Out of the Darkness: Join me in Spreading Awareness for Mental Health

A 26-year-old man paces a hallway, tapping one, two, three times on the door. He turns around. Taps one, two, three times again. He cannot enter his office until he taps away his tension.

A 14-year-old girl, drowning in her anxiety and restlessness, glides a safety pin over the tender skin of her wrist until beads of blood well up, like miniature rubies. Her parents are ashamed so won’t take her in for help until they find her in a bathtub, her pulse weakening. She survived.

A 42-year-old woman has bourbon for breakfast. Her coworkers are concerned because her teeth are decaying and she seems unkempt and rattled. She lost her driver’s license and spends all of her money on alcohol. Drinking is the only thing she does anymore, and she can’t even figure out why.

A 65-year-old woman loses her job, and with it, her access to health insurance. She is forced to stop taking her anti-depressants, and she won’t get out of bed. Her kids call and call and bang on the door, but she won’t even get up to let them in.

A 25-year-old woman has night terrors, seeing her molesters hands reach for her in her dreams. She can’t sleep, so she drags herself through the day, haunted by panic and regret.

A 30-year-old woman feels faint and flush in meetings. She gasps for air. She forces herself to sit through the meeting so she seems “normal”, even though she’s breathing herself through a massive panic attack and feels like she might pass out.

A 19-year-old boy hears voices in his room. He won’t open the refrigerator door or eat any food from his home, because in his mind, he is convinced he is being poisoned. Weight slides off of him and people tell him how good he looks, not aware that he is starving from the treachery of his own mind.


I know all of these people. All of these situations have happened. All of them are people I know, people with names, people you might pass in a grocery store and never think anything of. They’re my coworkers, my neighbors, my friend’s parents, my friend’s kids, that lady from church. They’re me, and you, and all of us, because today, one in 5 adults suffers from a diagnosed mental illness. I’ve written about my struggles with panic disorder before, and it took me a long time and a lot of courage to share my story with the Internet. My in-laws read my blog. My coworkers. My boss. My neighbors. It was hard to share the story, but I can do hard things and so can you, and if writing about my anxiety helps just one person feel less alone, it’s worth every single word.

My friend AJ and I have decided to use our collective social media influence to help light a candle for all of the people in our lives who have been affected by suicide. On Saturday, September 15, AJ and I will meet in Santa Monica at 7:45 a.m. and walk in memory of the 117 Americans who take their life every day. We walk because every 12 minutes in the United States, someone ends their life. We walk because in 2014, there were 42,773 suicides. We walk because depression affects over 25 million people in America every year, including myself, when my anxiety is untreated.

We walk for the people in our lives who are no longer here because they couldn’t take the pain, or didn’t know who or how to ask for help. I walk for PJ and Josh and Nicole and Dylan and Erin. I walk because in one year, my senior year of high school, I lost three friends to suicide in the span of one month. I remember seeing one of them the night before he turned on his parents car and sat in the garage with the windows closed. We had played Uno. He was smiling. He was himself. I would have never guessed that anything was wrong. And that is why I will walk. Because today, it’s still taboo to say you’re depressed, or anxious, or suffering from anything “in your head”. We ask, “How are you?”, as a form of courtesy, but we don’t want to hear anything other than “good”, because it makes us uncomfortable. We need to stop pushing away the discomfort, and instead, start helping. Be the light in someone’s life. Be the friend who will reply to your friend’s texts, the one who can’t sleep, the one who needs to know it’s ok to not be ok. Be the friend, but also be the encourager. Encourage them to look past stigma, to take medication if they need it, to exercise, to meditate, to eat well, to sleep. Encourage them to seek help. Encourage them to find a therapist, or a counselor, or a doctor. Even the best of a friend cannot solve a true mental illness that requires professional treatment.

I need your help, and your fellow Americans need your help. It’s not just one in five of us who needs help: it’s all five of us, and here’s why. Even if you’re not the “one” afflicted by mental illness, you will be affected because it’s your family, your friend, your child, your neighbor. Suicide makes a lasting and tragic impact on a family. How can you help? You can make a $25 donation today. $25 makes a huge difference in somebody’s life: for example, $25 could be the price of a life-saving prescription medication. Please donate today! If I raise $150 by October 15th, I will earn a t-shirt that I will proudly wear in honor of my struggle with anxiety, and in memory of my beloved friends.

If you are local, will you join me in walking about three miles on Saturday, October 15? We’ll be walking along the beautiful Santa Monica boardwalk and coast, and together, we will breathe in the sea air, share our stories, and remember why life is inherently good, even among the bad times; because we have each other. Please, help me make a difference in saving lives today.








Monthly Weigh In Results

Hi everybody, sorry it’s been kind of quiet around here! September is for some reason ALWAYS nutty for me with work and life stuff and I end up choosing sleep over the DCD. (BLASPHEMY! But you know, there’s all that research that sleep helps with obesity so really, I’m just being proactive about weight loss… riiiight.)

This Friday was a pretty big deal for me, because it was a four week check in after starting the low dose of Synthroid to jumpstart my thyroid, and going back on Metformin, to help with the insulin-resistance from PCOS. I had MAJOR anxiety about stepping on the scale. It was a stressful week at work, and the night before the appointment, I found myself hedging to my husband, rationalizing that I should cancel because my blood pressure would be high from stress. As if that’s a good reason, right? Thankfully, he helped me see the light, as he so often does, and I bit my tongue and told myself I just needed to face the music and wear my big girl panties. It wasn’t even necessarily that I rationally thought I would gain; in fact, I knew my eating and exercise habits were enough to contribute to a loss. However, my body has played me before and I was so afraid all the effort would do what it usually does; backfire and send me into a constant state of “Why bother?”

I went to the doctor first thing in the morning and requested that I be weighed after I got my blood pressure taken. I warned the nurse that my BP would be high, I was nervous, after all. Blood pressure was fine, but my pulse was definitely all over the place and jumpy, a sure sign that I reaaaally was dreading stepping on that scale. It’s kind of pathetic that a weigh-in makes me feel like I need a cocktail. “Why are you so nervous?” the nurse asked, and I replied, “Because last time I stepped on that thing I left crying.” The nurse took pity on my ridiculous fears and laughed, and with a deep breath, I faced the music and stood on the scale, holding my breath as if that very action would magically suck 10-15 pounds away. As I stepped off, the nurse motioned for me to go into the room, withholding the information. “OHHH NOOOOO,” I thought, I must have gained. Because I’m nosy and I needed to know after enduring such torture, I asked, “What is it?” When she told me the numbers I did a mental recalculation, jumped for joy, and then confirmed that I was DOWN SIX POUNDS!

Six pounds is a lot for me. Six pounds is the size of a small, full-term baby. Six pounds is the size of several delicious spaghetti squash. Six pounds is two three-pound weights, a heck of a lot of hamburger meat, and more than half a sack of russet potatoes. I was so excited that I snapped this pic and immediately posted it on instagram, and as my pal Alyssa A. said, you can tell how happy I am. RESULTS. It is wonderful to see RESULTS from your hard work.

Six pounds success!

Six pounds success!

I think there are several things contributing to this success this month: 1) eating a low carb diet, averaging 100-120 carbohydrate grams per day, 2) the addition of synthroid and metformin 3) not weighing myself for a whole month, thus defeating the “Well, I’ve gained so I might as well eat” cycle, 4) Being crazy busy (not ideal as I’m not eating as often as I should be) and 5) Exercising and being active.

I plan to keep up four out of five of those habits. I’ll happily tone down number four, because self-care is important when you’re busy and stressed, so I need to focus on eating right, sleeping well and exercising. In fact, I think I’ll go take a walk, right now. So there you have it. A month after not stepping on the scale, I faced a fear and found a fantastic, positive, optimistic result. At the very best I was hoping to see two pounds lost, and my expectations were tripled. Thank you body. Thank you self. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (And thank YOU for reading.)

Can you relate to ever having crazy anxiety about something as simple as stepping on a scale? What is or was it?



Fat Girl Fear Debunked: Kayaking When You’re Overweight

Hello everybody! I’m on my last day in Oregon, and WOW, I needed this vacation! We’ve been super active, hiking, kayaking and biking, but it’s the type of activity where you go at a leisurely pace and ooh and ahh at the scenery, so it doesn’t feel like work. Our second day in Oregon, we decided to go kayaking! I think I had been kayaking once before, but quickly deemed it too hard when my spaghetti-noodle arms failed to get me around fast enough. I was also 17 years old and had that “I hate everything” attitude, so even if kayaking was the coolest thing on Earth, I’d still have rather been in Hot Topic. Thank God that phase of my life is over! The in-laws have two awesome Hobie Pedal / Paddle kayaks, which mean you have the choice of either pedaling with your feet or paddling with the oar.


The whole way to the lake I was plagued the “What if I don’t fit?” in the kayak type thoughts. I imagined climbing in and my round behind plopping down, only to be stuck like a blueberry in a straw, having to stand up and having the whole kayak stick to my rump. In addition to that lovely thought, I was afraid as soon as I sat in it, it would sink down, filling with water and bringing my humility down with it. As soon as we got the kayaks off the car and onto the sandy shore, I had that type of “Well, here we go” type of moment where I decided if my roundness interfered with my kayaking, all I could is laugh it off and know that every day I make efforts to change the shape my body is in. THANKFULLY, I sat in the kayak and 1) my ass fit in the seat just fine and 2) I didn’t sink!. In fact, you could feel that the kayak wasn’t going anywhere except where I directed it. WHEW.

lyssa_kayakOnce I got over those ridiculous fat girl fears, I was able to have FUN – and boy did I have fun! Paddling was a great arm workout, as the resistance of the water got those biceps and triceps movin’, and I’d challenge myself to skim across the water by pedaling like my feet were on fire. The kayak was actually really comfortable, and a little seat even kept my lower back supported as I glided around Lake Suttle. Matt and I were admittedly kayaking pretty leisurely, but after a couple hours, I had burned 500 calories – a great workout! I wish that I could exercise in such an unconventional and gorgeous setting every day! It made me even more excited for the upcoming Fitcation, where I’ll be kayaking Morro Bay. Soooo cool.


Is there any type of exercise or activity that you’ve ever been anxious about because of your weight, size or physical ability? Have you conquered it or is fear keeping you on the sidelines? Dish it — talking it out will help you move on. Have an amazing day! <3

Busy busy bee

Have you guys heard Rimsky Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee?” Take a listen from these fine fellows of Canadian Brass:

I feel like this piece is the musical accompaniment to my life the past three weeks. As you know, I’m in the final stages of finishing my master’s degree, a three-year long process that’s caused me a lot of grief. When you write a thesis, you go through millions of revisions, up to the point that you “defend”, which means you basically defend your completed work in front of a small group people and respond back to the comments and constructive criticism your graduate committee might have. At this point they can either sign a piece of paper granting you approval, and you graduate, or they can say they need more changes before they sign it and hopefully you’ll graduate, or they can say “You’re SOL”. I’ve been making changes left and right, and I’m really hoping on Thursday when I defend that I’ll have minimal changes to make before I get the all-clear to graduate. It’s been crazy… and I’m ready to get my life back to the still very busy but totally doable routine of work, blog, fitness, relationships, friends and maybe, just maybe, house-hunting. (PS big shout out to April for being so awesome and picking up my blogging slack! You go, girl!)

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been stressed. My desire to stress-eat has been intense. After one particularly rough day last week when I got the first set of revisions and 10 e-mails stared me down with lists of things I had to immediately change, my first instinct was to make popcorn and crunch away my anxiety. But I didn’t – I took a quick walk around the block, came back, had a mango, and settled down to get to it.

Yes, I still ate out of stress, but it was a small mango – much less damaging than a bowl of calorie-laden salty crunchy popcorn. (PS – My latest passionate fruit love affair is definitely Mango. I just took our relationship to the next level by buying the giant jumbo pack from Costco!) I’m still making time to fit in exercise, and tonight, I met with a friend (Hi Suz!) for a long leisurely walk. I’m trying to view exercise as less of an item on my to-do list and more of as a natural stress relief. I know those endorphins will mellow me out, because my body’s been in a particularly flighty panic mode as I imagine not graduating and being sentenced to what feels like the rest of my life in grad school. But that’s just anxiety – anxiety I can work through by getting good nights of sleep, eating well, and fitting in exercise when I can. It’s weeks like this that remind me even if the scale isn’t showing what I want, I’ve made huge changes in my life when it comes to food and fitness.The old Alyssa would have no problem eating popcorn when stressed, nor would she hesitate to blow off all forms of fitness just because it was one more thing to do. But Alyssa 2.0 knows that living a healthy life means not just losing weight, but managing stress, too.

Have you been stressed out this week? How are you managing it?

My Monthly Weigh In Update

Good Morning! So this morning (it’s currently Saturday), I woke up for the first time in my life, eager to get on the scale. I knew that my five workouts per week were helping, as I can now run a mile without dying, my jeans feel looser, I’m starting to get the “You’ve lost weight!” comments, and in general, I am feeling fitter, happier and more energetic. The scale would be good. It had to be.

I stepped on the scale when I rolled out of bed, before I ate anything or put anything on. The number shocked me. This has to be wrong, I thought, stepping back, rubbing my eyes, thinking I must still be in a daze. I stepped on again. The number was there again… glaring at me – the highest number I’ve ever seen in my life. This can’t be, I thought, anger growing inside me. Thankfully, in a moment of divine intervention, I remembered to take my measurements. I wrapped the pink tape around me in disbelief, not understanding how all this WORK could lead to gain. WEIGHT GAIN, that is. The measuring tape showed a different story. I lost an inch off my bust. An inch off my thighs. An inch off my forearm. An inch off my butt. An inch off my arm. THREE inches off my waist. A total of eight inches lost – surely, the proof of at least four hours of cardio per week in addition to strength training.

Thankfully, I had a therapy appointment. I haven’t been completely open about this on the blog because of the stigma that goes along with saying you’re seeing a therapist. I’m not crazy, and I’m fine – I just wanted to work on my stress management and anxiety, and I can tell you that lately I’m feeling better than ever. If you need help, get it. It’s not a big deal. We all need a little help sometimes. Anyways, we spent my session today talking about my WEIGHT. How all my life, it’s the one thing I feel like I cannot overcome. How I try so hard, and it feels like nothing changes. How this defeat makes me want to say f*ck it all, and eat 15 bags of movie theatre popcorn, to roll in dulce de leche, to be like “I’m fat and that’s the way I always will be.” But we talked about why a number means so much to me. How things like my horrendous allergies make me retain water. How I’m pre-menstrual. How I had a salty meal last night. How all of these things drastically affect a number – and how can I let a number RUIN MY DAY when I see results in so many other ways?

We talked about my food choices the past two weeks. I realized I haven’t had “perfection”. I have treated myself – because I had a major life accomplishment. I turned in 20,000 words of my own creation. My thesis, a project I’ve been working on for three years. I will graduate in May – a 28 year old with a Master’s degree. I am so PROUD of myself. I celebrated with a cheeseburger, and cupcakes. I sipped a frothy cold lambic on a hot summer day. I had a slice of pizza for lunch. My celebrations were all food, and that’s a behavior I can change, but we also talked about forgiveness. I need to forgive myself for not eating perfectly. I need to not beat myself up because of the scale. I need to be my friend. I am trying. I am working. I am going to make this happen.

I believe in myself. I will be journaling my food for the next few weeks, continuing to work out, and drinking more water. I will weigh in ONCE A WEEK, and that’s it. I will continue to take measurements. I will do this. I will do this. I can do this.

Whew – that was a heavy post. Bet you didn’t expect that, did you?! Tell me something that challenged you this weekend. You overcame it – I know you did – and if you haven’t, I know you can. We can do this! As always, thank you for reading my blog. It means a lot to me to know I’m not alone on this journey 🙂



My Fitness Evaluation

So remember how I blogged about my upcoming fitness evaluation? The few days before, I was legit nervous. Like, “ERMAHGERD I’M GONNA HAVE TO FACE THE FACT THAT I’M GROSSLY OUT OF SHAPE.”. Even though I already knew that, there was some sort of like… impact of being told it by a fitness professional. (I’m sure to some extent that will happen at Fitbloggin’ anyways,  but still – YAY! Only 2 more days!)

So, I was being my usual self, day dreaming about maybe I should re-schedule it, because you know, I was flying to San Francisco for work Monday morning, and I really had a lot to do over the weekend… or maybe I should wait a couple days so my bloating goes away… I’m the mayor of excuses village. But, every time I came up with one of these crazy excuses, I reminded myself that denial aint just a river in Egypt, and I needed to just face my fear and do it. So I was all set. I went to my Fitness Evaluation the next day. Right?

I saw Fiona Apple on Friday night (she was fantastic! I love her because she’s a total koo-koo-roo and did push ups against her piano randomly and sang like a female Tom Waits). I wasn’t feeling great, but I figured it was my allergies acting up. I got home, popped an allergy pill, and got into bed where I had the dizzy spins, kind of like that time in highschool I decided it would be a good idea to mix a cup of goldschlager with chocolate milk. (Good idea? Worst idea ever.) I fell asleep, woke up at 2:30 AM with the chills, ran to the bathroom – and my body purged every single little thing I had ingested in the last 24 hours.

I’m not going to get into details, but let’s just say it was NOT pretty, and I spent the remainder of the night sleeping next to an industrial sized bucket. The next day I woke up kind of shaky and run down, but thankfully, barf-free. I decided to reschedule my fitness evaluation. Don’t worry – I’m going to do it as soon as I get home from working on site this week and Baltimore. I just thought it was ironic that my brain was so intent on finding a way to put it off that I got food poisoning. HOWEVER, I’m not owning up to this one, because there’s no way in hell I’d pick food poisoning over a fitness evaluation. Body, you got pwned.

Have your best laid plans ever been foiled by the evil, evil food poisoning? What was the culprit? (I’m blaming a vanilla cupcake from Aroma Cafe. It was good but I could tell it wasn’t super fresh. Of course I ate it anyways. Sigh.)