Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Microblading- The Gift That Keeps on Giving.

Getting ready for my microblading appointment

 Six weeks ago,  I did something that was life-changing for me in the beauty department- I took the plunge and got microbladed! It was something I had been thinking about for a while and dove deep into researching the technique- from how it's done to how much pain to expect (I have a very low tolerance for pain). More importantly, I needed to do my research and find the best aesthetician that was fit for the job. I mean, this is my face we're talking about! While there are many amazing and talented technicians, not all are qualified to do microblading. Before I get to how I chose mine, I want to share why I wanted to get microblading done in the first place. 

Because such is the beauty of aging and time, your eyebrow hair can start to thin and/or fall off, and hair growth becomes stagnant, especially when the follicles are dead and there's no hair growth. No two eyebrows are exactly the same- they'll differ in size, thickness and even rate of growth. My left eyebrow is fuller, thicker, and slightly longer than my left. It even has a defined arch that's easy to spot! My right eyebrow is a little bit thinner but still full; but, I started to notice these gaps in certain areas, and no matter how long I was letting my brows grow, hair was just not growing in. This year, I actually started filling in my brows because of these gaps, but really I just wanted to wear my natural, full brows the way that God intended, or at least how Brooke Shields would. That's where microblading comes in. 

Taking the 'before' photos with Kitty.

So in a nutshell, what is microblading? Yes, there's a tattoo element to it- more like semi-permanent tattoo.  Hairlike strokes are created to fill in those gaps to create the illusion of real hair and to also create a more defined and fuller brow that is proportioned to your face using these strokes. The whole process takes about an hour and a half. I'll go into more details on the actual process in just a bit, but first, lets discuss how to pick the right aesthetician that's going to give you those brows that wow! Important to note that you have to be a licensed tattoo artist to microblade. If you do not have a license, then you cannot microblade. Remember that when you do your research. Seems like a no-brainer, but finding the right person is going to be the most important decision you make in this process. I'm always weary of microblading deals on Groupon or that are on sale. That's a quick 'no, thank you' in my book.  At the end of the day, what you're getting is a tattoo on your face so you definitely want an artist who is educated, talented, and methodical when it comes to their technique. 

I was actually working on a beauty story at the time and was able to meet different aestheticians that were known for their microblading work. In total, I did four consultations. First and foremost, I looked for precision. I stalked their Instagram to see all the 'before and afters' because that gave me a first hand look into their work. I read testimonials from other clients and for me, proximity and follow-thru were also two factors that played into my decision-making. I can say with honesty and sincerity that everyone I saw was talented and passionate about their work so I would have been in good hands with any of them; but, it was Caleb at Skin by Caleb McGrew whom I completely meshed with in terms of personality and style. His medi-spa is located inside the Junior and Hatter salon  in Wynwood, and he's got a really sweet assistant named Kitty, who diligently manages appointments and follow ups. Caleb really blew me away during our consultation and answered my one million questions knowledgeably and confidently (and with no sign of annoyance for hence one million questions). He's also a certified trainer (this is a big plus when you are doing your research), and he is SO meticulous in his craft- making sure to achieve the right dimensions, shape, and thickness that will compliment your facial structures and alignment. 

Okay, so now the moment you've all been waiting for- let's get down to the business of microblading! 

Numbing cream is applied to the brow area before the procedure. 

I mentioned pain early in my post and here's the part where we talk about it. I have a very low tolerance for pain. Ironic, considering I pushed two babies out of my vagina, but still, the mere thought of getting microbladed scared me. I'm here to tell you- it's not that bad. Before starting the procedure, numbing cream is applied to your brow area (thank goodness for Lidocaine) and you have to let it sit for 30 minutes so it can take effect. Already feeling at ease knowing my pain will be felt minimally. 

Aesthetician, Caleb McGrew, begins brow mapping. 

Caleb maps out brow measurements with a removable ink pencil and ruler. 

It is then time for the master to do his job. In comes Caleb in his beauty super hero mask and robe to start measuring brows and filling them in with his trusty pencil. What is he doing here? He's creating the brow shape. This process takes time because everything needs to be proportioned and symmetrical. At this point, I'm feeling anxious but giddy with excitement at seeing my new brows. The 'tattoo' part of it was a little shocking for me considering I've never had a tattoo in my life, but for the sake of beautiful brows, semi-permanent tattooing was something I could definitely do. 

Getting rid of tiny hairs around the surrounding area. There is no need to shave the brows in order to perform microblading. 

Caleb works diligently to create a natural brow line.

Once Caleb has finished mapping out my brows and he's confident on the shape, he uses a small blade to shave off any small hairs in the surrounding area. Note, Caleb DOES NOT shave off your eyebrows like some technicians do. That's a pretty extreme practice. 

Caleb and I discuss the brow shape achieved and what comes next. 

It's now time to discuss with the client (in this case, me), what the brow drawings mean before we move on to pigmentation. This is one thing I love about Caleb- he is super informative throughout the process. He talks you through what he's doing, and once he's done, he shows you exactly what he did, why he did it, and what to expect. 

Microblading is performed manually with a bladed pen. The pen creates the strokes and simultaneously adds the pigment in the skin opening created by the strokes. 

The hairlike strokes give the illusion of natural hair. 

The brow color will appear darker the first few days but will then lighten up.

One of the features that sets apart microblading from let's say, getting a tattoo or permanent makeup, is that the color pigments used to insert into your skin are done manually. The pen used has blades and it's these blades that will create the fine hairlike strokes (it's like really teeny tiny cuts) and it simultaneously adds the pigment into these teeny tiny cuts like strokes that were created. That's how the color is achieved. The natural color of your eyebrows will determine the color used for the pigments. It will closely resemble your natural brow. Do not be alarmed if the color is darker than what you expected. This is quite normal and will lighten up after a few days.

Caleb said he used a 14-blade pen to create the strokes and apply the pigment because my eyebrows were dark and thick! By the way, it's beyond insane how real and natural these strokes look. When I look at my brows now, sometimes I can't even differentiate between the real hairs and the microblading ones. You're probably saying, "Ouch, that sounds like it hurts." Yes, it did hurt a little. I did squeeze my eyes really tight and made the occasional grunting sound, but again, it wasn't completely horrible. 

As my mother used to say to me growing up, "Sometimes, you have to suffer for beauty." Typical Latina mother. 

After Caleb is done creating the strokes and adding the pigments, he applies a pigment mask just to be sure that it all absorbs very well. The mask is left for a few minutes, then wiped off to reveal.....


Taking the 'after' shot after the procedure. 

I was ready to walk out of the salon right after the procedure! I didn't experience any redness or any reaction, so for me, it was great to be able to get back to work and back to my day. It's important that I stress that the results may not be the same for everyone. Some clients are good with just one session and don't need a touch up, while some may need up to three sessions. It's all dependent on skin and how well you take care of those brows the first 10 days. 

Caleb gave me specific instructions as to how to care for my new brows. First and foremost, avoid wetting the area. This was definitely challenging, but absolutely doable. I even went to Jamaica a week later and did not let the pool water or salt water touch my brows. I made sure to wash my face while avoiding my eyes and brows, and was very adamant about applying Aquafor to my brows twice a day. For the first three days, Caleb advised me to use a Q-tip with water and a very small amount of lathering soap and apply to the brows. This would help with any scabbing. Luckily, I did not have scabbing. I also avoided any brow makeup on the brows or surrounding areas (not that I needed it because my brows were out of this world) and any direct contact with the sun. My color did slightly fade as expected, but not drastically as they are still dark and bold. 

Tomorrow I go in for my six week touch up appointment with Caleb and I cannot wait. Just when I think these brows can't get any better, I know tomorrow they'll be holiday-ready in all their sexy, bushy glory, all thanks to Caleb and microblading. After an initial microblading session, you are usually asked to come back 4-6 weeks later to refresh the brows and also to do any touch ups that might be needed after the first session. I haven't touched my eyebrows since I saw Caleb in early November- I haven't even plucked my brows, so I am definitely ready for a touch up. 

I titled this post, 'Microblading- the gift that keeps on giving,' because it's a legitimate truth. Whether it's a gift for a loved one or a gift for yourself, I say, TREAT YO' SELF! Throw away those eye pencils and make the splurge! 

Having great eyebrows isn't just a cosmetic thing; its a confidence thing. A good set of brows let's you put your best face forward. It gives you confidence and helps with self-esteem and self-assurance, and we all deserve a little of that. 

Before and Afters. 

To book an appointment with Caleb and to check out his other services click here .

In Style, 


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Jamaican Me Happy With Seagram's Escapes

 A few weeks ago, my husband, Coco, and I, spent a few days in paradise all thanks to Seagram's Escapes. We boarded a plane from Miami to Ocho Rios, just us two, to celebrate the launch of some new fizzling fun beverages at the Jewel Dunn's River Resort. Now, this wasn't just any trip for us, it was our first trip without our Buccio babes. We're big on family travel, but this was going to be just us riding solo, and you know what, it's good for you and your significant other to get quality time together to let loose and have fun. I couldn't think of a better way to unwind- with the Jamaican sun on my face and a Seagram's cocktail in hand!

Once we arrived at the Jewel Dunn's River Resort, Seagram's and the hotel team really rolled out the red carpet for us! Our room had a breathtaking ocean view, and the perfect little balcony to enjoy libations- and that we did! Easy to say, that Seagram's New flavor, Jamaican Me Happy, was an instant hit! With flavors of strawberries, melon, and guava, this was my go-to refresher on the trip! Our mini bar was stocked with all the flavors and how cute is this floatie that came in our gift bag? Even our Seagram's Escapes bottle was going to enjoy Jamaica in style!

Jamaican Me Happy ready for a day on the beach! 

Swim Up bar- yes please! 

Coco and I would end up here nightly for one more Seagram's Escapes cocktail before bed. 

All the hotel bars were stocked with Seagram's Escapes (it also happens to be an all-inclusive resort), so whenever we were at the pool or at the 'tree bar,' as Coco and I dubbed it, Seagram's was on the menu. I even made up my own concoction- Jamaican Me Happy, champagne, and a dash of Sprite! Oh, just writing this takes me back to laying on a beach bed sipping on my special Seagram's creation! 

The first night was all about getting to know our fellow travelers and sample some more cocktails and delicious appetizers at the Seagram's Welcome Party. Chic lounge chairs and table tops were set up on the hotel lawn while people mingled, ate, and drank. An amazing calypso band was playing in the background. What a way to kick things off! If this was day one, I couldn't wait for the rest of the weekend with Seagram's Escapes. 

What I wore- Day One- H&M off the shoulder top with a Forever 21 polka dot skirt and Steve Madden heels.

After a night of music and conversation, we were ready for Day Two! 

Calypso Colada- Where Have you Been All My Life! 

I woke up like this- seriously. I decided to kick start our morning with a full breakfast and a  Seagram's Escapes Calypso Colada cocktail and boy, was it delicious! Now this tastes like vacation in a bottle. The flavors of coconut and pineapple with a little champagne is what I like to call a breakfast of champions. It was close competition with Jamaican Me Happy, but this flavor really encompasses paradise for me! 

We spend our day relaxing and lounging on the beach and pool. We opted out of the activities this afternoon so we could actually enjoy doing absolutely nothing. When you're a parent, a day to yourself doing nada is a luxury and we were spending ours in beautiful Jamaica, so instead of cramming my husbands schedule with activities, we literally spent the day running from the pool to the beach and back. I like to call that exercise. Ha! I do want to point out that Coco did join in on all the pool games- but that was his choice- not over scheduling on my end! 

Just me and the big blue Jamaican sea. 

Jamaican Me Happy, Mon! 

How could you resist these stunning waters of the Caribbean? Tranquil waters, blazing sun, and all the jerk chicken you could eat alongside your favorite cocktail. And because I don't like playing favorites, I would switch back and forth from the Calypso Colada to the Jamaican Me Happy. I mean, look at how happy I am with my Seagram's Escapes! That is not just for show, people! That's the face of a happy beach bum..I mean, customer! 

Okay so when I said I didn't plan anything, that was a bit of a fib! Seagram's actually did set up massages and a honey and sugar scrub at the Radiant Spa at the resort for Coco and I, and oh my goodness! First off, the ladies at the spa were absolutely delightful and made sure we were happy throughout our whole experience (sorry, no pictures of me getting scrubbed down)! My massage was glorious and they finished up the treatment with a full body scrub, which was so refreshing! Its been years since I've had a body scrub and I seriously felt like I just got a new layer of skin. It was heavenly! If Coco could have stayed for another massage and another scrub, he would have. He could not stop raving about his treatment. It was serene, invigorating, and pretty much, awesome! 

After massage treat- a little Seagram's Escapes to wrap up our spa experience. 
Our day of relaxing continued through the evening and we went back to our room, took a nap (unheard of), and got all dolled up for dinner at one of the hotel's specialty restaurants. We were craving some Asian fare and had heard great things about The Jade Samurai, a Teppanyaki style restaurant that serves up grilled specialties as well as table side entertainment with its meal! It was also a fun way for us to meet other folks on the same Seagram's getaway. Between lots of shrimp flying in the air, an unexpected birthday celebration, and plenty of cocktails, its safe to say that this was a really a engaging and fun dining experience! 

What I wore on day two. Zara pants, H&M off the shoulder top, and Steve Madden heels.

Momosa Bar set up at breakfast at the Jewel Dunn's River Resort

Face Timing with our Buccio Babes before we headed to our horseback riding excursion. 

Hello Saturday! It was the perfect day for a little horseback riding. I was determined to do one adventurous activity and so happy we went with this excursion! Seagram's really outdid themselves setting up unique and entertaining off-site activities that really covered every kind of traveler. Kudos, Seagram's! I don't know was was more impressive, though- the horseback riding or the 'Momosa Bar' featuring Seagram's Escapes flavors set up outside the breakfast restaurant. Talk about a welcome! Can you guess which I had? If you guessed Calypso Colada, you got it! That went swimmingly with my egg white omelette! I took one for the road, because you know, horseback riding can make you thirsty (ha!). 

Before we boarded our bus, we made sure to Face Time our babies,who were back home in Miami with grandma, who was amazing enough to fly down from New York to watch them, while mom and dad 'turned it up' in Jamaica! They were just really excited about us riding horses than making conversation. 

Whisper thinks this Seagram's Escapes drink is for him. Not. 

Okay guys, getting to ride horses on a trail and then in the ocean was absolutely awesome! I'll be honest, I was a little more relaxed when we hit the water, and by relaxed I mean that I was feeling like Khaleesi ready to take over the Seven Kingdoms. On land, I was a little more rigid and Coco kept telling me to relax so I wouldn't spook my horse. Oh, my horse's name was Whisper. He was actually a gentle soul. Though I did give him the stink eye when I saw him eyeing up my Seagram's. 

Horseback riding with my Ride or Die companion.

Coco somehow managed to be the only person who fell off his horse when he hit the water. It was hysterical! We both had such a great time and made sure we really lived in the moment, feeling gratitude for this unbelievable experience that we were enjoying thanks to Seagram's. I mean, there's nothing really like galloping in the ocean, feeling the sun, and the water splashing on your face. I know it sounds like a Hallmark card, but it's really true! 

The best place for jerk chicken in Ocho Rios- Scotchies.

Preparing the chicken.

Now I'm going to eat this chicken. 
Naturally, after so much adventure, we were famished and thankfully, we were riding on a bus with a bunch of foodies who loved to eat as much as we did! Our tour guide suggested we visit the best spot on the island for jerk chicken, so we made a pit stop at Scotchies, a favorite amongst locals and tourists. It's a true Jamaican experience- order at the window, watch as they cook your chicken or jerk pork on a man-made grill, then grab one of the tables underneath the huts scattered on the beachy open-air property. I also ordered Bammy, Jamaican flat bread that is made with cassava, dipped in coconut oil and fried to perfection. Yum! 

We spent the rest of the afternoon by the beach and even took the catamaran out for a spin. Coco loves the catamaran. Before we had kids, we used to love renting them out whenever we went on vacation. I'll admit, I had a Moana moment for a second as we got close to the reef! It was so peaceful and relaxing and did I mention, we were phone-free?! 30 minutes without technology is a huge feat, especially when you're with your significant other. No Instagram distractions on the waters!

Once we got back to shore, it was time to get all gussied up for the Seagram's Escapes Keep It Colorful Fiesta! I visited the Radiant Spa again, and this time treated myself to a braided updo for the party. I knew I was going to be dancing, so I wanted to keep my tresses fashionably in place. 
Saturday Night with Seagram's Escapes and this Stud. 

Live Music at the Seagram's Escapes Keep It Colorful Fiesta. 
What an epic night of music and celebration, not just celebrating Seagram's Escapes, but also the flavors of Jamaican culture. Seagram's and the Jewel Dunn's River Resort went all out and put together a festive and vibrant seaside bash that had us dancing and drinking until the rain shut us down! A few raindrops couldn't stop us from having a good old time on our own dance floor. The resort put out an impressive array of food and appetizers, there were entertainers on stilts, a DJ, a calypso band playing all the biggest hits and local Jamaican talent belting out island melodies as we swayed with our Seagram's cocktails in hand! 

Getting to be a part of this trip was extra special because I got to meet some beautiful blogger babes I follow on the regular. They were so sweet and fun and to meet them in person and spend the evening dancing and getting silly, was the icing on the cake! 

This was truly an unforgettable experience and I'm so happy Coco and I got this time to reconnect and let our hair down a bit. When we got back home and after we kissed our babies, we made sure to stock our fridge with some Seagram's Escapes. I'm already brainstorming Christmas cocktail recipes to bring out during the holidays, because nothing says holiday cheer like some Jamaican Me Merry

 Have you guys tried Seagram's Escapes? What's your favorite flavor?
Loved meeting these wonderful blogger babes on the trip! (From left: @Kathleen_Barnes of Carrie Bradshaw Lied, Courtney Kerr of @kerrently,  Karina from @kcyouthere, Joni from @nytrendymoms, and me)

The Real Housewives of Seagram's Escapes. 

In Style, 

Kat Buccio 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Living My Best Life With Anxiety.

Hi. My name is Kathy, and I have anxiety. Acknowledging that anxiety is something that I live with was never my issue.   Learning how to deal with it and maneuver it, is another story altogether.   It's what brings me to this blog post. 

I have been wanting to share this post for a while now, after an episode I had last Spring that catapulted me into the clutches of anxiety and depression (its annoying cousin); but I was afraid that if I shared this post, any possible employer that would google me or read my blog, would see my anxiety as a 'problem.’  It's sad that we still live in a world where mental health and sanity are not seen as important or far worse, that if you complain of being sad, anxious, or even having an off day, you are quickly labeled 'crazy,' or something to that degree.  There have been strides with many celebrities, advocates and “real" people like you and me opening up more and more to share their stories and realize that we are a community of support that share a common ground. This is why I wanted to share my story with a little more depth. 

I'm a very honest and open person. I like to share my experiences in hopes of helping others in some capacity.  I've shared my experience of losing a parent, of becoming a parent, of my struggles with baby blues, adapting to a new city, and so forth. Chances are if you have DM’ed to ask me anything personal, you didn't get any sugar coated responses. Who we are is all we have to give. Our experiences shape us, they teach us, help us grow and help us become better versions of ourselves.  It is through these difficult and challenging experiences, that we realize how truly resilient we are, that we can overcome and that we are human.  We embrace our flaws, our missteps, our successes and failures and wrap them up in a big messy bow.  And that is our gift to the world, to our families and most importantly, to ourselves. 

I learn this daily through anxiety. I won't lie, it’s a challenge and not always easy to learn. I have good days where I feel like Wonder Woman and there are those days I can barely get out of bed - but I do.   Everyday is a new opportunity to do so and climb that mountain, and it’s okay to ask for help. If it weren't for certain people in my life, this would have been even more isolating, much scarier and hopeless. 

This is the story I want to share. I'm sure I'll go back and read this 100 times before I post, and wish that I had added this or that, because hey, anxiety. There's so much I want to say without it getting lost.  At times, you'll read this and it won't be pretty. Maybe some of you can relate specifically or you know someone in the same boat. All our journeys are different. Anxiety is different for every person that suffers from it.  What works for one person, might not work for another, so it is important that I stress that what I am about to share is my journey, and my journey only. 

Anxiety has a funny way of manifesting itself. It's mostly triggered by fears or certain feelings that are nicely tucked away in our subconscious until one day, POOF! There's a physical and emotional eruption that is sometimes difficult to explain or know where it came from. That's when all that fun digging starts until you get to the root of things and so the nurturing process begins. 

On April 23rd, 2016, I had one of these eruptions. You push, and push and push, until suddenly you can't push anymore and it all catches up to you. A combination of stressors from being over-scheduled, caring for a new baby in a new city, finances, work, juggling two kids, marriage, and not stopping to truly 'rest' or take a breather, caused my mind to go into overdrive and crash. I used to explain it as 'imagine you try to reboot a computer and it doesn't start. Its officially burnt out. Its done.' That's how I felt. The screen in my head went black. I was familiar with the symptoms and effects from the last big episode I had (I call these the BIG ones), on March 15, 1999, so I knew what was coming wasn't pretty. Physically, my heart is racing a million miles a minute, my stomach is on a continuous loop of painstaking drops, I sweat and cry. Worst of all, is a mind that goes limbic. My mind becomes a rambling compilation of obsessive thoughts that seem to have no end. I want to jump out of myself when they take over. I learned that it wasn't about controlling the thoughts, because when you are in that state of anxiousness, thats not going to happen. It’s about redirecting these thoughts.   And somehow if do get window of clarity during anxiety, you have to seize the opportunity and tell your rational mind to be calm and remember that what you're experiencing is an anxious mind.  A mind that’s more like a chicken without a head.   Easier said than done, right?  It takes time.  Reeling in anxiety isn't an overnight thing. Hence, when people share their awesome wisdom such as, "calm down" or "just breathe" or my favorite, "what are you anxious about," you pretty much want to punch them in the face. 

My anxiety stopped me from living my best life at that moment. I mustered up every ounce of energy I had in me every day to dress Maya for school, pick her up and take care of Rocco to the best of my ability at the time. Coco's job flexibility ended up being a blessing in disguise because most of the time he worked from home to be with me.  Bless his heart.  Its never easy for your significant other to see you in such a state, knowing that there’s very little they can do to help.  There was so much helplessness on his end, as well. My days were spent with curtains drawn, never leaving the house (or the sofa for that matter) because I didn't want to see light.  I didn't speak to friends. I canceled any and all social activities. I pushed myself to attend Maya’s ballet recital and her soccer match because even though I was in disarray, I wanted her to see that I was there for her, even if it was just a shell of me.

Mornings were the toughest, as that was when my overactive mind was the strongest.  I had to make sure to get out of bed and stay distracted so I wouldn't be sucked into that vortex of despair.  I tried meditating, which didn't work for me.  Walks in the park with the dogs helped slightly. What really helped me besides getting myself to a therapist 3-4 times a week, was watching comedy shows. It helped me during the first Big One, and it helped me again. So a special shout out to Liz Lemon and the 30 Rock gang and Kimmy Schmidt for helping me stay sane.  I also wrote. A lot.   Again, during my first Big One, I had a notebook where I would write all of my daily thoughts, no matter how horrible, incoherent or embarrassing they were, I wrote them all down. It was cathartic.  I noticed that as soon as I would put them on paper, there was a sense of relief, so I kept writing. When I was finally feeling like myself again or version 2.0, I burned the notebook. I did the same this time around, minus the burning.  But I would carry this small notebook with me everywhere and I would write my obsessive and overactive thoughts. I would jot down helpful tips and notes that I would find on anxiety-centric sites, or self-help books. I would read them 2-3 times a day, sometimes more. It was a way to train my mind and help it remember that this person right now, right at this moment, going through a stressful bout with anxiety, wasn't me. I couldn't let these thoughts overpower me. I couldn't let them stake claim in my mind. 

Here's how I describe to people when they ask what anxiety feels like for me, specifically at this point when I couldn't function.  It’s a dark place. It’s like being in a hole and not being able to get out no matter how much you want to. It’s like being in quicksand and trying - really trying - to grab on to anything that can help you get yourself out, but there’s nothing to grab. It’s not caring about sitting in your pajamas or the same clothes for days at a time, not taking baths, not caring about how you look or what you wear.  I didn't eat. I lost 11 pounds without trying and I all I wanted was to get better. It’s funny, I was recently reading an essay that model, Chrissy Teigen had written about her post-partum depression and anxiety.  I thought to myself, "Holy shit. This girl just described EXACTLY what I had felt." I knew I wasn't alone, but for someone to explain these symptoms and the withdrawals associated with depression and anxiety, was enlightening

Through the darkness and the daily struggles of trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel, I made decisions to slowly and surely start living again and to get myself on a non-rutted path. I was very thankful to my mother-in-law who flew in from New York at Coco's request, didn't ask any questions and stayed with me for three weeks to help me take care of the kids.  She helped pick up the slack that my anxiety wasn't letting me.  She would sit and hold me as I cried over feeling this way and didn't roll her eyes when I would make her watch episodes of 30 Rock on repeat.  While she was here, I upped my therapy game even more.  I'm from the mindset that everyone should have a therapist and if it weren't for mine the first time around, I wouldn't have known how to help myself when this one came around. I was seeing an anxiety specialist 3-4 times a week in addition to phone sessions. It was a safe haven. The more I spoke about it, the better I felt and that gave me hope. 

Another big thing I did, was get on medication. This was difficult for me because of the stigma attached to it. I kept telling myself at first, "I don't need it. I was able to do it without it the first time around, I can do it again." But I couldn't. I had to remember that when I had my first big anxiety attack at the age of 17, almost two years after my mom's death, I was a teenager dealing with different life stressors. My stressors at 17 were very different than the ones at 35. I made the choice to get on medication not only for myself, but for my kids. I needed to function for them, and if the medication was going to help me do that, then I would try for them. I'm not talking about a 'calm your nerves at the moment' pill like a xanax (though I do keep those when I fly because they are huge help), I wanted something that would balance the serotonin in my brain chemistry so I could find that stability that I was lacking physically, mentally, and emotionally. It was one of the best decisions I made. I want to make it clear though, that because you are on medication, it doesn't mean that your anxiety is gone. You still have to do the work. Medication allowed me to use my tools more effectively, to think with a more rational mind and to redirect my obsessive thoughts. It gave me the power to keep going. I gained the weight back, the physical symptoms of anxiety subsided and little by little, I was able to perform day to day functions with ease and even delight. 

I made the very personal choice of getting off social media. Social Media is one of the most amazing technologies to date but it can also be very isolating and negative. It has the ability to consume you, if you allow it. It can create feelings of negativity, false realities, and disconnect you from emotional growth with others and ourselves. It’s easy to let it effect you, so I shut it down. I got off Facebook completely, and didn't post on my Instagram for seven months. Being a writer/influencer, social media is a significant component of what I do but at that point, my sanity and getting better was far more important. Besides, I wasn't in the mood to post fashion shots of myself. That's how you know I wasn't in a good place! Ha! 

I spent a lot of time with Coco and the kids. They were the only people I wanted to be with. My friends were hugely supportive and respectful, always checking in with Coco or myself, giving me space, but also worried. I can't blame them.  Their support, their texts, their words of encouragement, meant the world to me. My best friend even took Maya a few times for me when I wasn't feeling like a fun parent. I'm grateful for that. Coco continues to be my angel on the ground. His patience, compassion, love, and understanding, gave me peace of mind, but also strengthened the fact that marriage isn't always rainbows and butterflies. It’s during tough times like these, that bonds get reinforced and respect grows tenfold. 

My anxieties are always triggered by abandonment, loss and control...and they will always be. During my first Big One, it was a short breakup with my boyfriend at the time, that threw me into a scary anxiety episode of endless tears, sleepless nights, panic attacks and fear that ultimately revealed that I was grieving the death of my mom and all the empty thereafter that came with it. I was so concerned with moving forward and keeping my head up and keeping it together for everyone else, that eventually it caught up to me. It always does. This isn't fun to deal with when you're 17 on the cusp of graduating high school and going off to college. It was frightening. Going away to college was something I had to put aside and it devastated me.  But I knew I needed to get better and I didn't want to risk another attack while I was away and have no one there to help me. With the help of my therapist, my uncle (who would fly down from Chicago every weekend to be with me), my boyfriend at the time (a lot for a 17 year old kid to deal with so I commend him for that), and my Mom's guidance, I got back on my feet. It took me a good year but I came out stronger, wiser and a lot more confident. I learned that I did not let anxiety define me. 

Fast forward almost twenty years later and the pattern seems to be familiar. A silly fight, which I can no longer remember the cause (probably brought on by the insane amount of stress we’d been dealing with), triggered a whole new feeling of abandonment and fear of losing Coco - of losing what I love. On top of that, pushing myself in an unhealthy way and not taking into consideration that here I am, with a new baby, that I should be taking it easy and all I kept thinking was, "you have to keep it together. you have to do this for your family, Go go go.  It's a nice thought, but by doing that I did the opposite. Hell, I went straight from the hospital after getting discharged from my delivery to Maya’s school to pick her up at dismissal. I did a Selena Gomez interview with stitches still in my vagina, one week after giving birth.  I don't know the definition of ‘stop’ sometimes but if it’s one positive thing about having anxiety, is that it’s quick to remind you when it’s time to put on the brakes.  Post-anxiety attack Kathy, doesn't pack her calendar with things to do. There’s a lot more 'me time' in there or as I like to say, 'mental health days' and I love it. 

Before I wrap this baby up, I wanted to touch upon those thoughts. Thoughts related to anxiety vary from person to person. Like I mentioned earlier, anxiety has a funny or I should say, fucked up way, of taking on a form and infiltrating your mind to making you think these are real or hold any merit whatsoever.  Guess what?  They don’t.  When you pay attention to these thoughts or focus on these thoughts, even fight these thoughts, you make them bigger and give them more power. They're more menacing. One of the things I learned is that instead of fighting these thoughts, step aside, let them be and redirect them. The more we fight and give attention to these negative thoughts, the more they'll stick around.  I know it’s not always easy to focus on the positive, but I am a big believer in that.  One of the more positive things I learned about anxiety is that these scary, anxious thoughts do serve a purpose - and that’s to remind us of what matters to us and what we value above all.  For me, it’s my family, my husband and my kids. 

When you lose a parent or someone you love, your triggers when it comes to loss and abandonment are heightened and if you are a parent, make that double. Looking back at my childhood, there were definitely instances of smaller scale anxiety episodes or obsessive compulsive worrying over things that were non-existent but that consumed me to the point that I couldn't function. For example, I was traumatized by the movie Chucky and for many months thought that he would come get me in my room, while I bathed, in school, etc. I would use towels and trash baskets to secure the door when I would shower, and when someone came over for dinner and brought their 'My Buddy' doll, I practically died. I snatched the doll, climbed to the highest shelf in the closet, and hid the doll there so it 'wouldn't get me.' When I was an early teen, I convinced myself I had AIDS. I know, you're probably like "WTF?" So am I, don't worry.  But I did, I convinced myself that because I had swapped spit with my teen crush and some video in Home Ec class told me that if you had an open sore you would get AIDS, well that’s all I needed to self-diagnose. I didn't eat, I made my mom write a note to the teacher so I would be excused from watching that video and even came clean to my mom, that I had (GASP!), made out with a boy at the age of 14.  So when it became clear I didn't have AIDS, I let my thoughts runaway with me again and convinced myself that I had Leukemia instead because they were taking too long to give me blood work results, because why not?  Anxiety, you have a wicked sense of humor. Only this time my mom wasn't having it and whipped me back to reality quick.  So you see, the point is, that anxiety and overactive imagination have always been a part of who I am. 

I did so much research and read so many books and sites on anxiety, I can pretty much add 'Dr.' to my name.  Joking aside, these sites and books dedicated to anxiety were a big part of my healing process. I wrote down pieces that resonated with me, like these ones for instance. I'm not sure which site specifically they came from but when I find it, I'll add link, but it said...

"Why do little children think ghosts, goblins and monsters are real? As adults, we know they aren't. Your thoughts aren't 'real' either in the sense that you create and reinforce them and the emotions that go along with them. Your thoughts are only what you decide to believe in and continually reinforce in your mind." 

"Thoughts are a symptom of anxiety and depression, just like spots are a symptom of chicken pox. If you had chicken pox, you would just accept spots as part of it, ignore them while they can, and allow them to pass. Anxious, obsessive thoughts are the same as they are a symptom, need to be seen as a symptom, allowed to do their thing and pass over." 

"Analysis creates Paralysis. Our tendency is to think too much and to paralyze ourselves with our rumination. We have a choice; Realize what we're doing to ourselves, get up, find a distraction do something positive!"

That last statement is a tough one to follow, but its absolutely true. It’s exactly what I am trying to do as I get ready to head out on our first trip  sans the kids.  For me, the night before I leave and the flight itself is the worst. I'm a mess. Its called anticipatory anxiety. Add that one to my list. I'm already missing the kids, I'm having panic attacks, and I'm second guessing my decision to go on the trip and try to convince myself that I don't need to go on a trip. Thankfully, I push through.  I normally take a xanax (lately I've been trying not to if the anxiety isn't so bad or the flight isn't bumpy), or I have a glass of wine to mellow out a bit. I always have to be connected to the internet when I fly because it helps me (like if screaming in all caps to someone that we're crash landing is going to do anything), and lately I've been downloading movies or shows on Netflix to watch and keep me entertained and distracted. Lastly, I always pray (and breathe) for safety and smooth sailing. Oh and did I mention, I make it very clear to the stewardess when I board that I have anxiety and I would like to speak to the captain for a weather report and this, REALLY helps me. Extreme, but hey, we do what works for us! 

Naturally, the thought of something happening to me and leaving my kids without a mother is one of my biggest anxiety struggles and one that is currently on my mind.  I even called our estate lawyer to make sure our will was in place and called my sister-in-law to give her a rundown of wishes I wanted for the kids in the event…God forbid...that we expired. I am definitely keeping distracted, redirecting my thoughts and trying to focus on the positive, which is a sponsored trip that I get to share with my other half, where we get to spend quality time together, sleep in, relax and basically be child-free for three days.  Most parents wouldn't blink an eye.  Truthfully, yes, I'm so excited but I'm terrified. When you lose a parent, this reality becomes so much more real to you.  I’ve been plagued so many times with the unwanted 'what ifs,' "What if I die?  What if the plane crashes?  What if I get kidnapped and killed?  What if there’s a terrorist attack?  What if something happens to my kids while I'm away?  What will happen to my kids if they don't have me? What if something happens to both of us?  What if they're sad all the time?  I don't want to leave my kids!"  And well,  this song and dance is familiar when you're a parent and have kids.  Only when you have anxiety, it’s exaggerated to the 100th degree.  I even toyed with the idea of putting Coco and I on separate flights in case one of our planes crashed.  I mean, screw you, anxiety! That's what my anxious mind says. I then have to work extra hard to get my rational mind into overdrive and say to myself, "Kathy, breathe. Everything is going to be fine. Enjoy this time away with your husband. Have fun and relax. The kids will have a blast with grandma. It's only a couple of days. You will be back." 

It has been so reassuring and very encouraging to hear from other parents, from my own friends who have been my strongest support system in this and from you guys, my squeezers because when I first posted about my struggles on instastories, you all were quick to DM me - an instant connection!  I also realized that many of you can relate to the struggles of anxiety and depression but are afraid to speak about it, and I'm here to tell you, that you are not alone. You would be surprised at how many women and men deal with this on the daily and there is nothing wrong with that.  You're awesome, strong and resilient!  We are all here to help one another.  We aren't robots and we shouldn't be. We're allowed to ask for help and guidance from others and from God, to cry if you need to and laugh when we want to. 

Anxiety and depression do not define us, we cannot allow them to stop us from living our best life, and dare I say, let’s embrace this strange gift, because it is sometimes through the hardships and frustrations of A&D, that we grow to become who we want to be and who we're meant to be! 

In Love and In Style,