Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here.
As you all know I have tried to be open about my mental health struggles here in hopes of helping others dealing with similar issues. I would like to be an advocate for mental health.
Despite my desire to end the stigma, I am still finding myself embarrassed to admit that I have had a relapse with my depression. The past month or two has been a blur of misery, crying, breakdowns, and frustration. I have barely managed to maintain a job I no longer find any joy in, I have shirked commitments to the detriment of people I care about, and I have cried a whole whole lot.
I wanted to be cured. I wanted to believe that the depression was behind me.
It came roaring back to life though, just as severe as ever. Because of this, I have found it hard to find the energy to engage with much of anything, including this blog and my social media which I love so much.
When you are depressed though even the things you love and are passionate about slip away.
The only positive thing through all this has been that I now have a name for what I am feeling. For a long time I wanted to avoid the label of a mental health condition but now I find it almost a relief to know that there is an explanation for the ways I have felt most of my life, to varying degrees of severity. I spent years believing I was just crazy or lazy when I had tough bouts of depression.
This most current bout I believe has to do with the uncertainty I am currently feeling about my future plans. I feel indecisive and it has built up a lot of stress for me. That coupled with my susceptibility to depression pushed me right back into the worst of it.
This time though I knew to ask for help.
I let my family members and friends see my breakdowns rather than hiding them behind closed doors. Depression is illogical at its very core but I do believe letting them see what it does to me helps them to understand a little more.
I called my psychiatrist and told her when things weren’t working for me. Through some trial and error, I am starting to come out of the fog of depression with new medications.
I have never made a suicide attempt or been actively suicidal but when negative thoughts of that nature flashed through my mind uncontrollably on my worst days I chose to vocalize them rather than keep them to myself.
After working with my medication and family things have been improving. I have been working on self-care by doing things like completing applications, making doctors appointments, doing yoga, cleaning my room and car, working on projects, spending time with dogs, eating depression-fighting foods and many other things.
Many of these tasks may sound insignificant, but to a person struggling with a mental health condition, they can feel like mountains.
Slowly but surely I am recovering again. I apologize for my absence. If any of you have tried to get in contact with me please know that I wasn’t ignoring you intentionally. Let’s just say for now that I’m back. I love connecting with people through this blog and right now I’m trying to get back to doing the things I love.
PS: Here is the link to my t-shirt! It is one of my favs. And no I’m not getting paid for this, I just love cute small brands like Kinship.
So yes another cancer post. I promised this blog wouldn’t be all about cancer but it is definitely going to play a part. Cancer has played a part in my life but does not define it as a whole.
A few days after a CT scan revealed a tumor in my abdomen I began my “cancer journey” at MD Anderson. The experience of entering the hospital and being surrounded by so many sick people was surreal. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
Around the hospital, signs read “You became a survivor the day you were diagnosed.” It was a catchy slogan for a cancer hospital. Good branding, but not really something that I gave much thought to in the chaos.
Fast forward through finding out that my tumor was, in fact, pancreatic cancer and having four surgeries to remove the cancer and repair the damage the initial surgery caused.
I returned to daily life wondering how exactly I was supposed to navigate this world as a “survivor”. I certainly didn’t feel like I earned it. I was a whiney difficult brat through most of my treatment. My misery radiated around me and I made a difficult situation worse with my poor attitude.
Inspiring cancer survivors are supposed to have remained hopeful through their treatments. They do things like dance during chemo and run marathons shortly after. Good cancer survivors don’t spend months wallowing in self-pity and dealing with severe bouts of depression. I wasn’t one of those people.
I also didn’t want to be labeled “that girl who had cancer.” I wanted to be known for other things, not some illness I didn’t handle well. Meeting new people, making new friends, and dating all presented new challenges. Should I mention it and if so when?
I still don’t have a great answer on that. It doesn’t seem right to start a Tinder date off with “Hi I’m Paige and I had cancer.” All I can picture with that is the amusing image of boys running for the hills. Not that I wasn’t good at chasing boys away before but this would be a new level, even for me.
For a while, I stuck with almost a “No New Friends” attitude. It was Drake, me and only our day ones. I felt like a different person and that scared me. I only wanted to be near people who knew me before so that they would know I wasn’t always like this. It wasn’t a great policy but it was where I was at during that time.
I’m more open to new friends and possibilities now. I have met a lot of great people in the past year or so and I am grateful for those relationships. Looking forward, I am excited to meet new people. I promise I’m friendly now guys! Please contact me if you want to talk about anything!
While I still don’t open conversations with the whole “I had cancer” line, I have been trying to embrace my status as a survivor a little more. I am more comfortable with it now. I don’t like keeping secrets. My illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Realizing that took longer than I’d like to admit though.
I am also learning to forgive myself for the way I acted in the midst of the worst period of my life. I was drowning at the time and I handled it as well as I could. While yes I could’ve been a little less grumpy it isn’t the end of the world. There is no manual for being a survivor. There is no formula you have to follow to be one. The only thing you have to do is survive, which I am lucky that I did, even if I was downer while I was in the process of fighting it.
So now I’m trying to be more open and let people in a little bit. If you have challenges you need to talk about I would encourage you to share your story. You can share with your friends, you can message me privately, or you can utilize social media to create an internet community around you. Speak up, there are people out there who listen and care.
PS: If you or someone you know is a young adult cancer survivor (Diagnosed between 18-39) definitely look into First Descents. It is a great program and really helped me process things a lot. Here is the link https://firstdescents.org/out-living-it/
It may be a bit cliche but I am a Lana Del Rey fan. I will follow that statement with the even more cliched “she just gets me.”
Although when I think about that idea though I realize that the phrase “I just get her” may be more accurate. I find myself humming along to her songs and I can relate, even if not directly I can understand what she is trying to express and it speaks to me. I suppose that is what art is really but I digress. I’ve seen Lana twice in concert. And yes I wore a flower crown. Judge me, people!
Today I find myself thinking about a moment in time where a simple phrase, not even from a proper song but from a music video of hers got me through a tough moment. The phrase was from the video for her song “Ride”. If You haven’t watched it I highly recommend it although I warn you that it is at times a provocative, profane and slightly troubling video. The line doesn’t come until 9:08 so you have to wait for it.
The phrase though is thisI believe in the kindness of strangers
I am a natural introvert so this phrase never really stuck out to me until one night when I found myself far from home, and all alone, in a bad situation I hadn’t anticipated and suddenly I was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.
The story begins in Budapest.
I was studying abroad, in Verona, Italy as the only freshman on the program. On the weekends we were allowed to travel around Europe on our own. I was invited to go with a group to Budapest and while I wanted to go I hesitated in buying my plane ticket. By the time I did I found that the flight my friends were on had doubled in price so I chose to take a flight later that day.
That day I spent a glorious morning and early afternoon exploring Budapest more on my own. Then I headed to the airport and was off to Frankfurt to catch my connection. Unfortunately, though the flight was delayed and I made it to Frankfurt with only moments to spare. My brief moments in Frankfurt were spent in an all-out sprint to catch my connection.
I made it but when I landed in Milan, I discovered my bag hadn’t. I was directed to a Lufthansa help desk with a line about 30 people long. It should be noted here that I do not speak Italian and it was about 11 PM at this point.
The last train to Milan Central and then the last train to Verona were leaving in a few short minutes but I know I can’t abandon my bag. So I stood in the line absolutely panicking, swapping stories with a well-traveled Italian who spoke English about whether the US or Europe had worse customer service in air travel. I believe we deemed it a tie.
I continued to panic while he began speaking to two Italian women behind him in the line who also happened to be going to Verona. These women turned out to be my saviors. Having missed the last train I started talking with them and together we decided to rent a car together and drive to Verona from Milan, about a two-hour drive.
I felt scared as this seemed like a risky and idiotic thing to do but I also felt I had no choice so I went with it. Getting into the car I remembered the line “I believe in the kindness of strangers and began silently repeating it to myself over and over.
One of the young women spoke English better than the other so I mostly talked to her about a wide range of topics from their trip to Russia, and the vodka they purchased there, to the car rental business she ran and the ski cabin she owned.
I slowly felt my fear evaporating over those moments in the car and I began to accept Lana’s mantra in a way I never expected. Eventually, they dropped me off in front of the apartment building my college was living in. It was around three in the morning and I got to face hell from my parents, roommates, professors, and friends over how panicked I made them. Their reaction to the situation put into stark relief the true amount of risk I took. I didn’t feel that way in the car though. I didn’t feel that way as I learned a little piece of these strangers life stories, and as we helped each other get where we needed to be.
They rescued me, and while I know it could have turned out differently I have found it proven time and again that people as a whole are mostly good and sometimes you might have to count on them to rescue you from a bad situation you put yourself into. I will be eternally grateful for those two women, Claudia and Sara and for all the kind strangers I have met and will meet along the way.
Sorry, this post is so late. Life has been a little crazy lately. When I started this blog I mentioned that I love clothes and fashion. It is something I want to talk about more here and on my Instagram. In LA I strove to channel a kind of LA cool girl vibe while also keeping part of my personal style involved.
UCLA Exploring look:
This is one of my favorite outfits I put together.
You can shop this look here
I’m loving off the shoulder tops and this is definitely my favorite I’ve found because it is thick enough not to show too much and stays up really well. It is from Brandy Melville, which while problematic on the inclusivity front, does have cute basics if you are small. They also have a very LA aesthetic so it seemed like a good choice for wandering around the UCLA Campus.
The necklaces are from my absolute favorite jewelry brand, Stargaze jewelry. They sell lots of great minimalist pieces that are great for layering. They also currently have an under $10 section with a ton of cute picks. I also recommend following them on insta for all your dainty jewelry gazing needs.
The best part though is that I have a discount code to share with you! Use code Paige15 at checkout to get 15% off your purchase!
Shop the look here
This look was a fun beach day pick. The tank is also from Brandy Melville. I also love the hat in this picture, despite the fact that I’m not a Dodgers fan (go Astros!). For me, this seems like a better choice than a souvenir t-shirt. It is super cute, trendy and I know I will wear it again. Plus it helps protect your face from the sun.
Cute + Sun Protection = Win!
The towel is from Sand Cloud. I particularly love them because 10% of their proceeds go to Marine Conservation. My best friend studies Marine Biology so I get tons of lectures on the importance of keeping our oceans clean. Save the fishies guys and check out their insta here.
The necklaces are again from Stargaze Jewelry. Use code Paige15 at checkout for 15% off.
Shop the look here!
In Malibu, we eventually decided to brave the cold waters of the Pacific. I had fun pretending to be a bikini model. The bikini top is from LA Hearts (the name was fitting) and the bottoms are from H&M. Personally, I like to have a steady rotation of black bikini bottoms. They match everything. Usually, I buy from Target or PINK for black bottoms. Plus right now is a good time to try and pick up summer staples for low prices. Sales for the win!
The large horn necklace is the only piece that isn’t from Stargaze Jewelry. It is from Luxe Goddess . Luxe Goddess is an Etsy store that sells cute jewelry and also essential oil roller balls such as Destress, Energize and Deep Sleep. I haven’t gotten to try these yet but I hope I will soon! If you would like to purchase something from them use code Tori25 for 25% off your purchase. I love supporting small businesses! Also you can check out their insta here!
Santa Monica Swimwear:
In Santa Monica, I decided I would get some use out of my infamous red (yes that one) Sun Co swimsuit. After all, it is the Pamela Swimsuit and Baywatch was about the beaches of LA County right? The truth is though this is the first and the last time that I will wear this swimsuit. You will notice that in the pictures under the pier I am wearing a different suit. That is because I immediately changed out of the Sunny Co suit. It is super cute and sexy when you position yourself right. However don’t try to bend over, or sit down. You will flash the whole beach! Honestly, I am just glad I got this suit for free (well $7.95 shipping plus $1 for Alzheimer’s). That is the one redeeming factor of Sunny Co. They donate a dollar of every sale to Alzheimer’s research. As multiple members of my family have had this awful disease I do appreciate this gesture a lot.
After changing in the icky Santa Monica Bathroom we wandered under the pier. I was surrounded by professional bikini and lingerie models doing photo shoots. I felt awkward as I wandered around a bit and tried to look sexy. Unfortunately for us all, I am not a professional bikini model but I do love this swimsuit. It is from last year’s Victoria’s Secret Swim collection. I was so sad when they decided to end their swim line! Luckily we still have PINK swim and they have really cute choices too, including one pieces.
Santa Monica Pier dress:
Shop the look here!
This dress is technically a cover-up and that is how I am wearing it in the picture. Truthfully though it is thick enough to function as a regular dress. Also, it is on sale right now so grab it quick!
Alright, that about sums it up, I had another shirt I wanted to show you but unfortunately I spilled ramen on it before I could take a picture. Typical hahaha! The ramen was worth it though so I’m not even sorry.
Wishing you love and fashionable days,
Today is going to be a simple travel post. I have a lot of deep posts in the pipeline at the moment but I want this blog to be a good mix of tough stuff and fun light posts. As I promised in my first post this blog is definitely not all about cancer! Cancer is a part of my life but so is traveling and eating good food and dressing cute. This is the travel portion of my LA post. Stay tuned and subscribe for LA food and outfit posts.
Where I went:
I arrived in LA a day early, thanks to Hurricane Harvey, so on Saturday morning we got up and walked around the campus of The University of California Los Angeles. UCLA’s campus is beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the sculpture garden and the wonderful nature that is around the campus.
Later that day we set off for Malibu. Where we sat under Nobu Malibu and enjoyed their view while still being poor. Malibu was my favorite beach I visited in LA because it was so peaceful. Things were quiet so you could just enjoy the sounds of the waves and the sea breeze.
The next day we went to a church plant that my friend attends, then spent our afternoon in Santa Monica. I liked the pier, and the beach was nice but it was so crowded. If that is your scene then Santa Monica is for you. If not I suggest driving a few miles north on the Pacific Coast Highways. The pier though is fun and worth visiting.
At the end of the night, we watched the sunset. Despite the hordes of people around us it was impossible not to find yourself filled with a bit of wonder at the beauty of the west coast
When I returned to Santa Monica for a morning surf lesson it was slightly quieter. I enjoyed getting to actually plunge into the cold waters of the Pacific, thanks to the wetsuit. My surf instructor Matthew was excellent and I would highly recommend the Santa Monica Surfing School.
After my Surf lesson, I rented a bike from Perry’s Cafe and Beach Rentals. From my spot in Santa Monica, I biked down to Venice Beach. The ride wasn’t long but it was scenic, and the breeze made for a wonderful experience. If you are going to do this though I recommend sunscreen. I kinda failed on that one and am still paying for it as I type this.
When I got to Venice I stopped a few times to take in the sights. The skate park is like a free show that you can just stop and enjoy for a few minutes.
Venice also had a Snapchat Spectacles store. As a certified basic girl, I had to stop of course. I definitely loved the spectacles but the price tag was a little hefty for me so I sadly had to pass on them.
After my stops in Venice, I biked back to Santa Monica Pier to get a bite to eat then turned in my rental bike and went back to my friend’s apartment for a very needed shower.
The next day I was determined to see some art. I discovered that UCLA’s art museum, The Hammer was within walking distance so I set out unsure of what to expect. When I got there I was pleasantly surprised. The atmosphere of the courtyard was an open aired, peaceful, urban oasis. It also contained the coolest chairs I have ever seen (this video isn’t mine but it shows what I am talking about). The architecture of the building was stunning. Unfortunately, they were setting up several new installations so much of the museum was closed. The permanent collection was open though and was amazing.
After leaving the museum, I decided to walk to the nearby botanical gardens. The Mildred E Mathias Botanical Garden was a nice place to stroll through or to relax out in nature.
After going to the botanical garden my friend and I went to dinner and then I had a 5:20 AM flight to catch the next morning back to Houston.
I tend to favor risk. I like risky sports, risky travels, and risky experience in general. That’s not to say I have a death wish. I keep my risk level at a comfortable spot and alway attempt to be as safe as possible. Let it be said here that I do not condone stupid and reckless decisions. Use common sense please people.
The truth is though, that safety and security are an illusion. You can do everything right in life but eventually, life is gonna get you somehow. I know this a little too well. At 19 I was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer and was lucky enough that it was treatable but my teenage invincibility complex was forever shattered. At 20 my flight to London from Houston experienced severe turbulence. There were a few dark moments when I and all the other passengers that day believed that this might be it. We made an emergency landing in Shannon, Ireland and while 18 people were hospitalized (I wasn’t) we all survived. If you want to read about that one click the link below.
These are only two experiences but at 21 I am starting to feel like a cat. I am burning through my nine lives rather quickly but that’s okay. All I can do and all any of us can do really is live in the now and try to have as much fun and help as many people as we possibly can along the way
So do things that scare you. Life is short, and I want to experience all of it. I want to keep crossing items off my bucket list and continue to add new lines to the bottom of it until my hour glass runs out.
With that in mind, surfing is a sport I’ve always wanted to try. My parents, however, were not a fan of this activity and so I decided to rely on the age old wisdom, tis better to ask forgiveness than permission. I signed up for a surf lesson with a local instructor named Matthew at the Santa Monica surf school, got an Uber and headed there to meet him.
I’ve never been surfing before but I assumed it would be difficult. It certainly was but my instructor was so nice and encouraging. He taught us the fundamentals on the beach then we paddled out to catch some waves.
Surfing, like many sports, is a great (even if cliched) metaphor for life. If you are like me, you fall over and over again. You get beat up by the waves that keep coming at you whether you’re ready or not. You have to fight to control your body and face the onslaught. To be successful you have to work with the onslaught. You fall over and over again but have to keep pushing yourself to try again. You feel exhausted and beaten by the powerful forces beyond your control. You feel humbled as you realize your insignificance in the vastness of the ocean and of life. Eventually, you have to take a break and allow yourself to rest so you can go on to surf another wave tomorrow.
It was a positive experience that still managed to remind me of the tough stuff. There was a lot of times I wanted to quit. I am really small and the waves in Santa Monica were big and tough. My limited strength seemed to fail quickly. I was glad I did it though. I want to continue to challenge myself and grow with new experiences. Surfing is one I can say I’ve done now. I am sunburned and know I am going to be sore as can be tomorrow but that’s okay. I did something tough, active, and fun. Despite my lack of talent for the activity I still feel a sense of pride for going for it.
Whatever it is that you’ve always wanted to do but felt scared to or made excused about the inconvenience I would encourage you to go for it. Do it tomorrow if possible. If not make plans. Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your dreams.
Encouraging you to take the risk with love,
(Sorry about the hashtags. I am learning how to use Instagram stories and forgot to save before I added text)
Here are my reflections on Harvey over the past few days. They are a bit scatterbrained but hopefully you can follow my thoughts. I am lucky that my family and our home were safe during the hurricane. So many weren’t as lucky as us.
As Harvey was coming in, I was fortunate to be going out. I felt glad in a way, that I was outsmarting the hurricane, although typing that statement now makes me feel disgusted with myself. It wasn’t really until I got to LA that the real magnitude of what was happening hit me. You can hear predictions and statistics all day long but the ugly truth is, there is nothing like seeing something in action.
See Harvey, I and the world did.
My social media, usually filled with puppies and fashion on Instagram, and politics and cat videos on Facebook, was inundated with videos showing devastation around my city. The rain came pouring down, and there was nothing any of us could do to stop it. All we could do was watch in horror, as streets and homes filled with water. I watched as families and their pets were rescued by boats from their houses, they believed would always keep them safe and dry.
There I sat dry and 1373 miles away, watching catastrophe unfold at home, as the city around me operated business as usual.
In LA I found myself in a bizarre world where simply saying “I’m from Houston” suddenly received responses not dissimilar to the ones I get when I say “I had cancer”. No one ever wants their hometown to be the subject of pity and awkward silences. Suddenly home became a headline, synonymous with utter devastation. I never thought I’d miss the days of people asking me if I rode a horse to school. Now all the Texas stereotypes seem welcome.
It’s frustrating because, I want people to know Houston for it’s achievements not Hurricane Harvey. I want them to see a city that produces energy for the world and has the world’s largest Medical center. The 4th largest city in the US, has been reduced to dirty water and people canoeing down interstates, as the eyes of the nation and the world gaze upon us. It’s a very odd feeling.
Flying in this morning a sense of relief washed over me.The rest of the people on UA 2027 from LAX to IAH seemed to share the feeling. It was nice to be home, even if the landscape of that home is forever altered.
Viewing the remains of Harvey from the air was a unique and sobering perspective.
From the window seat (my favorite) I had a front row seat. I’ve always appreciated the way that rivers shine on a sunny day as you fly overhead. The sunlight glistening off the water creates a fleeting sparkle that almost feels private, as you know that few will have the chance to see this view. Today though the sparkling of the water shined not just in the designated lakes and rivers but in entire forests it had swallowed. The water was mercifully receding but on certain streets and in many backyards it was still showing its circumstantially insidious light reflection. Harvey, like many disasters in our lives, has a way twisting beautiful positive things into darkness and misery.
After take off this morning, I also felt relieved that I could finally get involved in a more tangible way. Sitting in Malibu on the beach was amazing but my heart was hurting for those dealing with catastrophe back home. Now I feel like I can at least do something, rather than watching helplessly a thousand miles away. As I type this I am currently sitting in my church office, fielding calls of both evacuees and potential volunteers. It is only the start of a long road though for this city and I intend to help in anyway I can.
I take comfort though in knowing that Houston will rise again, better and stronger than ever before. The acts of generosity and sacrifice that this storm have brought are the things I hope will be remembered when we look back upon the history of this great city. I also hope they will be remembered when we see our neighbors. I hope that when inevitable trials and disagreements come we will look back to this time of pure love and community. For it is love that will fix Houston and heal the hearts broken by this devastating storm.
With Love and Texas Forever,