Sunday, 21 December 2014

"Ten Years/365 Days"

I enjoyed one of my favourite Christmas traditions last night. I had dinner with my BFF and her sister - we exchanged gifts and caught up. It was long overdue. My life has felt like a whirling dervish of late. Lots on the go with my awesome new job has meant that I have had to balance my social life and ensure that I have enough downtime to recharge. Unfortunately, that has meant that I haven't seen much of my favourite people.

As we were catching up (where do you even start?!) my BFF looked me in the eye after I told her about a cool thing that happened to me and asked me, point blank, "Why haven't you written about that?" Good question.

When I wrote my last post about a week ago I looked at the post previous to that. It had been two months between posts. Yikes! I love this blog and I adore writing so that was a reminder of what has been on hold over the last few months. Maybe it's time to reflect on the past year, for more reasons than just the fact that 2014 is almost over.

I spent a decade in and out of some very deep depths of depression. A pleasant journey it was not. But with every depressive episode I gained strength and resilience. For some reason I never seemed to completely let go of hope. I struggled, I faltered, I retreated. I also kept moving forward. I never gave up. Trust me when I say that not giving up was a difficult thing.

Along the path through ten years of mental illness I quit jobs and tried new ones, made new friends, lost old friends, lost belief in myself on many levels. Sometimes I faked it - yes, everything is fine. I am fine. Sometimes I was overcome by my illness - there was simply no strength left to fake anything.

Then a miraculous thing happened. Slowly, very slowly, the clouds started to part. I began to emerge from the darkness. I started to believe in myself once again. I decided what was important to me in my life and I started to fight for it, to prioritize it.

It's been an amazing year since I returned to work in November of 2013. I have done things that I never dreamed of. I met two of my heroes. Rick Hansen shook my hand and chatted with me about disability challenges in the workplace. Margaret Trudeau asked me about my experience with depression and then wrapped me in a giant hug. I have begun public speaking on the topics of mental illness, disability and diversity. And I am finally in a job that I can truly say that I am passionate about.

My illness has not completely left me. Nope, depression and anxiety are chronic for me and, realistically, I will most likely not be free of them in this lifetime. That is OK. I experienced the worst and came out through the other side. I am stronger that I ever thought that I would be. Yes, I have learned resilience, compassion, and empathy through that decade of illness. The gifts are great.

Life for each of us is a work in progress. As 2014 comes to an end and 2015 looms near, I am thinking about what I want for myself, where I would like to go. I need a better balance between work and home, I know that. I have big dreams and here's something that this past year has taught me - I can make them happen. Here's what a decade of illness taught me - never give up.

KB xo


Thursday, 11 December 2014

"Happy Christmas?!"

19 Random Christmas Movie Quotes

Here we are with about two weeks to go until the 'happiest time of year' - Christmas. This year I am conflicted. In truth, I have been conflcited about Christmas for about the past ten years or so. I used to be one of those people who adored every single thing about the season. Not so much anymore.

As I have gotten older, my feelings towards the season have changed. There are plenty of reasons for this. As I have grown older I have seen that it's not an easy time for many people, some of those people being close family members. Although I love finding the perfect gift for someone, I have become tired of the excessive commercialism that is all around us. And I admit, I have fallen into the shopping trap time and again, partly because it has given me a temporary emotional lift. Unfortunately, the emphasis is on temporary - you don't feel so great when you see your credit card statement or bank balance afterwards.

The other big thing that has impacted me over the last decade or so has been depression. I have spent the better part of ten years in an almost constant state of depression. Sometimes mild, sometimes deep, it was always there. The thing with depression is that intellectually you realize that you should feel happy about something but emotionally and physically it is simply impossible. Sometimes you put on that mask and carry on as best as you can and sometimes you withdraw and let the darkness enfold you like a heavy cloak.

This year I am not in a severe depression - I thank my lucky stars for that gift every single day. But I am feeling a bit low and I think I can attribute that to the horrible weather and a very busy Autumn. So let's talk a bit about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It's a real thing but what does it look like?

* Feeling sad, grumpy, moody or anxious
* Losing interest in your usual activities
* Eating more and craving carbohydrates
* Gaining weight
* Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine
* Sleeping more amd feeling drowsy during the daytime

I can definitely check a few things on that list and maybe you can too. As a person with a chronic illness, I have to be hyper-vigilant with my mental health. So what to do?

Light Box Therapy: These small boxes emit a light that is meant to mimic natural sunlight. They have proven to be very effective for those who suffer from SAD. They cost around $200 so they aren't inexpensive but check with your workplace benefits program (if you have one) - many plans cover part or all of the cost of a light box. If you can't afford a light box then try to sit by a window as often as you can.
Sleep: Get enough rest! It's such a hectic time of year and it can be challenging to get enough sleep but try to keep to a regular routine. Sleep is an essential element of overall physical and mental well being.
Eat Well: Boring, I know! However, you can't argue with the fact that eating well and ensuring that you drink enough water and get your vitamins is essential to wellness.
Get Outside: When the weather is not great and you are feeling down it can be so hard to motivate yourself to leave the house. I speak from experience when I say that even a quick walk around the block can do wonders for your mood. A walk in nature is even better!

Free Christmas Printables: Grinch Quote + 15 more! - Happiness is Homemade

Back to Christmas for a moment. Even though I seem to have The Grinch sitting on one shoulder and Buddy the Elf on the other, doing battle for my Christmas Spirit, I think I am going to try to shift things in favour of Buddy. How am I going to do that? I am going to focus on what I love about Christmas and eliminate all the rest. So that means that my gifts will mostly come from local craft fairs & artists. I will enjoy the Christmas lights that are adorning homes and businesses. And I will hug my niece and nephew, my baby brother, and my mom and dad. And I will give thanks to all those who have helped me on my journey to mental wellness over the past ten years.

Yes, maybe come Christmas I will be sharing Buddy the Elf's simple childlike joy in the season once again. After all, even The Grinch came around in the end.

KB xo

"To New Beginnings"

Christmas and Hanukkah are over. The new year is just around the corner. Most of us are considering how we are going to get back on track...