After The “But”

As my “Class of 2021” graduation initiative comes to a close this week I will have sold AND delivered over a thousand lawn signs since it began last spring and raised over $15,000 for youth mental health.¬†

During this time I’ve been blessed to meet so many amazing and kind people, some of whom I now call my friend. 

I’ve also made some incredible connections along the way. 

I’ve started relevant, much needed and VERY important conversations. 

And I’ve listened as many others have shared with me some of the most heart-wrenching struggles they’ve faced or are currently going through with their own mental health or that of a loved one. 

Overall this has been one of the most purposeful, meaningful and rewarding experiences of my life, especially knowing that I have helped bring smiles to so many faces (both young and old alike) and maybe even brightened up their day. And it also feels really good knowing that in some small way I am helping to make a positive change for our young people today.

BUT, (and there is always a “but” with me), there have also been many, many days throughout this process where the overwhelm of what I do behind the scenes and the hours upon hours I’ve spent making sure that my campaign is the greatest possible success takes a gigantic toll on my mental health. 

And this past week while already feeling vulnerable and defeated has been no exception. 

As many of you already know, I was placing my final order to go to print earlier this week. This included a sign for someone who had literally contacted me last weekend only hours prior to my twelve midnight cutoff. 

We ended up having a friendly chat back and forth for a good hour during which time she chose which sign she wanted to purchase for her son who is about to graduate grade 8 from the same elementary school that I attended, she gave me her address for delivery and before we signed off for the night (which was now midnight) she asked me if it was okay if she sent me her payment in the morning. I said sure, not a problem.

So, in good faith I put her order through with the rest of them first thing the next morning which she knew I would be doing. After our friendly chat the night before I saw no reason not to trust that she would pay me as she had promised (which I’ve done before for others).

Several days lapsed and my shipment would soon be arriving for delivery (which it did this afternoon) and I still had not received her payment so I followed up with a friendly reminder (people forget or get busy etc., I get it) and as though it was no big deal she told me that she had decided that she didn’t want the sign anymore and could I cancel her order. Like WTF! 

She knew I was placing her order first thing the next morning.

Did she just think the sign and me would miraculously disappear?

Did she not think it would’ve been a nice and simple courtesy to let me know she had changed her mind at some point before I would have possibly delivered it to her?

Does she not have a conscience?

Did she not care that the money from the purchase of the sign was being donated to charity?

In case you’re wondering, I confronted her and asked her those exact questions and guess what; she didn’t care! I’m sure you’re not surprised “but” I trust too easily I guess.

It really set me back even though this had been my first time experiencing this during my entire campaign so I guess that’s pretty good odds eh?

I was really trying through all of my upset and anger to remind myself of all the positive experiences I’ve encountered talking to well over a thousand people over the course of my campaign “but” instead there I went right down the rabbit hole again.

I wish that the word “but” didn’t even exist in my vocabulary and that I could finish both my thoughts AND sentences before the “but”; “but” it always feels like an impossible task. 

By connecting a sentence or statement with the word “but” for me is kinda like deflating a balloon with a sharp object. 

Those words before the BUT, you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones where I praise myself, see my strengths and acknowledge all the good I try and do for others just end up feeling completely meaningless. 

“But” I will argue that I have a really good excuse for it, I swear I do!

Or at least that’s what my depression and anxiety seem to want me to think.

#afterthebut #depression #anxiety #suicideawareness #gradsigns #mentalhealth #classof2021 #graduationday #stayathomeorder #lockdown #forouryouth #ouryouthmatter #campaign #initiative #lawnsigns #kindnessmatters #itsoktonotbeok #bekindtoyourself #selfcare #letitgo #selfdoubt #justbreathe #startaconversation #endthestigmatogether 

And That’s A Wrap ūüė•

Last night I watched the series finale of “Mom”.¬†

I, like millions of its viewers was not ready for it to end. 

I’ve been watching “Mom” every Thursday night (and in reruns) since its first episode aired 8 years ago.¬†

The show centered around a group of ladies from all walks of life who develop the most unlikeliest yet deepest of friendships and the most unbreakable bonds brought together by one common goal; sobriety. 

The writers of “Mom” spent time building this strong and very relatable group of characters and brought us along on their unique journeys, cheering on their many triumphs and saddened by their many setbacks with new storylines each week depicting the real-life struggles of people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction; something so many of their fans could relate to and a very relevant and critical mental health discussion today.¬†

This has rarely been seen before in a half hour sitcom but “Mom” managed to do so by sensitively tackling very difficult topics and using humour to keep the audience coming back for more.¬†

It gave us an inside look at what recovery looks like.

It showed us that recovery is never a straight line.

It showed us that recovery is a lifetime journey.

It taught us to persevere.

It taught us that we all make mistakes and that it’s okay to fail sometimes.

It taught us to keep getting back up again after we fall down.

And it taught us that there is always a “solution”.

I often found myself relating to so many of the storylines and felt such a strong connection to my own mental health journey. 

These ladies taught me the importance of sharing my story and to keep on sharing it again and again.

They taught me about forgiveness. 

They taught me about hope. 

They taught me that life is filled with endless possibilities. 

They taught me that recovery is possible. 

And they taught me that with the right people in your corner you will never be alone.  

I’m sad it’s over and I had a good cry during the closing scene. I’m really gonna miss seeing these ladies each week at their AA meetings and coffee dates afterwards where they shared more than just a piece of pie. It’s where they celebrated “love, friendship¬†and laughter” and it’s where I always felt like I had a seat at the booth right there alongside them.

#momfinale #alcoholicsanonymous #addiction #friendship #triumphs #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #youareenough #youarenotalone #endthestigmatogether #itsoktonotbeok #theresalwaysasolution

2021 Graduate Campaign

As many of you know, last spring I created a series of lawn signs to help honour our 2020 graduates after receiving the devastating news that my daughter’s high school prom and graduation ceremony were both cancelled. 

The initiative quickly grew in abundance and at the end of 6 short weeks I had hand delivered somewhere in the ballpark of 700 signs to the front lawns (and porches) of so many deserving Graduates across the GTHA from Pre-K to Post-Graduate education. 

With the help of so many generous people in our amazing communities together we raised over $10,000 for Kids Help Phone which is why I have decided to launch my campaign again this spring. 

Our class of 2021 (including my other daughter who is just days away from earning her undergraduate degree in Communications) are all feeling the same disappointment, anger, loneliness, overwhelm and sadness as so many deserving graduates did just one year ago. 

I don’t need to tell you just how difficult this past year has been on our youth especially, many of whom are now struggling with debilitating anxiety and depression issues along with other mental health concerns due to the devastation and impact of the Pandemic. 

Our youth need to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that they are not alone which is why I have also decided this year to spread the wealth around by donating the proceeds to several youth mental health initiatives instead of just the one I did last year as the need to support our youth mental health programs is so much greater than ever before. 

I look forward to brightening up our neighborhoods soon.

#graduationday #grads #classof2021 #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #lawnsigns #2021grads #youareenough #ouryouthmatter #payitforward #strongertogether

Welcome Kindness

We all have a story to tell. 

We all have a different path to follow. 

But no matter our story or path we take, now more than ever we all need kindness.

A simple act of kindness can change someone’s day.

It can change someone’s whole life.

It can change everything.

We all need kindness in our hearts.

We all need compassion. 

We all need to stop assuming, to stop judging.

Kindness is contagious. 

Kindness is inclusivity.

Kindness is humanity.

Kindness is confidence.

Kindness is beautiful.

Spreading kindness matters.

Spread the word. 

Welcome kindness.

P.S. I want this welcome mat!

#spreadkindness #kindnessmatters #kindessiscontagious #asimpleactcanchangeeverything #youareenough #youarenotalone #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #welcomemat

Monday Motivation: Extra Extra,Read All About It

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!). 

So really, what do you have to lose?

What book are you reading now? 

What type of books do you prefer to read? 

#mondaymotivation #reading #books #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #selfcare #youareenough #selfhelp #fiction #biographies #yourmentalhealthmatters #bekindtoyourself #depression #anxiety 

A Quick Rant: A Fairer, Healthier World, My Ass

Today is World Health Day. Its campaign has become a day of recognition around the Globe since 1948 and was first created by the World Health Organization (WHO), a name that has become increasingly more and more familiar to all of us since the Pandemic started. 

This year’s campaign is focused on building a “fairer, healthier world” for everyone but living in Canada right now it doesn’t feel fair at all.

The vaccine rollout in Ontario (and Canada) has been a complete and utter disaster (imo) and I can’t believe that I am actually about to say this after what we have all witnessed over the past year in the United States but I am beyond envious of all my friends and family living south of the border right now as I witness the success of how their vaccines are being rolled out (and Israel, well they deserve a fricken gold star!). 

Earlier this morning both Rich and I were able to book appointments to get vaccinated simply because the Government has now deemed our postal code a “hot spot” along with several others in our region which has afforded us and anyone else in these select few areas who are between the ages of 45 and 59 years old to do so as well. 

I’m not gonna lie, once we both received our confirmation emails with our appointment times set in place I became super emotional (surprise, surprise there were actual tears) that this was actually about to happen.

I am beyond grateful to be given this opportunity and I feel that it is my duty to get vaccinated when my time comes in order to help stop the spread of Covid-19; but I’m angry all at the same time.

I’m angry that teachers and admin staff have not been prioritized to receive a vaccination first or the factory workers, grocery store clerks, wait staff in restaurants, construction workers,¬†immune compromised individuals, those in more marginalized communities, the 20 something year olds who have been blamed most for spreading the virus and¬†everyone else who works in an essential service and CANNOT work from home.

I just hope that soon enough all Canadians (and many other parts of the world) can celebrate World  Health Day together by actually building a fairer, healthier (and more united) world to live in.

Ok, Rant over

#worldhealthday #vaccinations #vaccinerollout #ohcanada  #ourgovernmenthasfailedus #weallmatter #anotherlockdown #covidfatigue #staysafe #covid19 #coronavirus #pandemic #wearamask #overwhelm #anxiety #depression #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate @fordnationdougford @justinpjtrudeau @celliottability @slecce

Zoomed in With Hadassah-WIZO

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?

#hadassahwizo #zoom #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mentalillness #blogger #author #advocate #wheredidmommyssmilego #purpose #youareenough #youarenotalone #endthestigmatogether #startaconversation #itsoktonotbeok #yourmentalhealthmatters 

The Life Of Royalty Isn’t Always A Fairy Tale

I’m pretty sure that last night’s interview between Oprah, Prince Harry (can I still call him that?) and his beautiful wife Meghan was met with great controversy and so many mixed emotions but I am here “on record” to tell you that I have adored Harry (I’ve even voiced it several times in my blog) and have been rooting for him ever since he was a little boy who tragically lost his mom. 

My adoration for him has only grown stronger and stronger over the years since he began living his true authentic life and even more so once he started opening up about his own mental health struggles and becoming an advocate for change.

I had been really looking forward to watching the 2 hour special with Oprah all week long and it did not disappoint. I thought the interview was both genuine and very real and it further validated for me what I had already felt about the royal family as an institution. I hung onto every word that both Meghan and Harry spoke but of course it will come as no big surprise to anyone which segment of the interview stood out most in my mind for me. 

Last night Meghan so bravely revealed to Oprah that not long after she married Harry she began to contemplate suicide and felt as though she just didn’t want to be alive anymore.

As Meghan’s thoughts of suicide grew stronger and more intense she knew that she couldn’t fight her urges any longer on her own and needed some help. Asking for help when you are feeling suicidal takes great strength and courage, even for a “Princess” but when Meghan reached out to the royal family for help, pleading with them to send her to a hospital she was boldly told NO because “it wouldn’t be good for the institution”. My jaw dropped to the floor. 

No one should ever be made to feel as though they are not worthy of living their best life or that their feelings are not validated and my only hope after watching Meghan tell her story last night is that millions of other people understood her message to the world as well. 

Too many of us are¬†afraid to speak up when we are feeling as though we don’t want to live anymore. Meghan did speak up and although she didn’t get the response she deserved at first, she persevered until she did.¬†

Asking for help may look different for everyone but it is not a sign of weakness and even though she felt like a burden to her husband she knew he would listen attentively to her and with great compassion and most importantly without judgment. And boy was she right!

Whatever ill feelings some people may have of Harry for seemingly abandoning his duties as royalty he did what any good husband and great father would do for their own family. He did what he felt in his heart was right and what he had longed for someone to have done for his own mother all those years ago when she felt just as unprotected as Meghan did by the same institution who also denied her the help she too so desperately begged for.

No matter what comes next for the couple and their growing family, Meghan has definitely found her Prince Charming, Harry has definitely found his Princess and I have no doubt that their fairy tale will have a happy ending.

*If you or someone you know is in crisis please reach out for help immediately to a trusted friend, confident or loved one. There are also many online resources to help guide you. You are not alone.
 

#youareenough #youarenotalone #endthestigmatogether #itsoktonotbeok #yourmentalhealthmatters #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate #blogger #author #theroyalfamily #princeharry #meghanmarkel #oprah #suicideprevention #suicideawareness 

Keep Talking About Suicide

*may be triggering to some*

I’m struggling to stay motivated these days but if I’m to be completely honest here (which is something I always try to do in my writing), it’s been an ongoing struggle of mine for the better part of seven years now.

Living with depression for as long as I have, I’ve become really well versed in what I am supposed to do to feel more motivated and even though I may try and practice many of the strategies and tools I’ve been given in order to do so, I more often than not find myself unable to focus or concentrate or stay on track for very long because, well in all honesty again, depression is very strong-willed and always seems to find a way to kill my motivation, distract me from my day to day tasks and completely suck away all of my mental and physical energy.

I just finished reading a book titled “So-Called Normal” by Mark Henick. I have been following Mark’s story for quite some time now and was very much looking forward to the release of his new memoir.¬†

The book captivated me from start to finish, I hung onto his every word, especially as I learned more and more about his life as a young boy and awkward teenager where he grew more and more depressed.  

I was first drawn in by his story several years ago when I happened upon a Ted Talk he did where he discussed the importance of talking about suicide and stigma after he had several attempts at suicide during his formative years. 

His Ted Talk is now among one of the most watched Ted Talks around the world along with the story of his suicide attempt at the age of 15 that went viral after he began searching for the “faceless man in the light brown jacket”¬† (available on YouTube) many years later who had so bravely and selflessly saved him from jumping off a bridge in his small town in Nova Scotia where he lived (he now resides in Toronto with his wife and three young children). It had not been his first suicide attempt but it thankfully did become his last.¬†

Some may argue that reading a book about suicidal ideations and suicide attempts could be triggering, maybe even give someone like myself some new and innovative ideas on how to kill myself. But it’s not at all. In fact it’s just the opposite.

For starters, noone needs to put these ideas into my head; trust me when I tell you that they get in there all by my own doing and noone has ever put these ideas in my head; ever. 

After Mark’s final suicide attempt he set out on a mission to prove to his High School’s administration team that by sharing his story with his peers was not going to encourage someone to attempt suicide if they weren’t already thinking about it in their own mind but could instead bring other’s hope. By not talking about it can and will just make others with those same thoughts in their head feel even more alone.

Since that fateful day back in 2003, at the age of 15 Mark has not stopped talking. He has kept sharing his story over and over again to platforms on both a National and International scale and has since turned it into both his passion and life’s purpose.¬†

It’s probably what I have admired most about him for so long now and even more so since reading his story in full. He is so inspiring and has such strength and resilience which is why I felt I needed to share his story with you all.¬†

With every page I turned or new chapter I read I began to feel more and more motivated to continue sharing my own journey; because if truth be told, my very strong-willed depression has been telling me alot lately that I should shut up and just stop talking.

There was one paragraph in particular that really stood out for me and really made me truly understand how important it is for me to keep motivated and to keep talking. It came about 3/4’s of the way into the book when Mark himself began questioning whether or not he too should continue sharing his story, the same story he’d been telling audiences all over the world for many years by now. It was on that day when someone said to him: “It might be your hundredth time saying it, but it’s probably someone else’s first time hearing it.” that he knew he couldn’t stop talking. Yup those words really resonated with me, like a lot.¬†

Maybe now, after reading his book I can also find the strength and motivation to follow up with Mark from our last conversation we had back in September when he had reached out to me to be a guest speaker on his Podcast “So-Called Normal’.

At the time I was feeling quite intimidated by him, afterall here he was living his best life and making a difference in so many people’s lives and here I was just days past yet another visit to the emergency room feeling very suicidal and my strong-willed depression had me second guessing what I could possibly have to offer his audience.¬†

But after reading his entire story in great length, I now know that he still has days where he struggles too or other days where something may trigger him as well, but he has learned through sharing his story that he can get through those urges and that gives me hope and a much deeper understanding of just how truly motivating it can be. 

#motivation #socallednormal #memoir #tedtalk #markhenick #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #advocate #wheredidmommyssmilego #blogger #author 

My First Facebook Live

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.

Could I try a Ted Talk next?

https://m.facebook.com/groups/parents.unite18/permalink/871850973660675/  (link to Facebook live)

Or check out the Parents Unite group on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/parents.unite18/?ref=share

What is one topic you could talk about to a live audience for about 30 minutes without any preparation?

#facebooklive #speakyourtruth #fromtheheart #parentsunite #tedtalk #socialmedia #author #blogger #advocate #wheredidmommyssmilego #childrensbook #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #youareenough #youarenotalone #endthestigmatogether #itsoktonotbeok