It’s amazing the difference a year can make.

On a late night, one year ago, I decided that I was in too much pain to keep on living and that my existence was too burdensome on everyone around me. I had been dealing with ongoing suicidal thoughts for years, but in the months leading up to that night they’d become more and more intense.

I awoke the next morning in a psychiatric Form 1 lockdown at the hospital, with my parents sitting by my side. I remember feeling little more than numb through much of my two week stay in Unit 1M. And when I returned home I felt more discontented with life than ever before. I dropped out of my anxiety treatment program, stopped going to counselling, and tried to fade out of people’s lives.

Fortunately for me, I had a few amazing people in my life who wouldn’t stand for the latter. With their help I spent the summer slowly learning to live again and remembering so many of life’s little joys.

In late summer I set off for adventure, hoping that a bit of solo travel and space would help me regain some lost confidence. I spent three weeks driving under the Northern Lights in Iceland, boating through the Fjords in Norway, wandering the cobblestone streets in Denmark, and lounging with old friends in England. The trip gave me some much needed time for reflection and appreciation. For the first time I truly allowed myself to look at my life and the reasons for my unhappiness. The main one, I realized, was that I was scared.

In the autumn I came home determined to open myself up and conquer my fears. I took risks, faced new challenges, and found myself entering winter feeling something I had never truly felt before: Contentment.

And now, one year on, my life is virtually unrecognizable. I found a job that encompasses everything that I’ve ever wanted in a job. I fell in love with someone who makes me happier than I ever thought it was possible to be. I’ve started reaching out and attempting to mend broken relationships. And I’m starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not such a human disaster after all.

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#BellLetsTalk day has rolled around once again.


I’ve always tried to be open and honest about my struggles with mental illness, as I know how important open conversations are to ending the stigma. I used to write about my experiences regularly, but have found myself doing so less and less over the last couple of years. At first I simply wasn’t finding the exercise of writing as helpful as I had in the past. But last spring it became much more than that.
Late one night in June, after 10 years of inner turmoil, I became so overwhelmed with my anxiety and depression that I attempted to take my own life.
I then spent the next two weeks as an inpatient in the Mental Health unit of the new St. Catharines Hospital and can truly say that that was the worst week of my life. But probably not for the reasons you’re thinking…
Each day I was in there I would meet with my assigned psychiatrist, and each day he would make the same comment: “You’re a highly educated and well-travelled young woman. You’re not the type of person I should be seeing in here.”
I never knew how to respond to this. He used words like “typical” and “should” and I just didn’t understand. Educated people can and do have depressive disorders, and well-travlled people can and do have anxiety disorders. Who was he to tell me I shouldn’t be there, when the fact was, I WAS there. I was there, and in pain, and instead of being helped, I was made to feel like my thoughts and emotions were invalid. I was made to feel like I should have somehow been above mental illness.
In the end, I didn’t receive anything in the way of “treatment”. My medication was switched to something I’d been on previously, and I slept a lot, played cards with my dad, and then after a week was discharged.
I left the hospital feeling completely discouraged. Following my discharge I dropped out of the outpatient anxiety treatment program that I’d been taking part in for a year previously, stopped going to counselling, and never spoke to anyone about how the experience effected me.
(Until now.)
I spent the summer wallowing in self-pity and feeling like a complete failure, followed by an autumn spent travelling and learning to trust my own abilities again. Thankfully the latter worked, and I returned home feeling like maybe, just maybe, I could be okay eventually. I built up the nerve to take some big chances, as well as rid myself of a few bad habits.
For a long time I didn’t think I’d live to see my 30th birthday.
But I did make it to 30. I made it, and now when I think of the future it’s not a blank question mark, but filled with possibilities. And for the first time I in as long as I can remember, I want to be alive to see what happens.

You better work.

I stepped up my job application game last autumn, resulting in several interview offers. Though I didn’t receive any job offers, I did get a lot of great feedback and made it farther in one process than I ever had before. So while the outcome wasn’t what I’d hoped, the experience was a positive.

After spending a couple of months putting applications together, I now find that I have several different versions of my resume, each suited for different types of jobs. In browsing through these I can’t help but think of how many jobs I’ve omitted from my resume, whether is be for space constraints or irrelevancy. And then I realize that I’m not even sure I can remember every single job I’ve ever had!

This thought has led me here, where in a mix of curiosity and boredom, I will try and list every paid job I’ve ever worked, no matter how short my time there was. Let’s start at the beginning…

2002-2004: ST – Elevator Operator, Arcade Attendant
2004-2005: IT – Usher, Cashier, Parking Lot Attendant
2005-2005: ES – Breakfast Hostess
2006-2006: ST – Projectionist, Reservation Agent, Cashier
2006-2006: IT – Usher, Cashier, Parking Lot Attendant
2007-2007: OSI – Server
2007-2007: IT – Usher, Cashier, Parking Lot Attendant
2007-2011: NFT – Tourism Counsellor
2008-2008: CNH – Reservation Agent
2010-2011: ABM – Customer Service Representative
2011-2012: SCCN – Usher, Parking Lot Attendant, Cashier
2011-2012: SKI – Programs Assistant (Intern)
2012-2012: BT – Telemarketer
2012-2012: CRUK – Telephone Fundraiser
2012-2012: NHM – Retail Sales Associate
2012-2012: EB – Watch Salesperson
2012-2012: PS – Receptionist
2013-2013: VFTS – Project Coordinator, Customer Service Representative
2013-2013: SCCN – Front of House Coordinator
2013-2014: VFTS – Administrator, Customer Service Representative
2013-2014: TWC – Museum Services Assistant
2014-2014: SKUK – Communications Coordinator (Intern)
2014-2014: BRC – MAPS Assistant (Intern)
2014-2014: MCS – Supporter Donations Assistant
2014-2014: HNC – Ticket Taker, Poncho Distributor, People Counter
2014-2015: CI – Front Desk Agent
2015-2017: CC – Visitor Services Officer
2015-2016: MC – Ticket Agent, Cash Room Clerk
2015-2016: ON – Retail Sales Associate
2016-2016: SK – Brand Specialist
2016-2016: HS – Project Coordinator
2016-2016: OTW – Communications Coordinator (Intern)
2016-2016: CX – Technical Support Representative
2017-2017: REV – Transcriber

There are over 30 employers on this list (though some are listed several times, for example IM, which I quit and returned to three times), and I feel quite certain that there’s one or two that I’ve completely forgotten, and will come to me later!

And boy, does this list make me feel like a flake! But in my defense, I spent highschool and university working summer jobs in a tourist town, where you typically had to find new employment at the end of ever summer season AND needed to procure multiple jobs in order to work 40 hours per week. After that I moved to London where I worked as temp, so several of these were just short-term contracts. And from 2014 onward you’re looking at upwards of four jobs held at one time just to pay the bills.

Oh, the joys of precarious employment!

Can you list all of your jobs?

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The Anxious Wanderer Returns, Take Two

In three short days I’ll be in a rental car driving the Golden Circle in Iceland. I’ll be flying there from Toronto tomorrow, and meeting one of my dearest friends in the world in Reykjavik. Following a few days in the land of ice we’ll be flying back to her home in London, and later I will continue my adventures solo around England, Denmark, and Norway.

While this certainly isn’t my first time heading off on a grand adventure, it will be the first time since my anxiety has become so severe. And that, for me, makes this one of the most important trips I’ll ever take.

To say that the past two years have been hell is an understatement. In that time I’ve been diagnosed with panic disorder, panic psychosis, and severe chronic depression. I’ve been through periods where I was unable to leave the house. I’ve experienced emotions so severe than I didn’t know how to cope with them. I’ve had difficulty maintaining friendships, employment, and my own physical health. And just a few months ago I had bout of depression and anxiety so severe that I tried to take my own life.

In this time I’ve been on a dozen different medications, seen countless doctors, counsellors, and nurses, and been admitted to several outpatient and inpatient mental health programs.

In moments of panic it feels like my mind has turned against me, and convinced me that danger lurks around every corner. My attacks, which had always been unpleasant experiences, have become unbearable episodes of sheer terror. The frequent fear and stress have become all consuming, and over the years has slowly chipped away at every aspect of my life.

Even in periods when the attacks, anxiety, and depression are less intense, I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to enjoy things I once loved, like theatre and travel. In the past few years these things have provided me with little more than fear and nausea. At one point I even thought that perhaps I’d just stop partaking, because what was the point?

But, at the end of day, I just couldn’t bring myself to give up my last semblance of hope. So in the spirit of ‘go big, or go home’, I’ve decided to get over my fears by visiting three countries I’ve never stepped foot into before (two of them on my own). I’m also giving myself London, because it’s the love of my life.

And I refuse to let my anxieties take it, or anything, away from me.

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Locked Up

Exactly one month ago I was released from the hospital after spending 7 days on a mandatory hold inside of the psychiatric unit. It was undoubtedly the worst week of my life, and the lowest point I’ve reached during my decade long struggle with mental illness.

During and following my hold I didn’t tell many people about what was happening. Partly because I was embarrassed and ashamed, and partly because I simply didn’t know how to talk about it. I still don’t, to be completely honest. But despite that, I’m writing now because I feel it’s important to say something. It may not be the correct thing, or what people want to hear, but the one thing I know is that keeping quiet out of shame only perpetuates stigma.

The ‘How?’ and the ‘Why?’ are likely what people most want to know, but are in my opinion the least important aspects of the story. While it was one rash and desperate decision that landed me in the hospital, the path leading up to it was a long and complicated one. My incarceration was 10 years of poor decisions in the making. Poor decision that I, for the first time, realize come from the fact that I simply don’t value my own life.

That revelation is in and of itself heavily complex. And along with it I also have my crippling anxiety, chronic depression, and unstable emotional responses to stress and upset. But I’ve come to learn that identifying and accepting issues is half the battle.

And as of tonight, that battle is not yet lost.

30 x 30

T-minus 6 months (and 2 days) until I turn 30. And as such, I’ve decided to make a list of 30 things I wish to do / 30 goals I’d like to achieve, by age 30:

  1. Visit 30 new cities
  2. Do 30 minutes of meditation or mindfulness each day
  3. Learn to be kind to myself
  4. Walk 30 km each week
  5. Eat fruits & veggies 30 times each week
  6. Take time out to recharge and refocus
  7. Lose 30 lbs
  8. Work avg 30 hours each week
  9. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’
  10. Spend only $30 each week on non-essentials (movies, clothes, eating out)
  11. Put $30 in savings account each week
  12. Learn self-forgiveness
  13. Watch / Listen / Read 30 new arts / entertainment things
  14. Give Jacob 30 memorable experiences
  15. Be a more attentive friend
  16. Write and send 30 letters / postcards to loved ones
  17. Set aside 30 minutes each week to get organized
  18. Be more open and honest about my feelings
  19. Rid myself of 30 toxic habits / relationships / things
  20. Volunteer 30 hours each month
  21. Ask for help when I need it
  22. Take 30 photographs each month
  23. Try 30 new foods
  24. Take the time to reflect and appreciate
  25. Write 30 new posts / articles / essays
  26. Try 30 things that scare me
  27. Learn to be more flexible / “go with the flow”
  28. Apply to 30 new jobs
  29. Try my very best to do the 30 things on this list
  30. But don’t beat myself up should I not accomplish them all

Special thanks to Jenny for helping me brainstorm in the middle of the night ;)

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Hit The Floor

Over the past few months I’ve quit several jobs, but still can’t seem to get over this chronic fatigue. I’m at the point of sleeping 10 hours a night, and taking 3 hour naps during the day. On top of that my overly intense panic attacks recently returned, and I’ve started having fainting spells due to a new health issue that is still in the process of being diagnosed.

Oh, the joys of chronic illness!

I wish more people understood chronic illness. I feel like in the past year so many friends have drifted away, frustrated, and I just haven’t had the emotional, mental, or physical energy to pull them back in and explain. But perhaps that’s for the best, because the fact remains that I can’t keep up.

I don’t even have the energy to write more of this post. Please see The Spoon Theory.

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#GETLOUD

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in Canada, and CMHA is suggesting we #GETLOUD for mental health. As I’m always happy to further conversation on the topic, here I am, getting loud. Or at least speaking at a moderate level ;)

Over the past year I’ve been volunteering with a local children’s mental health organization, and it has opened my eyes to the great strides our country has made when it comes to talking to young people about mental illness. Part of my volunteer role involves running information booths at mental health fairs and events held in secondary schools around the region. And every time I go it never ceases to amaze me how informed and engaged young people are about mental health issues.

I can’t help but feel a little envious.

I often wonder if I’d had all this information, would I have been a little more prepared when mental illness took a hold of me? When it started during my second year of university I didn’t have a clue about what mental illness was, that it affected 1 in 4 people, or that it was most often triggered during post-secondary. I didn’t understand what was happening to me or why, and I was certain that I’d never be okay again. I would go to sleep wishing that I’d never wake up because the confusion and pain felt unbearable.

I didn’t know that I could go and seek help. I didn’t know about counselling or medication or crisis lines. I didn’t know about all the resources that were offered through the university to help me get better, or that this was something that thousands of other students were dealing with at the same time. I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t know any of this because no one had ever told me.

But this generation does know. They know signs and symptoms to look for in themselves or in their friends. They know who to call and where to go if they need help. They know that there’s no shame in mental illness, and are active in making sure that the stigma is gone. And while I know that this knowledge won’t lesson the occurrence of mental illness for them,  I’m hopeful it will make the lives of those who deal with it down the road just a little bit more bearable.

So, I’m going to #GETLOUD for all those like me who just didn’t know. Mental illness affects everyone, and we should all be talking about it.

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