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.
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.
First I just wanted to start off by giving a great big thank you to everyone (both near and far) who took the time yesterday to wish me a happy birthday. You helped make my day extra special and even more meaningful with all your beautiful birthday wishes and kind, encouraging words.
I have been beyond overwhelmed with emotion over the last couple of weeks as I have mentioned ALOT lately and most of my overwhelm has honestly had more to do with other aspects of my life and much less to do with my actual birthday.
But as the clock struck midnight on the eve of my birthday the focus completely shifted to my “birth day”. I tried not to overwhelm myself any further by putting any undue pressure on myself or create expectations that would overwhelm me further.
I cried ALOT yesterday, like ALOT ALOT.
I was overwhelmed ALOT yesterday, like ALOT ALOT.
I was on an emotional roller coaster ALOT yesterday, like ALOT ALOT but I don’t think I could have felt more blessed, loved or grateful than I did.
I was pampered and treated like royalty yesterday.
I got to feel the warm embrace of other fully vaccinated loved ones living outside of my home for the first time in over 15 months and I never wanted to let go.
And I received the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts (including of course our weekend getaway last weekend) from friends and family that I will cherish forever.
A couple of months ago I shared a blog with you describing how I had very few pictures of myself or of my family and friends from infancy to my late teens due to circumstances beyond my control (see blog: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2021/04/15/empty-picture-frames/).
Little did I know that from that blog would emerge one of the most cherished and meaningful gifts I could have ever imagined.
After reading that particular blog, my brother set out on a mission to hunt down pictures from our childhood. Along with the selfless aid of my sister in law, my two nephews, Rich and my three kids they spent hours upon hours exchanging emails and texts with one another, reaching out to dear friends and family who were a big part of our childhood and formatting the layout and design together (all behind my back) in order to create an album for me starting from where my life began on June 23rd 1971 in Montreal, Quebec to present day, 50 years later.
Believe it or not, these are only a handful of pics I chose to show you from this magnificent book. I honestly have no words to describe what yesterday truly meant to me and how deeply touched I am by all the kindness and love that surrounds me (and not just on my birthday) and I am so thankful to everyone who continues to go out of their way to show me day in and day out that I am enough ❤
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!!)
Tonight we celebrated Hannah’s Graduation from Ryerson University.
Her continued dedication, hard work, determination and commitment to succeed over the past four years not only earned Hannah a Degree in Communications but it also earned her a very well deserved placement on the Dean’s List for one last time this semester.
Dad and I couldn’t be more proud of all that you have accomplished and we can’t wait to see what awaits you this coming Fall (but first stop, CAMP!!!!) as you embark on the next chapter of your journey at Humber College in Event Management.
We know that whatever path you choose in life you are certain to shine.
~Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead ~ Nora Ephron
After spending over 8 hours in a car yesterday delivering signs, the last thing Rich really wanted to do today was drive somewhere too far away in order to go for a hike so instead we stayed close to home and took a walk through our own neighborhood.
It’s familiar. Maybe even a bit too familiar (especially after this past year) because most of the time when we go for a walk in the neighborhood we aren’t paying too close attention to the beautiful things surrounding us like we do when we are on a hike, and too be honest you really can end up missing lots.
I think we take many of those beautiful things, the ones right in our own backyard, for granted.
We both needed to refuel today.
And right away our normally very familiar walk felt very unfamiliar today because we actually took our time to notice the beautiful things surrounding us.
And we took the time to point out and share those beautiful things we noticed with each other.
The clear blue sky above us.
The pretty lilacs on the trees and grass too.
The love birds perched on a fence singing to one another.
The fearless dogs chasing a ball in a big open field.
The sound of laughter coming from the children playing in the park.
Friends enjoying a picnic lunch together, catching up with one another and smiling from ear to ear.
I didn’t capture any of these moments with my camera today but instead I just breathed them all in.
It was a beautiful #summerofrich day in the neighborhood!
Next time you go for a walk in your neighborhood try and notice at least five beautiful things surrounding you.