Hi, I'm Tilena

Hi, I’m Tilena.

As a homeschool child, my mother put me in every extracurricular class under the sun. When I was 6, I was put in an art class and absolutely loved it. After that, I made sure to be put in an art class every year. From when I was homeschooled (grades 1-4), in middle school, and in high school.  As I got older, I would use it as a way to escape the overwhelming stress of life. I would let all my emotions flow out onto paper. I’ve always found it so relieving to express myself through art, and turn my thoughts into something visual and beautiful.

Creating is extremely important to me and my mental health. When I was around 10, my parents got a divorce. Although it was for the best, the stress of it went on for years and years and really took a toll on me. The stress almost felt never-ending. The awkward living arrangements, the tears, the arguments, the extreme budget cuts. Everything added up. This was hard for me, especially being an only child, which made me feel a lot more alone in the struggle.

High school then came, which can be such a cruel place. Whispers in the hall of how you’re “not good enough”,  “not fit enough”, “not smart enough”, etc. They may just be words, but they settle in your mind for a very long time and reflect on the way you treat yourself and talk to yourself throughout your life. Me, being very weak at that time, listened to these things and took them to heart. I started to feel so unloveable, alone, gross and damaged. Throughout all the years of hardships, I started to develop depression and anxiety. It felt like every little negative thing that happened in my life, kept adding bricks to the wall I built between me and happiness. 

Luckily I had my art classes. In high school, I had the most amazing art teacher who believed in me endlessly. It was such a new and refreshing feeling. She gave me so much hope and made me feel like I had a purpose. She pulled out a light in me that I had never seen shine before. I realized how deeply thankful I was for art. Choosing to have people around who I believed in and who believed in me, truly saved me. I grew confidence and started to knock down some of those bricks in the wall that I built up over the years. It was crazy how a small joyful hobby, led me to the right people and to a slice of mental freedom. 

In time, I started to get tired of being a sad story. I decided that it was time to make my LIFE a work of art. I began to take control of my life, and make positive changes. I started eating healthy, working out 5-6 days a week, hiking, taking care of my health, taking care of my home and the things I owned very thoroughly. Once I moved out, I became a huge minimalist. Everything I own has a purpose. My space, my routine, my schedule, everything is well thought out and organized.

I finally started to feel an abundance of self-love. I finally grasped the confidence to share my art with others, and genuinely feel the admiration when they display my work in their homes. Art has always been there for me through all the ups and all the downs. It’s been more than just a hobby, It has been my savior.

By sticking with the things that brought me joy, surrounding myself with the right people, and embracing my passion, it truly made a big difference in my life. Never give up on what makes you smile, or what makes you – YOU. Those little things that bring you joy, could one day be the thing that inspires you to make a big and beautiful life change. 

I create minimalistic art to resemble beauty in the little things. We should all take the time to appreciate the things that bring us joy. They’re more powerful than you think. Slow down, breathe and embrace simplicity. 

– Tilena Read “

Hi, my name is Callista

Hi, my name is Callista.

At first, when Tamara asked me to write a post for Project Night Light around mental wellness, I didn’t think that my story, met the impact of what this incredible Not for Profit is. But upon reflection, I now believe that I initially felt that way because I haven’t really sat down to think about my experiences with mental health in this way,  which is exactly why being able to share our experiences is so important.

“No-one told me that grief felt so like fear”.

This quote encaptures fully how grief has affected me, more so than I can express in my own words. I can still remember the night my sister and I were told that our mom had terminal lung cancer. I can remember what I was doing, eating, even where I was standing in my house when my Dad called me at 9:00 PM to help him move a couch. I remember the short drive feeling like forever because I knew something was wrong. I remember the exact words spoken, and how my sister and I both fell into our mom, who sat between us, hugging her tightly and crying. I remember all of this more than I do my mothers laugh, her voice, her touch. After that night, I was introduced to a lingering sense of fear and anxiety, unlike anything I knew before. If I am being honest with myself, that fear still exists today.

Leading up to my mom passing, I experienced only what I could describe as a rollercoaster of emotions. I felt displaced anger, knowing that I was losing my mother when others (thankfully) get to have a lifetime with theirs. I felt guilty, especially when I saw my mother in so much pain, a skeleton of who she was both physically and emotionally, and I wished for her to go so she wouldn’t feel that way anymore. I felt guilty about being in school and working…and seeing my friends. I felt fear, anytime I left my mom to go home, or when I missed a phone call. I slept with my phone in my hand for two years, fearful and anxious of the call I knew was coming. My anxiety would take form in other ways; the inability to focus at school or meet deadlines at work. I lost my appetite and didn’t practice self-care physically or emotionally. I felt like a shell of who I was – I felt powerless, vulnerable, scared, unmotivated…even small tasks would seem hard.

That call did finally come in April 2015, and I had to physically say goodbye to my mom. It may sound strange but I was ready too. I had two years to prepare…they call this anticipatory grief.

In those two years, I was able to cope, barely, with my situation. I think that from the outside it was hard to maybe tell how fragile I was on the inside. I don’t even think I recognized it myself. I am lucky that during those two years( and presently) I had a community that was the lifeline for my mental health. It wasn’t until after my mother passed that I began to focus on and realize how important my mental health is, and how to manage my grief. Grief has no normal timeline, it is not finite, as even though someone has physically left you, there are parts of them that linger – that you say goodbye to in pieces.

I have learned to understand this process, and it is still something that changes and adapts often. The first step I took for myself and for my mental health was to take time for my self-care, rebuilding that shell of myself, my soul and my physical well-being. For me, this was a long period of reflection and allowing myself to face my feelings. If I wanted to cry over making zucchini ( because it reminded me of my mom) I let myself cry. If I wanted to laugh until it hurt at something I let myself laugh without feeling guilty because I should according to some people be in mourning and sadness.

I learned to identify what my grief triggers are, for me it’s Christmas, for others it could be different. To cope with my grief during these times, I turn to yoga, music, writing, as well as surrounding myself with a strong community. I also learned that if I can take something that makes me feel sad and turn it into a positive it helps. Spending time at Christmas focusing on volunteering helps me cope with the sadness I feel. Another trigger is when someone tells me how I should feel. Grief is very personal, and by recognizing my triggers and being able to talk about how I feel, I am able to put my mental wellness first. I have learned that it is OK to talk about how I feel and ask for help and to be honest with myself about where I am mentally. My grief has manifested itself in new ways, and I have discovered I still have fear and anxiety that lingers underneath the surface. I am fearful and anxious when I get phone calls at weird hours and when someone is vague when I have 10 missed call from my Dad… I have realized I don’t respond well to those situations – I shut down, I cry, shake –  and have to work through this new form of anxiety. The positive is that I can identify that it is a trigger and talk about my anxiety and manage my stress.

In reflection, it is so important to be mindful, to encourage conversation, to seek help and know it is OK to ask for help,  to put your self-care first and lean on your support system. It is OK to express your feelings – for me, it has been freeing as it allows me to acknowledge the impact of my mothers’ life.

My situation is not unique, but the ways in which each person copes is unique. What doesn’t change is the importance of being in tune and mindful to your own mental wellness and where to turn to cope with grief, anxiety, fear and anything else you may be feeling. Knowing your own triggers and being able to manage your stress can be life-saving –  triggers for my own anxiety and grief has helped me climb out of very sad and dark places. The stigma around mental health is something we need to challenge, and everyone from our kids to our grandparents has to know it is OK to love themselves and feel free from judgment so that they can feel supported. I am so grateful to organizations like Project Nightlight for working to break the stigma.

Hey, I’m Chaundra

Hey, I’m Chaundra.

When @projectnightlightyyc asked me to contribute to this amazing cause of course I agreed, and as a therapist nearing the end of my graduate studies I immediately had a number of things run through my mind as to what to talk about. I have dedicated a vast amount of my life so far to learn about psychology, so how would I ever choose one topic?!

Then I paused.

This is a forum for personal stories wherein everyday human beings share their struggles with mental health in hopes of bringing this community of humanity a little bit closer. So with that, I decided to take off my therapist hat and speak honestly from a personal perspective.

My story is about loss…..a type of loss that isn’t always recognized for the emotional devastation it can cause, like that of suddenly losing a loved one. Five years ago I lost my marriage. I lost my home. I lost my family. I lost my life as I knew it.

It felt like a bomb had been dropped. There were pieces scattered everywhere and the pain was overwhelming. I spent days unable to do anything but cry. The grief consumed me. I felt completely immobilized. Initially, I reached out to family and friends for support, but as time went on I felt like a burden. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. It was then that I became isolated and withdrawn.

I hid it.

I didn’t want my family, friends, or anyone for that matter, to know how much I was suffering. I was ashamed that my marriage hadn’t been successful. I was also ashamed that I “couldn’t handle this”. I remember wondering why I always felt so sad. There wasn’t a day that went by without this overwhelming sadness creeping in. I would tell myself that my experience must not be “normal” because it was so consuming, and I would chastise myself for allowing the sadness to endure for so long. I would have thoughts like, “people get separated and divorced all the time, what’s the matter with you?”, “why can’t you manage this?”, “why can’t you just move on?”.

The grief slowly turned into depression.

I quit doing the things I loved, and when I did participate I couldn’t experience feelings of happiness. I secluded myself from my friends. I quit taking care of myself. Enter shame and guilt associated with the loss. I had 2 beautiful, very young daughters to whom I couldn’t provide the sense of family I wanted for them. I felt defeated. I also felt completely alone. Especially, when I was separated from my children while they spent time with their father. I lived with these ugly, dark emotions that swallow a person’s joy whole. I had lost myself.

And then I did the work.

I found an inner strength I didn’t realize I had. It was an innate human desire, that I truly believe we all carry within us, to fight for myself. I wanted to live again. I wanted to experience all of the amazing moments with my children. I didn’t want to feel like I was constantly in the dark anymore. I didn’t want to live in the pain. So, I reached out. I asked for help. I fought my way back. I faced the ugly, dark emotions head on. I sat with them. I learned from them. I allowed them to be heard. I came to understand the weight of this loss and the depths of grief, and I honored my own experience.

I walked through it.

Today, I look back on my journey thus far and am thankful for all that I have learned. My story continues, with my experience of grief and loss woven neatly within. I firmly believe that strength can be found in adversity. I reflect on how vital it was for me to have my story heard and I hope that others struggling with grief and loss can find their voices too.

Love and light.

Hi, I'm Kelly

Hi, my name Is Kelly and I am one of the founding members of nvrlnd.

I believe that there are many benefits to dealing with mental health and one of the things I have found most helpful in that area is having a creative outlet!

Removing the stigma of mental health is a large challenge but having organizations like Project Nightlight to get people talking about it will help and ultimately help people, in general, become better versions of themselves.

On a personal level having a creative outlet has been a tremendous help! 11 years ago I lost my father very suddenly and at the time I thought that I was all alone and very close to being unable to deal with the trauma of the loss. It wasn’t until I started taking photography more seriously and becoming part of the art community in this city that I realized that there were people just like me and that it was acceptable to talk about what I was going through.

In the process of becoming a larger part of the art community, I saw a need for safe and affordable places for artists to congregate and create in their own artistic mediums. So for the past 6 years, and with a lot of help from my friends that I now consider part of my extended family, I was able to create nvrld.

Hi, I'm Cory

Hi, I’m Cory.

How do you even begin to talk about mental health?

The idea that you don’t have your shit together is a tough pill to swallow. The truth, however, is that sometimes (more than I care to admit) I don’t. Acknowledging that sucks.

I can also say that I didn’t even become aware of mental health until I was 30. 8 years later it’s still tough to process…

Back in 2009, I made a choice to pack up my life and move to New Zealand.

I was very aware that I was unhappy, but I had no idea why. So I made a choice to reset my life.

That choice was the scariest thing I had ever faced in my life, and here’s why. It wasn’t the travel, it wasn’t the loneliness, or giving up stuff, or even the unknown.

It was the idea that I would be letting the people I cared about down. I was abandoning all my accomplishments and hard work I had put into my life and the guilt of that was horrible.

Do I live my life to make my family & friends happy or do I live my life for me?

On paper, I had everything you could want. How could I possibly be unhappy with that or even consider giving it up? How could anyone support this?

Ultimately, I took the leap.

And then it happened…

Everyone was SUPER supportive. I realized that all anyone wanted for me was to be happy. The how of my happiness wasn’t really an issue (as long as I wasn’t being an asshole, of course)

Living through that experience taught me this:

The story we tell ourselves can be a real problem.

I was full of negative self-talk and it was incredibly toxic. No one was going to be upset with me for choosing to move, but the story in my head was just the opposite.

I assumed I would let people down.

I assumed people would be upset.

I assumed I wasn’t worthy of something great. I wasn’t worthy of love. Of fun. Of adventure… I wasn’t good enough.

I was destroying myself with toxic self-talk. Whether it was true or not, that story was my reality.

Moving saved me. It allowed me a chance to rewrite my story.

I let go of everything that didn’t serve me. I woke up every day doing the things I wanted. I started reading again, I painted a house, I took a silkscreening course, I rebuilt a bicycle… I was becoming me. The real me.

I was full of passion again, and that’s when I found art.

Art became a conduit for all the good and allowed me to face all the bad inside me. I used it as fuel, and after every painting, I was mentally stronger. I found that thing that had been on the tip of my tongue for 30 years and because of that, I finally started telling myself the right story.

Life had a new sense of purpose and I was HAPPY… 

I was more than enough.

Now, not everyone needs to move halfway across the world to learn that lesson. But if we face our fears (whether they be in our head or not) every day, in all facets of our lives, we fundamentally improve how we see ourselves and our overall mental health.

So be kind to yourself. Embrace who you are. Run towards it because you, my friend, are FUCKING AMAZING.

Hello, my name is Sam

Hello, my name is Sam Mendoza and I design charitable streetwear apparel under the moniker D.I.T.R.O. (Diamonds in the Rough Originals) and I’ve recently been very fortunate to be a part of Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids as a kitchen coordinator + ambassador. Every day, I see the great impact that our team + our amazing volunteers make by preparing lunches for +4200 kids in our very own city. No child should ever go hungry. 

To understand that hunger greatly affects a child’s physical + mental health + academic functioning makes me so passionate + proud of the work we do at bb4ck. We have big things coming up soon with nvrldnd. and Project Nightlight so stay tuned.

Mental Health + Mental Illness affects us ALL every day.  It should never be a “trending” topic of the day to all of a sudden begin the conversation when a celebrity passes away or has been diagnosed with mental illness. It should NEVER be something that gets addressed when it’s too late.

If anything, it should be a topic that we talk about openly to others each day. It’s not something that should be swept under the rug nor be ashamed of. By doing the simple act of sharing our feelings + stories, we can connect + come together to find ways + resources to make a difference, not only for own well-being but the well-being of people we love, as well as finding our own unique voice/way to support community programs and charitable organizations in our own city.

What people don’t know about me + my charitable streetwear brand moniker D.I.T.R.O  is that my motivation + inspiration to connect + collaborate with charitable organizations [ that specialize in mental health], stems from my parents, both of whom work in the mental health field, + as well, my own personal experience working as a psychiatric aide at the Centennial Centre of Mental Health & Brain Injury (CCMHBI) in Ponoka, Alberta.

I have experienced the stigma of growing up in a town that was known for it’s “looney bin” + constantly hearing sh*tty jokes that I must be “crazy” too, not knowing how to stand up for the mental health facility I proudly worked for. I have loved + lost people close to me who took their own life because their mental illness became too much to bear, and I have seen the effects of what can happen to others if not supported and listened to.

If it wasn’t for these life experiences +  my family, friends, + clients I worked closely with at CCMHBI who have shared their life stories with me, I wouldn’t have become the open person I am now nor would I have cared as much about mental health + mental illness, + I also wouldn’t have found my passion + creative way to give back through D.I.T.R.O.

“We’re all mad here” is a quote from Alice + Wonderland. A bold statement that has always resonated with me + why I’m here, as an advocate, to talk about the importance of raising awareness for Mental Health + Mental Illness.

This is REAL LIFE + mental health is a very real part of it. If we start talking, hopefully, others will too.

Hello, I'm Chelsey

Hello, I’m Chelsey.

When I was in my teens, I didn’t think I’d make it to 20 years old. There was absolutely no way I thought I could come out the other side of everything I had been through alive. Now, nearly 30 years old, I’m still surprised but glad I did. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Every day is still a struggle, though some more than others. The last two years specifically have been the absolute hardest and those ones I experienced as a teenager are a far, distant memory.

Do you recall your first memory? Was it happy? Mine unfortunately is and will forever be the one where we were having a backyard barbecue with some family back in Regina, where I was born. I was 5 years old, and a fight broke out and I remember running inside with my brother and cousins to stay away from all the fists and yelling. The police came that day, and that was one of the many times I had the police at my home.

As I grew older, my insecurities grew larger and the abuse grew with it. The fights with family members that were no longer there were taken out on me. Hair was pulled. Punches were thrown. Running to get inside a room with a lock so that I could maybe get there in time before I was hurt physically. Then the verbal abuse came with it later where they told me I was fat and that they wish I never existed. When I attempted suicide for the first time when I was 17, I was told I didn’t try hard enough and my mother threw more pills at me to take to try again.

It was after this point with everything prior accumulated into one giant ball of pain, I decided I needed to move out and get away. I couldn’t protect my bother and dog anymore. I couldn’t be that people to separate my parents when they were hurting each other. I had to put myself first.

After many years, things were okay between my relationship with them. I rarely saw them, so that helped. I still allowed them into my life, at least with one arm outstretched to leave some space. It wasn’t until my husband and I got married that things ended up getting worse. I would much prefer managing physical abuse over mental abuse, but this wasn’t an option. After my parents came for our wedding in Nelson, British Columbia, I was shocked. They had been complaining for an entire year leading up because they didn’t want to travel. They made it about them, primarily my mother, and in this single instance in my life couldn’t show up for me. After my shock of them actually driving all the way to Nelson from Calgary, they didn’t come on the wedding day. They didn’t call or explain why. They didn’t say anything until a few days later when I was told many not-so-kind things like I should kill myself and that no one loves me, not even my new husband.

There are very few times in your life when you can pinpoint exactly when you changed as a person. I knew after going through this and going no contact with my parents, that I had changed. Sure, there were many, MANY tears after what happened and it took a long time for me to sort through everything. Let’s be honest, I still am dealing with it and managing those feelings. I know that through everything, I have become the person I needed to be. I’ve become so much stronger, and that blood does not make a family. My friends are my family, and I love that. I’ve chosen my tribe. I don’t have everything figured out and never will, but I know who I can count on and I know what I need to do when things get tough.

So far, this year has been an amazing step in the right direction. I know that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other, that I’ll be showing up and that is sometimes all that matters. It’s a choice to keep living and looking for those little silver linings, even if it’s just the smell of coffee in the morning or the feel of a new book. I’m trying to remember that I write my own story, and my parents and trauma aren’t the authors. They are merely a chapter in amongst all the other wonderful ones.

Hey, I'm Hillary

Hey, I’m Hillary.

I don’t think I’d meet you and you’d peg me as a sad person, that’s not what depression is but it’s this veiled assumption we have. That’s what makes this disease so rare. Mental health is difficult to sum or kindly place in orderly words for the general public to receive widely + without dispute or conflict. I had a conversation with a girlfriend recently and so sweetly put the sewed the description of the chemicals in your body + required synapses as lacking in production and frequency like any other disease that lags hormonal production in the body.

It’s sometimes strange the stigmatism or apathy of our response towards mental health as it really is just science production given different veils to be misunderstood by. We’ve never been taught to quite understand what we can’t see, that’s why there’s dissection. We perform unraveling procedures to prove that which isn’t present to the human eye still does exist.

Some of those circumstantial triggers personally started with ladies in my scholastic setting eventually that domino tumble focused my minds lens on lack of confidence + lack of paternal support, family stress, depression and the worst I’d say was the loss of my first love in a fatal car accident. The mental cloud that proved a daily confine magnifying hurtful, overly focused or pragmatic thoughts with harsh events on repeat proved challenging

The emotional + physiological scars left on our tissues though reputation and imprinted thoughts are so vital the more I study biology, brain science in my line of work the connection of emotions to physical deficiencies… to pay tribute to, learn with, hurt in, and grow from. Finding movement, mindfulness + healthy emotional practices in an open and supportive community to be all that leads my head + heart space out of the trenches and fast rivers. Motion is that mobile meditation enhancing and amplifying colors + action that your thoughts have to step into physically vs. the regular and widely repetitive nature we have of head first and intermittent negativity ruling our thought and action process.

To say mental health is an avenue we render as conquered or done is to be ignorant to our minds potential to lead us astray. To honestly, kindly and truly lead vulnerable + raw conversations around what strips us of the stresses that don’t serve our purpose and understand their highlights or weakness’… however, remembering without a negative we have no positive. Rendering our pain or hurt into tools enabling focused empathy and love for those around us, and most importantly ourselves without traumatic events, but having this discussion on the table always.

Mental health is so close to my heart and is apart of mine + so many others every day. The reason my side project TECHNIMACRAME donates a portion of proceeds towards this amazing not for profit as led by example and establishing programs for the future minds to come, source comfort, coping mechanisms + communication. I hope we can begin to converse more about depression, anxiety and emotional causes that can sway our minds out of line with a more positive context and open head space. We all need support and no one is as alone as our minds would sometimes have us believe…







Hi, my name is Sheridan

Hi, my name is Sheridan. Now almost 35 years old, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of two.

Most people don’t know that kids develop arthritis too. In fact, three kids in a thousand, or about one in every school, live with juvenile arthritis. It’s a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells in the joints, causing inflammation. And because a young body is growing rapidly, this can lead to severe issues.

For me, visits to the pediatric rheumatologist were frequent, and treatments included painful physiotherapy, strong medications, including regular injections that caused severe side effects, and I spent more than my fair share of time in the hospital.

Because I was so young, growing up with this disease was all I knew. I didn’t know what it felt like to not be in pain, or to do many of the physical things I would see my peers do. Even my brother, who played sports like baseball and hockey.

I learned how to live with pain daily at such a young age, that I could easily push it to the back of my mind and hide it well. I would hide having a disease whenever I could because I hated being “different” from all the other kids around me. I hated the look of “feeling sorry” and right away being seen as not like them. I hated the look of “sadness” and “hurt” I would see on my parents’ faces and in their eyes – because I was hurting and there was nothing they could do about it. I would hide any pain from them whenever I could. Their pain was more important to me than my own. Because I could deal with my own.

I believe in many ways, although I am the one who had to live with this disease, it was much harder for them. They would fight with me overdoing my exercises or taking my injections – seeing the pain even those caused – because they knew how much it would benefit me.

Even though I didn’t know it then – it did. And it has. At the age of 16, I was given the wonderful news that I was now in remission from this disease! No more splints, no more flare-ups! The damage that had already been done throughout most of my body’s joints, over so many years, could not be reversed or fixed. But at least I wouldn’t have to endure more… or so I thought.

I still remember being 17 years old and sitting with my mother and an Orthopedic Surgeon in his office. After many different tests, it was determined I had developed Osteoarthritis in both knees, and that I would need total knee replacements once the pain had become too much to bear in each. After years of damage from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, cartilage had deteriorated and my bones were soon literally rubbing against each other. There was nothing else that could be done.

Upon hearing this news, I was very scared and also sad. I thought I had beaten this disease and somewhat become “normal”, but I feared it had finally beaten me.

The first day came, and at the age of 18, I had my right knee replaced. Once again, my parents were there to do exercises and help me through it. I was recouped within three weeks! I was determined to keep going, to not let arthritis define me – and the replacement actually made me feel better than I had in years! Just ten years later, at the age of 28, I had my left knee replaced. A couple of months before my wedding! I was once again recouped pretty quickly and determined to keep moving on.

Reaching into my twenties, I had learned to not hide arthritis anymore, because it has made me into the person I am today. It is a big part of my life but hasn’t beaten me, and it doesn’t define me. Although some days it feels like it.

At age 33, soon after my boy was born, I went out of remission from my juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The hard part was admitting it to myself, and realizing I needed to see my rheumatologist again. That I needed help controlling this disease again, and that it was affecting my mental state – as well as my physical state.

You see, it brought me back to my childhood just like that. To all the feelings I felt – the depression, feeling sorry for myself and trying so hard to ignore the never-ending pain. Not only this, but you have no idea how hard it was being “mom” with no medication to help. I had flare up after flare up – and it was all I could do to not drop my baby boy down the stairs.

It was hard. But I got through it, and now I’m back on medication to control this disease.

But, the story doesn’t end there, and who knows if it ever will…

Almost two years ago, I was placed on strong biologics called Enbrel, and a form of Cymbalta for my osteoarthritis pain. This combination, along with Vimovo for pain, has also added Folliculitis to my mix of things to take medication for! Because of this, my Rheumatologist just recently changed my biologic medication from Enbrel to Humira.

I don’t want to be on these strong meds, but I know it’s best for me right now.

I may even become the first bionic woman with all these joints affected by osteoarthritis! 🙂 What’s the joy in life, if we can’t find the humour, right?

Now I’m a mom to a three-year-old girl and two-year-old boy! Both are healthy and happy babies – which I thank God for daily. That is what I want most. For them to never have to endure this disease. It’s also what I fear most.

I’m also an advocate for arthritis, speaking about what I’ve been through – and what I go through today. I am – like everyone – my own work in progress, proving to myself that you can do anything you put your mind to.

Believe in yourself! 💗

Hello, my name is Ashley

Hello, my name is Ashley.

I look back on life and wonder how did this happen how did I get here. Why did it happen why can’t I just be normal and fit in? I used to be more outgoing and wanted/needed to be around people all the time. Maybe it was a slow crumble or a fast crumble I’m not sure… But all of a sudden my world came crashing down around me and hard. I stopped sleeping, being lucky if I had a few hours a night and when I was sleeping it was nightmares. I would disassociate at any slight sign of what I felt was aggression. I would have panic attacks lasting 4 hours of me just lying in bed crying and being mean to myself, telling myself the world would be a better place if I was not in it and I truly believed it. I was analyzing everything I did and said in the day and everything was always the wrong thing to do and say. I hated who I was, the person I saw in the mirror… If I could even bare look at her. I didn’t ever talk about the complete darkness with anyone. I would share little bits if I had a nightmare or a bad day at work. But never how dark my thoughts truly got. It finally got to the point where I needed help. It was to the point of getting help or succumbing to the dark thoughts. Well, the universe sent me an angel. A new friend who recommend a clinic for me to go to to get help.

When I meet with the therapist the first time she decided she needed to send me to the psychiatrist to get a diagnosis and get tested for ADHD. I was not sure how to feel about all of this and my feeling only got worse when I researched ADHD and typed in ‘is ADHD real’. All I could see was that people might not believe what I could have and that hurt.

I saw the therapist once every 2 weeks and went to Dialectical group therapy once a week with another therapist. I did not get in to see the Psychiatrist for 2 months. It was a long 2 months wanting to know what was going on and why I felt this way.

When I saw the psychiatrist I was diagnosed with combined ADHD, GAD (Generalized anxiety disorder), panic attacks, social anxiety, OCD ( Obsessive compulsive disorder) and borderline traits. I learned all of these disorders can be exacerbated by ADHD. I had to now come to terms with that fact I had ADHD. For some reason, the rest didn’t bug me but ADHD did. The psychiatrist put me on medication, it took a long time to find the right dose and we tried lots of things for sleep. What I’m on now is ok but not perfect. The medications help but the rest is hard work and therapy.

Now begins the journey to try and heal. It was and still can be a rough journey. I had moments when the dark thoughts almost won. Self-harm, suicidal ideation and the negative talk. Some of the things that kept me going were my family, my dog, my wonderful husband who has never given up on me and running. Running even though I stopped enjoying it as much, was something that got me out of bed and allowed me to be free at that time. Allowed thoughts to pass by quickly but not for me to focus on them. It was also something else to concentrate on and allow my mind a break from the negativity.

Working with the therapist I began asking how I got here. Sure some of it will be genetics, but the big part is the environment. Now a lot of my memories are fuzzy, it’s hard to remember things and often my brain likes to hold on to the bad. Being bullied and mentally abused did not help me at all. Growing up in a divorced family is never easy for any child, but still, I wondered why did this happen why couldn’t I just be strong enough… Why was I so weak?

I worked with the first therapist for s while but decided that we were not a good fit anymore as I was not improving. I then switched to a Psychologist who specializes in ADHD. I found out when I started seeing her the other therapist was a registered social worker. I look back now and it was on all the paperwork she sent me, but I never realized it. Either way, I learned some things from her. I also found my new amazing Psychologist. I have been working with her for a while now as well. I have seen a lot of progress but we still have a lot more to achieve. I still fight the dark thoughts every day. The ones that say you are not good enough, people don’t like you, you say the wrong things all the time. But I’m starting to fight back. I will continue to fight and yes, every day, for the rest of my life I will have to work on it. But I’m worth it. I deserve to be on this planet. No matter what my brain says. One day I will be able to face aggression head on and be ok. But until then I just keep working. I keep finding the light in the darkness. I will not give up and instead, I will strive for progress and not perfection. Because it’s about the journey, not the destination.

I could keep writing forever. Feel like I could write a book. But that’s all for now.

Know that you are worth it. Don’t the dark thoughts win. Get help.

With, love Ashley