Hi, my name is Naomi

Hi, my name is Naomi. I believe in kindness. I believe in unconditional love. I believe in non-judgment. 

I know we can likely all look back on a time that we’ve experienced being bullied or feeling left out. Perhaps it was such a long time ago that your memories are faint and faded. Maybe these experiences are painfully erect in your mind. Hopefully, you have been extra lucky and have gone through life experiencing nothing but love and inclusion. I wish the later for you.

Over the past few years, I have had the honor of building our Oranj community and watching it grow. Every time I step through our studio doors or step in front of a class to teach, I am in awe. If you close your eyes and just listen you will hear the sounds of happy voices, claps of high fives, and cheers of support. There is a true sense of community at play. Although we are no longer children playing on the monkey bars or chasing each other around during a game of tag, we all still yearn to belong, to be worthy, and to be “cool” enough for the “cool kids”. 

Since the new year, we’ve had an influx of new guests joining us for classes. Something that we love so much, and something that we are so grateful for! It’s been great getting to know so many new faces. I know how intimidating it can be to step into a new space let alone a new gym! I commend all of our new guests for stepping outside of their comfort zones and doing something scary, I know it can be hard to be the “new kid” but I promise you the trade-off is worth it! 

With national anti-bullying day around the corner, I’d like to challenge you to stop and reflect. This day might be for our youth but as adults, we are the ones who model for them. Who are you spending your time with? Does your social circle bring out the best in you? Are you inclusive? Do you judge? Are you actually kind? Although my community is welcoming and inclusive, there are still many opportunities to grow. Next time you are in the gym or headed to class, say hello to the person beside you. Introduce yourself. Share your space. Connect. You never know what another person could be going through and you’d be amazing by what a little love and kindness can do. Choose love. Choose kindness. Be the change.

Hello, my name is Sophia

Hello, my name is Sophia and I am 8 years old. I live in a house with my mom, dad, and little sister, and dog Nelson. They help me a lot with my worries. I had a really hard time in school last year but I learned a lot about myself. I learned that all feelings are okay and that scary or big feelings don’t seem as scary once you say them out loud. I also learned that you won’t feel that way forever. Here are some things I use to calm down like yoga, reading, talking to mom and dad, drawing and painting my feelings, and playing with my toys. I also sometimes talk to my Dr. and he helps me a lot when I can’t make my feelings make sense.

I love to read when I am sad, mad or even scared and now I like to play with the new toys I got from Santa. I also like to cuddle with a heavy blanket that is so heavy it feels like a huge hug! Sometimes I meditate and use my singing bowls. My sister cheers me up by singing a silly song, my dad cuddles with me, my mom puts essential oils all over my body and listens to me. Sometimes we have family meetings where we can all talk about our feelings and things that we’re happy about too. I have a magic fairy mixing dust set that I can make ‘happy feelings dust’ or ‘sweet dreams dust’ by following a recipe and putting my energy into it. I also like to play ‘Spot it’ to get things off my mind. The books I like to read are Dork Diaries, Diary of a wimpy kid, and Max clumsy.  But my all-time favorite is MY BIG BAD DAD, it talks about a dad who seemed scary to everyone so none of his Daughter’s friends would want to play with her because they were too scared. But in the end, he shows everyone that he’s really nice and that how you look doesn’t matter, it only matters how you feel about yourself.

Some people might think these things are silly, but that’s okay. They help me and that’s all that matters. I think talking about your feelings is something that could work for everyone because there are no bad feelings, just bad behavior.

Ciao, I'm Amanda

Ciao, I’m Amanda.

I come from a family where anxiety runs rampant. I’ve experienced the highs and lows of this disorder for years; from crippling panic for no apparent reason to the liberation of being able to experience life without the constant feeling of impending doom.

I definitely disassociated most of my worst times suffering from GAD. I know that I experienced a tiny amount in elementary school, junior high was okay, but I know that I dropped out of high school because of it. This gives me a ballpark idea of when my anxiety was at it’s worst. I had developed agoraphobia as a side effect, and at one point it was localized to my bedroom, at which time even going to the washroom was triggering for me. 

It was a strange and blurry time, and the fears I developed around it became debilitating. I had a lot of support from my family, and those relationships quickly became my excuse for not doing the work that needed to be done. I would call out for them when I was panicking instead of trying to deal with it myself. I depended on my family to bail me out of whatever situation was triggering me, which wasn’t conducive to the independent life that I craved. I am, however, grateful to have had parents who understood, because I know how awful the opposite can be.

I panicked. They rescued me. I cried. I cried because I knew that I couldn’t continue living a life where I needed my dad within arms reach forme to be able to function. It was scary. It took me a long time, but eventually I started seeing a therapist.

She gave me homework.

“This week, Amanda, I want you to drive yourself to the corner store. You can do it. Get yourself your favourite chocolate bar. Actually, no. Get yourself TWO of them. I know you love your sweets.” Do something simple, normal, independently. This terrified me. It took me a long time to take that leap. But when I did, it felt completely liberating. I had a few episodes during those exercises, but doing them, TRUSTING them, believing that expanding my bubble of safety would help, it eventually did.

I always wish I had a simplified answer of what it was exactly that “saved” me. The short but long answer is TIME. I went from not being able to leave my bedroom, to eventually driving by myself, to eventually going on my first trip alone.

There are so many details that I don’t remember, but all I know is that I truly believed for a long period of time that I would never be able to have a normal life. I thought I would have to live with my parents forever. I thought I would never travel, never date, never be able to live a fully independent life.

I don’t believe that GAD ever fully goes away. I think you just get better at understanding it. You get in control. You find the right therapist, perhaps even the right medication, and you find people who can relate. You Google the shit out of it. You realize that you’re not the only person suffering, and you feel less alone. Coping mechanisms, grounding exercises – these WORK. Believe me, they work, although at times it feels hopeless.

I believe with every ounce of my being that I will continue getting better.

I refuse to accept that I don’t have the strength to change this familial pattern.

This is where it stops.

Hi, we're Project Nightlight

I started Out of the Darkness YYC at a time when I was exasperated by the way society was handling topics of mental illness and mental health. At a time when my daughter was being subjected to issues too big for her developing brain. Too complex for her maturity level and frankly, way too soon for me. I was left questioning every system, every policy, and every 'social norm.'

I won't bore you with the details all over again (start at the first post to get caught up on why Out of the Darkness YYC was born if you're interested) but, I spent months trying to make sense of how we had become so removed from the idea that Mental Health and Mental Illness are different things. Scary things.

I fought, researched, cried... a lot. And you know what was at the bottom of it all? A simple lack of understanding. We don't talk about it. We don't discuss our mental health in the same manner of importance that we discuss our physical health. And we should, we really should. 

So, what began as a method of venting for me, turned into a safe place for people to tell their stories. To share and to heal and connect. And now? We're taking it a step further; WE HAVE OFFICIALLY REGISTERED TO BECOME A NON-PROFIT so that we can expand and grow this network of individuals willing to speak out and speak up. We will speak our truths, we will connect, we will collaborate, we'll share resources and we'll learn...together. Because aren't authentic and fulfilling connections what we're all chasing in the end?

Bottom line: we need to shine a big old light on these scary and previously taboo topics, normalize our thoughts and emotions and, if we do it together, we can turn on a nightlight and chase away the boogie man for our littles, and ourselves.

Hello, I'm Amanda

Hello, I’m Amanda.

How does your body react to stress? Do you really know the effects that it can have on you and all the different ways stress can manifest itself? I have had high anxiety from a very young age and it has taken its toll on my body. My stomach hurt all the time when I was in school. Throwing up in the trash bin was a normal thing for me. I would almost pass out from the stress I would experience when having to read out loud in front of people. Simple little tasks would get over-analyzed in my head and it would feed the anxiety monster and bring all my insecurities to the surface, making me feel so uncomfortable in my own head and alienated from all the other kids in school. The only thing that made me feel good was drawing and painting. That was my escape and where I could think clearly. 

As I got older the anxiety took over. Going into my 20s I started to experience panic attacks, more digestive problems and my skin became so sore and red with cystic acne to boot. My doctor would always just give me some sort of antidepressants or anti-anxiety pill that didn’t work for me or they would tell me my skin problem are “just cosmetic” and don’t really matter. It seemed I was just doomed to have anxiety, stomach pain and shit skin for the rest of my life. To add to my discomfort I was experiencing what I was told was chronic bladder infections and given antibiotics that I ended up taking for years before finding out I had never had a bladder infection and this was a weird reaction I was getting from a hormone imbalance. I did not fit into the medical box that doctors could diagnose, therefore they were no help. 

At this point, I wanted to give up on even trying to fix my physical health let alone my mental health which was definitely suffering from all the physical pain I was in. It seemed like any new medication that I took would mask one problem but create more problems. I tolerated life this way never having any relief. To make matters worse, a close friend died unexpectedly. I shut down and withdrew from family and my own artwork. I cut out almost everyone in my life because answering my phone would bring on more anxiety. Luckily I still had some amazing people in my life that got me through the days and helped build me back up, I will forever be thankful for those amazing people.

My husband and I decided on having a kid when I turned 26. It was the best and worst thing I ever did to my body. I threw up for 9 months straight, lost way too much weight, and became more depressed than I had ever been. Doctors still refused to help me and told me I was just being emotional and put me on a suicide watch list. This list involves someone sending you a letter 3 months later asking you if you’re ok. It felt so impersonal, like how the hell is that supposed to help?! Luckily I had help from my superhero husband who supported me through my pregnancy and became the best therapist in the world. I also had an amazing midwife that understood what my body actually needed which happened to be natural remedies. 

After having my wonderful, healthy, beautiful, asshole child, life got… different. I was still having panic attacks. I was tired all the time even when I did get sleep and I didn’t feel connected to my daughter, Magnolia. I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. There were few articles and little information at that time about adrenal fatigue, Leaving me with no solutions. Before having Magnolia I would paint and create things to make myself feel better, but with her I didn’t have that time. I felt like mothering did not come easy to me and my kid got the short end of the stick. I felt like a horrible parent and hit the ultimate low point in my life. I knew I needed to do something, for myself and for my daughter because I did not want to live this way.

I knew that prescribed drugs had never worked for me so I thought I would start in the world of pot. Not being a legal thing yet, this avenue of self medication was a tricky decision and it was something that didn’t help my anxiety at the start. As soon as I started using pot to help my anxiety, stomach pain, and anger I saw just a little bit of hope. I haven’t had a panic attack since using CBD oil and my inner rage was now under control. I’m able to enjoy playing with Maggie. I’m less likely to get angry at the little things. This was a huge milestone for me, a feeling I will never forget!

I pushed myself to start getting active. I went on my bike or went to spin class at least 3 times a week. I took a few fibre arts classes and rediscovered my love for all things natural. This spoke to me in more ways than one. It gave me a new meaning for my life. It was exciting! I could now create art at home with my new baby. This was a huge boost to my confidence and helped me feel like not “just a mom” and that was something I was having a really hard time separating myself from. I never held any resentment towards my daughter, I love that kid more than anything but parents are allowed to have a hard time, and that’s ok.

One day, I discovered the light cellar and learned about medicinal mushrooms (not the magic ones, not that I’m opposed) and amazing super foods that made me feel like I was normal. Once I had the energy thanks to these lovely super foods, I pushed myself to be better so that I could be better for my family, so I could be better for me and have the life I know we deserve. I manifested the art career I wanted and I made that shit happen! Having anxiety and stomach problems may be hard things to handle but they have made me who I am a helped me in a way. My family helped me to discover what makes me happy. I can pull myself out of a dark hole because of the things I have learned from these difficult things in my life. I can rely on myself and I always know I’ve got my back. To know yourself and to be able to communicate with your mind and body is an epic thing!

This is not a success story and I still have work to do, love to give myself , anxieties to tend to on a regular bases. It’s taken me what feels like forever to get where I am today but all things that take time are worth it. You got this.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Hi, I'm Lindsey.

Hi, I am Lindsey. A mother, a wife and a student of life’s lessons.

I sometimes look back at the girl I was before 25, where a line was drawn in the sand to indicate who I was then compared to who I am now. I reflect on how I felt weightless and open and optimistic, and how that would eventually transform to feeling heavy and fearful and overcome by the need to calculate and control all that I could.

Motherhood came in softly and beautifully if not a little complicated. But the reality of being a mom to this squishy-faced baby that had the doctors baffled came in fierce and fast. In a moment I was changed. The innocence of the girl I was had vanished. My baby was sick, and no one understood why.

Where I once wanted to talk about everything and craved the opinions and stories and voices of others, I now needed silence. Silence from everyone I once trusted and enjoyed. There was no room in my head for the words of people who didn’t have the answers or know what to do. My brain became fixated on every syllable of this new medical language that would become the code to understanding what was happening with my baby. I hung on doctor’s words, memorized every value, wrote down every step forward and backward and didn’t dare deviate from the plan. This is how I would spend the next nine months of our first admission. Not knowing day from night as our hospital room had no windows. I only knew that nothing mattered except for the health of my baby.

As the months wore on and we were airlifted to different hospitals on the other side of the country and to the United States I became fixated only on what was needed for him to survive. My days and nights were spent praying and helping change his many lines and tubes in a quest to nurture and love and care for him. I watched as our family, our church and the city rallied around us. I watched others reading about him on the front page of the local paper.

Everyone wanted to do something, everyone wanted to help… but it felt like no one really understood. Advice and stories of other babies were shared with me, positive encouragement about how it was all going to be OK was dolled out at every exchange. And with each passing day that I would watch my baby grow weaker, I felt myself retreat further into my own world because in the solitude of my head it was quiet. The quiet didn’t say the wrong things while meaning well, it allowed for me to replay over and over and over again his latest labs, scores, weights and test results. In my head, I could say the words out loud. The words that whispered, “what if he doesn’t make it?”

I would eventually find a rhythm and a sense of normalcy between the quiet time in my head (that I craved to process) and the adrenaline-rich rushes that came with an acute episode, where I was forced to stand back and watch the medical team do the things that I could not.

Eventually, nearly a year after he was born, I would walk into the house with him for the first time with a plan to stay. He came with a 24-hour feeding pump, highly specialized formula, lists of doctor’s numbers, follow up appointments, feeding instructions, medications, a team of nurses, therapists and nutritionists, a body riddled with tubes and scars and a smile that could melt you on the spot.

What he didn’t come with was a diagnosis, a guarantee, the hum and song of the monitors and machines that I had come to rely on, that intoxicating baby smell (it was replaced by hospital tape, plastic tubing, and predigested enzymes), a bottle (he couldn’t suck). This baby didn’t need or require or adhere to one word of what I had read about in the months of devouring “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. We had our own language, our own set of rules and schedules and plans. And we were to fit that all in between hospital visits, home-care, and all the hours of silence.

At first, the familiar silence felt safe, it felt organized and planned for. When it was just us and it was quiet, I didn’t have to hear others say, “oh he’s doing so good now”, because the truth was…. He wasn’t really good, he just wasn’t dying today, he was at home and not admitted but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t still receiving all the same treatments and interventions.

Eventually, the silence would change for me altogether, as the time between admissions lengthened. Where once it provided a safe place, now it was a deep and cavernous pit where I was forced to look at what we had just been through. I no longer knew how to relate to other mothers. It was assumed that I should be ‘good’ now because things were improving and he was getting stronger. But the truth was I had learned to cope best during the acute events. When things were chaotic and scary and happening fast there was something to do, I was numb to the fear as there was no time to ask questions, there was no time to think about the future and the what ifs. But when the acuity turned to long chronic weeks and months there was too much time to think, to recognize how we didn’t fit anywhere (not in a diagnosis box, a playgroup or with our friends).

Fast forward two other medically complicated babies and some medical complexities of my own and I was becoming the poster child for medical mothers. I was speaking at hospital events, attending galas and helping other parents through their journeys, and was becoming known for how ‘strong’ I was. But the reality was that the shell I had created around myself was just becoming so shiny and strong that my heart was no longer penetrable. I needed a change I just didn’t know what it should look like.

And then a few years ago, we got the courage to take a leap. We packed up everything and moved to the country – a long-awaited dream finally propelled into action after the loss of function in my hand due to a tumor. I needed a purpose beyond the things I couldn’t do. I put the logistics aside about things like how many kilometers we were going to be from the Alberta Children’s hospital and all the other what if’s…

We longed for space, for connection to something natural rather than synthetic and for the first time in a long time, for me I wanted the quiet – because I have learned to use it as a place to reflect but not dwell, be still but not paralyzed.

I am now learning to once again welcome the noise of the world, to let myself be in its chaos and know that the energy in it means life and the vastness of it means hope.

Hi there, my name is Angela

Hi there. My name is Angela.

“I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell, and I don’t have time
To go ’round and ’round and ’round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is
You think I should”

I drove to my photoshoot with Tamara singing this Dixie Chicks song at the top of my lungs. Not sure why this one, but it helped with the nerves and made me feel courageous enough to meet her and share my story. It was the day after my 39th birthday and something about the shoot felt like it was going to be a powerful moment in my life.  

Anxiety and depression have been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. Insomnia for always. Laying there, my mind spinning, replaying everything I had done or said that day, wondering if I had done it right or wrong. Or consumed with fear of the next day, week or month and what was going to happen. Hours in bed spent trying to imagine each and every scenario so I could somehow be fully prepared for anything that could happen. Then the terror that I had done something wrong or missed imagining something that might happen would set in and take me to my knees.

The first time I thought about suicide I was 13. I didn’t tell anyone. The first time a doctor mentioned medication to me I was 18. First year away from home, in my first year of university. They didn’t say I had anxiety or depression, but I remember being given a prescription for an antidepressant. I didn’t take it. I went on with my life. I assumed that everyone’s brain was like mine, I hadn’t lived in anyone else’s. I didn’t know that the overwhelm and panic and suicidal thoughts weren’t “normal”. My first full-fledged panic attack, on the floor sweating with my guts being twisted like the wringing out of a dishrag, was at 26. No idea what was going on for me just kept doing life…

I was a worrier always, an overthinker, a perfectionist and so damn fiery. I’ve been called crazy many, many times in my life. Told not to stress and to just get over it, nothing in my life was that bad. So I did. Sort of. I shoved everything down, tried not to think so much, do everything right and keep everything to myself so no one would know how crazy I was.

When my first marriage was coming to an end, I started therapy. But even then, it was talking about the story and not really my feelings about it.  I didn’t even have a clue what they were and god forbid anyone actually found out I was crazy. Less than 6 months later my husband moved out and I started to crack. The suicidal thoughts were back, insomnia got worse, depression and anxiety started to rule my every waking minute. Zopiclone and Ativan every night for two months straight two years after we split and I still wasn’t sleeping.

From 2010 to 2016 I was in one of the darkest places I have ever been in. There were moments of happiness and love, but it was overshadowed by this darkness so deep inside of me that I struggled to see the light. I got remarried, blended a family, fell deeply in love with a man and his two children. I went to therapy regularly, read every book I could find on healing myself, yoga and meditation, supplements, diet changes, exercise…give me all of the things to fix myself because I am so damn broken. Crying that there weren’t enough hours in the day to fix all of the things that were wrong with me.

I hated myself. I wanted to be anyone else but me. I didn’t want to be highly sensitive or passionate, I didn’t want to be intense and empathic, I didn’t want to be bad with paperwork and a terrible housekeeper. So I set out to fix each and every part of me. Because then maybe I would be ok and normal and worthy of any kind of happiness and love.

When I read that our thoughts create our reality I almost vomited. That had been my savior from all of the fear…to think of every scenario so I could be prepared and safe. From then on I desperately tried to control the thoughts in my brain, for fear that everything happening in my life was being created from my thoughts. In yoga, I would hear “let the thoughts float on by” and I would cry on my mat because I couldn’t do what they were asking of me.

Through all of this, I realized that my brain was not only NOT the same as everyone else’s, it was actually completely broken. And then the shame set in…deep and devastating shame. With it came suicidal ideation. Believing on many occasions that those around me, who I loved deeper than anything I could have imagined, would be better off if I was dead.

It wasn’t until I came across a woman who spoke about trauma and PTSD that I started to see my struggles in a different light. That regardless of how big or small the trauma was, that it could have a real detrimental impact on my mental health. Over the next four years, I started to accept the thoughts, instead of trying to shove them down. I started medication, I found EMDR, I balanced my vitamins and minerals, I spent time with energy healers, I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue and eventually left my second marriage summer of 2017.

The last year has been the most life-changing of anything I have ever experienced. I have healed in ways that I never knew were possible. By beginning to accept the thoughts in my head instead of fighting them, by eventually loving them and seeing that they have actually been trying to protect me…I have been able not only to stop hating myself but truly fall in love with myself. I never, ever believed that was possible.

My life isn’t perfect. I have days where I struggle and I’m low. I’m in the middle of my second divorce and somedays it guts me to my core. The grief over my stepkids knocks me out. Being healed from anxiety and depression doesn’t look like sunshine and rainbows and joy in every single moment. It doesn’t look like a peaceful and calm yogi either. I’m fiery and deep, passionate and empathic, and I feel all of the things all of the time!! For me, it has been shifting into acceptance of my humanness and my flaws. Remembering that no matter how many times the world tells me to “look on the bright side”, my feelings are valid and they’re a guide. They need to be loved instead of shamed. And NONE of this happened overnight.

I have spent almost 20 years working with women, hearing their stories, creating a safe place for them to share and heal. It has been an honor and a gift. I write on my IG and share my story so that maybe one person will read it and know that they’re not crazy and that they’re not alone. I have channeled my passion and fire into fighting for mental health and supporting as many humans as I can inside of their struggles. Everyone deserves to be heard.

Years of going around and around, trying to be who I thought the world wanted me to be. Shrinking instead of speaking, hiding instead of asking, pretending that everything was ok…I truly got mad as hell and knew that it was fight or die trying. I couldn’t bring myself to do what the world thought I should anymore, what my brain told me I should do anymore. And today, I am in a place I never thought I would be. Where I live anxiety and depression free 99% of the time. Where I get to support others in finding their way to do the same. Grateful that somehow inside of the deepest darkness, that it didn’t take me over and I was able to find my way out.

Hey, my name is Ryan

Hey, my name is Ryan and together with my daughter, I wrote a book called Big Bad Dad.

“Be brave, don’t show weakness, don’t show fear, don’t be so sensitive! Why are you crying?”

Those are a few statements I have heard so many times through my life.

It was statements like that throughout my childhood from peers all the way through my adult life that made me feel like there was always something wrong with me. I had it pushed into my brain that it was a bad thing to show emotions or sensitivities. I never knew how to deal with my emotions when they came up, I never had the tools or the ability to sit in the moment and understand what I felt and why.

So I would often run and not face them and hurt myself to feel something else.

My whole life  I have been told by so many people that I am too sensitive…. and it wasn’t until a couple years ago I learned that what I thought was my biggest weakness at the time, turned out to be my greatest strength.

I struggled my whole life with running away from feeling anything.

I never let anybody see behind the curtains or see the times I would be home alone with my face in a pillow crying for unknown reasons. I often looked at myself as pathetic, a wimp, and lost. So through my teenage years, I developed the only coping mechanism I knew and I turned to self-harm via drugs and alcohol. I figured if I numbed myself, I wouldn’t have to feel any of the emotions I had inside and became a person people feared so they would see how strong I was even though I was still broken on the inside.

I lived my whole life this way up until a handful of years ago when it was time for me to face it and learn how to love myself and become who I really was. I found myself at my rock bottom and I did the work and I asked for help, for the first time in my life I turned to others to help lift me up and there were so many people ready to do so. Through speaking with others and learning about myself, I began to love myself and understand who I was and realize there was nothing wrong with me. I learned that the way I feel and what I feel from others around me is one of my greatest strengths, my compassion and empathy make me a better father and a better person.

I have learned to sit in my moments of intense feelings, understand them and take a lesson and not dwell on them and live in the past. This is all because I finally reached out and grabbed a hand when it was offered.

Amazing things do happen when we reach out. A few months ago, we had a book published called Big Bad Dad, it was a book about breaking down stereotypes and a father that looks macho and tough on the outside who is actually very sensitive and playful on the inside. So I put my insecurities aside, my embarrassment of what others think, and my lifelong struggle with fear of being the center of attention. I decided that for something great to happen, I had to take a jump, and lead by example for my daughter so I put on a princess dress and her and I sat in the middle of a busy bookstore and stood behind our accomplishment together.

If it wasn’t for that moment of facing every fear I had this amazing opportunity with her would not have happened.

I sit here and realize that I wouldn’t have had the amazing experiences that I have had with my daughter if I wasn’t so sensitive, and my greatest hope is that as she grows she will see that we are able to face fear and we are able to take any of our weaknesses and turn them into strengths because she is built exactly like me. She feels everything around her, and everybody’s energy, she loves everybody in her life with all of her heart and she always puts herself out there completely.

So my biggest lesson with her, and my reason for doing this and exposing who I was is to use your voice and talk… it is okay to ask for help because many people are where you are. If there is one thing I can say to people that are hurting and feel like there’s nowhere else to go is just speak it; whether it’s to a friend or even a stranger, just take the pain that’s on the chest and speak it. And through this process believe that there will be ups and downs but there are so many amazing things in this life to come.

It took me many years to get to where I am and I always tell myself that it’s about progress, not perfection.


Hi, My Name is Jayden

Hi, my name is Jadyn! I’m a youth ambassador at orenda society. I have been going to there camps for 2 years now and I have loved it since the beginning. Being at camp allowed me to open up about my experiences with mental health and to really talk about it. Mental health is something that we should all be open to talk about, as it can have a huge impact on our lives and the lives around us.

When my older sister was 13, she got diagnosed with depression. I still have a vivid memory of sitting on the top of the stairs and seeing my mom take a knife from my sister. They were both crying and I had no idea why. There were days where I would hide in my room and hear my sister crying and screaming. I was so scared and confused.

One day I was at a friends house when my dad came to the door and said that your sister is in the hospital. My twin sister and I had no idea what was going on. When I got to the hospital, I saw her and I just cried. She was in the hospital for about 3 years. It was so so hard because I loved her so much and to see someone that you really care about go through something like that is almost unbearable.

She still has scars on her legs and her arms. She still struggles. She worries about her body Image almost every day. But she is beautiful. Every single person is beautiful and should be reminded. Going through it alone is the hardest part, but if you have someone to talk to, it becomes so much easier.

Why do people hide their feelings? Maybe it’s because they feel alone and they feel scared. Life is filled with happy moments and memories you’ll never forget. But life is also filled with difficult times. Maybe you cry yourself to sleep almost every day. I know I have. My tears are REAL, my feelings are REAL. Always know that your feelings are ALWAYS valid. Just talk to someone, please talk to someone, because there is always someone who will listen.

It is so so important to feel like you’re not alone. Life is one big journey, and sometimes that journey can get rough, but if we all stick together and help one another, that journey becomes easier. “You cannot recover from anxiety by just staying calm, you cannot recover from depression by just being positive. If mental illnesses were that simple, we wouldn’t be struggling in the first place.” Your illness doesn’t define who you are, your strength and courage do.

Hello, my name is Rich

Hello, my name is Rich and I’ve managed to wear many hats in the creative world.

Drawing has always been my grounding salvation, it is the place I slow down, a platform to distill thoughts and make things tangible to determine if they have a place in my life, this is where I heal.

Growing up I was informed by those around me that these low feelings I started to express were not depression, was given firm reminders that as a male these feelings are not a part of my reality and to outgrow all these things is a mark of maturity.

For years I would ostrich, put an emotional head in the sand and try to follow those cultural scripts family, friends, teachers, agencies, clients and art industries write.

To little avail, my passions take me up, they take me down, as I travel I am observant and I still have to distill my thoughts and make things tangible to evaluate.

I am thankful that art found me at an early age, I wonder what I may be without these tools and know that my ability to find balance is a product of moving pencils.