Fighting Through the Winter

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I go through waves. Periods where I have a lot of energy and interest in writing, and periods where I can only focus on my required responsibilities. The latter time period is usually called winter. It’s hard for me to get the energy to sit down and write when it’s dark and cold. Now that spring is here I’m spending more and more time working on projects… and it’s coming just in time.

My digital marketing company is actually doing quite well. I have a few clients and it really feels like this is a viable business for me. This is a HUGE change from a year ago when I was on medical leave and not sure where I was going to turn next. Things were tight for awhile, but I’m finally making it all work. Check out my new website: warrcreativemarketing.com.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 6.23.51 PMNow that I’ve shamelessly plugged my job, here’s what else has been happening. I’ve become an Ambassador for a company called Quartet. They aim to help physicians recognize the signs of a behavioral health condition in patients, and get them the help they need. I’m a volunteer giving advice on the best way to talk about and receive help for mental illness. The other ambassadors are some of the strongest people I’ve gotten the pleasure to meet. Many of them dealing with chronic health conditions. I really feel like I’m making a difference and that’s the most important thing to me. I recently wrote a blog for Quartet for Mental Health Awareness Month. Click Here to check it out.

Many of you know I took an incredible trip to Europe. My boyfriend Austin and I made it to 6 countries in 17 days. I needed about 2 weeks just to recover. Immediately before we left I signed up to run the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia. It’s a 10 mile run. The only reason I thought I might be able to do it is because most of it was flat or downhill. I wanted to challenge myself. I’ve only ever run a 5k… and not that well. But after losing two weeks of training to the Europe trip, and another week recovering from a stomach bug when I got back, I didn’t know if I’d ever cross the finish line. Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 6.37.25 PM.pngI decided no matter what I was going to do it. My mom came up from South Carolina to cheer me on which really meant the world to me. A week ago I set off from the starting line in North Philadelphia just hoping I could make it to the Navy Yard 10 miles away. Luckily I had a friend with me who is also a fairly slow runner. She was having knee problems and we vowed to take it easy. Somehow without walking any of the course, we made it across the finish line. I’m amazed and so happy I set this goal for myself and made it. and honestly it is a blast. If you’re ever interested in running a longer race. This one is the best, the fans along the way are so supportive and it’s hard to fail.

So I’m hoping this summer brings more good things. I’m still struggling with energy levels, but hopefully changing some medication soon will help with that. I just want to keep running, keep building my business and continue being a voice for others who struggle with behavioral health issues. Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!

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Rumination: How One Word Takes Over Your Life

**note: I actually dictated this post on my phone while I was driving from a friend’s back to Philly. When I didn’t have anyone to take my mind off the stress, and nowhere to go, I turned to my phone. I knew I couldn’t write so I spoke it- forgive the stream of consciousness writing. It was written a few weeks ago so any reference to time may be a little dated.

If you’ve ever dealt with depression or anxiety, doctors or psychologists will often talk about rumination- or how your thoughts ruminate to the point where you can’t let them go. While I’m making big strides in my fight against depression and anxiety this is the one thing that still constantly comes back to haunt me. These thoughts are things I can’t get out of my mind. Whether their rational or not they stick with me consume me until I’ve worked myself up into a frenzy or completely broken down.

Generally it happens when you have a lot of downtime. For me I think it happens most when I’m trying to go to sleep. I’ll be tired all day, and finally lay down in bed only to start stressing about things from the past…things that haven’t mattered in years… or completely irrational things I know aren’t even possible. Even when I tell myself it’s OK there’s nothing I can do, it’s a struggle to try and let it go.

The other time it happens a lot to me is during long car drive. While I try to occupy my mind with music or podcasts, every once in a while driving down the highway I start to feel anxious. I don’t even know what I’m anxious about. There doesn’t really have to be a reason, but I feel anxious. The scary thing is there’s not a lot I can do. I feel trapped in a small box. I can’t listen to guided meditations because I actively have to keep this car on the road. I could of course pull over if I really needed to and take a few minutes, or stop somewhere along the way to get my mind off of things, but sometimes all I want is to just be home. It seems the quickest way to get there is to just keep going.

A lot of things in my life feel like they’re getting so much better. My panic attacks happen much less frequently and more days are good days, but this loss of control over what I think about is painful. More than the thoughts themselves, the anxiety comes from knowing I can’t shake it off. It’s something I’m working on fighting but it really takes a lot of my energy.

I’ve been so happy to work for some really great people who understand that work-life balance is incredibly important. I’m also happy that my schedule is so flexible. If I have a bad day I can take time for myself, and that helps the recovery.

But between trying to pay the bills and getting better one major thing has slipped through the cracks: this blog. I’m OK with putting it on the back burner while I try and get myself together but I really wanted to try and create a safe space for others may be going through something similar. I wanted to create recipes so that other people who also struggle with an eating disorder can maybe feel better about their relationship with food, but while the recipes are stacking up I’m either too busy or too exhausted to post. I tell myself it’s OK, and my therapist tells me it’s OK, but it still bothers me.

I know I’m not the only one who has to choose to prioritize how to spend their days. Many people struggle with the exhaustion and the rumination much worse than I do.We’re not lazy because we can’t work in an office every day and we’re not lazy because we take lots of naps, we do it because we have to.

This week has been especially hard because I’ve been very sick. My body doesn’t quite know how to shake it, and because I can’t be as active it feels like some of my symptoms of anxiety are getting worse. It’s funny that something as simple as a cold can feel like it’s derailed a lot of your personal growth. It’s weeks like this that remind me I still have a long way to go. And that might be an expensive journey considering Obamacare doesn’t have the best co-pays for outpatient mental health, but that’s a whole different blog post. (Trust me after I got my 2017 quote, I’m definitely writing one.)

For now I’ll just say that even when you think you’re doing so much better (and you are!) it doesn’t mean it’s over. It’s a much longer journey than any of us ever expect whether it’s extremely mild or severe it’s a long battle.

So for all of us suffering from some sort of mental illness- thank you to all of those people in our lives who are patient while we continue to improve. It means the world to have people who understand it’s not an overnight fix. And as for me I’m working on different methods to combat my ruminating thoughts this blog post was one of them. I can honestly say now that I’ve reached the end of it, that writing it (or dictating it rather) really did help.

Struggling With Depression in Broadcast News

With some inspiration from a former employer and mentor, I decided to begin to talk about paying attention to how our co-workers are handling stress in the workplace. The post on LinkedIn is titled Struggling With Depression in Broadcast News. Check out that link. For those of you who want a little more background before reading the article, keep reading here.

B_UvXfxWsAEeZOHFor 6 years I worked as a TV producer at several local stations. If you don’t know anything about the industry it’s rough. Many of the shifts have bad hours, when breaking news happens get used to long days and on top of it all you’re often dealing with very sensitive and upsetting topics. It’s hard and it takes its toll.

The day of the Boston Marathon bombing, I was in the control room live on the air. Then the news broke. For the next four hours I was managing the details, setting up interviews, giving my anchor new information, guiding the production crew, making new graphics and getting new video on the air. I did have help, but still it was a lot. It wasn’t until after I was done for the day I realized the gravity of what had happened. The saddest thing for me that day, was that I didn’t even have any emotions about the events until after the fact. It was a job, but realizing how desensitized you’ve become to tragedy is upsetting.

And I only work for the news! There are so many people working hard jobs with long hours and stressful situations. Look at hospital workers, firefighters and policemen. That’s just a small number of jobs that can wear you out. And if you’re like me, you care too much about what you’re doing.

So we need to begin to help each other and look out for warning signs of depression. Many people look ok, but are suffering in silence. We should at least be able to talk about this more so people aren’t afraid to ask for help. I’ve gotten a lot of great responses from this article. So please check it out. Let me know what you think. Start a conversation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, sad and detached, you’re not alone. Many of us have been through it. I’m not a doctor, I’m not an expert, but I’ve someone who has been through it who is willing to listen.

Kara

Living with Depression: How My Dog Helped Me

stella and karaMy dog Stella is a quirky little mutt. I love her. When she was young, she was super energetic. Now that she’s older she has calmed down significantly. Here’s a little bit about how she helped me through my depression.

Dogs are the best. We know that. I hope your pet cheers you up as much as mine does!

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Social Media & Depression

media-social-media-apps-social-network-facebook.jpgI’ve gotten a few texts and messages from people wondering if I “unfriended” them on Facebook. To all my friends: I don’t hate you. I didn’t unfriend you. I did the unthinkable. I deleted my Facebook.

I guess technically I deactivated my Facebook. I could rejoin the social media site if I wanted to. But after months off the website, I don’t want to go back.

Social media is such a powerful medium. I use it to find out what’s going on in the world, and now to share my story with everyone here at Food, the City and the Girl. I think it’s important, and I think it’s a great vessel for self expression. That being said, I think that’s only true if you truly express yourself.

Too much of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else people are using these days,  are about showing an idealized version of yourself. A version that doesn’t exist for anyone. It’s great to post pictures of your friends or talk about how much you love your job or your significant other, but a lot of times that’s not the entire story. And honestly that’s ok, because you don’t need to share every problem in your life with that guy you knew in third grade and haven’t talked to since.

But staring at the over idealized versions of ourselves every day can cause problems. Especially for people suffering from depression. It can make you feel very alone. Like you’re the only person struggling when really we all have our own problems.

It also can cause problems if you have an eating disorder. Staring at pictures every day of girls in bikinis and six-pack abs doesn’t exactly boost your confidence.

So how can you make it better?

Take a break from social media for awhile. I’m not telling anyone to completely quit every social media account they have. Clearly I still depend on social media very much. But find the site or sites that are making you feel bad and just try and step away. For me it was Facebook. I took a step back. I still actively use Twitter (@karawarr) and Instagram (@kara_warr). For me, twitter is more about following current events. I used it a lot when I was working in local news, and that’s still the majority of accounts I follow. I don’t follow a lot of people on Instagram and I like that. For me Instagram isn’t overly politicized. People don’t bitch about every single thing. It’s mostly just cute pictures of puppies and the vacations my friends go on. Instagram actually makes me feel better when I look at it.

When you feel like you’re in a better place, try rejoining the social media site. That was my plan originally, but I found I’m much happier without Facebook. Maybe some day I’ll go back, but it won’t be anytime soon. By then there will probably be a completely different website.

But how do I keep in touch with friends?

I was worried about this at first as well. I have some friends who notoriously lose their cell phones and get new numbers all the time. It’s hard to keep in touch and social media actually makes that so much easier. I’ll say I was actually surprised that I DIDN’T have any issues keeping in touch. Those people I worried about losing touch with had MY NUMBER. Or they had my email or followed one of my other social media accounts. Those people who are important in your life will stay in your life. Before you disconnect, you can always shoot a few people a message, if you’re really worried about losing touch.

It also doesn’t have to be forever. Go back to it whenever you want! Like I said, I love social media. I think it’s important, but when you’re in a bad place, it can be helpful to take a break. And if you’re not ready to disconnect, just remember no one’s life is perfect… even if it seems that way on Facebook.

The Dark Side of a Food Blog

blog twitter.jpgIt sounds silly to say a food blog has a “dark side,” but for me mine definitely did. When I started this blog over a year ago, the point was to be healthy….. and by that i mean lose weight. I thought that if I posted some low calorie/low fat recipes that I could help myself slim down. I love food and cooking, and blog would hold me accountable to my goal. It worked. I was eating less calories, working out more and losing weight.

What I didn’t realize is that I was on the verge of not eating enough. I would get startling cravings that would last all day and couldn’t be satiated. I stopped feeling hungry. And that’s when the trouble started… I began binging and purging…I was bulimic.

FullSizeRender-2.jpgThis wasn’t the first time it happened, it been a problem on and off since college. When I told my boyfriend at the time his response was: “Never do it again or I’ll tell your parents and send you to the hospital.” While he was right, and I shouldn’t be throwing up what I ate, the response was starling. It wasn’t helping me. That comment made me think to myself: “Ok, well I won’t tell you or anyone else.” And I didn’t… for years.

My eating disorder was never severe enough to force me to go to a doctor. It didn’t happen every day or even every month… that was until last year. My eating disorder and depression took over my life. It wasn’t until last fall that I began to get help. Since my first therapy appointment my eating disorder hasn’t beat me. That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I still hate how my body looks, or obsess over what I eat, but with help from some amazing doctors every day is getting a little bit better.

The Future of My Food Blog

So why tell this amazingly embarrassing amount of information about myself? Why am I willing to tell the world the dirty little secret about myself? I want my blog to now help other people. I want to turn it into a source of hope for others. I think it’s hard to talk about eating disorders. I think there’s a lot of shame behind them and for that reason a lot of people don’t get help. I want to be healthy… the *REAL* healthy. Make it about enjoying food while getting a lot of nutrients, not just losing weight.

IMG_2427For my birthday last month I got one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever gotten in my life. A Shun chef knife. This knife isn’t messing around. I turned a tomato into confetti. This knife was given to me by someone so important to me, who has been by my side through the depression and the eating disorder. Someone who has encouraged me to cook despite my struggle with food.

So I take this knife and move forward with recipes that will make me happy. The goal is to post recipes that are fairly easy to cook. I know when I’m having down days, the energy to actually cook is hard. I want to post recipes that aren’t super restricting, and that can hopefully help others struggling with the same issues.

The world is filled with diet trends and “skinny” recipes. I’m ready to start something new. Food you can feel good about and enjoy. I promise there won’t be 8 lbs of butter in a recipe, but I also know I won’t be afraid to use a little. It’s all about balance… at least that’s what I’m trying for.

I promise my future blog posts won’t be as depressing. I’ve had a few that have showed a lot of my soul. But I’m hoping from this point it’s all about moving forward. My food isn’t just for those who are struggling. It’s for everyone, and it’s hopefully recipes everyone can feel good about.IMG_1834

A New Chapter

It’s not easy to start over. Especially when you’ve been working towards one goal for a long time. In my last blog post I talked about my struggle with depression, and the health struggles that went along with that.

Suffering from depression and anxiety doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It doesn’t mean you’re just having a bad day. It’s a condition that’s hard to explain, and embarrassing to share. In fact, I would be surprised if many people knew that I was struggling.

FullSizeRender-2I was on track with my career path, a young TV news producer who had already made it to the 4th largest market in the country. I was learning how to function at a new station, in a new city, with much different hours. That’s when it happened. When I really started going downhill. Talking about it made me feel weak. I now know that I’m stronger for talking about it, and the more I do, the better I feel. I took leave from work for 5 months, to deal with the depression, the anxiety and a lot of the physical symptoms (migraines, feeling sick to my stomach, stomach pains, extreme fatigue) that came along with it.

I intended on going back, but then I took a new leap. After speaking with my doctors and deciding what would be the best course of action, I resigned. It’s heartbreaking, ending (for now) a career I had worked so hard to cultivate. But depression isn’t like breaking your leg. It doesn’t just heal. Even when you’re feeling better, it can be amazingly easy to fall back into it. And if I can help it, I don’t ever want to feel the pains of a panic attack again. So the best thing for me is to take a step away, work on some lower stress projects, and focus on growing.

IMG_1614So here’s my new chapter. I’m freelancing. I’ve already landed two separate reoccurring jobs. One writing for a blog that focuses on weddings, and the other creating marketing materials for a start-up real estate company. I may not be making as much money as I was, but for now I can live a little more modestly. And It’s nice to have projects where I can work on my own schedule. I also can make sure I’m exercising, getting outside and taking time to relax.

I’m excited for my new chapter, and a little afraid, but I know this will be a really great journey.