How is this the last Friday of May? I can't believe it!

May has been a great month, and I'm so grateful that you have been here alongside me to reflect on mental health awareness. I'm usually adverse to writing a blog series, but this one has been incredibly therapeutic, and I hope you have taken something away from these posts. I don't pretend to be an expert and I certainly don't have all the answers, but the more we give voice to some of these issues, the better chance we have of regaining ourselves. We don't have to let our hurdles in life define us.

In writing this series, I wanted a little help from my friends. "If you need help, just ask." There's no shame in asking, no shame in letting people that love you do their best in supporting you. People will rise to the occasion if you allow them to. I never used to believe this until recently.

I asked my friends to share something in regards to mental health. My friend Nicole wrote about her own struggles with anxiety and OCD, while my friend Katie listed some things that allow her to unwind after work and decompress. I wanted them to contribute and to use their own words, so here they are below...

Nicole Ryan 
mom of twin boys, wife, business owner:

I have had anxiety/ OCD for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that certain scenarios were harder for me to “get over”. As a child I remember washing my hands so much my knuckles bled. Back then, the same information that we have available to us now just wasn’t around. Mental health wasn’t talked about.

As I got older and understood more about anxiety I learned that what I was dealing with wasn’t typical. My fears were definitely irrational fears, I had intrusive thoughts, the need to explain everything all the time, feelings of guilt, and I experienced ruminating (which is a big part of my OCD). My OCD is not physical to the extent some people experience. However, it comes and goes with different phases in my life. For a while, I would walk out my front door, sit in my car, then run back to the front door to make sure I locked it. I would do this maybe two times. There were times I would run back into the house to make sure my hot tools from styling my hair were turned off. I even started taking pictures to show myself I did in fact unplug the hot tools.

When I got pregnant with my twins, the only way that I can describe my anxiety and OCD is torture. My OCD was triggered by fear (which is a common thing for me). I was terrified of being pregnant, let alone with twins. I knew I would more than likely have to have a major surgery in order for them to be born and I also knew that I do not react well to medication, so my fears were compounded and my brain was overwhelmed. I WISH I had gotten help, but even just 5 years ago it was taboo to talk about anxiety. I struggled and made it through everything, even though their entrance into this world was scary for me and for them. I think it was after their first birthday I finally sought help.

Once I understood some of my triggers and the fact that I was born like this, looking at history and genetics, it helped me accept it. I am by no way cured of my anxiety; it comes and goes. However, I am aware. I know what a panic attack feels like when it’s coming on, so I am able to tell myself what’s happening as scary as it is. I truly hope that this can help you and if my ways don’t help, seeking help is always a good idea. There is no shame in talking to a counselor about your struggles.

Ways to help with anxiety/OCD:

* Pay attention to what you’re doing. Make a mental note if you have to check something over and over. I would stand and my door and say to myself as I was holding the doorknob “it’s locked, you cannot open the door” and I would really focus on that.
* Own your anxiety. I know that it is hard but the more you own it and accept it, the easier it is to talk about it. Do not be ashamed of the beautiful person God made you even though you struggle. Own it. Accept it. The more power you give your thoughts/ actions, the more power they have over you…
* Talk about it. Talk to a friend, talk to a professional. It is not a dirty little secret. Anxiety is real and it is okay to talk about it. More people need to be aware. I try my hardest to explain to those around me what my anxiety feels like. Even if they do not understand, hearing you speak about it might shed some light to your struggle.
* Seek help. A professional can help you identify your triggers. They can help you understand your mental health. For me, half the battle was understanding this was truly something out of my control, but I was given tools to help me cope with it.
* Focus on truths. When I am starting to go down a path in my mind that I know is destructive, I try to bring truths into it. Almost playing lawyer with my own head. It helps me to bring things back into perspective.
* Pray. When I am struggling I pray. I just say what I’m feeling and ask the Lord to take this off my shoulders. Do I feel peace immediately? Not all the time. However, I do know that I am not walking in this alone when I pray. I know that He is there and although I am struggling I can get through it with His help.

More people than you know are facing the same struggles. Many are ashamed or haven’t been able to figure out why. We need to open more conversations about anxiety and get the word out there. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I love this quote and I don’t know who it is by “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

Katie Clark
wife, bitten by the travel bug, paralegal at a law firm in downtown San Diego: 

When Noelle asked me to put together something in writing as to what I do to relieve stress and stay mentally sane, I really had to think about it for a few minutes. “Wait – what do I do?!” I’m not a person who engages in the typical go-tos such as regularly going to the gym or church or therapy.  So I had to dig a little deeper and think about it.  One of the first things that came to mind is my daily morning and evening routine.  I work close to where I live and walk to and from work every day.  It gives me time at the beginning of my day and at the end of my day to be alone, be outside in fresh air and think about what is ahead of me, what is behind me, mull over goals in my head and in general just unwind.  I’ll typically add about a mile to my walk at the end of the day to get some extra movement in. I also:

            Stay busy- I am not much of a homebody (I wish I was! It would save me a ton of money), but in general I like to keep busy- very busy.  I excel more when I always have things to do.  I get lazy when I don’t. It also helps keep my mind busy and occupied. 

Texting/talking with my husband and friends multiple times per day.  Seek advice, vent, complain, laugh.  It helps me to address it in that moment rather than to keep it all bottled in!

Have a vacation always planned.  Whether it be big or small, near or far.  It gives me a purpose, something to plan, something to look forward to, something to shop for.  New memories to be had.  A goal to save for. 

It is inevitable sometimes to just reach the breaking point and have a good cry.  Feel sorry for yourself, but then once that moment has passed, stop and move on! No sense in worrying if you aren’t going to change or adapt to whatever situation is frustrating you.

Lastly, I think the overall biggest help to keep myself sane is to envision the change I want to make in myself or in my life.  Whenever I have wanted to move, go on a trip, find a new job, meet new friends, I envision it over and over and over.  I fight for it.  I explore it online.  I picture myself in that situation and then, I just DO.  I used to think a lot of things weren’t possible or out of reach.  Then as I got older, I just started to DO. Jump off that cliff and into that water you have been staring at.  The hardest part is lingering on the edge and being scared of the fall. Once you hit water and reach surface, it’s like “Oh man..I would have jumped a long time ago if I knew it was going to be that easy!”  If I want to take a trip but the overall cost seems insane, I do it in parts.  Book that plane ticket.  Once that is set in place, plan the rest in small parts and it always works out. Same goes for anything in life.  The hardest step to take is the first one and once that is over, the other foot follows and before I know it, I hit my goal. Envision the change, fight for the change and then just DO until it comes to fruition. It sounds cliché but as long as you have your health, anything is possible.

Both of these women are beautiful, inside and out. I'm so lucky to have them in my life. 

I really hope you have enjoyed this post, just in time for the long Memorial weekend

I think I will keep doing these posts, maybe one Friday a month. There are still so many things left to write about. Would you be interested in that? 


  1. Thanks for sharing! It's so hard for us to remove the stigma of mental health issues, even when so many of us deal with them.

  2. Wow, your friends are rock stars for their contributions in today's post, Noelle! I really enjoyed reading both of their segments. You really do have a fantastic group of friends - every one that I've met personally has been such a great quality person. :)
    Gina || On the Daily Express

    1. Thank you Gina, that means a lot coming from you :)

  3. thank you for sharing this Noelle. It's always helpful to read about others struggles and learn different ways to cope. It's fantastic that you have a close knit and supportive group of friends.

    I was diagnosed with several types of anxiety at age 15. I've been in and out of therapy (currently in) but for me accepting my condition and talking to my friends and husband has been the biggest help.

    1. Thank you for sharing too Saadeh :) I think getting real and coming to terms with having an anxiety disorder is the first step in the right direction. It took me so long to accept that I do have this struggle and I need to fight it every single day. I'm happy you have such great support around you!

  4. Thank you for this! Your friends seem really insightful. Enjoyed reading their take too.

  5. Love the tips in this post - I especially love Katie’s idea of always having something to plan for and to break it up into steps. there are so many things I’ve been scared to do - and once I’ve done them - wish I hadn’t waited that long! Would love to see more of this series for sure <3

    1. That's great Zeba, I will continue to do these posts as often as I can! Maybe not every week, but monthly would be awesome (or anytime a topic comes to me that I want to address).



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