Famed children’s book author Eric Carle recently passed away at the age of 91.
His timeless classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (written in 1969) became a must have in my classroom library when I was teaching preschool age kids many years ago.
Once I had children of my own I began reading it to them as well from a very young age and it quickly became a favourite in our home.
When my kids got a bit older and I was no longer teaching preschool anymore there were a handful of children’s books which I had collected over the years that I knew I wanted to hold onto in hopes of one day passing them down to my grandchildren.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of those books.
It is a whimsical and playful book.
It’s illustrations are fun and bright and captivating.
But it also has many meaningful and teachable moments between each page.
It shows us the importance of transformation and growth.
It shows us the importance of finding our true self.
It gives us hope.
It shows us that in time and with patience we will all find our way in the world.
It shows us that we are all unique and beautiful in our own special way.
And it shows us that we all have the capability to emerge from our cocoon, spread our wings and learn how to fly.
(Oh and it also reminds us that when we eat too much candy we will probably get a stomach ache!)
It’s one of those weeks where I find myself tumbling further and further down a very darkened rabbit hole and can’t seem to find my way out.
I’ve spent the last few days questioning whether I should even bother, asking myself if life is worth it, wondering why I should even try, telling myself I can’t do this anymore and convincing myself that I should just give up.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness. So I know I am not alone.
It’s all around us and it’s more than likely that you know someone who may be struggling with one or more mental health challenges at this very moment.
And it’s also sadly and quite plausible that many more are doing so in silence.
But we can’t ignore our mental health and we sure as hell can’t ignore mental illness either because no matter how hard you may try and hide from it, it will find you. It will catch up with you and at times it will make you question your self-worth, it will make you doubt yourself, it will tell you to stop trying and it could convince you to give up.
As a society that is right smack in the midst of the worst mental health crisis ever we need to understand what suicide prevention really looks like and most importantly that it is everybody’s responsibility to play a role in it.
As a society we need to understand that we all have a responsibility to take better care of each other because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to talk openly and honestly about mental health disorders and suicidality because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need more public awareness and education in order to destigmatize mental illness and suicidal behaviours so that those who may be most at risk can feel less alone, less fearful or less ashamed because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to accept each other’s differences because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to be able to openly and honestly express our feelings because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to help someone who may be in crisis and then follow up with additional support because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to make sure that we all live in an environment that is nurturing and safe because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to have proper funding in place to allow for everyone to access mental health supports and services because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
As a society we need to be there for a loved one, a friend, a neighbor or a coworker who may be experiencing the loss of their job, the loss of a relationship or loved one or some other major, life altering change in their lives because that is what suicide prevention looks like.
Suicide prevention means knowing that it’s okay to not be okay.
Knowing that it’s okay to ask for help.
And together as a society we need to make it OK.
What does suicide prevention look like to you?
***If you or someone you know is in crisis please call Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 or go to your nearest hospital.
Each year the first week of May is recognized as National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week. It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I don’t need any excuse what so ever to raise awareness about either one of these two mental disorders or tell you how important it is to talk about the potential impact they can have on someone’s ability to function in their daily life.
Depression and Anxiety are the two most common of all mental health disorders and over the course of this past year have become increasingly more and more debilitating to so many people’s lives.
But then why is there still such stigma attached?
Why do so many people feel a sense of shame and guilt when it comes to their diagnosis?
Why is it still so hard for someone to open up about how they are truly feeling?
Well as someone who has probably heard it all by now, I get it, I get why so many people are afraid to open up about how they are feeling because I too have felt the impact of the stigma surrounding my illness too many times to count and I too have felt the shame and guilt that often comes along with my diagnosis.
It’s important to remember that having a mental disorder is not something that a person chooses to have, they are actual medical conditions and need to be treated with medication and/or therapy; and that no one should ever have to justify their feelings to anyone.
But too often the person who is suffering with Depression and/or Anxiety are left having to defend themselves against the actions and words of others. And even though their intentions may be coming from a place of love or out of deep concern for the individual who is suffering, those words or actions can end up doing more harm than good and leaving someone feeling attacked or hurt when we dismiss or minimize or deny or compare their feelings.
So can we all make a fresh start today and change the conversation?
Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety to “snap out of it”, “try harder” or to simply “cheer up”.
Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety that they don’t look or sound “sad” or “depressed”.
Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety that everyone has “bad days” or that a lot of people “have it much worse”.
Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety that “it’s all in your head” and that they are acting “selfish”.
Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety to “take a long walk” and you will feel better.
And let’s never again tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety that they just need to “think positive” and “happy thoughts”.
Let’s change the conversation today. Somedays my life truly depends on it and I know that I’m not alone.
I listen wholeheartedly and often to stories from people in regards to our mental health system; and just how broken it truly is.
Maybe you don’t necessarily believe it or maybe you choose not to believe it if you have never experienced it for yourself or a loved one while desperately trying to advocate for them but I’m living proof that too many of the stories I hear are very real and beyond disturbing at times.
I myself have walked out of many psychiatrist’s offices and emergency rooms shaking my head in disbelief and left feeling even more defeated than when I first walked in which is why when someone shares their own personal anecdotes with me I can feel every ounce of their pain, sadness and frustration.
Recently a friend of mine confided in me about one such experience when she took her son to the emergency room after he came to her telling her that he had been having very intrusive thoughts of hurting himself.
Before I go any further I just wanted to first say BRAVO to this young boy for having the courage to confide in someone he trusted about how he was feeling. Many of you reading this may not realize just how much fucking strength that takes, like the kind of strength that only superheros are made of. BRAVO. BRAVO. BRAVO.
Hearing these words from anyone let alone your own child is beyond terrifying and I’m sure she probably felt very much alone at the time but also knew that the safest place for her son to be in that moment was in the trusted arms of a team of knowledgable, compassionate mental health professionals.
But sadly that is not what happened at all. In fact it was quite the opposite and instead as she stood pleading with the Psychiatrist on duty at the hospital that day to help her child he turned to this young boy and his mom and told them that he should go home. He continued by saying how lucky the boy was to be so privileged enough to not have to deal with the stresses of living on the street or in a third world country.
My heart broke in a million pieces as I heard her speak these words, words that I know are spoken all too often by ignorant folks who still believe that depression and/or suicidal ideations are nothing more than a chemical imbalance that can quickly be fixed by taking a pill or going for a long walk but when these words are spoken by a mental health professional and to an impressionable and vulnerable young mind no less, there are truly no words.
I know this is thankfully not the norm but it happens more often than it should because even one time is too many. I myself have had many amazing, incredible and compassionate experiences with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals (and thankfully I still do) to help me through the darkened days throughout my journey but those bad experiences can and will never be erased from my mind.
When seeking the help of a mental health professional try and watch out for signs that indicate that they are competent, invested in your wellbeing and most importantly a good fit for you.
Make sure they are not overconfident, dismissive or arrogant. Make sure that they are not quick to prescribe medication or diagnose you. Make sure they take into consideration your own unique circumstances. Make sure they do not threaten to use their power to treat you with unnecessary treatments that you are uncomfortable with. Make sure they properly inform you about the many side effects of the medications they do prescribe to you and that they also properly wean you off the ones that aren’t working for you (weaning off certain meds can be very dangerous and must be done slowly and cautiously) and make sure that they work together with you and for you and alongside your loved ones which should include regularly monitoring your progress, making a plan by offering up next steps and new or appropriate solutions and may at time also include them turning to colleagues or outside support for guidance so not to miss out on something.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself (or a loved one) and make sure to ask lots (and lots) of questions especially if something doesn’t feel quite right or you don’t understand something. It can be a very long and burdensome journey, trust me, I know, but it’s your journey and no one else’s and having the proper support behind you that you so deserve while on your journey towards healing can make a huge impact.
I took this picture of Maggie yesterday afternoon.
All I focused on in that moment was capturing the perfect shot of her cuteness overload which I did, even if my pleas to her to smile pretty for the camera were ignored over and over again.
I couldn’t wait to share the pic with Rich and the kids in our private family group on Snapchat.
But later that evening something other than Maggie’s cuteness overload kept pulling me back to this picture.
I couldn’t put my finger on it right away but then suddenly it hit me.
Suddenly the picture took on a whole new, deeper meaning.
Suddenly I saw past her cuteness overload.
Suddenly I was fixated on a much bigger picture.
Suddenly my mind shifted gears.
For much of my illness over the last seven years I have found myself focused on the past.
I wish I could change a lot of things that happened to me in my past but I can’t, no one can.
At least though I have learned from my past.
So as I took a deeper, more meaningful look at the picture of Maggie as she stared mesmerized out the front window of my car I suddenly felt my presence in her place in that moment and that maybe my desperate unanswered pleas to get her to look at the camera and smile for mommy was by no means an accident.
Maybe she wasn’t actually ignoring my pleas at all but instead along with all that cuteness overload, deep down inside she was there to remind me in that moment just how desperately I too need to stay focused on the road ahead.
My recovery depends on it.
There has to be a reason why the windshield is so big and the rearview mirror is so small? Right?
Afterall it’s not what you leave behind that truly matters, it’s where you’re journey is headed next that does.
I felt a flood of emotions come over me when it hit me that nothing has really changed since then and to be perfectly honest, it actually feels a thousand times worse right now.
My girls are both less than ten days away from finishing their school years; Rachel being in her first year of University for Interior Design and Hannah is about to earn her four year Undergraduate Degree in Communications.
To say I am proud of these two young ladies would be an understatement. They have both worked their butts off this year despite the many challenges and limitations they’ve had to face by having to work completely remotely, completely online; and completely from home.
Rachel was robbed once again of so many exciting new experiences from the start of her University career. Instead she has spent the past year at home learning new skills, building and creating incredible projects and making new friends from across the world all from our living room floor (which she turned into her own personal art studio last summer before the start of the school year).
And now Hannah too has been robbed of so many of her own opportunities, rites of passage and exciting new experiences that would normally accompany her throughout this, her graduating year.
But they did it! It hasn’t been easy or fair or kind at times and it’s been so painful and mentally exhausting to watch as a parent at other times. But like so many of us who have lost so much over the past year, its ok to acknowledge their pain from the disappointment and anger and frustration and sadness that they have had to endure; that we have all had to endure.
In a way, I guess we have all been experiencing a steep learning curve this past year, just so desperately trying to forge our way forward.
Giving and receiving a name at birth differs from culture to culture and is oftentimes followed by a significant ceremony or ritual. This name is incredibly unique to you and offers up your identity but does it really define who you are as a person?
Have you ever wished you could change your name? What would your new name signify for you? Would you still be the same person you are right now or would you become someone totally different?
Plenty of us are feeling less and less like ourselves these days and could really use some kind of change in our lives, anything at all for that matter. So why not start by trying a new name on for size today just for fun, unless of course maybe it kinda sticks with you!
What name would you choose for the day?
Just out of curiosity, what went into choosing your children’s names?
Would you consider those same guidelines for choosing your own new name?
Today is World Health Day. Its campaign has become a day of recognition around the Globe since 1948 and was first created by the World Health Organization (WHO), a name that has become increasingly more and more familiar to all of us since the Pandemic started.
This year’s campaign is focused on building a “fairer, healthier world” for everyone but living in Canada right now it doesn’t feel fair at all.
The vaccine rollout in Ontario (and Canada) has been a complete and utter disaster (imo) and I can’t believe that I am actually about to say this after what we have all witnessed over the past year in the United States but I am beyond envious of all my friends and family living south of the border right now as I witness the success of how their vaccines are being rolled out (and Israel, well they deserve a fricken gold star!).
Earlier this morning both Rich and I were able to book appointments to get vaccinated simply because the Government has now deemed our postal code a “hot spot” along with several others in our region which has afforded us and anyone else in these select few areas who are between the ages of 45 and 59 years old to do so as well.
I’m not gonna lie, once we both received our confirmation emails with our appointment times set in place I became super emotional (surprise, surprise there were actual tears) that this was actually about to happen.
I am beyond grateful to be given this opportunity and I feel that it is my duty to get vaccinated when my time comes in order to help stop the spread of Covid-19; but I’m angry all at the same time.
I’m angry that teachers and admin staff have not been prioritized to receive a vaccination first or the factory workers, grocery store clerks, wait staff in restaurants, construction workers, immune compromised individuals, those in more marginalized communities, the 20 something year olds who have been blamed most for spreading the virus and everyone else who works in an essential service and CANNOT work from home.
I just hope that soon enough all Canadians (and many other parts of the world) can celebrate World Health Day together by actually building a fairer, healthier (and more united) world to live in.
It was seven years ago today that I uttered the words “I want to die” for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that I felt hopeless and alone for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that my life no longer felt purposeful for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that I felt broken for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that I felt unlovable for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that I lost my way for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that I felt like the world was better off without me for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that I felt an abundance of sadness and shame come over me for the very first time.
It was seven years ago today that my life was about to change forever and I felt too powerless and helpless to stop it.
It was seven years ago today that I peered outside my bedroom window hoping to find myself somewhere out there.
It was seven years ago today that suddenly I felt a disconnect from the person I once was and with each passing year she seems to fade further and further from my mind.
But someone new emerged in her place that day instead and even though she still feels all those same emotions today that she did seven years ago her new identity has taught her so much more than she ever thought imaginable about both herself and others.
Her new identity has learned to embrace the difficult moments as a way to grow and co-exist with herself.
Her new identity has learned how to create more meaning in her life.
Her new identity has learned ways to stop running from herself by using the anchor she has been given when she needs a break.
Her new identity has learned to recognize the pain and suffering in others with heartfelt compassion, empathy and kindness through the acceptance of her own pain and suffering.
Her new identity has learned how to ask for help and how to advocate for those who aren’t quite able to yet.
Her new identity has found her voice, one that she no longer takes for granted.
Her new identity has become stronger and more resilient than she truly realizes or gives herself enough credit for.
Her new identity has learned the importance of making self-care her number one priority.
Her new identity has learned how to set limits and enforce healthy boundaries which has in turn created deeper, more meaningful bonds with the people in her life.
And she is grateful. Not for all that she has necessarily lost since that very first day seven years ago but for all that she has gained and learned since then. And it’s alot.