#BellLetsTalk

It is #BellLetsTalk day, a once a year event where Bell donates 5 cents for every text, call, tweet, Instagram, and use of snapchat GeoFilter to mental health initiatives. It is a wonderful day that generates an enormous amount of social media chatter and raises millions of dollars for a very underfunded part of our healthcare system, while simultaneously reducing stigma.

Stigma is only one part of the problem people with mental health issues face. The larger and more difficult problem to face is access to care. Unfortunately, at least in this province, the wait times to access a professional in the public system are astronomical.

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This chart was accessed through the NS government website and displays the maximum wait time 90% of patients waited to access Mental Health Adult Community-Based Services (Data period: July 1- September 30 2016). According to the website: “Wait times are measured from the time the referral is received by the clinical service to the date the patient has their first Choice appointment with a clinician. Wait times do not include patients who choose to wait longer.” Feel free to access this information at:  https://waittimes.novascotia.ca/procedure/mental-health-adult-community-based-services#waittimes-90

To help understand what the numbers mean: The shortest timeframe: 90% of patients accessing care at the Inverness Consolidated Hospital had their first appointment within 39 days of the service being requested. The longest timeframe: 90% of patients accessing care at the Cape Breton Regional had their appointment within 325 days of the service being requested.

Can you imagine deciding to seek help, only to be told it may take up to 325 days to be seen? This is incredibly frustrating for those seeking help, as well as those incredible people who are dedicated to providing help.

My intention is not for this information to create a negative backlash towards our healthcare system. My intention is to draw attention to, and generate a conversation surrounding, the challenges that currently face our mental health care system and those accessing care, and why #BellLetsTalk is so important for generating desperately needed funds.

 

 

Another year gone b’y

Hi Everyone!

9 months.  It has been 9 months since I wrote my post ‘Change.’ I don’t know which emotion is stronger; the disappointment in myself for taking so long to write, or the bewilderment of how much time has passed. Even more astonishing, it has been a year to the day since we arrived back in Canada from our 13-month trip. This anniversary is, of course, the fire under my arse butt to get back to writing.

What, you may ask, have I been up to during this extraordinary writing hiatus?

Nothing.

And everything.

It has taken me an entire year to digest and process what the 13-month backpacking around the world trip really meant. I find it fascinating how the mind processes things. I would be at work doing something completely ordinary, and all of a sudden find my mind back in Nepal watching the sunrise, or standing on the edge of the bridge just before I bungeed.In so many ways, it was like I spent the year re-living the previous year. This may sound like a gigantic waste of time, but it wasn’t even on a conscious level. It was like subconsciously, my mind was still playing catch up. I would all of a sudden think, “This time last year, I was _____________,” and then spend a few minutes reflecting on the memory. This did not happen every day, but frequently enough that it did feel like I was moving through the trip in chronological order as the year went on.

I discussed in my ‘Life Lessons’ post how misguided the romantic notion of travel allowing you to ‘find who you are’ is, but rather the idea that travel makes you question who you are. At the time of writing, I didn’t fully grasp the breadth of what that questioning process meant, and how unknowingly, it had began for me long before I ever stuck pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard).

As I subconsciously and consciously reflected on the trip, I in turn reflected on how significantly the trip changed me. I feel like each country we visited taught me something about myself, and pushed me to grow into the best possible version of myself. I won’t claim that this transition and growth was easy. It was anything but easy. But I also sincerely doubt it would have ever happened had Chris and I not dared greatly and followed our inspiration to travel.

So, what else did I do this year? I followed my curiosity. 

I know, I know. ‘Big Magic,’ Liz Gilbert, been there, read that. If you have, you will find it entertaining to know that I just finished the book and had to pick my jaw up off the floor as I felt I could have written the damn thing. The proof, as they say, is in the proverbial pudding.

Where exactly did my curiosity lead me?:

  • New areas of Cape Breton, PEI, and Nova Scotia
  • To appreciate the peacefulness of journaling
  • Back to the gym for the simple pleasure of being active
  • To hard truths
  • To books I overlooked a hundred times previously
  • Newfoundland for the first, but not the last, time
  • To discussions about vulnerability
  • The discovery of podcasts
  • Fiddle lessons (For no reason other than the fact it brought me immense joy as a child)
  • Recycling old furniture and giving the pieces new life with chalk paint
  • To try meditation, realize its not for me, and be okay with that
  • New recipes
  • The realization; I am creative
  • To strengthening old friendships, and developing new ones
  • To continue to dare greatly

2016 was a beautiful year.

But something tells me, 2017 is going to incredible.

 

 

 

 

Change

Hi everyone!

My promise to continue blogging may appear to be going unfulfilled, however I have been intentionally avoiding blogging as I have been somewhat at a loss as to how to detail the two months since arriving back in Canada. With the weather finally beginning to feel like spring, a feeling of fresh beginnings, I decided this would be a perfect time (and theme) for my post.

As foreshadowed in my life lessons post, there has been a major “reality” adjustment upon returning to Canada. I will never forget waking up my first morning back in Canada, freezing my butt off walking to the car, getting to the hairdresser and sitting in the chair for my first real haircut in 13 months (I refuse to define my cuts in Turkey and Singapore as legitimate cuts). I had never met this particular hairdresser before, my beloved hairdresser was unable to fit me into her very busy schedule, and subsequently I was thrust into the throws of hairdresser small talk. The lightening speed of the conversation and the range of topics covered had my head spinning, I felt completely overwhelmed and speechless. I felt like laughing and crying all at the same time, something once so familiar felt totally foreign. She did an absolutely fantastic job, but instead of feeling light and rejevenated, I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever be able to readjust.

I had very little time to ponder this, and the million other questions that rang through my conscious and subconscious brain. Hindsight, ever 20/20, leads me to the conclusion perhaps a week from landing back in Canada to returning to work may have been inadequate for readjustment. At first I believed it would be good to be thrown headfirst back into the “real” world. ‘Baptism by fire,’ as the age old adage goes. There was a fire alright, but not in a positive, productive way. I told myself it was because I had been away from retail for so long, that it was due to me taking a full year off, that once I got back into the swing of things, it would be fine. But, you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you when things just aren’t right? I had that feeling every moment, of every day. If traveling has taught me anything, it is that you never ignore that feeling. So I listened.

In a manner I can only define as serendipitous, I was presented with an opportunity to join an exciting, dynamic team that perfectly suits my ideals and philosophy for a working environment. I am incredibly happy I listened to my gut feeling and made the big, scary decision to change positions. It was a major risk, but nothing in comparison to risking my happiness.

Despite being incredibly satisfied and happy with my new position, I am finding it hard to get back on the “hamster wheel” of life. The “wheel” I am referencing goes a little something like this;

You work hard every day to have money to buy things you don’t need that tie you down and make it impossible to lead any other lifestyle.

That old thing.

It is a very interesting, yet difficult, transitional period in my life. I feel I am in purgatory as I don’t want to be traveling long-term at the moment, but I am also finding it difficult to be fully invested in every day ‘normal’ life. To me, both are equally extreme forms of lifestyles. I am searching for the sweet spot, the happy medium where hopefully I will discover the balance I crave.

I realize this post is [more than a little] disjointed, jumbled, and slightly chaotic. It is an honest and direct reflection of how I feel at this moment in time. And I have realized that is 100% okay. The ending is also untidy, and trailing. That too, is okay.

I am sorry it has taken so long for me to write this. I have tried many times to find the perfect words to describe this tumultuous time. There are no perfect words, only the truth. Blogging is a wonderful way to process things and try and make sense of it all. It is a glimpse into my life and it is part of my commitment to be vulnerable, and bold with how I live it.

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380 Days of Life Lessons and other musings

Hi Everyone!

I have been looking forward to writing this post since returning to Canada as I have spent almost every free moment of my time reflecting on our time spent abroad. My last few days in Koh Tao were also spent reflecting, and I have found it very interesting how my thought pattern has changed since returning to Canada. While still in Thailand I had nothing but positive thoughts about the journey and how we carried ourselves throughout. Since returning home I have been riddled with doubt; Did we enjoy every minute enough? Did we go to the right countries? Should we have spent less time in one country versus another? Will I ever get to travel to this degree again? And on, and on, and on my mind races. I think it has something to do with all of the subliminal messages we receive on a daily basis from the media and those around us. We constantly compare ourselves and our journey to others and that leaves us feeling inadequate. In addition to this, few people understand what Chris and I have gone through or experienced, and most people doubt what we have done to some degree. A common interaction we have with people is to tell them what we have been up to for the past year and have them answer,”You did what?” …and then slink away giving sideward glances as if we have some sort of ailment they can catch simply by speaking with us. This is an adjustment in itself as meeting other travellers on the road where everyone is in the same boat to some degree sparks amazing conversation and discussion and mutual sharing of information between both parties about where we have been, where we are going etc.

I am also still processing many things about the trip. With the pace and ferocity of our travel itinerary it did not leave much time for reflection. It was “on to the next country” without a backward glance at the country we were leaving. It takes a lot to fully digest all that we were able to see and do and I expect this is a process that will continue for a long time. I think that is part of the beauty of it, and why travel experiences are so long lasting. As time goes on, memories strengthen and the emotions surrounding the experience intensify rather than a normal memory which often fades. I am grateful I have such a plethora of memories to sift through at my leisure.

I have been asked an innumerable amount of times since returning barely a month ago, “How are you ever going to adjust to”normal” life again?” I often reply, “Isn’t that the million dollar question.” I think the bigger issue isn’t adjusting to other peoples norms, but finding a norm for myself (and Chris of course). By no stretch of the imagination will our norm ever be the same for the average person, but I think we have to do some work to truly define what our normal will look like. Traveling will always be a big part of our lives, however we have learned that long term extended travel for a year isn’t something we are overly interested in doing again any time soon. For now we are content with our average 3 weeks a year (Gah, we need to move towards a vacation time similar to Australia) and knocking off countries close to us. We also want to spend a lot of time exploring our own country and have several trips planned for the upcoming months within country. How long will we be content with this set up? I can’t answer that right now. The travel bug has been subdued for now but it is only a matter of time before it rears its head again.

How have I been coping so far? I would say that to this point I have been surviving. I started work less than one week after landing back in the country and it felt like my world was turned upside down. I had just spent the last year of my life doing as I pleased, when I pleased with absolutely zero responsibilities. I then began work where I was at the mercy of the position and had (what felt like) all of the responsibility in the world. I found it incredibly challenging despite how much I had reviewed and prepared. Nothing can really prepare you for your first week back at work, especially in health care which is the definition of unpredictable. Not to mention the massive changes that have happened since I last practiced in a community setting over 2 and a half years ago. I have drawn upon all the lessons learned while traveling to get through the first few weeks back at work, and I thought it would be interesting to share some of these lessons with you all. This is not a cookie cutter list that you will find if you google “Lessons learned while traveling.” It is an honest and real list, while many of the other lists I have read are written only about the overwhelming positives aspects of traveling. I hope you enjoy, and I would love to hear your feedback or lessons learned while abroad!

Travel specific:

  • Always be a traveller, not a tourist. Be conscious of your impact on a place and make a concerted effort to really get to know where you are. Talk to the locals, read the paper, listen to the radio or news. This is how you will know the real story of the country you are in.
  • To enjoy experiences to the fullest you need to accept that things are disorganized, chaotic and without reason. If you allow yourself to become frustrated because things are done differently (and more logically) in your home country, you will have a disastrous time. You are in their country, stop asking “Why.” Things will shift from infuriating, to fun.
  • That travelling doesn’t allow you to “find” yourself. So many people have the idea that if they go far enough somehow they will all of a sudden realize who they are. The contrary is true. I read a fantastic (and honest) list of travel lessons at markmanson.net and he said, “Rather than discover who you are, you begin to question who you are.”
  • Be present in the moment. We are so obsessed with pictures as a culture and we are missing out on really experiencing things because we are behind the lens of camera. The difference between a story and a picture is only one of them can make you feel the emotion of an experience. A picture is one moment in time, but a story changes and evolves every time you tell it. If all you can say is, “I got a great picture,” then you missed the experience and the opportunity for a wonderful story. I am not saying don’t take pictures, take a picture, then set the camera down. Drink in your surroundings and try and memorize every detail of what you are experiencing. *As a side note I would love to learn about the psychology of picture taking and the effect it is having on our society. Days before our visit to the Taj Mahal in India a Japanese man died trying to get a selfie. The same thing happened on “Death Road” in Bolivia. It would be an interesting topic for discussion!
  • Communication is the single most important tool in life, and it is not only verbal. Learning to be a good communicator via body language, hand signals etc. can be very effective and powerful. Some of the best conversation we had during our year was with people who did not speak a single word of our language, and us of theirs.

Life:

  1. Sometimes life lessons come at unwanted times and give you unwanted truths. This is part of the beauty of growing as an individual.
  2. Compassion begins with having it for oneself, before being able to give it to others.
  3. Take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. The most important relationship you will have is with yourself. If you are hard on yourself, you will inevitably be hard on others.
  4. People are inherently good, kind individuals. Treat them as such.
  5. The grass isn’t always greener on the side (in fact, it hardly ever is)
  6. Meaningful conversation is a rarity, cherish the people in your life you are able to share it with. Endeavour to make the effort to deviate from small talk to meaningful conversation with new and old friends- it can be life changing.
  7. The best memories are made in the smallest moments. The first few seconds of waking up in a tent in the fresh air of a new place, a really good cup of coffee after thousands of cups of instant, making dinner using fresh local ingredients, etc. When I think back on the trip it is often the smallest of moments that elicit the biggest of smiles. The “highlight” reel isn’t necessarily what I conjure when thinking of the trip.
  8. The same goes for adventure. Adventure doesn’t have to be a big, grandiose thing. It can be a trip to the grocery store. It is all how you approach it.
  9. The power of vulnerability (Big thanks to Rilla for introducing this concept to me). This goes for both as a person, and being in a new environment. We often cannot handle the feeling of vulnerability but when we learn to embrace and focus ourselves on experiencing it, it can lead to powerful moments. *There is an amazing TedTalk on this concept if you are interested.
  10. Being uncomfortable is part of daily life for almost every other person on this planet. One of the best things you can do to gain perspective and grow as a person is put yourself in situations in which you are uncomfortable. 4 months tenting throughout Africa where showers, sleeping mats (or beds), refrigeration, warmth, etc. were novelties taught me a lot about comfort and how it isn’t to be taken for granted.

Bonus but more personal: The mountains are always the answer to the most difficult questions life hands me. For inspiration and perspective, hiking through the mountains is where I will find both.

Privilege:

  1. I am privileged beyond belief both in Canada, and outside of Canada.  This is a lesson I was reminded of daily.
  2. Personal safety is not something to be taken for granted. Growing up in a place where doors were left unlocked, keys left in the ignition, personal belongings unattended and being able to go anywhere at any time of day (especially as a woman) is a great privilege. There are many countries in which people fear for their personal safety (even in their own homes) as part of daily life. These aren’t just war torn countries either. In South Africa people build concrete walls around their properties to keep people out and their families safe and car hijackings are an everyday threat.
  3. “Space” in this world is a privilege. Both personal space (think India) and personal land are things we take for granted as Canadians as we have the most of both out of any country in the world.
  4. The four seasons are a blessing and something beautiful we are privileged to experience in Canada.
  5. Being able to say, “I am bored” is a privilege. I hate this saying, and feeling, but no where else in the world do they have the privilege. They have to collect water, hunt for food, try and find shelter etc. There is no time for boredom as they have to fight to meet their basic needs.

Career:

  1. No job in the entire world is perfect, there are negatives to every single position. Accepting this, and realizing your job is the least interesting or important thing in your life will lead to increased satisfaction with the position. Life is about what you do while not at work.
  2. Without creativity there is no inspiration in life. This is something I need to integrate into my “work” week. My career leaves little room for creativity so I need to have a “second” job in which I attain opportunities for this, like continuing with this blog.
  3. As Canadians we agonize over our positions and what we would change or how would do things differently and it seeps into our personal lives. Showing up for work, giving it your all, and leaving it all behind when you are finished are important things to make a concerted effort in doing.
  4. It is never too late to change. We met countless people who had late in life career changes and are happier than ever. Not that either Chris or I are thinking of this, but it is an important lesson to remember if the need ever arises.
  5. Find the balance. If this means working less to maintain a better quality of life, then so be it. You will be more productive while at work and while not. Life is not about money (we are really good understanding that lesson).

And finally, the biggest lesson of all? Chris and I are unbelievably lucky and blessed to have shared every single moment together. Most couples struggle to make it through a week in Mexico at an all inclusive resort. We spent every waking moment together for 378 days, and are still smiling. How lucky are we?

I will leave you with a quote from Anthony Bourdain that I found and thought was appropriate for this post.

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Cheers everyone, looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the post!