#teamemily member number 4 – Superwoman walks among us

(Mom, you only come last because you’re the most important)

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This woman is my rock. I can’t even begin to explain my mental health struggles without mentioning she was there every single step of the way. Always pushing me to be better, but knowing when I need to slow down.

Who else hates Sundays? Well I sure do! Sundays always made me really anxious because of the impending doom that is Monday… and usually some assignments or work to get to.

So Mom, the brilliant, pro-active woman she is, created “Shake-Up Sundays”. Every Sunday we would make a point of getting out of the house and doing something, a look forward to. Sometimes we’d go for dinner, or a movie, or even the mall or a new store for a few hours. It was perfect.

Without her, I don’t know where I’d be. She has a pretty big no-bullshit filter so she didn’t stand for any of my crap. She pushed me to get through the darkest times and dragged me up if she had to. At the time I felt she was just always on my ass for something… but damnit, it worked.

She is my biggest advocate for doing something about the situations your in instead of wallowing in your troubles. If I was sad, then she’d ask what can we do to make me happy.  If I was happy, she’d ask what can we do to keep this going. When I felt like curling up in a ball on my bed she made me get up and DO something to make myself feel better. She always helped me to build my tool box of things that made me happy.

She’s a doer. Big time. And damn, it must take A LOT of her energy to always be positive and try to motivate another person who’s not willing to move. And she did this for years. She still does it and she will never ever stop. And for that I am eternally thankful.

It boggles my mind to see the strength she has. Superwoman really does live among us everyday, she’s my mom.

#teamemily player #3 – ELLEN ANN ENNS

My P.I.C.

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I don’t know where to start, this girl is strong as hell. She listens to my rambling even if it puts her to sleep, she’ll read every dumb meme I send her and usually send a few back, she even puts up with my crawling into bed with her while she’s doing homework, just so I can be around somebody. She’s a major constant in my life, always there for me and ALWAYS down for 3 am ice cream runs.

When we were little we shared a bedroom. Now this wasn’t any old room – it was huge, so naturally, it was also our toy room. Sleep in the same room as the toys?! Yes, we were in heaven. I wonder if my parents regret doing that now. They’d kiss us goodnight, wish us sweet dreams, and then as soon as the door shut we’d bounce out of the covers to start jumping on the bed laughing our heads off. As soon as we heard dads footsteps coming back we quickly nestled under the covers again to pretend like nothing happened. And then giggle uncontrollable when we’d hear that ‘Giiiiiiiiiirls….” come out in his gruff I’m-mad-but-kinda-not-really voice. As soon as he left for the second time, we’d go at it again and again. Until the grounding threats started to come out of course.

A few years ago, my parents decided it was time for some home renovations, and kicked us out of our individual rooms, and back into the big old toy room. The toys were replaced with racks of clothes and this time around we had a TV with Netflix. But it was the same old fun we always used to have. Watching Friends and Family Guy all night, staying up all night talking and giggling, and always having a friend around to get ready to go out with – it was great.

And just what I needed. At the time I was struggling being along – just alone in a room in general, I felt it gave me to much time with my own spinning thoughts and needed the distraction of a companion. And presto I got one.

More than that, my sister has always been the calm one who seems to know just what I need. She’s always been my advocate and voice of reason. Most of the time we sit on the couch, scrutinize and strategize Big Brother, eat ice cream, drink tea, talk about life, school, fonts, and file formats (because we’re THAT cool), and it’s always the perfect conversation.

Oh, and she’s damn hilarious. She’s ALWAYS the perfect dose of laughter in my life. We have so many insiders, and quote-offs, and one-liners its crazy, crazy awesome.

I couldn’t have asked for a better sister, a better person in my life.

Teammate #2: Dad (He’s the best shopping partner)

#teamemily teammate number 2 is my Dad. There are so many amazing things I could say about how big of a supporter he has been for me, so I’ll give you a bit of insight with a story.

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When I was a young teenager, my family would often take weekend trips to Minneapolis. Yes, at times we were that road-trip-sing-a-long family with extreme amounts of snacks. These trips were always a look forward too, but often brought me many tears.

Going shopping at the Mall of America was a big deal. My sister and I are proud to know the layout of that mall like the backs of our hands, and where every Dip n’ Dots stand was hiding. But shopping for me wasn’t a walk in the park. I wasn’t the skinniest kid, I wasn’t gravely overweight either, but I had a lot of trouble accepting my body. I had even more trouble understand why my sister, then a size 00, could wear cute Abercrombie skirts and tanks, and I couldn’t fit them.

I knew that I was older, and yes, bigger, but it still really hurt. A lot of these brands aren’t available in Winnipeg and it was so exciting to be able to pick out an item or two, like they were extra special.

So after a few dressing room failures, it really started to hit me. Usually I’d start by being grumpy, then mad at everything, answer “nothing” when my mom asked what was wrong… and then the waterworks came, and Dad knew.

So it a PG-13 way, he basically said “Screw those brands, I bet you don’t even like that style, lets go find some way cooler stuff that suits you.”

We’d leave my mom and my sister in Abercrombie and he’d take me to other stores like Pac Sun and Quicksilver, where he’d help me pick out cool hoodies.

(I later became severely addicted to hoodies (121 and counting!) but thats another story.)

The rush of happiness I got from successfully purchasing something “cool” that made me feel comfortable was unreal. And I’ll never forget the smile on my Dad’s face when he saw how happy he made me.

It ended up becoming a pattern – Dad became my shopping buddy and to this day I still hold his opinion in very high regard when I’m shopping for anythingWhich says a lot because he is by no mean Tim Gunn. Now maybe my style wasn’t THE best in high school (sorry Dad) but I was comfortable and happy with it.

He’s a problem solver. Whenever I have a problem, right away he helps me find a solution and help me to make it happen. He’s a do-er and an advocate for taking control of your own life and making the most of it. I believe that he will always be that pilar I can lean on, actually I’m counting on it.

The Team Roster for #teamemily

This week I will be unveiling a few members from #teamemily. I had the honour of photographing some of them and I’m proud to let them know just how vital they are me and my mental health.

Teammate #1: The Boyfriend

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Although he’s only joined the team a few years ago, he adapted quickly and has become of of its most valuable players. I have to give him credit for dealing with my ups and downs so calmly. No matter what he always takes a moment to ask me “whats going on in your head?” to get a better understanding of what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling, and how he can help. I’m so lucky that he really does always want to help me feel better, and he’ll go pretty far to do so and indulge my crazy ideas. Sometimes its as simple as letting me pick the music we listen to, even though he usually hates the tunes I love most, other times it’s taking me for long drives across the city for one specific treat that only one bakery carries.

Also, he HATES having is picture taken and usually refuses to look at the camera. We were running late for a dinner, yet before getting in the car I convinced him to stand for this shot for me. Despite having no idea why I was taking a picture or what it was for… he did it anyways. Now there’s a keeper.

 

Who’s on your team?

There’s a new man in my life. Yes my boyfriend knows, he even helped me select the proper suitor – I guess one guy isn’t enough for me. Let me back up a bit…

Years ago, when I faced challenging times, I felt weak and helpless. Like I could fall to pieces so easily. But I also knew that I had people around me that were willing to pick me up and put me back together. It wasn’t something I could manage for myself, so I needed a little help.

I believe that having your own support team is critical.

Now that I’m older, more independent and have a lot more life experience under me, not to mention responsibilities (ohhh adulting), I find the “picking up and putting back together” part falls on me. Yes, I still have those I can turn to when I need an ear or a hug, but to put it bluntly – getting my shit together is my problem and my problem only.

Tell my mom I said that and she’d have a different answer. She’d say “I’m your team and I’m right here and you can always come to me.”

Yes, yes I can mom. But I’ve also got to be able to stand on my own two feet. Even though there are days where it doesn’t feel like that is at all possible… I still know I can do it. It’s not easy, it’s even harder than when I was younger, but it’s do-able.

I’ve learned tricks and tools to help myself snap to it, but more importantly is I’m still figuring out what they are as I grow and my life changes.

For example. I’m not a person who likes to be alone that often. I loved living at home with my family, I loved that there was almost always someone to hang out with even silently, and now I love having my own space with my boyfriend. But when he’s away (for work, weeks at a time), it’s a struggle for me. He is a key member of my support team, and we talk every day, but sometimes you need something to come home to.

So I found the answer. His name is Waylon.

Handsome, blue eyes and a total goof ball. Even those batty ears are adorable. Oh yeah, he’s a dog.

Mom says,”You can have the worst day in the world, but when you come home to that dog who’s always happy to see you no matter what, it doesn’t matter because it’s all going to be okay.”

She has a point. I’m not going to ramble n about the benefits of having a companion, because c’mon, we all know its a good thing. It gives me a reason to be excited to go home, and to wake up, and someone else to be acceptable for – another reason I have to pick up my own pieces and get my shit together. But the difference for me is, I actually WANT to keep my shit together for this little guy.

And I will. Because look at that face. 🙂

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Could you give yourself one compliment every day for a week?

I’m not gonna lie.. it was tough.

This challenge was particularly tough for me, especially that week. That week was hell. It felt like ten million assignments, a thousand pounds of pressure, and way too much stress for one person to manage. There were tears, a lot of them.

But there was also a lot of friends. Good friends thats were so kind to give a few minutes out of their day to just listen. And for a few I even got to return the favour.

It was the perfect week for this challenge needless to say. By Friday, I really saw the value in appreciating myself and recognizing my good qualities. Especially watching back these videos it keeps reinforcing the compliments more and more in my mind.

And confidence – big confidence booster. Fake it ’till you make it right? Thats exactly what I did. I slightly had to force it for the first few days, but by the end I really started to feel good about myself again.

This challenge I HIGHLY recommend anyone who’s having a bad day or doubting themselves or in need of a confidence booster to try this.

I challenge ALL OF YOU to give yourself a compliment every day for a week. Out loud. Even if it’s to yourself, make it out loud so you can hear just how great you really are.

Mental health care should be as daily and normal as brushing your teeth

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Mental health means taking care of your mind like you would take care of your body on a daily basis. It’s as important to care for yourself mentally as it is to brush your teeth – and it should be as normal as that too.

A friend put this thought into my mind the other day and I just can’t shake it. This week I truly found out exactly where my stress limits are and how I feel when I hit them. This friend gave me heck for not scheduling in time for myself like I schedule in other work. And she’s completely right.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety, depression and psychosis and I will for the rest of my life. Some days are better than others that’s for sure. And some seem downright impossible. I’ve learned through trail and error some tools to help me get through the tough times, and how to handle fits of emotion when they come uncontrollably. But i’ve rarely given much thought to how I should be taking care of myself so those fits don’t happen in the first place.

Schedule time for yourself. Consider it a preemptive measure the way you start taking cold medication or drinking a ton of OJ when you feel a cold coming on to try and keep it at bay. Do the same thing with your mind, and maybe you won’t hit those limits.

In our busy lives of school, work, and other obligations we plan plan plan how to manage those, and often put them above all others. Newsflash: none of that is going to get done if you’re not around to do it. So take care of yourself so that you ARE. You are just as, if not MORE important than the work on your plate.

I wish taking “mental health days” was a more prominent part of our society. It could help so many people with their quality of life, and probably make them much more productive as well. (Hint Hint to all the bosses out there…)

Today I finally said no to doing something extra. I felt guilty at first, but then I had to shake myself. I deserve a little time for myself. I NEED a little time for myself.

Now I’m really proud of myself. It was a big moment for me and i’m glad I took it.

I encourage all of you to do it as well. Make a date with yourself. Schedule it into your agenda…IN INK. And make it a non negotiable. You’ll thank yourself for doing it.