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Turning 40 and Using Mental Health Challenges and Resilience to Uncover a Life’s Purpose
Episode 5725th July 2023 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
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When Carey Kirkella got pregnant at age 40, she had already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had survived two manic episodes, which - for her - are brought on by stress and lack of sleep. She knew she was predisposed to have postpartum mental health issues, so she worked to put a preventative care plan in place - most of which fell apart during labor, delivery and the aftermath. She ended up slipping into another manic episode and went to a maternal postpartum facility where she was separated from her newborn baby for about 10 days. Carey shares this story, along with how these episodes have helped her uncover her life purpose and create a spirituality practice that works for her.

Guest Bio

Carey Kirkella is an award-winning photographer and the creator of The L.E.N.S. Method™ creative photography workshops with a focus on personal growth. In addition to her programs, she works with purpose-driven brands, creating powerful story-telling images that help them share their messages with the world. Carey is passionate about mental health, motherhood, messages from the Universe, and connecting with others who are on a mission to help improve our world. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NYC with her husband, 5 year old son and their sweet rescue dog.

Turning 40 and Using Mental Health Challenges and Resilience to Uncover a Life’s Purpose 

In this episode, I had the privilege of speaking with Carey Kirkella, a talented photographer and a brave woman who shared her deeply personal journey through postpartum issues caused by bipolar disorder, and her spiritual experiences. Carey’s “forty story” is a testament to the power of resilience, the importance of mental health awareness and advocacy, and the strength that comes from sharing our stories.

Episode Highlights

Carey's Bipolar Disorder Journey: Carey shared her experiences with bipolar disorder, which she prefers to describe as being a highly sensitive empath with a touch of psychic ability. She had her first manic episode in her late twenties, triggered by post-traumatic stress and financial stress.

Premonition of 9/11: Carey worked as a photo editor and staff photographer for the Wall Street Journal, located across the street from the Twin Towers. She quit her job two months before the 9/11 attacks due to a strong premonition that the towers would come down.

Postpartum Issues: After giving birth to her first child at 40, Carey experienced severe postpartum issues. Despite her best efforts to put preventative measures in place, she ended up being separated from her newborn for 10 days due to postpartum psychosis.

Spiritual Experiences: Throughout her life, Carey has had profound spiritual experiences, including premonitions and connections with the spiritual realm. These experiences have played a significant role in her mental and emotional well-being.

Advocacy for Mental Health: Carey's journey has made her a strong advocate for mental health, particularly for women dealing with postpartum issues. She emphasizes the importance of sharing experiences and providing support for others going through similar situations.

Finding Purpose: Going through all she has helped Carey uncover her purpose. She’s a creative person and a photographer by trade and she’s bringing those skills together with self-development and spirituality to create workshops and programs that help other people use creative photography as a tool to develop their own emotional resilience and raise their vibration.

Mentioned Links and Resources

Carey Kirkella's Photography and Workshops

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle 

Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

If you enjoyed this episode, please remember to rate, follow, and review our podcast. Your support helps us reach more listeners and continue these important conversations. 


The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

Carey’s L.E.N.S. Method™ Workshops

Carey Kirkella's Photography

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Stephanie: Hi Carrie. Thanks for joining me today.

Carey: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Stephanie: It's truly my pleasure. You are another mutual friend of the Dynamo from Down Under, and so Elle put us together and said we had to talk.

Carey: Yes. I, I'm so glad that we met through Elle, I feel like anyone who I would meet through Elle I have an instant connection with.

Stephanie: I feel the same way. She does a great job of connecting people. When you and I first met, we chatted about your 40 story and how at 40 you had your first baby and you experienced some postpartum issues. And so we're gonna talk a little bit about that today. But before we get there, why don't we back up a few steps and take me back to say your mid to late twenties and let's sort of set the stage for how you got to where you were at 40.

Carey: Okay. Yes. So basically when we talk about what sort of postpartum issues I had, it all stemmed from having had bipolar disorder, which I don't love that term.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: I tend to wanna say, but it actually means highly sensitive empath, who's a little bit psychic

Stephanie: Okay.

Carey: in my case.

Stephanie: Yeah.


Stephanie: I'll bet.

Carey: on many different levels. But, I sort of shut down my intuition at that point. I was really afraid of it. And I set out to be a freelance photographer during that time and it was very challenging. Basically, long story short, I had just a lot of financial stress and a lot of post-traumatic stress from that experience. And then I went and photographed a Christian music festival, which was very humbling and eye-opening because I sort of went with one idea in my mind and had some interesting experiences that I couldn't explain and I couldn't sleep. I started to not be able to sleep. What could happen with me and my brain chemistry is that it can speed up, which then causes me to not be able to sleep. And so that's what resulted in having had this manic episode, which results in hallucinations and all kinds of scary things that can happen.

Stephanie: Was that your first episode? The one around nine 11.

, so it was in:

Stephanie: Okay. And what kind of things did you experience at the music festival?

Carey: Well, I went in kind of thinking I'm gonna do this documentary photo shoot cuz I was feeling like I needed to do some sort of interesting project. Cause I had been photographing weddings and I had been building up my commercial portfolio, but I was like, this isn't, I need to do something interesting. So I went, and it was a camping experience, and so that in and of itself means I'm not gonna sleep well.

Stephanie: Right.

Carey: and basically I was really touched by how passionate and sincere everyone was. I was really moved by the music and also I didn't expect to like the music and I did. There was a young woman who felt the need to speak to me. She felt like she was being kind of called to speak to me or channeled, or however you wanna say it. And the things that she said, I wish I remember them, but whatever she said to me, it just blew my mind because I was like, you arein my head. How did you do that? There were some other experiences that I had, I actually really need to pull up those photos and do something with them, because I also created some video content out of that and I never did anything with it because of sort of what all came down after that.

Stephanie: Okay.

Carey: But it was really powerful and I don't wanna take away from that experience because there's people in my family who would say that that was not a good thing that I kind of went down that track because it did sort of color what my manic episode looked like. It's interesting because most people who have major manic episodes, it's usually wrapped up in either religion or politics. I For me it was more spirituality than religion, and I do feel now my spirituality is stronger than ever before, but I definitely battled with it for quite so many years, and I do think a lot of the time mental and emotional well being is wrapped up in spirituality

Stephanie: Sure.

Carey: and energy.

Stephanie: Yep, yep.

Carey: So that was the first episode and then I actually started photographing more nature after that as a way to kind of help. I knew that being in nature helped my emotions and my just feeling more stability, more grounded, so I started creating images that are based on Feng Shui art cure concepts.

Stephanie: Okay.

Carey: It's a whole school of thought and philosophy about energy also and how images really affect our subconscious mind. Then fast forward, and I had my second episode when I was 36,

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

and that was sort of a culmination of my sister passed suddenly of breast cancer. Stage four breast cancer, no one actually dies of breast cancer, by the way.Okay.

Carey: Breast cancer's, when it spreads to other parts of the body, that's what stage four is. And so anyway, she had only been diagnosed four months prior to passing,

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: and at the same time I was planning my wedding, and my wedding happened a month after she passed. And in hindsight, I wish I had just let go of all those thousands of dollars of deposits and just postponed my wedding. But I was in that mindset of we can't lose that money. So we had the wedding. And my emotions and just the grief. I should just mention that I've been on and off many different medications for many years and at that point I was not on any medications. That was always my goal, to not be dependent on any medications. I've never felt good about them, and I just knew that I had to listen to that. So I had another manic episode, and I could feel it coming this time. I knew a little bit about what to look out for and I could feel that I was in what they call it, it's the first part of mania, but I can't remember now. I can't remember the term. Sorry.

Stephanie: It's okay.

Carey: So, yeah, my wedding was beautiful and very intense,

Stephanie: Yeah.

Carey: And that episode was also very tied into the spiritual realm because I feel like there was so many interesting things that happened, too, with my sister at passing and butterfly sightings and interesting imagery and things that only she would know. I'll just share this one little story: my sister was really close with my brother and a butterfly actually attached itself to his side mirror as he drove to her funeral, like the whole time.

Stephanie: Wow.

Carey: Things like that. And there was many stories like that in my family about butterflies, with my sister and also my grandmother actually. My point of that is I feel like there's been many things where I've kind of had to ride this interesting line of talking to psychiatrists, but also knowing that there's this whole spiritual world that I've sort of tuned into sometimes that affects this 3D reality.

Stephanie: Do you come from a background from a family that is open to the spiritual realm in a non-religious sort of way? Is that something that was familiar to you or open to you?

Carey: No,

Stephanie: Okay.

Carey: My mom is definitely more spiritual than not, or, more spiritual than religious, I would say. But I was raised in the Catholic Church and that was partly why I wanted to go and photograph that Christian music festival because I never felt good about the Catholic Church. I never felt comfortable there andwhen I learned more about some of the more sinister things going on in the background, that was really upsetting to me. And I just kind of cut myself off from religion in general.

Stephanie: Yep.

Carey: Which now I know you didn't have to do that and cut yourself off from spirituality,

Stephanie: Sure.

Carey: at the time when I was much younger, that's how I felt about it.

Stephanie: You thought it was one door,

Carey: yeah,

Stephanie: so spirituality and religion were behind the same door, and if you were gonna cut off Catholicism, you had to slam the door on spirituality as well.

Carey: I think I must have thought that, you know, looking back, yeah. I still feel like there's people in my family that would never believe when I, say, well, what about that time that that butterfly did that? They're just like, eh, it's a coincidence and that's cute.

Stephanie: Yeah. And it's probably gotta be a huge leap for people to hear that you had a premonition of the Twin Towers coming down months before it happened, and enough so to quit your job that was in the same neighborhood as the Twin Towers, and not be a little skeptical or sort of roll their eyes. I bet you get that a lot.

Carey: You know, I've only just been starting to share that.

Stephanie: Mm. Oh, and I understand why. It's 20 years ago now.

Carey: Yeah. And now when I do start to share it, there's more people come up that I've connected with that also had some sort of knowing. It's interesting that I wanna kind of tap more into that because I feel like all of us have some sort of these intuitive abilities and that we should really listen to them.

Stephanie: Yeah,years and years ago, I had a friend, who was a psychic, explain it that, consider that there's a door between this realm and the next, and for some people the door is not only shut, but plywooded over and they just don't even want to know that there's a door there. And for other people they can see light around the edges. And for some people the door is open a little bit and for other people the door iskicked off all but one hinge. And there's truly a major connection and communication through that door. I also have had known people through the years who have sort of tuned up their psychic and spiritual abilities. Andit is going from not acknowledging that other side to slowly becoming comfortable with it and aware of it and then being able to work with it.

Carey: Yeah. I love that analogy too. I've heard the veil between the worlds can be thinner.

Stephanie: Thin or thick. For sure. Okay, so all this leads up to, you're now married, in your late thirties, and you know you wanna have a baby. Can you remind me, you said somebody told you you shouldn't have kids. What was that?

Carey: Yeah. That was actually a prominent psychiatrist.

Stephanie: A psychiatrist.

Carey: mm-hmm. A woman no less.

Stephanie: Oh,

Carey: Who now actually works in a really supportive facility for women who have had postpartum challenges. So I was newly married, newly recovered from having my second manic episode, and I went to talk to the psychiatrist as a way to try to find help for preventative care because I knew that I was susceptible to the worst case scenario, which is postpartum psychosis and the best case scenario, postpartum depression

Stephanie: Right.

Carey: or, and I hadn't actually never heard of, but postpartum anxiety as well.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: So in that conversation, she looked at my history and said, maybe you should think about not having kids because you've been hospitalized twice. And, it's valid for her to say that. And also she didn't know me at all, it was only one discussion,

Stephanie: Yep.

Carey: but I really was crushed. I mean, I took two years for me to be like, actually, she doesn't know me. I'm gonna try again.

Stephanie: Yep.

Carey: Then I had two miscarriages after that, back to back, which are when there is a heartbeat, but then the next time there isn't.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: And, I managed that pretty well. So I felt like more confident,

Stephanie: Yep.

Carey: emotionally, that it maybe I wasn't going to kind of spiral out and not be able to sleep and all those things when I was pregnant. Basically, I did so many things to try to put into place a preventative care kind of plan,

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: and it didn't work out

Stephanie: What were the kinds of things you put in place or you thought you had in place, or you tried to put in place?

Carey: Well, I went and met with a bunch of different psychiatrists who basically all they could do was recommend that I take this medication as a preventative measure. Eventually I did do that in my third trimester because it felt like it was the only thing to do. I was like the only answer I could get really. But it was really challenging even just to find maternal mental health professionals even the people at my insurance company don't know what that is. When I would call and try toget recommendations or a list of psychiatrists that specialize in this, there really just wasn't very many options at all.

Stephanie: Let's be clear, you were in Manhattan, right?

Carey: Yeah, I live in Brooklyn, but I was traveling to Manhattan.

Stephanie: So, I mean, one of the medical centers of the world, and if those folks aren't

Carey: And just to be clear, I had to go through insurance for money and purposes because many mental health professionals don't accept insurance, and so I was excluded from that world because of financial reasons. One other thing I tried to do, because I'm a photographer and I'm very resourceful, I tried to do bartering with doulas.

Stephanie: Yep.

Carey: One specific doula that I was in touch with, recommended by a friend, my friend said, this doula that I worked with has worked with other women with bipolar disorder and seen them through, support them through their birth of their child. So I really wanted to talk to those women to find out, you know, what did you do? How did you make it to the other side? Like, what happened?

Stephanie: Right. Use the community.

Carey: Yeah. And the doula went and asked her previous clients that they would speak to me and none of them would.

Stephanie: Hmm.

Carey: And it was really in that moment where I said, okay, well keep my information because if someone else asks you this down the road, please put them in touch with me. I have no idea what's going to happen to me,

Stephanie: Right,

Carey: but I would love to talk with them. So that's also why I wanna have more conversations like this, because I feel like it's really important.

Stephanie: Okay, so now we come up to it's time to have a baby, and you are at NYU Hospital having your baby. Tell us a little bit about that situation.

Carey: Okay, well, I also had a therapist who was supposed to be in touch with the on-call psychiatrist at NYU. The other thing I had in place, which didn't happen, was that the on-call psychiatrist was supposed to come in and check on me within 24 hours, whether I was still in labor and then also after, within 24 hours after the birth

Stephanie: and that kind of fell through the cracks.

Carey: Yeah, I mean that's kind of partly because, you know, it's just a really busy Manhattan, right?

Stephanie: Yep.

Carey: There was so many women there. Actually, I ended up having to be induced because I was two weeks past my due date, so I actually had a room because it was like scheduled, but there was a lot of women that were in the hallways apparently, just waiting for rooms because it was so busy

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: and basically, I had 26 hours of labor and didn't sleep during that time, really very little. And that's the biggest trigger when I don't sleep. Oh, it's called hypomania. That's what it is. What I was trying to think of earlier, I started to go into that after a couple days of being in the recovery room. Just to backtrack a little, I had ended up having to have a c-section after all that time

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: because it just wasn't happening. And I wish that someone had looked at my chart, thought about, oh, she has bipolar disorder, we should probably encourage her to get the C-section sooner rather than later so she could sleep. Nobody thought that, and I didn't either because I basically had just decided it wasn't going to happen. Like, I'm not gonna get postpartum psychosis, I'm over it, that's not gonna happen and I'm gonna breastfeed and I'm gonna not have any medication and I'm gonna do all the natural things. And everything was just sort of falling apart and slipping through the cracks. But it also had to do with the fact that I had to stay in a shared recovery room. Because in Manhattan, if you want a recovery room, a private one, it's $500 a night, and I couldn't do that. It's also first come, first serve, so even if you do wanna pay for it, you're probably not gonna get it.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Carey: So it's tough. You can't rest in a hospital on the best terms, maybe some people can, but a lot of people have trouble with that because there's people checking in on you. There's lots of noises and I was breastfeeding, so I wanted to be interrupted every few hours. But I wish that I had had more forethought to be like, just, don't interrupt me for six hours. I just need six hours to sleep. But after a couple days, because I had had the C-section, the protocol was to stay in the recovery room for four days to make sure you don't have an infection. I wish I had gone home sooner and just slept in my apartment instead of trusting the doctors. I think it was the second day, or maybe it was the third day, I was starting to realize that I wasn't able to sleep. And then we went and tracked down the on-call psychiatrist, and I should just mention too, that there was one point where they did send an on-call psychiatrist along with a sort of crew of interns. They wanted to talk with me, but I didn't want to talk with them in this big group. I just wanted to talk to the the

Stephanie: The doctor.


Carey: and they didn't allow that. So I was getting more and more just frustrated and upset about the situation and feeling like more and more anxiety about it and not being able to sleep. Then we found the on-call psychiatrist and at that point she recommended that I go to stay at this maternal postpartum facility. It's not exactly that though. It's really for women that are going through basically an episode like this. It's meant for women either while they're pregnant or after. But because there's a shortage of those kind of facilities, there was definitely a mix of women. And I had to be separated from my baby and stayed at the hospital for about 10 days.

Stephanie: Oh my goodness. So despite all your best efforts to put as many things in place to help you through this situation, and knowing that you were predisposed in several ways,certainly with the bipolar diagnosis, but also knowing the sleep was an issue and, doing all the advocacy for yourself with the medical team, it's still like everything fell apart.

Carey: Yeah, and I remember the midwife that helped me through the last part of the labor. She later came to visit me to say goodbye when I was in the recovery room. And it was only then when I talked to her about it, that was the first time she learned that I had bipolar disorder, she didn't even think that that was even on my chart. I think she would've advocated for me to have the C-section sooner, too.

Stephanie: Wow. Wow. So then being separated from your baby for 10 days is heartbreaking. What happened when you got home?

Carey: Well, I'll just say too though, that when I was there I was super just dedicated to this breastfeeding idea. And I really am glad I did that, but it was challenging. But it was basically a way for me to kind of also own more of my power cuz I was like, I'm gonna use this opportunity to have the hospital grade pump and basically I made it my mission to drink a lot of water and I just tried to do all the things I could possibly do to take care of myself while also I was completely outta my mind, to be honest, at the same time. I was hallucinating and there were things that were really terrifying that I thought I saw and heard. And I had to really advocate to get out of there too, because they didn't necessarily feel like I was ready to go. But my mom helped me get out.

Stephanie: How did you know you were ready to go?

Carey: Well, I knew that there was no way I was gonna hurt anybody. That was one thing that I knew and I always have known about myself. That's the number one problem when it comes to this sort of thing, that's the thing that everyone's concerned about. And so I was terrified. I really was. But I also knew that it was worse for me to be away from him than it was gonna be to be with him. And when I came home, I basically went right into postpartum anxiety.


Stephanie: Can you talk a little bit about what that experience was like for you or the kinds of things that exemplified that anxiety?

Carey: Well, so at this point I was still taking this heavy duty, antipsychotic medication.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: And so it made me extremely groggy. So I was groggy, but I was also anxious at the same time. So my husband was the one who was on night duty basically. So when every time the baby woke up, he was the one to care for him. And that just kind of messes with the mother's head, I think, cuz I'm kind of like asleep, but I'm also aware at some level that my baby is awake and needs me and I couldn't do it. I couldn't be there for him. And also they convinced me that very little, if any of the medication that I was taking would transmit itself into the breast milk. So I was breastfeeding, but I was really hard to do. We had a real struggle with that. So I was breastfeeding, pumping, and giving him formula. It was like all I was doing was figuring out how to feed this child. And I mean, I honestly still feel like all I do is try to figure out to feed my five year old child because he doesn't eat very well.

Stephanie: Oh,

Carey: I have less anxiety about it now.

Stephanie: Good. Good, good. Yeah.

Carey: But yeah, so that, and just, I mean, I live in Brooklyn, New York. It's intense. We have to move your car. I have a dog. And I had never been around babies before. At all.

Stephanie: okay.

Carey: My mom was here with us for the first three weeks and unfortunately I had to go back to the hospital because I had like severe constipation from the medication that I had been taking. And that was scary too because I had no idea what that was gonna do to me at that point, I had to actually go in an ambulance and everything, so that was also terrifying.

Stephanie: Oh my goodness. This sounds like quite the traumatic experience around having a baby and then having to be separated from him, then coming home and having your postpartum issue shift for the new situation. And then still having medical issues due to medication. This was a lot.

Carey: It was a lot. And also I had so much anxiety about whether my son was going to be healthy because I had had these two previous miscarriages. There's really no way to know, you know? So I was just really on high alert for a long time.

Stephanie: Yeah, I'll bet. I spoke with an old friend of mine for an episode, I think in the first season, my friend Brooke, and she had talked about, she had postpartum anxiety and depression and she had also had some mental health issues prior to getting pregnant. The one story that she told me that just stays so clear to me is that where they were living had a balcony and she was so afraid to go out on the balcony cuz she thought if she went out on the balcony with the baby, she was gonna throw the baby over the edge. She said never before in however many years they had lived there, had she ever dropped anything off the balcony or thrown anything off the balcony, like there was no attachment to reality in what might happen if she carried the baby out on the balcony, but she was so fearful of that and so anxious about that. And so that was one of those illustrations for me that really just sort of exemplified that postpartum anxiety.

Carey: Yeah, because I think when we are in a new situation too, I feel like I tend to imagine all the scenarios.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Carey: Right? And then if we get stuck on one, it could start to ruminate and we can start to kind of dwell on that and then it becomes even bigger in your mind.

Stephanie: You create a loop and then you get stuck in the loop and then it gets deeper and deeper and deeper.

Carey: Exactly. I'm sure I have examples of that, but I guess I feel like at this point I sort of don't think about it, so,

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, no need to go drudging those up, you've given us plenty of examples of the postpartum psychosis and just even being separated. That's tough. So it's been five years and you have a five year old boy who still is a challenge to feed. But when we first talked, you said now you see your manic episodes from a different angle. Tell me what the distance from these episodes has taught you or shown you.

Carey: Well, I think that the main thing, when I look back on what I've been through, and part of this was really helped by a therapist after I had my son, she showed me how resilient I am. She just kept reminding me, you know, look at what you've been through and look at how many times you've come back. You've healed yourself over and over and you're an advocate for yourself and you're going to be an advocate for your son, which I've also had to do a lot of, because he has some sensory challenges. So in addition to having trouble eating, he also has trouble wearing clothes because the, the seams bother him.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: So, I've dealt with a lot in the last few years with that, and we're always kind of trying to navigate emotions and anxiety, basically. It's all kind of rooted in anxiety in addition to just physical senses and being sensitive. So that's the thing that I hold onto though, resilience. I had my son when I was 40 and there's so much around just that about being high risk because of your age, and, that was tough in and of itself. After having two miscarriages, too, and will this child be healthy and what's gonna happen to my mental health?

Stephanie: Right.

Carey: And now I can look back and appreciate none of this was easy, but I feel more resilient now than I ever have before. I don't even see myself the same way at all as I did even five years ago. I'm a completely different person.

Stephanie: Sure, sure. Tell me a little bit about your acknowledgement of or acceptance of the energy, spiritual, psychic piece of this.

Carey: Okay. Well, I do wanna backtrack a second and add to what I just said, because I think it's really important to know that when I say resilience, I don't just mean kind of that fighting resiliency. I mean the self-love that comes from being resilient. That's really important to me because I feel like when people go through mental health challenges, usually the thing that plummets is their self-esteem. And whatever you can do to build that back up, whether it is to do with your spirituality, hopefully there's an element to that because I feel like that's been a big part of my way of loving myself and seeing the bigger picture of things.

Stephanie: Tell me about that. Tell me about how your spirituality has helped you show yourself more self-love.

Carey: I think that I've done a lot of soul searching and praying really out of, I mean, I've been through the depths of like, really, I mean, it's, we can, you know, It's sort of easy to talk about it, but to go back to how it felt is another story, right? I'm not really giving the full kind of story about how I felt because it's kind of even not possible to put into words, but the only thing to have kept me going was just this knowing that things happen for a reason, that we're here to share our gifts, to share our life experiences. Things have opened up for me in a way that I really understand what my purpose is now. It took a long time for me to see how it fits together, but I'm a creative, I'm a photographer. I've just learned so much about self-development and energy and spirituality. And I'm bringing all of it together now through the work that I'm doing. I've created these workshops and programs, helping others use their own creative photography as a tool for emotional resilience and to raise their vibration.

Stephanie: And would you describe that as your purpose?

Carey: Yes, it's my purpose because it's really about bringing what I'm passionate about, which is creativity and self-development and spirituality into what my life experiences have taught me. I think when you can put those two together, that's your powerhouse purpose. And when I talk about my spirituality, it shifts all the time, but I feel like a lot of it has to do with my connection with my inner knowing, my intuition, cuz I really believe that we are connected to our higher selves and to source whenever we tune in.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: And sometimes to tune in you might take a walk in nature. Like My husband always says he nature is his spirituality. And I say that's great, just connect with it because we are nature, there is no separation. I'm actually holding a snail shell right now. I just think that the more different modalities and the more kind of different ways that we can all share what we've been through and how we cope with life, the better off the world will be.

Stephanie: Yeah. Can you tell me a little bit about what it means to you to raise your vibration? I know your workshops help people do that, but what does that mean for your workshop participants?

Carey: So for my workshop participants or the way to use photography in that way,I have people think about or focus on what they're grateful for in life. To use that energy of gratitude as a way to shift their thoughts. Because I know that I tend to think negatively, it's just my default. I think most of us are like that. I'm not saying to think positively all the time, I believe we live in a world of duality,

Stephanie: Mm-hmm.

Carey: you wouldn't see the light without the dark. Right. And so I have people photograph the three Ls as a framework to remember - light, love and laughter. So if they see something that makes them feel connected to the light of this world, nature, for example, then create an image of it, intentionally rather than just creating photos with your phone quickly and never looking at them again, but with intention, really feel into it. When I say love, it could be a pet, it could be a friend, it could be a child, a partner.When I photograph my son a lot of the time I wasn't feeling that great beforehand. For example, I have this photo that I use as an example of my son wearing my husband's shirt and his eyes are peeking out and he's flapping my husband's shirt sleeves. And we're at this restaurant and I just remember, I can think of this in two different ways because my stepfather was there kind of lecturing us on our parenting abilities and how, my son has me wrapped around his little finger. And that's sort of a trigger for me cause I'm like, it's not easy to be the parent of a highly persistent and highly sensitive child. So I can look at that image and think about that story. Or I can look at that image and think, how adorable is that? He looks so cute and he's having fun. Memory is malleable and images can be really powerful way to help you get a different perspective on your life. That's why I've always used creative photography as a tool to help my emotions and my mental health. I just didn't realize that that's what I was doing, and so now I'm helping other people do that.

Stephanie: And you started a project to do just that after your sister passed?

Carey: That's right. After about a year of just major depression, a friend recommended that I just start taking pictures of sisters, just any sisters, as a way to help heal what I had been through. Then I started opening up to photographing breast cancer survivors with their sisters. It's called Sisters and Survivors. And it was really such a powerful experience for me because I was giving this gift to them. I didn't have any nice photos of my sister and I, so that was partly why I wanted to do it. But it was also about helping raise awareness about the needs for stage four breast cancer research, which receives the least amount of funding for all of the stages of breast cancer. Then I went on to photograph some more really powerful images that have won awards and been featured in Glamor and things like that. I photographed these behind the scenes fashion images of these women who are breast cancer survivors who modeled in these fashion shows as part of New York Fashion Week. There's a company called AnaOno Intimates, and the designer is one of the sisters and survivors I photographed, and then she went on to have these fashion shows, and so I volunteered to photograph them. That was really part of the catalyst, the women would look at their images and then come back to me and say, wow, this was such a powerful experience overall, but having this image really shows how strong I am, that that's really what you saw in me. And that's what mirrored back. I know that images are powerful, but when you actually do it, that's when it's a different kind of experience.

Stephanie: Yeah. That's amazing. The last thing I just wanna chat about is, you have said that you are a highly sensitive person with a little side order of psychic thrown in. Talk a bit about what it's like to come into that and realize what life is like when you're dealing with other people's energy and place's energy and event's energy.

Carey: Right. Well, that's such a good question. I feel like now, I protect my energy a lot more by not watching the news. I don't even actually watch entertainment that's really intense. I don't watch violent anything,nothing to do with horror things or even especially apocalypse kind of stuff, definitely don't watch. I think that really the main key is remembering that everything is energy and we're just constantly exchanging energy all day long. And I'm still trying to navigate what that means in a physical realm because I have my own business and I'm trying to draw in the people that are a match to my vibration. That's what it's about. It's like once you really learn that, then anything is possible. Little miracles happen, little synchronicities happen. And that's also what my workshops and programs are about. It's like getting into that frequency so that you can attract more of those miracles in your life. I mean, I think it's great when you can work through past the point of maybe putting yourself into an energy bubble, cause you don't necessarily wanna leave anything good that's coming to you out. Right? So the more that you can focus on your heart and your energy and bringing your light out into the world that is gonna protect you because it's going to draw in what's good, what's meant for you. That's the practice, that's what I'm working on every day.

Stephanie: Great. And this is something that you're only working on now in your late thirties and early forties, right? This is not something that you've been doing your entire life. This is not something you've acknowledged in your teens or twenties or even your early thirties.

Carey: Exactly. So even in my thirties, I had read some books that were really powerful, like, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, and different books like that. It's all sort of breadcrumbs, you know, and now I'm 45 andnow I'm kind of putting it all together and it's like, okay, now I'm ready to sort of step into who I really am. And I wanna help people collapse time for that reason, too. I feel like it doesn't have to take this long. There's a lot that we can learn. So much is available, all of this knowledge is out there. It's just tuning into it, being able to receive it.

Stephanie: Yeah. I think that's a great way to say it. It is tuning into it and turning off your naysayer brain, right? That says, this is weird, this is out there, this is ridiculous. Any of those things that we can sort of swat this knowledge or this way of being away from ourselves because we're afraid of it or we don't understand it. You're right, the breadcrumbs are out there and I love the way you described it as breadcrumbs, cuz I've had loads of breadcrumbs myself in books and workshops and different spiritual guides and, people who do workshops and stuff. So I love the way you describe it as breadcrumbs because it's true that as you read the books or find the people online and follow them on whatever channels they're on or do workshops, you get bits and pieces that are relevant for you or that really resonate with you. And then you end up putting together your own recipe of what, quote unquote spirituality looks like for you or how you practice it, or how you wear it in the world. It's not like you're gonna find one book and realize like, oh, there it is, there's the recipe. I'll just do that. It's sort of pulling the bits and pieces that feel best to you, and putting them together in a way that you can live that way.

Carey: Yes, exactly. And that you resonate with.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. And you said something earlier about intuition and people tuning into their intuition, and I want to just add one piece to that. it's not only tuning in intuition, it's stopping tuning out intuition.

Carey: Yes, exactly. That's really important.

Stephanie: I've gotten better at listening to mine. And, my intuition is fun in that anybody who's been listening for a while knows that I have a thing, I love clothes and I love getting dressed and style. And, So the one fun piece of my intuition is in the morning I get up and I think, what will I wear today? And I just wait for the answer to sort of like, drop in and it will come fully formed - an outfit, jewelry, shoes, the whole thing, it will just show up in my head. And I was like, oh, okay, that's what I'll wear. And on days if I try to wear something else or like, uh, I just feel like sweatpants today or whatever, it's always sort of an awkward day cuz I ignored. But I found myself ignoring one recently. I find it when I eat lunch and sometimes dinner I will hear myself say, that's enough. But I have this thing where I hate to waste food, and if there's only like three or four or five bites left, I'll be like, oh, I'm just gonna finish eating. And so I have to learn to tune into that one and just believe that one and stop, even if it means eating my last five bites of salad an hour later.


That's amazing that it's so clear,

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, not on any of the big things, don't get me wrong. I think for me, these are the training wheels isn't the right word, but it's, it's almost like, Hey, if you listen to me, it will teach you how to listen to the bigger things. I I had a call with a, a client, maybe 10 days ago now, and it was not going well. It became very clear to me on the call that this was not a call that we had scheduled to discuss anything. It was just she was coming at me to say you did this wrong and you did this wrong and you did this wrong. Which is really kind of like not my experience at all with any of my other clients. So I was able to, in that moment, just exhale and ground and just say, I don't need to engage in this conversation because this isn't a discussion. She's not interested in my side of the story. She's not interested in making things better. She's just kind of winding herself up so that she can fire me, which is what happened, and it's actually fine because she was not a great fit client. So I don't always get it in the big moments. But to me, I feel like in those small moments if I can listen to the easy ones, it helps me realize what the voice sounds like so that in the bigger ones, not every time, but sometimes, many of the times, you can kind of find it and tune in and, and grab that voice and kind of hold on.

Carey: I love that it's all about, yeah, being in that in the present moment and kind of looking outside of it. Outside of you, outside of the situation. I think that's so important.

Stephanie: I know that one of my emotional triggers is injustice. If I think I'm not being treated justly or whatever, and I mean injustice on a personal level, not on a global level, because much like you, I have to tune a lot of that out in order to even be able to function in my life. But, there was a piece of this conversation that I found just unjust. And so I had to acknowledge the trigger and then let the trigger go for the moment in order to be able to tune into that place and just exhale and say, let her say what she needs to say and then we'll close the loop here and we'll tie it up with a bow and we'll be done with it and we'll both be happier. But yeah, I had to acknowledge the trigger and put it aside, not that I didn't get wound up on the trigger after the call, but I knew in the moment it wasn't gonna serve me.

Carey: Yeah. The whole piece about intuition comes down to how mindful are you? It's like a mindfulness practice. When you're tuned in to the present moment and your senses, and you're self aware, then you become less reactive, and then you can actually, like you said, ground yourself and take a deep breath before you respond. And I feel like everybody needs more of that.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. And for those people who are thinking about wanting to do this or, they've done it once or twice, I know from my experiencepractice doesn't make perfect, but, practice makes possible, I think. Right. You just have to keep practicing it. Cuzif I thought for a moment, I could give you three examples where I didn't listen and I didn't exhale and I didn't ground and the outcome was a different one or not the best one. So, just because you are tuned into your intuition, doesn't mean you always get it right. Some people may.

Carey: If you go to the gym, then you're not fit one time.

Stephanie: Correct.

Carey: It's a practice. Everything is a practice.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. One last question before I let you go: your photography workshops, are those virtual, online? Can people from outside Manhattan and Brooklyn find you and take those?

Carey: Yes, definitely. I offer both virtual and in-person workshops and programs. The foundation workshop is actually what we're talking about, it's about mindfulness through intentionally photographing nature.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Carey: So that's like the first step. That's It's about learning how to become more mindful, less reactive, and use kind of this nature walk, walking meditation type practice as a way to get there and also to get into your creative flow state and start thinking about how images or metaphors that represent different, deeper ideas. It's a whole thing and it's fun. You can find it on my website under the workshops link.

Stephanie: Great. And remind me what your website is.

Carey: Sure. It's

Stephanie: We'll put that in the show notes as well so people can find the link. Carey thank you so much for being here with me today and for truly being so generous with your story. I think this is a wonderful conversation and I'm glad to be able to share it with the world.

Carey: Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure to talk with you.




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