“Noone is judging you harder than you already judge yourself.” ~ unknown
This is me in a nutshell.
It’s led me to feel defeated, hopeless, worthless and emotionally scarred for more than seven years now.
I’m my own worst enemy.
We all make mistakes.
We all experience failure.
We all have shortcomings.
All we can do is try our best to be our best.
We are only human.
We are all imperfectly perfect.
We should treat ourselves the way we would treat a best friend.
However, first I need to learn how to forgive myself, how to trust in myself more, how to see my full potential, how to be kinder and more compassionate with myself, how to be the loudest cheerleader in the room, how to be my biggest fan, how to embrace my flaws, how to stop judging myself and how to love myself unconditionally.
After all that’s what best friends do for each other.
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
Earlier this week, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka announced her decision to withdraw from the French Open.
In doing so she has opened up some very important and very necessary conversations that need to be had.
Athletes, whether in College or on a professional playing field are put on a pedestal, made to perform to perfection and always expected to be at the top of their game.
That kind of pressure can certainly take its toll on anybody’s mental health and well-being, even that of a professional athlete. They may be our heroes but they are also human.
I give Naomi (who at 23 years old is wise beyond her years) a standing ovation for her courage to step away from the podium and look after her mental health. A decision I’m sure that was not made easily.
Why is it that when an athlete gets hurt on the ice, or on the field or on the court they are given all the time they need to heal but when their injury is invisible to the world they are criticized and made to feel as though they are weak?
Naomi is here to show the world that our mental health matters too.
Her courage to take a stand and step away from the podium for now in order to take care of her mental health and knowing that it could potentially destroy her career in doing so, I have no doubt in my mind that she is going to come through this stronger and better than ever.
She is showing the world that it’s okay to not be okay and that by choosing herself over her career, asking for help when needed and creating healthy boundaries in order to begin the healing process that she is a human being first; a perfectly imperfect one just like the rest of us.
*I’d like to give a special shout out to Nike and Mastercard, along with several other corporate giants who have sponsorship deals with Naomi for not hesitating to show their loyalty and support to her. Their statements to the press praising Naomi for her courage in sharing her struggles with depression and social anxiety boldly acknowledges that our mental health does matter. Thank you for standing with Naomi. I couldn’t agree more.
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.
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 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you again for all your kind words, continued support and encouragement throughout my campaign and throughout my journey itself.
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.