Thank-you so much for that introduction. I sure hope I can live up to your kind words here tonight. I won’t lie to you all, I didn’t hesitate to say yes to coming here and speaking tonight, but immediately after the call had ended I thought, “what the hell have I done.” I’m both absolutely thrilled and terrified to be speaking tonight, so thank you for your patience and consideration in advance.
I was actually just joking not all that long ago at a horse show about how funny it is that when people know you’re a teacher or have been in the past, the types of things you get nominated for. Speaking gigs is usually right up there. You’re a teacher, could you MC our wedding? You’re a teacher, could you make the lines on this whiteboard? You’re a teacher, could you do the Math on this (which is ironic because I’m probably one of very few teachers that can’t Math). Or in this case, you’re teacher, could you give this speech at our fundraiser?
All jokes aside though, as most of you are aware, I am a teacher turned holistic mental health coach in the southeast and have expanded into to Western Canada. Coming here and speaking about mental health today is an honour, but what these boys have done here tonight and last year isn’t only honourable and noble, it’s necessary.
“Trauma” is a hot topic these days. You see it trending all over social media and has gained a lot of ground a global scale. In my field, we often view trauma as big T and little T trauma. Most of us don’t realize that the definition of trauma is “anything less than nurturing.” When you think about that it blows the door wide open to our own personal story. Having a critical parent, losing someone you love, rejection, being in an accident, failure, being teased or bullied, illness, feeling lost in school, losing a job, societal standards, peer pressure, assault, ending of a relationship...the list is completely endless.
Last year’s speaker, Jody, was courageous enough to share her story last year, indefinitely trauma with a capital T. I hope she knows how admirable and courageous it was to share. I know that it touched more people than she may even know and helped so many for the better.
Tonight, I’m here to share about myself. A long road of little T trauma with a couple biggies thrown into the mix just like probably 90% of you. Before I get into that though, I want to mention something related to last year’s speaker, Jody. It’s people like her that allow us to see that our life experience is what we do with it. Had she let it, the tragedy of her husband's passing could have led her to a lifetime of suffering, despair and hopelessness. I’m not saying that this was or will ever be a positive moment in time, far from it. But, she is living proof that you can go through great great sadness, sorrow, uncertainty, and grief and yet experience great great happiness, love, and a beautiful life to follow.
I hope that in sharing my story and some things I’ve learned, it can help in some way, shape or form for some of you here tonight.
All of us in the room will have “blueprint moments”; something that either left a mark or possibly even a catalyst for hitting an ultimate high or complete rock bottom.
I hit my rock bottom on December 22nd, 2017. The day my son was born. There is a part of me that feels so much shame around sharing this. What was meant to be the happiest days of both mine and my partner, Ty’s, lives catapulted me into a deep depression, post-traumatic stress and even contemplating suicide.
Approximately an hour after Kitt was born, I began to hemorrhage. The first couple of hours of bleeding were “doable”. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that. I guess as woman you quickly learn in life how to just do what must be done and often at the sacrifice of your comfort mentally, physically and emotionally. During my hemorrhage the nurses had to basically knead my belly elbow deep like they were punching dough (show) in hopes that whatever needing and trying to come out would. The most unfortunate part of this kneading, pushing and prodding is they did this every 15 minutes for the longest 8 hours of my life. By the 6th or 7th hour I had had enough of the torture. If you know me the next part is going to sound hard to believe, but by this point in time I was physically lashing out at the nurses, slapping them away, pushing them off of me and begging them to stop through my shouts and cries. Not my proudest moment. I even remember pleading for someone to just “put me under. I can’t do this anymore.” The part I’ve never shared before is that I had wished several times to die while I was on that bed, being punched like dough, feeling like some sort of barnyard animal, and seeing blood that I didn’t know was humanly possible. I do want to mention that I 100% know it was no one’s intention to hurt me, they were just doing their job and I likely wouldn’t still be here if they didn’t.
I can remember being wheeled out of the delivery room around that 8th hour time. Ty and our newborn son having to stay in our room and seeing the most terrifying look in Ty’s eyes. He thought he was losing me.
After 10 grueling hours of this hemorrhage horror, I was back. I woke up to a baby latched onto my breast, a nurse by my side, all while wondering “where am I”, “where’s Ty” and “I want my mom”. I guess even when you’re nearly 30 you still want your mommy, lol. I even remember looking down, seeing Kitt and thinking, “oh yeah, I had a baby!”
Without a shadow of a doubt, I was traumatized. The sad thing is, I didn’t even know it.
The thing that is so hard about trauma is, life around us goes on. No matter how broken, scared, depleted, hurt, lost, poor, or anything that we are, life doesn’t stop to let us breathe, to let us heal, to let us catch our bearings. After all that I had been through, it didn’t even occur to me that advocating for myself, voicing what I was feeling and needs, seeking help, being vulnerable with loved ones, getting extra support, and everything else in between could have allowed me to heal rather than perpetuating my internal suffering of postpartum depression and PTSD. I remember receiving the infamous postpartum checklist in my first check-up; if you don’t know it basically screens for postpartum depression through a simple questionnaire. I could have said yes to every question on that list, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I lied because I thought nothing is going to help, what can they actually do, it’s normal to feel this way, I didn’t want to admit what felt like personal faults and honestly just believed with time my struggles would pass. My ignorant thoughts were completely misleading. Was I ever wrong…
Just like all new mom’s, I then had to learn how to feed, change, clean and soothe our baby, tend to my stitches, feed myself, look after day-to-day obligations and do it all with little to no sleep, having PTSD and PPD. Postpartum depression is so overwhelmingly prevalent in North America and no I don’t believe that it is all “hormonal”. My experience is just one case and point of it being more than hormones. Not only that, our lives go from 0-60 in a blink of an eye. Everything changes and there’s little to no care for the mother’s mental and physical wellbeing. In other places around the world, childrearing is considered sacred. The mothers get rest, relentless care, meals made for them and a village by her side. In North America we push ourselves to be independent, thriving, doing it all, and we wonder why us moms are struggling. It’s not sustainable to live this way and at some point, we break.
I once read a book about mindful birth techniques. There was a part in the book where the author was trying to illustrate how miraculous the human body is. She talked about how in days of slavery the women would have their babies in the cotton fields and in that very same day would be out picking again. Without a doubt the resiliency of a mother is second to none, but is there a point that this admirable quality is unhealthy? I absolutely know that being strong, driven, and brave serve me when I need it most, but I suppose the question is shouldn’t we be able to be supported too?
In the early weeks of having Kitt, I quickly became suicidal. Ironically enough, I know that no one had a clue. Just like most of us, I had become a master of hiding behind my mask. My mask of resiliency, strength, adaptability, happiness and hard work ethic. Behind what you saw was resentment, hurt, pain and a hopeless despair, and a lot of unprocessed trauma. It was actually Ty that convinced me that I had to get help. I chose to work intensively with a support person to process my birth trauma, unravel my past (which ironically was another piece to my postpartum experience), examine myself on a holistic level, and rewire my nervous system. It was at this point in time that my mental health shifted and it quite literally saved my life.
The Back Story
People often ask, “how do you know if you should be working with someone on your mental health?” The best answer I have ever heard is, “if you have a childhood and a heartbeat, you should probably be working with somebody.” Although what I shared with you was a traumatic event, there was so much more to unpack as I began to dig deeper into my process.
We will all experience times in our lives where it feels like the rug is ripped out beneath us. You all just heard one of mine. Something that I also deeply understand from my own life and working with others is often it’s not just one set thing that leads us to say a “breaking point”. But rather an accumulation of things that happen to “pile up”. In examining myself I came to see that I had a lot to “unpack” and the birth of Kitt just happened to be the straw on my back.
All prior to having Kitt, I had experienced many damaging events, wounds and developed many unhealthy coping mechanisms that caused me to have a lower tolerance to adverse events in my life. As I share a bit from my past, I’d like to invite you to be self-reflective. Every single one of us has a lifetime of “stuff” that we unconsciously carry. If you find yourself regularly feeling depressed, running to an addiction, numbing, anxious, overthinking, stuck, angry or any other common struggle that prevents you from really feeling like yourself, you too likely have some processing to do. I’ve come to see that the “stuff” of my lifetime absolutely made it harder for me to move forward from the traumatic birth that I experienced. There might even be a mother out there today that had been through something similar, and she didn’t walk out with PTSD or postpartum. But, I did. Reflecting on my life it’s really no wonder that that moment in time happened to break me:
As a child my dad worked away from home and my mom naturally struggled to raise 3 kids nearly all by her self. It couldn't have been different, I hold no judgement here. It's just a matter of fact that every family will have it's stuff that unconsciously leaves a mark.
My brothers were difficult and I took on the golden child role to alleviate the stress for my parents.
I almost lost my dad when I was 17 years old.
I was a notorious people pleaser and would do anything to feel love and acceptance.
I had never witnessed or learned proper emotional regulation. It was either anger or stuff it down. Eventually I started to experience severe anger outbursts as a young adult.
I would compromise my own happiness just to keep others satisfied or “proud" of me.
Overachieving was a major go to of mine.
I have had multiple addictions. Any time I used to find myself uncomfortable I would drink or smoke. It became so severe that I would drink myself to sleep every night in my 20s.
I became incredibly ill in my 20s as well. I began to lose my hair, I couldn’t drive at night because I was unable to see, my joints had became so swollen/inflamed that my skin would literally break open, and I chronically fainted for about 2 years.
I was diagnosed with arthritis and an autoimmune-Lupus-like disorder.
I had been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship.
5 out 5 people in my immediate family, including myself, struggled with some form of addiction.
I was so chronically anxious in my 20s that I would again faint when the stress was more than I could bear.
I had an eating disorder for several years as a young adult; along with it being a compulsive exerciser.
I often wonder if I had known to listen to the whispers before they became screams, if I would have walked out of Regina General Hospital with my partner and my son a little differently.
One thing that I do know for sure is that although I have faced an immense load of mental and physical sickness in my life, it has undoubtedly transformed me into who I am today and a life that I’m incredibly proud of. My struggles, mistakes and hurt have been a catalyst for me to learn how to heal on a mind, body and soul level. With a willingness to learn, seeking help, offering myself compassion and taking responsibility for how I want to experience my life I can say with full conviction I feel like a completely different person. I absolutely have and will continue to have my moments of hurt, uncertainty, times where old habits creep in, struggle and everything else in between. I wouldn’t consider myself human without them. But they are not my entirety.
I think my life has been a prime example of “learning the hard way”. For whatever reason this seems to be a theme for most of us. Listening to me tonight might have some of you connecting some of your own dots and pieces to your own puzzle. And for some, maybe not so much. Regardless, I wanted to offer some of what I've learned and maybe for some it will mean not having learn the hard way, hit a rock bottom, or to suffer.
If your body isn’t well, your mind isn’t well and vice versa. Treat your mind and your body as the sacred units that they are to optimize your life.
Don’t live your life in shame. We all have parts of ourselves that we abandon. What I’ve come to see is in admitting my shame is that it’s liberating. It’s like Brene Brown says, “shame is like mold; it grows in the dark.” When we meet ourselves with compassion, shame cannot exist. When we embrace the fact that you and I are not perfect, not only do we free ourselves, we give others permission to do the same.
Forgive. Forgiveness isn’t to condone, it’s to not carry the burden any longer.
We often think that in order to be happy we need ______. Happiness is very much a choice, so don’t let the comparison game fool you.
No one really has it “together”, and that’s ok.
Never expect. Give what you wish to receive.
Stop running. Like I mentioned earlier, feeling is healing. Our society is chronically numbing their feelings and it needs to stop. Running can look like blaming everyone else for your problems, trying to fix everyone’s problems, always seeking and trying to be in control, letting the perceptions of others sway you, with every discomfort such as tired/hurt/frustrated/etc. you run to a substance such as caffeine/alcohol/sugar/Ibuprofen to numb what you don’t like instead of getting to the root/doing the hard work, scrolling for hours on end, participating in drama, never facing your triggers, not pushing your comfort zone, people pleasing, always playing it safe, etc. The list is again endless. Getting used to discomfort is a huge asset. Comfortably uncomfortable is essential skill in being human.
If we are facing cyclical struggles then there is likely a lesson to be learned and applied. It may not be what you want, but it will likely be exactly what you need.
Everything that we choose or don’t choose comes with a cost, choose wisely.
Do things scared. Courage isn’t the absence of fear and you can do hard things.
Be brave enough to break cycles. Someone in your family has to.
Learn to regulate your nervous system. I could write a whole speech on this, but I encourage you to start looking into what that even means and how to do it. At the root of every mental illness, there is a dysregulated nervous system.
Listen to the whispers before they become screams. You do not need to be suffering in order to make changes or learn.
Find what works for you: whether it’s group work, coaching, therapy, wellness retreats, counselling, Body Talk or whatever else is out there. Someone in this very room said to me, “Finding your support person is like dating.” and it’s so true!
Convert your hard times and mistakes as opportunities to learn.
Speak up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and ask for specifically what you need. Set your ego aside, communicate and meet your needs.
Your greatest asset to helping others is to help yourself.
Commit to your happiness. I love that we’re slowly shifting to a culture of willing to ask for help, do the inner work, and have several people in this very room that are cycle breakers. But, don’t forget to have fun. Get out there. Find a passion. Try new things. Do what lights you up. Do things in solitude. Do things together. Want to be happy, do happy things. Choose good people to be in your circle. Love hard. Play...it’s not as complicated as we make it.
It takes great strength to ask for help. You are both strong and worth it.
It is my hope this evening to shine a light on how important it is to show up for ourselves. To simply do what must be done in order to experience our life at its full potential. The only person that can save us is ourselves. That isn’t to say that there can’t be helped along the way. We all deserve to be happy, healthy and content. However, it will require us to value needs over wants, to seek help, to have a willingness to learn, to be courageous, to embrace imperfection and to take a lot of responsibility for our perceptions, words and actions.
If you’re here, you’re already showing up. You’re already committing to changing any stigma in relation to mental health. You’re a part of the solution. Maybe you’re even beginning or in the midst of some major mending or changes for your life.
I’m elated to witness these shifts among us and to have had the opportunity to speak to you all this evening. It is beyond fulfilling to be standing up here. Thank you so much for donating your time and resources in order to consciously create the type of support and shifts that our world so desperately needs. I have much admiration and respect for everyone involved this evening: these boys, our past speaker Jody, the generosity of the donations and you all just for being here.
Never underestimate the power of something seemingly small, even if it’s just your presence here tonight. Everything counts to the greater good.
Thank you so much for sharing your time with me and please feel free to ask me any questions you might have this evening. I’m happy to talk. Thank you again for your time. It means the world.
Personal Thank-Yous/Post Speech Thoughts
Thank you all so much for taking the time to listen to my story & message. Behind everyone’s story of recovery there are people who made it possible. Something you didn’t hear me talk about the behind the scenes support that allowed me to move forward in my life.
I would like to take a moment to thank the following people:
My partner and greatest supporter, Ty. Without Ty, I have no idea where I would be. He has stood by my side through thick and thin. I think plenty of other men would have left me in the dust. He is patient, kind, self-less and has the biggest heart out of anyone I have ever known. Ty shines brighter out of any other person I have ever met and I knew his heart the moment I met him. I have always felt Ty’s joy that he gets out of devoting himself to our son and I, and I couldn’t be any luckier or thankful. Ty, you deserve a medal of honour and an even bigger round of applause than I got. This is also the side of mental health that people don’t see or give the acknowledgement to; the ones in the background. I love you with all of my heart, forever and always.
My family. Both my mom and my dad have always graciously supported me, been my number one fans/believers and have taught me more than anyone in this entire world. I love and appreciate you both more than words can say. Beyond my immediate family I am incredibly grateful for my friends, other family members and Ty’s family as well that have helped us, encouraged and been in our corner.
To the person that helped me see the light and took my healing journey to the next level, Tami Dovell. I’m not sure if I would still be earthside and doing what I love if it weren’t for you. Thank you for showing me the way back “home”, Tami. You’re an earth angel.
My clients that allow me to learn more about myself through helping them. Your healing is my healing, and mine is yours. I have learned so much through being of service to you all and I love every minute of life/“working” with you. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a single minute of your life.” I live that every single day and I’m beyond excited for everything to come in the future. I love you all, and I don’t care how crazy that sounds because it’s true. I do, and that is that.
Dustin and Tyler for delivering one of the most impactful and noble fundraisers that I have ever seen. Your work done over these past two years has been courageous, down to earth, meaningful and effective. You both should be so proud.
Thank you all so much. I wish each of you all of the happiness that this life has to offer you,