I help people with chronic and mental health conditions improve their relationships with their
minds & bodies, and empower them to advocate
for their unique needs.
I have lived with with anxiety, depression,
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and chronic pain. These conditions have changed how I'm able to live my life, but the practice of yoga has helped me to become more aware of my unique needs, helps me to advocate for those needs,
and has helped me earn to love myself.
My goal is to help others to do the same.
For most of my life, I didn't know that I had struggles that most other people don't have.
I was always "good" and did what I was told at school, at home, and at work,
but I was always struggling under the surface.
I could never seem to keep up with the expectations people had of me.
They told me that I was smart, gifted, and had potential to do great things.
But I knew that there was something different about me;
I knew I couldn’t depend on myself to function properly at any given moment.
I had nothing to blame for my struggles but myself;
I told myself that I was just weak.
That I just wasn’t trying as hard as everyone else.
That I didn’t have the same willpower.
That I was just a bad person.
Sure, I got the grades and kept my job and was mostly in shape…
but I had learned that only way to keep up the image everyone else had of “me”
was by constantly berating myself into doing things I didn’t want to do,
putting my health and wellbeing last, and hiding my struggles at all costs.
I hid behind the shields of people-pleasing and perfectionism,
depending on the promise of external validation
or the threat of criticism from others to get things done.
If I could do what other people wanted and do it perfectly,
then they told me I was doing well and I believed them.
I had no self-esteem beyond whatever scraps of praise I could get from people.
Too much of who I thought I was came from the carefully crafted image I projected to others.
So I did my absolute best to live up to expectations,
no matter how good or bad I felt, and usually succeeded in doing so…
....but at a severe cost to my mental, physical, and emotional health.
By the time I hit my early twenties, on the outside, everything did look really good.
I graduated from university with honours, met a great guy, landed a full time job in my field,
bought a car, got engaged, bought a house, and started planning a wedding.
But on the inside, I was falling apart. I was anxious and depressed all the time.
I could barely get out of bed in the mornings, spaced out during my commute,
struggled to stay focused at work, lived on takeout and junk food (if I ate at all),
avoided friends and family, cried in the shower, and had a hard time sleeping.
I had recurring urinary tract infections, bouts of irritable bowel syndrome, and severe menstrual pain.
I couldn’t hide my struggles any longer. I was just too worn down by the weight of it all.
I went on long term disability leave from work and finally ended up quitting.
I was unemployed for four years as I tried to sort out what was going on with me.
My self-esteem tanked even further than I thought possible.
I conflated my self-worth with my income and saw myself as worthless, a bad person,
and undeserving of the people who stuck around to support me.
At first, I trusted my doctors to know what they were talking about,
but as time went on it became clear that more often than not, they were undereducated
on what I was going through and how to properly treat me.
I’ve had four general physicians,
and two gynecologists.
I’ve tried four antidepressants,
five types of birth control,
many natural alternatives
and various types and many years of therapy.
I’ve had high hopes that the next doctor or treatment
or supplement or habit would be the answer to all my problems
and I’ve had major disappointments, serious side effects, and gaslighting by professionals.
It wasn’t until age 22
and physician #3 that I got a proper diagnosis for the extreme changes in mood
I have had since I was 15 (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).
It wasn’t until age 24
and therapist #4 that I realized that I had struggled with severe anxiety since I was a child,
and that I have always been an introvert and highly sensitive person
in a world built for extraverted and emotionally indifferent people.
It wasn’t until age 26
that I realized that if I wanted to get better, I would have to put all my energy
into educating myself about all things related to my health and wellbeing.
I could no longer be silent about my mental and chronic health struggles.
I realized that I needed to learn to communicate my unique needs,
however confusing to others, to my family, friends, coworkers, society in general,
and most importantly, my medical team, if I ever wanted to feel good.
I needed to become my own researcher, expert, spokesperson, and advocate.
It wasn’t until age 28
and gynecologist #2 that I found a half-decent treatment
for my PMDD and began to feel in control of my life again (at least some of the time).
It wasn’t until age 29
that I realized that I had to stop burning myself out for others
and blaming myself for things that were out of my control.
I realized that I had to stop trying to fit into a world that wasn’t built for me,
and to learn the skills to build a life that suited me instead.
I invested time, money, and energy into myself and completed two yoga teacher trainings
and an online course, and started my own business.
It wasn’t until age 30
and psychiatrist #4 that I got another proper diagnosis for my lifelong struggles
(Inattentive Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
So Where Am I At Now?
Well, I’m still working on myself.
I can’t say that one habit or one diagnosis or one medication
or even my yoga teacher training changed my whole life
and that it’s easy sailing from here on out.
I’m sorry to tell you, but there is no single magic pill
or therapy or yoga practice that will "fix" you.
But I do feel like this lifelong journey has meant something,
and that I can help others through the things that I have been through.
The biggest change for me has been in how I feel about myself.
I realized that was never going to be accepted or successful or happy or healthy
if I continued to use external validation or criticism as tools to force myself into participating in society.
I certainly wasn’t going to achieve anything or enjoy life if I totally isolated myself either.
No one outside of me could make me love myself,
and I couldn’t hate myself better, either.
I decided that self-love was really the only logical way forward.
And it was through self-love that I found the strength to keep going,
to keep trying different doctors, treatments, therapies, habits,
anything that I thought might help me…even when things were hard.
Yoga is how I practice self-care and self-love.
Yoga is not only practicing poses, but radically changing your view of yourself.
It's taking the time to ask yourself what your needs are
and taking the responsibility and time to meet those needs yourself.
Now, I notice when I’m shaming, blaming, guilting, or hating myself
and I try to offer self-compassion instead.
I accept myself as the human being that has struggled for so long
with things that were out of my control,
but I also take responsibility for myself by meeting my own needs
where I can and asking for help where I can’t.
I try not to apologize for being different or unexpected or unconventional
and have learned to embrace my weirdness.
I use my yoga practice as a way to ask myself what my mind and body need on a regular basis.
I love myself through the difficult times, and I am fully present for the good times.
I use my online platforms to dispel myths, misinformation, stereotypes, and stigma
about mental health and to let others know they are not alone in their struggles.
I use my story, talents, and skills to empower people
to embrace their imperfect selves as they already are
so that they can finally take the steps they need to feel better.
You are not a bad person
because you don’t meet society’s expectations.
You’re a living, breathing, deeply feeling human who happens to be
hurtling through the universe on a floating rock at this specific point in time.
That simple-yet-wild fact is enough. The chances of you existing are one in trillions.
You are enough as you already are.
What people think of you isn’t nearly as important as what you think of yourself.
Improving your relationship with yourself not easy work - but I’m here to help you do it.
I invite you to learn more about my work here:
The YogaNaraska YouTube Channel
The Yoga For Mental Health Podcast
The YogaNaraska Facebook Page
The YogaNaraska Instagram Page
The Yoga For Your PMDD Cycle Facebook Group