I always considered myself a happy person, and couldn’t imagine that would ever change.
I’ve been blessed with a happy family, a lot of friends, a good job, and a healthy marriage. Like most people, I have my share of daily stressors, and I always felt capable of handling them.
But four years ago, everything changed.
My husband got laid off from his well-paying job. That was a heavy blow, since we live in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive cities in North America.
Two months later, our life was further upended when our oldest son suddenly experienced a life-threatening illness that kept him in the Intensive Care Unit for 6 days. For the first few days, I was in terror that he would die, or suffer from brain damage. (Thank goodness, he survived without any complications).
Two days after our older son came home from the hospital, our younger son swallowed a marble and was on the verge of choking before he finally swallowed it. He is on the autism spectrum, and the chaos surrounding his brother’s illness was too much for him, and he started acting up at school and at home.
The next year was filled with medical appointments – therapy visits for myself and my younger son, and countless specialist visits for my older son. The bills started piling up. Even with my generous employer-sponsored health insurance, we racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills.
All of this was too much for me.
I found myself coming home from work, giving the kids a snack, and then going to bed for a while, as my husband made dinner and took care of all of us.
Instead of my usual teeny glass of wine at night, I found myself having a LARGE glass. Just one, but more than I usually allowed myself.
I had always been a super-organized person, but bills started getting lost or going unpaid. Papers started stacking up. Thank you notes were written but not sent. Important dates were forgotten. The house started getting messier. I suffered from insomnia and teeth-clenching at night, and high levels of anxiety during the day.
About 18 months into this state of being, I started to feel more like “myself” again. It was like I was awakening from a dream.
I did some research online and found out I’d been suffering from brain fog, a not uncommon reaction to chronic stress and sleep deprivation.
I’d been operating in “survival” mode for a while, and I really wanted to go back to my “normal”, i.e., happy state. So I read books and articles on happiness, and started forcing myself to make some changes, so I could jump-start “me” again.
I started saying “No” to demands on my time, and I started spending even more time with my close circle of friends. I spent less time with people who were overly negative and I decreased my exposure to the news, as I needed to protect my mental health for my own sake, as well as my family’s.
I started exercising and eating better, and signed my older son and I up for a thrilling Boy Scout trek to the Atchafalaya Swamp Base. We canoed over 62 miles through the swamps and swam in alligator-infested waters. Going somewhere new and doing active things shook the cobwebs out of my head and helped me see that I could experience real joy again.
In the meantime, I let my hair go gray after 25 years of dyeing. I was tired of the constant upkeep, the expense, and worried about the chemicals I was pouring onto my scalp every 3-4 weeks.
I decided to chronicle my gray hair journey on Instagram, YouTube and a blog. I spent countless hours learning to blog and make videos, and to my surprise and delight, I gained a number of fans very quickly! Through my blog, I discovered a whole community of supportive, amazing online friends in the vibrant gray hair community.
It has been almost a year since I started my blog, and I have never felt as creatively fulfilled as I do right now. Blogging incorporates all of my favorite things: community outreach, learning, photography, and writing. My husband and sons have been so supportive, and my friends and family are thrilled! And I’ve even started making an income from it. I couldn’t be happier.