Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Interplay of Ableism and Invisible Disability, Part II

In my last post, I talked a little about ableism and how it impacts those in (or on the outskirts of) the disabled community. In this one, I'd like to go deeper into what ableism really is, using real-life examples and explanations about how ableistic thoughts and practices can actually be harmful by discouraging and disempowering people struggling to cope with chronic illnesses. So without further ado:


What Is Ableism?
Ableism is telling someone that they could "get better" if they just did (or didn't do) XYZ. Telling someone they wouldn't be sick if they stopped eating meat or if they started getting out more is not only emotionally harmful to someone already struggling with symptoms they didn't want and may not be coping well with, but following advice like that could actually end up being physically harmful or causing unintended setbacks. Example: a person with mental illness who is frequently told that their illness is "all in their head" (which is a pseudo-kind way of suggesting that the illness is made up) and that they would feel better if they would get out more. Which is bad advice because: this person with mental illness might not get out much because going out is actually a high-stress event for them. Maybe they stay in a lot because that's actually what makes them feel better. Invalidating their experience because it doesn't align with yours is not okay. Not to mention, suggesting that someone would be "better" that simply is like:
  • suggesting that they choose to be ill, which is ignorant, or
  • implying that they somehow deserve to be ill, which is cruel.

With my own illnesses, one of the issues is that I have chronic back pain that often makes it hard to walk long distances, sit or stand for long periods of time, or do a lot of strenuous lifting, bending, stooping, twisting, etc. I have issues with weakness and cramping in my back muscles, and while I know that working out, losing some weight, and being more careful of my posture might be helpful, I also know that working out usually entails lifting, bending stooping, twisting, and high impact movements that are often unbearably painful for me, if not in that moment then for days afterward. And I don't mean that kind of hurts-real-good pain that you get after a solid workout session - I mean the kind of oh-God-why-can't-I-just-die pain that leaves you unable to sit, stand, or lay down comfortably, rendering you unable to rest, heal, or cope well with daily life. My activities are limited by my chronic spinal issues, and those limitations have an impact on my weight that can't be denied - but also can't be as easily changed for me as it might be for some others. Even something as simple as postural work is often painful and likely to be ineffective for me, as no amount of muscular work or postural awareness will change the actual shape of my incorrectly formed vertebrae.

But I've been living with increasingly worsening pain and other neurological symptoms for most of my life, so I've learned to cope in the best ways I could find. Still, not having a diagnosis all that time doesn't negate the fact that the illness has been there, lying quietly in the background, steering the course of my life. I only recently learned the real name of the "tumor" I was born with, only recently got confirmation of the major complications that have been wreaking havoc with my body during the 34 years I've been blessed to walk this planet. But no, there is no magic diet, no exercise program, no quick and easy way to "fix" me so that I can be "better." The only options for adequate treatment involve multiple incredibly risky surgical procedures that could leave me even worse off than I am now - or could work temporarily only to need repeat procedures.

You can't see my illnesses, but they are real.

Ableism is expecting someone to be able to perform "normally" despite them literally not having the ability to perform in that way. This often sets a precedent that has compounding damaging effects. Example #1: a person who can walk, but generally prefers to use a wheelchair due to limited tolerance and ability, who is told that if they tried harder or practiced more or didn't depend on or "settle for" using their wheelchair, then maybe they could get out of it sooner - or at all. Which is bad advice because: wheelchair users who can walk but choose to use a wheelchair often do it in order to preserve limited energy resources, minimize pain flares, prevent loss of standing/walking balance, or protect weakened or deteriorated joints, bones, and soft tissues. In general wheelchair users aren't doing it for fun, and they aren't doing it out of laziness because they "don't want to walk." 

Example #2: a person who uses medication to maintain control over an illness such as depression, adhd, diabetes, etc., who is informed that they should stop poisoning themselves with chemicals, that depression is something they could choose their way out of, that adhd could be better treated with more solid discipline, and that diabetes would go away if Little Debbie ran out of business. Which is bad advice because: sometimes depression is actually caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that can only be corrected by the use of medication. Sometimes these imbalances are biological, other times they might be triggered by reactions to situational distress. Either way, depression is not a choice, it is an illness - and it deserves effective care and treatment, just like broken legs, gunshot wounds, and bacterial infections. Further, ADHD is not something that can be cured with time-outs and spankings. You can't parent your way out of it, and pretending it isn't there or isn't real only sets children who have it up for failure later in life. The same applies to illnesses like diabetes - whatever the cause, the illness must not be invalidated and the treatment options must not be ignored.

In my own experience, parenting children with invisible but completely real illnesses like ADHD (among others), I've been accused of choosing to "drug" my children rather than "parent" them. I've endured judgment and rude comments from people who don't have ADHD, who don't have kids with ADHD. People who probably don't know that ADHD is actually visible in brain scans, people who don't understand the way ADHD and the variously effective medication options work to improve the lives of children and families impacted by it. People who don't understand that asking an ADHDer (or a person who suffers from chronic anxiety) to "chill out" is close to the same thing as asking a depressed person to "cheer up" or a lung cancer patient to "breathe better." And maybe in some cases they can - in theory - but in actual practice, it's usually a lot harder for that person to do than it is for you to demand.

Ableism devalues the experiences of the people around us, cheating them of the benefits of compassionate, understanding companionship.

If you know someone who struggles with something, don't try to relate to them by minimizing what they're dealing with. Someone who is remarkably thin because of their illness is not flattered when others say things like, "Gosh, I wish I could have what you have so I could eat whatever I want without gaining weight!" Someone in a wheelchair doesn't want you to tell them how cool you think their chair is because "it must be nice to get to sit down all day." People living in chronic debilitating pain are not impressed by the patronizing sympathies of someone suffering from an occasional sinus headache.


Please remember that we don't have to compete in order to relate to each other. We don't have to outdo each other in order to understand each other. And we can't reassure our friends and loved ones by minimizing their struggles or implying that they aren't already doing everything they feel able to do in order to "fix it."

We may not always see someone else trying - but that doesn't mean they aren't.


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd 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 connect with new readers and bring 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!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and 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. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, July 28, 2018

The Interplay of Ableism and Invisible Disability, Part I


Disability - Visible VS Invisible
My mother is a disabled woman. She has been disabled since I was a child, through various events that left her psychologically scarred and physically maimed. I was in elementary school when she developed a blot clot, which was making its way up to her brain when it fortunately got lodged in her left shoulder.

She didn't die of a stroke, but the clot cut off circulation to her left arm, and she ended up losing several fingers; the tissues were starved of blood. She had to go home in the care of a severely abusive husband, and watch her fingers turn black with rot. She's told me a thousand times how horrible it smelled, how terrifying it was to wait, watching, to see how far back the tissues were damaged. For her, it has been all downhill from there, with heart attacks and other vascular issues that compounded each other and impacted every other aspect of her physical health. And between a horrifyingly abusive marriage, the trauma of her health circumstances, and having to deal with life as a disabled single mother with two children who had chronic health and behavioral issues of their own ... Well.

My mother may be disabled - and I've said more times than anyone could count that I lacked a great mother figure growing up - but my mother is also a hero. A warrior. It's true that she wasn't the best mom and she wasn't always there for me the way I needed her to be, and she still has lots of issues that make her ... well, a handful, to put it mildly. But she was doing the best she could at the time with what she knew at the time - and while I didn't recognize that then, I know it now because I'm doing the best I can with what I know as I raise my own children. My mother's strength is how I became who I am. Her example of determination and resilience is how I learned to survive. And her openness with so much of her story and what she's been through is how I learned to keep pushing forward. Because she has always done that, and because she still continues to do so.

And as much as I might hate to admit it sometimes (especially when I take my cocktail of medications that looks more and more like hers), my mother and I have a lot in common - beyond the honor of a strong spirit and a willingness to keep trying. We both have complicated physical health issues, complicated mental health issues, complicated lives filled with challenges we didn't necessarily want or ask for, and the trauma of multiple abusive relationships we might not have chosen if we had known better.

Yeah. My mother and I have a lot in common.

But with all that being said, we do have one major difference, which changes everything when it comes to living and coping with disabilities. My mother's disabilities are visible - she's missing several fingers. One arm is smaller, shriveled, atrophied. She's weak and frail and unsteady. And for all the fire in her spirit, the declining flame of her lifetime is undeniable.

Me? Well, my issues are largely invisible - which leads me to the topic of this series: coping with ableism (and yes, even when it's internalized) when your disabilities aren't visible enough to satisfy society.

I've already written here about accepting limited or lost abilities, and in the last few years, I've been on a pretty tough journey of living that lesson. When I wrote about my journey to PTSD diagnosis, I was still dealing with the shock of realizing I had something much more serious than just a couple of quirks and some perfectly acceptable depression/anxiety issues. Realizing I had PTSD was a game-changer for me ... it changed how I looked at myself in some ways. On one hand it increased the burden of shame I live with due to the circumstances of my life and what I've experienced, but on the other hand, it gave me more compassion for my own journey.

Perhaps most importantly, it also broke something inside me that I've been trying to put back together in a way that can be helpful to others.

Realizing that I had PTSD meant realizing that I have a mental illness that will never go away. It can be lived with, it can be coped with, it can be mitigated - and medicated. But it cannot be cured; it will never be finished. It will never be something I can "get over." I can't "let it go" and "put it behind me." It follows me through every day, lays beside me all night long. And I didn't ask for it. I never would have chosen to have chronic issues sleeping because sometimes I can't let my guard down enough to relax. I never would have chosen nightmares and flashbacks. I never would have chosen hypervigilance. I didn't ask for it - it was given to me when I was a child who didn't have the option or the knowledge to escape it.

But it led so much of the rest of my life. It led my relationship choices, led my parenting choices. It impacted my ability to set healthy boundaries, to stand up for myself, to advocate for my needs. And what's worse, my mental health often stood in the way of my ability to make necessary progress toward watching out for and bettering my physical health.

Some of that was anxiety, some of it was the lack of motivation inherent to the depression that rules so much of my life. But the rest? The majority reason I didn't seek treatment sooner? That's easy. Ableism.


Ableism & The Invalidation of Invisible Disability
I know, it's kind of a ridiculous term ... but the concept behind it is solid. Our society might have been built on brotherhood and a willingness to look out for each other, but the spirit of that is not nearly as healthy these days, a fact to which I can personally attest.

My disabilities are invisible for the most part. You can't look at me walking through Walmart and see my anxiety, because I've been living with it for well over 20 years now and I've gotten good at hiding the way my hands shake and my stomach hurts and my head throbs and I'm counting down the seconds until I'll be at home. You can't see my depression because I've learned how to cry on the inside - or at least hold it off until I'm alone in the car. You can't see the arthritis in my ankle, can't see the chronic back pain. You can't see the atrophied kidney, the gallstones, or the weakness and loss of mobility in one of my legs. You can't see the deformities in my feet or how they impact my ability to get around well. You can't see hip pain, joint stiffness, fatigue. You can't see my neurological issues.

And because you can't see those things, it's easy to assume they aren't there, that they aren't impacting my life and my ability to cope well on a daily basis. It's easy to assume that if I was more active, I'd have less issues - which might be true in that my weight probably does exacerbate some of my symptoms, but no amount of weight loss is going to reverse the disabling neurological damage of the issues I've been dealing with all my life, and no exercise program is going to erase thirty years of inferior medical care for issues that I wasn't even told were driving my health into the ground.

But that doesn't mean they aren't there. And my having less ability to perform doesn't (or shouldn't) negate the effort I put in or the way that effort impacts my moods and energy levels. My illnesses and the symptoms they create are not all in my head. They aren't invented or made up. They're invisible for the most part - but they're no less real. And they're no less serious. My illnesses aren't always visible, but my symptoms have never been caused by laziness - and my lessened abilities do not equate to a lack of desire to contribute something valuable to the world around me. And while my physical health can be mitigated in some ways, as can my mental health, the problem is the way they work together with each issue complicating the others.

I have PTSD. It's not just a bad day, a bad mood, or the need for an attitude adjustment. The presence of PTSD in my life is not due to an unwillingness to look on the bright side, and the depression I live with isn't because I choose to lay in the dark and feel sorry for myself. The same goes for my physical health issues; while they're probably worsened due to ignorance and lack of proper care, they aren't caused by anything I could help - because they mostly stem from a life-long birth defect that has no cure, often has serious complications, and almost always requires ongoing surgical intervention. Most importantly, while I have learned to camouflage and mitigate my disabilities as much as possible (which has sometimes led to people not even knowing I was dealing them) over the years, this doesn't erase them or invalidate them - they're still there, playing off each other.

Sometimes I can't do the things I want to do or can't accomplish the goals I set for myself. Sometimes that's because I'm in pain or I'm overwhelmed with doctor's appointments or I'm so fatigued I can't barely think straight or my legs aren't working well that day or I'm dealing with kidney pain or ... the list goes on. But regardless of the cause of the limitation, the result is the same - it's always a blow to my mental health, a source of discouragement, a dark cloud hanging over my head. So I mope, I isolate, I lose motivation, ruminate. It exhausts me - so I sleep more, cry more, move less, and decompensate. Which means my already stiff and painful joints get worse, my fatigue gets worse, my back gets worse ... and the cycle goes on. Which is where the effect of ableism comes in.

The problem is, there's not a way to "push through" disability. While it's true that inactivity due to dips in my mental health causes worsening of my physical health symptoms (or vice versa), it's also true that as much as I wish it could work the other way, it doesn't. Check it out:
  • USUALLY TRUE: A low mental health day leads to discouragement and lack of motivation. Which leads to inactivity, which worsens physical symptoms. Which is discouraging, demotivating, and exhausting, which leads to a cycle of worsening symptoms.
  • NOT USUALLY TRUE: A good mental health day leads to excitement and energy, which leads to increased activity and a sense of accomplishment, which leads to even more energy and satisfaction, which makes me feel better and better and better until I'm healed.
  • USUALLY TRUE: A low physical health day might mean I want to do things but can't. I want to clean stuff, organize stuff, go places, socialize, etc - but I'm already so tired after an hour out of bed, or in too much pain to accomplish much. Which is a discouraging hit to my mental health, either because I'm already beating myself up for what I can't do, or because I'm facing comments and criticisms from people who might not know how much I'm struggling. Which starts the whole cycle over again, zeroing out my energy and motivation. Which, of course, circles back again to the physical health.
  • NOT USUALLY TRUE: A good physical health day leads to a sense of ability and accomplishment; I can do the things I want to do without my body getting in the way, which feels great and is a major emotional boost. My mental health gets a good day too, which leads to even more great physical health, which keeps boosting my mental heath. Which in turn keeps me motivated to keep improving my physical health more and more and more until I'm healed.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, where I'll talk more about how ableism impacts people living with chronic illness (especially invisible illness) - and I'll also share how you can make sure you're not accidentally insulting or discouraging the people in your life with behaviors you might not realize are coming off as unintentionally ableist or otherwise hurtful.


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd 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 connect with new readers and bring 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!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and 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. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, July 25, 2018

The Soundtrack of the Undaunted


Over the years, I've mentioned my love of music countless times and for various reasons. I've shared songs that empower me, songs that uplift me. I've shared my favorite mom music, both in regard to my own mother and in regard to my being a mother myself.

More importantly, I've shared my love of music because music is one of my favorite and most effective coping mechanisms in dealing with the effects of PTSD-induced depression and anxiety. I wear a bluetooth device all day every day; I keep it connected to my phone, and while it's handy to have for use with phone calls and YouTube-watching, what I really use it for most often is coping with my symptoms.

I have days when I'm so depressed I can hardly motivate myself to move, and it's only the knowledge that my children and dog need care and attention that keeps me going. There are days when, if it weren't for their needs, I probably wouldn't get out of bed. Days when, if it weren't for my effort to lead them by the best possible example I can manage, I might not bother to eat or shower or step outside in the sunlight.

I have days when I'm so anxious my hands shake all day long, and my skin crawls with the itchy stickiness that covers me just before a full sweat kicks in. Days when I can't concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time, no matter how much I want to accomplish or how long my to-do list is, because I'm physically exhausted from not being able to sleep, emotionally exhausted by depression and anxiety, or simply in too much pain to be able to sit still and focus.

I have days when my legs don't work all that well, days when parts of my feet and legs have little to no sensation. Days when my head is pounding, my stomach is burning, and my back has me constantly on the verge of tears.

I have rage days. Days when I'm so pissed off at the world I can barely think straight - days when I'm angry at having had to survive my childhood without being given a chance to really thrive, angry because I have health issues that could have been dealt with sooner if I had been properly informed about my health history as a child. Days when I'm pissed at my parents for being what they were, days when I'm pissed at my kids for not behaving, days when I'm pissed at myself for being so pissed.

The one constant in my life (other than doctor's appointments, car trouble, and my love of writing) is the way music always helps.

When I'm angry, when I'm hurt, when I'm sad. When I'm feel scared or lonely or in pain or exhausted or happy or excited or just feeling like I need a boost ...

Music helps me.

So I thought maybe some of my favorite music might be helpful for you, too. Which is why I think you should look through my "Soundtrack of the Undaunted" playlist on YouTube - you just might find your next favorite song.


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd 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 connect with new readers and bring 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!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and 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. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Vulnerability In Balance

In the last few posts (Beautiful Vulnerability, The Usefulness of Vulnerability), I've been talking quite a lot about vulnerability - not only because in my own journey I've come to see it as a strength and not a weakness, but also because I'd like to keep my blog as open and honest as possible. I would have given anything when I was younger to have a resource like this, a person like me who was willing to share their suffering so that I knew I wasn't isolated in mine. A person who shared real-world strategies that might be helpful to me. A person who stood up against stigma and empowered me to advocate for myself.

I've shared about my childhood here, and while there are still things I've left out, I've tried hard to be honest and open about my experiences. I've tried to be as fair as possible, even to the people responsible for guiding my experiences with abuse and other forms of trauma - both for the better and for the worse.

I'm not sharing my story in order to hurt anyone who is, or has been, part of it - I'm sharing it because when I talk about what it was like to be beaten and battered, I hope it gives encouragement to someone else. You don't have to surrender to statistics. It might be harder, but you can overcome.

I'm not sharing to shame, either - I'm sharing to empower. I want so much for this site to be a place of encouragement and empowerment. I don't know your experience (although you're welcome to share with me at any time, in whichever way is most comfortable for you), but do I know there's a reason we teach our kids there's strength in numbers: because there is. Sometimes pain doesn't hurt as bad if there's companionship - and the darkness is never as dark with two candles lit as it is with just one.

I suppose there's truth in "misery loves company" too, but I don't think it's because hurt people want to hurt people. It's just because humans are made to be communal creatures - we crave similarity, solidarity, a sense of belonging and community. Even in pain, we want to know we aren't alone.

So I share. But I share in a balance that works for me - and because that balance hasn't been easy to come by, I'd like to share some of the factors that play into what creates the right balance for me.


Weakness VS Strength
Vulnerability is about more than neediness, and it's more than being weak enough to need too - because need is there, whether we admit to it or not. We need companionship, respect, love, acceptance, community, and keeping those needs quietly hidden away doesn't remove them from existence. What's more, hiding from those needs, especially when they're not being met, can lead to several devastating consequences.

Refusal to be vulnerable is often due to fear of intimacy and a desire to avoid looking weak, but ignoring the signs and being too "strong" to share a "weakness" with like-minded others can only eventually lead to isolation. And while we may be perfectly happy - for a time - to pretend we enjoy or actually prefer to be alone, this is rarely truly the case.

But personally, I don't think anyone hiding from vulnerability is doing it from strength; I believe true strength is in having the power of self to know, understand, and admit to our wants and needs - and not only in the silence of our private thoughts, either. True strength is found in knowing who we are, as well as in our willingness to share our weakness with others in an effort to spread encouragement.


Openness VS Oversharing
Oversharing. It's a term we use all the time - most usually when we don't like someone else's level of comfort with openness. We use "oversharing" as a way to describe the activities of food sharers on Instagram, baby-obsessed new parents on Facebook, the ignorant and sometimes offensive one-liners of would-be comedians on Twitter.

"We don't need to see every picture of the baby," we grumble. "I don't care what you ate for lunch!" we grouch. "I don't know why that guy/girl thinks they need to put every thought in their head out on the internet," we gripe.

The thing is, that "overshare" we might be so annoyed/irritated/threatened by ... might be just enough openness for the other party. Maybe they like sharing their food photos because it keeps them accountable as they adjust to dietary restrictions they may not be entirely happy with. Maybe they share all those descriptions of their new baby's every poop and cough and sneeze and giggle because they're insecure as new parents and looking for feedback from their community. Maybe they put their thoughts out into the world through the miracle of the internet because they want to be heard, or they feel like they have something valuable to share, or because, like me, they hope their openness will empower others as they journey through lives that aren't always easy.


Courage VS Anxiety
(fear of risk, shame, rejection, etc.)
There's a certain courage required in order to nurture the ability to be openly vulnerable. Even in sharing on a platform like this one - blogging for the open, uncontrolled public - there is risk. I could be too open about my politics, alienating readers of opposing viewpoints in such a way that could overshadow the common ground we share as humans doing the best we can to live the lives we want. I could be too open about religion, alienating people who are angry at God, people who don't believe in God, people who have a low image of Christians in general ... you get the point. There is risk in vulnerability, especially vulnerability of such a public type as this.

There is risk of rejection. I risk being trolled, being attacked in comments, in messages, in emails. In person. I risk my own safety in some ways, by building a platform open to anyone and everyone. I risk finding - or creating - enemies with my openness. And I face the shame of sharing my own story, not only publicly admitting but also publicly embracing the status of my childhood experiences, my mental health, my chronic physical health issues, and how those issues have impacted my life.

This, incidentally, is also why this blog has had such a transformation over the years. I started it as a way to grow my platform and promote my writing ... but it became a place of safety in which I chose to grow myself and promote the tips and strategies that help me cope with my illnesses. Yes, I do of course still want to promote my writing - but there's also a lot more to me than books, and I hope that by sharing my non-fiction story, I can help someone else find the courage to speak out about theirs.

This almost didn't happen though ... I dealt with a ton of anxiety over the transition of this blog. Would I lose readers? Would I lose friends? Would I be strong enough to keep sharing my story, even as I'm still enduring it? The sense of vulnerability is sometimes terrifying - and yet I love it all the same. And I have loved not only the way this blog allowed me to share my story despite my fear of opening up, but also the way my ability to share openly has grown and blossomed due to the amazing, supportive encouragement of my readers here.


Avoidance VS Acceptance
But despite everything I've said so far, the true root of vulnerability lies in letting go of avoidance and learning to accept who we really are - beyond the image we want others to see, beyond even the person we want to become.

Emotions can be scary. Needs can be scary. And admitting that we have difficult emotions due to unmet needs can be downright terrifying. Our brains are created to recognize and figure out problems - to form solutions and solve puzzles. So once we admit to our feelings, our brains start trying to figure it out. Why do we feel that way? And if the emotion we're feeling is a negative one, then what can we do about changing it?

Step one: acceptance. Recognize and accept how you're feeling. Recognize and accept why you're feeling that way. Seek the part of the situation or circumstance that's your fault, that's on you - and get honest with yourself about what you want to do about it. Can you fix it? Change it? Heal it? Or if not, how will you endure it? How will you put it behind you? How will it impact who you are in the meantime, and how will it impact who you're going to be in the future?

Hard questions, I know. But asking yourself those questions - and having the courage to answer them honestly, the openness to answer them publicly, and the strength to accept what those answers mean as you traverse your journey through this life - is the first step to achieving a level of comfort with vulnerability that's absolutely essential in order to harness ...


The Power of Intimacy
Achieving true intimacy through success in vulnerability is what makes us feel understood, what gives us community. It's why we feel safe among friends and loved ones. It's the source of our sense of belief that if we share our authentic selves, we will be loved and accepted - as we are. And while many of us crave this intimacy almost desperately, it is our fear of appearing weak in vulnerability that holds us back, not only as individuals but also as a society.

And it is only in choosing to combat our fear of open vulnerability that we find the intimacy of companionship. And it's through the richness of that intimacy that we empower ourselves - and those around us - to become, and stay, undaunted.


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd 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 connect with new readers and bring 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!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and 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. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, July 19, 2018

The Usefulness Of Vulnerability


In my last post, I talked a little about the importance of accepting - and maybe even embracing - our vulnerability as humans. I talked about fear, and how often we tend to be afraid of being vulnerable. Afraid of being hurt, afraid of admitting it when we are hurt. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of being embarrassed. Afraid of shame. Sometimes we're even afraid of our own fear.

And while I did share some about how fearful I often am due to the chronic anxiety tied to my PTSD, what I didn't necessarily point out is that my ability to accept and embrace the status of my health (both mental and physical) is still entirely new to me.

I have lived most of my life with a certain sense of rage and anger, some of it specifically related to mental illness and those who suffer from it. I am a child abuse survivor - and one of my most damaging abusers was a bipolar patient who would often go off their medications long enough to have complete psychotic breaks. This person was in and out of mental hospitals often - and their many attacks on me have left me with psychological marks I'm not sure will ever heal. Not only because I struggle to trust anyone with my own children, but because admitting and accepting my own mental health condition was incredibly painful for me.

I grieved the lack of total wellness. I grieved the inability to "get over it," the shadows of the past that still loom over me constantly. The little things that trigger emotional flashbacks and poisonous inner monologues, the echoes in my mind of a person who should have made me feel safe but instead made me a personal target when I was a child.

My experiences with mental illness through growing up with my mother haven't been easy either, and the stigma of mental illness and instability was so ingrained that I actually ended up writing books about PTSD long before I actively realized I had it. Accepting my own mental illness was a struggle for me.

Recognizing and embracing the vulnerability in my physical health hasn't been easy either: I've been overweight since I was a teenager, and if I had a dollar for every time someone told me a health complaint was weight-related, I'd be able to out-cash every bazillionaire on the planet.
  • "Seasonal allergies? Oh, that'll clear right up if you lose some weight!"
  • "Broken bone? Tell me, dear, what sorts of things do you regularly eat for breakfast?"
  • "Headaches? Back pain? Well duh! If you weren't so heavy you wouldn't have to deal with that!"
And honestly, while some of that may have a kernel of truth in it, I can literally remember sitting in an exam room, going through a file folder full of records tracking what I ate, what I drank, what exercise I was doing - I had been carefully monitoring everything for months in a desperate effort to lose some weight, and I was there to beg for help. And the doctor dismissed everything I said, treated me as if I was lying, and suggested that I try some kind of TV dinner diet system.

Nope.

I stopped going to doctors. If I thought I was dying, I hit the ER, and once walk-in minute clinics started popping up, I'd go to those sometimes. But I left having a primary care doctor behind, because I hadn't had one in years who really wanted to help me or took the time to listen to me. I had completely lost faith in the medical profession - which led me into a lot of self-education. If I had an illness I tried to figure it out myself, tried to figure out how I could help myself. I learned some alternative methods, accepted some unconventional ideas and practices. And for the most part, that worked for me.

For the most part.

So when my mental health got to a point where it could no longer be ignored, where I could no longer pretend to be fine, and I was beginning to see every day as a struggle less and less worth stepping up for ... I broke down. I gave in. I went to therapy.

I got vulnerable.

I shared my story - and I was heard. I showed my wounds - and they were validated. For the first time in my life, I learned to shed shame-free tears. And I know I'll never be cured; PTSD doesn't go away. But I'm learning to cope, learning to mitigate, learning to live around my barriers.

And I'm learning to love my vulnerability.

Embracing my vulnerability and stepping up for myself in therapy was surprisingly empowering - and in time, it gave me the courage to try again. It took several months, but I found a doctor. I kept my appointment. And I hated her.

But I made another appointment in the same office, specifically requesting that I be given to someone who might be a better fit for me - and I found a diamond. I now have a primary care doctor who has seen me cry, who has heard me completely. She's listened to my ailments, investigated the booboos, and treated my vulnerability with compassion. More importantly, she has answered my vulnerability with respect for the strength it takes for most people to show their weaknesses in such a way. She not only listens to my list of ailments and symptoms, but she believes me; she believes I'm telling the truth, she believes my concerns are real.

Because my willingness to be vulnerable with my therapist gave me courage, and my primary care doctor answered that courage with respect, I was eventually able to ask for a referral to a specialist I knew I was long overdue for. I was able to articulate what I needed - and why. Then, once I felt that my relationship was established with that specialist, I was able to explain my other suspicions about my health in a free and comfortable way. I was vulnerable all over again, in a much more frightening, much more significant way - and he made sure I was heard. He made sure that again, I was believed.

He guided me along the next step in my pursuit of better, more solidly monitored health. He helped me find the answers I had been so desperately wanting but too discouraged to ask for for so long.

It's entirely possible that my willingness to embrace vulnerability will extend my lifetime, improve my prognosis, and restore lost quality of living. At the very least, it has opened doors to treatment I didn't even know I needed.


Since this post is getting so long, I'm gonna cut us off for now - but first, I'd like to leave you with a challenge. Think about the role vulnerability has played in your life. Think about where your vulnerability might be lacking balance. And then come back in a couple of days to learn more about how you can balance the vulnerability in your life ...

... as you move along your journey to become - and stay - Undaunted.


If you liked this post? Drop a comment below - I'd 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 connect with new readers and bring 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!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and 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. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Beautiful Vulnerability


You guys know how I love blogs, books, music, movies, and all sorts of motivational content - especially podcasts, and especially motivational personal development podcasts. One of my favorites is the Your Kickass Life podcast, which I've been listening through for ages now. Sometimes I go through bursts, where it seems like I've heard so many episodes all at once that I'll never forget the sound of Andrea Owen's cheerful voice and totally realistic way of putting herself out there for her listeners Other times, I'll take a break to process whatever I've learned, or I'll hear something so profound that I just have to turn it off and let it sink in.

Oftentimes, I'll write down my favorite quotes for later inspiration, affirmation, or material from which to grow my own content - and here's one of my current favorites:

"A lot of times, I believe that we view vulnerability as black or white ... either we get completely naked on the first date, or we don't date at all." -- Andrea Owen

I've talked about something very close to this idea before - certainly not in those words, but in similar ways. I've mentioned it in friendships, in relationships. And yes, I've talked about it several times here, in various posts exploring how much I hate it when people see the things I've lived through and survived, or the challenges I'm still facing every day, and they label me "fearless."

I am not fearless. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which means my life is an exercise in being at high alert at all times. When I walk through parking lots, I'm examining the people and the cars around me. When I walk down a hallway, I'm watching behind me almost as carefully as I watch in front of me. I don't sit with my back to doors or windows for the most part. I'm on such high alert all the time that I hardly even have a scare reflex anymore - my family has made a game over the years of trying to sneak up on me, because it's a huge accomplishment for them if I don't feel them coming. Hypervigilance is my life, a constant state of being on guard, being watchful - being anxious.

I am not fearless.

I think sometimes people just see me that way because I keep going as much as possible - even my guts are burning with fear, when my muscles are weak and tired from trembling, when my heart is racing and my head is aching. I'm still trying to move forward, even if it's just baby steps, even when it's just a little at a time. I accept defeat sometimes, and I have accepted the disability rendered by my stack of chronic health issues - I've even accepted outright failure more times than I care to count. But none of those things means the same as "giving up."

I'm not fearless. Courageous, maybe, but really only in the sense that I am willing to be vulnerable. I'm willing to say I've been weak, that I've been fooled, that I've been homeless, that I've been sick, that I've lost, that I've been rejected, that I've been battered and bruised, attacked and embattled.

Because without me - and others like me - being willing to stand up and say, "Yes, I've been there, I've endured that, and I survived," then how can we expect it to mean anything when we say, "You'll be alright, you're strong, don't let this get you down."

Even then, accepting vulnerability in others isn't nearly as difficult as accepting - or even learning to take pride in - the vulnerability in ourselves.

It's not easy to admit weakness, to admit hurt, to admit struggle. It's hard. It's embarrassing. It's painful. But in a lot of ways, it's also healing ... when it's in balance.

Check back in a couple of days to see how I keep my vulnerability at just the right balance for me - and some of the ways you can learn to get yours in balance, too.


If you liked this post? Drop a comment below - I'd 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 connect with new readers and bring 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!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and 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. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, July 13, 2018

Friday Feels: July


Man, life gets crazy sometimes huh? I've had so much going on in my life in the last few months, I'm honestly starting to feel a little like I'm in a pit of quicksand.

I told my therapist, and her being her typical spectacular self, her response was to remind me that I've got a rope, tied to a strong oak. I told her I was tired - tired of fighting, tired of struggling, tired of always expecting the other shoe to drop and always being right about there being another shoe. She told me to hold on, and the conversation really did make me think of the way a trapped person would battle to escape quicksand, a little at a time - with such small movements it might feel like there's no hope of ever accomplishing the goal.

It put me in mind of a song I've been wholeheartedly loving lately (Casting Crowns, "Just Be Held"), which in turned took the symbolism of the various challenges in my life as quicksand to a new level. The conversation reminded me to keep a hopeful hold on the rope of my faith in possibility and the idea that consistent effort pays off. It reminded me to keep my eye on the oak my hope is tied to - the God who created me, who knew this day would come, who has already worked out the plan for tomorrow.

In turn, the encouragement gave me the strength to keep trying, to keep thinking, keep planning. To keep making the small, nearly invisible movements that WILL work out, even if I'm tired. To keep working my way up, to keep trying to pull myself free.

But there's also a time to rest. A time to be held, as the song says, which is part of why I so love my Friday Feels blog series - because it gives me space to see my feelings honestly, to process them with courage even when they're terrifying, to learn new, better ways to cope with them. And yes, it gives me space to pray.

With all that said, let's get right into it. I can't wait to see what my favorite random emotion generator pulls out of the hat for us this month ...


1. Accepting:
Living with PTSD and the impact of chronic depression and anxiety has been hard over the years - and as those invisible illnesses become visible in lack of sleep, elevated blood pressures, GERD, and other chronic pain, I've been on a journey in the last several years of accepting that my health is not what I would want. My body is not what I would want.

I'm 34 years old, and I am crippled by chronic pain and debilitating PTSD symptoms. There's so much I want to do ... that I can't do, either because I don't have the emotional energy or because my body simply won't comply. Some days, even sitting upright to write is a constant struggle.

Now that I know more about why my health is the way it is ... now that I know more about why I've suffered through some of the things that have so traumatized me over the years ... now that I have a name for my chronic pain, for my IBS, for my weakened right leg, my ugly, increasingly deformed right foot ... now that I have a better understanding of what's probably the cause of my unusual headaches ... now that I can see a little more clearly into my future healthwise ...

I am accepting "disabled" as a label. I am living with multiple illnesses, all of which complicate my life in so many ways I sometimes struggle just to explain it. I'm still giving everything I have to my life, to my writing, to my family, to my goals ... but I'm also learning to accept that I don't always have as much to give as I wish I did.


2. Enthusiastic:
In our society, we're in a place where we don't know whether to shun labels or to collect them. We don't want to be labeled as anything we might feel is bad (labels like retarded, for example), and yet we adorn ourselves so proudly with other labels (such as bisexual or transgender). It's easy to get mixed up in that too ... trying to put a label on something can sometimes cheapen it in some ways.

But when it comes to labeling a health problem, especially one that has been for so long hiding under the surface of ignorance and misinformation ... it changes everything. I have a diagnosis now, but I still don't know the extent of the damage done by the lack of ongoing treatment. I still don't know what will need to be done in order to treat my issues and improve my health and quality of life.

I have four MRIs coming up next week, and while there's a part of me that's downright petrified of the process and the implications of all the scary possibilities, I'm also completely ecstatic to be moving forward in answering so many long-unanswered questions. I'm excited to be taking these steps ... and I intend to take them with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.


3. Hopeless:
I got some really discouraging news recently - it threw me off my game for a minute, sent me straight to my therapist's office. I needed coaching, I needed a place to vent, to cry, to unload my fears and unleash my injuries. I needed to be safe for a while so I that I could open myself up to feeling stuck and scared and hopeless. I needed that moment when I broke down, when the words that have been rattling around in my mind for too long finally slipped over the end of my tongue.

And I needed the kindness and the honesty and the intensity of the encouragement that followed that moment.


4. Optimistic:
Optimism is why I went to my therapist in the moment that I was struggling. I wanted to go home and crawl into bed and just disengage. I wanted to just ... stop trying so hard. So I called, made an appointment, mustered my courage, and went to work through it.

There's something about that sense of validation, something about the patience of sitting in a quiet room with someone patient enough to just let me feel and experience from my own perspective, in my own way. Not to tell me that I'm always right or that I'm perfect or that I know everything, but just to see me for who I am and believe in my experience as real and valuable and true. Not to nod or applaud or anything like that ... just to be accepting and encouraging.

Going to my therapist helped me give myself permission to feel what I felt in that moment, to admit it and see it and call it what it was. And climbing that barrier? It helped me look back at all the other ones I've made it over. It gave me the strength to finish the day.


5. Powerless:
There's a lot in my life that feels beyond my control right now, a lot of things I'm waiting for - not because I'm holding back or because I'm intending to slow the process, but simply because change takes time and sometimes it doesn't go at the pace we want.

I know I've said it already, but it bears repeating here: I hate that there's so much I want to do, so much I'm ready to accept and take on, so much I'm ready to change and embrace ... and yet, so many areas of my life are currently marked with a big, huge, red-inked, immovable, "WAIT."


6. Strong:
Through everything I've been juggling this year in general and this summer so far specifically, I've found a new admiration for what my mother has suffered through during the years of her life. I've found a new inspiration in her strength, and new strength of my own.

She is an abuse survivor - so am I. She is a person with chronic illness - so am I. She is familiar with struggle, with hunger, with heartbreak, with homelessness - and so am I.

But she is strong - impossibly strong, undeniably resilient. She's flawed and broken and damaged ... but in her will to survive anyway, she's everything Undaunted is supposed to mean.

And so am I.


7. Terrified:
With so much going on in so many areas of my life, there's a lot up in the air - and the lack of control is terrifying for me. I can't fix what's outside of my control, and I can't change things that are out of my hands. But some things in my life ... well, they're urgent.

I know I compared things to quicksand earlier, but when I'm exploring fear and terror in my life lately, I can best describe it this way: my life feels like a bomb, a new kind of bomb I've never encountered before. And I'm supposed to defuse it, but I don't know how because it's new, and I don't know how much time I have to do it before it blows. There's no timer, just a fuse that shortens at varying levels and unpredictable speeds.

But if it blows because I failed to figure it out? Yeah, that's terrifying.


8. Torn:
Earlier this month, my aunt lost her battle with renal cancer; the final decline coincided with a major break that had my mother in the hospital for several days for the third time this summer.

I missed my aunt's funeral; it broke my heart to know that I had the opportunity to go, but I couldn't because I was afraid to be that far from my mom while she was in the state she was in. I couldn't go to Florida while my mom was in a hospital bed in Tennessee.

I know I made the right choice. I know I did what my aunt would have wanted me to do. I know she would have understood.

But I wish I could have seen her face one last time, even if she wasn't behind it anymore.


9. Warm:
This has been a hard year in a lot of ways, but it has also been rich with growth and inspiration. One of my best friendships has grown and developed into something I never would have expected or hoped for (love you, Lauren!!), another has been an outright blessing from God (thanks for being amazing, Amanda!), and the steady dependability of another has given me comfort despite so much change (always so thankful for you, Dana!!).

I'm grateful every day for the people who have come into my life in a loving way, and even more grateful for those who have been able to love me despite my flaws. These are the people who give me strength and will and endurance. They are the source of my determination to keep trying, the fount of my ability to believe in myself, and the confirmation of my faith in the good in this world.

And really, what's warmer than that?


10. Worried:
Well, y'all know me well enough by now, don't ya? If you've been following this blog for very long, you'll know how much I worry. And the wild thing about my life as it is is that I don't tend to worry about useless or insignificant things very often. I worry about real things that are coming into play, things that are confirmed, not just suspected:
  • My mother's health is failing. Her major organ systems are all in trouble, her balance is shot, her cognition is suffering. Death has been a long journey for her, with health problems, psychological issues, traumatic experiences, and good old-fashioned struggle all coming into play. She's been close to death since the blood clot that nearly killed her when I was a child ... but now? Now she's frail, fragile, broken, misshapen. Weak. I know we don't have much longer with her - and I worry about how to handle it when it's time. How does one lose their mother? And more importantly, how do I coach my children through it?
  • My health is complicated by a serious lifelong illness, and though I didn't know the name of it until just recently, I've been living with it since birth. It has been slowly getting worse, slowly causing more damage - some of which is specifically because since I didn't know what it was, I wasn't able to make sure it was treated properly. And I worry because at least one surgical correction is most certainly in my future. I don't know how soon it will have to be or how long I'll be able to put it off ... but in the meantime, I'm still a single mom with two kids. How do I take care of them if I'm in the hospital? How do I care for them when I go home? How will I support them during that time, when even sitting up to write literally might not be possible?
  • My oldest daughter is currently undergoing the long process of seeking diagnosis for her own chronic, come-and-go illness. This could take years to figure out - but in the meantime, her lack of a specific name for her illness doesn't negate the reality of her symptoms. She's doing alright with it ... but me? Well, I'm her mother. I worry.
  • My youngest has complicated health issues of her own, many of which aren't remarkably serious - but there are just. So. Many. Issues. I worry about how to juggle them all, how to best mitigate her symptoms, how to help her learn to vocalize and advocate for herself when she's struggling, how to teach her the importance of not internalizing everything. So, I worry.
  • On top of those things, there are other real issues like the problems with my car, typical single-mom concerns, the move I'm still working on, the stressors of regular daily life. And yeah, I worry.


And that's it - Friday Feel for July. It's funny how 3 and 4 were opposites, and then 5 and 6 were opposites too, huh? Like a little back-and-forth - what a fun way to challenge myself to counter my initial reactions to some of the things I've been dealing with lately! It's interesting to see the ways in which my family's current health developments featured here, too.

So tell me, have you been dealing with similar feelings this summer? If so, what's got you feeling that way? Let's chat in the comments!


If you liked this post? Drop a comment below - I'd 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 connect with new readers and bring 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!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and 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. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are 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, July 10, 2018

UPDATE: The 10 Apps That Keep Me Sane in 2018


Back in 2016 I wrote this post, outlining the ten mobile applications that were pretty much keeping me sane at the time. Several were writing and productivity related, but others were entertainment apps I used either as a coping mechanism or as a way to veg out and escape reality for a while. Several of the apps I chose to list in that post are no longer installed on my devices (or at least, not used as frequently), so I thought now would be a great time to update my list with my more recent loves.

But first, a breakdown of the old list:
  • Jorte: I've deleted this because I switched to Google, which was easier to sync not only with my various devices but also with my colleagues in the writing community when needed.
  • Microsoft OneNote: I still use this but only sporadically.
  • Microsoft Word: I don't use this as much in the mobile form - but Word is still my preferred program for writing.
  • Facebook: I obviously still use this, but not nearly as much.
  • Slacker Radio: This one is definitely still one of my life savers! It has its quirks, but I love it anyway.
  • YouTube: Another app that stands the test of time with me - I'm still watching YouTube almost on the daily, and in fact, it has become basically my only TV source.
  • HULU/WWE: I don't use either of these anymore. With less time available and less motivation to spend time watching TV in general, I no longer needed either application.
  • Clue: I still use this app regularly to track my feminine cycles, not only because it's a healthy habit to have but also because I have PMDD and tracking my cycle accurately helps me more adequately recognize and manage my symptoms.
  • Chrome: I still use this constantly for everything, of course. In fact, I'm using the Chrome browser right now and have multiple tabs up on all of my devices.
  • JetPack JoyRide: Meh. I still have this, and sometimes I play it ... but not usually.
Which brings us the new list of 10 apps I'm using most often lately:


Chrome:
This is the default browser on every device I use - and since I use the internet for planning, blogging, and researching, plus I use it for blog-reading, managing our library account, and general browsing ... well, I'm sure you see why this app is right at the top of my list.


Facebook Messenger:
I use this app daily as well, to keep up with my writing friends, my real-life friends, my family members, etc. Since I spend so much time shuttling from one appointment to another, my social life sometimes feels a little dry - Messenger helps me stay in touch with my people.


Google Calendar:
When I left Jorte behind, it wasn't because I didn't like Jorte. Actually, I loved how cute it was with stickers and stuff like that - it met my "digital planner" needs perfectly in that way. But since I wasn't ready to shell out hard-earned money to get full access to the features I wanted, I left the pretty-ness of Jorte behind in favor of the functionality of Google Calendar. It may not be quite as pretty or as customizable, but I can color-code, I can sync, and I can allow other people to view or even add to my calendars as needed.


Slacker Radio:
This is another app I use daily. My musical interests vary with my mood, my circumstances, who I'm hanging out with, how I'm feeling, and what's playing, so I love that with Slacker, there's a bit of everything I might be in the mood for. Music is a huge deal for me because it helps me block out background noise when I'm trying to write, helps me calm anxiety when I'm struggling, lifts me up when I'm depressed, and gives me an outlet when I'm dealing with anger or frustration. I'm not sure I'd be coping nearly as well if I didn't have music in my ear all the time.


Habits:
Setting up and using this app has been a great way to take my quarterly goals and turn them into daily targets I can shoot for without getting overwhelmed by everything I'm trying to accomplish. It has also been a great way to help me remember to take my medications (or remember if I've already taken them), track my intermittent fasting schedule, keep up with my reading goals, remind myself to spend time in the Bible, and keep up with other recurring daily goals. Without this app, I wouldn't be nearly as functional as I am.


Habitica:
Just like using Habits to track and encourage my own routines, Habitica has been an invaluable resource for tracking Eden's routines and behaviors, as well as inspiring her to try harder and make more of an effort in taking charge of her own issues. Habitica gamifies habit-tracking in a really fun way that makes it easy for her to relate to as a child of the tech generation, but it also uses old-school tracking methods gone digital as a way to keep her motivated.

With Habitica, accomplished tasks and behaviors (which are completely customizable) are awarded with experience points that help you level up, as well as gold, the game's main currency. Negative behaviors and daily tasks not accomplished result in a hit to your avatar's health level - which you don't want, because if you lose all your health, your avatar "dies," which means you lose a level AND all of your current gold stash. Gold can be used to purchase upgrades for your avatar, but is mainly used to purchase real-life rewards (also fully customizable).

What I really love about this app is that it gives Eden more control of her world - she's learning that while some behaviors (such as not obeying, wandering during meals, and not cleaning up after herself)  may not necessarily have immediate consequences, they still impact her life in real ways - costing her time in earning the rewards she wants. She helped choose the rewards we use on her Habitica account, and also has a say in what tasks and habits are listed on the app, which has also helped to keep her motivated to try.

Seriously. If you have kids and you aren't using this app ... you're missing out. (Oh, and adults can use it, too - I've actually been thinking of switching to this myself, just for fun. The only reason I haven't yet is because the app isn't equipped for multiple users yet.)


Google Keep:
Google Keep is one of my favorite apps even though I still haven't really gotten the hang of making it work for me as well as it could. I actually have a couple of different Google accounts signed in on my devices, and I love that this app allows me to keep track of so many different things. It's like having my own personal bulletin board on the go - I keep shopping lists, goal lists, writing and blog ideas, quotes I loved, and sometimes even phone numbers I need to keep track of but don't necessarily want to add to my contacts.

I would like to get it a little better organized, though.


(YouVersion) Bible:
This is my favorite Bible app and has been for years - I love that there are loads of free devotional plans I can get in on, depending on where my life is and what my walk with God is looking like at any given time. I also like that if I sign onto a devotional plan but it isn't working for me, I can totally drop it and choose another at any time. I can speed up the plans by reading extra, back it up if I've missed a day or two - or I can ignore the plans altogether and just use the app for good old-fashioned Bible reading.


OverDrive/Kindle:
These are the apps I use for my non-Bible reading - OverDrive is a great way for me to utilize my local library to access and read the books I want without having the actual clutter of actual books. I also like that I don't need to keep track of due dates and late fees either; when my books are due back, they just disappear from my device. I also use OverDrive to check out audiobooks for when I know I'm going to be doing a lot of driving, or for when I want to read but am simply too lazy to actually do it.

I check out digital library books for my kids all the time too, which is simple because I can check them out, send them to my Amazon account, deliver them to my my kids' Kindles, and then add the titles to their FreeTime settings. This is a great way of making sure they always have something new and interesting to read - without wasting money buying them books they may not actually end up enjoying. Obviously, we also have a good number of purchased books on our Kindles, and we're always excited to add more!


YouTube:
This is my go-to for TV these days - I don't spend a lot of time watching actual TV so we don't have any subscription services anymore. But I follow several channels on YouTube and even Eden has her own YouTube favorite. This is great because we can watch things on demand, we get to choose the content we're taking in, and by watching the creators we love, we're helping to support them too.


So that's it - these are the ten apps I'm currently using the most in order to keep my life organized and put together. If you've used and loved any of the same apps, let me know in the comments - and if you know of an app that might be helpful for my family, be sure to tell me that too!


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