Bell Lets Talk: Why we should all give a fuck

Mental health is fucked up. It is something that a huge percent of the world suffer with but never share. There is such an insane stigma around the idea of it that for YEARS people just kept their mouths shut and said nothing.

I was one of those people.

For 8 years, I battled with anxiety, manic depression, bulimia & addiction. I was 15 years old when I was first diagnosed and I was 23 when I first shared what I had been through.

My fears around being judged, shamed, and criticized were consuming for a very long time. I was going through so much yet told no one. I was being treated at Sunnybrook Hospital for most of my life but most of my closest friends had no idea.

My anxiety and depression triggered a lot of self destructive coping mechanisms for me. When I was young, it was bulimia and self-harm. As I got older, I kept those 2 and added on abusing drugs and alcohol. Because of how my brain was wired, I became an alcoholic/addict without even realizing.

I was never okay with myself. I always thought I was worthless and that I wasn’t deserving of a great life. I lived in this crazy world in my head, where I believed every negative thought I heard and seldom heard something positive. I couldn’t bare to be alone because my thoughts were so toxic that they would put me into panic attacks regularly.

I hated who I was and was on a path of self destruction.

I was becoming a monster because I couldn’t fix what was happening on the inside, and the only way to deal with it was to do anything to distract myself from the pain I was in.

I went to countless therapists, doctors, for years and eventually to in-patient treatment where I spent 2 months rehabilitating my brokenness.

Going to treatment saved my life. I had hit my moral and physical bottom right before leaving and knew that I was ready to change my life.

I had no phone, no tv, no magazines, books or contact with the outside world. I had one 10 minute phone call a week that I made to my parents and that was it.

I finally was forced to look inside and see why I was in so much pain. Why I hated myself and why I did everything I did. It was extremely painful but ultimately lead me on the path of recovery.

Once I was able to remove all the harmful coping mechanisms, I learned new ways to handle my emotions.

I had a feeling problem and never had the tools to handle what came my way. I finally felt like I was becoming whole again. I was ready to share my journey with the world and hopefully help others in their own.

I became a mental health advocate because I wish there was someone that I could have turned to when I was going through everything I did.

Talking about mental health saves lives. No matter how big or small, everyone’s story matters. You never know who you can impact with what you have been through.

I am one of the lucky ones that made it through. There are so many others that don’t get the same chance.

Today, and everyday, I choose to talk. I will never stop sharing because mental health is life or death.

Don’t let you fears stop you from helping to save a life.

What Gives Me Strength

Life is hard. That is no secret. No matter who you are, what you have, life has its way of testing you, testing your limits. It can cause misery and heartbreak, but also love and joy. No life is perfect, it may seem that way but underneath the surface, there are the wounds that we have all been given. What separates people is how they choose to deal with their pain. To create strength from their experience or to give in to the suffering. 

I have been through my fair share of tough times but I choose to leave that in the past and not hold on to the pain. There are things that I could hold onto like certain experiences because of my addiction or other difficult times but I keep moving forward. I acknowledge that I have been through some shit and I tell myself it is time to start a new chapter. 

My experiences have shaped who I am today. Yes, I suffered but no, I would never change the past. I have lost people in my life and I wish I could bring them back but I know dealing with that loss has made me stronger.

My point is, I have been able to start a life I never thought would be possible. All the hardship and pain has brought me to a place where I have taken these "tests" from life and grown from every situation. 

There are a few things that are very important to me that continue to give me strength. Whether it is people or practices, I rely heavily on what these mean to me to keep me going. Reminding myself as often as I need, who I am, what I stand for, and what I love. This is what gives me strength. This is how I get through those days that are harder than others. 

My list is my heart. These are the things closest to me that gives me strength. What is yours?

1. My love for my parents, for Matt, my friends and Winnie (of course ;) ). When I think about these people my heart explodes. They are the ones that have stood by me no matter what and accept me for who I am. I would not be the person I am today without them. Their patience and kindness is an example to me of how I should be every single day. They have taught me what unconditional love means and this I will cherish for the rest of my life.

2. Practicing gratitude. It truly is an action word. I remind myself as often as possible how grateful I am for my life. To be grateful is to honour the world around you, this is what I do. Things could have turned out very different for me and by the grace of the universe, I was awakened to see that I was strong enough to get sober. I don't know why but all I know is that it happened and for the first time I was given the gift of awareness. 

3. Forgiveness: To myself and others. This one is very significant. In order to live in the present, I must forgive those who wronged me. It may be difficult but holding onto resentment will eat you up. Most importantly, I must forgive myself. I am my biggest critic, I will hold onto the guilt and shame of the things I did. By loving myself and moving on from the past, this is me forgiving myself. At the end of the day, it comes down to just you. Treat yourself with the love and kindness you deserve.  

4. Physical and Spiritual Wellness:  My body gives me strength. I find fitness to be a huge outlet that allows me to feel strong every day. My body is my temple and I must give it what it needs. Whether that means hitting the gym or taking a rest day, I always listen. 

Spirituality is something that is a huge part of my life. Not religious spirituality but an energy in this universe. This came to me at a time when my life was in crisis and gave me the strength to keep going. This is something that is very personal to me but I try to always be open. I don't like to go into much detail as people have their own views on this. If you would like to know more, just ask :)

5. Honesty: With myself and others. Being honest is one of the cornerstones of who I am today. Being able to take pride in the kind of person I am now is something that gives me strength. I was not proud of the person I used to be. I was not my genuine self, I would lie and be manipulative. Now, I made a promise to myself that I will always be truthful to myself and others every single day. It is the key to who I am today. 

I hope this list can help you on your own path to finding your strength. Take some time and write out somethings that keep you strong. Cherish it like I do and see if it helps you get through the hard days. 

xo

 

 

A New Perspective on Life- Finding Your Spirituality

Last night, I was lucky enough to see one of the greatest spiritual thinkers of all time, Eckhart Tolle, speak here in Toronto. This man has had such a profound effect on millions of peoples lives and after listening to him speak I could not be more inspired. I am one of those people whose lives he has changed and I am going to tell you how. 

So, this all started over 4 years ago when I met my partner, Matt! He actually got us the tickets as a gift for celebrating my 2 years of sobriety. When I first met Matt, I was in a very dark place. I had been struggling for years with anxiety and depression, topped with an unawareness of substance abuse. It was so hard for me just to get through a day sometimes with experiencing seemingly uncontrollable panic attacks and mood swings. 

Then came along Matt. He was the most present, in the moment, carefree person I had ever met. He had this energy about him that I found captivating and it was so unique. I was instantly attracted to everything about him and I wanted to be like him. This was a 21-year-old guy who meditated and never allowed life to get him down. I was so baffled by who he was. I really had never met anyone like him in my life. 

He shared with me a book he read called, "The Power of Now." This was one of the keys to his daily happiness. I will say that I believe the energy he has is just who is he naturally, but this book really brought to the surface some key tools when it comes to facing struggles that life puts forward. 

This was the start of the journey to finding my own spirituality. At the time, I wasn't in a healthy enough place to implement the tools this book had given me, but it was enough to plant a seed of hope in my mind. Two years went by that I caused a lot of suffering in Matt's life because of my addiction, but he always loved me unconditionally and never gave up on me. I will be eternally grateful for his compassion, love and for the kind of man he is. 

This book taught me about the importance of living in the present moment, not allowing the past or future to cause you pain. That you are not your thoughts and your mind does not control you. Every paragraph is filled with knowledge that will lead to personal enlightenment, and this is something that I have experienced.  

Now, this is not something that comes naturally for me. For Matt, he is able to live this way and it is easy for him. For myself, my brain constantly tries to pull me into the sadness of the past or the worry of the future, so I work very hard to keep my mind in a healthy, present state. Some days it is more challenging than others but I keep moving forward not letting one bad day or moment keep me down.  

For me, this way of life is the only way of life. I lived for years seeking the answers and hating the uncertainty of many things. When you learn that there truly is no future or past, then you can really start living. 

If you are reading this and have been going through some hard times, I would suggest picking up a copy of this book and see what it does for you. It took two years for the message to sink in for me but now, I couldn't imagine what life would be like without this knowledge. I have put a link at the bottom to the book if anyone is interested! 

My spirituality has given me peace. It has rested my mind and allowed me to be present in life. It is the greatest gift I could have been given. It changed my life and who knows.. it could change yours too!! If you are on the fence, I would say just be open minded. You never know what may connect with you!

https://www.amazon.ca/Power-Now-Guide-Spiritual-Enlightenment/dp/1577314808

Showing Up: The Journey To a Better YOU!

For years, my values in life were not aligned with the things that truly matter. I was blinded by the social hierarchy, the parties, and the lifestyle that came along with my addiction. My need to be liked to, "fit in," came above any other priorities. I would miss important family events or even sleep through friends going away parties because of this. It is hard for me to even write about this now because it makes me so sad. 

Getting swept up in the thrills of life is easy to do. My need to use substances to fill a void brought me to a toxic place, where booze and drugs took a priority over being a decent human being. When I look back at those times, I really can't believe I was that person. I have come so far from where I was and I will forever be grateful for this. 

I reflect on today's society and what the values are. Now that I have been able to take a step back, I can finally see with clear eyes what is going on. Don't get me wrong, I approach this with zero judgments as that used to be me but I just have had a chance that most people don't have to see it for what it really is.

Drinking and drugging have become the solution to every emotion humans face. If we are sad, angry, or even happy, and celebrating, we drink. Now, this is fine for a "regular," person but if you are someone like myself who struggled for years with depression and anxiety it becomes a dangerous coping mechanism. Having the self-awareness to realize that maybe the way you feel when you drink is different than other people is the key to recovery. 

For me, once I have one drink, the craving kicks in immediately that I need more. One would never be enough for me and it was an instant obsession. What I didn't realize for years was that not everyone experiences this craving. I thought it was what everyone felt and it wasn't until I was in treatment that I got an education on what addiction was that I finally understood. 

Once I had this realization, it was like a light went off in my head. I finally saw the power alcohol and drugs had over me. I knew I needed to make a change, and fast if I wanted to have a chance at living a fulfilling life. 

I got out of treatment and began the journey of finding myself again. It was like I was getting a fresh start at life, a second chance to become a better me. As time went on, I did a lot of reflecting on my behaviour and the things I did or didn't show up for. I decided that never again would I let alcohol or drugs be the controller of my life.

I made a promise to myself that I would show up for the people I love and stop giving a fuck about people who didn't matter. I removed people from my life that no longer aligned with my path and some other people chose to not be a part of my new life. Both working out exactly as it was supposed to. 

What are my feelings now, almost 2 years since I got out of treatment? I feel gratitude, love, and happiness because I get to be the person I always wanted to be. I still feel sad and angry from time to time but it will never cloud my ability to still be the best version of myself.

I get to be me. 

 

Changing Your Perspective

When I was in treatment, my biggest concern was what my life would look like if I was sober. For years, drinking and drugging equalled fun to me. I had no idea what being 22 years old and sober would feel like! No one I knew was sober and my identity was extremely tied to being the "fun, wild party girl." Little did people know, once the weekend was over I would be self-medicating during the week, desperately waiting till it would be appropriate for me to be f*cked up again. 

Being so young, part of me used to think that I still had a few years left in me to keep going but another part was so terrified of my inability to stop what I was doing. I had lost all control and I knew if I kept going my life was going to start crumbling, (even more than it already was.) Luckily, my fear eventually outweighed my need to keep going and I sought help. 

Getting to this place was hard. There was a lot of pain and uncertainty in my life, I truly did not know how I ended up like this. But, my one saving grace was I knew deep down my life was not destined to be like this. My heart was telling me I could overcome this and bounce back stronger than ever. So, with this ounce of willingness to make a change, I began my journey into sobriety. 

People often say getting sober is the easy part, what is hard is it the emotions and realizations that come along with sobriety. When you get clarity for the first time in years, it can be quite shocking to the system. The enlightenment that comes along is almost like magic. Being able to see things clearly that you couldn't see before is an incredible feeling. There is also a lot of darkness, things you wish you did or didn't do, people you hurt, the list goes on. 

As these things start to happen, you have two options. One is to run away in fear and turn back to the things you used to think would help you. The second and the one that I chose, was to turn directly into that fear knowing I would come back stronger in the end. 

My whole life I lived in fear and always took the easy way out. When I got sober, I made the decision that I would no longer let fear rule me and I would be in control of my life. I would continue to face adversity with courage and try to do the next right thing always. 

The second decision that I made is that no matter what, I choose to be positive. Instead of looking at sobriety as a death sentence, I chose to see it as a way to live life with my eyes fully open. I get to experience everything in its most genuine form and that in itself is a miracle. My life is filled with wonderful experiences and incredible people. This all happened because of my sobriety. Without my sobriety, I have nothing.

These decisions seem simple but they are life-altering. This changed my entire outlook on life and how I approach any situation I am dealing with, personally or in my day to day life. 

My message today is to face your fears!! Be that positive, bad ass, brave person you know you are. It took me years to even get close to the person I am today and I got there by choosing to live by these 2 simple, yet vital mindsets. If I can do it, YOU can do it!!

 

The Ebb and Flow of the Mind Body Connection

Through out my whole journey in sobriety, I have had a strong connection to the fitness world. For me, this has been an essential part of my recovery. Not only did my mind need repairing but my body did as well. I truly believe that in order to have a healthy body, you need a healthy mind and vice versa. 

Over the last 2 years, I have learned how vital exercise has been for me in my new life. I find exercise can be such a healthy tool in terms of managing stress and anxiety. Some days, it can really give me the extra push I need to stay positive and motivated. 

As I think most of you know now, I am a spiritual believer and a lot of this is not just taking care of my mental health. I do things like pray, meditate, therapy, and AA to keep my head on straight but if I am not putting the same amount of care into my body as I am my mind, I cannot stay mentally tough. 

I recently have been struggling with the extremes of over-exercising, which has led to some serious overuse injuries. I let my need to take care of my physical body overtake my need to take care of my mental health. Instead of the 2 being equal, I pushed one aside for the other. What happened was I had a shift in my mind and how I started using exercise. Instead of using fitness as a healthy tool, I started abusing what my body could handle for ulterior motives. 

What has been so helpful for me was the power to have open conversations with people about this. I was talking to a friend about this topic and it made me take a look in the mirror to see what I was doing to myself! It gave me the self-awareness that I desperately needed at the time. 

I am so grateful for the ability in life to recover from these hard times. Whether it is an addiction to substances or to other things such as going to the gym (or literally to anything else,) there is always a way out. One of life's many gifts is the ability to learn from the past. You get to choose what you make out of it, and you can make positivity out of almost any situation. You just need to be willing to see it.

Just because I have managed to have long-term sobriety, doesn't mean my life will be perfect. There will constantly be ups and downs, new things that will cause hardship in my life. The one thing I have control over is the ability to make the right choices for myself and to do the right thing. I turned my drug and alcohol addiction into the most amazing scenario I could think of. I took the reigns and made my destiny something I could be proud of. 

Bottom line: take care of your body as you would your mind. They depend on each other to function properly. Love every part of yourself equally and practice honesty in your mind.  

xo