Tag Archives: health and wellness

Headlines: Bell “Let’s Talk’ Campaign vs. Drug Addiction

This post doesn’t necessarily fall under my general blog theme of being an entrepreneur/my journey out of corporate but since it’s my blog and I can say what I want I figured I’d post it anyway. Plus a lot of what I do now in my professional life has to do with being very authentic with clients, team members and sharing my story….warts and all. At a team meeting last night for my health & wellness business one of my colleagues shared her hysterical and bravely honest journey of highs and lows over the last couple months with her own business and that inspired me to put my honest thoughts down on paper too/share with the group.

Last week was Bell’s Let’s Talk day (Jan 28) for a mental health awareness campaign. This campaign was started several years ago with a celebrity endorsement from Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes who herself admits to suffering from depression/mental illness. A few days later on Super Bowl Sunday the Internet was flooded with reports of yet another celebrity death due to a heroin overdose (Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  After reading rants or commentary on my FB/Twitter and online news sites I came to writing my thoughts down on this subject because of the almost completely opposite themes over the airwaves about these two events. I was taken aback at the almost 180 degree flip across the airwaves.

My Twitter on Jan 28 was filled with all sorts of awesome, heart warming, supportive tweets and re-tweets to support the issue of mental health.  Famous people, regular people, everyone seemed game to re-tweet as much as they could to support the cause. As someone who has loved ones in my immediate family and close friends who suffer from often debilitating depression, it’s a cause I not only support I feel very strongly about and am impacted by. I want to see the stigma erased from this issue, I want people to realize it probably impacts people in your life right now…..perhaps even your partner, child, parent, boss or best friend. I want to encourage people to speak up as speaking up may encourage someone else to get help. Most folks suffering from depression suffer in silence, many go through their entire lives without seeking any help and/or hiding their condition as best they can from everyone around them. As I said, I am describing my own personal experience here and I’m referencing in particular to 4 very brave souls in my life (3 family members and a close friend) who have had the courage to not only admit out loud they suffer from mental illness but they have sought help in the form of therapists and/or medication. As I share the story of my family with other people I find more and more families suffering from the same thing. I’ll continue to share as long as people are open to it because at the end of the day depression effect all of us.

My Twitter/FB/general browsing of the Internet on the day Philip Seymour Hoffman died did not result in the same heart warming results. Yes, many celebrity friends, journalists, general population made respectful comments talking about how talented he was and how much they would miss him. That said, a very large part of the ether had often vitriolic commentary on how this guy who seemingly had everything could be so selfish and stick a needle in his arm and die of an over dose. I don’t personally know PSH, and I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard fan but he was an undeniably talented actor (Almost Famous & Pirate Radio are 2 of my favourite movies of his).  I was saddened to hear of his passing but was really drove me to write my thoughts down were the a for mentioned comments and the fact that he leaves behind 2 young children and a partner who is likely going to go through the most heart wrenching guilt trip over the next few years. Particularly because (from what I understand) Mr. Hoffman was living in the apartment he died in because his partner had kicked him out for relapsing (A decision she probably struggled with but due to their young children and her own sanity likely something she felt she had to do).  I sympathize for that woman I don’t know and those children who aren’t going to know their father. Within the comments I read online there were several people who pointed out what I’m about to say: Happy people do not become drug/alcohol addicts. They were already dealing with hidden demons (aka: mental illness) when they turned to what ever vice they chose to numb them from what they felt and/or were trying not to feel. Desperation has hit at an all time high when you’re turning to heavy drugs or alcohol to ‘escape’. You’ve gone past the point of logic; you only want some comfort for a short time, which in turn often turns to an addiction that controls you for a long time.

Why do I feel so strongly about his/have this opinion? Remember those 4 brave souls I spoke of? One of them is my father. He doesn’t just struggle with mental illness he’s a recovering alcoholic. It doesn’t just end with my dad; I come from a family with several addicts in our midst. My brother’s in-laws are also filled with addicts (like attracts like I suppose). I’m intimately familiar with what Mr. Hoffman’s family has struggled with for the last 20 odd years he’s struggled with addiction. I understand the questions his children will have down the road. I understand what his partner was/is going through. It can be very easy to get angry when you see this situation “what an idiot, what a waste, how selfish can he be with all that money, fame, wife and kids?” When you see homeless people strung out on the street pan handling for money in big cities it can be easy to think: “get a job, I’m not giving you money you’ll just drink it” and walk away.  Often it’s easier to just pretend you don’t see them and walk by.

Do you want to know what my father does when he sees them? He gives them money…even though he knows they might just use it for drugs/alcohol etc. He always says the same thing to me when he does it (in his Glaswegian accent): “Well hen, they could’ve just as easily have been me. Your ma could have flung me out on the street”.

My “Ma” didn’t. She (like my Dad) is a devout Catholic who takes her vows of until death do us part seriously. She stuck by him even as she struggled with her own demons (She’s also one of the 4 loved ones I mentioned above). 15 years ago thanks to the support of my sister in law and her recovering addict Uncle my Dad got the support and help he needed. And this May we are gearing up to celebrate his 15 years of sobriety.  This is nothing to be sniffed at let me assure you. My father is on the low end of the statistic; most people end up like Mr. Hoffman. My father is the first one to admit that if he didn’t get help he wouldn’t be alive today. He wouldn’t have lived to be the much beloved grandfather to his two nieces that he is, or the father I needed him to be for the last 15 years (perhaps making up for the first 25 when he wasn’t always there present and focused) and the husband my mum needed all these years.  He also admits it’s still a struggle all these years later; you are never ‘cured’.  Now that my mum is also getting the help she needs for her own bouts with depression they are enjoying their retirement a little more. My parents have their up and downs on a daily basis, our story isn’t over and we as a family grow and deal with the issues as they come.

I’m very grateful for the second chance my family has been given. I’m grateful for the support available in this country for my family. I’m grateful we’re one of the ‘lucky’ ones in all of this. So as my own words cross through your Internet browsing today and as you come across more stories of mental illness or addiction I would just say this: Compassion. Empathy. Keep these words in mind.

You’ve heard my story and why I have the viewpoint I do (perhaps I’m still going to be considered a ‘bleeding heart’ after this).  Not all stories are the same and I really do wish most of you never have to go through some of the stuff my family has gone through. Does all mental illness result in addiction? No. But as the changing tide of mental illness moves over to a new found compassion and openness to discuss are we open to doing the same thing about the dirty subject of addiction to drugs or alcohol (or gambling or whatever?)?

Consider this: the next time you see a homeless junkie on the street, read an article in some (left wing?) paper about programs to help addiction or mental illness, read about a person losing all the family money at a casino, or read about yet another celebrity overdose……I want you to imagine that person is your father/mother/brother/sister/son/daughter/family member/work colleague/ and/or friend….and lets talk.

Exodus: June 2012

So the pieces of my long-term plan came together…the house was purchased, I had moved in, set up as much as I felt was necessary to make it feel like ‘home’ (i.e.: painted, decorated, the furniture I needed in place to live in place etc.), the Arbonne business was up and running with 2 active team members, my yoga teacher had come forward and proposed the idea of me teaching in his new studio in the fall…only one thing left to do: resign from my corporate job. It’s funny, you dream about the moment, quitting, finally ‘getting out’, moving on to this ‘dream’ life where you get to decide what to do/how to live but when the moment finally arrives: it can be a scary one. I already knew what the date would be-June 30, 2012 (as a last day of work). I had committed two years in the role to my vice president and that would be me just over two years. I had even already decided to give a month’s notice because it was a huge project with a go live date for a software implementation in June with new people coming aboard to help with that I figured it would be easier to transition my responsibilities as they were sorting all of that out (A guess that was correct on my part as they didn’t replace me: they farmed out my responsibilities to assorted teams).  The first week of June came way faster than I expected it to and it was time to tell my VP what I planned to do. I had no idea I’d be so nervous/scared to tell her. In fact the guy I was dating at the time had even told me to be prepared for some emotional ups and downs through this as it was like ending a 12-year relationship (Was he ever right!). I almost threw up the night I sent the email requesting time with my VP to tell her in person and my stomach was doing flip-flops when I walked into her office after hours that night to tell her I was resigning. I had known Jane for years and she is a lovely woman, had been very good to me…we both got a bit misty eyed in our conversation but in the end she was very happy for me.  We had got to know each other via a lunch time yoga class we attended with some fellow colleagues so it was only fitting we discussed me leaving the organization to follow a dream of teaching yoga and building a health & wellness business. Little did I know that getting a little misty eyed with my boss was only a taste of what was to come?

That was the first week of June, what would follow in the next few days, weeks, months would lead me to creating this blog. I was in no way prepared and completely surprised by the reaction I would get from people as word started spreading throughout the organization about the girl on the 12th floor who was leaving the company to pursue a career in health & wellness and teach yoga.  I spent the next 4 weeks transitioning my responsibilities, tying off loose ends with the project and going for a lot of coffees, lunches and visits to say good-bye to the many, many folks I had met and become friends with over my 12 years at the company. Many of these conversations were very business like: “nice working with you, all the best etc.” but many of the conversations went very differently then I was expecting them too! I had several folks burst into tears, several get misty eyed, and even a couple heated discussions one of which resulted in a woman storming away from me in the hallway. I recognize these reactions had little to do with me (I’m in no way saying these people were crying because I was leaving), rather we would get to talking about their lives, where they see themselves in a few years and then…that’s when I’d get the reaction.  I am not a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, a social worker, or counselor but I can tell you this: when you get really honest, and start telling people what’s really going on in your head, how you really feel you’d be amazed at how honest folks get with you! I also discovered that most people felt the same way I did…. they didn’t love their jobs per say but weren’t quite sure what they wanted to do with their careers lives etc. Finally I discovered that I was in fact very lucky, I had discovered what I was passionate about and had (bravely I’m told) decided to pursue it. I was a very lucky and grateful lady.

That brings me to the ongoing theme/what I’ll be writing about in this blog going forward. More heated debates/discussions, crying, raw honesty and laughter. General networking, meeting more like-minded folks, building relationships and the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. Hopefully I’ll hear from some of you out there, your journey, your ups and downs because if there is one thing I know from all of this: I’m not the only one out there taking this journey and there tons of folks out there who want to/or will in the near future…and I for one will be cheering those folks on just like the folks cheering me on right now.

May 2011: A Decision

I’ve often heard that you have to decide before you do anything, decide how you want things to be then commit to action. Those comments never really resonated with me in the past if I’m being very honest. In my business there is a legendary woman named Debbie Neal (Google her: Millionaire Mom, Arbonne consultant extraordinaire) who always talks about this, she often starts her extremely inspiring public talks with the comment “Decide to be the bar for you and your team, decide to be successful. Excellence is not a skill, it’s a habit, it’s a decision you make every day to be better. ” I was about to learn how true these statements were. As I’ve already explained, I didn’t really thing about putting a plan in place for my life or even really give a lot of thought to how I wanted it to look. I wasn’t living by design….who would have thought a conversation with my boss and some templates on paper would change all that?

I took those career/life coach templates I talked about away with me as instructed by my coach. I went over to Scotland for a family wedding. A large chunk of the trip was spent out in the beautiful highlands of Scotland (put that on your bucket list if you’ve never been) staying with an Aunt & Uncle. I have an aunt who herself defies the laws of aging/society etc. She’s turning 74 this year, looks about 20 years younger and can do things people 40 years younger struggle with (ie: running half marathons with impressive finish times, hill walking, yoga, traveling etc), and her views of life have always been out of the box. This would explain why we’ve always gotten along. I lived with her and my uncle for a short time with I was 18 and in the years since we always have the best conversations–we keep in touch via email often now as she lives an ocean away. I think one of the reasons we get along is because she’s always ‘seen me’. What do I mean by that? She has always encouraged me to just be me, do what I want to do, not what I’m expected to do (that will be a theme in this blog….you’ve been warned). In fact one of the most hysterical quotes I have by her is this: “You know dear, I’ll always support any decision you make but you’ll never fulfill your full potential as a human being if you decide to get married”. I laughed my head off when she said that and when I tell people the response varies from hysterical laughter to crickets…..depends on the person really. Any-who, I do think that being around her, climbing my first Munro (any hill in Scotland over 3000 ft up) and just being away from the grind of my stressful career gave me the clear head to fill out the templates with complete honesty. I was also able to define what I wanted out of life and actually put it to paper…..something I think we’ve firmly established I didn’t do much of before.

So what were the results?

  • The clear message from all the tests, templates and conversations was that I should be in the health and wellness field (no surprise to anyone who knows me well)
  • A role out of the confines of the 9 to 5 corp structure, something with more flexibility would be a better fit for me.
  • Something where I get to physically move as opposed to sitting at a desk all day.
  • Working with people was key
  • Doing something on my own (entrepreneur) was a better fit for me..Not being tied to one geographical area was a clear desire (see point 2)

I didn’t really know what to do with these results (the only advice the career coach had given was “research the health and wellness industry”…gee, thanks.), but I did know this, it was time to make a decision and put a plan into place. I decided (pretty much when I got to the top of my first Munro ever with my Aunt) that I wanted a different life. I wanted out of the corporate grind, I wanted to get into my own venture, I wanted something under the health and wellness umbrella and I wanted to work with people/help people to do the same. I decided then when I got home I would start looking into how to make this all happen.

A funny thing happens when you decide, things have a funny way of falling into place. While I was away cousin of mine (who made a similar leap in her own life-expect more on her in future posts) had been told me this while we were at our cousin’s wedding. I told her what I was thinking and her response was “It’s done, I can see it in your face, don’t worry about how it’s going to happen–it will”. Was she ever right, after I got home the opportunities I would end up pursuing presented themselves to me…….

1) An old friend who I took and annual surfing trip with contacted me about her new home based business. It was with a company I’d never heard of but they were a health and wellness company, Swiss, vegan certified, with some very impressive people at the helm. This company is Arbonne (Pure, safe, beneficial–google them). They have a product line of over 450 items spanning from skin care, baby care, cosmetics and a whole wellness line of protein shakes, vitamins etc. The company is headed up by a woman named Kay Napier who had an impressive career with P & G and McDonald’s and the head of research & development is Dr. Peter Matravers, the man behind the Aveda brand. The company is a networking marketing/direct sell business, and it was an industry I knew little about other than other brands from that area (Pampered Chef, Avon etc). I had preconceived ideas (is that a pyramid?) but I learned quickly it was a low risk/high return, perfectly timed (network marketing is predicted to produce the next round of billionaires for a variety of reason I won’t go into right now), incredibly ethical and it fit right on it to my desire to get into the health and wellness industry.  I started by business (on the side of my corp career at the time) in the fall of 2011.

2) Another old friend (ironically this one hired me into the corporation I was working for!) contacted me while I was away about a side project of his. A mobile marketing company that was still very small but had a couple high-profile clients–including a competitor of the retailer I worked for. They had a need for someone who had business experience to client manage/project mange. They had no real office, work from home was the reality and it would be as flexible as I needed it to be. The only catch was that they couldn’t pay me much so I’d need other streams of income….see point 1! We met as soon as I came home to start talking about timing and how we’d make it work….I didn’t actually start with them until July 2012 as I still had my corp full-time gig but the decision was made that I work with them in May 2011.

3) My yoga teacher/mentor was doing his first ‘intensive’ (teacher training) at his studio (my local studio that I practiced at regularly). It would be a month-long on top of my regular long hours at my corp gig but it was the first step towards entering the realm of teaching….I signed up as soon as I got back from Scotland.

This all happened within weeks of me landing back on Canadian soil (really). I had no idea whatsoever at the top of that mountain how I’d change the course of my life, I just knew I wanted to change it. I made a decision. Someone listened, the opportunities presented themselves to me right away…what was the difference? This time, I was ready for it, looking for it, and able to recognize the opportunity when it came in front of me. All because I finally made a decision…step one.

Okay, decision made, opportunities in place, now what? Action. A plan needed to be put in place and executed upon…sound familiar? (go back to my first post) This is ironically exactly what I was getting paid to do for a corporate initiative in my day job! They say God/the universe has a sense of humour…yes, it certainly does! I had just spent a year planning and monitoring the execution of a major project, now it was time to apply those skills to a new project..a new life for me.