To chronicle my sleep patterns in a word I’d best describe it as haphazardly.
In short, it lacks any type of direction, it’s random and very disorderly.
I’m up until all hours of the night wandering aimlessly, worrying and anticipating doom.
My body seems to have made the necessary adjustments needed for someone living on minimal amounts of sleep each night but still it continues to urge me to get some rest when I can.
Most days it loses that argument because even a short catnap feels burdensome to me. My mind fights the urge to nap but certainly not for lack of trying that is.
Napping is good for your mental health. Experts will tell you that taking a short afternoon nap can help clear the chaotic thoughts and burnout from your mind, it can improve your cognitive ability and even boost your mental agility.
But still, napping gets a bad rap.
People perceive napping as laziness instead of seeing it for its many health benefits.
I wish I could nap more often. I feel guilty as it is when I can’t get out of bed most mornings. But it’s okay to nap, or even lay in bed a little bit longer if that’s what your body and mind need.
Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing we can do in order to recharge. It’s not a waste of time if your body and mind are begging you to do so.
Do you find having a quick catnap when you can rejuvenating?
Thank you to everyone who continues to reach out to me, check up on me and leave beautiful messages of support this week as I continue to try and get through this very difficult time*
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.
Seven years ago I could never have pictured my life a certain way.
None of us ever can.
But from very early on in my diagnosis I knew I needed to somehow paint another picture by accepting the tools I’d been given and embrace each one of them, one stroke at a time.
These tools have helped me to understand that it’s okay if sometimes I colour outside the lines or splatter some paint on my shoes.
I may still be a work in process but no matter what we are all a work of art.
Not everyone is ready to start painting a new picture right away.
It may take some time (maybe even years) before someone is truly able to put on a smock, pick up their paint brush and make that first stroke.
Some people need to ease into it at their own pace because they are too afraid to change their picture or ask for help in creating a new one.
The question is, how does a person truly know when they are ready? What makes someone ready?
I’ve seen alot of people who struggle with this. They pick up their pencil thinking they are ready to start sketching their new picture.
But then they place their half chewn and sharpened down to the nub pencil back in the drawer.
They try again.
This time they start sketching an image but their picture gets smudged in the process so they desperately try to erase the smudges but the smudges just become more embedded deeper and darker into the paper the more they attempt to erase them.
And before they know it they have just crumpled up their hundredth piece of paper to toss in the waste basket.
But then one day, maybe even after attempting to throw away that hundredth piece of crumpled up paper into the waste basket they realize that what they need the most is some actual guidance and direction or maybe even an entirely new perspective; one that is outside of their abstract view of what their picture should look like.
It’s okay if you toss away a hundred pieces of crumpled up paper into the waste basket, using that stubby, chewed up pencil before you are able to create a new picture, one with more depth and composition.
Because only you will know in your heart when the time comes that you are truly ready to pick up that paint brush, stand confidently in front of your easel and begin painting your new picture; this time using the most beautiful and vibrant colours.
But the truth is that even though I may have recovered initially from my battle with Anorexia and Bulimia in my early 20’s it has never truly left me; it’s just transformed itself in other ways.
I never battled with my weight before the onset of my eating disorder, nor did I have any issues with my self-image.
It probably didn’t truly present itself again until I began having children in my late 20’s and early 30’s and it has especially spiraled out of control since my battle with Depression and Anxiety began seven years ago.
Right from the start of my mental health journey and my diagnosis I was treated with over 20 concoctions of antidepressants for a solid two years straight which eventually led me to a further diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression and also left me with a weight gain of close to 100 pounds.
And although half of that weight gain almost disappeared instantly when my husband and I finally made the decision together, along with the guidance of my Psychiatrist to wean me off all my medications, my weight has continued to be an uphill battle for me throughout my journey and just one of the many road blocks in my recovery. It all too often leads me back to those same destructive behaviours I exhibited as my 18 year old self battling an eating disorder.
I’m struggling alot these days with these tendencies and it seems to have magnified itself by a thousand this past week when I needed to go dress shopping for an upcoming family wedding and I had a panic attack and complete breakdown which left me crying in a sea of dresses on the floor of a department store changeroom.
I know I’m not alone in my negative self-image or body-shaming thoughts and especially lately as we all begin to emerge from our cocoon that has left many of us bearing several extra “Pandemic Pounds”.
It’s no secret by now from all the pictures that I post how much I shy away from the camera. Seeing pictures of myself only sets off a destructive mindset and binge of body-shaming.
It’s a vicious cycle of bullying, negative self-talk, anxiety and suicidal ideations. Self-shaming or the act of body-shaming whether it be towards ourselves or someone else is a real and very dangerous problem which Social Media and the mainstream media have only made 10x worse.
My illness has pretty much destroyed any ounce of self-confidence I once had, it continues to tell me how worthless and helpless I am, it loves to focus on the negative and boy oh boy does it ever hate to hear compliments.
I wish I were able to squash my destructive mindset once and for all and begin to see the same beauty in me that others do; and to believe that I AM ENOUGH from the inside out.
“The act of forgiveness takes place in your own mind. It really has nothing to do with the other person.”~ Louise Hay
Forgiveness is a gentle act and a gift of self love. I have learned over the last several years that holding on to anger I have toward someone who has hurt me only creates further pain.
Forgiveness means no longer feeling burdened by your past.
Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean reconciliation, approval or making space to welcome someone back into your world, it just means choosing to rise above it by moving forward, free of bitterness and resentment.
Forgiveness allows you to put the situation behind you for your own well being and integrity. It means taking back the power and control you have over yourself.
The past few years I’ve had a big shift in the area of my relationships and whether it be a friendship, a family member or even an acquaintance; it can get very complicated.
Some shifts in my relationships have brought with it a sigh of relief, a feeling of anger and plenty of sadness but through my own personal journey toward healing and with time, they have also brought forgiveness.
I’ve learned that holding on to the bitterness and resentment is only hurting me.
Forgiveness doesn’t always happen right away. For some people or in some circumstances it can take a lot longer to forgive, but it’s never too late to learn the art of forgiveness.
As I move into this next chapter of my life I am now making a conscious effort and a very selfless decision when it pertains to my own mental health and well-being that I choose who I get to invite into my life.
I’ve always let people walk into my life very easily, sometimes too easily and I’ve done so without actually stopping to ask myself first if I really have the energy or mental capacity needed in order to have a healthy relationship with this person at this moment in time.
I’m a pretty open book (that’s an obvious one) and I wear my heart on my sleeve (also pretty obvious) which, at times has left me feeling very vulnerable and indefensible in some of my relationships and sadly it’s come back to bite me in the ass many, many times.
By learning how to forgive others who have held way too much unwarranted space in my heart for far too long has really afforded me the ability to make so much more room in my life for the people who genuinely want to be there and vice versa.
It’s opened up space to have real and honest relationships with people who can truly accept my limitations and vice versa, who see me as perfectly imperfect and vice versa, who don’t question my boundaries and vice versa, who support my endeavors and vice versa, who want nothing more than for me to be happy and vice versa, who are there to listen when I just need to talk, without judgment and vice versa and most of all, who love me for being my true authentic self and vice versa.
I have so much to be grateful for when it comes to the amazing relationships I have in my life right now. And whether you are a friend, a family member or even an acquaintance of mine I hope you know that you always have an open invitation.
It was 30 years ago today that Rich and I went out on our first “official” date.
We had already been working together (he was my boss) for the better part of a year but our timing and circumstances just hadn’t quite aligned before then.
But maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, maybe it was how it was meant to be and maybe it’s how it should be because during the time leading up to our first “official” date we were building a genuine friendship.
We were getting to know each other, trusting and confiding in one another and learning things about each other that we may not have otherwise been given the opportunity to do.
By developing a true friendship and bond first before jumping right into a relationship took away all of our exceptions.
I can barely recall most days anymore what I did 5 minutes ago yet I can still remember every last moment of our first “official” date.
And maybe it’s because we could truly be ourselves around each other and not have to pretend to be someone we weren’t.
Or maybe it’s that friendship we developed first, the one with no strings attached that has helped us to grow together as a couple and has also enabled us to support one another through the most difficult and challenging times that were still yet to come.
I’d love to hear some stories from your best and worst first dates.