"You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive."
– Maya Angelou
Well — ain’t that the truth! We all have a story. I am who I am today from a sum total of experiences. Some, such as being blessed with three children, have been amazing. Others, such as my early alcoholic days, not so much. But it all has brought me to this stage in life where I am focused on positive reflections and learning joys in life anywhere I find them.
Let me give a brief background so you might understand me better, and perhaps see a part of yourself in some form or another through my journey. From an unhappy childhood, to feeling like I ‘had it all,’ losing everything, and then rebuilding myself. It has made me who I am now — so I can share my experiences to achieve mental health.
Most people don’t remember being 7, but I sure do! My parents were chaotic. My dad was mentally unstable, and my mom was quiet. They never hugged me, never showed me any love, and I never got anything from my parents.
But when I was seven, I realized I could put on a mask for the world. When I discovered figure skating, it became my saving grace. From the age of 7, I knew that performing was how I would get everything I needed from the world-everything my parents couldn’t give me.
During my early teens, I struggled with suicidal thoughts and the desire to feel love from somewhere — ANYWHERE — created a fire inside me. This fire raged, and I put it all into dancing. That’s when I got the opportunity to perform in Japan, which changed my life. While I was in Japan, I was asked to become a model.
I was hot! I was on fire! I HAD ATTENTION! Attention became my substitute for feeling loved.
Most of my 20s were spent modeling, acting in commercials, and auditioning for everything! Every room that I walked into, I felt adored by influential people.
At that point I had:
- Booked The Oprah Winfrey Show
- Graced the cover of Playboy three times (feel free to Google away, lol)
- Acted in movies and commercials
- Modeled in magazines
My life was one big distraction, and I was addicted to all the attention.
But behind the scenes? I was one big mess…
As I entered my 40s, despite all the seeming success, I had NOTHING. It was the first time that I had ever been alone. My whole life, I bounced around from relationship to relationship. Suddenly I was divorced and looking for a way to put food on the table and keep a roof over my children’s heads. The child support was minimal and, with three mouths to feed, it didn’t go far.
I tried to turn to the only things I knew how to do (acting, modeling, and waitressing” But I couldn’t find work. I thought about creating a business for myself, but because I had gone from “having it all” to “nothing,” I lacked confidence.
I cleaned closets for a while, worked at spas, anything to make a little extra money. Eventually, I got into real estate, but just two years into my career, the 2008 downturn happened. I couldn’t sell anything. I couldn’t make any money.
I WAS DEEPLY DEPRESSED. I WAS RESENTFUL. I WAS ANGRY.
It felt like chaos was following me everywhere.
- I had to ask my ex to let our kids live with him, which led to a nervous breakdown.
- I was in full-blown denial.
- I ended up in a rehab facility in Utah. I was on lockdown in a straight jacket and cavity searched for any drugs I might be hiding. At night, they drugged me to put me to sleep. I was in a living nightmare.
Reality set it. I had hit ROCK BOTTOM.
After rehab, I went to live with my mom in Florida. And all I could think about was how I was a victim. I was depressed, angry at everyone, and resentful. My mom's dog saved my life. Daily walks around her 55 and older community forced me to interact with the locals. It took the focus off of myself and I started to be of service. I learned the stories and struggles of others and I didn't feel alone (this thought would stay with me to visit in a future life stage). They didn't know it, but the conversations we had actually helped bring me out of my funk. I felt like Cameron Diaz in the movie "In Her Shoes.”
My next step forward after rehab was landing a three-week job as a stewardess on a private boat. It wasn't a glamorous job like I had thought, but was good, honest work.
In the meantime, my kids were calling to say they were miserable where they were living and needed money for school items. I kept telling them, "I'm working on bringing you back home.” It broke my heart to hear my children so unhappy and that they so desperately needed their mom.
I got a first-class ticket.
One day, out of the blue, a friend in New York City called to invite me for the weekend, kindly offering to loan me clothes and anything else I needed while I was there.
My first night, I was introduced to an influential person in my old industry who helped me line up 20 interviews within the first week – Revlon, Hallmark, movie companies, and more. Meanwhile, I wanted a back-up plan for security and began studying to get my life insurance license on the weekends. I was on my way “back!”
Then the distractions came.
I finally got my kids! I was triumphant. I was doing well at my job, life insurance was paying the bills, and it all seemed like everything was going to work. I now realize I was still showing the world a mask of a successful come-back. In reality, I started shopping excessively, traveling, and dating to cover up how broken I was on the inside.
In 2017, my whole life changed. I started the journey to connect back to myself. I realized that everything I’d been doing was a way to stop myself from facing myself. I didn’t want to look beyond the mask. I tried to control everything on the outside, so I wouldn’t have to look inward. I realized that everything I valued was superficial–money, prestige, ego, validation. They weren’t fulfilling me.
I started my journey to find myself again, and I realized that I was just as much to blame as everyone else. I was part of my problem.
No more running.
I took a long look at myself and all my years of running. When I stopped to look, I realized I had an alcohol problem. It wasn’t caused by the anger or the trauma from my past. It was something I chose to do. Something I could control. I was an abuser. I would abuse anything and everything to make myself feel better.
Diving into myself was exactly what I needed to thrive. When I stopped running and looked at myself directly in the soul, I found exactly who I was meant to be. I found happiness, deep relationships, love, confidence, control, joy, and so much more.