After spending over 8 hours in a car yesterday delivering signs, the last thing Rich really wanted to do today was drive somewhere too far away in order to go for a hike so instead we stayed close to home and took a walk through our own neighborhood.
It’s familiar. Maybe even a bit too familiar (especially after this past year) because most of the time when we go for a walk in the neighborhood we aren’t paying too close attention to the beautiful things surrounding us like we do when we are on a hike, and too be honest you really can end up missing lots.
I think we take many of those beautiful things, the ones right in our own backyard, for granted.
We both needed to refuel today.
And right away our normally very familiar walk felt very unfamiliar today because we actually took our time to notice the beautiful things surrounding us.
And we took the time to point out and share those beautiful things we noticed with each other.
The clear blue sky above us.
The pretty lilacs on the trees and grass too.
The love birds perched on a fence singing to one another.
The fearless dogs chasing a ball in a big open field.
The sound of laughter coming from the children playing in the park.
Friends enjoying a picnic lunch together, catching up with one another and smiling from ear to ear.
I didn’t capture any of these moments with my camera today but instead I just breathed them all in.
It was a beautiful #summerofrich day in the neighborhood!
Next time you go for a walk in your neighborhood try and notice at least five beautiful things surrounding you.
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.
I’m struggling to stay motivated these days but if I’m to be completely honest here (which is something I always try to do in my writing), it’s been an ongoing struggle of mine for the better part of seven years now.
Living with depression for as long as I have, I’ve become really well versed in what I am supposed to do to feel more motivated and even though I may try and practice many of the strategies and tools I’ve been given in order to do so, I more often than not find myself unable to focus or concentrate or stay on track for very long because, well in all honesty again, depression is very strong-willed and always seems to find a way to kill my motivation, distract me from my day to day tasks and completely suck away all of my mental and physical energy.
I just finished reading a book titled “So-Called Normal” by Mark Henick. I have been following Mark’s story for quite some time now and was very much looking forward to the release of his new memoir.
The book captivated me from start to finish, I hung onto his every word, especially as I learned more and more about his life as a young boy and awkward teenager where he grew more and more depressed.
I was first drawn in by his story several years ago when I happened upon a Ted Talk he did where he discussed the importance of talking about suicide and stigma after he had several attempts at suicide during his formative years.
His Ted Talk is now among one of the most watched Ted Talks around the world along with the story of his suicide attempt at the age of 15 that went viral after he began searching for the “faceless man in the light brown jacket” (available on YouTube) many years later who had so bravely and selflessly saved him from jumping off a bridge in his small town in Nova Scotia where he lived (he now resides in Toronto with his wife and three young children). It had not been his first suicide attempt but it thankfully did become his last.
Some may argue that reading a book about suicidal ideations and suicide attempts could be triggering, maybe even give someone like myself some new and innovative ideas on how to kill myself. But it’s not at all. In fact it’s just the opposite.
For starters, noone needs to put these ideas into my head; trust me when I tell you that they get in there all by my own doing and noone has ever put these ideas in my head; ever.
After Mark’s final suicide attempt he set out on a mission to prove to his High School’s administration team that by sharing his story with his peers was not going to encourage someone to attempt suicide if they weren’t already thinking about it in their own mind but could instead bring other’s hope. By not talking about it can and will just make others with those same thoughts in their head feel even more alone.
Since that fateful day back in 2003, at the age of 15 Mark has not stopped talking. He has kept sharing his story over and over again to platforms on both a National and International scale and has since turned it into both his passion and life’s purpose.
It’s probably what I have admired most about him for so long now and even more so since reading his story in full. He is so inspiring and has such strength and resilience which is why I felt I needed to share his story with you all.
With every page I turned or new chapter I read I began to feel more and more motivated to continue sharing my own journey; because if truth be told, my very strong-willed depression has been telling me alot lately that I should shut up and just stop talking.
There was one paragraph in particular that really stood out for me and really made me truly understand how important it is for me to keep motivated and to keep talking. It came about 3/4’s of the way into the book when Mark himself began questioning whether or not he too should continue sharing his story, the same story he’d been telling audiences all over the world for many years by now. It was on that day when someone said to him: “It might be your hundredth time saying it, but it’s probably someone else’s first time hearing it.” that he knew he couldn’t stop talking. Yup those words really resonated with me, like a lot.
Maybe now, after reading his book I can also find the strength and motivation to follow up with Mark from our last conversation we had back in September when he had reached out to me to be a guest speaker on his Podcast “So-Called Normal’.
At the time I was feeling quite intimidated by him, afterall here he was living his best life and making a difference in so many people’s lives and here I was just days past yet another visit to the emergency room feeling very suicidal and my strong-willed depression had me second guessing what I could possibly have to offer his audience.
But after reading his entire story in great length, I now know that he still has days where he struggles too or other days where something may trigger him as well, but he has learned through sharing his story that he can get through those urges and that gives me hope and a much deeper understanding of just how truly motivating it can be.
A memory popped up on my Facebook page early this morning which reminded me that seven years ago today I had a minor surgical procedure done in hospital, but aside from some slight discomfort for a couple of days following, it was really no big deal.
This memory has popped up on my Facebook wall for years now and recalling it has also never been any big deal before, that was until today. Suddenly after all these years I became severely triggered by it and I really wish I could understand why.
It could’ve been because I had a particularly difficult day yesterday and was already in a very negative mindset when the notification came in on my phone shortly after midnight; which is also when the floodgates completely opened up and left me writing this at 4:30 am.
The above procedure I had happened to take place exactly seven weeks prior to “D” day. “D” day of course refers to the day in which my journey first began and reading this seemingly innocent memory this morning took me back, not to the actual day of my surgery but instead I began ruminating about all the events that took place leading up to “D” day.
I found myself ruminating about the new job I had just started literally a week or two before my procedure. I found myself ruminating about how I destroyed my entire world by choosing to leave another job to pursue this one. I found myself ruminating about all the scary conversations and dangerous situations I found myself in over the next six or seven weeks following the procedure, all at the hands of my crooked boss.
I began to beat myself up further for several more hours, replaying every bad memory, image and scenario in my head that literally occurred up until “D” day and literally all night long. And to think that all this was triggered from a memory on Facebook that once felt pretty disconnected from all of the above.
I’m beginning to think that maybe the procedure was a bigger deal after all, maybe I had more than just a minor surgical procedure done, is it possible I was given a lobotomy that day instead? I mean it certainly would all make perfect sense to me now. Yes? No?
I read an article the other day whose title immediately caught my eye. It read:
4 million cries for help: Calls to Kids Help Phone soar amid pandemic.
As I continued on to read the body of the article my heart sank further.
Since the onset of the Pandemic last March, Kids Help Phone has seen an upsurge in calls from young people. Statistics show that calls, texts and their many other online resources have more than doubled since the previous year and they are now receiving over 800 calls, texts etc. every day from all across Canada (with Ontario making up for approximately half of those calls received each day).
Callers have been as young as 5 years old with a good majority of the calls coming in between midnight and 4 am. Many of these call are related to feelings of isolation, loneliness, self/body image, virtual learning, missed milestones and an overall deterioration of their mental health. And of all the calls received by their large team of trained counsellors per day, there is at minimum, 10 calls where police are being dispatched for “active suicide rescues”.
These stats are truly heartbreaking but I am so thankful at the same time that our youth have a safe place like Kids Help Phone to reach out to in order to help them survive a Pandemic. Knowing just how many of our young people have become so withdrawn, angry, frustrated, anxious and sad (and rightfully so) is beyond scary.
I hear from speaking with so many concerned parents in my community (and beyond) how their kids are staying up all night gaming with friends online just to feel some sort of connection and how so many more have completely checked out from their daily routines, especially online learning. The concerns over the emotional and financial impacts that isolation and lockdowns are having on our youth are growing more and more concerning by the day and suicides among our youth are increasing at alarming rates.
As spring quickly approaches, (at least according to Wiarton Willie, the adorable little Groundhog that is, who just yesterday predicted an early spring, yay), I had recently been giving a great deal of thought to starting another Graduation Initiative again this year for the Class of 2021.
I will afterall in just two short months have another Graduate in my home, who as of yesterday received the disappointing news in an email from her University informing her (what we already knew in our hearts) that they will be postponing her Spring Convocation Ceremony until such time when large public gatherings can once again take place safely.
I know how much disappointment, anger and sadness this reality caused my other daughter last spring when both her Prom and Graduation ceremony were cancelled, along with millions of other young people’s around the world but after reading the article and taking note of the imminent crisis our young people are facing due to the Pandemic I felt a great sense of pride knowing that the 10k that I along with the help of 100’s of incredibly generous and kindhearted people in and around my community helped raise and donate to Kids Help Phone last spring, that the money went to a very worthwhile cause.
I now feel as though I have at least 4 million more reasons to take on this initiative once again and who knows, maybe with the help of my amazing community we could double the amount of proceeds we raised last spring.
Services like Kids Help Phone are needed more than ever before and even though it may only be a stepping stone toward other resources or long term services for some, our young people deserve a fighting chance and are going to need all the help they can get long after the Pandemic is over because although many of the imminent issues at hand may one day dissipate, the lingering effects and fallout from the Pandemic are sadly going to affect much of our younger generations for many years to come.
If you or someone you know needs a safe and confidential place to start please call Kids Help Phone at: 1.800.668.6868 or text: 686868
Today is the 11th Annual Bell Let’s Talk Day. To date Bell’s Mental Health initiatives have raised more than 25 million dollars towards various programs and research projects by contributing 5 cents every time someone in Canada sends a text message, makes a phone call (Bell users only), tweets #BellLetsTalk or creates a Tik Tok video using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, views one of their videos on any of their social media platforms or uses Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame and Snapchat filter today.
Their message this year in the wake of Covid-19 is simple; “When it comes to mental health, now more than ever, every action counts.”
So if you can take a moment today to talk, text or tweet (etc) #BellLetsTalk it really could make a difference in someone’s life and remember that every action taken is one step closer toward ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Our words matter, our actions matter and our mental health matters more than ever before and by simply showing a kind gesture to a friend or loved one who is feeling depressed today or by listening to a child who may be feeling super anxious and unsure right now or by asking a coworker or neighbor how you can help them because they are feeling extra stressed are just a few of the many ways that you can let someone know that they are not and that it’s okay to not be okay.
**If you would like more information on how to get a copy of my children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” please feel free to message me directly. All proceeds from any book sales made between today and Sunday will be donated to #BellLetsTalkDay initiatives. And for more helpful tips and tools on mental health and self-care practices or to learn how Bell Let’s Talk initiatives have been impacting groups and communities all across Canada for the past 10 + years please check out their website @ https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/our-initiatives.
As my kids were growing up they were always super excited in anticipation of the first night of Chanukah and they especially looked forward to spending time with family and friends throughout the “eight crazy nights”, lighting the Menorah, making holiday crafts, eating and baking lots of traditional Chanukah treats, exchanging presents and of course receiving them too.
When they were younger we often gifted them with a small token gift each night of Chanukah after we lit the candles (not to worry, there were plenty of bigger presents to go around too). It may have seemed like they were super silly gifts, but seeing the excitement and joy light up their faces as they tore the wrapping paper from their new Dora the Explorer toothbrush or their funky new Chanukah pencil set is a feeling that will never grow old as a parent.
Tonight as we begin the celebration of Chanukah 2020 we will continue as always to honour the holiday by lighting the Menorah each night while enjoying the same traditional treats like sufganiyah (jelly donuts), homemade cookies and homemade latkes as well that smell up our clothes and home for days and days, but always totally worth it.
But this year the holiday season, whether it be Chanukah, Christmas or any other holiday traditions you celebrate are going to once again in good old 2020 fashion feel a whole lot different from years past.
Many of our traditions, celebrations or even vacations with friends and loved ones won’t be taking place this year and that is going to create a great sense of disappointment and a feeling of loss for many children and adults alike.
Maybe we can all try to create some new traditions or find different ways of celebrating the holidays instead this year as we focus our attention on the general theme of 2020 which is that “less is more”.
Maybe we can take some comfort in a more simplistic holiday season instead this year where we share our favourite memories of holidays past over a zoom call with loved ones or make holiday crafts to hang outside our door to brighten up the neighborhood or donate a toy to a child less fortunate.
However it is you choose to celebrate this year or as “grim” as the holiday season may feel for so many let us all be reminded that it is still the “season of giving” and the “season of miracles”.
And to all of us who will be lighting that first Chanukah candle tonight let it bring a “festival of light”, hope and unity for everyone around the world because that is truly all that matters this holiday season.