitted into the psych ward in the hospital and it was a real eye opening experience.
I scared my boyfriend, my friends and my family. It was cold, dark and scary there. I prayed real hard for a day to let me go home and I would seek help. I talked with the psychologist at the hospital, who also talked with my psychologist at home and they decided to finally release me. My parents took me home; I remember them being so rattled by this experience and I promised them that I love myself too much to go through with it and it was time to change.
From there I went into intense therapy and I went on medication. I realized that I did not want to live life that way anymore and I worked hard day in and day out to become happier.
Depression has luckily not really crept back into my life too much, but anxiety has recently surfaced. Last holiday season, I took a pre-workout supplement and it caused anxiety to rise and I freaked out about my heart. I was literally paralyzed on my couch for a month. I was afraid to move, afraid to do anything and was convinced I would die of a heart issue. I had heart palpitations and chest pains – I had worrying thoughts. I got multiple tests done and all came out normal, but that wasn’t enough. I talked to a few friends who have anxiety and they told me this won’t be forever. I knew what I had to do. I went into intense cognitive therapy, back on medication, started yoga, meditation and even got back into exercising (as i had been for months). I would also journal my thoughts no matter how awful they may have been. I had an eye opening moment in January where I read a booked called “Feeling Good” by David burns. He mentioned that it’s always your choice how you react and feel. This honestly turned my thinking around a full 180 and helped me get through this part of my life. I continued to work really hard for months and I finally moved past it and I feel better than ever. I live in the present and am grateful everyday.
I think one other note people don’t always realize is how mental health issues affect the people who are close to you in life. Looking back, I lashed out/hurt the people I loved most in my life and I have since apologized for my actions, not because they wanted me to but because I felt that was the right thing to do as they stood by me. My husband has been with me through my lowest of lows and has never left my side. This is how I knew that I wanted to marry him. My parents have continued to love me regardless and the friends who talk with me about my issues and are there for me anytime of day are the people who mean the most. When I realized how hurt those people were by my mental health, it was a real eye opener and I didn’t want them to feel that way. It helped me work even harder and now we’re all happy.

It’s getting colder outside and while I’m not abandoning my love of all things pumpkin, I’m also embracing all things apple and molasses. I finally took the plunge and bought a jar of molasses because I acknowledge that gingerbread people will be made this fall and winter and it would eventually be needed. This also brought the opportunity to make the next cookie from Sarah Lynn Fitness’s Healthy Cookie Cookbook: Molasses Ginger cookies.

All of Sarah’s cookies are simple to make and this one is no different. I also believe her cookies are more cakey than your standard cookie because of the ingredients, so keep that in mind and don’t get paranoid about the dough. JP actually pointed out how cakey it was and that when he saw the cracks from baking he thought it would be crunchy. I want to know who the hell likes a crunchy molasses cookie? Exactly. Not me.

Keeping up with tradition, I made 2 large cookies.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I went back to following weight of ingredients on the recipe rather than volume. I think the last recipe following volume impacted the dough.
  • Base protein powder was snickerdoodle. Like most of the recipes, having a sweet basic protein like vanilla or cinnamon is very helpful and can easily be masked by the flavors in the cookie rather than stick out and hinder the cookie.
  • I used water instead of apple sauce just because of what I had on hand, but it also cut out a few carbs, not a lot, but still something.
  • You will need to shape the dough, but unlike some of the beginning recipes it doesn’t stick to your hands. I did push the cookies down to flatten them prior to baking to make sure that they were a thickness that would bake fully, but also a thickness I want for a cookie.

Total macros per cookie: 4.7F/18.3C/4.1P

❤ Cristina


I’ve received some stories where the writer has asked to be anonymous. Writing is an outlet for me and I think some of you have found it to be helpful as you’ve sent me your stories. Some of you have pointed out that knowing someone on the other end is reading it, even though it’s a stranger, has been helpful. Some kind of release.

This is a story from a 25-year-old mom. I cried as I read her email, which made JP rush over to find out what was wrong. His heart broke for her.


By society’s standards, I used to be “normal.” I was fun, outgoing, had a lot of friends, spent most weekends out, worked my ass off at a job I loved, and so on. When I was 20, I met a guy who I thought was the end all, be all of men. He was sweet, funny, and kind. He treated me well and we always had fun together. But when I started seeing red flags in our relationship, I started distancing myself from him and eventually broke things off. He didn’t take the break up well and immediately showed his true colors (which he had done amazingly well at hiding up to this point). He started stalking me. He’d spend days at a time outside my house taking photos, calling me, texting me, threatening my family. I bought two guns to keep at home: one right next to my bed and one next to my front door. I was terrified of him. Whenever I called the police, he’d be gone before they could catch him. When they finally did, he was arrested and sent to prison. I spent almost an entire year in court with him. One court hearing per week, every single week until the case was finally closed. It was draining, to say the least. I had to change my phone number several times to avoid getting prison calls. By the second month of court hearings, the judge suggested I see a counselor. I was barely eating, I was having trouble focusing at work, and I was having nightmares so bad, I was afraid to go to bed at night. I gladly took the judge’s suggestion and met with a counselor. She was amazing and helped me through a lot. She even got me set up with an advocate who came to the remainder of the court hearings with me and spoke for me so I wouldn’t have to face my ex alone. The case was finally closed and I felt like I was starting to heal and get back to my normal life. I had no idea what was coming soon after.

Fast forward about a year and a half later. I was happily married and pregnant with my daughter. I went into labor on a Saturday, my husband and I took our daughter home from the hospital on Monday, and my world fell apart on Thursday. I was sitting at home with my 5 day old newborn, enjoying every second with her. My mom was at our house helping me with the baby. She picked up her phone to check the news and her face went white. When I asked what was wrong, she turned her phone toward me and a picture of my ex was plastered on the front page of the news: he had been released from prison and had brutally and violently murdered someone. My husband quickly grabbed my daughter because he knew I would fall apart. And I did. I fell to the floor and could not control the crying. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know what to think or how to feel. Was it true? Maybe they had the wrong guy. The next few weeks went by in a blur. I was terrified. I didn’t answer my phone. I didn’t leave my house. I didn’t see my friends. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. Most of all, I didn’t understand what the hell was happening. Everything was back. The fear, the nightmares, the paranoia. But a thousand times worse than before. I had nightmares of him escaping from jail, breaking into my house, and killing my family; killing MY baby girl. The story was on the news for two weeks straight. All my friends knew. Everyone tried to call, everyone wanted to talk to me. I stayed off the internet and social media as much as I could and tried to ignore it all. But then I got a letter in the mail. It was from him. I didn’t know how he got my address and that scared the hell out of me. The letter was long and detailed. He blamed me for the murder. He went on for pages about how if I had never left him, he would have had a normal life and he never would have murdered this person. Any sane person would have understood the absolute ridiculousness of such a claim. But me, in my mentally unstable state, completely believed him. He was right, wasn’t he? I shouldn’t have left him. I could have prevented that murder.

My mental health deteriorated so fast, it was unbelievable. Three weeks after the murder, my mom came over to my house and found me lying on my kitchen floor staring at the ceiling crying. My 3-week-old daughter was lying on the floor next to me. My family called the police and I was taken to a hospital for observation. I spent 3 days in focus groups with other “mental” people. We had to talk about our feelings and share why we were there. Looking back, I can honestly say that 3 days saved my life. Was it weird? Yes. Did I feel like a freak? Yes. But I needed it. I needed the break. I needed sleep and food and peace and quiet. And something about being locked up in a place with bars on the windows gave me an odd sort of comfort. I knew that he couldn’t get to me. When I got to go home, my family worked hard with me to restore some of the balance in my life. I started seeing a counselor again and I was determined to work as hard as I could to be a good mom and take care of my daughter. But within days, the police were at my door. They needed me to testify in the trial. If I wrote about the next year of my life, I could fill a book. Long story short, my life changed for good. I’m no longer outgoing, I have very few friends (I chose a small circle of people to keep in my life) and I keep my family closer than ever. It’s been a while since the trial ended. My ex was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Some days are great, some days are awful. The awful days are usually the days when I can’t control all the thoughts that fill my head. Most days, I still can’t connect in my head what my ex did. I can’t seem to connect the fact that my sweet, loving, kind hearted (or so I thought) man had violently taken someone else’s life. This man that had told me so many times that he loved me. This man that had planned romantic dates for us and wrote me love letters. Some days, it still just doesn’t make sense.

About 6 months after the murder, through a VERY strange chain of events, I ended up on the phone with the mother of the man my ex had murdered. We talked for 5 hours straight. I told her all the things my ex had said to me and that he blamed me for her son’s death. And I let her talk for hours about her son. She told me all about him. His likes, his dislikes, what he did for a job, what he was like as a person. It was a relief for her. But at the end of the phone call, she said something I’ll never forget: “Forgive yourself. My son is not dead because of you. And you can’t live your life believing that he is.” I was floored. This woman had tragically lost her son and here she was comforting ME? What?! We cried and thanked each other. A few days later, I visited her son’s grave and placed a bouquet of yellow roses at his headstone. I took a picture and sent it to his mother. She appreciated the gesture and said she thought her son and I could have been good friends. We haven’t talked since. I guess we just needed that one 5 hour time period to cry and talk and vent.

Very few people understand my story. Most people look at me and say, “Um, someone was murdered. You have no right to be affected, you’re still alive.” In a way, they’re right. But it still doesn’t change the fact that I am affected. I was and still am. I never would have imagined that this would change my life so much. You see murder everywhere: in the news, on TV, in movies. But it’s never so close to home. It’s never someone you know. Nowadays, I’m a stay at home mom. I do nothing but spend time with my family and do my best to make amazing memories and appreciate the time I get with the people I love. But he’s still in my head. I still have nightmares. Fairly often, I sneak into my daughter’s room and crawl into bed with her just to remind myself that she’s safe because the nightmares are so real. My ex is in a level five facility in the middle of the plains of Colorado. He is guarded by some of Colorado’s finest and there’s no way he’s ever getting out. But some days, that doesn’t matter. It’s still terrifying. I do my best to choose happiness and peace every day, but of course some days I fail miserably. I’m thankful now to have a beautiful, healthy, and happy 3-year-old who loves life and lights up every room she walks into. I’m thankful to have a husband who supports me no matter what, even on my terrible days. Life goes on and that’s something I’ve learned the hard way.


When I was a kid, I used to look at the world with large open eyes. Before things were bad and even when they were bad, I never thought to myself “what’s the next bad thing that will happen to me”?” Even when things are bad now, I think there’s someone out there who has it worse. Someone who is having a different kind of bad day. My bad day is mine, and their bad day is theirs.
Allison is 25 and her story is amazing to me because of her resiliency. As she says below “everyone has those days, weeks, months and years”, but I can’t imagine the events she writes about to get the strength she has inside her. She is one of the amazing women I have had the chance to engage with through this series. Her story is below.

Everyone has those days, weeks, months and years where bad news and unfortunate events are the name of the game. Life is a graph of varying lows and highs.
My lows go something like this: dad diagnosed with brain cancer, bullied in school for my weight, anxiety, depression, self-conscious, dad dies, depression, mono that presented as meningitis, anxiety and depression, being diagnosed with poly-cysctic ovarian syndrome, anxiety and depression, not getting into the grad school program I always dreamed of, the discovery of a growth in the center of my brain, anxiety and depression, brain surgery, graduate school program decisions.
But the best part about some of those lows is that they lead to some highs. My experience with witnessing my dad’s 9+years battling brain cancer, as well as my experiences being bullied lead me to seek degrees in psychology, art, and clinical mental health counseling. My diagnosis with PCOS lead to me seek medical help, which assisted in regulating my hormone levels and my weight. Not getting into the graduate program I wanted lead me to an alternative program, where I have met some of the best friends I could ever wish for. My brain surgery to remove a cyst in the very center of my brain was the start to a life of less pain and higher quality of life.
It took a lot of work to get to those highs. Months of therapy, hours of self care, days of fighting with myself, and years upon years of learning to love myself.
One constant in my life has always been my mom. While I was always closer to my dad than my mom, she and I build an incredible relationship after he passed, she met my step-dad, and I opened up to her about my depression and anxiety. She was my warrior and in my corner every step of the way. While she had a hard time understanding why I couldn’t just “snap out of it” she respected that it wasn’t that easy and it would take time. She believed in me when I didn’t. She was there for every phone call full of tears, for every unsure and scary moment, and she was the first person I told when I finally admitted to myself that I needed professional help. My mom is my super hero. Together we are a dynamic duo.
Before my brain surgery, I was at my lowest weight. However, recovery was long and difficult. Medication and being sedentary and in a restricted lifestyle lead to weight gain. My mom was there to help me get back on my feet. In June, I asked my mom if she would be my accountability partner as I started a new journey towards fitness. But, like the super hero warrior my mom is, she didn’t just agree to be my accountability partner, she volunteered to join a 21-day boot camp with me. We both loved it so much, we became members of the gym on the last day of the boot camp and haven’t looked back since. Together we accomplish 5:15am or 5:45am workouts. On off days, we are there to push each other to the finish. Workouts are a second form of therapy for me. And I’m glad my mom gets to be part of those sessions.
While I still have bad days full of anxiety attacks, pure hopelessness, and uncontrollable sadness, I know that I am working towards a better me both physically and mentally, and, although it’ll take time, I’m okay with this process.
As a famous Disney character once sang:
“I’ll be there someday, I can go the distance

I will find my way if I can be strong
I know every mile would be worth my while
When I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong”

– Hercules


What do you do when you have left over sweet potato that you don’t think you’ll finish before they go bad? Make pie.

Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are pretty similar in taste and you can prepare them pretty much the same way. The main differences between the two are the nutritional make up. Sweet potato is higher in carbohydrates than pumpkin, it also has more fiber, but pumpkin has less natural sugars. Regardless, both are tasty and are something I can definitely eat all the time if you let me.

I’ve made pumpkin pie before and I know what the ingredients are: eggs, sweetened condensed milk and a few other things. I knew I didn’t want something loaded with sugar, so that meant I wanted a recipe without sweetened condensed milk. I went to Pinterest to see what I could find for filling recipes. I found a lot that used sweetened condensed milk and then I stumbled on one that used regular milk, but a TON of sugar to make up for it.

I skimmed the ingredients and decided to wing it. Recipe below!

What You’ll Need

  • 100g of pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons of milk – I used almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • vanilla extract
  • pumpkin pie spice blend (cinnamon, gloves, ginger)
  • 1 egg
  • mini pie shells – I used Keebler mini graham cracker crust

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, measure out 100g of cooked and mashed sweet potato. Make sure your mash is smooth and not lumpy. If there’s a little bit of lumps they will come out as you mix in other ingredients.
  3. Add vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice blend to taste.
  4. Mix in one whole egg until smooth.
  5. Mix in one tablespoon of maple syrup. Using maple syrup allows you to cut back on the sugar you need to use to make the filling sweet. Many recipes I found had both brown sugar and granulated sugar.
  6. Measure out filing into pie crusts. This made 3 pies with 62g of filling. I place the shell on my scale and zero it out before filling.
  7. Place filled shells on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. The filling will be firm when they are cooked thoroughly. Every oven is different, so keep an eye on the pies between 23 minutes and 30 minutes.

Macros per pie (may differ): 6.1F/24.4C/3.6P