“Breaking Brave” Podcast

This afternoon I was given the opportunity and honour to be a guest speaker on a Podcast. 

My first one ever.  

I felt like a movie star. 

I was introduced to the host Marilyn Barefoot about a month or so ago through a mutual friend who thought that I would be a perfect fit for Marilyn’s Podcast called “Breaking Brave” so she connected us via email and we set up a time to “meet” and get to know one another later that week.

Our conversation was so easy. 

It was heartfelt and inspiring. 

I felt like we’d known each other forever.

Right from our opening dialogue I could feel Marilyn’s energy and compassion shine through.

She is a natural born speaker, motivator and innovator both in her chosen field and on her Podcast. 

But once Marilyn was given the green light from her Executive Producer a few days later to schedule me in for an actual recording of her Podcast it wasn’t too long afterwards when my negative self-talk kicked into full gear. 

Brave? Me, brave? 

How do I foster bravery in my mental health journey?

I gave this a great deal of thought. 

I know that being vulnerable and honest about my personal struggles with mental illness is brave.

I know that by educating others and helping them to understand the many depths of mental illness is brave.

I know that being so transparent about my own mental health is helping to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and that is brave.

I know that the more I talk about my illness allows others to feel more comfortable and less ashamed or alone about their own struggles and that is brave. 

I know that getting up each and every day and fighting for my life and advocating for the lives of so many others just like me is very brave.

I know that I have inspired many because of my willingness to share my story and that too is brave.

Being brave about your own mental health struggles should be contagious but it also doesn’t have to include writing a blog, publishing a children’s book or baring your heart and soul on Social Media either.

For you, “Breaking Brave” in your own personal mental health journey right now may mean taking that first step to ensure you get the help you need, however it is you feel most comfortable doing so, just so long as you do it! And I would be honoured to help take that first step with you!

A special thank you to Marilyn and her Executive Producer Rebekah for allowing me to share my story with your audience today and for showing me how truly brave I am. I am grateful for this experience and for your kindness and compassion.

My episode will likely be aired in a couple of months (I will keep you posted!). To listen to previously recorded episodes of Marilyn’s Podcast go to: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/breaking-brave-with-marilyn-barefoot/id1555760904 . “Each episode, find out how innovators and trailblazers from every walk of life broke through in their chosen or created fields. A podcast meant to inspire, invigorate, inform and uplift.”~Marilyn Barefoot

#breakingbrave #podcast #fosterbravery #startaconversation #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #youmatter #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mentalillness #endthestigmatogether #yourmentalhealthmatters #firststep #suicideprevention #blogger #author #mentalhealthadvocate #wheredidmommyssmilego 

Happy Graduation Hannah

Tonight we celebrated Hannah’s Graduation from Ryerson University.

Her continued dedication, hard work, determination and commitment to succeed over the past four years not only earned Hannah a Degree in Communications but it also earned her a very well deserved placement on the Dean’s List for one last time this semester. 

Dad and I couldn’t be more proud of all that you have accomplished and we can’t wait to see what awaits you this coming Fall (but first stop, CAMP!!!!) as you embark on the next chapter of your journey at Humber College in Event Management.

We know that whatever path you choose in life you are certain to shine.

~Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead ~ Nora Ephron

Don’t ever stop being you🥰❤

#happygraduation #mazeltov #hannahbanana #proudparents #greatjob #classof2021 #neverstopbeingyou #ryersonuniversity #humbercollege #eventmanagement #communications #youdidit #ouryouthmatter #weloveyoutothemoonandback #youareenough

National Health and Fitness Day

Today’s #summerofrich adventure was a hot one!

It included photo-ops of the enchanted Victorian-like/Cat In The Hat-style “Dollhouse cottages” we saw as we walked along the historic neighbourhing streets surrounding Grimsby Beach

a picnic lunch

skipping rocks

ice cream and root beer floats

and the best photo-op of all; our fur babies and good friends.

Today is National Health and Fitness Day.

Today was a perfect reminder of how much we all need to participate in activities these days (now more than ever) that contribute to both our physical health and mental our well-being.

What did you do to exercise your body and mind today?

#familymatters #hotinthecity #nature #beach #beauty #ontarioisourstodiscover #mentalwellness #mentalhealth #covidfatigue #selfcare #friends #friendship #friendswhoarefamily #exerciseyourmindandbody #youareenough #yourmentalhealthmatters #nationalhealthandfitnessday

#summerofrich in the neighborhood

After spending over 8 hours in a car yesterday delivering signs, the last thing Rich really wanted to do today was drive somewhere too far away in order to go for a hike so instead we stayed close to home and took a walk through our own neighborhood.

It’s familiar. Maybe even a bit too familiar (especially after this past year) because most of the time when we go for a walk in the neighborhood we aren’t paying too close attention to the beautiful things surrounding us like we do when we are on a hike, and too be honest you really can end up missing lots.

I think we take many of those beautiful things, the ones right in our own backyard, for granted.

We both needed to refuel today.

And right away our normally very familiar walk felt very unfamiliar today because we actually took our time to notice the beautiful things surrounding us.

And we took the time to point out and share those beautiful things we noticed with each other.

The clear blue sky above us.

The pretty lilacs on the trees and grass too.

The love birds perched on a fence singing to one another.

The fearless dogs chasing a ball in a big open field.

The sound of laughter coming from the children playing in the park.

Friends enjoying a picnic lunch together, catching up with one another and smiling from ear to ear.

I didn’t capture any of these moments with my camera today but instead I just breathed them all in.

It was a beautiful #summerofrich day in the neighborhood!

Next time you go for a walk in your neighborhood try and notice at least five beautiful things surrounding you.

#walking #youareenough #therapeutic #itsoktonotbeok #yourmentalhealthmatters #mindfulness #justbreathe #nature #beinginthemoment #beauty #birdssinging #childrenlaughing #springtime #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #selfcare

After The “But”

As my “Class of 2021” graduation initiative comes to a close this week I will have sold AND delivered over a thousand lawn signs since it began last spring and raised over $15,000 for youth mental health. 

During this time I’ve been blessed to meet so many amazing and kind people, some of whom I now call my friend. 

I’ve also made some incredible connections along the way. 

I’ve started relevant, much needed and VERY important conversations. 

And I’ve listened as many others have shared with me some of the most heart-wrenching struggles they’ve faced or are currently going through with their own mental health or that of a loved one. 

Overall this has been one of the most purposeful, meaningful and rewarding experiences of my life, especially knowing that I have helped bring smiles to so many faces (both young and old alike) and maybe even brightened up their day. And it also feels really good knowing that in some small way I am helping to make a positive change for our young people today.

BUT, (and there is always a “but” with me), there have also been many, many days throughout this process where the overwhelm of what I do behind the scenes and the hours upon hours I’ve spent making sure that my campaign is the greatest possible success takes a gigantic toll on my mental health. 

And this past week while already feeling vulnerable and defeated has been no exception. 

As many of you already know, I was placing my final order to go to print earlier this week. This included a sign for someone who had literally contacted me last weekend only hours prior to my twelve midnight cutoff. 

We ended up having a friendly chat back and forth for a good hour during which time she chose which sign she wanted to purchase for her son who is about to graduate grade 8 from the same elementary school that I attended, she gave me her address for delivery and before we signed off for the night (which was now midnight) she asked me if it was okay if she sent me her payment in the morning. I said sure, not a problem.

So, in good faith I put her order through with the rest of them first thing the next morning which she knew I would be doing. After our friendly chat the night before I saw no reason not to trust that she would pay me as she had promised (which I’ve done before for others).

Several days lapsed and my shipment would soon be arriving for delivery (which it did this afternoon) and I still had not received her payment so I followed up with a friendly reminder (people forget or get busy etc., I get it) and as though it was no big deal she told me that she had decided that she didn’t want the sign anymore and could I cancel her order. Like WTF! 

She knew I was placing her order first thing the next morning.

Did she just think the sign and me would miraculously disappear?

Did she not think it would’ve been a nice and simple courtesy to let me know she had changed her mind at some point before I would have possibly delivered it to her?

Does she not have a conscience?

Did she not care that the money from the purchase of the sign was being donated to charity?

In case you’re wondering, I confronted her and asked her those exact questions and guess what; she didn’t care! I’m sure you’re not surprised “but” I trust too easily I guess.

It really set me back even though this had been my first time experiencing this during my entire campaign so I guess that’s pretty good odds eh?

I was really trying through all of my upset and anger to remind myself of all the positive experiences I’ve encountered talking to well over a thousand people over the course of my campaign “but” instead there I went right down the rabbit hole again.

I wish that the word “but” didn’t even exist in my vocabulary and that I could finish both my thoughts AND sentences before the “but”; “but” it always feels like an impossible task. 

By connecting a sentence or statement with the word “but” for me is kinda like deflating a balloon with a sharp object. 

Those words before the BUT, you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones where I praise myself, see my strengths and acknowledge all the good I try and do for others just end up feeling completely meaningless. 

“But” I will argue that I have a really good excuse for it, I swear I do!

Or at least that’s what my depression and anxiety seem to want me to think.

#afterthebut #depression #anxiety #suicideawareness #gradsigns #mentalhealth #classof2021 #graduationday #stayathomeorder #lockdown #forouryouth #ouryouthmatter #campaign #initiative #lawnsigns #kindnessmatters #itsoktonotbeok #bekindtoyourself #selfcare #letitgo #selfdoubt #justbreathe #startaconversation #endthestigmatogether 

SUICIDE CAN BE A SILENT KILLER

*It may be triggering to some*

I’ve been really struggling a lot this past week and it’s been a struggle to write this. 

I get triggered easily. 

When you suffer with chronic depression and daily thoughts of suicide as I do, triggers are very common and sometimes they may even occur through positive life events as well.

I don’t always know what triggers my downward spirals or even feel them coming on sometimes but this past week I am very much aware.

A few days ago I was told of not one, but TWO tragic stories of suicide, within a span of one hour. 

They were both someone’s father, brother, son, friend and husband. 

Hearing these stories and then quickly realizing that I knew one of the individuals who had taken his own life from when I was a teenager has all been too much for me to process.

It’s hit my surrounding community very hard and it’s hit very close to home. 

The more I learned about the pain and suffering of these two men and as more and more tributes began to fill my Social Media pages of the man I once knew, talking about what a truly amazing human being he was, the more numb I became. 

I saw myself in him. I felt every ounce of his pain and suffering. I’ve attempted suicide before. I could’ve been him. I could be him. Many of us could.

There are warning signs of an individual who may be considering suicide,  (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/recognizing-suicidal-behavior) but we want so much to believe that “it” won’t actually come to that place. But it does and sometimes there may not even have been any warning signs at all, leaving loved ones completely blindsided on top of their pain. 

Suicide can be a silent killer. What happens when there aren’t any warning signs? What happens when someone is too afraid to speak their truth because of the stigma attached to it? 

Suicide is still very much a social taboo. It’s also very hard to predict at times and very often it can be spontaneous or impulsive.

Sometimes it’s just easier for an individual to not talk about it. I have thoughts of suicide almost daily. I talk about them, but not always. The thoughts will often enter my mind when no one else is around, when I’m feeling most vulnerable and I think to myself, maybe now would be the perfect time?

We may think someone is okay.

Everything looks great to the outside world (and to the social media world of course). They may want you to think that because what you often see or what you want so badly to see is their happiness and excitement from a promotion they just got at work, or the upcoming vacation they booked that they had been dreaming about forever, or a wedding proposal from the love of their life or the all nighter they just pulled studying for a big test the next day or maybe they just received an acceptance letter to the post-graduate program at a prestigious University they’d waited their whole life for.

Living with a mental illness and suicidal thoughts is real life to so many. We need to continue to break down the barriers that may prevent someone from seeking proper care and treatment. We must let others understand that mental illness is a real illness and that it’s not a failure of personal strength or character. We must not forget to check on our strong friends and we must create safe, nurturing environments for everyone in order to break the silence.

My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to the families and loved ones who have been affected by the tragic loss of both these men. They are in my thoughts and my heart ❤.  

If you or someone you know is in crisis please reach out to a mental health professional or confidant for help immediately.

#checkonyourlovedones #checkonyourstrongfriends #yourmentalhealthmatters #suicideisasilentkiller #suicide #mentalwellness #mentalhealth #mentalillness #depressionkills #anxietyisreal #mentalillnessisreal 

Monday Motivation: I Am More Than My Mental Illness (Mental Health Week May 3-9)

The truth is I don’t see it often and to be perfectly honest I mostly only see it when others point it out to me but I am so much more than my mental illness. 

I spend most of my waking hours convincing myself that I am incapable, that I am worthless and that I am a burden to everyone in my life. 

I am forever apologizing for my mental illness. 

I am forever feeling guilty because of my mental illness.

I am forever feeling like a failure because of my mental illness. 

I am forever left feeling broken and suicidal because of my mental illness. 

And I am forever feeling like a prisoner in my own mind because of my mental illness.

Being labelled with a disorder of any kind doesn’t make you any less than the beautiful, amazing person that you already are. 

Labeling someone for their shortcomings can be damaging and we should never let it define us. 

Even though my mind literally has a mind of it’s own, my heart will tell you that I am so much more than my mental illness. It even says so right here on this list.

I AM:

Valuable 

Worthy of respect 

Respected

Kind

Generous

Worthy of love

Deeply loved

Thoughtful

Resourceful 

Smart

Funny

Honest

Ambitious 

Creative

Dedicated 

Skilled at all sorts of things 

Resilient 

Driven by integrity and values

A good mother

A good wife

A good friend

Enough 

I am more than my shortcomings.

I am more than my labels.

I am more than my mental illness. 

And you are too.

What do you see in yourself from this list? Feel free to add more.

I AM…

#mentalhealthweek #mondaymotivation #iam #youmatter #itsoktonotbeok #youareenough #bekindtoyourself #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #labels #shortcomings #morethan

Celebrate with Cupcakes

Tonight we celebrated the successful completion of Rachel’s first year of University in Interior Design and Hannah’s many accomplishments that earned her an Undergraduate Degree in Communications this week. 

This year has not been an easy one. It was met with some tears (well maybe a bit more than some), some moments of anger and some definite moments of frustration but despite missing out on the many firsts and the many more lasts that come along with having the full university experience, you learned to pivot, you learned to adjust and you learned to adapt to the many, many challenges that were presented to you along the way with such resilience and strength.

YOU did it!!! And Dad and I couldn’t be more proud of the both of you. We love you to the moon and back!

#sisters #firstyeardown #undergraddegree #thegraduate #classof2021 #interiordesign #communications #proudparents  #youareenough #bekindtoyourself #cupcakes #celebrate #family #loveyoutothemoonandback #foreverandaday #vegandanishbakery

Our Youth Matter

I feel so grateful by the overwhelming response I’ve received in the past few days since launching my Class of 2021 grad sign campaign. Wow! The heartfelt messages of support and sincere words of appreciation for taking on this project again this year to honour our most deserving graduates yet is just beyond words.  

One of the organizations I wish to support in this year’s campaign through the generosity of your donations is “Phillips House”; home to North York General Hospital’s child and adolescent outpatient programs.

The redeveloped (and first of its kind in Canada) 15,000 sq. ft. Georgian-style mansion, located near the hospital has been transformed into a serene, healing space that promotes health and wellbeing. Their outpatient services and day programs focus on the treatments of mood disorders, ADHD, substance abuse, eating disorders and other mental health conditions.  

I first learned of Philips House by a mom I was introduced to online several years earlier who has since become one of it’s main contributors through her group called “The Maddie Project”. 

“The Maddie Project” is a volunteer based organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the mental health needs of children. They focus on ending the stigma surrounding adolescent depression and help to make mental health services more accessible and affordable to adolescents in need. 

“The Maddie Project” is named in loving memory of Maddie German Coulter, the daughter of the mom I spoke of above who lost her battle with depression in 2015 at the age of 14. Through the amazing commitment and support of the community they have raised over 3 million dollars to date which helped build “Maddie’s Healing Garden”, a 1.2 acre green space that now surrounds “Phillips House” and provides patients with a calming, natural setting for therapy, meditation and physical activity. 

Maddie’s story really touched my heart deeply. At the time of her death my 3 kids were all very close in age to her and it really hit home. I could feel the pain and sadness of her family, of her friends and of her community at large but as someone who struggles every day with chronic depression and understands just how unforgiving it can be, I felt her pain most. She was a young, beautiful, energetic, bright shining light with so much life ahead of her but I am grateful to “The Maddie Project” for continuing to shine her bright light on our community through healing, education, advocacy and giving hope to all the other “Maddies” out there.

I will be placing my order in a few short days so if you would still like to purchase a graduation lawn sign or make a donation to help make a difference in the life of a child or adolescent who may be feeling vulnerable and alone right now or in need of some extra support during these most difficult days still ahead please contact me today at: youthareenough@gmail.com.

Thank you again for all your kind words, continued support and encouragement throughout my campaign and throughout my journey itself. 

*Don’t forget to keep spreading the word!*

Please continue to follow my journey at: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com.  You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my Facebook page youareenough123. 

#phillipshouse #themaddieproject #northyorkgeneralhospital #graduationday #grads #classof2021 #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #suicideprevention  #suicideawareness #checkonyourlovedones #lawnsigns #2021grads #ouryouthmatter #strongertogether #payitforward 

It’s Still Raining On Prom Night

I wrote this blog a year ago today (https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2020/04/18/its-raining-on-prom-night-2020) after learning that Rachel’s High School Prom and Graduation ceremony had been officially cancelled. As I read it again this morning I started to cry.

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.

#anotheryear #firstyear #graduation #classof2020 #classof2021 #learningcurves #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #yourmentalhealthmatters #university #interiordesign #communications #wereallinthistogether #bekindtoyourself