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
Today, October 10th, 2020 is World Mental Health Day. For over 7+ months now our entire world has been met with the most unimaginable challenges and tragic losses and moving forward, probably for many years to come, there is going to be an even greater substantial need to have more and more Psychological and Mental Health supports put in place that are more readily and easily accessible to everyone.
So this year’s goal for World Mental Health Day comes as no big surprise as they turn their focus to ensuring that there is a sizeable investment made in Mental Health programs, Research and Education both on a National and International level which as many of us know firsthand is dangerously underfunded.
But just this past week, right here in Toronto I felt that first glimmer of hope unfolding toward that goal as CAMH (Center For Addictions and Mental Health), together with many community leaders (including the Premier of Ontario) unveiled their two, brand new State of the Art buildings at this historic landmark.
They will be opening to the public next month and it will include 235 inpatient beds and 600,000 square feet of safe space to allow for healing and recovery.
BRAVO to everyone involved for taking this critical step forward in creating this incredible safe and inclusive space for our community and beyond.
I myself have personally benefitted from many of their world renowned community outreach programs and resources and I am hopeful that this redevelopment will help benefit many others in the near future too.
Have you watched the Netflix Documentary “The Social Dilemma” yet? You should check it out if you haven’t already!
Do you ever unplug in order to recharge your body and mind? Do you think that you would be able to not check your phone for 24 hours, an entire weekend or how about a full week? How about Social Media?
We all know the many perks that technology has afforded us, but we also know its many harmful effects as well.
Research shows that the average “Apple” user checks their phone approximately 80 times per day and it has been proven to disrupt our sleep ✅✅✅, our focus ✅✅✅, our ability to engage in real time social interactions ✅✅✅, our motivation ✅✅✅ and our Mental Health ✅✅✅ as well.
Each one of those checkmarks tell a piece of my story. How many checks would you give to yourself?
Taking a selfie these days seems to be one of the biggest growing phenomenons since the creation of the Smartphone itself and statistics show that women between the ages of 16 and 25 are spending (on average) five hours per week taking them.
Although the average age for taking selfies may be women between 16 and 25 years old, they are certainly not alone. Selfies have become a form of self-expression and a great way to present one”self” to the world, no matter what your age or gender is.
We choose to take selfies most often for a feeling of instant gratification, to make personal connections with others, to boost our self-esteem, to gain positive feedback and to express one’s own creativity.
Over the last many years I have shied away from having my picture taken as much as humanly possible (I much prefer to be the photographer if you haven’t noticed!), so the thought of me taking a selfie is like next to nil!
But today is one of those very rare occasions where I decided to try and step outside my comfort zone (way out) and try for even just one moment to feel the “positive side of a selfie” and embrace what the world sees in me in order to show you my new sweatshirt I made.
The words I chose to use are a deep and meaningful reminder to me as I continue to try and fight this battle and it’s a true expression of hope to the many women everywhere who are also struggling on their own journey right now or who have fought their way through one; whether it be physical or mental.
I created this shirt in recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week and I chose the colour pink in honour of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Let me first begin by reiterating to you just how much I love Reality TV (Read my Blog “I’m A Reality TV Junkie”; Aug 5, 2020). It’s one of the greatest escapes ever except lately I think I may have crossed the line between Reality TV and real life.
Each week my PVR is set without fail to record many (many) hours of the chaos and drama of someone else’s life as a way of trying to escape from my own daily chaos and drama. It’s become a welcomed distraction and has also become a perfect way to escape from my own burdensome thoughts and refocus my attention somewhere else.
However, for the last week or so I have found myself engrossed in a new Reality show of sorts, only this time it appears that while watching this show I am unable to distract myself from my own life and it has quickly turned into a very toxic and burdensome obsession.
In all honesty I have a very addictive personality and I am very prone to “Behaviour Based Addictions” which according to Wikipedia is when you “combine a behaviour with a mental state and the repeated routine is therefore associated with the mental state”.
This very toxic and burdensome obsession has now left me with even more sleepless nights than usual, anxious beyond words, crippled with fear, angry as f*ck and not to mention very behind on my nighttime viewing of the many (many) Reality TV shows I tape each week because I just can’t stop watching CNN or checking my Twitter feeds in order to find out what the President of the United States has said or done now.
My intentions for writing this is not to start any kind of a political debate or a war of words between friends but I just wanted to share my thoughts with you because it’s probably safe to say that I’m not alone in how I am feeling right now; shit I’m not even an American citizen, yet I’m feeling quite traumatized and very, very sad.
This is not a Reality Show that any one of us can truly watch these days in order to escape from their own real life and must be especially hard to watch for those who are living right inside the walls of this reality. I will say however that it certainly is oozing with more drama and chaos than even “The Khardashians” or any of “The Real Housewives” franchises but I am really looking forward for the season finale and “Tell All” (reality tv jargon!) to air already! My PVR will be set for sure!
Throughout the Pandemic I have followed all the necessary precautions set out by the Government, by Science and by our Health Officials and although it may come as a big surprise to many of you but for the most part the Pandemic itself has not intensified my symptoms of Depression and Anxiety; infact in some ways it’s done just the opposite (I will save that for a later blog).
My steady decline in my Mental Health over the last while has truly had very little to do with the Pandemic itself and much more to do with many other personal factors that were already there long before Covid-19 was ever a thing.
And although I have not allowed all the fear mongering or blatant disrespect, intolerance and judgment towards one another that I see every time I open up my Social Media feeds control my emotions I have grown more and more anxious lately wondering if life will ever feel “normal” again.
As I look back on the last 6 plus months I feel as though the Pandemic has taken us through many different stages, and when I examine those stages closely I can see that they are the same 5 stages a person will often go through when grieving a loss and for months now we have all been grieving the loss of life in some form or another.
The 5 stages of grief which can easily be transferred to life during a Pandemic are as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Sadness & Depression and Acceptance.
Way way back at the end of 2019 the world watched and listened to what was unfolding in China and for several months prior to it reaching the rest of the Globe, if we can all be honest here for just one second, how many of us actually watched in “denial” while clinging to a false, “preferable reality” that this virus wasn’t really going to affect our lives.
And even as it crept closer and closer to us, we were still very much in “denial” as to the kind of impact it was going to have on our lives, but boy oh boy, it didn’t take long before our “denial” turned to “anger”.
We quickly (and rightfully so) became very frustrated and began to put blame on anyone and everyone we could. We angrily wondered how the fuck this could have happened to us and who would of let this happen to us all the while as we sat at home in self-isolation.
Then, as more and more information from the Government, Science and Health Officials came to light we entered into the “bargaining” stage of grief and started our negotiations with the experts. “So you’re telling me that if I stay home or stay 6 feet apart from anyone outside of my bubble or I wear a mask when social distancing is problematic or I use hand sanitizer and wash my hands constantly then after 14 days in quarantine our life can go back to normal, right?”
Well we all know now that it’s alot more complex than that and our “bargaining” and negotiation skills have fallen short, which after months of trying to make the best of this very shitty situation our denial, our anger and our bargaining skills have turned into a deep “sadness” or “depression” for many people around the Globe.
Many of us have lost so much during this Pandemic and many of us have reached a point where their sadness or depression makes them feel as though this is a losing battle, that all our efforts are hopeless. It’s also made us question an inevitable future and our own mortality too.
But there is still one final stage of grief and it’s probably the most important one of all. If we are to find the strength to move forward and learn how to navigate life in our new “normal” then we must first learn “acceptance” of it. Collectively we need to figure out ways to proceed both cautiously and safely because “acceptance” will give us the power to control whatever lies ahead.
We all cope with grief in our own way and in our own time. We may not all go through each of the 5 stages, and maybe none of them at all but no matter your process we all need to remember that we are all in this together.