Featured cover photo: Original artwork by Sahlem.
Due to COVID, I lost my job of 15 years in the hospitality business as a PBX hotel operator. Like so many people, COVID had me locked up, depressed, unemployed and overwhelmed with anxiety. I was always so self sufficient. It was a difficult time not only financially but also emotionally. It was hard for me to ask for help. But eventually, when my mental health took a turn for the worse, I had to humble myself and think of my daughter. Even though I had given up on myself, I was not about to give up on my daughter and being the best mom I can be.
I started seeking therapy. I was fortunate that during COVID there were therapists and doctors to help those in need like me. One of the most amazing women that was there for me was Susan. She was trying to help me get a job so I could get back on my feet. But when I expressed to her how terrible my anxiety had gotten and that I just wanted to volunteer to feel like I have a purpose in life, she said "I have just the right place for you," and connected me with Together We Bake. Like it was meant to be, I was introduced to Lisbeth. I was not sure what I was getting into, but something kind and positive about Lisbeth put me at ease.
The following day, I went to Together We Bake and started a beautiful journey of healing and finding confidence in myself [by] being around amazing, caring women. Lisbeth was so kind and welcoming. I felt like I found my long lost sister. On days I was suffocated with anxiety and could not get up, she would call and remind me that I could do it. And I did. I got up every day looking forward to bake and learn something new at TWB.
My favorite part of the program is learning how to bake, but there are also other programs like negotiation skills class, journaling class, [and] women empowerment sessions in the morning where we share our thoughts, favorite quotes, and uplifting words to each other. We also have volunteers who are assigned to encourage and help us work on our resume.
Every day [and] every morning, I fought my crippling anxiety and depression to be around these amazing, strong, [and] inspiring women. I was so fortunate to have been connected with Kathy, one of the volunteers who helped me with my resume. She is kind, compassionate, and a perfect match because we have so much in common. We are both artists, fashionistas, and cool moms of 15-year-old teenagers.
On the days that I wanted to give up, Kathy never gave up on me. Kathy was so easy to trust. I shared paintings with her that I had done years ago [and] dresses I had designed and made. Being an artistic person herself, she understood and appreciated all my hard work. She reminded me to be proud of my artistic talent.
For the first time in a long time, I was inspired to write a poem and share it with my TWB friends. It was powerful and healing. For the first time, I was opening up and sharing my hurt and pain with other women that had gone through similar trauma and anxiety. As the weeks went by, we all started to feel better knowing we had each other's back, knowing we were there every day to support and empower each other to be better, do better and never give up. My perspective started changing just by being around other women who were going through difficult times but were determined to make a change in their lives.
This program taught me the power of what women's togetherness and empowerment can do to those who are affected by COVID, mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse and other health issues. The program makes one feel they are not alone in a sometimes cold and heartless world.
For so long, I felt isolated with COVID and my anxiety. For so long, I could not get up and function. But now it’s a new beginning for my life. I feel confident, motivated, and empowered that I might even one day open my own coffee/bakery/art shop that I had dreamed of opening in my younger years. I am so proud of myself, my classmates, my sisters [and] my friends at TWB for completing this program. We did it, and we passed and got our ServSafe restaurant management certificate.
The founders of this nonprofit organization, Tricia and Stephanie, are two beautiful, genius, [and] amazing women who, in my book, are heroes of this community right here in Old Town. [They're] empowering and making a big difference in women’s lives from all walks of life to be great and self sufficient. Thank you for coming up with this idea of bringing women together to heal and empower each other.
*Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.
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