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

One of Those Days

Do you ever feel like you’ve had “one of those days?” 

I’m pretty sure you know what I mean right? 

We’ve all experienced those days where no matter what, nothing seems to go your way. 

Your day may start off seemingly “normal” but then something unexpected or presumably unwarranted happens which leads to a chain of events that quickly spirals into “one of those days”. 

I kinda feel like I’ve been living “one of those days” for seven years now though and this week was no exception. 

We can’t control everything that happens to us but on many of “those days” I keep trying my best to find a way to survive them.  

I posted a pic yesterday on social media which many of you reading this may have seen. It captured the essence of a picture perfect afternoon I’d spent with a couple of friends boating at the lake and smiling through Depression.  

What it didn’t show was how I almost didn’t go. 

Like one of my friends was literally sitting in my driveway all ready to pick me up to head up north to visit our friend’s lake house for that picture perfect day on the water and I was frozen in panic.

All because of the chain of events which had started early morning the day before and continued into the wee hours the next morning when Maggie suddenly became ill in the middle of the night; just adding insult to injury. 

It had been “one of those days” where nothing felt right. I’d just spent the previous 24 hours angry, panicked and crying and it was now trickling into the next day for me. 

But I chose to go. I went knowing that if I stayed home I would be giving up even more control of my emotions which is something I absolutely hate feeling more than anything. That feeling leaves my judgment very clouded. 

I knew I couldn’t change the events of the day before and that by going I was both acknowledging and accepting that.

I also knew that it would be good for me to go and try to get out of my head, even for just a few hours. I needed to go in order to prove to myself that I can be in control of some of my emotions and that I actually have the power to do so.

What do you try and do to take control of your emotions when you are having “one of those days”?

#oneofthosedays #takingcontrolofyouremotions #selfcare #acknowledgeandaccept #mentalwellness #mentalhealth #depression #anxiety #panicattacks #suicidalthoughts #suicideprevention #awareness #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough 

Invitation Only

“The act of forgiveness takes place in your own mind. It really has nothing to do with the other person.”~ Louise Hay

Forgiveness is a gentle act and a gift of self love. I have learned over the last several years that holding on to anger I have toward someone who has hurt me only creates further pain. 

Forgiveness means no longer feeling burdened by your past. 

Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean reconciliation, approval or making space to welcome someone back into your world, it just means choosing to rise above it by moving forward, free of bitterness and resentment. 

Forgiveness allows you to put the situation behind you for your own well being and integrity. It means taking back the power and control you have over yourself.

The past few years I’ve had a big shift in the area of my relationships and whether it be a friendship, a family member or even an acquaintance; it can get very complicated. 

Some shifts in my relationships have brought with it a sigh of relief, a feeling of anger and plenty of sadness but through my own personal journey toward healing and with time, they have also brought forgiveness.  

I’ve learned that holding on to the bitterness and resentment is only hurting me. 

Forgiveness doesn’t always happen right away. For some people or in some circumstances it can take a lot longer to forgive, but it’s never too late to learn the art of forgiveness.

As I move into this next chapter of my life I am now making a conscious effort and a very selfless decision when it pertains to my own mental health and well-being that I choose who I get to invite into my life.  

I’ve always let people walk into my life very easily, sometimes too easily and I’ve done so without actually stopping to ask myself first if I really have the energy or mental capacity needed in order to have a healthy relationship with this person at this moment in time. 

I’m a pretty open book (that’s an obvious one) and I wear my heart on my sleeve (also pretty obvious) which, at times has left me feeling very vulnerable and indefensible in some of my relationships and sadly it’s come back to bite me in the ass many, many times. 

By learning how to forgive others who have held way too much unwarranted space in my heart for far too long has really afforded me the ability to make so much more room in my life for the people who genuinely want to be there and vice versa. 

It’s opened up space to have real and honest relationships with people who can truly accept my limitations and vice versa, who see me as perfectly imperfect and vice versa, who don’t question my boundaries and vice versa, who support my endeavors and vice versa, who want nothing more than for me to be happy and vice versa, who are there to listen when I just need to talk, without judgment and vice versa and most of all, who love me for being my true authentic self and vice versa.

I have so much to be grateful for when it comes to the amazing relationships I have in my life right now. And whether you are a friend, a family member or even an acquaintance of mine I hope you know that you always have an open invitation.

#forgiveness #learningtoforgive #mentalhealth #wellbeing #inviteonly #theactofforgivness #mentalwellness #family #friendship #selfcare #selflove #rsvp #openinvitation #relationshipgoals #youareenough #mondaymotivation  

National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week: Let’s Change The Conversation Today

Each year the first week of May is recognized as National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week. It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I don’t need any excuse what so ever to raise awareness about either one of these two mental disorders or tell you how important it is to talk about the potential impact they can have on someone’s ability to function in their daily life. 

Depression and Anxiety are the two most common of all mental health disorders and over the course of this past year have become increasingly more and more debilitating to so many people’s lives. 

But then why is there still such stigma attached?

Why do so many people feel a sense of shame and guilt when it comes to their diagnosis?

Why is it still so hard for someone to open up about how they are truly feeling?

Well as someone who has probably heard it all by now, I get it, I get why so many people are afraid to open up about how they are feeling because I too have felt the impact of the stigma surrounding my illness too many times to count and I too have felt the shame and guilt that often comes along with my diagnosis. 

It’s important to remember that having a mental disorder is not something that a person chooses to have, they are actual medical conditions and need to be treated with medication and/or therapy; and that no one should ever have to justify their feelings to anyone. 

But too often the person who is suffering with Depression and/or Anxiety are left having to defend themselves against the actions and words of others. And even though their intentions may be coming from a place of love or out of deep concern for the individual who is suffering, those words or actions can end up doing more harm than good and leaving someone feeling attacked or hurt when we dismiss or minimize or deny or compare their feelings.

So can we all make a fresh start today and change the conversation? 

Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety to “snap out of it”, “try harder” or to simply “cheer up”. 

Let’s not tell someone who is suffering  with Depression or Anxiety that they don’t look or sound “sad” or “depressed”.

Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety that everyone has “bad days” or that a lot of people “have it much worse”.

Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety that “it’s all in your head” and that they are acting “selfish”.

Let’s not tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety to “take a long walk” and you will feel better. 

And let’s never again tell someone who is suffering with Depression or Anxiety that they just need to “think positive” and “happy thoughts”.

Let’s change the conversation today.  Somedays my life truly depends on it and I know that I’m not alone. 

#changetheconversation #depressionkills #anxietyisreal #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough #checkonyourlovedones  #startaconversation #empathy #dontsufferinsilence #endthestigmatogether #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate #bekind #whatdoesmentalillnessfeellike #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters  

Empty Picture Frames

I’m not in a good headspace. It’s not like this is something new to me or unexplored before; but I’m just not “okay”. 

I’m feeling very unsettled and my heart is heavy. If it hasn’t already been difficult enough for me living each day of the last seven years feeling like I’ve lost a big piece of myself then how can I ever begin to shake off this heaviness I’ve felt for the last several weeks?  A heaviness that feels way bigger than just one piece of my life has gone missing. In a sense I feel like I’ve been robbed and to be completely honest, in a very real way I believe I have.   

I’m turning 50 in just a little over two months. I’ve never really been too hung up on the whole age thing and let’s face it, if I had been then I probably would’ve never agreed to go on a first date, let alone marry a man who’s close to nine years older than me. 

My social media feeds have been preparing me for my upcoming birthday since the beginning of 2021 as several times a week I witness one or more of my friends from my childhood and adolescence reach this special milestone. And it’s been kinda exciting and nostalgic to reminisce with many old friends, see old photos and feel part of this exclusive club; the one that significantly links me back to my childhood and adolescent years, a time and place that I have some of the fondest memories of with friends and extended family.

But a few weeks ago when one of my oldest and dearest friends was about to turn 50 I felt a trigger of emotions come over me and it hasn’t left me since. It feels heavy and unsettled and fills my heart with so much sadness, anger, resentment, hurt and emptiness. 

These triggers have taken me even further back in my life than just seven years ago, like way, way back; right to birth. 

You see I wanted so desperately to pay tribute to my dear friend with a walk down memory lane in the form of a photo collage and to be able to celebrate our nearly 40 years of friendship except, here is where the trigger of emotions really began to go off the rails for me because how can I make a collage of memories from an almost 40 year friendship without a single photo or memory from our younger years. 

I don’t want to get into too many details right now as to what actually happened to every single one of my photos and childhood memories I possessed before the age of 19 because well that’s where the triggers really start to go south for me. 

Let’s just say that if they had been lost in an accidental fire or went missing during a home invasion I could make room for forgiveness in my heart; but neither of those two scenerios actually played out.

There isn’t one photo of my first year of life to be found, not one school picture or memory from any of my birthdays to be found either. There are no photos of me sitting on my grandpa’s lap playing his trumpet or baking cookies with my grandma to be found. There are no photos of my childhood home in Montreal or Toronto for that matter, no photos of me from the many summers I spent at overnight camp as a camper (I do have a few pics though of my summer as a camp counsellor back in 1989). There isn’t the abundance of photos that were taken of my precious dog who meant the world to me during my adolescent years, no photos capturing the silly antics of me and my brother to be found, no photos of family outings, no photos of family friends or relatives and no photos of me and my besties growing up. It’s as though my childhood has been completely erased and sadly it all could’ve been prevented. 

The only photos I do have in my possession now (which I sometimes like to post) are the few that have been sent to me by old friends and family (please keep ’em coming!). 

My kids have begrudgingly posed for pictures and may get somewhat annoyed at times by my wanting to document every single milestone or seemingly insignificant moment from their childhood, adolescence and young adult lives but I see them, I see them periodically flipping through old photo albums and the hundreds of saved pictures on their computers. I see them laughing and reminiscing and looking back fondly at those silly memories and keepsakes and I definitely know now that one day they will totally thank me for it because memories may fade over time but a picture will tell a story for a lifetime!

Do you have a favorite photo from your childhood?

#memories #oldphotos #nostagia #lostmemories #feelinglost #fiftiethbirthday #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #friendship #family 

Give it Your Best Shot Too!

Today I gave it my best “shot” at helping to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Today I gave it my best “shot” at protecting myself and those around me against serious complications from the Covid-19 virus.

It was a feeling like no other and although I am filled with overwhelming emotions right now (the tears began to flow as I pulled into the parking lot), I’ll be ready for my second dose when my turn comes at the end of July so go ahead and “hit me with your best shot”, hit me baby one more time”! 💉 #patbenatar #britneyspears

#grateful #givingitmybestshot #giveityourbestshottoo #vaccine #covidvaccine #herdimmunity #doyourpart #hitmebabyonemoretime #hitmewithyourbestshot #youareenough #youmatter #wereallinthistogether  #strongertogether #overwhelmedwithemotion

A Perfect Day For A Getaway

Forgot to post our #summerofrich adventure from yesterday. 

I needed an escape from the racing thoughts in my head and a hike seemed like the perfect distraction.

There was plenty of clear blue sky  and a warm springtime breeze in the air. We could hear birds chirping from the trees and ducks singing by the pond. Perfection.

But even with plenty of clear blue sky, a warm springtime breeze in the air, the birds chirping from the trees and the ducks singing by the pond, I could not totally escape the trauma that April 4th represents for me (see blog I posted yesterday if you missed it).

I’m easily triggered by the events that took place on that day seven years earlier and this year had been no exception. As midnight approached the night before last I began experiencing symptoms of my PTSD and quickly found myself trying to fight off a panic attack. 

But aside from all that and the trails being nothing short of a mudslide for the better part of our nearly 2 hour hike it turned out to be just what I needed (and boy were we glad that we had decided to leave Maggie at home!).

Sorry though to have disappointed you Rich, who had been camera ready the entire time hoping to take a snapshot of me falling flat on my butt as we navigated our way through the very slippery and often dangerous mounds of mud; fyi there were several close calls 😋).

How did you incorporate self-care into your long weekend?

#coldcreekconservation #nobleton #hiking #nature #springisintheair #discoveringontario #birdschirping #duckssinging #sunshine #mudslide #youareenough #bekindtoyourself #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mindfulness #therapeutic #selfcare

It Was Seven Years Ago Today: What My Illness Has Both Taken From Me And Taught Me Too

It was seven years ago today that I uttered the words “I want to die” for the very first time.

It was seven years ago today that I felt hopeless and alone for the very first time.

It was seven years ago today that my life no longer felt purposeful for the very first time. 

It was seven years ago today that I felt broken for the very first time. 

It was seven years ago today that I felt unlovable for the very first time.

It was seven years ago today that I lost my way for the very first time.

It was seven years ago today that I felt like the world was better off without me for the very first time. 

It was seven years ago today that I felt an abundance of sadness and shame come over me for the very first time. 

It was seven years ago today that my life was about to change forever and I felt too powerless and helpless to stop it.

It was seven years ago today that I peered outside my bedroom window hoping to find myself somewhere out there.

It was seven years ago today that suddenly I felt a disconnect from the person I once was and with each passing year she seems to fade further and further from my mind.

But someone new emerged in her place that day instead and even though she still feels all those same emotions today that she did seven years ago her new identity has taught her so much more than she ever thought imaginable about both herself and others. 

Her new identity has learned to embrace the difficult moments as a way to grow and co-exist with herself.

Her new identity has learned how to create more meaning in her life.

Her new identity has learned ways to stop running from herself by using the anchor she has been given when she needs a break. 

Her new identity has learned to recognize the pain and suffering in others with heartfelt compassion, empathy and kindness through the acceptance of her own pain and suffering.

Her new identity has learned how to ask for help and how to advocate for those who aren’t quite able to yet. 

Her new identity has found her voice, one that she no longer takes for granted. 

Her new identity has become stronger and more resilient than she truly realizes or gives herself enough credit for. 

Her new identity has learned the importance of making self-care her number one priority.

Her new identity has learned how to set limits and enforce healthy boundaries which has in turn created deeper, more meaningful bonds with the people in her life.

And she is grateful. Not for all that she has necessarily lost since that very first day seven years ago but for all that she has gained and learned since then. And it’s alot.

#itwassevenyearsagotoday #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #selfdiscovery #selfcare #depression #anxiety #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters #checkonyourlovedones #bekindtoyourself #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #mentalillness #endthestigmatogether  

Some days more than others I really need reminding.

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

Shut The ‘F’ Up

I had a massage this afternoon, the first one in several years. 

My kids had bought it for me as a gift last Mother’s Day. 

At the time when they purchased it the Spa was closed due to lockdown restrictions and by the time it did finally reopen, to be perfectly honest, I just kept forgetting about it. That was until a few weeks ago when I hurt my back and thought once I’m feeling better I should get a massage!

Massages, like mindfulness or meditation are supposed to be a perfect way to relax and relieve anxiety and stress, but seriously, have you met me before?

My track record with both mindfulness and meditation have never been met with much success for me and usually do the complete opposite of what they are meant for and now I guess I may as well add massage to that list too.

It was the perfect setting for a massage; the lights were dim, there was a subtle aroma in the air, soothing music playing in the background and the massage therapist was both gentle and calming. So what could possibly go wrong? 

I have no ‘F’ ing idea to be perfectly honest with you but as soon as the massage began and for the next 50 minutes or so I felt like I was going to suffocate (and not just because of my mask). 

My thoughts were racing all over the damn map and my mind was filled with such chaos. There was no real pattern or focus to speak of, just complete disarray. I tried several times to relax my body but my mind was having none of that nonsense.  

I needed to find a way to distract myself and so I tried some of my go-to techniques and tools I’ve learned throughout my journey but nothing seemed to be working. I felt myself becoming more and more vulnerable in a “fight or flight” state of mind which only kept escalating when I quickly realized that fleeing the situation was likely not an option.

So I continued to lay there feeling very helpless with tears in my eyes, trying to estimate how much time I still had left all the while shouting at my mind to just shut the ‘F’ up and let my body cherish this beautiful gift I received from my kids!

#massage #massagetherapy #anxiety #fightorflight #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #meditation #mindfulness #therapeutic #selfcare #selflove