“Noone is judging you harder than you already judge yourself.” ~ unknown
This is me in a nutshell.
It’s led me to feel defeated, hopeless, worthless and emotionally scarred for more than seven years now.
I’m my own worst enemy.
We all make mistakes.
We all experience failure.
We all have shortcomings.
All we can do is try our best to be our best.
We are only human.
We are all imperfectly perfect.
We should treat ourselves the way we would treat a best friend.
However, first I need to learn how to forgive myself, how to trust in myself more, how to see my full potential, how to be kinder and more compassionate with myself, how to be the loudest cheerleader in the room, how to be my biggest fan, how to embrace my flaws, how to stop judging myself and how to love myself unconditionally.
After all that’s what best friends do for each other.
This afternoon I was given the opportunity and honour to be a guest speaker on a Podcast.
My first one ever.
I felt like a movie star.
I was introduced to the host Marilyn Barefoot about a month or so ago through a mutual friend who thought that I would be a perfect fit for Marilyn’s Podcast called “Breaking Brave” so she connected us via email and we set up a time to “meet” and get to know one another later that week.
Our conversation was so easy.
It was heartfelt and inspiring.
I felt like we’d known each other forever.
Right from our opening dialogue I could feel Marilyn’s energy and compassion shine through.
She is a natural born speaker, motivator and innovator both in her chosen field and on her Podcast.
But once Marilyn was given the green light from her Executive Producer a few days later to schedule me in for an actual recording of her Podcast it wasn’t too long afterwards when my negative self-talk kicked into full gear.
Brave? Me, brave?
How do I foster bravery in my mental health journey?
I gave this a great deal of thought.
I know that being vulnerable and honest about my personal struggles with mental illness is brave.
I know that by educating others and helping them to understand the many depths of mental illness is brave.
I know that being so transparent about my own mental health is helping to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and that is brave.
I know that the more I talk about my illness allows others to feel more comfortable and less ashamed or alone about their own struggles and that is brave.
I know that getting up each and every day and fighting for my life and advocating for the lives of so many others just like me is very brave.
I know that I have inspired many because of my willingness to share my story and that too is brave.
Being brave about your own mental health struggles should be contagious but it also doesn’t have to include writing a blog, publishing a children’s book or baring your heart and soul on Social Media either.
For you, “Breaking Brave” in your own personal mental health journey right now may mean taking that first step to ensure you get the help you need, however it is you feel most comfortable doing so, just so long as you do it! And I would be honoured to help take that first step with you!
A special thank you to Marilyn and her Executive Producer Rebekah for allowing me to share my story with your audience today and for showing me how truly brave I am. I am grateful for this experience and for your kindness and compassion.
My episode will likely be aired in a couple of months (I will keep you posted!). To listen to previously recorded episodes of Marilyn’s Podcast go to: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/breaking-brave-with-marilyn-barefoot/id1555760904 . “Each episode, find out how innovators and trailblazers from every walk of life broke through in their chosen or created fields. A podcast meant to inspire, invigorate, inform and uplift.”~Marilyn Barefoot
Earlier this week, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka announced her decision to withdraw from the French Open.
In doing so she has opened up some very important and very necessary conversations that need to be had.
Athletes, whether in College or on a professional playing field are put on a pedestal, made to perform to perfection and always expected to be at the top of their game.
That kind of pressure can certainly take its toll on anybody’s mental health and well-being, even that of a professional athlete. They may be our heroes but they are also human.
I give Naomi (who at 23 years old is wise beyond her years) a standing ovation for her courage to step away from the podium and look after her mental health. A decision I’m sure that was not made easily.
Why is it that when an athlete gets hurt on the ice, or on the field or on the court they are given all the time they need to heal but when their injury is invisible to the world they are criticized and made to feel as though they are weak?
Naomi is here to show the world that our mental health matters too.
Her courage to take a stand and step away from the podium for now in order to take care of her mental health and knowing that it could potentially destroy her career in doing so, I have no doubt in my mind that she is going to come through this stronger and better than ever.
She is showing the world that it’s okay to not be okay and that by choosing herself over her career, asking for help when needed and creating healthy boundaries in order to begin the healing process that she is a human being first; a perfectly imperfect one just like the rest of us.
*I’d like to give a special shout out to Nike and Mastercard, along with several other corporate giants who have sponsorship deals with Naomi for not hesitating to show their loyalty and support to her. Their statements to the press praising Naomi for her courage in sharing her struggles with depression and social anxiety boldly acknowledges that our mental health does matter. Thank you for standing with Naomi. I couldn’t agree more.
Famed children’s book author Eric Carle recently passed away at the age of 91.
His timeless classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (written in 1969) became a must have in my classroom library when I was teaching preschool age kids many years ago.
Once I had children of my own I began reading it to them as well from a very young age and it quickly became a favourite in our home.
When my kids got a bit older and I was no longer teaching preschool anymore there were a handful of children’s books which I had collected over the years that I knew I wanted to hold onto in hopes of one day passing them down to my grandchildren.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of those books.
It is a whimsical and playful book.
It’s illustrations are fun and bright and captivating.
But it also has many meaningful and teachable moments between each page.
It shows us the importance of transformation and growth.
It shows us the importance of finding our true self.
It gives us hope.
It shows us that in time and with patience we will all find our way in the world.
It shows us that we are all unique and beautiful in our own special way.
And it shows us that we all have the capability to emerge from our cocoon, spread our wings and learn how to fly.
(Oh and it also reminds us that when we eat too much candy we will probably get a stomach ache!)
Is it pretty safe to say that if you are a parent you have probably doubted your role as one at one time or another?
You are not alone.
Parenting is hard work, it’s a huge responsibility and quite possibly the most thankless job ever, yet it also comes with the greatest rewards.
As a parent we find ourselves second guessing every decision we make or questioning each and every behaviour of ours which only escalates further doubt.
We worry we will somehow screw up our kid’s lives forever.
We worry that they won’t love us or that they will actually grow to hate us.
This has been a daily battle of mine over the past seven years and I blame my illness.
It makes me believe all the doubt and lies.
Even though I have three amazing kids (more like young adults actually) who are all very busy these days discovering who they are and what they need in order to become their best self.
They are finding their place in the world.
They are chasing their dreams.
In fact I’d say they are all killing it right now despite my feeling like I have failed them in every way possible, despite my feeling like my illness has taken away a big part of their innocence, despite my feeling like I’m the worst parent ever, despite my feeling like I’m a complete burden to them, despite my feeling like I have scarred them for life and despite my feeling like they hold so much hate and resentment toward me.
It’s been a really difficult week for me. I’m beyond overwhelmed right now and in a pretty bad headspace, (see blog .https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2021/05/24/suicide-can-be-a-silent-killer/) but despite all that it’s moments like the one we had on Sunday evening that remind me that maybe I haven’t failed them after all, maybe I haven’t actually screwed them up completely and maybe, just maybe I’ve even played a role in them becoming those amazing, generous, loving, kind young adults.
Maybe I need to be more aggressive when I try telling my depressed mind to fuck off.
I’ve needed a few days to process the emotions that overcame me on Sunday evening when my kids excitedly presented me with an early birthday present (they wanted to give me enough time to prepare for it).
They handed me an envelope and before I opened it they told me that they wanted to get me something they knew I’d cherish forever and something that I crave more than anything else in the world.
As I anxiously opened the envelope I could not imagine what it could be. I unwrapped the piece of paper inside and saw a picture of a cabin on a lake.
Their gift to me was exactly what they said it was as they handed me the envelope to open. They had wanted to get me something they knew I would cherish forever and something that I crave more than anything else in the world so as they so eloquently put it, they gave me the gift of time; quality family time that is.
They have rented a cottage for all of us for the weekend of Father’s day, just days before Hannah “hopefully” heads off to camp for the summer and just days before my 50th birthday.
There will be canoeing, campfires, roasted marshmallows, self-care, sunbathing on the dock, laughter and a special #summerofrich “Father’s Day” adventure included in our weekend away but most of all there will be picture perfect memories made that we can all cherish forever.
I love you to the moon and back, forever and a day.
The first shipment of my “Class of 2021” Graduation lawn signs have just arrived and I couldn’t wait to install the very first one on my own front lawn and show off how proud I am of my “Awesome Grad”.
And thanks to the incredible generosity and support of so many families and friends in the community (and beyond) I have sold close to 200 signs thus far and I am looking forward to delivering each and every one of them to so many other “Awesome Graduates” and proud family and friends. Just knowing that we are all working together to achieve the same goal of helping all children and adolescents in the GTHA have better access to more affordable and attainable Mental Health services and supports that they so deserve warms my heart.
It also just so happens that today is “National Child and Youth Mental Health Day” (May 7, 2021) so what better way to celebrate today than to help brighten up our neighborhoods, start some caring, stigma-free conversations in the community and let young people everywhere feel seen, heard and supported.
If you would like to honour a very deserving “Class of 2021” Graduate in your life or help make a difference in the lives of so many other young people who may be feeling vulnerable and alone right now please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Proceeds to be donated to Youth Mental Health programs*
I took this picture of Maggie yesterday afternoon.
All I focused on in that moment was capturing the perfect shot of her cuteness overload which I did, even if my pleas to her to smile pretty for the camera were ignored over and over again.
I couldn’t wait to share the pic with Rich and the kids in our private family group on Snapchat.
But later that evening something other than Maggie’s cuteness overload kept pulling me back to this picture.
I couldn’t put my finger on it right away but then suddenly it hit me.
Suddenly the picture took on a whole new, deeper meaning.
Suddenly I saw past her cuteness overload.
Suddenly I was fixated on a much bigger picture.
Suddenly my mind shifted gears.
For much of my illness over the last seven years I have found myself focused on the past.
I wish I could change a lot of things that happened to me in my past but I can’t, no one can.
At least though I have learned from my past.
So as I took a deeper, more meaningful look at the picture of Maggie as she stared mesmerized out the front window of my car I suddenly felt my presence in her place in that moment and that maybe my desperate unanswered pleas to get her to look at the camera and smile for mommy was by no means an accident.
Maybe she wasn’t actually ignoring my pleas at all but instead along with all that cuteness overload, deep down inside she was there to remind me in that moment just how desperately I too need to stay focused on the road ahead.
My recovery depends on it.
There has to be a reason why the windshield is so big and the rearview mirror is so small? Right?
Afterall it’s not what you leave behind that truly matters, it’s where you’re journey is headed next that does.
With another “Stay at Home” order in effect for Ontario now is the perfect time to delve into a good book.
Reading not only entertains us but studies have shown that it can also improve our overall mental health too.
Reading a good book is a great way for our minds to escape from our day to day stress or racing thoughts.
It can help us unwind and relax.
It keeps our minds sharp, improves our memory and cognitive skills and can help make our brains stronger.
For me personally, I love to read Self-help and Personal Development books; many of which are autobiographical accounts of someone’s victorious mental health journey.
They can be very inspiring, therapeutic and healing.
They can provide insight into our own limitations and help us grow stronger or become better humans.
Reading in general can feel very empowering, be very engaging and emotionally charging.
It can also enhance our creativity, productivity, outlook, competence and overall wellbeing.
So whether you prefer to curl up on the couch with a good self-help book, fiction, romance or something autobiographical, as you can see, reading has so many healthy benefits to it (just incase you were on the fence about taking up the hobby yourself!).