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
I’m not in a good headspace. It’s not like this is something new to me or unexplored before; but I’m just not “okay”.
I’m feeling very unsettled and my heart is heavy. If it hasn’t already been difficult enough for me living each day of the last seven years feeling like I’ve lost a big piece of myself then how can I ever begin to shake off this heaviness I’ve felt for the last several weeks? A heaviness that feels way bigger than just one piece of my life has gone missing. In a sense I feel like I’ve been robbed and to be completely honest, in a very real way I believe I have.
I’m turning 50 in just a little over two months. I’ve never really been too hung up on the whole age thing and let’s face it, if I had been then I probably would’ve never agreed to go on a first date, let alone marry a man who’s close to nine years older than me.
My social media feeds have been preparing me for my upcoming birthday since the beginning of 2021 as several times a week I witness one or more of my friends from my childhood and adolescence reach this special milestone. And it’s been kinda exciting and nostalgic to reminisce with many old friends, see old photos and feel part of this exclusive club; the one that significantly links me back to my childhood and adolescent years, a time and place that I have some of the fondest memories of with friends and extended family.
But a few weeks ago when one of my oldest and dearest friends was about to turn 50 I felt a trigger of emotions come over me and it hasn’t left me since. It feels heavy and unsettled and fills my heart with so much sadness, anger, resentment, hurt and emptiness.
These triggers have taken me even further back in my life than just seven years ago, like way, way back; right to birth.
You see I wanted so desperately to pay tribute to my dear friend with a walk down memory lane in the form of a photo collage and to be able to celebrate our nearly 40 years of friendship except, here is where the trigger of emotions really began to go off the rails for me because how can I make a collage of memories from an almost 40 year friendship without a single photo or memory from our younger years.
I don’t want to get into too many details right now as to what actually happened to every single one of my photos and childhood memories I possessed before the age of 19 because well that’s where the triggers really start to go south for me.
Let’s just say that if they had been lost in an accidental fire or went missing during a home invasion I could make room for forgiveness in my heart; but neither of those two scenerios actually played out.
There isn’t one photo of my first year of life to be found, not one school picture or memory from any of my birthdays to be found either. There are no photos of me sitting on my grandpa’s lap playing his trumpet or baking cookies with my grandma to be found. There are no photos of my childhood home in Montreal or Toronto for that matter, no photos of me from the many summers I spent at overnight camp as a camper (I do have a few pics though of my summer as a camp counsellor back in 1989). There isn’t the abundance of photos that were taken of my precious dog who meant the world to me during my adolescent years, no photos capturing the silly antics of me and my brother to be found, no photos of family outings, no photos of family friends or relatives and no photos of me and my besties growing up. It’s as though my childhood has been completely erased and sadly it all could’ve been prevented.
The only photos I do have in my possession now (which I sometimes like to post) are the few that have been sent to me by old friends and family (please keep ’em coming!).
My kids have begrudgingly posed for pictures and may get somewhat annoyed at times by my wanting to document every single milestone or seemingly insignificant moment from their childhood, adolescence and young adult lives but I see them, I see them periodically flipping through old photo albums and the hundreds of saved pictures on their computers. I see them laughing and reminiscing and looking back fondly at those silly memories and keepsakes and I definitely know now that one day they will totally thank me for it because memories may fade over time but a picture will tell a story for a lifetime!
I always try to hold on to my belief that we as a society are making progress in the area of mental health and the stigma attached to mental illness but today it just feels hopeless.
Instead today I am feeling both sickened and angry over the amount of criticism and skepticism that I have seen on social media or read in the news over the past 24 hours bashing Meghan’s shocking revelations.
I have seen comment after comment in many, many news feeds by people stating how it is not possible for someone as rich or as famous or as successful as Meghan to ever have anything to be depressed about?
I have written so many blogs about how mental illness does not discriminate. Do they need to be reminded about Robin Williams and Kate Spade or so many others who had fame and fortune who have died by suicide because I’ve got plenty of blogs in the archives all about these tragic losses?
But what truly makes me most sickened and angry from all of the ignorant comments I have been reading is how many of these same people are calling her a liar.
If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide; believe them.
These comments can be very detrimental to someone like me who struggles with daily thoughts of suicide. This blatant disregard for empathy could very likely cause someone reading those comments to follow through on their ideations believing that if they were to tell a loved one or confidant that they are thinking of ending their life they wouldn’t be heard or maybe they will be met with judgement instead, pushing them further to the brink.
If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide; believe them.
Let them know you are listening to them, show your support for them, encourage them to keep talking, ask them the difficult questions, follow their lead, suggest they seek professional help or find them the help yourself if you fear they are in immediate danger and most importantly let them know you will continue to be there for them.
**If you or someone you know is in crisis please reach out for help immediately to a trusted friend, confident or loved one. There are also many online resources to help guide you. You are not alone. I am always here to listen❤.
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.
I belong to several neighborhood groups on Facebook. Overall I enjoy reading many of their daily posts and community updates as a way to stay informed. These groups are meant to be a safe place for “adults” (a term I use loosely nowadays) to have open dialogues or to give their opinions and suggestions to other group members in a non judgmental way but with tensions running so high these days it seems as though that is almost next to impossible.
You’re probably wondering why I don’t just leave these groups or scroll on past them in my feeds to avoid a possible anxiety attack or fits of anger but I guess it’s because, well to be perfectly honest here, I’m a glutton for punishment.
Today there was a post made in one such group which I knew right away was going to cause a lot of tension and differing of opinions among community members and I also knew that if I scrolled through the comments I was likely to become anxious or better yet enraged. But because I’m a glutton for punishment I began reading every last comment (over 200 to be exact).
And yup, the more comments I read the more anxious and angry I became. We have been living through the Covid-19 Pandemic now for over 10 months and since day one we have all been doing our best to survive, the best way we know how and it has sadly taken an enormous toll on many (emphasis on many) of us both financially and mentally.
So when I came upon one particular conversation and back and forth banter today while reading all the comments on this post I felt both sadness and anger all at once when one individual quickly dismissed another person’s concern for their children’s mental health and wellbeing right now as nothing more than an inconvenience.
He continued on by telling this mom (whom he didn’t seem to even know) that her kid’s mental health couldn’t truly be suffering given that we live in a “pretty comfortable neighborhood” with “big homes” and plenty of room in our backyards to run around in to get some exercise and let off some steam.
I have no words to explain exactly how truly angry and saddened I felt as I read those ignorant and very damaging comments. Whether it’s our kids, our loved ones, our friends or others in our communities we are all suffering and doing the best that we can right now to ensure that we make it through these incredibly trying times and NOONE has the right to assume, to judge or to make someone feel this way, EVER because you never truly know what is going on in someone else’s boat.
A big thank you to Founder @silkenlaumann (four-time Canadian Olympian Rower) and @unsinkablestories for sharing my story with your audience.
Unsinkable is a Not-For-Profit Organization whose mission is to “connect and empower people to achieve better mental, physical and spiritual health”. They “share stories, amplify voices and offer a community of support, resources and programs built with your wellbeing in mind”.
Feel free to follow them and their youth chapter (@unsinkableyouth) on Instagram and Facebook where my story is also featured: https://weareunsinkable.com/finding-my-purpose/
Here is my story below!
FINDING MY PURPOSE
It’s been a pretty bumpy few weeks for me which kind of feels like being on a roller coaster of emotions with many steep slopes and sharp twists and turns and has caused me so much pain and anguish leading to a mixture of scary and intrusive thoughts. The thing is though, I’m used to it by now because you see, I’ve been on this same roller coaster ride for the last six and a half years which equates to 2,372 days, 56,928 hours and approximately 3,415,680 minutes (so it’s no wonder why I feel nauseous all time).
It began on a beautiful Spring day in early April, 2014 when I headed out the door for work that Friday morning. It started out like any other seemingly normal weekday, but by five o’clock that afternoon my entire world came crumbling down and I have been trying to put the pieces of my life back together ever since.
That Friday morning, April 4, 2014, I was doing what I had been doing for several months; heading to a job that I hated. A job that made me doubt my self-worth. A job that made me uncomfortable. A job that made me question my integrity. A job that made me compromise my morals. A job that made me feel unsafe and a job that made me feel like I no longer had any purpose. Ok so it wasn’t so much the job itself that did all that, but in actuality it was a boss who did.
I was so excited when I started working for him earlier that year and I thought I had finally found a job that I could build into a thriving career but instead I fell head first into his trap (stupid, stupid me) and on April 4, 2014 after he asked me to do something that I felt was both morally and ethically wrong I packed up my belongings one last time and high-tailed it out of there. I got into my car shaking and completely terrified and by this point in time, completely broken and defeated. I drove around for hours on end as my entire family and many of my friends frantically drove around the city looking for me because the last thing I did after I left my office that afternoon was text my husband telling him I wanted to kill myself before turning off my phone.
It was on that day that I lost my will to live. It was on that day that I became overwhelmed and hopeless. It was on that day that I felt worthless. It was on that day that I realized I was a failure in every sense of the word and it was on that day that I discovered just how much of a burden I truly was. Something inside of me snapped that day or so it might’ve seemed like at the time, but what I didn’t know then was I had truly been suffering in silence for a very long time and didn’t even know it.
I have since learned so much about myself through the help of my wonderful therapist (who I have been seeing now for almost 3 years on a weekly basis) as I slowly began to delve further into my past with her and I now have a much greater understanding of my pain and suffering.
I’ve come to realize over the past few years through my weekly therapy sessions that many of the regrets I’ve had in my lifetime or the wrong paths I should never have taken or the lack of empathy and guidance I had during my formative years led me to that very moment. Over time these emotions built up inside of me and finally broke me that day back in April, 2014 which very soon after, led to my diagnosis of Major Depression and Severe Anxiety and a roller coaster of a journey toward Mental Wellness ever since.
My journey has been long and burdensome which has included daily thoughts of suicide, several attempts of suicide, numerous hospital stays (one of which was over three months in length). I’ve tried over twenty different concoctions of medication, all of which caused severe physical and mental side effects and a weight gain of 100 pounds, at which time I needed to stop taking traditional medications all together and was further diagnosed with Treatment Resistant Depression.
I completed 8 sessions of ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) back in 2015 during a hospital stay which proved to be unsuccessful and has left me with memory loss and other issues as well. Some other attempts at treatment have also included Ketamine through a clinical trial, Neurofeedback, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and the list goes on and on.
During my very first hospital admission back in the fall of 2014 I began to journal daily and I fell in love with it. I’d forgotten just how much I loved to write as a child and teenager and eventually through my writing I started to share my story on Social Media which I eventually turned into a Blog called YouAreEnough. Right away I received an overwhelming amount of support by so bravely sharing my journey and it has allowed me to identify my purpose along the way.
I’ve been given a voice (one that I do not take for granted) to help others understand that Mental Illness is not a weakness and has also allowed me the opportunity to become an advocate for change and help reduce the Stigma that still surrounds Mental Illness today.
Continuing to share my journey on a very regular basis has felt triumphant and has shown so many individuals that it’s okay to not be okay, giving them permission to start important conversations themselves about their own struggles with Mental Illness. My story has also allowed many individuals and their loved ones some much needed strength and courage to ask for help and to feel less alone.
Last summer I took my love of writing and my passion for helping others one step further by self-publishing one of my pieces of writing into a children’s book which helps guide parents, caregivers and loved ones how to help children cope with and understand their feelings when someone they love is suffering with Depression. It is titled “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and it’s a labour of love. It’s a story that affects millions of families each and every day, including my own.
My children are now 22, 21 and 18 years old but six and a half years ago when I first became ill they needed more than anything to know that they were not to blame in any way for my illness and that they were safe and loved no matter what. The story was written (in rhyme) through the eyes of a young girl who like millions of other children may need to hear that they too are not to blame for their loved one’s illness and that more than anything, they are safe and loved no matter what, which are the three vows I promise to keep to my own children until the end of time.
Everyday is a learning curve for someone like myself and their loved ones when battling a Mental Illness and finding the right strategies and tools to help get me through the difficult moments in my day and reach mental wellness are imperative. I have had to accept the fact, as difficult as it is to follow through with sometimes, that taking care of myself first and creating healthy boundaries will help to minimize many of the stressors in my daily life.
Self-Care is not selfish, in fact, it’s selfless. I have learned that for me self-care includes writing, journaling, taking bubble baths, going for long walks, finding a safe place when I am feeling unsafe, always keeping open communication with loved ones as to my thoughts and feelings and having a great therapist to talk to on a regular basis who can give me important tools and resources to help with my daily struggles.
These strategies and tools allow me the strength to continue to fight but there are many, many other ways for individuals to make self-care an important part of their daily lives as well and below are just a few more to add to my list above: Regular exercise Proper diet Practicing good hygiene Getting a good night sleep Escaping in a good book Staying away from drugs and alcohol Reaching out to a loved one
Bio: Kim Fluxgold lives in Vaughan, Ontario with her husband, 3 children and her precious dog. She is a Blogger, the Author of the children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” and Mental Health Advocate. You can continue to follow her journey at: youareenough712.wordpress.com or on her Instagram (www.intstagram.com/kimfluxgold) and Facebook pages. If you would like more information about her book please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in mid July I submitted a piece of writing to a non profit organization called “The LifeWrite Project” which is situated in the States. They were looking for a collaborative compilation of stories to be published in an upcoming new book titled “The Corona Silver Linings Anthology” which will be released sometime in December.
After a very difficult few days I’ve been having it was a really nice way to end the week by receiving an email this afternoon that my story will be published as part of the collection as well as in a digital version.
They were looking for stories that give messages of hope and kindness, inspiration and strength and “silver linings” of light and positively we may have found during the darkness of the Pandemic to be compiled as a thought-capsule of this historic time in all of our lives.
My story I wrote was about my “Class of 2020” Graduation Lawn Signs Initiative which as most of you know by now honoured our 2020 Graduates and raised over $10,000 for Kids Help Phone as well.
The proceeds from this book will be donated to a variety of charities including “The First Responders Children’s Foundation”.
Things could always be worse. At least you have your health. You have so much to be grateful for.
These are just a few of the many phrases I’ve heard spoken to me, or about others over the course of my journey these last 6+ years but as a person living with a Major Depressive Disorder like I do, I find myself especially confused as to how much worse I’m actually supposed to feel?
Hearing someone tell you that things could always be worse is belittling their feelings and experiences, it’s shaming them and will leave them exploding with guilt. Hearing these words may also leave someone second guessing their illness and therefore living silently in fear of exposing it which may also lead them to the belief that they don’t matter.
Yes I am blessed that I am both capable and able to walk and talk and breathe and feel and see and smell and hear and taste all the beauty that surrounds me, but as a person who is battling a mental illness, being told that “at least you have your health” hurts very deeply because our Mental Health is just as critical to our well being as our physical health is and those words are also a very disheartening reminder to us all as to how much work is still left to be done to help end the stigma; Mental Health is Health.
But I think what hurts me the most sometimes is when someone who is suffering with depression or anxiety is questioned as to whether or not they feel gratitude. I practice gratitude in my daily life and I am very much aware of all the things for which I am most grateful for. The feelings and behavioural changes though that are associated with a depressed or anxious mind cannot simply be cured by practicing gratitude, but it can definitely help with the process.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend (in Canada) which is the time of year we set aside to celebrate being thankful and grateful for what we have in our lives and to recognize the genorosity and kindness that has been bestowed upon us since the previous year. Well this year, more than ever before, it may be very difficult to recognize or appreciate those silver linings (no explanation necessary).
I can honestly say that this has truly been the worst year ever for me since my journey began. The Pandemic and my illness have both played a huge role in that forgone conclusion but so have several other personal issues, many of which I have never disclosed to this public forum, but still I am so grateful for so much and wanted to share some of that here with you today.
I am grateful for:
Nature walks and hiking
My weekly therapy
Arts and Crafts
Diet Coke and Ice Capps
Things that make me laugh
Romantic comedies that make me cry
My creative soul
A warm and sunny day
My weighted blanket
My Blog that allows me to share my story
Being given a voice
Kindness and empathy
Being born and raised in Canada
My undeniable support system
Strangers who have become my friends
My incredible friends who see me beyond my illness and stand by me no matter what
My large extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles whom I never get to see but who love me just the same
My big brother who I know will always protect me
My inlaws and my many beautiful nieces and nephews
My mother in law who is always there to cheer me on
Maggie, for appreciating a good cuddle and belly rub
My 3 beautiful children who have stolen my heart and taught me the true meaning of resilience and unconditional love
And to my Soulmate and best friend Rich, I am beyond grateful for your protection and for always seeing my inner beauty and who continues to make me feel desired and loved