Falling in Love with Kristin 2.4
When our phone needs an update, many of us don’t even hesitate to agree to the
upgrade. When we check in to our hotel and the front desk announces that we have received a free upgrade — we bust out a Homer Simpson “Woo Hoo!” Just me?
So when it comes to our mindset, our self-care, our mental heath in general, why do we
resist the personal development upgrade? Because it sucks, and it happens typically around some sort of tragedy or difficult situation when we least expect it … naturally. We grow in all seasons, but it’s the hardest seasons that bring the biggest upgrades.
The darkest and most difficult season of my life was wrapped around one of most joyous
times of my life. Postpartum depression and anxiety try to suck out every ounce of joy that comes with having a newborn baby. Newborn babies are heavenly and perfect. PPD/PPA is a internal Hell you can’t escape. The two are like vinegar and water and, yet, PPD/PPA is incredibly common — as in one out of every nine women in the U.S. will experience PPD. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/index.htm
I will now share my story of PPD/PPA, and I will do my best to not say anything that could possibly be a trigger for someone. I say this because in my darkest moments, paranoia was real and anything and everything was a threat to me or my children. Irrational fears flooded my mind and if I’m being honest, it still happens sometimes. I currently have PTSD and GAD, side affects from the psychological trauma of PPD/PPA. Lucky me. I have good days and bad days just like everyone else. The good days are outweighing the bad days finally and that, my friends, is something worth celebrating. Even when my mind lies to me and tells me I’m relapsing into a dark depression, my recovery is still worth celebrating. Our minds are fece throwing monkeys ya’ll, and mine has definitely thrown some big shits over the years.
I was diagnosed with PPD/PPA one week after having the birth control shot. Our third child, our daughter Piper, was seven weeks old. The doctor warned me at the six-week check-up that if I had the “Baby Blues,” the shot could exacerbate the symptoms into a full blown case of severe PPD. Two percent chance it could happen, but it could happen.
“It would not be good at all,” the doctor said.
“I’m fine,” I assured. “Just a tired mom of three young kids.”
The latter was true, and so was the first.
I still remember the doctor’s face when she agreed that it was the birth control shot that was causing me to cry relentlessly on end (I have Olympic Gold medal worthy tear ducts, FYI). It felt like someone or something else took over my mind and I was helpless. I’m religious and I was this close to searching exorcisms on Google. I thought I was losing my mind.
It definitely felt like a down grade of some unknown version of myself. I spent the first year trying to fight off whatever was happening in my mind naturally. And it was exhausting. A short attempt of meds had me putting on a Oscar worthy performance of what I assume is how drug addicts react when they detox —shaking, sweating and vomiting violently. The reaction to Zoloft terrified me, so off I went into eating healthy and exercising, and crying my eyes out, filling journal after journal with everything going on in my head. I burned those journals later on because those thoughts didn’t deserve the light of day.
I saw slow improvements and I was grateful when my six-month crying season had ended. But it was right before our daughter’s first birthday when everything came crashing down.
I was drowning in doubt, fear and uncertainty. I have control issues (who doesn’t, right!?) and the sense that I was lacking control of my life was gnawing at me.
I decided then that I needed bigger guns to fight this and that the doctor’s telling me it could take up to two years for my hormone levels to balance themselves out was complete bullshit. I was ready to go to war with my mind.
It was then that I decided that my life was worth fighting for, and I was tired of just days where I felt like I was barely surviving. I had so many wonderful things in front of me and this internal Hell was trying to keep me hostage. Fuck that. Something shook me awake. We only get one life and I wasn’t living mine like Goth Eeyore anymore.
My warrior woke the hell up, and I developed a thirst for personal development. I went to the local library and started checking out books in the personal development realm, written from various perspectives — spiritual, scientific, memoirs, humor, lifestyle — in fact, I still do this. #booknerd
I’ve started to use the expression that this entire experience was forcing me to upgrade. Don’t you hate that? When you keep pushing off your upgrade and eventually the app says “Sorry Charlie, you gotta upgrade in order to continue binge watching Netflix.” Lame.
When I was having a bad day back then, I doubled my reading efforts. When I felt myself going into a spiral, I turned off the TV, and read and read some more followed by journaling until my hands ached. I decided that I needed to flood my brain with positivity, with hope and encouragement, with stories of survival from circumstances much more difficult than my own. This brought me perspective and clarity on just how much our mind can and will lie to us. Turns out, I was hacking or rewiring my brain before I even knew those terms and what they meant. These were tough upgrades. I wanted to just settle, accept where I was and not have to do any more work on myself.
“At least you aren’t having panic attacks anymore,” I reasoned.
“Those thoughts are gone so that’s good. I’m still having some pretty rough days but I’m here. Maybe I should just accept this is part of who I am now and be thankful I’m still here,” I said to myself.
Still, something told me there was more work to do be done, that I was not settling. I was ready to get off this emotional rollercoaster or, at least, be able to manage my emotions enough to where one flashback to my darker days wouldn’t send me into a spiral.
I started medication and talk therapy, and for the first eight months of therapy I just wanted to go back to the old version of Kristin — slightly naive, happy-go-lucky, smart and inquisitive with moderate self-esteem issues. I mourned for the old me and I thought if I could get back to her, my life would feel whole again.
Everything in our mind tell us that it’s too hard, too much, too time consuming. But we only have one life, why not live it trying to be the best version of ourselves? It’s easier to just accept our current situation and be grateful for what we have. That’s some situations in life, but when we it comes to loving ourselves — do we settle?
No, we don’t friends. I’m not saying it’s easy. There are still days I wish I had never taken that birth control shot, but what’s interesting is when I try to imagine what I would be like today if I hadn’t had the shot — I can’t. I can’t because so much has changed in me, things I cared about seem ridiculous. Before the shot, if I had a big event to attend, I needed to send photos of at least three outfit options to my closest friends because I couldn’t decide. If no one complimented my outfit or how pretty I looked, I thought I was having an “off” night. I was afraid to confront someone and I spun little white lies about ridiculous things to avoid confrontation and to seem agreeable with people. Oh friends, I don’t want to be an old version of Kristin — Kristin 1.6. She seemed happy on the outside but she had a lot of issues pent up on the inside. She was uneducated about the mind and how batshit crazy it can be, and many other aspects of mental health. She had never been so low, she had never had to fight for her life. She had never learned to love herself.
So here I am, Kristin 2.4, still on a journey of love and acceptance. It’s a life long journey but I know it’s worth it. I’m worth it and so are you. I don’t wish to be an old version of me anymore. Instead, I want to keep evolving, to keep upgrading into the person I know I am becoming. I want to love myself for who I am now, who I was, all I have survived, and future Kristin.
And future Kristin is running a successful self-care advocacy company centered around her app that is changing the game of self-care. Cue the sound of scratched vinyl. Did I just say tech startup?
I’m a writer, an empathic poet who should have been actor with my ability to cry on cue. #proudcrier I have a background in journalism. I’m a mom to three kids, a military wife and now I’m the founder and CEO of a tech startup and the publisher of a community focused magazine? Yup.
Last summer, I had just came home from working out. Kickboxing has become my workout of choice because it’s a great way to take out your frustrations without earning an assault charge. In all seriousness, I was working on dinner for our kids. My husband was out of town. Our oldest proudly handed me one of his worksheets from school. It has a small gold star sticker on the top right hand corner. I saw it and thought, “Where the hell is my gold star for being an adult?”
I looked to the right and saw a beauty subscription I get in the mail every month on the dining room table. Its shimmery pink packaging is not hard to miss, but this time it was different. I found my journal and started writing this “crazy idea” for an app that incentives self-care in a way that’s fun, educational and engaging as it helps users build awareness, self-compassion and empathy. Basically, I mapped out the kind of app that I needed in my darkest of days. Yup, I was upgrading again.
This is just a crazy idea I had that would be amazing, but I was in no place to build an app. Who was I to build an app? I posted the idea on Instagram and waited for someone to say it existed … nothing came from it. Still, someone else should be doing this … right?
A few months later, I was approached by a small tech company in Silicon Valley (Inventive Byte) to build the app. They had found my idea on Instagram. The CEO called me on a Sunday and ask me to pitch my app idea. I was folding laundry. I had never pitched anything to anyone. The only thing I had pitched before in my life was when I wanted to convince my husband that would should order Chinese food instead of cook something at home. But I pitched my app, and he loved it. We flew to California and met him, and shortly after we signed the contract and began bringing my dream to reality. An app, called Mind Star, to the world — a app that tracks all your self-care data and businesses offer free or discounted products, services or experiences when you reach milestones in the app.
The app isn’t available in the U.S. yet but we are getting close. What is happening is the next step of the journey — an e-newsletter that people can sign-up for through our website —mindstarapp.com. I’m excited to take my knowledge, offer book suggestions, tackle self-care misconceptions and so much more with our newsletter. My company’s mission of “advocating universal self-care for all minds because all minds deserve to shine” was created from my journey to finding myself again. Or should I say, finding a better version of myself.
And I keep upgrading, I keep surprising myself. If you were to ask me years ago that I would be a businesswoman, building an app, a public speaker and advocate of self-care, I would have snort laughed right in your face. But I keep pushing myself, to the other side of fear and it’s making me stronger, more prepared for the big things that are coming behind the scenes.
I was meant to survive the fire, to come back to life from the ashes. I was meant to share my story and use it to build something incredible — to build my company Mind Star Health and to change the self-care game. I was worth the fight and so are you.
This wasn’t my dream. I wanted to be a published author with a book tour, and to have my romance novel turned into a movie (watch out Nicholas Sparks). I didn’t want to be a business woman, talking tech, rubbing elbows with people whose wardrobe cost more than my house, but here I am. And those dreams of my romance novel might come true, but I don’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my life. I was meant to build Mind Star and build the amazing team I’m curating.
We are resilient, adaptive creatures who are destined for love and connection. And the greatest love story is the one we have with ourselves. I’m dedicated to learning to love myself as the multifaceted being I am, and I hope you can love yourself, too.
And so I end my tale of woe with this, my PPD/PPA really did suck and some days my
current mental condition sucks, when my anxiety is in high gear and I have to pull out every tool in my self-care kit, it still sucks. But I know when my mind lies to me and tells me that it’s too much, that life is just too much, I have the power to say “no, it’s not.” I have the power to stand up to that pesky amygdala and fight back. I have the power to keep breathing, to change tactics, to take a step back, to pivot and approach something with a whole new angle. I have the power, my friends, to let myself upgrade and love myself in the process, and so do you.
Kristin Rulon is an award-winning journalist, blogger at softsoulmama.com , the founder and CEO of Mind Star Health, mindstarapp.com , a mental health advocate, mother, wife, and empath. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . To follow her company’s journey, you can find Mind Star Health on Instagram and FB @mindstarapp, and Twitter @mindstarapp1. You can find her on Instagram @kristin_rulon.