Keith is a regular contributor to Bring Change 2 Mind’s blog, and to the Good Men Project. If you are interested in working with Keith feel free to reach out. Contact WL if you want to be a Guest Blogger.
Andrew Younger – Worth Living Run Ambassador
Andrew spent 13 years in politics at the municipal and provincial level, including time as a cabinet minister in Nova Scotia. Before, during, and since this time he worked supporting people on mental health journeys. While Andrew often spoke about mental health, it was having to manage his own mental health journey in public as a politician that started him on the road of speaking publicly about his personal experiences. Andrew has used this experience to help others understand and overcome the stigmas and encourage people to leave judgement at the door. Andrew has spoken at schools, and to business and government organizations about mental health issues. He has also participated on local and national radio programs about mental health, sharing his own journey and the experiences.
Andrew currently is a sought after speaker and a regular guest on media programs. An award-winning journalist and facilitator, Andrew is the host of a television program about our relationship with dogs, and is also a consultant, author, and director of two television series. He’s well known on the local running scene, a sport he took up to help manage his own mental health. He was named an international Paul Harris Fellow for his work supporting international and local communities and was named an honourary member of the Nova Scotia cabinet in 2017.
Reach out to Andrew:
How Running Is Changing My World
Running is like life. We chase a goal. Run to something. Run from something. There are ups. There are downs. We don’t always know the course. Sometimes we know it all too well.
For two years in elementary school, I ran cross country. Later running became part of my flat water kayak training regime. Early in university a friend said “let’s run”. I was 20 and for six months she and I would run five laps once a week around the Halifax Commons in Nova Scotia. Solving all the problems of the world. She left for California. I stopped running.
As I got older, I realized I’d been struggling with occasional depression and anxiety for years. You didn’t do much for it in those days. You were just having an “off” day. Suck it up.
I didn’t see that my running and other physical activity had kept much of the darkness back. As life went on, work would become more and more a priority. Physical activity became almost non-existent. My best friend committed suicide. I spoke at her funeral. I blamed myself and was left in a dark hole for years. I could have saved her, I was certain. I didn’t talk about it. I moved on.
I thought I pulled myself out of it. Travelled the world doing consulting, giving speeches, doing photography, writing, and making documentaries. Work became all consuming. Over the years I’d occasionally move the boxes off a treadmill and run. Or go to a gym (or at least have a membership). But physical activity was a lacklustre and rare process. Even a walk in the park brought an eyeroll of the effort it might entail. This from someone who grew up spending all day in the forest exploring, imagining, and playing, or kayaking, swimming, doing any number of activities.
I got into politics. Or the 13-year prison sentence as I sometimes call it. Politics was strange because I went in believing people could rationally discuss any issue. I felt, as in life, people may not agree in the end, but can and should talk through any conflict or disagreement to understand each other, remain friends and be respectful to one another. Thing is, that isn’t politics. Or, sometimes, life.
It was also strange because while I’d hosted TV shows, and given speeches, I actually find being the center of attention an enormously anxious experience. Being on TV or giving a speech is fine, you don’t need to interact, you put on a show – it was acting. I hated having my photo taken or being given accolades. Hated going to doorsteps to sell myself or work a crowd. No one knew the real me. Because all politicians want attention, right? Social media arrived around the same time. I became able to hide in plain sight as others managed the visual social media presence that had very little of the real me or my life. I learned to be ok with it and that has stayed with me, even if my own pictures on social media still make me cringe.
As a government minister I refused to let staff call me “Minister” because I craved being equal and anonymous, not put on some pedestal. The higher we are, the further we can fall. That applies to our own mental health. I remember meeting the Queen and was introduced with a title. I blurted out “It’s just Andrew”. I’m someone who is just as happy to step back and do my own thing or be around the very few people in the world who know me. But that public persona made many think otherwise.
This sort of thing catches up with you. Around 2011 I realized there was an issue. I went to see someone. I was diagnosed with PTSD. Twice. Why twice? I didn’t believe the first diagnosis. Soldiers in battlefields have PTSD. Not me. But as they went through my life they noted assaults I’d been victim of, including a stabbing, my work on an air crash where there were no survivors, work alongside dying children – and adults – as well as child soldiers in Africa. Even the sudden death of my father, and by this point the suicides of two friends (yes it happened again). It was a long list of trauma. I’d blown off each event but in combination it was something.
The impacts on my life were real. Suddenly they had a reason. Over the years it had become very rare for me to trust anyone. It still is. The sudden deaths of people close to me deeply impacted me – frightened me even – forever creating fears those I allow close will abandon me. So I’ve let few get close enough to matter. I learned I can handle almost any situation, but to avoid triggering depression and panic attacks I find it difficult to let issues go without understanding them, and feeling people can move on together in harmony. Otherwise it is always a spiral.
I’m deeply private. Even writing this is difficult but maybe it helps someone else, and that’s the point of being a Worth Living Run Ambassador. Repeatedly specialists have told me over the years that one of my challenges is being too empathetic. It hadn’t occurred to me that was even possible. Empathetic to the point where I’ve even refused to physically defend myself when attacked – because I can’t process the idea of using violence to defend myself. It’s not new. When I was a kid I would stop to rescue and nurse back to health wildlife injured or hurt in the yard or forest or feel sick when kids would torture jellyfish along the shore. I routinely ignore my own personal boundaries to help and be there for others, which opens me to feeling taken advantage of, even if that was not what someone intended. Deeply hurting myself.
Then came a particularly bad time in 2015. I was sitting with a race director friend of mine, Stacy Chesnutt, who joked “running fixes everything”. I signed up for a 5k race in my hometown called EPIC. Naively trained for a few days and ran in 12-year old shoes. I set a random goal of finishing in 30 minutes and did so in 28:35. I looked like I would die. I was overweight and just stubborn enough to finish in that time. But something changed.
I realized I could challenge myself. I could race myself, not others. I could do something for myself. Running seemed to be so difficult at times that it made me not able to think of the bad things in my life. Or the things that were going wrong. I signed up for more and more races. And packed on the kilometres. Running became my therapy. Such that when I had a car accident in December of 2018, I felt myself falling. I rapidly gained weight, and felt I’d never get to where I was. Running goals seemed impossible. Work goals didn’t matter as much. Fortunately, people who came to be the closest to me pulled me through it. Dragging me out for runs and encouraging me to sign up for races. And there it was. It wasn’t perfect but it was a start again. My physiotherapist said, “you need to find the joy in running again”. I found that through the many people I lived the running experience with over the past year, rather than the results. As Stacy had said four years before, “Running fixes everything”.
Maybe not everything. I still have trouble listening to myself when I have panic attacks. Instead, I’ll listen to other people tell me how to solve problems during times like that, sometimes making situations worse, not better. My own voice is often the right one in those situations, but I doubt myself at times like that. I just haven’t quite figured out how to listen to myself, when others scream so loud.
Like running, life continues to be a journey. Some days I’m running away from something. Some days running to something. Sometimes its a struggle. Sometimes a rush of success. Like running a race, I have the highs. But I still suffer the pain. Just like an athlete, the pain of things not going the way I envisioned when I thought everything was settled, planned, and on course for a spectacular finish. I still feel a sadness or pain in ways it feels others don’t really understand. I’ve had people tell me, “just don’t go for that run”. Or “find something else”.
As I traveled this journey finding wellbeing (with all its potholes), I choose to believe everyone is good at heart. We must choose to see that goodness. Too often we focus on the things people do wrong and let that overwhelm our thinking. I believe we should always choose compassion over anger. We must accept that people experience things in ways we might not really understand. We shouldn’t judge. We have no way to know what is going on for others or what pressures we may be unaware of. I still struggle when people don’t approach situations with the kindness to try to understand that, whether in me, or in other people.
The best way I’ve found to cope with my triggers for mental health struggles, is to strive to remain amicable, and almost always friends, with those I’ve had conflict and misunderstandings with. To take the time. Step back. And agree to put the past behind and move forward. It often surprises people to see who I remain friends with despite challenging pasts. If I choose to hold onto judgement over someone else’s actions at a difficult time, how can I ask them to not hold judgement over me? I can’t. So I choose not to hold grudges. I used to. That always hurt me more and made me a worse person more than it hurt them. So I’ve come to accept my own role in my feelings (and their feelings) and accept others may have felt pain and confusion too. There is a depth of closure and peace which comes with understanding each other. It is a much more harmonious way to live when you have one life to live.
Worth Living Run Ambassador Linda Fulton-Burges
Hi, I’m Linda. A 53yr old survivor of anxiety and depression, who likes to run….A LOT! LOL
I Run a Lot
I guess, I have been on the fence for a long time about sharing my story and mental health struggles. I mean, don’t we all have baggage, issues, challenges in life? Some people have so little, been through so much, and seem so happy……..
They seem to cope so well with things and feel so confident, I have never felt that way.
I have always felt alone…… socially awkward. I lacked confidence and didn’t realize why or how. I do now. I was diagnosed with GAD, Generalized anxiety disorder, depression about 12years ago. But I have been on medication, on and off for about 20 yrs. I do better with medication and exercise.
I have suffered a lot of loss and drama in my life too. My parents split up twice and my brother and I lived in an apartment away from our home, Dad and friends. I married young and divorced, raised a daughter, who I don’t see. Lost my Dad, and only sibling. My mother is all that is left from my birth family, and she has mental health issues, and refuses to get treatment. I don’t have cousins, close relatives here in Nova Scotia, so I am all my mom’s got! And, sometimes, the responsibilities and worry with my mom can be overwhelming……..
Anxiety can take over. I was on blood pressure medication, anxiety medication, but it didn’t seem to be working. Doctor told me I had to make some changes. I listened. I used to run a bit in high school and decided it would fit my busy schedule. I wasn’t committed to any class, I could just fit a run in whenever it was convenient. I started running from telephone pole to telephone pole, walked a bit and continued. Before I knew it, I was entering my first race, The Berwick 5miler! I struggled to finish it, but I did! I surprised myself! My husband and son were there to cheer me on. It was an amazing experience, and I felt so proud of myself and grateful for the family I have now. I decided then and there, I had to keep running.
I felt WELL, happy, relaxed and excited about the future! I was so lucky to meet a special friend at that race too, Stan Sarty, of Mountain View Runners. I joined their running group, and so did my husband and son!.
Now we are training 5 days a week. We are on running plans from an amazing coach, Amanda Austen Nash. We got help from a great nutritionist, Helen Macdonald and changed our diet. Learned to fuel our bodies healthier. We have done many races in the past 2yrs. Now my husband is training for his first full marathon! And I am doing the halfs. I hope to do my first full in the spring of 2020.
Life is extremely difficult sometimes and many of us don’t have the support system of family and friends. We don’t understand ourselves and what we need to be healthy and happy. We isolate ourselves and become victims to mental illness. If I have learned anything, it is to TALK! Find someone who understands mental illness, a teacher,counselor, doctor, friend, family, anyone who will love and support you. If your family doesn’t support you, find an adopted family. You have the right to be well, and take care of yourself. Find YOUR tribe.
I still have depression and anxiety, but it doesn’t control me. I have learned to manage my symptoms: worry, heart palpitations, panic attacks, headache, stomach issues etc… with therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. I do still take medication, but a lower dose and seem to control my anxiety much better with exercise and running. If I feel overwhelmed, I take a break, and do what I have to do for myself. Even if I offend others, I look after myself and have learned that is not selfish. Self care is necessary to be well!
I have learned to love myself , I have learned that there are others like me. I am not alone and I am much stronger than I thought
Hope to see you at the races!
Worth Living Run Ambassador Chantelle Mahoney
I’m a 38 year old running mama of two sweet and active boys with an incredible husband. I have anxiety. I’ve spent many sleepless nights reviewing every single thing I’ve said or done in the run of a day, searching for my mistakes. I sometimes feel like there’s something heavy sitting on my chest making it hard to breathe and my legs are so weak that I cannot move. I’ve woken at 4 am in a panic because I had a glass or two of wine, worried that I may have let my guard down too much. I’m that friend who will text or call for reassurance that ‘we’re still ok’ and that I’m still loved. I’ve been able to cope by running and talking it out when it gets bad. I know it could be worse. It has been worse and it could be again someday.
Several years ago, after only a few months working in a new job, I was struggling terribly. I was extremely uncomfortable with the working environment. I felt 100% alone every single day. It was affecting me more at home than anything had ever affected me before. I was quickly losing weight. I couldn’t cope with the day to day tasks of being a mom to my older son. I cried each night because I had to go back the next day.
The anxiety I felt over spending every single day feeling like I was doing and saying the wrong things at work and having nobody there to talk to was too much to bear. My husband, mom and aunt cornered me one evening and convinced me that I needed help. The hardest thing I have EVER done (even tougher than birthing two children) was call my doctor and say the words…”I think I have depression”. I thought I was weak for not being able to get through a negative work situation on my own.
My husband went to the appointment with me, armed with a list of all of the signs he had seen because he knew that I would struggle to admit just how bad things had gotten. Eventually, by quitting the job and using medication, I was able to feel myself again. I also learned that needing help and asking for it makes a person strong and courageous.
I am surrounded by a large circle of friends and family. Many members of my circle have depression, anxiety or both. I’ve watched some of them suffer dearly, not really knowing what I should say or do to help. Some of them, like me, need reassurance that I’m not going anywhere. One friend needs to be reassured and to talk through her anxiety. We’ve had to retrace her steps through her drive to work, reassuring her that she in fact, she did not hit anyone. One of my closest friends needs her space when her depression hits a low. She needs to work through it on her own. She’s a lifelong runner. Her depression gets exponentially worse whenever she’s had to work through an injury and cannot get out for regular exercise.
Running has been able to keep me healthy, at least for the time being but I know that others cannot simply ‘manage’ their illness on their own. I want everyone to know that they never need to suffer in silence. There is no shame in needing or asking for support. There is no shame and there is no weakness.
Worth Living Ambassador Emily Nuttall
Emily was born in Guernsey in the Channel Islands on September 4th, 1993. She has been a volunteer, coach and campaigner in her local community from the age of 15. She is part of a range of voluntary organisations that she is passionate about and inspired to carry out tasks for. This is for personal reasons and also from experiences she has faced and currently faces as part of being a campaigner and coach. Emily is working to improve local mental health services, raise awareness about young suicide, and eating disorders, as well as young homelessness and those affected by disabilities. Emily wishes to make a long lasting difference and impact to the people in her community and beyond. She ultimately wants to influence change and save lives.
It’s Just Me
Fighting my demons
Facing my fears
Something I’m ready to finally forever beat after many years
When I look in the mirror I need to be proud of me
Remind myself Every day that I can break free
Beauty and personality comes in many different ways
And it’s important to remember that’s ok
I’m only human it’s ok to cry and break
After all life is a continuous journey of recovery and learning it’s ok to make mistakes
Never give up when the challenge ahead feels scary and tough
Just like the waves in the sea when unpredictability at times it can be rough
Surround yourself with the people that love and care
Remind yourself that no matter what they’ll always be there
Never give up never lose hope
I promise there will always be a way to cope
When anorexia, depression, anxiety, self harm, flashbacks and thoughts of suicide try and take over me
Remember I am Emily and I can break free
Every day is a new day to give the battle another go
If I stay in this same place then I’ll never no
It’s been 12 years of fighting this continuous hell
And I finally more than ever want to be well
I am Emily and I will break free
I am not going to let my masks, fears, challenges and hurdles stop me
It’s time for me to be my own best friend
The road ahead will be bumpy, scary and hard but I won’t stop till I reach the very end
The darkness will soon be overtaken by the sky so beautiful and bright
Which will every day remind me that I will not give up this fight
It will be worth all these tears and fears
Because the future ahead is going to be healthy, happy and positive years
You are loved and wanted in this earth and place
Be proud of who you are and show your beautiful face
Because you will one day win this running race
So don’t give up when you wobble on your feet
Because this is a battle I am going to beat.
Remember the charities, helplines your treatment teams, family and friends
Who will be right with you holding your hand to the very end
Remind yourself that nearly 2 and a half years out of inpatient is an achievement in itself
That you deserve to be well and have healthy physical and mental health
So stand tall Emily don’t give up this fight
I promise through the hardest, distressing and exhausting of days
You will come out stronger and it will all be ok
You can beat this and break free
And go on to whatever you want to be
The world is your oyster go and grab it with both hands
Because you will reach your beautiful destination when you finally land.
Worth Living Run Ambassador Brett Anderson
Living in the north of England, Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and now ultra-marathon which he completed at the not so tender age of 48.
He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 10 years ago, he has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health. You can follow Brett on Twitter @firstrunlastrun and cheer him along as he battles his anxiety and beats it most days.
Warning: Suicide is discussed
To encapsulate 30 plus years of running and more importantly WHY I run initially filled me (to be entirely honesty) with dread. Such was the enormity of the task. However, following a day of reflecting, I think I can bring it back to one simple mind set.
‘Suicide is painless’ was written by Johnny Mandel. It became the theme tune to M.A.S.H. Johnny was 14 when he wrote the song. I remember hearing the song as a child lying in bed as my parents watched the iconic show in the lounge downstairs. Looking back now, knowing what I know what kind of 14 year old writes a song about suicide? The answer to me seems clear. I think a lot would, if they could. My ‘suicide head’ started about that time.
I work in a school. I work with a lot of 11-16 year olds. I see anxiety and depression all the time and what I don’t see is somebody willing to say ‘it’s okay; you can talk about it openly’. If a 14 year old can write a song about suicide back in the 1970’s, why then can’t we talk about anxiety, depression, and suicide now? Is it the religious connotations? Is it that by discussing suicide we have to accept the existence of the ultimate demon? Is it simply because to do so simply hurts to damn much?
Whatever the reason, I’m now 48 and this is my time. Many years ago, my fried committed suicide; for him, it was a choice. When the pain of living with his head simply became too much, he chose to take control. Perhaps that’s what suicide is to some. Control. I will choose to make the decision. I will choose to take that path. When I think of how dark things have become for me at times, I can’t deny that I too have seen suicide as an option, a choice, a method to stop the perpetual noise of self-doubt. Imagine walking along a mountain ridge. On one side you have calm, on the other ultimate chaos. Imagine walking along that ridge every day with only brief moments of respite. It’s the itch you can’t scratch.
Except I can.
I remember clearly a particular run. It was about two years ago. It had been snowing heavily; we’re talking a good 4 inches. I layered up, got out the trail shoes, and ventured out. I had just recovered from illness and I was starting to feel stronger and confident enough that my body would respond even in the harsh conditions.
Within minutes, I settled into the run and the transformation that happens every single time I run happened. That’s the best way I can describe it. A transformation. Every step I take I feel suicide recedes, just one step. It can’t keep up. I say it because it has a presence, it has a sense of being, it has a life force of its own. Yes, its malevolence scares me because I know it won’t go away. Not completely. It drifts way back into my subconscious, only to return when life gets just too damn hard. But when I run, an energy courses through me and shouts “screw you”, I can do anything. Inwardly, I shout this is worth living for. This sense of overwhelming freedom from everything that brings me down.
Suicide can’t run as fast as I. Even when I plod.
If in doubt. Run.
Worth Living Run Ambassador Sarah Eisan
Graduating from Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Commerce, Sarah worked as an IT professional until she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Over the last year since her diagnosis, she has been on a leave of absence, learning how to navigate the Mental Health system and becoming an advocate for others struggling with Mental Health. Sarah has found exercise and running to be an important part of managing her Bipolar Disorder and hopes that sharing her journey can help others find the courage to get help.
Through the Darkness
Mental health is something I’ve always been aware of, even from a young age. Several members of my family have struggled with various mental illnesses so it wasn’t taboo in my family, it was just part of day to day life.
You would think this would have prepared me for the mental health challenges that I would face during adolescence into adulthood but instead I bottled everything up, put on a brave face, determined I would be the success story, I would be the person in my family who wouldn’t have mental health issues.
Through my teen years and into early adulthood, I remained steadfast that I wasn’t experiencing mental health symptoms despite feedback from those close to me that maybe I was. It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter, that I admitted I wasn’t as strong as I let on. It had been a difficult pregnancy that resulted in my daughter suffering a stroke during childbirth so at least now I felt justified in my struggles; surely going through this situation would be enough to make anyone struggle so I reached out for help, taking the first step of what I didn’t realize then would be an incredibly long and strenuous journey.
I was initially diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I accepted this and took the medication expecting that to fix me, I wasn’t interested in talking to a stranger about my struggles, I wasn’t ready to accept that there may be more pieces to this puzzle I was dealing with. Over the years I continued on medication but also continued to struggle. It wasn’t until several years later when a co-worker introduced me to running that I found an outlet for the depression and anxiety I was still continuing to experience.
Now before you picture a typical runner, lean and athletic, let me assure you that was not me. I was overweight, short and slow, in fact my best time ever for a 5k race was 42 minutes, but the benefits running gave to me were immense; it was during runs that my mind would briefly clear, the racing thoughts and negative self- talk would disappear for a short time and it was magical, for a brief time, I didn’t feel depressed or anxious.
For the first time in a long time, life was becoming manageable and I thought I was finally starting to get better, then life happened… a freak painting accident left me with a severe concussion and now I couldn’t run. I tried and failed miserably setting back my concussion recovery which caused the depression to become worse than ever. I was off work for over a year and even when I was well enough to work, I still couldn’t run without the post-concussion symptoms taking over, sidelining me and I am ashamed to say, I just gave up. The years that followed were the darkest that I could ever have imagined and it all came to a breaking point the day my husband said to me, I think we should take you to the hospital.
I thought this day would be my lowest point, my rock bottom but it wasn’t. There would be several more “rock bottoms” I would experience but on this day, at the hospital, terrified, talking about my darkest thoughts with strangers. I received a diagnosis that would change everything, Bipolar Disorder. This day, this diagnosis, set my life on a new path consisting of new medications, individual and group therapies, and despite my best efforts, more hospital visits.
By this time I had gained even more weight, feeling less athletic than ever, but over time, seeing Facebook posts from a local gym inspired me to give it a try. Maybe I could get that part of me back and maybe it would help my mental health. I started at The Barn, a small local gym with an amazing supportive community feel and slowly I began to regain my confidence and my strength. Now with my newfound confidence and strength I’m beginning to run again, slowly and with lots of walk breaks mind you, but I’m doing it and I can feel the mental health benefits already. I know I still have a long road ahead of me and there will be ups and downs but I also know that I can help myself by going to the gym and running, I know now I can do this and that my life is worth living.
Worth Living Ambassador Tylia Flores
Tylia Flores is a 24-year-old born with cerebral palsy. Although her condition has affected her mobility, it has never affected her will and determination to make a difference in the world. Through her many life challenges and obstacles, she discovered her passion for writing. Tylia’s goal in life is to share her stories with the world. In doing so, she hopes to help others with disabilities realize that they too have the potential to make their dreams come true.
Warning : Suicide is mentioned Spoiler Alert too.
How A Star is Born Should Have Ended
I was sitting in my wheelchair cringing as I saw him prepare a plate of steak for his beloved dog and only a few minutes later to do the unthinkable. That was the ending to A Star is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
My jaw dropped to the floor as I was in disbelief. After all the struggles and tribulations that Jackson Maine had gone through, he decides to do the unthinkable and commit suicide.
I held on to the handle of my chair and I began to become angry and full of emotion not so very much triggered to have suicidal thoughts. But I became very angry because I felt like the character Jackson Maine could overcome the obstacles he was faced with.
He didn’t decide to end the chapters of his life just because he was going through the trials and emulations. It is all part of everyone’s story to have to deal with battles in their own way since not everyone battle is the same in life.
Everyone that we look up to secretly has their own battle like myself who has spastic cerebral palsy. It sometimes it feels like I am trapped within my body because my condition affects my left side but it doesn’t affect the way I live and what I set out to do
Along with having cerebral palsy come the issues of anxiety and depression but I refuse to let that be the reason my story ends. I will continue to tell my story with my journey with cerebral palsy and how I’m able to stomp on depression and anxiety.
I could have easily been Jack. But I choose not to be and if it ever becomes a thought to want to die and be from my body, I tell myself I’m not ending my story, it’s just getting good.
I think A Star is Born should have ended by Jack’s overcoming his challenges. He could have written his story through doing what loved the most which was singing and performing for people that loved him. He could have reminded people that he has a life worth living
Worth Living Ambassador Michele King
Hi! My name is Michele and I am 30 years old. Living with both depression and anxiety, I want to be a positive force of change to help end the stigma associated with mental illness, with hopes that what I share will help at least one person who comes across it.
Healing isn’t black and white.
It’s all g r e y matter.
And just when you think you’ve mastered it
there will be another layer to unfold.
People think healing is easy
but true healing is
requires hard work.
Expecting you to show up for yourself every day.
It’s going to therapy
the deepest parts of yourself.
The parts you would like to keep tucked away and never speak of.
It’s choosing to love yourself,
despite the voices telling you
that you’re not enough.
It’s letting go
knowing you’re doing the best you can.
It happens on an individual basis
and is very much
an inside job.
It’s making strides, a little at a time,
get back up again.
It’s good days and bad days.
It’s crying one minute and letting yourself laugh the next.
It’s giving yourself grace.
No healing isn’t black and white, it’s all
g r e y matter.
Worth Living Run Ambassador Charlotte Flewelling
I am many things wound into one, the sum of my parts. A human, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, dog auntie. A runner, visual artist, communicator and community maker, a Worth Living Run Ambassador, sharing lived experiences with autism and mental illness (anxiety and depression) and a learning disability (ADHD). A person living her best life here and now, one step at a time. I am Charlotte Flewelling (CharFlew23)
Disclaimer this blog is my opinion based on my lived experiences. If something is stirred within you, seek help.
I’m sitting here in a moment in suspension, a moment between the worlds reality and my reality. Floating in a state of bliss but not ignorantly. This is where I’ll start… my bliss is a form of daydreaming. I tend to have my head in the clouds most of the time. I am far from the clouds. I observe life and people very deeply. I’m curious by nature and always have been.
I’m in love with the idea of stories about others or other things. This is the reason why I love writing, taking photos and posting to social media. I’m a huge word nerd and memory maker at my core.
I’ve been challenged and surprised by the community I’ve built. Everyday I’m grateful for it and most days without even knowing, it helps me!
Some of my favourite moments have been on the run. This is why I proudly represent you, Worth Living, as a Run Ambassador. Running has given me a reason to continue and not give up. I’ve had many struggles and continue to go with the ebb and flow “ups and downs” of life.
Growing up and in adulthood, being active has been key to my sanity. I’ll admit, I’d be in a vastly different mindset and spot. Actions speak volumes and for me it can be as simple as an outdoor adventure, run, walk, bike or hike. Sometimes it’s treating myself to a solo coffee date, where if I want, I’ll randomly strike up a conversation with another person. Taking photos of what I’m doing or seeing around me is another creative outlet.
My autism is the biggest mystery still. My diagnosis was in February 2014. I get that some traits, like talking to myself (scenario repeating) can be scary. It’s not scary, just my way of compartmentalizing all the virtual and real noise of life. It’s how I make sense of the world. It’s key to helping me with my creative and memory making moments. It also can be a worse nightmare.
I was left alone on a group hike in 2017. This was the first time I had an extreme rolling thought experience. I’ve been taught to think best case scenario, not in this moment. The rolling thoughts were how to survive the hike, figure out my path to safety (end of trail), and would my parents see me again. I was only 10-15 mins behind the group. The worse part…I was in Fundy National Park with a group of on duty and off duty park staff. This is where I survived and thrived. Mindset from that moment on was challenged, flipped, and served. I was considered lost in the park according to some other staff. I was on my way up to the last rally point when I found that out. I learned that my survival instinct is pretty apt and that I was ready to challenge myself. Later that year, tripping on an uneven sidewalk on my first half marathon, I was challenged again. I’m proud to say that I am a half marathoner.
The moral of all the situations and moments I put myself into is this…expect the unexpected, know that there’s something there to remind you and that as a human, we are able to do and be whatever we set our minds to. Go ahead! The world needs more real and less fake! Your story is part of you, not the whole you. We are in this together ~~ Charlotte Flewelling
Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier
Hello, I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. I strive to connect with others and share my struggles of mental health and trauma.
Warning: These are my experiences alone and I do not speak for all survivors of sexual violence. Please be warned that the following content may be triggering and discusses sexual violence as its topic.
I am just quietly surviving. And at this point in my life it is all I can do. There is no right way to be a victim. But there are better ways to be a victim. A better victim than I was, than I am. The world wasn’t built for people like us. People who float somewhere between victim and whatever it is that I feel that I am. Someone deserving of what happened to them. Someone who asked for it. Someone who wanted it.
I did say stop. I did push his hands away. Sometimes. But there were times when I just lay there still, unsure of how to navigate the trespassing of my body. But you can’t say no to a question that was never asked.
It could have been worse. It could be worse. I could still be stuck in a violent situation. I could have been held at gunpoint, been a victim of sex trafficking. But my story is plain, and it is simple. I was violated by a man who mistook my kindness for willingness, my silence as agreement. He mistook my desperate need for validation as something more than simple teenage confusion that it was. It may not seem that bad, but it was bad enough to leave seething wounds. Bad enough to leave me living life in fear of bad men dressed in good men’s clothing.
Some people ask, “Why are you so angry?”
All I can think of is “How can you possibly not be?”
With other trauma the crime scene belongs to a car or a house or a battlefield
With rape your body is the crime scene
You can’t ever leave it
You must learn to live in the wreckage
The dress I wore I can no longer wear without feeling his hand slide underneath it
I pray for a day my body feels like it belongs to me instead of just property
I pray for a day I stop flinching every time my lover touches me
I feel like a collection of puzzle pieces made up of every man who’s ever hurt me
But the pieces never fit together quite right and the edges are sharp
Each a piece of glass I am now trying to extract
I never threw out the underwear, but I washed the blood stains out
I’m still trying to figure out what kind of bleach works best for the wounds in my heart.
My body has been through so much.
I’ve cut it, I’ve burned it, I’ve starved it.
But no matter what I do, my body is still here. Still standing. Still breathing. Still not giving up.