It’s 1 am as I begin to write this. I just spent the better part of the past hour bawling my eyes out while Rich held my hand and Maggie tried to work her magic.
Right before this scene played out I had been lying in bed watching my mindless Sunday night Reality TV shows while texting with some friends.
I’d just had a “picture perfect” weekend which many of you may have seen from the #summerofrich pics I had posted on my Facebook and Instagram pages. I spent most of Saturday and Sunday doing the things I love; being outdoors, enjoying quality time with family and friends.
But as I lay there in bed watching my mindless reality TV and chatting with several friends, the highlight reel of my own reality started playing out in my head and the overwhelming disconnect I’ve been feeling from the world lately, even during these “picture perfect” moments left my mind spiraling out of control faster than the fan spinning beside my bed.
It felt like a big gust of painful emotions blew right through me.
And then I felt an emptiness inside of me as those “picture perfect” moments quickly got tangled up in the blades of my fan, leaving me in a ball of dust on the floor, convincing myself that maybe happiness doesn’t belong to me. That maybe I don’t deserve to feel joy and that maybe I’m truly not worthy of love or friendship or purpose afterall.
This is what living with Depression and Anxiety can feel like somedays.
If ever you feel like your “picture perfect” moments are getting tangled up in the blades of your fan please remember that there is always help available to slow down the speed when it starts spinning too fast.
I started following a group on Facebook called “Ontario Hiking” soon after its conception last spring that has really helped me to find many new and exciting places to explore on our #summerofrich adventures.
It is run by Lauren Yakiwchuk who spends so much of her free time exploring our great Province and blogging about her personal experiences along her trails.
This group offers many fun and interactive experiences, great tips, lots of beautiful photos and so many helpful and honest reviews of places all over Ontario, some of which are very close to home for me and many more that are hundreds of kilometers away.
Throughout the last 4 years since the #summerofrich first launched (can you believe its been four years) I continue to add many new and adventurous places to my already very lengthy wishlist that I would love to explore one day.
It has become quite a long list and it just keeps on growing.
Each week I now refer to this wonderful and very informative group of close to 80,000 like-minded members who share my passion for nature, hiking and mental wellness in order to plan our day trips. **I was really hoping that this summer we could take a 5 day hiking trip to the most northern tip of our beautiful Province for my birthday but unfortunately there have been too many obstacles standing in our way this year.
One of the group’s most fun and interactive experiences I’ve enjoyed following most since the group launched last spring has been reading posts from other members who have participated in the quarterly hiking challenges.
These challenges occur every January, April, July and October. Participants are asked to complete 5 hikes (or walks) during that month. Once you have completed your hikes you can email the 5 locations you hiked during that month to a specific app in order to receive a “digital badge” for “bragging rights” and a chance to win prizes.
I decided near the end of June that instead of just following other members participating in the upcoming July challenge that I would join in on the #julyhikingchallenge for myself.
It’s not like we don’t hike several times a month anyways, especially during the summer and I knew that if I participated in the challenge for myself that it would push me (and Rich) on those days when one of us is just not up for it.
We both have such a feeling of accomplishment after our hikes and not only did we challenge each other in July to push through the 5 hikes, we surpassed the initial targeted goal and completed 7 of them instead. That for sure earned us both many bragging rights.
I just received my “digital badge” this morning via email for accomplishing the #julyhikingchallenge and although I may not have won any of the prizes this time around I feel like a baby bird today when they are first born and have no idea the power that their wings have or how determined they will become in order to learn to fly; and one day maybe even learn to soar.
Shortly after posting it on Facebook I received this email (see pics) which was signed “The Facebook Team”.
I have made 100’s (and 100’s) of posts on Facebook to date and as you all know I very often speak from my heart about my own personal vulnerbilities, struggles and suicidal thoughts so I just found this email was very interesting and wanted to share it with you as this was a first for me amongst 100’s of such posts.
It could’ve been spam for all I know but I was also happy to learn that by clicking on the “Help Centre” button attached in the email, Facebook takes you to a safe space for individuals or loved ones in crisis to reach out for help in countries all across the Globe.
You can see from these pictures that I experienced many, many treasured and genuine moments of joy and happiness over the weekend.
I will always be forever grateful for everything my kids did for me this past weekend, ensuring that I felt those moments of genuine joy and happiness, which I did.
Nothing will ever erase those feelings even when my mind tries to trick me into believing otherwise.
Yesterday was an extremely difficult day for me. The curtain closed abruptly on those feelings of joy and happiness and I crashed hard, real hard.
The darkness and pain is still surging through my veins today from many of the triggers I experienced yesterday afternoon and evening (none of which I am comfortable sharing at the moment).
As I lie in bed writing this, curled up in a cocoon underneath my weighted blanket and unable to face my final hours in my 40’s I am feeling very overwhelmed. I am confused. I am angry. I am sad. I am anxious. I am scared and to be perfectly honest I am all cried out at the moment.
This is just some of the many depths of depression and anxiety. You see the moments of joy and happiness in my life and wonder how I can experience them if I still struggle with depression. I totally get why it may be so difficult and confusing to understand it, but that’s what depression does, its puppet master finds immense pleasure in playing tricks on your mind.
My illness has made me feel so out of control too many times to count.
It’s a very scary feeling.
I don’t fair well with chaos and disorder.
I need to cross every “t” and dot every “i” in everything I do.
I make lists and I check them twice (well its probably closer to a dozen times).
When I feel like I’m losing control over a situation I become extremely overwhelmed.
I think much of my obsessive and compulsive behaviours when it comes to control stem from my childhood, a time when I never truly felt like I had any control over my own life, nor given free reign to make my own decisions or mistakes.
This weekend was meant for my family and I to celebrate ME.
They organized everything, leaving no stone unturned (or meal and snack unplanned either).
However, leading up to the weekend my need to take control overwhelmed me.
But this weekend was not meant for me to get overwhelmed.
It was meant for me to sit back, relax, be in the moment and not get caught up in every little detail.
The kids and Rich could see the overwhelm surrounding me throughout the week.
I tried my darndest to remove myself from any of the chaos and disorder.
They reassured me over and over again.
“Mom, don’t worry, we’ve got this!” was repeated on a daily basis.
And boy were they were right.
They didn’t miss a beat.
No stone went left unturned.
Every “t” was crossed and every “i” dotted.
Words cannot begin to describe how much this weekend truly meant to me or how truly appreciative and grateful I am for the love my family.
They may not always “get” me and that’s OK because they “get” what truly matters.
Memories were made to last a lifetime this weekend, laughter was in abundance and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect gift than the gift of quality time with my perfectly imperfect family.
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!!)