gratitude

CBD Love

If you’ve been here following along for awhile then you know how much I love using CBD to manage my sleep and anxiety. I started using CBD a little over a year ago and it has been a miracle in my life and I love sharing it with anyone who asks me about it.

I have used probably 7 different CBD products consistently and I’ve learned so much. Some of the products were recommended by my naturopath, some from friends and family and each has taught me more about myself, what dosage works for me, what methods of using CBD are most effective, and most importantly, which product is truly the best. I think I have found the one and I am so excited to share it with you.

I have partnered with Zilis to provide these products to anyone looking to incorporate CBD into their wellness journey. I chose Zilis for a few simple reasons.

First, Zilis has the U.S. Hemp Authority (the F.D.A. of hemp products) seal of approval. The U.S. Hemp Authority offers confidence to consumers that the products they approve are safe to use. They have only approved 31 CBD products in the U.S. but you and I both know that there are thousands of CBD products on the market right now without this approval. So, ask yourself if you are willing to put something in your body that hasn’t been tested and proven to be what it claims. I care deeply about the products I use in my home, those I recommend to others, and use myself and so finding a product on this list was paramount.

Second, the Mayo Clinic conducted an extensive study on the Zilis CBD product and found it had high absorption rates (94%) and after the 12-hour study it was still in the system of its participants. These two findings are due in part to the technology that went in to developing this product. Somehow Zilis made their CBD oil water soluble so it can easily be absorbed into our bodies and trust me it is a difference you can feel. Given my extensive history with various CBD products, a few of which I have shared with all of you, I can confidently say that no other product has worked as quickly and as long as the Zilis CBD has.

If you are interested in incorporating CBD into your wellness journey I would be happy to answer your questions and if you are ready to get started and order yours today you can do so here.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Life is really good. I am so grateful. I feel so blessed. I am so happy to be here and be healthy.

Three years ago today I started my healing journey by asking for help. I was at the bottom of the deepest darkest pit and I could barely see a sliver a light shining down on me and I took that as my sign to walk through the doors of a hospital and express the turmoil I was in. It wasn’t easy. It was ugly, uncomfortable, scary, traumatizing, and it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life but I am here to tell you it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I learned more about myself from that week in the hospital than I had learned in my 34 years at the time.

It was a crash course in all things mental illness for me. I learned about medication, side effects, advocating for myself, and balance. I learned that trauma is the root cause of most mental challenges. I learned that no doctor has all the answers. That medicine isn’t a perfect cure-all. That every body is different and requires different individualized care. I was reminded of my faith. I learned to fight for myself.

It was clear that I lacked the tools I needed to cope and so I began working hard to sort it all out the best I could and I wished that I had made the effort sooner. That sentiment might resonate with some of you because you are here and reading this. You may be searching for answers and hoping to find help. I am happy to be part of your journey to find healing and I hope you have found my space here to be safe,  helpful, and honest.

On that note…I have a new resource to share with you. It’s an article and PTSD self-test by Safe Harbor House. You can take the screening which is based on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It’s the standard reference used by healthcare providers to diagnose mental health and behavioral conditions. The article also offers information about signs, symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and self-care. It’s a very thorough resource and I was glad to have found it. Please share it with anyone who you feel might be suffering from PTSD!

Three years ago, I could have used this resource myself. Now I am just blessed to be able to share it with all of you.

 

6 Whole Years

6 whole years since the bombing. It feels like a lifetime ago and yet it’s not very hard to find myself back at the finish line in my mind. The sounds and what my eyes took in are still so clear like no time has passed at all. The confusion and shock linger too. I sometimes wonder how something I know to be true can still feel so unbelievable.

2,190 days have gone by. Some felt ordinary while others have dragged on, filled with mental challenges. And I was one of the lucky ones so I can’t imagine what some of my fellow survivors might be feeling today as we all work to move forward the best we can.

April 15, 2013 was the day my life, and the lives of so many others changed. Some gone forever. Others physically changed. The rest of us, mentally altered just enough that our lives too would never be the same. In many ways that day feels like a line in the sand. I know for me I think about my life now in two parts – before the bombing and after. The Elena I was before feels so far away from the Elena I am today. She feels like a distant memory. Once in a while I find a picture of myself before the bombing and I feel like I am looking at a stranger and that’s hard for me but then I realize that my hopeful, positive, and patient demeanor hasn’t changed and I think those characteristics have given me the strength to live and grow through this season in my life. I thank God for giving me those gifts so long ago. I believe it was in His plan to make me that way knowing what I would one day endure. He is so good.  As I look toward my future, I feel confident in my plan to continue sharing my story and healing journey with others. I know it has helped others.

This week I received an email from the mother of another Boston Marathon bombing survivor who is now deep in his struggle with PTSD. He needs resources, support, and to know he is not alone. I called on my survivor friends and together they recommended many specialists in his area that he can now call on as he hopefully chooses to heal. This is a gift! This is why I write here and it’s why I speak out and share my story. This is my calling and I won’t stop. Survivors of mass shootings and acts of terrorism from years ago are taking their lives every day and they don’t have to. I will work in their memory each day to share my message of hope for healing. Their pain and mine should have meaning and I believe it can inspire other victims to move forward with their lives if they choose to embrace the journey.

So today, 6 years later, I choose to move forward and carry the many lessons this experience has taught me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to see my life through PTSD’s lens and to use that vision to help where I can.

 

Be the hand of a hopeful stranger

A little scared but your strong enough

Be the light in the dark of this danger

‘Til the sun comes up

A Safe Place To Land – Sara Bareillles

Anxiety Is Information

Anxiety Is Information

My therapist recently challenged me to start thinking of anxiety as information.  I must admit I left her office feeling a bit miffed by the idea especially as I started to contemplate how my anxiety plays out. It’s usually a full body and mind phenomenon. Heart racing, mind running laps around me, sweating, and searching for a way out. Sometimes I’m awoken this way in the middle of the night too and then the insomnia side takes over. If anxiety is information in these moments then what could it be telling me?  I’m dying – That’s usually the only answer I can come up with. Even though my rational self knows that’s not true because I’ve lived through each anxious moment and period in my life thus far it still feels that way.  Then, I spend my remaining energy focused on ways to find relief in those moments instead leaning into them. Apparently, that’s what might be missing.

This concept had swirled through my consciousness for weeks until I finally decided to give it a try knowing I wouldn’t get it right the first time.  Embracing something as uncomfortable as anxiety must take some practice to perfect and I felt up for the challenge.  Afterall, I am known to be a pretty good listener so I should be able to pick up on what my own anxiety is trying to tell me! Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long.

Anxiety has been my bestie today. It’s ok. I’m letting her take the lead for now and I think I know what her message is-- at least this time.

I need to slow down. Take some time for myself. Meditate and journal. Perhaps there has been a trigger and I should look out for it. Not let it consume me, just notice it. Don’t let it derail me. Instead, consider what it can teach me.

I am ready to learn.

I wish I could share that I am on the other side of this already and that I’ve gained so much insight and I’m feeling great. Though that is not the case, I am hopeful it soon will be. As I work towards finding my peace again, I challenge you to search for ways to lean in to what your anxiety is telling you instead of focusing on the methods by which you can numb it, erase it, and tolerate it. Rather, try and find ways to acknowledge it, embrace it, and grow from it.

More Than Gold

A few days ago my daughter and I were quickly unloading the dishwasher together before leaving for soccer practice when sadly, a plate slipped through her little hands and shattered across the floor. It was loud and propelled her into a fit of frightened upset. I comforted her as I swept up the mess and threw away the broken pieces just in time for us to bolt out the door. It wasn’t a big deal. After all the plate, a gift from our wedding registry, was over ten years old. It had served its purpose. Just as swiftly as we made it to practice I soon forgot the whole plate breaking debacle and went on with my afternoon. Later that evening as I caught up on some Instagram scrolling I noticed a picture of a broken bowl with ribbons of gold holding it together. Below it were these words, “Kintsukuroi — to repair with gold. In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to its beauty. Consider this.”

Consider this? I couldn’t keep my mind off it and it had nothing to do with the broken plate from earlier that day. It had to do with me. Just like that fractured and mended bowl in the photograph I too have those golden seams running through my heart and head. Piecing together what trauma and PTSD have left behind. I’ve spent the last six years of my life tirelessly filling in the fissure in my life’s bowl. A crack so great I never thought I’d be able to live my life again, more importantly, live the beautiful life I had planned for myself when I twirled around in dress-up clothes as a child, walked down the aisle to my groom, and held my newborn babies tight.

My crack signifies a life that was taken from me nearly six years ago when I stood at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and witnessed two bombs explode leaving behind shattered lives. It symbolizes the mental and physical anguish I went through on a daily basis and the nightmares that kept me from sleep each night. Anxiety and depression had chipped away at me until there wasn’t much left and I plead for help. Even in the psychiatric hospital, where I’d hoped to be put back together, my cracks grew deeper. But it was there, at my very bottom, that I found the strength and courage to start mending my life on my own terms. I had never thought of that process as beautiful before but knew it was worth more than gold — because I am worth more than gold.

The gold that has pieced me back together is strong. It’s made me resilient. My gold is made up of everything that has helped me heal. Not just the therapy and tools I have leaned on or the therapists and specialists who have cared for me; it’s made from the belief I never lost in myself, the gentle care I gave myself, and the faith I always had that tomorrow would be better. Those gleaming ribbons are made brighter by the people who held my hand along the way and knew I would pull through when I doubted the process. All of this, the fracture and the glue, have made me whole again. Not whole in the way I was before my trauma, but restored in a different, stronger, and more beautiful way.

Though I am imperfect and flawed, I can now step back and admire the workmanship that I did to rebuild me again. Aside from my children — it’s my best work to date and I am proud to be sharing it with others.

I encourage you to consider your own “kintsukuroi” story as you examine the challenges and trials in your life. How can you embrace those injuries, grow, and make them shine? What will it take for you to make beautiful what is broken in your life? I can’t promise you that when you start this process you won’t feel like the ruined plate I so carelessly discarded. I do know that as you grow and find your cracks filled with precious healing, you too will see beauty in what is left behind.

Finding Ways to Grow

With a new year ahead I find myself focused on finding ways to grow in 2019.  I want to expand my reach, find new ways to share my story, touch people whose shoes I’ve been in, and remain grounded enough to take on these lofty goals. It’s crucial to still take good care of myself because I don’t plan on sliding backwards now.

I’m in a good place. I feel like a good majority of my healing has been done (I’d say 80%). I string together more good days then bad. I feel mentally healthy and strong. I still have set backs but they are fewer and farther apart. I remain in trauma therapy and under the care of my naturopath. And I can feel my brain healing as my cognition and memory seem to be getting better. All good things! So I wonder how I can still manage to grow from here.

I started thinking yesterday about how plants grow and perhaps some of the answers I’m seeking about my own growth are rooted there.

A tiny seed gets carried and dropped by a bird or the wind and finds its way under leaves and brush to a patch of dirt.  It nestles itself down below soil’s surface and waits for rain and sun to work their magic so roots can take shape. Then a baby shoot appears and decides where to grow. Some grow straight up, confident of their path while others grow outwards looking for space among friends. And once they start off in their own direction their leaves, fruit, and blooms take shape. Always changing. Storms come, summer sun scorches, winter freezes, and still that plant changes. Birds, bugs, and bees become visitors too taking what they need to live. Still the plant grows and changes with the understanding of its environment. Always ready to embrace the changes.

PTSD was a huge environmental change for me. It shook my branches and rattled the earth below me and still I’ve managed to grow. Now I have all of these baby shoots growing from my trunk and I am so excited to see how they will take shape.

Growing. Blooming. Healing. Changing.

I’m not sure how I’ll accomplish all these goals, or how they will shape me, and change me and that’s the scary part. Until I get there I’ll just embrace my experience and see where I grow.

Surviving the Holidays with PTSD

My husband and I filled out our family calendar for December and we have so many commitments as many of you do too I am sure. We took some time evaluating what we would attend taking into consideration what we can do as a family and what might be too much for us.  I think this sets us up for success during the holiday season.

I promised you some techniques I use to survive the holidays and I hope that by implementing some of these techniques into your own life you will be able to maintain peace and mental stability during this wonderful time of year!

#1. Say No.

You know your limits and what you can mentally and physically take. This season has a way of testing those limits! I want to empower you to say no this time of year. It’s okay to say no to hosting people and attending every party. And I know we have so many traditions this time of year but sometimes that added pressure makes things worse. Don’t let that pressure derail you. Stick to your guns with family and friends and honor yourself by saying no to what doesn’t serve you. Remember, these are your holidays too!

#2. Don’t over-do it with sweets, caffeine, and alcohol.

Over-indulging is what the holidays are all about! I know for me though that when I do this it affects my sleep, my stomach, and takes a mental toll on me. It confirms to me that there really is a gut health and mental health connection. Also caffeine is a stimulant that leaves me jittery and anxious and alcohol is a downer. Adding these to my system affects me quickly especially if I haven’t been drinking enough water. So this time of year I try and maintain my plant based diet, drink all my water, and limit the rest.

#3. Take a time out

I get very overstimulated. Loud parties and a lot of people can leaving me reeling. When I start to feel like this, no matter where I am, I give myself permission to leave the space that is bothering me. I either excuse myself to the restroom and run cold water through my hands (it’s a great coping skill) or I step outside and take a short walk. I can also use my Anxiety Release app or essential oils during these moments. Whatever tools you choose to use I think it is important to give yourself the space you need to breathe, refocus on your safety, and set an intention to get you through the rest of the party. Also, sharing your feelings with a friend or loved one before you take your time out is important as well. Find someone who will have your back and who can help support you through these moments.

#4. Continue taking medications and supplements

This is so important and so easy to stop doing! With all your extra commitments it’s easy to forget your medication or supplements. I’ve done it before too and I always kick myself when I’m feeling sick days or weeks later. I dedicate 20 minutes every Sunday night to divide my supplements into easy-to-go containers that I can grab for each day and throw in my purse. This step makes it easy for me to take everything I need so I can feel my best. My favorite supplement to take these days are my CBD pills. They help me sleep and keep me calm – two things I need in my life during the holidays!

#5. Speak up for yourself.

Honoring yourself through your voice is so important and when there are so many people and opinions to consider this time of year. It can be hard to do.  Sharing your feelings, frustrations, and stress with a trusted friend or loved one can help. I know for me I sometimes need someone to just listen to my feelings and somehow I start to feel better.

One more thing I want to add because it is so important to consider when discussing PTSD and trauma is that many of us are traveling this time of year and some of us may be visiting places where our traumas occurred. If this is the situation you find yourself in I hope you prepare in advance with your therapist and discuss coping skills that you can lean on if you start to struggle. I also recommend you line up all the tools that have worked for you in the past and pack them with you because traveling and trying new things don’t always mix…stick with what you know works and take it along for the ride. And – be gentle with yourself as you navigate the stress of traveling this time of year on top of the mental baggage you are carrying. You can do it!

I hope these tips will help you get through the holiday season and enjoy it your own way!

I’d love to hear what tips and tricks help you too – leave me comments below!

Grateful

Life has been busy lately and I have been working on a few passion projects that I pray will come to fruition in 2019. And as my energy has shifted towards the birth of these projects I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude. I am so grateful to be here, to be doing well, sharing a beautiful life with my family, and for the growth and clarity I have been granted this year. God is so good!

I wanted to reflect on gratitude this week with Thanksgiving upon us for a few reasons.

The first being that we, our country and world, are facing such turmoil lately. Fires, mass shootings, terrorism, political unrest, trauma, and pain. Where many see an endless mess, I try and focus my energy on the countless opportunities we have to turn it around. I think an easy way to start this positive ball rolling in our own lives is to focus on what we are grateful for and reflect that for others. I know for me when I was sickest there were people close to me that encouraged me just by expressing how thankful they were for me, for my friendship, and love and that appreciation saw me through times when I couldn’t see my own value, worth, or purpose. Imagine how we could change the world by expressing our love and gratitude to those around us who are struggling? I see a positive domino effect of difference being made!

My second reason for my reflection on gratitude is that it’s free. With the holidays upon us I feel like many people, myself included, get wrapped up in the sales, gift buying and giving, parties, and extra expenses that aren’t really what this season is about. I know for me all these extra commitments can leave me feeling frazzled. So I am committed to investing some of this energy I have wasted before towards the gratitude I want to express and share with everyone around me. I think it’s the most beautiful gift to give and receive.

Third, did you know that expressing gratitude is scientifically proven to improve your health, well-being and relationships? In this article, published by Harvard Medical School, the process of expressing gratitude results in people connecting to something larger then themselves and ultimately leads to greater happiness, positive emotions, improves health and builds stronger relationships.

The article details some easy ways you can cultivate gratitude in your own life and here they are;

Write a thank you note — I love writing thank you notes and receiving them too!

Thank someone mentally — this takes no time and little effort but can make a difference.

Keep a gratitude journal — I personally do this and believe it to be a great practice!

Count your blessings every day — Amen!

Pray and Meditate — two of my favorite things to do!

My gratitude journal starts with these people and moments we’ve shared together recently!