Weighing in

So, you may or may not know I’ve been on a recent journey to getting healthy. Mainly losing weight, and then whatever else comes along with that. Small things, like totally changing my relationship with food 😅.

It’s honestly been a weird ride. Weird that I’m sticking to it, weird that it’s working, and weird with the mental struggles that I’m seeing with it.

This may sound kinda crazy, but I feel like I’m losing part of my identity, and part of my security blanket, by losing weight.

I use it at a crutch. I use it with the self-deprecating humor I’ve come to rely on over the years. Honestly, I never really thought anything was wrong with the self deprecation, but now I’m discovering that maybe it isn’t the healthiest for my mental and emotional health. (Weird, right?) I always thought if I called myself out for how I thought others perceived me, than it would save me the hurt of hearing it from them.

“how I thought others perceived me”

There in itself is a major problem. Did anyone ever really see me the way I saw myself? Does it really matter how others see me if I can’t see myself in a real and healthy way?

I’ve always used my weight to keep a wall up, and to really avoid letting people know me… especially when it comes to dating. Before anyone says anything, I know that what I’m about to say is pretty f*ed up, not true, and I’m working on it. But, I always thought that I wasn’t worthy of someone loving me, because of the way I look. That because I don’t see myself as the prettiest girl in the room, or the skinniest, or the best dressed, that I’m not worthy of love.

Like I said, I know how f*ed up that is.

I still think that. I know, it’s not good. I’ve always been insecure and self-conscious, so it’s not something that will change overnight. But, I am working on it and slowing seeing changes in my thoughts and self-talk.

I’ve also been anxious that weight loss will and won’t make my mental health better. If it does improve my mental health, does that make me a vain, shallow person? If it doesn’t improve my mental health, then what will? I have this picture in my head that the healthier I get physically, than the healthier I will get mentally. What I’m also learning is that I need to put in the work mentally as much as I am physically. #balance?

I’m also working on seeing the physical changes that other people see in me. There are times that I look in the mirror in my now too big, baggy clothes, and I still see the same miserable, chunkier girl from 4 months ago. I don’t always see the hard work paying off. Don’t get me wrong, when I do a side-by-side of my face, I see it. How could I not?! The most insane thing to me is how my glasses look incredibly different on my face. But, when I look in the mirror or catch a glance of myself, I’m just not there yet. Body dysmorphia is a real thing.

I’m not saying any of this for validation or compliments. Because, I don’t know how to take a compliment, and I don’t need them to keep doing this. I’m doing it for me. But, I’m saying all of this more so because I feel that there may be just one other person out there in the world who feels crazy for feeling this way, and I want them to know that they aren’t alone.

Lastly, the comparison game is vicious. I never want anyone to compare their journey to mine. It’s hard not to compare, I get that. I compare myself to people all the damn time. And, it sucks, and is so, so defeating. We all need to celebrate each other, instead of question and compare.

So, wherever you are in your journey, whether it’s weight loss, mental health, etc., keep going. I’m proud of you.

-J

Looking for cheekbones and confidence

Wow, it’s uh, been a while. Quarantine has been interesting to say the least. I haven’t been writing (obviously) and have been going through a rollercoaster of emotions.

If you read my last post, you’ll remember that even at the beginning of quarantine life was a mess. Well, it only progressed from there.

My mental health wasn’t great. My jeans were fitting a little tight. I felt lost, confused, and just angry at myself, and the world around me. So, what did I do? I decided to get my shit together and start Weight Watchers. What better time to cut back on drinking beer and to kick my emotional eating habit other than the death of one of my dear friends, mixed with a human rights movement, wrapped up in a quarantine and served up on a pandemic?

Right?

Well, here we go. I took the quiz, figured out what plan I am on and instantly felt lost, overwhelmed and like I needed a snack, or a drink. LOL. Off to a great start.

THANK GOODNESS for my mom. For many reasons, but specifically in this story for helping me figure all of this stuff out. She started WW a few months before me, has been KILLING IT. She is the one who recommended I give it a try one night while I was having a slight mental breakdown.

I used to really enjoy cooking and baking, but then my social life got the best of me and I got away from all that. Well, thanks to the quarantine I had nothing but time, and absolutely no where to go. I really wanted to stick with this new plan, so had to get creative if I didn’t want to eat chicken and veggies every day. I started to experiment and have fun in the kitchen, and it became a great outlet not only physically, but mentally! I stepped out of my comfort zone with new recipes, and drinks. It took me a bit to come to terms with, but I really do enjoy a spiked seltzer. (Nothing will replace my love of IPA’s… but I’m all about that balance right now.)

WHO KNEW THAT A HEALTHY DIET WORKED?! I was/am very minimally working out, and have seen some great progress in just under 2 months! I’m down about 20lbs, and physically and mentally feel so much better. I have long way to go, but off to a good, well-paced, start.

The mental aspect has been MAJOR. Majorly hard, majorly important. Not turning to food during all of the emotional turmoil of the past few months has been nearly impossible some days, but some how, some way…. I’ve been doing it. And if I can do it, I have no doubt that anyone can. In the past food has been my friend, my crutch. I’d eat something totally unhealthy and wash it down with a beer or two to temporarily forget what was going on in the real world. But, as much as I love Dr. Nowzarden, I really don’t want to end up as one of his patients.

Starting to find a jaw line, and now looking for cheekbones and confidence!

Instead of turning to food or booze, I needed to find healthier outlets to cope with the shitstorm that is 2020. A few things that have helped:

  • Journal: If I feel like I need to eat out of emotion, I write down all that I am feeling. What is making me feel this way? Why do I want to eat? Am I really hungry? What actionable steps can I take that will actually solve my emotional distress?
  • Track your food: What you are eating, how much you are eating. AND DRINKING. Don’t forget your liquids. Also, look up the actual serving sizes of things and give yourself that much. Especially salad dressings, oils, cheese, etc.. It will be a shock and adjustment, but you will adjust. Promise. (You should have seen me when I first measured out a single serving of pasta)
  • Drink water. Drinking water really does help relieve stress. Gives you something to focus on. It also helps curb hunger, promotes weight loss and apparently helps clear up your skin. (I’m still waiting for the last part.) And, bonus! It helps get you some extra steps because you are peeing 73 times a day.
  • Accountability: Have a buddy, or a tribe. Accountability and support is key. Join facebook groups, have people you can message, text, etc. to complain with, motivate and get ideas from.

As total joke, I brought back my old #cookingwithjulie and to my shock, people actually started enjoying that content. It selfishly motivates me to keep coming up with healthy, creative recipes so that I can have some type of connection with the outside world. I’m all about giving the people what they want, so, today was born my newest Instagram @_cookingwithjulie. Feel free to give a follow for all of my recipes, ideas, etc.. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of fails and Maddy content.

I’m still trying to figure out where to take my blog in regards to recipes, my weightloss journey and all that, so if there is anything you want to see, let me know!

Until next time,

-J

It ain’t easy being wheezy

I haven’t written in a while, and due to the current shitshow of the world, felt inclined to do so.

We all have our opinions of how it is and was handled, the politics around it, and all that other stuff, but I’m not going to get into that here.

I do want to talk about dealing with quarantine and self-isolation. I live alone, and, it is exactly as it sounds… isolating.

It was hard enough when it started. Adjusting to working from home full time, not seeing friends or family. Hell, my new niece Piper was born and I have no idea when I’ll get to meet her. Not being able to go anywhere. Not to the gym, out for a drink, Target, to the coffee shop to write, to book club… you get it. No real opportunity for genuine human interaction.

All of that was taking a mental toll. I am very fortunate to have friends, family, and technology to help stay connected. I felt myself getting depressed, anxious and really down on myself. I’ve had, and will have more, times where I sat against the wall and cried. Cried out of fear, frustration, sadness, and loneliness. And, honestly, I still feel depressed and anxious. We’re about 3 weeks in and no where near the end of this.

I’ve never wanted a hug so badly.

And then when I was getting settled into those feelings, things took a turn.

If you know me at all, the universe has a sick sense of humor when it comes to my immune system and health. For whatever reason, no matter how hard I try, I get the most fucked up health issues. (I know… that’s dramatic, it could be SO MUCH worse, but this still really sucks, okay?)

About 10 days ago I got pretty sick and went downhill quickly. I had, and still have, extreme tightness in my chest and shortness of breath. I can barely walk to the bathroom without being totally winded and feeling like I ran a freaking marathon to get there (LOL it’s about 10 feet from my couch). I can’t get through a sentence without being totally out of breath and coughing every few words. Having a phone call with me is a real fun experience right now. Not to mention the chills, fever, being totally rundown and my body feels like I got hit by a bus. A tele-med appointment with the doctor led me to getting tested for covid a week ago.

If you’re wondering about the test, it was a drive-thru test. I needed a referral from my doctor and an appointment. I luckily got the first appointment of the day and it went quickly. Everyone had PPE and Medical professional #1 came to my window, I showed him my ID and he verified my info. I drove up and the 2 nurses came out and shoved 2 long q-tips very far and uncomfortably up my nose so far my eyes watered and I was wondering if it was worth it. The whole thing took about 10 minutes, but by the time I was finished there were already 40 or so cars in line. Keep in mind, this was just the beginning of the day.

Anyway…. back to the story. After the traumatic test, they tortured me a bit more and I had to wait 5 very long days for the results.

Thank goodness it came back negative!

I genuinely felt scared. And, still do, even without the ‘rona diagnosis. Not gonna lie about it. My current diagnosis still has me scared, and I think it’s okay to admit that. Breathing issues are fucking scary.

Once I got that “good” news, I had to go to the hospital (queue minor anxiety attack) to get more tests and a chest x-ray done to see why I’m feeling like shit and can’t breathe. I found out I’m positive for the flu and bad asthma. So, I guess the best case of a shitty situation? Idk. I never thought having the flu and asthma would be good but life is weird right now.

One thing I discovered is that it 100000% sucks to be living alone through this. I’d give anything to have someone here with me tucking me in, telling me it’s going to be okay and making me tea, but right now NOT sharing is caring. Like I said earlier, I’ve never wanted a hug so badly. I’m so grateful for the tribe of people checking in on me, reminding me take my temp and dropping medicine and supplies at my doorstep. It really does take a village and I’m so appreciative of mine. Every single text makes me feel less alone in this nightmare.

I’m not sharing this for sympathy, but as a reminder that no matter how careful we are all being you can still get sick. The only place I’ve been since 3/14/20 has been the grocery store, and even that has been limited and full of social distance. That’s the most human interaction I’ve had. It’s sad, but the reality. My hands are cracked and raw from washing them so much. I am relieved to finally know what is going on with my body so I can properly treat it. And let me tell you, it a’int easy being wheezy.

So friends.. stay home. I know we all want to see our friends and family. I miss people so fucking much. My cat loves me and is getting used to me (I think… or she’s letting me think that before she carries out her plan to kill me). I want to hug my mom and siblings. I want to meet my new niece and see how big the other three are getting. I want to hug my friends and have real face-to-face conversations. I really, really just want to spend some quality time outside. But if you don’t live with someone, you sadly shouldn’t be spending time with them. That’s the main point of all this social distancing. As hard as it is and as much as it sucks, that’s what we need to be doing. The less people we are around, and the less exposure we have, the less we unknowingly spread the rona, the quicker this can all be over.

I’m so lucky I “only” have the flu and asthma. People have it so much worse, and I think of them everyday.

I know I have a long road ahead, physically and mentally. And, I feel like others out there feel the same, so I want you to know you’re not alone. If there is anything I can do from a safe distance, I’m here for you. 🖤

Stay home. Wash your hands. Try and stay sane. We really are #togetherapart.

At the hospital waiting for my xray and tests. So grateful they had a mask for me. Not the best mask, but still a mask. Thanks to my recent Grey’s Anatomy binge, I kinda knew how to tie it!

-J

#sorrynotsorry

I’ve come to realize that we live in such an apologetic world. In some ways. I know there are many ways in which the world is very unapologetic.

We tend to apologize for so many things, that really, we don’t have to be sorry for. I personally need AA (Apologizers Anonymous). I say sorry for being sorry. Always have, and hopefully, always won’t. (Oh, hi there anxiety!) It’s something I’ve been working on for a while now (even in therapy, it’s that much of a conscious problem for me). After talking to friends about this, I know I’m not alone.

Sometimes, we don’t even know why we are sorry. I feel like it’s a natural reaction to just say “Oh, I’m sorry”. For example, a lady was rude to me at Dunkin Donuts last week and I apologized to her. WHAT?! WHY?! She tried to cut in line because she felt high and mighty, she bumped me and spilled coffee on me, but I APOLOGIZED. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have. But, I did. It happened before I could stop my mouth and I was so upset with myself for days after. (Okay, and clearly still am if I”m writing all this about it now, but it’s a good example!)

We get sick, we apologize for having to miss work or events with friends. Yes, it sucks, and we don’t want to. But, do we really have to be sorry? Do we have to feel guilty? We got sick. It happens to literally everyone. We shouldn’t feel that guilt. But, we do.

We are exhausted (physically, mentally, or emotionally) and cancel plans. We say sorry. Sorry for being tired? Or sorry for canceling? If you’re like me, it’s a mix of both but you really feel bad that you’re tired and can’t hang like you used to. Next time, just say “Hey, I apologize for cancelling on you, but tonight just isn’t going to work out”. Not, “I’m sorry I’m so exhausted from this long freaking week”. We shouldn’t be sorry for giving life our all and needing a break every now and again.

Here are some other examples of things we apologize for, and alternates (Disclaimer, I have heard these from friends and the internet, so I can’t take any credit. But, I try and keep them tucked away in my brain and call them out each time I apologize for absolutely no good reason.)

I am so sorry I’m late! Thank you for being patient and waiting for me!
This can be late to work, late for meeting a friend, getting a project to your boss/teacher late.

I’m sorry for being so emotional. Thank you for being so accepting of me and helpful.
We ALL have emotions. Some of us show them more than others. One thing I’ve been apologizing for a lot since losing my dad has been for my emotions. Hard days, days where I just need to sit and cry. I always apologize. But, there’s no need. Sometimes we just need a friend’s shoulder to cry on. And, we don’t need to be sorry for it.

Sorry for fucking up again. Thanks for being there to help me clean this mess up! And for not giving up on me!
If you’ve never made a mistake in your life, please message me and let me in on your secrets. If not, we’ve all been there and instead of apologizing, help a sista out.

Sorry for being so needy. Thank you for being a friend.
A true friend will be there. And you’ll be there for them. It’s life, and friendship. If you have to apologize to make it right, then maybeeeeeee they aren’t as good a friend as you thought?

Sorry for talking your ear off! Thank you for listening!
Again, we ALL need to vent. Does it really help? Scientifically? Not sure. I’m not a scientist. But, what I do know is that good bitching session does help me not want to kill someone!

Sorry that my house/desk/space is so messy! Thanks for being understanding of my organized chaos!
Mess happens. Life goes on. For me, when my mental health isn’t great (which is pretty frequent lately, and I’m working on it), my physical space represents that. I know I’ll feel better when I clean/organize, but it’s so hard to do when the depression is creeping up. So, don’t judge someone’s mess as them being a “slob”. It could be more than that.

I’m sorry that you’re angry/upset. I am sorry you feel that way. I am sorry that I did “XXXXX” to cause you to feel that/you went through that experience.
If you cause someone pain, don’t just say “sorry”. Apologize for what you may have done to cause their pain. If you’re sorry that something else happened, then that’s different. Be sorry that they went through that, not just that they are feeling that way.

Sorry for being me.
No response for that one. Never apologize for liking the things you like, or doing the things you do (first hand experience on this one, it doesn’t help you, and doesn’t help the person you’re apologizing to). Unless you are legitimately doing something terrible. But that’s a whole other conversation.

So, basically, moral of the story here, is to try and figure out why you are sorry. It’s such an easy word to say, but means more when we understand why we are sorry. And, to stop apologizing for things that we really don’t have to feel sorry about.

Next time I apologize to any of you for no good reason, you have full permission to call me out on my shit.

-J

Started from the bottom and now we’re here

One year ago, I wrote my first blog post. I was frustrated with a fibromyalgia flare up (and, ironically have a bad one again). I posted something on facebook about it and had a few people reaching out asking what fibromyalgia actually is. Instead of writing a realllllly long facebook post, I decided to create a quick, free blog to tell people what the f*ck fibromyalgia is.

I was terrified to actually hit “publish” on that first post. I did not consider myself a writer, and was so worried about what people would think and say about it. I was afraid people would think I just did it for sympathy, or that it was full of bullshit.

I was shocked when the opposite happened.

People didn’t ridicule or judge me. It connected me to people I know, and to total strangers who are literally all around the world. That one blog post led me to keep writing. To write about fibromyalgia, the loss of my dad, mental health, and just life in general. It led me to write for a Fibromyalgia website, as well as for Thought Catalog. NEVER in my life did I think I would be doing this. Connecting with people and helping them in this way. I’ve always been an empathetic person, and always wanting to help, but this really took it to a new level.

I thought maybe a handful of people would read my posts. To my disbelief, over 80,000 people have read my writing in the past year.

80,000.

WHAT?! That’s way more than just my mom reading it. It’s totally insane. In the best way possible.

When I started this blog a year ago, it sparked a change in me. A push outside of my comfort zone and a shove toward finding out who I really am. Through writing I have learned to open up to others, and more importantly, to open up to myself. It’s given me a confidence that I never knew I needed.

Lately I’ve been really thinking about how we get one life. That’s it. We don’t get a re-do. We spend so much time and energy stressing about every little thing and being so hard on ourselves. We often find ourselves living a life that we do not fully enjoy. And that made me realize I need to make a change. I need to make myself and the things that make me happy more of a priority. To set boundaries around different parts of my life that are holding me down.

I want to continue making connections with people. To help them through all of the hard parts of life, and be there to celebrate the good. Everyday, so many people are struggling and I want to be a voice in letting them know that it’s okay to not be okay all the time.

So, thank YOU all for reading along and supporting me this past year.

Here’s to the next!

-J

Good things come to those who keep fighting

About 14 years ago I was “officially” diagnosed with fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. This was after years of dead-end doctor appointments and being told that I’m “just a moody kid going through growing pains”. Well, first of all, at age 16 I was pretttttty sure I was done growing. No one knew why I was in constant, excruciating pain. And, no one really wanted to give me, or my parents, the diagnosis that their kid is a little f*cked up.

When I finally got my diagnosis I wasn’t as relieved as I thought I’d be. I was embarrassed. Mortified. Mental health was not widely talked about or accepted. I was diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome that was normally found in people twice my age. I could go on A LOT about the issues with the mental health stigmas in our society, but that’s a whole other blog post. But, I will say this: If you, a family member or friend is struggling with their mental health, do not hide it. Do not brush it off. Do not be judgmental. Talk about it. Be a support.

Anywho, back to me. So, since my diagnosis I have tried a wide array of medications. Some multiple times with different doses. Just to name a few off the top of my head:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Lyrica
  • Lexapro
  • Gabpentin
  • Amitriptyline
  • Trazodone
  • Meloxicam
  • Topirmate
  • Naltrexone

All of that, and nothing worked. Some made me sick, some made me feel nothing. But nothing took away the pain, made me less anxious, or made me feel a little bit alive. I wasn’t sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time (and still am not).

So, after a long struggle, I am happy to announce I am finally certified in Pennsylvania for Medical Marijuana.

Yes, some people don’t believe in it. No, you can’t get addicted to it.

I went to an informational workshop at Victus Health and Wellness Center in Phoenixville, PA led by Dr. Jeff Katra. He isn’t just a PCP, but actually specializes in cannibas and opiod medicine. So, he knows it all. It wasn’t just about medical marijuana. It was about the history of marijuana. It was about CBD. About how they work together. It was about how safe it is, and how different it is than other options. It was about the science behind it all. I feel so well informed going into this decision. So, I’m going to share a little bit of that knowledge here, but, I highly recommend Victus (or at least talking to a professional).

Isn’t a marijuana plant just a marijuana plant?
Nope! There are 2 different types of marijuana plants:
– Indica: more sedating
– Sativa – more stimulating

Okay, so there are 2 different plants. But, what else makes medical marijuana special?
I am SO glad you asked! So, medical marijuana is made up of THC and CBD. Which work well separately, but the real magic happens when they work together! (A little metaphor for life, eh?). Different combinations of THC and CBD can give different results. Want a little extra somethin’ somethin’? There is also something called terpenes which is an organic compound that adds different flavor and results to the combo.

Since it’s medical, does the marijuana stay in my system?
It’s medical, not magic. So, yes. It does stay/show in your system. So it will show during a drug test (for work, DUI/DWI, etc.) Again, there are different strands, so you can find ones with a higher CBD to use when you need to be a functioning member of society.

Are there side effects?
Yes. Again, all depending on how hard you hit the THC, but can make you anxious, bronchitis if you smoke it a lot, dry mouth, change in blood pressure, lethargic… and, the pizza place’s favorite… the munchies.

How addictive is it?
It’s not.

So, since it’s legal in PA I can do whatever I want?
You do you, but, it’s not recognized in all states or at a federal level, so don’t be an idiot.

Cool. So, you gonna throw it in a joint or a bong?
Ummmmm, no? But you can. There are plenty of options. Let me break it down a little for ya:

  • Smoking flowers: you’ll feel it in 5-10 mins. (Don’t break up flowers with your hands because you’ll get the oils all over your hands, and not in your joint like you need. Use scissors.)
  • Vaporizing flowers: (not like the usual vape, you put flowers in a thing and then inhale the smoke from that… I am not explaining it well, but this does) Rapid and efficient, you feel it in 5-10 minutes.
  • Vaping cannabis oil: This was recommended for me. The most common form of vaping I’ve seen (but safe, not like this stuff on TV that people are getting from non-regulated places). Studies show it is probably safer than smoking it, but, nothing in life is guaranteed.
  • Cannabis tincture: This was also recommended for me. Takes 15 to 30 minutes to hit your system.
  • Edibles: Also something I’m into. You can put it in butter, gummies, brownies, cookies, etc.. Just be sure to mark them as such, especially if you have roommates or kids. (Dr. Jeff also gave me a recipe for cannabis butter, so…. he’s speaking my language on this one)
  • Topicals I have tried THC lotion and I am telling you that shit works. Obviously it wears off, but, oh my. It works. Within minutes I felt my pain subsiding. WHAT?! I know. It’s never happened like that.

Awesome! But, how much do I take?
Due to vaping, smoking, cooking, etc. it’s hard to take a “dose”. It’s recommended to do trial and error and take small amounts until you feel it, and take it from there.

How do I know what strain to take?
There are A TON of strains. I’m not going to list the whole document I have, but, you can definitely research online and at your dispensary. The dispensary will be able to recommend for you based on your condition(s) and what you are looking to get from it.

  • Fibromyalgia: Harlequin, Purps
  • Neuropathy: (Also tied to fibromyalgia) Harlequin, Cannatonic, ACDC, Cookies
  • Migraines: Gorilla Glue, Purple Haze, Blue Dream
  • Anxiety: Blue Dream, Sour Diesel, Purple Haze, ACDC, Suzy Q, Bubba Kush
  • Depression: Tangerine Dream, Bubba Kush, Zeta
  • Insomnia: Grape Ape, Purps, Hindu, Bubba Kush

My insurance covers this, right? I have the good plan.
Unfortunately the consultation to get certified and the products are not covered by insurance. And, it’s not as cheap as the prescription pain killers. However, it is going to be well worth it.

All this has been great but how do I get it?
Excellent question. First, you register on the PA medical marijuana website. You register, then see the doctor for the consultation. If they certify you, they will log into the website and put in some info. Once that is in, you’ll get an e-mail, pay the state $50, and get your card in about a week. (I will be stalking my mailman.)

Hopefully you found this interesting or helpful. Message me if you have any questions, and if I can’t answer them I will certainly do my best to point you in the direction of someone more qualified than I am.

I am just so excited (and honestly nervous) to finally have relief. I’ve spent about half of my life feeling like this, and can’t even imagine the new life ahead of me. I imagine something like this:

Until next time, when I’m hopefully in less pain, less anxious, and well rested. (For real y’all. I can’t wait to SLEEP. I don’t even know what 2 hours of solid sleep feels like.)

-J

The Roaring 20’s

2019 was a hard year, to say the least. A bit of an uphill battle at times. But, as hard as it was, it was also rewarding, and full of learning and growth. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that I can, and will, overcome hard things.

As crazy as this year was though, I feel that I did become a bit stagnant in parts of my life. I definitely put self-care on the back burner. My health has been all over the place. My house is a mess. My social life is lacking at times. This past year I’ve lost some friends, and even more hair.

I’ve never been a person to make New Year’s Resolutions. “I’m going to go to the gym more”, “I’m going to fall in love”, “I’m going to blah, blah blah”. As I’ve said before, if there is one thing I’m consistent at, it’s being inconsistent.

My plan for 2020 is to focus on ME. To say yes to more things that challenge me, and say no to more things that don’t serve me. I saw something on Instagram recently that really got me thinking:

Go ahead and read that again. And, one more time. I am pretty confident when I say that I’m not the only one who cares what people think. This can unknowingly guide us to live our lives in a certain way to impress or fit in with people we may, or may not even, know.

In 2020, I want to start to break free from this. It won’t be easy. But I know I’ll be so much happier when I start to focus on me, and less about what others think. I am a very insecure person. I am always comparing myself to others and wondering what they think about me. “Am I funny enough?” “I’m not as pretty as her”, “I’m too fat”, and so on. That is not a healthy way of living. I need to focus less on what others think, and more on what I think. And, honestly, I bet no one is even thinking all the things I assume, because… well…. anxiety.

A friend said to me recently that life sucks, but you have to find your little corner of things and people you enjoy and do the best with it. Again, that little sentence has really stuck with me. It’s so easy to focus on how shitty life is. I’ve had a year of that. Yes, there have been great parts that I’ve celebrated and enjoyed. However, I feel like I really only talked about how hard it all was. One major thing I am taking away from 2019 is that I can still be grieving (because that may never end) but still live a happy and full life. Don’t get me wrong, by sharing what I did helped me connect with so many people and form an amazing tribe of support. I will forever be grateful for that. Writing and connecting with so many people has really opened up my eyes to things and changed my life. I don’t plan to stop writing about the hard parts of grief, mental and physical health, because I feel like it’s important to remind people they aren’t alone in it.

I plan on sharing, and living more of the joys in life. Of pushing myself more outside of my comfort zone to make new friends and connections to have in my corner. To work on existing friendships to make them even stronger, and to be there for those who have been there for me so much. To work on my mental and physical health by working with Victus to learn and incorporate new healthy habits into my life. These new habits will hopefully get my fibromyalgia stabilized and maybe even help my alopecia. All of this will 100% help my mental health!

I’ve already started on pushing myself a bit and started a book club with my friend Jen in Phoenixville (and virtually for those who aren’t local), Books and Brews. I had the idea and talked about it, and finally had the courage to follow through! Feels good to already be starting on finding my little corner of things and people.

I plan to keep this momentum going and to keep finding the things that bring me joy, and push me and scare me (in a good way, not like clowns). 2020 is going to be another year of growth and discovery. And hell, maybe I’ll even write that book!

Get ready 2020, I’m coming for ya!

-J

Adventures in alopecia

A few people have been asking for an update on my Adventures in Alopecia, so I thought I’d give a quick one.

Honestly, no major improvement. I’m still seeing significant hair loss and thinning, and don’t see anything growing back (yet 🤞🏻).

I’m sticking to my treatments of prescription shampoo twice a week, another hair growth shampoo days I don’t do that, rogaine daily, and prescription pills twice a day. I mentioned it in a previous post, but it’s a major lifestyle change for a girl who used to wash her hair once or twice a week.

I tried to get a side by side comparison from just about a month ago to today. Different angles, and hard to really tell if you arent me, but there is definitely more thinning, hair loss, and irritation here than last month.

I reached out to my dermatologist early last week when I noticed I had significant thinning. She reassured me that this is the best course of treatment for my type of hair loss and unfortunately we just need to wait and see what happens. She said that it’s not uncommon for the hair loss to continue, and even get worse, before hopefully getting better as my body is adjusting to the different hormone levels.

Before I get much appreciated, solicited and unsolicited advice/judgement, yes, I have reached out for second, and third opinions and have heard the same from all doctors. One doctor was even more of a natural doctor and after reviewing my records even agreed that this is my best course of action for the level of hair loss I’m experiencing. Natural remedies and injections will not be as effective based on the blood work and biopsies I had done.

For anyone experiencing similar issues please consult a doctor. Biotin and other vitamins are not a cure. In fact, too much can actually harm you (which I didn’t know). Each body needs different treatment, even for the same illness. So, please, PLEASE, do not self or google diagnos and see a doctor. I’m sure glad I did.

Something I feel like I’ve been learning a lot of in the past year is that nothing is guaranteed in life. And, apparently hair is one of them. Ironically, this is the longest my hair has been in a while. 🤷‍♀️

I know that I could have more of a grim diagnosis, and that there are probably people reading this who have it much worse than I do, and i never want to take away from that. I’m grateful for the health and hair that I have. But, it’s hard to live with at times.

So, if you’re struggling with a physical ailment that people can see, or an invisible illness: I feel you, and I’m here for you. Be nice to yourself. Buy a cute hat, have a good cry, and keep solace in the fact that the Patriots or Cowboys are going to lose this week.

The shampoos are starting to change my hair color 🙁

Happy Sunday, and Happy Thanksgiving week!

-J

The first year without you

The first year without you has been simultaneously the longest and fastest year of my life. It has been challenging and lonely, and so, so hard. At times, the first year without you has felt impossible.

The first year without you has been a reminder of how much joy you brought to the lives of so many people. A reminder of the impact you had on everyone you met. The first year without you has been dark. It’s been a constant reminder of the incredible person you were.

The first year without you has been angry. Unfair. Confusing. I still don’t understand why. There is so much I need you for. So much to talk to you about. So much I won’t have with you.

The first year without you has been full of denial. I still can’t believe you’re gone. I still pick up the phone to call you. I still forget that we don’t have you.

The first year without you has been full of learning and growth. Learning about myself. Learning how to feel. Learning how to deal with this grief. Learning and understanding myself, and others and just how differently everyone handles grief. It hasn’t been easy. But, it has led me to unexpected places. Losing you pushed me and inspired me to find my voice, and to being writing . Never in my life did I think I’d be opening up and connecting to so many people, but here we are. I’ve grown so much in this past year, in ways I didn’t know possible. In ways I didn’t know I needed.

The first year without you has been full of pulling away. From friends. From family. Feeling it was sometimes easier to hide. Not something I’m proud of, and I should have/could have handled it differently. I’m working on it. Pulling away from experiences because I don’t have you here and am afraid for pieces of my future without you. I’m afraid to date because I’ll never get your opinion. I’m afraid of a future that can lead to marriage because I won’t have your blessing. You won’t be there to walk me down the aisle. I’ll never get a Father/Daughter dance.

Honestly, the first year without you has been a clusterfuck. Losing you has led to a series of unfortunate events that I need you for. You were always in my corner, and always knew what to say and what to do.

The first year without you has been lonely. I miss your voice. Your laugh. Your hugs. Your demanding of showing up for a visit when I didn’t even know I needed it. Missing your random mailed envelopes of coupons. I miss talking sports with you. I miss the weird whistle noise you made when you wanted someone’s attention. I miss you giving me directions somewhere when we all knew I was just going to put it in my GPS. I miss cracking a beer and just shooting the shit with you. I really, really, miss the holidays with you. Christmas will never be the same.

But, with all the hurt, this first year without you has been full of love. Love for others, and from others. Having grace with myself to move through this process. Feeling the love of all those in my life who care for me, our family, and most importantly you. Full of support and encouragement. Full of gentle and understanding people. Full of so much love for you that will never go away.

Dad, this first year without you has really fucking sucked. And somehow it’s also been great. It’s been life changing in good and bad ways. This first year without you is one I never wanted to experience.

I love you, and miss you, and hope I’m continuing to make you as proud of me as I’ve always been of you. Each day without you I’m striving to be the woman you raised me to be, foul mouthed and all. Thank you for being the best dad, friend, and role model. Thank you for always showing up. I strive to be the person you saw in me.

This one’s for you.

Sláinte.

-Julie

Please feel free to browse through my blog for other posts, or check out some articles I have written for Thought Catalog here.

Why the second year is the hardest

After losing a loved one, you experience a lot of firsts. A lot of hard firsts. Especially first holidays. You’re still in shock. You’re adjusting not only to losing them, but to life and special occasions without them.

That first year you try and stick to traditions, but it’s not easy. Plans get adjusted. You don’t put out all of your decorations. You kind of half-ass the holidays.

You always expect and anticipate the firsts to be the hardest. I did. They weren’t easy. At all. Day to day is still an unexpected roller-coaster. You’re still grieving, and let me tell you something, that is okay. Especially leading up to the one year mark. (If you’re new here, I lost my dad basically the day before Thanksgiving last year. So, excellent timing.)

What I’m learning though, is that the second year of holidays is different. It’s surprisingly harder. The shock of the loss isn’t as strong and reality is setting in. The dust is settling a bit and you’re navigating life in the “new normal”. Some people even forget what you are going through and that’s okay. Not only is Dad not coming back, but life is going on. Special, happy times aren’t as happy. But they are happening. I’m realizing that Thanksgiving and Christmas are really happening without him. Somehow.

I am beyond blessed with family and friends. I have an incredible and understanding support system. But, I’m still honestly feeling anxious leading into it. I was am a Christmas fanatic. I love it. Dad raised me that way. Really, not much brings me more joy than some Christmas music and some twinkling lights. The lights just don’t seem to shine the same without Dad.

I’m finding myself holding on to memories and traditions. All of the small things that at one point seemed meaningless, now mean everything. The songs and the movies. The little chachkies that are now invaluable and full of precious memories. That time my sister spilled chocolate milk all over the turkey and no one even got mad. The time my siblings and I all had the chicken pox on Christmas and had to stay home. Peeking down the stairs to see if Santa came. Always burning the Christmas morning cinnamon rolls while the Yule Log played on TV with a Christmas record in the background. Dad always behind the video camera and always making sure all the batteries were in the toys and that all the decals were on Barbie’s Dream House and the Ninja Turtle Van.

But, as hard as it seems at times, life goes on. If there is one thing Tom Donnelly loved, it was the holidays. I know for damn sure he will come down and haunt me if I half-ass Christmas again. As hard as I know it will be, I need to be all in. So, time to channel my inner Buddy the Elf and squash the Scrooge.

I guess what I’m saying is, be gentle. With yourself. And, with others. Don’t just try to “get through” the holidays. But embrace them and celebrate them in memory of those we love.

Happy Holidays!

-J

Please feel free to browse through my blog for other posts, or check out some articles I have written for Thought Catalog here.