This is a post I've tried to write many times over the last two years. Well, more so in the last year I suppose. It's a block in my mind, a mountain I can't get over and so I don't write it -- or rather I write it, delete it and never post it. I talk myself out of it, out of fear of the unknown. But I've come to the point where I don't know if I can move forward with my blog if I don't climb this proverbial mountain.
Over the last two years, I've become quite a different person than you first met. I did something incredible -- I opened up a boutique. I started an online shop. I continued to blog 3-4x a week, sometimes 5. (I should note that I did all of this with the help of my husband, the best man I've ever met.) I have been a machine of production. I've always been someone who has enjoyed work and feared ever being seen as lazy thanks to a sharp-tongued piano teacher in my early years who warned me that smartest kids are the laziest and I was brilliant. (Turns out, by the way, I can't read sheet music. Years later I would teach myself guitar by ear. Lazy that, music lady.) I slowly allowed my work to take over my identity. If I received positive feedback, I used it as fuel to keep going. If I received negative feedback, I used it as fuel to become better. And slowly but surely with every hour spent, I became less and less of myself and more and more of a machine. My life was statistics, sales, numbers, goals, budgets, deadlines, and taxes due. Which is a garden for feelings of worry, anxiety and stress to grow. And grow they did. I tended to my garden well, constantly finding something else wrong to fix, constantly on the lookout for negative feedback so that I could conquer it, finding something else that wasn't in my control so that I could take it over. And as any good gardener, I watered the plants daily with fear; I was never at rest in my garden of anxiety.
About 6 months into opening bloom, I started to sleep less and less. I was getting around 4 hours a night. Not because I would go to sleep late, but because I would wake up in cold sweats filled with anxiety, staying up with my thoughts. I would wake my husband up and ask about the simplest of fears: "did we lock the door?" "are you sure?" "did I pay that bill?" "did you email her back?" Soon enough the small things in life, like locking a door, became shadows in my world. And when something as small as locking a door becomes a fear, the rest of life can become debilitating. Because as well as we know day turns to night, shadows turn light into dark.
I had my first panic attack in 2008 when we moved to Kerrville. We had two weeks to move and we couldn't find anywhere to live in the small, retirement community. I had just put in my two weeks at my job back in Dallas and although happy to move forward, the future was not looking as hopeful as I'd thought. We had another unsuccessful trip to find somewhere to live and on the long 6 hour trip back home, I started to cry. Those tears turned into gasps for air as I felt as though I couldn't breathe and I felt as if I was having a heart attack. If you've had a panic attack before, then you know this feeling. It's almost comical now to think that at 23 years old I thought this was the end for me -- the house search had done me in. We pulled over at a gas station and I raced for a curb -- I didn't care who saw me, I was certain I was either going mad or dying. Turns out, it was a panic attack. A feeling I would come to know well in just a few years.
Side note: this post is hard to write.
Writing a blog is a weird thing. At first, it's a project -- it's something fun you do, you look forward to creating new content, creating new outfits, meeting new people. And you slowly share bits of your life with people over the course of the years; some people like your life, some people don't. But I stopped sharing my life a few years ago. At first I didn't share opening the store because I never wanted to come off as bragging or prideful and I didn't know if I could handle criticism. (Although now I wish I would have, as I know a lot of you do, too. It's funny the things I'm most proud of, I rarely share for fear of God knows what.) And then like a song I know all too well, depression started creeping into my light-filled life. And everything in my world was kept on lock from you. It was a slow entrance; polite almost. It knocked on a few of my doors and I ignored it. I kept smiling, kept working, kept moving. I just stopped sharing the other side. As I'm sure a lot of you are thinking -- how can someone look so normal and happy in a photo but be depressed? I'm actually scared and impressed of how much I can ignore my own small voice for the sake of saving face. I'd venture to say that employees, friends and family members didn't know for many months. That is until it slowly welcomed itself into every door of my life.
Depression has looked different in many stages of my life. It first hit me when I was 16 years old. Then again at 20, and now at 28. When I was 16, there were a lot of emo poems written. (I am not kidding you and if I'm correct, I'm pretty sure they are in a closet at my parent's.) Now I can look back and laugh at the long, saga poems I wrote but at the time, it was a sad existence. I remember sitting in a dark room, not wanting to talk to anyone, see anyone or do anything. For a 16 year old with a new car, that's not a good feeling.
At 20, I remember ended up in the same dark room, but this time I turned to music and not writings of teen poetry. Thankfully Bright Eyes and other emo musicians were popular at the time so no one suspected anything of me. I'd call my mother crying, she threatened to drive the three hours from home and take me out of school. That's not what I wanted to hear so I didn't call for a while.
A few weeks ago, I hit a wall. I couldn't think straight, I couldn't concentrate, I didn't want to do anything. I could no longer hear the voice in my head that sounded familiar, that reminded me of the good things, that helped me create. I figured I was just tired, that I had been working too much again. Usually I would get so stressed that I would end up sick and have to spend a few days in bed and then start over again refreshed, but I wasn't getting sick so I thought I was okay. (Correction: I thought I'd finally conquered that weak-ass immune system once and for all.) So we took some time off and tried to relax. The next day at work in the shop, I was sorting camisoles to be tagged. A simple task. I kept getting them confused and mixed up. I couldn't figure it out and ended up having a panic attack. Thankfully I was alone in the shop and no one saw the breakdown. My mom came, picked me up from work and took me home, just like she offered to in college. But this time I let her. I spent the next three days in bed.
Aside from my genetic makeup that gives way to depression, our life has become quite chaotic. We work about 6 and a half days a week. And as it turns out I am a control freak. (Neat!) We have become accustomed to being stressed out. We've become accustomed to letting our stress wreck havoc on bad habits that include french fries and wine. We have also realized in all of this, that's not what life is about. If life is only about sales, then I'm out.
You are probably wondering where all this is coming from, why I'm sharing it now. I've known for a while, hence the many times I've tried to write this post, that to move forward sometimes you have to have a clean slate. This is me cleaning my slate from the last two years. I regret not sharing more about bloom, but I never wanted it to be tainted by the hardships, my depression and anxiety. That's why I couldn't talk about it. And aside from the depression, entrepreneurship is a difficult road to venture down. And entrepreneurship with your husband or a partner is even more so. It's quite cruel to learn the lessons of life and entrepreneurship all in the same few years.To be honest, it's hard to put into words; clean, sparkling words that live on blogs. Especially, especially on a style blog. I've wanted to share so many times but fear stops me. "Shut up and wear clothes" it says. I've wanted to make changes but fear stopped me. But as I've taken a step back from things these last few weeks I've come to realize something. Maybe it's not about the clothes that bring you here (meh, or maybe it is) but maybe it's about life. Everyone has a story and maybe you just want to hear mine.
If that is the case, then thank you for showing up and asking for more. I apologize for having not being able to share this side of my life. I also apologize for thinking that you only want to see the sunshine and not the rain. That is why I take a sillier tone in my posts most days, because it's comfortable and happy and different than my current train of thought. But it feels dishonest to who I am now and it speaks to perhaps who I was. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still funny.
That was a joke. Kind of.
All that to say, I need to heal. But as much as my life and identity is wrapped up in my blog, I needed that to heal as well. I need you to be on the same page as me, even if we both hate it. There is something else I've realized in my struggle: life is good. I've confused ambition with dissatisfaction. Ambition isn't something that sets out to destroy, it's something that sets out to create. I've confused these things as I'm constantly on the lookout to destroy the bad and preserve the good. But really, I just need to create the good may it be with bloom and the pretty clothes that hang in our windows, may it be with the blog and this post right here, may it be in life and being grateful for the here and the now, even if it involves tears or sad days. I've always been told that happiness is a choice. I've always hated that statement because it puts the control onto me and not my circumstances. But perhaps it is a choice -- a choice to be present and to be thankful.
Thank you for being present and for listening.
(I should note I've since gone to the doctor for my depression. I am feeling a little bit better every day and finding more light in the shadows. )