Born and raised in Vermont, I was a wild child from the beginning. A gifted child with loud and rambunctious ways, I spent my child excelling in athletics and spending hours in one-on-one tutoring and special education to navigate a rare processing disorder. Although the privilege of this special treatment gave me the gift of writing and speaking, I misinterpreted the help and removal from a standard classroom setting as an indicator of brokenness. These feelings led to significant self esteem issues that I misdirected into binge eating and later resulted in depression.
By my junior year in high school, my depression was so severe that I could not make it through a day without crying. I spent that year and every year through college advocating for myself and teaching my professors that even if I cried throughout the class, I still deserved to sit in their classroom and learn. My courage in sharing my struggles with mental illness and tenacity for radical transparency are my greatest gifts and they are a large part of the reason I am alive today.
In 2006 after my first term at Middlebury College, I was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder due to an unusual presentation of anxiety. For the next 8 years, I was treated for bipolar disorder, an illness I did not have. The treatment created rapid mood cycling, hallucinations and prolonged episodes of suicidal depression. In 2011, after graduating from Middlebury, so affected by hallucinations and persistent suicidality, I moved home and was put on disability.
The next two years were a blur of psychosis, agoraphobia and deep depression. After a suicide attempt in 2013, my care team sentenced me to a long term ward citing that I would only survive under in-patient care and vigilant supervision.
Desperate to live freely, I convinced my parents to use their healthcare connections to get me one last appointment with the only doctor willing to take on my case. Within a matter of a few appointments, this doctor determined that I did not, in fact, have bipolar disorder but rather struggled with severe anxiety and panic disorders. Over the next few years, from 2014 to 2017, through extensive and consistent exposure therapy, I fought my way forward and rebuilt my entire life.
By 2015, after a year of disciplined exposure therapy and the addition of Waffle, I was hardly recognizable. I had recovered enough to go off disability, hold a full time job at a start up, and enjoy a robust community of friends. Thereafter, through continued exposure therapy and the benefits accrued from training Waffle to be my psychiatric service dog, I threw myself further into the business world. I helped scale two start ups and then, in 2016, after recognizing my greater interest in marketing and narrative, I founded my own consulting firm specializing in the use of authentic storytelling and social media strategy.
In 2017, upon being recognized for my incredible recovery and unabashed transparency on instagram surrounding my struggles with mental illness, I gave a TEDx talk on the power of embracing fear and vulnerability as a path towards growth, meaning and community. At the end of that year, I began traveling to share my story and empower others to be more open about mental illness and learn through fear. While in New York City for a speaking engagement about my unique bond with Waffle, I met Elias.
A few months later, he visited me in Vermont and while hiking in the green mountains we discussed the future of The Dogist and its potential to grow into a brand that brings community, social-impact commerce and even greater storytelling to the world. A few short months later, in early 2018, he hired me to be the CEO of The Dogist where I continue to work today.
In 2018, I married my husband Dave, an environmental science professor at Dartmouth College and we bought a home in Norwich, Vermont. I now split time between New York City where I run The Dogist and our home in the Green Mountains. My life today is a pure gift - one of wellness, meaning, community and far more than I ever dreamed of for myself. The gratitude I feel for my recovery and current blessings fuels my work, advocacy, and deep passion for storytelling about the power of sharing vulnerability with others. I am here to serve and although I do not yet know where that drive will lead, I am determined to teach this world that there is no shame in mental illness and that when we lean into pain and have the courage to share our vulnerability, we set both ourselves and others free.