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

Worth Living

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

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

raw

often painful

and

requires hard work.

It’s demanding.

Expecting you to show up for yourself every day.

It’s going to therapy

and confronting

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,

falling down,

and

then

deciding to

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.

It’s messy.

It’s real.

It’s beautiful.

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.

Suspended

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.

Quietly surviving.


Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett

 

 

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health

Even in the Darkness, this is a Memory I Would Not Change

If you were to ask me what my fondest memory is, it would not be one that you would guess right away if you know me well enough. Some of you would probably guess that time where I sang in front of one hundred people in the fifth grade on a school trip. Others would guess the time that I won some awards for plays that I participated in during high school. Maybe you would guess that it was the night of my prom or the first time I saw Marianas Trench live. Most of you would probably assume that it was when I met Marianas Trench for the first time a couple of months ago. Although these are some great memories and experiences that I had the privilege of being a part of, none of these qualify as my “fondest memory”.

The day that I hold dearest to my heart is graduation day. It was not because I was finally leaving high school (as most of you may think). It was not because of the gifts I received in honour of this momentous event. It was not because there was a party to celebrate afterwards. It was because of the environment. I never enjoyed being at school, at least not really anyways. Going to school was always a hassle for me, I never wanted to be there. But the evening of my graduation I had almost all of the people that I held dearest to me in the crowd supporting me. I was anxious and I was a little bit scared. Clearly, since my leg was jumping up and down like the energizer bunny. I hate crowds and audiences. I wish I could say that I always have, but the matter of the fact is that I was once actually very outgoing and loved being in front of people. Sadly, that went away. But that didn’t matter. Because even though I was nervous, I was still excited. I was with the people that I had spent the past fourteen years growing up with. My close family members were in the crowd cheering me on. Having both of my parents as well as my sister and brother there for me during big life events is always heartwarming to me. People that I cared about very much and who cared about me at the time were also there. That is what made it so damn amazing.

I was also valedictorian which was absolutely terrifying since I was so nervous, as previously stated. But I was finally able to do something memorable during my high school experience. I got to recount funny and meaningful memories that I had made with my classmates. I got to express my gratitude towards my teachers and thanked them for their knowledge and dedication. However, I think my biggest achievement during the speech was making nearly every spectator in the audience cry or at least shed a tear. Either from laughing too hard or hearing something incredibly deep coming from me. Either way, I still believe it to be an accomplishment. But it was not just the ceremony that makes it my fondest memory. I was finally able to share something with someone that I cared for very much afterwards. It was a moment that I will never forget.

I’m sure you are wondering why any of this matters. Well, even though that night will always be my favourite memory, it still pinches when I think about it now. It hurts me to think of this night because it went by so quickly and so much has changed since then. It has only been two years since I graduated high school. It is weird because it feels like just yesterday but a million years ago too at the same time.

I thought that once I graduated that I would be happy, and that life would get better from then on. I definitely overshot. Because even though I was struggling as badly as I was in high school, that pain does not compare to that of today. My heart aches at this memory because I have burned bridges with the people I cared about the most. It aches because I have not been as genuinely happy as I was since that day. It aches because I cannot go back. It aches because everything has changed. I still hold this memory close to me, but it is one that hurts the most too.

I am thinking back on the people that were once there; the compliments I had once received and rightfully earned; the smile that had to be pried off of my face. I think back on this most often even though it hurts I can feel happiness in my pain. At least, somewhat anyway.

I am not okay right now. I think I am worse than I was in high school. I don’t know what to hope for anymore. I wish I could take things back. I wish I could recover completely from this illness and maybe one day I will. But, for now, I just need to be hopeful and keep on thinking that if I got through the hard times once, that I can do it again. The road to recovery is not straight; it never was. I guess I am taking a detour once again, except this time I need to do it by myself. Even if I no longer have some of the people that I could always count on, I still need to keep fighting. I need to do it for myself. Because I am not living in this world to please other people, I am living so that I can continue to prosper in life for myself. If that means I need to let go of things that I cannot change, then I will learn how to do so.

I will leave you with this.

I Lay Here

I lay here,
In a body of water.
Nothing but water surrounds me
For miles.

I have no life jacket.
I have no rope.
I cannot see the shoreline.
I have nothing,
But an anchor,
Attached to my ankle.

The water is not clear.
The water is not blue.
The water is not polluted.
The water is black.

The black darkness engulfs my body.
It consumes me.
I do not scream.

Not because I am unafraid.
On the contrary.
I am terrified.
I am paralyzed completely.

I lay here in the water,
Floating on my back,
Screaming from the inside.
There is no point in screaming,
No one can hear me.

Even though I am paralyzed,
I can feel myself sinking.
The weight of the anchor,
Slowly pulling me down.

The sky above me is bright.
I stare at the clouds,
As they drift away in the sky.
I can feel it.
The emptiness of sinking,
Being alone.
I float into the abyss of nothing,
As if I had never been there before.

When after all this time,

I had never left.

By Jessie Fawcett


Worth Living Ambassador Michele King

Hi! My name is Michele and I live 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.

 

12 Things I Have Learned from My Anxiety this Year

  1. Just because you make me FEEL like there will be impending doom doesn’t make it true.
  2. I can sit WITH you. I don’t have to avoid you or try to overpower you. In fact the more I sit WITH you the more I realize that I am safe and the more clarity I get.
  3. Never underestimate the power of taking slow deep breathes. Inhale for 4 counts exhale for 4 even slower counts (don’t forget to really push your belly out on the exhales—this is a calming technique, not a bikini competition).
  4. You do not play nice with physical symptoms from other medical issues. Actually, sometimes it feels like you guys are tag teaming against me.
  5. Speaking of medical issues…Because I am open about having you in my life, when I do have physical symptoms and medical things come up you are going to be blamed first and I am going to have to trust myself and advocate 10x more.
  6. Diet plays a large role with you. I recently found out I have Celiac Disease and have noticed a difference in you when I am eating gluten verses when I am not.
  7. Removing you isn’t the goal, learning to co-exist with you is.
  8. I don’t have to follow you down the catastrophizing thought cycle of worst case scenarios. I can get off this ride at any time—I just have to make the choice to.
  9. When you get really bad I need to, in my therapist’s words “Up the meditation”. Seriously, taking a few minutes to be present really takes away your power.
  10. Being in nature and “unplugged” really helps put you at ease.
  11. How to have Faith more and trust God. In my own personal experience the more you come at me, the more opportunities I have to lean on my faith and trust that God is in control.
  12. The more I am open about you, the more I am finding others who live with you too. It’s easy to want you out of my life but the reality is at some point everyone experiences anxiety to some degree. Talking about it helps.

 Shannon LeLievre – Co-Lead Worth Living Run Ambassadors & WL Event Planner

Shannon is an event planner and teacher who focuses on creating event experiences for fitness and health-related businesses. A graduate of the University of Ottawa, she has a degree in Human Kinetics and a Bachelor of Education which allows her to combine her passion for fitness and health education as she inspires others to pursue an active lifestyle. Her website showcases her event history and features a blog addressing hot topics in the fitness and health industry. Shannon is an avid runner and  has launched a podcast called Run For Your Life with a Phoenix-based blogger, Melissa Kahn, which shares stories about the power of running and fitness in maintaining mental health.

The Power to Choose

I’m a 40 year old mother of two little kids so driving by myself is a luxury, and aside from putting on a one-woman show for passing drivers, it’s also my time to think. On my drive this evening, I couldn’t help but think about a post I saw on Facebook earlier today which mourned the loss of another first responder. As the sun set behind me, I kept wondering why did I escape the darkness and he didn’t?

I’m a former military spouse so the struggle our veterans and first responders face is always on my mind and today’s news hit me in the gut. I’m also a teacher and a mother, so when I saw a Twitter account dedicated to encouraging a 15 year old who has survived eight attempts on her life, I felt like screaming in frustration! Why are we failing these people who don’t hesitate to serve us? How can we make a difference and help young people who are unable to see that tomorrow will bring a brighter day?

As I drove along, singing to my carefully curated playlist of uplifting songs, I realized that maybe the only way to help them is to keep helping myself.

I won my fight over the darkness but it’s a daily battle not to let myself sink. Tragic stories in the news threaten to knock me off course but decades of cognitive behavioural therapy and reading and listening to podcasts and surrounding myself with motivational people have taught me that although I didn’t choose depression or anxiety, I can choose to heal. I get to choose to find health and happiness.

There is so much power in having the opportunity to choose the direction your life is going in. Talking to my doctor back in 2000 and telling her I was struggling was a choice. Joining the Worth Living team was a choice. Sharing my story and writing this blog post are choices. I find healing in every word that hits the page and if my words can help even one person make a different choice, then maybe I don’t need to scream in frustration anymore.

Why did I escape the darkness? I don’t really have an answer for that and I doubt I ever will. I accept that we will lose more first responders, and veterans, and teenagers to the battle we fight too silently. We need to make noise. We need to scream out our stories of victory and of happiness. We need to scream out that we’ve been there too and no human on earth is ever alone in the challenges they face.

I choose to not read those news stories because I know my sense of peace depends on not knowing the details. I choose to run and exercise because I know my heart and head depend on it. I choose to see the kindness in the world while the darkness looms. I choose to live because I’ve decided that life is worth living.

If you are not sure you can choose to face tomorrow, choose to trust me when I tell you that there is hope. There is healing. There is health. There is happiness.