the voices in our head

Due to Covid, some health plans are offering free tele-health mental health services. I have been fully taking advantage of this by making sure to see my therapist & psychiatrist regularly & it’s been completely free of cost.

Yesterday’s therapy was extremely insightful. While my mood swings are typically triggered by a chemical imbalance in my brain, talk therapy is still very useful for coping strategies & even finding the root cause of our issues.

Our talk yesterday had to do with being alone in your thoughts. It might sound crazy but we all have voices in our head. Voices that tell us positive aspects of our lives & voices so dark that make you want to quiet them down anyway possible.

I have struggled in the past with numbing these thoughts. I thought I could chase happiness in other forms through substance abuse, destructive relationships & other unhealthy addictions. It was always a temporary fix & I would then be stuck again with the demons in my head that had only gotten louder.

My “voices” are typically just manifestations of my negative self talk. We all sometimes struggle with being pessimistic towards ourselves. However, combined with mental illness, these negative voices can lead to destructive behavior that only detriments ourselves in the long run.

My therapists advice usually has the same underlying theme. Love yourself. Accept those voices in your head and try to turn them off by focusing on the good parts of your life.

Well easier said than done. If I have spent most of my life hating myself, how am I going to change this behavior?

I used to believe that people could never change. I work as a special education teacher & often have to collaborate with behavioral therapists (BT’s) for my students. I asked one of the BT’s the question, “Do you think people can change?” He quickly answered, “That’s the whole point of our job.”

I started looking at my students and seeing that yes, they have changed. This behavior has been shaped through positive reinforcement & modeling. What if we could do this with our negative thoughts and reshape the behavior?

I spent yesterday mostly sitting around. I usually try to busy myself with my never ending task list but yesterday I really wanted to see what it was like to be alone in my thoughts. This is something I typically avoid because boredom usually leads to bipolar tendencies.

However, as I was sitting, I was relaying the message that my therapist had spoken to me in our session. She had made it pretty simple- love yourself & focus on the good aspects of your life.

I started looking over a gratitude list I had started back when I first moved to Seattle in 2014. The first thing I listed that I was thankful for was my family. Still rings true to this day. The last was something I wrote a little over a week ago- “grateful for my blog Farmerish which I started on Aug. 11”.

Since writing this blog the negative self talk has gone down significantly. I think the primary reason is because it helps lay down my thoughts & also gives people a different perspective of what life is like with a mental illness. The messages I have gotten from strangers, loved ones, & acquaintances has been powerful. I can’t even thank everyone enough for taking the time to read my stories & it’s comforting knowing that people can relate.

It’s difficult to change behaviors. They can be so ingrained in us that we don’t even know we’re doing them. But I suggest starting with a simple gratitude list. What are you thankful for? And if you can’t think of anything in the moment, remember that some health plans are offering free mental health services right now.

Take advantage of what’s being offered. As much as I know we’re all in this together, it all comes back to how we cope when we’re alone. Silence those voices with compassion & love. Because you are enough. You are loved. And I am thankful for you.

Screenshot of the last thing I wrote that I am grateful for.

Progress not Perfection

“You gotta network to get work.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this expression. But it’s absolutely true. My blog grew primarily on social media because of my network. It’s comprised mostly of people who genuinely have an interest in my life therefore they’ll follow along with my blogging journey hopefully.

I finally found a few people in the blogging world to add to my existing network. The blogging network is an interactive community of people giving unbiased feedback on the layout/design of your site & also the content. One of the ladies reached out to me and gave me some great advice. One piece of feedback that I found really important was, “What is the reader getting out of reading your blog?”

My mission is to normalize mental illness & erase the stigma behind it by reminding people that it’s ok to not be ok. I re-read some of my posts and I almost cringed. Looking back at some of my writing I realize that it’s just telling MY story. I know they can be relatable but I also want to give a take-away moment.

My brother gave me great guidance by offering his input. “Use the word WE more.” It’s true. I don’t want to come off as preachy so I avoid telling my readers what to do with too much “YOU should do this…” advice.

My brother’s absolutely right. Because WE are in this together. It is a constant fight in our minds sometimes and I understand. I truly get it. I know what it’s like to only have the mental capacity to just crawl out of bed sometimes. And sometimes that’s not even possible.

I know what it’s like to have a silent illness that no one around you understands at times. I know the toll mental illness wreaks onto your physical self. WE are tired. WE are here. And it’s ok.

My blog is a work in progress. “Progress not perfection” should be our daily motto. We should focus on how we can improve and what we can do little by little. Take small steps towards your goals. Because WE are in this together. Mental illness can be crippling. But hopefully knowing that there is a network for us in this crazy journey we call life, it’ll help. Little by little. Because like I said, it’s progress not perfection.

My brother Rod. He inspires me daily to be a better person & know that WE are in this together.

Do as I say, not as I do

It is Labor Day and rather than relaxing, I’m feeling remorseful.

Saturday night we had a bonfire celebrating my best friend’s birthday. The following morning I woke up crabby, probably because I hadn’t slept much the night before.

That same afternoon, I happened to be looking out the window and saw a random car pull into our driveway. The car stood in our driveway for about a minute. I finally went out there and said rather rudely, “What are you doing here?” She went on to tell me that our bonfire was still smoldering from the night before. As I mentioned I was feeling crabby, so my immediate response was yelling “GET OFF MY PROPERTY!” She then told me she was our neighbor & drove away.

After my snarky remark I immediately felt guilt-ridden. This person was most likely trying to be a responsible neighbor & wanted to warn us before a fire started. In the moment my ego stepped in because I thought she was bossing me around so I “clapped back” with my spiteful retort.

It’s almost engrained in me to be defensive & assume the worst. I write a lot about being kind and in that moment, I wasn’t kind. I later told my husband our exchange & quickly blamed it on my east coast attitude.

Regardless of where people are from there is no excuse to treat someone disrespectfully. I sometimes find myself doing things that I tell others to not do. For example, my boys are loud. They yell a lot. So often when I get fed up I scream back, “BE QUIET!!!” How am I teaching them to be quiet when I am yelling at them myself?

Words and ideas often look good on paper. “Be a good person.” Yes, that makes common sense. But putting it into practice? Way harder. I always believe that actions speak louder than words. Following through with what you say shows character. It requires discipline & a strong sense of morals.

I can be weak. It’s easy for me to fall into old habits and get defensive or snarky. The remorse I feel afterwards though isn’t worth the ego I think I’m protecting in the moment, however.

Egos can get in the way of our personal success. As a person who in the past has felt unseen or unheard, I can lash out at times. Rather than staying strong & silent in the moment, my ego wanted to be heard instead.

I strive to be confident, happy and proud. But it’s also good to stay humble & practice humility. My pride had gotten in the way that day. After she had driven away my humility came into play and I knew I was wrong.

It’s ok to make mistakes. I don’t want to beat myself up over a 2 minute exchange I had with a neighbor. But next time I see her, I will apologize.

Mistakes happen. But when they do and you know you’re wrong, make amends. So I’m going to practice what I preach and say I’m sorry. Because in the end it doesn’t matter who was right, it matters that I do the right thing.

Give yourself grace

I’m a creature of routine. I love schedules. My daily schedule involves waking up by 5:30 to feed the animals & the kids are usually up by 7 and then my day really starts.

Someone asked me what life is like with three boys. It is LOUD. It is chaotic & sometimes it feels like mayhem. They are feeling the effects of the pandemic as well. We can’t go out as much so they are stuck home & I’m sure feeling restless as well. As I type this I hear thundering of footsteps running in the living room above me. Oh the noise. Coupled with me going back to teaching, it has been a little nuts over here.

I’m on medication for my bipolar disorder. While the effects calm my mood swings, it makes me very tired. It is hard dealing with my boys when I feel so physically & mentally exhausted.

I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday because I was so fatigued. I immediately felt guilty because I wanted to provide daily content but it’s hard when I have so much on my plate already.

My plate consists of wearing many “hats”. Wife, mother, teacher, friend, daughter & now a farmerish blogger. How can I find the time to do everything?

I can’t. It’s hard to give myself compassion because I feel like I have to do it all. I used to be obsessed with perfection. I wanted my house to always be tidy, laundry always put away, & I’m especially hard on my writing. Once I let go of the notion that things don’t always have to be perfect, the pressure let go too.

It’s easy to fall into the mindset that everything needs to be done in one day. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of your mental health. Life is stressful enough.

I needed to learn to give myself grace & compassion. To lighten up. To know that what really matters is those loud, rambunctious boys upstairs even though they may drive me crazy.

It’s impossible to do it all. Some days it’s hard enough to just get out of bed. So please, give yourself grace. Give yourself the kindness you deserve. And if that means leaving the dishes in the sink & watching tv instead, do it. Because if we’re very lucky, there’s always tomorrow.

One of my goat girls. I named her “Grace” as a reminder of what I need to give myself.

Don’t do it for the likes

If you ever read the book The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman, he lists how we give & receive love:

-Acts of service (doing something for someone, example: doing the dishes even though you might hate it)

-Physical touch (hugging, kissing, etc.)

-Receiving gifts (getting a tangible object from someone else with the intent of kindness & love)

-Quality time (going out of your way to spend time with someone)

-Words of affirmation (giving kindness or support with your words, example: “You are amazing at doing the dishes & you look good while doing them!”)

The last one is mine. I love words of affirmation. It motivates me to want to express the other love languages & as an insecure person it also makes me feel validated.

But why do I need validation from other people? Growing up as an extremely insecure person, compliments and praise fuel my confidence.

However, my confidence should come from within. It’s not easy for me to see the good in myself. It’s not easy for me to see how I help people. I’ve always needed the words from others to feel competent & succeed.

We live in the age of social media and getting instant validation through “likes” & comments. It makes me feel supported & honestly loved at times.

But what if someone doesn’t “like” my post? Why should that make me feel unworthy or not good enough? It shouldn’t.

When I first started writing this blog, I thought of it as more of a hobby. I’ll just get my thoughts out there & see how people react. The outpouring support I felt from my network & even strangers was amazing. I was getting “likes” & comments and it made me feel great.

This is only a temporary feeling though. Thoughts of insecurity begin to return when I post something that I think is great & I feel like no one has seen it when I receive little praise or any affirming words.

I asked my brother the other day, who posts motivational well thought out fitness videos nearly daily, “how do you feel when you put all that effort into something & you feel like it’s being ignored?” He answered, “I don’t do it for the likes. If one person sees my message & gains something from it- that’s all I need.”

This really changed my perspective. I’m writing this blog for me & to hopefully spread the message that it’s ok to not be ok sometimes. We all struggle through real life problems & I hope my stories help atleast ONE person out there, regardless if I’m getting “likes” on social media or not.

I learned that the most important person that should be liking my stuff- is me. So don’t do it for the likes. Do it for yourself.

Hurt people hurt people

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

I wasn’t always the nicest person. I used to be judgemental & concealed my hurt in ways by looking down on other people. It’s true that hurt people hurt people. I was struggling immensely inside and I thought by creating a hard shell around myself would protect me.

Before I got my bipolar diagnosis, I was still seeing a therapist. She explained to me: “You are no better or worse than anyone else. We are all the same.” Her words struck a chord with me.

I had spent most of my life either thinking I was better than someone or left feeling not good enough. The insecurity inside me was screaming to be heard and it lashed out sometimes on other people. Like I said, hurt people hurt people.

I would see beautiful pictures on Instagram and I would immediately feel envious, comparing their lives to mine. I think much of my life was spent looking at what other people have & never appreciating or finding the happiness within my own life.

This judgement I had towards other people was really my own lack of confidence & self love. Who am I to judge the homeless addict on the street? Maybe if I hadn’t had the support I do, that could’ve been me.

When I moved to Seattle I befriended people from all walks of life. I reframed my thinking. I knew now that I was starting over and really wanted a fresh start with my relationships. By accepting them as they were, they accepted me- flaws & all.

I recently had an acquaintance on Facebook ask me to see the animals. I didn’t know this person well but also knew we could social distance outside or wear masks if needed. It was a short visit but after she left she said, “Thank you. You have no idea how hard it’s been for me and seeing your animals was the light in my day.”

I have met countless people in my life as an extrovert. I don’t always remember the conversations, or what we actually did, but I’ll always remember how I felt being around them.

I’m sorry if I’ve ever been unkind to you. I know better now. Humans are flawed. We aren’t perfect. But by realizing our mistakes, hopefully we can bring some light into someone else’s day.

Ask believe & receive

“Manifest your dreams.” That sounded so corny to me. How can one just make something out of nothing? By believing in yourself.

I didn’t believe in myself for the longest time. I spent most of my youth & twenties with negative self talk. Until the moment I changed my perspective did things start lining up for me.

I remember when I first moved to Seattle I met a bunch of aspiring actors and wannabe comedians. One of them asked me point blank “what do YOU want out of life?” My immediate thought in my head was to have a family.

I had just moved to Seattle by myself. The idea of starting over was daunting. My first months in Washington were spent trying to erase that negative self I had built in my head over the years. I couldn’t manifest my dreams if I didn’t believe in myself.

I deleted social media. I stopped smoking. I started running again. I lined up a teaching job for the fall. I really started taking action in my life with ways I could manage.

In October of 2014, just a few months after my move, I met my husband. It was a very chance encounter that changed my life. People say “When you know, you know.” I knew. I knew this was the person who was meant for me. The person I would start a family with.

Dreams don’t just happen overnight. They take patience and time. I had to let go of the notion that I wasn’t worthy of having my dreams come true. I had to let go of the control I thought I had over my life.

Once I let go of all my self doubt, I became open to love again. Finding your dreams is up to you, believing in them takes courage.

Celebrating our 4th year wedding anniversary ♥️

From barn to boudoir

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt

I’m an extremely insecure person. I’m sure it stems from being teased and feeling like an outcast at times. It’s hard for me to believe or accept compliments. Drives my husband nutty.

But what is the point in this insecurity? I used to strive for perfection. The perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect wedding. And for what? My “perfect wedding” ultimately ended in divorce.

I think another reason for my insecurity is when I would compare myself with others. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” That quote rings so true. I would spend countless time on social media feeling envious of everyone else but myself.

My life is amazing. It’s not perfect by any means, but I am blessed and so very fortunate. I think the moment I realized that I started really working on my insecurities.

Some people think it’s annoying when a girl posts too many selfies. I used to be one of those judgy people. Now I think we should encourage it.

How can women feel secure in themselves if we don’t build each other up? Instead of feeling envious on social media, now I feel grateful. I’m genuinely happy for someone when they “flex” on their page- whether it be a new car they bought or even a selfie.

One of my good friends took very makeshift, unedited boudoir shots for me. I have struggled with bad self image problems since I was young. I used to not eat and carefully count my calories so I could have that perfect body. This body now has carried two beautiful baby boys. I should be proud of every curve because it’s a body I am healthy and happy in.

So next time you pause before posting that selfie- do it. I’ll probably ♥️ it.

home sweet farmhouse

Extroverts in lockdown

I am almost 100% an extrovert according to multiple personality tests I have taken over the years. They’ve all had the same underlying theme- I gain my energy & recharge around others. This doesn’t mean I don’t need my alone time, but I would rather spend my time with multiple human interactions.

I live in Washington state. Our state locked down almost immediately and we were put into a Shelter-in-Place. Even now I cannot be in a gathering with over five people outside of my household.

I’m not trying to debate the importance of social distancing. I know it is vital. But do you know what this does to an extrovert?!

I was on the phone with my psychiatrist office the other day. The receptionist vehemently expressed how happy she was that I scheduled my next appointment so quickly. She said “We are busier now than we ever have been.” My therapist has shared the same sentiments with her practice.

I can’t fathom the amount of people suffering with their mental health currently. People who missed out on monumental events like graduation, prom, or even their highly anticipated wedding. People who lost their livelihood or even worse- their loved ones.

The only thing that got me through this was focusing on my budding farm. I kept myself busy as possible researching everything I needed. I connected with other farmers via Facebook. I became completely absorbed in this new life I was building.

The animals really did change my life. They gave me a way to cope during a time I thought was hopeless. So thank you my little piggies & goats. I hope whoever reading this is finding healthy ways to cope. But remember, it’s also ok to not be ok.

My why.

Be who you are & say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter & those who matter don’t mind.

Dr. Seuss

Since I started writing a blog, or even getting a farmhouse, the main question is always WHY?

What’s my why? Hm that took me a long time to figure out. I think of it as finding your “secret sauce” of what you’re good at & enjoy, then applying it to your life. I enjoy helping & building connections with people. One of the main reasons I became a teacher.

So when it comes to my “why”, the answer is to help people who may be struggling with similar situations. I find relating to someone & knowing you’re not alone makes a whole difference in your mental health.

Mental health is a tricky topic. It’s almost shameful to admit that you’re having difficulty emotionally. I never wanted to share my experience with manic depression to the World Wide Web. I also didn’t want to open up that I had a delayed son.

But this is why I’m writing this blog. To be candid about real situations that can be uncomfortable by being raw & honest. I think it’s good to open up about mental health disorders & reduce the surrounding stigma.

No ones life is perfect. But we’re given just one and it’s what you do with it that counts.