New Blog Site

In the last few months, I have been doing some amazing problem solving about how to figure out things for my business. I am embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t figure out how to direct my wordpress followers to my new blog and ask you to follow me there. DUH! So, a little late, but my blog has moved HERE. Please come on over and re-subscribe! In the meantime, I would love to share something that took a lot of work and that I am extremely proud of. This is the video for my business! See you on the other site!

Be Well!❤️

My Many Adventures In Healing

Being sick is a bummer. Once the big sick cleared, I found healing in adventure.  It is true that laughter is the medicine.  Along with that, taking risks, meeting new people, enjoying the incredible outdoors, getting in the water, doing yoga, and sleeping under the stars ranks pretty high. The organizations below have impacted my healing from cancer in one way or another.

If you know a young adult with cancer, are a young adult with cancer, or want to donate to a young adult cancer organization, I am providing some videos from SOME of the organizations who opened their hearts and were willing to help. After you check out the heartfelt videos, you will understand that you will not have to worry about me as long as these organizations exist. Please feel free to visit their websites to learn more, add them on your amazon smile account, or help raise funds for them with me. If you happen to do the latter, or have ideas on how to do that, please let me know.

Camp Koru was the first camp I went to in Maui, Hawaii.  I was treated to surfing, sleeping on the beach, eating the most amazing, healthy food, and most importantly, making lifelong friends who understood my experience.

Project Koru also had me as a guest on their This Is Life retreat where I was given an abundance of resources for life after cancer.

First Descents took me to Outter Banks, North Carolina for a week-long surf trip where I learned amazing things about nutrition, took part in silly traditions, and stayed in an incredible beach house with some of the most amazing people I have ever met.

I am so lucky because the headquarters for First Descents is in Denver, CO!! They put on quarterly events for locals, along with some really awesome fundraising parties.  This summer, I went white water paddle boarding and pushed myself beyond what I thought was possible.  This organization encourages a healthy, active lifestyle and has gently challenged me to push through the obstacles I thought were in my way.

Dear Jack Foundation also has its headquarters in Denver.  Dear Jack is like my little Denver cancer family.  They support a few programs. These include a yoga program I go to with the same group of friends about once a month. They also have a program for patients who have pretty extreme treatments call the Life List.  This is similar to make a wish because Dear Jack tries to make exceptional things happen so patients have something awesome to look forward to. By default, participants and their families become part of a community of survivors.

Another organization that gave me a stellar experience is River Discovery  The website does not have any videos, but they have an awesome photo gallery.

I encourage you to help yourself and others find ways to heal this way and to…

Be Well

 

Why I Say “Died BY Suicide” And Not Committed Suicide

** This post addresses the topic of suicide.  It may be hard to read and may trigger some difficult feelings, particularly if someone you know has died by suicide, or if you have experienced thoughts of suicide yourself.**

Suicide is so hard to write about.  There are so many strong opinions and beliefs.  We see it all over the media in news stories, movies, articles, social media, and television.  People of all ages have been exposed to it. I hear of people who have died by suicide at least once a month.  Yes, I said died by.  Suicide is the cause of death. Since my opinions are starting to leak out, here goes.  It is time to just dive in, not be afraid, and tell you what I think.

Some of the often used, harmful ways to describe this cause of death are: committed suicide, took their own life, and killed or even “offed” themselves. Sometimes, family members, friends, and community members describe the act of suicide as selfish.  Some even go as far as to say it was for attention. This hurts my heart so deeply.  The reason I am intentional about calling it “died by suicide” is because I believe it is a disease, or at least part of one. Many medical experts believe this as well.

Suicidal ideation exists in the minds of many.  People have reported to have had at least a a fleeting thought of it at one point in their life. Sometimes we are not careful with our words and say things such as, “I just wanted to die!” when speaking about embarrassment, nervousness, or being put in an uncomfortable situation. Our words are impactful and create meaning for those around us.  This is not to say I have never said these things.  Actually, I say all kinds of ridiculous, inappropriate things more than I would like to admit. So this is not a lecture about what to say, it is just an opportunity to stop and have a mindful moment to consider your own thoughts.

If I sat here and tried to provide links and resources and books and movie recommendations, this would go on forever. There is so much out there to explore; there is information about prevention, grief, and awareness.  The reason I am writing about this today is to simply provide a small part of my thoughts and beliefs about the issue. Why today? For some reason, the discussion has come up a few times in the last week.

This week, a co-worker told me one of her daughter’s 8th grade classmates died by suicide. My co-worker was upset and at a loss about what she could do to help her child get through this traumatic event. I know many families and schools approach this topic differently. In that moment, I had a big opinion and did not hesitate to tell her what I thought. I told her how important it is to have conversations about suicide.  We should not wait until it happens to talk about it! I gave her an example of a conversation she might have with her teen.  I told her conversation families have about suicide are proactive. This means putting aside the fear that if you talk about it, it will plant the seed and suggest that suicide is a possible solution. Talking about it does not make it happen.

When approaching these conversations, it is extremely important to support and encourage family members without judgement. Let your kids know they will not be punished, shut down, criticized, or dismissed when they are brave enough to talk about it. Make a plan. This plan should be personal to suit the needs of individuals. Maybe someone would feel more comfortable expressing themselves artistically by writing, painting, singing, composing music. Maybe they want to be held. Perhaps they want to cry, or scream, or yell. As long as communication is part of a plan with mutual understanding that there will not be judgement and an understanding of what the potential outcomes may be. Make an agreement that if they are upfront and some way indicate that they need to “activate” the plan, you will ask them 3 simple questions. 1) Are you considering suicide? 2) Do you have a plan? 3)Do you have the means to carry out this plan? As weird as it is, maybe practice the conversation so you are able to ask when it matters most, and so they are familiar with what it is like hear the questions.

From a disease perspective, people of all ages should never be shamed for wanting to have conversations about any disease. It is terrible for me to feel stigmatized when talking abut mental health, and then embraced when talking about cancer.  It doesn’t make sense! It is so painful and confusing. My support system has always let me talk about my depression.  They have learned to listen to me and know I will be honest as long as I don’t feel judged.  They know if I tell them my thoughts feel dangerous, dark, and ugly, they will do what I have told them to do.  They will ask if I feel safe. They will ask it as much as is needed. They will not act like they are “put out” even if they are busy.  They will come to me or make sure someone is with me. They will even set me straight and let me know we are in this together. It’s kind of a “no man left behind” thing.

Not everyone is me. Not everyone can be neck deep in darkness and tell someone to either start digging or pull as hard as they can to get me out. Not everyone has spent years having plan on top of plan for when the darkness sets in.  This can happen in the blink of an eye.  I am not stronger or more capable than others.  I have just felt the intensity of this disease before and, up until this point, have been able to tell it to SHUT THE HELL UP BEFORE I GO GET MY ARMY! This is the most important army you can join for your people. Get on board, go to the bootcamp of communication and support, and promise that when you are called, you will show up and fight.

When I thought about this topic and what it is like to experience the racing thoughts and scary feelings of when the voice comes, this video came to mind.  Perhaps is will give a visual and audio idea of what it may feel like for some people.

Be Well…Or ask others to help you move in that direction

Having A Job Should’t Be That Much Work

Since I graduated from my Masters program in 2012, I have had the worst time with getting a job.  In school, I had an amazing  two year assistantship where I discovered what it was like to be a part of an office.  I formed relationships, was able to recognize strengths in others, and I was given the opportunity to create and improve programs and was trusted to do a good job. I got to spend a lot of time interacting with students in different capacities.  My job had a ton of variety. I loved this office because we really did the whole, “work hard, play hard” thing.  I laughed so hard most days. I got to be silly and serious all in the same day.

I moved from Fort Collins back to Denver right after school.  Denver is my home and is where I feel the most comfortable.  Denver is also a VERY DIFFICULT place to get a job in my field. Between May 2012 and August 2013, I did not have a solid full time job. I spent days job searching and networking.  Honestly, looking for a job was my full time job.

I worked part time in higher education as part of a team developing a program to support first year students.  I loved the job, but it was only part time and short term.  I took another job as a peer mentor working alongside individuals who were struggling with mental health difficulties.  I thought the job was going to be a great place to use my skills as a counselor and as a person with a mental health diagnosis. That job turned out to be miserable for so many reasons.  I created a great program for clients to grow confidence at a local recreation center pool.  I had the support from the recreation center, my clients were excited, and I couldn’t wait for it to be a success. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, all of my work was a waste. My employer didn’t follow through, and after a lot of hard work and energy, my program fell through the cracks. I lost confidence in creating a program and saw it fail because of a lack of support. That job did not last long.

The first full time job I was hired for was following a year of making it to final interviews for 12 different jobs at the institution.  I was finally hired after “lucky number 13.” Most people I have told were shocked that I kept going back for more. Whether it was determination, stubbornness, belief in the organization, or faith in myself, I finally got a job.  After I started the job, I knew I hadn’t gotten any of the other positions because this job hadn’t been created and it had my name all over it. I had a “hybrid” position where I was involved in creating and implementing three different programs.  I spent my days interacting with so many people in the campus community and in my own office. I felt like I had endless amounts of creative freedom because I was building my own job.  My position had not existed before and it was up to me to shape it. I loved the culture of my office because we supported each other, liked each other, and knew how to have a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I decided to leave this job after I went through my treatment for cancer.

In January 2017, after a long, similar job search, I returned to work and did not have success with the first two jobs. Knowing I had to find some way to support myself, I finally landed my current job.  I have only been there since July, but I already know that I am in love with it! I am able to work on multiple projects, spend a lot of time interacting with clients, and I have such a supportive office team. I am valued and my fun, silly ways are accepted and appreciated. I have one coworker who always starts the day by saying, ‘welcome home”.

My successful jobs have always had a few things in common; I was given creative freedom, my ideas were valued, coworkers were supportive, hard working, and humorous, and I could be myself without apologizing. I have also enjoyed the variety in my  work.  I have been able to work on program development and spend a lot of time with clients in a number of settings. In hindsight, I see what has worked in the past and is working now, and I know what I must have from a work environment.  It is so important to me that I have been able to solidify the common threads in my most successful work environments. I would recommend anyone take the time and explore this for themselves.

This video is a TedTalk given by one of my favorite supervisors. He helped me to develop my professional identity and was an excellent role model.  Please take the time to see what he has to say about the key to a successful workplace. He has taken the time to consider what he values in a career and has created an amazing business sharing that with others.  This is Paul Osincup. I am honored to have spent a few years working with him.

Be Well

How Pitching A Tent Has Increased My Independence

Last week, my therapist told me he was taking a new job and could no longer have a private practice or see me.  I had mixed feelings about this. I have been working with him for about a year and he is the first therapist I have worked with who has provided valuable information that has really helped me make changes I thought were impossible. I have a way better understanding of how my mind, body, and spirit all work together.  I am so much better at combating anxiety, worry, and the fear of negative interactions with other people. I have become more assertive and do not let myself believe that my needs and feelings are less important than those of others. I have a lot more clarity, strength, and overall sense of calm.

While it is hard to end that relationship, it is clear that now I am equipped to do so.  As a counselor, I know it is important to discontinue seeing, or “break up” with my therapist.  If done right, the point is to be able to take what I have learned and put it to practice.  There comes a time when it is up to me to continue without a regular appointment.  Discontinuing therapy does not mean that now I am on my own and have to face the world with no support.  The support just starts to look different. Sometimes, part of therapy is to build support and know how to support others.  I have no problem building my community and being someone who cares for others, so I am sure I am not alone moving forward.

One of my goals was to start being more independent.  I have never been afraid to ask for help, but sometimes, that left me being dependent on others and not pushing hard enough to do something on my own. It can be hard to know if I am able to do certain things because sometimes I lack clarity and don’t trust myself. At times, I am not sure if I am scared, frustrated, or if I actually cannot physically or mentally complete the task.

To practice my independence this summer, I tried to do things I had never done on my own.  These things had to be concrete so I knew I was making progress. One of the things I did was go camping and figure out how to set up and take down my site all by myself.  In the past, I always shared a tent with someone and was never very helpful.  I depended on others to do it the “right” way while I mostly just sat back and watched. Doing this a few times has been just the thing to increase my confidence and I know I am able to do things by myself.

I am aware that most people are able to pitch a tent without second-guessing themselves. This is just symbolic of how I have been able to step back and recognize that I had some pretty big misconceptions about what I can and can’t do. I live in a beautiful state with endless opportunities to play outside any time of year. For some reason, I have always lacked the confidence to make room in my life to play outside more often. I relied on other people to take the lead. While I know it is not smart for me to explore the outdoors by myself with little knowledge, I have the courage to take a more active role. It is so good for me to breathe fresh air, challenge myself with new activities, and just get super dirty. Having done this simple thing this summer, I have noticed myself taking more opportunities for independence.

I am so grateful to have had the experience of working with my therapist.  I love knowing that I am able to do more than I think I can.  Over the last year, the work we did has changed me. No matter how hard it looks, I will now try new things on my own. SO, now that we all know that I can pitch my own tent, who wants to go play outside with me??

Be Well.

I went looking for a song about being an independent woman, really liked this one, and then saw it was at a Stand Up To Cancer event. How interesting… Enjoy!

 

I’ve Got 99 Coping Skills and Doing Nothing Ain’t One

Chrisjones-meditate-chillThe best way I get through life is to be prepared.  I have a plan in place for times when I need to address my bigger feelings such as sadness, anger, loneliness, hurt, disappointment, fear, nervousness, excitement, love, inspiration, hope, and anticipation. When you read through that list, you may not have been expecting “positive” feelings. In my life, my emotions can be very big and magnified.  I have learned to accept this because it is hard to change who I am and I don’t think I necessarily have to.

Because my emotions arrive somewhat like a tidal wave, I have discovered they aren’t going to magically go away and I have to find ways to feel calm and safe when they rush in. Even my excitement and motivation come with a strong force.  People who know me have most likely seen the wave pretty quickly.  I sometimes feel apologetic. Really, I want to apologize to myself for the discomfort.

Instead of getting into the big cycle of judgement, blame, or embarrassment, I have learned that I have to feel my emotions, AND I have the choice to handle them however I want.  The way I do this is to accept my discomfort and use my VERY LONG list of coping skills.  Coping skills don’t have to be this big ordeal.  They can simply be a distraction. Sometimes, they are very productive. Many times, the first thing I try isn’t the thing that works.  At times, I have to try and combine multiple things in hopes for a good outcome.

My top coping skills are:

  1. Calling my friends and family to ask for help
  2. Walking around the lake
  3. Doing laundry
  4. Going to the movies
  5. Working out at the pool
  6. Making crafts
  7. Writing
  8. Going out to eat
  9. Dancing
  10. Singing
  11. Talking to my therapist
  12. Scrolling through Facebook
  13. Leaving my house
  14. Getting a pedicure
  15. Using essential oils
  16. Looking through my pictures
  17. Using grounding techniques like tapping, meditation, and observing things around me
  18. Counting
  19. Spending time being silly with my Best Friend/Roommate, Rob

Those are just a few of my many. I  found this list of 99 coping skills if you are interested in creating your own list and need inspiration. These skills are good to have handy in your mind because we all need them at some point or another.  There does not even have to be a big event or feeling to use them.  For the most part, we are all coping with simply being alive.

Be Well

 

 

How Drew Brings Humor To My Depression

I have been having a really hard time with my depression this weekend.  Yesterday, I wrote a whole post about it.  It was terrible, depressing, and just not something to share. So, I thought I would tell you about my friend, Drew.  I have known Drew since I had just turned 17. We have had many adventures together; we toured around the world, vacationed in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Colorado, Montana, Arizona and maybe some places I forget.  We have walked miles and miles in Detroit dragging suitcases just so we didn’t have to pay for transportation to a wedding. He pushed me around Disney World in a wheelchair. We even stood in line for almost a whole day in the blazing heat so we could see Barack Obama speak at the DNC in Denver.

There have been months where we didn’t talk and years when we didn’t see each other. That really has never had any impact on how much we start to laugh the moment we see each other. In fact, Drew makes me feel like I might be the funniest person he has ever met! We have shared some heartbreaking moments as well. Most recently, Drew’s mother was being treated for cancer at the same time I was. Talk about a difficult time for him (Thank God both of us got through it and are both healthy now.)

One thing Drew has always understood is my depression.  Every once in a while, he REALLY gets it. The last time he was here, I showed him my magical sleep set- up:

 

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The first thing he said was, “OMG! I bet this makes you so happy!” He understood that my environment was really important. He even went home and made a few improvements himself!

Back to the real reason I started talking about Drew. One time, he knew I was really depressed, so he sent me a magical cartoon that explained someone else’s experience with depression. He was spot on, and I knew he really got how I was feeling.  This cartoon came to mind yesterday when I was feeling like nothing was going to help. I tried to look it up and found something better! These videos are from the blog: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

I am attaching 2 videos about depression from this author because they help describe what I go through.  If you are looking for something that will make you laugh until you cry, or cry until you laugh, check them out!

I hope this helps someone!

Be Well

Anxiety

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1500 minutes. 1500 minutes is a pretty conservative number for how many minutes a week I spend feeling anxious. That’s an average of about 4 hours a day. Right now, I am anxious about reporting that and having you judge me. What I’m more anxious about is that I know I am underestimating the amount of time and I don’t want anyone to think I am “crazy”.

I’m anxious about:

Not being on time, driving, meeting new people, giving students the wrong advice about their classes, how I spend my time, hurting people’s feelings, going to the doctor, if I will ever really be able to work for just myself, what people think when I post in this blog, if what I’m eating will make me sick, when I will lose another immediate family member, people not believing me, not being heard, being unsure if I am using the right punctuation or grammar, having to make a decision about what we are going to do or what we are going to eat when I am with friends, if other people are happy, being in a small space with too many people, if I am being judged, most things I say, getting to the airport on time, losing my keys, forgetting things, having a messy room, taking a yoga class and not being able to do the poses right, everything about money, cooking and having it taste bad, text messaging, sending mail and being worried it won’t be received, packing for vacation, picking out produce at the grocery store, taking too much of other people’s time, not having control, trying to make this list and knowing I forgot things.

I’m not exaggerating. I know I left a number of things out. I will probably feel anxious that you will read that list and it will make you anxious. Funny thing is, I am not always even conscious of when I am anxious. Ever since I have been going to my current therapist, I have been more aware of how my body is letting me know when I am getting too anxious. Sometimes, I feel my jaw tighten. If I stop to notice, sometimes I am holding my breath. Sometimes my muscles and joints will hurt too.

The fancy word for obsessively worrying or thinking too much is called ruminating. The things I ruminate about most are the things I have said or done. If a conversation didn’t go the way I meant for it to go, I will think about it for hours, sometimes days. First, the thing I said plays in my mind over and over. Then I think about how the person might have reacted to what I said. Next, I think of how I would explain, clarify, or apologize. This cycle goes around over and over and over. Sometimes, I get stuck in the cycle and can’t be present and mindful. I am too busy thinking about what happened and what will happen in the future as a result of that. Next thing I know, I have wasted valuable time with a friend because I refused to take the time to address my anxiety and use the concepts I have to calm down and slow my mind. By the way, I am sorry if this has happened when I was with you. (I have to apologize because I’m anxious you won’t know that I am aware that this is a problem).

If I have done my job as a writer, I have just brought you to a place where you get a sense of how my anxiety impacts how I experience the world. It is uncomfortable, unreasonable, and totally irritating. (Listening to the audio might REALLY give you a sense.)

I used to think I was just stuck in this place of anxiety. I felt like I was trapped and would not be able to stop worrying. That only made it worse and made my body get to an extremely agitated state. Now I know there are things I can do. At this point, these things only work about 45% of the time. That percentage has slowly increased and will continue to do so the more I practice. The new skills I practice have only really been in my mind and body for about a year. My mind has a tendency to be more urgent and in a hurry while my body knows the work is in slowing down.

I experienced this just yesterday when I was overwhelmed with thinking about some difficulty I am having with some friendships right now. My mind was racing; I was searching for solutions, judging myself, and feeling grief. As hard as it was, I forced myself to move into a less anxious place by breathing, using a practice called tapping, and stopping the outside and inside chatter.  I actually felt and saw the difference in my body.  I came to a space of more peace and calm.  If it was relatively easy to get there in 30 minutes, I cannot figure out why I don’t take the 30-45 minutes to do this more often to greatly decrease the 1500 minutes a week. While that is the logical thing to do, anxiety is illogical and is hard to pair with something so logical.

By giving up my old ways of thinking, I have been open to new things. I have learned that THINKING about my anxiety is completely unreasonable and does not work. My mind is already ridiculous and has no productive space for “thinking about thinking.”

I have learned more about being comfortable with discomfort. Maybe not even comfortable: at least tolerant. I have heard many people with anxiety say it is irritating when others tell them to “just breathe.” To be honest, it does feel irritating. It is a process to get to a place where that makes sense.  Something one can say when encountered with another’s anxiety is simply, “I know this is difficult.  I am here and will be patient.  I am not judging you.” Eventually, we will be able to tell ourselves to “just breathe”.

Be Well