I Never Leave Home Without My Mask, Metaphorically Speaking

I’m feeling beyond overwhelmed today when I probably should be feeling excitement and joy knowing that in just a few short hours I will have the honour of witnessing my eldest nephew (who was the ring bearer at my wedding 26 years ago) marry his beautiful Bride-To-Be.  

As you all know by now the past ten (plus) days have been some of the most trying and challenging days of my journey and my self-worth has sunk to an all time low. 

I have next to zero self-compassion left in me and I have no clue whatsoever how to be kind to myself.

But I have learned the art of how to fake it til I make it in social settings. 

I have learned the art of smiling through my depression and anxiety in social settings. 

And I’m pretty good at engaging in some great conversation too.

Somewhere along my journey I have mastered these skills and learned how to present myself as “normal” in social settings, but I also know by now how much confusion this often presents for others. 

In fact, if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me how great I seemed while in a social setting I’d be a very rich lady by now, but for now I just have to take it as an opportunity to open up important conversations (let’s never forget the many faces of Depression that Robin Williams and so many other famous people wore).

The truth is I may present myself in many social settings that way because I never leave home without my mask on, metaphorically speaking; and trust me when I tell you there have been plenty of bathroom stalls I’ve had to hide in while in the midst of a panic attack or worse, been in a fit of hysteria amongst a crowded room.

This is what scares me most about how I am feeling right now. I’ve been so vulnerable lately that even the most joyful moments will have me running to the nearest bathroom stall or worse.

Anyone living with a Social Anxiety Disorder knows how I am feeling today even though everyone experiences it in different ways, but no matter if you feel awkward engaging in conversations, entering a crowded room, making eye contact with strangers, going to a party or giving a speech in public most individuals with a social anxiety disorder have an overwhelming fear of being judged, embarrassed or becoming the center of attention; and many more, like myself will then spend days or even weeks afterwards depleting even more of their mental energy with negative thoughts, ruminating about how we presented ourselves in thus situation. 

For now though I am just trying to focus on the moment, take as many deep breaths as needed and practice my grounding exercises (oh and have my CBD oil on hand at all times too). My mask, metaphorically speaking will be ready for whatever social distancing I may need tonight. And I know that no matter what, my family will be by my side just in case I need an extra layer of protection. 

#thisisthefaceofdepression #depressionhasmanyfaces #anxietyhasmanyfaces #puttingonmymask #depression #anxiety #smilingdepression  #socialanxietydisorder #yourmentalhealthmatters #youareenough #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #inthemoment #startaconversation #weddingbells #ringbearer #happilyeverafter

I Can See It In Your Eyes *May be triggering *

Our eyes don’t lie. 

They play a vital role in revealing our deepest thoughts and emotions. 

My depression knows it.

It waits for that perfect moment to make its move.

For me to give it a sign.

With the blink of my eye, a blank stare or a subtle wink it assures me its the right time. 

It closes in on me.

It feels the defeat in my eyes and plays off my fears.

It thrives on my weaknesses. 

It tells me what I long to hear.

It reassures me that it’s okay.

It seems to know what’s best for me when it looks in my eyes.

It tells me to stop procrastinating.

It knows I procrastinate alot.

It sees the tiredness and hopelessness in my eyes.

I stare back into its eyes. They look angry, agitated. 

I give it a look of despair.

It senses I may distrust its judgment. 

So it tells me to rest my eyes for a while, promising to never leave my side.

I lay there in silence, feeling alone and afraid, with one eye open, hoping it won’t notice.

#inyoureyes #theeyesofdepression #icanseeitinyoureyes #suicideawareness #depressionkills #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough

Story Time

Last week I pre-recorded a segment for an episode of “Where Do The Children Play” on Trent Radio 92.7 CFFF FM which aired last Thursday morning. 

The show which runs 3 mornings a week was created for kids and features story time and fun kid’s music. 

The station itself was established and is operated solely by the students of Trent University in Peterborough Ontario.  

I read my children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” to their listeners and spoke briefly afterwards about why I wrote it and the importance of not only talking to children about a loved ones mental health challenges but also reassuring them that they are safe, loved and not responsible or to blame for it. 

I have posted the segment below if you would like to hear it. 

Thank you again to Skye Vasey for allowing me to share my story and for all your hard work and dedication to this program.   

Feel free to reach out to me if you would like to purchase a copy of my book for your classroom, school library, a preschool setting or for yourself or a loved one.

https://linksharing.samsungcloud.com/haEDOWm6rva4

#yourmentalhealthmatters #childrensbook #ouryouthmatter #wheredidmommyssmilego #mentalhealth #depression #startaconversation #endthestigmatogether #itsoktonotbeok #youmatter #youareenough #youarenotalone #wheredothechildrenplay #trentradio

I Have a Secret and It’s Weighing Me Down

We all carry secrets.

In fact science predicts that we are probably holding onto thirteen secrets right now that we have never shared with another living soul.

Holding onto secrets can sometimes be both stressful and harmful to one’s own mental health.

People reach out to me all the time in confidence and share many of their deepest and most intimate experiences and struggles with their mental health or that of a loved one. 

I don’t share a thing (unless of course they could be in danger of harming themselves or someone else). 

It’s not my story to tell. 

Instead I just offer up a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and some guidance if needed. 

I love that so many people, many of whom I don’t even know personally feel like they can come to me in confidence and share their intimate experiences and struggles. That is the reason why I continue to share my journey with you.

But last week someone came to me with a different type of secret and it has been weighing me down for the better part of a week now. 

The secret was shared with me without my consent and I wish more than anything that I could erase it from my mind.

Holding onto this secret and not being able to share it with anyone has taken a real toll on my own mental well-being this week. It should never have been shared with me in the first place.

The individual knew that by sharing this secret with me would be putting me in a very big predicament. But they went ahead and shared it anyways. It was beyond self-serving and selfish. 

The secret also came with a stern warning (after they blurted it out) that NOBODY else apparently knows about it and that nobody EVER could, especially of course the person that would be affected most by it if they ever found out. 

That somebody just so happens to be someone I respect deeply and is also a dear friend, but so was the person who shared the secret, or so I thought.

This secret has no direct impact on my own life whatsoever but it could potentially make a great impact on my friend’s life if they knew; for the better that is.

I’ve been so upset all week and don’t know what to do. It’s consuming me. It’s burdensome and my energy reserve has been depleted because of it. I’ve obsessed over it for almost a week now.

Many other people would’ve probably forgotten all about it by now but that’s just not how my overly anxious, compassionate and depressed mind works. 

I have found the need to emotionally detach myself from both parties because on one hand I’m angry and on the other hand I’m feeling so beyond overwhelmed with guilt knowing what I know.

I’m not concerned about the one friendship who clearly stepped over the boundary of trust and confidence by placing me in this predicament in the first place because that is not true friendship.

But what if I do decide to share this secret with the person I care deeply about, knowing how much they deserve to know and the next thing I know is there’s a hit put out on me!?🙂

Have you ever held onto a secret that completely weighed you down?

#secrets #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #friendship #trust #caughtinthemiddle #predicament #anger #sadness #overwhelm #yourmentalhealthmatters #youareenough

Gold Medal Treatment

I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now coming from the Olympic world.

Simone Biles is probably one of the most recognized and celebrated Olympic athletes in the world today and a true mental health warrior in my eyes. 

I one thousand percent support and admire Simone’s decision to step away from the podium for now in order to focus on her mental well-being but her decision to do so has been met with so much ridicule by the naysayers who are sitting on their butts, most likely from the comfort of their couch, hidden behind their smartphone screens, tweeting out and calling her a quitter or worse. 

It brings us right back to the same place we keep ending up because had Simone broken her ankle during her Olympic performance we would not be having this conversation and instead we would all be empathizing with her and cheering her on as she rehabilitated and got back to the vault. But taking a step back to focus on her mental health never seems to be a good enough reason to the naysayers. 

Mental illness and PTSD can creep up on you ever so slowly and often out of nowhere. She deserves to be recognized for her strength and courage and not criticized and judged. 

You don’t get to the level that Simone Biles has without being mentally tough. She is far from a quitter. She is taking care of her mental wellness and that makes her worthy of an Olympic gold medal in my eyes.

And when she returns, and I believe she will, she will show all those naysayers sitting on their butts from the comfort of their couch what it takes to be a real winner. 

Many people may not fully realize or ever truly understand the trauma and possible triggers (including performing in the Olympics) that Simone has had to overcome being that she was one of MANY young athletes who suffered YEARS and YEARS of sexual abuse at the hands of their “trusted” Olympic Team Doctor “Larry Nassar” who is now thankfully serving a prison sentence of over 100 years for his crimes. 

Mental illness and PTSD are both VERY real and VERY serious. If she is not mentally strong enough to be able to focus on her performance then she could most definitely hurt herself physically and possibly destroy everything. 

Self-care is mental wellness and it doesn’t matter if you can’t physically see her injury; it still matters, even more. 

Sadly though, we live in a world where people judge others on how much money they have, what kind of career path they choose, how big the house is that they live in, how smart they are and even by the amount of medals they may have sitting on their shelf.

But what if for just one second we all took a “step back” and focused on a world where people didn’t see it that way and instead only cared that you are happy, healthy and kind. 

Don’t we all deserve that kind of gold medal treatment?

#olympian #tokyoolympics #mentalhealthwarrior #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #ptsd #endthestigmatogether #goldmedaltreatment #mentalwellness #strongertogether #usaolympian #gymnastics #kindnessmatters #itsoktonotbeok #bekindtoyourself #youareenough #selfcare #yourmentalhealthmatters #sexualabuse #selflove #mindfulness #youarenotalone @simonebiles

A Work In Progress

Seven years ago I could never have pictured my life a certain way. 

None of us ever can.

But from very early on in my diagnosis I knew I needed to somehow paint another picture by accepting the tools I’d been given and embrace each one of them, one stroke at a time. 

These tools have helped me to understand that it’s okay if sometimes I colour outside the lines or splatter some paint on my shoes. 

I may still be a work in process but no matter what we are all a work of art.

Not everyone is ready to start painting a new picture right away.

It may take some time (maybe even years) before someone is truly able to put on a smock, pick up their paint brush and make that first stroke.

Some people need to ease into it at their own pace because they are too afraid to change their picture or ask for help in creating a new one.

The question is, how does a person truly know when they are ready? What makes someone ready? 

I’ve seen alot of people who struggle with this. They pick up their pencil thinking they are ready to start sketching their new picture. 

But then they place their half chewn and sharpened down to the nub pencil back in the drawer. 

They try again.

This time they start sketching an image but their picture gets smudged in the process so they desperately try to erase the smudges but the smudges just become more embedded deeper and darker into the paper the more they attempt to erase them.  

And before they know it they have just crumpled up their hundredth piece of paper to toss in the waste basket.

But then one day, maybe even after attempting to throw away that hundredth piece of crumpled up paper into the waste basket they realize that what they need the most is some actual guidance and direction or maybe even an entirely new perspective; one that is outside of their abstract view of what their picture should look like. 

It’s okay if you toss away a hundred pieces of crumpled up paper into the waste basket, using that stubby, chewed up pencil before you are able to create a new picture, one with more depth and composition. 

Because only you will know in your heart when the time comes that you are truly ready to pick up that paint brush, stand confidently in front of your easel and begin painting your new picture; this time using the most beautiful and vibrant colours. 

#acceptance #acceptinghelp #accountabilty #itsoktonotbeok #youmatter #yourmentalhealthmatters #youareenough #workinprogress #workofart #mentalhealth #paintedpictures #abstract

Panic in the Pool

This past week I’ve felt very on edge, well more than I usually do I guess you could say.

I am feeling more nervous than usual,  more tense, more angry and very uneasy. 

Today the build up led to a panic attack right in the middle of my morning aqua fit class. 

I love my aqua fit classes. I look so forward to it twice a week.

They are such a wonderful and positive distraction for me. 

I work my butt off in class and I feel such a great accomplishment afterwards but today, given the week I’ve had, I just couldn’t seem to distract myself.

I tried to quietly slip out of the pool so not to make a scene as the panic erupted (it’s not like I’ve never made a scene before though!). 

I felt the tears fill my eyes and I could barely breathe. Figuratively, I felt like I was drowning. 

I just needed a moment to myself. 

I reassured everyone I was ok (quietly slipping out of the pool didn’t work).

I wiped my tears away with my towel, took a few deep breaths, a big swig of water from my water bottle and then before I slipped back into the pool I double checked my phone to reassure myself one last time that the world wasn’t about to end.

Fyi: It wasn’t!

#panicattacks #aquafit #pooltime #selfcare #mentalhealth #anxiety #distractions #funinthesun #ilovetoswim #summertimeselfcare #floaties

Kintsugi: A Touch of Gold

Metaphorically speaking, sometimes when we fall down we may chip a little. 

Sometimes we may even crack. 

And sometimes we completely shatter into a billion pieces. 

Seven years ago I completely shattered into a billion pieces. 

I didn’t even see it coming. 

It happened so fast and it feels like every day since I have been desperately searching for a way to mend those shattered pieces of my life.

For the first few years of my recovery I believed that the only way for me to truly heal was to find my way back to the life I was living before I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. 

So much has changed in my life in the past seven years, some for the better. 

But as I began to slowly try and pick up those shattered pieces of my life and put them back to where they were before, I realized it was an impossible task and then I began to understand something else, that even if it were possible, I no longer wanted to go back.

I’ve come to learn more and more recently about the Japanese artform called “Kintsugi” and how it seems to relate so much to my journey. 

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pieces back together using gold. It’s built around the philosophy that as we learn to embrace both our past and imperfections, we become more beautiful as a whole. 

It believes that no matter how broken we may feel at certain times in our lives, healing is possible and that by embracing both our past and our imperfections we will find hope and new meaning too.

It also shows us that we are no less valuable just because we may have a few chips or cracks in us.

I have spent the last many years desperately trying to figure out ways in which to mend my shattered pieces and turn them into a work of art, something that could be more meaningful and even more beautiful than before. 

Maybe, without even knowing it I have somehow already adopted many of the Kintsugi practices into my healing process along my journey by continuously trying to show the world all my chips, cracks and shattered pieces instead of hiding them. 

Now all that’s left to do is add a touch of golden highlights in order to give me the strength to believe that even when life feels like its been shattered into a billion pieces there is always hope in finding a way to mend them.

#kintsugi #japaneseart #atouchofgold #shatteredpieces #strength #hope #beauty #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #depression #anxiety #suicideprevention #yourmentalhealthmatters #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok 

Body-Shaming Yourself

A few years ago I opened up about an eating disorder I had in my late teens and early twenties (see blog: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/i-had-an-eating-disorder-and-it-still-weighs-me-down-everyday/) and I spoke in great length at the time about how I never really figured out the root cause of it even after I recovered. 

But the truth is that even though I may have recovered initially from my battle with Anorexia and Bulimia in my early 20’s it has never truly left me; it’s just transformed itself in other ways. 

I never battled with my weight before the onset of my eating disorder, nor did I have any issues with my self-image. 

It probably didn’t truly present itself again until I began having children in my late 20’s and early 30’s and it has especially spiraled out of control since my battle with Depression and Anxiety began seven years ago.

Right from the start of my mental health journey and my diagnosis I was treated with over 20 concoctions of antidepressants for a solid two years straight which eventually led me to a further diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression and also left me with a weight gain of close to 100 pounds. 

And although half of that weight gain almost disappeared instantly when my husband and I finally made the decision together, along with the guidance of my Psychiatrist to wean me off all my medications, my weight has continued to be an uphill battle for me throughout my journey and just one of the many road blocks in my recovery. It all too often leads me back to those same destructive behaviours I exhibited as my 18 year old self battling an eating disorder. 

I’m struggling alot these days with these tendencies and it seems to have magnified itself by a thousand this past week when I needed to go dress shopping for an upcoming family wedding and I had a panic attack and complete breakdown which left me crying in a sea of dresses on the floor of a department store changeroom.

I know I’m not alone in my negative self-image or body-shaming thoughts and especially lately as we all begin to emerge from our cocoon that has left many of us bearing several extra “Pandemic Pounds”.

It’s no secret by now from all the pictures that I post how much I shy away from the camera. Seeing pictures of myself only sets off a destructive mindset and binge of body-shaming.

It’s a vicious cycle of bullying, negative self-talk, anxiety and suicidal ideations. Self-shaming or the act of body-shaming whether it be towards ourselves or someone else is a real and very dangerous problem which Social Media and the mainstream media have only made 10x worse.

My illness has pretty much destroyed any ounce of self-confidence I once had, it continues to tell me how worthless and helpless I am, it loves to focus on the negative and boy oh boy does it ever hate to hear compliments. 

I wish I were able to squash my destructive mindset once and for all and begin to see the same beauty in me that others do; and to believe that I AM ENOUGH from the inside out.

Tell me one thing you love about your body.

#bodyshamingyourself #bodyshaming #eatingdisorders #anorexia #bulimia #depression #anxiety #suicide #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mentalillness #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #youmatter #selflove #innerbeauty #imperfectlyperfect #mondaymotivation

Alone In The Wild

I recently watched a movie called “WILD”, starring Reese Witherspoon (2014). 

It is based on a true story and the autobiography of Cheryl Strayed called “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”.

The movie takes place on the Pacific Crest Trail which spans 2,600 miles (that’s a shitload of kilometers!) in length and runs from the the Mexican/U.S border to the U.S/Canada border. To hike this grueling trail in its entirely would take someone between 5 to 6 months to complete. 

In June of 1995 this remarkable young woman (age 26) decides on a whim to take a much needed time out from her life and ascends on a journey toward self-discovery and healing by hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail over a three month period.

At the start of her expedition, Cheryl had just recently divorced her husband and tragically lost her mother (she was only 45 years old when she died) but throughout the movie we also learn so much more about her traumatic childhood and reckless and destructive youth.

There were so many reasons why I wanted to watch this movie (which Rich discovered one night while channel surfing) and so many more reasons why while watching it I felt an instant connection to Cheryl even though our journeys are so vastly different. 

Of course the movie centered around hiking which was a very big draw for me but what led her on that path (trail) in the first place is what connected me so deeply. 

When I think of self-care it often includes alone time. Yes, being surrounded by other people is critical for our well-being but sometimes it can also create stress in your life as well (something I think many of us can relate to more than ever over the past year). 

Taking time to be with yourself is both vital and beneficial in order to tap into our own thoughts, feelings and experiences. 

Along Cheryl’s journey she met many interesting (and sometimes scary) people and was asked by one of them if she ever got lonely out there all alone but it was because of her time alone (and journaling) that she found the freedom to forge ahead and truly explore her own personal growth and development. 

It’s what gave her the strength and determination to discover the power of healing.

Although I love to hike and I find it especially therapeutic for me and although I quite often need space away from others in order to help me heal I don’t forsee a three month hiking expedition anytime soon in my future. 

For starters, I’d barely make it a mile before getting lost! Perhaps maybe a week alone at a spa would be a better place for me to start?

Where do you like to go when you need some alone time?

#wild #hiking #selfcare #selfdiscovery #therapeutic #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #pacificcresttrail #milesfromhome #writer #blogger #author #journey #beinthemoment #journaling #courage #healing #mindfulness #aloneinthewild @cherylstrayed @reesewitherspoon