This afternoon I was given the opportunity and honour to be a guest speaker on a Podcast.
My first one ever.
I felt like a movie star.
I was introduced to the host Marilyn Barefoot about a month or so ago through a mutual friend who thought that I would be a perfect fit for Marilyn’s Podcast called “Breaking Brave” so she connected us via email and we set up a time to “meet” and get to know one another later that week.
Our conversation was so easy.
It was heartfelt and inspiring.
I felt like we’d known each other forever.
Right from our opening dialogue I could feel Marilyn’s energy and compassion shine through.
She is a natural born speaker, motivator and innovator both in her chosen field and on her Podcast.
But once Marilyn was given the green light from her Executive Producer a few days later to schedule me in for an actual recording of her Podcast it wasn’t too long afterwards when my negative self-talk kicked into full gear.
Brave? Me, brave?
How do I foster bravery in my mental health journey?
I gave this a great deal of thought.
I know that being vulnerable and honest about my personal struggles with mental illness is brave.
I know that by educating others and helping them to understand the many depths of mental illness is brave.
I know that being so transparent about my own mental health is helping to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and that is brave.
I know that the more I talk about my illness allows others to feel more comfortable and less ashamed or alone about their own struggles and that is brave.
I know that getting up each and every day and fighting for my life and advocating for the lives of so many others just like me is very brave.
I know that I have inspired many because of my willingness to share my story and that too is brave.
Being brave about your own mental health struggles should be contagious but it also doesn’t have to include writing a blog, publishing a children’s book or baring your heart and soul on Social Media either.
For you, “Breaking Brave” in your own personal mental health journey right now may mean taking that first step to ensure you get the help you need, however it is you feel most comfortable doing so, just so long as you do it! And I would be honoured to help take that first step with you!
A special thank you to Marilyn and her Executive Producer Rebekah for allowing me to share my story with your audience today and for showing me how truly brave I am. I am grateful for this experience and for your kindness and compassion.
My episode will likely be aired in a couple of months (I will keep you posted!). To listen to previously recorded episodes of Marilyn’s Podcast go to: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/breaking-brave-with-marilyn-barefoot/id1555760904 . “Each episode, find out how innovators and trailblazers from every walk of life broke through in their chosen or created fields. A podcast meant to inspire, invigorate, inform and uplift.”~Marilyn Barefoot
The past year has definitely proven how critical it is to help one another out. The theme of this year’s Pink Shirt Day is “lift each other up” which is a perfect reminder to all of us that we need to continue to raise awareness about bullying, encourage a healthy self worth, empathy, compassion and to always choose kindness.
Very early this morning (and after a big winter storm overnight) my youngest daughter had all four of her wisdom teeth removed (could there be any better way to spend your Reading Week/Mid Winter Break from school?).
Her brother and sister both had their wisdom teeth removed a few years back (a week apart) and my husband had his taken out early on in our courtship, but I on the other hand have never had the pleasure of having mine removed, mainly due to the fact that well, they’ve never actually grown in.
Wisdom teeth have been referred to as the “teeth of wisdom” from as far back as the seventeenth century because they most often don’t appear until a person reaches adulthood (somewhere between the age of 17 and 25 years old) “when a person matures into adulthood and is wiser than when other teeth have erupted”.
And wisdom teeth also signify that “the carefree days of childhood have given way to the responsibilities of adulthood.” (From an article written by “Dear Doctor” titled “Why Are They Called Wisdom Teeth?”).
So what does someone like myself, someone that is, who has the wonderful ability to turn every waking thought or action into a negative one? It’s a pretty easy answer; I tell myself that maybe if my wisdom teeth had grown in then maybe I could’ve been able to make wiser, more sensible or more insightful choices when I began my transition into adulthood.
Yup, you are probably shaking your head right now or even laughing at what sounds pretty darn crazy to most people reading this but to a depressed mind it may not.
I have joked half-heartedly in passing many times over the years as to how unwise I must be for having never developed my “wisdom teeth” but could there be some truth in there, afterall there is always some truth in jest. So maybe it’s not actually that “with age comes wisdom” but maybe it’s that “with wisdom teeth comes wisdom” instead?
**Oh and my apologies for not having any fun pics or videos to share as my husband wasn’t allowed in the recovery room with her! (Damn you once again Covid.)
A memory popped up on my Facebook page early this morning which reminded me that seven years ago today I had a minor surgical procedure done in hospital, but aside from some slight discomfort for a couple of days following, it was really no big deal.
This memory has popped up on my Facebook wall for years now and recalling it has also never been any big deal before, that was until today. Suddenly after all these years I became severely triggered by it and I really wish I could understand why.
It could’ve been because I had a particularly difficult day yesterday and was already in a very negative mindset when the notification came in on my phone shortly after midnight; which is also when the floodgates completely opened up and left me writing this at 4:30 am.
The above procedure I had happened to take place exactly seven weeks prior to “D” day. “D” day of course refers to the day in which my journey first began and reading this seemingly innocent memory this morning took me back, not to the actual day of my surgery but instead I began ruminating about all the events that took place leading up to “D” day.
I found myself ruminating about the new job I had just started literally a week or two before my procedure. I found myself ruminating about how I destroyed my entire world by choosing to leave another job to pursue this one. I found myself ruminating about all the scary conversations and dangerous situations I found myself in over the next six or seven weeks following the procedure, all at the hands of my crooked boss.
I began to beat myself up further for several more hours, replaying every bad memory, image and scenario in my head that literally occurred up until “D” day and literally all night long. And to think that all this was triggered from a memory on Facebook that once felt pretty disconnected from all of the above.
I’m beginning to think that maybe the procedure was a bigger deal after all, maybe I had more than just a minor surgical procedure done, is it possible I was given a lobotomy that day instead? I mean it certainly would all make perfect sense to me now. Yes? No?
There are lots of unique and some not so unique experiences I’ve encountered over the last (almost) seven years now, many of which I am no longer able to recall. Some of that could be blamed on the memory loss I’ve suffered since having ECT treatments (Electroconvulsive Therapy) several years ago and then there are the many other memories which I so desperately try to block from my mind, yet somehow they continue to rear their ugly head during times like now when I find myself trying to fight the urge to kill myself.
I’m not quite sure if these PTSD invoking memories are serving as a stern warning to me as to what the repercussions may be if I tell someone how I am truly feeling or if it’s an SOS signal telling me that no matter what the repercussions are, they are still better than the alternative.
One such memory that will forever be etched in my mind and has come to the forefront lately as I continue to fight off my urges happened one Easter Sunday, just two weeks after my first signs of Depression kicked in and it still haunts me to this day almost seven years later.
I had taken off in my car (again) and was feeling suicidal and very much like a worthless burden. There wasn’t a lot open that day/night as it was a holiday and Rich became panicked when he and my kids could not reach me by phone or text for several hours and knowing that I was feeling suicidal he began reaching out to friends and other family members hoping that someone had heard from me all the while I was aimlessly driving around trying to fight off my urges, unable to face going back home, feeling like everyone was better off without me and purposely ignoring his pleas.
At some point later that evening I checked the frantic voice and text messages from Rich, my kids and others and found the most recent message from Rich was informing me that he had called the police. I became anxious but knew it was nothing more than a scare tactic to get me to come home. But moments later my phone rang again and it was a police officer calling me and so I pulled into a nearby gas station, parked my car at the front entrance of the store and answered my phone.
He identified himself and told me that he was at my home and that my family was very concerned for my safety and wellbeing. As I sat there shaking and crying on the other end of the phone I finally agreed to come home but just as I looked back in my rearview mirror and began to shift into reverse I was suddenly (and literally) trapped by three police cruisers that had just swarmed my car. Fuck, they had pinged my goddamn phone.
A female officer approached my car and I rolled down my window part way while still on the phone with the officer who was seemingly awaiting my arrival at home. She asked me to turn off my car and step out of my vehicle. I explained to her that I was on the phone with the police officer (which in hindsight she already knew) and that I was okay and heading home. Yup it was all a rouse and I was now at her mercy.
I kept repeating to her as tears rolled down my face that I was okay and I just wanted to go home. She was having none of that and by law I now had no other choice but to listen to the 5 (or it could’ve been 20 for all I knew by now) officers surrounding my car as though I was a criminal as they searched the contents of my purse and coat pockets, then took away my purse, my phone and my dignity and transported me to the nearby hospital in the back of a cop car.
I was a bit naive in my thinking, afterall this was all so new to me and I was still not ready to accept what was going on inside my head. I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening to me or why I was feeling this way and now there I was scared as hell and alone in the back of a cop car for the very first time in my life. I felt trapped and wished I really was dead.
The police officer who was at my home drove Rich to pick up my car at the gas station and met me at the hospital. He was the last person I wanted to see at that very moment but I figured he could advocate for me and get me the fuck out of there faster. Boy was I wrong again because the officer who drove me to the hospital was now obligated to put me on a “Form 1” which meant I had lost all my rights and there was nowhere left for me to escape.
Once the officers completed all their paperwork I was handed over to the hospital security guards who then made me change out of my clothes and into a hospital gown. There went my last stitch of dignity on the bathroom floor.
I felt like I was a toddler who was being babysat by a young teenager who was afraid to take their eyes off of me for one second for fear that I may hurt myself, even when I needed to use the bathroom.
It took several more hours until I was finally seen by a crisis counsellor (who was awoken at home to come in to meet with me). It was now about 2 am but I was still determined that I could charm my way out of there since my head felt alot clearer. I was wrong again.
The crisis counsellor spoke with me for about an hour (and afterwards with Rich) where I again just kept repeating myself and letting her hear what she wanted to hear, that I was okay and exhausted and needed to go home to my own bed.
Again, that didn’t work either. She told me that I needed to wait to speak with the Psychiatrist next who would be starting their rounds later that morning. Ok I figured how much worse could it get if I just waited in emerg for a few more hours at this point.
This time however she told me what I wanted to hear and that the Dr. would be around to see me at about 8 am so I lay down on the couch in the room and waited patiently with Rich by my side, even though I still had not forgiven him.
As time passed slowly, I think I must have dozed off for a bit because the next thing I remember is being woken by my team of security guards and a nurse. It was now 5 am and there was a bed suddenly available on the inpatient ward that they demanded I follow them to. I was having none of that except again I had lost all my rights and before I knew it I was being threatened that I follow them quietly upstairs or they would need to take other drastic measures.
So off they carted me kicking and screaming (figuratively), pleading with them to let me stay in emerg for a few more hours until the Psychiatrist would be coming to talk to me. Rich walked with me, the team of security guards and the nurse until the big steel doors which led to the ward. Rich was forbidden beyond those doors. As we parted ways, I whispered sweet nothings in his ear. Ok, I’m lying. I don’t recall exactly what I whispered in his ear but it was hateful and unforgiving and with looks that could kill. I bet he still remembers what I said.
So there I was now all alone and scared again, this time in a cold, depressing room sitting on the edge of a bed. I would not allow myself to get comfortable and what came next, well who could really blame me.
By this point I had lost all track of time because well I didn’t have a clock or my phone to know what time it was. I just kept watching for the sun to rise and anxiously await the arrival of the Psychiatrist at 8am. But I kept getting distracted by a woman who was strolling the hallway outside my room and every time she walked by my room she would stop right smack in the doorway and stare directly at me with a sparkle of evil in her eyes. She reminded me of the young girl Wednesday Addams from the Addams Family.
This continued on for a good hour, or so it seemed and just as the sun was rising I became distracted once again by a nurse who was helping a young man take a shower which happened to be right across the hall from my room. I watched her close the door behind her as she yelled to the young man, “I’ll be right back.” And before I knew it there was a naked man running past my door, down the hall toward the nurse.
My gosh, I had only been on the edge of my bed for maybe two hours but it sure felt closer to a week from all the action going on and don’t forget the sun had still barely risen yet! I finally decided it was best I curl up on the bed, facing the window to wait out what I was promised would be another hour!
It wasn’t! And I should also mention that I couldn’t remember when I had last eaten anything but when breakfast, and then lunch was wheeled into my room I refused to eat. It was Passover afterall so I couldn’t eat what they were serving me, but I’m pretty sure by this point it was more like a protest for me and oh ya, it was also way past 8 am.
That afternoon Rich was allowed onto the ward to see me and we waited together until finally somewhere between 3 and 4 pm the Psychiatrist FINALLY came to see me. We met with her in a nearby conference room and discussed in great length what had transpired over the last couple of weeks and then she agreed with Rich’s blessing to discharge me along with a sheet filled with recomendations and several outpatient resources.
I honestly have no recollection of what followed once I got home (it probably included a hot shower, a home cooked meal and a warm bed) but I do know that it was just the beginning of what was to come for me which has included many, many more voluntary and involuntary visits to emergency rooms, several suicide attempts, security guards stripping me of my dignity, rides in ambulances (which are way more comfortable than police cars) and several weeks and months of inpatient care.
I’m pretty sure that this particularly difficult and overwhelming day lives on in the forefront of my memory as an SOS signal reminding me that no matter what the repercussions are, they are still probably a better option than the alternative.
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.
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?
It was one year ago today when I made my very first ever appearance on a National Television Morning Talk Show. It felt like a dream come true for me, but as soon as it was all over I collapsed from mental exhaustion.
Leading up to that day I had been working my ass off nonstop for several months ensuring that my new children’s book got into as many hands as I possibly could imagine but when the show ended and I arrived home, I felt a sense of defeat and decided that I needed to take a step back from my whirlwind tour.
I had intended it to be a short break, just until the new year which by now was only a few weeks away and just long enough to get my mojo back but what came next noone could have ever predicted because way before the Pandemic hit in mid March my life took several other unforeseen turns.
New Year’s Day 2020 came quickly and as I had promised myself a few weeks earlier I began organizing my calendar for some new and exciting upcoming events on my “book tour” and I also began looking at what other avenues I wanted to explore in the coming months ahead as well. But no sooner was it than 24 hours later when I found myself in bed for the better part of January with a concussion caused by numerous fainting episodes on the early morning hours of January 2nd.
I soon became further defeated and on a downward spiral as I lay in bed feeling dizzy, exhausted and headachy, cancelling events and trying to reschedule others, most of which never ended up taking place at all because, well we all know the answer to that.
Many more unforeseen events and unfortunate mishaps continued to unfold in my life over the course of last winter and before I knew it I had not fulfilled one promise to myself from the previous December day when I decided I needed to take that short break.
But who knew what was waiting for us just around the corner right at the exact moment I was finally ready to get back to where I had left off all those months earlier, who could have possibly known? Noone could because noone truly knows what the future holds.
But there we all were, together, facing so much uncertainty and unknown and nowadays we spend so much of our time fearful of the “not knowing” and as someone who lives her life with a major depressive disorder and severe anxiety I’m not quite sure if the not knowing what the future holds (depression) is worse than always trying to predict it (anxiety).
My illness has caused me to look to my past with many regrets and when I look to my future it feels very purposeless and uncertain. But I know I’m not alone in my feelings of an uncertain future especially after what we and the rest of the world have been living through for the last nine months or longer.
2020 has become the year that nobody could have ever predicted and has crippled so many people with fear and uncertainty of what their future’s hold and has also created a sense of powerlessness in so many more, even those amongst us who may have once enjoyed a lifestyle of risk taking or living unpredictable lives.
This year has sucked big time for all of us. If I hadn’t already before 2020 hit, I have for certain by now lost so much faith in the kind of hopeful future that lies in wait for me and I am pretty certain that I have felt defeated more times than I think is humanly possible this year alone but as the year quickly comes to a close I can’t help but take note of the many valuable life lessons we have (hopefully) all learned as well.
Some of my thoughts:
Our relationships with family and friends must take precedence over all else
We are never to busy to make time for the people and things that matter the most to us and we must stop using it as an excuse
Taking care of our health needs to be a top priority
We CAN actually live without many of the “things” we once thought we “must” have in our lives in order to live a more fulfilling life
Saving money for a “rainy day” is imperative
It’s okay to take time to stop and smell the roses
Our definition of who is an essential worker has changed. Honour and respect them all equally as they continue to tirelessly (and with very little pay for some) take great pride in and care for all of us each and every single day
We are all human beings and we all deserve to be treated as equals
CAMH (which is Canada’s leading hospital in Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Research) has developed a new campaign that focuses on today by giving hope for a better tomorrow.
I feel like I am knee deep in quicksand today and I find myself drawn in by this video. Hearing the words “Not Suicide. Not Today.” repeated over and over again may not seem like much to some people but for someone like myself who is struggling to breathe right now as the quicksand pushes me deeper below the surface and my thoughts of suicide keep urging me to end my life, listening to these words are serving as a gentle reminder that maybe it’s not actually my life I wish to end but just my life in this very moment instead.
“Not Today” means not now and “when we all say ‘Not Today’ together, it’s easier to say it when we’re alone.”
I’ve attached the video below for anyone else who may need to hear these words today too 🤗❤
Thank you for always supporting my journey and reminding me “Not Today”.