About the project

Radina Photography and Alongside You have partnered to create space for individuals to share personal stories of struggles. Radina has been working on this concept for the past two years, after she found strength in sharing her own story with more people in her community, and witnessed how her journey resonated so strongly with others. This project combines photography and storytelling to help people celebrate the resilience they have built over time through their learning and working through life’s challenges.

The aim of Celebrating Resilience is to empower those sharing, and at the same time help reduce stigma and inspire others who are struggling to open up and seek help. Participants were chosen from our own community in Delta, BC. We believe that this will help our neighbours relate to these stories that much better. We are excited to announce the official exhibition opening at Stir Coffee house in Ladner, BC, on June 1, 6:30pm - 9:30pm. If you can’t make it out that night, the exhibition will be up for at least a month at Stir. After that, the individual portraits will be spread around town in local businesses to allow for greater connection with the community. Check back here to see where you can find them!

Topics in these stories include depression, anxiety, thoughts of self harm, chronic illness, chronic pain, infertility, abusive relationships.

To help those who are struggling but cannot afford it, Alongside You has the Step Forward program. We are actively seeking sponsorship for this event, and hope to raise at least $15,000 with all net proceeds going to this invaluable community resource! If you would like to become a corporate sponsor, please send an e-mail to andrew@alongsideyou.ca . If you would like to make a private donation, you can do so online: https://www.alongsideyou.ca/sfp-sponsorship-form/ (please type “Celebrating Resilience” in the dedication box).

Radina’s Story

”Combined, the depression and anxiety left me exhausted - physically I had no energy to do anything around the house. I didn’t want to socialize. I called into work sick multiple times out of fear that I’d burst out crying in front of everyone - I had already had to run to the bathroom multiple times to have my crying in private.”

FULL STORY

Pam’s Story

“I vividly remember being terrified to take my rent cheque to my landlord in my apartment building, and some days being scared to leave my place period, which was really strange because I was a social butterfly when I went out with friends. (Turns out my extrovert qualities are more of a safety mechanism. The things you learn when you grow up!) I began to second guess everything I did and lost all self-confidence.“
FULL STORY

Denise’s Story

“If the life you’re living isn't working for you, don't be afraid to change it. Tell yourself every single day how absolutely beautiful and worthy you are until you begin to believe it - no matter how long that may take.”
FULL STORY

Yvonne’s story

“When I was 19 I suddenly started having major digestive issues. I saw doctors and naturopaths and underwent every test imaginable. After a few years the doctors were able to determine that I had premature ovarian failure. That meant I was premenopausal at 22 and was told that I had a one in sixteenth chance of ever having children.”
FULL STORY

Janice’s story

”I continue to evolve from the person I was so long ago with no self-esteem, who emerged on the other side of an abusive relationship; to trudge through anxiety, fear, depression, panic. Slowly, over a period of time, I built up my self-esteem, my self-awareness, my self-image, myself in general.”
FULL STORY

Kim’s story

“I’ve been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. In 2009, I had a psychosis and immediately had to move back to Vancouver from Tokyo. Perhaps due to the shock of being sick and having to be back home, I went through a major depression.”
FULL STORY

Andrew’s story

”From the get go, there was no question as to whether I was wanted and loved. Why, then, did I first discover what depression felt like at the age of 6? That’s not normal. Why, then, did I do well in school, sports, music, and otherwise, yet never felt like I was good enough? . . . . All the while struggling with crippling depression, suicidal thoughts, and generalized anxiety that at times was so bad, I could hardly stand up after getting out of bed.”
FULL STORY

Meg’s story

“The persistent pain makes normal daily activities excruciatingly difficult. I am in pain every…single…day. Each day, I struggle to keep up with those around me. Chronic pain follows me wherever I go.”
FULL STORY

Celebrating Resilience: Radina’s Story

About Radina

Celebrating Radina

I am the photographer who initiated the Celebrating Resilience project. It all began with sharing my own story as I struggled with anxiety and depression before finding help. I found healing through opening up and telling people about my experience, but also found most people identified with parts of it and were more willing to open up about their own journey.

I hope this project helps us better connect as a community and be more open about sharing our struggles. Openness with ourselves and others is the first step to creating change.

What does this portrait help you celebrate?

It helps me celebrate the balance I have achieved in living with anxiety and depression. The darkness will always be there - there is no cure - but with the education I have acquired for myself in how to live with awareness of it, and the major life changes I implemented for myself, I feel confident that the darkness will not take over the light.

Tell us about your history with mental health challenges. How did your symptoms manifest, and how did that affect your life?

Until a few years ago, I was a mathematician. Today I am an artist. Here is how that happened:

I have a Master’s in Applied Mathematics, and I was working for the government - solid 9-5 job, great salary, four weeks vacation, all the benefits, wonderful boyfriend, homeowner, two cars, two dogs, decent health, good family. Yet more and more often, I found myself driving home from work, blasting the music and singing obnoxiously off-key, enjoying the beautiful scenery as I approached home in Ladner - only to suddenly explode in tears, out of the blue, for no apparent reason. Just a hit of intense sadness that I had less and less control over with time. This is what my depression looks like.

You know how sometimes you see a person jaywalking, and for a split second you have that gut wrenching thought that the car around the corner might hit them. Actually, in that same split second, your brain puts together a full feature visualization of the car hitting the person, complete with a series of horrible images of mangled body and gore. Later in the day you are sitting at home enjoying a nice cold one watching random Netflix, and suddenly a similar scenario plays itself out in an instant, your brain not giving you a chance to turn it off, but this time it is your partner and your dogs mangled and dead in the street; ambulance approaching but they are too late.

This is what my anxiety looks like. (Although the theme of the thoughts can change from car accidents to something else over time.)

Combined, the depression and anxiety left me exhausted - physically I had no energy to do anything around the house. I didn’t want to socialize. I called into work sick multiple times out of fear that I’d burst out crying in front of everyone - I had already had to run to the bathroom multiple times to have my crying in private. It affected my relationship with my partner big time - neither of us knew what was going on and felt helpless to change things.

What steps did you take to create change in your life?

I finally went to see my doctor about this - I felt like it was overtaking my life completely. After having myself a big cry in her office, she immediately diagnosed me with severe anxiety and severe depression. This was the FIRST time it occurred to me that *I* could be depressed. It made no sense - on paper, my life was perfect! Yet here I was, slowly falling apart. But now I knew, and that meant I could do something about it.

I started medication immediately - for me, this was a huge help in giving me the headspace to make all the other changes I needed to make. It slowed down all those negative thoughts enough to let me think.

I saw a few psychologists and counsellors until I found the one that was a good fit for me. I wanted to give up after meeting some not-so-great ones, but I’m glad I kept looking. I took a Level 2 first aid course to learn all that first aid accident stuff - that actually helped with the anxiety thoughts by changing the scenario from death and gore to minor injuries I could manage on-scene. I went on an intensive therapy retreat. I took part in a cognitive behavioural therapy group therapy study. I quit my job, which was a big contributor to my stress levels - I grew up being the best student in the class, always looking to excel at everything, feeling worthless when I didn’t, and being good in science meant I HAD to be a big fancy biostatistician.

No more. My wonderful father-in-law gave me a fancy DSLR for Christmas around this time, after I shared with him I am on a quest to change careers to pursue something I’m passionate about. I had told him about my love for photography in the past, and he went and made that a reality for me again. A few months after, as he was slowly leaving this world due to cancer, my last conversation with him was my promise to stick to my newly found passion and become a photographer full time.

It took a couple of years of hard work to get myself out of the deep hole I was in. And now that I am much better, I live with more awareness. The anxiety and depression creep in now and then - but I recognize them coming, I take a step back and don’t let them take control of my life. I use those moments as inspiration to create some of my fine art works.

Was there an “a-ha” moment that helped you take charge and create change for yourself?

My first such moment was when I was sharing how I was feeling with a close friend, and he opened up and told me that he had struggled with similar issues as well. He shared how dark things got for him, and promised me that it does get better. Somehow, in that moment, the way he said it - I chose to just believe him. Even though I wasn’t able to picture things getting better - I took his word for it and kept going with my psychologist and with my plans to change careers.

Another a-ha moment was one of the first meetings I had with my psychologist. She asked me a simple question - she said that now I am depressed, OK, but can I tell her about a time when I was happy - what did that look like? I was stumped - I couldn’t remember a single instance. It really spoke to me about how much depression clouds our reality. This was the start of my Celebrate Yourself portrait concept - helping people photograph their strength, so they can literally have a picture to refer back to when they are going through a hard time and can’t remember.

What are some of your coping tools to deal with your anxiety?

Mindfulness is a huge one. Knowing that your problems will not be fixed in the next hour - why not take that hour and do something totally unrelated. For me, it’s creating art. While I do that, my brain gets to focus on the task at hand, thereby letting go of the negative thoughts. This gives my brain the much needed break to shake off the anxiety.

Another coping strategy is something I do in the afternoon - that’s when I usually start feeling like I haven’t done enough today to build up my business, or whatever nagging thoughts I have going on at the time. So, I take an hour and put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher, load it up with the dirty ones, etc.. This way I am not only giving my brain a break from the thinking by focusing on some simple tasks, but I also end up feeling accomplished because I’ve cleaned the house up a bit!

Finally, my dogs. I just let myself play with the dogs, on the floor, becoming one of them. It probably looks ridiculous if anyone were to walk in, but I don’t care. It calms me down and makes me laugh.

What advice would you give someone that is currently having a hard time with anxiety and/or depression?

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone who has had experience with this. Ideally, speak with your doctor about it, but if they are not much help - don’t give up - find another healthcare professional to talk to. Find a counsellor or psychologist who will listen and be helpful. They can help you devise coping strategies to take the load off, alongside a long-term plan to change things for you. Everyone’s experience with mental health challenges is unique - having someone on your side can be a great help! The journey may be tough, but take my word for it - it can get better.

Celebrating Resilience: Pam’s Story

Pam-01.jpg

Pam and I have been friends for a long time. When I started sharing my story about living with depression and anxiety, suddenly it became apparent that Pam shares similar struggles. It is amazing how many people you may know, close to you, who are going through something similar. The more we talk about it, the more we create space to support each other. Here is Pam’s story.

What does this portrait help you celebrate?

I wanted to celebrate the feelings of accomplishment I was having after taking a look back at my last year. I felt like I had broken through a longstanding battle with myself and come out the other side with a better view of who I am, what I’m capable of and how to create my own happiness, rather than to rely on anything or anyone to do it for me. I wanted a portrait to commemorate the time that I made the choice to DO SOMETHING about the things I was unhappy about, and the time that I finally realized that I was in control of changing the things I didn’t like. I wanted a portrait where I could look back and go “Ya, I did that!” and remind myself that I’m always capable of doing anything that I want to.

Tell us about your history with mental health challenges. How did your symptoms manifest, and how did that affect your life?

My parents divorced when I was young and like almost every other teenager, I struggled with how to deal with my depression proactively. But as I went out into the world on my own in my 20’s, I became less sullen and broody, and more anxious and panic attack prone. I vividly remember being terrified to take my rent cheque to my landlord in my apartment building, and some days being scared to leave my place period, which was really strange because I was a social butterfly when I went out with friends. (Turns out my extrovert qualities are more of a safety mechanism.  The things you learn when you grow up!) I began to second guess everything I did and lost all self-confidence. I didn’t feel secure in my own skin anymore and wallowed in worry over everything I said and did. I wouldn’t speak up in class. I would run from any communication where there could be potential conflict. I just didn’t feel good about myself and didn’t like the fact that I felt anxious.

Was there an “a-ha” moment that helped you take charge and create change for yourself? What steps did you take to create change in your life?

Fast forward to a new job within a department I’ve been moved around constantly in, and I’m miserable for at least 2 years. After endless discussions with friends, family and coworkers, it didn’t feel like there was any relief and I began looking for other work. Still very low confidence in everything I did and massive anxiety over trying to balance work and life. Looking back now, I was waiting for someone to make it better, to change what my work day was like, to make it a happy place, to fix the things I didn’t like.

After one lunchtime conversation, I was ‘forced’ to put kickboxing into my schedule. I had been complaining about how I don’t get to work out anymore, how I loved kickboxing but can’t find time, etc. A new gym was built at my workplace, with a kickboxing bag, and my coworker put a rotating invite in my calendar – every Tuesday & Thursday at 530am, kickboxing. There it was. Scheduled meeting. I had to go. That was the start of the positive change.

That begun the journey of realizing that I really can do anything if I’m willing to put the effort in. I put the effort in to waking up at 4am and going, sometimes kicking and screaming with my own self, but I went. And marvellous things happened. Confidence! Positivity! Feeling like I could take on the world! And I had muscles to prove it! That feeling of confidence and positivity drove my ability to make my work life what I wanted it to be; it drove my ability to not have to wait for someone to fix things and to do it myself, for myself.

I finally gave feedback to those that were bumming me out, and lo and behold, relationships got better! My outlook on my capabilities changed. My pride in how hard I was working grew. Everyone around me noticed the change. I looked better, had a more positive aura about me, I took on more challenges with excitement instead of whining over the fact that they were ‘challenges’. I was promoted. Twice. And now I can take on difficult situations, conversations, conflict, all of it, with confidence in myself. And most importantly, I’m not afraid to fail because I realize now how much you learn from failing. I still have anxiety for sure! But I know how to handle it better because I’m not shrinking away from it, I’m punching it in the throat.

What are some of your coping tools to deal with your anxiety?

Recognizing when it’s anxiety definitely helps! Being mindful of when my head wanders to those bad thoughts or worries and knowing I’m in control of stopping it is helpful. Literally spelling out the specific thing that is causing me stress. For example:

“I’m stressed out.”
“what is stressing you out?”
“We have to get the garbage out and I haven’t started cooking the potatoes yet, and the dog has to be fed…”
“Okay, I’ll take out the garbage, you cook potatoes, I’ll feed the dog. Done.”

Recognizing that I had anxiety issues helped in that I was able to ‘own it’ and explain it to others instead of hiding it and essentially making it worse. Being up front with my husband whenever I feel panicky over things that may seem silly to him has helped because he’s not wondering why I’m freaking out over x, y and z. He understands that I need support and calm and time to breathe it out.

Reminding myself to breathe, relax my shoulders and unclench my jaw helps.

And punching the bag, obviously, haha.

What advice would you give someone that is currently having a hard time with anxiety and/or depression?

Recognize that it’s giving you a hard time and take the step to find out how to make it better. Because you CAN make it better. And it’s about balance! You cannot start working out tomorrow and expect the change in a week, or a month. But if you’re consistent and you keep the path reasonable (Rome wasn’t built in a day and you cannot keep up with a crazy intense diet, schedule, or cleanse. It’s not realistic and it’s why so many of those ‘fads’ fail), you’ll see and feel the difference and so will everyone else.

It may not be a choice to feel anxious or depressed, but it IS a choice to do something about it. Nothing can hold you back if you don’t let it. You just have to put in the work.

 

Celebrating Resilience: Denise’s story

CR_Denise_portrait.jpg

I met Denise at her hair salon, when I needed a haircut. It took all of five minutes to connect on the topic of mental health and the struggle to get better, and the passion to spread the message that the stigma needs to come down. Denise has a powerful blog that inspires its readers as she shares her journey of self discovery and life with Lyme disease, and all the challenges and life lessons her journey brings. She is a strong mental health advocate for youth, a talented hairdresser, and has the biggest heart.

What does this portrait help you celebrate?

This portrait helps me celebrate my divine feminine strength and the gentle warrior whom I have found within myself throughout this ongoing battle. It reflects and celebrates not only my resiliency but also the healer that I have - that we all have - within ourselves, if only we do the work to find her.

Tell us about the major struggles you have encountered in your life - how did they manifest, and how did they impact your life?

As a youth I struggled significantly with issues of low self-worth, depression, anxiety, panic disorder and ptsd. What I didn't understand at the time was that this was my body's way of telling me that I wasn't embracing my true self or processing emotions or trauma in a healthy way. Throughout those same years I was diagnosed with endometriosis and later vestibulodynia, both conditions include severe chronic pain. Later, in my early twenties my body was overtaken by more severe chronic pain and debilitating, disabling symptoms that later, after several misdiagnoses I learned were caused by Lyme disease - which may or may not have been the root cause of both my mental and physical health issues as a youth as well.

Was there an “a-ha” moment that guided you towards a path to take charge and create change for yourself?

Not so much one moment but a series of moments, or decisions really, to find out what small steps compounded together would create large change for me, and then making the decision to take charge of my life and my health and to do these small things every day in whatever way I can, in order to create a life that I love and that I feel is worth living.

What steps did you take to create change in your life?

Personal development reading, exercise, nutrition, proper sleep habits, removing the people who aren't good for me from my life, focusing my energy on healing rather than what is ailing me, meditation, hydration, and energy work have made significant differences in my quality of life and my healing. I also created my home space into a space that feels good to me, is calming, positive, and conducive to healing. I have also filled my home with reminders of positive affirmations to keep my mindset on gratitude and healing.

What are some of your coping tools to help you navigate through life’s challenges?

Meditation is a huge one for me but I have also found art, energy work, and positive affirmations to be significantly helpful. One of the most significant things that I have done for myself is turned my home into a zen-like healing space that feels good to be in.

What advice do you have for someone going through a similar journey?

Educate yourself on your challenges and how you can retrain your brain in a positive and healthy way. Surround yourself with whatever makes you feel good. If it doesn't bring you joy, get rid of it. If it isn't conductive to healing, change it. If someone doesn't make you feel good inside, they aren't your people. Find a safe space to learn to get comfortable with the uncomfortable because healing and growth do not happen in your comfort zone. If the life you're living isn't working for you, don't be afraid to change it. Tell yourself every single day how absolutely beautiful and worthy you are until you begin to believe it - no matter how long that may take.

Celebrating Resilience: Yvonne’s story

Yvonne-01.jpg

I met Yvonne through Denise. After sharing Denise’s story on my social media channels, Yvonne felt the immediate call to share hers. Through meeting and talking, we discovered we have more key things in common than we initially thought, and it was a positive experience for both of us. It’s amazing how when you open up, you connect with other people who are willing to be vulnerable with you!

What does this portrait help you celebrate?

This portrait signifies the light at the end of the tunnel. I think back wondering how I made it through but then I look into my daughter’s face and I think this was the most incredibly worthwhile journey. As long as we have each other, nothing else matters. I have so much love for you my sweet girl!

Tell us about the major challenges you have encountered in your life and how they contributed to shaping your way of being?

When I was 19 I suddenly started having major digestive issues. I saw doctors and naturopaths and underwent every test imaginable. After a few years the doctors were able to determine that I had premature ovarian failure. That meant I was pre menopausal at 22 and was told that I had a one in sixteenth chance of ever having children. This was not the news I was expecting to hear at such a young age especially since it did not solve my digestive issues.

It played a huge role in my life as I was so young and hadn’t even really started dating. So being able to have kids weighed on me throughout the next 10 years whether in a relationship or not. See, I have always wanted kids. The first career I went into was as an early childhood educator for the better part of 10 years. After that I chose to be a special needs assistant in the school district. I guess if I couldn’t have kids I would immerse myself in a career that had lots of little souls to care for. I met my husband when I was 30 and fairly quickly we started looking into fertility treatments. It was a long and arduous journey as well as a heavy financial strain. A lot of different things and many close family members and friends were alongside of us for love and support and sending us much hope.

The last few years it affected my emotional health and well being as I was so incredibly heartbroken that I was not able to have a child yet. It also affected me financially as I decided to cut back on work as to reduce some stress.

What steps did you take to cope with the ongoing challenges?

I’m not really sure how I handled it to be honest with you. I just did. I guess I just took one day at a time and got through it the best I could and time seemed to pass. I talked about my infertility a lot and to anyone who would listen. I have a great support system so I always had someone to help me with my stress and emotions. The bulk of it happened when I met my husband and there were times I cried myself to sleep because this process was so overwhelming. I’m glad I had family and friends to support me as my judgement was somewhat impaired at times as I was trying to cope and make sense of why me. Why did I have to struggle so hard to get what seems like such a natural course in life. I also turned to food as a coping mechanism. Coffee and fast food helped me get through the day when I was just so emotionally drained. It was a very bad habit. One that I thankfully kicked once I finally had my IVF transfer and was told I was pregnant.

Was there an “a-ha” moment that guided you towards a path to take charge and create change?

There were a lot of aha moments. The first and most profound one was meeting my husband. The moment I met him I knew this was it. This was the start of my family. After that it was little things like finding the right clinic. We actually went to info nights for a few clinics and weren’t satisfied with the care they provided. We found Victoria Fertility Clinic by searching on the internet. I was truthfully against it at first because I was already a patient with another clinic and I just wanted to start the treatments. I’m glad I took a chance to go meet the doctor at the clinic though because from the second I walked in that this was going to be the clinic I wanted to use. The doctor was so caring and made me feel like he just wanted the absolute best for me. There were, of course, bumps in the road during the treatments but it was all worth it because after 6 months of medications I was able to have my first embryo transfer. This resulted in a positive pregnancy and a healthy baby girl born a few months ago.

What are some of your coping tools to help you navigate through life’s challenges?

There were many things that I did while on my fertility journey. I did a lot of talking and crying, I spent time with my friends, one in particular who went with me to Olive Garden or spaghetti factory once a month so we could both vent over our infertility struggles, and I did a ton of energy healing and meditating. I manifested my little baby every single minute of every single day. At the end I just realized I was just going to go for the transfer and we would see what happens. I guess I was finally ready.

What advice would you give someone that is currently struggling with similar challenges?

Believe in yourself and your ability to get through major roadblocks. Everybody’s journey is so different and you just have to try and find out what works for you, and when that stops working - find something else. You are far more capable and stronger than you can even imagine. I’ve always been patient but never did I know how much strength I had until I overcame infertility. You just keep going because that’s the only thing worth doing. Nothing else matters!

 

Celebrating Resilience: Janice’s story

Janice

I met Janice at the Ladner Business Association. During one of our business meetings, I was the presenter. Typically, presenters talk about their business, what services they offer, and how these benefit their clients. Instead of focusing on my pet portraiture or business photography services, I spoke about my own journey with depression and anxiety, and how my Celebrate Yourself portrait service came about. This idea to capture a visual representation of our inner strength resonated with Janice, and it was the right time for her to share her journey. I am so grateful that she participated in the Celebrating Resilience project!

What does this portrait help you celebrate?

This portrait helps me celebrate where I am today. Over a decade ago I found myself at a crossroads. Life as I knew it was cut off from me and the path ahead was so dark with the unknown, I walked it with so much fear and felt blind as to what steps to take next. Stumbling around in the darkness of survival mode, then with help I found a bit of light I could follow. Throughout the years that bit of light has opened up to the brightness I now face each day with. I can now recognize my strength that has always been hidden inside me. Even though the path in front me is still unknown and a bit scary at times, I can boldly walk forward carrying the brightness with me to light my way.

Tell us about the major struggles you have experienced in your life.

I spent 8 years in an emotionally abusive relationship; of course, I did not see it as abusive at the time. Not until years of therapy helped me see my past did I start to recognize it as such. That is when I found out I was married to a narcissist. Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder has a distorted self image with intense, unstable and excessive emotions. A common description of narcissistic behaviour is love bombing, gaslighting, criticism with anger, humiliation and shame, as well as extreme jealousy. This was my life and even more scary, experiencing this behaviour from him daily felt “normal” to me.

We had to run away from our home, our job/schools, and the only community my children had ever lived in. We escaped to the lower mainland with our lives and a small suitcase with a few days’ worth of clothes. Homeless and terrified from the verbal threats I had received from him, we found refuge in a transition house. Shortly after arriving, the counsellors wanted me to talk about my childhood. (isn’t that what all therapists want to know? What was your childhood like?) I thought – that’s so annoying, everyone knows that your childhood has nothing to do with what is happening today – or does it?

Looking back over my life I now see that every step we take has everything to do with the steps we have taken. And yes, it goes as far back as childhood. At least that is where my low self-esteem started. I had trouble relating to people, kids my age, the adults in my life, and I found myself feeling bullied and alone. I could relate better to my dog than I could to my peers or the adults around me. By the time I was 14 I was having suicidal thoughts and felt utterly alone. Then I met a boy, and fell in love - a true love at first sight moment. We got married and spent 15 years together, and then circumstances in which we separated only caused my self-esteem to plummet even lower.

The dating scene knocked me down a few more rungs on that self-esteem ladder. Then I met the man of anyone’s dreams - a guy who loved me no matter how fat I was, no matter how ugly I was, no matter how stupid I was. I was reminded of this daily - how no one else could love me in my current state, but at least I had him, and I was so grateful. My self-esteem plummeted to zero over the course of our relationship with so many abusive tendencies that are too many to name here, and I truly believed that this man is the only man who can love me.

Then one day, circumstances landed me at a crossroads. Life suddenly threw a wall up behind me, which prevented me from returning to my conformable, familiar life. The road ahead of me was so dark with the unknown that I felt blinded.

Was there an Ah-Ha moment for you that led you on a path to resilience?

There really wasn’t an Ah-Ha Moment for me in the traditional sense. There was only a road block, that forced change. Interestingly enough the roadblock was behind me, not in front of me. I remember my brother asking me a very pointed question: “What are you going to do?” I simply said: “I don’t know what I am going to do, I just know that I can’t go back.”

I know people often ask - why do women go back to their abusers? Why would you go back to a situation like that where you would be in harm’s way? I know how, because I wanted to go back. At least I knew how to survive there, at least I felt loved there, at least I knew what to expect there.

Moving forward, I had no job, no place to live, no income, no spouse, no support, no familiarity, no normalcy. Welcome to your new normal.

During the early stages of counselling inside the transition house for abused families I discovered that I had a support network. There was the new friend Melody that I met in the transition house, there were the therapists at the transition house and the crisis centre, but my ah-ha moment in all of this was the people in my life that I didn’t see as support previous to this. My family! My mom, my dad, my brothers, my sister, and even my first ex-husband and his wife.

What are the steps you took to create change in your lives?

I had to do everything in my power for the sake of my children. The journey involved many components - transition houses, local police departments, RCMP, court houses, and social services became the centre of our lives. We had to leave behind everything. We saw counsellors and therapists, but no one seemed to be able to help me piece our lives back together again. I now began to truly understand the meaning of survival mode.

My brother once said to me during this process “you are the strongest person I know,” and I could not believe him at the time. I didn’t feel strong! How could anyone who was having several emotional breakdowns every day be considered strong. Yet, through all of this I did manage to find a place to live, get off income assistance, start holding down a job, and managed to get a steady income. I surrounded myself with animals as they became our therapists.

But without the continuation of professional therapy and journey towards wellness there came a time when things started to spiral out of control. With the help of the Crime Victims Assistance Program I was able to reach out and start some therapy again. This is where the steps to wellness really started to move us forward. We found a wonderful counsellor that worked with our whole family. Without the guidance of our very wise therapist, through some of our most difficult moments on the healing journey, I don’t think that our family would be as close as we all are today.

What are some of your coping tools to deal with anxiety?

At the very beginning I was afraid all the time. I was constantly looking over my shoulder; I was afraid of my own shadow. So, to start with I created small safety nets around us. At work my boss and few trusted coworkers knew, at school the principle and teachers knew, at home our landlord knew. Telling someone you can trust gives you some relief that someone else can watch your back, watch that shadow for you to give you a break.

Next was finding someone you can talk to about anything and everything. A trained professional is always advisable. They have resources at their fingertips that I didn’t even know existed. It was very interesting that the more I talked about my situation, the more other people opened up to me about their own situation, or someone they knew. You only feel alone as long as you keep silent. Anxiety, fear, depression, mental health issues; abuse is like Cancer. Everyone’s lives have been touched by it in one way or another, either directly or indirectly. Finding out that people around you, living in your own community have been touched by some of the same things that are touching your life finally makes you feel like you are not alone in this.

Therapy, therapy, therapy! Finding a therapist, counsellor, that is a good fit is so important. If at first you don’t succeed, it is important to keep trying until you find that fit. A good counsellor will help you with affordability too. My counsellor helped me for years with affordability, otherwise I would not have been able to afford to achieve wellness.

I learned so many coping tools for a variety of issues. I used a combination of medication and therapy to combat depression. I learned breathing techniques to ease anxiety. I learned how to talk myself down from a panic attack. Learned how to de-stress by taking myself back into nature. There is nothing more calming to me than sitting beside a small stream surrounded by trees. Just find somewhere that gives you peace. For some people it’s a book store, for me it is nature. I learned to look for and find the silver lining to every dark cloud. I now have a positive outlook on life.

I continue to evolve from the person I was so long ago with no self-esteem, who emerged on the other side of an abusive relationship; to trudge through anxiety, fear, depression, panic. Slowly, over a period of time, I built up my self-esteem, my self-awareness, my self-image, myself in general. I do not recognize the person I was so many years ago. As years pass, as time goes on, I am constantly changing and evolving. I am excited to discover who I am each day. For the first time ever, I’m excited to wake up every morning; I can’t wait to discover the road ahead of me.

When I started this healing journey, I always felt like there was a dark tunnel ahead of me with a small light at the end of it, but I was always afraid it was a freight train. I now feel that I am far enough on my wellness journey that I have emerged from the dark tunnel into the light. On occasion the darkness creeps around the sides of me, but now I look forward with the light, excited for the dark, unknown path in front of me.

What advice would you have for someone who is struggling?

If you feel like you are walking on eggshells around someone you love, or you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, chances are you experiencing anxiety and there is a better way to feel. Talk to someone you trust. Your friend, your boss, your doctor, your pastor - anyone who can listen and guide you in the right direction for professional help. Everyone could use a good therapist to help you change your mindset. To change the old things that run through your brain, the untrue self-talk, the “I am not worthy”, “I am too this, I am too that”, “I am not enough.”

I am living proof that you can come from “I am not worthy” to “I am enough.” It is not an easy journey, but so worthwhile. I can’t wait to discover who I am today.

Celebrating Resilience: Kim’s story

Kim Aikido

Kim and I were introduced by Andrew from Alongside You, as Andrew felt Kim would be a great participant in this project. I had the pleasure of taking part in one of Kim’s Aikido classes, which he teaches at the North Delta rec. centre, and was able to see the power of Aikido as a tool to centre oneself on many levels. Here is his incredible story.

What does this portrait help you celebrate?

The portrait expresses the idea of being resilient. The front cut demonstrates flow and precision – it symbolizes cutting through the negative energy with positive energy. My posture and stance represent stability, being centred and being ready.

Tell us about the major struggles you have encountered in life - how did they manifest, and how did they impact your life?

I’ve been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. In 2009, I had a psychosis and immediately had to move back to Vancouver from Tokyo. Perhaps due to the shock of being sick and having to be back home, I went through a major depression. It got so bad that I did seriously consider killing myself. I actually completed the government course to be able to purchase a gun.

I went through being completely happy in Tokyo - practicing aikido in the best dojo in the world, studying Japanese at an amazing language school, having an easy English teaching job to support my passions, and having a wonderful girlfriend - to being completely “f---ed up” in Vancouver. I felt like my heart and soul were ripped out of me.

My family told me to quickly “move on” and go back to work as an elementary school teacher. I survived two terms, but then had to go on medical leave for the rest of the year. I remember every day, during recess and lunchtime, closing the doors of my classroom, leaning back on my office chair with my head on the whiteboard, closing my eyes and just wanting to escape from reality.

I gave it another shot at “moving on” and going back to work the following school year, but only survived the first two weeks. After school was over at 3pm, being in the principal’s office, I was prepared to quit my job on the spot, but with the help of the principal and a call from the union executive, I went back on medical leave again. I just think it’s the ultimate worst when you’re really sick with a major depression and you’re just trying to convince yourself and others that everything is okay.

Perhaps because my parents couldn’t handle me being sick, I was asked to leave their house. Soon after, I remember calling 1-800-GOT-JUNK and getting rid of all of my stuff: my beautifully framed university degrees and aikido blackbelt certificates from Japan, my childhood Montreal Canadiens hockey cards collection, a personal album of aikido pictures that I treasured, etc. I told myself that I was done with life and it was pretty much over for me.

Was there an “a-ha” moment that guided you towards a path to take charge and create change for yourself?

I don’t think there was an “a-ha” moment or “major” turning point for me. Perhaps after a year of allowing myself to be very depressed, sleeping a lot, showering every 3 days, eating fast food whenever I was hungry, and mostly isolating myself at home, the “aikido spirit” within started awakening in me. I started spending more time “outside of class” with aikido friends from my local dojo, I even went on a trip to Toronto and Montreal to visit aikido friends, seniors in our aikido community.

Eventually, after about a year, I found the courage to step on the mats again at my local dojo. Even though I was 3rd degree blackbelt and had 20 years of aikido experience under my belt, I was out of shape physically and I was a “ghost inside”. The level of practice that I was used must have been completely off at the time. However, I did take pride in being a good aikido student and did not want to embarrass myself. After going to the dojo regularly, I eventually got a momentum going. Physical exercise and being active was good for me, spending time after class with friends was good for me, and aikido practice itself was good for me.

What steps did you take to create change in your life?

Once I got a momentum going especially with aikido practice, I started feeling better, was less depressed, had better self-esteem and better self-confidence, was better in terms of health and had a more positive outlook on life.

Throughout my depression, I kept seeing my psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse at the North Delta mental health centre, but eventually, I participated in the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) Health and Wellness program, worked with an occupational therapist and rehabilitation consultant, and was introduced to a psychologist. They helped me a lot throughout my recovery.

I went from volunteering in an elementary school classroom to gradually working again as a teacher-librarian twice per week for two years, to 3 times per week the following year, to 4 times per week the next year, to full-time the year after. I rediscovered my gift with children - the positive interaction and influence I had on them, especially as a person; as a teacher-librarian, I enjoyed promoting the joy of reading and how the library can be a fun place to hang out.

During that 4 year period of recovery, again with the momentum going with aikido practice and work as a teacher-librarian, I got a personal trainer and started going to the gym, I went downtown to do Japanese-English language exchanges, I regularly spent time with good friends over good meals, I completed my diploma in teacher-librarianship at UBC, I created an online dating profile and started going out on dates, I took salsa dance lessons for a year, went on local trips and travelled overseas, I started teaching aikido to beginners at my local dojo, I trained for my 4th degree blackbelt test, and I attended aikido seminars and summer camps with my instructor Osawa Sensei. Finally, some personal joy was instilled back in my life.

What are some of your coping tools to help you navigate through life’s challenges?

Aikido can be literally translated as “the way of unifying life energy” or “the way of harmonious spirit”. For me, aikido is a form of personal development and its philosophy teaches me how to approach and deal with conflict in general - inner conflict, conflict with people (spouse, family members, friends, colleagues, students, strangers, etc.), conflict at home or at work, conflict with my own mental disorder, conflict with life. My aikido practice informs me how to navigate through life’s challenges. My psychologist told me that aikido saved my life.

If there’s too much stress in my life, positive or negative, for an extended period of time, it could trigger a psychosis and an eventual depression. In order to minimize my stressors, I only work 3 times per week, I work closely with my psychologist whom I consider a mentor, I work on my own interpersonal and communication skills, I study from books like The Joy of Conflict Resolution or The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, I teach and practice aikido regularly, I seek out inspiring aikido teachers, I spend time with quality human beings (close friends and mentors), I spend a lot of time with my wife because she’s the most loving and supportive partner, and I take care of my mind, body, and spirit.

I view the body and mind to be important instruments that allow you to do amazing things and your spirit flourishes from those things. It’s so important to have the necessary resources to take care of them.

What advice do you have for someone going through a similar journey?

Surround yourself with people who are caring and supportive (spouses, friends, family, colleagues, teachers, mentors, etc.), have a team of professionals (psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, psychologist, occupational therapist, rehabilitation consultant, personal trainer, fitness instructor, etc.) help you get back on your feet.

Hopefully, everyone in your inner circle (personal and professional) are excellent at what they do in terms of care and support. If you have a mental disorder, accept it for what it is and deal with it accordingly. Be vulnerable when you get sick but be courageous when you recover. Work on being strong when you’re weak, but flexible when you’re rigid. Work on being centred and gaining balance when things aren’t going well and out of whack. There’s a lot of wisdom, knowledge and resources available to help you navigate through a mental illness and its challenges. Do your research and learn to be your best possible self, not only to fulfill yourself, but to fulfill others.

 

Celebrating Resilience: Andrew’s story

I met Andrew at a Ladner Business Association meeting while he presented about Alongside You and how that came to be. I immediately talked to him about Celebrating Resilience. So many things in Andrew’s story aligned with mine, and we both knew we had to work together to make this exhibition happen. For the sake of our community. Here is Andrew’s story.

What does this portrait help you celebrate?

Andrew

This portrait helps me celebrate getting to a place in my life where I feel I am resilient. The word resilience doesn’t mean we are free from the struggles that may have plagued us throughout our lives, but it means we’ve found a way to accept them, work with them, and come to a place where they are manageable.

Resilience is the constant adapting to our lives, environment, and challenges so that we can float on the surface of the water rather than getting sucked underneath the waves. The water may change from a flat, calm surface to even hurricane-style waves at times, but if we’re resilient, we’ll find a way to float even in the midst of great turmoil.

Tell us about the major struggles you have encountered in your life - how did they manifest, and how did they impact your life?

One of the greatest struggles I’ve had in life has been the ingrained feeling that who I am is not okay. That I don’t fit in. That I’m an outlier. Other than the fact that I am indeed an outlier, I’m not sure where the rest of it came from. This has been one of the hardest parts for me to understand.

I have been incredibly blessed in my life. I’ve always been aware of how fortunate I am from an early age. I’m adopted, and without going into details, statistically speaking I probably shouldn’t be here right now. I was adopted into an amazing, loving, wonderful family. We’re not perfect, but I couldn’t have asked for a better family. From the get go, there was no question as to whether I was wanted and loved.

Why, then, did I first discover what depression felt like at the age of 6? That’s not normal. Why, then, did I do well in school, sports, music, and otherwise, yet never feel like I was good enough? Why, then, did I decide to become a counsellor for people who couldn’t afford it at the age of 13, start up a non-profit counselling centre with a family friend while studying, only to almost fail out of my Masters degree program before I was even finished the practicum?

All the while struggling with crippling depression, suicidal thoughts, and generalized anxiety that at times was so bad, I could hardly stand up after getting out of bed.

Was there an “a-ha” moment that guided you towards a path to take charge and create change for yourself?

In retrospect, it was because I hadn’t accepted who I was, and that being different, an outlier, a bit of a radical, was okay. In fact, I had to own this. If I didn’t, I didn’t know how I could go on, and clearly, things weren’t working out the way I was doing them.

What steps did you take to create change in your life?

I had to stop believing I could do it all on my own, and that I had to somehow fit some image that I’d concocted in my mind of who I thought I needed to be based on what I thought others wanted. It also meant that I had to own the person that God designed me to be, even if that meant that I was different, going to ruffle some feathers, and possibly not fit into the box.

This was a long process. It involved responding in my Masters program in such a way that I was going to do counselling my way, not trying to fit into who I thought they wanted me to be as a counsellor. Lo and behold, it turns out that’s what they wanted all along.

It involved a lot of time spent trying to figure out who I was, getting in touch with my emotional world and accepting that how I think about things, how I do things, and the decisions I make aren’t going to make sense to some people, and might not make them happy.

It also meant I had to get help. I’m not good at asking for help (the irony, I know). It meant I had to be honest with my wife about how I was doing, and how I’d been doing for a long time. It meant trying a whole lot of different medications, some of which were very helpful. It meant being intentional about who I spent time with, who I connected with, the activities I was involved with, and prioritizing my own health and wellbeing.

Most of all, it meant choosing to be vulnerable with people, and with myself, even if it was uncomfortable. Not everyone is going to understand, and quite frankly, some people can’t handle it, and that’s ok. It’s part of the process of knowing who I am, who my key relationships are, and that it’s ok to be who I am. It also means I have to be picky about the circles I keep.

What are some of your coping tools to help you navigate through life’s challenges?

Music has always been my sanity. In the midst of the worst of it, I’ve always had music and it’s always been my go-to. Whether it’s writing music, listening to it, playing it, or all of the above, it’s central to my life. I’ve learned I have to be wary of letting this slide - it’s not always easy to make time, but I have to if I’m going to keep my resilience up.

I also know I have to be careful about the amount of time I’m “on” versus the time I’m resting. I am a very people-oriented introvert, and I do life at 100mph, driven by passion in a very challenging professional field. I have to be on my game in terms of rest and recovery. I read a very important article years ago that showed the relationship between rest and resilience, and it highlighted that resilience is learning to rest when you need to so that you can go hard again. I’ve had to accept that I go hard by default, and that this is ok and works well for me, but I have to learn how to rest. I’m still working on this.

I need relationships with key people. I’m not someone with 100 friends. In fact, I don’t have very many close friends. I’m friendly with just about anybody, but I don’t let a lot of people into my inner-world. I thought this was a problem, but I’ve learned it’s not. I have two very close friends who I’ve known for over 30 years each. I have my wife, who knows me better than anyone else in the world. I have a close-knit family. This is what I need. I also need people who speak into my life, call me out on my “crap” when needed, and believe in me and push me to be myself even when it’s hard.

Toward the latter, I have a counsellor who I’ve been seeing for about 7 years. I have a standing appointment. I don’t always know what I’m going to talk about but there’s always something. I remember our first session, I sat down and said to him, “I need someone who is going to stick with me, someone who is going to challenge me emotionally, and someone who will call me out on my crap. If you can do this, great. If not, here’s a cheque and thanks for your time.” To his credit, he’s held up his end of the bargain and I’ve needed that.

Last, but definitely not least, my faith is my anchor. It’s not always easy for this to be the case. I have so many questions for God about why this, and how could you, and more. What I do know, is that without my faith in Jesus, I would not be here right now. I would have given up a long time ago. Part of what I’ve learned over the years is that I have to have faith that He created me exactly as I am for a reason. As difficult as parts of me are, they make me who I am, and they’ve allowed me to do some things, with His help and the help of others, that I never would have thought possible. Not the last of which being what we’ve done in a very short period of time through our clinic Alongside You. While we are not a faith-based organization, and not everyone working with us shares a Christian faith, there are things that are happening that I cannot explain other than the hand of God. I am beyond grateful for what He has chosen to do through me, and the others in our clinic, and it is what excites me and keeps me going.

What advice do you have for someone going through a similar journey?

If you want to be resilient, you have to own who you are: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Accepting ourselves and living out our lives with vulnerability, honesty, and staying true to who we’re created to be is not easy, at least it hasn’t been for me. What it does do, however, is keep us accountable to our path, to what we were created for, and gives us hope in the times where we most need it.

We are all unique. Some of us are outliers and renegades. We all have a purpose. If we own that, we have hope.

 

Celebrating Resilience: Meg’s story

Meg

I had the pleasure of meeting Meg through Andrew, and seeing the beautiful art space at Alongside You that she uses to support others in healing. Meg’s struggles with chronic pain are truly eye opening to invisible struggles, and her story has a lot to teach about empathy and resilience.

How does this portrait help you celebrate resilience?

This is a portrait of my hands. My body is blurred in the background, representing the overwhelming fog of migraines and chronic pain I live with every day. Instead of focusing on my body’s weakness and pain, I want to focus on what my hands can do rather than what my mind and body can’t do. My hands explore and shape clay and dough and brush strokes of colour on wood and canvas and my fingers glide beads together and hold pens to write and draw, all with the purpose to manage my pain, reflecting on the thoughts of my heart, sharing my story and helping to support others on their chronic pain journey.

Tell us about your history with chronic conditions and pain. How did your symptoms manifest, and how did that affect your life?

I grew up in a close-knit immediate and extended family and with neighbours that became family. It is this support system that got us through challenging times. You see, our family is quite unique. I have an amazing identical twin sister who has a rare form of dwarfism and is profoundly deaf. Much of our childhood was spent in and out of specialist appointments, and long hospital stays for the 18 surgeries she endured. Both my parents worked extremely hard to normalize our life. We ate dinner at the table together whether or not it was in our home or at the hospital. With the inability to do more active activities together, my twin and I found that art was a fun way to pass the time and to connect with each other. We got used to adapting almost everything and were clever in constructing a mobile table top we could lean on her hospital bed. My parents normalized our childhood by giving us tasks based on our abilities. I put dishes away and my sister did the silverware. I put groceries away, and my sister snapped the ends off of green beans and when bed ridden, she folded socks while on her back. We were taught to adapt to any situation and focus on what we could do rather than what we couldn’t. Little did I know that this was going to be one of the most important life lessons I learned about resilience.

You see, in 2011 a car accident left me with daily chronic pain. I went through days that turned into weeks that turned into months that turned into years of suffering from chronic migraines, seized muscles, balance issues, ulnar nerve pain, cognitive impairments, and limited physical mobility. Our family life swung into emergency mode and I was unable to manage daily activities, drive, help with the kids, or do even simple tasks like set the table. We relied on family, friends, nannies, and our church for meals and childcare. Our life rotated around rehabilitation that consisted of physiotherapy, acupuncture, massage, trigger point injections, Botox treatments, and medial branch blocks. It was a couple of years before I felt strong enough to manage the kids unassisted and it was a challenge to take back the reins of parenthood.

Even now in 2019, I rely on medication, ongoing surgical procedures on nerves in my spine every 6-8 months and physical rehabilitation. The persistent pain makes normal daily activities excruciatingly difficult. I am in pain every…single…day. Each day, I struggle to keep up with those around me. Chronic pain follows me wherever I go.

What I didn’t expect was the flood of emotions that have come with physical pain. My spirit is still trying to digest feelings of stress, anger, isolation, disappointment, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. There is anger over lost time with family; grief over the career I once had; frustration with daily physical pain and low energy; disappointment with not being able to be consistent with family, work and friends; guilt over the burden I place on others with no hope of returning the favour, and so much more.

Was there an “A-Ha” moment that helped you take charge and create change for yourself?

Along with medication and regular exercise, I have been getting surgical procedures approximately every 8 months to cauterize nerves in my spine. I’ve had three procedures so far and am due for another surgery next month. I have felt a little stronger after the surgeries but as the months progress, and nerves regenerate, my acute pain comes back. Each year my prognosis is the same. I am told it is unlikely that I will make a full recovery but the focus now is on the management of symptoms. After years of hope with each new medical intervention that I would “recover,” I knew I needed to make peace with my pain and learn to adapt to my “new normal.”

How have you been able to cope?

My faith is what has helped me to move forward. It has sustained me and has played a huge role in my day to day functioning. It has provided me with guidance and has uplifted me in the ways I needed the most. Through regular reading, journaling, and art making, previous entries or works of art remind me just how far I’ve come.

Those around me have also played a huge role in my ability to cope. Clinicians, counsellors, doctors, and specialists have all played a major role in my management of pain but more importantly, it has been the support of family and friends that has carried me. Amongst all the procedures and despite their own busy lives, they have cared for our children, attended specialist appointments, helped us with housework, helped us financially, and have given us the gift of rest when needed. Additionally, my twin, who lives out her bucket list despite her challenges, is a constant source of inspiration to move forward. The support of my husband and children has been unwavering despite all the ups and downs. This experience has allowed our family to show each other just how much we care. Growing up dealing with medical difficulties has helped me press on, to be resilient and to live life as best I can.

How have you been able to create change in your life?

Teaching at a post-secondary level and participating in research around culture and art was my plan. Not being able to return to a profession I was deeply passionate about or to a career I thought I would have has been one of the hardest things to get over. I have slowly been re-inventing myself based on my current abilities and am trying to do the best I can to find joy in my life. I have been lucky enough to have a husband who has supported me and has helped me carve out my new career and use my skills as an artist and my background as an anthropologist to create art programs for those of all abilities, ages, and diagnoses. Focusing outwardly on helping others and building meaningful relationships has given me a purpose beyond myself, beyond my pain. Our integrated health clinic, Alongside You, was formed out of a desire to work in the community and be close to home, and more importantly, to provide a place where I could do something meaningful at my own pace. It has since blossomed into a rapidly growing business which gives us the encouragement to continue our work in the community, and me the ability to continue carving out my new professional life based on my abilities and stamina on any given day.

What are you learning as you live with your challenges?

I have learned the importance of approaching everyone with empathy. Because chronic pain (and even mental health) is an invisible illness, I am more keenly aware that though others may look fine, we never know what someone is going through. It has been an important lesson to learn.

I have also learned to live in the moment. Being mindful of the present moment and noticing the details around me has helped me put my pain on the back burner, even for just a moment. Remembering to celebrating the small victories, such as walking 10 mins more than last week, or the ability to go grocery shopping unassisted, has also been an important skill. These milestones, however small, are triumphs that spur me on.

The hardest thing, however, has been to learn to make peace with my situation. There is no end in sight for those with chronic pain. You yearn for the things that you were once able to do and you grieve the things you have not yet done. I’ve been learning that if you dwell on it, it can drag you down. I can make a choice every day of whether or not I am going to let the pain take over. I can choose to do things that are constructive or destructive in my managing of symptoms. It’s about making good choices and building a life worth living.

What advice would you give someone that is currently having a hard time with chronic conditions/pain?

I think the biggest thing for me is knowing it's ok to ask for help. It’s hard to ask for help, especially if you need help frequently. Help sometimes indicates defeat, stresses helplessness and highlights our deficiencies. We need to know that it’s ok to be vulnerable, because if we don’t share how we are really doing, we can’t expect those around us empathize with us or even support us using their unique skills and knowledge. Talking about what your life is like is how we tackle stigma. This is why I’ve participated in this project. You never know when your story will inspire others.


If you want to leave a comment about the project, you can do so at the bottom of my blog post about it here.

We invite you to make a donation to Alongside You’s Step Forward program - this is an important community resource which helps people access subsidized services. If you wish to make a donation, please put “Celebrating Resilience” in the dedication box here: https://www.alongsideyou.ca/sfp-sponsorship-form/.