Tips For Easing Back To School

Here we go again. 

Another school year is about to begin (well here in Ontario that is). 

Another school year in the midst of a Pandemic and now kids and parents are once again facing those same fears, stressors, uncertainties and anxieties they did at the start of the last school year (but maybe a bit wiser).

Parents are worried about their children’s health and if they will be safe in class or how long it will be until they receive that email from their school board letting them know that schools are shutting down ONCE AGAIN.

And many, MANY kids are feeling those same worries as well which is making the transition back into the classroom this year even more trying on their mental health and wellness.

Here are some tips that I wanted to share with you on how to try and make this year’s transition a little bit easier.

Get back into a routine, especially with your older kids. 

But give them time to adjust.

Change can be very scary.

Help them lay out their clothing, knapsacks ready and lunches made all the night before if possible. The less chaos there is in the morning the better. 

Check in with your child(ren) regularly. Daily, if not more. Ask them questions. Listen intently.

Let them know that what they are feeling is okay and that you are there for them. 

It’s been a very LONG time since many children have even seen the inside of a classroom or a school yard.

Let them know that it’s okay to feel scared and nervous.

Reassure them that they are not alone. 

The unknown of what’s to come can sometimes be the hardest.

None of us truly know for certain what is going to happen this coming school year.

Promise them though that you will get through this together. 

Focus on what is in their control right now.

Watch out for any sudden changes in their behaviour.

And lastly, if your child is dealing with any type of mental health issues, communicate this to their teachers or caregivers right away.

Working together from the start will help to ensure that your child’s needs are met and that their feelings are always validated and hopefully it will ease whatever bumps in the road that may lie ahead feel a bit less scary for everyone. 

Wishing all the teachers, caregivers, administrators, parents and students a safe and successful year ahead.

#backtoschool #mentalwellness #transition #change #herewegoagain #fuckyoucovid #mentalhealth #suicideawareness #communicationiskey #youarenotalone #youareenough #ouryouthmatter #childrensmentalhealth

“Kids don’t need a perfect Mom. They need a real one.”

I may not be a perfect Mom but I’m totally real.

Besides which, perfection is overrated.

Yet I still struggle with this alot. 

Burdened by the guilt that I’ve let them down.

Taken away a piece of their childhood. 

A part of their innocence. 

They see me at my worst. 

Vulnerable. Defeated. Broken.

My kids don’t have a perfect Mom, no matter how hard I try.

And I do try.

They just have me.

Their loudest cheerleader.

Their strongest advocate.

Their biggest ally.

Kids don’t need a perfect Mom though.

They just need a real one.

Yet knowing this, I’m still left burdened by the guilt that I’ve let them down.

Taken away a piece of their childhood. 

A part of their innocence. 

But making real memories.

Lasting memories.

Celebrated memories.

It’s the real moments.

The lasting moments.

The celebrated moments.

It’s those moments, by far, that are the most perfectly imperfect Mom moments of all.

#tbt #cherishthemoments #mywhy #mythreereasonswhy #makingmemories #family #familymatters #icecream #perfectlyimperfect #nobodysperfect #beingreal #inthemoment #mentalhealth #mentalillness #yourmentalhealthmatters 

The Voice of Depression

*May be triggering to some*

My emotions are running high and forever changing.

I’m irritable.

I can’t sleep.

I’m fatigued.

My anxiety is persistent.

I’m sad and overwhelmed.

My thoughts are dark.

This is the voice of Depression.

It makes me want to scream.

My efforts to drown out its voice is met with great resistance and gets louder and more intense the harder I try to resist it.

It wears me down.

It thrives on pain.

At times,

It can be very intrusive.

At other times,

Convincing.

I cannot let it win.

Not Suicide.

Not today.

If you or someone you know is in crisis text 45645 to connect with a counselor or go to your nearest emergency room.

#voiceofdepression #notsuicidenottoday #camh #depressionkills #anxietyisreal #mentalhealth #keepfuckinggoing #youareenough #itsoktonotbeok #suicideawareness #suicideprevention

Kintsugi: A Touch of Gold

Metaphorically speaking, sometimes when we fall down we may chip a little. 

Sometimes we may even crack. 

And sometimes we completely shatter into a billion pieces. 

Seven years ago I completely shattered into a billion pieces. 

I didn’t even see it coming. 

It happened so fast and it feels like every day since I have been desperately searching for a way to mend those shattered pieces of my life.

For the first few years of my recovery I believed that the only way for me to truly heal was to find my way back to the life I was living before I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. 

So much has changed in my life in the past seven years, some for the better. 

But as I began to slowly try and pick up those shattered pieces of my life and put them back to where they were before, I realized it was an impossible task and then I began to understand something else, that even if it were possible, I no longer wanted to go back.

I’ve come to learn more and more recently about the Japanese artform called “Kintsugi” and how it seems to relate so much to my journey. 

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pieces back together using gold. It’s built around the philosophy that as we learn to embrace both our past and imperfections, we become more beautiful as a whole. 

It believes that no matter how broken we may feel at certain times in our lives, healing is possible and that by embracing both our past and our imperfections we will find hope and new meaning too.

It also shows us that we are no less valuable just because we may have a few chips or cracks in us.

I have spent the last many years desperately trying to figure out ways in which to mend my shattered pieces and turn them into a work of art, something that could be more meaningful and even more beautiful than before. 

Maybe, without even knowing it I have somehow already adopted many of the Kintsugi practices into my healing process along my journey by continuously trying to show the world all my chips, cracks and shattered pieces instead of hiding them. 

Now all that’s left to do is add a touch of golden highlights in order to give me the strength to believe that even when life feels like its been shattered into a billion pieces there is always hope in finding a way to mend them.

#kintsugi #japaneseart #atouchofgold #shatteredpieces #strength #hope #beauty #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #depression #anxiety #suicideprevention #yourmentalhealthmatters #youareenough #youarenotalone #itsoktonotbeok 

Monday Motivation: I Am More Than My Mental Illness (Mental Health Week May 3-9)

The truth is I don’t see it often and to be perfectly honest I mostly only see it when others point it out to me but I am so much more than my mental illness. 

I spend most of my waking hours convincing myself that I am incapable, that I am worthless and that I am a burden to everyone in my life. 

I am forever apologizing for my mental illness. 

I am forever feeling guilty because of my mental illness.

I am forever feeling like a failure because of my mental illness. 

I am forever left feeling broken and suicidal because of my mental illness. 

And I am forever feeling like a prisoner in my own mind because of my mental illness.

Being labelled with a disorder of any kind doesn’t make you any less than the beautiful, amazing person that you already are. 

Labeling someone for their shortcomings can be damaging and we should never let it define us. 

Even though my mind literally has a mind of it’s own, my heart will tell you that I am so much more than my mental illness. It even says so right here on this list.

I AM:

Valuable 

Worthy of respect 

Respected

Kind

Generous

Worthy of love

Deeply loved

Thoughtful

Resourceful 

Smart

Funny

Honest

Ambitious 

Creative

Dedicated 

Skilled at all sorts of things 

Resilient 

Driven by integrity and values

A good mother

A good wife

A good friend

Enough 

I am more than my shortcomings.

I am more than my labels.

I am more than my mental illness. 

And you are too.

What do you see in yourself from this list? Feel free to add more.

I AM…

#mentalhealthweek #mondaymotivation #iam #youmatter #itsoktonotbeok #youareenough #bekindtoyourself #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #labels #shortcomings #morethan

It’s National Husband Appreciation Day!

I know I don’t say it nearly enough just how much I truly appreciate you Rich, and everything you do for me. 

Your commitment and dedication to our family (which includes Maggie of course!) is immeasurable. 

You go above and beyond.

Always looking out for us.

Always putting the needs of your family above your own.

Always willing to watch romantic comedies with me (just thought I’d slip that one in!).

Always ensuring that we are well fed and have clean clothes to wear.

And so much more…

You are the one constant in my life.

The one I can always count on.

My biggest cheerleader. 

I am so grateful 

and lucky 

and thankful 

and beyond appreciative to have you in my life; in our lives. 

I know I don’t “need” some silly “National Holiday” or Birthday or Anniversary or even Father’s Day to remind me to tell you just how truly valued and loved you are but it certainly never hurts either because lets all be honest here for a moment; staying present takes a lot of effort. 

We often lose sight of what’s right in front of us and forget how important it is to pause just long enough to appreciate someone else’s presence in our lives and focus on the things that really matter most to us right here and right now.

I guess hashtag #summerofrich isn’t proof enough of how much I really do appreciate you? 🤔🤣😁❤

What do you appreciate most about your spouse or significant other?

FYI: Wife Appreciation Day is Sept.19th!

#nationalhusbandappreciationday #spouses #marriage #ittakeswork #itsworthit #grateful #blessed #bepresentinthemoment #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #mindfulness #youareenough #iloveyoutothemoonandback #foreverandaday 

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 

Reflecting on 2020

There couldn’t have been a more perfect book for me to end this year with. And now all that is left to do is eat every last slice of cake, making sure we leave no crumbs behind.

**thank you to Hannah and Rachel for the cake**

#reflectingon2020 #familymatters #happynewyear #youareenough #soulsearching #spiritualhealing #themidnightlibrary @matthaig

Burnt Toast

Today I feel like I’m toast, burnt toast to be exact. 

Some days I can pull myself together long enough to eat the damn piece of toast, some days I need to smother it with a thick layer of strawberry jam in order to cover up my pain and overwhelm, some days I try really hard to scrape away the black charcoal on my toast with a butter knife to show the world my true self and then there are days like today when all I want to do is throw away the piece of burnt toast in the waste bin because if truth be told, it feels too hopeless to even try and salvage it.

#burnttoast #itsoktonotbeok #youarenotalone #youareenough #startaconversation #dontsufferinsilence #speakyourtruth #beingreal #checkonyourlovedones #depression #anxiety #mentalillness #mentalhealth #suicideawareness #endthestigmatogether 

My Velveteen Rabbit

Did you have a favourite blankie or stuffed animal growing up? Did you sleep with it every night and take it with you everywhere you went? Did you feel a sense of panic if it was suddenly out of your reach? Was it loved so much that it became “real”?

One of my favourite children’s books growing up was “The Velveteen Rabbit”, a story that I passed down to my own children when they were very young hoping they would fall in love with it as much as I did and one day I hope that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will too. 

The story was originally published in 1922 but it never seems to grow old. It’s a story of a young boy who receives many presents one Christmas morning including a beautiful stuffed Velveteen Rabbit.  But the boy doesn’t take to the rabbit right away as he had so many new and shiny toys to play with all at once, until one day his nanny grabs the Velveteen Rabbit off the shelf for him to sleep with.

The rabbit had longed for this moment and had only one wish in mind which was to “become”. And “become” he did. The boy grew so attached to the rabbit that eventually “most of his hair had been loved off, his eyes dropped out and his joints became loose and very shabby”. It was at that moment that the Velveteen Rabbit knew he had finally become “real”.

As a young child I had my own “Velveteen Rabbit” only he wasn’t actually a rabbit but instead a fluffy gray haired dog who wore a big red plaid hat atop his head. Throughout my childhood and into my transition into adulthood that stuffed dog gave me a great sense of safety, predictability and comfort; something I know millions of children around the world during this past year have looked for more than ever before. 

He “became” so real that his fur was also loved off, his eyes dropped out and his joints became loose and shabby too. He lost his big red plaid hat at some point over the course of my childhood and my grandma replaced it by knitting him a special red and white bow to wear around his wobbly neck to keep him warm. 

His name was Sniffer and he saw me through the worst of times in my life and the best of times as well (he even made a surprise appearance at my wedding thanks to my brother!). A stuffed animal like Sniffer who becomes “real” are so much more than any old toy in a child’s toy box because when they “become” they teach a child about compassion, they teach a child how to love and they can teach a child to be gentle towards others. They also open up a world of imagination and pretend play for a child by giving them a name, a voice and a personality.  

Sniffer did all that and more for me and nowadays he sits comfortably on a shelf in my closet as he is pretty old and fragile. He is also pretty much the only memory I have left from my childhood (a story for another time and place) so I will never just toss him away. 

Just knowing he is there if ever I need him gives me a sense of comfort and ease in an anxious moment. His sentimental value is also both soothing and calming in times of distress. I guess sometimes we all just need a trusting hug or cuddle from an old familiar inanimate object to give us a feeling that we too have “become” because once you “reach that point then no matter what happens to you, you can always be true to yourself” too.

Did you have a special toy or object that brought you comfort? Do you still have it today?

#becomingreal #stuffedanimals #comfort #sentimental #thevelveteenrabbit #youareenough #youarenotalone #childandyouthmentalhealth #mentalhealthishealth #childrensliterature