just over here overthinking how i show up as a mental health advocate.
my (irrational) thoughts sometimes tell me:
• i’m not “doing mental illness” well enough.
• my anxiety and depression aren’t “bad enough” for anyone to value or believe what i have to say.
• people are going to roll their eyes when they see another one of my (oversharing) mental health posts in their feed...
and my favourites, now that i’ve received the generous support of the mental health foundation of nova scotia for my podcast:
• i don’t deserve it.
• who am i to have such important conversations?
• when are they going to “find me out?”
time to freeze.
time to spiral.
time to self sabotage.
as i’m currently transitioning off of my antidepressants*, my (additional, irrational) thoughts are going something like this:
1. how do i know when my symptoms that became side effects, turned withdrawal symptoms are back to just being symptoms again?
2. are these (additional, irrational) thoughts because of my (lack of) medication or a result of my “true colours” coming back out of the woodwork?
3. what are my true colours, anyway?
• my (irrational) thoughts are louder than before
• my extreme highs are met with deeper lows
• i feel rage
• i feel alone
• i’m exhausted and i can’t sleep
but — AND THIS IS FOR ME AND MY EXPERIENCE ONLY — i need to find out who i am behind the fog.
and, in the meantime:
• i am keeping going and getting by.
• i am trusting my gut and finding my voice.
• i am resting and setting boundaries.
• i am (sometimes) doing (simply) the bare minimum.
• i am checking in and showing up…
when i can.
how i can.
the best i can.
as i am.
resetting. regrouping. reminding myself:
• it’s okay to take one step forward and two steps back.
• it’s okay to feel lost.
• it’s okay that my mind sometimes tries to talk me out of being myself… as long as i find my way back.
“STRENGTH is being BRAVE enough to talk about what’s hurting you on the inside.”
in case you feel any of the same and you ever need to talk:
— i hear you
— i’m here for you
— i love you
*transitioning off of my meds in consultation with my doctor and my therapist
As performed at International Women's Day Celebration by Brigid | 2023
When I think of WOMAN, I think of my mother.
When I think of my MOTHER, I think:
For me, WOMAN and MOTHER are one and the same.
The MOTHER who held me up my whole life is the WOMAN I lean on.
When you’re not a mother and you lose your mother, your relationship with the word has no choice but to shift.
It still means all of the things it used to mean.
It’s just weighted differently.
It’s an emptiness at first… Followed by a desperate need to be filled.
It’s an echo in search of an embrace.
It’s past tense… but ever present.
You know that feeling of coming home after a long, stressful day – when your feet are aching and you’re exhausted – and you settle into that perfect you-shaped groove on your couch – with your favourite blanket and your pup on your lap?
That’s what my mother was for me.
That safe place.
That long exhale...
She was my comfort zone.
My anchor, my cheerleader, my confidante…
And, though I still feel her here with me every day – and hear her voice in my head when I veer off track – it’s hard to navigate your way through life without your compass.
I count myself very lucky to have a rolodex of thirty-nine years of happy memories with a mother and best friend that I can pull from at any moment.
Memories of concerts and road trips and those hugs where her chin would tuck right into that ticklish spot on my neck.
The mornings sipping tea and chatting with my ma – with Mandolin Rain on the record player in the background – are replaced with sipping alone and reflecting in awe of her incredible resilience through the toughest days. Her sense of humour right to the end. Her courage.
I have spent a lot of my life playing it safe despite the fact that life is just too damn short. I’ve convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t fit in or deserve a seat at the table. And nobody has tried to set me straight more than my mother. My whole life. Through years of depression, anxiety, irrational thinking… She always treated me with so much love, grace, kindness, patience and forgiveness. Even when I wasn’t easy to love.
She told me over and over again how much she wished I could give myself that same grace and see myself through her eyes.
As I said one final good-bye to my mum – and in the months and months of grief, loneliness and self-reflection since – I think I finally do.
I finally “get” what she’d been telling me and the kindness she’d been modeling for me all those years.
All those times when I was sitting off in the corner because I didn’t quite “fit in” at the family reunion.
Or I didn’t want to go to school because I was “sick”.
Or I “really should do that (fill in the blank) because you always have a good time once you get there.”
Though a lot of my memories from this time might be blurry, this one remains very clear: In those final moments in mum’s hospital room, a feeling (or a message or a wave, whatever you want to call it) washed over me... I am a warrior because of this woman.
I am already enough.
I’ve said the words, I’ve stuck the quote on my wall, I’ve dropped it into a powerpoint presentation or two, but it finally hit me in that moment:
I am enough.
I’m sad that it took her leaving us for me to realize what she’d been trying to teach me all along…
I know it’s easier said than done. I know that I’ll stumble more than once (and already have). But, I also know that it’s time to finally listen to my ma. To do what she has been training me for my whole life:
Because the reality is, I’ll never be the same person I was before she left us. But, if I can get through the rest of my life by walking the path that my mum carved out for me – by being kind, authentic and brave – just like she was – then I’ll be just fine.
When I think of WOMAN, I think of…
My north star.
My eternal guide.
I miss Sunday morning phone calls with my mum.
When I lived on my own in Halifax, it became a regular thing. One of us would call the other every Sunday morning and we would just chat. Conversations could be an hour or hours, about nothing or anything… And they were always free of distraction.
At least that’s how I remember them.
When I moved back to Truro – even though I saw her more often and talked to her more regularly – I feel like something was missing. I no longer had this dedicated, uninterrupted, quality chat with her… A weekly something to look forward to.
What I wouldn’t give for a Sunday morning phone call with my mum today.
Well, any day, of course… But there’s something about a Sunday morning phone call – with tea and laughter and beautiful nothingness – that would be especially welcomed.
In a way, it would take me back to a different lifetime. A time when my self doubt was "charming" and wasn't rooted in "how do I move forward without my anchor."
I decided to honour mum this mother’s day by spending the weekend by the ocean. Our mutual happy place.
• I literally walked in her shoes along the beach.
• I breathed in the ocean air and took in the sunsets that she loved.
• I listened to some of her favourite music.
It may seem silly, but certain celebrity deaths hit me hard. As if the memories they drum up in me when they die are indicative of some sort of actual physical connection I had to them. When the death of Naomi Judd hit differently last week, I immediately knew why.
I’ve told the story before – and actually had the opportunity to tell it during a mental health week discussion this week as well – that mum and I performed many car concerts and impromptu-washing-the-dishes duets to the Judds’ greatest hits over the years. We called ourselves “The Dudd’s.”
While I was listening to the waves on the Malagash shore and clumsily switching between Naomi and Wynonna’s harmonies in “Rockin’ with the rhythm of the rain” and “Mama he’s crazy” yesterday morning, I could still hear and feel mum singing along next to me.
I think Naomi Judd’s death – right before Mother’s Day, wrought with mental illness – was just another sharp reminder of just how much I miss my mum… (not that I needed one).
Though I’m grateful to have had these and many, many more warm, soul-filling memories with my mum to flip through in the first place, I’ll never have the moments again.
• These particular moments singing in the car,
• Repeats of old moments done a different way,
• The opportunity for new moments…
Moments with my mum will only ever be memories.
And, though I know she’s here with me as I write this, sometimes it just hits harder.
I did something I’ve never done before.
I bought myself a bouquet of flowers.
Yes, I’ve bought myself $9 tulips at the grocery store and $5 cut flowers here and there from the farmers’ market. But today, I bought a full bouquet just for me. I picked out the colours I wanted — the ones I thought would work the best to cheer me up — and I brought them home. I’m actually staring at them right now as I type this.
You see, November can be a rough time of year. No news there, I know.
But this year feels a bit heavier for me than other Novembers. And by “other Novembers,” I mean the Novembers where you adjust to being cold and to the looming 5 pm darkness. The Novembers where, you know, you have the normal, regular, every day dread of the holidays approaching...
But this year, it’s coming up on my second Christmas without my mum, my best friend, my anchor, and the holidays approaching without her is hitting even harder this time around.
I had heard from people “in the know” that the seconds are worse than the firsts and I’d have to agree with them. That is not to say that the firsts weren’t shit, because they were. That is to say that the seconds — the second time you face a holiday or milestone or significant event without your loved one — are just shittier shit.
How can it be this long that she hasn’t been here?
How can I make sense of turning another year older without her?
I guess she really isn’t coming back...
So, when I was presented with the opportunity to buy myself flowers — while aimlessly driving the streets, sitting in the shittier shit that is my November, and happening by my favourite flower shop — I did it.
I walked in and bought myself the effing flowers.
The experts talk about self care and being sure to not lose yourself in your day-to-day role of ________ (fill in the blanks, the list goes on...). And, in my humble opinion, the experts are right.
Honestly, I did have a fleeting moment where I considered telling Diana — who expertly put my bouquet together as I waited and waded through the newly arrived Christmas decorations that I’m not quite ready for yet — that I was buying them for someone else. But I changed my mind. I owned that I was buying myself flowers in an attempt to cheer myself up, even just a little.
Yes, I could have bought them for someone else and felt good in a different way — for performing a random act of kindness. I’ve done it before and it does feel good.
But, this time around, I chose me.
And right now, as I type and cry and think about what mum and I might have been talking about right now if she was still here with me sipping on afternoon tea, my eyes brighten a wee bit as I see my beautiful, bright, from-me-to-me flowers in the corner of my eye.
I haven’t written a post in awhile. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.
I’ve written a couple of blog posts for Truro Buzz, where I get to interview and spotlight some of the incredible organizations and people in my community.
Along with my husband Joey, I’ve written a third kids book in our series of books that centre around tough conversations with kiddoes through the eyes of our doggoes (coming soon…).
And I’m writing a non-fiction book.
There, I said it.
More on the specifics in a later post, I’m sure, but I want to make it known that, even if it doesn’t get finished for another seventeen years, it’s happening.
I’ve already shared this with a few people close to me and the folks in my Women’s Social Network, mostly as a way to make it feel more real and to actually hold myself to it.
In my most recent article for Hub Now, on behalf of the Canadian Mental Health Association, I wrote about the one year anniversaries that are looming over us this time of year. I discuss the importance of creating little things to look forward to so we can continue to make it through these tough times:
“Absolutely allow yourself to feel your grief over the loss of a loved one, the anxiety over the loss of a job, or the fear surrounding a ‘normalcy’ that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
And then try your best to find something down the road that you can’t wait to celebrate.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: writing is the thing, more than any other thing, that always gets me through.
Whether it’s poetry, journaling, creating a play, writing a kids book, or crafting a caption for an Instagram post, for heaven’s sake, I enjoy putting ‘pen to paper’ and putting words together.
One of the best decisions I made this time last year, after mum died, was to start writing to her. For the longest time, I wrote to her every day… Just mundane stuff, mostly. The stuff I would normally text to her or call her about. And simply putting that stuff on paper not only helped with my grief, but helped me get through my day-to-day.
Now, I write to mum a few times a week. To feel that sense of normalcy. To get the thoughts I am aching to tell her in person out of my head. To connect.
I haven’t yet, but I plan to revisit these journal entries, letters, conversations — whatever you want to call them — with my ma. I want to see where I was in my grief journey and remind myself of some of the moments and memories I had along the way.
Yes, writing is the thing that always gets me through.
Writing my book will be my “something down the road that I can’t wait to celebrate,” along with all of the other, smaller milestones and celebrations that will pop up here and there.
Another chapter, more research, another connection with someone I admire...
The writing, like the story I’ll tell, will ebb and flow, shift and change, intrigue and inspire.
And I’ll be here riding the wave.
With pen in hand and purpose.
Last year at this time, I started a daily gratitude post on my social media that I coined graticember. I shared a photo each day that represented the thing I was most grateful for that day. It was a way to get me out of my holiday funk and focus on what truly mattered. You can read all about it here.
This year, with a milestone birthday coming up on Christmas Eve (my 40th) and a Christmas season I have been dreading since March, I thought I would change it up a wee bit.
So, here goes… Here is an incomprehensive list of 40 things that I’m grateful for right now (in no particular order).
Now, excuse me while I pull out my best “my mouth’s bleeding Bert” Jimmy Stewart impression, zip up to the North Pole with Gideon, and proceed to have the “hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.”
Thanks for reading this far and Merry Christmas. 🖤
I don’t know how well you can see it, but I bought this “not sorry” necklace at a Rachel Hollis conference in Toronto before the world shut down and my world was shattered by the loss of my mum.
Since then, I’ve taken to crying in public places and answering honestly when people ask me how I am.
“I’m just okay”
“I’m having a rough week”
And guess what? I’m not sorry about it.
You may still catch me apologizing for welling up because I’ve had a lifetime of chronic apologizing I’m trying to shake myself of... But I’m not sorry.
And that’s okay.
I have good days.
And that’s okay.
I have days when I just can’t cope,
and that’s okay too.
I’m thankful? Sure...
There are things I’m thankful for. My family, my close friends, my own health, my proximity to Victoria Park, my orchid that keeps on blooming...
I’m thankful for the memories of this time last year celebrating Thanksgiving at mum’s place on the lake. Despite all of us feeling in our guts that it was likely the last one, we smiled and laughed and took photos that I’ll hold dear for the rest of my life.
But there’s just one thing clouding my gratitude, you guys.
And, on a weekend where our country is gathering for the purpose of giving thanks, I’m not sorry for not joining in.
I’m gonna let myself feel the sadness.
And that’s okay.
I moderated a grief and mental health panel for CMHA mental illness awareness week this week and one of the panelists, Serena Lewis, said “grief is love.”
Well, ain’t that the truth. 🖤
When I say that my grief is waist deep, don’t feel bad.
It means that I’m no longer drowning.
When I think I might write about something else,
My mind keeps circling back.
And that’s okay.
Writing is my therapy.
It allows me to focus.
To steady my grip.
Writing allows me to give a quiet voice to the thoughts that make me feel stuck.
It helps me to feel like I’m not on my own.
Not defeated and sad.
Even if just for a moment.
The focus moves from my heart to my head to the words that flow
And I become lost in a different way.
Lost, but fuelled by connection.
Lost, but leading to somewhere.
Lost, but filling in the blanks.
Grief is a beast.
And writing holds a mirror to that beast.
To the relative unknown.
I may not always recognize the beast that I see.
It may change its appearance from one day to the next.
But, by closing in and dissecting how it looks – through words and ellipses, different angles and lights – I can at least try to understand it just a wee bit more than I did the day before...
So I keep wading through it.
Through the wind and the waves and the worry.
Through the wreckage and the rise and fall.
And I let myself feel it.
I tip my head up.
I turn my back to the wind.
I ride the waves.
And I write.
I recently realized that I’ve lived most of my life playing it safe.
I regret so many decisions I've made, mostly because they were made out of fear or based on assumption. I’ve felt, more times than I would like to admit, like the kid left to sit at a safe distance while the other kids played on the monkey bars. And it took me a long time to realize that it’s not because the other kids didn’t want to play with me. It’s because I convinced myself that I wasn’t cool enough to join in.
What would happen if I approached them and they told me to go away?
What if I didn’t have anything important enough to say?
What if I fall?
What if I voice my opinion/ my fear/ my feelings and they all laugh at me?
What if they like me and then they find out “who I really am”?
A loser. Left out. Useless.
These are just a few of the charming things I’ve told myself over the years. And not just on the playground, either… Recently. What was planted in elementary school has grown with me into my late thirties. And, aside from being shameful and sad, it’s honestly developed into a comfort zone, of sorts. I am comfortable when I feel like someone is leaving me out or I don’t quite measure up (whether real or imagined) because that is what I’ve convinced myself that “I know”... “It’s safe here.”
No matter how many people told me I was wrong – that I was lying to myself about my inadequacies – I simply didn’t believe them. I refused to believe that what my thoughts were telling me was wrong.
Nobody has tried to set me straight more than my mother. My mum told me over and over again how much she wished I could see myself through her eyes (and that I’m not a loser, or useless or the worst person to ever darken the doorstep of the planet, depending on the mood I was in). And, as I said one final good-bye to my mum two months ago – and in the weeks of grief, isolation and self-reflection since – I think I finally do.
I finally “get” what she’d been telling me all those years. All those times when I was sitting off in the corner because I didn’t quite “fit in” with the rest of my family. Or I didn’t want to go to school because I was “sick”. Or I should do this other play because my performance in the last one really was good. I finally realized – as I felt it wash over me in her hospital room that night – that I “have what it takes” and I am enough just by being me.
I’ve said the words, I’ve stuck the quote on my wall and dropped it into a powerpoint presentation or two, but it finally hit me in this moment and beyond. “I am enough.”
I’m sad that it took her leaving us for me to realize what she’d been trying to teach me all along… I don’t have to always be “on” to be enough. I don’t have to be “the best” before I even try. I can get through the rest of my life by being kind, authentic and brave – just like she was – and I’ll be just fine.
After mum died, my friend Erin told me that I have to make sure that I treat myself the way that my mum would treat me – with love and kindness and patience. And that is just what I plan on doing.
I know it will take time... I know that I will stumble more than once. And I know that it will take work to see myself through my mother’s eyes and to break free from all of my misguided thoughts about myself and how I show up in the world. But I can honestly feel that this process has already started for me... It started that night.
And I plan on keeping the momentum going (if for no other reason than “mum told me to”;)
It comes down to this, cliché as it may be – life is too short. And I’m tired of playing small.
I’m tired of not showing up because of some made-up story in my mind.
I’m tired of being “okay” with being the victim.
I’m going to dig deep – Because there’s no other way to do it right.
I’m going to write – Because I’m a writer and I deserve to do what I love.
I’m going to say what I want, how I feel and what I think is right – Because it doesn’t matter if people laugh at me or judge me.
When we get to the other side of this pandemic – whenever that is and whatever we look like when we get there – I am going to remember how this felt. I’m going to remember to show courage in the face of fear. To not let what others may think of me hold me back. To not always take the safe route...
And I am going to own who I am.
Because my mother was a fucking warrior.
And I am my mother’s daughter. 🖤
I don’t even recognize
The world anymore.
The darkness is heavy;
The days feel like night.
I stare, blind, at a future
That doesn’t fit right.
Puzzle pieces out of place.
Worry lines that cloud my face.
Lifting my hands.
Unable to touch
What I can’t understand.
I’m losing sleep.
My pulse is racing.
The lack of calm
Hits my heart like a bomb.
In need of connection.
No sense of direction.
Peeking through the cracks.
The light –
There’s no turning back.
We’re in this together;
Resilient and one.
We will overcome. 🖤
As a mental health advocate, this blog is dedicated mostly to my experiences living with depression and anxiety.