Let go; Have gratitude; Create space to receive.

Thanksgiving, is not an easy holiday for many people.

All of the gratitude, giving thanks for family and friends and the life you have isn’t very much fun if you don’t feel like you have any.

Now, I’m the first to find gratitude in any situation so I definitely believe that there is gratitude to be found, however, I do feel the need to acknowledge that it comes easier to some than others, and that it didn’t always come easy to me.

For a lot of years Thanksgiving felt like abandonment. It felt like a yearly reminder that my parents had better things to do than to spend time with family. Likely they simply want to make the most of their recreational property and enjoy using it every long weekend and holiday that they can. As a teenager or young adult though, it can be easy to lose perspective on that.

I didn’t go to my aunt and uncle’s for whatever reason, for quite a few years, and instead I jumped around to whatever friends-family invited me to theirs. I always had a great time learning new traditions and I fully embraced all the love that I felt was lacking in my own, trying to soak up every last ounce – so much so that I likely resembled a stray dog, absolutely starving for love and affection.

This year I did it differently. I filled my weekend with so much love and kindness and connection that I even have extra to spare. I don’t feel like that empty, bony, tattered stray that suddenly feels love and never wants to let it go for fear that they may not receive it again; holding on so tightly that the insane fear and need for control end up causing it to all fall apart anyways.

I feel whole today. That’s not a feeling I’m overly familiar with but its good. I feel that I am enough, today. Exactly as I am.

And this is because I have filled my cup. I have surrounded myself with emotionally intelligent people who give and receive love so freely that you just know you’re going to be okay. My future looks brighter today, and I’m grateful for that.

I started my weekend with a girls night with my friend Jamie, she fills the cup of everyone she’s around. Her beauty and light and willingness to love is a gift that she shares with everyone she meets. We talk for hours and fill our bellies with pizza and never get bored until suddenly its late and I need to go home. I leave with a full heart and knowing that we will do it all again in a few weeks with just as much to share all over again.

Saturday I started off my day with coffee with an amazing young man, Guy. Despite the many challenges he has faced growing up in foster care, he has devoted this time in his life to advocating for other youth in the system and reminding everyone that they are enough. That they are worthy of love. That the challenges that they face right now do not have to define the lives that they live for their future. This is a man who at only 25 years old is so secure and stable within himself and his own network of friends who are family, that he is able to see the love and light in everyone. Even the adults who hurt him, it seems. And that, to me, is a feat. That is Everest, my friends.

Straight from that beautiful meeting I went to an incredible afternoon filled with silence, women, meditation, painting, intention, and love. I am not a crier, and typically at these things I don’t feel that it is my place to share, even when asked. So I shocked myself when, as I’m sharing my brief writing “there is beauty in letting go of the need to control” I start to hear my voice crack and more words coming out of my mouth, thanking all of the women who surrounded me for their motherly energy that I so needed to be enveloped in. Even as I write that I feel a lump start to form in my throat again and I don’t even know anymore if its from the sadness or the beauty of it all. Likely, both, as I’m starting to find that those two often come together.

Saturday evening I got to meet my friends new baby girl, Thalia. Oh-em-gee she is amazing! Poor mamma was so stressed, as new mothers often are. I suddenly got the call to be very intentional with my energy. Like anyone in a heightened state of stress, it is hard for new mothers to put all the fear aside and be intentional with their energy. People who love me have done this for me many times when I can’t do it for myself and this was my turn to do it for someone I love. And it was beautiful. Baby calmed down, mamma calmed down. This perfect tiny human slept on my chest for almost two movies (Pocahontas 1 & 2, so it doesn’t really get any better than that 😉 ) and I enjoyed every second of it. The light and love and innocence that babies exude is undeniable and irreplaceable. They are the best things in this world and, I believe, when loved and nurtured, can potentially be our greatest gift to the world. No matter how you end up with a child, if you can influence them to love the planet and everything on it, there is no greater gift to the future of the planet than that. I am grateful for every moment that I will get to spend in Thalia’s life and I cannot wait to see how her and her parents grow, and who she becomes.

As if my weekend has not been good enough or filled with enough love (I feel like I’ve had a years worth of love and light and healing all piled into one amazing, transformative weekend!) I am currently waiting for my brother to drop off his 7-year-old step daughter Emily so that we can spend the afternoon before Thanksgiving dinner, painting mandalas. I am going to use the video* that Tama (one of my teachers) recommended to me to teach her how, and I am looking forward to three straight hours of loving goodness from this incredible child that lights up my family’s life in so many ways. Her bravery and fearless ability to be her true self is something I can learn from.

Just when I think this weekend can’t get any better, I receive an invite from a beautiful indigenous friend, also my amazingly talented tattoo artist, to join her and her mother for a New Moon ceremony tomorrow evening. I’ve been saying a lot that the synchronicities in my life recently are unbelievable, and I cannot think of a better way to finish this long weekend than to spend it in ceremony with a mother and daughter, of our indigenous community, sharing with me their ways of ceremony and inviting me into their love, light and healing practices.

This weekend has reinforced in me the path that I am currently choosing for myself. Letting go of the past and many of the people in it is a painful process; but it is a necessary pain if I want to move forward in love and healing. Perhaps I don’t have to fight so hard to force the people that I think are supposed to be in my life, to be in my life. Perhaps, maybe if I allow it, there are a lot of incredible people who are everything I need and more, just waiting for an opening.

The video for teaching children mandala painting can be found here.

Tama and more of her workshops can be found here.

Why am I still fighting?

Why am I still fighting?

This is a question that I asked myself a lot during my last rounds of treatment while the medicine was making me so ill every day, on top of fighting this horrendous disease, and the truth is, I didn’t always have an answer.

I remember being so confident that this wasn’t going to be a big deal. I remember thinking that if I could get through the mental health challenges that I overcame as a youth, then I could do anything. The truth is its way harder than I ever thought it could be.

The lack of access to healthcare for Lyme patients is unbelievable. I mean, I literally would not have believed someone if they’d explained it to me prior to me experiencing it. I never would have believed that it could truly be as atrocious as it actually is. People exaggerate, right? Is what I would have silently thought.

Tonight, as I sit waiting for the sauna to heat up I am feeling accomplished and pushed to my limits about today’s meal prep, while also feeling guilty that the last of the dirty dishes are filling up the sinks – knowing that my body won’t likely allow me to do more today than I’ve already done and that my roommate will wake up to a dirty sink in the morning. The reason I pushed so hard today to meal prep is because treatment starts again tomorrow – the same treatment that I couldn’t tolerate last time due to daily vomiting. As I’m trying to shift my focus from absolute dread and fear to a more healing mindset, I must think about my why.

Why am I still fighting?

I’m not talking about just to live or to just keep fighting because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Why am I still fighting?

What am I going to tell myself when I’m laying in a pool of sweat on the bathroom floor sobbing in pain at 2am, that is going to give me the will to keep fighting this disease?

This question makes me dig into the deeper depths of my core and look at what I really want out of life, the things that I’m so afraid I may never receive or accomplish that it’s hard to even admit to myself that I want them, because somewhere along the way my inner child picked up the idea that wanting them would make me vulnerable.

I could ramble forever with adjectives and creative wording to make you forget that I’m avoiding the question, however, why am I still fighting?

I’m still fighting because I want to continue this journey and continue learning and adding value to my mind and quality of life.

I’m still fighting because I want to experience love. Real love. Solid love. The kind of love where two people make a genuine, loving commitment to catch the other when they fall. The kind of love where needs are met and compromises are made and laughter is had. The type of love that is patient, humble, and kind.

I’m still fighting because I want to see my brother grow old. I want to see the man he becomes.

I’m still fighting because I want to see my niece grow. I want to support her through her teen and young adult years, and influence the woman she becomes.

I’m still fighting because I want to hear my future baby’s first cry. I want to hold her/him/them in my arms and experience my heart expand.

I’m still fighting because I want to support someone in a positive, life changing way.

I’m still fighting because I want to be a foster mom.

I’m still fighting because I have a gift in my experience and in my voice, and I want to change the future in a positive way.

I’m still fighting because I want to continue to expand my consciousness, and to see how far I can go.

I’m still fighting because I want to connect deeper with the earth, and see where that takes me.

I’m still fighting because this planet needs more light-workers, not less of them.

I’m still fighting because I still have so much left to learn.

I’m still fighting because I still have so much love to give, so much kindness to offer, so much beauty to create, and the world needs as much of that as it can get.

If you are fighting a battle of your own, why are you still fighting? If you aren’t fighting a battle of your own, what do you want out of your life? Have you ever seriously looked at that? Have you taken the steps to put it into place for yourself?

What are you fighting for?

I Surrender

love, wedding, bridesmaid kissing brideDo you ever think to yourself, what the fuck am I doing with my life and what do I even want?

My views on what is truly important in this life and what makes a person valuable have changed significantly since getting sick. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, as it is a message that one will often hear from someone who has gone through a near death experience, a life-altering accident, or terminal or chronic illness.

I never believed that I would be good enough if I couldn’t do everything on my own. It’s one thing to be independent, but its another to believe that you are not a valuable human being if you need help sometimes. I took this to such extremes that I put myself in scenarios where I was the main care-giver, house-keeper, and money-maker, responsible for my partner, his two kids (part-time), and my dog. It never crossed my mind to value what I was sacrificing. I believed that it was exactly what would make me a valuable person. I had people who needed me, and I was willing to do all of this for them because in my mind, that’s what was going to make me good enough.

What it really did was break me. Because while I was willing and sacrificing, it wasn’t appreciated. I was still reminded that without him I’d never make it. That no one would ever love me again if I left him. That if I couldn’t manage my 3 businesses, myself, and take care of him and his children (one with different needs as he’s on the spectrum) and my dog and our home – at 23 years old – he was sure to reinforce my belief that I wasn’t worthy.

What does it even mean to make it? Do you hit a certain number in your bank account and suddenly, you’ve made it? Made it where? To what? Do you get married, make and raise beautiful babies, in your single family home with a yard and a white picket fence and a dog and a mailbox with your family name on it and suddenly you wake up one morning and you’ve arrived?

I’ve been living in the illusion of fear for so long now that I forgot what love was.

Most of what I’ve done in my life has been for this illusion, this image of what I thought my life was supposed to be. I thought being a housewife was supposed to be for people who would be taken for granted in exchange for being able to rely on someone else for income. I thought disability was supposed to be for the dying, the completely disabled, or the lazy. I thought family was supposed to be a burden.

What the actual fuck was I thinking and who taught me that?

I thought that overcoming my endometriosis, depression and anxiety was about being stronger and pushing through, so life gave me panic disorder.

I thought that overcoming my endometriosis, depression, anxiety and panic disorder was about being stronger and pushing through, so life gave me a “new best friend”, who later turned out to be my rapist and gave me PTSD and vestibulodynia.

I thought that overcoming my endometriosis, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD and vestibulodynia was about being stronger and pushing through, so life gave me a mentally and emotionally abusive boyfriend who I let break me and that’s when I ended up with Lyme and co-infections.

I thought that overcoming my new diagnoses of borrelia burgdorferi, babesia microti, bartonella henslae, ehrlichia chaffeensis, rickettsia, west nile, coxsackie virus, Epstein-barr virus, parvovirus B19, and microplasma pneumonia, was about being stronger and pushing through, so most recently we’ve discovered that I have “latent Epstein-barr virus and persistent Lyme (borrelia burgdorferi) in round body form” with a “Fatigue Severity Scale score of 59 [which] is markedly elevated and consistent of a severe level of fatigue. As I have previously documented, I believe that her severe and persistent level of fatigue justifies her being identified with a disability and that disability is likely to be chronic in the context of her presentations.” (Excerpts from my most recent report from my Governor General Award-Winning Internist in Calgary, AB)

What if none of this was to teach me to be stronger?

What if part of my issue and my blockage in healing is my stubborn mindset stuck on the undying need to be better, to be stronger, to push through, to overcome everything on my own?

What if this was to teach me to give in, to surrender? To stop trying to control every little piece of my life and to give those pieces room to fall into place on their own; to learn to lean on people; to learn how to ask for and, more importantly, how to accept help; to not judge myself or others in their own struggle or coping mechanisms or ways of healing. To give up the image in my mind of what I thought my life was supposed to look like and to instead create a lifestyle that works with what is in the present; to understand that the people who taught me how to think and how to live are also just doing their personal best and they don’t necessarily have it right, or that what is right for them may not be right for me; to take action based solely on what feels right for me instead of letting what I think is right for everyone else impact my decision making; that sometimes the people whom we believe that we need in our lives are not really meant for us at all, and that although it is scary, its okay to let them go.

I have fought my life so hard for so long to keep to the image I thought I was supposed to have, only to now realize that maybe it’s not what I ever truly wanted at all.

This realization is a long time coming yet it also feels very sudden and unexpected. I pray (also new to me), that this is the revelation that gives me the confidence to take action and change the trajectory of my life.

I spent the last 6 days up north with some really beautiful people who make conscious decisions every day to love and support one another. My cousin just got married, and for the past 9 months for the first time in their 8 year relationship she has played the role of a housewife. She cooks for him, cleans for him, makes his lunches and he works his ass off and supports them. And they seem to genuinely make this work, because, get this – they both appreciate the other and everything they do, and they show it! Wow. Why did I not think that was possible?! I genuinely, wholeheartedly believed that that was not a real option for anyone who wanted to be happy or good enough. And I am so grateful to have been proven wrong because it is helping me to see that a lot of the views and beliefs that I have or have had in the past are super fucked up and weird and yet also probably very common.

I am sure that I don’t need to explain how I’ve been proven wrong about my past beliefs about disability.

Probably one of the hardest pieces of this realization is that all I’ve ever truly wanted is a family who is able to show how much they love and appreciate me; how much they value me. A family who wants to spend time with me, even if I am unable to do what they’d normally do. A family who wants to learn how to support me and to teach me how to support them. A family who not only wants to show up for you, but is able to, and does.

Maybe this family doesn’t have to be blood. Maybe it isn’t about the individual at all but about their willingness, ability and commitment to unconditionally love. Maybe, as I’ve witnessed recently, it can be one or two or three people who just commit to being there for one another and allowing each other to show up exactly how they are, however that may be. A few people who truly value one another, exactly as they are, and show it. A few people who never let each other forget how much they are loved. A few people who do the work – for themselves and each other. Maybe family doesn’t have to be a burden; maybe it could be the most beautiful and precious thing you ever have – perhaps its the only thing that is truly real and the only thing a human truly needs.

So this is me, surrendering, asking the Universe to help me trust, and praying that love catches my fall.

Thank you Kai, Cam, Cindy, Dustin, Ken, Brittany and Cheyenne for showing me how you unconditionally love each other and work together to support one another each and every day. Kai and Dustin you have built a beautiful, loving family for yourselves, DNA not required. Thank you both for showing me what love looks and feels like in my body.

To my high school self…

It’s my 10 year reunion in a couple of weeks…

I already skipped the SDSS one, but now my first ever boyfriend and his amazing fiance are convincing me to go to DSS’s and although there is a part of me that wants to go, I cannot believe how just the sight of certain people on that invitation list can bring me right back to my fearful, insecure, high school-self who never felt like she fit into her own skin and was sure that she’d never be good enough.

No dumb male bully could ever cause the damage that I did to myself spending time with mean girls and telling myself that they were my friends.

A local councilor asked me if I would meet with one of her clients, a high school girl who is having a hard time; My salon chair is currently full of young girls getting ready for back to school; I’ve been watching cheesy rom-coms on Netflix like “To All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before”, and “Kissing Booth”, and debating on whether or not I want to brave the reunion. All of which lead to…

Read More

Being unwell you will have to comfort others more than they will comfort you.

I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. No one told me when I got sick that I’d spend more time comforting the people around me than I would being comforted.

Today is no harder than any other, yet I’m at my breaking point. I spent the morning uncontrollably sobbing only to get myself to stop 5 minutes before I had to be at work for the day so I did what I always do – splash some water on my face, plaster on a smile and avoid any questions about how I’m feeling. I don’t know how to tell the people around me that love me and want the best for me that I’m struggling so severely. When I do open up I can tell that it makes people uncomfortable because they don’t know what to say and they want to make it better but they can’t. So instead they tell me how its going to be okay, or throw suggestions at me such as a ketogenic diet or meal planning, as if that is going to be the answer to my problems. The thing is, I know that an anti-inflammatory based diet would help me. I know that meal planning would make my day to day easier. How do I tell these very well-meaning people that I love, that if I could manage a day of meal planning or a new diet plan I would be fucking doing that already.

It’s 8pm and so far today I have eaten a small apple and a nectarine. Not because I didn’t have food with me at work – I roasted vegetables two nights ago to take today – but because I have zero appetite. Other times I will eat that little because I simply don’t have the strength or energy to go grocery shopping or to cook. The fatigue and the pain can become so overwhelming that it takes everything I have to get through the work day and then to spend the weekend sleeping. If I do dare go have some fun on the weekends or spend a day cleaning or meal prepping then I pay for it during the week because I haven’t had enough rest. If I never go have some fun however, I start to feel depressed and my mental health takes a toll. There is no winning right now, not because I have a shitty attitude, but because every little thing is legitimately so damn hard.

Before Lyme I was a fitness coach. I meal planned and prepped every week religiously. I have the skills and the knowledge to do it but back then I never had to think about whether or not I’d have the energy to complete the task, let alone if I’d be able to stomach the food, I just did it. Now each part of that has to be broken down into increments of energy expenditure – make the meal plan, make a grocery list, go grocery shopping, unload groceries, prep food, clean up from cooking, and if I still have enough energy when that is all over then maybe I can even eat what I’ve prepared. If I wasn’t working, which most people in my position are not, then perhaps I could manage this. However, not only have I been told by specialists that it’s completely unreasonable to expect myself to work a full time job or live a full time life, I simply cannot do everything that I am trying to do to keep my head above water and still manage a special diet or anything else on top of it. I am at a point where I am barely even checking my emails or messages because I simply cannot cope with one more tiny minuscule thing on my plate, even if it’s going to help me in the long run. And do you not think that if I could manage literally anything that is going to help me in any way, that I would?!

I go to work, I come home, I try to manage my pain and get some sleep. On the odd day that I do add something to that routine, usually in order to salvage my mental health or to have a clean home or groceries in the fridge, I pay for it in some way later. This is not a life that I would wish upon anybody.

Yesterday a client told me about his trip to the Grand Canyon, 6 days of white water rafting and hiking. That sounds amazing to me and is on my list for when I get better. Although I tried to gently respond with, “definitely when my health gets better!” He told me, “I’m telling you right now, you could do it now.”

Right. Because you know literally nothing about what I experience on a day to day basis, and likely know nothing about Lyme and co-infections, but you’re absolutely right, I look well, and I stand on my feet all day to cut your hair, so I must be well enough to do that. 

Are you fucking kidding me?

I struggle to walk 20 minutes. I can do it now, but for a long time I couldn’t even manage that, and I will pay for it later. On my best days, I struggle to play a couple of innings of beer league slow-pitch on a C-Division team. I am barely managing to work just 4 days a week when I used to work 7, and I’m trying to figure out how I can afford to work even less because my life as it is is not conducive to healing or manageable long term.

I am in pain and severely fatigued every single day, its only a matter of degree.

I do a great job of putting on a smile and pretending everything is okay. I can’t handle hearing everyone’s opinions and suggestions and whatever they’re going to say to make themselves comfortable with the situation that I’m in so instead I just tell everyone that I’m “okay”, “fine”, “good”, or on days like today when I’m really not managing well, “I don’t want to talk about it”. The energy that it takes for me to convince you of how sick I am or how much I’m struggling because it makes you uncomfortable so you feel the need to tell me that it’s fine, only adds to my exhaustion and stress. I never understood before how much of being unwell is about making other people feel comfortable rather than them comforting you.

Someone with chronic illness’s breaking point does not happen suddenly. It is the result of an accumulation of repeatedly not having their needs met, often being denied their basic rights, being told that they’re fine or to just try harder, or “well you look good!” and from trying so hard to live an average life while in so much pain and so sick. And I’m there. I am at that breaking point. If I don’t find some new ways of managing, or get some help around the house or with meals or honestly with anything at all, I will end up in a mental hospital. Trying so hard to manage on my own and live my life this way is unbearable. Staying strong for the people around me because their responses only make me feel worse, is unbearable.

People in my position don’t need you to tell them what they should be doing, they need someone to do it for them. Please, tell me again how even though I’m barely keeping my head above water and can barely cope with what I need to do in order to survive, I should add a whole other thing onto my plate because it’s going to help me in the long run. We can’t! If you’re going to get someone in my position to open up to you about how they’re feeling, please just accept what they’re saying as the truth. Don’t challenge it. If they say they can’t do it, they likely already feel bad enough about not being capable, and don’t need to go into detail to try to convince you of their current lack of ability. What they really need is someone who will let them express how they’re truly doing without questioning it, without trying to convince them that they’re better than they actually are. If you can, offer something that you’d like to do for them to help. If you can’t, then the least you can do is be a compassionate ear and not another stress in their life.

I, as most people are, am hard enough on myself I don’t need you to judge me or be hard on me too. And trust me, I know that it comes from a place of love, but if there was something that I could manage that was going to make my life easier or make me feel better, I’d be fucking doing it.

Weekend in the Woods

& Lyme Prevention Tips

I just had an amazing weekend away at Campbell Bay Music Festival on Mayne Island, BC. It was an incredible weekend spent listening to great music with the most beautiful people on breathtaking farms and in magical forests. Seriously I walked into the field and couldn’t help but think, “these are my people.”. We walked around in bare feet and sat on blankets in both the light of the sun and the moon; we swam in ponds and walked through the woods and sat in the forest. It was everything I love and more (minus the makeshift outhouses!).

For most of my life I have gone on getaways like this and not thought twice about the possibility of ticks. I wouldn’t have even worn bug spray because, in my own words, “the chemicals in that shit have got to be worse for me than anything I could possibly get from a little bug”. Naivety at its finest folks! Of course I can remember hearing the odd thing about ticks and Lyme disease but I honestly just didn’t think that it was a big risk. To this day the only tick I have ever seen in real life is one from my friend’s freezer that she pulled off her dog a couple of months ago – on Mayne Island – so it never used to cross my mind that I would get Lyme disease or that I’d ever been bit by a tick. I thought that if I had been bitten by a tick I would know, because I believed that I would find it lodged under my skin or something gross like that. Oh man, was I ever naive.

It took me a while after finding out the cause of my life-altering health concerns to feel comfortable being barefoot in the grass or to sit in the grass or walk through a forest or to garden. I know some Lyme survivors that are so filled with fear that cannot even walk through a grassy field, they need to take the paths. I am a person who needs nature in my life and I cannot sacrifice my well-being and the healing I receive from nature out of fear of being bit again. Therefore, I had to come to a place of educated awareness and safety rather than my past states of naivety, then fear.

Before living through Lyme I never would have tucked my pants into my socks while hiking, worn bug spray, or even done a proper tick check. I simply didn’t know better.

I know that there are people out there who push the bug spray or the tick checks or the prevention and education of Lyme hard and can come off as being paranoid sometimes. Though I do my best not to be that way, I am guilty of it too and that’s how I know that it stems from genuine fear. Fear that someone else might have to go through the same thing we have. Fear that we could have somehow prevented a friend or family member from going through it if we’d only educated them a little further. Fear, simply as a suffering human being, not wanting another human to suffer in the same excruciating way. I would not wish Lyme and co-infections on anybody.

I know that Lyme can be contracted in backyards and parks in my hometown of Ladner, BC, but when spending a weekend on the Gulf Islands in the woods and farm fields, I took a reasonable amount of precautions. Not because I’m crazy and paranoid or can’t sleep at night for fear of being bit, but because I’m not naive anymore and I understand my risks.

Did I wear socks up to my knees or my pants tucked into them? No. Obviously not. It was a beautiful sunny festival and I wanted to have fun and not look like a total dork. I did however use bug spray every day – the chemical-shit-storm kind with deet, even though I’ve gone almost 100% natural with all of my body and cleaning products. I did sit on a blanket instead of directly on the grass or forest ground. I did do full tick checks each night before bed. I did throw all of my clothing and towels straight into the dryer before they went in the wash or touched anything else in the house. I did vacuum the laundry room where dirt from my clothes fell and could have left poppy-seed sized ticks hiding.

This probably sounds extreme to some people – at least it would have to me pre-Lyme – but it honestly was so easy and has minimized my risk factor significantly. Of course there is always going to be the risk of being re-infected due to missing one, or being bit while at the festival and never finding it, or even of one latching onto me after I got home from within my own yard, but at least I know that I did what I could do to prevent this for myself – especially, but not limited to, during a higher risk situation like this weekend. My memories from this festival can now hopefully continue to be ones of beauty and healing, rather than one of, “I really wish I’d just put on the bug spray”.

Embracing Natural Beauty – 11 Years in the Beauty Industry

So here’s the thing.

I love my natural curls (finally). I love the natural creases around my eyes that will one day be deep wrinkles. I love my natural grey-white hairs (though I do have way more of them than I think I should for 27!). A lot of my life in the beauty industry has been about covering up that natural beauty, changing it in some way because it’s not pretty enough. When that change is solely because you as an individual want to look a certain way for self-expression and to look the way you feel, then I love everything about that. Why shouldn’t you get to look exactly how you feel you want to look? And why would anyone other than you, have a right to an opinion on that? They don’t. They may think they do, but I’m telling you, they don’t. Don’t ever listen to anyone’s version of beauty but your own.

As far as I’m concerned, if I am happy and comfortable with my appearance, be it my hairstyle, hair colour, makeup – or lack there of, piercings, tattoos, choice of shoes, length of my eyelashes, and someone decides to judge me based on said appearance, then that’s on them, not me.

I’ve finally learned to truly embrace my curls, and not in the I’ll blow them out and re-curl them nicer kind of way. I’m talking the leave the house with wet hair because if I fully diffuse them dry they’ll frizz and ABSOLUTELY NO ONE touch them ’til they’re dry! kind of way. For those of you who don’t have experience with naturally curly hair, it’s frizzy, it is never a perfect curl, there’s always some rogue curl sticking out somewhere along with that one weird piece that is frustratingly straighter than the rest. It’s messy. It requires product. It’s also incredibly easy, fun and sexy once you develop a positive relationship with it. I can remember when I first started hair styling, working in a salon where I was encouraged to basically be the exact opposite of who I am. No matter how long I spent on my hair it wasn’t good enough. My natural dark brown curls were definitely not going to cut it but of course I still wanted to be a naturally thick, straight-haired, blonde with a tiny waist and large chest back then anyways. Oh and obviously I wanted a thigh gap too.

This August will be 11 years in the beauty industry for me, and yet I’ve never thought of myself as being in the beauty industry so much as the people industry. I love making people feel beautiful. I love helping people look the same on the outside as they feel on the inside. I love helping people achieve whatever look they want the world to see. You know what 11 years in this industry has taught me? Everybody’s idea of beauty is different. And I think that that is a gorgeous thing! Because it means that no matter what you look like, there will always be people who think you’re ugly. There will also always be people who think you’re beautiful. So instead of trying so hard to look like something you’re not (unless that’s what you really want of course!) why not just embrace exactly who you are? Wrinkles, muffin top and all!

For the first time in my life this winter/spring I got acne! I’ve always been blessed with decent skin and I hated the feeling of people seeing the acne but I still didn’t bother with anything more than a BB cream. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the trouble of covering it up more, I guess because knowing it was visible didn’t stop me from doing or being anything I wanted or needed to do or be. I used to always wear at least a little bit of makeup, not over the top but I was a definitely not leaving my house without mascara kind of girl. Then when I got sick I didn’t have the energy to do it anymore, and now I’ve gone so long without worrying about it that I actually really like how I look without it.  Do I feel an extra boost when I put a little more effort in for a night out? Of course I do. Do I feel the need for that on a daily basis or do I feel less worthy or less pretty when I look like my just-out-of-bed natural self? Absolutely not. I love my just-out-of-bed natural self! And even better, it’s so easy and who doesn’t want a little extra time before their morning alarm?!

If you follow my blog regularly then you’ll know that I got my septum pierced a couple of weeks ago at Brass Eagle Tattoo and Piercing, Ladner Village’s own, new, professional tattoo and piercing parlor. I love that there are new businesses coming to town stirring up little old Ladner’s perception of beauty. Although I’ve never exactly fit society’s standard view of female beauty – my purple hair, undercuts, naturally darker tones, a few small to medium tattoos and a couple different piercings over the years – I’ve never been too far outside the lines either. Almost every image I’ve shown the world has been just enough outside standard beauty to still be considered socially acceptable. In my experience once people have gotten to know me their initial judgement of my purple hair (or whatever else it may be in regards to my appearance at the time) fades fairly quickly. When I got my septum pierced I knew I might be pushing that boundary a little further than I have in the past. I do believe that septum piercings are making headway and the adorable, small, classy jewelry that are now available for them moves mountains in that regards but I understand that my septum piercing could potentially push some people’s comfort zones. It has actually become a very interesting social experiment for me as many people who told me not to do it, have ended up liking it. And many people whom I didn’t consult with – for knowing they don’t like them and, to be frank, for not caring that they don’t like them – have felt quite comfortable telling me that they do not like it. As if that is supposed to mean something to me. Everyone has responded with either they thought I’d always had it, or they hate it. Which is hilarious to me that, as my little brother pointed out, it either looks so natural that it must have always been there, or that it bothers someone so much that they really dislike or hate it. This just shows that everyone’s view of beauty is different, and that someone else’s opinion of what looks beautiful on you, has a lot more to do with them than it does with you. In which case, why doesn’t everyone stop trying to be beautiful to other people’s standards and just try to be themselves?!

I have a confession. I love the natural grey-hair movement. I love that women all over and of all ages are embracing their natural grey hair and totally rocking it. I’ve been finding grey hairs in my head since I was 16, so maybe that’s why I don’t find them to be a big deal. But also, I’m only 27 so no amount of grey hair is going to make me look old at this point. Older than I am? Sure! But lets be real. Even a full head of white hair is not going to make a 27 year old look 95. Therefore, I do understand that my perspective may be different than yours, but the point is to embrace exactly what you feel most comfortable and happy with. As a hairstylist I’m not really supposed to like that. I am supposed to be convincing you to colour your grey because then I can make more money off of you. I hate that. The way I see it, no amount of work or money is worth me convincing you that you aren’t beautiful exactly how you are. In fact, I see so many incredibly fun and gorgeous ways to enhance naturally grey hair that I’m not worried about it because I am sure that many of my clients who do stop colouring and go to their natural grey will end up wanting to do totally different colour services to add flare and personality to their natural colour. Even if they don’t, the holes in my schedule from less colours will only be filled with other incredible clients, and that’s great too because if there is one thing that I know for sure, it’s that I am not ever going to base my business on making someone else feel like they are not good enough, not wealthy enough, or not altered enough, to be beautiful.

So to any and all of you who are concerned with being pretty enough, don’t ever forget that everyone’s version of pretty is different. Rock yours and let others rock theirs.

Peace and Love.

Dear Doctors, there’s something you need to understand.

Dear Doctor’s, there’s something you need to understand…

I believed you every single time you misdiagnosed me.

I believed you when you told me I had chronic fatigue syndrome.

I believed you when you told me I had anxiety.

I believed you when you told me I had depression.

I believed you when you told me I had PTSD and Panic Disorder.

I believed you when you told me I had Central Sensitivity Syndrome and that there was no known cause or cure.

I believed that you would have told me if the Lyme testing wasn’t accurate.

I believed that you would have told me if my test came back positive. (Note for the public – did you know that your GP is legally allowed to tell you that your Lyme test came back negative when it came back positive? I didn’t.)

I believed that you had my best interest at heart, not a political or private agenda.

I believed you had my back.

It’s funny to me, that after all this time of advocating in the mental health world and understanding how many gaps there are within the system, that it hadn’t crossed my mind that those gaps are in the general medical system as well.

Read More

How to talk to your struggling youth about mental health.

Through my positions as a youth with lived experience in the child and youth mental health world and advocating over the years, I have been asked by several parents how to talk to their children who are struggling. I can’t imagine what its like to be a parent of a child with mental health struggles, but I do know what it’s like to be on the other end of it. I’d like to think that I’ve grown and matured enough to have some kind of an idea of how to help them, but the truth is, its hard. And what works for one child and parent is not necessarily going to work for the next. There are however a few common parent-child situations that I hear most often, that I feel I can comment about.

Obviously the advice in here is based on my own life and the stories I personally hear from youth, parents and professionals, and by no means do I believe that this even begins to cover the vast spectrum of family dynamics or mental illness.

When your child says that they are experiencing something, believe them. And by “believe them” I don’t just mean silently believe them while telling them that they’ll be fine. No child or person wants to feel depressed, or

Read More

Self-care is a septum piercing.

So today I did a thing – to my face – against all my friend’s and family’s advice (besides 2) – and it made me think about self-care.

I have seen a flooding of internet posts on self-care in the recent months, even more so in the last week with the recent tragic Hollywood deaths by suicide, as well as many equally as tragic deaths by suicide that happen every single day to people’s families and friends and coworkers and lovers all around the world. But did you know that the media isn’t recommended to talk about suicides because there are studies that show that this can trigger other people to end their lives too? I don’t know where I stand around that one because to be honest I haven’t read the studies, and I have mixed feelings surrounding the obviously complex pro’s and con’s surrounding the balance between raising awareness for a continuously-rising suicide rate, the risk of triggering someone else who’s already struggling, and the feelings of the deceased’s loved ones. What I do think we need to talk about though, is how to better take care of ourselves, each-other and our communities so that possibly, we can help keep our people healthy and happy. The scope of mental health is so vast and there is still so much that we don’t know. Maybe you are perfectly healthy as it is, both mentally and physically and don’t need any help ever, but let’s face it that’s not the case for most people. Which is why I love that self-care is becoming trendy, but I want to tell you that it’s not all about pedicures and bubble baths with a glass of red.

Read More