Monday, June 25, 2018

Cresting The Wave, Part III: Arming The Undaunted


In the last few posts here, I've been hinting at something I've been super excited about lately. I've had a ton of stuff changing and going wild in my personal life (if you're the praying type, my mom, my aunt, and my family in general would greatly appreciate your prayers), and as a result my stress has been high, my pain levels have been just on the edge of unbearable, and my psychological symptoms are much worse than usual.

I needed something to distract me, a way to exercise my creative muscles in a different way than usual. So instead of working on catching up my writing tasks (I'm almost there though) or beating myself up for how abysmally I've failed at accomplishing my goals this quarter, I let myself get sucked into researching Meghan Markle's Coat of Arms, given to her by the Queen of England when Meghan Markle married Prince Harry. I let myself be drawn into the romance of the tradition, the magic of the symbolism. And then I let myself spend some downtime brainstorming how I might create a Coat of Arms for the Undaunted - for you.

I've already named my readers the Undaunted Army, already changed my language from "subscribe" to "enlist," and I've even changed the format of my Patreon account so that subscribers there are now purchasing their Undaunted Army Officer Commission - complete with rank titles, exclusive perks, and even Army-only merchandise.

But I wanted something everyone could get their hands on, even if they don't want to receive email updates, sign up for a monthly subscription to my Patreon, keep in touch through social media, or even fall in love with the characters in my novels. So much of my content is locked behind dollar signs or subscriptions of some kind - but this blog has always been and will always be free to read. I love that I can share my story through my writing here, that I can use my writing gift to hopefully bless others with the tips and strategies that work for me.

I wanted a way for those readers to engage, too - aside from commenting, sharing, and emailing. I wanted merchandise all of my readers can get their hands on, a way for readers who love this blog to help spread the word about it.

And a Coat of Arms? Well, that fits perfectly, both with my love for symbolism, tradition, and familial community, and with the "Army" style branding I've chosen to adopt. The Coat of Arms is symbolic in so many ways, both as a source of history as well as a way of showing pride and community. Traditionally, the Coat of Arms was used by knights and soldiers - literally emblazoned on a fighters shield as a way to identify him. Later, Coats of Arms became a sort of heirloom, passed from a soldier to his oldest son, etc - and the crest atop the Coat of Arms became a sort of family tradition in many cultures.

It fits the Undaunted community so well. So, working together with a friend of mine who has a sharp eye for design and a willingness to tell me how I could improve the idea, I created this:


As mentioned before, the symbolism in a Coat of Arms in general has always been something important to me - long before I ever thought of creating a Coat of Arms for any personal reasons, I loved the romance of so much personal meaning all in one place. So without further ado, here is the breakdown of symbolism behind the Undaunted Army Coat of Arms.


THE COLORS:
Pink is pretty self-explanatory - Pink is part of my general brand, both in my novel-publishing and in my writing here. It is both a nod to my feminine nature and desire to nourish myself, my daughters, and my community, and a general choice simply because pink appeals to me. I chose grey/silver for my brand for several reasons: one, because it looks nice with the pink; and two, because silver and stainless steel are my favorite metals.


THE SHIELD, RIBBON, AND FLOURISHES:
For this, I chose a simply shaped quarter-divided shield because I like things to be simple and clear. However, to reflect my love of things pretty and stylized, I chose to have my simple shield backed with flourishes. These particular flourishes remind me (depending on the mood I'm in when I look at them) of the uncontrolled determination of the wild rise and fall of the ocean and the unbridled power of a fire once it reaches full steam. Occasionally, I see leaves in the flourishes too - for me, a revolving symbol of the way life cycles through phases, dying out in autumn only to feed and create rebirth and new life in spring. Below the shield is the ribbon bearing the word UNDAUNTED, a word which has come to hold great meaning for me personally and one which I hope my community would be proud to embrace.


THE IDENTIFYING SYMBOLS:
  • WHEAT: Proudly atop the shield (in the traditional place of a crested helmet) is the tip of a sheaf of wheat, chosen for several reasons, the most simple of which is this Sandra Kring quote, which has stuck like a blade in my mind ever since the very first time I encountered it: "Be like the single blade of grass, for she too, has been trampled on, mowed down, and hit with such bitterly cold stretches that she had to shut down to survive. Yet still, she stands upright with dignity, knowing that she endures, and still she dances with the wind." This quote made me cry when I first read it, and I've carried it close to my heart ever since because it acknowledges strength and resilience despite incredible odds - and a field of wheat (which is a grass) is like the Undaunted community, often growing strong and standing tall despite storm, famine, pestilence, and even predator. I also like that wheat is a symbol of resurrection and rebirth, in that as it dies and releases seed from the grains, new wheat is given life. In the Bible, John 12:24 (NIV) quotes Jesus saying, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." In this quote, he was predicting his own death and the birth of the Christian church as it is today. But in reference to the Undaunted Army, the symbolism speaks to the benefit and necessity of sharing our stories as survivors of life's challenges. For it is in having the courage to share our stories of struggle and survival, often "dying" emotionally of shame and ostracism in the process, that we give life to new strength and hope in others. Another quote that bears mentioning here is a wisdom on potential from Vincent Van Gogh, who said, "If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning."
  • BOW & ARROW: Traditionally, a bow used in heraldry is a symbol of readiness for battle - and a bow together with an arrow is a symbol of war and power. Both meanings are fitting for those in the Undaunted Community (particularly the proud members of the Undaunted Army) because as survivors of abuse, addiction, assault, and other forms of traumatic experience, we are warriors in our own rights, powerful and steadfast enough to have survived our challenges - perhaps a little damaged, but standing strong all the same.
  • EAGLE: The phoenix is a symbol of resurrection - a bird that rises from its own ashes to become something newer, stronger, better. In the absence of a suitable phoenix image, I chose a strong and well-respected counterpart: the eagle. Eagles are a symbol of power, strength, and alertness, and in America (Because I'm American) the bald eagle is a symbol of freedom and longevity. In a nod to my maternal Native American ancestry, I'll also mention here that in many Native American traditions, the Eagle was also representative of leadership and vision, both of which I hope to embody and inspire in my readers.
  • LEFT ARMORED FIST/HAND: In heraldry, the arm or armored hand both symbolize leadership, and conjoined right hands symbolize unity and alliance. I like the symbolism of of this in general, especially when applied to what I hope the Undaunted Army will grow to become - but I chose instead a left hand specifically because I am left-handed.
  • QUILL: I wanted something to represent my writing, as it is the way I speak most effectively and the gift I hope to use to support my family in time. Writing in general has been therapeutic for me in countless ways, the first of which was actually birthed by the writing of others. As a reader, I have always loved the power of the written word, and now as a writer, I hope with all my heart to use my own writing in ways that will empower others. Choosing the quill over other possible symbols was my way of giving a nod to the heraldic meaning behind feathers in general, which represent serenity - a valued quality much striven for among the mental health community in general and the Undaunted Army more specifically.

THE BADGE:
Front and center on the shield of the Undaunted Army Coat of Arms is a simple silver badge bearing a fleur de lis, the common stylized lily created of three petals bound together. Lilies are my favorite flowers (the calla lily, specifically), but I love the fleur de lis specifically for several reasons. One, it's a simple representation of my why, with the three petals representing myself and both of my daughters, bound together by blood and familial loyalty. More symbolically, it could stand for the Holy Trinity, the center of my Christian faith, and a specific credit given to God; in this representation, the binding cord represents the Virgin Mary, of Mother of Jesus, chosen by the Father, endowed with the Spirit. Beyond religious purposes, the personal meaning of the fleur de lis is deepened by the concept of the individual petals as being representative of faith, wisdom, and chivalry - all qualities I hold dear as the seeds of hope, honor, and integrity. My specific choice of the French style over others (the Italian style with included stamens, for example) reflects back on my longtime love of France and the French culture and language.



STAY TUNED FOR more information to come about my plans for usage of the Undaunted Army Coat of Arms both in merchandise and in ways to grow activity among the Undaunted community; in the meantime, find out how you can proudly sport your own Undaunted Coat of Arms here.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Cresting The Wave, Part II: Not-So-Hidden Meaning


When Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, I (like millions of others) took an interest in the wedding. Many Americans, myself included, are charmed by the pomp and circumstance, by the magic of such strong tradition, and the romance of an average regular girl meeting and marrying a real live Prince.

The web was exploding with articles about the wedding - about the dress, the jewels, the Queen's approval, the obligations and responsibilities of the rest of the royal family. There was speculation about which children would serve what roles in the wedding, how Meghan Markle's life would change once she became Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex, how well she got on with the Queen, and what rules she should follow (or had already broken) as a brand new member of the British royal family.

I watched footage of the wedding several times, marveled over the simplistic elegance of her dress, the impossible length of her veil, and the utter adorability of the page boys who carried it. I read about the symbolism of the embroidered design along the veil's edge. I listened to the vows. My heart fluttered. I saw the tiara up close, read about its history. It was all so romantic.

But then HRH the Duchess of Sussex was given her royal coat of arms, complete with more personal symbolism and meaning. And I've always loved the meanings behind those sorts of things ...

A royal coat of arms must be approved by the Queen, and in England the use of coats of arms is still quite regulated. But in many places around the world, families, businesses, and other groups have long adopted the tradition of creating and using their own coat of arms.

Like I said, this has been something I've loved and been fascinated by for some time - which is probably why, when Meghan Markle was gifted with her royal coat of arms, I was like, "Wait a minute ..."

I started reading up on the symbolism of her coat of arms, loving the way the symbols represented Meghan, her status, her personality, and even her childhood home. From the colors to the imagery to the style, the coat of arms is unique to Meghan, her interests, and her message.

And the more I thought about how cool that was, the more I wanted one for us. For myself, for my readers, my community. Something to represent us as a gathering of survivors, a family of supporters with the commonalities of courage, compassion, and composure on our sides. It doesn't matter if we're survivors of abuse, victors over rape and assault, recovering from addiction, or struggling with other traumas. It doesn't matter if you're "over it" or if you're still trying to "let it go" or if you're still somewhere in between. What matters is that because you have hurt, you can understand the hurt of others. Because you have suffered, your heart opens to those still suffering.

I wanted a way we could share that, a way we could speak on it even if we haven't yet found the voice required to speak out loud. I wanted something that would make sure we knew each other if we saw each other in a store, on the street, in line at the coffee shop, bookstore, or post office.

So, I started designing - and I came up with something amazing, which I'm revealing just a little hint of here:


There have also been hints dropped here and here - and if you know where to look, you may even have seen the entire crest already - but in the next post, I'll be unveiling the unblurred version of my Undaunted Army Coat of Arms. I'll also explain the symbolism behind each included detail (even the one tiny detail most people will never even notice), show off the Undaunted Army Flag, and even share where and how you can sport the UA Coat of Arms yourself!

Also, a reminder for those interested: there are only a few days left to get in on this quarter's giveaway! Next quarter's raffle promises to be even more exciting, so make sure you're checking the giveaways page regularly. (Hint: Ever played Capture the Flag?)


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cresting The Wave, Part I: Becoming Undaunted

When I first started this blog as a way to share my writing and grow my platform as an author, I had no idea that it would grow into something so meaningful to me. I didn't know that almost six years later, I would have the kind of following here that allows me to make a small blogging income. I didn't know that the following would become a community of friends, people who take the time to comment now and then or email me to tell me how this blog impacts their strength and confidence.

I was just sharing my journey as an author, and as my life changed, so did this blog. It became, more and more insistently, a lifestyle blog - no longer focused solely on my writing but focused much more inclusively on my life in general. Here, I cover topics related to my mental health and how I cope with the challenges of living life with complex post traumatic stress disorder I share the coping mechanisms and strategies that help me, not only to create a record I can look back on at will, but maybe to gift those same strategies to someone who hadn't found them yet, to inspire someone else to keep trying because they feel less alone.


Over time, it became something of a movement, not only in the community of readers who come here to keep up with my content or buy my books to learn and love with my characters, but also in me. It's a movement toward independence from a life that felt (and sometimes still feels) oppressive. A movement toward strength I didn't have before, toward respect as a person that I hadn't yet learned to demand. A movement toward the right to set my own boundaries and the peace to accept myself as I am, even as I strive to keep growing. It became a record my daughters can look back on to know their mother more intimately, a story in motion, a drama still unfolding.

Over the years, the story of my life has seen several major plot twists, survived a good number of tough storms, and surfed the foam-crested waves of more chaos than I ever believed I could handle - both internal and otherwise. And the one thing that almost always remained the same was the number of people in my life at various times who encouraged me by promising that I was strong enough, that I could handle it. I've had people tell me they envied my fearlessness - and I've had people reject me because they were so intimidated by it.

Even though it doesn't exist.

I mean, I'm a girl with multiple anxiety disorders ... I'm clearly not fearless. But because I adapt as best I can and I keep shoving myself moment by moment through my challenges until they pass, people are sometimes mislead to think I have something special ... but I don't.

Or do I?

A few years ago, I read the Divergent series, and I fell in love with a girl who didn't fit in. She wasn't inherently this and she wasn't inherently that either. She was a chameleon, willing and able to fit in most places, and yet somehow unable to fit in anywhere. She was different enough to be threatening. Different enough to be seen as someone who could rock the boat, could wreck the plan, could change everything in a way that couldn't possibly be good.

I fell in love with a boy who was the same kind of different, who met the girl and knew her for what she was, who took her under his wing and helped her find a way. Who stood beside her, who stood up for her, who backed her even when he didn't like or understand what she was doing - because he loved her.

They were Divergent, but while they could have been or become anything in their society, they were Dauntless. They were unafraid even when they were terrified, were risk-takers even when they craved safety, were wild despite their secret need for calm. They faced battles, wars, brutal selections, unforgiving competition ... but they stood undaunted despite everything.

Dauntless.

It really stuck with me. It became a part of me, of who I wanted to become as a woman, who I wanted to raise my daughters to be. It became an aspect of what I saw when I looked at my mother, who has survived incredible odds and remarkably continues to do so. It became what I saw when I looked at my Grandmother, more and more so as I learned more of her personal story.

But while I love the concept of the Dauntless, I didn't want the direct association - I wanted to let that seed grow into something inherently my own, something I could harvest in my own right, something I could celebrate and feel proud of. It became Undaunted - that thing I want so much to be, that image I want so much to present to the world, that strength I want so much to instill in my children.

Undaunted became the desire of my heart, not only for myself and my family, but for the community I'm building here, for the people who look to me for ideas or guidance or inspiration or just solidarity.

Undaunted.

It became the strength and resilience upon which I build my brand as I accepted and embraced my detour into lifestyle and mental health blogging. And since then, it has become so much more.

Big news is on the way ... stay tuned.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Accepting What Is, Part IV


It's hard to plan a future when everything is always so uncertain. The girls and I have our move coming, but we don't know when we'll float to the top of the waiting list for the apartments we want. We know what we want our home to feel like once we've moved, what we want it to look like once we've completed the project of starting a new home from scratch, and we even know how we want the process to look. But not knowing when anything is going to happen throws a real wrench in the works mental health-wise, and with things as they currently are, the girls are I are in pretty constant states of anxiousness. So much around us is uncertain, not only in our health, well-being, and finances, but also in our various personal environments.

We're always careful now, the three of us, always nervous. Sometimes I wonder if that'll ever fade away, if I'll ever watch my girls laugh again without seeing uncertainty in their eyes because they're afraid of being too loud, too high-pitched, too enthusiastic. I wonder if Eden's stutter will fade away when she doesn't have to fight so hard to be heard, if her depression will ease when isn't plagued by the pain of feeling unwelcome. I wonder if she'll ever go back to being a kid who isn't afraid of breaking down emotionally if she's too sick physically to attend therapy. If Joey will let go of her own shame in time to heal the wounds on her heart before they have greater impact on her life. I wonder if her heart problems will ever get better (or if they will get worse). I wonder if we'll ever know why she's struggling to swallow certain foods, why she's plagued with constant fatigue, peripheral numbness, headaches, and joint pain.

I wonder what news I'll get regarding my own health - mentally, things are about the same. I struggle all the time despite the additions of therapy and medication, but it's hard to say how much of that is permanent and how much will ease in coming months or years of treatment and change. Some of it is situational, sure, and can be accredited to worry and grief over my mother's chronic illness and the impact of raising two children with chronic health problems as a single parent. But there's more too. There's my own chronic pain, chronic exhaustion (we've gone well beyond fatigue at this point), headaches, and troublesome changes in my feet, skin, eyes, and even joints.

I am in equal parts excited and terrified to be meeting with a neurosurgeon later this month. Excited because this is a chance to have answers ... but I am in equal parts terrified that I will be told I am right and that I will be told I am wrong. If I'm on the wrong track with my suspicions, then I will have no answers, only more questions - and this will bring me no closer to effective treatment for my various ailments. But if I'm right, even in a small way? That could have life-long repercussion for me and my daughters. If I'm all the way correct, then Team Kennedy is in for the challenge of our lives, and I just hope we're strong enough after all that we've survived to come out standing tall on the other side.

I have hope that it will all work out, that when the dust of what was has settled and the flames of what I had believed to be true have finished burning out, something newer and stronger and unbelievably healthy will rise from the ashes. If I have nothing else, I have always clung to relentless hope - and I will teach my daughters by the example of continuing to do so.

But in the meantime, as we navigate some pretty hard times ahead, I know I'm going to be struggling. I know my daughters will likely become even more emotionally needy, that my mother will become increasingly ill. And that unfortunately, the stress (of my current life sitting firmly atop the trauma of my life up until this point) will continue to have crushing impact on my mental and physical health.

I'll still be writing here, because it's therapy and it keeps me accountable to myself as I build a life and a name I hope my daughters will someday be proud of. I'll still be writing novels, because I adore them and I love the way writing stories allows me to explore my own hopes and dreams. I'll still be posting and sharing bonus content on Patreon, not only because I love it there and am so grateful for the people who support me, but because maintaining that account keeps me accountable writing-wise. I'll still be hoping it all grows into a lucrative income with which I can build a legacy, not only for my daughters but for other women like me and families like mine.

But right now? As I walk moment by moment through times that are already hard and only getting harder? I'm holding onto possibility and hope and progress and baby steps, but I'm also accepting what is. I'm processing shame and pain and humiliation and sadness and heartache. I'm working actively to heal trauma and remake a brain that has been scarred by too much for too long. And that takes time. It's hard. It's exhausting. It's painful. And most days, it takes literally everything I have to give, then asks for more.

So I'm "coming out" as disabled ... not only because I have already shared so much of my personal story here and hope that continuing to share will inspire others ... but because I want to be part of the movement toward acceptance, inclusion, and accessibility ... not only for those with visible disabilities, but those with invisible disabilities like mine:

  • for those who have been dismissed because they don't "look" sick ...
  • for those who have been ridiculed because they're "not sick," they're "just lazy" ...
  • for those who have had their illnesses minimized by people who don't understand them ...
  • for those who have been shamed because they can't "let it go" or "get over it" ...
  • for those who have been abused because of their disabilities ...
  • for those who have been blamed for their illnesses ...
  • for those who have been accused of making it up ...

I will take a stand. I will share my story as I experience it, in a way that is open and honest and hopefully somehow helpful to someone else who can relate but hasn't yet found a way to share their own. I will accept what is, even as I struggle to change the life I'm living into the life I'm longing for. And as I stand disabled by multiple invisible illnesses both firmly diagnosed and tentatively suspected, I will remain strong, courageous, kind, encouraging, hopeful ... and undaunted.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Product Review: Monq Portable Essential Oil Diffusers

Aromatherapy has been practiced for so long in various parts of the world that there's really no general consensus  on when or where it started. But even the term "aromatherapy" is old; first credited to French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who coined the term after using lavender oil to heal a burn.

I myself grew up with a mother who loved aromatherapy, albeit without realizing - she had a steady love affair over the years with all types of incense, scented candles, wax burners, and even those little felt circles you'd put essential oils on and then sit it on top of a light bulb to warm. Her love of most things scented passed to me at an early age, which may have been where the felt lamp things came into play - much safer than giving a kid a candle, right? But as I've grown and developed my own scent and scented product preferences, I've found a new way to appreciate the smells I love.

Between scented laundry soaps, scented body washes, perfumes, lotions, and body sprays, you'd think I've got all the smells I could handle. But those are mostly for quick enjoyment, for that moment when you close your eyes and breathe something good deep into your lungs. The scent of coffee, a whiff of cocoa, the spice of herbs, the sweetness of flowers. But aside from those products, I'm also madly in love with wax melts - because they're safer than flamed candles, I never lose the wick in the wax, thy're soot-free, and they come in smells that mimic just about any delicious baked good known to man.

You see, I'm not really a baker - I don't even play one on TV (I wish, though) - but I do love the heavenly scent of freshly baked everything.

And yet, I hadn't really ventured into aromatherapy specifically - and I've never really used actual essential oils in any specific way other than those already mentioned.

I've been curious about oils and aromatherapy for a while though, so ...


I've been looking into various companies that offer various oil blends - some for mood enhancement such as dealing with depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, etc., and others because they offered blends I thought I'd find reassuring or generally pleasant. But the girls and I currently live in a somewhat crowded family home, and part of being crowded means acknowledging and attempting to respect the various preferences, likes, and dislikes of those in the house. Which means that a scent one person might find utterly divine could be completely bothersome to another - not really conducive to the use of melts, candles, and room sprays for the most part, or even diffusers of other varieties.

I looked into rub-on blends and stuff, too, but I know some oils interact funny with some people, and I didn't really feel comfortable enough to go quite that far until I learned more about what I do and do not like to smell and experience.

Personal diffusers like the kinds you can wear (lava beads, felt lockets, etc.) still would have needed me to know what I liked, as well as where to get decent oils, how to store them, how to mix them, and which ones would work well together. And sure, I could have learned a good deal of that just from combining research with trial and error, but oils aren't usually cheap and as a single mom on a limited budget, I'm not really looking to throw away money I don't have. Which is where Monq comes in.

Monq is one of a few companies that have taken an entirely new step in the process to innovate the use of essential oils in a way that makes them easy to understand, quickly accessible, and totally fun to use! Their blends are all 100% organic and vegan, beginning with coconut-derived vegetable glycerin and ending with custom-blended oils sourced from trusted United States companies. And the delivery couldn't be simpler - each blend comes packaged neatly in a sealed tube no bigger than a marker, and once you open the tube, out slides a beautifully crafted, portable stainless steel vaporizer already prefilled and ready to go.

Still, while "vaporizer" is technically the right term (because although these are totally safe to use and completely free of tobacco or nicotine, they do use the same easy technology that makes scented, flavored vape cigarettes so popular), Monq prefers to call their tidy, totally pocketable devices "portable aromatherapy diffusers" both in an effort to break away from the vape/cigarette connection and to openly acknowledge the purpose and benefits of aromatherapy diffusers in general.

Seeing Monq pop up in my Instagram feed was just the encouragement I needed to keep looking into the concept in the first place, and eventually I worked up the courage to offer a review. To my delight, a few simple email exchanges led to my receiving four of Monq's 11 custom blends in the mail - and just in time too, as I've been having a ton of craziness in my personal life and really needed the burst of excitement that came from opening the package and admiring the product firsthand.


The first thing I did was sniff them to test the scents, all of which I liked - some better than others, of course. The second thing I did was call the girls in to sniff them too, partly because I was curious and partly because I knew their responses would be hilarious. These devices aren't meant to be used by anyone under the age of 18 because they are breathed into the mouth and out the nose (no inhaling!), but I didn't see the harm in letting them smell the blends. Here were their opinions of the diffusers I chose to try for this review.

LOVE: notes of cacao, davana, and siam wood
  • Joey said, "Ewww! It smells like cinnamon!" (which made me laugh because while it is one of the "other" ingredients in the blend, it isn't listed among the main three)
  • Eden said, "I don't like it." When I asked her why, she just shrugged and said, "Because it doesn't smell good to me."
OCEAN: notes of eucalyptus, lime, and tangerine
  • Eden said, "Mmm. I've never really smelled the ocean, but this is what I think the ocean would smell like. It's good."
  • Joey didn't actually say anything with this one - instead she closed her eyes, sighed softly, and attempted to walk away with the diffuser still held to her nose. Apparently, Ocean was a winner with both girls.
SLEEPY: notes of chamomile, kava, and lavender
  • Joey said, "Nope, I don't like that one either. Maybe aromatherapy just isn't for me."
  • Eden said, "Blech!! I do not like that! It smells disgusting!" (which was surprising, as I think it smells quite similar to one of my favorite teas, which she loves to drink)
ZEN: notes of frankincense, sweet orange, and ylang ylang
  • Eden smelled this one several times, sighed, and said, "I like this one; it smells sort of like flowers."
  • Joey said, "I don't really like that one either ... it smells like lavender." (No surprise there, as lavender isn't a scent she usually cares for anyway)

With that little bit of amusement out of the way, it was time for me to test the blends myself, taking time to breathe them in and really use them, noting how I felt, what I liked and didn't like, the efficiency of the blends themselves, etc.

I knew right from the get-go that Ocean would be my favorite of the four diffusers Monq sent for me to try. I'm a Tennessee girl through and through, and have been since I was sixteen, but I'll always be a Florida transplant with a soul-deep love of the ocean. The main scent notes are marked on the side of the device, but as they come together with the minor notes in the blend, they retain the eucalyptus tingle while smoothing out the citrus zest. It all comes together beautifully to mimic the sandy, salty tang of an afternoon in the foaming, rolling waves of the beach ... and this transplanted beach babe almost felt like home again. Two to three gentle puffs (careful not to inhale into the lungs) is all it takes to close my eyes, calm, my heart, and gift me with the sort of contented smile I haven't had nearly enough of lately. I can definitely see this blend becoming a staple in my life, especially since I have trouble relaxing to sleep and it wasn't ten minutes after breathing Ocean in that I was ready to head to bed for the evening.

Which leads to Sleepy, which I took upstairs with me when the girls and I shut down for the night. I finished my bedtime routine, cleaned my teeth, washed my face - and then took a minute to soak in the hint of lavender-laced chamomile that somehow almost perfectly mimics several of my favorite green tea blends. A soft sigh, a second puff of calm relaxation. I waited, letting the scented water vapor from the diffuser waft around me, noticing the drop developing in my shoulders, the heaviness weighing my eyes. Now, granted, I had had a very stressful day and it was getting pretty late - I was authentically tired in every sense of the word. But I wasn't all that sleepy because I was worrying. Still the effects of the Ocean from a few hours earlier were still lingering in my scent memory, and when I covered them with Sleepy ... well, I slept that night.

Waking up the next day was hectic; Eden was hyper, I had a ton of stuff to catch up on, I knew there was no way I could do it all in the time I had allowed, and I had a raging headache. The day's demands started rolling in almost as soon as I rolled out of bed, and by the time I stumbled to the kitchen and found my way to the coffee pot, my frustration and sense of overwhelm was already about to boil over. So I walked away from the coffee pot, took a couple of deep breaths, met the demands of the kids and the dog, and realized that that moment was a perfect time to experiment with Zen. With just the right blend of spicy and clean, this blend lives up to the hype with a scent reminiscent of a quiet spa. Coupling this with water sounds and bells or gongs - like I did by using my favorite instant-getaway app - had me in an almost instantly relaxed state. And after a few moments of letting the aroma sink in while the water sounds washed away my frustrations, I was myself again, ready to get the day going with a smile.

Later that day, as I wrapped up my writing and settled in for a much-needed reading session, I opened the Love blend and slipped the diffuser from it's storage tube, taking in the scent as I reveled in the weight of my dog against my leg and the quiet of a relatively empty house. The girls were next door playing with the neighbor's daughter, leaving me free to enjoy the effects of the blend. For me, the scent is similar to what I imagine would happen if a chai tea had a deliciously spicy-sweet baby with a cinnamon-dusted hot chocolate, and as I settled in to read the rest of Confess (by Colleen Hoover), I was amazed to notice that while the blend was somehow both relaxing and uplifting, it also had some amusing impact on me in other ways. Can't say it made me feel particularly in "love," but ... well, let's just say now I'm anxious for the chance to try Monq's Sexy blend!

And I like that for $20, I could try any one of the blends - including active, forest, happy, healthy, love, mountain, ocean, sleepy, sexy, vibrant, and zen! To top that off, there are deals for bigger purchases, blend sets, bonuses, subscription options, and other ways to earn FREE Monq products for yourself or your loved ones.

Oh, and they have a recycling program too, as if they weren't already awesome enough. (There's also an unconditional 30-day money back guarantee.)


So tell me - have you tried aromatherapy before? If so, what are your favorite blends and where do you source the products you love best? If you don't like aromatherapy, why not? Would you like me to review more Monq diffusers or products like them? Let's chat in the comments!

If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.


Note: This post is a partnership with Monq Aromatherapy. The products used in this review were provided to me for free; nonetheless, all thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own. As you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love - but I think my signing up for their rewards program should testify to the honesty of my infatuation.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Accepting What Is, Part III


One of the hardest things about being a trauma survivor is having to live with the repercussions of surviving. It doesn't matter if it's military service, rape, a car accident, or serious health-related trauma like cancer, limb loss ... whatever. The source of the trauma is generally in many ways temporary, even when it's something as lasting as losing a leg.

Think about it. The physical pain recedes as the physical wound heals. The skin closes, reseals, grows back. Scarred, probably, and not quite the same ass before, but it heals. The danger of infection passes with this healing, the possibility of gangrene dissipates. Often, the need for ongoing medication intervention passes. The wound fades into the past, the body adapts and forgets the trauma. But the mind? Oh, boy does the mind remember.

In keeping the same example - the amputated leg - the mind will remember the presence of the leg, the presence of the wound. "Phantom pains" are a thing, pins-and-needles sensations are not uncommon due to nerve damage. And even that is still mostly physical; at least, the sensations are. But mentally, there's a fear left behind that never heals. If the lost limb was due to, say, an accident, then not only is there likely to be increased fear and anxiety in relation to vehicular transportation and safety, but imagine if the person who lost their leg was the driver in an accident where someone else lost their life. Sure, the driver only lost a leg, and physically the damage can be dealt with. But the emotional damage is not something you can put a cast on, inject with lidocaine, or cut away. You're stuck with it, forever.

So if you were beaten as a child (like me), you might always be extra tense in the presence of anyone bigger/taller/stronger than you are. If the people who beat you were people in authority over you, then maybe you were low-key afraid of every teacher you ever encountered and the mere sight of a police car in the lane next to you on the road is all it takes to signal the beginning of a full body sweat complete with trembling hands, chest tightness, and shorter breathing. If any one of the people who abused you suffered from mental illness of any kind, you might live in toxic fear and shame of your own mental illness for much longer than necessary, and then walk around burdened over the guilt and shame of having taken so long to seek help.

If you were molested, or even had someone attempt to molest you, or if you suffered any sort of genital/pubic/reproductive injury, you'll live with certain differences in your sexual drive, preferences, and abilities. This may or may not have significant mental/emotional impact, which may or may not exacerbate the problems, leading to increased anxiety, decreased pleasure and desire, avoidance behaviors, and troubled interpersonal relationships. If the person who molested you or attempted to molest you was someone close to you or someone in authority over you, this increases everything mentioned in the previous paragraph. If you were molested, there is guilt and shame leading to intense self-flagellation: "I should have said no, should have fought them off, should have screamed, shouldn't have been there ..." And even if you did all those things, even if you protected yourself, then you might still live with the guilt and shame of someone else suffering what you avoided.

If you suffered the loss of someone close to you - whether through natural death, health-related incidents, criminal death, war-related death, etc. - then that grief will change you too. If you saw the death but couldn't stop it, that's worse. If you suffer survivor's guilt, that's worse. Even in other attachment-related traumas such as foster care and/or adoption, the emotional issues remain long after the physical aspects of the situation have been resolved. People experiences circumstances such as these often have issues with attachment to others, often have a certain distrust or fear of loss, and frequently avoid close relationships due to the "what-if" anxiety.

If the trauma you experienced was repeated multiple times, such as in cases of child abuse, molestation, or war-related incidents, then all of this is often compounded exponentially, making even basic life tasks exhausting or even impossible.

And yes, there are blessings in it. Because of my hypervigilance, I am more cautious, more watchful. I can't be sneaked up on very easily, which makes it much less amusing for my kids to try and scare me. Because of my experiences, I am more understanding, more compassionate. Because my trauma left me with multiple invisible illnesses, I am less prejudiced against others.

And yes, I do have good days. I have days where I'm mostly functional - I get a bunch of writing done, while the laundry washes and the dishwasher runs, I make phone calls and answer emails, I create to-do lists and check some things off. I play with my kids, get some good sleep, actually enjoy the food I eat.

But there are bad days too. Days when I see that the bathroom needs cleaning, and I'm sad about it and ashamed of my lack of energy ... and yet I can't get myself to do it just now. Days when I force myself to do it because I felt like crap about it yesterday (and the day before?) but couldn't get it done. Days when I have to walk myself through the day moment by moment, and by end I'm so exhausted just from having to mom my kids and people my people that I don't even have the emotional energy to take a shower. Days when I braid my hair because that's easier than washing it.

But I'm trying. Due to my past experiences and the way they still have a very real impact on my present life, I know I have somewhat less to offer than others. I know I get tired easier, that I have less emotional endurance, that I have a frustratingly short memory and attention span, that I sometimes get a little too obsessed over things, that I have trust issues and tend to take things personally.

But knowing these things? Knowing myself the way I do? That's all part of learning how to cope with what I'm made of, how to use the body that I'm living in to the best of my ability, and how to soothe the legitimate, real wounds of the mind that continue to exist even if other people can not see or will not acknowledge them.

If you're following along with this post series, you might be wondering by now where it's going or what's the point. Stick around for the next part of Accepting What Is, where I'll share a bit more of how my past may be gone - and yet the ghost of it still haunts my life in irrefutable, inescapable ways that impact my life and my family every day.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Accepting What Is, Part II: Healing Shame with the Power of Counseling


With my childhood being what it was, and my life since then being what it has been, I have carried the weight of a lot of shame without even realizing it. I knew even as a young child that the food stamps my mother fed my brother and I with were BAD.

It was BAD that my parents were divorced, BAD that my parents got remarried, BAD that their marriages were abusive. It was BAD when my mother lost her health and became disabled, BAD that I was a child with health concerns that were often humiliating and made me the subject of scorn and ridicule both at home and in public.

I was BAD too, because I struggled to cope with being abused so viciously that I was stripped and photographed by the police in the counselor's office at my school when I was in third grade. Because I had it BAD at home. I was BAD because I struggled to cope with the presence of sexual advances I shouldn't have had to live with, BAD because my self-preservation as a second-grader ended up putting someone else in danger. BAD because I was the poor kid, the fat kid, the kid with health problems that were all too visible. I was BAD because I struggled in school - not because I wasn't bright, but because I couldn't focus, because I lived in a state of constant fear and anxiety, because I never knew where "home" would be at the end of the day or when I would have a chance to feel safe again.

I was BAD because my mother suffered crippling health problems worsened by PTSD and other mental illnesses that led her to become increasingly unstable. My uncle told me I was BAD because at fifteen I had a boyfriend and at sixteen I accepted a proposal from him. It was BAD because I was in a committed serious relationship that was sexually active, and I made our family look BAD because other people would think I was a slut. I was BAD because we were poor and somehow it was my fault, BAD because the bills didn't always get paid (even though I was too young to do anything about that, nor should I have had to). BAD because when I was sixteen, my mother, my boyfriend and I were homeless and living in a motel room. BAD because even though I was still struggling to succeed in school and overcome the stigma of what others knew about my health, it was somehow because I was so BAD that we were in such a tough spot.

It kept on from there, and somehow I never managed to get less BAD. I was a BAD girlfriend, a BAD wife. When my first daughter was born with a heart defect and correcting it brought her ADHD to full fruition, I took the next step and became a BAD mother because I chose to medicate her and give her the chance at success that I never had, rather than abuse her in an attempt to spank the ADHD out of her. I was also BAD because I was a stay-home mother for many years, secretly battling the decline of my mental health as I endured a relationship I deeply valued but never quite seemed to live up to because I was BAD at being kinky enough, being fun enough, being ... anything enough.

It took me years to overcome the soul-deep belief that everything I just typed was true. It took me years to overcome the pain of believing that I somehow deserved to be abused, that I deserved to be openly despised as a second grader, that I deserved to be beaten so severely and so frequently as a third grader ... that I deserved to be sent away to a group home as a fourth grader.

And maybe? Maybe I'm not quite over that. Maybe it's all still with me.

Maybe it's why I was so ashamed for so long that I actively denied my need for help and refused to seek counseling. Maybe it's why it took figuring out the right way to kill myself - because I firmly and truly believed that I held no inherent value to anyone and that would never change - to scare me into going to therapy. Maybe it's why even that was borne of shame, because my desire to avoid suicide and my determination to never even attempt to take that step lies only in the direct and personal knowledge of what it feels like to have a parent attempt suicide, rolled together with the rock solid promise that I will never allow my children to feel that pain.

Maybe it's because I wanted so much for my children never to suffer the sense of unmistakable, unescapable BADness that I grew up so convinced of.

And yet, they do. Through their exposure to the coldness of our society, they are shamed for their appearances, for their bodies, for their health problems, for their friendships, for their clothing choices and music preferences. They are ridiculed for the toys they enjoy, for the frequency of their desire - or lack of desire - for physical affection, and even for the utensils they eat with. They are shamed for their circumstances, for their presence, for their age-appropriate and entirely normal reactions to the challenges before them. They are shamed for their fears and desires, for their dreams and their wishes, for their vulnerabilities - and yes, sometimes even for their strengths. And it breaks my heart to watch them learn how to be small in a world that needs their smallness in order to feel bigger and better.

And I? Well, obviously, I am still BAD - because it is, after all, my BADness that brought it all on, my BADness that rendered me unable to pull up my bootstraps and "get over it," my BADness that made me not only deserve the circumstances that were handed to me. And what's worse? The WEAKness that still holds me unable to ever come close to being GOOD enough to deserve even the chance to hope for something different. Because when I strive for better, when I plan and brainstorm and throw myself into the effort to prove ... something ... it is never enough. And when I settle for what I "deserve," then it is a disappointment, a lowering of a standard, a settling. Which is, of course, BAD.

This is why I'm still in therapy, why I'm so thankful for the work my therapist puts into encouraging and empowering and rebuilding me (and my youngest daughter). This is why even as I struggle to make a better way for my girls and I, I am crippled by shame and paralyzed by hopelessness.

This is depression. This is why counseling is such a necessary thing, why mental health awareness is so important, why the stigma and shame of struggling to battle invisible wounds is such a huge problem in our society - and why I'm so grateful for my therapist, who works with me even when I can't show up, who has patiently listened to everything I've been through with a willingness to not only empower me to advocate for something better, but also with the compassionate spirit needed to be able to validate the truth of my story. She made her office a comfort zone for me, a place of security.

But what I love most about the progress we've made in the mental wellness community is that for those unable to find and take advantage of such amazing mental healthcare, sites like BetterHelp are there to allow people an extra measure of comfort and freedom. Right from the relative safety of home, BetterHelp puts people in need directly in touch with personally matched therapists and counselors qualified to empower those suffering from mental illness to change their lives and heal their spirits - bolstered by the encouragement, patience, and compassion required to inspire growth and progress. And well ... it turns out that's the very heart of what it takes to create the courage of the Undaunted.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.


Note: This post is a partnership with BetterHelp.com, in conjunction with my love of their site and content combined with their love of giving people a better, more personalized way of accessing quality mental healthcare. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas expressed in this post are my own - and as you know, I would never recommend any site, service or product I didn't authentically love.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Accepting What Is, Part I


At the end of 2012, I finally finished a full novel for the first time. I had started and abandoned well over fifteen novels by that time, and I was so proud of that one that I cried when I finished it. I told all the people who meant the most to me, and basked under the feeling of accomplishment. I was encouraged by the way the people I loved were proud of what I had done. So I did it again.

My writing got attention from readers, it connected me to new friends in the author community, and it revived my love of blogging as a platform for sharing my journey, my story, and my experiences. It made so much of who I am possible - it gave me confidence and renewed purpose. It lifted depression, helped me find focus in a life I wasn't happy with.

It gave me a way to believe in myself and what I wanted my life to look like, what I wanted for my family, my children, the relationship I was in at the time. I had a vision.

But in some ways, writing that first novel was the first step in a process that tore my world apart. The independence it gave me, the confidence boost I took from that, and time so much writing took away from other things ... changed everything about my life as it was. It changed how my friends and family saw what I was doing, changed how my children felt about the time it took and results it brought, changed how my relationship functioned. It wasn't healthy in the first place, but the changes in me made the deterioration faster.

I tried to hold on. Couldn't.

Eventually, new issues brought old issues back to the surface, and as my depression symptoms deepened, my anxieties worsened, and my mental wellness became something I struggled to cope with in healthy ways, I had to face a hard reality. I was dealing with mental illness, the same kind that filled my mother's mouth with deadly prescription pills when I was fifteen years old. The same kind that forced her to bite me as I fought to dig those pills from her throat.

My daughters look like me. They act like me in so many ways, see so many things the same way I do. We're all different from each other too, of course, but we're so much the same in so many ways.

And no matter what I have survived, what I continue to survive, or how hard I have to battle through every day of my life, I will never make my children feel what I have felt. I will never allow them to feel abandoned by their mother, unwanted by the world, or unworthy of sticking around for.

And yet ... it's there. The darkness that rolls over me, that whispers in my ear, that brings tears to my eyes, that keeps me up at night and exhausts me during the day. Mental illness is real.

Sometimes, it makes it too hard to function. Sometimes I can't think straight, can't feel straight, can't focus. Some days, my hands won't stop trembling and my insides feel like a leaf-covered branch in a stiff wind that won't let up.

Days like that ... days like today ... I love my children all the more, because it is my dedication to them that pulls me out of bed, urges me to open my laptop, forces me into the kitchen. When I dose out their medications, I am reminded to take my own. When I prepare food for them, tasting it as I prep makes sure I eat.

They give me the purpose that allows me to write; they give me a reason to function despite disabling illness.

And they'll be where I get the courage to write the next part of this series.


If you liked this post, related to it in some way, or know someone who needs to see it, make sure you drop a comment below - I would love your feedback as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me get my blog out there, and I love that it brings new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

And speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among the ranks of those who have fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too, and those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. But there is strength in numbers, as as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month.

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army itself are solely built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday Feels: June

It's a little hard to believe it's already time for another Friday Feels - so much has changed in my life in the last few weeks, and yet it sometimes feels like nothing has changed or is ever going to. Time is funny that way isn't it? Always moving so fast while somehow not moving at all.

As you can imagine though, with so much changing that I wasn't ready for, and so much not changing that I wish would, I've been pretty much having all the feels. And with so much going on, my PTSD symptoms have been worsened again, leading to a deeper decompensation. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make several of my goals this quarter, I'm always on the verge of tears, my appetite is small, my lust for coffee is large, and I can't sleep. Sometimes I'm too unfocused to remember my night meds (for blood pressure, anxiety, and depression), and then by the time I'm in bed and I remember, I'm too depressed and exhausted to bother getting back up for them.

It's a fun ride, that's for sure.

So let's see what feelings the random emotion generator I use wants us to talk about this month, shall we?


1. Annoyed:
This month, really the one thing I'm most terribly annoyed by is time itself. I have things in my life that I desperately need to move faster, things I've done everything I can do to shove along, and yet, time drags on. Each day passes into the next with seemingly little progress, and yet I'm treading as hard as I can beneath the surface. Health stuff is taking too long, answers are taking too long, and treatment has too much red tape. Moving stuff is taking too long, everything's going too slow. And yet, I'm buffeted from all sides by people asking, "What's next?" and "What are you doing?" and "When is it decided?" and "What happens now?"

It annoys me that I can't answer any of those questions because so many of the answers depend on answers to other questions which are still as yet unanswered. I'm pushing, and moving, and striving ... but there is so much "wait" - and I have never been much good at that. Because it's annoying.


2. Cautious:
My whole life these days is all about caution - all about remembering the things I can't say, who I can't say them to. Who is safe to be honest with, who is genuine, and who has more than one face/personality. I've made the mistake of trusting the wrong people, believing in the wrong people.

I've made a mistake with letting my guard down, and I've allowed myself to seek refuge in a mirage. What I've learned from that is that life - particularly my life - is a floor covered in eggshells. And to traverse from one side to the other with as little damage as possible, one must remember to be cautious. I am endeavoring now to be much more attentive to the necessity of this.


3. Disappointed:
You know that feeling you get when you put your faith in someone only to find out that they didn't deserve your confidence? When you take them at face value only to find out the face they show the world wasn't the real one? That feeling that washes over you like a tidal wave of spiritual acid when you realize that you've set someone in your mind and heart as a mentor, only to have them systematically dismantle every shred of respect you had for them? The sick, nauseated feeling that sinks into the pit of your stomach when you invest yourself in uplifting someone else - only to have them turn to tear you down?

Yeah. That's disappointment. I've definitely been feeling my fair share of that.


4. Elated:
Despite everything that's happening, I'm still excited about the upcoming move for the girls and I. As slow as everything is going, I remind myself constantly that it is going forward bit by bit, piece by piece. The move is coming, and while there is still so much in question, some things are already decided. My girls and I have been making plans, I've been brainstorming ideas, and as things begin to come together for this, I'm finding myself more and more excited to see it all unfold despite those working to sabotage the effort. My faith is growing stronger through all of it as I watch God work, and I've been reminding myself constantly of several favorite scriptures:

  • Romans 8:31 NIV ... What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Isaiah 54:17 NKJV ... No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgement you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord.
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV ... Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
The last few years of my life have been a journey in so many ways - I'm excited that through all of it, so much progress has been made in every area of my life. The move, while nerve-wracking for so many reasons, is just another proof of God's protection and faithfulness.



5. Fearful:
I've talked here a few times about the way I love to share my daughters' birth stories with them. They know about the days leading up to their births, what I was feeling, who I talked to, even what I ate. They know how much I anticipated them, how much I wanted them, what I thought about how they looked and how earnestly I watched over them as their health issues began to unfold.

I don't know that many details about my own birth, and that's coming back to bite me right now - there are questions I can't answer, questions for which I've had to do my own research and find my own answers. In the coming months, I'll see if I'm right or I'm totally on the wrong track. If I'm right, I'll explore the various options set before me - and if I'm wrong, I'll explore those options too.

When I have answers, I'll share them here ... but in the meantime I can't decide which is scarier or more frustrating: I am afraid I'm right, afraid of what that probably will mean for my health and wellness in the future. I am afraid of what being right could mean for the health and wellness of my children. But I think I'm just as afraid of being wrong - because then I'm still left with so many questions unanswered.


6. Grateful:
As my life has changed in recent years, certain things have gotten harder even as others got easier. I lost connection with friends who meant a lot to me, family members I had longed for closeness with. Lost a romantic relationship I was done with but not quite ready to let go of.

And in the absence of so much toxicity, space opened up in my life. Space which has been filled over the last year or so with new friends, people who step up to be encouraging, who are right there to answer a question or help solve a problem. And every day I'm grateful for the encouragement and support of these people, because they give me the strength to keep pushing when all I want to do is crawl in a corner and quit. These people mean the world to me - and as much as I try to tell them, I can never seem to find the right words. Nonetheless, I'm grateful.


7. Indecisive:
With everything changing so much in my life, there's honestly a great deal of indecision. On so many different issues and challenges, I'm facing a "which-door-do-I-open" sort of situation ... and sometimes I know that I'm not going to like what's behind any of the doors, so I'm just making the best educated choices I can make with the options currently available to me.

The real challenge here is finding the confidence to trust my own judgement despite those in my life who are ableist, judgmental, opinionated, and often outright rude without truly taking the time (or mustering the compassion) to really understand the enormity of the doors I'm choosing between.


8. Jealous:
Such a petty emotion, jealousy. Isn't it? It's a thing that destroys friendships, families. It's a thing that births bullying and feeds crime. It's the root of competition - "I want what you have." I try not to allow myself to feel too much jealousy; it really is an unhealthy emotion to indulge in.

But I'm only human, and I feel jealousy just the same as any other human. Writers with closer support networks make me jealous, because while I do have some support, I still largely lack the proud inner network of supporters many other writers take for granted. I am jealous of happy couples, people who are in healthy partnership with someone they know they can count on, someone to take up the slack for them, someone to cut them a break. I am jealous of people who get promotions and other forms of positive feedback. I am jealous of the rich, because while I don't really crave wealth in any specific way, what I crave is to have enough. I envy those who do have enough and still aren't satisfied.


9. Offended:
I think this month what I've been most offended by is actually pretty similar to what had me feeling so irate last month. I've mentioned here how much I despise double standards and the people who live by them, but what really upsets me about people like that is when they judge and condemn others in the name of Christianity. Faith is such a personal thing, I don't actually like to mention it here all that often other than in passing - but my faith is incredibly important to me and I deeply value my relationship with God.

So it pisses me right off when someone is walking around making other people feel small in the name of Jesus. He would never have done that.

But I guess the plus side of this is that it's inspired a great lesson for me to teach my daughters. I use our life and the situations we find ourselves in pretty often to illustrate certain life lessons to my kids, and one of the lessons I've been teaching them most diligently in recent years is that in every action of their lives, they're making a choice as Christians. I've taught them that in every moment, they can either draw people in to God - or they can shove them away.

It hurts my heart to know that people I once saw as beautiful examples of God on Earth have become people I now fear, people who have left my spirit wounded ... people who shoved me away so far from God that I began to wonder if I would ever find my way back.

Yes, it offends me.


10. Peaceful:
Despite it all, I'm peaceful in general. The one thing each moment guarantees - whether it's a good one or a bad one - is that it will pass. Nothing lasts forever. And there is always, always the safety of this.


So tell me, what have you been feeling this Friday - and why are you feeling it? More importantly, what are you learning from the way your experiences make you feel, and what are you planning to do with those lessons?


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