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
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.
Famed children’s book author Eric Carle recently passed away at the age of 91.
His timeless classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (written in 1969) became a must have in my classroom library when I was teaching preschool age kids many years ago.
Once I had children of my own I began reading it to them as well from a very young age and it quickly became a favourite in our home.
When my kids got a bit older and I was no longer teaching preschool anymore there were a handful of children’s books which I had collected over the years that I knew I wanted to hold onto in hopes of one day passing them down to my grandchildren.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one of those books.
It is a whimsical and playful book.
It’s illustrations are fun and bright and captivating.
But it also has many meaningful and teachable moments between each page.
It shows us the importance of transformation and growth.
It shows us the importance of finding our true self.
It gives us hope.
It shows us that in time and with patience we will all find our way in the world.
It shows us that we are all unique and beautiful in our own special way.
And it shows us that we all have the capability to emerge from our cocoon, spread our wings and learn how to fly.
(Oh and it also reminds us that when we eat too much candy we will probably get a stomach ache!)
I’ve been really struggling a lot this past week and it’s been a struggle to write this.
I get triggered easily.
When you suffer with chronic depression and daily thoughts of suicide as I do, triggers are very common and sometimes they may even occur through positive life events as well.
I don’t always know what triggers my downward spirals or even feel them coming on sometimes but this past week I am very much aware.
A few days ago I was told of not one, but TWO tragic stories of suicide, within a span of one hour.
They were both someone’s father, brother, son, friend and husband.
Hearing these stories and then quickly realizing that I knew one of the individuals who had taken his own life from when I was a teenager has all been too much for me to process.
It’s hit my surrounding community very hard and it’s hit very close to home.
The more I learned about the pain and suffering of these two men and as more and more tributes began to fill my Social Media pages of the man I once knew, talking about what a truly amazing human being he was, the more numb I became.
I saw myself in him. I felt every ounce of his pain and suffering. I’ve attempted suicide before. I could’ve been him. I could be him. Many of us could.
There are warning signs of an individual who may be considering suicide, (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/recognizing-suicidal-behavior) but we want so much to believe that “it” won’t actually come to that place. But it does and sometimes there may not even have been any warning signs at all, leaving loved ones completely blindsided on top of their pain.
Suicide can be a silent killer. What happens when there aren’t any warning signs? What happens when someone is too afraid to speak their truth because of the stigma attached to it?
Suicide is still very much a social taboo. It’s also very hard to predict at times and very often it can be spontaneous or impulsive.
Sometimes it’s just easier for an individual to not talk about it. I have thoughts of suicide almost daily. I talk about them, but not always. The thoughts will often enter my mind when no one else is around, when I’m feeling most vulnerable and I think to myself, maybe now would be the perfect time?
We may think someone is okay.
Everything looks great to the outside world (and to the social media world of course). They may want you to think that because what you often see or what you want so badly to see is their happiness and excitement from a promotion they just got at work, or the upcoming vacation they booked that they had been dreaming about forever, or a wedding proposal from the love of their life or the all nighter they just pulled studying for a big test the next day or maybe they just received an acceptance letter to the post-graduate program at a prestigious University they’d waited their whole life for.
Living with a mental illness and suicidal thoughts is real life to so many. We need to continue to break down the barriers that may prevent someone from seeking proper care and treatment. We must let others understand that mental illness is a real illness and that it’s not a failure of personal strength or character. We must not forget to check on our strong friends and we must create safe, nurturing environments for everyone in order to break the silence.
My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to the families and loved ones who have been affected by the tragic loss of both these men. They are in my thoughts and my heart ❤.
If you or someone you know is in crisis please reach out to a mental health professional or confidant for help immediately.
Tonight we celebrated the successful completion of Rachel’s first year of University in Interior Design and Hannah’s many accomplishments that earned her an Undergraduate Degree in Communications this week.
This year has not been an easy one. It was met with some tears (well maybe a bit more than some), some moments of anger and some definite moments of frustration but despite missing out on the many firsts and the many more lasts that come along with having the full university experience, you learned to pivot, you learned to adjust and you learned to adapt to the many, many challenges that were presented to you along the way with such resilience and strength.
YOU did it!!! And Dad and I couldn’t be more proud of the both of you. We love you to the moon and back!
I listen wholeheartedly and often to stories from people in regards to our mental health system; and just how broken it truly is.
Maybe you don’t necessarily believe it or maybe you choose not to believe it if you have never experienced it for yourself or a loved one while desperately trying to advocate for them but I’m living proof that too many of the stories I hear are very real and beyond disturbing at times.
I myself have walked out of many psychiatrist’s offices and emergency rooms shaking my head in disbelief and left feeling even more defeated than when I first walked in which is why when someone shares their own personal anecdotes with me I can feel every ounce of their pain, sadness and frustration.
Recently a friend of mine confided in me about one such experience when she took her son to the emergency room after he came to her telling her that he had been having very intrusive thoughts of hurting himself.
Before I go any further I just wanted to first say BRAVO to this young boy for having the courage to confide in someone he trusted about how he was feeling. Many of you reading this may not realize just how much fucking strength that takes, like the kind of strength that only superheros are made of. BRAVO. BRAVO. BRAVO.
Hearing these words from anyone let alone your own child is beyond terrifying and I’m sure she probably felt very much alone at the time but also knew that the safest place for her son to be in that moment was in the trusted arms of a team of knowledgable, compassionate mental health professionals.
But sadly that is not what happened at all. In fact it was quite the opposite and instead as she stood pleading with the Psychiatrist on duty at the hospital that day to help her child he turned to this young boy and his mom and told them that he should go home. He continued by saying how lucky the boy was to be so privileged enough to not have to deal with the stresses of living on the street or in a third world country.
My heart broke in a million pieces as I heard her speak these words, words that I know are spoken all too often by ignorant folks who still believe that depression and/or suicidal ideations are nothing more than a chemical imbalance that can quickly be fixed by taking a pill or going for a long walk but when these words are spoken by a mental health professional and to an impressionable and vulnerable young mind no less, there are truly no words.
I know this is thankfully not the norm but it happens more often than it should because even one time is too many. I myself have had many amazing, incredible and compassionate experiences with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals (and thankfully I still do) to help me through the darkened days throughout my journey but those bad experiences can and will never be erased from my mind.
When seeking the help of a mental health professional try and watch out for signs that indicate that they are competent, invested in your wellbeing and most importantly a good fit for you.
Make sure they are not overconfident, dismissive or arrogant. Make sure that they are not quick to prescribe medication or diagnose you. Make sure they take into consideration your own unique circumstances. Make sure they do not threaten to use their power to treat you with unnecessary treatments that you are uncomfortable with. Make sure they properly inform you about the many side effects of the medications they do prescribe to you and that they also properly wean you off the ones that aren’t working for you (weaning off certain meds can be very dangerous and must be done slowly and cautiously) and make sure that they work together with you and for you and alongside your loved ones which should include regularly monitoring your progress, making a plan by offering up next steps and new or appropriate solutions and may at time also include them turning to colleagues or outside support for guidance so not to miss out on something.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself (or a loved one) and make sure to ask lots (and lots) of questions especially if something doesn’t feel quite right or you don’t understand something. It can be a very long and burdensome journey, trust me, I know, but it’s your journey and no one else’s and having the proper support behind you that you so deserve while on your journey towards healing can make a huge impact.
I felt a flood of emotions come over me when it hit me that nothing has really changed since then and to be perfectly honest, it actually feels a thousand times worse right now.
My girls are both less than ten days away from finishing their school years; Rachel being in her first year of University for Interior Design and Hannah is about to earn her four year Undergraduate Degree in Communications.
To say I am proud of these two young ladies would be an understatement. They have both worked their butts off this year despite the many challenges and limitations they’ve had to face by having to work completely remotely, completely online; and completely from home.
Rachel was robbed once again of so many exciting new experiences from the start of her University career. Instead she has spent the past year at home learning new skills, building and creating incredible projects and making new friends from across the world all from our living room floor (which she turned into her own personal art studio last summer before the start of the school year).
And now Hannah too has been robbed of so many of her own opportunities, rites of passage and exciting new experiences that would normally accompany her throughout this, her graduating year.
But they did it! It hasn’t been easy or fair or kind at times and it’s been so painful and mentally exhausting to watch as a parent at other times. But like so many of us who have lost so much over the past year, its ok to acknowledge their pain from the disappointment and anger and frustration and sadness that they have had to endure; that we have all had to endure.
In a way, I guess we have all been experiencing a steep learning curve this past year, just so desperately trying to forge our way forward.
I am so excited to finally receive my very own copy today of the book I was so honoured to be published in a few months ago.
It’s a compilation of stories, poems and images from individuals around the world.
“The Corona Silver Linings Anthology” captures real life experiences, raw emotions, meaningful issues and life lessons that we have all been challenged by or have had to face in one way or another during this past year while looking for those silver linings.
“The Lifewrite Project” is a non-profit initiative which publishes anthologies “encouraging people to tap into their power to write and share their unique stories” while collaborating with different charities related to the topic at hand and raising funds for many initiatives in the process.
The proceeds from this book are being donated to a variety of charities including “The First Responders Children’s Foundation”.
Check out their website for details on any of their upcoming projects. After all there’s an inner writer somewhere inside of us all just waiting to share our own unique story with the world.
Living with chronic depression and severe anxiety as I do it’s so easy to get caught up in both our past and our future, leaving us feeling very worn down, overwhelmed and vulnerable and often unable to live in the moment or be present in our own life.
It’s been an incredibly difficult few days for so many of us who have been trying to come to grips with the cruel reality and accept the loss of a precious life that was taken from us far to soon.
But Jesse, who was wise beyond his short life, left behind so many invaluable gifts for all of us to cherish and learn from, especially the gift of knowing how to embrace every moment by living in the moment and being present in our own life.
He taught us to appreciate life to the fullest and all of its encompassing beauty no matter what. He taught us to focus on the now and to relish life in the moment. He showed us how to be thankful for the small wins, however small they may seem.
He taught us that any random or spontaneous act of kindness can brighten someone’s day and that a smile or a kind word will take you a very long way. He taught us that worrying about our future can take away precious moments of our present day and he also taught us how to express gratitude right here and right now.
These are the kind of invaluable gifts that we all need to hold on tight to. So to honour Jesse’s memory today I’m asking that we all take a moment to be in the moment and to focus on what is right in front of us, surrender to your emotions, feel your surroundings and allow yourself to see something in your presence for the very first time 💙💙💙