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My Empty Plate

God has some difficult lessons for me lately. I wish I was a faster learner, because these lessons are tough and tiring. For years, I’ve had a few personal wishes, dreams if you will. They are pretty situational and very specific to me and what I dream of for my future.

I’m not sure why, but one by one, those deeply held desires are not only being withheld from me, but they are being handed to others in a way that I see them intimately. It feels like I’m wishing for a cupcake with buttercream icing and pink sparkling sprinkles, or a warm, fresh from the oven piece of cheesecake with ice cold cherry topping and a little toothpick flag on top, or even a hot fudge sundae with chopped nuts, a brownie, a few slices of banana (not too much) and no cherry on top, just extra fudge and two oreos for garnish.

My desires, like those desserts, are very specific desires. They are also very private. I haven’t told anyone besides my husband what these are.

I feel like I’m sitting at a table with a bunch of other children who have cookies and pie and cake on their plates already. And not only do I not get dessert, the exact same secret wishes of dessert that I have in my head are given to others. The buttercream cupcake goes to the boy across the table from me. My dream sundae goes to the girl on my right. The rich and creamy cheesecake with the little toothpick flag is served to the boy on my left. They’re seated next to me, enjoying what my heart craved and dreamt up. But I didn’t tell them what I wanted. So how did they get it?

The chef knew.

The chef knew what everyone wanted and needed. And for reasons unknown to me, took the -exact- things I have been craving and gives them to those around me. At first it was just the cupcake. That was sad, but wow, it made that little boy happy. He must have needed it more than I did.

Then the chef came out with that delicious looking piece of cheesecake. I could smell the warmth. It had clearly just come out of the oven! It was smothered in cherry topping, and on top, pitched on the apex of the cherries like the crest of some climber’s victory, was the little toothpick flag.
It was so close to me now! Closer, closer . . . and then it was given to the girl next to me.

It seemed like a run of bad luck, until the third dessert I had dreamt of was given to the boy on my left. I sat there, gripping my hands under the table and staring at the plate in front of me, all while the sounds of joy and the scents of delightful desserts surrounded me.

It felt like little pieces of my heart had been torn up and distributed about to others. I decided to play it much safer, be more guarded, before the next stolen dream caught me unaware. “Maybe just a chocolate chip cookie?” I would wonder. Chocolate chip cookies were common and not at all difficult to whip up, not for the Master Chef. But the longer I sat and waited, the more I saw other children at the table get desserts. But not me. My little dessert plate sat alone and empty.

I should be grateful. In front of me is a balanced meal that is not only good for me, but it is delicious, too. I have plenty to keep my belly full and I even have a can of Coke for a sweet treat. I try to be thankful for the good meal in front of me, and focus on how good it is, and try to imagine how much work and thought the chef put into it just for my needs. The Chef even considered getting my favorite fork (I don’t like the short tong forks) and picked out my favorite plate, the delicate white one with the pretty blue flowers that remind me of Chinaware. If I look very, very far away, I can even see children who haven’t been served dinner yet. I certainly should be grateful.

I am thankful. I have joy. But many times, I am not happy. Why does God keep giving all of my secret desires to those near and dear to me, but deny me the simplest request? What is it that I am meant to gain by watching my dreams unfold and develop in the life of someone else?

I don’t know. I don’t know the answer. I hope I learn the lesson soon, because my heart is weary. This world is heavy and has lost its luster. I don’t want to be here. I wish that God would come back and usher us into that bright and beautiful Paradise of the perfected future earth. I long for a place free of suffering or heartache. I long to be perfected into a creature that no longer has these unmet desires. I’m so, so tired of wanting. I don’t want to want anymore.

I don’t want to want anymore.

So what do I do? How do I move on with this hole inside of me that aches as I see my hopes and dreams play out in front of me but are never mine?

I take what is on my plate and start naming each thing, no matter how small.

So that is what I will do.

I thank God for my husband. If ever I need assurance that God loves me, I can always look to the gift that is Nathan.

I thank God for my health insurance and my good doctor who cares about me.

I thank Him for my precious doggy, who at this moment is snoozing next to me, half hugging my ipad with one eye just a little open.

I thank God for some of the most beautiful weather we’ve had here in weeks. I had lunch outside today.

I thank God for my family and dear friends.

I’m thankful I get to see my precious Nichole in just a week.

I’m thankful for all the time I have to pursue and perfect my various hobbies and interests.

The more and more that I spend reflecting and really focusing on all the things I DO have on my plate, the more satisfying it all becomes. And more than that, I realize I have more than I could need just for myself. I may not have a big dessert or enough on my plate to feed five hundred, but I certainly have enough to share with one other, maybe two or three.

Photo by Jasmin Schreiber on Unsplash

Writing down my individual blessings is an exercise in gratitude I take for granted. The truth is, my brain does not naturally lean into an attitude of thankfulness, especially when I am battling a depressive episode. When I’m in the throws of mental health issues, it feels like I’m clawing up to the surface of the ocean only to gasp a partial breath before the next wave crashes into me, knocking me down into the dark depths where I must fight and claw again. But gratitude is like a life ring. It doesn’t matter how hard or fast the waves come. The life ring will stay afloat. It may bob for a second, but it is in its nature, its design, to stay above.

Photo by Agnieszka Kowalczyk on Unsplash

I just have to hold on.

It’s a choice. It does not make the waves any weaker or the storm less fierce. And, sometimes, I need someone to assist me in reaching it. But holding on to it, making the decision to reach for it, is up to me.

And it is up to you.

If your plate feels barren, and your heart aches, decide now to try. It doesn’t change the fact that my dreams are unmet, or that my heart aches when I am reminded of that. But it will keep you afloat through it all.

"XOXO, Amber" in hand-styled script
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Train your brain to be POSITIVE!

Whether you are a boss babe, a mom, a college student . . . wherever you are at in life, you can start changing your outlook today.

Let’s talk about WORDS!

I have made a life-changing habit of creating positive expectations that has turned my health and business around. And it’s important enough that I want to share.

If someone bumps into you and you spill your coffee, it reveals what was already inside the cup. Coffee spilled out because it was full of coffee. If bumps and challenges jostle your cart, what spills out is a great tool for knowing yourself better.

Ask yourself: what spills out when you get jostled by life? Stress? Anger? Jealousy? Defeat? Worry?

If it is anything but good, healthful thoughts, you know where to start!

This post may contain affiliate links. For more on that, check here.

Does that mean you can’t express an opinion? Of course not! Disappointment is sad, and it is something everyone of us will experience in life and in business. But commiserating is not healthy for you or anyone else. 💕 If you need to vent or have a listening ear, any leader will tell you to complain UP and praise DOWN! Talk to your leadership/manager to see how they would like to help you work out your disappointments.

What spills out is a great tool for knowing yourself better.

But venting (in the break room, online forums, work emails, or the home) is not a good business practice. You are a boss babe, a killah queen, a warrior princess. We all are. And we are in this together. 💕

If you want to express your feelings critically, also follow up with a solution so that it is constructive versus destructive. Here are some examples:

“I feel like in meetings we go over the exact same things that was said in the email. There are huge benefits to gathering collaboratively, but if we don’t get a chance to voice our input and share our experiences, the email is sufficient.”

“I have asked in the past if you would help me by putting the laundry in the hamper instead of on the floor. When you don’t, I feel ignored. When you do, I feel like we’re a team. What can I do to help without nagging?”

I totally am not scolding you, even though it might seem like it. I’ve been a Negative Nancy and didn’t even know it. You really do reap what you sow! Ever hear of self-fulfilling prophecies? So I’m telling you as a converted Positive Polly that you will be AMAZED at the GOOD things that start coming your way as if by “luck” when you change what energy you send out into the universe.

Want some more info on what helped me change? I highly recommend the books, “The Energy Bus,” and the pair “Successful Women Think Differently” and “Successful Women Speak Differently” by Valorie Burton.

A good place to start is asking yourself, “This bothers me. What can I do to fix it?” And, “Is what I’m about to say leading me to a solution?” You might find yourself the million dollar answer!

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on THESE things.” -Phil. 4:8 (emphasis mine)

Until next time,

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20-Day Mental Wellness Challenge

It’s coming.

You know what I mean.

The advertisements, the holiday parties, the pressure. The glitz and glam and delicious food are all really fun aspects of the upcoming season, but man, holidays can wear you out sometimes, right? So this year, I’ve decided to bulk up beforehand. And no, not physically. I stumbled upon a 20-Day Mental Health  Challenge on pinterest. I thought, “Well, gosh, that sounds like a great idea!” Except . . . a lot of the suggestions did not really apply to me or my situation. I tweaked it to my needs and I will be sharing it with you, too. You are 10000000% invited. I even made it Facebook official, see?

Trying to do something new is always easier when you have others doing it with you. So come join the community! I’ll be posting facts and thoughts for the day along with the daily challenge. From things like taking a walk to journaling your gratitude, these twenty days are bound to include something that will give your mind some additional peace. I can’t wait to see you there!

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My Face of Depression

Mental health. Thankfully, you hear a lot more about it today than five or ten years ago. With blogs and facebook posts and popular hashtags highlighting this topic, what could I have to offer?

Only my own experience.

Some stories just seem to click with me more than others. My prayer is that, while reading my story, you will find some direction and empathy for where you are at on the mental health spectrum.

In my experience, and in many others who have opened up to me about their condition, people who experience suicidal thoughts or periods of prolonged depression are what you would consider generally “good” people. They are often other-focused, altruistic, and congenial. However, a burst of high-stress or an extended period of stress (such as taking care of a loved one with a disability) can physically alter the chemicals in the brain. The chemicals that stress creates are beneficial for the instant, but when those chemicals become the new normal, that is when you enter depression.

These people, altruistic as they are, will not let themselves be a burden. They are helpers by nature. Therefore, they will put on a smile and appear to just fine because they don’t want to bring anyone else down. Hurting others is the last thing they want. However, being stuck in that mindset long enough will convince you that YOU are the problem. Everyone would be better off without you.

This is not, of course, the story for every person. But in my research, personal experience, and talking with others, it is the story of many.

I appreciated being invited by my friend over for dinner, or this and that. Even if I didn’t attend, it was nice to be invited. And sometimes I did go. What made me comfortable with that was knowing I could literally be a piece of furniture in her house, like a human throw pillow on her couch, and it would not be offensive or bring her down. The space to be allowed to be this way, with no pressure to “get better” actually allowed me interaction which helped me get better.

In the photo above, my husband took me out on a date to the nearest Build-A-Bear to purchase my beloved Bulbasaur here. It was earlier in that week that I had been diagnosed with depression. My personal journey to recovery and maintenance (which I am still on) started with a dear friend of mine discussing her attempted suicide.

My friend is a wonderful woman. She posts inspiring messages on facebook, crafts the wittiest posts that tell tales of her family in the most hilarious screenplay style, goes to church, and is one of the most helpful women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. As we worked together for several years, I got the chance to know her better, watching her climb to the top 3% of her industry.

I never knew she was depressed.

As she recovered in the mental health ward and was cleared for outside conversation, she was extremely open and vulnerable in discussing with me the attempted suicide. This opened my eyes. So many of these feelings and thoughts that she had for months leading up to her attempt were so familiar. Was I depressed?

Two months later, I found myself waking up most mornings wishing that life would just be over. I wanted to get better. I started a gym membership. I went four and five times a week. The rush from the exercise helped, but only momentarily. I sought solace in my faith, music, prayer, but nothing everything seemed to just scratch the surface. Finally, recalling my friend’s story, I though, “I might be depressed.” After discussing it with my husband, we were at the doctor the same week.

I am certainly not done with my journey. I am still on medication and work to maintain a healthy mindset. I have started seeing a psychologist to help me in understanding how I function and to give me the tools I need to work within my own brain. In fact, today I was diagnosed with anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. Through this, I’ve learned a couple of things that I want those of you who are dealing with any of this to know.

You do not have to do this alone. You are allowed to ask for help.

It’s scary to talk to someone about needing help. Believe me, I know. Before going to meet my psychiatrist, I had a panic attack in the waiting room. Even during my session, the anxiety continued so badly that when I left, the chair I was sitting in had sweat marks like I’d been to the gym! It’s ok. You are not weird. You are not the only who has a hard time doing this. No one – no one – is going to think poorly of you for taking care of yourself. Not your doctor, not your counselor, and certainly not me.

I am so incredibly blessed to have friends who shared their story with me. Because of that, I decided I wasn’t the exception to the rule, and that as hard as it was, I needed to ask for help. I have a husband who supported me, and a doctor who listened. All of these things put me in an optimal place for recovery.

Sadly, not everyone is in such a place.

I speak openly about my depression because I know I might be able to help someone else who is struggling. I want neuro-typical people to understand that, throughout my numerous makeup tutorials, happy posts, and (really great) selfies, I was depressed. And the only way you are going to know is to do life next to that person. A comment or a like on Facebook aren’t going to get you to the heart of each other. It is within the safety of healthy relationships that trust blooms. You are not responsible for everyone’s mental health. But hopefully, by following along my journey as I share it, you will begin to recognize ways to help others.

Happy World Mental Health Day