A Thirst For The #summerofrich

I had planned to give this as a gift to Rich for Father’s Day but (spoiler alert) I guess I just couldn’t wait that long, LOL!

I made it for him and in honour of him. 

So from now on whatever trails our #summerofrich adventures lead us to Rich will always be well hydrated with his new, “one of a kind”, personalized and insulated water bottle that will keep his drinks really cold and refreshing no matter how lost we may get or how hot it is outside.  

Every summer since its conception about five years ago now I like to give a brief synopsis of what #summerofrich is for any newcomers to my page who may be wondering what the heck it is exactly. 

It began with a simple exclamation one (very) early Friday morning at the end of June as we stood waving goodbye to our three kids as they drove away on the bus to camp for the next seven and a half glorious weeks (I actually think 2 of them were staff at the time and may have already left for camp, but not important!).

They were barely out of the parking lot yet when Rich turned to me with the biggest smile on his face and shouted “It’s the Summer of Rich”!, and wasted no time at all getting started. Our first activity on the #summerofrich agenda that year (and every year after that until last summer) was already scheduled for later that morning. We were off to the spa for pedicures.

The #summerofrich meant that he now had a seven plus week break; a well deserved, much needed and VERY much earned break from the burdensome (I use that term, not him) role he plays as both mom and dad, chef, psychologist, schlepper, grocery bagger and much, much more for the other forty something weeks of the year; a role which he has so selflessly taken on for the better part of seven years now.

Last summer when the devastating (yes it was devastating to many) announcement came that overnight camps would not be running due to Covid-19 I thought for a brief moment that we should cancel the #summerofrich all together seeing as Rich would not be getting his well deserved, much needed and VERY much earned break. Then I realized that we don’t have to cancel it at all, we just needed to pivot somewhat, after all we no longer had all three kids away for the summer anymore anyways.

And tada, the #summerofrich 2.0 was born. This past year we pivoted a lot due to Covid restrictions. And although our summers may not be as carefree as they once we’re, the #summerofrich has become an incredible outlet for the both of us. If you were to tell me 5 years ago that I’d be enjoying the great outdoors, hiking trails all over our beautiful Province of Ontario and exploring the beauty of nature I’d have said you were crazy.

It’s now become the perfect way to take care of our mental health, have fun and discover places we never imagined before. 

What a healthy outlet we have found to do together and I’m so glad that sharing our adventures brings so much joy to others as well. Hashtag #summerofrich has created quite a following!

I’m a planner and I love spending time researching and finding new and adventurous things for us to do. I take my job very seriously (hey, you never know but maybe one day we will even complete the entire length of the Bruce Trail, all 900 KMs of it!).

But most of all when we needed to pivot last summer, the #summerofrich 2.0 took on a whole new life of its own and has made many of our adventures that much more meaningful and memorable too. Our kids have even learned to embrace our passion in small doses, call it “Pandemic boredom” but hey, I’ll take it! 

Yes, the #summerofrich may have started out as a well deserved, much needed and VERY much earned break for Rich during the seven or eight weeks that the kids were away at camp but it’s become so much bigger than that, so much so that as we pivoted this past year we also continued to discover even more adventures with every changing season.  Me and winter do NOT get along but if you add the hashtag #summerofrich next to it then count me in! (And it’s a good thing that his new water bottle can also keep his drinks nice and warm as well!!)

#twopointoh #learntopivot #insulatedwaterbottle #earlyfathersdaypresent #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #nature #hiking #getmoving #yourmentalhealthmatters #youareenough #family #relationshipgoals

Sharing My Panic Attack

I had a panic attack today while driving home from my therapist. I needed to pull over so that I could calm down. I talked my way through it by asking myself a few simple questions that I have learned over the last many years to help me get through them. If you or someone you love suffers with anxiety and panic attacks have a listen.❤🤗

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=4191891124178675&id=100000734852540

#panicattack #endthestigmatogether #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #speakyourtruth

Ice Cream For Breakfast

Some days you may feel like eating ice cream for breakfast.

Today when I woke up it felt like that was the kind of a day it was for me.

If today feels that way for you too, it’s okay; give yourself permission to eat the ice cream for breakfast but don’t forget to pour some sprinkles on top too!

What foods bring you comfort?

#selfcare #ichooseme #youarenotalone #bekindtoyourself #itsoktonotbeok #icecream #comfortfood #youareenough #bekindtoyourself #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness

Some days more than others I really need reminding.

#youareenough #inkedforlife #tattoo #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #depression #anxiety #suicideprevention  #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters #masksoff

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 

Fill Your Cup

When Sunday night rolls around many people often become stressed or overwhelmed thinking about tomorrow; You know, as in Monday, that most dreaded day of the week.

But last night in the midst of what was probably my 50th anxiety/panic attack of what had been an incredibly difficult week on so many levels, I almost felt a sense of relief come over me when I realized that it was Sunday night and that this week would soon be over.

For me, Monday couldn’t come fast enough. I wasn’t looking at Monday as the most dreaded day of the week but instead I began to feel like Monday was more of a fresh start and the perfect time to try and refill my cup that had sat empty all of last week. 

Mondays don’t have to feel dreaded. Maybe Mondays are really meant to be an opportunity to replenish our mental, emotional and physical energy instead?

How will you refill your cup today?

#mondaymotivation #fillyourcup #selfcare #selflove #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #yourmentalhealthmatters

“BE THE ADULT YOU NEEDED AS A CHILD” 

Since my diagnosis with depression and anxiety I have constantly worried that my children will one day grow to resent me (or maybe they already do) because of my illness. I fear that my inability to always be “present” in their lives or that the many boundaries I’ve needed to set in place for my own self-care could one day cause them to feel as though they were not good enough. 

I hope they know how much I love them and how much I beam with so much pride over each and every one of their incredible achievements and accomplishments but as their mom I can’t help but feel that I have failed them by not being the parent they deserved.

I stumbled upon this quote recently “Be the adult you needed as a child” ~Ayesha Siddiqui~ and it has been consuming me with so much guilt as I try to grapple with these feelings but not just from a parent’s perspective but from that of an adult child who grew up never feeling good enough.

I never want my children to feel this way or to carry with them the burden that I myself carry from my own childhood. I never want them to look back on their young adult years and feel accountable or take responsibility for my illness. I never want them to lack the confidence it takes to create their own healthy boundaries and I never want them to feel manipulated or consumed by guilt. 

I’m trying to be more gentle on myself, I’m trying to forgive myself more and I’m trying to let go of alot of the guilt that has being weighing me down from my own adolescence and childhood knowing in my heart that it’s not my weight to carry in the first place. 

Instead all I truly hope for is that my kids will always believe in me and know that I am trying my very best to be the parent they need and deserve and to ensure that no matter what, they will continue to grow and thrive by feeling as though they are more than good enough, because they are.

#youareenough #youarenotalone #selfcare #healthyboundaries #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #parentingplaybook #familymatters #mom #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #blogger #ayeshasiddiqui

Four Million Reasons Why

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

#kidshelpphone #ouryouthmatter #helplines #lifelines #classof2021 #graduationday  #grads #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence 

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 

The Day I Came Out

Six years ago today I posted these two pictures on my Facebook page, both with words of gratitude and a special thank you attached to them. 

The first post I made was meant as an ode to Rich for his continuous sacrifice and unconditional love and the second post was meant as a special shout out to all my incredible friends and family who had been my pillars of strength over those last several months. 

It was on that cold winter’s day, January 19th, 2015 that I returned home from the hospital after spending an exhausting three (plus) months in the Psychiatric Ward at Sunnybrook Hospital; a time in my life that to this day I can honestly say are still some of the darkest days of my journey thus far, along with the many other hospital stays and emergency room visits that came before and have followed after. 

But it was also on that day as well, shortly after I posted those messages that I knew I was ready to share my journey with the world (well my Facebook world that is). Up until then I may have shared some cryptic captions or inspirational quotes on my Facebook page but for the most part I had been keeping very much to my inner circle since the start of my journey some nine months earlier.

I knew on that day that I never wanted anyone else to ever feel like they had to suffer in silence again or be too afraid to share their struggles with others because of the stigma attached to mental illness.

I felt a great weight lifted off my shoulders that day as messages of hope and healing poured in and I felt so much pride in my heart as one by one more and more people began reaching out to me in private to take that first step toward healing by sharing their own unique, yet very similar struggles of their own with me.

#itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough #courage #endthestigmatogether #dontsufferinsilence #spiritualhealing #speakyourtruth #masksoff #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #acceptance #blogger #author #bekindtoyourself #youmatter #empowerment #purpose #empathy #vulnerability