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 

Friendship First

It was 30 years ago today that Rich and I went out on our first “official” date. 

We had already been working together (he was my boss) for the better part of a year but our timing and circumstances just hadn’t quite aligned before then. 

But maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, maybe it was how it was meant to be and maybe it’s how it should be because during the time leading up to our first “official” date we were building a genuine friendship. 

We were getting to know each other, trusting and confiding in one another and learning things about each other that we may not have otherwise been given the opportunity to do.

By developing a true friendship and bond first before jumping right into a relationship took away all of our exceptions. 

I can barely recall most days anymore what I did 5 minutes ago yet I can still remember every last moment of our first “official” date.

And maybe it’s because we could truly be ourselves around each other and not have to pretend to be someone we weren’t. 

Or maybe it’s that friendship we developed first, the one with no strings attached that has helped us to grow together as a couple and has also enabled us to support one another through the most difficult and challenging times that were still yet to come.

I’d love to hear some stories from your best and worst first dates. 

#firstdates #dinnerandamovie #twentysixyearsmarriedthisfriday #thirtyyearsago #wheredidthetimego #friendship #whattrulymatters #unbreakablebond #youareenough #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mondaymotivation #nostalgia

And That’s A Wrap 😥

Last night I watched the series finale of “Mom”. 

I, like millions of its viewers was not ready for it to end. 

I’ve been watching “Mom” every Thursday night (and in reruns) since its first episode aired 8 years ago. 

The show centered around a group of ladies from all walks of life who develop the most unlikeliest yet deepest of friendships and the most unbreakable bonds brought together by one common goal; sobriety. 

The writers of “Mom” spent time building this strong and very relatable group of characters and brought us along on their unique journeys, cheering on their many triumphs and saddened by their many setbacks with new storylines each week depicting the real-life struggles of people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction; something so many of their fans could relate to and a very relevant and critical mental health discussion today. 

This has rarely been seen before in a half hour sitcom but “Mom” managed to do so by sensitively tackling very difficult topics and using humour to keep the audience coming back for more. 

It gave us an inside look at what recovery looks like.

It showed us that recovery is never a straight line.

It showed us that recovery is a lifetime journey.

It taught us to persevere.

It taught us that we all make mistakes and that it’s okay to fail sometimes.

It taught us to keep getting back up again after we fall down.

And it taught us that there is always a “solution”.

I often found myself relating to so many of the storylines and felt such a strong connection to my own mental health journey. 

These ladies taught me the importance of sharing my story and to keep on sharing it again and again.

They taught me about forgiveness. 

They taught me about hope. 

They taught me that life is filled with endless possibilities. 

They taught me that recovery is possible. 

And they taught me that with the right people in your corner you will never be alone.  

I’m sad it’s over and I had a good cry during the closing scene. I’m really gonna miss seeing these ladies each week at their AA meetings and coffee dates afterwards where they shared more than just a piece of pie. It’s where they celebrated “love, friendship and laughter” and it’s where I always felt like I had a seat at the booth right there alongside them.

#momfinale #alcoholicsanonymous #addiction #friendship #triumphs #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #youareenough #youarenotalone #endthestigmatogether #itsoktonotbeok #theresalwaysasolution

What Does Suicide Prevention Look Like?

**May be triggering to some**

I’m in a pretty crappy headspace right now. 

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. 

#suicideprevention #suicideawareness #mentalhealthawarenessmonth #yourmentalhealthmatters #youmatter #youareenough #youarenotalone #endthestigmatogether #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #itsoktoaskforhelp 

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

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 

2021 Graduate Campaign

As many of you know, last spring I created a series of lawn signs to help honour our 2020 graduates after receiving the devastating news that my daughter’s high school prom and graduation ceremony were both cancelled. 

The initiative quickly grew in abundance and at the end of 6 short weeks I had hand delivered somewhere in the ballpark of 700 signs to the front lawns (and porches) of so many deserving Graduates across the GTHA from Pre-K to Post-Graduate education. 

With the help of so many generous people in our amazing communities together we raised over $10,000 for Kids Help Phone which is why I have decided to launch my campaign again this spring. 

Our class of 2021 (including my other daughter who is just days away from earning her undergraduate degree in Communications) are all feeling the same disappointment, anger, loneliness, overwhelm and sadness as so many deserving graduates did just one year ago. 

I don’t need to tell you just how difficult this past year has been on our youth especially, many of whom are now struggling with debilitating anxiety and depression issues along with other mental health concerns due to the devastation and impact of the Pandemic. 

Our youth need to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that they are not alone which is why I have also decided this year to spread the wealth around by donating the proceeds to several youth mental health initiatives instead of just the one I did last year as the need to support our youth mental health programs is so much greater than ever before. 

I look forward to brightening up our neighborhoods soon.

#graduationday #grads #classof2021 #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #lawnsigns #2021grads #youareenough #ouryouthmatter #payitforward #strongertogether

Welcome Kindness

We all have a story to tell. 

We all have a different path to follow. 

But no matter our story or path we take, now more than ever we all need kindness.

A simple act of kindness can change someone’s day.

It can change someone’s whole life.

It can change everything.

We all need kindness in our hearts.

We all need compassion. 

We all need to stop assuming, to stop judging.

Kindness is contagious. 

Kindness is inclusivity.

Kindness is humanity.

Kindness is confidence.

Kindness is beautiful.

Spreading kindness matters.

Spread the word. 

Welcome kindness.

P.S. I want this welcome mat!

#spreadkindness #kindnessmatters #kindessiscontagious #asimpleactcanchangeeverything #youareenough #youarenotalone #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #welcomemat

Monday Motivation: Extra Extra,Read All About It

With another “Stay at Home” order in effect for Ontario now is the perfect time to delve into a good book. 

Reading not only entertains us but studies have shown that it can also improve our overall mental health too. 

Reading a good book is a great way for our minds to escape from our day to day stress or racing thoughts. 

It can help us unwind and relax. 

It keeps our minds sharp, improves our memory and cognitive skills and can help make our brains stronger. 

For me personally, I love to read Self-help and Personal Development books; many of which are autobiographical accounts of someone’s victorious mental health journey.

They can be very inspiring, therapeutic and healing. 

They can provide insight into our own limitations and help us grow stronger or become better humans.

Reading in general can feel very empowering, be very engaging and emotionally charging.

It can also enhance our creativity, productivity, outlook, competence and overall wellbeing.

So whether you prefer to curl up on the couch with a good self-help book, fiction, romance or something autobiographical, as you can see, reading has so many healthy benefits to it (just incase you were on the fence about taking up the hobby yourself!). 

So really, what do you have to lose?

What book are you reading now? 

What type of books do you prefer to read? 

#mondaymotivation #reading #books #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #selfcare #youareenough #selfhelp #fiction #biographies #yourmentalhealthmatters #bekindtoyourself #depression #anxiety