Why Failing in my Business was Everything I Needed

Real life is not anything like what you see in news feeds, or the highlight reels of Instagram…

Those carefully crafted pictures with beautiful thought-provoking words pasted below are misleading. Real life is messy….the kind of messes that you fear will define you….so you keep them hidden.

I don’t want to hide my failures, friends. I want to celebrate the messy…the crazy…my beautifully real life that is much more than you see on the surface….full of aiming for the stars, but instead falling flat on my face.

I had to learn that failing didn’t mean I was weak, or that I was worthless….it was an opportunity to get to know my strengths, to realize who I was meant to be and to use what I’ve learned to lift up others who are in the thick of it.

One of my biggest failures was running my photography business.

In 2005 I had a pretty huge year. I finished my final semester while raising a toddler at home, graduated from college, planned my wedding in 3 months and married The Hubs, decided to have another baby and got pregnant with little mister Harrison, that’s also the same year I started my photography business. I am a girl who does not do well with one thing at a time. I need 20 things going on at once…all while planning the next 2o things that I want to tackle soon. I jump in hardcore juggling everything I can and obsess over it like a drug.

I was addicted to being busy and equated being busy with my worth.

My world became consumed with parenting 2 small kids and every other hour was spent obsessing over my new business — marketing, networking, web design, booking new clients, posting in forums, mastering my camera, lighting, editing, replying to emails, returning phone calls etc…

The next few years my business grew like crazy and so did my kiddos. I consistently stayed up until 4am to meet deadlines and woke up at 7am with my kids and tried my best to be the mommy they needed. I thought I was superwoman.

I had no boundaries, no sleep, and no real joy.

Everyone around me congratulated me on all that I was accomplishing, told me how amazing I was for juggling so much…and encouraged me to keep pushing it to the next level…so I pushed….and eventually I bought into my own hype.

I started to want to work more than I wanted to be at home. My editing was piling up, my inbox was overflowing, my kids were getting used to me living with my laptop in front of my face or not being home at all. I knew I needed balance, so I scheduled more meetings with friends to talk about how to find balance, and attended seminars and workshops that gave me some really great tips….I even poured myself into mommy blogs searching for answers….In the mean time my answers were right in front of my face in all the moments I was missing because I was chasing something that didn’t matter.

I was chasing something that made me feel more worthy and more important than staying at home and changing diapers ever did. I did everything I could to not have to admit that to myself.

There’s something powerful about photographing weddings and portrait sessions…you not only get to be part of so many people’s lives, but you are met with such praise for the work you do before they even see the photos. You are made to feel so important, so loved…and friends, I have to tell you that for a girl who came from such a broken place…this is what I needed….what I craved…what I didn’t feel I was getting at home among the messiness of every day life. So I took on more.

Around that same time, my marriage was feeling the strain from working so much and we also started to struggle with Harrison. I could tell something was not quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He wasn’t hitting certain developmental milestones, or speaking yet except for the occasional grunts and pointing to something he wanted, he was extremely hard to calm down, he played very rough and hurt almost every kid we came in contact with, he crashed into everything and everybody, he refused to nap or go to bed at night without at least an hour long processing of screaming and kicking uncontrollably….and my days were consumed with this….which meant pulling even more all-nighters to get my work done.

I did what I could to help him, but I knew something wasn’t clicking….and it seemed Harrison was dealing with something bigger than we knew. We consulted with doctors and they said it was normal, he’d be fine. I started to believe it was my fault. I heard many suggestions from family and professionals that he just needed more discipline…more training…but nothing was working. Clearly I must be sparing the rod and spoiling the child. No matter how much I tried, I felt like I was failing him every day….not to mention how hyper-focusing on Harrison meant I was not able to focus much on Madyson who had started preschool. I was that mom that never remembered it was crazy hair day or that I was supposed to send in a picture of our family with her to class….it was all I could do to get her there on time because I was so frazzled. Again…I felt like the worst mom ever. People made me feel that way too with their disapproving glances and tips on how to better handle my screaming toddler….because clearly I was doing it wrong. All it did was create more insecurity in my ability to mother….so I dove even more into my business.

Then the unthinkable happened….I got pregnant again.

Ya’ll….I was NOT prepared for this. I remember calling my sister in a puddle of tears telling her the news. If Eden ever reads this one day, I pray she will understand that I was beyond overwhelmed…too far in over my head to know what to do or how to properly celebrate. I was devastated. Not about the beautiful little life that was about to come into this world, but because my world was turned upside down.

I knew having 3 kids would not allow me enough time to do all of the other things I “needed” to do. Another kid also felt like another person I was going to fail. I couldn’t quit my job or even take less work because we so desperately needed the income. We couldn’t afford daycare for 3 kids so I could get a different full time job, and I had contracts for future weddings a year and half away. My husband already worked too many hours and didn’t make enough to sustain a family of 4 much less a family of 5…so I sucked it up and decided I was going to be even more driven…I would just do it all! I’d be a full-time mommy, a more than full-time business owner and even more super superwoman.

…but trying to become a superhero didn’t work.

Life got harder, I couldn’t keep up. My kids were miserable, my clients were angry….I even got sued and taken to court (that’s another story for another day) and I was left more than a few negative reviews online due to my lack of communication. I was so overwhelmed and I felt worthless. I was already a failure at home and now a failure at work too, my marriage was getting rocky because of the stress, and on top of it all Harrison seemed to be getting worse (he might be the only kid in history to get suspended in kindergarten!)….and we realized Madyson was starting exhibiting several tics and living in a constant state of anxiousness.

Everything around me was falling apart…but the worst part was that I still couldn’t it admit to myself…

I took on more when I should’ve walked away…and basically that’s when anxiety, depression, and panic attacks started creeping into my life. Even though I didn’t want to quit my business, I was no longer booking clients….most likely from the bad reviews and word of mouth that I caused for myself….but I also believe that God stepped in and decided enough was enough.

I was crushed. I was forced to take a really good look at my life and the mess I was in, and not through the lens of a camera that blurs out the less than appealing background….I had to focus on ALL of it.

I had to face the truth. I had to admit to myself that I had gotten in over my head and I had failed.

I failed at something I truly loved…that I spent years trying to make work and maybe it was good for a season, but it was time to let it go. I tried to do more than I was capable of. I tried to be everything to everybody…and we all know how that turns out…you end up making a big mess.

I spent the first few months in tears over the loss of it all…I wasn’t ready to give it up…it wasn’t fair! I had invested too much of myself for it not to work…and I wasn’t ready to face everything else at home that was broken…but I had to. I felt like I was stuck in a place of never measuring up, and I was constantly apologizing for who I was, and all the ways I kept falling short, and for the things my kids were struggling with that I assumed were my fault too. If only I was a better mom, a better wife, better at juggling everything, better at living up to what I thought I was supposed to be.

Thankfully God kept tugging at my heart to be still and pay attention to who He made me to be and where He was leading.

I made a conscious decision to stop wallowing in my self-pity. So what if things didn’t work the way I thought they should! That didn’t mean I was worthless, or  that my life was over. It was just the beginning…the beginning of a new journey that led me to focusing on my family and getting Harrison tested and diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Madyson diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and an Anxiety disorder, and we were led to the right resources to give our kids the support they needed.

I was going to stop looking back, and only focus on what was in front of me and keep chasing joy with everything I had.

Failing in my business wasn’t ideal….in fact it was devastating at the time….but it turned into the catalyst that I needed to became much more “present” in my children’s lives, to strengthen my marriage, to focus on where God is leading, to be built up with the right foundation, to truly heal from my past, to invest in uplifting friendships, and to slowly discover that all of the “little things” in life are actually the “big things”.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
― Maya Angelou

I want to encourage you friends, if you are in over your head right now, and you are feeling that little tug in your heart to slow down, to savor the moments in front of you, to feed your soul with less busy and more of the little things that matter. I want to encourage you to let yourself be okay with the idea that what you planned for your life might not be working…maybe you are beating on a wall trying to turn it into a door… maybe trying to MAKE that thing work isn’t what is meant for your life.

Maybe letting that plan fail and your world fall apart is going to lead to the biggest blessings of your life.

Failure has knocked me down more times than I can count….and falling flat on my face has turned into some of my biggest successes. Failure can mold you if you let it. If you allow yourself to be open to the lessons it may hold…failure can be the most important thing you experience….it strips you down to the core just to build you into what you are meant to be.

….its not shameful, its not permanently soul-crushing, it does not make you worthless, it will not lead to your personal demise…

Failure IS an option my friends….

and sometimes its one of the most beautiful options there is.

Let us all stop fearing failure, instead let’s welcome it with open arms when we see it coming, let it sink in and do its work so we can rise up even greater than we were before.

I can’t wait to hear how much you all continue to grow from the things that knocked you down…leave a comment below or reach out anytime and let me know how failure has shaped your life. I’d love to hear your story too!

September 23, 2015 - 12:33 pm

Jen - In today’s society when you meet people they say, what do you do? You feel like there needs to be some impressive answer. Some “out of the home” career path you are on. It makes you feel like you need to quick come up with some creative way to say you are just a mom or just a wife. Like you need to justify it in some way. But here’s the secret and the hard realization to come to…you don’t. There is no such thing as “just a mom” or “just a wife”. It is a commendable choice. And it is a choice. It’s a struggle. It’s a job. It can be hard. It can be lonely. It can be a huge financial strain. But it’s also the best and most rewarding thing I have ever done. Even in the shitty moments…which we all know happen!! The other day it was like I literally witnessed Aiden hit puberty and within the span of two hours his emotions were like an out of control rollercoaster. He was in trouble. He was mad. He was screaming and yelling. He professed his hate of me and how I am the worst mother ever. There were tears. There was an apology. There was more yelling. Up and down up and down. Another apology…It was draining. But I am so thankful, that even in that moment, that I was there to be the one who experienced it with him. Because at the end of it all I want to be so very present in EVERY aspect of my children’s lives that they always know that, in the good and in the bad, I am their safe place. And THAT is enough.

September 23, 2015 - 2:14 pm

Terrie - Kerri, this is so beautiful!!! Love how you said “maybe you are beating on a wall trying to turn it into a door.” Love that! So true. Your transparency is inspiring! Love you my sweet friend and am praying for God’s continued blessings on you and your sweet family. Xo

September 23, 2015 - 5:07 pm

Kris Noorman - Kerri, thank you for sharing your story. I followed along with your career in the early years as my wedding photography journey started right around the same time. It really is so much work and there’s so much more pressure than anyone on the outside could ever know. I stepped away from my business about five years ago and it was exactly the right decision even though I, too, felt the sting of failure for quite a while. Just wanted to comment on here and let you know that it’s so brave of you to share like this. I know it will help other women who may be going through the same feelings. Hugs!

September 24, 2015 - 10:58 am

Gretchen R - I can so relate to this. I was in a car accident about 2 1/2 years ago, and everything around me started falling apart. I lived in pain, having 5 kids to care for. No one around me understood. Every project I touched fell apart. My kids were falling apart. I started getting anxiety attacks so bad my husband and I had a discussion with my counselor on whether or not I should admit myself to a hospital for a few weeks.
You get to this point of surrender, where you just can’t pull it all together for anyone anymore. You need to just be still and lean into Jesus.

During that time, my 2nd child’s “strong willed” spirit started getting out of control. We constantly felt judged for his behavior. He got a diagnosis of ADHD and sensory processing, as well as anxiety, but because of other medical issues, he couldn’t go on medication. Then his hair started falling out, and he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called “alopecia.” I started recognizing in all this that his freak out sessions looked more like panic attacks than tantrums. Since I had now lived through them, I recognized what was going on in him. I don’t know if I would have recognized it without living through it myself. Shortening up the story, we found out he has some food sensitivities, which were tearing apart his small intestine, and preventing him from absorbing nutrients. He was about completely deficient of zinc, and in the “yellow zone” for some other nutrients. We started him on a new, doctor prescribed diet, and his anxiety, sensory processing, and ADHD symptoms have disappeared by about 90%. I was just hoping for some regrowth of hair, but this has been a nice side effect. It’s amazing what this kid acts like when his brain has all it needs to function.

Over from Influence. Bless you in your transparency. God still has amazing plans for you yet.

10 Year Anniversary Getaway | The Florida Keys


I am a big fan of celebrating. This past August marked 10 years of being married to The Hubs….and nearly 15 years since our very first date…this was something definitely worth celebrating! Seriously how did it fly by so fast??!! We met while working together at Applebees (Applebuddies for life!) and he was completely opposite of anyone I had ever dated.

He was the kind of guy you want to marry…not just make out with (yes, I was that girl.)

He valued family & friends, doing the right thing even when its hard, always keeping his word, taking his time to make decisions instead of jumping in head first, he’s honest, hardworking, funny and a hopeless romantic, and I completely melted when I saw that he had every single one of his family members’ birthdays on an index card in his wallet so he wouldn’t forget to call them! Seriously, what 20 year old guy does that on his own?  Friends, I fell head over heels for him…hard.

Its crazy to think about who we were 10 years ago compared to now….thankfully we have both grown in so many ways, and even more importantly, we have made growing together in our marriage a priority.

We are committed to using our strengths as well as our weaknesses to balance one another and to be stronger together than we are apart.

I am the first to say that we are NOT the perfect couple….there is no such thing….we argue, we get annoyed with each other, we sometimes act selfishly and lash out with harsh words when we know we shouldn’t….we have moments when we cannot understand why the other is doing or thinking something so completely opposite of ourselves….but there is so much beauty in how opposite he and I are….and somewhere along the way we learned how to use these things to strengthen what we have instead of tearing it apart.

And friends, even after all these years, he still opens doors for me. I cannot imagine doing life without him.

One of the best things we started doing in our marriage early on, was to celebrate our relationship.

Sometimes we celebrate in smaller ways and once in a blue moon we celebrate our milestones by doing something extra amazing. Our 10 year anniversary was the perfect time to do life BIG. We didn’t have a huge budget, but we did have airline miles burning a hole in our pockets (BIG LOVE to Southwest Airlines!!)….so we booked our trip, sent the kiddos to their grandparent’s, and headed to the Florida Keys.

Ya’ll….I can’t describe how excited I was to get away with my guy!

Travel is my love language. I would take a trip to explore somewhere new over a diamond ring any day of the week.

We needed this….to connect, to be adventurous, to make some amazing memories and to reset from all the craziness that life has to offer. This year was especially challenging, we were faced with some big financial hurdles, we had our hearts set on a potential new job and HUGE life change for our family that completely fell apart…and on top of everything else, I’ve been going through the healing process from my battle with anxiety, depression and severe panic attacks.

Our souls needed this time to rest almost as much as we need air to breathe.

In spite of the impending threat of two different possible hurricanes cancelling our trip, everything worked out beautifully and we made it safely to Fort Lauderdale. As soon as we landed, we hopped in a rental car and headed down that long stretch of highway over the ocean that connects The Keys to the mainland and I immediately fell in love with island life. This trip has been on my bucket list….and the very first thing I wanted to do was have some amazing Key Lime Pie….

I’m pretty certain My other love language is PIE.

Fortunately, thanks to the great reviews on TripAdvisor, we found the best little place to eat in Key Largo called Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen …they had the most AMAZING food and THE BEST KEY LIME PIE EVER!!! Friends….my only regret is not buying extra pies to bring home…I’ve been craving it ever since I returned.


Eventually we made our way to Key West, and checked into our hotel and spent a little time by the pool…

In case you’re curious, we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites…it was most affordable with the best amenities, and as a huge bonus, they offered free parking and a very yummy breakfast each morning served poolside….the free breakfast alone saved us so much money and kept us so full each day that we were never even hungry for lunch….which meant instead of a meal we opted for treats like Frozen Key Lime Pie on a Stick….

YA”LL…its frozen Key Lime Pie…dipped in BELGIAN CHOCOLATE….ON A STICK!!!

This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Heaven. Pure Heaven.


After recovering from our travels, we explored Fort Zachary Taylor and then spent a few hours enjoying the beach nearby and watching storms in the distance that were producing some pretty impressive waterspouts over the ocean. Even with the possible hurricane heading our way and the fact that we were unsure if our trip was going to be cut short, we made up our minds to enjoy these moments right in front of us and not get caught up in worrying about what may come. Sometimes what we think will turn into a disaster, actually never materializes. What blessing that we didn’t let too much worry get in our way!



“the best thing to hold onto in life is each other” -audrey hepburn



Later we headed out on on a date night on the town finished with a Catamaran Champagne Sunset Sail that we booked with Sebago Water Sports, it came complete with cocktails, champagne and quite a nice spread of hors d’oeuvres….simply amazing! We had a blast with the crew and the other couples on the boat…and The Hubs even got to help hoist up the sail! What a hottie! Looks like his sailing classes at MSU finally paid off!







We left our camera in the hotel and all we had were iphone pics and tons of selfies, we were fortunate enough to meet a few wonderful couples who brought their real camera and they took a few pictures of the two of us and emailed them as soon as they returned. How sweet is that!

Aren’t we an adorable couple??

By the way, you see that gorgeous purple dress I’m wearing? The Hubs surprised me with it….he bought it for me all on his own and I absolutely LOVED it! How’d I get so lucky??!!

sunset cruise key west florida 10 year wedding anniversary trip

The next day we headed out with Sebago again for their Power Adventure for a full day on the ocean snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, paddle-boarding…and tons of other fun water activities. The coolest thing ever was swimming around with tons of jellyfish and tropical fish among the reef…and looking down on the ocean as we were parasailing and seeing a see turtle swimming right below! Absolutely awesome! If you ever visit Key West you must book this….and no I am not being paid to refer you….I just loved t was an amazing 6 hours of fun PLUS they provide you with unlimited drinks and free full breakfast, appetizers, and lunch buffet. I am almost certain we saved money by not having to go out to eat all day when all was said and done….they even had key lime pie tarts!! You know how I feel about pie!


“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

Jawaharlal Nehru


One of my favorite quirky things about Key West is that there are wild roosters and chickens roaming free all over the island….I LOVED seeing them around…and hearing a rooster crow each morning outside the hotel as we got ready to head down to breakfast. We saw them on the beach, randomly crossing the street, hanging out on sidewalks, and walking around our hotel grounds….and they are protected by law so you are not supposed to mess with them. They seem to live in harmony with everyone…however they don’t want to sit still enough to have their picture taken….luckily I am fast!

 Did I mention that I LOVE food? Eating healthy is super important to me, because if left to my own devices I would eat nothing but junk food…I’m a recovering sugar addict….but this was vacation…so I indulged in some really amazing treats. You gotta live it up when you can! The Hubs and I discovered the most wonderful Cuban restaurant called El Meson de Pepe …it had such a fun atmosphere and its located right near Mallory Square’s Sunset Celebration….which is it’s a nightly festival that begins 2 hours before sunset and includes street performers, magicians, jugglers, local artists and vendors and an amazing view of the gorgeous sunset….if you visit Key West this is a must. We sat outside on the patio after the sun went down, enjoying drinks and the live band playing the most amazing Salsa and Caribbean music…and when we were served our meal….my goodness….I was in LOVE….have you ever had Cuban food??!! If not, you are missing out….it was soooo good…

 On our way back home, we took the time to stop at Bahia Honda State Park….

Key West isn’t known for amazing beaches, even though we had a blast with everything else it had to offer, we were more than ready to relax with our toes in the sand…..and lucky enough for us, the impending hurricanes and tropical storms never did materialize, but they did make everyone head for the mainland, so we ended up with an entire beach all to ourselves.

We spent a few hours exploring the park, checking out the old bridge, taking way too many selfies, discovering hermit crabs, swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach….

As we walked the shoreline, among the palm trees we found a coconut that had just fallen…

Naturally we decided that the only logical thing to do was to see if we could crack that thing open!

The Hubs tapped into his deserted island survivor skills and used a very sharp rock to open it up (this is much harder than it looks!) and we were completely prepared to find it rotten on the inside….

but it was absolutely perfect and ready to be eaten. We drank the coconut milk, and then sat on the beach snuggled up watching the waves and eating fresh coconut.

Yup…it was like a page out of a romance novel…and a memory I will always have with my love. Even after all these years I’m still such a lucky girl.


September 23, 2015 - 2:38 pm

Drew - Best wife, ever! Thank you for being the greatest part of me… I ❤️ U!

Chasing Joy : My Depression & Anxiety Story


I started writing this post almost 9 months ago when I felt led to share about my struggle with depression and anxiety…

I thought maybe I could help someone….to let others know that they are not alone…

and maybe even give one person a little hope…

but just writing the word “DEPRESSION” weighed so heavily on me like an elephant sitting on my chest….refusing to let me breath.

As  soon as I would start letting the words flow out of me, I could also feel myself sinking back again into a place that I did so much to escape. It felt like I was feeding the monster. I was stuck and I kept hesitating to open such a big part of my heart with all of you.

This black cloud that constantly tries to consume me isn’t something that’s easy to share with anyone…even some of my closest friends.

So even as as I felt God was leading me to use my voice, I struggled with sharing this. I kept it saved on my computer, as a rough draft that I poured my heart into every few weeks….then left it unpublished, hidden, and tucked away just like I tried to do with my struggle. I wanted to take more time to edit my words, make my story more pretty and polished before I shared them with all of you…thinking that if I presented it in a more beautiful way, with a positive spin then it wouldn’t be as scary to shout to the world that I was not in control. Staring at the words on my screen left me feeling critical of myself, scared of being judged, far too vulnerable…and also helped me to realize that this struggle wasn’t something that was going to just go away….it was a process…and I wasn’t quite on the other side of it yet..

Thankfully God had a plan.

I just couldn’t find the right way to convey how I was feeling without saying “I’m a complete and utter mess!!!” I still wanted to think I was in control.

But…isn’t that what I really need to say? I was a complete mess….not in control…and I needed help. So much help. Getting to the place where you can finally admit that you cannot do it alone is where the healing can start.

In all honesty, no matter how many times I tweaked my story, it never seemed quite polished enough to share with the world….but dear friends, depression isn’t pretty. Its raw, its painful, and it’s jagged edges are messy and need to be shared so that more light can touch this darkness.

Every depression story begins in a different place. Mine started in a broken home and a genetic predisposition.

I was not a depressed child…but my home life was rocky, and a stable loving environment was simply not part of my story. Genetically I almost had no chance of escaping some kind of mood disorder…but somehow I learned to look at the sunny side of life in order to cope…even when I was dying on the inside.

I was (and still am) a very intuitive person…I can easily soak up all the energy of those around me and use it to understand how to react to my environment. That’s how I spent most of my youth….REACTING. Reacting to what was going on around me, to other people’s actions and choices, and trying to manage their feelings instead of my own. Growing up for me was not the prettiest, but I tried my best not to focus on what was wrong, and got in the awful habit of trying to fix people and help them to survive like I thought I was surviving…always cheering them on and trying to forget about my own suffering. Overall I found more and more ways to keep my head above water and tried to be strong on the outside while stuffing everything I felt deep down so I didn’t crumble. I built walls to protect my heart and I thought that I could only rely on myself, and that all others would disappoint me….

I was so desperate to escape that I lost sight of God’s plan, and I didn’t see a way out unless I created my own path, so I spent the next few decades trying to build a beautiful life on top of all of my broken pieces.

Fast forward through many more years of brokenness, living for myself with no real direction, finding what I thought love was in abusive relationships, struggles with poor self-worth, and searching for all the wrong things to fill the voids that were meant for something bigger. Somehow by the grace of God I met my husband who was exactly opposite of anyone I had ever dated, although he was broken in his own way too, he had such a big heart and I fell hard for him…and eventually I found in a much better life…

instead of being happy, the floodgates opened.

I was nearly 33, married to an amazing man with 3 wonderful children. I had accomplished my goal of getting my degree, and following my passion for photography and working in a flourishing business that I built from the ground up. My life looked great on the outside and my family was everything to me. But all at once I started to crumble. I buckled under the strains of juggling everything in my crazy beautiful life and all my broken pieces rose to the surface.

Everything that had led me to this point plus having a new baby, raising a few children with Sensory Processing Disorder and Tourette Syndrome, mourning the loss of a very dear grandmother, and suffering through the aftermath of some pretty harsh family conflicts….all of this was more than I could bear.

All I could see was not the LOVE that I DID have in my life, but instead the LOVE that I WISHED was there…LOVE from a few precious yet broken people that had never learned how to LOVE or BE LOVED in the first place either.

I just fell apart.

Talking about it was not easy at first…and admitting it to myself was even harder.

I grew up knowing how to pretend things were okay…to put on a brave face….to smile even though I was dying inside….so that’s what I did.

I kept telling myself that I was just in a funk…it would pass soon enough.

Days turned into weeks, and then weeks turned into months….and the thought of even forcing myself to take a shower and change out of my 3 day old pajamas would exhaust me….I just didn’t care. I felt numb. Like I was walking through my life as a zombie. Then I had other days that I would find myself sobbing over absolutely nothing. Eventually The Hubs found me sitting on a mountain of dirty laundry and in a puddle of my own tears overwhelmed and unsure of how to keep going. I knew I was broken and now he knew it too….but I still couldn’t tell him how bad it really was…and I was bordering on something very dangerous. How could someone who had such a beautiful life, so different from where she came still feel so lost?

I ended up in a puddle….unable to love myself, numb to all the love that surrounded me, gripped with fear and frozen in a fog as my life kept passing me by…I was still trying to pick up my own broken pieces and heal myself, but it wasn’t working.

Mentally I was drained and overwhelmed, my mind always raced with worry, to do lists, and stress from work, deadlines, editing and emails that I wasn’t staying on top of. Eventually panic attacks started to become a normal part of my existence. I withdrew a lot from my friends and family and I lost all confidence in myself. I was even more broken than before. Physically, I started losing hair, breaking out in hives for no reason, packing on extra pounds, relying on caffeine and sugar to sustain me, and I lost all motivation to leave the house.

I was a complete and utter mess in dirty yoga pants. Not a pretty sight friends.

During all of this, my only motivation to overcome this giant dark cloud came from my desire to not completely fail motherhood (my poor kids had to deal with my mood swings far too much ) and from my sweet sweet husband who watched me fall apart and had no way to pull me out of it….he wanted so badly to fix me….and truthfully I wished so much that he could too.

No matter how much you try to love someone with depression, it just isn’t enough to pull them out of it completely…its so much deeper than that.

If you are the one on the outside of this roller-coaster, loving someone with depression, and they are not snapping out of it no matter how much LOVE you give….remember that you didn’t fail them, and you can’t DO something more to fix it…

just keep being there and encouraging them to seek help…the brokenness comes from within and has to heal internally with lots of support. Assist them in getting the help they need, advocate for them, be a voice for them and speak life into them as they face this giant.

It will mean more than you’ll ever know that you stuck by them and loved them when they couldn’t even love themselves.


Thank goodness that is what my husband and a few dear friends did for me…

Eventually I felt strong enough to start looking for help…

I finally spoke with my doctor about my symptoms…

I chatted with friends…

I did my best to come up with a plan…

I researched all kinds of ways to help myself naturally (the thought of starting medication that might make me worse terrified me), and I even tried to start an exercise routine (which resulted in about 3 days worth of half attempted physical activity)

but…overall I felt like I was on the road to a better me. The world was my oyster…and I was going to sucker punch this dark cloud hovering over me IN THE FACE!

little did I know I still had a long way to go…because as I was busy conquering it, it snuck in again and knocked me down.

Depression often comes in waves, and must be battled throughout your entire life.

The feeling that I conquered all my problems would last about 2-3 weeks and then I would start sinking back there again…each time harder than before…

like a giant storm pounding against my spirit trying to tear me apart…It was devouring who I was and I felt as if I was shoved into a hole. I never felt so alone.

This time I knew something was terribly wrong with me…I knew exactly what it was…but I just couldn’t make it stop….and worst of all I felt like a burden to all of those who loved me and annoyed with myself for even needing help.

I was at the end of my rope and I knew I either needed to start some medication or go commit myself for a mental breakdown….no really…it was THAT bad. I was terrified to start medication first because my family has a history of addiction, so I decided to try something my sister suggested, and I started taking a supplement called Rhodiola. Thankfully God gave me the motivation to actually follow through and take this supplement each day and I started to feel “normal” again.

After a few weeks I started finding my way out of the hole I was in, and I was ready to deal with all of things I was avoiding without getting so easily overwhelmed. I could finally breathe again. I slowly and reluctantly learned to begin letting go of things that added too much stress in my life, and I made room for the things that really mattered…and most importantly I decided to truly let God lead me.

I knew if I wasn’t intentional with how I lived my life, I would crumble again and again.

Until this point, I felt completely unlovable…I was never enough. I kept trying to fix myself by grasping at everything that surrounded me and stuffing it into the hole I was in, to fill a void that could never be filled by my own hands…I could no longer rely on myself and I had no choice but to make some serious changes. I needed to heal…I needed to bloom again….but this time I had to use who I was created to be to shine for HIM. As I started seeking God’s help in all of this, He opened my eyes to more tools to help me find what I had been searching for…and for more ways to find healing.

I started chasing JOY with everything I had.

I realized that everyday I needed to make more little choices that added up to something greater….a more meaningful life with Christ at the center. I knew that doing this didn’t mean I would be cured from my depression and anxiety, but now I no longer had to live in fear of it. I learned more and more that by being intentional and seeking God in everything, depression was not going to consume me, but instead it was something that had become part of my story, that could breathe more life into others if I let it.

I spent more and more time looking for ways to be thankful even when things went wrong,

I changed my diet and started eating clean as much as I could and also cut out gluten, dairy, and completely detoxed from sugar for 3 months straight…and most of those habits became a lifestyle change that truly helped my mental health more than I ever thought it would.

I also committed to starting my days with prayer, devotions, and journaling, and I began to ask God to help me truly heal. I was ready to BE STILL and WAIT on HIM to guide my steps. I couldn’t do this alone…and now I could see I didn’t even want to.

For a long time, I only wanted a quick fix, but HIS plans are always greater than our plans. True healing takes time.

God was not only healing me from within, but He was leading me to build a better foundation than ever before.

Letting go of the need to control everything and fix it all myself may sound easy….but let me tell you friends..it is NOT. Its a process….a struggle each and every day….but its worth so so much.

If I rely on only myself and not God, I will fill my day with to-do lists and loads of work to occupy my mind and avoid the really hard things….but God is leading me down a path that requires me to lean on Him, and not my own plan…

to live on less, to seek the truth, to be more open about my struggles, and to make sweeter memories with my kids and my wonderful husband…a path that will lead to far less stress and regret and much more joy than I ever could imagine.

God didn’t create me to be battle with depression and anxiety, He didn’t intend for me to start off life with such a struggle, or to get stuck in a place where I self destruct…but when I turn to God each day to sustain me, He will use this part of who I am to let His light shine through me….to help others who suffer in the same way know that they are not alone…to remind someone out there that its okay to NOT be perfect, to let go of control, to be broken….

Its when we lean in to these things that could destroy us, with God’s help, that we can find a way to heal.

We are never meant to try to conquer the world with our own feeble hands or to try to be strong ALL of the time. Its okay to admit that on our own we are weak and we can’t do this alone….

So that’s where I am now….I’m on a new path, seeking God each day with a bigger heart for the broken, a desire to LOVE the unloved, and a commitment to living life on purpose….and to shine even brighter for Him.

From now on I promise to share more of my story…even the most RAW and VULNERABLE parts.

I’m still not sure where this will lead me, but I do know that through all of this, my eyes have been opened to who God made me to be….and in my weakness I find strength.





September 19, 2015 - 4:37 pm

10 Year Anniversary Getaway | The Florida Keys » Kerri Banyas Photography - [...] We needed this….to connect, to be adventurous, to make some amazing memories and to reset from all the craziness that life has to offer. This year was especially challenging, we were faced with some big financial hurdles, we had our hearts set on a potential new job and HUGE life change for our family that completely fell apart…and on top of everything else, I’ve been going through the healing process from my battle with anxiety, depression and severe panic attacks. [...]

September 23, 2015 - 10:11 am

Why Failing in my Business was Everything I Needed » Kerri Banyas Photography - [...] took on more when I should’ve walked away…and basically that’s when anxiety, depression, and panic attacks started creeping into my life. Even though I didn’t want to quit my business, I was no longer [...]

Banyas Family Road Trip 2015 – Part 6 – Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

We said goodbye to Florida after one final swim on the pool….then we made our way through Georgia and stopped for some amazing BBQ at Pit Stop BBQ …..so yummy! Once we had full bellies and some time to stretch, we headed to our final adventure in Kentucky…exploring Mammoth Cave National Park. On the way we drove through Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville….I wish we could’ve stopped in all of those places to soak in everything each city had to offer, but we will have to save them for another trip….I’m definitely going to be heading back as soon as I can!

Our Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1 : Leave our home in Michigan at 5:30am and head to Gatlinburg Tennessee
  • Day 2: Spend the morning and afternoon exploring Gatlinburg, and some of the Smoky Mountains, then head to Florida
  • Day 3: Easter Sunday!!! Spend the day resting with family & soaking up some sun by the pool
  • Day 4: Visit my Dad and family south of Sarasota, Fl
  • Day 5: Relax by the pool, Shopping, Watch the Sunset on Siesta Key
  • Day 6: Visit Grandma Shorty in Winterhaven
  • Day 7: Visit Mote Aquarium & Big Banyas Family Bash on Anna Marie Island
  • Day 8: One last swim in the pool then Leave Florida and head to Kentucky
  • Day 9: Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, Hike the trails, Take a Cave Tour, Earn Junior Ranger Badge #1
  • Head home
  • Day 10: SLEEP!!!

We arrived at our hotel at 3am (more construction)…and we were exhausted! I’m not gonna lie….driving through the night isn’t my fave anymore now that I am older….how do those truckers do it??!! It didn’t take long to unload into the hotel room….thank goodness we packed that over-night duffel bag that I told you about! Total lifesaver! We stayed at the Mammoth Cave Hotel right in the park, attached to the visitors center, so we were close to everything. The hotel offers very basic accommodations, but very clean and so nice to be so close to everything. Next time we might try to stay in there adorable WigWams…aren’t they a dream! I want to live in one!

We were able to schedule our tour in advance (they sell out quickly so be sure to book your tour well before you visit or you might miss out) but we had to wait until 2:45, so we spent most of the day exploring and having a small picnic in the beautiful Kentucky countryside as we waited to see the caves. It was perfect.

Just look at this gorgeousness ya’ll!

We are so very small in this big big world….

We also spent some time helping the kids earn their very first Junior Ranger Badges! Love this program! What a wonderful way to keep kids engaged while learning about our National Parks!

Time to explore the caves! We were waiting for our bus to take us to the Domes and Dripstones Tour that starts at a back entrance to Mammoth Cave. Harrison was very prepared with his miner’s helmet that he bought at the gift shop….so cute right?!

Love my little Explorers! Look how excited they are!

Discussing the possibility of seeing Bats…we didn’t end up seeing any by the way…thank goodness.

Our tour took us almost 300ft deep into the Earth! How beautiful!

I didn’t get to take very many pictures inside the caves…no flash photography is permitted by the way…so I was thankful to have my professional camera. The tour is more fast paced than you realize, and trying to be sure our kids were not tumbling over a railing and into the abyss prevented me from taking too much time for photos. I hope you will forgive me just this once (;

We LOVED the caves…but we were all tired out after exploring for 2 hours…and ready to make the long trip home to Michigan…and more driving through the night! Can you guess what time we got home? 3 a.m. again…must be our lucky number!

Things to Remember When Exploring Mammoth Cave National Park

  • Wear Tennis Shoes – the caves are slippery in some area, and with all of those steps, rugged terrain and tight spaces, its not a place for flip flops!
  • Dress in Layers – The caves are a bit damp and a bit chilly. Be sure to at least bring a sweatshirt or jacket in case you get chilly…even in the Summer months. Most tours last a few hours or more so its better to be prepared!
  • Bring a Water Bottle – Cave Tours are so much fun, but they are about 2 or more hours depending on the tour you choose, you cannot bring any drinks other than water into the cave, so this is the perfect place to bring your refillable water bottle…there’s even a special bottle filling station in the welcome center.
  • “Go” before Go – There are no restrooms in the cave….which means no potty breaks for hours. If you have little ones then it might be a good time to put them in a pull-up just in case.
  • Lots of Tight Spaces – if you fear being trapped in tight spaces, I would highly recommend chatting with the park rangers about which tour would be best for you. There are a few tours with more open space that you would likely enjoy more than the ones with paths called “fat man’s misery” etc…
  • Schedule Your Tour in Advance – The cave tours book up fast and you may be out of luck if you try to show up that day and take the tour of your choice…especially at peak travel times. You can reserve your spot by visiting their website here.
  • Pack a Lunch - Once you get to the cave, there is nowhere around to eat except for one restaurant attached to the hotel. In my opinion its not that cost-effective and not very good food. We ate breakfast there, and its served buffet style…it didn’t seem freshly prepared, the service was really not great, and it cost over $65 for our family for food that we barely liked. You’d be better off to bring a blanket and have a picnic while enjoying the great outdoors…which is thankfully what we did for lunch. After all, you are visiting a National Park…you might as well soak up as much nature as you can…and its beautiful here so I know you won’t be sorry!
  • Plan to Stay All Day or Longer- There is so much more to enjoy here than the just exploring the caves…there are plenty of trails to explore, camping, horseback riding, boating, canoeing & kayaking and so much more… Check out the Things to Do sections of their website packed with tons of info so you can prepare.

 I’m so thankful to have a family full of adventurers!

I hope you enjoyed following along on our road trip…It was such a blast for us and we can’t wait to plan another one in the near future! There are just too many places to explore…perhaps we will return to the Smoky Mountains and go camping, or head out West toward the Rockies…no matter I’m sure we will LOVE it every step of the way!


Banyas Family Road Trip 2015 – Part 5 – Mote Aquarium

Our time in Florida was drawing to a close…so far we have been able to squeeze in so much into our few days in the area. Thankfully we planned ahead to make the most of our time. We chose to spend our very last day there meeting up with some extended family near Sarasota to explore Mote Aquarium, then head to Anna Marie Island for a cookout at Aunt Cheryl’s place…and eventually end the night with a little more beach time.

Here’s a look at our schedule so far…

Our Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1 : Leave our home in Michigan at 5:30am and head to Gatlinburg Tennessee
  • Day 2: Spend the morning and afternoon exploring Gatlinburg, and some of the Smoky Mountains, then head to Florida
  • Day 3: Easter Sunday!!! Spend the day resting with family & soaking up some sun by the pool
  • Day 4: Visit my Dad and family south of Sarasota, Fl
  • Day 5: Relax by the pool, Shopping, Watch the Sunset on Siesta Key
  • Day 6: Visit Grandma Shorty in Winterhaven
  • Day 7: Visit Mote Aquarium & Big Banyas Family Bash on Anna Marie Island
  • Day 8: One last swim in the pool then Leave Florida and head to Kentucky
  • Day 9: Explore Mammoth Cave National Park, Hike the trails, Take a Cave Tour, Earn Junior Ranger Badge #1
  • Head home
  • Day 10: SLEEP!!!

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

We met up with our Banyas family and spent the day checking out all that Mote Aquarium had to offer. It was such a blast! Anytime we can sneak something educational into our family’s vacations then we are all for it! My kiddos are like sponges and not only want to have fun but they want to learn….they are so curious about the world around them and I want to keep taking full advantage of these years and giving them as many opportunities to explore everything they can. They will carry these moments with them for a lifetime.

I could’ve easily watched these jellyfish all day…they were so mesmerizing.

Lionfish & Jellyfish…oh my!

This Seaturtle loved Madyson…he even came over to say hi….or to high five her…we are still not sure which.

I am IN LOVE with these manatees! Aren’t they the cutest??!! I swear they are holding hands! or Fins! Clearly I need to study Manatee Anatomy a bit more.
Uncle Mike didn’t get a high five….
Our family especially loved the hands-on exhibits….here is Aunt Diane hanging with Eden getting ready to touch some sea creatures….
Out of everything we saw that day, these 3 sea creatures were the coolest of them all…
They also have Sharks at Mote Aquarium!!!!!

This particular Shark was a bit too excited to be in our pictures!

We are so thankful for the friendly staff who volunteered to take a BIG group picture of all of us! Yay for that!

What a fun day! It was very low key, with lots of things that kept the kids busy…but not so fast paced that we were worn out at the end. If you are ever in the Sarasota area, you must check it out!

Anna Marie Island

We spent our very last night in Florida with our extended Banyas crew enjoying a cookout, Aunt Cheryl’s yummy margaritas, and lots of great conversation…We are so thankful that we were able to connect with so much family!

Aunt Diane and Uncle Mike had fun hanging out with “Chicken Little” cousin Jessica’s pet rooster.

Our Last Bit of Beach Time

After all of the family festivities, we headed to the beach on Anna Marie Island right before sunset…thankfully Aunt Cheryl’s place is within walking distance of the beach! Close to sunset is absolutely our favorite time to head to the beach. In the evening you can enjoy less crowds, less threat of sunburn, a bit cooler temperatures, and gorgeous gorgeous light! We spent our last night in Florida playing in the sand, searching for seashells, and enjoying the ocean….all of us absolutely loved it! What makes this even more special is that The Hubs used to come to this exact same place when he visited his grandparents as a child…don’t you just love passing down traditions like this to future generations?

Next time we come to Florida, I vote we spend 90% of our time by the ocean….oh how I LOVE it so…

Oh my stars! The Hubs found a mermaid!

She’s a beauty! I think we’ll keep her!

Eden spent most of her time exploring the sand and digging up little sea creatures….while the other 2 kiddos enjoyed the water and dove into the waves….it was so good for our souls to unwind like this before packing up and starting our long journey home.

I Want to Be Wild, Beautiful and Free Just like the Sea

Coming Up Next : Banyas Family Road Trip Part 6 – Mammoth Cave National Park

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