Mental Illness

Lessons From NEDA Awareness Week 2018

Each year I participate in the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) Awareness Week. I have done something for it every year since I began recovery, roughly six years ago-I honestly can’t remember. Is that bad? Each year I have done more and more to raise awareness and try to make each year bigger, better, and more impactful. I am passionate about NEDA Awareness Week because to me it reminds me so much of the 12th Step, “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to other(s) {insert addiction} and practice these principles in all our affairs”.  I use this to educate others, draw awareness to this deadly disease, and also use this week to focus on full support for others who have been through this. Even providing them a platform to share their stories and perspectives. This year I took the last step and took twelve ginormous steps and went all out for this week.






What did I do? One of the many things I did was host an Instagram challenge. I partnered with my recovery and yoga soul sister in Tulsa, Cassandra McCoy, to start a challenge. Then Cassandra and I got a sponsor (who turned out to be a new friend!), Jamie at Evolve Fitness OKC. We wanted a challenge that was accessible to everyone and be more than crazy yoga poses. Our challenge was, Spread ED Awareness. Each day we would provide either a statistic or blurb about eating disorders. Then we had a word that was inspired by the post with a corresponding challenge. Challenges were:

  1. A yoga pose that makes you feel confident
  2. What activity did you do that you “failed ” at? Did you try it again?
  3. How have you been resourceful in your workout(s)/Got creative with them
  4. What activity or life event has made you feel strong?
  5. What is something that you have done that made you feel uneasy and vulnerable?
  6. Who supported you during recovery? Maybe you supported someone, who were they?
  7. Last but not least, share your story!






I’m not going to lie, I thought this would be “successful” (you’ll see why I use quotes around that). I thought people would be down to participate, especially since we had some cool prizes lined up and it was for a cause. However, I came to realize this wasn’t the case. People “liked” the idea but only a handful of people participated. I was hurt. I was sad. I was disappointed. Cassandra, Jamie, and myself had put so much time into these posts, deciding what to present, etc…and the turn out was low. Somedays I didn’t want to participate in my own challenge. I thought to myself, “if this was a handstand IG challenge or an inversion challenge more people would do this“.


Then I saw a post from someone I follow on IG (Justin Wolfer) talking about how it doesn’t matter the size of your following or audience, it’s what you do with it. Talk about a perspective change! I realized my ego was in the way and it was hidden by good intentions. I lost sight of the twelfth step. I told myself, ” It’s not about participants its about spreading awareness and educating”. I then began to focus on all the engagements my posts were getting, the people who were commenting on them, or reaching out to me. That right there is what #NEDAAwarenessWeek is all about.




My donation class at Evolve Fitness



In addition to this challenge I wanted to host a clothing drive. Clothing drives are a great way to practice yoga because it is yoga. Donating clothes is a practice of:

  1. Brahmacharya (non-excess)
  2. Aparigraha (non-greed, non-possessiveness)
  3. Saucha (purity, cleanliness)
  4. Karma (action, generating)


I didn’t want just one clothing drive and for me to be the only one participating (which would have a limited reach). I wanted the whole community to get involved. So I decided to reach out to all the fellow yoga teachers and ask if anyone wanted to host a clothing drive for our local YWCA. Much to my surprise I got three other studios involved! Cycle 3Sixty wanted to host a clothing drive/free class AND they did a #WearYourPurple day-every tag/person who wore purple they matched one dollar and donated to NEDA. My pals at Hidden Dragon Yoga in Edmond wanted to have a box for a week. Evolve Fitness, the sponsor for the IG challenge, had a day of free classes for clothes. Then I had my class at Core Nutrition.  When the week had come to a close I counted over 50 bags of clothes!






It touched my heart to see so many people come together and do something for other people. To clean out their closets and their hearts, to make space for love. To build community and unite for a cause–being close to Spring and the itch to spring clean doesn’t hurt either….Sometimes it is hard to see the goodness in people, especially in our social media and headline driven world.


In addition to having my faith restored in people, seeing the light, and changing my perspective about Instagram (for the one billionth time hah!) this was the biggest thing I learned: Something Small Can Have a Big Impact. I guess I always knew that but it wasn’t till this week and reflecting upon these lessons did I really see it/understand it.  Not only is this shown through the clothing drives–these clothes will go to our local chapter of the YWCA– but I saw it through my friend, recovery warrior,  only participant, and winner: Nikki. Nikki pledged to do this challenge about a month ago then her son died. She almost didn’t participate but decided to anyway. I told her I hoped she found some healing and used this as a way to deal with her grief. Nikki told me that it did help her. That right there is more than enough. That statement is why I did what did and made it all worth it. She got what she needed to go on and live life.


What did you do for NEDA Awareness Week? Share below!





To Those With Invisible Illnesses

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about invisibility. I’m not talking about the super power, I’m talking about things that can’t be seen. Like invisible illnesses. If you have followed me for some time or know me you are aware of my invisible illnesses: eating disorders, anxiety, un-diagnosed GI issues. But there are also more invisible illnesses: depression, other mental disorders, addiction, autoimmune diseases (fibro, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc…)With 1 in 5 adults experiencing or diagnosed with mental illness, and approx 50 million people living with an autoimmune disorder , chances are you have known someone who is suffering without you being aware of it it.




Those of us who live with these various illnesses become masters of masking our pain with smile and concealing it better than the best make up concealer in the world. Sometimes we are too good at covering it up that people don’t believe us.  Invisible illnesses are also hard to explain when on the outside you look happy and healthy but internally your body is waging war. It seems that unless we bear our souls, post a billion IG videos documenting our lives, send up prayer requests in small groups, act sick all the time, become hermits; then do people only sorta begin to understand or have a bit of sympathy.

I can’t tell you how many times people don’t believe me when I say I have an illness. When I first began to seek help for my eating disorder I constantly heard, “you don’t look like you have one”, “you aren’t emaciated, just thin, only emaciated people have eating disorders”, “but you eat. how can you have anorexia when you I see you eat all the time?”,  “you can’t be addicted to exercise, exercise is healthy!”. Now with my mysterious GI issues I hear, “you are too young to have this problem”, “are you sure you have a problem?”, “it’s just IBS”. Do this sound familiar? “You’re just tired, “all you need is a nap”, “you’re being over dramatic”, “do more yoga”, “try this essential oil”…the list goes on and on.




I have blogged about this before and keep discussing it in therapy, how difficult it is for me to work on cultivating a positive body image when my body hates me. Who else has been there? Between people not believing us, the doctors appointments, the episodes, bland diets, and tears we forget that we aren’t our illness.  It is so easy to get caught up in the physical that we wear ourselves down even more. The disconnect continues to grow and fester till it’s unbearable. But is it truly unbearable?

How can it be bearable? By coming together and lifting each other up. Reminding one another that we are beautiful beings who are capable of so much more; that there is more to life and even on our worst day it’s a miracle that we are even here. We can also see each other–and I don’t mean physically look. I mean really see. Recognize others who are like us and show support. Educate others on these invisible illnesses and teaching them how to show support for people like us. For my yogis out there, really practice Namaste.   Lastly, take time to remind yourself that you aren’t your body by reading this meditation. Then reach out to someone who needs to be seen, fully loved, and fully heard.




So next time you are all alone in our bedroom wrapped up in our favorite blanket cuddling with our doggy waiting for our episode to be over, that we aren’t alone. There is someone else out there wrapped up in their favorite blanket, cuddling with their animal, waiting for their episode to be over.



I’m baaaaccck….again. I know I keep  saying I’ll be consistent and keep writing but yet here I am three months (ish) since my last post. So where have I been? I’ve been teaching lots and lots yoga. I’ve been doing chores, lots and lots of chores. I’ve also been trying to stay one step ahead of Melvin, and dealing with the loneliness that has surfaced. With each passing day I say to myself, “I need to write”, “this would be a great post”, “you could be writing right now since you aren’t doing anything but watching Netflix “,or “I’m too emotionally spent to do anything but watch Netflix”. Lately though I have felt compelled to come back. There have been too many self discoveries, perfect post ideas, and recently I’ve been encouraging others in their recovery journey. So here I am, watching Netflix (think a British version of House Hunters) and writing my first post in three months. Here we go…

This past Sunday in Small Groups we were asked a question, “What is your favorite comfort food?”. All of us had to answer as a way to promote class bonding and get prepared for the lesson (how God is the ultimate comforter and through his comfort we can be of comfort for others-awesome right?!). We go around and everyone answers. People talk about their mom’s macaroni and cheese, their grandmother’s chicken spaghetti, ice cream, cupcakes from this cupcakery in Wilco, Texas, chocolate chip cookies with coffee,  and pad thai and other Asian noodle dishes (my husbands answer). I was last and it was my turn! All eyes were on me. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t think of anything. I eat avocado brownies-not comforting. I eat lentils-I have a favorite recipe but it isn’t what I’d call comfort food. I drink protein shakes with collagen-not comforting. I have sweet treats that I binge on (dairy free ice cream of the chocolate chip cookie dough persuasion to name a handful) but those indulgences don’t comfort me–they have the opposite effect. Luckily the leader’s wife helped me out. She made a really witty joke about how my food allergies keep me from having any comfort food. She has a point, I mean I can’t eat my mom’s macaroni and cheese anymore.




All during class I couldn’t shake the fact that food doesn’t comfort me. Here I am six years later and I still have a hard time with food. I cannot use food for comfort because it will trigger a binge; which will lead to a purge session either on the treadmill or weightlifting bench.If it doesn’t lead to a binge it will lead to self loathing. There are times I really do enjoy food (like the vegan ramen from Goru Ramen in the Plaza District, Ridgewood BBQ back home, anytime I eat pizza, Holey Rollers donuts) but food is still a form of survival. I eat because I have to. I eat because I get hangry if I don’t. I eat because I have fitness goals. I eat because starving sucks. I eat so I can keep Melvin at bay. I eat because that’s what humans do.

Taking this a step further and using our Small Group lesson about comfort I started thinking about how ED’s are used as a comfort. Those of us who live with an eating disorder or lived with one, found comfort in it at one point in our lives. Instead of God, family, music, faith, food, yoga–counting calories, lifting sessions, and laxatives became our comfort. When our friends weren’t there our ED was. When our family didn’t understand us, our ED did. When God forsook us, our ED showed us the way. When we were alone and misunderstood, our ED “got us”. Everything was cold, hard, and dreary, except for our disorder.

We believe our ED is a comfort instead of what it really is-a discomfort. We can’t see the discomfort that our disorder is causing us because we have been so manipulated by its words and the false sense of purpose it gives us. We believe with every calorie it will replace the friends we are losing.  We believe that every minute on the treadmill will warm us up like a flannel blanket. We believe that every meal we skip will save us from the torment that is our life. When in fact its the opposite. Those skipped meals aren’t warm flannel blankets. Those perfect calorie counts and hours on the treadmill don’t comfort us like our friends and faith will. The only comfort we have is knowing that there is something bigger and better than our disease. The only comfort, even though it can be just as discomforting, is recovery and placing faith in a higher power. That is the warm flannel blanket. That is what warms our hearts. That is our comfort food.




depression hurts *blank* can help

We all remember those Zoloft commercials, “depression hurts, Zoloft can help” and they have that very sad looking circle be bopping along…The other day I was reading some articles about how this or that can cure depression. It also happened that I was in a depressive (I have dysthmia) episode and I was talking to my husband about how much crap that is. Nothing can cure depression. Things can help it but there is no cure. In certain articles depression is viewed as a thing someone chooses, that it is just like any other sickness. One will get over it in a few days, it isn’t a big deal. Now, I believe everyone will experience the kind of “feeling blue depression” at one point in their life, but there is a difference between that and clinical depression or a form of depression where one needs to seek treatment.

First, let us start off with the different types of depression (Webmd and NIMH):

  1. Major Depressive Disorder
  2. Persistent Depressive Disorder, sometimes known as dysthmia
  3. Bipolar Disorder (though I view this as a different disease all together)
  4. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  5. Psychotic Depression
  6. Postpartum Depression
  7. Atypical Depression

*The first two are the major ones, the other ones develop under unique situations*

Today, I want to mainly focus on the first two because those are the most common and also seem to be the most misunderstood.  According to the ADAA  approx 40 million adults suffer from a form on an anxiety disorder while of that about 6.8 million adults suffer from GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). Major Depressive Disorder affects 14.8 million adults/year and 3.3 million adults suffer from Persistent Depressive Disorder/Dysthmia. It is also not unusual for a form of depression to have a co-existing disorder such as but not limited to: bipolar, eating disorders, PTSD, IBS, fibromyalgia, sleep issues, chronic pain, substance abuse or alcohol abuse, adult ADHD.

From facts let us move on to biologically what goes on:

We all know that it is a chemical imbalance, but what about the other biological factors? The limbic system (regulates emotions, sexual drives, stress responses), the hypothalmus (regulates temperature, appetites, and regulates the pituitary gland), and the hippocampus, all can get out of wack and mess with hormones and regulation. The neurotransmitters can also not transmit signals to parts of the brain correctly, again causing deregulation. All of this together, combined with certain genetics, can cause one to have depression. Also, when one experiences a traumatic event it can trigger a portion of the brain, possibly a part of the limbic system, to not function properly. For a more in depth look at depression please check out the NIMH website here

Medicine and therapy are the best way to manage depression. Since it is a chemical imbalance, we need the medicine to help us make those chemicals. There are natural ways to help depression but they do not fix the problem. It is important to understand that when articles are being published saying, “fix depression the natural way”, “your diet is causing depression”, “eat this and fix your depression”, etc…Now, I am very into natural medicine and herbs, I really don’t like to take medicine but there are times when it is needed. The list below are some natural aids that can help make your depressive days better. Again, like most treatment programs, what works for one does not work for another. It is also important to remember that it is very important to talk to a healthcare professional if you think you have any symptoms of depression or to find a program that works for you.

Natural Aids to help your Medicine and Treatment Programs

*Holy Basil

        -I use this regularly in tea form. Of many things I have tried, this has really been beneficial to my medication.  It is also called Tulsi. IAs tea you will find it as pure tulsi, or be blended with other herbs. Holy Basil also makes for a great tincture to put in water. For more info on tulsi click here


       -Another aid I use regularly. Cardio is the most effective, but any form of exercise releases endorphins that can promote happy feelings. Ever heard of “runners high” or experienced it? Then you felt endorphins! just a minimum of 30 minutes can have major effects on depression.


       -I still don’t know how I feel about this, though I do enjoy cashews. Research is still iffy but I figured it was worth mentioning. I haven’t felt instantly happier after eating cashews like I do with Tulsi, but I do love the nutrition of a cashew!


         -An over the counter medicine, it has been available in the US since 1999 but has been studied in other countries. It is said to help parts of the brain and  make more of certain bodily nutrients that we already make. For an investigative article click here


         -I did not meditate till I started teacher training, and wow! I can definitely tell a difference on days I meditate and days I do not. I have also talked to some other friends who have depression or bi-polar and said meditating helped them a lot. One can just google depression and meditation and multiple scholarly articles come up.


          -Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that uses special needles to open energy channels which can heal the body. I have also used acupuncture and it was amazing! Again, many people turn to this aid and have seen great improvements in their depression/anxiety. Here is another great overview acupuncture and depression.


        -This is a nutrient that our body needs. Magnesium helps with the biochemical reactions that happen in our body. Taking magnesium, like holy basil, help alleviate the symptoms of stress. For more info on magnesium and the brain read this fascinating article.


       -Last but not least the great and powerful YOGA! Yoga combines meditation and exercise. Yoga has been used for many many years to help individuals who have depression among other mental health issues. There are certain asanas in yoga along with certain breathing techniques that can calm one down and help the mind-body connection. Within the realm of yoga there are certain styles of yoga that can help even more than traditional Hatha yoga. Give yoga nidra or restorative yoga a try 🙂


Are there any other natural aids that you use that I forgot to mention?

How do you manage your depression?




ADAA/Anxiety and Depression Association of America


NIMH/National Institute of Mental Health

Dr. Weil

this is your brain on mental illness

I have been on WordPress for a year! Wow how time flies. I hope the people who have stumbled across my blog, and those who have not yet stumbled upon me, have been/will be blessed and enjoy themselves. I do this blog for those out there who needs someone to relate to on the ED front, for those who need inspiration, and just plain encouragement. Thank you to my followers, the commentators, and the readers.


There has been a lot of talk this past week about mental illness, depression, and how one thinks with a mental illness. This has inspired me to share with the world what ones brain goes through. With a mental illness of any kind (addiction, depression, Bi-Polar, ED’s, anxiety, etc…) you cannot think clearly. Your mind is clouded with misinformation that your illness feeds you. The clouds suck the life out of you. The clouds are the bucket that carry you deeper and deeper into your dark well of life. The clouds are free radicals tearing your insides out. Due to this, that is why people: contemplate suicide, turn to drugs, turn to the bottle, eat themselves to death, starve themselves to death etc…We do not have the capability to think clearly. This is why some people turn to suicide. Those who think about it think it is the only way to go. The way that they can cause less harm and damage to their families. Even themselves. Yes, it does not make sense, but that is what a mental illness does. It takes things that do not make sense and twists them around to make sense. That is what people do not understand.

To show you what I mean, I am going to share with you my thoughts. My own personal thoughts that I have every day…Some of these I use to have more regularly, but I am proud to say that over time and hard recovery work I can manage them a bit more…My thoughts do not make sense, but the part of my brain that helps make rational decisions is over-ridden…

Here we go:

*The moment I eat something sweet, a treat, or a dessert, my thighs automatically get dimples or become “cottage cheese thighs”.

*”I’m Fat” becomes my saying, almost mantra, for when I am distressed. Even though fat is not a feeling.

*When I am constipated due to my IBS, I swear that I look fat/or my belly sticks out/that you can tell I am bloated

*When I am anxious I begin to fly off the handle and the only thing that comforts me is to play the scenario over and over and over and over again. DWELL! Dwelling makes everything better.

*The All or Nothing Principal, is not just about exercise: I either eat the whole tray of sweets or pizza OR eat nothing at all.

*I always think people are judging me, and talking about me. Whether it be how fat I am or how skinny I am.

*I always wonder if people are judging my actions, whether it be in the business world or everyday life.

*I can wake up feeling great about myself then something will go wrong and BAM! I hate myself, have an anxiety attack, or feel fat.

*If I fail at something or lose and the person is bigger than me I think, “At least I am skinnier and prettier than her” if the person if smaller than me I think, “I need to lose weight”.

*Food goes like this…..Good Food=Good Leslie, Bad Food=Good Leslie if I am conquering a food fear, Bad Food=Bad Leslie, All Food=Bad Leslie

*I hate math and suck at it, but numbers can make me happy

*One does not simply eat one brownie a day when making a pan of brownies…One must eat it all in one sitting and then judge themselves and do body weight squats for the rest of the night

*I constantly ask my husband if I look fat. Probably around 10 times a day on a “bad” day. Less than that on a “good” day.

*I don’t do this as often, but every morning I would wake up and check my ab definition and use that to monitor my fattness

*If I do everything my ED Melvin says I will be happy, perfect, and the longing for attention and love I want will be fulfilled

*On the anxiety front….if my body feels the weirdest bit off I ask my husband if I am ok. Or am I going to be ok. He hears that just as much as “Am I fat?”

*I am completely irrational when I am having a panic attack. Everything goes to shit and everything flies out the window. You never know what I am going say or do.


Now this is not a complete list of my thoughts but the most common. It doesn’t represent other forms of mental illness, but it shows that we all have cloudy thoughts. This is how people can make poor decisions. For some more information and education check out the following…

NAMI, the best place to learn more about mental health/illness

Stress, the brain, and mental illness

Robin Williams’ death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish



Always remember, a smile and kind word can go a long way.


And just because I love Bob Ross…