2017: Rise from the Ashes & Never Lose Hope

[Trigger Warning & TL;DR: A long time brewing, my writing is rawer and edgier than in any other post, and I do broach topics like PTSD, assault, stalking, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and body image. Despite the negative sentiment in my warning, the post is optimistic, focusing on finding hope and purpose after adversity. I suffered silently, afraid to be open here, but I know others have gone through the same struggles. If my story encourages you to seek help or share yours, then we can heal together.]

Dear Friends,

2016, to put it mildly, was a shit year for me. To be fair though, I’ve had a lot of shit years in the last decade. Ten years ago, I suffered under the excruciating torment of a never-identified stalker who sent harassing emails to me and about me to my friends, family, and even professors. My senior year in college I awoke each morning not knowing what new horror awaited me when I checked my mail or went to class. No one really helped me, even professors and campus security, and I graduated never wanting to set foot there again. To this day, I gleefully burn the mail I receive from them requesting alumni donations. When I attended graduate school, which is second only to the store in terms of workload and stress, I was a complete push-over. My adviser recruited me under one premise only to then give me “research” which would never qualify for a publishable paper much less a master’s or doctoral thesis. I was 20 going on 21, and I was naive enough to treat professors like gods among us rather than human beings and colleagues. My immune system buckled under the pressure, and I needed two surgeries in less than six months. Ultimately, I decided to change the pace.

Me and my grandmother at my college graduation in 2006. Also my brother photobombing to the side.

I dropped out of my PhD program and began freelance computer consulting while taking business classes at the local community college. Life improved. My body and mind recovered from the onslaught, and I made progress understanding what I really wanted in life as well as who I was an individual. Then my grandmother collapsed on Thanksgiving and spent the next six weeks wasting away from renal failure in our living room. She died on December 22, 2008, and I gave her eulogy on the 27th, my birthday. Not to be contrite, but she and I had a special relationship. We were best friends my entire life, even when I was at odds with my parents or going through difficult times. She was a second mother to me, always filled with good advice and dirty jokes, who never passed judgment and recognized the frailty of being human. No words will ever adequately describe how devastated I was by her passing. Four months later just as I was getting my bearings again, my mom died quite suddenly and unexpectedly, sharply descending me into the worst depression I have ever faced.

The summer of her death I drank way too much, spent late nights out with friends, and generally acted more like a party girl than as a grief-stricken daughter. I was also executor for my grandmother’s estate and co-executor with my dad on my mother’s. The distractions of what we called “drink nights” with friends were the only thing keeping me sane enough to spend my days sifting through the remnants of several lifetimes, endless possessions of the people I loved needing to be neatly sorted into keep, donate, or worst of all, trash. I still remember the rainy day we put some of my grandmother’s belongings on her front yard for her neighbors to divvy up because we had neither the space nor the time. My brother was deployed overseas, and with my dad and I working flexible schedules, handling the final details of their lives fell largely on us.

Both houses sold quickly, and my dad and I had to find a place for all three of us to live. After paying bills and funerary expenses (plus my ongoing student loans), our options were limited. The original plan was for the family to move to North Carolina, but companies remained stingy with financing from the housing crisis. Renting never occurred to us, most likely because renting a home in Maryland at the time was significantly more expensive than an actual mortgage payment. Desperate, we met a man open to a seller-financing agreement—an arrangement where your lender is the original owner of the property. You bypass the issues with banks or lending institutions, but you also lose safety measures on both sides. The days were blurring together, and a decision had to be reached before my brother came home from overseas. We took the deal.

As a family, we began to heal again. You never fully get over the loss of a loved one, but over time, you learn to live with the pain, even push it to the background and focus on the good memories and the love you had. Computer consulting was leaving me dissatisfied, and the idea of opening a bra shop, one where we could make positive changes in people’s lives, turned from an occasional whim—the hypothetical, not really serious, throwaway idea—to a legitimate consideration. Beginning a small business is as exciting as it is terrifying because as much as you want to succeed, you’re more likely to fail. You fight everyday in an uphill, bloody battle, and sometimes you still loose. Everyone says “fake it till you make it,” but what if you don’t? How do you handle the defeat? It takes a special kind of person to open a small business. They have grit. Or they’re a masochist. Maybe both.

For over two years, I continued freelancing because the store’s financials barely supported our operating expenses without factoring in a paycheck for me. Two years of work at a job without receiving a single paycheck. Persistence, a little social media magic, and amazing word of mouth provided traction and momentum for the store in our third year but also increased my work and responsibility load to the point that I could no longer accept freelance work. I had to start paying myself, but even now, I do not make as much as I did in computers or as much as I could in many normal jobs. Requests for discounts, demands for sales, and pleas for expansion cut into our paltry profit margins, and many months I took only what I needed to make ends meet with the rest reinvested in the store. While a bit hard on me, the benefits for the store have been manifold. We have shown double digit growth rates every single year, which means we help more people, reach higher sales, and can afford to expand. Truthfully, we should never have opened with such a small budget, and I always advise prospective store owners to double whatever they think they need.

In any job, customer service is challenging, but it’s especially hard to handle when you are depressed or struggling. You can’t unload on a customer because you’re having a bad day, and no matter how bad things are, I generally look like I have my shit together. In fact, I have gotten ridiculously, scary good at pretending life is swell even when things fall apart around me. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism. Maybe it’s for survival. Maybe faking it gave me the strength to move forward until I could legitimately say “Yes, things are good.” Then, my brother’s attack in 2015 happened, which I wrote more about here. My innate fear of being regarded as conceited encourages me to downplay my memory, but I do have excellent recall. I can remember people’s names and faces even if it has been a year or two between visits. Imagine the sheer power of that memory when dealing with tragedy. Imagine being able to recall the exact blouse your mother wore or the position of her hand when she died or the gory images of your brother bleeding out on your carpet after being hacked up by a machete. Closing your eyes is like a punishment and does not make make recovering from trauma easy. Drinking does though. If you down enough of your poison of choice, you won’t sit up in bed at night crying. You’ll pass out. And sometimes that is a relief you can’t measure. It’s hard to know how to get help when you’re suffering, when you’re living inside this dark shell, frightened of your surroundings and always waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

The unfair standards I place on myself make it hard to admit when I need help too. If I am not getting up early to exercise, eating smoothies, being the perfect worker, brimming with energy and sunshine and sparkles, and generally being some kind of twisted modern have-it-all-and-nothing-can-destroy-me super woman, then I’m failing. Failing at what exactly? Life? Being an adult? Getting my shit together? I spent a long time living in the darkness, letting it seep into my skin and enveloping me completely, until I realized I desperately needed change. I quit drinking, started making positive changes, and returned to some semblance of my normal life only to hear from my seller-financed lender that I had to pay the full loan balance or sell as soon as possible. Let’s just say things went downhill from there. Ultimately, finding financing for a small business owner is harder than you’d imagine, the market wasn’t biting on the home, and the aforementioned generous seller was being, well, an ass. That’s all I can say about the situation at present, but I spent months living in uncertainty, working with lawyers and real estate agents, and unable to tell anyone but a close few about how dire the situation was. At the end of the day, I turned the keys of my house over to him. The week I found out we lost our last injunction my veneer cracked.

The new place wouldn’t be ready until October 9th, and legally, I agreed to be out by the 5th. It was doable, but I asked in advance if we could have four extra days to make the move in one smooth transition. He agreed. After all, he won, and what was four more days? Despite despising him personally, I wanted to do right by the situation and planned to clean the house thoroughly so he could try listing it immediately. I didn’t want to be petty and preferred to close the chapter on a positive note. The morning of the 4th, he sent a text stating we needed to have the keys ready by 8a.m. on the 5th or pay a $3000 security deposit and $1000 in rent for the remaining four days. And so at eight o’clock on a sunny Tuesday morning right before hurricane Matthew was due to hit North Carolina and with only three quarters of the house packed, I shook my brother awake and said “Get up. We’re moving today.” Everyone lined up to help was for the 9th except my aunt and uncle who could only help a few hours. My dad, brother, and I worked to the brink of complete exhaustion and breakdown, pushing beyond what any of us thought we were physically and emotionally capable of doing. We finished packing and made one trip to the new place where our shed had been relocated the week prior, and then we reloaded the U-Haul and drove to my aunt’s to camp out for the four days. Our saving grace was my brother’s boss. He showed up at 2a.m. when we could barely move, barely think, and he pushed us the rest of the way.

In the same week as this devastating blow, a customer argued with me about deserving a referral fee in addition to the customer loyalty program we already have because a friend came with her. I snapped. I didn’t raise my voice or get unpleasant, but in a tone more exasperated and sharper than usual, I said discounts literally had taken food out of my mouth so people could buy their bra just a little bit cheaper and I was done. She had $10 off, and that’s all she was getting. My friend Amber always asks me how I have such patience with people. I never really knew how to answer her, but the more I turned the question over in my mind, the answer I arrived at was that I genuinely want to help. If you look at a task as something you want to do or enjoy doing, your attitude about it shifts, meaning you can tolerate more setbacks and obstacles. For me, I treat customers like the people they are rather than as someone I am obligated to wait on or serve. It’s probably why I have become friends with so many. Of course, even I have my breaking point, and it took every ounce of strength I had to go to work that week—living off the floor, my muscles aching with even the slightest movement, my fingers bruised and bloody—and say I was doing “just fine.”

After that, I became deeply bitter and resentful of the store. I was ready to start shutting down in December. I blamed the store and the customers for everything that went wrong in my life. I always joke the universe shows me no pity. If I wake up sad or feeling ill, the customers that day won’t be satisfied with anything or want to push return policies, vendors will screw something up, a shipment will get lost, or any of the myriad of other fires business owners put out each day will flare. And that’s just it: I went from joking about bad luck to actively believing in it (appropriate given today’s date, no?). Instead of waking up each morning excited for the day, I dreaded it. I kept asking myself “What else? What else do I have to survive?” Again, I was in that dark place, and with the darkness came my favorite companion: alcohol. Alcohol is a vice made easier by Facebook. All my friends post memes meant in jest which smack of alcoholism, and it’s all one giant laugh because apparently being adult is only made bearable with wine or whiskey or whatever. Nightly cocktails are the best lubricants of modern living, and if you think your life is fucked, what’s the point in not partaking in the revelry?

My weight also suffered over the course of the year, in part due to my bad habits and in part due to an IUD I had inserted the week before my brother’s attack. I gained over 35 pounds last year on top of the 15 I gained the year before that. When I tried to talk to doctors about the weight gain along with other persistent symptoms, they kept telling me to exercise more and eat less, or worse yet, they shrugged their shoulders and didn’t take me seriously. This fall, I was diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency and high triglycerides (like crazy low for the former and crazy high for the latter). So, now I hate my job, a job that I can’t even justify keeping because of the pay. I lost my house. I feel fat and ugly. My immune system is in the toilet, and I’m in serious risk of cardiovascular disease. In December, Hades, the cat I have had for over half my life, started into final stage renal failure, and I had to set up his rainbow bridge appointment on my birthday. We won’t even mention the political discord, general sadness, and complete anger spewed about the election everywhere. Fuck you, 2016.

Hades: He who earned his name and gave no fucks

If you’re still reading, I didn’t go into this long spiel for pity. I don’t want pity. God knows I have done an amazing job at pitying myself the better part of the 2016. I’m a deeply rational person, and yet I still convinced myself that if I could just get to 2017, all the bad vibes or luck or dark clouds above me would dissipate. Ironically, not even 12 hours into the new year, my favorite bedspread was ruined and I found out my identity was stolen. The next day I faced the worst stomach flu I have had since I caught mono back in September 2014. I was nearly hospitalized. Life leaned in close and whispered “You so sure 2017 is your year?”

I had enough. I was not going to let an arbitrary date or raw deal set the tone of my life. I realized we are all like the mythical phoenix. If you’ve never heard of this creature (or watched/read Harry Potter), a phoenix bursts into flames and dies only to be reborn from its ashes. Have I had a shitty year? Yes, but what makes me think I get to wallow in self-pity and indulge in this morbid fantasy that I am cursed or that one bad event ruins the week or the month or the year. People in Syria would happily swap with me I am sure. Does that invalidate my own feelings and my own depression because other people are suffering more? No, of course not. We can’t use other people as metrics to make us feel better or, conversely, to feel worse. We will all have times when our life explodes in flames, when everything around us burns so hot it reduces to smoldering ash. We may even have times when something is burned so badly it isn’t salvageable, maybe even a part of ourselves. We don’t get a free pass in life. We are not promised a charmed, privileged existence where nothing bad ever happens, but we also don’t have to pretend to have it all together when we clearly don’t. We don’t have to plaster on a fake smile and pretend everything is going like we hoped. We can beautifully, darkly, completely, and utterly fall apart. We can stop doing our nails or eat a burger or not exercise or Netflix binge or have a panic attack or be depressed. You are entitled to feel how you feel. Your feelings are your feelings, and no one should make you feel like they aren’t valid and important.

But, if we’re ever going to survive, if we’re ever going to be happy and take enjoyment from life, it’s the next part that matters. It matters that you get up. Even if you can only rise to a bent knee, you try to get up. You don’t be the victim of what life throws at you. You take that bad moment or even that bad year, and you let it make you stronger. You learn from it. You fight everyday for your happiness. It’s not easy, and you’re allowed to breakdown again. You’re allowed to burn to ashes again and again if that’s what you need, but the important thing is that you come back to us, that you come back to life.

Last year, if my year started off the way it has this year, I’d have already been written off the whole year. The whole damn year. All because I had a few bad days. My friend Mark told me once he doesn’t have bad days, only bad moments. Isn’t that a wonderfully simple sentiment? For people like myself who struggle with depression, it may even be too simple, but there’s a lot of truth to looking at moments as moments only. This year, I told my dad the morning of the snow storm when my car bumper was dented: “It’s just a car.” 2016 me would have used this as further reinforcement that 2017 was doomed. Speaking of the doom and gloom of 2016, I should also note how many posts I saw from friends who were almost scared to admit 2016 was a good year for them, that they had a new baby or got married or bought a house or generally were in the black as far as life events go.

It got me thinking of the last decade that I just painstakingly recounted for you. Did I have a bad experience in college, even a traumatizing one? Yes, but I also kicked ass, graduated near the top of my class, and was the first person in my family to get a college degree. Was grad school what I hoped for? Nope, but I learned to channel my 12 year old self, the person who took on bullies twice her size and wasn’t afraid to let it be known if you were taking advantage of her or her friends. I found myself again and discovered who I wanted to be. Even though my grandmother passed, we had enough time together to share how much we meant to each other, and I live each and every day knowing how much she loved me and cherished me. That’s a gift. The same is true of my mom, and their combined lessons on humility, dignity, compassion, and endurance have enabled me to carry on even when I wasn’t sure I could. When all you look for is the storm, how can you possibly appreciate the sun?

Life burned down for me in many ways, but I have also risen up. The new place I am renting is wonderful. The dogs love their doggy door and fenced in yard, and for the first time in seven years, I have a fireplace again. My commute is less than two minutes if I catch the lights right, and I only fill up my gas tank twice a month. The weight gain, the high triglycerides, and the low vitamin D I mentioned? My dad purchased me 8 Steps to Reversing your PCOS by Fiona McCulloch for Christmas. Every single one of my symptoms is documented and explained. For years, I felt systemically sick and was seeking a diagnosis only to realize I already had my diagnosis. I just needed to find the right resources to help me heal. Even little things like the bedspread are sorting out. I contacted the company who made it, and they are replacing it for free. The store had a record-setting December, and January has started great. We’re doing swim this year finally, and I’m genuinely excited to get to work in the mornings. I’ve been coming in early and working late because I want to and am enjoying the experience again. I am reborn.

Lord Rayden enjoying the fireplace on a cold night.

It wasn’t the turnover from 2016 to 2017. It was my new resolutions. I resolve to stop letting myself be victimized by my circumstances, to stop assuming it’s always my fault things aren’t better, to understand trying harder doesn’t always mean you’ll succeed, and to stop thinking I should be strong all the time. I resolve to be vulnerable. I resolve to take things in stride and not to let one bad moment or one bad day or even one bad week ruin my whole outlook. I resolve to seek out the light when I feel the darkness approaching and to understand life is more than houses or businesses or loss. I resolve to keep fighting. I resolve to burn down to ash if I need to, but I also resolve to be born again and again, to rise up from my own ashes, dust myself off, look life hard in the face and say: You will never beat me, but you will make me stronger.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Erica

Okay, so sometimes they don’t like their fenced in yard.

2017: Rise from the Ashes & Never Lose Hope
Erica

Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.


44 thoughts on “2017: Rise from the Ashes & Never Lose Hope

  • January 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm
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    FU, 2016, indeed. Or rather, FU, yucky negative stuff.
    blessings to you, Erica— you matter. You are loved.
    And I referred you a new customer last week 🙂 It gave me great joy to share your name with her, and I hope y’all have a long and fruitful relationship.
    Tami

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    • Erica
      January 13, 2017 at 2:22 pm
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      Thank you, Tami. <3 You know I appreciate the word of mouth so much as it really helped our business grow into what it has become. You are awesome, and I am wishing nothing but the best for you and yours this year. <3

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  • January 13, 2017 at 1:14 pm
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    Erica, I only wish your store was closer. It has meant so much to me to have the joy of a well fitting undergarment, and pretty too. Life brings us pain and many disspointments, Depression can rob us of ever seeing the joy. I will pay in this year that each moment becomes a blessing to you. if you’ve never read 1000 gifts I highly recommend this read ( but I’m sure being as busy as you are it’s hard to take a moment to enjoy a book) Thank you for all you do to help women like me feel better about the bodies we are in.

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    • Erica
      January 13, 2017 at 2:24 pm
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      Hi Laura! I actually love to read, so I will definitely pick the book up. Patrica from Bolero sent me “Be Happy” that dreadful week in October, and it was a tremendous gift and boost to my very damaged spirit. Depression is an ongoing battle, but I realized I was feeding into it by actively seeking out and focusing on the negative elements or events, so much so I missed many of the wonderful things. Thank you for such kind words and for the recommendations. <3

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  • January 13, 2017 at 1:32 pm
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    Hi Erica,

    My heartfelt best wishes to you for the new year-2017 and all the years there after!!

    You are truly a great inspiration, you are very very brave. Your hope and persistence will definitely fetch you rewards in all the aspects of life.

    Cheers and love,
    Sowmya.

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    • Erica
      January 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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      Thank you Sowmya for the well-wishes in the new year as well as the kind words. <3 I feel like sharing openly gives people the opportunity to share as well. The longer I keep those emotions pent up, the worse I begin to feel. Being able say "I'm sad" goes along way toward helping me feel better than bottling it up and pretending I'm not. I hope these positive changes will help me cope with other setback better. Thanks again, and my love and best wishes to you and yours!

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  • January 13, 2017 at 4:04 pm
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    Erica, you are an inspiration.

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    • Erica
      January 13, 2017 at 4:34 pm
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      <3 <3 I thought it may help other people to read that we all struggle sometimes and there is hope.

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  • January 13, 2017 at 5:01 pm
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    Erica, I have no words except: You are effing amazing! You went through that (and are still dealing with much, I’m sure) and you’re here. My hat is off to you and I extend virtual hugs.

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    • Erica
      January 14, 2017 at 11:03 am
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      Thank you for the virtual hugs and kind words, Nichole. <3 Things have gotten better, but part of it really is changing how I look at things, even when it's hard to do so.

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  • January 13, 2017 at 7:04 pm
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    Erica

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are a beautiful person inside and out. You have always been patience with me and my crazy boobs problems. I wish you the best in 2017.

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    • Erica
      January 14, 2017 at 11:04 am
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      Thanks, Mary! 🙂 Crazy boob problems are my specialty. We all have them sometimes!

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  • January 13, 2017 at 9:30 pm
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    Erica–I have benefitted so much from the bras you sell, from your information and advocacy, and from your honest and beautiful writing. Thank you! I also deal with depression. I don’t have any real answers, but I do know that having a well-fitting and supportive bra was transformative to my self-image, in ways that did help with mood and motivation. Your work and sacrifice do so much in the world!!

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    • Erica
      January 14, 2017 at 11:07 am
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      <3 I don't think anyone has any real answers to depression, Ann. We all just have to find ways to cope and figure out what helps us recover. I have some friends who use other tactics like going for runs and getting a manicure, but for me, I sometimes find it hard to even get off the couch if I am in that space. Since I stopped taking everything bad as a personal attack from the universe, it's helped me put things in perspective. Life is hard sometimes, but it can also be wonderfully beautiful too. I'm glad I could help you find a little of that with bras. They always perk me up too. :-D

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  • January 13, 2017 at 10:05 pm
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    Erica, it takes a fighter spirit to overcome all the negative experiences you just described. You are amazing and beautiful and courageous and strong. I know it may not feel like it at times, but I am just stating facts as I see them. May this year become the year of peace and calm and joy for you! Whenever I hear people saying how much they feel inspired by various celebrities, I always think about how much I feel inspired by regular people who in spite of adversity get up every day and go about their lives – that is hard, to live an honest life in the absence of glamour, where crap happens on a regular basis. To overcome all of that and maintain emotional and spiritual balance is something to aspire to. ❤️

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    • Erica
      January 14, 2017 at 11:14 am
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      Iveta, I know you have not had great experiences this year either, but you always are so strong and positive which I admire. I totally agree with you. I find regular people to be more inspiring than celebrities. We are all going through various struggles throughout our lives, and by opening up with each other, I think it would help more than sitting alone and suffering quietly. I have met some amazing people since I started this store who inspire me with their generosity and kindness. We can find a lot of strength and resilience in the everyday person.

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  • January 13, 2017 at 11:06 pm
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    Wow. That is a lot to go through. I’m glad that you did make it through and that you’re continuing to make it. I’m glad things are looking up – or that you’re looking up.

    I completely agree with you on not writing off the whole year. I don’t see years as whole entities, just another way to reference time. I’ve never made a new year’s resolution for that reason. I want to me moving on and up at whatever pace is best for me, not waiting for some arbitrary time to start. And I hope that you will continue to see your life as moving on and up in its own time as you keep kicking arse and being amazing.

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    • Erica
      January 14, 2017 at 11:16 am
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      Thanks, Kiwi! 🙂 Yes, I feel like I was using time as a bit of a scapegoat which not only allowed me to extend bad habits but the depression itself. I can’t tell you how many times I said I’d reform my diet “next week” only for next week to arrive and something go awry. So, then it’d be “next week for sure!” and so on. I’m just going to take each day as it comes and if something happens, get back up immediately, not sit around waiting. Thank you for sharing your perspective and for the thoughtful message. <3

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  • January 14, 2017 at 2:36 am
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    So sorry to hear of your struggles, Erica. As someone who also suffers from PCOS and depression, I cannot imagine heaping all that other stuff on top of it. I truly hope things continue to improve for you. You are so inspiring and I’m really glad I stumbled upon your little corner of the internet

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    • Erica
      January 14, 2017 at 11:19 am
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      Emily, please please please if you suffer from PCOS, check out that book I recommended. I have practically been shouting it from the rooftops to all my friends and even customers I know who have the disorder. It utilizes science and breaks down PCOS into multiple areas like inflammation, androgen excess, insulin resistance and so on. Trust me, it is so worth the money and the read. I never thought of myself as someone suffering from inflammation, but many of the things I just wrote off as being “overworked” or “tired” are actually inflammation. Give it a glance and see if it can help you at all too! <3

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  • January 14, 2017 at 9:45 am
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    Lord, Erica! What a miserable time you’ve been going through. I’d never have known given your upbeat nature and lively posts. So thank you for sharing. It’s so important to communicate, to be heard. And now you have that many more people sharing in your story, wishing you well (and giving you all of the positive go-forward thoughts). It’s going to be ok – and you’re going to be ok – because your attitude and fortitude are exceptional. And as the tides turn, wow, won’t you have a crazy history to look back on and to draw from! What I’ve found (and I’m 46 so I’ve got a few decades behind me) is that the horrible experiences, while I’d always forego them given the opportunity, have provided me with so much strength borne of perspective – of the knowledge that I can persevere. And then, when things get easier, as the cycle changes, I have been able to apply that strength. Think of this as a crash course in rising to the challenge (not that I’m undermining your struggles – they are very real and significant). Much love, K

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    • Erica
      January 14, 2017 at 11:23 am
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      Thank you, K-line! <3 I think your attitude about using the negative events to draw strength from is what I am trying to do as well. When all you see is the trauma, it's hard to remember you survived it and can get better. It lets you see that you do have a strength and endurance, even if it takes time and you fall down a lot. I think I just had enough, ya know? I can sit here and wallow and hate myself and my life . . . or I can start changing how I see things and be kinder to myself. I wavered a lot about posting this, especially so much (I didn't expect it to be so long but once I started, it was a written explosion of emotions, lol), but I know others have gone through some of these same experiences and could be feeling as alone as I was. Thank you for sharing your perspective and for such a sweet words! <3

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  • January 14, 2017 at 6:26 pm
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    Wow Erica–you and your family have certainly been through a lot over the last ten years! You seem to have been able to stay strong through all of it though so I wish you continued strength in dealing with whatever life throws at you!

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    • Erica
      January 19, 2017 at 4:49 pm
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      Thank you, David. 🙂 It’s been a tough decade in some regards, but it has made us appreciate each other more. And you know much I love the Nabokov quote! It’s an inspiration for me!

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  • January 14, 2017 at 8:40 pm
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    WOW, Thank you for sharing it must have been hard to start writing,but once you started sharing I could feel the anguish you have been going through. I have been there as well. I now it on day at a time and look at the hard stuff as a learning moment.I tell my self that the glass is half full not half empty. Several people have recommend that go see you for a professional fitting.
    I have been planning on getting down for fitting for more that two years but life keeps getting in the way (health issues mine and family) I will make it happen this spring.

    You have an incredible talent for writing !
    Maybe book in the future?

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    • Erica
      January 19, 2017 at 4:53 pm
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      Well, we look forward to having you when you do get a chance to stop by! 🙂 I heard a great quote on West World about the glass half empty/full analogy: “We’re engineers. It means the glass has been manufactured to the wrong specifications.” Writing for me has been a big outlet, especially for when I am struggling. The first draft was a bit more raw, but I refined it after I poured out the emotions. It’s funny you mention a book. I actually wrote one years ago, got a lot of rejection letters, and got disheartened. I feel like I am stronger now though, both as a person and as a writer than when I first started writing. Thank you for such a sweet message of support here, and I can’t wait to help you find some new bras!

      Reply
  • January 14, 2017 at 9:50 pm
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    Erica, thanks so much for sharing. I, too, suffer from depression my entire life. I also share your birthday! December 27th. Your story gives me encouragement to not let my problems get me down so much. I hope to visit your store soon. I have been reading your blog for some time and admire you so much. Now I am blown away by how much you have been dealing with. Thanks for all your sharing.

    From a future customer,
    Candy

    Reply
    • Erica
      January 19, 2017 at 5:01 pm
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      Birthday buddies! Darlene from Hourlgassy also shares our birthday. 😀 I am so glad the blog could be an encouragement. I spent a lot of time on it because I wanted to let people know they weren’t alone in the ongoing struggle. It’s not easy to wake up everyday and even get out of bed, much less put on a brave face. I am glad it could help you in some small way, and I look forward to helping with your bras! <3

      Reply
  • January 16, 2017 at 6:58 pm
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    Very sorry you had to go thru all that!
    In regards to the customer that was hassling you and you said “For me, I treat customers like the people they are rather than as someone I am obligated to wait on or serve.” That’s nice but people should not be taking advantage of you either but unfortunately that type of person is out there. So it is OK to stand up for yourself and your business! I have never worked retail but both my daughters have. They both worked for the same small business dance apparel shop. I am forever grateful that she was their “boss” when they were younger. She is a wonderful lady. My girls would come home and tell me about “some of the customers”, how they acted and what they thought they were entitled to.The store, at some point, instituted the “policy” that all dance stockings were NOT returnable for ANY reason and signs that said so were posted in that section and throughout the store. (I suspect people were wearing them and then trying to return them.) Even at checkout customers were told are you getting the right size and color and type because “they are not returnable”. Even then some people tried to still return them. There were other stories too about the “crazy customers”. I am glad they were few and far between. I also got to listen to the “vendor” stories also.

    Reply
    • Erica
      January 19, 2017 at 5:09 pm
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      Hi Ivy! Yes, you are very right. One of the things I changed about this year was some of our policies, especially cracking down on discounts and returns. I am a bra consumer too (obviously), and I wouldn’t feel right selling some of the products people want to return but cannot justify the expense of donating them. So to ask for a return on an item you’ve clearly worn is asking me to lose everything I spent on the bra, plus the potential profit. I am sure dance stockings are the same way (who wants other people’s sweat all over them??). For the store to be more successful and for us to be able to do things like help women at various incomes or organize charity drives, we have to be open. It’s a hard lesson that I’ve been learning over the last twelve months, particularly because of a genuine desire to want to help. But, as you said, there are also people out there who take advantage of that trait too. Business experts say you need to know how and when to fire customers, and I suck at it. I have to keep repeating to myself: You cannot please everyone. You cannot make everyone happy. It’s like a mantra. I had a customer tell me once she thought the world would be a better place if before you turned 21, you had to work one job in retail and one job in fast food. It would teach you to be kinder and more patient with people and give you a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

      Reply
  • January 16, 2017 at 9:41 pm
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    Whether you meant it this way or no, what all of this tells those who read and who know you, even through visits, that you are *beyond* a tough cookie! You will laugh, and it sounds silly, but you’re like Rocky—remember what he said to his frustrated son?—”It’s not about how hard you can hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Simple, but true. You have been hit, many, many times, and very, VERY hard, yet here you are, still rolling with the punches, still getting back up and hitting back and moving on, every morning, every week, every month. People these days look at famous types and think they’re the ones to look up to and admire, but in reality, it is people like you that should be looked up to. It is the every day that can be difficult, that takes strength to keep going for sometimes—either because it simply isn’t exciting, or, as in your case, because of the burdens borne. That you would share this with all of us is really touching and actually rather kind…it could truly encourage another struggling soul, and also opens the door to who you are to your customers. That is very generous, even if you think it is a bit raw. That is just life!

    It also really makes me happy to see you have learned the lesson that I learned myself, long ago. It’s certainly a mindset and even a worldview change, and sticking to it can take some real perseverance and determination at first, but once you get into that groove—that we choose how we respond to things, and some days yes, there may be tears or screaming into a pillow while on others we’re going to honestly just laugh it off—is so, so worth it! I also used to fight with depression, but thank God, these days it takes quite a bit to get me into a funk, and even then find I’m reminding myself that I control my response, and at some point I will need to get back up onto my horse and keep moving (besides, it’s better to occupy oneself hunting for the sunlight than to wait for it to arrive!). So please stick to your obvious new resolve, even on the really rough days (they’ll come, alas).

    All of that said (as you know, I’m rarely brief despite best efforts), I also pray & hope that 2017 is a much better year for you on every front, perhaps even with a few joyous surprises thrown in. 🙂 And dates…they are just arbitrary. “His mercies are new every morning.” Each day is a gift, and each one its own new leaf. May the vast majority of the coming ones be unblemished! *hug*

    Reply
    • Erica
      January 19, 2017 at 5:27 pm
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      Are you saying I’m “rope a doping” life, cuz if so that is awesome. 😀 Jessica Lange gave this great monologue at the end of the first season of American Horror story talking about how she thought she was destined for great things but instead of laurels and glory, she got funeral wreathes and disappointment. Ultimately she concludes the tragedy was preparing for her something greater, which because it’s a horror story is raising a demon baby, but the sentiment falls right in line with a quote I have heard more than once: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” On a serious note, I appreciate the loving comment here, and you’re right. It does take strength. Sometimes I worry many of us do not think we have the strength to get up, and it’s one of the driving forces in why I wanted to share it here, so explicitly and with the pain not mitigated. I know there times when life hit me hard in the face, and I didn’t think I could ever get back up or even that I’d want to. When you’re being knocked down, it makes you question what the point of getting up even is, and that’s where things get dangerous. I didn’t want anyone to feel like they couldn’t or shouldn’t get back up, hence why I thought of all of us as phoenix, rising from the ashes.

      You are very right that choosing how to respond to these setbacks can be more defining than the setbacks themselves. It doesn’t mean some days you won’t be depressed or angry or upset, but if you can choose to address those feelings, vent them however you can, and refocus, you will feel better. One of the things that really irritated me was a lot of things talking about self-care for depression being vital, and some of them were things like exercise or do your nails. They aren’t wrong because they can help sometimes, but other times, the best self-care is a little self-reflection or even to withdraw, to cry, to scream if you have to. Just get it out of your system.

      Thank you for being a wonderful friend, Jen! I am so glad we got to meet (albeit briefly) and have been able to chat since then! <3

      Reply
  • January 17, 2017 at 1:14 pm
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    Reading this, I hear you finding strength in vulnerability, and I see you in my minds eye shining with your newly discovered power. I wanted to add a small message of affirmation and identification. 😀

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    • Erica
      January 19, 2017 at 4:45 pm
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      Thank you, Janice. That is exactly what I am trying to do. Vulnerability and weakness are not always negative emotions we have to discard or erase as quickly as possible. It’s given me strength to acknowledge I don’t have to be happy every second of every day and am allowed my own feelings.

      Reply
  • January 18, 2017 at 8:56 am
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    Erica- Thank you for sharing this. All of this. In 2016, I learned that it is ok to not be “ok.” It’s OK to have feelings! And it’s ok to express them, even to customers! I feel comfort in knowing that people I interact with are real, as it allows me to be myself too 🙂

    You are appreciated, loved, and admired. Thank you for all that you do for the bra and lingerie-wearing community. You are truly a voice of reason, respectability, and beauty.

    Reply
    • Erica
      January 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm
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      Thank you, Sam. <3 <3 It's been so nice getting to know you (and most of your friends at this point, hehe) over the last few years. I think it's hard to admit sometimes when things aren't okay, and you end up avoiding dealing with that feeling rather than addressing it and moving forward. Sometimes we just have bad times or bad days, and going forward is easier when you acknowledge you don't feel great and that's a normal, acceptable thing to feel. When I fight it and pretend to be positive, the feelings just churl and brew instead of going away.

      Reply
      • January 20, 2017 at 9:06 am
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        I must say, I love sharing “my bra lady” with everyone I know 🙂

        Speaking of… I need to get my sister on board the Sophisticated Pair train.

        Reply
  • January 21, 2017 at 9:35 pm
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    You were always so responsive and gracious while we were working out the Comexim custom bra snafu, I would never have suspected you were having such a tough time. I hope the coming year is a good one for you!

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    • Erica
      January 24, 2017 at 6:07 pm
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      Thank you, Pratima! As a Comexim customer myself, I know how frustrating it is to wait so long and have things be wrong, so I am motivated a lot by empathy in that situation regardless of my own circumstances. One of my goals has always been to provide the best service I can. Glad to know it was appreciated. <3 <3

      Reply
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