Amsterdam Day 4: Museums & the Van Goghs

Café-Restaurant de Plantage

I amsterdam

Rijksmuseum

Vondelpark

Van Gogh Museum

Everlane slip dress

On our final full day in Amsterdam, we made the museum route. At the Rijksmuseum, we took in pieces by Monet, Rembrandt, and lesser-known (at least, to me,) Dutch artists. But it was the Van Gogh museum that left an impression on me I think about to this day… I was partially expecting this, as I have always admired his work and been fairly educated about his mental struggles. However, the story of his brother’s love had never reached me, and touched my heart so deeply I was left teary at times.

Theo Van Gogh spent countless amounts of time and money advocating for his brother and supporting him through his mental struggles. When Vincent shot himself and eventually passed, Theo passed just six months later. The letters he wrote his wife concerned about his brother’s wellness and talent, and then how much he missed him after his passing, resonated with every part of me as a sibling… more than 100 years apart, and yet I understood Theo’s affliction and love for his brother perfectly.

I would like to think Theo and Vincent would have more resources in today’s society, but the fact that I can’t say so positively reminds me of just how much more work we still need to do. And how I am not just doing mental health advocacy for the Vincent’s of this community – I am doing it for the Theo’s, too.

A letter to major medical institutes treating the mental health community.

Dear major medical institute,

You are a leading industry healthcare company. Your nonprofit/academic-based practice is commendable. The 60,000 employees you put to work every day to help people like myself – common human beings who are unwell – and the physicians, scientists, and researchers you arm with the resources they need to make advances in the medical space is extraordinary. I am so so thankful institutions like yours exist, and I can’t begin to imagine the number of individuals you have helped in your 127 years of existence.

The city that I live in, Jacksonville, has few, quality resources for someone battling what I am battling: a mental illness. There are rehab facilities, treatment centers, and stand-alone counselors, psychiatrists, and therapists who can refer you to one place or the next… but in terms of one, central center that can approach my mental health from all aspects of my life – you, and the two other major medical institutes in my city, are my only options.

I am thankful for institutions like yours. Which is why my experience with your Jacksonville location has left me surprised, and at this point, a little lost on what to do next.

Going to your facility took a tremendous amount of courage and vulnerability. As someone who has struggled with her mental health her entire life, but didn’t always want to admit it, walking through your doors, sitting in your offices, and meeting with one of your doctors left me so anxious the week leading up to it I could barely function. It took even more courage to discuss the state of my “mind, body, and spirit” as prompted by one of your doctors, at which point I revealed the intimidate details of my thought processes, self-care regimens, and religious beliefs I felt he wanted me to discuss in order to optimize and streamline my options.

Major medical institute – your doctor not only failed me when he assigned questions and stipulations to my religious beliefs and understanding of life – he failed you. He took your facility from being a compassionate, inclusive, diverse and welcoming establishment, to one I am not sure I would ever be comfortable visiting again.

As soon as he questioned the validity of my religious beliefs and lifestyle, there was nothing about my body language that signaled to this doctor I was comfortable continuing the conversation with him. There was nothing about my shaking voice or watering eyes that cued to him that his remarks were meaningful or helpful towards the reason for my visit. I have learned throughout my 27 years that there are some men in authority (and women, too, I suppose,) that seem to grow bolder when sensing unease and discomfort on a woman’s face. But I never thought this situation would transpire between a doctor and patient – where he already had the upper hand by being the only medically trained professional in the room, and myself desperately needing medical advice.

What’s worse, I imagined a less stereotypical female patient (I’m as bland as they come, and very definition of the word “privileged,” for the most part,) sitting in his presence – a transgender, or lesbian woman – talking through their intimate views on life and sense of purpose, and the response they would have gotten from him.

Major medical institute – those of us that walk this earth not born with perfect mental health – aka, the majority of us – need to be encouraged and armed when we do take the steps to seek help for our struggles. We need to be shown compassion, an understanding that what we are battling is just as hard as other stereotypical “serious” health failings. We need to be shown partnership, an arm around our shoulders, a joint-approach – doctor, and patient – diagnosing and troubleshooting our struggles together.

Major medical institute – we need to be shown respect, an acknowledgement that we are sitting in front of one of your doctors because we either WANT or NEED to be, because we have been told we deserve a higher quality of life than what we were given, and because we want (more desperately than we could ever express) to figure out how to give that to ourselves with your help. We need to be given confidence, to be shown that our intuitions, gut feelings, and beliefs that guide our hearts are tools we can use to our advantage – keys to getting to know ourselves better, which can only help us better understand our mental struggles.

Major medical institute – if you are not allowing patients to request to transfer primary care doctors unless there are “extenuating circumstances,” please make sure your employees communicating this information to your patients do so in a caring manner. You have no idea how hard it was for us to be so vulnerable to one of your doctors the first time around. I promise for us to even call and request to go through the process again could only be because of extenuating circumstances.

Major medical institute – if one of your patients takes the time to explain these extenuating circumstances, and why we are not comfortable seeing one of your doctors again, please apologize and state you are sorry we were not satisfied with the care we received, and that our health and well being is your highest priority.

Major medical institute – if it requires a supervisor to approve of a patient transferring to a different primary care provider, please make them feel like their case will be a priority and of importance to the supervisor. If the supervisor is away on vacation or not available, that’s okay! But please then tell them when she will be back and when patients can be expected to be contacted (for example, “within 5 business days.”)

Major medical institute – if it’s been 10 days since a transfer request was made, and 5 since the supervisor returned from her vacation, and you still have not contacted the patient so they decide to call for a status update, please, PLEASE do not tell them that they just have to “sit tight” and that there’s “nothing” you can do for them in the meantime.” Please do not tell them that “you’re really busy with trainings right now.” Please do not make them feel that their health and well-being means less to your institute than the other daily functions your staff has to oversee.

Major medical institute- you are a leading industry medical provider, and as such, have the unique opportunity to provide care to a subset of the health community that historically, has not had a voice or presence. Your employees have the unique opportunity to be a part of our journey to “betterment,” with their every interaction having the potential to further push and encourage us forward. Your walls have the unique opportunity to be a safe space for us, one where we can express our beliefs and foundations, and learn how to use these attributes about ourselves to strengthen our understanding of our mental struggles and health.

Major medical institute – you have failed one of your patients, which leads me to believe you could fail more, and the community I belong to – the mental health community – cannot afford more failure.

Major medical institute – this experience would have led to the end of some of my community’s search for mental betterment. This experience would have told them what they already fear on a daily basis – that there is nothing anyone can do for them, that there is nothing they can do for themselves. This experience would have delayed their progress towards their mental health well being – the degree of detriment varying based on where they were in their mental struggles when they came to you.

I am still early-enough-on in my mental illness to see clearly where this experience went wrong, and where it could have been corrected, which gives me the hope I need to continue pursuing my mental betterment. Not all of my fellow community members would have been so lucky.

Major medical institute – please do better for and by the mental health community. We need you more than we can say.

– Baileigh Johnson, 27, generalized anxiety disorder, former struggles with depression and eating disorder

Amsterdam Day 3: Flower Market & Local Eats

Bloemenmarkt

Screaming Beans Coffee Shop

Illesteva sunglasses, Everlane sweatshirt, “C” necklacetiny heart necklace

La Perla Pizzeria

A day that started out dreamy (pancakes, coffee, the most stunning flower market, and a canal ride,) ended sooner than expected when I came down with a sudden virus. We had dinner reservations at Restaurant de Kas – where we had booked 3 months in advance – but unfortunately, I was still feeling awful around the time we were supposed to be heading there. A few hours later, my fever finally broke, and we decided to pop down to the pizzeria a few blocks from the Airbnb we were staying in. While I’m sure de Kas would have been amazing, La Perla ended up being one of our favorite meals of the trip, and the evening – eating pizza on a street corner, watching bikers glide by and the Jordaan nightlife slowly come to life – one of our favorites, too.

Amsterdam Day 2: Tulip Fields & Lisse

Bike Rentals in LisseGrand Cafe A-Muze

Kasteel de Haar

Zaanse Schans

On our second day in the Netherlands, we rented a car to go see the tulip fields in Lisse. The Netherlands had a quick spring, and while our trip was originally supposed to fall during prime tulip season, the warm weather forced the farmers to harvest the bulbs much earlier than expected. We grabbed bikes from a small bike stand, and while the first stretch of our ride proved to be mostly bare stems, we finally stumbled upon two fields with colors so bright we spotted them nearly a mile away. The weather was crisp and sunny, and we spent three hours gliding our bikes all over Lisse’s charming suburbs, before ending up in town for rose and cold beers. Later that after, we drove to Zaanse Schans to see the green historic windmills, before strolling the castle grounds of De Haar and wishing garden mazes were more popular in the US.

Amsterdam Day 1: Jordaan

Wisteria hanging off buildings around every corner we turned...

Our Airbnb (highly recommend.)

The beautiful streets of Jordaan.

Lunch at Libertine Comptoir de Cuisine

Incredible dinner at BUFFET van Odette

Zara shirt (similar) and shoes (similar), Levi’s Jeans, Bag, Bando “Anxiety” Necklace

For our first trip to the Netherlands, we stayed in the beautiful neighborhood of Jordaan, located in the northwest corner of central Amsterdam. From the posh neighborhood streets where you can peak into chic lofts and living spaces (and, sequentially, imagine your life along a canal and grabbing Sunday morning coffees at the quaint shop on the corner,) to the multiple boutiques and restaurants at arms reach, we couldn’t have chosen a better home base for our five-day getaway.

How to host an at-home wedding dress fitting.

Last month, my sweet family and 6 of my best girlfriends gathered to help me find my wedding dress at C and I’s loft. I’ve gotten so many questions about how I tried on wedding dresses at home, so I thought I’d write a little post about it.

Chris and I are getting married next April in Rosemary Beach (the source of so many of our early memories together, and one of our favorites places.) When evaluating what we wanted to spend the most money on for our wedding, I had a hard time justifying my dress as one of them, especially because there are so many amazing designers that have yet to make their way into bridal boutiques, and because I have such simplistic style to begin with. Instead, I decided to order a few online from brands and retailers I love, after triple checking return policies, and truly only purchasing those I thought could be *the one.*

*None of the pictures below are of the dress I chose, obviously. 

Reformation Freesia Dress

My sister, mother, grandmother and soon to be mother-in-law made some amazing light appetizers, snacks and desserts.

Katie May Legacy Dress via BHLDN

Black Halo Divino Gown via Saks Fifth Avenue

 My mom purchased some clothing clips (similar here, you want to purchase ones with soft grips so they don’t harm the gowns,) in case any of the dresses were too big, and my sister came over early that morning to steam any wrinkles out of the dresses from being in their shipping boxes. Weirdly enough, C and I found a garment wrack outside of our dumpster the day before (meant to be!) and he sweetly built me a 3-way mirror with standard floor mirrors he bought at Ikea. We propped them up on some of my old issues of Vogue/a few coffee table books, put our coffee table upstairs and pushed our couch back a bit, and we were set. He played golf with my dad that morning while I sipped champagne with my nearest and dearest – the pictures where you can see my mother’s and grandmother’s faces reflected in the mirror still make me teary!

Amanda Richard Cheri Gown via Revolve

Watters Tinsley Dress via BHLDN, Joanna August Mermaid Gown via Nordstrom

Almost every dress I purchased was under $500, with one exception for the Joanna August number above. It was such a special, love-filled day, and I couldn’t imagine a prettier or more “me” dress than the one I said yes to. Now here’s hoping C loves it, too.