I recently watched a movie called “WILD”, starring Reese Witherspoon (2014).
It is based on a true story and the autobiography of Cheryl Strayed called “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”.
The movie takes place on the Pacific Crest Trail which spans 2,600 miles (that’s a shitload of kilometers!) in length and runs from the the Mexican/U.S border to the U.S/Canada border. To hike this grueling trail in its entirely would take someone between 5 to 6 months to complete.
In June of 1995 this remarkable young woman (age 26) decides on a whim to take a much needed time out from her life and ascends on a journey toward self-discovery and healing by hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail over a three month period.
At the start of her expedition, Cheryl had just recently divorced her husband and tragically lost her mother (she was only 45 years old when she died) but throughout the movie we also learn so much more about her traumatic childhood and reckless and destructive youth.
There were so many reasons why I wanted to watch this movie (which Rich discovered one night while channel surfing) and so many more reasons why while watching it I felt an instant connection to Cheryl even though our journeys are so vastly different.
Of course the movie centered around hiking which was a very big draw for me but what led her on that path (trail) in the first place is what connected me so deeply.
When I think of self-care it often includes alone time. Yes, being surrounded by other people is critical for our well-being but sometimes it can also create stress in your life as well (something I think many of us can relate to more than ever over the past year).
Taking time to be with yourself is both vital and beneficial in order to tap into our own thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Along Cheryl’s journey she met many interesting (and sometimes scary) people and was asked by one of them if she ever got lonely out there all alone but it was because of her time alone (and journaling) that she found the freedom to forge ahead and truly explore her own personal growth and development.
It’s what gave her the strength and determination to discover the power of healing.
Although I love to hike and I find it especially therapeutic for me and although I quite often need space away from others in order to help me heal I don’t forsee a three month hiking expedition anytime soon in my future.
For starters, I’d barely make it a mile before getting lost! Perhaps maybe a week alone at a spa would be a better place for me to start?
Where do you like to go when you need some alone time?
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!!)
Not everyone you meet in life is gonna like you. I know, it sounds kinda crazy? Like who wouldn’t like you, right? Sadly though, it’s the honest truth.
But then again sometimes as we venture through life we may also discover that there are people in our lives who just aren’t our cup of tea either (I guess we call that balance).
What makes this discovery feel most disheartening though is that some of the time these people may happen to be some of the closest relationships we have; like family members who we trusted more than anything in the world or maybe a lifelong friend who we once thought would always have our back.
I have grown in so many ways because of my illness which has also afforded me the privilege to have met so many incredible new people who I am now honoured to call my friend.
Over the last many years I have also been blessed with the opportunity to restore many old (but never) forgotten relationships too and I am super grateful to have strengthened many of my current relationships even more.
But it never takes away the pain; the pain that is of being faced with the hard choice of letting go of toxic relationships in your life, whether it be a family member or a friendship (or maybe a friend who felt like family).
When it has come to making the difficult decision to end a toxic relationship because it just no longer feels right or begins to drain you mentally or is bringing you down instead of building you up or is leaving you feeling unsettled or making you feel nervous or unsupported or as though you can’t be your true authentic self anymore; it’s okay to walk away.
The decision to walk away is one I have never taken lightly especially when some of these former relationships have been a part of me forever or as close to forever as they come.
It also doesn’t mean that you don’t still love them or wish them well on their own journey forward but being able to create these healthy boundaries for yourself may be the best decision for you both in order for the both of you to make space in your hearts to find “your people”.
“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” ~ Coco Chanel
It’s been nearly a year now since I last cut my hair and I have to say, it felt quite liberating.
I’ve never waited this long in between haircuts before but then again I’ve also never lived through a Pandemic before either.
My hair feels lighter and healthier than ever today now that all the dead ends are finally gone.
As I watched every last one of those dead ends of hair fall to the floor it almost felt like a metaphor for how we should be living life.
Just as it’s important for us to trim away the dead ends of our hair regularly to allow for it to grow back stronger and healthier, I do know that it’s just as important to cut off the dead ends (metaphorically speaking) from our lives as well in order to give ourselves the courage and confidence to keep growing stronger and healthier too.
How are you prioritizing your mental health today?
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.
How is it that I have never lost any sleep over Canadian politics yet for the last month I have literally been glued to the tv watching CNN (just ask my family) and refreshing my Twitter feeds (and tweeting the President of the United States) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week due to an out of control level of anxiety and sadness over an election I’m not even eligible to vote in!
This election is no longer about whose policies or campaign promises are better anymore, its simply and sadly about a country so divided by fear and hatred.
I hope today will be a “Great” day for my American friends and family and that of the millions of ballots cast it will decidedly bring with it a shift in mindset and a spirit back to the America that the rest of the world once looked upon with fondness and “Great” envy.
Vote today (if you haven’t already) like your life depends on it because it does, and frankly so does ours!! And also seeing as our borders are still closed for who knows how long it’s gonna make it so much harder for you to gain access to all the “Greatness” our glorious Country has to offer (I know we ain’t perfect but…)!
Your vote matters!
*picture attached is from the Origami Owl jewellry Collection
I love my new decorative piece that I now display in my home as an important reminder to me. It’s original quote by Albert Einstein can be left up to the interpretation of each individual who reads his words; it truly depends on how you need to interpret them.
Finding my voice has been a daily struggle for me for six years now because to me finding my voice has meant being able to step outside of my comfort zone, it’s meant finding a way to be courageous and brave, it’s meant finding a way to make a difference in someone’s life, it’s meant finding a way to be open and honest, it’s meant finding a way to challenge myself, it’s meant finding my own path and it’s meant finding my purpose.
Since I began writing my blog close to four years ago now and sharing my journey with the world I have slowly begun to uncover parts of my voice and ignite my passion with openness and honesty. I never felt brave or courageous enough to have my own voice before, especially as a child and young adult, and it always felt safest to just stay within my comfort zone.
Over the last 3 plus years I have spent much of my time trying to find a way to step outside of that comfort zone in order to challenge myself, in order to find my own path (even if it may be a bit off course) and in order to find my purpose.
Maybe I’m just like Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”, maybe I’ve had the power all of my life and didn’t even know it. Maybe my illness has given me the strength to be a voice to help make a difference in someone else’s life and to give others who may need it most, the courage to “echo” my words and actions while they too discover their own voice.
Even though we may all be weathering the same storm together does not mean that we are doing so from the same boat. Some of us may feel like a castaway on a deserted island with a broken raft and no paddle to steer us home while others may feel like they are peacefully sailing through a remote Tropical Island in a big Yacht straight out of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous”.
Some of us are enjoying this time to slowly paddle our boat on a private lake and breathe in the fresh air and see our reflection on the water and actually like what we see, but for many more of us we may just be trying to brave the heavy waves on the ocean without capsizing our boat and praying we don’t fall into the shark pit below.
For many of us we are all alone in our boat, and the murky water surrounding us feels empty and the skies above us are dark and then you suddenly look across the way from you and through the fog you can see another boat in the distance filled with the love of a family, singing and dancing without a cloud in the sky above them.
For many of us right now we don’t have the means to fix the holes in our boat and it feels like we are sinking very fast without having a life preserver to keep our head above the water while others are still able to put their feet up on deck and use this time to map out their next adventure, a relaxing sail around the world. And then there are those who have no time to dock their motorboat right now because they are too busy working to help the rest of us try and stay afloat.
Yes we are all in different boats and sailing on very different journeys but we still share the same land and water which is why now would be the perfect time for all of us to anchor our boats next to one another (6 feet apart of course), not so we can compare them, not so we can judge them but so we can unite together as we weather the storm.
I just finished pre recording a segment for tonight’s radio show The Late Shift with Jason Agnew on 1010 talk radio. It’s been a while since I have done an interview or given a talk as so many recent and upcoming events I had scheduled were cancelled.
I know there are so many people who are suffering right now with Depression and Anxiety and that many turn to the comfort of late night talk radio. If I can help just one person listening tonight feel less afraid or less alone it will warm my heart.
If you can’t sleep tonight tune in around 3am. It’s broadcast throughout Canada.
Tonight, as we gather around the table for our Seder, you may be feeling a bit sad or overwhelmed as you look around the room missing loved ones that you long to be with right now.
Traditionally at the close of the Passover Seder we sing or read the phrase (depends how drunk you are) from the Haggadah “Next Year In Jerusalem” which signifies a Jewish person’s experience of living in exile and their desire to see the Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. And the symbolism here (and throughout the entire story of Passover) to what is happening right now around the world (See blog “Why Is This Night Different?”; April 1, 2020) is really quite surreal.
The state of the world has made me see this holiday through a completely different lens which may have only taken me close to 49 years and a world wide Pandemic to truly appreciate and understand the importance of Passover and in light of what is going on around the world I hope that when you reach the end of your Seder tonight and read (or sing) the words “Next Year In Jerusalem” that you know that you do not need to physically be in “Jerusalem” but instead you should see Jerusalem as a representation of hope and possibility, of peace and opportunity and a great reminder that we have overcome so much adversity and will do so again.
“Next Year In Jerusalem” may we all be in the presence of our loved ones wherever that may be in the world; in good health and happiness.
Wishing everyone who celebrates a happy and meaningful Passover.