love

Its Ok To Not Be Ok #bellletstalk

Our readers who have been following for awhile may remember my post last year paying respect to Bell's "Let's Talk" media campaign raising awareness for mental illness. I have the utmost respect for this campaign. I feel like while there are lots of gimmicky things out there, this truly does open eyes in the right way.

Last year I came out to the vast and judgmental internet world on this very blog and disclosed that I have Bipolar 1 disorder. Like, the real deal. I know a thing or two about mental illness. I know what its like to be treated, educated, and extremely functional; and I know what its like to be untreated, uninformed, and have no idea what kind of animal I was dealing with.

Flash back to my late teens and early 20s... I would suffer either crippling bouts of panic, anxiety, paranoia and depression, or I would go on a manic trip when I was a really good time, and loved to recklessly party, spend a lot of money and make generally poor life choices without ever considering the consequences. #hotmess

In fairness, I'm still a good time and I still like to spend a lot of money. Wine and shopping anyone? To that extent, no matter how in control I am, I still have to evaluate how I'm doing on the regular and do some self-reflection. I've recently been under an extreme amount of stress and realized as a result, I was a starting to lean the wrong way on the batshit spectrum. I had to have a laugh at myself, remind myself I'm smarter than that, and to and to get myself in check. I often get myself in check and clear my head through exercise and I think I've put over 40km on my treadmill this week alone. I wouldn't have done that before. I would have just boarded the crazy train and found out where it was headed later. Happy travels! Not.

Since I've become quite open about having BP with the #1 reason being helping others, the most common thing I hear is "Really?? You would never know!" No, you wouldn't. I know my body and I know when I'm headed for a low or a high, if a panic attack is coming, and more importantly, how to deal with it. I know to trust the feeling of anxiety and use it as a compass  as to what is going on and what could be coming. For instance, if I wake up in the night with a song running through my head, that's a clear indication that a panic attack is coming. I've learned this many times the hard way. I know that trying to breathe it out, or trying to go back to sleep won't work. I get my ass up and take a little orange pill designed to cut that sh*t off at the pass. Back to sleep, crisis averted. Modern medicine is fabulous, don't ever discount that.

It's 100% true. Unless I told you, which I just did, you would never know. I'm living proof that you can live life as a normal, totally functional, successful person. I make poor decisions and do dumb stuff just like anyone else, but they are almost always a result of too much wine and have nothing to do with my illness. Let's be real, I keep Kim Crawford in business... and girls? We be cray. Its in our DNA. #whoruntheworld?

The thing is, in my job I talk to people all day. I mean it. All day. I'm even known to answer my emails while on the treadmill, which is both difficult and nauseating. Whether it be via phone, text, email, instagram, facebook, snapchat... its always ongoing. The physical act of holding my client's hands or trusting their bodies to me head to toe during appointments, capturing the moments between them and their loved ones, or putting faith in me to make them feel their most beautiful on their most important of days... I get to know people more than anyone realizes. It makes me understanding, wise, sympathetic, intuitive, empathetic, and I've become all but a master of figuring out what makes people tick. I firmly believe trying to understand others makes you a better person, so ask questions and really listen to the answers.

That said, getting to know people in that capacity has taught me something very valuable. Mental illness, as we've come to know it in the media, isn't always a diagnosed condition. A specific ailment. Trust me, I'm the last person to downplay a diagnosed disease (yo, I have one), but people without these lifetime genetic, chemical ailments suffer too.

Perhaps you've suffered a crisis in your life and you've been shaken to the point of unbearable stress, or something epic has taken away your ability to trust others. When these things rock your world, then your actual mental health also suffers.

If you've endured day after day of stress at home with your kids, job, or partner that leaves you really tightly wound, your mental health will suffer.

If you find yourself lost because you can only identify with one role in your life, be it your career, as a mother, or a spouse, you may start to feel unfulfilled and it will eat away at you without even realizing it.

Don't even get me started on money, post-partum, sexual assault, domestic abuse, childhood trauma, critical illness, or PTSD. The list is f*cking endless.

Regardless of the reason, if you are struggling with anxiety or depression, don't discount it just because mental illness has become all but a catch phrase in the news. Talk to someone who has been through it and has come out on the other side. They will understand, trust me on that one. That's where you will get the seriously honest and effective advice. An expert on coping with mental illness is undoubtedly someone who has one and manages it; empathy is a powerful thing.

One thing I know for sure is that when your mental health suffers, your physical health will follow suit and vice-versa. Just like everything in the world, it's all connected. If you are going to get down to brass tacks, you have to take care of yourself. There are 4 non-negotiable pillars that connect mental and physical health. I can attest to this because I've put them to the test time and again. (Except hygiene that is, hot showers are the best and I love dental floss.) The keys to the kingdom are this:

1.            Sleep

2.            Nutrition

3.            Exercise

4.            Hygiene

It's easier said than done to keep all four of those in check all the time. You may think you do but are you getting 45-60 minutes of exercise that elevates your heart rate every day? Do you have a balanced diet within your calorie range? Do you catch enough zzz's? Do you drink enough beer? Oops, did I say that last part? See? Harder than it sounds.

All that said, I've learned over the years that the effort it takes is well worth the outcome, so keep those things in your back pocket and remember them.

Its ok to not be ok. What isn't ok is accepting that you have to live like that.  You don't. Its ok to have a layover in Crazytown (its a popular place, kind of like Vegas...) but don't unpack your bags and live there. You are ultimately the only one who can take control of how you choose to live. Life can change in a heartbeat and you have no idea what kind of plot twists are on the horizon. Don't be afraid to take risks, do some dumb things, laugh at yourself if you're acting batshit, and roll with the punches. And never, ever be afraid to ask for help. 

No matter the circumstance, you are worthy of happiness. The world is at your fingertips, so grab that sh*t and make some magic happen. You deserve it.

Until next time, remember that you are never alone and the only way out is through. 

Katie xoxo

#bellletstalk

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Motherhood. It's #allofthethings

Last week my sweet baby turned one. He is a legit walking, talking (okay mostly babbling) little human being. A little human being who has amazed me, challenged me, and taught me more about life and love in the last year than I could have imagined possible.

Motherhood is way more than I thought it would be. It's all encompassing and it's full of surprises. It's exhausting, its thankless at times and it's FULL of rewards.  In the last year I have experienced every emotion the human soul can, I've done things I didn't think I was capable of doing, I've felt like a superhero and I've been sure I was a failure. There are no parameters to motherhood, no hard and fast rules, and no way to be prepared for most of it. Motherhood is SO many things.

It's seeing the adoration in his bright little eyes when he looks at you like you are the only thing in his world.

It's eating bites of food off his highchair tray in between sips of re-heated coffee for breakfast. And sometimes lunch. And sometimes dinner. 

It's a top knot and sweatpants. And probably food / milk / puke on your shirt.

It's turning absolutely anything you say into a song to calm the crying. Or whining. Or both.

It's waking up at 12am. And 3am. And 5am. Its learning to power through on broken, interrupted sleep. 

It's seeing him take his first steps and cheering and clapping, and then bursting into tears. 

It's struggling to accept that your body is forever changed. It's leaning into and celebrating the change. 

It's being out for a much needed drink with your friends and praying the text that just came through says "He's fast asleep!" instead of "When can he have advil...?" #teethingmonster

It's wanting a break SO BAD and then missing him when you get it. 

It's watching him sleep and listening to him breathe instead of looking at your to do list. 

It's forgetting if you've done something/ bought something / called someone back.... seriously I can't remember shit... #imsotired

It's being exhausted and emotional and still being expected to be all of the things to all of the people. 

It's learning to sleep sitting up with him on you, or beside you, or between you, because getting him to sleep trumps where he sleeps that night. 

It's the feeling you get when he only wants his mama. 

It's playing peekaboo through the shower curtain so you can wash your damn hair (but probably not blow dry it).

It's missing out on plans, and parties and spur of the moment things. And being totally okay with it (like 95% of the time). 

It's asking for help. Because it really does take a village. And sometimes the village is family and friends.... and sometimes it is the Superstore click and collect and a Starbucks drive through #allofthecoffee.

It's your heart bursting and breaking at the same time. With love, and awe, and wistfulness at the time going by way too quickly. 

It's a 24 hour a day gig. And it's the best gig I've ever had. 

xo. 

Megan

photo: Nicole Romanoff Photography

photo: Nicole Romanoff Photography

Back To Good

I've recently spent a good chunk of time living in a zombie like state of chaos. I've been checked out mentally and physically and didn't even realize it. I felt like I was accomplishing my day-to-day activities, but then I blinked and maybe a month had passed, maybe two? Maybe 6? I don't know, but I DO know that we all get stuck in ruts from time to time. Sometimes our lives can unravel right in front of our noses. I'd like to say it happens to the best of us, but frankly, I have no idea what kind of life problems you people out there in Internet Land have. Let's just say that you can relate to this. If not, click the back button, cause this post isn't for you. If you've ever found yourself coasting day to day like that Groundhog Day movie, except not one bit funny... read on, friends. 

I was lost and I had no idea. The smiling, funny, ambitious, compassionate, adventurous girl I knew when I looked in the mirror had left the building, and a deadpan version had taken her place. I had become really good at faking it sometimes, sometimes not. That was not ok. Not for me, and not for those closest to me. Let's be real, the he ones you love end up taking the brunt of something like this, because we often take them for granted, or we don't notice how our actions even differ from one day to the next.

I ended up unexpectedly hitting a wall, and I was forced to realize that some changes needed to happen for me asap to break out of my Garbage Pail Kid state and find myself again. After all, how can you be the best person for for those you love when you aren't respecting yourself? They say you have to do it for YOU, but sometimes you want to do it for others too, and it pushes you that much harder. 

An authetic paparazzi capture of me currently trying to bumble through life. 

An authetic paparazzi capture of me currently trying to bumble through life. 

I started with small things and will keep working on cultivating my little personal growth seed. Things take time. When dealing with self-care, I tell myself each day is a new opportunity to be humble and do the best I can. (Chicken Soup For The Soul Anyone?? God, what has become of me?) Realistically, some days I get up and feel like there is no reason to do anything other than go back to bed. But its one day at a time with these things. We, as women, (and for those male readers who can relate to this), think. We are thinkers. We are often over thinkers. Sometimes that thinking can propel us forward with strength and grace, and sometimes it leaves us feeling defeated, internalizing the blame for everything you felt you've ever done wrong.  For now, if you're struggling too, here are my Top 10 little things for starting to get myself back to good. 

1. Making my bed. Seriously. Such a small thing, but something I started doing before anything else in the morning. Start the day with a small accomplishment that will be waiting for you when the day is done. 

2. Making sure my dogs get a run. It is a priority and a privilege to treat other living things with respect, rather than viewing them as a hassle. As humans, we are all they have. 

3. Feed and water myself. This should be a no-brainer, but not necessarily the case when you are a resident of Zombieland. I try to always have a huge cup of tea in the morning and strive for at least 80oz of water a day. This is aside from wine, mmmkay? Then eat something, anything, try to pick something healthy I guess. Or live off Triscuits if you must, its better that nothing. 

4. Make a plan. What do I need to get done today?  I make an effort to clean up and respect my space so I can have some clarity.  I may not get every daunting thing done at once, and some things may get done later than sooner, but I make a list and take it one task at a time. Yard work, fixing shit, decluttering, washing walls, it all sucks. However, it's satisfying when something gets done, because I can check it off the list. I love lists. 

5. Take the time to make someone else feel good about themselves. The smallest thing can make someone's day. I believe in putting little bits of good energy out there, because it will come back around. A little check in with someone can go a long way in today's checked out world. 

6. Cry it out. Sometimes you just have to. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere, sometimes in unfortunate places and situations. Often it happens at home, when you are alone. Sometimes it might feel like a private purge of emotion, but most times you will likely wish someone else was there to see you at your worst and comfort you. It's when nobody is there that you really are forced to dig down deep and find your strength. 

7. Make time for physical activity. Easier said than done, cause frankly, it sucks ass. But our bodies and minds are connected and if they are outta whack, we won't feel good. It gives us clarity. I try to pick something that I don't dread that day, maybe something new, take a workout friend, switch it up. Even just go for a walk. (Maybe I should get some of those weird walking sticks I see people with... google them, they are bizarre.) Just get out and move. 

8. Indulge. Watch a shitty reality tv show, read a crappy thriller, meet friends for a beer, take a soak in the hot tub, drink the expensive glass of wine. Do those little things that make you feel sneaky and awesome. Maybe it's sitting by yourself watching re-runs of Master Chef while eating cold ravioli out of a can... Is that beyond the scope of acceptable? #askingforafriend

9. Choose kindness. Choose optimism. Choose forgiveness.  Choose love. Believe in happy endings. It can be difficult in hard times, I know, but break out those rose coloured glasses whenever you possibly can. 

10. Sleep. I don't care how you do it. I do it my own way with good old fashioned sleeping pills because that's how I roll. it's about as badass as I get. But you can meditate, use breathing exercises, smoke dope, take melatonin, get someone to knock you out with a frying pan for f*cks sake, or by all means, join the pharmaceutical Valley Of The Dolls like me. Have a good bed, good pillows, and remember that your body can't function without proper rest. 

Are all of this things easy? Hell no. If they were I wouldn't be writing about this floofy crap. But but when things are sh*tty,, we have to start somewhere. Will my little things work for you? Maybe, but maybe not. We all need to find ways to plant our little seeds and try to feel calm, accomplished, and worthy of living another day. So even if there is one person out there who feels like you're living in chaos and cruising along in a big ol' rut - take a deep breath, ask for help, you aren't alone. 

Take it one day at a time. 

Start by making your bed. 

Katie xoxo

HAVE YOU LOVED YOU TODAY?

It’s the day of love.

A day when the world tells you to appreciate your significant other by buying them a red rose, a piece of jewelry, and making a reso at a nice restaurant.  I love jewelry, flowers, and good food so by no means is this blog post about the commercialization of Valentine’s Day.  This post is more about the things I have seen over the course of my almost 34 years.  I came across a Facebook status yesterday that struck a chord inside me. It read “No Longer Looking”. It wasn’t that this person had found love but instead felt frustrated that they simply couldn’t, felt deflated, and wanted to give up.  I want to tell the world that the only person you need to love is yourself and here is why-

My opinion varies on the subject.  It seems to be in human nature and probably a lot to do with the culture we live in that we join hands and walk two by two-before you get too old or you are deemed faulty.  If you reflect on past generations we have certainly come a long way from marrying within your postal code and not skipping a beat to start your family. Today, there seems to be less pressure to marry in your early twenties and jump into the minivan.  I still hear women talk about the time clock, how they wish they could just find the “one”, and have kids.  It’s like the movie Pleasantville.  We are not fulfilled in life if we don’t have the white picket fence, perfect home, and a variety of charger plates for our dinner parties. And look at little Chantal’s view on her future….I was drinking the Kool-Aid.

My 10 year old self predicting the future...

My 10 year old self predicting the future...

Well it’s safe to say that my path didn’t quite end up with a cargo van of kids, a multi profession career, or the horses. I blame the Hasbro game “Life” …if you took the college route you made bank, throw in a few of those extra pegs and you were set to WIN.  Now, the storybook of my actual life had a bit of college, some travelling, and a variety of relationships including a short marriage. Far cry from the routine pathway I took in my favourite board game. 

What the game of life also didn’t teach me was it isn't as easy as falling on the space that said GET MARRIED- then place your appropriate gender colored peg in your car.  It was much more difficult.  I had a theme for over a decade- it was simply to pick the wrong guys. It has taken quite a few years to figure out the common link to each of them and in all my reflecting it was the lack of self-love. People simply have to be happy with themselves to be happy with another person.  I was also to blame because, staying or picking these types of men in my life was normal and I made it acceptable to be treated that way.  I lacked the love for myself. There was everything from mental abuse, alcoholism, dishonesty, manipulation, infidelity, oh the list goes on… over years I became a shell of a person. It was completely normal for someone to treat me with complete disrespect.  It became all I knew.  Even when I would end a bad relationship I seemed destined to arrive at another one.

I took a stand one day.  Told everyone around me that I was not interested in dating ever again. I was over it.  No one could be trusted.  I wasn’t willing to have my heart ripped out of my chest anymore.  Maybe it’s with age I started to learn who I was and that I refused to be mistreated.  By no means would I say that I have the world of relationships figured out but, I started to feel more confident and secure when expecting to be treated a certain way.  I wasn’t going to stay silent and just live with it.  I used to be so scared to stand up for my feelings. Fear that the other person would judge me and maybe they would walk away- be the one to leave me!  In the end…isn’t that better? To figure out that you’re not each other’s person before another 3 years goes by.  ‘Fake it till ya make it’ doesn’t work in matters of the heart.

When I look at all the people that surround my life I can directly pin point the ones in relationships that I believe are great examples-relationship mentors.  These individuals love themselves (not in a selfish, I only put my needs first kind of way) but in a I respect myself enough to choose a partner in life that treats me the way I demand to be treated and I also show that same respect back to my person.  I watch some relationships from afar and just think...if only you knew that you don’t deserve to live like that.  People had looked at me and I can guarantee they said the same thing. 

So in closing I want to reiterate that no one should ever feel like their life is behind because they haven’t found their person, started that family, with horses, on that acreage.  You will stumble, question your gut, then your heart, then your gut again.  You will curse the game.  But get back in that car and enjoy the ride.  Learn from your mistakes, no really….actually learn from them.  Recognize the red flags and the green ones too. 

So on this day of LOVE, I want to ask you...have you loved YOU today?

Chantal XOXO