I Think of You Often

There’s this funny thing that happens as a counsellor. Often times, you get the privilege of meeting people in their hardest struggles, and helping them through the hard times – but you don’t always get to hear the end of the story. There are times when you leave jobs, or clients leave your care as they leave your place of work. For me, I have had to say goodbye to clients when I left Sheridan College to begin work at the University of Guelph. I have had clients at both institutions who have had to say goodbye to me as they graduated from post-secondary education. In my private practice, sometimes people move on, or time and circumstance drifts appointments apart or ends them. Goodbyes are a normal part of counselling – they are healthy, and important. But I want you to know – I think of you often.

The girl I worked with who brought me back a scarf from overseas. The boy I worked with in theatre who now is off living life large. The girl I helped through an abusive relationship separation. The man who was struggling with meaning and purpose. The people who I worked with for three sessions – the people I worked with for over four or five years. The artists. The poets. The thinkers. The feelers.

The ones who exploded into counselling in trauma and chaos and found their way with gusto and fervour. The ones who quietly and timidly have come through my door, unsure of where this journey would take them. The ones...

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Why I Can’t Get Behind the Manifesting Movement – And You Shouldn’t Either

Tonight is a hard night for the community where I run my private practice. In Waterdown, Ontario, a beautiful little ten-year old girl lost her life tonight in a tragic car accident where she was hit on a local road. The lives of these families will never be the same. The classmates of this ten-year-old will know death far too soon.

Throughout my time in counselling, I have worked with so many people who are experiencing the worst that life has to offer. Young women who have been sexually assaulted and raped. Children whose parents have died or been diagnosed with cancer. Young people suffering diagnoses of life altering illnesses. People suffering through job loss, health changes, and, like tonight, lives that have been ended far too soon.

Yet at the same time, I see books on the shelf and I hear people saying things like…

“What you think about you bring about.”

“If you believe in it strongly enough, it will happen.”

“If you give yourself over to something becoming a reality, you will manifest it into reality.”

People saying that things will manifest… things will appear because you thought it into reality.

I can’t even begin to express my problems with this thinking philosophy...

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Cottage Roots

I am posting this story right now for many reasons. For one, it's spring time here, and that means cottage season is coming up. That means, as usual, Dan has been on my mind. As a second reason, this came up this week in a conversation with a client who had read my blog. This client had also lost someone in their life. My previous blog post that they had read, Frozen in Time, came up in our session. There were a lot of similarities in our experiences of loss. And I realised, as much as I love the Frozen in Time piece, and as much as that piece means to me, I wanted to finish the story now, here, on this blog. The Frozen in Time story was written from a different part of the grief process that I was in at that time - which was shock, numbness, and a lot of pain and hurt and intense emotion. I love that piece because I feel it captures just what my heart was going through at the time. I believe it really helps anyone who reads it to understand not only the love and connection I felt with Dan, but the abruptness of the loss and the wrenching experience, so they can understand me, my heart, and some of what has shaped me.

But while grief never goes away completely, there is a shift over time. I wanted to post this other piece, which builds on the Frozen in Time piece, as it talks about some of the shift. I wrote for the 10th anniversary and it was published in our cottage yearbook in 2013.

So thank you, to this client, for bringing this back up to me and reminding me that the second half of the story is important to share as well. And thank you, now, for reading it. 

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The Lost Art of Being Happy – And the Paradoxes that Can Sometimes Keep Me Stuck

I recently turned 30 (yay!) on January 10th, 2017. I had a lot of build-up in my head about it in different ways – mostly excitement, though, but maybe a bit of dread at the anticlimax of it as well. 

As a measure of the milestone of 30, wanted to do some taking stock, sitting back, and evaluating of my life. Honestly, it’s pretty darn great, all things considered. I have a lot of the things I’ve worked very hard to get, I am privileged in a lot of ways, I work to stay informed and educated and humbled by the goings on in the world, and I have the love of friends and family, and for right now, everyone’s relatively good health, despite some ups and downs. But sometimes I’m just not that happy. I complain more than I wish I did. I get hurt much more easily than I wish I did. I focus on the negative more often than my heart desires. I want to do less of that.

This last paragraph is very similar to how a book began that I just read as part of my “30th birthday” milestone adventure. I know I’m late to the party, but I just read The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, on my trip away for my birthday. Shame on me for thinking it was going to be silly fluff and for putting off reading it for so long. What it turned out to be, in fact, was a collection of well-written and interestingly put-together “in-disguise” counselling techniques, in an accessible and fun way that anyone can read and try out in their own lives. 

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The Mental Health System Is Broken – and Fighting Stigma Won't Be Enough

I am a counsellor at a university. And we can’t do our job right now. We can’t see students in the way we were trained, in the way we believe in, or in the way that we know works. We can’t do therapy.

Honestly, I would tell mental health advocates at this point to just stop trying to raise awareness and reduce stigma right now, which goes against everything I have ever stood for and everything I have ever worked for, and it breaks my heart – but here is why.

I have spent my entire counselling career arguing and advocating for mental health services, and focusing on reducing stigma and championing messages like “anyone who needs support should get support” and “it’s okay to talk about mental health.” I have spent countless nights and weekends working for free, planning events and volunteering my time championing this message. I have rallied and cheered and made posters and run events all around the topic of reducing stigma....

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Why I Love Working With Young People, and How to Understand Their World

I have had the privilege and honour to work with probably over 1500 or more young people in both a college and university setting as well as in private practice. While I work with all ages, including mature students, graduate students, new mothers, older individuals, and families, and I love each opportunity I get to help a new person, I do have a sincere passion in working with young people that I wanted to talk about today, as well as to help others understand a small piece of their world when they’re struggling.

One reason I always try to make a point of highlighting that I work with young people is that there seems to be a shortage of therapists who make a point to specialise in this area. I have had many clients land at my door after getting the runaround in the mental health system...

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Q and A with Wear Your Label - Inspiration, Writing, and the Take-Away

Re-posting from Wear Your Label - see the original article here! (and the other interview here!)

WYL: Can you speak to the inspiration of the book / why write about mental health?

C: The more work I was doing counselling college and university students, the more I began to realize that no one is really taught about the relationship that they have with themselves in a real, useful, concrete way – how to have a good relationship with yourself, how to talk to yourself, any of it! We are taught about our relationships with others, parents, friends, teachers, coaches, significant others… but we don’t ever get information about the relationship with the person that we spend 100% of our time with – ourselves! There are so many reasons that this is important, and one of them is a proactive approach to coping with mental health and mental illnesses. 

So much of what we struggle with regarding mental health persists because of our thought patterns. 

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Education as the Window to Apathy - and a Note of Hope

I wanted to share these posts that I wrote when I was in fourth year university (back when Facebook had "notes" - my very first little blog!) I wanted to share them for two reasons: one, I feel you. I get it. University is hard and it sucks the life out of you. There is nothing wrong with you, you are normal, you are not broken, and you WILL recover when it is all over and done with (so keep going, you're almost there!) Two, I wanted to share BOTH parts as an overall note of hope. I put the first part (a little darker) as well as the second part (a ray of hope) so that you can see that even when you're in the darkest part of the tunnel and you cannot detect any light, if you keep going, you will come out the other side. There are multiple ways to be successful. You will make it. Even when it seems like it's too dark in front of you to believe it, if you keep going, you will make it to the other side. So read on, and enjoy! (excuse my references to outdated technologies such as msn, lol!)

Part 1: Education as the Window to Apathy

All through your life, you are told that you can’t. 

As a child; you can’t touch that, you can’t play with that, you can’t eat that. 
As an adolescent; you can’t go out, you can’t make the team, you can’t get him to like you. 
As a student; you can’t get 80’s, you can’t get 90’s, and you can’t get perfect. 
As a young adult; you can’t get that job, you can’t get into that school, you can’t do it all. 
As a member of society; you can’t afford that, you can’t stay in a marriage in this day and age, you can’t live that kind of life. 

Maybe it’s not on the posters; maybe it’s not in the commercials. No one says it out loud, but it’s definitely the fine print. The part where it says, “A resume is required”. That says; we are going to judge you, and you just might not measure up. Get nervous. 

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All I Learned from the Jian Ghomeshi Trial was that Things Need to Change – Here’s How

*trigger warning – assault and rape

I’ve been keeping up with the Jian Ghomeshi trial in fits and spurts – sometimes I read almost an hours’ worth of articles at a time, and other times I turn away in fear and disgust, knowing that today isn’t a good day to try to tackle this subject – it hurts too much.

Because, you see, these women are ALL women #yesallwomen. These are the girls I talk to in counselling, who tell me of their awful encounters. These are the personal friends I have heard stories from. These women are me. I truly believe there is no woman who has not encountered some form of male abuse, misconduct, aggression, or actual physical assault, whether it be small or large, from a man. I know I have.

So when I hear about women in the trial being ripped apart for their “character” or other actions that “destroy their credibility” as though that makes the assault no longer valid, it breaks me, a little bit more, each time I read about it (summary of the case). Because I also know what it is like to try to tell someone that something wrong happened – to report it to people in charge of watching out for this kind of thing and who are responsible for keeping people safe, and to be dismissed. For no action to be taken. I know what it is like to have a story and feel like you can’t tell it. To be consciously aware that things aren’t always completely black or white but that something very wrong still occurred. I know what it is like. And as millions of other women are watching this same trial, we are learning the same lesson – keep quiet. Don’t talk. It’s not worth it.

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Frozen in Time

Today is a hard day. It’s a day that I can feel coming each year, like a mark on the horizon that always comes around, one way or another. Part of me dreads it, and part of me looks forward to it, as it gives me a chance to remember. And though the remembering is hard, it also keeps me in touch with myself, my friends, and my family. This piece is one I have shared several times throughout my life, having written it in Grade 12 writer’s class, which was eleven years ago now. Some days this all seems so much longer ago, some days it feels like yesterday. Today it feels like yesterday. Thank you for reading.

Frozen in Time

I can almost physically step back in time and feel the warmth of the sun wash over my body as I bask in each summer of my childhood, at the one place I loved more than anything; my cottage.

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How I Found Counselling - or How Counselling Found Me

I started my career in teaching. I was passionate to make a difference in young people’s lives, and I thought that this was the best way that I could influence the lives of young people on a daily basis. I created interesting and engaging lesson plans, labs, and experiments – the works. And at the same time I tried to incorporate lessons on bullying, body image and the media, and self-awareness. It was difficult but rewarding work, although I always wished I had more time to spend on the more personal topics.

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When “Yes” Means “No” – And Why We Need to Start Paying Attention

We all know the story. Women don’t report on sexual assault because they will be victim-blamed, they will be questioned, they will be judged, and they may be forced to see their assailant in a courtroom if they ever choose to press charges (and would be at risk of being re-traumatized). Further, discussion about sex in any way is a very personal topic, and even more so when you add on a traumatic memory, so “going public” is even more uncomfortable and scary. It’s an undeniable truth that sexual assault claims are always loaded with judgement and repercussions for the woman, and for this reason there is a very real danger in reporting on both a personal and professional level.

There are already enough road-blocks to reporting, but on top of this, in many cases, women themselves feel responsible for, at least part of, what happened (even though they aren’t). They don’t feel that things were black and white enough that they can stand up to being questioned in front of a jury – or questioned by anyone – even when they know what happened was wrong. They know they will be questioned about how much they drank and what they wore, how they walked home with the person, agreed to let that person come in for a drink. These are the assaults that happen by acquaintances, dates, or other people women know in some way in their lives (around 85-90 % of all sexual assaults on college campuses).

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Summer's End

I wrote a little free-verse poem for all the students, teachers, and people like myself returning to work next week (or tomorrow, for me) after a summer off. Enjoy!

As summer winds down, and the gentle chill creeps back into the night air,
A summer so full of life, love, and laughter – 
As well as unavoidable mirrors of trials and tribulations – 
Already seems to be fading into the never truly defined temporal time and space of “long ago.”

How quickly these summers leave us
As the anticipation of the upcoming duties, reunions, busyness, 
And adventures of the fall months finally arrive. 
Fears tightens the chest as one begins to ponder, 
How they could have been so busy doing “nothing” for months at a time? 
How can they possibly fit an entire work day – 
Or an entire school day –
Back into their lives? 
Where is the time? 
How did they do it before? 
Can they do it again?

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Wear Your Label - A Clothing Company With Heart

I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with an organisation called Jack.org as a both a volunteer and an employee. Jack.org works to empower young leaders who want to change the face of mental health, empower youth, educate the public, and break down the stigma and raise awareness about mental health.It is an organisation that sprouted from the face of tragedy, when young Jack Windeler took his life when he was in first year at Queen’s University, having suffered silently from mental illness. No one knew he was suffering, and his death came as a shock to his family and friends. Only once it became clear what Jack was going through did some of the problems with youth mental illness become apparent, including youth understanding and comfort with accessing helping resources, a lack of awareness about the signs of mental illness in youth, a lack of empowerment for youth to advocate and support each other’s mental health, and the ongoing issue of stigma from lack of education and awareness. Jack’s family started Jack.org in his memory and to help work towards a future where no young person has to feel alone, feel ostracised, or feel that they cannot speak about and share their experiences with mental health. They share the message in hopes that everyone will realise that they have mental health, whether or not they are suffering from mental illness – and that they need to not only watch out for each other and take care of each other, but also to take care of themselves.

While working with this organisation, I have also been able to help out at their Jack Summit – an annual youth-led, National Summit that brings together 200 youth from across Canada to work together to change the face of mental illness, to empower young leaders, and to bring together the best ideas around anti-stigma around youth mental health and to then turn those ideas into action.

At the Jack Summit conference in 2013, I had the AMAZING pleasure of meeting two young people who were attending the conference, Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed. Then, fabulously, I got to know them EVEN BETTER at the 2014 conference where they returned as speakers to talk about their business! They took their passion ignited from the 2013 summit and they have since been tirelessly been bringing their ideas to life in support of both mental health as well as fashion.

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A Little Something Different

I usually post blogs that are a little less personal, but I just had a blog posted on a friend's website - 2HipMoms. I thought I would share the same content here. Enjoy!

I am 28. I have been with my husband for 11 years, married for two. We have a cute little golden retriever dog, a lovely new house, and great friends and family. We both have good jobs, hobbies that we enjoy, and we are currently working on some basement renovations. While winters can be tough, I love my summers, I love my life, and I love my friends. I am not yet a parent. But I’m 28, and we want kids one day and to have a family – so I might be a parent, soon.

So I am grieving. I am grieving the loss of my current life before I have kids. And I think you should, too.

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“The Dress,” White and Gold vs. Blue and Black: A Deeper Story

As much as I hated that whole dress conversation that happened over the weekend (if you missed it and were living under a rock, catch up here), it did get me thinking a bit. Because I see white and gold. And for the life of me, I could not get my brain to see blue and black. I wanted to. I tried. I attempted to trick myself. I would cover up bits of the picture so I only saw one part at a time. I turned away and turned back really fast. I looked at my screen on different angles. I looked up different variations of the image online. But for the life of me, I couldn’t see it. I still can’t. And this is where the thinking about life thing started. It’s Schrodinger’s dress. It is both blue and black and gold and white – at the same time. But depending on who you are, you can only see one side of that. And, well, basically, that is all of life, in a nutshell. There are multiple realities, at all times. In arguments, there are always two sides to every story. In life, there are always multiple choices that can be made, and each person may choose differently depending on their situation. The tricky part is when we start getting so mad about other people’s ideas, decisions, and ways of seeing things.

This dress conversation definitely brought the anger out. There was some real name calling, defensiveness, and outrage. And then different camps started up; it was “us vs. them” all about a simple photo of a dress.

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New Year, New Mood: The Magic of Travelling (But for Free!)

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to travel more this year? Or did you wish you could, if you only had the money? What is it about travelling that makes us so darn happy? New places, new experiences, no work, all play – the freedom to do what you want, to see places and things you’ve always wanted to see before… yes, travelling is truly magical. It breaks up the monotony, the daily routine, the boring, the repetitive, and the uninspiring. You truly feel like a different person – more open, more excited, and more engaged. So it makes sense that when you see your friend from high school posting their magical pictures to some far-off place, while you are stuck inside the 9 to 5, gazing sadly at your unforgiving bank account, that you might be feeling a little hopeless about finding this kind of magic without being able to travel somewhere exotic right now.

Well I’m here to tell you that you can change those feelings without changing much at all – andall for free. All year round. At any time, any place, anywhere.

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Counsellors and Therapy and Sessions, Oh My! Counselling Demystified: What to Expect When You Reach Out for Help

Hey there, it’s your friendly neighbourhood counsellor here. In addition to authoring "How to Like Yourself," I am also a counsellor/therapist at Guelph University, and was previously a counsellor at Sheridan College. I also do some work with jack.org as a mental health support (this blog post is also up here on jack.org). I’m here to tackle the mystery that is counselling – the myths, the realities, the big and scary, and most importantly, why it is up to each and every one of us to know more about the realities of counselling. Why is this important?

Stigma, that’s why.

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My Own Journey to Liking Myself

I had a request from a reader who was interested in hearing more about my own journey and about what prompted me to write this book. So here it is! This is going to be a 3 Part story. A trilogy of my little life, I suppose. The first part of the story is about my own Inner Critic Know-it-all (the ICK, for those who know the book!), and how we (the ICK and I) developed our funny little relationship together. While this is the first part of my own story, it actually corresponds with Part 2 of the book, which talks about The Present.

The second part of this story is about how I created a version of myself that I really liked. This covers Part 3 of the book, which talks about The Future and how to find and create yourself.

Lastly, I will touch one how and why I added Part 1 to the book, which discusses the importance of finding peace and understanding with who you are today no matter who that may be.

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Surviving Self-Help Books: 5 Tips

Here’s what happens – you find something in your life isn’t the way you’d like it to be. You become either so upset by it that you buy a self-help book in a state of semi-desperation to make it go away, or, you become motivated and energized by this realization of something missing that you buy the book as a catalyst to making a change in your life. Both scenarios tend to lead you to avidly devour the first part of your new self-help book with rapt attention. Nom nom nom. You eat it up. At least I ate it up when I recently started reading some self-help books, too. I thought these words were Gospel! They were going to change my life! This was it.The magic of having the words go through my eyeballs into my brain was going to change everything. My brain now had new information and bam, my New Life was on its way. Before I authored my own self-help book, I vowed I wasn’t going to read any other self-help book cover-to-cover before I finished writing my own, because I didn’t want my words or thoughts to be coloured by another author. I wanted the work to be original and fresh, so I didn’t want to know what was in the depths of the other books that are out there. Now that I have finished my manuscript, I have started delving into other author’s work, and while I am finding them intensely interesting and often helpful, there is definitely a dark side to consuming self-help books.

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