To Those Who Are Left Behind

Today is the last day of September and today is also the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” which is a month long campaign used to raise awareness on this very stigmatized and still very taboo topic. 

Although it may only be a month long campaign it doesn’t mean that it ends today. The conversation needs to continue each and every day. 

We MUST continue to keep the conversation going. 

We MUST continue to give hope to everyone affected by Suicide. 

We MUST continue to educate others.

And we MUST ensure that ALL individuals, families and friends have the same accessibility to the necessary resources available to give us all a better understanding on how to prevent suicide and seek help.

I’m not okay.  

I’m still having very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide. It consumes me.

I’m reminded each and every day by friends, loved ones, acquaintances and even strangers what life would be like for those I’d leave behind. 

Trust me, I hear you. Your words echo in my head day and night. But sadly for many people suffering with a mental illness or suicidal ideations their pain can still become too much to bare.

One of those many reminders came to me recently by an old friend of mine who reached out to me to chat and I haven’t been able to get our conversation off my mind.

I was so honoured and grateful that she chose to share her overwhelming and very raw emotions with me as she tries to come to terms with the heart-wrenching grief and despair she’s been living with for months now after losing a loved one to suicide. 

I could feel her disbelief, her numbness, her shock, her anger, her confusion, her rejection and her guilt all wrapped together as she desperately tries to begin her journey toward healing and acceptance.

The aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide and finding ways to cope with the sadness, the feelings of helplessness and the overwhelming consumption of what ifs or what more could I have done can be very triggering and both mentally and physically exhausting.

Just know that you are not alone. 

Surround yourself with people who want to listen when you need to talk or who offer a shoulder to lean on when you just need to sit in silence. 

Remember there is no “proper” way to grieve any loss, especially ones which are so sudden and without closure. Let healing happen at your own pace and in your own time.

Seek out others who may be experiencing similar grief. Sharing your story with people who truly understand your pain can often help bring strength to your healing process. 

And lastly, find a mental health professional to guide you through your grief and help you adjust to life after suicide.

Yes, today may be the last day of September and the last day of “National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” but today can not be the end to the conversation surrounding the many complexities of suicide.

Lets all make a promise to band together with more compassion and support to those who wake up each and every day battling very intrusive and very real thoughts of suicide, show kindness and empathy to those who are left behind after a suicide occurs and help them in any way you can to honour the memory of their loved one who has lost their battle.

*visit the Mayo Clinic website for more information.

*Suicide Prevention Helpline* 1.833.456.4566

#youarenotalone #nationalsuicidepreventionawarenessmonth #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #asilentkiller #keeptheconversationgoing #yourmentalhealthmatters #tothosewhoareleftbehind #startaconversation #itsoktonotbeok #mentalillness #mentalhealth

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

The Three Stages of Covid Anxiety on the Road to Normalcy

A year ago today I wrote a blog just 24 hours after the WHO declared the Coronavirus a world wide Pandemic.

I remember those first few days that followed as though it was just yesterday. There may have still been so many unknowns at the time but one thing was for sure, the virus that had seemed so far from our reach was now here and action was abruptly taken. 

March Break was just getting underway here in Ontario and the sudden closure of the borders meant for starters that Rachel, who was scheduled to fly to Punta Cana in a couple of days for her once in a lifetime High School Graduation trip was no longer going to happen. 

Professional sports and Broadway productions were being shut down; students, teachers and parents were preparing for a “two week” extension of March Break and then one by one businesses, malls and restaurants were told that they too must close immediately. 

The sudden changes, the mixed messages and the fear of the unknown quickly began to take its toll on everyone, even those amongst us who had never experienced bouts of anxiety before were starting to feel anxious and scared. 

In my blog I shared a list of some simple yet effective ideas for how we could try and cope with this new type of anxiety (you know, the kind of anxiety that follows the declaration of a world wide Pandemic!). 

But now, one year in, those simple, effective ideas no longer feel plausible. Covid-19 and the fallout from it has created so many new barriers for many, devastation beyond repair for others and an increased amount of anxiety and other mental health concerns in almost everyone you speak to.

My anxiety had already been beyond crippling for me pre-Pandemic for the better part of six years by the onset of the Pandemic but Covid-19 has really magnified it in so many ways and I know that sadly I am not alone. 

But I also can’t believe that someone like myself who lives with chronic mental health issues on a daily basis, where carrying out the simplest of tasks and activities or attending any type of social gathering that could likely cause me to go into complete and utter panic and despair at any given moment (even those which involve close friends and family) finds myself actually craving many of these missed opportunities that so many of us once took for granted. 

For an entire year now I’ve been following the public health’s advice and guidelines by washing my hands regularly, wearing my mask, staying home as much as possible, social distancing and avoiding any direct contact with family and friends outside of those who live in my home, so like truly, who can really blame me? 

I can at the very least see a light now at the end of this very turbulent and dark tunnel with the vaccine rollout underway (even if it’s been a complete and epic fail here in Canada) but it still doesn’t change the fact that this past year has on a whole been the most difficult and trying year for many of us and after enduring months and months of Covid-fatigue has only added more fuel to the fire for someone like me who already had a very anxious mind beforehand. 

At first, once the initial shock wore off (although I still find myself often shaking my head in disbelief) we may have found some joy in staying home, spending quality time with our kids or taking a few weeks off from our hectic lives; I mean sometimes big changes in our lifestyles or behaviours can feel easy in the beginning, right? But this was never something any one of us ever wanted to get used to.

But we have all had to adjust and pivot in so many ways since then and so now, here we are, one year later still watching cautiously from the sidelines with some light at the end of the tunnel as life slowly (very slowly in Canada) begins to push toward some type of “normal” again except that now many of us are starting to face yet another very real anxiety; one that comes with a fear of what normalcy will actually look like, a fear of the future, post vaccination and a fear that we will never be able to get back to the way life was before the Pandemic because abnormal sure feels like the new normal to me.

Do you fear that life will never feel “normal” again?

#ayearinreview #covidfatigue #willlifeeverfeelnormalagain #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate #blogger #abnormalisthenewnormal #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #yourmentalhealthmatters 

Were We Just Too Naive?

I wanted to reshare a blog with you that I wrote exactly one year ago today when, for most of us, our biggest fear at the time surrounding the Coronavirus was whether or not we had enough toilet paper on hand “just in case” we were forced into a 2 week quarantine.

None of us could ever have imagined how much our lives were about to be turned upside down or forever changed and we definitely could never have predicted we would still be dealing with the devastation from the Coronavirus in its entirety a whole year later.

Were we just too naive?

https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/should-i-add-it-to-my-list

Down The Rabbit Hole

I’ve been in a pretty bad headspace over the last few days and my negative  thoughts and uncontrollable emotions seem to have me tumbling further and further down into a very dark rabbit hole, maybe for my own protection. Or maybe it’s something else. 
I’m not really sure how I fell so deep into this particular rabbit hole but I may have begun spiralling down it around the same time I awoke one morning earlier this week with severe and at times unbearable back and chest pain. 
I have found myself in tears too many times to count this week and I honestly have no clue why I’m even crying half the time anymore unless of course it’s from the unexplainable pain I’m in.
I’ve tried climbing out of the rabbit hole many times before but I think that when I burrow further down inside that I feel a sense of protection and safety from any further harm or pain. Being inside the hole feels almost like a fortress and keeps me warm. 
Maybe the rabbit hole gives me a false sense of security but its okay because I know that anytime I am able to dig or claw my way out that there is always a colony waiting for me at the top, holding out their hand or ready to reach in and pull me out by my ears.
#rabbitholes #safety #headspace #itsalrighttocry #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mindfulness #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #checkonyourlovedones #youareenough 

Stay Blessed, Stay Breezy

Today I had planned in advance to write a blog about the colonoscopy I had this afternoon which has been triggering my lifelong battle with an eating disorder all week but all that changed in an instant yesterday afternoon when I received a frantic and hysterical phone call from Jacob while he was at work, crying and gasping for breath, he uttered the words that no parent ever wants to hear and words that can never be undone. He shouted into the phone “Jesse just died”; his lifelong friend and our family’s friend had just suddenly passed away at the age of 22.

So today instead I want to pay tribute to our dear friend Jesse Benudiz who was taken from all of us way too soon. Jesse was the most loyal and generous friend to everyone who knew him. I can recall countless times he proved that to me and my family, including when he so generously hired Hannah for her very first lifeguarding job at the Fitness Club he managed, or when we smuggled Jesse into camp one Visitor’s Day after he had stopped working there and when approached by head staff as to what he was doing there he told them he came to visit his “cousin Rachel Fluxgold” and another special memory I can recall of Jesse was the time when he so selflessly spent many hours talking Jacob through some very personal life altering decisions of his own while he was struggling to find his path in life during his first semester of University. 

Jesse was also by far the most amazing and loving son and big brother to his twin brothers. I was lucky enough to witness this myself many times over with his mom KC, whom I am honored to call my friend and his incredible brothers Justin and Jamie. He was an inspiration and shining light to anyone who he met and he had the most empathetic and genuine heart of anyone I know

Last spring when the world was trying to cope with the onset of Covid-19, Jesse learned that he had a brain tumor and for the next six  months or so he began the fight of his life on an entirely different level. He spent countless weeks in hospital all alone due to Covid and underwent aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments followed by brain surgery; always smiling through his pain, but a few short months ago Jesse got the best news of all; he was now in remission. 

Throughout the past year, Jesse continued to inspire us all, managing to finish his Degree, raising 20k for Princess Margaret Hospital (a world renowned Cancer Institute right here in Toronto and the same place that had saved his life just months ago), but he didn’t stop there. 

Now that he had beat Cancer’s ass he wanted to continue making his mark on the world and started a Podcast called “The Blessed and Breezy” where he talked about his own personal journey and struggles and discussed many of the challenges among youth and mental health today. And there were so many other endeavors on the horizon for him as well.

My entire family is truly heartbroken today and there are no words to describe our pain. He has left a void in our hearts.  We had a very special bond and even through his own struggles he would reach out to me regularly to talk, he would comment on many of my blogs with encouraging words, he would send me information on different podcasts or YouTube videos that he thought would be of interest to me and just last week we spoke about collaborating together on one of his upcoming Podcasts. 

No parent should ever have to go through this kind of loss, EVER and my heart breaks for KC and Max and the rest of Jesse’s family and his many, many, many friends. He was and will always be remembered as the shining light he has left behind for everyone who ever had the honour to know him.

RIP Jesse. You will be missed greatly.😥

#stayblessed #staybreezy #ripjesse #weloveyoutothemoonandback #fuckcancer #youareenough #youarenotalone 

Reaching Out For Help

**Update: here is the link to my interview** https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2021/01/29/telephone-counselling-set-up-due-to-pandemic-mental-health-issues

*Warning: May Be Triggering To Some*

I’m struggling more than usual right now and it almost feels like it’s beyond repair. 

My tears have all but dried up at this point and I feel as though I have nothing left to give of myself. My safe place no longer feels safe and I find myself looking for desperate ways to escape from these painful thoughts and feelings. 

I wish there was such a thing as a magic pill that I could swallow which would stop these desperate thoughts and feelings from taking control of me instead of wanting to end my life forever.  

I haven’t been able to shake these desperate thoughts and feelings for the better part of a week now. I’ve tried escaping them by going for walks at unreasonable hours, writing and most importantly trying to lean on others for support, including my Therapist, but I feel like such a burden right now which has made it that much more difficult to do.  

But I also know that reaching out for help is so important, especially as I desperately try to hold on in order to survive right now. This feeling is also why when I was approached to do an interview today with City TV News I knew it was maybe a sign. 

The interview was about a new telephone Helpline being set up in York Region to provide counselling for those suffering, specifically through Covid related issues due to restrictions, isolation etc. I knew it was something I needed to do for both myself and the many others who are feeling desperate and scared right now. I knew I needed to continue to be that voice and let others like me find hope and strength in knowing that reaching out for support is more than okay, in fact it’s beyond okay. 

I had put the link to this new service (which is free) on a blog the other day titled “Going To Therapy is Cool” @https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/going-to-therapy-is-cool and feel free to check out my Interview on City TV at 5 or 6pm tonight. 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”~Maya Angelou 

Living Inside My Suicidal Mind

***WARNING: Content may be triggering***

I know that Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

But what if your problems keep adding up and what if they no longer feel temporary?

But what if you can no longer shake off those unrelenting thoughts?

But what if you believe that suicide is your only option in order to feel any kind of relief or be at peace?

But what if you feel like your mere existence is hurting those around you, especially the ones who love you the most? 

But what if the pain in your heart is too intense and overwhelming to stand for one second more?

But what if you’ve made a plan and just want to figure out a way to execute it?

But what if you can’t close your eyes at night because you’re too afraid of what you might see?

But what if you’re anxiety is paralyzing you with fear and keeping you from living? From breathing? From loving? Or from finding hope?

But what if your depressed mind keeps telling you that you are helpless? Worthless? And have no purpose?

But what if all this sadness and despair are so completely unbearable and feels as if it will last forever?

If you or someone you know is in crisis please reach out to a trusting friend, therapist, counsellor, loved one or call Canada Suicide Prevention Hotline @ 1.833.456.4566/ Kids Help Phone @ 1.800.668.6868 Help is available 24/7/365

#itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough #checkonyourlovedones #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #mentalhealthcheckin #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mentalillness #dontsufferinsilence #yourmentalhealthmatters #youmatter #depressionkills #anxietyisreal #BellLetsTalk

A Thanksgiving Parody

@theholdernessfamily have been a great source of laughter and comfort for me over the last many months.  

Their videos are always so creative, entertaining, nostalgic and often carry with it a strong and meaningful message.

The Holderness family is so relatable to so many of us who are also just desperately trying to survive and navigate their way through day to day life during a Global Pandemic in the best and safest way possible. 

I know we are all missing our loved ones and have had to sacrifice so much this year (and I don’t believe that closing small businesses and retail stores as they have done so in parts of Ontario this week is necessarily the answer but then again do we really know what the right answer is anymore?).

This latest parody video holds a super powerful message and not just for our American friends and family who are busy preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, but for everyone around the Globe who so urgently wants to be with their friends and other family members.

The good news however is that there is an end in sight, so for now lets all do our part to keep each other safe by continuing to socially distance and wear a mask.  

Follow The Holderness Family on Facebook and Instagram; you won’t be disappointed and Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate. 

ENJOY

#staysafe #aerosmith #parody #laughter #laughuntilyoucry #covidfatigue #2020sucks #theholdernessfamily #wereallinthistogether #wearamask #happythanksgiving #youareenough

Words of Encouragement

Waking up to this beautiful note this morning on Facebook messenger is a very illuminating reminder to me as to why I continue to write about and share my story with you.

Every time I receive personal messages like this one from friends (new or old), acquaintances and even strangers alike it gives me the strength and courage to keep doing what I do in order to help end the stigma and it further validates for me just how important it is to be completely honest with yourself about your own struggles and to be as open as possible with others as well.

I’ve said it many, many, many times before but if sharing my story as openly and honestly as I can will help make a difference in someone else’s life, will impact someone else’s journey in a positive light or will start a difficult conversation with a loved one then I will continue to do so.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart Laurie for taking the time to reach out to me today, it truly meant so much.

I can still so clearly remember the day you trusted in me and shared with such raw emotions the story of your brother’s suicide and even though it was only about 13 years ago it wasn’t a conversation I had ever had before with anyone.

Society and stigma have come a long way since you lost your beautiful brother 18 years ago but there is still so much work to be done and I truly appreciate your kindness and support and wanted to share your words in hopes that someone else reading this today will find their inner strength to keep the conversation going.

#youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #endthestigmatogether #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #speakyourtruth #advocate #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #suicideprevention