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This is a story about mental health and self-care written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m hoping her stories will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on the site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

My weight has fluctuated over the years. People have said that I’ve gone from too skinny years ago, to a healthy size now. The truth is that I’m not completely happy with my current weight and the way I feel. I need to start eating better, exercising more and improving my overall well being. I feel strongly that being in good physical health helps with one’s mental health!

When I first lived in Los Angeles in my early to mid 20s, I was told that I was at an unhealthy weight. I never weighed myself during those times, but I’m guessing I weighed around 115-120? I ate Clif bars for almost every meal and spent the day drinking Gatorade. I was getting the necessary calories I needed to survive the day. I lived in Venice Beach, so I’d walk up and down the beach and around different zip codes all day, including Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Culver City. I may have looked alright, but my mental health was slipping down during that stage in my life. I was not feeling good mentally at all. I remember a couple times I went to parties with models. A few of the girls attempted to get me to fly to other countries to do modeling. I was in no place mentally to take that venture. I had opportunities, but I figured out a way to destroy them all. As you can tell in the pictures from Los Angeles, I did not have a sparkle in my eyes like I sometimes do. I was also sucking in my cheeks because I did not feel skinny enough. During the “skinny” time in my life, I would look in the mirror and see an overweight girl. I saw myself as a girl who was not good enough. I was a girl who needed to lose more weight so I was like the other girls. Yes, I compared myself to them.

There were times when I chose to live on the streets. I could not sleep, so why not be outside? I was slipping. I had prescriptions for anti-psychotic medications, but I was not taking them the prescribed way. I was medicating my body in unhealthy ways. Trips back and forth from Minnesota to Los Angeles ultimately landed me back in Minnesota with the proper self-care I needed and was looking for. I was not treating my body as a temple. I was not only polluting my body but also my soul.

As I previously stated, my body weight has fluctuated over the years. When I was in high school, a few of my friends had eating disorders. Those girls were some of the most beautiful girls in my high school class. But shhh, it’s not okay to be sick. That’s what our society tells us. To be honest with you, I often took on some of the responsibility for their disorders. I did not want to be one of the girls whom they were comparing themselves to. I felt an extreme guilt during high school because I did not know how to help my friends. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I was struggling during that time too. I have compared myself to the “skinny” girls. When people share about how much weight they have lost, it’s hard not to compare. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized why. I, along with them, was trying to look NOT SICK in a SICK world. Everyone is hurting in some way. We are all at different stages of acceptance, but we have to accept who we are today.

When I started to be more concerned with my mental health, I was on a cocktail of different medications. Many of those medications caused bloating and weight gain. A couple years ago, I was at my ideal weight of around 132 pounds. The fact is that I was not mentally stable at that time. My dad was getting sicker and sicker every day, and I was grieving over a boyfriend who was dealing with his own issues. I felt pretty good physically, but I was torn apart inside.

Currently, I look in the mirror and see a body that I do not want to accept. I see a woman who needs to feel better about her current size. Lately, I’ve weighed between 140-145. I work in the child care area at a health club and receive a free membership for the work I do. My dream is to start working out a few times a week and to definitely watch what I am eating. To burn off calories takes time and effort.

My prayer is to be happy with my overall physical and mental health. I’ll let you know when I am! I have found that no matter what your size, confidence is everything. We need to find a way to be comfortable with our body size, no matter what that may be. A lot of this may sound trivial in comparison to more important problems that we face in life. It is, but we have to feel good about ourselves in order to communicate properly with the people we surround ourselves with. You’ve got to like and love yourself before you can like and love others! For me, I have to take care of myself in order to be a better parent to my two kids.

Tiffany

It’s an absolute honor and delight to kick off our Sisterhood of Significance series with my college friend, Amy. I asked Amy to be the first member of the Sisterhood of Significance because intuition told me there was an incredibly powerful story behind Amy’s new day spa long before I knew any details about how it came to be. Amy and I have much in common. We were both sweethearts of our future husband’s fraternity. We both married fraternity brothers. We both have daughters named Maisie! We both went through significant, life-changing experiences that altered the trajectory of our life. We both left long-time careers in order to follow our dreams. And we both understand what it’s like to simultaneously be pursuing the best and worst idea of your life on any given day. I’m telling you, I’m not a spa girl, but I’ve had a facial and a couple’s massage at Woodhouse Day Spa, and Amy’s made me a believer. It’s clear that Amy is living a life of significance, whether she knows it or not, whether she believes it or not. With that, it’s my sincerest pleasure to introduce you to our first member of the Sisterhood of Significance. Welcome, Amy! It’s an honor to call you sister.

For 20 years, Amy worked faithfully and whole-heartedly for advertising, marketing and content marketing agencies, as well as a marketing to women consultancy. In October 2006, Amy’s husband, Marc, was transferred from Minnesota to North Carolina for work. Amy, Marc and their two children lived in North Carolina until 2014 when they moved back to Minnesota.

At the time of their move, Amy was working for PACE, an agency in Greensboro, North Carolina. At first, the transition from North Carolina to Minnesota was easy because PACE allowed Amy to keep her position and work remotely from Minnesota. Amy traveled lot during that first year back. She flew all over the place to clients, and to PACE’s home office in North Carolina. Typically, she traveled at least twice a month (usually full weeks) or would take a few shorter trips. Eventually, the travel and time away started taking a toll on Amy’s health.

In October 2014, Amy found herself in the emergency room with horrible pain and a terrible ear infection. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and told Amy she couldn’t fly, but the brutal and unfortunate truth was that she was in San Francisco and really needed to get back home. The hotel graciously packed up Amy’s belongings, and Amy took a cab to the airport. On the plane ride from San Francisco to Minnesota, Amy’s eardrum broke and exploded everywhere, which was immediately followed by Amy throwing up everywhere. Right there. Right on the plane. Right in front of everyone within eyesight and earshot.

Thankfully, Amy made it home. She called the doctor with updates, and was told she should continue taking antibiotics.

Amy was deathly sick for five days straight, landing her back at the doctor’s office. She was sent for a CT scan which revealed a MASSIVE mastoid infection. The ear infection had spread into Amy’s skull; the only way to remove the diseased cells was through surgery.

In December 2014, Amy underwent a surgical procedure called a mastoidectomy, in which the surgeon drills a hole in your sinus and clears out the mastoid. Your mastoid sits behind your ear in your skull and is typically filled with a honeycomb of cells. The fluid from Amy’s ear had gotten in that space and become infected. So the surgeon went into Amy’s skull and basically hollowed and cleared out that whole space.

Amy had been so seriously ill and was so concerned about the situation that she was fearful she might not make it through surgery. She promised herself that if she made it through surgery, she’d make a major life change and do something different for work.

For a while after her surgery, Amy went back to work and kept at it. She’d been put on a 3-month flying restraint, so she wasn’t able to keep up the travel schedule she’d maintained prior to surgery. Work just wasn’t the same.

Amy remembered the promise she’d made to herself – that if she made it through surgery, she’d make a major life change and do something different for work.

Years prior, Amy and her husband, Marc, had been dreaming and spent time online searching for business ideas they might be interested in pursuing in the future. One business in particular, Woodhouse Day Spa, captured and kept their attention all those years. Yes, that online search never escaped Amy’s mind. She knew she was happiest when she was working face-to-face with people. A spa seemed like a fit with her personality and professional experience. So when the three-month flying restraint lifted, Amy and Marc planned a visit to Woodhouse Day Spa in Texas, which ultimately had to be canceled due to issues at home and work.

While it was certainly disappointing that Amy and Marc had to cancel their first trip to Woodhouse Day Spa, Amy received crazy confirmation she was on the right track with the spa idea! On Valentine’s Day 2015 – while Woodhouse was still a dream, before they’d visited Woodhouse in Texas – Marc purchased Amy a spa day in Minneapolis. After an incredible day at the spa, Amy stopped at Kowalski’s, a local grocery store, to purchase Valentine’s gifts for her children. When she was perusing through MadLibs and other activity books for her children, she found an envelope tied in yarn with “OPEN ME!” penned in caps on the front.

On the inside it read…

“Hi friend! Thank you for picking this up, because I am about to make your day! You have found this because you need to be reminded that you are an amazing, beautiful, and lovable human being! Thank yourself for finding this and giving yourself the chance to put YOU first, and to let yourself shine your light! Be the light that you are, and share your gifts, because there is only ONE of you, and nobody else can be you, but you! You are not a mistake or a left-over; you are Divine! You are magnificent! Ask yourself whether you are truly living for you – and if you’re not, well…do it. Have no fear, because the universe WILL support you. Stay strong, because you are on the right path! Love, Your Earth Angel.”

Amy looked all over Kowalski’s to see if that Earth Angel had left cards all over the place. But NO. There was only ONE letter in Kowalski’s that day. The ONE Amy found.

That spring of 2015, Amy and Marc made their long-awaited trip to Woodhouse Day Spa in Texas. After the visit, it took them two weeks to sign an agreement to open a Woodhouse Day Spa in Minnesota. Amy admits that her husband, Marc, was “blindly supportive” of her business adventure. “I had to make a decision quickly because I knew my head would overrule my instinct,” said Amy. “If I don’t do it now, when will I do it?”

In August 2015, Amy gave her official notice at work.

When she made the news public, a lot of people weren’t sure what to make of her decision to leave agency life to open Woodhouse Day Spa, saying things like “Woah. You’re taking a big risk.” Amy has learned that you “Can’t listen to people who doubt you. You have to choose who to listen to.”

Plans moved forward.

Amy and Marc selected a location for their soon-to-be Woodhouse Day Spa.

Construction began!

“Every day it was the best and the worst decision I ever made,” noted Amy.

On August 13 & 14, 2016, Woodhouse Day Spa opened for family and friends only.

August 15, 2016, marked the first day Woodhouse was open to the public.

October 15, 2016, was the Grand Opening of Woodhouse Day Spa at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove, Minnesota. The Grand Opening was a reminder to Amy that this was REAL, this was actually happening, this dream had come to life! Amy remembers her husband, Marc, leaning over during the Grand Opening and telling her “You should be so proud of yourself.” How many people get to fulfill and live out their dreams in such a big, tangible and visible way?

Since opening Woodhouse Day Spa, Amy has “learned more in the last six months than [she had] in 10 years.”

“I still feel like the boss is going to show up,” admitted Amy. “I hope I can make someone’s day better. We need to fill them back up today. What can we do to anticipate needs?”

More often than not, guests come to the spa to celebrate a special occasion such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or girls’ day out. But there are other, more sobering moments in life in which the spa can soothe a guest’s soul, including illnesses, miscarriages and major life transitions.

Amy and the providers at Woodhouse draw out their guests’ needs and familiarize themselves with what brings guests in for services. When they know the guest’s favorite color, favorite coffee, favorite sweet treat, current challenges and issues, they’re best able to serve them. Amy appreciates specificity. If guests tell her what they’re looking for, she’s willing to accommodate. “We are palms up. We wait with baited breath as they check out hoping they had an amazing experience,” says Amy about her approach to customer service. “But things don’t always go perfectly,” admits Amy. If the guest did not have an amazing experience, they “make it right.” If, for any reason, an employee feels like their client didn’t have a great service, Amy works to resolve the situation and meet the needs of the guest.

Amy has 24 providers on payroll at Woodhouse. She is committed to a thorough interview process for employees, hiring “extremely talented and trained therapists to set us up for having excellent service results.” Amy prides herself on paying employees a living wage, and loves hearing stories of how employees have connected with guests. “We are all about long-term relationships and making a positive impact on our guests’ wellness and happiness. This happens by developing a relationship [built] on trust.”

“The big question is AM I DOING ENOUGH?” said Amy.

Now that the spa has been open for seven months, Amy is committed to continue bringing in new guests while retaining guests who have been in for services.

Amy and the providers at Woodhouse Day Spa go above and beyond, anticipating and meeting the needs of every guest. “There’s nothing I’ve put in this business that I’m going to take away,” proclaimed Amy with a sense of assuredness.

“We always ask who we can thank,” noted Amy. Who can they thank for calling? Who can they thank for walking in? Who can they thank for referrals?

Woodhouse always has fresh flowers at the spa. They bring in guest favorites – special sodas, sweet treats, anything that will make their day. The night before, they create a personalized welcome sign, and lay out the proper robe and shoe size by the guest’s locker in the changing area. This month, they’re leaving spring treats by each guest’s welcome sign. After guests have changed into their robe and sandals, they’re escorted to a luxurious waiting area filled with plush chairs, cozy blankets and reading material where they can rest and rejuvenate in peace and quiet. Guests are offered the gracious gift of a warm neck wrap, are pointed to treats and snacks on the side table, and are promptly delivered water or a warm beverage of choice. Once the guest is on the table, providers have permission to use any product needed to provide top-notch service. When the spa service is complete, Woodhouse leaves a box for each guest with a note from the provider, a complimentary gift, and products used during the service in case they wish to purchase anything for use at home. Amy is intentional about communication, sending each guest a hand-written thank you after their service.

Recently, Amy traveled to Texas for a marketing meeting. Four Woodhouse Day Spa owners were selected to work with the home office to design the Woodhouse Day Spa brand story. “Ultimately, it was an incredible opportunity to speak with very experienced owners about some of the challenges I have as a new owner. We discussed guest experience more than anything. I was reenergized as an owner, and ready to take my business to the next level of guest experience,” Amy reported enthusiastically.

Opening the spa was “stepping way out of the box” for Amy. Business ownership triggered a healthy fear in her. Without a doubt, those of us who have taken risks and made life-changing decisions to follow our dreams know that stepping way out of the box is certain to trigger fear. Perhaps the founder of Woodhouse Day Spa said it best when she encouraged Amy with these words of wisdom at the marketing meeting: “There comes a time when you replace FEAR with FAITH.”

With that, Amy was reminded of the day she sent her sister through the spa to provide impressions from a guest perspective. After a splendid and relaxing day at Woodhouse Day Spa, Amy’s sister encouraged her with this truth. “All the things you’re worried about are invisible to your guests.”

Fear or Faith?

“How do you want to live the rest of your life?,” Amy says poignantly as she reflects on the weeks, months, days and years that brought her to this moment at Woodhouse Day Spa.

Welcome, Amy. Welcome to the Sisterhood of Significance. See the significance of your story.

On January 6, 2017, I woke with a crystal clear vision for the Sisterhood of Significance. I shared my story of significance on March 8, 2017, then passed the torch and nominated Amy as the next member of the Sisterhood of Significance. I’m excited to announce that Amy has nominated Kristine who will ALSO become a member of the Sisterhood of Significance! Soon, I’ll be meeting with Kristine. She’ll share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and will feature her story on the site. Kristine will pass the torch and nominate someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. And that woman will join the Sisterhood! So goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in the Sisterhood of Significance. Follow the hashtags #theSOS and #SisterhoodofSignificance, and CLICK HERE to learn more about the Sisterhood of Significance!

 

When you have a vision and nobody’s home to play, make it happen anyway.

When you knock and knock and knock on doors, yet nobody seems to answer, make it happen anyway.

When nobody wants to join you in the fun, make it happen anyway.

When nobody’s there to make angels out of white space, make it happen anyway.

When nobody’s there to laugh and cheer when you try something new, make it happen anyway.

When you’re simply not sure, when you bend low to check things out, when nobody’s there to problem solve this or that dilemma, make it happen anyway.

When nobody’s yells “YEAH! Go do that thing you need to do!,” make it happen anyway.

When you’re sliding downhill, simultaneously thrilled and scared beyond belief, and nobody’s there to catch you at the bottom, make it happen anyway.

When you’re climbing back up to do it all over again and nobody’s waiting for you at the top, make it happen anyway.

When you fall off the sled, trying every which way to get back on and down that hill, and nobody’s there to lend you a helping hand, make it happen anyway.

You did it. You finally did it.

Whether they saw your vision, or not. Whether they joined you, or not. Whether they could see the thing you’re trying to make out of nothing, or not. Whether they laughed and cheered you on, or not. Whether they went and bent low with you, or not. Whether they encouraged you to GO and DO, or not. Whether they caught you at the bottom, or not. Whether they waited for you at the top, or not. Whether they gave you a helping hand, or not.

You did it. You finally did it.

You made it happen anyway.

I woke at 5:07 a.m. on Friday, December 16, 2016. Within a couple minutes of waking, I felt a tingle rush down my left arm. This wasn’t your average “my arm fell asleep” kind of tingle. It was different. Significant.

I’d been feeling tiny pains in my heart on and off since February 2014, the night before I left for Haiti. And for months prior to this particular day, I’d had several spells of unexplained dizziness when standing. Add to that three weeks of unusually elevated stress including two days of appointments at Mayo Clinic for my husband’s eye cancer, returning home to grandma and three kids with head lice that would NOT GO AWAY for NINE DAYS, my husband’s birthday, my last published post on my old blog and a new website in development, my daughter’s birthday and birthday party, one early Christmas with my side of the family at our house, and preparations for an early Christmas with my husband’s side of the family. Add to that 12 years of significant stress, including my dad’s layoff from his job two years before retirement; my sister’s SIX YEARS of significant addiction and mental health issues followed by two pregnancies with two children, one who had a serious medical problem requiring surgery three days after birth; my brother’s accident; my dad’s heart attack; my husband’s eye cancer; my dad’s rare lung disease which lead to a lung transplant; my mother-in-law’s heart attack; several years of chronic bleeding with multiple doctor visits and no answers; a vocation change; lice not once, but THREE times; and other diagnoses and discoveries we’ve chosen to keep private.






I was CERTAIN. Absolutely CONVINCED that morning of December 16, 2016, that with the tingling down my arm, the pains in my heart, unexplained dizziness and ALL the stress both long-term and short-term, that I was HAVING A HEART ATTACK.

I grabbed my phone from the nightstand, typed “symptoms of heart attack in women” into Google, and began reading the first article that popped up. No kidding. I didn’t even make it half way through the article and my heart began beating SO fast, SO out of control, SO out of my chest that I knew something was terribly wrong. My husband was sleeping, so I gave him a swift and hefty nudge.

“I need to go to the hospital. I don’t feel well.”

“What?” he said as he pushed himself slightly up and out of sleeping position. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I NEED to go to the hospital. Call 911 RIGHT NOW. I don’t feel well at all!”

I wasn’t sure my husband believed me. This was totally random. It was still 5-something in the morning. I’d woken him from a deep slumber, asking him to call 911 and get me to the hospital.

“I’m not kidding! I’m going to DIE!!!! Call. 911. NOW! I’m having a heart attack!!!” I yelled in a panic over my symptoms and my husband’s disbelief and disobedience over not calling 911 the millisecond I asked him to.

My 11-year-old daughter rushed in our room after hearing me yell “I’m going to die.” I gave her a hug, held her hand tight alongside the bed, told her I loved her so much and that they need to call 911 right away!

At that point, I’m pretty sure my husband started to take the situation seriously. He whipped his clothes on and called 911. As soon as he connected with 911, we got me down the stairs. I hugged all three kids as big as I could, told them I loved them SO much and to hang on until we could get a neighbor to come over to watch them, and made my way to the cold car. If I was, indeed, having a heart attack, and if, indeed, it was going to be fatal, I knew this was a beyond-traumatic way for my kids to see their mom one last time. In the panic of the moment, I did my best to reassure them of my love and give them one last memory of their mom holding their hand as she rushed to take care of her health. It was, indeed, a memory four of us will never forget.

After taking my heart rate and hearing my symptoms, 911 confirmed that they should send emergency services. An ambulance was on its way.

My husband helped me back in the house.

I lay flat on the living room couch with my blue snowflake pajamas and disheveled morning hair. My arm wasn’t tingling anymore, but my heart rate was still unusually elevated, far beyond anything I’d ever felt working out faithfully for 11 years. I was dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous and shaky. I felt weak and disconnected from my surroundings. I was going crazy, having a heart attack or dying…perhaps all three.

Before I knew it, my neighbor who’s a firefighter was kneeling beside me. His wife was in the background gathering our kids and basic belongings so they could hang at our neighbor’s house before school.

An ambulance and two medics arrived. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. The Christmas tree was decked to the nines with red ribbon, sparkly poinsettias and Hallmark ornaments aplenty. And there I was on the couch having a heart attack…or not.

This was absolutely, without a doubt, the most humbling and humiliating experience of my life. 

One male medic and one female medic rushed in the front door with their medical equipment. They asked about my symptoms and took my pulse and blood pressure. Still super high. Unusually elevated considering I was just lying on the couch. They listened and decided to take a quick EKG to see if any unusual heart activity could be detected.

Nothing. Nada. No unusual heart activity except my reported symptoms and extraordinarily high heart rate.

I KNOW myself. I KNOW my body. I KNEW something had happened and was terribly wrong.

I also happen to be a highly sensitive and intuitive individual.

I sensed pretty quickly that the male medic didn’t believe me. He thought I was some crazy person, that I was making all of this up, that there was no heart attack happening here, that it was high time for them to get out of our house and let us take care of this in our own due time. Okay, perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but everything I read from the male medic’s body language was dismissive rather than supportive. I didn’t need any sort of dismissive. Dismissiveness, whether subtle or outright, is not a way to handle anyone’s story.

What did I have to lose in that moment? I’d already lost all sense of dignity. Heck, I was humbled prone on the couch.

“I know you don’t believe me,” I exclaimed as respectfully and NOT-crazy-person as possible to the male medic, “but I’ve been working out for 11 years and I know my body. I’ve never, ever experienced anything like this in my entire life. Something happened. Something is wrong.”

“Let’s see if you can get up and walk around a bit,” said Jordan. I got up. Made a few slow laps around our kitchen island. “Have you experienced any stress lately?” inquired one of the medics. “Yes. Significant stress for many years.” I shared the stress in a sentence or two, knowing full well that reality was more like a book.

Humbled and humiliated, I got back on the couch.

We decided, reluctantly, that the medics and ambulance would leave, that we would drive ourselves to the ER.

It hit me. I started crying as they looked at me one last time and made their way out. Something significant happened. We called 911. I traumatized our kids. Our neighbors came over. An ambulance and two medics came to my house at a freaky early morning hour. And now they were all gone. It was just me and my husband. Something had happened to my body AND I was crazy all at the same time.

A half hour later, we found ourselves in the emergency room.

Four hours later, after physician interviews, a chest x-ray, another EKG, TWO enzyme tests used to detect a heart attack, and continuous blood pressure and heart rate monitoring showing my pulse was still totally out of control, it was determined that I had NOT had a heart attack, but a PANIC ATTACK.

Yes, this was definitely the most humiliating experience of my entire LIFE.

The only consolation was the emergency room doctor who said she could see in my eyes that it had all been too much, that I had been through a lot and my system crashed once and for all. She said she wouldn’t have been surprised if my enzyme tests had come back positive considering my unusually high heart rate for all those hours; she’s seen runners leak enzymes at those heart rates post-marathons. Yes, she assured me that my heart was, in fact, INCREDIBLY STRONG.

That was Friday.

I had another panic attack on Sunday and another on Monday. On Monday, I made a doctor appointment for Friday; I’d read up on panic attacks and had no interest in this moving into the realm of panic disorder. Tuesday and Wednesday were okay, but my nerves were COMPLETELY FRAYED that whole week. I could feel my heart beating ALL the TIME. I had to move quarter to half my normal pace just to fend off another panic attack. I did very little around the house and had to take breaks to sit or lie down throughout the day. Thursday I had a panic attack. Friday I had a panic attack in the morning and was NOT well when I went in for the doctor appointment. I scored top of the charts on the anxiety test and began a medication that’s used to treat panic attacks that same day. Christmas Eve afternoon was terrible. I’m pretty sure I had panic attacks, one after another, all through Christmas Eve service. I only slept 3 hours overnight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day because I was cycling through panic attacks all night long and was certain I was going to land in the hospital again. Yes, it was that bad.

Thank the LORD, my last panic attack was late Christmas morning on our way to the airport. Praise the LORD, we just happened to be heading to Orlando that afternoon for a 4-day family vacation. God knew I would need to get away.

The medication kicked in. I was able to enjoy the vacation and haven’t had a panic attack since late Christmas morning.

From then on, I knew life had to change.

I knew I needed to take better care of myself if I was going to continue taking care of others.

I KNEW I needed to see the significance of my OWN story. 

Since January 11th, I’ve consulted once a month with our neighbor who’s a rockstar personal trainer. I’ve eaten more salads in the past two months than I had in a year. I increased my workouts from 2x/week to 3x/week, and am lifting serious weights EVERY workout which is a notable change from my mostly-cardio workouts. I’ve cut back significantly on sugar, fast food and mindless late-night snacking, and I’m generally eating with MUCH more intentionality. Every day without fail, I log my nutrition on My Fitness Pal. I’ve lost 7 pounds in 8 weeks.

The last day I drank caffeinated beverages was December 15th, the day before my first panic attack. I started going to bed an hour earlier and have been sleeping MUCH better.

I’ve said NO to some things and YES to new things.

I’m trying to reach out when I sense I’m in need of encouragement, community and connection.

Slowly, but surely, I’m allowing myself to dream again.

Something had to change. Praise God, things are changing. For He works ALL things together for those who love Him. He makes ALL things beautiful in their time. THIS is my story and I’m sticking to it.

So here we are. So much has happened since I began working on this new site on November 7, 2016. So much has happened since I shared my last post on the old blog on December 12, 2016. God has worked mightily, and although life has brought new and unexpected challenges, I am 100% confident that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

You might be asking yourself “So why did you tell us this long and crazy story? Now what?!”

Well, let me tell you, friends!

If you followed my story for a while, you know this website is NEW, just launched TODAY! After four months of hard work, I’m so excited to finally have this site up and running, and can’t wait for you to look around. But before you take a peek at our new online home, let me explain where we’re heading from here!

Moving forward, this site will feature four categories of stories:

1. Stories by Me.

ONCE a month, I will write on ONE of four topics, including DREAMS, HEALTH, FAMILY, and REAL LIFE.

2. Stories by My Sister.

Tiffany is a mother of two and has schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type. ONCE a month, Tiffany will write on ONE of four topics, including MENTAL HEALTH & SELF CARE, MOTHERHOOD, DAILY LIVING, and RELATIONSHIPS.

3. Photo Stories

Some photo stories will be simple, featuring my favorite photographs from recent shoots. There will also be full-length stories for people who choose to pay extra for a photo shoot, interview and written story in honor of a special occasion or major life event!

4. Featured “Sisterhood of Significance” Stories

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, I’m beyond excited to announce that I’m launching a long-term series called the “Sisterhood of Significance.” For the past 4 years 8 months, I’ve been sharing my story and others’ stories on my blog. Today, in honor of the new website launch, I shared an incredibly vulnerable and personal part of my story for a reason.

I love stories. I believe strongly that everyone has a story, a story worth knowing and worth telling. Good, bad, beautiful and ugly, your story is significant. I want you to see, more than anything else, the significance of your story.  So we’ll meet. We’ll talk. We’ll get to know each other. I’ll ask questions and I’ll listen to your story. Then I’ll use words and photographs to help you see and share the significance of your story.

Two months ago, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. with a crystal clear vision for how the “Sisterhood of Significance” will work! I started the chain today by sharing my story. I’m passing the torch and nominating my college friend and day spa owner, Amy, as next in the “Sisterhood of Significance.” Next week, I’m meeting with Amy. She’ll share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and I’ll feature her story on the site! Amy will pass the torch and nominate someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they believe it or not. That person, if they agree to be interviewed and featured on the site, will join our “Sisterhood of Significance.” And so goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in our “Sisterhood of Significance.”

The original “Sisterhood of Significance” chain can and will pause and resume on an as needed basis. New story chains will be inserted when I launch special series. I won’t go into detail about how that will work now, but the possibilities are endless, exciting and totally in line with all the visions I’ve ever had.

One more P.S. I’ve dreamed up something super amazing for this “Sisterhood of Significance.” How about a “Sisterhood of Significance Gala” where we take one night, once a year, to honor all the women that have been featured in the series?! I’m just going to put that dream out there and won’t mention it again unless it comes to life. But wouldn’t that be awesome?

One story. One woman at a time. Let’s do this. See the significance of your story.

  1. Thank you for sharing your story.  As someone who suffers with anxiety, I know panic attacks can be extremely scary.  I’m glad you are doing better!

    • Amy says:

      So glad you could relate to the post, Amanda. Thank you for your well wishes. I am feeling a LOT better than I did in December. Have a fantastic weekend!

  2. Raquel says:

    Love the honesty and transparency you are writing about. Cannot wait to read more. Sidenote: I have a gift card to your friend’s spa that I cannot wait to use!

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