Utilizing Visual Aids and Schedules: Enhancing Emotional Regulation


Emotional regulation plays a crucial role in maintaining our mental well-being and navigating daily life effectively. For individuals who struggle with emotional regulation, incorporating visual aids and schedules into their routines can be immensely beneficial. In this blog post, we will explore the power of visual aids and schedules in supporting emotional regulation and provide practical tips for their implementation.

The Role of Visual Aids

Visual aids are powerful tools for enhancing emotional regulation by providing visual cues, reminders, and structure. They offer a tangible representation of information, making it easier to understand, process, and follow. Visual aids can be used in various forms, such as charts, diagrams, pictures, and symbols, tailored to individual preferences and needs.

Creating Visual Schedules

Visual schedules are visual representations of a sequence of tasks, activities, or events presented in chronological order. They provide predictability, structure, and clarity, significantly assisting emotional regulation. Creating a visual schedule involves breaking down tasks or routines into manageable steps and displaying them in a visual format, such as a daily or weekly calendar, checklist, or visual timeline.

Benefits of Visual Aids and Schedules

  • Enhancing predictability: Visual aids and schedules offer a sense of predictability, helping individuals anticipate what comes next and reducing anxiety or uncertainty.
  • Promoting independence: By providing clear visual cues and reminders, visual aids and schedules empower individuals to independently navigate their daily routines and responsibilities.
  • Facilitating transitions: Visual aids and schedules smooth transitions between activities, events, or changes, minimizing disruptions and easing emotional transitions.
  • Reinforcing routines and expectations: They serve as a visual reminder of routines, expectations, and boundaries, promoting consistency and reducing behavioral challenges.
  • Increasing focus and attention: Visual aids can help individuals stay focused and attentive by providing a visual anchor for attention and concentration.

Practical Tips for Implementation

  • Customize visuals: Tailor visual aids and schedules to individual preferences, using colors, symbols, or images that resonate with the person.
  • Keep it simple: Use clear and straightforward visuals, avoiding clutter or excessive information, to maintain clarity and ease of understanding.
  • Involve the individual: Collaborate with the person to create and personalize visual aids and schedules, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement.
  • Make it visible: Place visual aids and schedules in easily accessible locations, such as a bedroom, desk, or common area, ensuring they remain visible and prominent.
  • Update and adjust: Regularly update visual aids and schedules to reflect changes in routines, activities, or goals. Be flexible and adapt as needed.
  • Reinforce with praise and positive feedback: Celebrate successes and milestones achieved with the support of visual aids and schedules, reinforcing their effectiveness.

Utilizing visual aids and schedules can be a game-changer in supporting emotional regulation and promoting overall well-being. By incorporating visual cues, reminders, and structure into daily routines, individuals can gain a sense of predictability, independence, and focus. Remember to tailor visual aids and schedules to individual needs, involve the person in the process, and regularly update and adjust as necessary. Embrace the power of visuals and empower individuals to enhance their emotional regulation skills for a more balanced and fulfilling life.


Grounding Techniques: Finding Stability and Calm in the Present Moment

Life often presents us with challenges and stressors that can leave us overwhelmed and disconnected. During these moments, grounding techniques can be powerful tools to bring us back to the present moment, cultivate a sense of stability, and restore a calm state of mind. In this blog post, I will explore the concept of grounding and provide you with various effective techniques to incorporate into your daily life.

What is Grounding?
Grounding is a practice that helps anchor us in the present moment, bringing our awareness away from racing thoughts, worries, or anxious feelings. It involves reconnecting with our physical body and immediate surroundings, allowing us to find stability, focus, and a sense of inner calm.

Engage your Senses
One effective grounding technique is to engage your senses. Take a moment to notice and describe what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Pay attention to the details, colors, sounds, and textures around you. This practice helps redirect your focus to the present moment and brings you into a more grounded state.

Mindful Breathing
Concentrating on your breath is a powerful way to ground yourself. Take slow, deep breaths, and focus on the sensation of each inhale and exhale. Feel the expansion and contraction of your abdomen or the air passing through your nostrils. This simple act of mindful breathing helps calm your nervous system and promotes a sense of centeredness.

Grounding Objects
Carrying or holding grounding objects can provide a tangible sense of stability. These objects can be anything that brings you comfort and reassurance, such as a smooth stone, a favorite piece of jewelry, or a soft fabric. When you feel anxious or overwhelmed, hold the object in your hand, feel its texture, and let it serve to remind you of your grounding practice.

Body Scan Meditation
A body scan meditation is a powerful technique to ground yourself by reconnecting with your physical sensations. Start from the top of your head, and slowly move your attention down through your body, noticing any areas of tension, discomfort, or relaxation. This helps you become more aware of your body, release tension, and find a sense of grounding within yourself.

Grounding through Movement
Physical movement can be an excellent way to ground yourself. Engage in activities that bring you into your body, such as yoga, walking, or dancing. Pay attention to the sensations of your muscles moving, the rhythm of your breath, and the connection between your body and the earth beneath you. Moving with intention helps return you to the present moment and promotes a sense of grounding and well-being.

Visualization techniques can be powerful tools for grounding. Close your eyes and imagine yourself rooted to the earth like a sturdy tree with deep roots. Visualize these roots growing deep into the ground, giving you strength, stability, and a sense of grounding. This visualization helps anchor your energy and provides a sense of security.

In our fast-paced and often chaotic world, grounding techniques offer a valuable refuge. With these practices as part of your daily life, you can find stability, calm, and a renewed sense of presence. Experiment with different grounding techniques and discover which ones resonate with you the most. Remember, grounding is a skill that can be cultivated and refined over time, providing you with a reliable anchor amidst life’s storms. Embrace the power of grounding and experience the transformative benefits it can bring to your overall well-being.

Building a Strong Support Network: Your Key to Success and Well-being

Navigating life’s challenges becomes much easier when you have a strong support network by your side. A support network consists of individuals who provide emotional, practical, and sometimes even professional assistance when you need it most. Today, I want to talk about building a support network and share tips to help you cultivate a reliable and caring circle of support.

Recognize the Value of a Support Network
Having a support network offers numerous benefits. It provides a sense of belonging, reduces feelings of isolation, and enhances overall well-being. A support network provides a safe space to share your thoughts and emotions, seek advice, and receive encouragement during challenging times. It can also serve as motivation and inspiration, pushing you toward your goals and dreams.

Identify your Needs and Goals
Start by identifying your needs and goals. Consider the areas of your life where you could benefit from support. This could be related to personal relationships, career aspirations, physical or mental health, or any other aspect important to you. Understanding your needs will help you determine the type of support you require and the kind of people you should seek to include in your network.

Assess your Current Connections
Take stock of your existing connections. Evaluate your relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Identify individuals who are supportive, trustworthy, and understanding. These are the people who can form the foundation of your support network. Remember, a support network can be diverse, including different types of relationships and connections that fulfill various needs.

Expand your Social Circle
Actively seek out new connections to expand your support network. Join clubs, organizations, or social groups that align with your interests or goals. Attend networking events or engage in online communities centered around your hobbies or professional field. Putting yourself out there increases the chances of finding like-minded individuals who can offer valuable support and guidance.

Cultivate Mutual Relationships
Building a support network goes both ways. Fostering mutual relationships based on trust, respect, and reciprocity is essential. Be willing to provide support and assistance to others in your network as well. Remember that relationships thrive when there is a sense of give and take, and supporting others can be as rewarding as receiving support.

Communicate your Needs
Open and honest communication is vital in any support network. Clearly communicate your needs, concerns, and goals to those in your network. Be vulnerable and willing to ask for help when necessary. Effective communication helps others understand how to best support you and ensures your network remains strong and responsive to your needs.

Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
When it comes to building a support network, quality is more important than quantity. A smaller network of reliable, supportive individuals is more valuable than a large group with superficial connections. Focus on cultivating deep, meaningful connections with individuals who genuinely care about your well-being.

Maintain and Nurture your Network
Building a support network is an ongoing process. It requires consistent effort to maintain and nurture your relationships. Regularly check in with your network, show appreciation for their support, and be present when they need you. Remember that relationships require time, attention, and genuine care to flourish.

Building a solid support network is crucial to personal growth, well-being, and success. Surrounding yourself with caring and supportive individuals can provide the encouragement, guidance, and sense of belonging needed to navigate life’s challenges. By recognizing the value of a support network, identifying your needs and goals, expanding your social circle, cultivating mutual relationships, communicating effectively, and prioritizing quality connections, you can build a robust and reliable support network that uplifts and empowers you on your journey.

Remember, you don’t have to face life’s difficulties alone. Invest in building your support network, and let it become a source of strength, resilience, and joy in your life.

7 Tips to Develop an Effective Self-Care Routine for a Balanced Life

In today’s fast-paced and demanding world, prioritizing self-care is a vital part of maintaining a balanced and fulfilling life. Developing a self-care routine allows you to nurture your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, enabling you to show up as your best self. In this blog post, we’ll explore seven practical tips to help you develop an effective self-care routine that supports your overall well-being and helps you thrive.

1. Assess Your Needs and Priorities
Start by assessing your needs and priorities. Identify what truly matters to you and what brings you joy and fulfillment. Reflect on areas of your life that require attention and care, such as physical health, mental well-being, relationships, or personal interests. This self-reflection will guide you in creating a well-rounded self-care routine that aligns with your unique needs.

2. Make Time for Self-Care
Prioritize self-care by making it a non-negotiable part of your schedule. Set aside dedicated time for self-care activities as you would for work or other commitments. Treat this time as sacred and non-negotiable. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, carving out time for self-care demonstrates its importance in your life.

3. Explore Different Self-Care Activities
Experiment with various self-care activities to find what resonates with you. Consider activities that promote relaxation, joy, and personal growth. This could include practices like reading, journaling, practicing mindfulness or meditation, engaging in physical exercise, pursuing hobbies, spending time in nature, or simply enjoying quiet solitude. Discover what brings you a sense of well-being and incorporate those activities into your routine.

4. Create a Self-Care Plan
Develop a self-care plan that outlines specific activities and when you will engage in them. Write down your self-care goals and schedule them into your daily, weekly, or monthly calendar. Having a plan ensures that self-care becomes a consistent part of your routine rather than an afterthought.

5. Practice Self-Compassion and Forgiveness
Self-care is about nourishing your well-being, not adding more stress or pressure to your life. Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself grace and compassion throughout your self-care journey. Allow yourself to embrace imperfection and be forgiving when your routine doesn’t go as planned. Be gentle with yourself and adjust your routine when needed.

6. Set Boundaries
Establish clear boundaries to protect your self-care time. Communicate your needs to others and assertively express your limitations. Learn how to say no to activities and commitments that do not align with your self-care priorities. By setting boundaries, you create space for self-care and ensure that your needs are respected.

7. Regularly Evaluate and Adjust
Periodically evaluate your self-care routine to ensure it remains effective and fulfilling. Check in with yourself to see if your activities are still bringing you joy and meeting your needs. Be open to adjusting and evolving your routine as you grow and change. Self-care is a dynamic practice, and what works for you now may change over time.

Developing an effective self-care routine is an investment in your overall well-being and a key to living a balanced life. By assessing your needs, making time for self-care, exploring different activities, creating a self-care plan, practicing self-compassion, setting boundaries, and regularly evaluating and adjusting, you can cultivate a self-care routine that supports your physical, mental, and emotional health. Remember, self-care is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and nurturing, so embrace it wholeheartedly and prioritize your well-being.

Understanding Your Emotional Landscape: A Key to Emotional Well-being

Understanding our emotional landscape is fundamental to managing our mental and emotional well-being. This self-awareness allows us to recognize, acknowledge, and navigate the intricate tapestry of emotions we experience. Today, I’m delving into the importance of understanding our emotional landscape and providing practical insights on cultivating this awareness for enhanced emotional well-being.

1. Recognizing and Labeling Emotions

The first step in understanding our emotional landscape is to recognize and label the emotions we experience. Emotions can range from happiness and excitement to sadness, anger, fear, and everything in between. Pause and take time to identify your specific emotions in different situations. Labeling these emotions with descriptive words, such as joy, frustration, or anxiety, helps to bring clarity and awareness to your emotional experiences.

2. Identifying Triggers and Patterns

Once you can recognize emotions, it’s important to identify triggers and patterns that influence your emotional responses. Pay attention to situations, events, or even certain thoughts that consistently evoke specific emotional reactions. Are there particular circumstances or interactions that tend to result in feelings of frustration or anxiety? By understanding your triggers and patterns, you gain insight into the root causes of your emotions and can develop strategies to manage them more effectively.

3. Journaling and Reflection

Journaling is a powerful tool for exploring and understanding your emotional landscape. Regularly set aside time, each day or week, dedicated to writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Reflect on your emotions and delve into the underlying factors contributing to them. Journaling provides a safe space to explore your emotions without judgment and can reveal valuable insights about your emotional patterns, triggers, and how you respond to them.

4. Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices can deepen your understanding of your emotional landscape. Engage in mindful activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or body scans. These practices cultivate present-moment awareness, allowing you to observe your emotions without judgment or attachment. Mindfulness helps you tune in to the subtleties of your emotional experiences, fostering a deeper understanding of how different emotions arise and manifest within you.

Understanding your emotional landscape is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and growth. By recognizing and labeling emotions, identifying triggers and patterns, practicing reflection and journaling, and embracing mindfulness, you can gain a deeper understanding of your emotional experiences. This awareness equips you with valuable insights, empowering you to navigate and regulate your emotions more effectively, leading to improved emotional well-being and a greater sense of self. Embrace the process and embark on a path of self-discovery to understand your emotional landscape fully.

Autism and Emotional Regulation: 6 Tips to Cope with Intense Feelings

Being autistic in a neurotypical world can bring unique challenges, especially regarding nervous system dysregulation, which can lead to emotional dysregulation. Autism causes heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, leading to intense feelings that can be overwhelming at times. However, by implementing effective coping strategies, we as autistic individuals can navigate these emotional waves and develop healthier ways to manage our emotions. As an autistic woman, I will share in this blog post an overview of some valuable tips and insights that have helped me in coping with intense feelings and improving emotional regulation. And this week, on the blog, I’ll go into more detail about each of the tips below.

1. Understand your emotional landscape

Understanding and acknowledging your emotional landscape is one of the first steps in managing intense feelings. You can better prepare yourself for emotional regulation by gaining insight into your emotional world. Take the time to identify and label different emotions you experience. Use tools such as emotion charts or journals to recognize patterns and triggers.

2. Develop a self-care routine

Self-care plays a crucial role in emotional regulation. Establish a routine that prioritizes activities that bring you joy, peace, and relaxation. This can include engaging in hobbies, practicing mindfulness or meditation, taking breaks, or spending time in nature. By consistently investing in self-care, you can enhance your emotional well-being and build resilience.

3. Build a support network

Having a strong support network is vital for autistic individuals. Seek out understanding and empathetic individuals who can offer emotional support during challenging times. Whether it’s family, friends, or support groups, having people who validate your experiences and provide a safe space for expression can significantly aid in emotional regulation.

4. Learn grounding techniques

Grounding techniques can help you regain control and stability during moments of intense emotions. Practice deep breathing exercises, use sensory tools like fidget toys or weighted blankets, or engage in physical activities such as yoga or walking. These techniques help redirect your focus and bring you back to the present moment, providing a sense of calm and stability.

5. Utilize visual aids and schedules

Visual aids and schedules are effective tools for autistic individuals to manage emotional regulation. Establishing daily routines and visual schedules can provide a sense of structure and predictability, reducing anxiety and promoting emotional stability. Create visual reminders of coping strategies or calming activities and display them in visible areas.

6. Seek professional support

Therapy can be valuable for gaining insight, processing emotions, and developing healthy coping mechanisms. Consider seeking professional support from therapists or counselors who specialize in working with autistic individuals. They can provide guidance, teach emotional regulation techniques, and help you develop personalized coping strategies tailored to your specific needs.

Navigating times of overstimulation and overwhelm as an autistic person can be challenging, but emotional regulation becomes more manageable with the right strategies and support. Remember that you are not alone. By understanding your emotional landscape, prioritizing self-care, building a support network, and implementing grounding techniques, you can develop healthier ways to cope with intense feelings. Embrace your uniqueness, celebrate your strengths, and remember that emotional regulation is a skill that can be developed and improved over time.

40 things to do before 40: A bucket list for 39

I’m turning 39 tomorrow, and as a late-diagnosed autistic (I just found out about four months ago), I have been re-examining my life has I knew it. I recently realized that there is a whole slew of things that I have been missing out on, either because I was trying to fit in, trying not to be perceived, or because I was dealing with the anxiety that comes with spending a lifetime masking who you really are. I do have a considerable amount of anxiety that has kept me from doing a lot of things that I would probably have enjoyed.

So, I’ve put together a list of 40 Things I Want to Do before I Turn 40. A sort of bucket list for the last year of my 30s. I’m going to pend the next year doing them and sharing my experience. There’s some small things like going out to eat by myself—I’ve never eaten in a restaurant by myself—riding on a motorcycle, going to see an opera, getting a tattoo. Then there are some bigger things, like I’m scared of air travel, so I have traveling on an airplane on the list. I’d also love to see NYC and ride on a subway. Things that I’ve always wanted to do but either haven’t allowed myself to do or haven’t had the time or opportunity to do. Or have just generally avoided because I was trying really hard not to be perceived.

Now that I’m unmasking, there’s no more room for excuses. I’m free to be me, to live my life the way I was born to live it. So, these are the 40 things I’d like to do before I turn 40, in no particular order.

1. Get a piggy back ride

2. Get a tattoo

3. Meet a cow in real life (and make friends with it)

4. Learn Spanish

5. Learn ASL

6. Take a ceramics class

7. Take a drawing class

8. Take dancing lessons

9. Go dancing (at a club)

10. See a ballet

11. See an opera

12. Ride on a motorcycle

13. Ride in a hot air balloon

14. Ride on a subway

15. Ride in an airplane

16. Sing Karaoke

17. Act on stage

18. See a movie being filmed

19. Attend a convention (e.g. Metrocon)

20. Attend a bonfire party

21. Build a snowman

22. Attend a masquerade/costume party

23. Host (or attend) a formal dinner party

24. Kiss in the rain

25. Get a professional massage

26. Go skinny dipping

27. Write a song

28. Bench 135lbs

29. Deadlift 205lbs

30. Visit California

31. Attend a wine tasting

32. Swim with dolphins

​33. See NYC

34. Have a book on the top 100 list

35. Learn guitar

36, Take a pole dancing class

37. Ride on a sailboat or yacht

38. Take a girls’ trip with my best friend

39. Eat alone in a restaurant

40. Do a cartwheel

I’m shooting to try one new thing from the list each week. If you want to keep up with my progress, I’ll be sharing my experiences here and on my social media accounts. Join me for what I’m hoping will be my best year yet!

Meatless Monday: Gluten-free margarita tofu with fresh pico de gallo and corn salsa

I have to confess, I didn’t make this one—my darling spouse did. The fresh pico de gallo and corn salsas are some of his specialties, so I was more than happy to relinquish my spatula and let him take over dinner. The end result was this delicious Margarita Tofu, served over cilantro lime jasmine rice, with refried pinto beans, and topped with his amazingly delicious salsas and guacamole. Here’s how he did it.

Margarita Tofu

*Nutrition facts at bottom

1 package firm (or super firm) tofu, cut lengthwise into thin strips
Garlic powder and onion powder to taste
1/3 cup sour mix—use store bought or make your own as follows:

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup lime juice

Mix sugar and water and cook over medium heat until well dissolved. Cool completely. Mix with lemon juice and lime juice. Store in the refrigerator.

  1. Marinate tofu in sour mix for 1–2 hours.
  2. Sauté in skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side (approx. 4-7 minutes per side).

Serve over rice mixed with sour mix and cilantro to taste. Refried beans make a great side as well.

Pico de Gallo

*Nutrition facts at bottom

4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
juice from 2 limes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill for 1–2 hours before serving.

For corn salsa, swap out the tomato for corn. and cut back the lime juice to one lime.

If you try these recipes, let me know in the comments section how you liked them. And as always, feel free to connect with me and share on social media.

Margarita Tofu

Serving Size: 2 pieces
Servings: 5
Calories: 108
Total Fat: 4.4g
Total Carbohydrates: 7.7g
Dietary Fiber: 1.4g
Sugar: 4.3g
Protein: 10.2g
Sodium: 26.3mg

Pico de Gallo

Serving Size: approx. 1/4 cup
Servings: 12
Calories (not including parmesan): 13
Total Fat: 0g
Total Carbohydrates: 3g
Dietary Fiber: .5g
Sugar: 1.5g
Protein: .4g
Sodium: 31.3mg

Meatless Monday: Gluten-Free Crabless Cakes and Tofu Scampi

When I was a kid, I loved seafood. Even before I stopped eating meat because of my love for animals, I didn’t each much of it because I didn’t really care for it. But I would eat the heck out of some seafood. I was pescatarian for a several years before eventually leaving fish behind as well. But one of the things I’ve missed most over the years is a smooth, buttery scampi with a side of hearty crab cakes. So, today’s meatless Monday meal is a throwback to my childhood favorites, but with a gluten-free, vegetarian spin.

Crabless Cakes

1 can palm hearts
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup green pepper diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1 ear sweet corn (cut off the cob)
1/2 tbs garlic, minced
2 tsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup gluten-free panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 cup water (or dry white wine)
1 flax egg (see below for instructions)
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste

*Nutrition facts at bottom

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Use two forks to shred the palm hearts lengthwise and then cut shreds into smaller chunks (about the size of lump crab meat.
  3. Mix in onion, pepper, celery, carrots, corn, garlic and parsley.
  4. Add gluten-free flour, Old Bay, and seasonings of choice, and stir to combine.
  5. Stir in water (or wine) mustard, incorporate well.
  6. Mix in bread crumbs and flax egg.
  7. Shape into patties and bake for 20–22 minutes.

To give these a bit of a crunch around the outside, brown on the stove for 1–2 minutes on each side over medium-high heat before baking.

Serve with lemon and your choice of sauce. Sometimes, I will top these with avocado slices and drizzle with Thai sweet chili sauce.

Tofu scampi

1 package firm tofu
2 tbs butter (or vegan butter)
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

*Nutrition facts at bottom

  1. Cut tofu into small cubes.
  2. Melt butter and olive oil together in a skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and sauté until lightly golden (1–2 minutes). Do not overcook!
  4. Add wine, pepper, crushed red pepper, and salt and let simmer and reduce for 2–4 minutes.
  5. Mix in tofu and sauté approx 4–5 minutes.
  6. Stir in lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan.

If you try these recipes, let me know in the comments section how you liked them. And as always, feel free to connect with me and share on social media.

Crabless Cakes

Serving Size: 2 cakes
Servings: 5
Calories (not including wine): 129
Total Fat: 1.2g
Total Carbohydrates: 23.4g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8g
Sugar: 2.4g
Protein: 4g
Sodium: 389mg

Potato Fritters Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: approx. 1/4 cup
Servings: 5
Calories (not including parmesan): 191
Total Fat: 13.4g
Total Carbohydrates: 4.3g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5g
Sugar: .5g
Protein: 8.6g
Sodium: 30.2mg

Takeover Tuesday: A Journey Through Fibro & Fatigue

by Kara Leigh Miller

I was never a very healthy child. In fact, without even thinking about it too hard or long, I can easily recall half a dozen incidents of infected teeth that would swell up so bad I had trouble opening my mouth far enough to slurp soup. If anyone near me got sick, I’d undoubtedly catch it, too. I’ve had Whooping Cough, Hand/Foot/Mouth Disease, Strep throat (more times than I can count), nose bleeds that would send me to the ER, Rheumatic Fever, Sydenham’s Chorea, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia—you name it, I’ve probably had it. Oddly, though, I’ve never had the chicken pox… But I digress.

So, back in 2018 when I came home from attending a concert with my daughter and her friend and I got sick, I didn’t think much of it. Except, this “cold” was really severe. I wasn’t able to get out of bed for almost a week straight. My head constantly felt like someone was beating on my temples with a hammer. I lost my appetite. Had no energy. Couldn’t think clearly, let alone try to work. Then, the coughing fits started. I couldn’t walk up to the bathroom without getting winded, and then there was the time I coughed so hard I bruised a rib and couldn’t move. That was fun…

Eventually, I went to the local urgent care and was diagnosed with a sinus infection, strep throat, and a severe upper respiratory infection. With some heavy meds and a lot more rest, I finally got over all the ick.

But I didn’t. Not really.

As I said, this “cold” was different. First, I’d never been that sick before, despite all my childhood ailments. Everything about that just felt… wrong and weird. Maybe, subconsciously, I knew things weren’t ever going to be right again, but I was feeling better, so I went about with life.

Fast forward to early 2019, and I couldn’t ignore things any longer. My body was in constant pain. I was popping Tylenol like Tic-tacs, and my heating pad became my best friend. I’d wake up in the morning (after sleeping for a solid 9-10 hours) and be tired. When I did sleep, I’d twitch and jerk, and that often interrupted my sleep. I’d sit up in the morning, and my entire body would just slump with utter exhaustion. My husband and kids would want to go places and do things, and I just physically couldn’t do it without intense pain or wanting to curl up and take a nap. Focusing on anything was impossible; I felt like I was in a constant fog. And don’t get me started on what it was like every time I’d eat a meal and then have to run to the bathroom because of digestive issues.

At one point, my husband made a comment that I wasn’t the same woman he married, and that really hit home, because he was right. I’d changed—through no fault of my own—and not for the better. I was moody, miserable, forgetful, angry, depressed, tired. I hated being in my own skin.

I needed help.

After a lot of visits to the doctor, numerous tests, and a ton of tears on my part, I finally had a diagnosis: Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.

Like me way back then, you’re probably wondering what the heck Fibromyalgia is. In the simplest terms, it’s a widespread pain disease that also affects a person’s sleep, mood, digestion, and memory.

There is no cure for Fibromyalgia, and it’s a lifelong disease. However, it can be managed, and so that’s what I set out to do. My doctor advised me to try to lose some weight, because the less weight I had on my body, the less strain on my joints and muscles, which would help with the constant pain. I was also given some really strong medication to help with the pain, but also to help me sleep better and without consistent interruptions.

Armed with all of this, I began to do my own research into this disease, and I talked to a few friends who had it. The number one piece of advice I was given? Cut the carbs from my diet. *Cue the panic* I couldn’t possibly give up my bread and pasta and candy! The horror!!

A woman and her teenage daughter stand on the front porch of a house.

This is me with my daughter back in 2017, before my diagnosis, when I was at my heaviest weight: 186 pounds.

I had a long way to go to get the pounds off and ease the pain. But, I really wanted to feel better, so with the guidance of a friend who was in my same position, I put myself on the Keto diet. I cut out 95% of the carbs from my diet, increased my protein, started drinking a lot of water, and began to exercise every day. I began my official weight loss journey in May 2019.

A healthy woman poses in a hallway with her arms in the air.

Within months, I was feeling like a new person. I had more energy, my mind was clearer, my moods had leveled out, and I’d lost 50 pounds!! By January 2020, I was down to a much healthier 136 pounds. It truly was life-changing for me.

Then, the pandemic hit, and the world was in lockdown. Working out and being active was suddenly a lot harder. My stress levels went up, and my eating habits started to slip back to my old ways. I was much more in-tune with my body, though, and I caught myself before things went too far south. But, the pain had returned, and my meds were no longer helping. So, I went back to my doctor, and she changed my medication. I bounced back quickly, and I was able to maintain my weight. Things were good again.

Fast forward to March 2022, and I’d taken a major slide backward with my disease. The pain was nearly non-existent, but the fatigue was kicking my butt. I couldn’t make it through the day without a nap—and when I say nap, I mean a 2-4 hour period where I’m dead to the world—and I’d packed on about 10 pounds that I just could not lose no matter what I did.

A woman poses leaning against her sports car in front of her house.

Back to the doctor I went! We agreed that my current medication was doing more harm than good, and so we’re now in the process of weaning me off all meds, and I’ll attempt to manage my fibro and fatigue with my diet and exercise. This is me today, happy and healthy at 144 pounds.

Kara Leigh Miller lives in Michigan with her husband, three (of five) kids, five pit bulls, and four cats. When she’s not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she’s spending time with her family, working out, or binge watching Netflix. And sometimes, she’ll even play golf with her husband, even though she totally sucks at it. Represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Kara writes primarily young adult romance. She’s also the Editorial Direct for Anaiah Press, LLC. You can learn more about Kara and her books on her website: www.karaleighmillerauthor.com