Instagram Isn’t Real

by: Alicia M. Blanco

IG

You are beautiful.

…without a filter.

Which leads me to this:

I LOVE me some instagram… it’s honestly my social media of choice. I love looking at pictures and posting pictures…

but it isn’t real! Not all the time.

Stop scrolling through it and comparing yourself to someone’s best version of themselves. You can bet they are ALSO going through some tough stuff, just like you. No one ACTUALLY posts the sucky stuff that’s actually going on.

It’s always a “booked it!” (after not booking five jobs before that one) and “selfie!” (which probably took over 70+ attempts before getting the right angle AND editing it with the right filter) and “on vacation, again!” (its like, where did they get the income to afford to go there, and there, with them, and those people, so often, and I’m over here trying to pay rent?)

I read an awesome blog just a few weeks ago called “What I Instagrammed vs What Was REALLY Happening” and it was soooo HILARIOUS and TRUE. So here it is. READ IT!! So damn good. Applause! I am so obsessed with great blogs. When I see a good one, I can’t help but to repost it. I just want to share the love and keep the wave going.

Imagine a world with no filters… just 100% honesty, transparency, realness.

Something tells me the statistics in depression would decrease if people didn’t have so much comparison throughout their days.

“Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes stuff to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

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The Tragedy That Saved My Life

by: Tiphany Adams

Imagine yourself growing up in the countryside of Northern California with every kind of farm animal possible, engaging in activities that emphasized more on union with family and the outdoors than exterior beauty.  But by the time I was 8 years old, my parents divorced & my father began raising my sister and I outside of our countryside comfort zone. Around the time I hit middle school I started to struggle with self-esteem issues especially because of a birth mark on my neck. I began to get painfully teased & ridiculed based on my appearance.  I begged to have it removed for every birthday & Christmas. I would hide myself in sweats & turtle necks even in 100 degree heat. I even went as far to try to scrap it off. I planned how to hide it on the day I would get asked to prom or the day I would eventually get engaged.

Major trauma had occurred around that time period that stripped me of every ounce of self-esteem I had left. It lead me down a destructive path and eventually I ended up with more emotional pain then I knew what to do with.

I began praying and asking for guidance and even chose to get myself baptized at the age of 15. But by the time I entered into my senior year of high school I had already attended 5 different schools while dealing with so many issues. I felt lost without anyone to turn to. My mother had gotten herself wrapped up into her own addictions during this time as well. It was a mess.

And then there was the moment that changed my life forever.

I was in the backseat of a car with a sober driver that was struck head on by a drunk driver causing a collision of 130 mph–all were pronounced dead on the scene. I remember asking God to please let me live through this… and He did. They air lifted me to the hospital with a 5% chance of survival & I was induced into a coma for 3 weeks. When I awoke I knew I was alive for a purpose & had a divine mission to fulfill. The tragedy left 3 lives taken because of one persons decision to drink & drive, but the blessing is that I am here to relay a message of truth.

The first day I got into my wheelchair was emotional- words could not begin to depict what I felt. When I looked in the mirror for the first time seeing the big medal wheels, I cried in disbelief as I felt tingling throughout my legs as if they were asleep…and would never wake up. And that’s when clarity came…I remembered back to the time when I wouldn’t wear my hair up in a ponytail because of a birth mark…and here I was now. How would I get over the reflection I see staring back at me? How will society treat me? Then I came to the realization that it all begins with self acceptance & self-love & I began a beautiful journey of self discovery.

From that day forward I continued to embrace myself with love, support,  & prayer.

Had this tragedy never happened, it is likely that I would’ve remained dead inside. So in a way, this tragedy saved my life and made me see the world differently.

What it comes down to is we all have obstacles & tragedies that can change our situations but when we remove the superficial and connect to every living being on a soul to soul level we know we are all here on this earthly place for a divine reason… to give love & receive love. I share my story with you in hopes to gift you with love & acceptance for where you are right in this very moment.

Embrace your life! Focus on your inner beauty now and always.

The Random Act of Kindness That Saved My Life

by: Anonymous Author

lonelygirl

An act of kindness saved my life. I realize how bold this statement is, but it’s entirely true. Three years ago today I had planned to end my life after school.

I was lonely, angry and bitter after spending so many years feeling unseen. I spent most of my high school years as an outcast who nobody wanted anything to do with. I never went to any dances. I never went to any high school football games and I always sat by myself at lunch. It wasn’t entirely the fault of my peers. I just never felt comfortable in large crowds because of severe anxiety, so I shut down.  I was socially awkward and didn’t want to put myself in uncomfortable settings where I would be forced to talk. So I “protected” myself from that entirely and avoided people altogether. It started my freshman year and by my junior year nothing had changed.  Time moved so quickly and I had single handily placed myself so deeply into this “protective” space that I closed off any real chance of friendship. And by then, everyone already had their set “cliques” established on campus leaving no more room for a new friend.

At home my life was also falling apart. My parents were going through a divorce, and everyday was filled with yelling, fights, and one or both of them slamming doors — or leaving. So that’s what I wanted to do — to leave. Forever.

I wanted it to be quick and easy. I planned to overdose on a ton of pills that night and hopefully just die in my sleep. But I still wanted to finish off the week at school and say my “goodbyes” in my head: Goodbye to sitting alone; Goodbye to walking alone; Goodbye to the school hallways that overflowed with students and teachers, but was empty of awareness and kindness.

So the next day at school I followed through with my routine. I walked the same exact way that I always did to each class. I sat in the same exact desk in all my classes. And I planned to walk home the same way I walked everyday for three years.

But today was different. I decided to walk home a different way. I don’t know why I decided to take the longer route but it’s a decision that impacted my story profoundly.

As I turned the corner into my neighborhood a dog came running up to me and started to playfully attack me. The dog was pretty big so he startled me and my books fell to the ground as he jumped up to greet me, eye to eye.  Just then, the dogs owner came running behind him. “Sit, Kermit! Sit!” I smirked as I started to pick up my books but Kermit’s owner stopped me. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry! Let me get those for you! Sorry! Kermit’s just a big puppy and very playful. Did he ruin anything? I feel so bad! He didn’t scratch you did he? Are you cool? OMG I love your shoes by the way.  And your orange backpack too, orange is my favorite color.”

No one had ever asked me that many questions in a row, let alone cared, or looked at me while talking to me. I didn’t know what to do.

“I’m fine. I’m ok. Thank you. And cute dog.” That was all I could think to say as I turned to walk away.

“Wait! Whats your name? Kermit obviously really likes you! I’m Samantha or Sammy – just call me Sammy. Do you go to Desert Ridge High?”

Again, I was shocked. I told her my name. She told me how she stayed home from school that day because she wasn’t feeling good. And before I knew it we had spent like 20 minutes talking… and even laughing. We had never seen each other at school before (though I wasn’t really surprised that she never saw me- because no one did right?) Regardless, she kept asking me more and more questions and seemed genuinely interested in anything and everything I had to say. We ended up getting each others phone numbers and she actually text me that night to apologize again for Kermit running up and startling. Little did she know that I would secretly always love that dog for running up to me on that day. Of all days!!

It felt so cool to be texting with someone my age — a new friend. That night I didn’t take the pills like I planned to. I was too busy texting with Sammy. Something so simple that most teenagers do obsessively, but I had never truly done before, with a friend.

Sammy and I had lunch together the next day at school. And the next day after that too. Her friends became my friends and before long, we were hanging out all the time and I felt like I belonged, for the first time in my life.

Things at home still sucked. Mom and dad finalized their divorce by the end of the school year, but for some reason, I knew it would be ok. I had a new sense of belonging and security with my new friends, my first real friends, and all because Sammy put in the extra effort to talk to me that day.

Even today, Sam doesn’t know the state of mind I had on that day. She has no idea that i was ever depressed or suicidal – and I don’t know that I will ever tell her. But her kindness literally saved my life and I will forever be grateful to any kind hearted person I meet. I consider kind people with kind hearts to be angels. I mean, she didn’t have to engage in conversation with me. She could’ve easily grabbed her dog, apologized to me, and then walked away. But she didn’t. And because she didn’t, I didn’t follow through with my plans to end my life that night. Simple as that.

Today, I’m an entirely different person. College is going great and I have the confidence to be around people unlike I was in high school. In fact, I have the passion to be around people because I am aware that there is a dire need for socialization and interaction – simply because you never know who is out there feeling lost and alone like I was. I try to be the same way Sammy was with me three years ago. I make it a point to put in the extra effort to be kind to everyone I meet, because it just might be a game changer or a life saver to them like it was for me. Paying it forward and being kind has become my passion and purpose in life and I pray that anyone who is reading this story and can relate, has the courage to share their story and help this wave grow even bigger.

3 Ways To Cope

by: Carolina Guzman

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It’s normal to feel anxious on occasion. That’s just a part of life. Maybe we have an upcoming event we are in charge of, an important deadline, or we’re anxious to hear back from a potential employer after an interview. But imagine feeling anxious most of the time out of your day… or out of your life. That’s what most of my life has consisted of.

I remember one of the very first times my anxiety started bothering me. I was 7. I remember sitting down in my room and thinking “what’s going to happen when I die? Who will take care of my stuff? Can I come back to visit?”  It seems innocent enough to have an imagination like this as a child, but I clearly remember feeling excruciating tension in my muscles and shortness of breath from these thoughts.

At thirteen, I had my first real anxiety attack.

I completely broke down. I felt so much fear and did not know why and as a result, my breathing became more and more difficult and my body felt out of control. It was one of the most traumatic nights of my life.

A few months later, I started suffering from OCD and feeling the need to organize things a certain way and touch certain things before leaving a room, (or else everything would fall apart!) In my mind, this was reality.

At one point I was given homeopathic medication, which helped, but only temporarily. The OCD went away, but the anxiety always remained. Knowing it could surface at any random moment in time also gave me anxiety too! What a trap.

Finally, as an adult, I sought out professional help and even went to a few workshops addressing mental health, illness and disorders in hopes of getting some more answers. It was there that I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and was given options to take prescribed medications.

But by now I had suffered enough and been under the control of my mental illness. The last thing I wanted was to develop a dependency on medication and be under its control too. Right then and there I committed to change my lifestyle and see if I could take my control back on my own. (Note: I am NOT against taking medicine with mental illnesses especially. I just knew that for ME and my illness, I wanted to control it myself if i could.) It was my one last shot.

Here are the 3 ways I naturally gained control of my anxiety and decreased the amount of anxiety attacks I suffered from:

1) Working out regularly. – This should come as no surprise. When you exercise regularly, your body releases endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain and reduces pain, stress and anxiety levels. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, too. The more positive I became, the less I felt compelled to over analyze and worry… this meant less and less anxiety attacks!

2) Eating healthier/changing my diet. – Once I started working out, my diet changed too. I began feeling so much happier as I sought out different diets to follow and recipes to try. I largely contribute using my brain creatively and with so much excitement to the infrequent amounts of episodes I suffered with.

3) A change of music. – “Music…can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.”  – Martin Luther  “Music can change the world because it can change people.” – Bono  “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley

I began listening to more soothing and tranquil music regularly. It really helped me to pause and relax my mind and body more frequently throughout the day.

During this journey, I decided to compete in a pageant. It was hard preparing for it. Some days my mindset was very positive, and other days it would bring me down. People have no idea about the days I used to spend crying and contemplating death. I had come so far and wanted to use the illness to shape me into a better woman that I could showcase proudly. This was hard for me to write, but I hope it can inspire others to not let anxiety get the best of them either.

People associate anxiety and depression with being crazy. I’m not crazy. I may have severe anxiety, but I have accomplished a lot at my 25 years. My advice for anyone going through any sort of mental illness like mine is to know that there are ways to cope with it NATURALLY and medicinally that are incredibly effective. These are the ways that helped me, so I encourage you to find what soothes and elevates you. Seek a hobby that gets your mind off of it, read a new book, be responsible with your health regime.. and remember, there is nothing wrong with being different.

Living with Bipolar Disorder

by: Anonymous author

bipolar image

I was 8 years old when my mom first sat me down and told me she had bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. It’s when a person experiences grandiose delusions, restlessness, hallucinations, fits of rage and paranoia. i didn’t fully understand everything she said but over time I experienced it all. I was 10 when I started helping my dad take care of her when she had her episodes and needed to stay in a mental hospital because she kept throwing away her medicine and running away from home. I was fifteen the first time she had to stay in the hospital for over two months while they tried to balance out her meds and protect her from committing suicide. My mom became her illness for so long, so I was quite literally living with bipolar disorder.

Today I’m a 29 year old woman and I still feel like I have so much more to learn about mental illness, despite having so much first hand experience with my mom’s severe case.

She missed my high school graduation, was sick during my sweet sixteen, was heavily medicated when my fiancé organized his proposal to me, and got sick when I went into labor with my first child.  So many milestones in my life have been ruined because of this disorder and I grew up resentful. I hated bipolar disorder. I hated my mom.

And then there are the rumors. The secrets. The lies. The threats of divorce and separation when I was a teenager because their marriage was falling apart. The whispers as my mom walks by at a family function. There is so much ignorance about the illness that I’ve had to stop myself from getting into fights with relatives who were talking poorly about my mom, even though I hated living with bipolar disorder, aka my mom.

The thing about her illness, is that most of the time she is perfectly fine. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know she’s sick because we’ve done such a good job of covering it up, as if we are ashamed of it or something. Even now I know I can’t say her name, or even my name within the context of this article because “they’re not ready” to talk about it. That makes me sick. I’m not ready to talk about it either but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. This is a release for me to open up and share my personal story about mental illness-  the topic no one wants to talk about unless it’s behind someone’s back.

It’s in the news all the time whenever a celebrity “goes crazy” or commits suicide. Those are the stories that hit way too close to home for me. It’s headlining news when it happens and the world stops in shock because they didn’t see it coming. Family and friends will cry about how they had no idea he or she was suffering in that way because they seemed so happy on the outside.

Makes me think of my mom. To the people who have no idea of her chemical imbalance, my mom seems 100% “normal” – whatever that means. She smiles, interacts with others, has a full time job, does normal mom things. But when she starts to slip into an episode every few years, she becomes an entirely different human being. She secretly spends money, talks about things that make absolutely no sense, slips into her depression, disappears and even talks about suicide.

It’s scary as shit. And we’re expected to keep it between us. We don’t want “the wrong people to find out and cause us more problems.”  Because that’s what’s happened before. Mom almost lost her job because her “friend” at work started talking about how weird my mom was.

But thats the world we live in.  Shame, gossip, fear, illness, stereotypes. Where is the kindness we should be pouring out instead? I’m guilty of not being as kind and compassionate as I should’ve been to my mom all those years. The bitterness and resentment took over my life for so long. The only thing that made it better was talking about it more instead of keeping it inside. There is so much power in opening up and not pretending like everything is ok.  I hate the filters people put over their lives these days. Perfection is not relatable. There are so many people who try to portray perfection and happiness to the world when in reality they are in pain and suffering. Fuck filters! Be real! You’d be surprised with how many people can actually relate to the truth.

I don’t know why some people are born with mental illnesses but I do know we need to talk about it more often. There are way too many silent sufferers in the world and I’m so tired of seeing the topic go ignored. I used to feel like I could snap at any moment with how alone and afraid I felt. But once I stopped pretending everything was okay, I began finding friends who could relate to me. And I began to heal.

My mom can’t help what she was born with but we as a society can help by showing more compassion and kindness to perfect strangers. You just never know what can trigger someone to hurt themselves or slip deeper into their illness. “We should always be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.”

Split Waves on THE DRESS

by: Lisa Blanco Matthews

THEDRESS

O.K. so this whole #TheDress debate, or whatever it is, actually really annoyed me at first. I apparently missed the entire thing due to a thrilling Phoenix Suns overtime win over Oklahoma City Thunder last night (that’s in other news).

Therefore, when my sister, Alicia, asked me to write something about it #ForTheBlog, I was completely lost to say the least. “A dress? The color? What about it? How did I miss something when you’re the one in Dubai with limited WiFi.” I digress.

After extensive research and digging deep…REAL DEEP… I found that there actually is a great message behind this entire white, gold, blue, black ‘debate.’ Yes my friends, there issomething worthwhile here. Let’s get philosophical.

You may be choosing a side or color here, and it may stir up a heated conversation amongst co-workers, friends or spouses. Maybe you just CAN’T AGREE because CLEARLY the dress is white and gold! AMIRIGHT?

Well, whatever color you may see it’s all about PERSPECTIVE to me. You see what you want to see. It’s your RETINA, your DEPICTION…it’s YOUR OPINION.

I believe YOU choose what to get out of it. You’re in control. If you see blue and black then that’s what it is…stand by it. That’s the beauty here. It’s not about finding the actual color out of this mystery dress, it’s about ACCEPTING if someone’s view is COMPLETELY different than yours. And that’s O.K.

So can we agree to disagree on this and continue our conversation about AZ’s finest…llamas?

Enough

by: Brittany Winston

enough

“Brittany get up, you need to go run.” This is how most of my mornings started off at 5:15am when my mother would wake me up and make me go for a run before school. On the weekends it was 5:00am to go hiking. Being a child and teenager, I would grumble in my head and be so exasperated at these early morning wakeups, but it was more than the early wakeup times that upset me.

The reason she woke me up so early everyday was so that I wouldn’t become “fat”.

I was always told that I had a predisposition to be heavy and if I didn’t “stay on top of it” I would be overweight. From the moment I hit puberty I developed hips, thighs and a booty even though I was a runner and extremely active. I was taught that my curves weren’t beautiful and that I shouldn’t want to have a big butt or hips. So much focus was on my appearance.

When I was in high school I didn’t realize the effect my “outer beauty” was having on my confidence and personality. I retreated more and more into a shell of self-doubt and low self-esteem because of my curves. I never felt that I was enough; pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough (all I was focusing on what my outer beauty traits.) And when it came to boys, it was even worse. Anytime I received any attention from a guy I always thought
to myself, “why me, what does he SEE?”

I didn’t stop to think of the other non-physical attributes and traits I had to offer someone.

I made poor decisions on how far I went with a boy because I thought it was the only way to keep him around. I told myself, “he can’t really want me. I’m not skinny and I’m not that pretty. If I don’t do this, he will leave me.”

I was constantly starving for physical attention and outer acceptance.

When I started college it got even worse because I started to get a lot of consistent attention for my outer “looks and figure”, and it hit me like a ton of bricks in the worst way. I didn’t know what was going on. I still had the internal feeling of “why me, I’m not enough.”

Yet still, I flourished in a totally superficial way.

I dated men with money and status, I partied and I made it appear as though I was thoroughly and genuinely enjoying my life. I looked happy from the outside, but I was empty and depressed on the inside. There were so many times I cried myself to sleep at night but then would go to work and school with a smile on my face pretending I was okay.

Actually, I even started losing weight because the depression stopped me from mustering up the energy to eat!

I didn’t run anymore because I associated it with punishment, I drank too much and when I did eat, I ate like crap. Plain and simple, I wasn’t happy and everywhere that I was looking for happiness was on the OUTSIDE – and it was superficial and empty, no matter how much attention I received.

Desperate for a cure to my depression, I made an abrupt move across the country and changed my surroundings entirely. But still, the depression continued to haunt me.

I considered ending my life.

But then my moment of clarity came when I realized I didn’t care what people thought about the way I LOOKED, and that my INNER BEAUTY was more than enough to deserve all this love and attention.

I realized I had a lot to love from within! I love that I have an awesome sense of humor, I’m quirky, I love to read and travel the world – and I can think of no better place to spend a warm day than outside soaking in the sun and enjoying nature. I think these are just a few of the many things that make me pretty darn amazing on the INSIDE, and that’s where it counts.

Through first mastering the art of self-acceptance and inner healing, I began to embrace, accept and LOVE my outer beauty too! Living in the south helped me appreciate my body type, so I even began to do plus size modeling! I love being a plus size model because I pray some little girl or woman will see me and realize there is more than one type of physical beauty. I hope it helps lead others to healing and loving themselves just as they are and not comparing themselves to images in magazines and billboards. It is so disheartening to see what society and media does to little girls from an early age… just like it did to me. So much is based on OUTER BEAUTY and it’s an unattainable standard of beauty and body image. It makes me want to cry.

Naturally, I still need to remind myself every now and then that there’s so much more to life than having the “perfect body.” Beauty fades and no two women are just alike on the outside anyways. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Depression has no stereotype on who it attacks. And despite working in a stereotypically “superficial industry”, I’ve learned so much about self-love and self-worth from so many women I’ve encountered.

We should all be a team and help one another to remember what’s most important in life – and that’s inner happiness and inner beauty.

“A woman’s beauty should be that of [her] inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Peter 3:4

Today, I know that I am ENOUGH. And that’s worth being alive for.