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Showing posts from 2016

"Your Brain on Food"

You are what you eat. You know that saying. Your are only as healthy as what you put into your body. We often equate the strong and virtuous of us with the ones making 'healthy choices'. The athletic-looking person in their workout gear drinking a smoothie. Or the mom in the grocery store only buying organic produce and natural foods for her children. We admire this.
Conversely, we see an overweight person with a grocery cart full of processed foods and we judge. We do. I would wager that almost all of us do. Society has a bias about health. Many biases, in fact.
Today is the first day of the Welfare Food Challengehere in Metro Vancouver. I have signed up to live on an $18 food budget for the week of October 16th to the 22nd. As part of this challenge participants cannot accept charity, free food or eat food that is already in their fridge or cupboards. Why $18 and why did I choose to participate? People who live in poverty in British Columbia and receive welfare subsist on a…

"Jagged Little Pill"

How are you? How many times a day or over the course of a week are you asked this? We say that sentence so often without really meaning it. When was the last time that you asked that question and actually waited to hear the answer? If you heard the answer, were you really listening? It's a simple question with a not so simple answer at times.
October 2nd to 8th is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. 'Illness', rather than 'health' - there is a subtle difference. Mental Illness Week is an opportunity to speak about the realities of mental illness rather than just overall mental health (which we all have, by the way, just like physical health). And the reality is that mental illness is still so misunderstood, which is why so many of us shy away from talking about it or reaching out for help or treatment if we think we might be ill.
A mood disorder can have a large impact on one's life. Depression, for example, can impact everything from your physical health…

"Fight or Flight"

My heart is beginning to race. I start shuffling from one foot to the other. Don't cry - just breathe. I said, don't cry! Breathe. Now my heart is beating fast. Just concentrate. Breathe. Don't cry. I catch my mom's eye. "I am having an anxiety attack," I whisper. I whisper when I want to yell.
It's 10:15 am on Saturday morning and we are at the gym in the middle of a training session. I am in a safe place, with friends and family, doing something that always makes me feel better when I am experiencing depression. Except for today. And this is not depression. This is anxiety in all its glory.
I last fifteen minutes before I make for the door. I quietly, because I am embarrassed, explain that I need to leave. I spend the next fifteen minutes in my car, sobbing. Watching people around me going about their Saturday morning errands as if nothing is wrong; as if today is any other Saturday. Me, with tears running down my cheeks. It doesn't feel like any o…

"How to Stay Sane in an Insane World"

This morning before I turned on the news I thought to myself, 'It's probably safe to turn on the television. So much bad stuff has happened recently - nothing else could have happened in the last day or so. I am sure I won't be faced with any sadness first thing in the morning.' Boy was I wrong. Three police officers shot and killed in the United States. This is on the heals of the tragedy in Nice, France. And few days ago a little girl and her mother were murdered in Alberta. And so on. Does it ever end?
Wars, terrorism, a contentious presidential race in the U.S. and civil rights demonstrations - it's all a bit much. Even the most positive of us can start to feel worn down by all of this. An American study of 2,500 people by NPR (National Public Radio), The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that "about 1 in 4 said that they had experienced a great deal of stress in the previous month" and that they attributed …

"The Black Dog and The Elephant"

As an advocate for mental health awareness I find myself walking a fine line; how do I make my message strong and effective yet palatable? How can I get people to understand the reality of mental illness without scaring them away from the topic? 
Today I feel compelled to write with a frankness and out of a sense of urgency. You see, another young person tried to take her life just a few days ago. And when I say young, I mean young - as in thirteen years old. How horrific is an illness that robs a child of any sense of hope? To feel such despair is a horrible, dark place in which to find yourself. I know because I have felt that despair, I have been in that place - a tiny, single, solitary step away from a complete loss of hope and an irrevocable decision. 
I was lucky because, for some reason, I was able to recognize the imminent danger that I was in and I called my brother. I stepped back from the brink that afternoon. I am so glad that I did.
I have been to two mental health confe…

"Dive Into the Deep"

I find inspiration in many places: it's in a fresh spring day, a conversation with a colleague or friend or in the lyrics to a song. One of my most tried and true sources of inspiration is through reading books. Female authors who tell their real-life tales of hardship, perseverance and growth are particular favourites of mine. 
From an early age, when other little girls were being read fairly tales, I would beg my Grandma to tell me 'real-live' stories. The truth has always fascinated me far more than anything made up. She would tell me about the kittens born in the basement of my mother's childhood home in Calgary or some other little tale that would always keep me asking for more yet leave me satisfied and happy - content with the time sitting nestled with Grammy.
My Grandma persevered through difficult times with a challenging husband who spent most of his life living with an undiagnosed mood disorder. It wasn't until very late in life that he finally received…

"Own Your Journey"

The people who I have always admired most in life are the ones who are willing to appear flawed, the ones who embrace who they are - the good, the bad and the ugly. Think about it for a moment. Sure, there are the sports heroes and maybe the actors that we see up on that big screen. We are often awed by their talent. But the ones who show us a little bit of who they really are, aren't those the ones that you feel more of a connection with, the ones who we truly admire?
The leaders that I have learned the most from in the workplace, the ones who I would go the extra mile for are those people. They are the ones who admit that they don't have all the answers; they are the ones who recognize that by sharing their foibles or a personal challenge, they allow their employees to connect with them. It's a building block for trust.
Many workplaces are shifting away from the old way of thinking that you must leave your personal life at home when you arrive at your desk at 9:00 am ea…

'Tequila Sunrise'

Tequila was my thing. As cosmopolitan martinis were to Carrie Bradshaw, tequila shots were to me. OK, I also loved my cosmos but if I really wanted to take the party up a notch, a tequila shot (or four) was the way to go. That feeling as the tequila slid down my throat and then warmed my body was special. I felt euphoric, unstoppable - the life of the party. And I was. Until the party wasn't fun anymore.

North American society has a love affair with alcohol. Is it a healthy love affair? I would argue that it isn't always.

At the recent Bottom Line Conference hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association there were many conversations about alcohol - when it becomes a problem in a person's life and when it becomes addiction. One of the keynote speakers was award winning Canadian journalist and author Ann Dowsett Johnston, whose book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol explores the relationship between women and alcohol. Her talk was compelling as s…

"The Weight"

NOTE: I made a promise to myself long ago that I would avoid, whenever possible, participating in discussion about women's bodies. I don't think it's healthy and I feel that we spend far too much time in this world obsessing about it. It makes me sad for women and for society. So I try not to participate in what I see as a problem. I am making an exception for this post. I hope with this post that we can start a conversation that moves us towards a solution.

People who have a mental illness carry a great weight around with them most days. Certainly, there are moments of brevity and laughter but these are often fleeting, floating away like a butterfly; you enjoy the beauty of the moment but can't quite hold onto it. It's just beyond your grasp. The majority of the time when you are living with depression you feel like you have a dark, heavy wool blanket weighing you down. The weight feels such a burden that you struggle, and often you give in to it. Unable to carry …

"The RMT & Me"

I spent a sensuous hour with a tall, dark and ruggedly handsome man yesterday. His strong, warm hands on my back made me drool, my toes curl and left me in a dream-like state at the end of it all. Um, no - I am not talking about that. This dream man was a registered massage therapist and boy, did he take me to a special place.

Last week was stressful with all the bad and good things that that implies. It was a great week but it was busy and I had to be 'on' at work for most of it - not much downtime or quiet, something that I need to stay balanced. This coming week will be more of the same. And, very likely, the week after that, too. I love my job - truly. It's rare when you find yourself in a place where personal and professional passions meet. I find myself in that sweet spot now. But nothing comes for free in life. If I were to give myself completely to my work, it would be at a cost - a cost to my physical and mental well-being. And that's not something that I am …

"Valentine's Day Love Letter"

Valentine's Day for me is never about romantic love. It's about love. Period. Sure, when I was in my twenties and had some tumultuous, passionate relationships (oh, young love!) it was about my boyfriends at the time. One year I received a beautiful bouquet of roses. A few days later I got dumped. Hmm. Kind of makes the roses loses their luster, doesn't it? It also works wonders for a young woman's self esteem. But that is another post (and probably a therapy session or two...). The older that I have gotten, the more I have moved away from the Hallmark card ideal of what Valentine's Day 'should be'. 
My maternal grandmother was a very sweet, generous, loving woman. She taught me, very early in my life, the power of a small, thoughtful gesture. She would make your favourite cookies when you came for a visit (for the record, homemade sour cream cookies stored in a plastic ice cream tub), send you an Easter package with lollipops and an inflatable bunny rabbi…

"Merci, Gracias, Thank You"

Thank you. How often do you say these two words? I truly believe that these words hold the key to unlocking contentment and happiness. Does it sound like I am about to launch into a Pollyanna-ish post about all things rainbows and butterflies? Perhaps. Stay with me...

The American author Melody Beattie describes gratitude and its transformative power like this:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

I am in a chapter of my life where gratitude comes easily to me. It's second nature for me to find myself in a random, yet intentional, moment when I am simply thankful. It might be at night when I tuck myself into bed and a smile creeps over my face as I feel how cozy my bed is, how comfo…

"The Power of Ordinary"

Which moments in life are the ones that make you feel true happiness? Was it that day that you got a promotion at work? Was it the time that you went on a big shopping trip? How about the time that you met one of your sports heroes? Chances are that you enjoyed those moments, absolutely. But did they bring true happiness or real joy?
I recently spent nine days over the Christmas holidays with extended family in Hawaii. Extravagant? Perhaps, yes. It certainly wasn't inexpensive with the state of the Canadian dollar! My cousins and I planned this vacation for a year and a half and when it finally happened, it was pretty amazing. I would say that it was a once in a lifetime experience. It made me very happy, indeed. But it wasn't because of the monetary value or the exotic location (although, Hawaii is certainly my geographic happy place!)
My happiest, most joyful moments on the trip were the simple ones: enjoying a really good cup of hot Kona coffee; a simple picnic dinner spen…

"Let's Talk...Again"

It's Let's Talk Day in Canada. This is one day each year that Bell encourages Canadians to talk about mental health. It's a fabulous thing and it's also ridiculous. Let me explain...

This year I have seen discussion and debate on social media about the fact that a large corporation such as Bell is potentially gaining from hosting what some view as basically a publicity campaign. There is conversation around the fact that their intentions are not completely altruistic. OK. Yes, Bell may be gaining goodwill and all that that may encompass through this campaign but here's the thing: nobody else is encouraging conversation about this life and death topic on the scale that Bell is. And let's be clear about one thing - we are literally speaking about a life and death issue. People die from mental illness.

I am quite fine with the fact that Bell is going to receive some 'good energy' from this. Frankly, I think they deserve a pat on the back. The fact that Ca…