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January 21, 2018

Why I Took a Sabbatical & What We Learned About Self Care

Self Care Portraits during Sabbatical

You have NO IDEA how excited I am!  This is the first post on the new blog, the new Soleil & Katie site, the first written in close to a year. Why? Let’s rewind.

March 2017. My wife faced one of the hardest decisions she has ever had to make in our marriage in regards to my life & health. After many months of neglect, my mental health was FORCING us to truly reconsider it’s priority in our lives. It wasn’t a “back burner” resolution anymore. If nothing was done, we would have little time together. After just two years of marriage and a lifetime ahead of us, there was no way Katie would go down without a fight. Work could wait, on both ends. My life & safety were too important. I went to seek medical and therapeutic attention; Katie went on a lengthy leave of absence from work. This was it. We were giving it our all.

Let me explain how destructive depression can be: My career was born not just from a financial necessity, but from a creative one. My camera, and the skill that comes along with it, is a heavy security blanket. When I have my camera in my hands, you get the real me: lively, vivacious, loud, silly, and a woman of service. No, not with depression. I stayed in bed all day. I neglected our beloved boys (Ernie, Yorkie, & Reagan, Beagle). I left the window curtains closed. Answering a friend’s text seemed like too much work. I barely ate. Everything just seemed so overwhelming. Looking back now, I can’t even recognize myself. I mean to think I laid in bed day in and day out, when in actuality I’m a morning person (it drives Katie CRAZY), is so so so sad.

I just want to go back in time and hug myself. I want tell her everything is going to be ok. I want tell her that the only way out, is through. I want to tell her that being vulnerable is STRENGTH. I want to tell her that there is so much more, so so so much more than this.

Without the pressures of work, Katie and I were able to relearn how to communicate with vulnerability and acceptance. We were able to rebuild our routine to fit our new normal and continue to look after our lives in a way that cultivated what mattered first, leaving all else to wait. This was an enormous gift, one that we will never take for granted. We are, nor will we ever be experts in self-care. However, there is no denying it’s importance to MY SURVIVAL. In this time together we learned:

  • Sunlight is a must for survival and recovery. Every day, Katie and I ate our breakfast outside, in direct sunlight, soaking in all the Vitamin C for however long we could stand it.
  • Ask. For. Help. Ask your friends. Ask your parents. Ask your siblings. Ask for time away. Ask for a meal train. Ask for help around the house. Ask for normalcy. Ask for anything you need help with. Don’t crawl under a rock and think no one will notice. There’s help to be had, so long as you ask for it.
  • Slow down. Breathe. Be patient with yourself. Growth is hard, especially when it involves vulnerability. Asking yourself “Is this ever going to end?” is normal. It will end. Things will get better. Slow and steady. Breathe.
  • Keep aware of any imbalance or mood change, including how your body feels. Most times my anxiety resulted in a very heavy chest. It feels like bricks are on me. Even if I don’t know exactly where this is stemming from, I reach out to Katie. If she feels like I am not myself, she confronts me gently. We check on one another often. Depression is a liar and will tell you because no one has asked how you are doing that it is because you are not worthy to be cared for. Depression can also inhibit your need to access help in a healthy, constructive way. Check on one another often. If you do not have a partner, ask someone who you trust and who loves and respects you. Grace is such an important approach to giving and getting help.
  • If you cannot communicate or articulate your feelings, create a simple ranking system that alerts your partner of your emotional/mental/physical safety status. For us it was a 1-5 ranking, 5 being the worst (AKA I need help NOW). It was the least complicated way for me to communicate to Katie how I was feeling and got her to react accordingly. Example: “Babe, I’m at a 2.5. (My anxiety is relentless and I’m feeling a little desperate for relief.)” Katie would then respond with, “Ok, Honey. Let me hug you. It’s ok. Everything’s in order. Would you like to go for a walk with the boys?” Walking works (for me) because of sunlight (see Bullet One).
  • If your family is not supportive or understanding (or kind), come to peace with leaving them out of your struggle and recovery process. This isn’t about them, and while sometimes they may have the best intentions, their words or actions can result in a worse mood. This can be absolutely dangerous to your health and recovery. Forgive them for not reacting appropriately. Self care and compassion is LEARNED through life lessons. Not everybody is educated on servicing those who face mental illness. That’s okay. It’s not intentional. It’s best to move on.
  • Seek medical/therapeutic attention (which ever you need when you need it, without shame or excuse).


Here are some reasons my sabbatical made me feel extremely guilty:

  • As a creative entrepreneur, and thanks to social media, our lives are presented in a grid of perfectly curated squares. As a photographer, my social media is centered around my clients’ BEST DAY EVER. How am I allowed to have a bad day when this isn’t about me? It’s about them, right? Well, yes and no. Without a healthy me, there is no capturing a Best Day Ever. Of course, I don’t leave my clients in the dust, there are back ups. However, this required some intense planning before, during, and after my time away. I’ll go over how I did that in another post sometime soon. I’ll also talk about how I rebranded my business to center around OUR love story and how that benefits my clients even more.
  • We didn’t save for my breakdown. As if we knew it would happen, right?! Listen, life happens. We are in our twenties and besides being adults, we’re still learning. We hadn’t thought that a rolling list of obstacles would inevitably cause my mental/emotional/physical downfall. Shit happens. While we are super lucky to be able to afford a life in one of the highest cost of living cities in America, it was scary taking a leap into the unknown. How long could we afford to take off? And better yet, how long did I NEED to recover? Would these two concerns conflict with one another? What then?! Eventually, I decided on ten months off, while Katie decided on 4 weeks. Katie would take the brunt of the financial weight while I took the time to rebrand my life (i.e.: get my shit together). Oh, forever and ever do I owe this woman so much.
  • This meant taking time off TTC (trying to conceive). Ugh. How badly I did not want to write that here in this blog. Isn’t sharing that with the world cause for a celebration?! YES! But the journey of TTC-ing is sorta what got me in this mess to begin with. Oh, the amount of self doubt that TTC-ing brings into a woman’s life… insane. Why isn’t my body cooperating?! Am I not worthy? What’s wrong with me? Oh, look! A rabbit hole! Let’s go down it… To protect my heart, soul, body, and marriage, we HAD to take time off. The stress of TTC was too much for me at the time. The point is to heal completely and be ready to get back into the battle (win the war and all that shit). This makes sense to me now, but at the time it made me feel SO GUILTY. I felt like I was letting Katie down. I mean, she wants to have 8 kids. I’m 29 and the sole carrier to those babies. Time is definitely working against me. (And just so we are clear, I do not plan to have EIGHT babies. Power to The Duggar Family, but I ain’t about that life.)


Self care has become a trend lately and I can totally see why. Most people are advocating for normalization of self-care. That’s something I can TOTALLY get behind. Mental Heath is a completely taboo topic, especially in the Latin community (mi gente!).  It’s a topic that iconically comes with shame and ridicule. Without getting too preachy, I have to get this point across: yes, bubble baths, wine, and time-outs are GREAT for healing and prioritizing one’s needs but self-care is SO MUCH MORE THAN THIS. I didn’t just lie around napping (although, fuck, sometimes I needed to), putting in work to put yourself first, challenge the core of your anxiety with a solution that not only alleviates the pain but also becomes a lesson on how to approach your anxiety in the future is SO IMPORTANT. It’s exhausting. It’s humbling. It takes time. Remember when I said taking time off caused a sense of guilt? This in turn, left me super anxious and frozen in decision making. See how quickly that shit takes you down? Give yourself the permission to PRIORITIZE the TIME you NEED to FOCUS ON YOUR OWN CARE.  I learned that the hard way and it almost took my life.

A note on my vagueness: Katie and I discussed at length if I should go into the exact moment that catapulted her Leave of Absence and my Sabbatical. The more and more we talked about it, the less and less it seemed relevant. Everyone’s battle is different; everyone’s level of pain is different. A child spilling their milk for the first time is painful to them because it is LITERALLY the worst thing that has ever happened to them as of late. Same with our painful instances as adults. What happened is irrelevant. What we learned and how to prevent it is what’s important.

An update on life now: I felt crazy adding the two images above into this post. I’m clearly happy in them. This post is probably one of the hardest I’ll ever write. They conflict with one another. They are also beautiful poetry. Today, Katie and I are thriving. To answer a few questions:

  • Yes, we are back on the TTC train. It still hurts every pregnancy test I take that comes back negative. The difference is is that we hug it out and say, “Next time!”
  • I still sit in the sun as much as possible. I was warned by my therapist that Autumn & Winter are the toughest seasons for those facing mental illness. We took precaution and have made efforts to get out of the house often and bask in the sunlight, even if it’s below freezing!
  • If you couldn’t tell by this post, I am back to work! I am actually SUPER excited about this and counted down the days til I was back at my desk. Speaking of work, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We are a two man band, with most of the back end/admin stuff falling onto me. I’m keeping it simple, never multitasking so that I do not get overwhelmed.
  • We plan for rainy days. We have a plan for the bad days, have looked more thoroughly into our health insurance and how to utilize it to benefit us, and are maintaining what works.
  • I am so happy. Happy! Holy crap, I’m happy. I feel strong and capable. I’m hard, y’all. I’ve seen some shit. Clearly, I haven’t lost my sense of humor. Every day is a new day, where I wake up at ass crack of dawn, kiss my wife as she snores, fling open the window curtains to her dismay, and blast “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman on repeat. As Joanna Gaines says, “It’s a good day for a good day.” Damn right, Jojo. Get it, Girl!


For those of you who took the time to write us messages during our time away, either on Facebook or Instagram, or sent me a silly snap or two, you have no idea the depths of which you reached into my soul. You made it hard to walk away and easy to come back. I love you, truly, and I thank you for your support.

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For the most part, we do not process your information in-house, but give it to third party processors for processing. For example, when PayPal takes your payment information, they are a third party processor. They process your payment and remit the funds to us. So in many instances, it will be necessary for us to transmit your information to a third party processor, as we do not have the capability to perform these functions. More detail on third party processing is detailed below.

However, we may, from time to time, process your data internally. The legal basis for this processing is both your consent to the processing, and our need to conduct our legitimate business interests. Our purposes in processing this information, if we do, is to administer, maintain, and improve our website and offerings, to enter into contracts with you, to fulfill the terms of those contracts, to keep records of our transactions and interactions, to be able to provide you with goods and services, to comply with our legal obligations, to obtain professional advice, and to protect the rights and interests of our company, our customers (including you), and any third parties. We may process the following data:

Data associated with your account, such as your name, address, email address and payment information
Data about your usage of our website, such as your IP address, geographical information, and how long you accessed our website and what you viewed.
Data related to your personal profile, such as your name, address, profile picture, interests and hobbies, or employment details.
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Data that you provide to us when you subscribe to our emails or newsletters, including your email address and contact information.
Data that you submit to us via correspondence, such as when you email us with questions.
Any other data identified in this policy, for the purpose of complying with our legal obligations, or to protect the vital interests of you or any other natural person.

Our website is hosted by servers located in the U.S. Therefore, if you reside in the European Union, some of your data will be transferred internationally to those servers. Transfers will be protected by appropriate safeguards, namely the EU-US Privacy Shield. More information on the Privacy Shield can be found at: https://www.privacyshield.gov/welcome.

We retain personal data as long as it is needed to to conduct our legitimate business purposes or to comply with our legal obligations, or until you ask us to delete your data. For example, we will retain certain personal information indefinitely for the purposes of maintaining your account, unless and until you delete your account. Data that we gather for a specific and particular purpose, such as assisting law enforcement or analyzing trends, will not be kept for longer than is necessary for that particular purpose. Data that is no longer needed by us for any of the purposes listed above will be permanently deleted.

You may request that we delete your data at any time. However, note that we cannot control the retention policies of third parties. If you wish to have any third parties, including those to whom we’ve transmitted your data, delete that data, you will need to contact those third parties directly. You may request from us a list of all third parties to whom we have transmitted your data.

We take all reasonable steps to protect your personal data and keep your information secure. We use recognized online secure payment systems and implement generally accepted standards of security to protect against personal data loss or misuse. However, no security measure is foolproof, and no method of data transmission can be guaranteed against interception or misuse. We cannot guarantee complete security of any information you transmit to us.

By consent to this Privacy Policy, you acknowledge that your personal data may be available, via the internet, around the world. We cannot prevent the use or misuse of your data by other parties.

We will notify you of promptly any known breach of our security systems or your data which might expose you to serious risk.

This website or mobile app is not designed for use by children under age 16, and we do not knowingly solicit personal data from anyone under age 16. If you are under age 16, do not access or use our website or related products or services. If you become aware that we have collected data of anyone under the age of 16, please contact us so that we may delete that data.

You have certain rights with respect to your personal data, as outlined below. Note that we may charge you a reasonable fee for actions that you ask us to take with respect to your data. In addition, we reserve the right to request that you provide us with evidence of your identity before we take any action with respect to the exercise of your data rights. Further, your rights may be restricted or nullified to the extent they conflict with our compelling business interests, the public interest, or the law.

Update Account Information: You have the right to update or change any information you have provided to us. To update or delete your information, please contact us at hello@soleilandkatie.com.

Confirm Personal Data and Its Use: You have the right to request that we confirm what data we hold about you, and for what purposes. You also have the right to confirmation of whether we process your data or deliver your data to third party processors, and for what purposes. We will supply you with copies of your personal data unless doing so would affect the rights and freedoms of others.

Change Consent: You have the right to change your consent to our use of your information. In such cases, we may require you to delete your account with us, as described above, and you may not have full access to our website.

Request a Copy of Data: You have the right to request a digital copy of the data that we hold about you. Your first request for a copy of your personal data will be provided free of charge; subsequent requests will incur a reasonable fee.

Transfer Your Data: You have the right to request that we gather and transfer your data to another controller, in a commonly used and machine readable format, unless doing so would cause us an undue burden.

Delete All Data: You have the right to request that we delete all data that we hold about you, and we must delete such data without undue delay. There are exceptions to this right, such as when keeping your data is required by law, is necessary to exercise the right of freedom of expression and information, is required for compliance with a legal obligation, or is necessary for the exercise or defense of legal claims. Such a request may result in a termination of your account with us and you may have limited or no use of our website.

Emails And Communications: You may opt out of receiving future email correspondence from us by checking the appropriate box when you register for the account or make a purchase. You may change your communication settings by contacting us at hello@soleilandkatie.com

Marketing Communications: You may opt out of receiving any third party marketing communications or having your personal information used for marketing purposes. You may do this by contacting us at hello@soleilandkatie.com.

Processing: You may, in some circumstances restrict the processing of your data, such as when you contest the accuracy of your data or when you have objected to processing, pending the verification of that objection. When processing has been restricted, we will continue to store your data but will not pass it on to third party processors without your consent, or as necessary to comply with legal obligations or protect your rights or those of others or our company. In addition, you may opt out of any processing of your data altogether. Note however that doing so may result in the termination of your account and loss of access to our website.

Complaints: You have the right to complain to a supervising authority if you believe we are misusing your data or have violated any of your rights under this Privacy Policy or applicable law.

The State of California has established its own unique regulations that apply to California residents. If you reside in California, you have the right to obtain from us, once per year and free of charge, information regarding what information we disclose to third party marketers, and the names and addresses of each third party to whom we disclose your data. If you are a California resident and would like to make such a request, please use the contact information listed below.

If you are a California resident and under the age of 18, you have the right to request that we remove any data that you publicly post on our website. To request removal of your data, please use the contact information listed below. Note that while we will remove your data that is publicly posted on our website, we may not be able to completely remove that data from our systems.

We offer the opportunity for you to volunteer certain information to us that is used for email and marketing purposes. This information includes, but is not limited to, your name and email. You will have an opportunity to unsubscribe from any future communications via email, but we reserve the right to maintain a database of past email subscribers. We reserve the right to use this information as reasonably necessary in our business and as provided by law. Your information will be shared with reasonably necessary parties for the ordinary course of conducting our business, such as through Facebook ads or Google Pay Per Click marketing campaigns.

If any part of these Terms, Conditions and Privacy Policy is deemed unlawful and/or unenforceable, all other provisions contained herein will remain in full force and effect.

The information contained herein constitutes the entire agreement between site users and our company relating to the use of this website.

These Terms, Conditions and Privacy Policy are governed by and construed in accordance with United States law. Any dispute arising out of or related to the information contained herein is subject to adjudication in the state of Virginia, United States.


Contact Information
Soleil and Katherine Hagan

Last Updated on 5/30/18

terms & conditions of use | privacy policy