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This guy has balls! #IAmBallsy

This guy has balls - womanlywoman.comA fellow cancer survivor, Thomas Cantley, was just featured on HuffPost Live where he speaks about his project I Am Ballsy.  I love his story and am very proud of the fact he asked me to be a part of his movement!  My story was featured on his Facebook page awhile back.

I encourage you to share this video with your male friends.  As a cancer survivor myself, I know that had I been more aware of the signs of Thyroid Cancer, I would have recognized the issues earlier on and may have prevented having to remove my Thyroid and avoided it spreading to my lymph nodes.  The more people are knowledgeable, the more likely they are to get help.

So, let’s talk about balls!

Here’s the video:

#Infographic: 10 Things To Do with Banana Peels

Think a banana peel is only good for the trash? Guess again. Have you ever thought about where all those discarded peels end up? Yep, with the rest of the trash at the landfill, where they produce methane gas, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, as they rot. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, uneaten food accounts for 20% of methane emissions, which are a major contributor to global warming. Here’s a handy infographic with ideas on how you can help protect the peels!

Source: Visual.ly




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#AGT Singer Overcomes Anxiety to Sing ‘Hallelujah’ #AnnasMoment

#AnnasMoment #AGT feat on womanlywoman.comThis absolutely brought me to tears.  I was bouncing around to different blog posts I’ve written in the past and remembered that I hadn’t visited GodTube.com in awhile.  On the homepage, the main video was about a girl who overcame her anxiety to sing.  When I first read it, I thought they just meant stage fright.  But they meant so much more.

This video is so meaningful to me because of my own struggle to overcome mental health issues.  I know EXACTLY what she means when she says “bedridden”.  People often think that mental health issues are just mental and they aren’t.  They are diseases that impact every area of your body.  They impact your mind, which is the control center of your body.  So, obviously, they impact your body and everything else.  When your mind is under attack, you really can’t do much else but lay in bed.  And when you are laying in bed for days on end you just don’t want to exist anymore.  Everything hurts.

I am so grateful that Anna is able to share her story with the world via the platform of America’s Got Talent (#AGT) and hopefully reduce the stigma that people have towards those of us that battle mental illness on a day-to-day basis.

Now you MUST watch this amazing video:


WLANL - MicheleLovesArt - Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen - Eva na de zondeval, Rodin.jpg
WLANL – MicheleLovesArt – Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen – Eva na de zondeval, Rodin” by MicheleLovesArtMuseum Boijmans Van Beuningen – Eva na de zondeval, Rodin. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Since 2010, I have been on Social Security Disability.  I was approved just in time to receive some of my cancer treatment (I still had to pay $800 cash for one pill before that) and have been very grateful to be able to tap into the resource I paid into so that I could have time to recover from many things.  The reality is, nearly every day of being on it though I have felt shame.  According to the authors of Facing Shame: Families in Recovery, “shame is a painful feeling about ones self”.

This is exactly what I have been experiencing this entire time.  Although I started this blog and have fluctuating income from it, I judge myself for not being able to contribute to society in the way I used to be able to do.  My cancer went into remission, but with cancer brought additional health issues and I now have eight (or more depending on the day) diagnoses.

Some of my diagnoses are physical, like cancer and food allergies.  And some of them are mental, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  But all of them are difficult.

Every day I am not sure which problem will surface more than others.  And I am not always the best at taking care of myself, because sometimes I don’t care about myself that much.  I look down upon myself for not being able to be what society considers to be normal.

The reality is, I have been trying to do that for too many years.  As a child, I had to pretend that things in my house were normal.  I lead a double life going to school and being a good student but then coming home to unstable and unhealthy chaos.

Then I went to college and was one of few Appalachian students on a campus of mostly privileged suburban students.  I realized very quickly that I should be embarrassed I was wearing bib overalls in my high school class picture so I asked a friend from a very affluent suburb of Washington, D.C. to take me shopping.  For the first time I shopped at Gap.  I felt like a phony for at least the first year but finally settled into my new wardrobe and attitude.  I began to assimilate, as they would say in Sociology.  I always felt unsettled assimilating to the culture but I knew that if I didn’t, I would be rejected and the feeling of rejection was going to be worse than the unsettled feeling that I was playing a role.

Later I went to graduate school.  I felt a little more comfortable there because it sat in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.  Students at this school were friendly to “townies” although they often would look down upon them for not having teeth.  I made sure I did not mention that my parents both did not have a full set of teeth.  It was here that I realized how much financial debt I had acquired pretending I was something I was not in my past.  So I took out a student loan to pay off that credit card debt.  My shame had gotten me into thousands of dollars worth of trouble.

When I graduated, I had a hard time getting a job.  I was very depressed and as a result had a hard time getting hired.  Usually when I am depressed, I can also play a role and make it seem that I am normal.  However, when I reach a certain point of depression there is no hiding it and it surfaces as the disease it really is so there is no way to change my facial expressions or stance.  As a result, I worked in retail and as a substitute teacher with a Master’s degree.  I acquired more shame.

I just kept packing on shame in layers.  More and more layers like they were vests or jackets.  Over the years I lost respect for myself and didn’t know who I was.  I honestly didn’t care who was inside of all of those layers because I was so concerned with the outside.

Finally I got a full time position back at my graduate school alma mater.  I thought that for the first time in my life I might be able to move on from shame.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  Because my position was working and living in a residence hall, I was often confused for an undergraduate student.  Rarely did I receive respect for the level of complex work I was doing and I wasn’t paid well at all.  So when I was attempting to date people, for example, I would lie about my title or what I actually did in my job so that it wouldn’t seem like I was doing something that wasn’t good enough.

I continued this lie by advancing in the profession and working at a small private school.  This time I had to also assimilate to a new campus and new culture.   In this position, it was required that I wear business attire.  I had none.  I also had no money to buy any.  So I had to take on more debt.  I had to drive far distances to subpar malls and shopping centers purchasing many, many clothes to attempt to fit in.  I still didn’t.  I was documented for not wearing a sweater one day.  I was criticized for my shoes.  So I packed on more shame.

I eventually left that job.  I literally walked out.  There were many reasons I needed to, including my health, but I moved in with some friends.  For the first time in my life I did not have a label.  I did not have a position to identify myself.  I became very uncomfortable so I applied and was accepted into a Master of Business Administration program that was offered online.  I actually felt like I finally found a match.  I didn’t have to worry about what I was wearing because everything was on the internet.  My intellectual capacity and ability was what was most important and I did very well with the subjects.  I also had a nice label to give myself when introducing myself to new people.  I could say that I was an MBA student.

In the meantime, I felt like saying I was a student wasn’t enough.  So I tried to start a business as a professional organizer.  I was good at organizing, but really bad at not judging my clients.  I began to see that I was doing things like this because I needed labels to show people so I would not have shame over my situation.  I closed the business.

Shortly after, I had to leave the MBA program as well because I was diagnosed with cancer.  Being a Thyroid Cancer patient was the first label I was comfortable with in my entire life.  There weren’t a lot of expectations.  People felt sympathy for me.  I didn’t have to prove myself.  I could finally relax a little bit and just take care of myself.  I had the opportunity to hold that label until September of 2013.  During that month, I was declared in remission.  I hardly told a soul because I wanted to hang onto the comforting title of cancer patient.  Now I was a cancer survivor and I didn’t like that because people assume that the storm has passed.  I liked the storm.  It was comforting.

The reality is, I still have a bunch of labels.  I am mentally ill.  I face stigma everyday, even just overhearing conversations in the grocery store.  It hurts.  It hurts really bad.  Although I don’t have shame for having mental illness, I do have shame in saying that my mental illness actually limits my abilities.  I am currently under review with Social Security disability.  I am having to define myself and examine my conditions in a way that is very uncomfortable for me.  I know deep inside of myself that I do have difficulties on a day-to-day basis.  But I don’t want to admit it to the world.  I feel shame.

I don’t want to accept myself as is.  I want to somehow cut out parts of myself and pretend they don’t exist.  Because I have held some of my labels for 20 years now, I have become accustomed to them, but I still don’t outwardly announce them because I have learned I have to protect myself from stigma.  I want to talk about them, but if I did I would end up shaming myself more.

In reality, the one time I step away from the shame is when I turn to God.  God loves me as is.  He loves the inside of me and knows me.  He really gets it.  He knows my hurt and my heart.  When I was baptized in 2012, my life really did change.  I started to drop layers of shame.  I started to realize that most other people aren’t analyzing my life the way I am.  I started to realize that God’s opinion of me matters the most.  I began to adapt my life so that I would be directed towards him and not towards satisfying the rules of the culture in which I live.

So, for right now, in this moment I am content with my eight (8) or more medical diagnoses.  I am content with my life in an urban apartment in a low income area.  I am content with my broken hand-me-down car.  I am content that my college diplomas didn’t even hang on a wall for almost five years (until I decided they would take up less space if I hung them up instead of stored them in the closet).

I am not sure what is going to happen in the future, but I know that I am growing and learning how detrimental shame can be to your health and your soul.  This post is very, very hard for me to write because I still want to hide everything.  It is more comfortable for me to show people bits and pieces of who I am so that I can control how they view me.  So I am writing this as an exercise to drop some more layers of shame and move on.

What I do to combat stress

Stress - womanlywoman.comThe other day I wrote a post entitled, What Happens When I’m Stressed.  I am writing this post to show how I combat stress.  It is really hard to explain to people that stress invokes so many physical symptoms with me because they either haven’t experienced stress at that level, or they believe that stress is “all in your head”.  Since I’m not a fan of stigma, that makes my blood boil.  And of course that starts the whole process over again.

Anyhow, because I have such an adverse reaction to stress I have had to develop some things to do in order to combat it.  If I didn’t, I would probably be dead.  Heart attacks run in my family history so I need to be careful.

So here are a few things I do to combat stress:

1.  Prayer

God doesn’t want us to be wasting our time feeling this way.  I recognize now that when I am afflicted, it very well could be spiritual warfare.  I am not going to just accept that my illness is just something that happens.  I want to recognize that this could be the case.  I have James 4:7-10 posted throughout my apartment already, so I usually read over that and literally speak out loud to the devil telling him that he is not welcome.  Then I pray thankfulness to God for protecting me and healing me.

God wants us to enjoy life.  The devil wants us to sit around and mope or live in fear that things will get worse.

2.  Mindfulness activities

According to the Mindfulness Research Guide:

Mindfulness is a quality of human consciousness characterized by an accepting awareness of and enhanced attention to the constant stream of lived experience. Being mindful increases engagement with the present moment and allows for a clearer understanding of how thoughts and emotions can impact our health and quality of life. Mindfulness can be cultivated through meditation practice.

There are some free resources available here: http://www.freemindfulness.org/download.  I appreciate the guided imagery meditation.

I also want to note that I spend time during mindfulness in prayer as well.  Mindfulness is originally derived from a Buddhist practice, so I make myself aware of that and I lean more towards the meditations that I can incorporate my thoughts and feelings about God in as well.  Mindfulness leaves room for this because, in many ways, God wants us to live in the present moment.

3.  Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing.  A lot of times when I get to the level of stress I was describing in my prior blog post, I realize that I haven’t had enough sleep.  I read once that to figure out how many hours of sleep your body needs, you should spend a week sleeping without an alarm.  You record how many hours you slept each night.  By the end of the week, you will have a better idea of how much your body needs.  For me, I know I need at least 8 hours.  If I have been more stressed, I need more like 9 or 10.  There is nothing wrong with this.  This does not make you a lazy person.  It means you are giving your body and mind time to regenerate.  It is particularly important for your brain to have rest.  Check out this video:

So, especially when you are stressed, you need to make sure that your brain has enough time to do it’s dirty work.

4.  Eating

Like I mentioned in my prior post, when I’m stressed I don’t want to eat.  So, sometimes, I have to force myself to eat.  One way that makes this a little bit better is to go to a place like Panera that I can sit down and eat a decent meal.  Even if I have to eat alone, at least I eat something.  And even if I only get a bowl of soup, at least I’ve eaten something.  Usually once I’ve eaten something my brain starts to function much better and some of my physical symptoms start to subside.

5.  Exercise

I put this one last because, for some reason, I don’t like it as much.  The reality is though that I actually enjoy taking walks.  For some reason though I don’t always prioritize this part of my health and I will avoid doing it.  But when I take a walk, it really helps because of the chemicals that are set off in my brain when I do it.

6.  Recreation

I’ve noticed that when I’m stressed I have often not taken time to do anything fun for awhile.  I have this odd belief that if I have told anyone that I am stressed, that then I am not allowed to go have fun.  It is kind of like how when you stay home sick from school but then you don’t want to go out into public and look like you are feeling better because then it will look like you lied.  I was one of those kids that would stay home from school and then watch PBS all day because I felt guilty that I wasn’t spending the time learning something.  But, in reality, recreation is necessary for health as well.  I’m not one to go play a sport or anything like that, but even if I can just go to a movie and get my mind off of other things it can sometimes help.

7.  Clean

This may seem odd.  But I have noticed that usually when I am stressed, my home is quite messy.  If I just set an alarm for 15 minutes and do something that will clean up my environment, I usually feel better.  Sometimes, it turns out, that a chunk of my stress was being caused by a heaping pile of dishes.  Although this research is extreme, research on prisoners found that their living environment impacted their emotional life.  No way!  Really?!  Anyhow, it could be so extreme that prisoners commit suicide.  So, my point is, that if you set up your environment in a way that is helpful for your mental health, things work out better.  And I personally find that cleaning ends up being therapeutic.  I even have some mindfulness exercises that you can do while you wash your dishes!


Those are a few ways that I am able to combat stress.  It really is a fight and a struggle to do it, but you have to fight it.  If you let it go on and on things are just terrible.  I believe that is why cancer developed in my body.  I believe it was because I wasn’t combatting my stress.  I thought I was managing it, but I was not combating it.  What I was really doing was trying to be sure that other people didn’t notice it or realize how much it was impacting me.  Now I know from my life experience that you need to stop stress before it continues to build.


Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Happens When I’m Stressed

English: Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Resized,...

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m stressed.  My Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is all out of whack and I’m barely making it in to the second level (from the bottom).  I have a lot of things on my mind and I have not been able to reduce inflammation in my body for over a week.  So I’ve decided to talk about it.  On my blog.

Here are some things that happen when I’m stressed:

1.  I can’t feel my arms and legs

Well, I can feel them somewhat but I can’t always walk or type.  Typing is important to me because I like to blog.  Walking is important to me because I don’t want to be stuck wherever I am when the onset occurs.  This condition is called Migraine Aura.  It also occurs if I eat Gluten or Casein (found in dairy products).  In other words, I can’t eat a cheeseburger if I don’t want this to happen.

2.  I grind my teeth

This beautiful situation occurs in broad daylight in front of people.  Not when I’m sleeping.  The condition is called tardive dyskinesia and I developed it in 1995 after being put on my first psychotropic medication.  This only occurs when my stress level is much higher and is an indication that things are very bad.

3.  Acid reflux

This is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and it disgusts me.  When I have it, my stress level goes up even more because I am not feeling well.  I don’t like junk coming back up my pipes, especially when it burns.  This lovely situation tends to happen when I lay in bed so I’ve ordered some bed risers.  I’m only going to install two of them so it will prop my bed up at an angle and hopefully reduce junk from coming up my throat while I’m sleeping.

4.  Sleeplessness

I can’t get to sleep, and then when I do I wake up again anyway.  There is no tossing and turning with me.  One toss, and I just get up and get out of bed.  I walk around aimlessly.  I go to the bathroom.  I get a drink of water.  I try to go back to sleep.  I can’t.  I take Benedryl, it somewhat helps and sometimes will let me sleep.  Sometimes I also need Melatonin.  Even with both of those, I don’t always get a full night’s rest.

5.  It comes out the other end, fast

I get diarrhea.  Bad.  I have literally crapped my pants when I’ve been too stressed.  Usually, it’s not that bad but only because I am at home all of the time and can make it to the toilet.  Recently, I’ve been going to the bathroom at least once an hour.  I don’t even know what I’m crapping because I’m not eating much.

6.  Loss of appetite

When I’m stressed, I can’t eat.  I won’t even remember to eat for many hours.  I have gone over 9 hours before without consuming food.  Maybe even more than that.  This was to my benefit when I worked retail on Black Friday weekend because the stress from that helped me to get through many hours with only short breaks.  But on a normal day, this is bad.

7.  Loss of focus

My mind cannot focus on anything.  I can only work on something for a short period of time and then my mind wanders off.  This could be due to malnourishment, it could be due to the fact that my body is not holding nutrients inside.  It could be due to the fact that what I eat I am regurgitating.  It could be due to the fact that I’m not sleeping well.  Regardless, the general populace doesn’t seem to understand that when I say “I’m stressed” what that means is “Don’t expect my brain to function like a normal person right now.”

So, that is why I’m writing this post.  I am not functioning well.  And I need a way to share that with people so they understand I need time to relax and take a break so that I will be able to function well in the future.


Stress - womanlywoman.com

Help #StigmaFighters Become a Non-Profit

I have had the opportunity to be a founding member of this amazing organization called Stigma Fighters.  We are a group of individuals that happen to have mental illness.  What makes us different is that we are willing to share our stories.  We have opened up with the world in hopes that sharing our stories will reduce stigma and educate people.  We also hope to comfort others who have similar stories.

I have told people many times that the worst part about having a mental disease is not the disease itself, it is how people treat you because of the disease.  It is the fact that you are literally denied access to a certain lifestyle, that people disassociate with you because of your labels, and that they can literally be afraid of you because of ignorance.

It is time that we change that.

I’ve written several posts where I share my experiences with the variety of mental diagnoses I have and each one has made a difference.  I know this from the statistics on my Google Analytics, from conversations I have had with people, from comments on the posts, and also from private messages people have sent me.

Now my friend, Sarah Fader, who also blogs for Huffington Post is in the process of incorporating Stigma Fighters.  This incorporation will mean a great deal for those of us involved.  The reason being is that it will allow us to have a greater reach, to have a larger impact.  Impact is what we are going for.  Please check out her campaign here: http://7i.no/c/8YgVNt

If you are unable to help financially, but want to help in another way you can retweet this message:

Or you can share this post with others.

Thank you for your support!

adidas Pure Boost is here!

adidas Pure Boost is here!
Sometimes we buy sneakers because we love the look of them. At least I do! And sometimes, we buy sneakers for functional training. Well, this all new adidas Pure Boost shoe can do BOTH! The shoes are amazingly light at 8.3 and 6.3 ounces for men and women, respectively. So you can be sure you will barely feel these babies wrapped around your feet. Check them out below. 

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