My childhood dream

doctor kit

My all-time favourite toy!

Since the day I got my Fisher-Price doctor’s kit, I always planned to go to medical school. I took all the honours science courses, volunteered at the hospital, and religiously watched ER and Chicago Hope. I even slept in pilfered scrubs.

However, due to my depression and suicide attempt, my life took a different path. After I finished my science degree, there was no way that I could continue on with more university… I didn’t even apply.

I regretted this for a long time; I felt like I was a failure or that something precious was stolen from me. This is no longer true.

I’m sure I would have been a good doctor, I love my time in clinic and building relationships with patients has always been the best part of my work in research, but I’m also good at what I do now and I like where this bumpy journey has taken me. I feel that my life has taken the path that it was meant to take.

And can you guess where this path is taking me next week? Yup, you got it…



No, I’m not going back to school as a very mature student. I’ll be in front of the class instead.

I have been asked to  give a couple of talks at Dalhousie Medical School. Next week I will be presenting to the first and second years, and then in December, I will be doing a session with the third year students. Both sessions will also be simultaneously video-conferenced to their New Brunswick campus.

These talks are especially exciting for me, not because of my childhood dreams, but because of my new ones.

I am being given the opportunity to influence our next generation of health care providers. The main focus will be on looking after their own mental health, but I also hope to open some eyes to what the true face of mental illness looks like. Maybe listening to me will help them to hear their own patients more clearly. Maybe it will help them understand that everyone’s mental health is as important as their physical health.

Sounds like a challenge, but it’s one that I’m more than willing to accept.

Wish me luck!

Happy Halloween!

The first Halloween we were in our house, all of the neighbourhood kids were still babies or toddlers. When we took the boys out trick-or-treating, we only went to a couple of houses and then we parents all gathered on the sidewalk in front of our house to chat. The next year, someone produced a bottle of wine and a tradition was born.

Eight years later, the kids are old enough to go around the neighbourhood on their own while we parents hang out and party… on the sidewalk… all in full costume.

This year I was Boy George.

This year I was Boy George.

We have a communal table full of candy for the trick-or-treaters.

Our kids!

Our kids!

And treats for the adults too!

My shortbread zombie eyeballs.

My shortbread zombie eyeballs.

Up the street, they go all out with a wicked haunted house.

Truly scary!

Scary inside and out!

The kids have a blast, of course, but so do we. I love our street and our neighbours for so many reasons, but Halloween is one of the big ones!

(Thanks to Lorin for the pictures.)

Did you do anything special for Halloween?

It’s been a good week!

I'm in it for the mugs!

I’m in it for the mugs!

Today I had the privilege of speaking at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie as part of their Law Hour speaker series. The reason this is an honour is because of the company I now keep. The series of lunchtime talks has been running since the 1960’s and features “prominent legal, academic, and political minds of the day”. Past speakers include Supreme Court Justices, Senators, and Prime Ministers… and now me!

I gave my usual talk about depression and looking after your mental health. It was a great crowd that stayed engaged throughout the presentation and there were some really good questions afterwards. Smarty-pants future lawyers.

Oh, and one gal said she liked my necklace.

Hand felted by yours truly.

Hand felted by yours truly.

That wraps up my talks for October. Mid-November I’ll begin my high school circuit with a full day mental health conference at Auburn Drive high school in Cole Harbour. I’m really looking forward to that!

I’ve also been very excited recently because it was confirmed that I will be having an article published in Chatelaine early in the new year. For my non-Canadian readers, Chatelaine is a women’s lifestyles publication and is the number one magazine in Canada in paid circulation. Obviously, this is huge for me as a writer but also completely rocks for me as a mental health advocate.

I’ve been working on it over the past couple of weeks and just submitted the first draft to the editor yesterday. Many thanks to The Husband, The Sister and BDN for being my alpha readers.

Now to start on the kids’ Halloween costumes!

11 things for which I am thankful

Thanksgiving centerpiece from our backyard.

Thanksgiving centerpiece from our backyard.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers!

We hosted both sets of parents for dinner yesterday and now I’m taking a moment to put my feet up and reflect. I have so much to be thankful for…

11 THINGS I’m thankful for

1) My dog – Is there anything better than the unconditional love of a pet? He has only been with us for six months, but Dexter has quickly become a full member of the family. He came to us as a chained dog who didn’t know how to show affection. Now he is quick with his kisses and never wants to miss out on a family hug. He’s also learned how to play without getting rough. I’m thankful for the daily smiles he brings us.

2) My country – We are about to vote so I’ve been reflecting on my country a lot recently. Although there have been some things that we haven’t done right lately, I still feel supremely lucky to live in Canada. We owe a big part of our happy and healthy lives to the fact that we were born and live in Canada and we try to instill this appreciation in our children as well. My time off with my babies, our healthcare, our beautiful wilderness, our clean water… there are a lot of Canadian things for which to be thankful, eh?

3) My job – I have a great job. It pays well and has excellent benefits. Also,  I only work four days a week so if gives me a day off to get all of the other stuff done. I love my time spent with patients and truly like my coworkers. I’m thankful that I get to do something that I enjoy and that I’m good at doing it.

4) My creativity – This isn’t something I’ve always appreciated or used effectively, but it has now become a keystone in my life. Whether it is painting, knitting, felting a necklace, or writing, my creativity is an outlet that helps keep me mentally stable. It allows me to step away from the everyday and reorganize my psyche. I’m thankful for the way that my mind and hands connect.

5) My neighbours – We moved into this house when I was pregnant with ET and CJ was not yet two. It quickly became a home. We are surrounded by wonderful people who look out for our kids as if they were their own and the boys have best friends to play with everyday. Our neighbours are friendly and funny and I love spending time with them. I’m thankful for their friendship and for their kids who keep my boys occupied.

6) My friends – I can be a hard person to be friends with. Sometimes I’m distant or distracted, or even downright unresponsive. Still, have the most amazing friends. They are supportive and loving and make my stomach hurt with laughter. I’m very thankful for those that have persisted and not allowed me to push them away.

7) The Sister – I have the most wonderful sister. Sometimes I just sit back and marvel at the pure love that seems to shine from her. She has laughed in the face of misfortune and come out more radiant than ever. She may be the kindest person I know and I’ve been the luckiest of people to have her in my life. I’m thankful that she has always been with me as my steadying force.

8) The grandparents – It is so wonderful to watch my children interact with their grandparents. We are fortunate to be living near them and they have contributed so much to the raising of the boys. CJ had a project to do this weekend about spending a million dollars and part of it was to interview an older person to find out what you could buy with a million dollars fifty years ago. This turned into a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner conversation of reminiscence among the grandparents about  the cost of haircuts and movies which led to a hilarious discussion about moonshine and barnyard stills. I’m thankful the boys will always remember their grandparents’ laughter.

9) The Husband – Not only did he set a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner table, he also cleaned the chandelier! More importantly, he is the one who is on the ice every weekend morning at 7 AM helping to coach the boys’ hockey teams and on the bench in the afternoons running the defence. He is the one who is taking courses to be the best Cubs leader he can be and helping the boys build their Cub cars and earn badges. He is the one who is checking the math homework and listening to them read (his French is much better than mine!) While I may be the parent who makes sure that the kids are fed and clean, he is the one who does everything else. I’m thankful to have such a great partner in parenthood.

10) My boys – Except for ET’s current broken arm, my boys are healthy and have always been so. (Excuse me while I go knock on wood.) Whenever I’m grumbling about the toys strewn about the basement or sports equipment left in the driveway, I stop myself and remember those who aren’t so lucky to have rambunctious boys running around making messes. I’m thankful to have loud, loving and happy kids.

11) My life – As you can see, I have a blessed life full of wonderful people and gifts.  I’m thankful to be alive and surrounded by love.

What are you thankful for?

Rain, rain, go away…

Image: CBC

Today in Halifax. (Image: CBC)

The rain kept away the crowd… I’ll assume there would have otherwise been a crowd… but my talk today at Saint Mary’s University went very well, nonetheless. It was the opening of their Mental Health Awareness Month and I was giving the keynote address.

Several of the students in attendance were members of the university’s new initiative, the SMU Healthy Minds Team. This is a group of student volunteers who will work throughout the year to raise awareness of mental health issues and help reduce stigma. Because these volunteers made up the majority of my audience, I tailored my talk to them and spoke directly to their task. This actually made my presentation better.

If there is one message I want to get across to this young population, it is that it is okay to need help. This is the message that I needed to hear, but didn’t, when I was at my lowest point.

The same way you would go to the doctor for a persistent cough, you should go to the doctor for a persistently low mood. Depression is a medical condition. It may not always need medication, but it does require medical attention.

Today was a great day, even with the torrential downpour, because I connected with these bright and engaged students. They even asked if I would come back and talk with their group again.

I told them I would, of course, in a heartbeat.

What would you tell your younger self if you could?

A beautiful day


It is a beautiful day in Halifax and I was lucky enough to spend part of it biking around downtown. Usually, on a day like today, I would miss the best part of the day stuck inside the hospital, but today I was booked to give a talk over my lunch hour. And, lucky for me, the conference room I was in had a bit of a view of the harbour.

Today I spoke to a group of people (most from the NS government, some in from Ontario) who are training to become trainers of the Working Mind program. They are taking part in a week-long training program and I was thrilled to be their “lived experience” speaker.

I think the talk went very well and I was delighted to have a chance to chat a little bit with some of the folks afterwards. It is always wonderful to hear that my voice has touched them in someway. I even got a couple of hugs!

It was a great day for me personally… lots of sunshine, good exercise, and speaking up for mental health!

Hope you had a good day too!

11 things I miss about New York

Arthur Ashe stadium

Arthur Ashe stadium

Even though my entire life used to revolve around tennis, I very rarely catch a match on TV anymore. When I first retired, I didn’t watch because I was honestly sick of tennis. Now, I watch it so infrequently because it just doesn’t fit into my life anymore; I work, I have kids, the matches are on at weird times, etc…

This weekend, The Husband is away and I’ve been watching oodles of US Open to while away the evenings. It has brought back some really fond memories of the 3 weeks I would spend there every year.

11 things I miss about New York City

1) The tennis – While the Australian Open will always be my favourite Grand Slam, there was something uniquely electric about the US Open. Maybe because it is the last major of the year, there always seemed to be an all or nothing quality about the play. I never thought I’d say it, but for the first time, I actually miss the tennis.

2) The people – New Yorkers get a bit of a bad rap but they are some of the friendliest people in the world. They may not always hold doors open for you but they will be the first ones to stop and help if you look lost. Also, they are funny, in a really smart way, and are always quick to strike up a conversation.

3) Central Park – Although there is some sad history behind Central Park, such as the razing of Seneca Village, as a visitor, the park was always a highlight. Whether it was taking a walk on my day off looking for dead bodies (sorry, too much Law and  Order and NYPD Blue) or a picnic with friends, the park was always full of interesting activity and a great place to take a load off and just people watch.

4) The subway – Unlike a lot of places, the subway in NYC runs 24 hours a day. It is super easy to navigate and I always felt safe. The number 7 train runs directly from Central Station to Flushing Meadows and was always a lot quicker, and more frequent, than the official tournament bus.

5) The architecture – The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building, the Woolworth Building, Grand Central Terminal… need I say more?

6) The bridges – Maybe it is because I come from a bridge city, but the bridges of NYC always appealed to me. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do in the city, especially at sunset.

7) The shopping – I hate to shop. Everyone who knows me knows this, but there was something about New York that would inspire me. Perhaps it was because I had lots of time in the city, or that I was headed home after the event, but I always enjoyed shopping in New York. Ahhh, I miss Century 21!

8) The culture – I loved being able to go to  a play or a show at the drop of a hat. And oh, the museums! It was a great city to have days off in which to play.

9) The streets – New York is such a great city in which to walk around. I come from a city that was designed by drunk city planners. Take my word for it, although it is beautiful, Halifax is not an easy city to get around. Manhattan, on the other hand is a paradise for the “directionally challenged”. Perpendicular “streets” and “avenues”, all named in numerical order… it is a beautiful thing. And I loved being a part of the bustling sidewalks.

10) The food – What can say about the food except, YUM! Anything and everything you possibly want can be found within a short subway ride or walk.

11) My friends – This isn’t specifically a New York thing except the US Open (like all the majors) employed a lot of officials, so almost all of my close friends would be working the event. Plus, it was the last big tournament of the year so, once it was over, there would be a three month break before we all got together again in Melbourne for the Australian Open. There were always a lot of group dinners and excellent camaraderie. Dear friends, I miss you the most!

What city do you love?

Reaching out and saving lives


Today in Canada …
11 people will end their lives by suicide.
210 others will attempt to end their lives.
77-110 people will become newly bereaved by suicide.

It’s World Suicide Prevention day. For those of you who don’t know why this is an important day for me, you can read this post, My fish are dead.

Since this year’s motto is

Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives

I figured today was the perfect day to give an update on what I’ve been doing with my days off – I’ve been taking meetings and booking speaking engagements!

The next one is in a couple of weeks, I am going to be the “first voice” speaker at a Government of Nova Scotia mental health training program. It will be a session where I discuss my personal mental health and how it affects me in terms of my job and workplace.

Then I have two dates booked with Saint Mary’s University. They are having a mental health awareness month in October and I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker at the official opening and also to appear as a panelist at a session later in the month.

My most recent meeting was with The Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Also in October, I will be giving a presentation to their student body. This talk will focus on mental health self-awareness, awareness of peers, and the importance of seeking help.

These university talks are very exciting for me because this was the age I was at when I tried to kill myself. My goal is to reach one young person with every talk.

While I’ve been preparing for these presentations, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and I’ve realized something important… Maybe I’ve lived such a full and successful life, not in spite of my depression, but because of it.

If this is true, and I really believe it is, then I have a responsibility to embody this year’s motto and will continue to seek out, and accept, whatever speaking opportunities I can. So far, so good!

Have any suggestions for me?

A backcountry adventure

Filtering water for breakfast.

Filtering water for breakfast.

My boys are away on their annual camping trip to Kejimkujik (while I’m stuck at work). But this year it is with a twist.

Yesterday, The Husband left the comforts of car camping and took the boys on a backcountry adventure. They are strapping their gear to their backs, portaging with the canoe, and venturing out to camp on a remote island site.

This is very exciting for us as parents because this is the way we always camped before we had the boys. We would hike or canoe for hours to get to a site. There is just something magical about being out in the woods with no one else around; no light to dim the stars and no noise to drown out the loons.

Fingers crossed that the boys love the experience as much as we do so that this can be something we continue to do as a family. Although, as long as they still get to roast marshmallows, I’m sure they’ll be happy.

Do you have a passion that you hope to pass on to your children?

Ode to My Uncle

Me and Uncle G

Me and Uncle G

My mother has three brothers. Only one of them has ever been an uncle to me.

One brother is presumed dead, no one has heard from him in over 40 years. I used to carry an old picture of him in my wallet. I had ever met him but I somehow imagined recognizing him on the street one day. He looked a lot like young Elvis. My youngest son’s middle name is in his honour.

Mom’s eldest brother treated her badly. We don’t talk to him anymore.

Growing up, Mom’s baby brother was a little bit legendary to me. He had a back-story that, as kids, my sister and I were ever quite old enough to know. (I now know it, of course, but it’s not my story to tell.)

He came to live with us when I was about eight and he worked for my parent’s construction company. All of our other relatives lived far away and having an uncle in our basement was something of a novelty. So much so, that The Sister and I used to sneak downstairs in the early mornings to watch him sleep.

Uncle G was extremely fit (and still is). I remember eating hotdogs with him in the backyard, and when I asked him to pass the ketchup, he would reach his arm around over-handed so that his triceps would flex in front of my face. He also used to do bicep curls with me and The Sister each hanging off a forearm. He was our private circus strongman.

I also remember him as being hilarious… except for that time he said my Corn Flakes looked like a bowl of scabs. I haven’t been able to eat them since.

Before this week, my children had only met their great-uncle once when they were too young to remember. He’s here this week, however, staying with my parents, and it has been a pleasure to watch him interact with them the way he used to with us. He and Auntie L brought beautiful totem necklaces as gifts for the boys and their cousins, and they have been wearing them with pride.

As I wrote about in this post, growing up so far away from extended family left me feeling out of touch and strange around them when we did visit. Uncle G was the exception. Because of the time he spent living with us, I have always felt a unique closeness with him. This was cemented when I was working with tennis out in Vancouver and stayed with him for a while.

He is always easy to talk to and is extremely smart. He’s one of those guys who knows something about everything, at least enough to bullshit his way through any debate.

Obviously, like my mother, Uncle G is a Newfoundlander. Unlike Mom, however, he’s proudly retained the majority of his “b’ys” and the lilting accent. Recently I was listening to an audio-book, and whenever the reader spoke as the Irish character, I heard my uncle’s voice. To this day, talking with him takes me back to our summer trips to Newfoundland. He may live and work in Vancouver, but he will always be a fisherman’s son from Brigus.

Love ya Uncle G!