Telling my story so you can tell yours


Isabel Howard

Isabel Howard


Do you like talking about your feelings? I do. I used to not. In my younger life, I didn’t know how to talk about my feelings. I kept everything inside and by the time I graduated from college, I was dealing with depression, an eating disorder, and hypochondria. I saw that most people I admired who had overcome similar struggles had gotten better by talking about it. “Whaaat?” I thought. No one I knew had ever done that. I had no clue how I would tell my story. It took four years for me to learn how to tell people my feelings without wanting to crawl under a rock and die. Now I have these new things that I really like doing – learning about psychology, researching holistic health, and SHARING WHAT HAPPENED.

I was born and raised in San Antonio. I’m happiest when I’m in South Texas, Mexico, or West Texas. The Southwest is near and dear to my soul.

Before and during college, I had two relationships that ended badly from poor communication, and for the first time in my life, I wondered whether being silent was really serving me well. Without warning, I became an existential basket case – WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?? I asked this question daily during my freshman year at Middlebury College in Vermont, which is exactly what a freshman is not supposed to be doing. Even at parties, I wondered what the meaning of life was. Though I loved the earthy green campus and all of my friends, I developed symptoms of depression and anxiety. After the college health center characterized my mood as “homesickness,” I stopped telling anyone how I was feeling, even when the depression followed me to Europe for my entire junior year. Art History (and the crazy artists we were studying) was my refuge for a little while. But as we became “more serious Art History students,” our study of art became more cut and dry. Suddenly, I found that my professors weren’t interested in discussing how art made us feel. Luckily, I lobbied for (and succeeded) writing a senior thesis about the earth-centered Southwestern architecture of O’Neil Ford. However, I was still hiding a big part of me – the part that wanted to create.

Writing, painting, I didn’t care – I just wanted to share my experiences. But I didn’t know how. That was my big secret.

It took a near-fatal gluten allergy to get me back on the creative track. During my first year in the “real world,” I experienced a bad food poisoning attack and was misdiagnosed with acid reflux. Luckily, I was introduced to the Paleo diet just in time to save my life. Though the Paleo diet saved my life, the whole ordeal unmasked issues with my body and with food, which I now recognize as an eating disorder mixed with hypochondria. I’m still learning what all this means; fortunately, keeping up with the Paleo community and the farm to table movement has been a huge positive (visit Paleomg and Fed and Fit for the BEST Paleo recipes!!) One of the most difficult parts of this process was leaving my job in architectural history with the City of San Antonio in order to focus on my health.

In the end, though, life pushed me in this direction, toward sharing my story and researching how family patterns (such as addiction or eating disorders) repeat themselves throughout generations.

I’ve even gone beyond everyday psychology into super woo-woo territory – I visited a psychic two years ago and had an amazing experience. Now I light sage and candles like it’s my job. I also like talking about money and millennials and how our generation is becoming more open about money. Chelsea Fagan at The Financial Diet is leading the way on the financial conversation. Go read her blog!

I used to wish for a magic formula that said, “Isabel, this is your creative outlet!” After I’d had enough wishing, I realized I had to create this outlet – my writing – for myself.

I’m 100% on the Elizabeth Gilbert bandwagon of living a creative and honest life (if you don’t like Elizabeth Gilbert, go follow her on Facebook, and then tell me how you feel.) In my experience, being open about what I’ve been through has brought me a lot of joy (I have also cried a lot). In fact, in most cases, the person I’m talking to ends up sharing something they’ve been through. I’m all for that. So when it comes to people’s health and their life experiences, I believe that silence is NOT golden. I’m sharing my story and I hope that you will in turn share yours.

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