Monday, July 28, 2014

tiaraiconSMASH styling

A big thanks to everyone who read, commented and shared my latest blog post about anxiety.  If you ever want to talk more about mental health, please e-mail me at tinfoilstiaras{at}gmail{dot}com
For now, we're back to our regular Tinfoil Tiaras scheduling, time to talk fashion! A few months ago I turned 26 and for some reason that age felt 'scary' to me.  No longer in my early twenties, I felt like it was time to start getting serious about life.  I own a house with a man and a cat that I love, I live in a beautiful city and I have a wonderful support system. The career? I wasn't so happy with.  So after months of complaining (and some crying), I decided to quit my full-time job back in June.  It was no longer filling me with a sense of satisfaction and I was becoming jaded and grumpy.  When I quit my job I had nothing but a three week fashion styling contract and a part-time retail job to fall back on. 
For years I have been wanting to start my own company so about a month ago, I launched SMASH styling, a fashion company for men & women based out of Ottawa.  I provide closet consultations, personal shopping, photo-shoot styling and style workshops.  Besides running my own business, I continue to volunteer as the Co-Founder of non-profit Suits his Style and am merchandising and selling for a couple of local fashion boutiques.  Variety is the spice of life and I am thoroughly enjoying the diversity in my days.  A little fashion here, a little social work there. 
Dress- Vintage; Blazer- Thrifted; Hat- Simons (Montreal); Booties- Pour la Victoire (Santa Monica); Necklaces- Lia Sophia (Gifted)

 I'm going to continue blogging about affordable elegance over here at Tinfoil Tiaras, but if you'd like to check out what I'm at to at SMASH, I'd love to connect with you on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.  Be sure to leave your social media links in the comment section below so I can follow you as well!

@SMASHStyling (twitter & Instragram)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

tiaraiconanxiety anniversary

*This is not a fashion related post, but as the title suggests, it's about my recent struggle with anxiety, my nervous breakdown and how I'm feeling one year after my first panic attack.  This was an extremely difficult post to write as I try to keep Tinfoil Tiaras light & fun, but living with anxiety has shaped who I am.  I did not write this to evoke pity, but instead to share my experience in hopes of resonating with readers and shedding some light on mental health.

 It started with a tingle in my toe while doing the swan pose in a Body Flow class in July 2013.  Harmless really, felt like long lasting pins & needles. After the class, I asked the yoga instructor about it and she wasn't sure, said I should talk to my Doctor.  I didn't think anything else of it, until later in the week when I noticed the tingling had spread to all my extremities, my stomach and even my bottom.  I made an appointment to see my Doctor but as somewhat of a hypochondriac, I wanted to do some research before getting medical advice.  So I asked Dr. Google what he thought of my tingling extremities and he told me I had MS. OMG Multiple Sclerosis? The chronic debilitating disease that may leave me unable to walk, feed myself or talk? This triggered a heightened sense of anxiety and I couldn't get the idea that I might have MS off my mind.  After seeing the DR, she wasn't convinced it was MS, but wanted to run some blood work. It turned out that I was severely deficient in vitamin b12 which caused my iron levels to drop.  I had been eating a whole foods vegan diet for 1.5 years and wasn't supplementing with B12, something I hadn't even thought of.  I immediately started B12 treatments via weekly injections, followed by daily supplements until my levels were normal again.  You'd think that would be the end of that but my mind wouldn't give up the idea of MS, in fact the idea started to grow.  

One morning, I woke up around 3am and my body and face were tingling like crazy.  My heart was pounding so quickly I thought I was having a heart attack and I felt like I was dying.  That was the first time I had a panic attack.  I was so scared, I had my partner take me to ER.  They conducted a series of tests, including a very uncomfortable moment where a Q-tip was in my butthole to test for numbness! They couldn't find anything and suggested it was caused by anxiety.  Anxiety? I thought I'd been anxious before, butterflies in the stomach before a public presentation but this? This was something very foreign and very scary to me.  From July 16, 2013 to sometime in January 2014 I lived with this anxiety, it followed me wherever I went, whatever I was doing.  
It's not like my life slowed down during this time, in fact I continued to work full-time, co-founded a non-profit, started a part-time fashion job, volunteered and went on vacations.  But my mind was erratic, dark and terrified.  I was crying almost everyday, and not just in the comfort of my own home but at the gym, while running errands and hanging out with friends. One time I was hysterically bawling at the post office with people staring and whispering but I couldn't stop. I didn't know what was wrong with me, half of the time I didn't even know why I was crying.  I saw my Doctor almost every week, a Hematologist, and a Neurologist and still nothing seemed to be physically wrong with me except severe anxiety. I was referred to a Hospital Psychiatrist for an intake and he told me I should 'strap my balls on'.  I ended up in ER again a few months later, this time because I temporarily lost my vision while taking a shower.  I fell to my knees, everything went black and I stared dry heaving.  I was referred to an eye clinic and again, nothing was wrong, probably just a panic attack. 
I was getting fed up with living my life one day at a time and not knowing what in the hell was wrong with me.  I didn't want to kill myself but I just didn't want to wake up, I wanted to die in my sleep because every morning I woke up to a living nightmare and I didn't know how to get out.  I tried everything I could think of, from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, journaling, practicing mindfulness, attending church for the first time in many years, yoga, cutting out alcohol and refined sugar, eating meat, not eating meat, working out everyday, meditation, passionflower extract, relaxation candles, praying and hot baths.  I lost almost fifteen pounds and looked gaunt and sickly. I took sleeping pills and tried three different anti-depressants.  The side effects made me feel suicidal and gave me migraines so bad I couldn't leave my bed one weekend.  I consulted online depression and anxiety forums but gained little relief from knowing there were other people going through the same illness because I didn't know them and they didn't know me.  

 In October, my partner took me on a 11 day Caribbean cruise in hopes that a break from everyday life would make me feel better.  In fact, it made me feel worse, I fantasized about jumping off the cruise ship, I cried in our tiny cabin's shower and I assumed everyone on the boat could tell I was losing my mind.  I wanted to appreciate this loving gesture but instead I just wanted to go back home and try to sleep.  As someone who needs to sleep 8-12 hours a night, the insomnia just added to my anxiety levels.  The health anxiety morphed from a fear of having MS to a fear of myself dying, my loved ones dying, becoming blind and a fear of ending up in a mental institution.  The latter notion is what scared me (and still scares me) the most.  I remember wondering what the meaning of life is, why are we here, what is our purpose.
Throughout these six months of hell, my friends, partner and family were remarkable.  My partner held me when I cried, took me on car rides for a change in scenery and we became biking enthusiasts (even though I would often be crying hysterically while biking).  My best friend came over almost everyday, played tennis with me, let me cry and sent me motivational quotes.  Another friend introduced me to the therapeutic exercise of gardening and cooked delicious and healthy meals for me.  My Dad emphasized with me as someone who lives with and manages his health anxiety and he financed a flight to visit family in Nova Scotia.  My sister called me often even when I didn't want to talk, and told me everything would be ok.  My Mum flew up to Ottawa twice and spent weeks with us, making meals and cleaning up, chores that suddenly seemed overwhelming and ominous.  I also started to see a wonderful Psychiatrist for an hour a week.  She didn't make me feel crazy and she prescribed me Cipralex, the only antidepressant that started to make me feel better, like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.   
I don't know exactly when or how the anxiety started to dissipate but shortly after Christmas I realized my mind was more at peace, I wasn't having suicidal thoughts and I was singing in the shower instead of crying. The relief of starting to feel like myself again and not overanalyzing everything or having to carry my Clonazepam (an addictive narcotic prescribed on a short-term basis for anxiety) everywhere I went was so comforting, it was like the black dog (how Winston Churchill referred to his depression) had stopped lurking in the shadows.

Surviving a nervous breakdown, makes me feel both strong but also vulnerable because I've experienced firsthand the power of the mind/body connection.  Even writing this brought on some anxiety as it's almost like reliving the horrific experience.  Although I mostly only cry now when PMS'ing and watching sappy commercials and the majority of days are great, I still have bad moments when the mean reds come out to play. Just like with a physical illness, recovering from mental illness is a process of recovery and it can take time.

Why am I sharing this with you? In my darkest moments, it helped a little to know that people I perceived as 'normal' (what's normal anyways?) had gone through struggles with mental illness.  Like  fashion blogger Kendi Everyday for example.  1 in 5 Canadians will personally experience mental illness at some point in their lives, but it's still stigmatized, it's almost a taboo to talk about.  As a result I never felt comfortable telling my employers what I was going through and often felt alone in my struggle.

 Imagine if we could talk about mental illness as easily as we could physical illness, the relief it would be for us struggling and the understanding it could provide for those around us.  Online campaigns like Bell Let's Talk are starting the conversations but we need to keep talking, year round!


If this post resonates with someone or helps in any way, I would love to hear about it in the comments below or via e-mail at tinfoilstiaras{at}gmail{dot}com Together, let's remove the stigma and work towards positive mental health!