Anxiety, masculinity, mens health, mental health

No Homo, Bro: Men and Masculinity Going Into 2020

Guest post by my one and only! My husband Matt is passionate about mental health awareness and encouraging men to live lives of vulnerability, healing, and fullness. Matt is a law enforcement officer and uses his years of experience in the profession to create a culture of empathy in his workplace and with those he comes into contact with–often those that struggle with mental health. Matt knows his own struggles with mental health intimately. That is a story for another day. For now, enjoy as Matt shares his views on true masculinity and how men can better themselves by living authentically.

Man standing in a barren field wearing brown boots.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

A little more than a week ago, a viral video popped up of the Sevier County, Tennessee Commissioner railing against the Democratic party here in the USA. Among other things he mentioned, he lamented the fact that “a Queer is running for President” and that “a white male in this country has very few rights and they’re getting took more every day”. This statement was met with cheers and “Amen” from others in the meeting.

#MeToo and Masculinity

As we end the first twenty years of the 21st century we’ve seen a massive cultural shift in gender relations. With the #MeToo movement there was a recognition of bad behavior perpetrated by men, mostly in the workplace. Men were finally being held accountable for the systemic superiority that has permeated the culture. There’s also been a recognition of racial and ethnic disparity in our country, and a highlight of inequity that has persisted even after the Civil Rights movement of last century. In an effort to right the ship of American culture there’s been vocal outcries against men, mostly white, and we’ve collectively seen these people “cancelled” from the public eye. Men that say something unprofessional to a woman colleague are now being fired. White politicians that are found to have used blackface decades ago are now having their political careers challenged. There’s been an uprising that says: “This behavior will not be accepted anymore and it needs to stop.”

This should all be a good thing, right? Equality in the workplace, holding men accountable for what they’ve said or done to harass someone, and not allowing this bad behavior to persist should be helping men move into the 21st century, right? For many men that I’ve had encounters with regarding this subject, the attitude is one of feeling victimized by the culture instead of affirmed. Several men I’ve met in my line of work would quietly agree with the Sevier County Commissioner. Why are men feeling victimized about our culture’s insistence that all are treated equally? In my opinion, it is because the very idea of masculinity is being challenged. The way by which a man identifies as a man in still judged against a historic concept of masculinity and this hasn’t idea hasn’t evolved.

Man By Definition

In this historic idea of masculinity the worst thing a boy can be called is a girl. The second is gay, because of the femininity attached to such a label. As boys are socialized with other boys a hierarchy is established: the “best” boy is the strongest, the fastest, and the biggest. The larger boys represent everything that a boy in our culture thinks a man should be. Many boys fall victim to these leaders of the pack when their thinking or ideas don’t align with the leaders. Boys are bullied or picked on for spending more time with girls than boys. They’re picked on for any traits that could be interpreted as non-masculine: being too short, or too skinny, or having a high-pitched voice, or preferring to do activities that aren’t based on physical dominance. As boys mature into teenagers this intensifies and can lead to violence. But this time in a teen boy’s life also introduces other measuring sticks for masculinity: the conquering of women and the recognition of money relating to power. Teen girls are then approached as possible conquests instead of equals, and they’ve already been phased out of equality because they’re not boys. This entire attitude persists with varying forms of maturity and becomes more nuanced as teen boys become adults. Many of these belief systems based on the historic idea of masculinity become implicit and may improve as a man has more interaction with women in professional settings, but I think there may be lingering effects.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

No Homo?

One of these lingering effects that I’ve noticed among young men is the use of “no homo” when mentioning something even vaguely complimentary or vulnerable to another man. I recently overheard an adult man talk about how the leaves at this time of year are gorgeous and the response from the other guy next to him was, “that’s so gay”. Even as a joke, this idea that men can’t enjoy beauty or show affection without being accused of being sexually attracted to another man and thus emasculated is very telling of the culture. The idea that a gay man is somehow not masculine is also logically perplexing. There’s no allowance for a man to be vulnerable, to display sadness, or to enjoy anything that may not be traditionally “male”. When men buy into this idea of masculinity they can then feel victimized when the very definition of what it means to be a man is changing in our culture. When a man hears that his perception of masculinity is being challenged, that man can feel like his identity is being challenged. There’s so much baggage attached to this issue and it hits to the very core of many men and who they believe themselves to be. And since self-reflection and introspection is already considered vulnerable and thus not “manly”, many men are deterred from taking inventory of what defines their identity and sense of self.

In my profession of law enforcement, this definition of the masculine identity is something that I find to be pervasive. The job can be very physical, confrontational and authoritative—all traits glorified by traditional masculinity. I found out that my employer, which is a very large and progressive community-oriented Department, is staffed by 88% of men. Only 12% of the workforce is women. Recently a Captain on my Department (four ranks higher than me) and I both stopped to help a man that was in a car accident during morning rush hour traffic. This accident was just outside of our jurisdiction and was the responsibility of that county’s Sheriff’s Department, but it was clear the deputy needed some help. My Captain and I were both in business attire so there was no way to identify our ranks. After we helped, the deputy told me, “Thanks for your help, and thank the woman too.” I jokingly told him that it had been a while since I’ve seen a Captain help direct traffic, and that the woman was my Captain. He responded in such a surprised manner and it was clear that he was shocked to see a woman in that position. There was no harm in his reaction, but I think it’s just indicative of the reality of my profession. With so few women, I think that it’s easy to work in an echo chamber of men’s voices reinforcing the stereotype of masculinity.

Don’t “Man Up”

So where does that leave us? I think that it starts with men. It starts with people like me having the courage to be vulnerable and to break those stereotypes. If there are men in positions of power and authority that can have this courage, they can begin to change what it means to be a man among the men over which they have influence. But even if you’re not a man that appears to have a lot of power, just the circle of influence you have can be affected by your courage to be your true self. Learning to allow yourself time to be introspective is a great start to discovering what makes you- you. If a man can practice introspection and can then allow themselves the courage to be vulnerable with another trusted man, the connection formed can be life-changing. Around one in five men have experienced sexual abuse. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the USA (over 30,000) are death by suicide, and 86% of those killed are men. Men have baggage and pain. Men have emotional wounds inflicted on them by people they’ve trusted. Men struggle with anxiety and depression. Men feel isolated, unloved, and unworthy of love. Men need connection and vulnerability. It’s time that we as men stop denying ourselves a meaningful and enjoyable and healthy life because we should just “man up”.

Manly Vulnerability

Being a man is being you in all your strengths and weaknesses and fears and joy. We have the power to go into 2020 living authentically. The most masculine thing a man can do is to be genuine.

Let’s be men.

Let’s be us.

Anxiety, Chronic illness, parenting, women's health

Money and Mental Health

It was time for me to face my fears. Money wasn’t just a tangible exchange of currency for goods. For me, it was a deeply rooted fear of going without, being out of control, and letting go.

Photo by Katie Harp – Pinterest Manager on Unsplash

To me, the world has always been a picture of souls interconnected by an invisible string. I’ve seen how just the “right” person enters my life at just the “right” time. It never ceases to amaze me and I find that it’s rarely easy to ignore.

The Way it Went Down

Matt and I have been struggling with our finances since we got married.

Money tips and wisdom weren’t shared with either of us growing up. In fact, money was a major trigger for stress in both of our homes. We were both raised by single parents for a long duration of childhoods. There was very little money and very little resources because of it. Ironically, both of our single parents married their spouses when Matt and I were around the same age. New income from new “breadwinners” in the home meant new opportunities that weren’t afforded to our parents when they were single.

All of a sudden both of our families were able to afford name brand cereal (heck, cereal at all!).

We got new school clothes instead of second hand clothing.

Matt looks back on his household and I look back on mine and it’s shockingly similar. Our parents essentially went from having nothing to having excess. This created a culture of entitlement, living beyond the families’ means, and debt. Then, as the credit card statements arrived in the mail, the arguments surrounding money began.

We both remember our parents and step parents fighting over money. Shouting matches over the stress of it all. Still, behaviors went unchanged and we both grew up in homes where money wasn’t dared brought up in discussion.

Avoidance became the key to keeping arguments under wraps.

Til’ Debt Do Us Part

Our lack of money smarts wasn’t all on our parent’s shoulders, of course. Matt and I never really talked about the financial specifics of our relationship, goals, or even pasts. Our conversations went as deep as:

“Yeah, my parents fought a lot about money.”

“Yeah, mine, too.”

Or, we would set lofty goals without any plan in place.

“The goal is to not go into debt.”

“Yeah, that would be horrible if we ended up in a financial situation like our families.”

The wedding came and went. We immediately spent the cash from the wedding envelopes immediately. On what, I don’t remember.

We opened credit cards for emergency situations because we didn’t have a savings.

Then, my health quickly and suddenly declined. Medical bills were thrown on credit cards and small personal loans with high interest rates became our cushion for survival. For years, and I mean years, we went into debt and total denial that our situation was as bad as it was.

Blank Slates and Fresh Chances

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Years passed and debt increased.

Unforeseen circumstances kept mounting and throwing us into what felt like a whiplash state of saving then spending. We would make progress and then fall right back into spending and avoidance. We’d become stressed and then splurge on a vacation to get “away from it all”. (That doesn’t work, by the way).

Our daughter was born and we imagined a new chapter beginning. We dreamed new dreams. We made new lofty plans without any accountability or measurable goals in place.

Her 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th birthdays passed and we were sinking further into debt. In this span of 5 years I began and quit multiple jobs because of my health. I could not hold down a full time job which left our finances even more unpredictable. Finally, we enrolled in the debt management program with CESI and consolidated our debt. (they’re a non profit and I highly recommend them!)

With new tools in our tool belt and a breath of fresh air, I started back to full time employment.

Unfortunately, after nearly two years of employment, I had to resign due to health issues once again. I immediately talked to my therapist during this grieving process. It was so taxing on me and disappointing that I had to give up a position I loved so much. She suggested that I consider freelance work as a virtual assistant and writing. My love for administrative support (major geek over here!), writing, and desire to stay on track with CESI gave me the push I needed to jump into the unknown.

Enter Amazing Breakthrough

Photo by Sarah Gualtieri on Unsplash

My freelance profile posted and I got a message shortly after from the lovely Whitney Hansen of Whitney Hansen Co. It turned out she needed a virtual assistant ASAP and well, I needed a job! The thought of working for a finance guru intimidated me like crazy!

Day One: I pushed my fear aside and got to work on my newly assigned tasks.

I read all about her work, listened to her podcast, and began reading her blog. She had me hooked. Whitney talked about things I had never heard about: side hustles, how to start a savings, and manageable goals for paying off debt. I soaked in everything like a sponge. She wasn’t talking at me, she was sharing her heart and also her mind. In one of her podcasts she interviews Cait Flanders, author of The Year of Less . My intrigue was sparked. I bought the book used on Amazon and got to reading.

My Rude, but Gentle Awakening

Photo by Nika Akin on Unsplash

The first few pages of Cait’s book made me cry.

Whitney’s podcast made me cry.

Sessions with my therapist made me cry.

Something ran deep within me and I couldn’t figure it out. What was it?

I began to grieve.

I dug deep into the soil of my soul and there, just at the rock bed, was fear. On the surface everyone else saw my health concerns, my best intentions, and my polished facade. Deeper, there in the dark, was the fear I had buried as a child. Fear of losing what I held dear, fear of lacking control, fear of letting others in. Spending had become my salve. I shopped for comfort. I shopped to forget. I shopped to control.

“Tiny” well-meaning purchases over time had buried me.

It was time for a rebirth.

I could not be held responsible for what I did not know growing up, but I was responsible for choosing not to grow up.

The following weeks, I decided to stay at that root and to look it dead in the eyes. I observed the deepest and darkest places of my behavior. Places that I felt ashamed of–the impulsive spending, relentless excuses, and denial. I did not stay there, though.

We cannot dwell in a place of regret. Nothing blooms there.

I asked Whitney for help by joining her in her 1:1 coaching. She graciously accepted us and all of our nasty debt into her arms and began gently coaching us on how to take ownership over our finances.

I began working intentionally with my therapist about my desire for comfort, suppression, and hiding from fear.

This has been difficult. The first month of setting a budget did not go as planned. We basically fell on our faces. Whitney helped dust us off and encouraged us to keep going. I replaced spending with eating for a short time. My therapist listened with true empathy as I cried through the realization that I had exchanged one bad habit for another. (Cait highlights this common tendency in her book).

Matt and I are setting goals and working hard to be a team. It’s fun to be on the same page and dream together!

I’m learning to not be fearful of finances, but instead feel empowered by my choices.

Let’s End With This

You’re not defined by the mistakes you’ve made.

Evaluate the “mood behind the motion”. Are you eating, spending, sleeping, avoiding, or drinking when you’re stressed, scared, overwhelmed, sad, or angry?

You’re not alone.

Advocate for yourself. Ask for help. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

I promise, there’s something beautiful waiting to bloom.

You are lovely + You are loved,

Nikki xx

Anxiety, caregiver, Chronic illness, mental health, parenting, rest, slow living, women's health

Dear Caregiver…

Black and white photo of the back of a woman. She is dressed in a sweater and has her hair in a low messy bun that touches the back of her neck.
Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

I know it’s hard to imagine taking time for yourself. In fact, I imagine it’s like asking the moon to pull itself away from the tide. Where would the moon shine if it wasn’t on the crashing waves? How would the tide know where to go if it wasn’t for the moon’s gravitational guidance?

The Overlooked

There are these unsung heroes wiping their children’s mouths, reading old magazines in psychiatric ward waiting rooms, and sleeping upright in outdated Emergency Room chairs. They resemble the average person in the daily grind of the mundane 9-5, but they’re anything but ordinary.

The caregivers.

They drink their cups of coffee cold, eat their meals two hours late, and wear the same shirt three days in a row without realizing it. They are not forgetful when it comes to their service to their loved one they hold so closely. Medication is administered at the ding of a preset alarm. Necessities are on auto ship with Amazon and meals are planned and prepped in advance. Still, they neglect to take their own multi vitamin days in a row, forget to buy deodorant for themselves during their Target run, and leave their packed lunch on the counter top at home.

Suffering with a chronic and/or mental illness is difficult. Caring for someone that suffers is just as taxing.

Why You Matter

Dear Caregiver,

It’s been a long road. I know that and I don’t even know you personally. You see, there’s only so much that you can take without reaching out for help. You yourself tell people that again and again. You’re the advocate, the believer, the helper, and the friend. Everyone around you comes to you and deems you a saint of sorts. After all, the main question you’re asked is, “How do you do it?”

What do people even mean when they ask that?

Do they mean “How do you handle the stress?”, “How do you manage to keep your sanity when you’ve been up all night with your suicidal loved one?”, “How do you balance work, home, and taking your teenager to his third therapy session this week?”, or do they mean “How have you not given up on yourself yet?”

It’s such a loaded question: “How do you do it?”

What is “it”?

What they don’t see are your own panic attacks in the shower and the obsessive thoughts that race through your head each night. They don’t understand that you’re balancing medical bills in your head as you’re blowing out the birthday candles on your cake. After all, the days turn into months which turn into years. It all seems the same when you’re in survival mode.

Nobody says thank you which isn’t what you’re wishing for, but is also exactly what you need. It all just builds up and you cry in your walk in closet again for the second morning in a row. Your excuse your tears as selfishness and push your worry deep down behind your ribs again.

Sweet stranger, I see you. There have been times when I have been the care giver and times when I have needed someone to care for me. The hardest role of the two was caring so deeply for the loved one that was suffering that my very heart felt like a heavy stone. I know you’re rarely understood, checked on, or appreciated. Sometimes illness doesn’t allow those we are caring for to shower us in gratitude.

I want you to know here and now that you are seen, you are loved, and that you matter–outside of what you do there is you. You are not forgotten and you are not alone. Right here and now let me say, “You matter.”

This is a universal thank you to each and every person that has lost sight of who they are in the act of focusing on others.

You matter.

You matter.

You matter.

Nikki xx

Side profile of a woman dressed in a sweater and low messy bun. Her face is not shown.
Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

ethical fashion, human trafficking, humanitarian efforts, mental health, rest, slow living, small business, subscription box, Uncategorized, women's health

Deeper Self Care

We need to remind each other to let ourselves rest so we can change the world with our whole selves.

wildflowers in a large field
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The Problem With Busyness

You have dreams of your own to make the world around you a better place. So once you entered the workforce, you got to hustling. A few times, you’d regretfully climb into bed feeling guilty about all the things on your to-do list you didn’t check off.

Then your email inbox started giving you anxiety, even if you’re not looking at it. When friends and family asked “how have you been” your reply was “busy.”

Then you got less excited about new ideas. You used to love being creative but now it seems like too much work.

Finally you googled “signs of burnout” and admitted to yourself that you needed a break. Then you look at your to do list again, realized how much you needed to get done and started knocking things off that list. Once you’re done, you can rest.

In a culture that tells us to hustle and grind, we glorify busyness. How full our calendar is directly relates to how important we feel.

But since when was busyness our goal? 

M. K. Ghandi said “There has to be more to life than speed.” And I’m inclined to believe him.

We’ve tricked ourselves into believing that busyness will get us to a place where we can finally relax. Yet we never seem to arrive at that place. We just keep going. Sometimes until our bodies literally force us to stop.

The Reason for Rest

In Bec Heinrich’s Ted Talk on rest, she states productivity requires rest. She uses Michael Jordan as an example. He spent an average of 20% of each game resting on the bench because he realized his body and mind needed a break so he could go back out and give his all. Jordan played 1,072 games in his career. I wonder if he hadn’t taken a break, if he wouldn’t have been able to play as many games? I wonder if we don’t take a break, if we run the risk of shortening our own future success and joy? 

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to stop feeling guilty when I can’t point to something I accomplished. I feel the urge to pack my to-do list with lots of things that will prove I’m not lazy. But maybe the key to being truly productive is rest.

What I’m Learning

Woman standing in a field of wildflowers. A windmill made of stone stands behind her.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Here are some things I’m learning about rest… 

What if we learned to advocate for ourselves in our own minds – Stop considering ourselves either Wonder Woman or a failure. So often we trap ourselves in either/or thought patterns that don’t actually exist. We can be strong AND need rest. We can be driven AND take time to do something fun and utterly pointless. 

Maybe we have to understand that rest is personal. What makes you feel revitalized and ready to go might make me feel utterly exhausted. Self-care doesn’t have to look like a bath and candles unless that is actually how you ENJOY resting.

There are multiple types of energy and rest. We all have social, spiritual, physical, mental and emotional energy. Each is a little different from the other. Doesn’t it naturally follow that there are different types of rest as well? Instead of assuming rest always looks like a facemask and long bath (which might be great if you’ve had a physically demanding day), maybe we need to replenish the type of energy we’ve lost throughout the day. This requires us to ask ourselves questions about our tiredness and it opens up all kinds of new possibilities for rest. 

Reframing how we think of rest can change everything. Rest is a way for us to replenish energy. It gives us the chance to say how/when we want to spend or save our energy. Productivity without rest will slowly get less and less meaningful until we’ve burnt out completely. Rest works best when we make it a habit – before we’re burnt out. Not as a last-ditch solution to feeling overworked and stressed. Once we’re in burn-out, we’re fighting an uphill battle to get back to ourselves. Yes, there are seasons of life that will beat us down and leave us burnt-out and stressed. But shouldn’t those be seasons of life and not the way we live our whole life? 

A stone windmill in a field of wildflowers. Poppies, daisies, and other flowers are at the bottom of the small hill.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

If you’re someone like me who wants to change the world or maybe just our little corner of it, you need to learn how to rest. Spending all your energy does the world no good. Pushing through and living life as a well-meaning zombie means we all lose out on your spirit, your creativity, your heart because you’re too tired to share it with us. We need to remind each other to let ourselves rest so we can change the world with our whole selves.

Cassidy xx

Photo provided by ‘The Arise Box’

This guest post was written by Cassidy Perry, founder of The Arise Box. The Arise Box gives you a simple, easy way to fight human trafficking in your every-day life. We curate products you can feel good about (ethically made, sustainable, give back, really world-changing stuff) while using part of the profits to build care packages for human trafficking survivors. You are worthy and capable of making a real difference in the world. We’re here to help you get started. Subscribe to The Arise Box at to start empowering survivors, you world-changer you.

Anxiety, art, mental health, parenting, slow living, women's health

Art and Mental Health

But I spend as much time as I can being creative, because it’s healing.

Dear Stranger, my name’s Caitlin and I have a mood disorder.

First things first…

I didn’t always have anxiety and depression. In fact, I used to be considered a class clown in my younger days. I remember being shy sometimes, but I was a pretty confident kid. As a girl I would love to make my friends laugh. I would draw funny pictures for them too, and make up characters. I’ve always been told I was creative.

greenery and a notebook laying on a white surface.

But things changed once I got a little older. I was sitting in a classroom in 8th grade, and suddenly I felt a fear I had never felt before. I felt trapped. I couldn’t breathe. I needed to get out of there. I didn’t know it then, but I had experienced my first panic attack. They say something traumatic must happen to a person for them to have an anxiety disorder, but that’s not always true.

Dear Depression,

As a teenager, I started getting depressed and anxious. I was too afraid to take pills or seek therapy at the time. But when I was feeling low, I always had my sketchbook. I drew fairies and elves and hobbits, mainly. And when I wasn’t drawing, my friends and I filmed brilliant (to us) videos. If Youtube existed back then, let me tell you we would’ve had our own channel. Just like in my younger years, I would play countless characters for the video camera, trying to make people laugh. When I did that, I forgot about my anxiety and depression. I felt like myself again.

Postpartum Depression

Fast forward to my years as a young mother. I had postpartum depression every time I had a new baby (and I had three kids in 5 years). I went through a period where I forgot how to be creative. I wasn’t drawing or writing anymore. But as the kids grew, I found that we could do crafts together. Making beeswax candles, making salt dough hand prints, …it was very fun creating things again, this time with my little ones.

The Spark of Creativity

I was still a lonely mom, but one day I had an idea. I decided to start hosting an annual tea party for my friends. It was called a Cupid’s Tea. We would craft Valentine’s together. Sitting there at my first of many tea parties, simply using a glue stick….it sparked something in me. From then on I never stopped trying to be creative.

Antique spoons on a white surface.

I started being more crafty. My kids and I made fairy gardens outside, and painted birdhouses. I started scrap booking. I even got more creative with my hair. I may have had depression, but dying my hair pink, purple, blue and teal cheered me up. I may have had anxiety, but I could rock a mohawk!

Healing Projects

When we moved from Virginia to Alabama, it wasn’t easy.

It was at this time I got really into painting wooden signs and making dream catchers. I made so many crafts that I was encouraged to start an Etsy shop, so I did. Knowing that people will pay money for the things I make is really encouraging. It helps me with my loneliness and my mood disorder.

Keep in mind, I still have a mood disorder. I have bad days. I manage it with medication and seeing a psychiatrist. But I spend as much time as I can being creative, because it’s healing.

Be Encouraged

I just want to encourage you, stranger, to try something just for you. Sketch, paint, blog, scrapbook, write, craft, or dye your hair red. There is something about creativity that has always helped me, and no matter what you’re going through, I believe it will help you too.

I will leave you with this quote by one of my heroes, which I love.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness; You mustn’t lose it” – Robin Williams

Pastel paint swatches, pencils, and botanical pieces on a white surface.

As David Horsey of the LA Times said: ” I very much doubt the “madness” of which he spoke had anything to do with mental illness. Rather, it is the spark of impulse, insight, enthusiasm and inspiration that is essential to creativity.”

Don’t lose that spark.

Caitlin xx

Caitlin Moore is a wife and a stay at home mother to three boys. She’s a Virginia native living in Alabama. She also has two cats, Wendy and Tiger Lily. She spends her days cooking,cleaning and care taking, but she always fits in time for herself. (This is easier now that all three boys are in school).
Etsy shop:
Tzargazing blog
15 moments blog

***All of the beautiful photos in this post are compliments of  Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash


I’d Rather Sit With You

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

The Question

Her face was a bit blurry on my side, but she could see me clearly.

“Why do you believe it’s hard to sit with yourself?”, she asked. I sat up tall and adjusted by earbuds. I smiled nervously as some self-deprivation joke entered my mind.

She looked at me eagerly, but patiently.

“I don’t know. It’s just hard. It’s uncomfortable to sit in the silence with myself. My thoughts become too loud. I try to avoid myself, I guess.” I admitted. The joke surfaced again. “I guess I just don’t think I make good company.”, I blurted out and then laughed.

My therapist smiled and offered, “You do know that you’re wasting your life away by not sitting with your pain, right?”

The smile stretched across my lips vanished in a split second. Then, out of politeness I forced it to return. My heart felt as if it had just been sunk in the deepest water. I cleared my throat and leaned against the headboard. The bed creaked as it gave way to my full weight.

She continued, “You have to be able to sit with yourself. Aren’t you tired of running from yourself? Sit down, listen to your heart, and make the choice to stay. Stay in the discomfort because that is the only way healing can take place.”

The Tears

The next day I grabbed my keys and slammed the front door behind me. I took refuge in the local coffee shop and sat down with my laptop. I began to type and didn’t stop for four hours. 5,000 words looked directly at me and we held that uncomfortable eye contact for a long time.

I wrote about trauma I had endured, people that had disappointed me, a God that I was sure had forgotten me, and how in some strange turn of events I was made whole by my pain.

My coffee had gotten cold and the afternoon sun started to warm my face. I did not cry. There was a certain joy that radiated from the raw places I had buried for so long. The power was in using my voice–my writing–to face the demons that I had been running from for so long.


That writing session has allowed me to face my fears. I have become comfortable in my own skin and in my own company.

I believe that our pain should propel us into community. Shame hides. It runs and doesn’t look back. How much could we heal if we knew that we are never alone?

Gather with friends, family, “your person” that you love, and God–the ones that have never left you.

Most importantly, sit with yourself. Don’t let another day pass where you are living numb.

Let the light in.


Something New

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Sometimes there aren’t words that can truly convey the weight that a new chapter brings. I celebrate new chapters when I am reading a great book. There’s nothing better than being completely immersed in a true page-turner. Anticipation builds at the end of each chapter and cascades into something new when the next page is turned. The joy is following each character or bit of wisdom into the next wave of inky creativity.

When it comes to new chapters of life the excitement can be completely abandoned and adopted by fear. There is fear of the unknown or in my case–fear of what previous chapters have entailed.

I have struggled with my physical and mental health for ten years now and once again I find myself at the brink of a new chapter. A few days ago was my last day in a job that I absolutely adored. My resignation was the end of a chapter that I will always have fond memories of. Now as I turn the page to something uncharted and new I find that I am afraid. I worry that my health will become as bad as it has been in the past. My limited view into the future evokes negative associations for me. Will I be able to lead the life I want to or will I have to bend once again to limitations? Is my future bright with promise or will I have to continue to sacrifice more of the things I love?

But There Is Hope

As all of these fears have taken root in my mind, I have ironically been surrounded by extremely timely advice and encouragement. These instances have been the strength that I have needed to make it a day at a time; fifteen minutes at a time.

Perhaps life’s new chapters are not much different than those bound in a book. Maybe we should be filled with anticipation, joy, and wonder as we turn the page on the unknown. The truth could be that our story is not defined by individual chapters at all, but rather the complete work of art.

I am going to do my best to enjoy this chapter. Yes, I will have moments when I am distressed, distracted, and even depressed by what lies ahead. May I encourage you today? You’re not alone in your fear of the unknown. If you’re facing a chronic illness, mental health diagnosis, or love someone that is–this chapter is yours for the taking. Live among the words and let them settle in your spirit. May this next chapter inspire you and bring you encouragement that you never thought possible.

Nikki x



Photo by Evie Shaffer on Unsplash

            It wasn’t until I stood up that I saw how badly I had skinned my knee. I was at the top of the hill and my bicycle was now in the ditch. My leggings had a hole in them from the friction of the gravel and my face was stained by tears. I looked down the hill and could see my home. “Mommy!” I cried. She couldn’t hear me, and I knew that. The back bicycle tire was still spinning; pushing the daisies down with each revolution. Fear filled my chest as I realized the only way to get home was to get back on my bike. My leg hurt too badly to walk, and my voice wasn’t strong enough to carry very far. With tears streaming down my face I pulled my bicycle by the handlebars and dragged it toward me.

            When I reached the front yard, I let my bicycle fall to the grass and ran up the faulty front steps. “Mommy!”, I yelled. She pulled the quilt aside that blocked the kitchen off and came out with wet hands. “I fell off my bicycle!”, I cried. “I was all alone and you couldn’t hear me. I am so scared, and I need you.” Mama looked at my knee and lifted my small 6-year-old body onto her lap. She held me and assured me I would be ok.

Those that I have served in The Salvation Army social services office since November 2017 have reminded me that we all need comfort.

The addict with her needle marked arms and sunken face.

Children with caregivers that are too overwhelmed to comfort them when they cry.

Mentally ill that cannot live in their own minds without fear and extremely painful memories.

The single mom that prostitutes herself while her children are left to put themselves to bed.

Elderly that have experienced such great loss and have no one to talk to.

The unemployed man that cannot find work because he does not have transportation.

The recently incarcerated who have been demonized and have the cards stacked against them despite their recovery.

            These are the stories that have filled my heart for nearly two years and these are the stories that I will remember forever. May we all elevate our own hearts to a place of pure and unconditional compassion. My hope is that we tune our ears to the cries of the broken. “I was so scared, and I need you!”. May God’s love in us cradle them all—the children that they are—and show them they are loved.


Lean In

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash


What comes to mind?

Bubble baths, hot tea, alone time wandering in the city, and a chocolate stash under your bed? Fresh flowers, Netflix binge, cozy socks, a couple’s massage, and a glass of wine?

Yes to all of those things.

I have been writing Little Hope Notes for 3 months now and ironically I’ve been writing myself advice I should follow this whole time. Each note is different.

Some proclaim, “You are worthy of love and acceptance.” “Don’t give up on yourself.” “Keep going” “Forgive yourself.” “Your past does not define you.”

I’m in awe that it took me this long for the knowledge to go from my handwriting to my heart. We have created such a culture of self-care, but I think that we often overlook self-awareness and how we can self-sabotage ourselves. For example, “You are worthy of love and acceptance.” Sounds great, looks great, is true–but HOW do we connect the message to a movement? I can literally tell myself these nice things while I’m eating a bowl of popcorn and vegging out to my 36th episode of The Office (don’t act like y’all don’t know).

The true foundation to self-care, though is self-development. If we want to feel and believe that we are worthy of love an acceptance then that means that most of us are going to have to dig deep and ask the hard questions.

Why don’t I feel loved?

When don’t I feel accepted?

Who in my past or in my present has made me believe I am less than?

How did I feel when I was told I wasn’t loved, that I wasn’t wanted; that I wasn’t enough?

Authentic self-care is more than a face mask. It’s taking the mask off.

I’m learning, too. It’s okay to have tough questions. Don’t for one minute continue to binge watch your favorite show so that you can permanently take a backseat to the pain that’s stirring inside of you. This is going to take hard work and it is going to take time.

Let’s grab our collective big girl panties, blankets, and dark chocolate (with caramel, obviously), and take time to feel our feelings. Lean in.

Nikki x


Self Care for the Overwhelmed

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

The current culture of self care, self awareness, and self love is a wonderful place to abide. There isn’t a shortage of “How To” articles, self care gurus, and resources at our fingertips. As I have scrolled through Instagram and read about self care from phenomenal and well-meaning life coaches, yoga instructors, and meditation experts there has still been something missing. Who is guiding the self care for the overwhelmed, chronically ill, and those severely struggling with their mental health?

How can I practice self care when I’m in a horrible season of depression and getting dressed is the biggest accomplishment of the day?

How can I create space for self care when I am overwhelmed and my energy is low?

How can I explore the depths of self awareness when I’m under a dark cloud of brain fog and pain?

There are so many questions like these. I struggle with a mental health diagnosis and it has a ripple effect that touches every aspect of my life. It causes me physical pain, extreme fatigue, and a sense of overwhelm. I would love to implement self care habits that are portrayed on Instagram. Daily yoga, healthy recipes, great books packed full of wisdom, and treating myself to a day of alone time. However, when I’m in a difficult place it feels downright impossible to move, cook myself nutritious meals, read, and even drive myself to my favorite places for some “me time”.

So, I have created a tiny list of self care options for those of us that just find self care so taxing in our most exhausted moments.

Three Self Care Practices for the Overwhelmed

  1. Create a “Zen Place” in your mind and retreat. This is something I learned in therapy a couple of years ago. I was asked to imagine a safe place in my mind. Get down to every tiny detail. I have two. One is sitting on my couch wrapped in a specific gray and navy blanket that I own. In my hands I have a hot cup of ‘Sleepy Time’ tea and behind my back is my fluffy pillow. My second place is walking to the top of a mountain mid-October with my family. The leaves have begun to fall off of the trees and the smell of damp dirt fills the air. I’m laughing at my daughter as she climbs the rock to my left and I’m watching my husband walk in front of us. The place you create is yours. When you’re struggling and overwhelmed then go to your safe place. Dwell there for a moment.
  2. Hug someone who loves you. This includes wrapping your arms around yourself! Physical contact that is warm, tender, and loving will lift your spirits. A weighted blanket may also help.
  3. Get fresh air. Open a window, sit on your porch, walk out of your office for two minutes. Feel the hot or cool air on your face and be present in that moment. Is there humidity in the air? How does it feel when it kisses your skin? Are rain drops hitting the window? How does the air feel in your lungs? Breathe in.

These are three things that you can do when you’re in need of self care, but don’t have the time or energy to do something grand. Remember, self care is so important, but it’s also not another area for you to judge yourself harshly in. Simple is enough. You are enough.

You are lovely and you are loved,

Nikki xx