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.
Thank you so much Rochelle for inviting me to speak to your Hadassah chapter tonight about my mental health journey. (Hadassah-WIZO is a “leading Jewish philanthropic organization dedicated to the causes of health, child welfare, education and youth aliyah in Israel”. Jewish women around the world liaise with other women in their community and volunteer for these worthy causes; myself included many years ago.)
I am truly so very appreciative for the opportunity and for the especially warm welcome by everyone.
It was nearly a year ago now since we had to postpone my “in person” speaking engagement last May due to Covid-19. You did however at the time present me with an alternate option to speak to your group on Zoom instead.
But to be perfectly honest I barely even knew what the heck Zoom was a year ago let alone how to navigate my way through it.
The concept was so new to me (I had only just participated in my very first Zoom call ever during our Passover Sedar weeks before this which my kids had set up).
Presenting myself over Zoom felt very overwhelming and intimidating and so we decided that it was best to wait until they resumed their meetings again in the Fall when life would be back to “normal” and I could attend “in person”.
Well as I look back now at our conversation last spring it seems we may have both been a bit too overconfident in our assumptions seeing as it is now one year later and life is still so far from “normal”.
But the good news is that I’ve had plenty of time to practice and learn many new skills since then which now includes navigating my way around Zoom.
It’s still a very far reach outside my comfort zone and I will certainly never claim to be an expert in the field any time soon but since this is as normal as life is gonna be for who the f*@k knows at this point I will take every opportunity I’m given to continue sharing my story with others, to keep educating people about depression and anxiety, to keep opening up important conversations about mental illness, to keep spreading awareness about suicide prevention and to help ensure that someone listening feel less alone.
What is one new skill you have learned this past year?
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?
Today I did my first ever Facebook live presentation within a Facebook group called “Parents Unite” whose main purpose is to bring parents together while raising awareness on mental health concerns in both adults and children.
People tell me all the time how brave it is of me to be able to do so many live television/news interviews, radio gigs or other such presentations but here’s the thing, when I do these interviews, gigs or other such presentations I am (for the most part) being fed questions to answer by the interviewers so I’m not actually having to think about what I want to say or fill air time all on my own.
But when you do a Facebook/ Instagram live it’s just you and your thoughts trying to make sense without seemingly rambling on about whatever message it is you are trying to get across to others. And whether it’s someone choosing to talk about something that is irking them or helping to grow their online business or wanting to talk about something on a more personal level, it’s not easy.
As envious as people may be watching me take center stage on live television or through the lens of a Zoom interview, I am actually the one who has been envious of others who seem to have the natural ability to just press the live button at any given moment and start speaking off the cuff.
I often think to myself as I scroll through my feeds or as I am writing a blog and especially while I am listening to someone speak live that maybe today, instead of writing my words down in a blog to post later on that I will open up my Facebook or Instagram page and speak to a live audience, straight from the heart, right into the camera, allowing others watching an opportunity to interact in the conversation live and giving way for even more raw and intimate experiences to occur. But the fear of doing so and the thought of reaching outside my comfort zone has always stopped me.
But today I reached outside my comfort zone (even after waking up with a sore back out of nowhere and as the day goes on I’m having trouble sitting and catching my breath). I spent about 30 minutes on a Facebook live sharing part of my journey with the Parents Unite community, reading my children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and discussing the importance of having open, honest and age appropriate conversations with children as young as preschool age who may be impacted by mental health issues somewhere within their family unit.
Everything I spoke about today has become second nature to me. They are things I am extremely passionate about and well versed in but not having the ability to edit my thoughts was quite a scary feeling.
As I mentioned above I have dreamed for several years now that one day I could stand (or sit) in front of an audience and speak off the cuff and from the heart with authenticity by allowing my vulnerabilities to do the talking.
And even if I will beat myself up for how I spoke today, for what I said or didn’t say, it’s okay because at least I tried. At least I reached outside my comfort zone, I learned a new skill, I took a risk and I achieved a new goal.
Living with chronic depression and severe anxiety as I do it’s so easy to get caught up in both our past and our future, leaving us feeling very worn down, overwhelmed and vulnerable and often unable to live in the moment or be present in our own life.
It’s been an incredibly difficult few days for so many of us who have been trying to come to grips with the cruel reality and accept the loss of a precious life that was taken from us far to soon.
But Jesse, who was wise beyond his short life, left behind so many invaluable gifts for all of us to cherish and learn from, especially the gift of knowing how to embrace every moment by living in the moment and being present in our own life.
He taught us to appreciate life to the fullest and all of its encompassing beauty no matter what. He taught us to focus on the now and to relish life in the moment. He showed us how to be thankful for the small wins, however small they may seem.
He taught us that any random or spontaneous act of kindness can brighten someone’s day and that a smile or a kind word will take you a very long way. He taught us that worrying about our future can take away precious moments of our present day and he also taught us how to express gratitude right here and right now.
These are the kind of invaluable gifts that we all need to hold on tight to. So to honour Jesse’s memory today I’m asking that we all take a moment to be in the moment and to focus on what is right in front of us, surrender to your emotions, feel your surroundings and allow yourself to see something in your presence for the very first time 💙💙💙
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
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.
In all likelihood if you try calling me there’s a very good chance you’re gonna get my voicemail, that is of course unless you are one of my kids or my husband. They know that unless it’s an emergency, it’s best though to give me a warning signal by sending me a text first.
I wrote a blog a couple of years ago titled “Call Me, Maybe” where I spoke about how making a phone call can cause me severe anxiety and how much more severe it becomes when my phone rings.
I much prefer to text, use Facebook messenger or even email with others unless I am in the right frame of mind to chat on the phone at that moment you call or I am prepared ahead of time to do so.
I welcome texts and messages with wide open arms, I enjoy receiving your emojis and silly GIFs and I especially love the distraction late at night when my mind is spinning out of control. I truly appreciate every time you reach out to me “just because” you are thinking of me or you simply want to chat but much like making or receiving that anxiety provoking phone call, reaching out “just because” to my friends and family via text is just as overwhelming.
Like with most every aspect of my life, my anxiety causes me to worry; ALOT and it also causes me to have severe heart palpitations day in and day out, including when I reach out to others via text message etc just to simply say “hi”; and more often than not it will cause my mind to spin into a downward spiral.
What if I’m bothering them, what if I’m burdening them with my problems, what if they’re too busy to chat, what if they’re tired of hearing my negative thoughts, what if I’m just too exhausting for them, what if I say something wrong or embarrassing, what if they will judge me or what if they simply don’t want to hear from me?
I know that most of these worries and fears are just my anxiety talking down to me yet everytime I go to send someone a text message these thoughts overwhelm me and feel very real in the moment.
The unknown possibilities are endless as to how someone will react when they receive a message from me and the guilt I feel for not being able to reach out more often is so unbearable at times.
I know I have lost relationships because of my inability to reciprocate but sadly the deadly combination of having a depressed and anxious mind can do horrifying things to your self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence and I’m just so grateful to have an army of people behind me that aren’t keeping score as to who sent the last message.