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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Paying it Forward

I've heard this phrase a few times in my life.  Most recently, at the opening day staff meeting where I work.  For some reason, it really resonated with me this time and has been bouncing around in my head for the last week.  And, if you've kept up with my story, you are familiar with what can happen when things bounce around in my head for awhile...

Paying it Forward - describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of the original benefactor.

I've tried in many ways to explain what my experiences and friendship with Renee' have brought to my life.  But, I don't think words could ever do it justice.  I've tried to repay her for everything she has done but, honestly, I'll never be able to.  I mean, how do you repay someone who has literally helped you change your entire life and accepted every part of who you are even when you were at the lowest point ever?  Like I said, I don't think it's possible.  But, I like to try.  She says that just seeing me happy is enough.  I don't really understand how that could be true.  But, I do have some pretty random thoughts that are entertaining at times so, maybe that helps :) 

No matter what, I have become a firm believer in helping others.  It's always been a big part of who I am.  It's what I do for a living and, honestly, it's always been a huge part of my life.  I love seeing other people happy.  When it comes to changing my life, I am still astonished on a day to day basis with what I've been able to do.  With a lot of help and support.  I hope to be able to offer that to other people.  Because, if I can't repay Renee' for everything she's done for me (and continues to do), then I might as well help others see what it feels like to have someone care about you and your well being.  Because, I can say with 100% certainty that, if Renee' hadn't taken such an interest in me, I would not be where I am today.  

Life is a daily struggle for me.  Not just with weight.  With everything that has always made me so insecure.  Last week was rough.  I tried to use exercise as therapy.  And, at times, it worked.  Other times, not so much.  But, I got through it and I didn't (completely) revert to my old ways.  In my eyes, that's progress.  And, as someone who has learned a lot in the last year and a half, both about others and herself, just getting through difficult times without eating a gallon of ice cream and a large pizza is immense progress. 

So, how can I use this whole paying it forward thing?  I have no idea.  Maybe just being a friend to someone who needs it.  Or supporting someone who is trying to change his/her life.  I would hope that anyone I pay it forward to would want to do the same.  And, even as I sit here writing this, I'm thinking, hey, maybe I already have paid it forward in some ways.  I think me being happy and wanting to be around others has made a huge difference in the lives of my friends and family.  They don't worry about me (as much).  That's an incredible gift to those who love me.  Especially to those who stuck by me when I was at my lowest points.  

A year and a half ago, I could never have imagined that the beginning of a friendship would be the most incredible chance I ever took and have so many amazing rewards.  And so, I'll leave you with this - 


You'll never know what kind of a difference you can make in the life of someone you love.  Or, even, the life of someone you've never met that just needs some help.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Thoughts on Depression

I've often said writing is like therapy to me.  It allows me to put my thoughts out there.  

The tragic death of Robin Williams has sparked a huge conversation about mental health.  Specifically depression as many sources say that he had been struggling with severe depression throughout the last few months.  Many people find it hard to comprehend how someone who had such a gift to entertain people, cared so much about every person he met and just had "everything" he could ever want could be fighting such an intense internal battle.  How could he hide it from the world?  I'm sure his close friends and family knew but the rest of the world?  His fans?  How could he hide something like that so well?

Well, clearly I did not know Robin Williams but, as someone who has struggled with depression, probably throughout more of my life than I ever realized at the time, I get it.  I understand why you hide it from the world.  I understand the inner struggle.  

If you've never experienced depression, it's difficult to describe what it feels like.  And it's not the same for everyone.  For me, there were several things that happened.  Nothing made me happy anymore.  I could put on a fake smile with the best of anyone.  Although the people who knew me best could see right through it.  I could feel myself being short with people I love.  I hid in my house when I didn't have to be at work.  I distanced myself from my friends.  I didn't feel like I brought any value to any relationship in my life.  It felt like there was this big cloud hanging over my head that never went away.  It weighed me down like you wouldn't believe.  And, yet, I wasn't willing to admit that something was wrong.  I was embarrassed.

After all, I work in a field that deals with mental health.  How could anything like this happen to me?  Because I'm human.  I think there is a genetic component to it in one way or another.  And, frankly, life hasn't always been real nice to me.  So, as I became more willing to admit that there was a problem, I was able to work my way through a lot of the feelings and emotions I had kept locked inside my head for so long.  The things that controlled me for years no longer had power anymore.  What a freeing feeling.  

I work with teenagers every day.  And, in the ten years I've been in my field, I've seen my fair share of depressed teenagers.  I think the most difficult thing for me is to see how much a stigma is still attached to the word 'depression'.  I mean, if a kid has a broken leg, you put a cast on it and it heals.  Just because you can't "see" depression doesn't mean the people who suffer from it don't need help.  In fact, because you can't see it, those people often need the most help.

If the people who love me hadn't reached out to me, I don't know where I would be today.  Depression is extremely treatable.  It has to be treated just like any other illness is treated.  I think my sister in law said it best - "sometimes, people just need a little help".  Finally, I'm not ashamed to admit I am one of those people.  It has made a world difference in my life, has allowed me to accomplish so many things, I can't even list them all.  Most importantly, it's allowed me to finally figure out what it feels like to be happy.

I don't pretend to understand everyone who struggles with depression.  It's different with everyone.  But, one thing is for sure, it's a silent disease that needs to lose the stigma attached to it.

If you think someone is struggling, reach out to them.  They may push you away.  Keep trying.  I pushed people away a lot before I finally caved.  It's often a defense mechanism.  You'll make a difference in more ways than you could possibly imagine.  

"See the light in others and treat them as if that is all you see"

RIP Robin Williams


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Finding Confidence

I've written a lot about self-confidence and how that is something that has been such a struggle for me throughout my life.  It's been such a big part of the whole adventure I've been on to find myself.  

I have people ask me questions all the time.  I've written about that before.  I love it.  I am a completely open book about all of this.  I've even admitted on this blog that I've struggled with depression.  It's a big part of what brought me to my breaking point in January of 2013.  And it's a daily struggle.  Sometimes the smallest thing and set me back.  But, I can also climb right back out of that "hole" pretty fast.  I feel blessed that I've been able to figure out how to do that.

So much of this has to do with confidence.  In myself, in my family, in my friends and just people in general.  I have a difficult time trusting people.  I think my trust has just been broken too many times.  But, as I've figured out that the whole world isn't out to get me, I have more faith in people.  And I trust just a little easier with each day that passes because I have more faith in myself.

Another big part of that confidence has been sharing my story.  Sharing what I've learned.  What I continue to learn every day.  I learn things about myself, the world, exercise, and, of course, food.  I don't think I will EVER understand cooking.  It's way too complicated for me :)  But, that's another story.  

Throughout this adventure (and as it continues), I want to pay forward everything Renee' has done for me.  Especially since I'm not allowed to say thank you.  I think I am finally getting the chance to do that.  Over the last few weeks I've had a couple of people ask me for suggestions or little tips on things they can do to live a healthier lifestyle.  Every time someone asks me those types of questions, it surprises me.  I mean, clearly I am not an expert.  

But, I can relate.  I am someone who has been there.  More than once.  And it helps me stay on track when other people ask me to help them.  Allows me to remember (more than I already do), everything that I've done.  All I've accomplished.  And how much more is waiting out there for me. 

Helping others has boosted my confidence even more.  The fact that people turn to me for advice lets me see that there are so many things I am doing right.  It makes me feel successful in more ways that I can list.  And, best of all, it makes me happy that I can offer the kind of help to someone else that has been such an integral part of all my success over the last year and a half.  And, out of everything that happens in life, happiness is the most precious gift.  

To everyone who is, and continues to be, a huge part of my happiness, thank you.  My life wouldn't be what it is without all of you.  Thanks for helping me find the confidence I've been hiding for so long.  It's truly the greatest feeling.  I can't even begin to describe it.

This quote seems to describe perfectly how I feel about so many people in my life - 

Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers, and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don't see it in yourself.

Until next time - 

Amanda :) 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Right on Time


Kinda piggybacking off my previous entry.  It's all about the journey.  The adventure.  That's what this whole thing called life has become for me.  I used to just kinda float along.  No one ever really noticed me.  And I was okay with that.  As the above says - it's exactly what it needed to be.  For lots of reasons.  Some of which I still haven't figured out completely.  Maybe I never will.  And I have to be okay with that.  Because every single thing that occurs or has happened brought me to the current place in my life.  And, although I am still trying to change many things about my life, I know it will all happen when it's supposed to happen.  

Changing things in my life is not an easy process.  You'd probably say it's not easy for most people.  I think I might be kinda special in this department though.  I am so hesitant about things that are unknown to me.  As I said above, no one ever really noticed me.  It's completely bizarre to me that people notice me now. Heck, maybe they always did and I was just too down on myself to see it.  Either way, I'm thankful every day that I've found my way out of that dark hole.  

Everything happens for a reason.  And, although I may not ever understand why, I'm thankful every day for what I've experienced.  It's brought me to where I am today.  It's allowed me to rediscover my love for working with teenagers and helping them figure out their future plans.  It's allowed me to figure out so much about myself.  I have self confidence.  I smile.  Surprisingly, these are all things I never used to do.  

I hit a bit of a rough patch for a week or so over the summer.  It's not easy to admit that.  But, I am happy to say that, because of the strength I've found over the last year and a half, I was able to find my way out of it pretty quickly.  I knew it was okay to ask for help in sorting out what I was going through.  A couple of years ago, I would have just bottled it all up inside, eaten a few cookies and a gallon of ice cream and called it a day.  I would have pretended that everything was fine even though it wasn't.  Which brings me to this - 


It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now.  Truer words have never been spoken.  In addition to the above.  I still struggle with believing in myself.  And it amazes me on a regular basis that there are people who believe in me.  One random thing I noticed the other day - I was at an open house event, talking to someone and some random people that I believe know my brother waved and/or smiled at me.  Although they probably recognize me just from his games, it was a bit strange (to me) that they would acknowledge me.  Like I said before, I'm not used to being noticed.  Which is why I find it so weird when people use the word inspire and my name in the same sentence.  

One person in particular constantly challenges me to keep making changes so I can become the best version of myself.  Better than I ever thought I could be.  She knows how insanely difficult this is for me.  Yet, she still hasn't given up on me.  There are times I wonder if she regrets making me think (because it usually results in a lot of rambling thoughts) but, I know she wouldn't have it any other way.  That alone keeps pushing me to be better than I know how.   So, thanks Renee' :)  For being my friend and everything you've helped me find in my life.