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

Tips For Easing Back To School

Here we go again. 

Another school year is about to begin (well here in Ontario that is). 

Another school year in the midst of a Pandemic and now kids and parents are once again facing those same fears, stressors, uncertainties and anxieties they did at the start of the last school year (but maybe a bit wiser).

Parents are worried about their children’s health and if they will be safe in class or how long it will be until they receive that email from their school board letting them know that schools are shutting down ONCE AGAIN.

And many, MANY kids are feeling those same worries as well which is making the transition back into the classroom this year even more trying on their mental health and wellness.

Here are some tips that I wanted to share with you on how to try and make this year’s transition a little bit easier.

Get back into a routine, especially with your older kids. 

But give them time to adjust.

Change can be very scary.

Help them lay out their clothing, knapsacks ready and lunches made all the night before if possible. The less chaos there is in the morning the better. 

Check in with your child(ren) regularly. Daily, if not more. Ask them questions. Listen intently.

Let them know that what they are feeling is okay and that you are there for them. 

It’s been a very LONG time since many children have even seen the inside of a classroom or a school yard.

Let them know that it’s okay to feel scared and nervous.

Reassure them that they are not alone. 

The unknown of what’s to come can sometimes be the hardest.

None of us truly know for certain what is going to happen this coming school year.

Promise them though that you will get through this together. 

Focus on what is in their control right now.

Watch out for any sudden changes in their behaviour.

And lastly, if your child is dealing with any type of mental health issues, communicate this to their teachers or caregivers right away.

Working together from the start will help to ensure that your child’s needs are met and that their feelings are always validated and hopefully it will ease whatever bumps in the road that may lie ahead feel a bit less scary for everyone. 

Wishing all the teachers, caregivers, administrators, parents and students a safe and successful year ahead.

#backtoschool #mentalwellness #transition #change #herewegoagain #fuckyoucovid #mentalhealth #suicideawareness #communicationiskey #youarenotalone #youareenough #ouryouthmatter #childrensmentalhealth

I Never Leave Home Without My Mask, Metaphorically Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackpot

Ten years ago today I was heading home from an appointment which happened to be right across the street from a casino. 

A little voice inside of me convinced me to make a quick detour inside. 

I didn’t frequent casinos, I’d never even been to Vegas (but I have since though). 

I went inside and looked around. I found a two cent slot machine that looked enticing. 

I sat down and placed a twenty dollar bill in the machine.

Moments later the unthinkable happened and suddenly people were gathered around me, cheering and shouting in excitement. I was in shock. 

I’d just hit the $10,000 jackpot.

There had been no strategy or skill involved whatsoever. It was just pure luck. 

Over the last many years I’ve felt a darkness looming over me. I tell myself that it must be true; bad things happen to good people. 

Life throws us curve balls sometimes; it’s our difficulties that help us learn and grow and build resiliency but right now it’s so hard for me to see that.

Instead my brain tells me that I don’t deserve good things, that my life has no meaning or purpose. 

Even though my heart tries to remind me daily that I hit the jackpot long before I walked into that casino ten years ago today. 

#jackpot #badluck #Goodluck #mentalhealth #casinos #youareenough #vegas #familymatters

Monday Motivation: Crushing Your Dreams

Two years ago today, August 16th,  2019 was one of the happiest and most fulfilling days of my life when the first ever copies of my brand new, hot off the press children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” arrived on my front porch. 

I had just spent the previous year and a half working on it from start to finish which included writing, editing, working with my fabulous illustrator and finding the “perfect” and most patient company to help me self-publish it. 

For the next four plus months I worked non stop trying to get my book into as many hands as possible. I attended one event after another, reached out to  Mental Health Advocates on Social Media, got it on the shelves of some independent bookstores in Toronto, sold it at large retail chains, made several National Television and Radio appearances, was interviewed by local Newspapers, gave book talks at Preschooler/Mommy & Me programs and I had just begun filling up my calendar for the new year with book talks on Mental Health at Elementary Schools as well. 

And I had endless possibilities still up my sleeve.

I met so many incredible people along the way. I also had such incredible support from so many fantastic friends, family, acquaintances and strangers alike.

It felt like my dreams were coming true. I felt like I had purpose and I even felt like royalty somedays, especially when I attended my fabulous book launch party that Fall in my honour, hosted by a friend and her husband.  

And then, BOOM💥, 2020 hit and it hit hard. I got a concussion on day two of the new year which put me out of commission for close to a month and then the Pandemic hit us all in March and then in June of 2020 I found out, just by dumb luck that my Publisher had closed his business after 35 years, without any warning to his clients or a simple courtesy email or thank you.  Instead he disappeared without a trace and took with him, several thousands of dollars of Grant money which had been gifted to me by a prominent Mental Health Organization along with any additional inventory of mine they had held on to for safe keeping for my personal use and my Amazon account.  

To say I felt defeated is an understatement. One obstacle after another left me feeling purposeless again and very broken. It was the final blow. My dreams felt crushed.

I wanted to give up completely. I didn’t see any point in continuing.

How was I ever going to move forward from this especially knowing I now needed to somehow find a way to republish my book. We were in the midst of a global Pandemic and money was extremely tight.

But how could I give up on my dream that I’d worked so hard for and wanted more than anything? How could I let anyone dull my sparkle?

Surrendering to my current situation was difficult to accept. The “what ifs” controlled my every waking moment, making it even more difficult to forgive myself and somehow find the strength to move forward. 

I took some time to figure out if I could somehow save my dream even though it felt too crushed to repair. 

I leaned on my support system for encouragement and reassurement even more. I didn’t want to give up on my dream even if it felt crushed beyond repair and that my anxiety and depression had taken over my ability to pivot my way through this, especially during a global Pandemic. 

I began slowly trying to rebuild my dream by learning how to use technology I’d never even knew existed before in order to keep my book relevant. I knew that with each passing month of the Pandemic there were more and more people in need of my voice and my book.

I kept reminding myself this was not my fault. 

I am still actively looking to republish my book when I am ready and able to and this time I plan to take everything I have learned through this process into account when choosing a new publisher to work with. I am wiser now.

I am also so grateful to still have copies of my book in my possession which has allowed me to continue promoting it in the meantime. And of course with the help of technology and social media I’ve found so many new and innovative ways of doing so during a Pandemic through guest spots on Podcasts, Book Talks and Conferences on Zoom, pre-recorded story times, Google meet-ups with Non-Profit Organizations and Facebook/Instagram lives.

These obstacles I’ve endured since January 2020 have taught me many important lessons. My dream has never changed. My vision hasn’t either.

It may feel crushed beyond repair but like so many of us have had to do over the last 17 months, I am learning to pivot. Pivots in life do not equate to failure. Pivoting simply allows new doors to open and new dreams to come true.

#crushingmydreams #pivoting #childrensbook #author #dreamsdocometrue #selfpublishing #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #depression #anxiety #failure #mentalhealthadvocate #blogger #youareenough

“Kids don’t need a perfect Mom. They need a real one.”

I may not be a perfect Mom but I’m totally real.

Besides which, perfection is overrated.

Yet I still struggle with this alot. 

Burdened by the guilt that I’ve let them down.

Taken away a piece of their childhood. 

A part of their innocence. 

They see me at my worst. 

Vulnerable. Defeated. Broken.

My kids don’t have a perfect Mom, no matter how hard I try.

And I do try.

They just have me.

Their loudest cheerleader.

Their strongest advocate.

Their biggest ally.

Kids don’t need a perfect Mom though.

They just need a real one.

Yet knowing this, I’m still left burdened by the guilt that I’ve let them down.

Taken away a piece of their childhood. 

A part of their innocence. 

But making real memories.

Lasting memories.

Celebrated memories.

It’s the real moments.

The lasting moments.

The celebrated moments.

It’s those moments, by far, that are the most perfectly imperfect Mom moments of all.

#tbt #cherishthemoments #mywhy #mythreereasonswhy #makingmemories #family #familymatters #icecream #perfectlyimperfect #nobodysperfect #beingreal #inthemoment #mentalhealth #mentalillness #yourmentalhealthmatters 

Robin Williams Remembered Today and Forever

Today marks the 7 year anniversary of Robin Williams’ suicide. 

I often still find myself recalling the events that were taking place that very same evening for me. Over and over again in my mind I replay the image of me sitting alone in my car, completely distraught and contemplating my own suicide just moments before the tragic news of his death even broke.

I have since written many blogs about the impact his death had on me and on society as a whole. I have used the impact his suicide had on the world as an opportunity to educate others on the stigma surrounding suicide, the mask that many people often wear who suffer with a mental illness as well as the importance of our words and language when it pertains to suicide.

I wanted to reshare one of those blogs here with you today (see below). Feel free to search for other “Robin Williams” tributes right here in the search engine of my blog site as well.

https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/mrs-doubtfires-mask/

#RobinWilliams #suicideawareness #themask #wordsmatter #endthestigmatogether #anniversary #depression #mentalhealth #mentalillness #youarenotalone #youmatter #youareenough #itsokaynottobeokay #checkonyourstrongfriends #carpediem

Developing Resilience in our Youth

It’s #timscampday. 

By purchasing a hot/iced coffee or one of their camp day bracelets today, 100% of the proceeds will go towards helping to make a difference in the lives of our youth.

I loved camp. 

I have so many amazing memories of camp.

My kids have been lucky enough to have also made so many of their own incredible memories from their years at camp too. 

Camp builds leadership skills and confidence in kids. 

It gives them courage and it teaches them resilience.

Resilience is a skill that we develop as we grow and if this past year has proven anything to us at all it’s that kids are so incredibly capable of being resilient beings. 

Resilience is defined as “the ability to bounce back from stress, adversity, failure, challenges or even trauma.”

Our youth have all faced varying degrees of stress, adversity, failure, challenges and even trauma over the course of the Pandemic. 

As parents, teachers, caregivers or even camp counsellors, we all have a very important role in helping children develop the necessary skills to becoming resilient.

Acknowledging a child’s feelings, labeling their emotions, embracing their mistakes and failures, encouraging them to take “healthy risks” that may be outside of their comfort zone or teaching them valuable problem solving skills are just a few examples of how we can play a role in ensuring this skill is properly developed as they grow. 

It’s nearly impossible to avoid stress in our lives from time to time but by giving children the skills and confidence necessary to become more resilient is definitely one of the best ways for them to cope with it.

Feel free to check out my blog below which I wrote a few years ago. It speaks volumes to what camp meant to me growing up and now my own children as well. 

And don’t forget to drop by a Tim Hortons today (in Canada) to help “change a life one cup at a time”.

https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/our-last-visitors-day-all-good-things-must-come-to-an-end

#youthareenough #campday #timhortons #buyacoffee #resilience #courage #leadership #confidence #ouryouthmatter #campismentalwellness #changealife #onecupatatime

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 Most Incredibly Meaningful Birthday

First I just wanted to start off by giving a great big thank you to everyone (both near and far) who took the time yesterday to wish me a happy birthday. You helped make my day extra special and even more meaningful with all your beautiful birthday wishes and kind, encouraging words. 

I have been beyond overwhelmed with emotion over the last couple of weeks as I have mentioned ALOT lately and most of my overwhelm has honestly had more to do with other aspects of my life and much less to do with my actual birthday. 

But as the clock struck midnight on the eve of my birthday the focus completely shifted to my “birth day”. I tried not to overwhelm myself any further by putting any undue pressure on myself or create expectations that would overwhelm me further.

I cried ALOT yesterday, like ALOT ALOT. 

I was overwhelmed ALOT yesterday, like ALOT ALOT. 

I was on an emotional roller coaster ALOT yesterday, like ALOT ALOT but I don’t think I could have felt more blessed, loved or grateful than I did. 

I was pampered and treated like royalty yesterday. 

Lunch with my girls
I have the greatest friends
Another cherished gift from my kids
A meaningful gift from my incredible mother in law
It’s been too long
Wow! What a magnificent cake

I got to feel the warm embrace of other fully vaccinated loved ones living outside of my home for the first time in over 15 months and I never wanted to let go. 

First hugs in almost a year and a half

And I received the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts (including of course our weekend getaway last weekend) from friends and family that I will cherish forever.

A couple of months ago I shared a blog with you describing how I had very few pictures of myself or of my family and friends from infancy to my late teens due to circumstances beyond my control (see blog: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2021/04/15/empty-picture-frames/).

Little did I know that from that blog would emerge one of the most cherished and meaningful gifts I could have ever imagined. 

After reading that particular blog, my brother set out on a mission to hunt down pictures from our childhood. Along with the selfless aid of my sister in law, my two nephews, Rich and my three kids they spent hours upon hours exchanging emails and texts with one another, reaching out to dear friends and family who were a big part of our childhood and formatting the layout and design together (all behind my back) in order to create an album for me starting from where my life began on June 23rd 1971 in Montreal, Quebec to present day, 50 years later. 

Another wow moment
Thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤
Wolsley Ave, Montreal West, Quebec
So many emotions
My brother’s Bar Mitzvah
He’s always got my back
The book wouldn’t be complete without #summerofrich

Believe it or not, these are only a handful of pics I chose to show you from this magnificent book. I honestly have no words to describe what yesterday truly meant to me and how deeply touched I am by all the kindness and love that surrounds me (and not just on my birthday) and I am so thankful to everyone who continues to go out of their way to show me day in and day out that I am enough ❤

(And a special shout out to my friend Jenn for this fricken awesome Cameo video). https://v.cameo.com/A2kP4m5ujhb

David and Annie from 90 Day Fiance

#fifty #finallyfifty #birthdays #celebratethemoments #iamcherished #grateful #iamnotalone #youareenough #family #friendship #memories #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #childhoodmemories #tearsofjoy