I knew Heidi Swapp back before she was famous in the scrapbooking industry. Back in the days when she was one of the early winners in the Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame layout contests. She used to teach at a little scrapbook shop called Memory Lane in Mesa, Arizona located at Stapley & Baseline Roads. That was their “new” location after they expanded, I honestly can’t even remember where the original store was now. Somewhere closer to downtown Mesa, if memory serves me correctly.
Anyway, I fell in love with Heidi’s personality, her scrapbook style, the way she helped ME find my creativity. I remember she would put on Sheryl Crow’s (new) album C’mon C’mon, and we’d listen to Soak Up the Sun. She was SO inspiring. I had the opportunity to attend a book release at her home back around the year 2000. It was gorgeous. Everything she did (and still does) is just soooo beautiful.
Man, to go back in time and be in my early 30’s… with small children, young families, scrapbooking by hand. I did enter my work in one of the Hall of Fame contests, and obviously didn’t win. The way you view your talents is so relative, isn’t it? So many people look at my creations and are in awe. Yet I compare myself to the greats – Heidi Swapp, Anna Aspnes, Becky Higgins, Ali Edwards, Kim Klassen, and I’m like, uhm. Not so much.
I wound up opening a scrapbook store online, and sold so many products on eBay. Man, you could really make some good money on eBay back in the day. I was really into the whole thing between 2000 – 2003. Taking classes, growing my store, getting into photography, being a mom, active in my church, having a beautiful new home in Higley Groves in Gilbert. Yet I was silently suffering from anorexia and depression the whole time. I remember feeling SO lonely. I had SO much, yet was so sad. There were days where I just lived in my pajamas at a whopping 93 pounds.
Heidi moved on from Memory Lane to Making Memories magazine & product lines. I moved from Gilbert to Wyoming, closed my scrapbooking business, stopped taking photographs and eventually back home to Arizona with my five children minus my husband. I went to therapy for the divorce, anorexia and depression as well as went back to school to get my Bachelors in Accountancy and then my MBA. I had a successful career as a tax accountant and lived life as a single parent of five.
I followed Heidi’s blog for a few years, and read about all her adventures in China, etc. Then I stopped. Her life just seemed too perfect for me, and mine had gone in a complete direction than where it started back in the early days at Memory Lane. I sold all my supplies on eBay, although I did start taking photographs again with a tiny little digital camera. It wasn’t until about 2008 that I began scrapbooking again. This time I went digital. And I fell in love with it. In January of 2009, I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D60. Loved that thing. And my photography really took off. I discovered Kim Klassen and got into a lot of still life photography. I joined a photography club and took a course from Karen Russell (unfortunately my dad died right in the middle of that class). Meanwhile, I was still battling depression, had a couple failed attempts at new relationships, got in a car accident, worked in tax in public accounting (stressful!), and then in 2012 was hit with shingles. I attempted to continue the photography and even upgraded to a Nikon D300s, but never really made friends with that camera. I had permanent nerve damage in my leg from the shingles (a condition called PHN that really sucks). A lot of REALLY HARD things happened, but I’m not going to say my life was miserable, because it wasn’t. I have SO MANY happy memories of my kids throughout the years. As far as scrapbooking went, I created a lot of cool pages, and really zoned into the photography more so than the scrapbooking.
It wasn’t until about 2013 that I FINALLY got my own depression under control. I give the credit to my granddaughter who was born in January that year. OMG! Holding Brielle healed my heart. My depression medication was really perfected about this time as well. I had also made peace with NOT getting in romantic relationships as well which contributed to my ultimate happiness as well. I always seemed to lose so much of ME trying to make someone else happy. When I turned 100% to my kids and granddaughter, I FREAKING FOUND HAPPINESS! It was there the WHOLE time waiting for me! The things we WISH we had learned sooner. I also discovered Project Life in 2012, but really didn’t commit until 2013 which is the first year I completed my first Project Life album. I had it printed via Blurb, and printed it for my kids for Christmas, 2014. That is also the day one of my son’s best friends committed suicide. So, so, SO sad. It hit our family SO hard, as well as my son’s friends. So heartbreaking.
Earlier this year, two of my own children came to me with battles they were fighting with depression. Without breaking their confidences, it was hard. I GET the depression monster. It is very REAL, and VERY scary. The term “not in your right mind” is a legitimate fear. I’m so sick of people who think depression is something you can just exercise or eat healthy through and it will all go away. Even therapy isn’t enough. I BELIEVE in anti-depressants. I BELIEVE in taking anti-depressants EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It’s just like having diabetes. Diabetics need insulin. Individuals suffering from depression need anti-depressants. I DO NOT believe being on anti-depressants causes people to commit suicide. Those thoughts were there long before the meds came into the picture. There is NO SHAME in suffering from this illness. I’m SO grateful I had finally gotten my own depression under control so I could help my kids get theirs under control. Our doctor didn’t just throw pills at the kids like candy, he counseled us to get them therapy. Which we did. A fantastic elderly gentleman named Dr. Hubbard was a perfect fit for my kids. We got lucky on the first try. Are we out of the woods? Never. You have to stay one step ahead of it each and every single day. I’d look at my kids and a flash of them in a coffin would pop into my head, and I’d have a complete panic attack. I check in with them regarding their meds, and watch their moods. They’re stable at this point and their therapist released both of them leaving the door open to come back and talk to him anytime they need to, but you can bet the fear is always in the back of my mind.
Which brings me back to Heidi Swapp. While I follow Ali Edwards and Kim Klassen on iGram, I haven’t really ever gone back to following Heidi Swapp. I’ve made peace with my own life, and the evolution of it going in a completely different direction than I had planned. I peeked at Heidi’s iGram account last night, and discovered a photo of she and her husband standing next to a coffin, and my heart. just. sank. Her son committed suicide a few weeks ago. OMG! I just can’t even imagine the heartache she’s going through. I’ve only had a small taste of the horrific tragedy suicide brings to everyone with the suicide of my son’s best friend at Christmas last year, as well as helping my children with their own depression struggles. But to actually go through it in my own family has not happened. I don’t know how I could possibly deal with it.
I was so touched by the way she threw her entire heart and soul into his funeral, and it was her amazing creativity that helped her through it all. She had everyone sign his coffin with notes of love in sharpie pen, which is just a fantastic thing to do. The damn box is going in the ground, so who cares that you spent thousands on it? She not only helped herself grieve, she helped everyone else grieve and show her son the love they felt for him. Her blog post is so touching and inspiring (and makes you cry for sure). I’m sure she’s spending nights crying herself to sleep, and not taking photos of those moments, obviously. Moms know how we weep for our children, that much goes without saying. I don’t know that Heidi even remembers me, but my heart goes out to her. It’s interesting how people touch your life, and while we definitely went down completely different paths, we kind of wound up in slightly similar places 15 years later. Life does interesting things too you, and takes you to some pretty crazy places. Some of them wild, exciting and amazing. Others horrible, sad and heartbreaking. And after all these years I find myself inspired by (and following) Heidi Swapp once again! Sending love & positive vibes to Heidi & her family!
(To read her post about Heidi Swapp’s son’s passing, click here.)
If you (or someone you love) is suffering from depression, please get help. Go to your doctor, find the right therapist, and do not be ashamed. You are not alone. Trust me! There are many of us who are out there with you. We get it. Do not suffer in silence! Help is out there. Not every depression battle is the same. Find the right combination that works for you. It may take time. It took me years to get it under control. Some anti-depressants work right off the bat, others do not. I went through several meds before finding the right combination. I feel AMAZING now, but still take my medication EVERY DAY! I do not stop taking the meds just because I feel good. Whatever you do, don’t give up!