Like so many people, my life has been touched by depression and anxiety. But because I’ve always used food to self-medicate, I never really noticed until last year.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, came for me, soon after both my daughter and son moved out of the house, when my precious, 14 year old Cat Owie (pictured right) was diagnosed with kidney failure. No wonder he was all of a sudden having accidents everywhere. The stress of it all was making me feel more than a little disconnected from my husband, Angel.┬áIt seemed like we were squabbling all the time because I had become so unnaturally overprotective of Owie, never wanting to leave his side, always worrying about him. At that time, the prospect of losing Owie to death combined with the reality of being an emptynester and getting older felt overwhelming. I felt a little bit like I was losing my mind.

Something had rattled inside of me that shook me to my core. All of a sudden I felt as vulnerable as I did when I was a kid. I lost all my sense of confidence and I stopped feeling safe and secure. I developed a fear of being alone. I became consumed with fearful thoughts, from ISIS to clowns to killers, certain that something horrible was about to happen to me, I retreated into the shadows. I’ve never been very comfortable with sharing my personal struggles with my friends, so I have a tendency to isolate myself and push away people who I love.

In the throes of my suffering, I sunk into a deep depression and stuffed myself with ice cream, regaining 28 pounds that I had worked so hard to lose 2 years’ prior. One day while looking in the mirror, I noticed that my hair was also thinning. For me, that change marked the beginning of the end of my depression and feelings of helplessness.

As I recently shared with author, Joni Sweet, in a Prevention.com article, in the emotional state I was in, it was causing my hair to get thinner. I was finding my hair in the drain, on my clothes, my bed, my car. It seemed to be everywhere. A dear friend told me about Ho’oponopono, an ancient Hawaiian forgiveness exercise that involves saying the phrases ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘Please forgive me’ and ‘Thank you’ to the divine. I decided to tr y it on my hair loss.

As I recited the phrases in the shower and tried to slow down enough to feel the meaning of the words through my body, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the momentary pain of a hangnail getting snagged on my hair. Until then I didn’t actually realize that I had been clawing my scalp, furiously scratching and scrubbing my head, just rushing to get finished shampooing my hair. How many times had I done things like that and been so abusive to myself?

Realizing how cruel I was being to my body, I started sobbing and I dropped to my knees in humble recognition that I had been beating up on myself and treating myself like crap for a long time. Looking at myself through a lens of self-compassion, wanting to understand what was happening in my life, I knew my extreme stressload had more to do with my unwillingness to forgive my past than anything else. As I wiped my tears, and found my strength in God return, I recognized it was time to set myself free from this mental torture by letting the pain of my past go. I knew that with the recent losses I had been facing, it opened up old wounds that were now begging to be healed.

That day in the shower made me look at my circumstances in a new way. I got real with myself and knew that I was creating my own sense of fear and it was time to channel my thoughts into recreating myself and my life. I’ve since taken a lot of steps that have put me on a much bigger path of self-love. As a result, my coaching and my message has expanded beyond self/esteem/confidence to sharing stress-relief tools to manage depression and anxiety for women in their 50’s.

Sadly my precious, Owie lost his battle to kidney failure on 1/31 when my daughter, Cara and I made the decision to put him to sleep to painlessly end his suffering. Since then I’ve had good days and bad days, but I’ve made a decision to honor my feelings. I learned that by crying now, and being pres ent with my sadness really helps me to smile later.

I’ve been missing my best friend, Owie so much. He was my writer’s muse. He loved to sit up on my desk and watch me as I wrote. Blog posts, books, anything. He was always there. And eventually he would tire, watching me, and fall asleep, comforted knowing that he was loved and adored. I’d watch and grin as his long white-bellied body splayed across my keyboard, pushing me to move to the edge of the desk not wanting to disturb him.

Today marks the first day that I’ve been able to write since his passing. Owie has been a great teacher in my life and I’m eager to share his many ‘Owicle’ lessons with you.

If you have been retreating from your own life, struggling with fears, anxiety, and depression, I’m here to help you. Keep your eyes peeled for more insights from me. In the coming weeks, I’ll be relaunching my radio show and podcast and doing lots more blogging, sharing my experience of how I managed my depression and anxiety so I can give you tools to reclaim your power.