Many of you probably saw the pics I posted last night.
Our whole family out for dinner celebrating Rachel’s 19th birthday; the first time in a very long time.
Everyone smiling, laughing, eating, drinking, taking selfies and being present in the moment.
But the pictures didn’t capture everything. They just caught a glimpse of it.
What they didn’t capture was the very real and very painful reality of my illness. The reality and pain that follows me wherever I go no matter what the occasion is, especially lately.
My illness loves to suck the joy out of any occasion to be honest, even the happiest of ones.
By mid afternoon yesterday I could feel my anxiety becoming more and more intense and my sadness building deeper and deeper.
There was no reason for it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But my illness will tell you otherwise.
By the time we got to the restaurant and settled down at our table I had reached my breaking point. I was so completely overwhelmed with emotion.
Rich could see the build up happening from across the table but it was too late.
Just looking at the menu became incredibly burdensome.
There was nowhere for me to hide.
I did everything in my power to stop it from escalating into a full blown panic attack. I took several deep breaths. I reminded myself that everything was okay, that everyone was okay. I looked around the table and heard the sound of laughter. I noticed the biggest smile on my birthday girl’s face.
But none of that seemed to matter because moments later the panic erupted and before I knew it I was inconsolable. All eyes were suddenly on me.
My kids were left wishing they could somehow crawl under the table. I was left feeling like the worst mother in the world.
There was no reason for any of it really. None. Nada. Nil. Zilch. But for some reason my illness felt otherwise.
I hear you. I see you. I feel you. I appreciate you.
I am truly blessed knowing how many people I have in my life who genuinely care about my well-being.
I’ve read each and every message (both from my Social Media feeds and those who messaged me privately as well) probably a dozen or more times by now since sharing with you a very heartfelt and vulnerable blog I wrote yesterday.
I cried alot.
I smiled too.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I know I am struggling alot right now and I’m finding it more and more difficult to cope with my very dark and overwhelming thoughts of suicide.
I want you to know that it’s okay to acknowledge that things may not be okay. That you may not be okay.
Just know that YOU are not alone.
Yesterday one of the private messages I received from a friend was a short animated video clip written and narrated by Brene Brown (who I admire so much) after reading my blog because she thought it perfectly summed up what I had written. The clip emphasizes the important differences between empathy and sympathy and how showing empathy towards others “fuels” connections, whereas sympathy does not. Empathy is about feeling “with” people. It’s about reaching out to someone for help and having that person say “hey, here I am”. “You’re not alone”. It’s not about looking for the silver lining (a perfect example from my blog yesterday would be someone saying to you “well at least you don’t have Cancer” when you tell them you are feeling depressed). It’s about being honest and saying I’m glad you told me. It’s not about the response, it’s about the connection.
As difficult as this week has been for me I know in my heart that I need to keep writing and sharing my journey, probably now more than ever.
We all need to do our part to raise more awareness, educate others and help reduce the stigma; and yes we NEED to talk about suicide too.
Asking someone about suicide will help break the silence and can save a life.
Take a moment today to connect with someone who may be struggling right now. Let them know you hear them. You see them. You feel them. You appreciate them.
Start a conversation and then keep it going; today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that too.
I also wanted to let you know that my book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” is now available for purchase at Batner Bookstore at 180 Steeles Ave. W. in Thornhill (or through me as well). They specialize in new and used textbooks, workbooks, study guides, course materials and literature. It’s a perfect addition to any classroom, library or children’s bookshelf especially as we begin another uncertain school year ahead and when so many children and caregivers are facing the worst mental health crisis of our lives.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of my journey. The good, the bad and the ugly. I love you all so much. #shabbatshalom
Another school year is about to begin (well here in Ontario that is).
Another school year in the midst of a Pandemic and now kids and parents are once again facing those same fears, stressors, uncertainties and anxieties they did at the start of the last school year (but maybe a bit wiser).
Parents are worried about their children’s health and if they will be safe in class or how long it will be until they receive that email from their school board letting them know that schools are shutting down ONCE AGAIN.
And many, MANY kids are feeling those same worries as well which is making the transition back into the classroom this year even more trying on their mental health and wellness.
Here are some tips that I wanted to share with you on how to try and make this year’s transition a little bit easier.
Get back into a routine, especially with your older kids.
But give them time to adjust.
Change can be very scary.
Help them lay out their clothing, knapsacks ready and lunches made all the night before if possible. The less chaos there is in the morning the better.
Check in with your child(ren) regularly. Daily, if not more. Ask them questions. Listen intently.
Let them know that what they are feeling is okay and that you are there for them.
It’s been a very LONG time since many children have even seen the inside of a classroom or a school yard.
Let them know that it’s okay to feel scared and nervous.
Reassure them that they are not alone.
The unknown of what’s to come can sometimes be the hardest.
None of us truly know for certain what is going to happen this coming school year.
Promise them though that you will get through this together.
Focus on what is in their control right now.
Watch out for any sudden changes in their behaviour.
And lastly, if your child is dealing with any type of mental health issues, communicate this to their teachers or caregivers right away.
Working together from the start will help to ensure that your child’s needs are met and that their feelings are always validated and hopefully it will ease whatever bumps in the road that may lie ahead feel a bit less scary for everyone.
Wishing all the teachers, caregivers, administrators, parents and students a safe and successful year ahead.
Two years ago today, August 16th, 2019 was one of the happiest and most fulfilling days of my life when the first ever copies of my brand new, hot off the press children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” arrived on my front porch.
I had just spent the previous year and a half working on it from start to finish which included writing, editing, working with my fabulous illustrator and finding the “perfect” and most patient company to help me self-publish it.
For the next four plus months I worked non stop trying to get my book into as many hands as possible. I attended one event after another, reached out to Mental Health Advocates on Social Media, got it on the shelves of some independent bookstores in Toronto, sold it at large retail chains, made several National Television and Radio appearances, was interviewed by local Newspapers, gave book talks at Preschooler/Mommy & Me programs and I had just begun filling up my calendar for the new year with book talks on Mental Health at Elementary Schools as well.
And I had endless possibilities still up my sleeve.
I met so many incredible people along the way. I also had such incredible support from so many fantastic friends, family, acquaintances and strangers alike.
It felt like my dreams were coming true. I felt like I had purpose and I even felt like royalty somedays, especially when I attended my fabulous book launch party that Fall in my honour, hosted by a friend and her husband.
And then, BOOM💥, 2020 hit and it hit hard. I got a concussion on day two of the new year which put me out of commission for close to a month and then the Pandemic hit us all in March and then in June of 2020 I found out, just by dumb luck that my Publisher had closed his business after 35 years, without any warning to his clients or a simple courtesy email or thank you. Instead he disappeared without a trace and took with him, several thousands of dollars of Grant money which had been gifted to me by a prominent Mental Health Organization along with any additional inventory of mine they had held on to for safe keeping for my personal use and my Amazon account.
To say I felt defeated is an understatement. One obstacle after another left me feeling purposeless again and very broken. It was the final blow. My dreams felt crushed.
I wanted to give up completely. I didn’t see any point in continuing.
How was I ever going to move forward from this especially knowing I now needed to somehow find a way to republish my book. We were in the midst of a global Pandemic and money was extremely tight.
But how could I give up on my dream that I’d worked so hard for and wanted more than anything? How could I let anyone dull my sparkle?
Surrendering to my current situation was difficult to accept. The “what ifs” controlled my every waking moment, making it even more difficult to forgive myself and somehow find the strength to move forward.
I took some time to figure out if I could somehow save my dream even though it felt too crushed to repair.
I leaned on my support system for encouragement and reassurement even more. I didn’t want to give up on my dream even if it felt crushed beyond repair and that my anxiety and depression had taken over my ability to pivot my way through this, especially during a global Pandemic.
I began slowly trying to rebuild my dream by learning how to use technology I’d never even knew existed before in order to keep my book relevant. I knew that with each passing month of the Pandemic there were more and more people in need of my voice and my book.
I kept reminding myself this was not my fault.
I am still actively looking to republish my book when I am ready and able to and this time I plan to take everything I have learned through this process into account when choosing a new publisher to work with. I am wiser now.
I am also so grateful to still have copies of my book in my possession which has allowed me to continue promoting it in the meantime. And of course with the help of technology and social media I’ve found so many new and innovative ways of doing so during a Pandemic through guest spots on Podcasts, Book Talks and Conferences on Zoom, pre-recorded story times, Google meet-ups with Non-Profit Organizations and Facebook/Instagram lives.
These obstacles I’ve endured since January 2020 have taught me many important lessons. My dream has never changed. My vision hasn’t either.
It may feel crushed beyond repair but like so many of us have had to do over the last 17 months, I am learning to pivot. Pivots in life do not equate to failure. Pivoting simply allows new doors to open and new dreams to come true.
I started following a group on Facebook called “Ontario Hiking” soon after its conception last spring that has really helped me to find many new and exciting places to explore on our #summerofrich adventures.
It is run by Lauren Yakiwchuk who spends so much of her free time exploring our great Province and blogging about her personal experiences along her trails.
This group offers many fun and interactive experiences, great tips, lots of beautiful photos and so many helpful and honest reviews of places all over Ontario, some of which are very close to home for me and many more that are hundreds of kilometers away.
Throughout the last 4 years since the #summerofrich first launched (can you believe its been four years) I continue to add many new and adventurous places to my already very lengthy wishlist that I would love to explore one day.
It has become quite a long list and it just keeps on growing.
Each week I now refer to this wonderful and very informative group of close to 80,000 like-minded members who share my passion for nature, hiking and mental wellness in order to plan our day trips. **I was really hoping that this summer we could take a 5 day hiking trip to the most northern tip of our beautiful Province for my birthday but unfortunately there have been too many obstacles standing in our way this year.
One of the group’s most fun and interactive experiences I’ve enjoyed following most since the group launched last spring has been reading posts from other members who have participated in the quarterly hiking challenges.
These challenges occur every January, April, July and October. Participants are asked to complete 5 hikes (or walks) during that month. Once you have completed your hikes you can email the 5 locations you hiked during that month to a specific app in order to receive a “digital badge” for “bragging rights” and a chance to win prizes.
I decided near the end of June that instead of just following other members participating in the upcoming July challenge that I would join in on the #julyhikingchallenge for myself.
It’s not like we don’t hike several times a month anyways, especially during the summer and I knew that if I participated in the challenge for myself that it would push me (and Rich) on those days when one of us is just not up for it.
We both have such a feeling of accomplishment after our hikes and not only did we challenge each other in July to push through the 5 hikes, we surpassed the initial targeted goal and completed 7 of them instead. That for sure earned us both many bragging rights.
I just received my “digital badge” this morning via email for accomplishing the #julyhikingchallenge and although I may not have won any of the prizes this time around I feel like a baby bird today when they are first born and have no idea the power that their wings have or how determined they will become in order to learn to fly; and one day maybe even learn to soar.
Last week I pre-recorded a segment for an episode of “Where Do The Children Play” on Trent Radio 92.7 CFFF FM which aired last Thursday morning.
The show which runs 3 mornings a week was created for kids and features story time and fun kid’s music.
The station itself was established and is operated solely by the students of Trent University in Peterborough Ontario.
I read my children’s book “Where Did Mommy’s Smile Go?” to their listeners and spoke briefly afterwards about why I wrote it and the importance of not only talking to children about a loved ones mental health challenges but also reassuring them that they are safe, loved and not responsible or to blame for it.
I have posted the segment below if you would like to hear it.
Thank you again to Skye Vasey for allowing me to share my story and for all your hard work and dedication to this program.
Feel free to reach out to me if you would like to purchase a copy of my book for your classroom, school library, a preschool setting or for yourself or a loved one.
Today’s post may have a very similar message to the one I wrote about Simone Biles yesterday but the more we hear these messages from public figures like Biles and Robin Lehner, the goaltender for the Las Vegas Knights speaking up and speaking out about their own personal mental health struggles the more we can begin to normalize it.
We can begin to see it as a sickness and not a weakness.
We can begin to understand that it’s okay to not be okay.
And we can begin to feel like we are not alone.
Robin shared a tweet the other day with his 97k followers where he listed the challenges he faces every day as a mental health warrior.
His statement was both honest and bold.
Suddenly there was a boomerang of retweets, giving his hundreds of thousands of followers permission to use his platform to open up about their own mental health challenges as well, which many, many did.
Many were everyday folks like you and I and others were from very famous or prominent public figures just like him, but either way it was truly inspiring to read so many honest and bold statements given by strangers who share a common bond.
Robin Lehner is a “Knight” in shining armour in my books.
So here goes mine:
Feel free to share your own statement too if you like 🥰.
Hi. My name is Kim Fluxgold and I have chronic depression, severe anxiety and suicidal ideations every day. I have a wonderful therapist who I see each week. Writing has given me purpose in my life by sharing my story and helping others feel less ashamed and alone. For over seven years now I have fought like hell to survive. I am forever grateful and truly blessed to have so much love and support every step of the way.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now coming from the Olympic world.
Simone Biles is probably one of the most recognized and celebrated Olympic athletes in the world today and a true mental health warrior in my eyes.
I one thousand percent support and admire Simone’s decision to step away from the podium for now in order to focus on her mental well-being but her decision to do so has been met with so much ridicule by the naysayers who are sitting on their butts, most likely from the comfort of their couch, hidden behind their smartphone screens, tweeting out and calling her a quitter or worse.
It brings us right back to the same place we keep ending up because had Simone broken her ankle during her Olympic performance we would not be having this conversation and instead we would all be empathizing with her and cheering her on as she rehabilitated and got back to the vault. But taking a step back to focus on her mental health never seems to be a good enough reason to the naysayers.
Mental illness and PTSD can creep up on you ever so slowly and often out of nowhere. She deserves to be recognized for her strength and courage and not criticized and judged.
You don’t get to the level that Simone Biles has without being mentally tough. She is far from a quitter. She is taking care of her mental wellness and that makes her worthy of an Olympic gold medal in my eyes.
And when she returns, and I believe she will, she will show all those naysayers sitting on their butts from the comfort of their couch what it takes to be a real winner.
Many people may not fully realize or ever truly understand the trauma and possible triggers (including performing in the Olympics) that Simone has had to overcome being that she was one of MANY young athletes who suffered YEARS and YEARS of sexual abuse at the hands of their “trusted” Olympic Team Doctor “Larry Nassar” who is now thankfully serving a prison sentence of over 100 years for his crimes.
Mental illness and PTSD are both VERY real and VERY serious. If she is not mentally strong enough to be able to focus on her performance then she could most definitely hurt herself physically and possibly destroy everything.
Self-care is mental wellness and it doesn’t matter if you can’t physically see her injury; it still matters, even more.
Sadly though, we live in a world where people judge others on how much money they have, what kind of career path they choose, how big the house is that they live in, how smart they are and even by the amount of medals they may have sitting on their shelf.
But what if for just one second we all took a “step back” and focused on a world where people didn’t see it that way and instead only cared that you are happy, healthy and kind.
Don’t we all deserve that kind of gold medal treatment?