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 

First Shipment

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: youthareenough@gmail.com. 

*Proceeds to be donated to Youth Mental Health programs*

#nationalchildandyouthmentalhealthday #childrensmentalhealthawarenessweek #mentalhealthawarenessmonth #strongertogether #payitforward #mygraduate #middlechild #proudmama #classof2021 #ouryouthmatter #endthestigmatogether  #graduationday #youareenough #staysafe #empowerment #empathy #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #suicideprevention  #suicideawareness #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones

Our Youth Matter

I feel so grateful by the overwhelming response I’ve received in the past few days since launching my Class of 2021 grad sign campaign. Wow! The heartfelt messages of support and sincere words of appreciation for taking on this project again this year to honour our most deserving graduates yet is just beyond words.  

One of the organizations I wish to support in this year’s campaign through the generosity of your donations is “Phillips House”; home to North York General Hospital’s child and adolescent outpatient programs.

The redeveloped (and first of its kind in Canada) 15,000 sq. ft. Georgian-style mansion, located near the hospital has been transformed into a serene, healing space that promotes health and wellbeing. Their outpatient services and day programs focus on the treatments of mood disorders, ADHD, substance abuse, eating disorders and other mental health conditions.  

I first learned of Philips House by a mom I was introduced to online several years earlier who has since become one of it’s main contributors through her group called “The Maddie Project”. 

“The Maddie Project” is a volunteer based organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the mental health needs of children. They focus on ending the stigma surrounding adolescent depression and help to make mental health services more accessible and affordable to adolescents in need. 

“The Maddie Project” is named in loving memory of Maddie German Coulter, the daughter of the mom I spoke of above who lost her battle with depression in 2015 at the age of 14. Through the amazing commitment and support of the community they have raised over 3 million dollars to date which helped build “Maddie’s Healing Garden”, a 1.2 acre green space that now surrounds “Phillips House” and provides patients with a calming, natural setting for therapy, meditation and physical activity. 

Maddie’s story really touched my heart deeply. At the time of her death my 3 kids were all very close in age to her and it really hit home. I could feel the pain and sadness of her family, of her friends and of her community at large but as someone who struggles every day with chronic depression and understands just how unforgiving it can be, I felt her pain most. She was a young, beautiful, energetic, bright shining light with so much life ahead of her but I am grateful to “The Maddie Project” for continuing to shine her bright light on our community through healing, education, advocacy and giving hope to all the other “Maddies” out there.

I will be placing my order in a few short days so if you would still like to purchase a graduation lawn sign or make a donation to help make a difference in the life of a child or adolescent who may be feeling vulnerable and alone right now or in need of some extra support during these most difficult days still ahead please contact me today at: youthareenough@gmail.com.

Thank you again for all your kind words, continued support and encouragement throughout my campaign and throughout my journey itself. 

*Don’t forget to keep spreading the word!*

Please continue to follow my journey at: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com.  You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my Facebook page youareenough123. 

#phillipshouse #themaddieproject #northyorkgeneralhospital #graduationday #grads #classof2021 #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #suicideprevention  #suicideawareness #checkonyourlovedones #lawnsigns #2021grads #ouryouthmatter #strongertogether #payitforward 

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

ALWAYS TRUST YOUR MAMA AND PAPA BEAR INSTINCTS 

It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused serious disruptions and added stress to all of our lives since it began a year ago which has also led to an even bigger mental health crisis, especially among our youth.

Between dealing with the constant disruptions in their routine, being isolated from their friends, fearing that they or someone they love will get sick and the added financial stressors that many families are now facing, it is quite understandable. 

These concerns (and many others)  that our youth are facing right now is making them more vulnerable than ever before to Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Addiction and Suicidal Ideations.

Kids who have never exhibited signs of a mental health disorder or mental distress prior to Covid-19 are taking their own lives at alarming rates and many of them sadly choose to stay silent, most likely feeling alone and scared that their life will never get better.  

Communication and connection are critical for our young people. Parents need to be even more vigilant than ever when it comes to their children’s mental health. We know our kids best.

Talk to them. Ask them how they are doing, and then keep asking them. Check in with them, check in with them often and then listen. If something feels off, always trust your Mama and Papa Bear instincts because not everyone who thinks about Suicide will willingly want to talk about it.

Signs to look out for:

Making suicidal statements.

Being preoccupied with death.

Giving away belongings.

Having aggressive or hostile behaviour.

Neglecting personal appearance.

A change in personality.

Intense sadness and/or hopelessness.

Not caring about activities that used to matter.

Social withdrawal from family, friends, sports, social activities.

Substance abuse.

Sleep disturbances.

Risky behavior.

Inability to think clearly/concentration problems.

Declining school performance.

Increased irritability.

Changes in appetite.

***Boston’s Children’s Hospital***

If you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of immediate help please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.833.456.4566 or Kids Help Phone at 1.800.668.6868

#youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #mentalillness #depression #anxiety #suicide #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters #talktoyourkids

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 

Four Million Reasons Why

I read an article the other day whose title immediately caught my eye. It read:

4 million cries for help: Calls to Kids Help Phone soar amid pandemic.

As I continued on to read the body of the article my heart sank further. 

Since the onset of the Pandemic last March, Kids Help Phone has seen an upsurge in calls from young people. Statistics show that calls, texts and their many other online resources have more than doubled since the previous year and they are now receiving over 800 calls, texts etc. every day from all across Canada (with Ontario making up for approximately half of those calls received each day).

Callers have been as young as 5 years old with a good majority of the calls coming in between midnight and 4 am. Many of these call are related to feelings of isolation, loneliness, self/body image, virtual learning, missed milestones and an overall deterioration of their mental health. And of all the calls received by their large team of trained counsellors per day, there is at minimum, 10 calls where police are being dispatched for “active suicide rescues”. 

These stats are truly heartbreaking but I am so thankful at the same time that our youth have a safe place like Kids Help Phone to reach out to in order to help them survive a Pandemic. Knowing just how many of our young people have become so withdrawn, angry, frustrated, anxious and sad (and rightfully so) is beyond scary. 

I hear from speaking with so many concerned parents in my community (and beyond) how their kids are staying up all night gaming with friends online just to feel some sort of connection and how so many more have completely checked out from their daily routines, especially online learning. The concerns over the emotional and financial impacts that isolation and lockdowns are having on our youth are growing more and more concerning by the day and suicides among our youth are increasing at alarming rates. 

As spring quickly approaches, (at least according to Wiarton Willie, the adorable little Groundhog that is, who just yesterday predicted an early spring, yay), I had recently been giving a great deal of thought to starting another Graduation Initiative again this year for the Class of 2021. 

I will afterall in just two short months have another Graduate in my home, who as of yesterday received the disappointing news in an email from her University informing her (what we already knew in our hearts) that they will be postponing her Spring Convocation Ceremony until such time when large public gatherings can once again take place safely. 

I know how much disappointment, anger and sadness this reality caused my other daughter last spring when both her Prom and Graduation ceremony were cancelled, along with millions of other young people’s around the world but after reading the article and taking note of the imminent crisis our young people are facing due to the Pandemic I felt a great sense of pride knowing that the 10k that I along with the help of 100’s of incredibly generous and kindhearted people in and around my community helped raise and donate to Kids Help Phone last spring, that the money went to a very worthwhile cause.

I now feel as though I have at least 4 million more reasons to take on this initiative once again and who knows, maybe with the help of my amazing community we could double the amount of proceeds we raised last spring.

Services like Kids Help Phone are needed more than ever before and even though it may only be a stepping stone toward other resources or long term services for some, our young people deserve a fighting chance and are going to need all the help they can get long after the Pandemic is over because although many of the imminent issues at hand may one day dissipate, the lingering effects and fallout from the Pandemic are sadly going to affect much of our younger generations for many years to come.

If you or someone you know needs a safe and confidential place to start please call Kids Help Phone at: 1.800.668.6868 or text: 686868

#kidshelpphone #ouryouthmatter #helplines #lifelines #classof2021 #graduationday  #grads #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #checkonyourlovedones #suicideprevention #suicideawareness #yourmentalhealthmatters #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence 

High School Graduation…Finally

Just 2 weeks shy of completing her first semester at Ryerson University in Interior Design, Rachel officially graduated from High School tonight!

It may not have been in the traditional way that we had hoped for but we are extremely proud of all of her accomplishments during her time in High School just the same.

*Ontario Scholar
*Specialist High Skills Major~Arts & Culture
*French Academic Certification

#soproudofyou #highschoolgraduatefinally #FU2020 #virtualgraduation #movingforward #resiliency #perservarance #milestones #inthehistorybooks #onwardandupward #youareenough

Burn Baby Burn

 

Over the past week my mind and my heart have been in a constant tug of war with one another and the amount of sadness, anger, guilt and fear I’m feeling right now is unbearable. 

Late last night when I couldn’t sleep (as usual) and my mind was spinning out of control (as usual) I began writing down many of my negative thoughts (on an actual piece of paper) in order to release some of the pain in my heart and maybe bring a little bit of clarity to my mind. 

As more and more thoughts were emerging onto the piece of paper I began to see a lot of my past and present relationships emerging too, many of whom may have caused me a great amount of negative energy at one time or another in my life.

It was at that moment, while in complete darkness that I saw this as an opportunity to try something I’ve needed to do for a very long time now but haven’t been able to find the courage to. 

It’s been told to me many times over the last several years by health care professionals that it can be a very therapeutic tool to try and a great way to release any old emotional wounds or help to heal some of the heaviness from certain relationships that have caused me pain or betrayal and may very well be holding me back.

I began writing very personal, handwritten letters to several of these relationships, both past and present in order to let go of some of the emotional wounds that are taking up too much space in my mind and negative energy in my heart right now.

I wrote it all down, including the hard stuff, the unanswered questions and the things that I could never say aloud. It felt cathartic but at the same time it was a very emotional exercise right up until the moment that I took a deep deep breath and waited to exhale as I tore each piece of paper up one by one and then watched them burn.

**Go ahead, try it for yourself **

#nationalsuicidepreventionawarenessmonth #depressionkills #anxietyisreal #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #masksoff #endthestigmatogether #checkonyourlovedones #youarenotalone #youareenough #courage #suicide #suicideprevention #letterwriting #handwritten #burnbabyburn 

School: To Be Or Not To Be?

You’ve probably heard the saying before “You can’t please all the people all the time.” It’s nearly impossible for anyone to be able to please everyone at the same time because we are all unique individuals with our own unique set of expectations, experiences and perceptions and that’s perfectly okay. 

This fall will be the first time in almost 20 years that I won’t have a child in my home entering a new school year in the Pre to K, Primary or Secondary School system. Both of my daughters fate were determined for them several months ago as the Post Secondary Educational systems all made the decision early on to begin the upcoming school year mostly online, but right now many other anxious Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Support Staff and children are eagerly awaiting their own fate as to whether or not schools will reopen, will continue online or will do a combination of both.

As a parent I am quite torn with the decision that was predetermined for my girls months ago and especially for my youngest daughter who has already lost so much in her graduating year from High School to now not be able to experience the excitement and comradary that comes along with this next milestone in her life. 

Sadly there is no right or wrong, risk-free decision as to whether or not or even how our kids can safely return to the classroom this fall or if they should continue their studies online, nor am I here to debate it either way but I know that when the decision is finally announced there will be plenty of Parents, Teachers, Administrators, Support Staff and children cheering in support of the decision and many more yelling with rage.

Whatever decision is made (there will be no clear winner or loser), just remember that everyone has a right to their own opinion and even if that opinion differs from yours that no one has the right to judge you for that. We’re all in this together but as I said before we will never be able to please everyone all of the time.

Therefore it is more important than ever, no matter what the outcome is, that we focus our attention on keeping our children (and family’s) mental health and wellness in check above all else right now which may very likely look a whole lot different for each of us as our expectations, our experiences and our perceptions are all unique to us, and guess what; that’s perfectly okay.

#cantpleaseeveryone #ouryouthmatter #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough #bekind #kindnessmatters #schoolkids #distancelearning #backtoschool #wearamask