A Change of Course

Earlier this year, I applied for a course with The National Outdoor Leadership School. My Semester in the Pacific Northwest officially begins in 41 days! I am feeling simultaneously excited and nervous about this fast-approaching expedition. In my Adventure Awaits post I announced my enrollment into the course. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Shortly after publishing that post, I received a phone call from my admissions officer, regarding some changes to my course. In today’s post, I will share my feelings about these changes as well as a very important Universal message that I received. Even if you are not considering doing a NOLS course, the message that I have to share can be applied to any area of life.

A Message from NOLS

In mid-May, my NOLS admissions officer called to inform me that the enrollment rates were quite low for the particular section I had chosen for my course. The Semester in the Pacific Northwest, typically has two sections (A or B), each with a slightly different offering of outdoor activities and skills learned. Historically, NOLS has found that students report having a better experience if they are enrolled in a course with greater participation. NOLS courses not only focus on teaching outdoor skills, but also team building and problem-solving. Because the option I had chosen (Section B) had low enrollment, NOLS decided to cancel it, and instead offered to transfer my reservation to Section A.

Let me go back a bit to explain why I had selected Section B in the first place. When I was initially researching NOLS courses, I was looking for a few different things: variety of outdoor activities, certifications earned, and location(s). Also, I was avoiding any courses that had a mountaineering aspect. This is primarily why I had chosen Section B over Section A for the Semester in the Pacific Northwest. Both sections of the course cover wilderness first aid, rock climbing, backpacking, and sailing. However, Section B in addition covers sea kayaking, while Section A covers mountaineering. I have zero mountaineering experience, and to be perfectly frank, it freaking terrifies me! Perhaps I have watched one too many Everest documentaries, but I had told myself that I would never explore mountaineering. It felt too scary.

A Message from the Universe

Imagine my surprise when my admissions officer told me that my preferred (non-mountaineering) section had been cancelled. My stomach did a big flip, and my mind began to race. Then I laughed to myself and realized that this was indeed a message from the Universe, and it was presenting me with a choice – I could run away from my fear and select a completely different NOLS course; or, I could face my fear of mountaineering and pick up an ice axe. After chatting with my admissions officer, I told her to switch me to Section A! You may be wondering why I decided to give mountaineering a try after all, when I am genuinely afraid to do it? Ultimately, it came down to recognizing that my fear was holding me back. When else will I have this kind of opportunity to learn from skilled, seasoned mountaineers in a part of the world I have never seen?

Although I am still incredibly nervous about the prospect of mountaineering, I am really proud of myself for switching sections. I am stepping into uncertainty and confronting one of my fears. Each and every one of us has our own fears, and some of those fears feel so overwhelming, they take control over us. Maybe it is a fear of rejection, or a fear of failure. Perhaps it is a fear of losing control, or a fear of the unknown. I ask you though, which is scarier – facing that fear and taking a risk? Or allowing that fear to have control over you? I know how difficult it is to stand and face one’s fears. However, I believe that by becoming more intimate with our fears, it leads to a deeper understanding. From this understanding, we have the potential to overcome our fears and build greater trust in ourselves. Imagine your life, if you were no longer paralyzed by your fears nor held back by self-limiting beliefs.

A Message from Me to You

I challenge each of you to reflect and ask yourself – in which areas of my life have I allowed fear to take the helm? I encourage you to no longer allow fear to hold you back from enjoying your life to the fullest. Trust in yourself, because you are stronger than you realize. Grant yourself patience and compassion as you step outside of your comfort zone. Be brave. Be bold.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. If you enjoyed reading today’s post, hit the ‘Like’ button below. If you curious about the course offering through NOLS, follow the link here. What new thing or adventure have you been wanting to do that scares you? Share in the comments below. In closing, I leave you with this quote:

“Fear, uncertainty, and discomfort are your compasses toward growth.”  ~ Celestine Chua

 

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This post is part of Any Topic Tuesday, which is one out of two featured blog days. For suggestions or requests on future topics, please drop me a line here or connect with me on social media.

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The Pendant – Part 5 (Alternate Ending)

At some point during the middle of the night, Claire had fallen back to sleep. She awoke several hours later, the sky still dark. Claire felt an ache in her heart, and she placed her hand on her chest, her fingertips touching the pendant. Although she knew it was illogical, she could not shake the feeling that she really had seen Katie; she believed whole-heartedly that Katie was still alive and needed her help. With a newfound sense of determination, Claire threw aside her covers and quickly began to dress herself. It was still very early, and so as not to wake her parents, Claire made sure to step carefully down the staircase, avoiding the creaky spots. She took her shawl from its hook, quietly unlatched the front door, and stepped out onto the street.

She walked at a quick pace, heading directly towards the shop owned by the mysterious red-bearded man. As she neared the shop front, a light shone from somewhere inside the shop, and its owner opened the front door, as Claire reached the doorway.

“Claire. I was hoping you would come. Please do come inside,” said the red-bearded man in a calm voice.

“How did you – ?”

“I promise, all will be explained. Please follow me.”

He smiled reassuringly and yet the look in his eyes was grave. Claire hesitated and felt as though a stone had dropped in her stomach. Then she remembered her dream and the desperate look in Katie’s eyes. She crossed the threshold and the red-bearded man closed and locked the door behind her. He led her towards the back of the shop into a dimly lit room, which appeared to be his office. On two walls there were bookshelves overflowing with books and scrolls. An oak desk was situated in the center of the room, the top covered with papers and fascinating objects. In one corner of the room stood a cabinet with the most beautiful and intricate carvings.

“Please, do sit down,” said the man, offering Claire a small chair.

Walking to the opposite side of the desk and sitting in his own chair, the red-bearded man pulled his pipe from his coat pocket. Striking a match, he lit his pipe and took a long, slow puff. He held the smoke in his mouth for a moment, although it seemed an eternity to Claire. He finally parted his lips and sighed, the smoke encircling his head.

“I realize that all of this must seem very strange for you. Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Jasper. I am sure by now you have discovered that the pendant you wear is no ordinary necklace. I am sorry for keeping you in the dark until now, but I had to be certain that you could connect with the powers residing inside of this rare piece. It was crafted by a skilled alchemist. Her name…was Gerwyn, and she was the love of my life.”

He paused, taking another puff of his pipe.

“Gerwyn and I met one late spring evening, when we were young. She confided in me and told me that she came from another world, where every person and creature is born with magical talents. Gerwyn had a natural affinity with flora and fauna. During one of our first conversations, she explained to me how certain times of the year, the division between this world and the other world – her world – became thin enough for her, and others like her, to pass through. For many years we only saw each other for a few, precious days. I also learned that because she was born in the other world, she could not stay in this world for too long, or else she risked losing her magical talents and becoming mortal. Despite these limitations, we formed an unlikely friendship, and with each passing year our love for one another grew stronger.

“One summer evening, Gerwyn found me in the forest. She showed me the pendant and told me that she had found a way for us to be together. She had collected a particularly powerful four-leaf clover and preserved its magical properties by creating the pendant. You see, Claire, the pendant is the key to the doorway between this world and the other world; it also protects the wearer. The pendant not only allowed Gerwyn to pass through the division, it enabled both of us to go through together at any time, so long as we were physically connected in some way.

“We were overjoyed, because we could finally exist in the same world. We agreed and promised to build a life wherein we had a home in both of our worlds – she wearing the pendant while here, and I wearing the pendant when in her world. In the autumn of my eighteenth year, we married here in the village of my birth. Shortly after our wedding, we went together to Gerwyn’s world. The years passed, and we kept our promise to one another – living our lives together both in this world and the other world. We were so happy…”

Jasper’s words faltered, and tears began to fill his eyes. Claire waited, unsure of what to say but sensing the deep sorrow that he carried.

He continued, “Three years….It was three years ago…when everything changed.”

Claire felt as though a cold draught had passed through her. Three years ago was when Katie had disappeared. She wondered, Could this be a coincidence?

As if reading her mind, Jasper said, “Your friend, Katie Hanover…disappeared three years ago, shortly after she took the pendant from Gerwyn.”

Claire could not believe what she was hearing. Surely, he is mistaken, she thought.

“What do you mean – Katie took the pendant?” asked Claire, with trepidation.

Jasper puffed on his pipe and stared back at Claire. Finally he answered, “Katie, as you well know, has a curious nature. One day when Gerwyn and I were walking in the forest, Katie witnessed some of the magical properties of the pendant at work. We didn’t realize at the time that she was there.

“You have to understand, Claire, that the magic of the pendant is neither good nor bad. It yields to the will of its owner. Gerwyn used the power of the pendant to heal plants and animals, which is what she was doing when Katie spotted us in the forest. Each wearer of the pendant has the choice of how he or she will harness the magic. I believe that Katie never meant any harm when she took the pendant; she was only a young girl and didn’t understand the significance of her action.

“Unfortunately, when we awoke the next morning, we discovered that the pendant was gone. We spent several days searching the cottage for the lost necklace, knowing that we needed to find it as soon as possible, for Gerwyn’s sake. On the fifth day, Gerwyn became extremely ill. I did everything I could to try and save her, but we both knew that unless we found the pendant, or discovered another way to get her back to the other world – she was going to die. She grew weaker with each passing day, and she lost her own magical powers much faster than either of us expected. I can still remember holding her hand, as she took her final breaths….I felt completely helpless to save her – my love, my wife, my friend.”

Jasper looked down, and snuffed out his pipe.

“I am so sorry,” was all that Claire could say.

He replaced his pipe inside his coat pocket, and met Claire’s eyes once again.

“I told you that I believe that Katie never intended to hurt Gerwyn, or cause her to die. Something changed in Katie though, after she took the pendant – a darkness took hold inside of her.

“I couldn’t save Gerwyn. But you…you just may be able to save Katie. She needs your help, Claire, and there isn’t much time.”

To be continued…

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This post is part of Fiction Friday, which is one out of two featured blog days. For suggestions or requests on future topics, please drop me a line here or connect with me on social media.

Dispelling Myths about Hospice with a Special Guest

Today on Truly Meeting Erin, I am trying something a little different. I am hosting and interviewing my first guest! I am pleased to introduce Jamie Thomas, LCSW-A. She works in the hospice field, as a social worker. I am especially excited to have Jamie as a guest, because she also happens to be my best friend. I have asked her to share her expertise and experience working in the hospice field. Through our interview, we discuss and dispel some of the common myths of hospice. Click the link below to listen to our conversation. Be sure to listen all the way to the end for some of our bloopers.

Audio Interview

 

Final Thoughts

I hope that after listening to our interview, you have a better understanding of the mission and focus of hospice care. Whether we receive the service as a patient or know someone in hospice care, it is a comfort to know that there are teams of people who are there to support us. For more information on hospice, visit the website for the Hospice Foundation of America.

Thank you so much for reading and listening. Thank you Jamie, for being my guest and for sharing your knowledge in this space.


For suggestions or requests on future topics, please drop me a line here or connect with me on social media.

The Pendant – Revisited

Recently I was asked by one of my lovely readers if I intended to write an alternate ending to The Pendant. If you have not read the story of Claire MacRae, follow the links here for Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. At my reader’s request, I have decided to write the tragic ending of The Pendant, which will be published next week on Fiction Friday.

For today’s post I would like to share a bit of the inspiration behind my short story and how I came to write it. I must admit that the interest in The Pendant took me pleasantly by surprise. When I sat down to brainstorm my first Fiction Friday post, I could not decide upon a subject. As a writer, I have lots of stories and ideas floating around in my head. Sometimes though I really struggle to put these thoughts on paper, as my tendency towards perfectionism stunts my creativity. I decided at the time, as a way to relieve some of the pressure, I would use a writing prompt to spark my imagination. I did a quick online search and read through a few lists of writing prompts before settling on this one:

“You’re making your way down a cobbled street when a stocky, red-bearded man beckons you into an alley. He reaches into his coat, produces a locket on a long gold chain, and hands it to you. Upon opening the locket, you find a four-leaf clover pressed beneath a small glass pane. When you look up, the red-bearded man is gone. What happens next?” (Resource)

 

If you have read my story, then you will notice that I changed a few of the details in this writing prompt. After I read the prompt, my mind began creating the characters, backstory, and setting for my story. I had only intended to write a single, stand-alone piece; however, as I drafted the story, I realized that there was a lot more than one post’s worth. The Pendant evolved into four parts, and a lot of my initial ideas about the story changed through the writing process. As an example, I contemplated explaining Katie’s mysterious disappearance through a kidnapping, while writing Parts I and II. After exploring this idea, I decided that I would rather explain her disappearance by connecting it back to the pendant itself. Thus, the creation of the ‘other world’ in Part IV was formed.

So there you have it – a little view into my writing process of The Pendant. Be sure to check back next week to read the tragic, alternate ending of this story. Do you have any predictions as to Claire’s tragic fate? Comment below and share your musings. Also, if you enjoyed today’s post and want to read similar types of posts in the future, click the ‘Like’ button below.

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This post is part of Fiction Friday, which is one out of two featured blog days. For suggestions or requests on future topics, please drop me a line here or connect with me on social media.

The Gift of Self-Care

Self-care is a term we are hearing and seeing more of these days. It makes me happy to witness a growing awareness of such an important and often overlooked area of our lives. When I was younger my perception of self-care was limited to brushing my teeth, eating my vegetables, and being active. Over the past few years, my understanding and experience with self-care has greatly shifted. I once thought of self-care as basic, healthy habits that had to be done. I now view self-care as a beautiful, loving practice that I truly want to do. For the times that I skip out on my self-care, I notice a big difference in my mood and my ability to handle stress. For today’s post, I want to discuss why self-care is important, how to make time for it, and explore what classifies as self-care.

Why Care about Self-Care?

In our modern lives, we are faced with a lot of stress. Financial, environmental, familial, relational, educational or career stressors can affect our mood and general outlook on life. Stress, if it goes unchecked, can affect our health and well-being in more ways than one (Resource). There are numerous ways to manage and reduce stress. In my opinion, self-care is one of the most powerful and effective practices for attending to stress. Self-care cultivates trust and love within one’s self. When we care for ourselves through kind and loving acts, we have the ability to change an ordinary day into a fulfilling and purposeful day. When our own needs have been met, we are better equipped to face the stressors of life and perhaps even help others who may be struggling. Another great aspect of self-care is that it is entirely personal, and therefore customizable.

How to Make Time for Self-Care?

Making time for self-care, even if it is something simple, has a positive ripple effect. However, we sometimes (myself included) skimp on taking care of ourselves, because we have lots of responsibilities and our time is limited each day. Self-care does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. The value of self-care resides in how it makes you feel. Whether it is 2 minutes of deep-breathing or 30 minutes spent in a luxurious bath, if it helps to soothe and restore you, then that is effective self-care. I recommend doing some form of self-care every day and throughout the day. Through my own practice, I have found that including little acts of self-care into my morning and bedtime routines to be effective and easy to remember. One of my favorite self-care practices is doing 15 minutes of yoga every morning. It is something that gently awakens both my body and mind, and it sets the tone for the rest of my day.

Finding little moments during the day where you can include self-care is another way to maximize your valuable time. For example, if I need to wash the dishes (which I do not enjoy doing), then I will put on an inspirational video or listen to some of my favorite music. More recently, I have started listening to podcasts while driving or when eating by myself. I really look forward to these regular parts of my day because I end up laughing or feeling motivated and inspired by what I am hearing.

Setting aside time and even scheduling your self-care can help you build it into your routine. If I have been neglecting one particular form of self-care, then I will schedule it, as a way to remind myself and also protect that time. I recommend utilizing a calendar to schedule your self-care priorities. If hiking is one of your most important self-care practices, schedule a hike on one of your free days. If getting enough sleep is a priority, set an alarm to go off about an hour before you want to fall asleep. Once the alarm goes off, start getting ready for bed. For me, reading is something that I love but has fallen by the wayside lately. Over the weekend, I spent about 30 minutes diving back into the book I started reading two months ago. I woke up feeling so happy the next morning, because I had finally made time for myself through reading. I am pleased to report that since Saturday evening, I have curled up with my book each night. This has helped me to slow down and decompress at the end of my day, before I drift off to sleep.

Whatever you choose, plan for it, schedule it (if necessary), and share it with your support system – family, close friends, partner, spouse, or roommate(s). Through sharing, you will have someone to help you hold yourself accountable.

What is Self-Care?

Thus far, I have mentioned a few self-care practices. I want to dive a little deeper and explore different areas where self-care may come into play. Please note, that the examples I share are not an exhaustive list. There are a multitude of ways to practice self-care. My goal here is to help you begin to think of ways that you can incorporate self-care into your own life. Some examples may fall into more than one category. I have also included a few common things that may be detrimental to your self-care. It is best to reduce or eliminate these things from your habits.

Supporters of Self-Care:

Body – Connecting with your senses, Eating nourishing food, & Moving your body (strength training, walking/running, yoga, dancing, swimming, gardening, cycling, etc.)

Mind – Meditation, Pranayama (breathing exercises), Mindfulness, Crosswords/Puzzles, Reading, & Writing/Journaling.

Heart – Practicing loving-kindness, Speaking positive affirmations, Cuddling/Hugging, Giving yourself a massage, & Enjoying your passions.

Spirit – Meditation/Prayer, Energy healing, & Spending time in nature.

Drainers of Self-Care:

Too much screen time, Mindlessly scrolling on the internet or social media, Binging on TV or movies as a way of avoiding, Spending time around negative people (Energy Drainers!), & Speaking/thinking negatively about yourself or others.

 

The above examples illustrate that self-care can manifest in multiple ways. Self-care may be doing something for yourself; it may also be asking for help, cuddling your pet, or connecting with another person. Self-care can look very different from one person to another. Self-care boils down to discovering how best to support your needs – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – in order to invigorate your life.

Cultivating self-care can take time. Tune into your own inner-knowing, and listen for those little cues when you need a break or need to slow down. Show yourself kindness and have grace for the times when you mess up. I hope you all feel inspired to incorporate more self-care into your own lives. What are some of your favorite forms of self-care? Share and comment below.

Video created using the Quik app, developed by GoPro, Inc.


This post is part of Any Topic Tuesday, which is one out of two featured blog days. For suggestions or requests on future topics, please drop me a line here or connect with me on social media.

My Journey through Depression

I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in late 2013, shortly after being hospitalized for attempting suicide. Today’s topic is a heavy one and an extremely important one to discuss. When I first decided to create this blog, I knew that at some point I wanted to share my experience and past struggles with suicidal thoughts and depression. I have given this post a lot of careful thought, and I feel that now is the time to speak up and share my story. As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor nor a licensed mental health professional. I merely want to share my personal journey, and I recognize that every person who struggles with depression or suicidal thoughts has a unique experience.

 

Early Signs

“Underneath the facade, I was silently suffering, and I did not know how to verbalize how I was feeling.”

The first time I ever had a suicidal thought was during my freshman year of college. I remember thinking, “What if I wasn’t here anymore?” At the time, I did not recognize that this thought was an early warning sign, because generally speaking I felt happy and was a high-functioning, high-achieving student. Looking back on those early years, I realize how little I knew about depression and the different ways it can manifest. Through college I performed well in my studies and made lots of friends. As a perfectionist and procrastinator, I often experienced self-induced stress, which I chalked up to being a normal college experience. I would laugh it off and put on a smile. Underneath the facade, I was silently suffering, and I did not know how to verbalize how I was feeling. I remember feeling confused at times, by some of my thoughts – “Why do I feel so sad all the time, when everything is going so well?” Then I would feel guilty, and I would berate myself for having those feelings in the first place. Round and round I would go in this mean, vicious cycle.

Towards the end of my sophomore year of college, two of my closest friends came to me and told me that they were worried about me. Despite thinking that I had hidden my suffering from everyone, my friends could see the truth. Their timing came at a critical moment for me, as I had been contemplating suicide for several weeks. Knowing that I was not alone and that my friends cared deeply for me, helped to ground me back into reality. My reasons for wanting to end my life lost some of their power over me that day. After our heart-to-heart, I felt so supported and uplifted that I naïvely believed my struggles with suicidal thoughts were over. As I would later discover, the thoughts and impulses to commit suicide would return from time to time throughout my college career and the years following.

 

Navigating the Storms

“The path of healing takes time and a willingness to truly change. And it is ABSOLUTELY worth every single bit of effort!”

As someone with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), I have experienced low periods wherein I have felt deeply depressed, unmotivated, sad, and overwhelmed by life. On the flip side, I have also experienced peaceful periods wherein I feel happy, highly motivated, social, and at ease with my life. I say all of this to illustrate that depression can manifest at different times, in different ways, and also in varying levels of severity. A few years after my initial suicidal thoughts, I saw my first therapist. He was kind and well-qualified, but I held back a lot in our sessions. At the time, my insurance would only cover 6 sessions, which was not enough time for me to build trust or really dive into the therapy work. Even so, I am grateful to my younger self for having gone to those sessions, because it was my first real acknowledgement that the thoughts I was having were harmful.

Years later, I began working with my second therapist, while living in Asheville. With the help of my therapist, I appealed to my insurance company to cover more visits. With these additional sessions, I was able to work with my therapist for 10 weeks. She and I met once a week and engaged in talk-therapy. Around the same time, I also consulted with my doctor and began taking my first (of many) antidepressants.

During the short time that I lived in North Carolina, my depression reached a depth I had not experienced before. My suicidal thoughts were occurring on a regular basis and sometimes lasted for days or weeks at a time. I felt isolated, ashamed, and as though I had no control over my thoughts or emotions. Although I did not realize it at the time, I was also in an emotionally abusive relationship, which did not provide the healthy support that I needed, and I blamed myself for everything that went wrong. Oddly enough, remaining in this unhealthy relationship led me to find my third and current therapist.

In the summer of 2013, I relocated to Florida and moved in with my then girlfriend. I knew that it was important to continue working with a therapist and taking my medication. Since my insurance would not cover any more therapy sessions for that year, and I could not afford a therapist’s rates, I did some online research to find a solution. I discovered a center in Jacksonville that provided therapy and counseling services to women based on a sliding scale. Because there were a limited number of therapists and counselors, I was on a waiting list for my intake appointment. During that waiting period, the stresses in my life continued to grow and consume me. I felt trapped, alone, lost, and hopeless.

One evening in September of 2013, the pressure that had been building finally burst. I was exhausted from feeling constantly depressed, anxious, and miserable. In a moment of pure anger and bitterness, I attempted to take my own life. Thankfully, I was unsuccessful in completing suicide. While I was in the hospital, I felt the gravity of my nearly fatal and irreversible mistake. It shook me to my core. I realized that what I sought in suicide was not death, but rather an end to my suffering. I knew then that I had a choice – continue down my old path of suffering or blaze a new path of healing. I will be honest, choosing to confront my pain, traumas, and self-destructive patterns was not easy. The path of healing takes time and a willingness to truly change. And it is ABSOLUTELY worth every single bit of effort! I would have left this world many years ago had I not pressed on through the dark and difficult parts.

 

Light Amidst the Darkness

“I recognize that all of those small choices I made for my self-care were the first seeds of self-love that I planted.”

Shortly after being released from the hospital, I began seeing my new therapist. I believe whole-heartedly that the Universe desired our paths to cross, because she was precisely the therapist I needed in my life at that moment. I also found a new doctor, who could guide and support me on the medication side of my treatment. I worked intensely with my therapist for 3 years. This amount of time allowed me to build a deeply-rooted trust in my therapist, myself, and the therapy process. I would not have gained the coping skills, personal insight, and confidence that I have today without putting in the effort that I did in therapy.

Additionally during that time, I felt drawn to physical activity. My therapist and doctor encouraged me to pursue whatever forms of exercise helped me to relieve some of my stress. Running allowed me to pound the pavement and work through some of my anger and frustrations. Yoga helped me to reconnect with my body through breath and mindful movements. I also began to explore meditation during this time. I was still wrapped up in that unhealthy relationship, but through meditation I began to find solace in myself. Looking back on that time, I recognize that all of those small choices I made for my self-care were the first seeds of self-love that I planted. Those tiny seeds grew and flourished, as I continued to place my mental/emotional health as a priority. Over the years, I still stumbled and fell face first in the mud many times. The point is that I still kept trying, even when I felt tempted to give up.   

One of the most difficult aspects of depression was the sense of loneliness that I often felt. So many of my struggles were internal, and therefore it was easy for me to hide and withdraw from my friends and family. For years, I struggled with shame and guilt surrounding my depression and suicidal thoughts. I was so afraid that if people knew what was really going on that they would judge me, think I was crazy, or realize that I was unworthy of their love. By believing this lie and setting it on repeat in my mind, it took me a long time to break my silence. Once I reached out for help, I broke my old pattern, and I found that I had more love and support than I ever could have imagined. My family, friends, co-workers, and other positive people with whom I surrounded myself, uplifted and encouraged me through some of my most challenging and heart-wrenching moments. To those special people, I am forever grateful for your compassion, comfort words, and loving presence. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Embracing Hope

“I am now my own best friend and greatest love.”

My journey with depression has spanned nearly 14 years! With that said, I have not suffered a depressive episode since 2016. Certainly, I have felt sadness and stress, but not to the degree I once experienced. Over the past 2 years I have grown stronger and gained even more insight into myself. I accept that with my MDD that there may be times in the future when I am challenged once again by depression. The difference now is that I have the knowledge, tools, and support system already in place to help see me through. My relationship with myself is also completely different. I now know how it feels to love myself fully and unconditionally. Where once I was my own worst enemy and cruelest hater, I am now my own best friend and greatest love.

The message that I want to leave with you all is that of hope. For those of you who may be struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, you are NOT alone. Your life truly matters, and things will get better. I know how uncomfortable and hard it is to reach out, but I encourage you to ask for help. There are people in your life who care deeply for you, and they want to help you. There are also resources available (see below) to help you, if you are in crisis.

For those people who know of someone who is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, your support and love is deeply meaningful. You make such an incredible difference. There may be times when you feel helpless, but I urge you to never give up hope. Understand that it is not your job to fix everything for your loved one; the healing must come from within the person who is suffering. Your role instead is to create a safe and supportive space. There are resources available for you as well, which I will include below.

I would not be writing these words right now, if I did not believe in the power of love and healing. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this post. I am certain that in the future I will share more on this and other related topics. Take care of yourselves, my dear readers.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

For those people living in the USA, “The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.” You can contact the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255. The website offers many great resources as well: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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For suggestions or requests on future topics, please drop me a line here or connect with me on social media.

My Sydney Favourites – Beaches

I love the variety of beaches in Sydney. The coastline and harbour have striking cliffs, scattered with sandy beaches. The blue waves crash against the rocks, sending white spray into the air. During the time I lived in Australia, I made an effort to visit as many beaches as I could. I have done a bit of surfing, but I prefer standup paddle-boarding, kayaking, or swimming. Ultimately, I feel most drawn to beaches that are less crowded. For today’s post I will share my Five Favourites for Sydney’s beaches (and a bonus pick), each of which holds special memories.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral is a harbour beach, so it is more protected from the big waves of the Pacific Ocean. There are a few cafes and restaurants nearby, so it’s easy to play at the beach and also grab a bite to eat. One of my favorite features of this beach is Rocky Point Island, which makes for a nice spot to sit and admire the view. This beach is easily accessible and perfect for kids. I visited this beach on two different occasions, shortly before moving back to the US, and so it reminds me of time spent with friends.

Coogee Beach

I visited this beach for the first time in February with my family, and it immediately became one of my top picks. Coogee Beach opens up to the ocean and therefore has bigger waves, which is really fun for swimming and body surfing. There is plenty of space on the sand for lots of beach goers, and I found it to be less crowded than Bondi Beach (at least the day I visited). There is also the Ross Jones Rockpool on the south end and the Giles Baths to the north.

Little Manly Beach

This small, quiet beach appeals to me for its calm waters and fewer people. There is also a tiny cafe at Little Manly, which makes grabbing a drink or light meal a cinch. I once spent an afternoon with my friend on this beach snorkeling, sunbathing, reading a book, and watching people dive into the water from the pilings. One feature of Little Manly that I have not yet seen is the resident colony of fairy penguins. Perhaps one day I’ll be lucky enough to spot them.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach lies north of the City, and it is absolutely worth the trip. Essentially there are two beach options – an ocean side and an inlet side. There is also the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, which is a short, moderately steep hike. I spent an afternoon with a friend and her four children hiking up to the top of Barrenjoey Head, and the views were breathtaking. If you like beaches with sweeping views, then Palm Beach is a must see.

Shelly Beach

This tiny beach is one that I keep visiting again and again. The walk along the Marine Parade from Manly Beach offers sweeping views of the ocean. Shelly is somewhat protected by a small bit of headland, and is a popular spot for snorkelers and divers. There are also little trails nearby which connect with the North Head walking tracks. This is one of my favorite beaches to visit with my family, friends, or even a relaxing day by myself.

Bonus Pick – Wattamolla Beach

This one is not technically considered a Sydney beach, but I cannot resist mentioning it. Wattamolla is part of the Royal National Park, located south of Sydney, and is a little more than an hour’s drive from the City. Getting down to the beach from the car park is a bit of a hike but manageable. There is a lagoon and an ocean facing side of the beach. The sandy strip is tucked between Providential Point and Martin Head, which makes for calmer waves when the weather is nice. The natural beauty of this beach flourishes inside the National Park. My sister-in-law introduced me to this beach, and we spent a lovely spring day picnicking. When visiting Wattamolla be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen to enjoy a full day at this little paradise.

There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Sydney, and I have only seen a small portion. What are some of your top picks for beaches in Sydney? Are there any beaches you would love to visit? Share below in the comments.


This post is part of Any Topic Tuesday, which is one out of two featured blog days. For suggestions or requests on future topics, please drop me a line here or connect with me on social media.