#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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Labour Day 2015

For the first time ever I went away for Labour Day weekend! I spent 4.5 days in Toronto and it was fab. I spent time with old friends, new friends, and saw three of my favourite celebs: Idina Menzel, Gillian Anderson, and Hayley Atwell.

After somehow making it through the most stressful interview of my life on Wednesday afternoon I headed to Toronto where I met up with Gen at her office. She kindly took my suitcase, and I ran off to see Idina Menzel for the 9th time.

SMall IMG_8022Idina Menzel, Sept 2 2015, Sony Centre

I didn’t make it through the whole show, as I was out-of-my-mind tired, so I snuck out during the encore.

On Thursday I headed to the awesome sauce hotel a friend and I had booked on a Fan Expo group discount (woo!), and they thankfully let me check in 4 hours early. I had a nap and after waking up and receiving a message from one of my favourite people in whole world (who I had not seen in 2 years) hurried off to meet Kiloran. While sitting on her balcony we realized it had been 10 years since we met at the castle, and decided to mark the occasion by attempting to recreate one of the many ridiculous photos we had taken during our first year on university. Because it turns out we’re just as cool as we were in 2005…

11891415_10100115772294914_1427146033049869263_oPhoto 1: 2005, Photos 2-4: 2015

Later that evening I headed to the airport to pick up Caitlin, and making our way back into the city.

IMG_0203The view from our hotel room. Not too shabby!

On Friday we toured around Toronto, since Caitlin had never been before. We mostly wandered, and thankfully the temperature earlier in the day wasn’t too bad!

IMG_2595The Distillery District

On Saturday we met up with Gen who took us over to Centre Island. We went earlier in the day, so it was busy at all! We wandered from one end to other and then headed back and grabbed lunch at the waterfront.

11952030_10100116473374944_8242612731677427721_nView of the city from Centre Island

Later in the afternoon Caitlin wasn’t feeling so hot, so she went back to the hotel to rest. Gen and I went for a nice walk down Queen Street and then back to the hotel to go swimming. It was so nice to catch up! She even mentioned how much better I seem to doing from the last time we met up a few months ago, which was really nice to hear. It’s one thing to think you’re doing better, but another to have someone acknowledge it.

IMG_0394Poolside, Sheraton Centre

Sunday was the BIG DAY: Fan Expo Canada. We arrived around 9:30 and spent an hour or so checking out all of the booths. It’s a bit overwhelming, even with knowing what I was walking into!

Our first scheduled event was a photo op with Hayley Atwell. We were both excited and nervous, especially being near the front of the line. If you’re not familiar with photo ops, to say they’re rushed is an understatement. Someone shouts at you to drop your bags, then stand on the red line, and then suddenly you’re just standing in front of the person, the photo is snapped, and you’re out. Now, unfortunately I can get kind of manic in such circumstances, so I may have bolted towards Ms. Atwell, said ‘hi’, and then just dove in for a side hug/cuddle. She said ‘WHOA!’ and the photographer started laughing. I really have no memory of what happened, but you can tell by the photo that she was caught off guard!

HayleyHayley Atwell

Up next was the Gillian Anderson Q&A, which was awesome. She was hilarious, people asked some really great questions, and she told some great stories.

11947976_10100116472361974_1199287061996281017_oGillian Anderson Q&A

Next up was the Gillian Anderson photo op, which was pure chaos. And I was so nervous to meet her! After the tackle debacle that morning I decided I really needed to chill out, which worked out. Phew! We were rushed in, I said something like “It’s so amazing to meet you!”, and she said “Thank you!” We all squeezed in for the photo and Gillian declared “I’m in the middle!”

GillianGillian Anderson

The last thing on our schedule for the day was the Hayley Atwell Q&A. Unfortunately when we went to line up an hour and a half before it started, the line was already out of control. We sat in it for awhile, but Caitlin needed to leave it early to get to the airport in time, so in the end we decided to just head out and get some dinner.

After that we both headed home, exhausted!

Thanks Toronto, Fan Expo, and awesome friends for a great mini holiday. Next Up: New York City!

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It’s November! The leaves are falling, there’s a nip in the air, and I love it. I’ve been trying to keep busy this week in an attempt to avoid the slump that comes with being newly unemployed. The plan has been surprisingly successful.

I wandered around Fireman’s Park earlier this week:

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Strolled River Road and Downtown:

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Port Maitland:

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3It was a little windy!

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I’m off to wander aimlessly around NYC in a few days and am very excited. Old friends, Broadway, cheesecake- You really can’t beat it!

Canada: The Country That Doesn’t Care

The Toronto Star published an interesting article this morning highlighting the EXTREME shortfalls that our system has when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention. Some highlights:

  • Stigma is a big, big influencer here. You are not going to come under pressure to fund something if nobody’s talking about it.” -Former Ontario health minister George Smitherman.
  • The lack of awareness is likely linked to an “emotional disease index” that sways government decision-making and drives public funding. Childhood cancer would rank highly on the index; suicide would not.
  • Every year about 4,000 people on average commit suicide in Canada, making it the ninth-leading cause of death in the country, according to Statistics Canada. (As compared to 2011 deaths rates: 2,158 in car accidents, 527 by homicide, 303 by HIV, 482 from influenza and 253 from drowning.)
  • Canada is one of only a few countries in the western world that does not have a national suicide-prevention campaign.
  • The total cost of suicide and self harm in Canada is estimated to be $2.4 billion a year in lost economic productivity of the dead and mental health programs for the grieving families left behind, according to a report by SmartRisk, a national injury-prevention group.

4000 people kill themselves every year in Canada. That’s a life taken every 2 hours. Can we let that sink in for a moment?

Now can we talk about the fact that no one seems to give a damn that this is happening? No one is talking about it. And the government could not care less. Seriously, someone should be calling a human rights violation here.

Wannabe Urban Explorer: Take 1!

Over the past few months I’ve been fascinated by this idea of “urban exploration.” If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s essentially going in to abandoned /off-limit spaces to look around / photograph / explore, without disturbing the space itself. The adventurous side of my brain has been reeling with the idea of getting to see these normally unseen spaces. However, the practical part of my brain resists, as urban exploration tends to be, well, illegal. I do justify it with my belief that, while it is trespassing, it’s trespassing with no intent to harm or steal from the space. It’s simply for observational purposes. While of course if you were to apply this logic to someone’s personal space, i.e. a home, it’s wrong and creepy and all that jazz. But urban exploration isn’t about that. It’s about the forgotten spaces. The abandoned spaces left to time and the elements to rot and whither.

Here are a few of my favourite urban exploration pages:

8 Abandoned Theme Parks “Open” for Exploration

Afflicted: 11 Abandoned UK Asylum’s “Open” for Exploration

10 Creepiest Abandoned Water Parks On Earth

Underground History: Disused Stations on London’s Underground

After finding myself in a bit of a mental rut recently, I decided I wanted a little fun to take my mind of things. And thus came a plan for my first stint in the world of urban exploration. I decided to play it safe and go to a place that was close, accessible, and heavily trafficked by the “wannabe urban explorer”, such as myself. So, on a brisk, but sunny, December afternoon I found myself on at the abandoned Wet ‘n Wild at Prudhomme’s Landing.

If you’re not familiar with this park, it was great at it’s peak. I spent a great deal of time here growing up. It was only a 20 minute drive up the highway, reasonably priced, and a good size for families with younger children. I recall it having 3 water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, kiddy pool, and then some additional attractions outside of the water park area (go-karts, bumper cars, a maze, electric tubes [not sure what they were called!], and a huge children’s play place). It wasn’t a huge park, but I remember going there frequently with friends and cousins and having a blast.

Anyway, going back to a place you loved as a kid and finding it in ruins is a bit sad. Of course nothing is forever, but it was strange to wander around the now mostly vacant land remember what I think use to stand there. I went online and found some pictures of the park in it’s heyday. It makes it even sadder to see them side by side!

Walking in to the park. This was the path that took you from the front entrance to the water area. I remember there being an ice cream stand along here:

The overgrowth in what was once the wave pool:

The control room for the wave pool:

A tunnel that one of the water slides use to run through:

The end of the last remaining slide:

The staircases long ago collapsed:

The old Go-Kart track:

The kiddie pool seems to have become a make-shift fire pit:

I so remember racing to these down the path from the front entrance!

What was the font entrance:

Well, that’s it for that. It was cold, muddy, reminiscent, and fun. I think I might need to try a bit more of this urban exploring! I don’t know where or when, but, I’m sure I’ll think of something.