life, Uncategorized

The most important lesson I learned in my 30’s was how to be okay with someone not liking me.

For the first 35 years of my life, my goal was, above all else, to be liked. Not uncommon for women in my generation (or women at all, for that matter) but for me, it was priority numero uno for a very long time. I would do anything to ensure that I was liked and accepted and learned very quickly how to bob, weave, and blend my way into whatever crowd I was with at the time. Sometimes I messed it up (through a poorly timed joke or by being ‘too eager’), but most of the time, I had that shit dialed in. I knew how to charm, joke, or doormat my way into the heart of almost anyone.

But what started out as a survival tactic when I was young, turned into something different as I traversed my 20’s and 30’s. What was once very important to me – being liked at all costs, became less of a priority, with self-acceptance making its way towards the top of the priority list. (Hallelujah!)

When I look at what has shifted, it isn’t so much that I don’t want to be liked (of course I do, everyone does) … but now, when I find myself on the receiving end of someone’s disapproval, I am able to look at it a little more objectively. Now, I decide how much power I am willing to give the other person’s opinion, rather than just blindly accepting it as proof that there is something fundamentally wrong with me. Also, I am less focused on proving myself to be right, and more focused on whether or not my actions and opinions are aligned with my personal values.

Somewhere along the way, my opinion of myself became more important than other people’s opinions of me. (Again, Hallelujah!)

Now that is not to say that I do not welcome feedback from the people in my life that I love and respect. If someone in my inner circle feels I have been out of line, or feels I could benefit from another perspective, I 100% want to hear about it. And I promise I will listen. But, I reserve the right to be true to myself first and foremost, because if there are going to be consequences, I would much rather they be a result of letting someone else down, than of letting myself down.

This isn’t about not caring or not being willing to listen to other people’s perspectives or perceptions, it is about trusting myself first – something that was not present for me 20 years ago. It is about remaining open and loving, without taking on other people’s garbage that is not mine to carry.

As Mark Manson details in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, “We all have a limited number of fucks to give; pay attention to where and who you give them to.”

It seems that my 30’s was the decade of learning to be stingy with my f*cks, and what a valuable lesson that has been. I still bob and weave, and charm and joke my way through life, but now, priority numero uno is liking myself. And as it turns out, that is a lot easier, and a whole lot more rewarding.

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Knowing

My first writing gig was an OP/ED column called ’30-Something Scribbles’ for a local news outlet. The owner/editor was a good friend of mine who graciously took me under her wing in order to give me an opportunity to hone my skills. Every few weeks, I would come up with a piece that I thought people would like, send it off to her for feedback and edits, and up it would go – out into the Universe and free for all to read.

This process was always equal parts terrifying and exciting for me and even though my friend reassured me that she would never publish something that sucked to a website that was also her livelihood, I wasn’t convinced. She was my friend, after all, and I was somewhat suspicious that she just didn’t have the heart to tell me that my writing wasn’t that good.

It’s not that I didn’t trust her … in all reality, I didn’t trust myself.

Any opinion I had of my work hinged solely on what others thought of it first. Any pride or fulfillment I felt from my writing was null and void until verified by others, preferably a stranger (you can always trust an internet stranger to be honest with you, brutally so at times). I trusted the viewpoint of others far beyond my own, even when it came to determining how I felt about myself.

My writing has grown a lot over the years, as has my confidence, but it wasn’t until recently that I dropped the habit of asking people for feedback on my writing prior to publishing.

Now, let me preface this by saying that there is nothing wrong with having a second set of eyes look over your work prior to release. We have editors for a reason and they are brilliant, necessary fixtures in the writing world. However, grammatical errors and sentence structure were not the only reasons I was sending my writing off to trusted friends … what I was really looking for was approval. I was looking for affirmation.

“Let me know what you think!“, was code for “Please tell me you like this because I really do!”

I hadn’t yet begun to trust my own knowing. That inner feeling inside of all of us that says “Yes!“, or “No”, or even “Meh. I’m not sure yet.” if things still seem unclear.

Whether I’m seeking clarity on my writing, feeling confused about a conflict with a loved one, or making a big life decision – that place deep inside my gut knows. It always has, it just took me 35 years to start listening to it.

Learning to tune into myself and trust what I feel has been a bumpy road to say the least. It’s uncomfortable to rely on your own knowing at first, especially when you have spent the last few decades convinced that it is not to be trusted. Just like anything new, it takes practice.

It was the ‘getting quiet and tuning in’ part that was the hardest for me. In order to access your knowing, you need to get quiet, and stepping away from my beloved distractions and just ‘being’ with my feelings made me feel itchy and squirmy inside. I have ADD, anxiety, and have been using dissociation as a coping skill for as long as I can remember so being in my own skin, willingly, was not something I was used to. But what I did find was, as soon as I got past the itchy, squirmy feeling, the quiet was kind of nice – like settling into savasana at the end of a yoga class.

Now, this quiet place inside of me is where I go to check in for everything. Whether it is a parenting decision, an issue at work, or a blog I am writing, I can always find the answer there. I just need to get quiet enough to hear it.

I still love getting feedback on my writing, just as any artist likes getting feedback on their work. And of course, positive response feels good. It is supposed to. But the difference now is that I trust myself first. Turning inward is my default. And as it turns out, that feels better than external validation any day of the week.

life, Uncategorized

I’ll sit with you

Failure is one of those things that is easy to write about when you have overcome it. Sharing a story of how we persevered through life’s challenges and came out the other side is not only cathartic, it is inspirational. Everyone loves a story of triumph.

But what about when you are in the thick of it? What do you do when you are mid-collapse, or feel like you’re drowning? How or what do you write about then?

As a writer, I have spent much of my career sharing my personal stories. From battles fought and won, to lessons learned and relearned, I have always tried to be honest with my audience. I believe in vulnerability and in authenticity and sharing my life’s challenges and imperfections has been a big part of my writing. But lately I have been struggling. A year that started out with the launch of a book and goals to begin coaching, quickly turned into one of the biggest mental health crises that I have had in years.

Everything became a struggle. My anxiety became unmanageable, my self-care plummeted, my work and relationships suffered, and my interest in anything, even my beloved writing, became non-existent.

But it wasn’t just the lack of interest that held me back from writing (although that was a big part of it), it was the fear around speaking vulnerably, while being at my most vulnerable.

Although I have built my career on honesty, it has always been in more of an ‘after the fact‘, ‘let’s add some humour in and laugh at how hard life can be‘ kind of way. I have always kept it light-hearted, and I have always kept from talking about my battles until I was out of the trenches.

One of the biggest hang-ups that ‘helpers’ face in moments of crisis is asking themselves, ‘How can I help/inspire others when I can’t even help or inspire myself?!

But what if the greatest help you can give someone is not to offer ‘after the fact’ advice or light-hearted humour … what if the greatest help you can offer someone is just to let them know that they are not alone? What if the biggest gift you can give someone is the knowledge that there is someone else in the trenches too, fighting alongside them?

This too, shall pass. Of that much, I am sure. And in the meantime, I am going to keep fighting, and I am going to keep sharing my story, whether I have found triumph or not.

If you are in the trenches right now, know that you aren’t alone. And I can promise you this … I am not going to say ‘We’ve got this!“, because even though we likely do ‘got this’, hearing that right now is not helpful.

I’ll just be there, sitting alongside you.

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Thankful

As I near the end of my 4th decade on this planet, I find myself filled with awe and gratitude. My thirties held so much for me – change, growth, love, and loss. Most importantly though, my thirties solidified my commitment to myself, my commitment to authenticity.

This decade brought me a career in advertising, two books and a blog. It brought me joy and it brought me heartbreak. I left a marriage that I knew wasn’t right for me and friendships that no longer served me. I got hurt and I hurt people. I formed new bonds and forged new friendships. I bought houses that I built into homes. I fell in love and I fell apart. And through it all, I settled more into myself. Getting comfortable in my own skin, learning to turn towards pain rather than away from it. I have learned that you can’t experience joy without pain, and the grief is a blessing because it is evidence of love. How grateful I am for this life and these lessons. How grateful I am for all of the pieces that have made up my story.

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Forty lessons for forty years – advice to my younger self

Something I have heard time and time again from my older friends is that, no matter what age they are, they still feel young. When I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, this was difficult for me to understand. I mean let’s face it, it is often hard for us to comprehend something that we haven’t experienced yet. But now that I am approaching 40, I am beginning to grasp what they were talking about. I don’t feel 40. Even though I am a grown up who owns a house and RRSP’s, even though I have a child that will be starting college next fall, and even though I have somehow navigated my way through adulthood (albeit, clumsily at times), I still often feel like I am just getting started. Like a kid who very much still needs their mom.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely bits of me that scream, “I’m 40!” – the laugh lines that are now permanently embedded in my skin, the strands of tinsel in my hair that have become difficult to hide without the help of my hairdresser, and the fact that a late night out means I am home by 11 and need two days to recover. But the most notable change that has come with this new decade is confidence, a knowing that I no longer need to rely on the advice of other’s in order to know what to do, I can trust myself. I have realized, over these past 20 years, that I can tap into my own wisdom when faced with life’s many hurdles.

Now I use the term ‘wisdom’ loosely of course. As I said, I still often feel like a kid who doesn’t have a clue half the time. But there are definitely a lot of things I have learned along the way throughout this journey to 40. So, in honour of this milestone birthday, I decided to compile a list of things I wish I could tell my younger self. Little nuggets that would have made her life so much easier. And because I am a sucker for patterns, there are 40 of them.

40 lessons for 40 years.

Let’s do this.

1. Your life will not turn out how think it will and, for the most part, this is a gift.

2. Your body will change. This is normal and to be expected. Fun fact: You will be 25lbs heavier at 40 than you are now but you will also be way more confident in your own skin.

3. Following that, stop hating your body. Please, just stop.

4. Wear sunscreen. Don’t forget to apply to the back of your hands.

5. You are far stronger than you realize. Also, your perception of what it means to ‘be strong’ is going to change vastly over the years.

6. Courage does not equal fearlessness. It is possible to be terrified and courageous at the same time and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

7. If you have to beg or change who you are in order to be accepted, it is 100% not worth it.

8. Be accountable for your mistakes. Everyone makes them, it is okay, but no one likes someone who hides behind excuses or blames others.

9. You are going to tap into some feistiness as you get older. Roll with it, it’s kind of cool.

10. You cannot trick someone into loving you with your vagina. Stop trying, you will just end up feeling used and heartbroken. They are just not that into you and that’s okay, someone else will be. Promise.

11. Always take time to talk to your mom. You don’t see it yet but she is wise beyond measure.

12. You are enough. I repeat, you are enough. Just the way you are.

13. It is true what they say, raising kids goes so fast. Hug them every second you can.

14. Trust your gut, it is usually right. But also, it doesn’t hurt to sleep on big decisions. Your gut will still be there in the morning.

15. Say ‘no’ more often. To phone calls you don’t want to take, drinks you don’t want to have, or social gatherings you don’t want to attend. Also, ‘No.’ is a complete sentence.

16. You are going to fuck up. And that’s okay. (Please reference number 8 and 12).

17. Sometimes taking the ‘easy road’ ends up being a lot more work in the long run. Look for what is right, not what is easy.

18. Tell people you love them. All of the time.

19. Try not to stress so much. Most stuff really isn’t that big of a deal, I promise.

20. Stop dating losers. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. And you are worth more than that. (Please see #7 and #10)

21. Whenever possible, get out of your comfort zone. All of the good stuff happens there.

22. As much as you intend on being a ‘cool mom’, I regret to inform you that this is not your reality at 40. You will be ‘mediocre cool’ at best. Sadder yet, you will find yourself quite content with this label.

23. Always try new foods.

24. Also, re-try old foods. Tastes change. Believe it or not, you grow to really love olives.

25. Stop worrying so much about what other people think of you. No offence, but no one is spending that much time thinking about you. They are too busy worrying about what everyone else is thinking of them. Just be true to your values and mind your own business.

26. Take the meds. There is no medal for white-knuckling your way through life while dealing with crippling anxiety. Take the meds, trust me.

27. Buying good hair products is worth it. Start now.

28. Never underestimate the power of a good nights sleep.

29. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. You don’t always have to ‘laugh it off’ or ‘suck it up’.

30. Success really is the best revenge.

31. You can’t please everyone. In fact, it is impossible. Stop getting bent out of shape over every single person’s opinion. Choose the ones that matter.

32. Start writing. It becomes a bit of a thing for you later.

33. Stop saving things for a “special occasion”. Wear the damn lace undies. Put on your favorite pants. It is okay to feel good on a ‘regular day’ too.

34. Speaking of clothes, if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it. It will just end up sitting in your closet otherwise.

35. For the love of God, stop trying to be someone you aren’t. You are actually pretty loveable just how you are so be yourself and be unapologetic about it.

36. Don’t make assumptions about people. You don’t know everyone’s story and assuming you do based on how they act or how they present themselves is dangerous.

37. Remember to listen, even when it’s uncomfortable. You are a helper through and through but sometimes the most helpful thing you can do for someone is just listen to them.

38. Be open-minded to other people’s point of view. You can learn so much from others.

39. Start investing money now. Even if it’s just a little bit each month. Don’t tell me you can’t afford it, I know some of the bullshit you spend money on. 40 sneaks up quickly so I can only imagine 60 does too. Let’s get planning for retirement, shall we?

40. Lastly, you don’t see it now but I am here to tell you that you are smart. And talented. You will accomplish goals and chase your dreams. And although it is often hard to believe right now, you will be proud of the woman you become.

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On shame, turning 40, and turning inward.

It is the summer before my 40th birthday and I am sitting at my kitchen table trying for the life of me to pinpoint the exact moment that I first felt ashamed of who I was. I can’t remember a precise moment per se but I do know that I was young. Very young. Likely partially inherited (my mom was no stranger to shame) and partially learned, shame is something I have carried with me for as long as I can remember. And as I sit here with my laptop at the age of 39 and 3/4’s, I shudder to realize how much of it I still carry with me.

Although less frequent now, the waves of remorse and embarrassment still hit from time to time, usually initiated by my being too loud, too obnoxious … too much.

My too muchness was something I learned about early and although I wasn’t always successful, it is something I worked hard to contain. I strived to be petite, polite, blonde, and quiet. Although laughable now, my first writings as a young girl was where I got to be anything I wanted – anything but me. In real life, petite is the only one I pulled off, but my energy always made up for that. And my ‘too muchness’ always found its way out, usually in loud desperate bursts.

At my core I can recognize that I really just wanted to feel accepted. To feel loved. But in each eager attempt to gain approval and connection, I only reaffirmed the truth I was trying to escape – that I didn’t quite fit. My search for belonging led me down some dark paths. I self-medicated, I gave away my body, I loathed every piece of who I was. And, as is so often the case, my behaviour and the resulting consequences only reinforced the narrative that I had adopted as a young child – that who I was wasn’t good enough.

It wasn’t until I became a mother that I was forced to relook at things and make some changes. If I couldn’t love myself for myself, then I was going to love myself for the little being growing inside me. Fake it ’til you make it, as they say. And although things certainly improved and I managed to stop my self-destructive behavior for the sake of my child, I still struggled to fully accept, love, and embrace who I was.

At some point along my journey, directly or indirectly, I learned that I was not good enough. And I believed it. I learned that I could not trust myself so I had to turn to others to tell me who to be, how to act, how to look, and how worthy I am.

And although it is normal to seek approval from others, and adapt our behaviour and our appearance to please our community, it is important that we tap into our own knowing first. That little voice deep inside that tells us when we are being true to ourselves, and when we are not.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if that shame that I felt all of those years wasn’t so much a result of not fitting in, but of betraying myself. That deep down I knew that I was abandoning who I was and with each step I took in the other direction, with each poison I ingested, and with every abuse I willingly endured, I became immersed in more shame and self-loathing. And the more I sought answers outside of myself, the more lost I became.

Now, sitting here in my kitchen, I can see that one of the biggest things worth celebrating as I approach this next birthday is my return to me. My commitment to trusting myself first, before others. And making a promise to myself that when I feel the flood of unease wash over me, it is not a sign to scramble or to please, but one to turn inward. To the knowing that has been there all along.

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Doing better after divorce

I have been divorced from my ex-husband for 5 years (separated for 6). I remember when we first split, I felt very confident that we would be one of the couples who would be able to manage our emotions and stay united for our kids. In fact, I thought we were going to rock the divorce game. I knew we would have challenges, of course, but I was certain that we would be able to rise above them. I imagined, somewhat naively, that we would enjoy healthy communication, shared holidays, and group photos with our new blended families. I pictured support, handshakes, and maybe even hugs. I just knew it would all be okay. After all, we were both adults. Adults that had been through a lot together. We had spent 9 years together, most of it decent. We had raised babies, grieved the loss of our parents, and shared a lot of laughter and love together. This is someone who had been my best friend, and I was not going to forget that.

Now, I can recognize that part of my ‘pollyanna perspective’ was due to the fact that I was the one to end my marriage. It is easy to look on the bright side when you are the one making the decisions. But looking back, it is both shocking and devastating to see how wrong I was. I won’t go into the details of our divorce out of respect for both my ex-husband and our children but I will say, in regards to co-parenting, the past 6 years have been indescribably challenging. For me. For him. And worst of all, for our children.

My post-marriage fantasy of laughter and unity has been anything but. In fact, I think that both my ex-husband and I would agree that it has been an absolute nightmare. Complete with contempt, vicious words, and quite frankly, child-like behaviour.

I want to be clear that I am not placing blame here. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango and as much as it pains me to admit it, I have very much been a part of the erosion in our relationship. It becomes easy to point fingers at the other party and point out how difficult or uncooperative they are, but the truth is, we have both played a role. When divorce happens, all of the disagreements, the annoyances, and the differences in parenting get that much louder, that much harder to ignore. Bitterness creeps in if one party thrives while another struggles, or if one moves on while another takes more time to grieve. And I am embarrassed to say that we let all of it get the better of us.

I am embarrassed to say that we didn’t do better.

What I have realized now is that it doesn’t matter how reasonable or kind a person is, hurt feelings and resentment can turn them into someone you barely recognize. Whether it is your ex-spouse, or yourself. And as much as it is important to offer everyone a little grace, when there are kids involved, it is much more important to pull your head out of your ass and put them first.

As I ride this secondary wave of grief realizing my ex-husband and I will never have the friendship that I wanted us to, I have become even more resolute in my determination to move forward from here in a different way. We may never sit around the same table celebrating an engagement or a new grandchild, but we can still do better. And if I have learned anything over the past 6 years, it is that the only actions and reactions I can control are my own.

I don’t know what the future holds for our broken family. Likely lots of biting our tongues, firm boundaries, and very limited communication. And even though that isn’t ideal, it is still okay. Not every divorce story needs to be a hallmark movie, as long as the kids come first. Even when we are angry. Even when we are hurt. Even when it’s hard.

To my babies, I’m sorry. Mama’s going to do better.

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On Little Dog Syndrome and Boundaries

The other day I was out and about and decided to pop in to see a prospective client and say hello. Now this client is a fairly new prospect so I don’t know them well and as I walked into the store, I was pleased to see two little dogs running up to greet me. I am a huge dog fan so I was completely taken by surprise when, as I reached down to greet the little furballs, one of them bit me.

It wasn’t a big bite by any means but it was enough to break the skin and although the nip took me by surprise, what was even more shocking was my reaction to the whole thing, which was … nothing. I did nothing.

Okay, that isn’t entirely correct. I DID comment on how cute the little bugger was and had a quick chat with the owner, all while hiding my hand behind my back so she wouldn’t see the blood.

That’s right, I hid my hand so she wouldn’t see that her dog had bit me.

When I got home later that evening, I told my fiance what happened.

“Why didn’t you say anything?!“, he said.

I don’t know. I didn’t want to upset her, I guess.”

“That is weird, Christine. Who cares if she got upset? Her dog bites. What if he does that to a kid?!”

And that’s when it really hit me – he was right. It is weird. Not only is it weird but it speaks (loudly) to something I have struggled with my whole life – speaking up for myself and holding boundaries.

Now obviously, I could have reacted to the little nip in a variety of different ways. I could have yelled, stormed out, kicked the dog, or I could have done the most reasonable thing which would have been to say, “Your dog just gave me a little nip. Not a huge deal, but I did want to let you know since you have him in your business.”

But for some crazy reason, the idea of saying something like that makes me feel like my skin is going to crawl right off my body. And apparently, I would rather hide my bloodied hand behind my back than potentially inconvenience someone by telling them their dog has a case of the ‘bites’.

What. The. Hell.

Although this incident was super minor, it marks how much I still struggle when it comes to speaking up for myself. This is something I have worked hard on for years and whether it was as simple as saying “No, I can’t lend you money.’ or something as big as “No, I don’t want to have sex.“, putting my needs, desires, or feelings above other’s has been something I have always battled.


I know I am not alone in this problem and that women in particular are taught to keep quiet and be nice, no matter what. But I’ve got to say, this really pisses me off!

I think part of my problem is that despite the fact that I have been working on establishing healthy boundaries for years, I have also been determined to do so gracefully. It is quite common for people who have struggled with establishing boundaries their whole life to take things a little too far when they first start and I have been hellbent on NOT becoming one of those people who ‘speaks their truth’ ALL THE TIME.

(Come on, you all had someone pop into mind, didn’t you?!)

Establishing boundaries is scary, especially at first, and sometimes it feels easier to come at it guns a’blazin’ and with teeth bared. Much like the little dog that bit me.

Essentially, people who are new to establishing healthy boundaries are much like dogs with ‘Little Dog Syndrome’. They are scared and insecure and often display an unnecessary level of fiest when trying to establish a perimeter which is not to be crossed.

This is something I wanted to bypass completely. I wanted to go straight from doormat to having confidence and self-assurance without having to experience the annoying lapdog learning curve.

Maybe I was out to lunch thinking I could avoid this stage or maybe my learning process will just take a little longer this way. More likely though, I just need to cut myself some slack. Confidence and self-assuredness are not static and neither is our ability to effectively hold and communicate healthy boundaries. We will have good days and we will have bad days. We will have little dog syndrome days and Doberman days. But one thing I know for sure is, I’m committed to this process. I am committed to taking deep breaths and treating myself with as much respect as I do others. And that includes being gentle with myself when I mess it up.

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Let’s talk about meds

Well, the title of this blog certainly doesn’t leave much to the imagination but sometimes you have to cut through the fluff and get straight to the point. I have shared a bit about my struggle with anxiety before but have yet to really dive into the medication end of things. Maybe I haven’t shared much because I still hold some embarrassment or shame around it. After all, despite all of the work we have done, there is still a huge stigma around mental health issues. Or maybe I haven’t shared as it just didn’t seem relevant until recently. Either way, I’m doing it now. Because the reality is, that tiny pill that I take every day enables me to function in a more effective way, be a more present parent and partner, and live beyond the panic that consumed me for so long. And if that doesn’t warrant a little spotlight, I don’t know what does.

Despite the fact that anxiety has plagued me for as long as I can remember, I haven’t always treated it with medication. In fact, most of my life, I have ‘toughed it out’, white-knuckling my way through, riding the waves on my own, without the help of a serotonin reuptake inhibitor. There were periods that my ‘white-knuckle’ approach was effective and I managed to cope quite well, and there have been times where I have not been so successful in managing. Times such as during my pregnancies when I was struck with crippling perinatal anxiety, or after the loss of my parents when everything seemed too much. Or times like two years ago when there was no momentous occasion or trauma, but anxiety brought me to my knees anyway. In spite of what we are led to believe, mental health issues do not need a ‘reason’ to pop up.

These periods of my life seem to come in peaks and valleys and are marked by symptoms such as irritability/anger, sleep disturbances, fatigue, difficulty concentrating/brain fog, uncontrollable worry, feelings of dread, and the most disruptive … dissociation and intrusive thoughts. Anxiety has gotten in my way of being a connected and present parent, it has affected my career, and it has taken a toll on my physical health.

I remember when I viewed my refusal to take medication as a badge of honour. A testimony of my strength and determination. I was eager to try anything but – from positive thinking and exercise, to essential oils and dietary supplements, but I saw medication as weakness, as giving up. I was also scared of side effects, and of judgement. I can see the irony now. In refusing to take meds during pregnancy or breastfeeding in order to ‘protect my kids from chemicals’, I ended up subjecting them to a very anxious and disengaged mother. And in avoiding pharmaceuticals in the name of health, I caused years of undue stress on my body. I write this now with nothing but a tonne of empathy for this younger version of myself, I was only doing what I thought was right. I was coping the best that I could at the time. And, I share this story now not because I think I have all the answers, but because we need to talk about it. We need to make saying, “I think I am struggling with depression.” as normal as, “I think I did something to my back, it hurts.

We need to share our stories.

I don’t know how long I will need to be on medication. It might be a year, it might be a lifelong thing. I do know that right now it is a part of my treatment plan, a small but crucial piece of the puzzle at this time. Among the other pieces – exercise, diet, sleep, social support, meditation, and, at times, therapy. Similarly to if I were on medication for high blood pressure, I need to make sure I am caring for myself in all areas of my life. One cannot just throw a pill at it and keep eating McDonalds.

I also know that medication makes me no less a good writer, a successful marketing exec, a loving mother, or a sarcastic, fun-loving friend with flawless dance moves. In fact, right now, medication makes me better in all of those areas because when my anxiety is under control, I am more present, more engaged, more focused and more patient. And all areas of my life deserve my very best. I deserve that too.

If I am being honest, I do hope that one day in the not too distant future, I will be able to go off of my medication and manage my symptoms with diet, exercise, sleep, etc. Time will tell but in the meantime, I am going to stay the course. Just as I wouldn’t deny myself medical treatment for a physical ailment, I won’t deny myself this either. I deserve to be well. And although life will always have ups and downs, peaks and valleys, I am committed to never white-knuckling it again.

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What are you looking for? Cause that’s what you’ll find.

I don’t know about y’all but I really struggle with winter. The dreary weather, the short days, the amount of clothing we have to put on just to ensure that we don’t die going outside … Seriously, I cannot figure out what there is to like about it.

But Christine, you should try skiing, you will love ….’

Let me just stop you right there. No, I will not love it. I will not love it because I have made up my mind not to love it. I have made up my mind that winter sports are too cold, too dangerous, too expensive, and just plain stupid. Just like winter – stupid.

Okay, I am being dramatic. But sharing my ridiculous opinion of one of nature’s most magical seasons is a great example of the power of our perspective. Because in actuality, the only thing wrong with winter is my attitude towards it.

Our ability to choose our perspective or the lens through which we view the world is one of the most powerful gifts we possess. And, in my humble opinion, one of the most overlooked components of personal development.

If I told you that you have the power to control how your day goes, just by paying attention to how you choose to perceive it, you would likely scoff at me. But it’s true. And yes, it is very much a choice. The problem lies in the fact that many of us are so entrenched in a negative pattern of perception that we are often completely unaware that it is even happening.

We all know people who are perpetually negative. The ones who are always complaining about the traffic, their annoying neighbour, or how much dog hair gets on the couch when their sister-in-law brings her dog over … the people who love to highlight what is going wrong with their day. These people are usually kind-hearted, functional members of society but likely just unaware that they are looking at the world through gross, smudged up, fingerprinted glasses. And the real kicker is, if you pointed out how negative they are, you would likely get a response like, “I am not! I just hate it when she brings her dog over!”

Biologically-speaking, negativity is actually very normal as the human brain is wired to hang out on the more negative side of things. We have what is called a ‘negative bias’ meaning that our brains remember and react more strongly towards negative situations than positive ones.

We are literally born negative, winter-hating cranky pants which means we need to work a little harder to train our brains for positivity. Simply becoming aware of what ‘lens’ we are looking through or practicing gratitude through finding one positive for every complaint (ex: noting the joy on sister-in-law’s face when she looks at her dog) can be a great place to start in terms of shifting things toward a more positive outlook.

Sometimes however, things can be a little more complicated. Sometimes our negative patterns stem from old wounds and fears that we have not addressed yet. My disdain for winter doesn’t come from a childhood wound, that is just my choosing to be miserable when the temperature drops below 10 degrees. But my perception of relationships that I carried for many years, which was that I was always overlooked and undervalued, was very much related to childhood pain.

Overcoming past trauma and holding ourselves accountable for our lives is something that I have written about before. They are topics that I feel very passionately about, mostly because I have spent the last several years working on them. If you had told me 15 years ago that I was choosing to view my relationships through a lens of self-pity and victimhood, I likely would have lashed out at you. I felt incredibly justified in my hurt and anger, and to be honest, I had some very valid reasons behind it. The problem was that by not dealing with the pain and fear I had experienced as a child, I carried it with me into all of my future relationships, projecting it onto situations where quite frankly, it didn’t belong.

The lens that I viewed family relationships through was tainted and it skewed my view of things to support the negative belief that I held in my head, which was that I was not enough, and that I was not valued. Essentially, what I saw in my relationships is exactly what I went looking for. I ended up only seeing the evidence that supported my negative story. It was like my brain put a giant spotlight on anything and everything that would reinforce this belief that I was clutching so hard to. The crummy part is that it also seemed to overlook anything to the contrary. Any person or circumstance that made me feel valued was often brushed aside, or followed by a ‘Yea but ….“.

I responded to relationships from a place of pain and even though that pain was valid, in order to change my relationships, and my perspective of them, I had to heal it.

Becoming aware of my patterns and admitting that I was responsible for much of what I had previously blamed on others, was painful. As was confronting the wounds that lay underneath. But man, was it worth it.

Now when I catch myself in a pattern or telling the same story over and over again, I ask myself, “Is this true? Or is this an old wound talking?“. This doesn’t mean that any conflict or hurt I experience is all my fault but by examining my perspective, and being willing to look at the role that I might play, I give myself the power to make change. Either by dealing with an underlying wound, setting a firm boundary, or choosing a new lens to view the situation through.

Shit happens, there is no doubt about that. And we are allowed to have bad moods, bad days, and emotional reactions to things that piss us off. We are also allowed to have boundaries and hold others accountable when they hurt us. But, if there is a pattern popping up in your life, whether it is a disdain for a particular season or repeated conflict with a family member, don’t be afraid to take a step back and ask yourself, “what is really happening here? What role might I play?”

It is important to examine what we are looking for because whether it is reasons to be annoyed or reasons to feel blessed, nine times out of ten, that is exactly what we will find.

PS. I’m still find lots about winter that I don’t like, but I’m working on it. It is okay to be a work in progress too.