New Project: #HomeGrownStories

I have a new and exciting project to announce! In partnership with the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, I am working on #HomeGrownStories. Inspired partly by Humans of New York (@HumansofNY), #HomeGrownStories will feature images and stories of the people of Miami County. Folks who live here, work here and visit, people who just love Miami County.

This is a project that feels like a really good fit for me. I’ve been trying to share why my community and home state is amazing with my blog and on social media, but lately it’s felt like something was missing. I wasn’t connecting with the people in my community who already know how awesome Ohio is.

That’s what I will be able to do with #HomeGrownStories. I will be going out to meet business owners, residents, and visitors who love Miami County and interviewing them. I have a couple interviews under my belt and already I can tell that this project is going to be amazing. There are so many interesting stories in my home county!

To follow along on this project, be sure to follow the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau on social media. You can also check out the initial blog post about the project on the MCVCB blog and my first interview with Mainstreet Piqua Director, Lorna Swisher.

I hope you enjoy these small glimpses into the lives of the people who make Miami County such a wonderful place to live!

Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

BlogThis Will Be Our Story. #HomeGrownStories

#HomeGrownStories – Lorna Swisher

Share + Give – National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

This month’s Share + Give post is going to get just a tiny bit political, which I said I wouldn’t do in my introduction post, but I hope you will let it slide. The political climate of the past year has been weighing on me. The 2016 election and the current administration have left me feeling hopeless, worried and to be completely frank, depressed. I am worried about my friends and people in my community who are not white or Christian. I did not see or feel any love for black, brown, LQBTQ, non-Christian, not native-born and low-income people in this past election. Every time I turn on the radio or watch an episode of shows I usually enjoy, I feel the weight of this worry, pressing down on me. This election was not about love or kindness and it breaks my heart.

For the time being, I’m on a news cleanse no NPR, no Daily Show, no Samantha Bee, no John Oliver. I have stopped notifications for all of the political groups I belong to on Facebook. My husband and I don’t talk politics right now. I’ve been “news-free” or as much as I can be, for a week and a half now. I’m honestly surprised by how lighter I feel. I also feel guilty, I feel like I should be calling my representatives every day and keeping up on the news. But I know that I can’t help anyone if I’m too depressed to do take care of myself.

I want everyone to be happy, feel loved and safe in their home and community. No matter what your political beliefs are, I feel that is something we can all agree on. While I am not currently engaging in politics, I am working to make a difference, small as it may be, in my community. One of those ways is this project, Share + Give.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Photo by Farshid Assassi/ Assassi Productions

For the month of February, I have chosen to donate to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati or NURFC for short. NURFC seems like an obvious choice since February is Black History month, but I also chose NURFC because it gives me hope right now.

Not only does NURFC center educate its visitors about the history of the Underground Railroad and African American history, it also focuses on the efforts of Modern Abolition. Yes, the Modern Abolition, as in efforts to end slavery that is currently happening. Slavery didn’t completely end with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. NURFC estimates that there are approximately 27 million people currently enslaved around the world. The center hopes to educate, inspire and encourage ordinary people to take actions every day to end slavery. The heroes that they highlight are ordinary people who have worked with others to do extraordinary things.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was opened in Cincinnati, right on the bank of the Ohio River, in 2004. Over 100,000 people visit this museum every year to learn the history of the Underground Railroad and about the modern freedom heroes who work to end slavery and human trafficking today. The center serves to create a dialogue on freedom and human rights. The mission of NURFC is to share stories about freedom heroes, from the time of the Underground Railroad to today.

Everyday Freedom Heroes, Photo by Farshid Assassi/ Assassi Productions

I find the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center inspiring, especially now when I have been feeling discouraged. This quote by Bill Clinton, from the video about NURFC above, seems particularly relevant today.

We never struggle to be free so that we can be divided. We struggle to be free because equality was required for us to be one out of many. That is now the challenge that faces us in an interdependent world. It is the most important thing of all. More important than any specific position on climate change or terror or anything else is whether we are capable of living with the absolute conviction that as wonderful as our differences are, our common humanity matters more.
– Bill Clinton, 2007 International Freedom Conductor

I love that line – “… whether we are capable of living with the absolute conviction that as wonderful as our differences are, our common humanity matters more.” I’ll say it again, OUR COMMON HUMANITY MATTERS MORE. This is my new mantra.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center gives me hope and reminds me that there is a lot of love in the world, even when I don’t see it on the news or hear about it on the radio. My small donation will help NURFC continue their work, using the lessons of the Underground Railroad to teach, encourage and inspire the modern fight for freedom.

Donate Here

The following six people inspire me to be a better person, some of them on a daily basis (thank you, Facebook!). They also serve as a reminder of how many wonderful and caring people there are in the world.

They also serve as a reminder of how many wonderful and caring people there are in the world.

I am making my donation in honor of:

  • Monica – a friend from my library days, Monica constantly reminds me on FB to be kind. Just today she posted a picture that said “Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people” a quote from Karen Salmansohn. With the picture, Monica wrote, “I don’t always get this right, but I strive to do it when I’m able.”
  • Regina – my hairstylist when I lived in Columbus, Regina makes me laugh on a daily basis with her snarky political posts and inspires me with her fantastic yoga poses.
  • Antuan – a friend from my library days, Antuan made me feel so welcomed when I came to work with him at a different library branch in Cincinnati. I am grateful that FB has allowed us to keep in touch!
  • Jamie – I know Jamie from my Columbus days when I was a member of the Emerging Museum Professionals group. She shares my love of social media and is so bright and positive! She works at NURFC and I think of her as a role model for my own work.
  • Nate – Nate owned a coffee shop, called Perks, that I used to frequent when I was at Ohio U. He hosted my very first photography show in Perks. I’m grateful for that first solo art show, but I’m more grateful to be able to read what Nate writes on FB. He writes so elegantly about his family, life in Athens, spirituality and what it means to be loving and accepting of others.
  • Tim – Tim is a fellow coffee professional and writer whom I met through a coffee event last year. Since becoming friends online I’ve come to know Tim as a very kind and compassionate person who is so open-minded and willing to really talk to (and listen) people whom he does not agree with.

Happy Share + Give 2017!

If you feel like sharing the love by sharing this post on your social channels and/or by giving to National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in honor of a friend or family member, please use the following hashtags in your post! You don’t have to donate to share the love, just re-tweet or share on FB or regram on Instagram! Let’s see how far we can Share + Give!

#cincyusa #mynurfc #revealstories #inclusivefreedom #blackhistorymonth

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

A panic attack can come after a really stressful day or series of days or it can come at the end of a really good day. Whenever I have a panic attack I’m blindsided. They arrive unannounced, unwelcome and wholly unexpected. My panic attacks often start as nausea, I occasionally have bouts of nausea and have a really sensitive stomach, so nausea is not rare for me. Other times a panic attack starts out as some mild heartburn (also not unusual for me).

After a while, nausea or heartburn gives way to dread. This slowly rising feeling that something horrible is about to happen and I’m the only one who knows… the only person anticipating catastrophe. This is usually when I realize that this isn’t indigestion and take a medication my doctor has given me for panic attacks. It takes about 30-60 minutes to kick in, so I still have to sit with the panic attack.

The most painful symptom of my panic attacks is the pressure. Pressure on my chest like my heart and lungs are stuck in a vice. I’ve read other sufferers of panic disorder describe their attacks as feeling like someone is sitting on their chest, I would compare my pain to a hand or several hands squeezing the organs in my chest from within. It’s hard to breathe during these attacks and it feels like my thorax has narrowed and only has space for small sips of air.

My throat feels constricted and tight. I usually have a sore throat and chest the day following a bad panic attack. My throat feels rigid and for some reason, my mouth and throat fill with mucus. Thick, clear mucus that I choke and cough on as I try to expel everything blocking my airways. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.

During a panic attack, I am often mostly immobilized. I have a hard time breathing but my thoughts are racing. My inner dialogue is a jumbled mass of panicked hypochondriac who knows just enough about the human body to make a fuss. What? WHAT? What!?!!? What is happening? Is this a panic attack? Am I REALLY SURE THAT’S WHAT THIS IS??!?! It’s probably a heart attack. Do I have asthma? I CAN’T BREATHE!

My amazing, patient husband usually sits with me during these attacks, reassuring me that I am not having a heart attack and reminding me to breathe. Sometimes he counts for me while I inhale 1… 2… 3… and exhale 1… 2… 3…. Other times he sits with me and strokes my hair. During really bad attacks he calls my mom and together they convince me that I am not dying.

Eventually, the drugs kick in. They help me relax and make my thoughts slow down. I still feel like my throat is too narrow to breathe but it doesn’t make me panic as much as I get sleepy. Things get foggy and I usually fall asleep and stay asleep for a good eight hours. If I do wake in the night, usually to go to the bathroom, my limbs are heavy and I struggle to keep upright and find my way to the toilet.

When I wake up in the morning following a panic attack (luckily I usually have attacks in the late afternoon or evening and am able to sleep after taking my meds), I am usually sore. My chest feels like someone stomped on it and my throat feels like I spent the night screaming (unfortunately for my patient husband I do spend most of the night snoring post-panic attack). I will feel on edge for a few days following a panic attack. Sometimes I have another attack within a few days. Usually, thankfully, I don’t.

The only time I can anticipate a panic attack is when I’m getting ready to fly. Airports and airplanes make me uncomfortable at best and prior to last year I hadn’t flown anywhere since 2008. Last year I went on three separate trips by plane and even with all of that extra practice I spent hours leading up to the last return trip home in a frantic, panicked state. About 30-60 minutes before a flight, I take my medication. This allows me to sleep through a flight. If I don’t take my medication, I spend the flight frozen, silently crying and fully expecting the plane to go down.

I’m not in any way glad that I experience panic attacks, but I am grateful that I have medication, breathing exercises and family support to help me deal with them. They are thoroughly horrible to experience, but thankfully they are the shortest lived of all the unpleasantries my mood disorders cause.

Make It Ok – Writing About Mental Illness

One of my goals for 2017 is to write more and to write more honestly. Something that I have struggled with since my late teens is depression and anxiety. It’s something I don’t often talk about but I am trying to be more open about. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about (I’m writing that for you, my readers, and to remind myself).

Mental illness has touched my life in many ways. I’ve lost two close friends to suicide and depression and anxiety run in my family.

Having an illness with no visible cause or physical symptoms is frustrating. I had my first panic attack when I was 19 and have struggled with anxiety and depression since my late teens. I wasn’t diagnosed with mild OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) until my late twenties (mostly because I have obsessive thoughts not accompanied by compulsions).

One of the ways to combat the negative stigma surrounding depression is to talk about it. I’ve been listening to The Hilarious World of Depression podcast from American Public Media. The podcast is made possible by HealthPartners and its Make It OK campaign, which works to reduce the stigma of mental health. To do my part I’m going to keep listening to this podcast and I’m going to start writing and talking more about my own mental health. I know that I’m not alone, 1 in 5 adults in the US experience mental illness in a given year. I want you to know that you’re not alone either.

My first mental health related post is about panic attacks, something I’ve been dealing with on and off for the past 10 years.

I will continue to talk and write about mental illness this year; I want you to know that even though depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are isolating, you are not alone.