I’m about to get a little personal…. ok, I’m about to get REALLY personal.  I’ve always tried to keep my personal life separate from my small shop life, but over the last few months, I’ve realized that there are so many others exactly like me in the community and it’s time to speak out.  Brand repping, for me, is not just about getting free stuff and taking pictures of my daughters wearing those things… and while I’ve shared on multiple occasions why I am a part of this community, I haven’t really shared the entire story.  I hope you will read the following and understand that I’m sharing this today not so that you will judge me, but because I hope that if you are also struggling with any sort of personal issues, that you know that there are so many people that are going through something similar. Don’t be afraid to speak up, reach out or ask for help.  It could save your life…

Looking at me from an outside perspective, I have it all. A beautiful family, an amazing husband, a couple of fairly successful businesses, a nice home and overall, the life I’ve always dreamed of… but there’s one thing that many people don’t know about me. One thing that has taken over my life over the last couple of years. It’s something I’ve hidden. I smile through it, I pretend like nothing’s wrong, but the truth is, I am living with something that I can’t control.

The truth is, it’s something that I fight daily. It’s something that keeps me in bed more days than I’d like to admit, afraid to get up. It keeps me from doing my hair, putting on makeup and from wearing anything aside from yoga pants and old tees.  It’s something that stops me from leaving the house. It’s the reason that when most people ask me to go and do something, I immediately come up with an excuse as to why I can’t. Mostly, it’s the reason that I’ve lost friends and contact with family members.

The truth is, I suffer from anxiety. An anxiety that gets my heart racing and causes me to feel like I’m going to pass out.  An anxiety that brings with it a fear that I will never be able to go anywhere without feeling this way. An anxiety that has kept me from birthday parties, family functions, my daughter’s dance competitions and even everyday things like grocery shopping or picking up my kids from school.

I have always struggled with some form of anxiety, but it really reached it’s height about 2 years ago. I wanted to take the girls to Disney since they had a day off. The plan was to drive up by myself, with the girls, but thankfully, one of my friends and her two kids came along, and she wound up driving.  The whole way up I felt anxious but I tried to ignore it. I knew if I could just get there and get into the park and could see the kids having the time of their life, I could get past it.

We made it to the ferry line when my mind started racing. The line was huge. We were toward the back of the line. I knew that if we made it on that ferry, there would be no where for me to sit. Instantly, I started to panic. It probably took less than a minute for the anxiety to escalate and I ran for the nearest bench, fearing that I was going to pass out.  By the time I reached the bench, my anxiety had increased so rapidly that I had to lie down. I was lightheaded, I was panicking, I was sweating and I knew that if I could just let it pass, I would be ok, as I have in the past.  The next thing I remember is the paramedics taking my blood pressure and watching as my kids looked over at me, with a look of fear, not knowing what was happening to their Mom.

After convincing the paramedics that I didn’t need to be transported to the hospital, we wound up heading back to the car and driving home. The entire way I felt horrible. The kids were so excited and I had taken away their opportunity to see Mickey. I was heartbroken because I couldn’t control what was happening. I couldn’t just deal with it so that they could have their day.  To this day, I still feel horrible and embarrassed about it. I haven’t been far from my home much since then.  I stay within a 5-10 mile radius, because it’s my comfort zone.

Things have gotten better just as much as they’ve gotten worse over the last couple of years.  I was put on meds that have been both good and evil. I’ve been taught breathing exercises, been given “homework” to push myself, little by little, out of my comfort zone. I’ve had just as many successes as I’ve had failures.  But the one thing that has always been consistent is my ability to push through the fear when it comes to brand repping.  I found a passion, over the last couple of years, for styling and photography.  It’s the one thing I look forward to every morning and it’s what gets me out of bed when nothing else can.  I’m more confident because of my photography.  And while I will still only go to a handful of places that I feel most comfortable to take pictures, I am outside.  I’m not laying in my bed.  I’m not thinking about anxiety.  I feel like a regular person. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day. It’s time that I spend with my kids (out of my house), laughing, dancing and being a regular ol’ Mama.

Brand repping has also introduced me to a group of women that I both admire and love.  These women struggle with similar issues now, or have in the past.  They are there to listen, just as I am there for them.  I watch them overcome small challenges and know that I can do the same.  They are my motivation, my encouragement and my hope.

Although I’ve opened up and spoken to more and more people about it, I’ve never really wanted many people to know. I thought that keeping it a secret would make it go away. I thought if I kept it to myself, I wouldn’t be admitting that it was real.  People’s lives aren’t always as perfect as they appear on social media.  Most people don’t take pictures of the sad moments. They don’t take pictures of the fights they have. They don’t talk about their fears and their failures… but maybe we should.

Maybe sharing something like this will not only help me to deal with it better, but will also help someone else to get their truth out. Maybe it will help us to connect with others that are going through similar situations, but are also afraid to talk about it. While everyday is a struggle, I can’t and won’t let anxiety win. I hope that if you are dealing with something, that you take the time to talk to others and to find a hobby that transports you into a more “normal” situation, the way brand repping has for me. Don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind.  You may be surprised at how many people have been there and can help you just by listening.