From Powerless to Unafraid: How I Battle My Demons

I choose these 13 photos for my show for a reason. They represent me on a primal level. They represent my journey from feeling powerless to finally being free and unafraid. And they each represent who I am, as an artist.
Preface: Everybody’s mental health journey is unique. None worth less than another. And the journey I am going to write about – these steps, they probably won’t look like yours. Like, at all. And that’s OK.
Or, the phases and cycles I went through, may be in a completely different order for you. And that is also OK.
The important thing to remember, is empathy. We all have our own demons to battle. None worth less than another.
If you take just one thing from my story, my mental health journey, remember to trust the process. Even when you don’t want to. You got this. However that looks. The light will always wait for you.
  1. Powerless yet Powerful
    1. Location: Near Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon
    2. Song: Achilles Come Down by Gang of Youths
When I started my journey to healing mentally and physically, I didn’t even know it was happening. All I knew, was that my best friend and soul sister died suddenly, I metaphorically died with her, and then I quit my stable paycheck job a year later to pursue my dreams. 
When I took that first step to following my dreams, I was out of control. I felt powerless, silenced, a victim of my own making. I was depressed, angry, impatient, feeling like an epic failure.
The thing is, none of those facets of who I was, were new. I had been carrying around that dark baggage for decades. Constantly feeling like an outsider, unworthy, and just downright invisible in my own life.
I cannot count the number of times I tried to unalive myself, or how often the thought even crossed my mind. Dark times indeed. Scary times as well. I couldn’t plan for a future I didn’t know if I would live to see. I was spinning as if I hit a patch of black ice the size of a football field, and I couldn’t gain any traction. I had two choices. Keep fighting. Or give up.
This is a story of how I fought my demons every single day, until I arrived here, to this moment, unafraid of what comes next. This moment where I am looking forward to the future. A future I know is going to come to fruition because I am finally in control of the present. It’s been a long journey. And it’s a journey that will never end. But with each wobbly toddler step forward, the demons get a little easier to calm.
  1. Scary Calm
    1. Location: Hillsboro, Oregon
    2. Song: Into the Unknown by Panic! at the Disco
When I quit my stable paycheck, I had high hopes. I had dreams I wanted to make a reality. I had goals and a plan. At least, I thought I did.
I took a leap of faith in myself, and I ended up failing hard. I was scared. I had never believed in myself before that moment. I don’t know why I thought I could make those dreams become a reality.
Not only did I have zero experience marketing and selling myself, but I couldn’t motivate myself to actually put in the hard work. I was scared, stuck in the fog. Barely functioning. Weighed down by my friend’s death, imposter syndrome, self-sabatoge, a history of failure to follow through, and a thousand abandoned hopes and dreams.
It took two and a half years to let go of all the mental bullshit I had stored in my brain to finally break through that fog. Now that I am on the other side of it, I don’t even recognize the person I left behind on the scary side of the fog. That person wouldn’t know calm if it slapped her in the face. She was too scared to even look.
    1. Chaos versus adrenaline
      1. Location: Portland, Oregon
      2. Song: Overwhelmed by Royal & the Serpent
When I first broke through the fog, my brain was pure chaos. I had so many ideas, so many tasks I needed to do, to accomplish. My to-do list was at least as long as a CVS receipt after purchasing a single candy bar.
My hopes were soaring and my dreams were within my grasp. But, I coudn’t get through the chaos. I couldn’t organize anything. I lost sight of what was up and what was down. So, I just gave in and went drifting back in to the fog. I then went on to read 310ish books.
Breakfast, brunch, lunch, linner, dinner, bedtime snack – I read. I woke up, I read. I laid down to go to bed, reading was the only thing to put my brain to sleep. I ran the dogs, I read. Motion sickness be damned, I read every car ride.
I was failing all over again. Well, more like I became so overwhelmed with all the things, the disorganized chaos, that I did nothing instead.
That was 2022.
Like a good rule follower, I made new years resolutions. I was already starting to break down my imposter syndrome by posting a photo a day and I got comfortable with sharing my photos with the world on IG. So very comfortable in fact that I applied to have my photographs part of our county’s art showcases. I had zero expectations. I honestly didn’t care if I got accepted or not. I was just happy I actually followed through and pressed submit.
As I started sticking to my new years resolutions day after day, things started finally clicking and making sense. I was reaching a sense of clarity I had never felt before. And with each click, came routines, habits, motivation to keep going.
During the first half of 2023, I not only understood, but I also accepted the fact that I don’t want to write for other people. I want to write for myself. No. I NEED to write for myself. I can edit other people’s words. I can proofread and provide feedback for others. But my brain, my soul, needs to hold on to my words for myself.
Once that little tidbit fell into place, it was like my blood was on fire. My cells were vibrating. My body ready to get it all done. I was back on the calm, peaceful, clear side of the fog. And, for the first time, I was humming with a different sort of chaos. Adrenaline.
  1. Loneliness or Independence?
    1. Location: Chehalem Ridge Nature Park, Hillsboro (?), Oregon
    2. Song: Hero by Mountains vs. Machines
Next stop? Utilizing that adrenaline to crush my need for external validation. I was already working on being unapologetically myself, learning how to stay true to myself.
But I was still catching myself multiple times a day, questioning my sanity, wondering if I was moving in the right direction. I had to learn how to shut up that toddler voice that told me that there is no way I will follow through again. According to past history, well, they say history repeats itself for a reason.
Not this time. I felt it in my bones. This time around the cycle, I was not going to let the darkness control me ever again.
Needless to say, I had a long mountain cliff to climb. And since I am a hiker, not a climber, the task in front of me, was looking a little daunting. And, lonely.
Because this is a journey you don’t trek with friends. They support you, yes. And they are important. But they aren’t in the thick of your brain, helping you combat all that bullshit you have harbored since your first breath. Yeah, yeah. A little dramatic. But it’s true.
Working on healing your inner child, is a lonely road. But finally making peace with your mental health, finally seeing your inner child smile and feel safe, and finally truly, wholly, and unconditionally being proud of yourself because you know you have finally taken control of your present, leaving a trail of follow throughs and being unapologetically yourself, true to your core values – that feeling of independence, of knowing you can rely on yourself – that is a powerful feeling.
It’s one of those feelings that is indescribable. But one you understand the moment it courses through you. 
  1. Restrained Reframed
    1. Location: Jackson Bottom Wetlands, Hillsboro, Oregon
    2. Song: Wonderland by Sounds Like Harmony
The road to healing, didn’t happen overnight. It definitely wasn’t easy. And I still have to battle daily. For instance, tonight, before I sat down to edit this story, because of a kid situation that I couldn’t redirect or help them reframe, I was frustrated and angry and upset and could have easily fallen back in to old habits of drinking myself silly and eating crap until I was so sick I needed to pop a pepto.
A year ago, those old habits were still current. Now though, I take a moment to breathe. A moment to feel. A moment to let go. Because emotions are temporary. Reactions are not.
There were so many days I wanted to quit. To stop journaling, to hide in the past, to give up. But the one thing I have always found to be true, is that reframing the situation, reframing the steps, works.
When I felt restrained by who I used to be, by the bad habits and all the failures in my rearview, I knew I needed to reframe what I was seeing, what I was thinking, what I was believing.  Clearly how I was looking at the world around me and how I fit into it, was becoming toxic. I needed to change. More importantly, I needed to be ready to change.
Those bad habits needed to go. I know that. I knew that. But how? How do you break something that is so ingrained in you, like throwing in the towel when you miss one day of something because the shame and the guilt is too much, what’s the point? Not to mention the glowing, flashing stop sign in your progress.
It’s hard to get back on track. It’s easy to give up.  It’s hard to dig into your fears and pain. It’s easy to ignore everything.
But, I will tell you a secret. Quiting doesn’t end the shame and the guilt. Quitting amplifies it.
So, I reframed what I was doing. Why did I not do the thing one day? Did my body need to take a rest or did I talk myself out of it? Was I too busy? If I was too busy, was I prioritizing the right things?
Taking a rest is vital and OK. Giving in to that inner toddler who wants to hold you back, keep you restrained? Yeah, no. Try again. Being busy is perfectly acceptable. As long as you are priortizing the things that matter. Like, self-care, consistency, and showing up for yourself.
HOWEVER, with that being said, I started to question why I was letting one decision in one 24 hour period to hold power over the next 24 hours. Every 24 hours, is a new 24 hours. And when I finally realized that and made it part of my daily mantra, reframing made life a little easier, a little smoother, a little happier.
I went from giving up after one missed thing, to forgiving myself for not being able to do the thing. I went from an all or nothing mindset, to a “my body needed the rest”, or an  “I ran out of spoons” mentality. I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t do, and reframed to focus on what I COULD do.
For example, when I was at the beginning of making going to the gym, a part of my morning routine, one of my kiddo’s needed surgery to repair her broken wrist. I had to take her in at 9am. I knew I was in a critical point of my new routine, my new habit. I could have easily not gone and used her surgery as an excuse. But I knew that one, single excuse, would lead to another, and another, and soon I would be back at ground zero feeling powerless and trapped in the dark.
Instead, I reframed it. I NEEDED to get her to the hospital at X time. I also NEEDED to go to the gym to continue my momentum. And also prove to myself that I am ready to put in the hardwork So, what COULD I do? I could go to the gym afterwards but I knew that I tend to lack any sort of motivation for heavy lifting (no pun intended) in the afternoon.
Or, I could wake up a little earlier and just do a 30 minute cardio session instead of a full blown hour long workout. And that is exactly what I did. I woke up a little earlier, sacrificed some Zzz’s, so that I could continue the momentum of my new routine. Bonus: working out helped alleviate the ramping stress of my kiddo having surgery.
Fun fact? Tricking your brain is fun and highly addictive. Give yourself an out. Did you wake up? Good. Did you wake up but not leave the bed? Good. Did you do everything on your to-do list? Good. Did you do absolutely nothing and read 300 books? Good.
Because at the end of the day, one moment at a time, one decision at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time. You can do anything when you stay in the present. Learning how to reframe isn’t something you can do after just one Youtube video or wikipedia article. Reframing takes time, patience, consistency. But I promise you, reframing works.
  1. Stranded Courage
    1. Location: Hillsboro, Oregon
    2. Song: Going Going Gone by Maddie Poppe
And here is where a fork in the path slams upwards from the ground a foot in front of you.
How do you go from relying on the past, letting it control you, to becoming besties with the present, thriving in the light?
Well, for starters, you believe in yourself. Even if just 1%. You have to believe in yourself to make ANY progress towards being the person you want to be.
I am about to rip the bandaid off because I don’t sugar coat things.
Healing emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually – won’t happen just because you think about it. Hard work must be done. Without hardwork, those dreams stay just that – dreams. With the added bonuses of shame, guilt, self-hatred, embarrasement, self-sabatoge. If you can only believe in yourself to get up and get dressed – then believe in yourself.
Ok. That’s great and all, but how the hell do you believe in yourself when you have spent years trying to merge with the shadows?
History always rep- Stop. Stop right there. I get it. Believing in yourself is akin to being on an abandoned island, stranded. But, thankfully, all around you are pieces of an Ikea raft. Once you put all the pieces together, that is your key to home.
However, when you finally find the instruction manual, another fork in the road pops up.
Battling mental health with an Ikea raft that came with an instruction booklet written in Klingon and drawn by a toddler, is hard. You have all the pieces, you know what you should be doing, you know what the experts say, what your friends say, to help you find your way out of the darkness.
But shit, completing that raft that will keep you afloat as you move towards the silver lining, towards believing in yourself, and ultimately finding the courage to embrace your strengths AND your weaknesses, can feel impossible. Does feel impossible at times. Especially when you are still facing a 100yr old wooden, rickety, bridge crossing a canyon.
Or, when you are looking out at a vast ocean of unknown.
I am here to tell you, from experience, that finally finding that courage to just believe 1% in yourself that you can do it, to trust that you will keep making progress, that you can  try, try again to start piecing together that raft, is the difference between remaining stranded and healing.
Please, please, please keep in mind that courage can look as simple as “Ok, I got this,” and then one wobbly toddler step forward, two back, and the belief in yourself that you will make it to the second step if you just try again. Even if you have to fake it till you make it. 
  1. Abandoned Solitude
    1. Location: Alcatraz, San Francisco, California
    2. Song: Everybody Dies by Rory Webley
Which brings me to that utter desolate feeling of being abandoned. But, I am not talking about your support system abandoning you. I am talking about what is happening on the inside as you redefine, reframe your life, your situation, who you are, who you were.
You no longer recognize who you used to be even a month ago. Yet you haven’t made it to who you want to be yet. Maybe you have no idea who you want to be, you just know that you are done living in the darkness. You are in an inbetween where giving up is easier than continuing.
Side note: the darkness will always be there. It will never go away. Embrace the darkness. Become besties, not frenemies. Believe in yourself that you got this.
I have been going through some form of figuring out who I want to be when I grow up for years. But especially over the past 4 years.
I left a stable paycheck job back in June 2021 because my best friend’s death rattled me to my core, and because it was sucking the life out of me. All I knew at the time was that I LOVED writing. Still do. But, like, the only way I could imagine to get paid to write, was become a copywriter.
Well, 18 months after making that leap, I finally realized that becoming a copywriter, getting paid to write for someone else, was also sucking the life out of me. Besides, I never made a single dime. Mostly because I had no motivation. But also because that line of work didn’t align with who I am, well, who I wanted to be at the time.
Of course, it took me another 6 months to get serious about finally embracing who I am – a writer, an artist, a photographer, a storyteller, a creator.
But that inbetween spot, where I didn’t even know if red was my favorite color or have an answer to what my favorite type of music, or food, or movie was – I felt like I had abandoned myself.
How do you abandon yourself, you may be wondering? By the mere fact that you are no longer who you once were, where you once were, but you aren’t who you want to be or where you want to be at either.
It is in that inbetween, where you need to make a decision. Do you start diving deeper into your soul and sit in solitude with yourself, pausing, reflecting? Or do welcome those habits that no longer fit you, with a giant warm embrace?
Pausing isn’t stalling. Pausing is progress. It means you are healing because you are learning how to listen to yourself. You are learning how to be flexible and open your mind to all the possibilities. Heck, even giving up is healing. Because you realize you aren’t ready yet. And that’s OK.
I spent many years trying to fit into society’s expectations. Once I said “eff that”, and started building the life I wanted and crafting the routines and habits that made my life easier – like going straight to the gym after dropping the kid(s) off at school, or being absolutely OK with doing nothing productive on Mondays – I hit a sweet spot where I realized my demons were the calmest.
This particular phase in my journey was my make it or break it. I would never have found that sweet spot if I didn’t sit in my own silence, pausing, befriending solitude, reflecting rather than abandoning myself, I would never have made it to the next phase. What comes next, is the proverbial fruits of my labor. 
  1. Wild & Free
    1. Location: Hillsboro, Oregon
    2. Song: Wildflowers by Maddie Poppe
The feeling that happened when I finally broke free of trying to fit into society and went all in on building my own reality, at first, became an obssession.
“I don’t have the spoons for that right now.” “Not my cows, not my pasture.” “Failed? Fail again.” “Whatever happens, happens.” “Go with the flow.” I heard myself repeating these phrases over and over again. 
By putting down hard lines on what I could and could not do, respecting my time and energy, rather than say yes to everything and losing spoons all over town, I started showing up for myself. I started caring. And I had to repeat those phrases over and over again because I was faking it till I made it.
Because surprise! The 21/90 rule is a thing. Supposedly, “it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change.”
I joined Planet Fitness 63 days ago. Something that had been on my to do list for years. I was never ready. Never ready to put in the hard mental work. Until then I couldn’t even fathom where I could fit it in during my day.
But I was finally ready to make a compromise to myself. I will only go Monday through Friday. I might add a day on the weekend but I am not there yet. Anyway, my first actual work out, was on Sept 5th. 11 days after joining.
My excuse? I wanted to wait until the kids started school. Easy point of transition and time to make new habits. Plus, I knew that once I was in the car, moving, I would be able to force myself to go to the gym. See? I still make excuses. But I make plans to follow those excuses up. I also still want to cancel a thing until the very moment I arrive at said thing. But that’s more due to my introversion.
What I am getting at, is that you don’t have to do something every single day to make it a permanent lifestyle change. If you find yourself forcing yourself to keep going day after day without rest, you will crash and burn. I promise you that. With that being said, the closer I get to 90 days since joining the gym, the more ingrained this new habit, this new routine is becoming.
I even took a week off while I was in Cali with my husband, AND a week off after getting my toxic left big toenail removed. And because I was committed to this new phase in my journey, I was not worried about failing. And because I wasn’t worried, I didn’t think twice about going to the gym that next tuesday after I broke up with my toenail.
The gym are my wildflowers and has become another anchor in my life. Much like photography, writing, and doodling are anchors the gym is a new part of me that I can count on to help me survive the dark times when the demons find a crack. A part of the Ikea raft. An anchor I had to fight to find. And an anchor that has provided me a new sense of freedom. Freedom from all the past times I joined a gym and never went.
(Side note: I talk about the gym alot because that is the most current habit I am working on. Sorrynotsorry. Also, this new gym habit is a HUGE milestone in my life. I am doing it not to just lose weight, but also to help get my diabetes under control and because I have missed it.)
ALL THAT to say this. I have been learning about stoicism for a few years now. It wasn’t until this year, after making a resolution to dive deeper into my spirituality, that I truly embraced being, living, and identifying as a stoic. This philosophy has given me the tools to stop, to think, to be patient, to let go, to live every moment fully. Stoicism has taught me that I cannot control everything. The only thing I can control, is this moment.
The past may have been a wild ride, and the future will probably be wild too. But in this present moment, who I am in that moment is the only thing that matters. Do I want that moment to continue holding me back? Or do I want that moment to energize me? And what hold me back? Anger? Frustration? IMpatience? What energizes me? Laughter? Love? Kindness?
Stoicism helped me reframe the wild chaos, and showed me that I already knew who I wanted to be. I just needed to focus on the current moment. And when I quieted all that noise of the past and the future, of the things I cannot control, that. my friends, is a euphoric feeling. One that is still hard to maintain BTW. But, by sitting in the solitude of the present moment, I finally understood my purpose, my reason for being. That was the first sign that I was free. For the first time ever, in my life, my demons realized they no longer held any power.
As a reward, the toddler took a drawing class and provided me a new set of Ikea raft instructions. While still written in Klingon, the pictures made more sense and I knew I was on the right track. I had finally learned how to put my oxygen mask on first.
By believing in myself, by proving that I won’t give up at the first stop sign, that I can find balance and follow through on the most basic of tasks like brushing my teeth every single day, my future moments are only as wild as my present. And that meant leaving self-hatred, imposter syndrome, and self-sabatoging in the past and luring my demons into hibernation.
  1. Broken Strength
    1. Location: Wildwood Trail, Forest Park, Portland, Oregon
    2. Song: I’m Born To Run by American Authors
Great. That sounds good and all. Slightly unrealistic and unbelievable too. How can one go from almost unaliving themselves to embracing the light and finding the silver linings and taking precious time to pause before reacting?
Practice. Failing. Trying again. Failing Again. Repeat.
By taking precious time to pause before reacting, I am able to see where my vulnerabilities are. Where my weaknesses are. Where my strengths are better suited. But most importantly, taking precious time to pause before reacting helps me find happiness. Make happiness. Be happiness.
That does not mean I ONLY feel happiness. Heck. No. This evening’s situation with my kid is proof. While life would be less chaotic, less wild, less dark without feeling anything other than happiness, not only is it unrealistic and should never be strived after, it sounds like a dull, boring life.
Part of being a stoic, is understanding that what you can control, your actions, your thoughts, your EMOTIONS, your reactions, are the only things that matter. Everything else is just noise.
However, part of being a stoic is learning how to feel without getting stuck. That when you break, when you fall off course, when you lose sight of who you are at your core, it’s OK. It’s OK to get upset with yourself. That when you experience trauma, pain, grief, frustration, it’s OK. It’s OK to feel angry and sad and distraught.
But part of being a stoic, is recognizing when to rise again. When it’s time to turn whatever broke you for a moment, like binge eating or drinking one too many beers, rather than ruminate and stew on whatever negative emotion is boiling on the surface, stoicism is about understanding you are human, not a robot. That you know how to get through the fog.
I didn’t cry when my grandpa – my  hero, my superman, my father figure – passed away December 2022. I have always lived with the knowledge and acceptance that one cannot control death. It will come. To those that aren’t privvy to my journey, they would assume I didn’t care, that I had a cold, dead, black heart because how dare I not cry over someone’s death. Especially someone who was so important and critical to my life.
But I didn’t cry because I lived in the present moment with him. I made every moment as I actively watched him die for years, full. I loved him hard as if that moment was his last because I cannot control death. It will come. And that’s OK. Side note: we all grieve differently. And we may even grief differently for different people. I bawled my eyes out for days over my besties unexpected passing.
Anywho, all this to say that I used to shatter into a thousand pieces whenever I broke bceause my demons won every single time. I let them win. I didn’t have the strength to calm them down. Two and a half years later, and I don’t shatter into a thousand pieces because, not only do I have my anchors, but I also respect that I am still human, I still feel, I am still breakable. And once I prepared to fall, I uncovered that the strength to keep fighting came from within.
Even if that strength looks like getting out of bed, getting dressed, and moving your comfy operation to the couch. But, you have to want it. You have to be prepared. If you are prepared to catch yourself, breaking actually becomes a strength.
  1. Dreaming Reality
    1. Location: Pacific City, Oregon
    2. Song: Shut up and Dance by Walk the Moon
There’s more?? Yes. There is more to this hot mess journey of mine that I am proud to be on. Still. You did not purchase the express hot mess ticket. Mainly because I rarely have them available.
Anyway, by not letting the “noise” control me, my mood, my actions, my reactions – I have been able to get serious about some BIGGER pieces of the Ikea desk. Like my health – mental AND physical – as well as growing my side hustles.
I have consciously made an excutive decision that I would only add ONE thing at a time. One new habit. One new routine. One new XYZ at a time. I had to start small though. Why? Because I had to prove to myself that I was ready. That I was ready to put in the hard work and leave nothing on the table. Each small win adds up.
How do I know I am ready for another thing? I can’t tell you. No, honestly. I can’t. It just happens. Sometimes I hear my inner voice saying it’s time to do XYZ, to add it into my day. And sometimes I just find myself already doing the thing and questioning when that happened.
This is a phase I hope never leaves me. I find it much easier to ease into things, especially into new things that you once never thought possible or could imagine, rather than doing it all at once, making all the changes. The latter akin to ripping off a bandaid, but a gorrilla tape bandaid. Ouch. 
Moving on. For the first time, I trust myself to make my dreams become reality. Finally. For the first time, I can reach out and grab onto my dreams, turning them from some ephemeral light bulb, to a permanent experience.
I don’t remember when, but it’s been more than 5 years since I created my very first Living List. It’s like a bucket list, but not. What started as a handful of things like skydiving and losing 150 pounds and learning how to make coffee, has become a list of 150 things (and growing) that I want to experience while I am alive.
I spent years barely looking at the list. I even forgot it existed for a year or two there.
When I suddenly realized that I was actually healing emotionally, I started adding more things. The more I believed in myself, the more I trusted myself, the more I hung out in solitude with imposter syndrome, I started actually experiencing some of the things on my Living List.
I haven’t totaled how many I have experienced this year, but it is safe to say that I have made more dreams on that Living List come to life in the past year than I have in the 5+ years since first creating it. Combined.
Experiences like selling one of my photos, hiking a 16 miler overnighter, and taking part in a food eating competition (bonus: my 11yr old joined me!).
Building a routine where I journal, where I post a photo a day, where I doodle, where I go to the gym – all things that bring me peace, joy, happiness – I am not only limiting the negativity that I am exposed to, but I now  have a proven track record of following through, of making things I only dreamed about (like actually GOING to the gym) my reality.
I once never thought I deserved any of the wins I have worked hard for, like publishing a book. Heck, I never even imagined any of the experiences I have had (like the pie eating contest at the Oregon State Fair), would be part of my story, my journey. But it feels oh so right. My Living List has become a part of me. Another anchor that I hang on to when remembering my why.
And on this particular anchor, my demons and I have come to an understanding. They can sit back with their feet up and stop fighting me to regain control, and I will never stop healing. I want to live. I want to experience. And I can finally breathe easier knowing that, because of my present moment, I have a future moment to look forward to.
Hope. I have hope.
  1. Unexpected Love
    1. Location: Wildwood Trail, Forest Park, Portland, Oregon
    2. Song: Legendary Lovers by Katy Perry
Let’s recap.
  • I accepted that I was in a dark place and that I was ready to work hard to rock climb out of the cave of despair without a rope or holds.
  • I battled the fear of whatever was on the other side, the unknown of facing my imposter syndrome and what would happen if I stopped self-sabatoging.
  • I learned how to channel all my self-imposed chaos and channeled it into functional adrenaline.
  • I discovered only I could take this journey, but found my footing, my ability to keep standing.
  • I relied on my ability to reframe situations to see the positive, see the silver lining, while being empathetic and understanding about where the darkness came from.
  • I learned how to be courageous and save myself.
  • I started piecing who I wanted to be, together, because I didn’t abandon myself. Instead, I sat in the solitude and finally understood who I am.
  • I busted through the remaining shackles my demons held, and learned how powerful it is to be consistent and in the present.
  • I embraced what it means to let go of what one cannot control, while preparing to break because I am a human. That strength is in the reaction.
  • I consistently follow through, proving to myself that I can do whatever I put my mind to because I have hope.
All the above have happened only because I took the time and I worked hard to understand why I do the things I do, why I like the things I do, and why I am who I am.
And because I haven’t given up, even though I have wanted to about a dozen times in just the last 63 days, I am finally understanding what feeds my darkess and what I need to do to comfort my demons so I can prosper in the light. How I can soothe them back to sleep. 
More specifically, self-love.
My demons feed off self-hatred, self-sabatoging, freezing instead of pausing, anger, frustration, impatience.
But I have found that they are soothed back to sleep the more I love myself. By believing in myself, trusting myself, giving myself the grace to rest, sitting in the feels and letting them go, staying in the present – I am learning how to love myself and I have never been stronger.
By loving my weaknesses that feed my demons as much as I love my strengths, by loving how my mind operates rather than feeling like a weirdo or aggressively working against it, by loving myself unconditionally – my mental health journey is not over, but it is on the right path. I am only getting stronger every day.  And that feels damn good. Damn. Good.
  1. Vulnerable Resilience
    1. Location: Oregon Coast
    2. Song: Stand Alone (feat. Zayde Wolf) by Generdyn, Zayde Wolf
Unfortunately, there is something that must be said about feeling strong, confident, courageous, brave that is easily overlooked.
The known side of the fog, the one that pushes adrenaline through your body, and makes you feel invincible, high on life – is only a mirage. At least, it is in the beginning.
And in the beginning, it is easy to forget the fog was once scary. It is easy to be blindsided by an obstacle that you didn’t see coming. All because you felt so unstoppable, why not let your guard down?
I am going to rip off the duct tape bandaid here for a moment. The first time you enter this phase of your healing, your walls need to be a 10 foot thick concrete wall. You need guards every where, on the lookout for your next misstep. Constantly. Think of this as your Ikea raft’s inaugral attempt at crossing the endless ocean.
You will falter, you will make a misstep. And your demons will pounce. It’s just a fact. And it’s OK. Leaks will happen. Again, you are a human not a robot. It is natural to want to feel protected in your new bubble of enlightenment, peace, freedom from the shackles, and ignorance of what’s happening on the outside.
When that bubble pops, when you get a dose of reality, when a demon breaks free – the most important thing you can do, is to pause, and reflect. What went wrong? Where was the misstep? Why did I react that way? Where is the leak coming from? Did I miss an Ikea step?
Battling mental health is akin to standing on a cliff’s edge as it starts to crumble, but not fall. Yet. One strong breeze is all it would take to bring the whole foundation you have been working on so hard, crashing down where the demons await with shackles once more. If you don’t take the time to figure out where the leak is coming from on your raft – the water will keep coming until you find yourself drowning, stranded back at the island.
At this phase in my journey, my Ikea raft is fully assembled. I have taken it out on thousands of attempts. The toddler finally started speaking my language and the written instructions were translated. I have enough of a track record of wins and follow throughs, I have stopped doubting who I am at my core, I trust that I can weather any storm headed my way. I am happy to report that after years of being powerless, stranded, my raft is still floating.
When a leak happens, I no longer need to go back to shore to fix it. I can fix and float.  My 10 ft thick concrete walls just a sail waiting to catch a breeze, my demons flying above me, handing the reigns over to me to know what’s best for me, and my guards ready to step in if need be.
I KNOW that my foundation, my roots, have been growing and building and nurturing and healing these past two and a half years. A strong breeze will no longer take me out. I won’t let them. It’s instinct, intuitive, second nature now. Heck, even if the cliff’s edge fell, I know I have the tools to ressaure my demons that this vulnerability is only temporary. And with a hug and a “see you next time,” I know that I will be able to climb back up to the cliff’s edge, encouraging my demons to fly again.
  1. Powerfully Unafraid
    1. Location: Near Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon
    2. Song: Savage Daughter by Sarah Hester Ross
Which leads me to this phase that I am currently in. A new to me phase I have never reached before. One I didn’t know I could. One I didn’t know was available to me. Whether I believed I deserved it or not, I have never trusted myself to get here. Never even imagined it, dreamt it, thought it existed.
I am putting in the time and energy, blood, sweat, AND tears, towards figuring out how to live my best life. That’s a fact. Side note: My best life also includes my kids and family and animals and friends. I am not THAT selfish.
Another fact, is that I know, deep down to my core, my soul, my essence, my energy – I know that not me, nor anyone or anything else – can stand in my way. In fact, my demons are currently chilling on the couch in my brain, eating popcorn as I write this, cheering me on. (I swear I am sane).
I am no longer afraid of the unknown. I am no longer afraid of succumbing to the chaos. I am no longer afraid of falling or failing. I am no longer afraid. Period.
I haven’t forgotten anything about my journey thus far, and I don’t know where I am going. All that I know, is that I am confident in who I am, the ideals I stand for, the life I want.
And that, my friends, is powerful. My mental health journey has taught me that it is possible to be powerfully unafraid. That, no matter what powerless situation awaits for me, I got this.
And I hope your journey helps you get to a point that you can also feel powerfully unafraid of whatevever, whoever, your demons are, taking back control, living life to its fullest, and loving yourself hard.
Me: Ths is Me by Keala Settle
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