My mom has always encouraged us to be confident in who we are and to pursue our passions, whatever they may be. My first passion, was fashion. I have always been fascinated by the design and history of clothes. This made me a little different from early on. Growing up in Minot, ND and trying to follow the trends of fashion from New York or Paris made life less easy than it should for me. But because of my family and my strong independence I never really noticed nor did I care what was being said about me. It was second grade when I would be pulled out of class to go work with fifth graders during math class. I remember coming home and telling my mom that my new friends called me the “S” word. I had no idea what it meant, these girls, the fifth graders, were my friends I thought. I couldn’t comprehend why they would say something so hurtful simply because I dressed a little different and was helping older kids with math. This was my first experience with bullying, and I can say that I was fortunate it was a brief experience. From here on, overall bullying was not much of an issue for me but the impact of that word on me sticks with me years later.
I was in an abusive relationship, not physically but emotionally when I was 22 years old. While I could go on to explain the details of the relationship it boils down to this, I was hit in the face with a book in a local bookstore while he yelled “that” word at me. I left the relationship and was stalked for a period of time, resulting in living in a hotel for a short bit. I experienced panic in ways I couldn’t imagine. My hands and feet would go numb. I couldn’t breathe. I would get severe migraines and either sleep too much or not enough. This panic lasted a while and to this day, ten years later, certain things, a specific car, a certain song, a very specific word, can stop my world in its tracks. But for the most part, I was able to shake the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder while still carrying the diagnosis of post traumatic stress. I was able to enlist in the military and start a business. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with depression, generalized anxiety disorder and a severe mood disorder as the result of an autoimmune disorder.
I felt like my body was failing me, and was so confused why I was so uninterested in my amazing life. I felt shame and guilt over being depressed because someone who has my life should not want to simply fall asleep in the bathtub. My work with the non-profit Team Red, White and Blue most certainly saved my life during these past two years. I have been able to travel the country and work on peer support training, suicide prevention training, and other means to help our veterans connect with their communities. This training combined with my severe depression has sparked a passion for working with others who battle mental health [issues]. I use my business, a fitness studio to help promote a healthy lifestyle and am able to use my platform as a business owner to get involved in the community.
I sponsor local title holders in the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Organization and have met Ava Hill through doing so. She is how I became aware of The Peyton Heart Project. I love the organization for a variety of reasons but I especially love the fact that the hearts give hope or bring a smile to those that find them. They also open the door for conversations that matter and in events where we create hearts with a group, they allow a safe place for individuals to hold these conversations. In my volunteer work, I find that a lot of people want to volunteer in a way that gives them that instant positive feedback of serving. With platforms of bullying, mental health awareness, suicide prevention, we don’t always know instantly the good that we are doing. We don’t see a dog adopted, or canned food items being collected. These hearts, give people that. They don’t just get to talk about things, they get to create something. Given the statistics, especially with younger and younger kids struggling, I think something as simple as creating a heart, will open the door that many other (still incredible) organizations can’t. And I believe it is vital we open these doors in our communities.
I believe I am in a unique position to be an ambassador. I know I am older than most of your current ambassadors but I have a great rapport with youth. I also have a very flexible schedule that would allow me to host heart-making events with ease. I am actively involved in a number of organizations and my business has been nationally recognized for its work within the community in the last two years on 4 separate occasions. This recognition has opened up a wide variety of connections in the state, combined with my tribe from the fitness industry and military family I know that I would be able to do some incredible and unique things with an ambassadorship.