Monthly Archives: April 2014

Laughter

There was a moment yesterday morning when my co-worker and I were in hysterics. And I don’t mean we were giggling, chuckling or even laughing like normal. I am talking about loud, gasping for breath, tears running down my face, cheeks hurting laughs.

I don’t even remember what we were laughing about. It was what my colleague called a ‘twilight zone’ day where everything was nutty. I know we started out with light giggles, then a tongue twist of words sent us doubled over, clutching our stomachs, trying not to pee our pants laughing.

And it felt good.

Yesterday was a busy day at work,and like most jobs, there were moments of high stress. But I work with wonderful people who all have the amazing ability to make each other laugh.

And sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh.

Otherwise you’ll pull out your hair in frustration or burst into tears from stress.

It is amazing how laughter can change the atmosphere in a room. It can go from incredibly tense and dead silent to warmth and joyful noise. It can take a bad day and turn it into good. It can bring people closer together and ease feelings of distress.

Laughter has incredible healing power. When your heart is breaking or stress is draining your energy, laughter can renew and refresh your mind and soul in seconds.

I love to laugh. Most people do.

But what I love even more is making others laugh. One of my greatest joys is seeing people laugh. A child’s laugh is my favourite sound and I would do anything to hear my one and a half year old niece giggle.

Laughter is infectious. It’s contagious. It has the ability to connect people.

Life is full of stress. It’s full of pain and sadness.

Our world is a broken place.

Life is also short. It’s too short not to laugh as much as you can.

Laugh loud.

Laugh often.

Laugh hysterically.

Laugh insanely.

Laugh alone.

Laugh together.

Laugh at yourself, and with others.

Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and people you make laugh.

Laugh until your cheeks ache, your stomach hurts and tears are falling down your face. Laugh until you almost pee your pants.

And when you finish…

Laugh some more 🙂

Advertisements

Moving Forward

It was one year ago yesterday that I packed my things into a van and a car and left Toronto, my home of 10 years, to move to Kingsville with my parents.

What a year it has been.

When I moved here I was convinced I would only be here for the summer, then I would move back to Toronto and begin a Masters program at Tyndale. Shortly after being accepted to Tyndale I decided that was not where I wanted to go, and I began to look into programs at other schools.

As the days turned to weeks and then to months I found myself at a standstill. My life had come to a halt, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go.

Shortly before Christmas I decided I definitely did not want to go back to school, and I definitely did want to stay in the Windsor area to be near my family. I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I had to start moving forward.

So I began to put one foot in front of the other.

And it has been quite a journey.

I started volunteering more.

I began meeting new people.

I was asked to start and lead a church gathering in Windsor. I began this in February and next Sunday is our official launch.

I began this blog and I am writing almost daily.

I started dating.

I got a full time job. It’s a great job that I really enjoy. It’s been a month since I started it.

I fell in love.

I reconnected with some university friends, who are some of the best people I have ever known.

I turned 31.

I bought a car.

I got my heart broken.

I found my footing as a youth leader and have really connected with my beautiful grade 9 & 10 girls.

I reconnected with a friend from high school.

I started dating again.

The first 4 months of 2014 have been an incredible adventure. When the new year started, I began moving forward and I have had so many incredible experiences in such a short amount of time.

And I have loved every minute of it. Well, almost every minute of it. But even the bumps in the road and the times I tripped are worth celebrating. Because I am learning. I am growing. I am living life to the fullest.

I’ve left behind the fear and the insecurities. I’ve left behind the judgement of others and worrying about what people think.

I am moving forward and not looking back.

Life is good. I wake up smiling and I go to bed smiling. I feel blessed and I am so grateful.

And I want to keep going. The next step in this journey is finding a place to live and being on my own again. I am so excited for it.

Life is short. It is precious. The last year has been a roller coaster ride of exhilarating highs and extreme lows, but I no longer feel like I am spinning in circles. I am embracing the new and moving forward.

The past isn’t coming back and I don’t want to dwell on it. I am taking what I’ve learned, accepting what I cannot change and opening up to what lies ahead.

I encourage you to join me in moving forward. Allow the wounds you are nursing to heal, let go of the anger and struggles, find joy in the new and wake up smiling.

You’ll be glad you did.

What defines you?

Those of you who read my blog regularly made have noticed that I made a slight change to it this week. I removed the tag line “Living with mental illness”.

When I started this blog, the purpose of it was to talk about my struggle with depression and be a voice for those who deal with mental illness. I also wanted to raise awareness because I don’t think it is talked about enough and there is such a lack of understanding about it.

I still have the same goals. I want to share my experience with depression because I am hoping what I’ve gone through may help someone else. I still want to be a voice for mental illness and stand up for those who suffer.

But my blog has evolved. I have evolved since I began writing it.

It’s not that I am no longer living with mental illness. I still have depression. I still take medication and I still have to battle the darkness sometimes.

But I am no longer defined by it.

My life no longer centres around my depression.

My depression no longer decides what I can and can’t do.

It no longer holds me back or engulfs me in fear.

It no longer controls me.

For so long I made decisions based on my depression. I let my fear and insecurity keep me trapped. I didn’t take any chances. I didn’t let many people in. And I made choices that kept me isolated from the rest of the world.

I’ve grown so much since I began this blog in November.

I have opened myself up. I’ve been vulnerable. I’ve been honest with myself and those around me. I’ve taken risks.

In the last few months I have loved more, and laughed more, than ever before.

I have been happy. I am happy.

Which is something I never really I believed I could be.

I have stopped worrying so much about what others think of me. I’ve stopped hiding the real me.

And I’ve learned to accept the love and grace given to me by those around me.

For so many years, my depression took over my life. It stole precious time that I can never get back. And I am done letting that happen.

My depression is not who I am. It’s just something I have to deal with. It’s a disease that needs to be treated, but it is not me.

And that is why I removed the tag line from this blog. Because living with mental illness is not who I am. I am someone who is just living. Trying to figure out this crazy world, do some good, and spread some love until the day I get to go home to my Lord.

But I will always be a voice for those who struggle with mental illness. I will always fight with them and for them, as I continue to fight for myself each day.

But I do hope none of you ever let yourselves be defined by something like mental illness. I made that mistake. And I allowed others to define me by it as well.

But I am not my depression.

I am worth so much more.

And so are you.

I encourage you to think about what it is that you’re allowing to define you. Is it your job? Where you come from? Who you’re with? Are you letting someone or something define you? A bad habit? Someone who broke your heart? A boss that puts you down?

Only you can define who you are. Don’t let anything or anyone tell you who you are.

Look in the mirror and know that you are special. You are worthy. You are important. You are loved.

You define you.

The Golden Rule

We all know the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. This actually comes right from the Bible, Matthew 7:12, “So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you”. (NIV).

I think too many of us have forgotten this rule. We get lost in our own little worlds and only think about what’s best for us. We work at getting what we want and we don’t worry about who we hurt or step on along the way.

Our culture teaches us this behaviour. It tells us we need and deserve to go after whatever we want and use whatever means necessary.

Our society teaches us to live for “self”. We are to be independent and we can do whatever we choose. It tells us we have the right to have what we want when we want it.

But with that mind set we inevitably get lost in our selfish ways and fail to think about how our actions or behaviours can affect others.

I do believe most people are good and want to treat each other well, but we are all naturally selfish and we become focused on what is happening directly to us, what we are struggling with, or what is missing from our lives.

We don’t mean to hurt others, but we can’t see beyond our own needs or wants to how we may be affecting those around us.

A couple of weeks ago someone in my life that I was close to suddenly cut all contact with me. One day everything was fine and the next he was barely talking to me. I have no idea what happened. When I tried to talk to him, I was met with silence.

I spent days torturing myself, wondering if I had done something to upset him. All I wanted was to know why our relationship changed so suddenly. I was hurt and confused.

I still don’t know what happened. I don’t know why we went from talking every day to not talking at all. But I no longer think I did something wrong. I think what happened actually had nothing to do with me, but that he is going through something and for whatever reason can’t have me in his life anymore.

I don’t believe he meant to hurt me. But I also don’t think he thought about how his behaviour and coldness would affect me. To be cut off without reason or explanation.

I am not angry with this person. I still would like to know what happened, but I accept that I probably never will.

I also realize that I have probably done this to someone myself. When I was struggling with something or going through a hard time, I may have cut someone off or treated them poorly. Of course I never meant to. I was too focused on what I was going through to even consider their feelings.

And I want to make sure I never do that again. I want to follow the teaching of Jesus and do unto others as I would have them do to me. I want to be considerate of those in my life, and put their needs and feelings before my own.

I’m not perfect. None of us are. And there will be a time when I hurt someone without meaning to again. Just like someone will hurt me without meaning to again.

But I am making a conscious effort to treat others better, especially those I love.

And if we all work a little harder to be more aware of how our actions affect those around is, imagine what a difference it could make.

What if we all make an extra effort to be kinder to one another? To be more open? To be honest?

What if we all tried a little harder to treat others as we want to be treated?

I think the world would be a much better place.

Join me in embracing the Golden Rule again.

What Really Matters

On Monday my beautiful mother turned 60. Last night we had a surprise party for her. My dad spent a couple of months planning it, and it was a huge success. She was very surprised! As I watched her last night, surrounded by friends and family, her face filled with joy, happy tears occasionally falling, I began to think about what really matters in life.

We live in a society that thrives on consumerism. We’re constantly told that we can only be happy if we have the latest iPhone, iPad, i-whatever is the current trend. We need to be dressed in the latest style and be up to date on what’s happening on the popular television shows. We are bombarded with commercials, beauty & fitness magazines, and ads for materials that will “make our lives better”.

But none of that stuff really matters.

What matters is throwing a surprise party for my mother because she is amazing and deserves to be celebrated and loved.

What matters is spending most of the evening chasing my 21 month old niece from one end of the restaurant to the other because she’s having fun and laughing every time she runs back  and forth.

What matters is my grandparents and aunt and uncle who drove 3 hours just to be at the party last night.

What matters is waking up this morning to a house full of family and being able to start my day with a bunch of hugs.

What matters is my co-worker who brings a coffee to my desk just to be kind.

What matters is the friend who texts me just to say hi and see how my day is going.

What matters is the five minute conversation I have with my sister at the end of the day just to check in with each other.

What really matters is who is in your life, not what is in your life.

What really matters is how you treat those who are in your life and how they treat you.

What really matters is love, compassion, kindness, loyalty, honesty and grace.

I personally do not want to waste anymore time on what doesn’t matter in life. I don’t want to waste anymore time on things. I don’t want to waste anymore time on people who treat me poorly or try to hurt me.

I have so much in my life that I am grateful for. I am surrounded by wonderful, generous, loving people, and I am choosing to focus on them.

I am choosing to focus on being good to them, loving them, appreciating them.

I encourage you to do the same.

Stop wasting time on material things, or trying to look a certain way, or trying to please certain people.

Focus on the people who you love and who love you. Cherish them. Spend time with them. Forgive them their mistakes. Love them.

Because they are what matters.

The Healing Power of Animals

I am an animal lover. I have been my entire life. Animals calm me down, bring me peace and lift my spirit. I am happier when I am around animals. I was lucky enough to group up with dogs and cats as pets.

This weekend I had the pleasure of dog sitting a beautiful, sweet girl named Rylee. And it was this weekend that I desperately needed some animal therapy.

Last week was a tough week. As I shared in a previous post, I was hurt, and I’ve spent the last week dealing with that hurt and trying not to let it overcome me.

I have also been feeling overwhelmed with life in general as I’ve started a new job and I am trying to find a suitable, well priced place to live in Windsor.

Toward the end of the week my depression was creeping in and I could feel myself being pulled into it’s darkness.

I was fighting hard, refusing to let myself fall into it’s grip. But I was also exhausted. In  matter of days I’d gone through various emotions including hurt, sadness, anger and confusion, which all bundled into one to create mega stress.

Last night all of those emotions came to the surface, and they had to be released.

I was sitting in the family room of the home where I was dog sitting. Rylee was on the other side of the house near the living room. I sat sobbing, releasing all of the emotions that had built up for days.

Through the blur of my tears I saw Rylee approach me, her loving, wide eyes staring up at me. She sat by the chair and continued to gaze up at me. Within minutes my tears stopped as stroked her head, her eyes never leaving mine.

Just her presence brought me comfort. The way she came and sat with me when she heard my sobs brought warmth to my heart. The way she looked up at me made me feel loved.

We went to bed soon after. Rylee usually sleeps on the floor of her owner’s bedroom, and I was sleeping in the guest room. On Saturday night, at bedtime, she went to her room and I to mine. But last night she followed me into the guest room and settled on the floor beside the bed. She slept the whole night in the room with me.

It was as though she wanted to protect me and make sure I was ok. And knowing she was there in the room with me made me feel so much better.

Animals are incredible. It is amazing how they can sense our feelings and know exactly what to do. Anyone who has never had pets or never felt connected to animals will not understand what I am talking about. I pray that one day you will experience it because it is unreal.

Being around animals is therapeutic. It’s healing. They are absolutely amazing.

This weekend I was supposed to be taking care of Rylee. Turns out she took care of me too.

 

Leap of Faith

We’ve all been in the situation before. There is something before us, an opportunity, a choice, and we have to decide. Do we play it safe and stick with what we know or do we take a leap of faith?

Taking a leap of faith is a risk. It’s doing something with the belief it will work out, but having no idea if it actually will.

We make the choice to try something new, without knowing what will happen or how our lives will change.

As we get older we are less likely to take a leap of faith in our lives. We stick to our comfort zone because we’ve seen too much and we’ve been hurt too many times.

For years I lived a life that shied away from any risk. I stuck to what I knew and didn’t try to go beyond my comfort. I played it safe. I’d been hurt and betrayed so many times that my fragile heart couldn’t handle another upset. It couldn’t handle another rejection. It couldn’t handle being broken again.

I was too afraid to move forward, and I couldn’t go backward, so I stood still. For far too long.

A few months ago I decided it was time to stop standing still. It was time to be bold and take some risks. It was time to live.

Looking back over my twenties I see so much wasted time. I see time that was stolen from me because of my depression, my fears and my anxiety.

While most of my friends were getting Masters degrees, falling in love, getting married and having babies, I was building walls.

I feel like I missed out on a lot. And I never want to feel that again.

I began breaking down those walls in various ways. I started writing this blog. I started volunteering more. I began to meet new people. I even began dating.

And life got better.

Not every risk I took in the last few months has turned out well. When you take a leap of faith, it can go two ways. You may jump off the cliff, spread your wings and soar. Or you may fall and crash on the ground.

Crashing sucks. It’s painful. And it can make you too afraid to climb back up to the cliff and take another leap. I know the fear. I’ve experienced it. I have let it take over my life.

But as my dad says, it’s not the fall, but how you get up that matters.

You can get up filled with bitterness, pain and fear. You can let those feelings force you into isolation, and convince you to never try again.

Or you can shed a few tears, pick up the pieces of your broken heart, and put yourself back together.

And try again. The second try may be better. Or it may not. Things may not go well until the 10th try or 100th try.

But stand up to the fear. Be bold. Take the risk. Because when it does work out, all the pain and struggle will be worth it.

Recently I got knocked down. I took a risk and opened myself up to something new. It started out amazing, but I was flying too fast and it resulted in a crash landing. My instinct was to pull the covers over my head and vow never to take that risk again.

I am battling that instinct and knocking it down. I vow to be bold. I vow to try again. I vow to take the good, and heal from the bad.

It was a leap of faith that didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. But maybe the next one will turn out better.

Regardless, I’m am standing on the cliff again and getting ready to leap off.

Where do you need to take a leap of faith? At work? With a relationship?

I  encourage you to take the risk. Because when it does work out, you’ll be thrilled you did.

His Love Never Fails

I am a youth leader and tonight during our music, we sang a song that has become one of my favourites. It’s called ‘One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)’, and the chorus goes like this:

“Your love never fails; never gives up; never runs out on me”

It was a reminder that I needed tonight. The reminder that no matter what happens in this life, God’s love is constant and everlasting.

When this world knocks me down and stomps all over me, He is there to pick me up and dust me off.

When life chews me up and spits me out, He is there to clean up the mess and put me back together.

When this world rejects me and casts me aside, His arms are open in acceptance.

His is a love so unbelievable, so amazing, so beyond understanding. I don’t deserve it. But I accept it. I need it.

It’s easy to forget how incredible His love is. It is easy to get distracted by the earthly world, and get caught up in human needs.

Often when times are good, we forget to acknowledge and praise Him. We forget to show Him gratitude for the many blessings He places in our lives. I am guilty of this.

But then all of sudden, when life seems great and we’re skipping along happily, someone or something trips us and we go crashing to the ground.

And He is often the first one we reach for. He is always the first one I reach for. When the pain of this world becomes too much, I know I can find comfort in His embrace.

He is there to celebrate the good with me, and grieve with me in times of sorrow.

He is steady. He is patient. He is forgiving. He is merciful. And His love never fails.

It never gives up.

Knowing that gives me peace and fills me with joy.

It gives me hope for tomorrow.

One of the worst things in the world is seeing someone you care about struggling and in pain, and not being able to do anything about it.

I am someone who likes to ‘fix’ things, and I have a hard time when someone I love is suffering and I can’t fix it. I get this from my mother. Like her, I just want to take care of those around me and make sure everyone is ok.

But everyone is not always going to be ok.

And often I can’t fix it.

We live in a broken world that is full of greed, selfishness, pain and evil. At some point we are all going to be faced with tragedy. We are all going to face heartbreak. We are all going to face fear. We are all going to be hurt. I am ok with all of these things happening to me. But I can’t handle it when it happens to someone I love.

I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. Most of us would fly to the moon and back if it meant keeping our loved ones free from hurt and struggle. We would go without food or water for days if it meant no harm would come to those we care about.

I would do anything for those who are important to me. And it kills me when they are suffering and I can’t make it better.

When my niece falls and hits her head, I can hug her and comfort her, but I can’t take the physical pain away.

When my friend is crying because she got in a fight with her husband, I can’t solve their problem, but I can lend a shoulder to cry on.

When my mom is nervous about some medical tests she has to go for, I can’t take the tests for her, but I can hold her hand and pray with her.

When a friend  is stressed because a work colleague is treating him poorly, I can’t go to work with him to confront the bully,  but I can listen when he needs to talk.

I can’t fix most things. I can try, but I know it is often beyond my control and my capability.

But I can make a promise.

When you are hurting, I promise to always be here.

I will have a listening ear. I will be a shoulder to cry on. You can find comfort in my arms.

I will cry with you. I will let you vent. I will pray for you.

I may not be able to fix what you are going through, but I can be compassionate, open, non-judgemental and loving.

I would do anything for those I love. And they would do the same for me. And at the end of the day, if you’ve got that in your life, everything else will be ok. Everything may not be ‘fixed’, but it is bearable when others are by your side.

There is always a hand to hold when you need one. Just reach out for it.

Hurt Feelings and Vulnerability

We live in a culture that promotes independence and strength. It tells us to never show our weakness, never show our struggles, and never show our hurt.

Vulnerability is seen as the enemy.

If you open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable, you put yourself at risk. You risk disappointment, you risk rejection, and you risk being hurt. All things we fear.

So if we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, then we can’t get hurt, right? If we never let anyone in, then we can’t be rejected, right? If we never trust, then we can’t be disappointed, right?

Sound good?

No. It sounds lonely.

I’m not very good at being vulnerable. I am excellent at building walls and not letting anyone below the surface. Like most people, I have been badly burned in the past. So I’ve built a shield and armour to protect my heart.

I’ve been rejected too many times to count. I’ve been rejected because of how I look. I’ve been rejected because of where I come from. I’ve been rejected because of my beliefs. Mostly, I’ve been rejected because of my depression.

Being rejected sucks.  Rejection equals hurt. And being hurt sucks.

Today I was hurt by someone I trust. Someone I had allowed myself to be vulnerable with. Someone I have opened up to. And now I’m left feeling rejected.

I had the normal reactions to being hurt. I got upset and cried. I got angry and swore.

I got confused and still am because I don’t yet know what happened.

Right away I thought ‘This is why I don’t open up. I just get hurt.’

But even as that thought swirled in my mind, I instantly battled it. I reminded myself what life was like when I wasn’t vulnerable. How lonely it was, and how isolated I felt. I may not have been getting hurt, but I also wasn’t really alive.

The truth is I’d rather be open and vulnerable than closed and lonely. I’d rather risk getting hurt than never feeling anything.

I realize that the reason I am hurt is because I care. I care about the person who hurt me and I trust that person. Those are two amazing things. Caring about another person is a gift. I love caring about others.

As I’ve calmed down and thought things through, my hurt has turned to worry. I am worried about the person who hurt me because their behaviour is out of character.

When our feelings are hurt, our reaction is always selfish. We are focused on the emotion we are feeling and don’t take a moment to think about why someone behaved a certain way.

If them hurting you is unusual or unexpected, then perhaps you need to put your own feelings aside and investigate if they are going through something that may require your patience, understanding or compassion.

Take a moment to think bout what they are experiencing. Give their shoes a try. In doing so you may be able to give them some grace.

Please know that I am not saying that it is ok to let people treat you poorly, especially on a regular basis. We all deserve to be loved and treated with respect at all times.

What I am saying is that if you have been hurt by someone you know cares about you, who wouldn’t normally do anything to hurt you, take the time to find out what is going on with them. You never know what they may be struggling with or going through.

Let them know that you are still here when they need you.