It’s Been Awhile…

Anyone else now have the Staind song in their head? Ya, me either… 😉

So yes! It’s been over a year since I wrote on here! That would be for a variety of reasons…one being that I changed my name and didn’t know nor have the time to figure out how exactly to change my blog’s domain etc. Google is pretty great for things like that! It’s also been quite an exciting year as well! My career changed which left me with very limited time to sneak over here and post an update. I also met a pretty awesome guy who has become a permanent fixture in my life. And my passport got a workout!

So you would think I would have had much to write about, but unfortunately didn’t get on here to do it. No time like the present, right? And what better way to kick of 2018 then by returning to a place where I shared how change really started for me!

All of the above may sound pretty amazing…won’t lie…so much of it was and IS! But it didn’t come without its challenges. It was great to be back in the political world! I love my job because it brings me right to the centre of the community where I meet and interact with incredible people. I love the work I get to do and those I get to do it with! The fact that there are days where it doesn’t even feel like work, means you are where you should be! But my job isn’t your typical 9-5 day… which means I have to really be cognizant of balancing my time and ensuring I make some for myself and the people I care about…but more importantly myself in order to keep me mentally healthy. It’s a challenge and one I am not always great at. But I have a pretty great guy who reminds me of the importance of it. And on that note…

That great guy! Well we celebrated a year of dating back on November 25!  It’s been a great year of learning…for both of us! Main thing: communication is SO IMPORTANT! It is not easy coming from a divorce and embarking into a new relationship. It’s easy to fall into old habits and old thought processes. But communication is really what saves it. Being able to talk things out and share how you feel can make a huge difference. And I’m incredibly grateful to have found a guy who values those things as much as I do and knows it takes work. Doesn’t hurt that he also loves adventure, traveling, food (he cooks ladies!!!) and is a superb organizer! #SoulMate

This year I was super blessed to be able to travel to 8 countries, 6 of them within a two week span! I started it off by showing the boyfriend my love for California! I then took off in the summer on a two week adventure to Kenya-Zambia-Zimbabwe-Botswana-Namibia and back to Kenya! I will do a future post just on my travel adventures because it was one amazing adventure! I was then off to Scotland with the boyfriend. He is in the reserves and was invited to attend and carry a very special sword into the Edinburgh Tattoo. I of course really didn’t understand the magnitude of this all (I just saw another stamp on the passport and a trip with my love to a new place!) But it was a once in a lifetime experience and one neither of us will forget!

In other news, Sleep Tight held its 4th annual PJ Party back in November with a record number of attendees! THANK YOU to so many who continue to support my campaign to help combat human trafficking!

I have been grateful to have had several opportunities to be a guest speaker at a variety of events where I have shared my story of being in foster care, the work I do to advocate for our youth in care and to hopefully inspire and encourage others to rally around and support our young people!  Including their post secondary education!

So here we are, 2018! I know for many, 2017 may not have seemed like the best. But I would encourage you to look at the highlight reel instead. For me, it was a year of many firsts, lots of air miles, and whole lot of love and laughter! I can only hope to have a fraction of that in 2018. My passport still has a page clear for more travel and my soul will always have the need to explore! 

Cheers to you and this new year upon us. May it be full of love, laughter, adventure and moments where you take time to dance in the rain

Thanks for reading!

PS: I encourage you to share with me how 2017 shaped up for you and your goals for 2018. Feel free to add them in the comments below!

World Mental Health Day

no-shame

As many of you have been following along in my journey this past year through my blog and social channels, you probably see an ongoing theme of happiness, fun, and living life fully. Many have stopped me in public to say how they have been inspired through what I share, my openness, and encouraging me with kind words.

While I have appreciated it greatly, I am always quick to add that it hasn’t been all fun. There have been some big struggles and learning curves…and some of which I haven’t fully shared but with it being World Mental Health Day, it seemed appropriate to open up on this part of my journey.

The first time I ever recall feeling the heaviness of depression, I was 15 and it was about 3 months into living with my first foster family. I had just begun feeling settled and safe when I was suddenly told I would need to move. It felt like the world was crashing in around me and I couldn’t breath. For weeks I barely ate, I cried myself to sleep and wished that my life would just end. Looking back on this today, I can see how this wasn’t just because of a move…it was a combination of events that my emotions were starting to catch up to. As the date neared, I slipped into a deeper depression, until one night I told my foster parents that I had seriously contemplated ending my life. It not only scared them…but it actually scared the shit out of me that I had come to that point. And I didn’t want to again. 

I started into more therapy but I buried the pain, hurt, and any emotion related to my past and present just so I could cope with day to day life. Because the deep hole of depression I had felt scared me so badly that I feared feeling and dealing with anything would lead me down that path again. But that lead to the depression being replaced with anxiety.

be-kind-for-everyone-you-meet-is-fighting-a-battle-you-know-nothing-about

I didn’t recognize the anxiety until later on in life. I didn’t realize it was underneath so many of the decisions I made, the fears that I had, and the emotions I was feeling. Until I started to get panic attacks. And sometimes out of the blue. It is incredibly scary to find yourself unable to breath, seeing spots, and not understanding why. But I quickly recognized when one may approach and knew to remove myself from a situation or try to understand what was causing it in that moment. And to remember to breath!

Fast forward to this past year, where life got turned upside down and everything that brought structure into my life had changed…and when you have anxiety…structure is your friend.

I continued with therapy, had supports in place and kept myself busy. I put on a happy face and climbed hurdle after hurdle after hurdle. I honestly thought I was doing ok. Until I wasn’t.

I’m not sure if the weight just became too much to carry or if life just handed me one too many lemons…but the anxiety increased to a level I had never experienced and with it came a dark cloud of depression. I fought so hard to battle through it, do the work I had learned in therapy and get past it. But I soon realized I may need more help. Back in June, after talking with my doctor and finding that the anxiety was leading to a depression and that it was starting to take over other areas in my life, I was prescribed an anti-depressant that works with anxiety. Just typing that alone, I can still feel twinges of shame in acknowledging that I had to go that route and the sense of failure that I couldn’t get through it on my own. It’s funny that I have always been open about going through therapy but there is just some sort of shame, a stigma surrounding the idea that you suddenly need to medicate yourself to be able to cope through life.

I still remember the first day taking the medication and how scared I was. Not just because of the long list of side effects…and let me tell you they are seriously unpleasant… but because it meant to me that I had failed. I had fought for over 15 years to never feel this way again, but little had I known I had probably just been keeping it at bay and not in a healthy way.

When I have felt comfortable enough, I have opened up to people about it and found out very quickly that I am not alone. Not just in these emotions and struggles, but that I have people in my life who have had to turn to something like medication to assist them. And when you realize you are not alone, the shame and failure you felt start to slowly diminish.

So that is why I felt, on a day like today, that it was important for me to share this part of my journey. If I don’t share it, it would feel like I haven’t being completely honest in the struggle and that it could be perceived that it has been mostly an exciting and fun year when in reality, it has been quite tough. No, what you see isn’t me ‘faking it’ for I am sharing a lot of happy moments…but it seems fair to also share that behind those moments have been some darker ones too. 

I’m month 3 into taking medication coupled with the therapy I have been in. They come with some intense side effects sometimes…nausea being the main one for me. But I have also been able to feel so much lighter and think a lot clearer. I can’t say that it has cured the anxiety for me. I still feel it from time to time…but it comes up in a way where I am able to recognize it better and let myself sit in it to figure out exactly where it is coming from and work from there. I started out swearing I would not rely on medicine and would work hard to get off of it fast. But I soon realized I was putting way to much pressure on myself and only adding to the anxiety. I have come to terms with the fact it may be something I do on a long term basis…and I am learning to accept that and be ok with it.

mental-illness

In all of this, the one thing I have really taken away from it, is that we need to be so much more kinder to ourselves. I was so angry and so hard on myself for feeling like I failed, that I didn’t appreciate all that I had gone through so far without that help. I have survived so much and should feel incredibly proud of myself for it.

My hope in opening up more about my struggles with anxiety is that those who may resonate with some of what I have shared will realize they are not alone. That they will be kinder to themselves and maybe feel like they can reach out for help without feeling the shame.

Because there is NO shame in reaching out for help. There is NO shame in admitting that life can sometimes be more than we can handle. And we need the reminder that help is there and that we don’t have to go through this life alone.

**Great resources if you are looking to learn more about anxiety or are in need of a safe place to reach out for help**

One Year

how far

It was one year ago tomorrow that I left for my 8th trip to California. A solo adventure after a big life decision. A chance to spend time with just myself because from that day forward it would be just me. I never thought this day would come. I was literally just trying to survive day by day. Taking a step forward into the unknown…not really knowing what would lie ahead but just knowing I had to trust my gut and my heart and move forward.

I can’t help but spend time this week reflecting on this past year. And being in awe that I actually survived it. I think I knew deep down I had it in me, but I can honestly share with you that there were moments I did not want to get out of bed. Where I have looked at booking the next one way flight out of here. Where going home to my parents seemed like such a wonderful escape from life. But that’s all it would have been. A temporary escape…and then what? No, I needed to face it all head on. Feel every moment, grieve the loss, celebrate the small victories like waking up and smiling, and making & eating a wonderful dinner just for me.

IMG_4443 2

It has not been an easy year. When they say things come in threes…mine came in 5’s sometimes 6’s. Being hit with so many challenges, some completely out of my control really should have knocked me down, but I surprised even myself by getting back up…every time. I kept reminding myself that I have survived so much more and that this too shall pass. And not only pass, but that I would grow and learn so much about myself through it all and if I let it, I could come out even better from it.

It doesn’t happen overnight.  But it does happen. You start to feel like yourself again….scratch that….you feel like a newer, better version of you. You can’t not come out of it different than you were before. Because it changes and shapes you. It teaches you so much about yourself and just how much you are capable of.

The last 365 days have taught me to love life more than ever. To be free and just live. To not take myself so seriously and truly live life to the fullest. They have taught me to not be so hard on myself…that I can be my harshest critic sometimes and that I need to start being kinder to me. I have had to put myself first this year, which meant saying no to a variety of people and situations that I may have normally said yes to…and be ok with it. To not let how others may think of me control my decisions. To take time for just me. And do all of the above and not feel selfish for it. It’s a work in progress 😉

IMG_9099 (1)

So this week, I do even more of that. I’m not only taking the time to look back and see the tough moments (there were plenty!!) but I’m choosing to also reflect back and see the beauty in it all as well. Because though it was an incredibly difficult year, it brought out friendships that may never have formed, it pushed me to say yes to adventures I may have never considered, and it made me feel stronger and braver than ever before. This year also comes with life-long memories that I will forever be thankful for and a true appreciation for life. I can honestly say that though this year was one of the more difficult ones for me, I can sit here on day 364, look at myself in the mirror and truly believe when I say that it was all worth it.

Soulful Friendships

blog3

I have been reminded this past week this past year just how grateful I am for the people I have in my life. I couldn’t help but reflect on how some of these wonderful people entered my life at just the right moments. I think of how some new people entered my life just a year ago and have become incredible rocks of support to me months later when some who had been in my life for years had drifted off. 

blog5

So much has happened this past year and through each hurdle there has been someone there to offer support and encouragement. Not every situation calls for the same friend either. It’s quite intriguing to see how different situations bring out different friends. Like the friend who can sit with you and eat vegan ice cream and be a shoulder to cry on, one who can kick your butt out of bed and get you back to the land of the living. And for us ladies, our male friends who are great for helping us understand just how the male mind operates.  And let me tell you, I’m so grateful for the male friends in my life because when it especially comes to dating and understanding how their minds work, your guy friends will tell you exactly how it is, no BS…just straight shooting. You may not appreciate it in the moment and it may be hard to hear, but you will be grateful in the end! 

blog 7

As I was chatting with a friend today, we talked about how some of these relationships come into our life for just a season. My friend pool from just 3 years ago is quite different from the one I have today. But I am also in a different place in my life now than I was then. And though it can be sad to think of those friendships not being there anymore, I truly believe they each served a purpose. Each can probably say they learned something about themselves from it. I know I can look back on some of my past ones and see where I was challenged and made to look at myself differently. I can also see how they were just the right people I needed in my life at that time. And even though not all end perfectly and some may just drift off…I can at least look back on them and know they made an impact on my life and can feel grateful for what each relationship taught me.

blog8So for those who may read this who might not be in my life as much as before, know that I am incredibly grateful for the impact your friendship had on me. My hope is that you can look back on it and feel that you grew from it as well.

blog1

And for those in life now, in this crazy topsy turvy season I am in, thank you for being along for the ride and for being that steadfast support and encouragement. I don’t know how I could get through all of life’s challenges that have been thrown my way without you all. Know that you are valued, that you are special, and that you are loved.

My Sunday encouragement to you is to think of those people in your life who have your back, lift you up when you are down, and who make sure you realize just how amazing you are.

Then take a moment and thank them for it.

Because when life hands you lemons, they will come in with the tequila and turn that sh*t into some kick-ass lemonade 🙂