Laurie Markvart's Diary

Goodreads Giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month

Somewhere in the Music, I'll Find Me by Laurie Markvart

Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me

by Laurie Markvart

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Goodreads is giving away 14 signed and personalized hardcover copies of my book. Enter to win a free book between May 21 to May 31.

Please know you are not alone in your mental health struggles. My book has resources but also here:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – Available 24/7

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is Available 24/7, confidential, free crisis counseling. Crisis Text Line: text HOME or NAMI to 741741

SIMS Foundation – Emotional wellness and support for the music community in Austin, Texas.

I’m sending love and positive light to everyone.

XO, Laurie

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

My Top 5 Ways to Stop an Anxiety Attack!

Anxiety sucks. It’s been my constant companion for most of my life.

If you’re like me and deal with anxiety, it may present itself differently for you. Each person has unique triggers and experiences. Nonetheless, it is unpleasant, sometimes leads to an all-out panic attack, and can be debilitating and embarrassing in public. But if you have anti-anxiety tools, it is possible to regulate yourself to a calm state.

Please noteI am not a doctor, psychotherapist, or medical professional. These are tips that I’ve learned through therapy, research, and experience in the anxiety trenches. Please get in touch with your doctor or other mental health professionals if you need immediate help or think you may harm yourself.

My anxiety started in my early teens with overthinking situations. Living in an unpredictable, emotionally charged home with a bipolar mother coupled with typical teen pressures, I’d chew my nails or retreat into playing music to ease the discomfort of repetitive thoughts of how to prepare for situations or get myself out of them.

Anxiety escalated in my twenties, but I’d quell it with alcohol (not recommended), intermittent anti-anxiety medication, exercise, and talk therapy. But even those “helpers” never solved high-voltage anxiety attacks that came with intense, invasive negative thinking. If they happened in public, they left me exhausted, mentally tortured, and on the run from social situations. I knew I needed more tools, but it was also a time when society would not openly discuss mental illness. And there was no Google to get community answers. I felt alone and isolated, which is not great for someone already stuck in their head.

My anxiety went full-blown epic in my thirties when I became a parent. Terrifying, distorted visions of something tragic happening to my child overtook my mind. Hormone changes and post-partum depression would leave me in a state of fear. Negative invasive thoughts would be on repeat. If I were in public with my child, I’d get a tightness in my chest and shoulders and sometimes dizzy. My way to cope was to remove myself from situations I knew could be triggered. But there were times it seemed like life itself was a trigger. As I state in my memoir Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me, which tackles mental illness head-on, “My anxiety was like walking on my own eggshells. My brain was a loaded gun, and I didn’t know my triggers.”

As the years progressed, and recently after a breast cancer diagnosis, I realized the time had come to find tools to pause or stop the anxiety. I couldn’t heal cancer in a constant state of fear. If I could discover tools for in-the-moment anxiety attacks, I could use these actions to quell the swirling thoughts, stomach unease, dizziness, and the urge to run. Especially if I were in cancer centers facing treatments, surgeries, and tests.

So here we go. Here are my TOP 5 way to stop an anxiety attack!

  1. GROUNDING – Touch a wall or a chair with your hands and focus on the sensation. Observe the room and internally describe the color of the walls, furniture, etc., in detail to yourself. Take your shoes and socks off, and feel the ground beneath you. This grounding tool of focus and presence will get you out of a panicked feeling. As well, get up and move your body. Body movement helps! Shake things out.
  2. DEEP BREATHING – Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly, and take at least ten deep breaths. In through your nose and out your mouth. The kind you feel down to your stomach. There are many anti-anxiety breathing techniques out there. Google for more!
  3. ACCEPTANCE – Accept where you are and what is happening (unless the situation is harmful to you – leave!), but for example, if you’re at a concert and crowds trigger your anxiety, look around and accept that it’s simply a concert. And you’re okay! It is what it is!
  4. GO WITH THE FLOW – Don’t fight it. For example, if you’re leaving that concert and the crowd is frustrating (typical feeling even for those without anxiety), go with the flow of the situation. Don’t amp yourself up by stressing about the number of people and the time it will take to get to your car. Chill!
  5. GOD and FAITH that EVERYTHING will be okay – I say mantras and prayers to still myself, which greatly helps. As well, be gentle and kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you’d treat someone else struggling. Don’t be saying to yourself: “What is wrong with you? Pull your sh*t together!” Instead, be like: “Uh-oh, we’re not feeling so good, and that’s okay. Time to use our tools.” 

So, there it is…ground, deep breathe, accept, go with the flow, and faith. When I apply all five, I can reduce my anxiety attack significantly.

Lastly, if you’re in public and an anxiety attack hits, go to the nearest restroom stall for privacy (maybe not take your shoes off). Or go to your car. Anywhere that is private and calm. Believe me; I’ve found restrooms in the middle of Time Square, the Hollywood Bowl, Heathrow Airport, and even a music festival Porta Potty (during this one, I only used numbers three to five). And most of all, if you can have a laugh at the situation, that’ll help the most.

Just remember, you’re not alone.

You can find the video of my Top Five here:

Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: A Memoir can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ordered through any bookstore:

© 2023 Laurie Markvart

Poetic Musings

Wistful, wasteful, nothing more is needed.

From you, all is gone.

A never-ending song is done.

Some notes can’t resonate forever.

Some lives won’t resonate together.

Notes and sounds end, but the meaning stays.

Wisdom isn’t cheap.

I’ve held education in my hands,

Only to let it go, to breathe.

Now I return to a former love,

A deviant and magnetic bitch.

But it’s a soulful forgiving pawn,

I trust the music more than myself.

I am a slave to its crime,

Bring me in, bring me closer.

Welcome me home as if I never left.

Treat me as the lover of your past and future.

© Laurie Markvart

Poetic Musings

Her eyes, her eyes,
I know the blue,
The depths and hue.
For they are mine too.

Her hands, delicate and frail,
Her spirit strong,
She fought to no avail.
The mirror she looked upon
To see herself was me.

She was a force, a shrew,
At times there was no clue,
Which way this woman would waif,
So burdened, bruised, and blue.

She’d shine so high,
She’d fall, we’d cry.
Her heart was ours,
Her way-our disguise,
She made many a surprise.

She is the power, the shame,
For there is no one to blame.
She casts a glow, a heartfelt blow,
Never to show.

Empowers many, disables few,
Takes hearts and destroys any clue.

She created me,
I am bewildered, amazed, and amused.
She’s everything I see, and,
Every memory I flee.

© Laurie Markvart

Only in October! Enter to win a free first edition hardcover copy personalized and signed by me!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Somewhere in the Music, I'll Find Me by Laurie Markvart

Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me

by Laurie Markvart

Giveaway ends October 31, 2022.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I started this blog and then stopped. And then started. And stopped. Primarily due to extreme heat in the Los Angeles area. Well, my laptop gets hot (bad battery). But the heat left weeks ago. So in between the heat going and me starting to write this again, I stopped. What’s my excuse? I have no idea. But I started writing again, so here we are. No longer in between.

The “in-between.” That time between saying you’ll do something and doing it. Like, when I said I’d write this blog and the time it was published.

In life, we are often in-between jobs, relationships, vacations, and places. The in-between can be exciting and fun. Or it can be frustrating and scary. It all depends on how we handle it. 

How about booking a vacation? Between the flight confirmation and the actual trip, I fantasize about vacation clothes, activities, and the restaurants I’ll visit. I also reserve the best deals at the best places in advance. There is nothing like the desired snorkel trip, and it’s sold out when you arrive because you didn’t book it. But vacation planning can get excessive. I know! I like to plan so there are no surprises, but it can be detrimental as I get anxious with “what ifs” during that in-between stage. That’s not how
to live! But I minimally want to know where I’m gonna lay my head. And let me tell you why.

Back in the late 70s, when my parents took us on long-haul road-trip vacations, like from Wisconsin to Florida, the only way my parents could get directions was through their travel memories and a foldable paper map. This was long before mobile phones, onboard navigation, and Google. My mom would sit passenger and navigator my father’s driving. This was fine until my dad would get hell-bent on seeing how far he could drive every day. It was like he’d be on a driving “bender.” Sure, we’d stop mid-drive for potty breaks or gas, but his personal driving goal would be forefront until he’d cave into my mom’s begging to pull over “for the kids.” At her urging, he’d surrender to the next motel at the next exit IF it had a vacancy. Or he’d keep driving for the next motel! And the hope that a restaurant was still open. Mom’s premade ham sandwiches and Chex snack mix could only get us so far. But a blinking motel vacancy light was a friendly beacon to my weary brother and me in the back seat. 

The glove box of our 1970s Plymouth station wagon was stuffed with many unsuccessfully unfolded maps. I was amused at my dad’s tenacity, apparent road vendetta, and my mom’s failed attempts to re-fold a paper map. I must say, it is an art to re-fold a paper map. Have you tried it? 

So, when I travel, I like to know my full itinerary ahead of time: Flights, hotel, is there a mini-bar or late-night room service? 

Oh, I have another “in-between” example. Say you bought a house but haven’t got the keys yet, but you’re already buying decorations at Target and fixtures at Home Depot? Whoops! I’ve done this one, home buying – twice, and purchased furnishings in advance! I think it’s normal to plan! There is a lot of fun in this. But I’ve learned with home buying that nothing is guaranteed until the contract is signed and the keys are in hand. Literally, the keys are in hand. Things can change, the result not being as expected, and you’re left with decorations and fixtures for a house you didn’t get. 

It’s normal to fantasize, plan, and prepare, yet it can take away from the present, especially when we can’t do a damn thing about the future. How about the in-between moment of taking a final exam at school and waiting for the results? Or waiting for pathology reports or blood test results? Filing your tax returns and waiting? So, it’s important how we handle the in-betweens. Because the in-between is all, we have. During these times, we must focus on being present and not worrying about what is to come. Easy for me to say, yes? No, it’s not easy. Cancer showed me the truth about scanxiety (anxiety over scans), so I’m learning to stay present between the scan and the result. Still sucks, though.

Now, I’ve had other in-betweens that were beautiful! My most anticipated and longest in-between was when I was pregnant with my son. During those nine months, the in-between, I was very excited about what he would look like, and I even fantasized as far ahead of who’d he become as an adult. It was a beautiful time, and I remember every moment while pregnant. The hopes and expectations. The burps, morning sickness, skin tags, the gorgeous belly, healthy silky hair, and the knowing I’d be blessed with a human who’d call me Mom. But as much as I thought about him during that nine-month in-between,  nothing prepared me for his full head of jet-black hair and dimples at his birth. Oh, those dimples. To this day, those dimples have won him many a mother-son battle. I never once thought about dimples during the in-between because that’s the point: the unexpected can and will happen with anything and everything. It can be unthinkable or beautiful.

While writing about this blog, I’ve thought about how I’ve been in-between. I finished this blog, yet during it, I floated between starting and ending many other moments of life – good and bad. And I remained as present as possible without worrying about what would come next except finishing this blog.

I wish you the best in-between for whatever or wherever you may be.

©Laurie Markvart

Poetic Musings

Gotta find that girl,
The one with less fear,
The one in first gear,
Much more fun.

She had a lot.
But no reflection,
To connect the dots.
She ran on empty,
In search of love,
Forgot original plot.

She’ll get back,
A destination, a thought.
Spirit prevails while heart fails,
Forgive the sin, the trials.
The mirror clears,
After all these many, many years.

Who is she? She will know again.
The girl who never gave in.

© Laurie Markvart

Memories in Boxes of Love in Storage Locker #39

I stumbled on a journal entry about my mom that I wrote in 2017, a year after she passed. I’m glad I kept it. And that I found it, stuffed between my other journals and books in a box labeled “stuff” at the back of my closet.

The journal entry now gives me insight into an agonizing time when memories were not formed but discarded.

When Mom passed, I was with her, an agreement we had previously made, and the experience hypnotized me. We were very close. Those memories of her departing are beautiful and crystal clear. But I have shreds of anxious, heartbreaking memories in the weeks, months, and year after her death, the year I refused to return to Wisconsin and sort out her belongings. No one was pressuring me to return. My brother and his family were dealing with their grief and were in no rush to sort through Mom’s stuff. Who wanted to go through a storage locker of someone else’s memories? Or was it our memories too?

A week after Mom’s death, I returned home to Los Angeles and back to an entertainment job I thought I could handle while processing grief. But was I processing? I sure put on a happy face and dove back into a job I was satisfied with, but it was not enough to distract me. Her memory infiltrated almost every hour of the day, and the idea of returning to her storage locker gave me an ache that meant I’d have to admit she was gone. So, I had no problem writing a monthly check for $119 to the storage unit in Wisconsin to hold her possessions, and apparently, my grief.

I was numb. I was a robot to my job, boyfriend, music, and my teenage son. That worried me the most. But her loss plagued me, and I thought, who was I, without the woman who made me?

Within two months of her passing, my son and I took a trip to Hawaii, in which I thought beaches, a Luau, and a rented Corvette convertible would uplift me; and provide my son and me time to regroup. But I discovered a Corvette or even Hawaii couldn’t fix a broken heart.

In the months after Hawaii, I fantasized what Mom would tell me about returning to Wisconsin to sort out her things. About getting my life back in order. How would she tell me to grieve her? I did feel an instinctive push to get back to music, writing and I’d find the answer on how to move on.

Six months after her passing, I quit my entertainment job and returned to writing a memoir I started in 2011. A memoir I thought was about me, but it became just as much about her, which in turn, is me. Unknowingly, writing the memoir became an outlet for me to process her death. As I continued writing through guttural tears, moments of laughter, and some anguishing and joyful memories, I knew I could handle the trip back to Wisconsin.

Finally, 15 months after her passing, in September of 2017, I returned home, and my brother and I opened her storage locker. The monthly payments kept her items safe from thieves but not from the ravaging season of Midwest summer humidity and frozen winter. Mold had grown up the legs of furniture and into boxes, papers, journals, and photos we didn’t think we cared about until we did. There was an odor to that storage locker that was part mold, mothballs, and dashes of her (which meant the smell of cigarettes and Fendi). It smelled like home. Which meant the woman I ached for over the past 15 months was now all around me. To sort through her belongings, notes, and writings, I knew I was getting the chance to know her again. And a chance to know the new me.

My journal entry from the day after opening Mom’s storage locker:

September 5, 2017, Wisconsin

I’m not sure how to connect my thoughts. I’ve come home. This is where she lived; I once lived. We all lived, and some still live. I’m here to clean out her belongings. To create space. To recoup costs. To close her physical life. To open mine. I look at her storage unit, and it just looks like stuff, shit. Before she died, all this stuff, this shit was vital to her. And I get it! We humans consume, create and collect stuff. Either physically or emotionally. I’m overwhelmed by her shit because I care about it. Much of her shit was about me, my brother, and our family. I care. Now, how do I separate her shit from mine? From protecting it to throwing or selling?

Today was travel from CA to WI. But it’s the first time I’ve come back home, and she’s not here. Tonight I rest. Tomorrow, I know there’s a lot of work. But also a lot of love. All documented in boxes. Boxes in storage unit #39, to be exact, of her.

© 2022 Laurie Markvart

Synopsis for Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: A Memoir

The book Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: A Memoir will be published in Summer 2022.

A coming-of-age story told with raw honesty, suspense, and dashes of humor of a woman’s journey in finding self-acceptance and healing in the face of grief and devastating loss.

Musician Laurie Markvart was adrift in life. In the wake of the untimely deaths of her father and preemie baby, her family life was in anguish, and her music career stalled.

Music was the remedy for anything in Laurie’s life. Looking for a quick fix, she attended an open audition in Los Angeles for X-Factor’s reality TV singing show. During the demanding two-day audition, Laurie reflected on her lifelong music journey.

As a teen, she fled her isolated Wisconsin farm town and her greatest supporter, her loving but mentally ill mother, for the famous music scenes of Minneapolis, Austin, and New York City.

In rock bands, on tours, and with Broadway auditions, Laurie had many highs and lows, successes and failures, some humorous, some dangerous. At the center of it all was a stormy relationship with her mother and Laurie’s growing anxiety disorder that plagued her most. The despair she thought would be extinguished with marriage and parenting, and for a time, it was, but it shattered with the profound loss of her father and baby.

With mounting pressure to succeed at the X-Factor audition, Laurie must push through her anxieties and heartbreaking reflections and not only find herself in the music, but a way to move forward and heal.

© Laurie Markvart. Cover art image by Jesslyn Bundy.

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