Meghan

meghansmile

When I am seeking strength in my life, I tend to do a few things.  First, I try to put things in perspective and think about how I can get through a situation.  Most times, I find myself making more of something than it needs to be.  Second, I practice daily gratitude rituals with my family.  We discuss all that we are thankful for and how fortunate we are to have each other.  Third, I seek strength through family and friends.  Between my mom and my husband, I have an amazing support system.  My mom has been a shining example of what it means to be a strong woman and how to provide balance in life.  My husband, Jeff, pushes me to take risks, supports my goals, and is a sounding board for all the decisions I need to make.  I also have an incredible network of smart, successful females that I turn to for strength.  And finally, my children…they are my inspiration to provide for our family, work hard, have fun, and have balance.  Using these resources and methods provides me with strength and peace as well as helps me have the most balanced life I can.” 

Mie

mia2.web

“My daughter Emma got sick in early 2017. At first, we thought it was the stomach flu but within a week other symptoms appeared; separation anxiety, stomachaches, leg pain, headaches. From one day to the next, she refused to take the school bus. She would no longer eat full meals and constantly complained of bellyaches.

By April her personality had completely changed. She went from being a sweet, outgoing, happy and energetic 6 year old to being angry, depressed, full of rage and anxiety. She would obsess over things and watch the same show over and over. She would often talk about wanting to die. Getting her to school was next to impossible; she’d refuse to get out of the car, she’d cry and cling to me, beg me not to leave her. Every day was a nightmare that just wouldn’t end. It felt like my daughter had been kidnapped without ever leaving the house.

It prompted me to start doing a lot of research and someone suggested that her symptoms were similar to Lyme and Bartonella infections. At first I dismissed it, since she had already been tested for Lyme early on and the results were negative. But the more research I did, the more it made sense. She was finally tested at a specialty lab and we took her to see a Lyme doctor. It turned out she had Borrelia, Babesia and Bartonella infections. At this point, the Lyme was chronic as it had been in her system for over a year. It was devastating news, but I also felt relief knowing that this was the root cause, and that my kid wasn’t just crazy or bratty or overly anxious.

For so long I had to explain her, apologize for her; the behavior, her temper, the constant clinginess. One day a woman reached out to me on Facebook and told me that she had been through the same with her son. She suggested we do homeopathy as opposed to antibiotics. I was very skeptical at first and did not know anything about homeopathy. We started treatment around Christmas and within four weeks, 90% of her symptoms had disappeared. I began to see my child returning. She would again tell me that she loved me. I’d catch her dancing around the house again, and hear her sing along to songs on the radio and she would play with her twin brother. It’s impossible to describe the relief and happiness those moments brought me. It has made me forever grateful for the little, ordinary moments in our lives.

Honestly, there were a couple of times over the past year that I felt like I couldn’t go on. Seeing my daughter suffer and struggle every single day was soul crushing. It literately brought me to my knees, but every time, I would somehow come away with a renewed sense of commitment to educating myself, to finding the right information, to not give up and not allow this illness to ‘win’.

Everything I have learned about functional medicine, about treating Lyme disease, and about the connection between the brain and the gut, is impacting our lives now and our future health. Once I understood the direct connection between our diet and our health, there was no going back to old habits. Now, we are constantly cleaning up her diet and I feel confident, knowing which foods can trigger her immune system, but also which foods benefit her. Before she got sick, I had not ever given any thought to the toxins in our environment; our food, water, even beauty supplies.

I realize that I play an instrumental role in my daughter’s health and I feel a very strong sense of responsibility in educating her about the importance of diet. Despite all the challenges, this experience has brought us even closer.

These days, I feel empowered by all the knowledge I have accumulated over the past year and a half, and while it was a scary and overwhelming journey, I now know that am resilient, stronger than ever and very committed to mastering our health.”

Ashleigh

Ashleigh.web

“Everyday I fight.

Once upon a time I was a confident, secure, self assured, growing young woman. Many people will tell you life has a way of knocking you down. For me it came from the areas & people I loved the most, which in turn HURT the most. Where I went wrong is when other people’s opinions of me and actions towards me change the way I viewed myself. I felt like nothing, and that had to change. So everyday I fight.

One day I ended up in front of a camera. Regardless of what the pictures looked like I remember the feeling I got while in front of the camera: that raw passion I was so familiar with & more than that it made me feel beautiful again. I remember viewing pictures and magnified in front of me was everything that made me insecure put on display for the world to see. Ironically, not despite them but because of them, through them I could still see beauty. I did not want to run from or hide my flaws from view. I wanted to accept them & love them. I wanted to accept me & love me. I don’t want the world to look at a picture & think I’m perfect, because I’m not. & I don’t have to be to be good enough. For me this is a work in progress, a process. I’m not where I want to be but I am so much further than when I started. So everyday, I fight.

I fight the negativity outside of me, I fight the negativity in my mind. I fight to be the best mom to an amazing little boy I still can’t believe is mine. I fight to be a better Christian, a better daughter, a better model, a better entrepreneur, a better friend. I will never stop fighting, I will never stop pushing myself to be better, I will never give in or up. One day if I’m blessed enough, I’ll be 80 years old, married with kids and grandkids. And everyday I will still fight. To be the best version of myself in every area and aspect possible. Until my last breath I will fight.” 

ashleighblwhite.web

Kristen

kristen_

“I’ve had my fair share of trauma. I experienced a lot of neglect and essentially raised myself. I learned to have my own back very early. In the family, there was divorce, infidelity, suicide attempts. There was addiction, overdoses, and homelessness. I was, more or less, placed in charge of keeping everyone alive. I remember saying to someone as I left for my junior year of college “I’m just waiting for the phone call that someone’s dead.” That was my daily experience for 10 years. I turned to men for attention, which led to a host of perverse experiences and sexual abuse. I had to deal, all the while pretending like none of this was happening, because we didn’t talk about things in the family. It was a dark time. But I’m so removed from it now; it feels like a different life. Everyone is alive. Everyone is happy and thriving. It’s an underdog story for a whole family.

After the life I have lived, it would’ve been easy for me to become jaded to the world. It would’ve been easy to become bitter. And I was, for a bit. But I got my ass into therapy. I confronted the things that hurt me most. Through this, I learned forgiveness and my heart was strengthened. My compassion is what makes me feel strong. I can’t be the trauma therapist that I want to be if I don’t KNOW the process of healing. If I can show someone that there is life after trauma, I’m doing my life’s work. If I can help someone feel better, the hurt I experienced would not be in vain. That’s what makes me feel strong; getting up every day to show people that the world is still good.

Instagram: Traumaqueentherapy 

Kristen’s website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/kristen-hammond-philadelphia-pa/398805

Michelle

Michelle.web

“Type 1 diabetes is hard! Hard on my feet, eyes, skin, stomach, wallet, and mind. I’m often exhausted before the work day begins, perhaps from a low sugar that took an hour to improve, which then of course spikes and turns to nausea. On no sleep and feeling beat, I often wake up my beautiful son to go to school and work and start the day.

This cycle is common. Sometimes it’s worse. Ive been much sicker and I’m grateful for my life today. Years ago, I struggled to keep down food because of terrible complications. 

I am proud that after having type 1 diabetes for 26 years, that I have been able to work at amazing places and hold interesting and fulfilling jobs, graduate from the Fels School at University of Pennsylvania and meet wonderful friends, travel, and build a family. This 24/7 disease never stopped me, although it might have slowed me down at times, and that is ok. 

I do think that I am strong now. I have embraced this strength, and it is exciting!”

Merium

merium.web

“Being Honest and Being True

To be honest is uncomfortable; it hurts. Honesty reveals truths and truths don’t go away, but truths can and do lead to a path of healing and a peaceful state of mind. Recently, I was asked, what I have I done or doing now that has made me feel strong inside.  The answer is I surrendered – I surrendered to God and I am being honest with myself. I deserve to walk in truth-suited, laced in authenticity. I surrendered – disassociated myself from a state of learned behaviors that were destroying my inner peace and over shadowing my greatness. I didn’t always protect myself from self-inflicted wounds, nor the pain others caused that tunneled holes through my heart, crippled my mind, and tarnished my soul. 

I began to rely on my faith. If you understand anything from me at all, understand that my faith is just as important as the blood running warm in my veins.  I began praying to God. So on my knees, at my weakest hour, I decided it was time to be free.  It was time to be happy.  It was time for peace. I offered up all pains, fears, anxieties, depressions, worries, toxic relationships all in exchange for his healing of my mind, body, and soul. My faith did not increase overnight, strength did not come easy, and my peace did not transpire right away, but I persevered and I celebrated my accomplishments along the way.  

There is Strength in Surrendering. December 2015, I was diagnosed with an aggressive, invasive, Stage III Triple Negative Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  All that I surrendered came back throughout various stages of my cancer journey, but it was my strength in surrendering to God and his will for me that I am cancer free today. Today, I declare even more faith, greater peace, and an authentic truth I can boldly proclaim unto the world.”

Medford Mermaids

mermaids.web

dian.web

“I met with the Medford Mermaids, who are a water aerobics group that meets three times weekly in Medford, NJ. They range in age from 63 to 89. They find strength in remaining active but they also gather it from other sources – one of those sources would be the connection that they have to one another. Joan said that she finds her fellow mermaids to be “inspirational” and Marnie calls her lady friends the “goddesses”. Several of the women I met expressed how they find strength through their faith and Lyla finds it through accepting changes and prioritizing, tackling challenges one at a time.

Dian said that her strength comes from a “continuum through generations towards empowerment”. She states that independent women taught her which gave her a foundation that helped her develop confidence and resiliency. Now retired, she continues to “encourage young women to take ownership of their rights and responsibilities”. She is involved with mentoring programs like Alice Paul and Running and Winning, which introduce girls to resources which instill confidence and promote leadership.”

Emily

emily1.web

I’ve always felt very strong being in opposition; my strength derived from fighting – for, or against. But strength in opposition requires linearity and measurement of progress; you have to know where the ground is, and if you’re gaining it or losing it. Both adulthood and the work I do (10 years of humanitarian aid, I’m an epidemiologist – I deal with the prevention and control of infectious diseases-  and work with Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres) have really been eroding any sense of clarity I used to have about winning or losing.

I’m not sure we can judge for ourselves what strength looks like. My friends and family see the work that I do as taking enormous strength. But mostly what has driven me to act has been emotional chaos – passion, anger, fear, ambition, righteous fury at injustice. I used to think these qualities were synonymous with strength, and that doing this work would give me more certainty about truths of life, and hence more strength. Instead, this work has evaporated much of my certainty. Yet somehow in that vacuum, strength has come to light. What does this mean? Is strength not certainty?

 Advanced meditation practitioners refer repeatedly to this experience that the ‘further’ you go in meditation practice, the more un-grounded the world seems. You lose all boundaries, the ground slips away, there are no clear parameters of Right and Wrong. It is a nightmare of dis-embodiment. Yet, lost in that miasma, one finds the body. Bizarrely, supported by nothing, it is still strong.

 I don’t yet know how to live fully in that kind of satisfied uncertainty. And I don’t know how to get to that place of strength because the route seems to be a map-less land. All that I find I have left to do is what I’ve done to get me here: to continue to show up – to play, to fight, to watch, to resist – whatever. To have faith that the answers are emerging. To not go away quite yet.” 

Diana

Deb.web2

“My life was forever changed when my first child was born with a craniofacial difference. 

When Dan was born, it wasn’t evident to us that he had a facial difference, at about 4 weeks, we could see that one side of his head was not developing fully.  His eye was smaller, and his head looked as if it had a “dent in it”.  Our pediatrician at a major local hospital, told me I was a “neurotic Mother”…imagine being so worried about your child and the head of Pediatrics telling you that?  Fortunately, I did pursued other options and came to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where I met a Pediatrician that actually recognized what anomaly was present and set up appointments with the Plastic Surgeon and Neurosurgeon.  After these meetings, we were facing a craniofacial surgery on our 4 month old, which would mean opening his skull from ear to ear, correcting the misshapen bones, and making his face more symmetrical.  I asked if they had performed this procedure prior to this time, and the answer was “a few”.  This was 1975, and craniofacial surgery was still in its infancy.  The anxiety and fear was overwhelming.  I had to change my thinking to keep my husband from collapsing and myself, as well.  This was not about us, but about making a better life for our child.  We needed to do all that we could to give this child and his future a chance.  We went ahead with surgery and gratefully have a handsome, 43 year old man, a kind and gentle human being, a Dad, an accomplished businessman.

Our Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Linton Whitaker, asked me to speak with parents about our experience and support them through the process of diagnosis and surgery, with non-medical information.  I think if he had asked me to jump off the roof, I would have…this is the man that changed the future of my child in a positive way.  I volunteered at CHOP for 6 years, 2-3 days a week. Dr. Whitaker hired me, paying me through a grant.  23 years later, I am still here, and have been given great liberties and financial assistance from Dr. Whitaker to develop activities outside of the hospital for our patients; activities that build self-esteem and erase some of the feelings of isolation that our patients experience. 

These past experiences have shaped who I am today.  Out of something so negative and devastating, I have been able to build a life of giving back to others that are in the same situation where I once found myself.  It doesn’t matter that Dan’s surgery was 43 years ago, the feelings of handing over your baby to strangers for major surgery happens here daily.  I support our families at the appointment, at home, at surgery time, post-op, and 24/7 by cell phone.  It is my hope that my strength supports our parents, may of whom are facing multiple surgeries for many years, as their children have serious syndromes associated with facial difference.  They make me strong by the support I give them everyday.”

Kay

Kay.web

“I never felt ultimately strong I always felt that regardless of the trials one faces you just overcame. My parents are a great role model in that regard immigrating from Haiti and raising three children from a third world country becoming upper working middle class. I was strong because of them. 

I was strong through the diagnosis of my father’s cancer, I was strong after the murder of my older brother and I am still strong through my own bouts of depression. 

Today I strive to continue to show perseverance as I seek higher education hopefully one day obtaining my law degree, working now through the child welfare system and if all goes well run a successful production company highlighting the Black diaspora.”