Let’s Talk is Back Again

Today is Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Day, which occurs at the end of January every year. I appreciate that a big corporation is trying to support mental health initiatives, and is trying to get the conversation about mental health going, so that there is less stigma attached to it. I am currently pursuing my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology, so I basically talk about mental health every day at this point. And yet, I find that this initiative reminds me to get more people involved in the conversation.


Mental health falls along a continuum, and many people are not in great mental health all of the time, which is the same as physical health. I’m not. I’ve had a lot of anxiety in the past, had short bouts of depression, and experienced some relationship trauma when I was young. Though I didn’t see a therapist at the time for most of this, seeing one now has helped me work through any lingering issues from past experiences, and helped me develop coping skills (hey, hey, mindfulness!) to deal with any reoccurrences.

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And it’s not just me. I have several family members who have admitted to struggles with anxiety and depression. Friends who have experienced those issues as well. Friends who have dealt with trauma. I know people who have been diagnosed with personality disorders and more severe mental illness. Friends and family who have struggled with grieving processes. In some cases, no help was sought and ultimately not needed – many people can get over depression on their own without professional help, it just takes longer. In other cases, medication or therapy has been utilized. And in others, no help has been sought, even though it probably should. A lot of the time no one wants to talk, or only does with select people, because of stigma. But stigma only goes away when we talk about it. Use opportunities to educate yourself and others. Think of mental health, the same way you think of physical health. Would you be embarrassed by a heart problem? By an autoimmune disease? By a severe allergy? If the answer is no, then don’t be embarrassed about any mental health struggles you do have. You can get through it, and talking about it is a good start.


One of the ultimate existential concerns is finding meaning in life. And while I have no intention into going deep into philosophy today, what I want to write about is my experiences with volunteering, and how that brings meaning to my life. Sometimes when we are sick or in pain, or depressed, or lost, or even just busy, we tend to forget that there are things we can do to give our lives meaning. They aren’t necessarily complicated things, but in this case, they are things that can positively impact others’ lives as well as our own. I volunteer with two organizations: a children’s hospital, and a crisis text line for kids/teens.

downloadImage from: https://medium.com/@cleithe/surviving-the-existential-career-crisis-833c352a7cd7

At the children’s hospital, I volunteer for three hours a week. It can be a lot to fit into a busy schedule, but it’s ultimately rewarding. A question I get asked a lot is, what do I do there? Quite simply, I play with kids and cuddle babies. It’s quite uncomplicated. And yes, it can be sad, but mostly it is happy because kids are kids and just want someone to hang out with. Giving back and putting smiles on kids’ and parents’ faces not only makes me feel good, because I’ve contributed to someone else’s well-being, but it can serve as a mental break for me from the stresses of everyday life (part-time graduate degree – really its like 2/3 time, and full-time work is a lot).

volunteer-900x564Image from: https://www.dcrs.ca/why-volunteering-is-a-good-thing-for-your-life-and-career/

At the crisis text line, I volunteer from 2-4 hours a week. This is a strange mix of stressful, yet rewarding and almost fun work. I know fun may seem like a strange word but I really enjoy volunteering as a crisis responder. The range of issues can be from low-crisis, relationship or coming out issues, to more extreme suicidal ones. The service has supervisors for us to turn to when needed, which can ease some of the pressure. Every time I volunteer, I get the sense that I’ve chosen the right career path for myself.

09+b77tCREONE+19uFURSgJust a ute picture for you to enjoy!

I’ve given myself some meaning in life. And not to say there aren’t other things that contribute to meaning, but I’ve found that in days when I feel anxious or depressed or in pain, I can challenge those negative automatic thoughts that zip across my mind by remembering meaning I’ve generated through volunteering. If you don’t volunteer, it’s something I strongly suggest you look into, as you will likely find it more rewarding than you can imagine.

January Developments

I was a little unsure as to how to narrow down my January for this post so I decided I didn’t have to narrow it down at all! Part of this post will be very much health specific, part of it will refer back to my aim of being more productive this year, and part of it will be about mental health.

To start: I had an MRI last week. It was on my hips. My rheumatologist has been stumped and downgraded my lupus diagnosis to a fibromyalgia one but decided that more tests were needed just in case. MRI was on a Tuesday. On the Wednesday, right when the clinic opened for the day, my doctor’s office called me because the MRI results were back and the doctor (now a replacement as my doc is on mat leave) wants to see me in March (months ahead of the originally scheduled July appointment). What does this mean? I don’t know but I’ve decided not to stress because I figure if it was very serious, they would’ve had me come in sooner… so we’ll see. On top of that I have an ultrasound scheduled for tomorrow. In the meantime all I can do is manage my symptoms as I always do! I’m seeing the CBD doctor later today so hopefully we can manage some of my pain with that.

IMG_5316Holiday party fun! Catching up with former colleagues!

Productivity wise, I’ve started volunteering at Kids Help Phone (along with retaining my SickKids volunteering). It is amazing! Incredibly stressful… Monday night was the most stressful 4 hours ever, but at the end I felt great and energized. It really affirmed that I am going into the right field. I can’t wait for my next shift. I’ve also started some personal writing… not sure if it will be a short story or a short film but I’m enjoying squeezing it in when I can. I also went on a date last night so it’s great to make some time to be back on the dating scene!

IMG_5355Spike approves of this post

Mental health wise, I just want to emphasize how important I think personal therapy is for everyone. I know there are people who are scared or think it will make them seem weak. I promise you that it will do the opposite. I was able to discuss a difficult friendship situation with my therapist and it provided me with insight and tools (which I had, just needed to be guided there) to figure out how to approach the situation. Like in the past, where tools have been mindfulness to manage both stress and chronic pain, therapy can help you find excellent resources, some of them right within you.

IMG_5273Friendships can be complicated, but hockey is not! Go Jets Go!

New Year, New Me?

Most of the people I know are in the mindset of “new year, new me? No way, new year same me because I’m awesome.” I love the positive self-esteem coming from my friends. It can be a great way to think for some. For others, new year, new me is important because they want to make changes to make their lives better. Maybe that means going to therapy, or starting at the gym, or letting things go. It could be something small, but whatever it is, whether they believe it or not, it will lead to a new them.

GgJfPEyUSZyGuyHnZe87GAQueen of the world (Drake Bay, Costa Rica, May 2019)

I don’t really believe in new years resolutions, because they are so subject to fail. I’d rather think of it as guiding principles for the year, because for me, there are things I’d like to accomplish. Not necessarily “new year, new me” but rather continuing to drive myself to be the best me possible. There are three aspects of my life that I’d like to work on the most. One is health related, one affects more of my mental health, and the last affects occupation and leisure (yes, at the same time).

S25BJukjQ%ePbo3rbrdsKQSay hello to my little friend.

First things first, I’d like to be better at taking my medications. Don’t get me wrong, I’m great at the morning doses. Like super on top of that. I’m terrible at the evening doses. I need to hold myself to a higher standard and be as good as my evening doses as I am at my morning ones!

56859806054__10A990A5-9C16-487E-95E8-D7B99A88639AMeds, meds, meds, meds.

Second, I need to just let things go. Not all things, but specifically work things. Because there is some negative energy in my workplace that I’ve voiced concerns about for months and months and nothing changes. I remind myself that I have a year until my practicum starts for counselling, and, therefore, less than a year as a full time employee at that place. I want to enjoy my job for this year, so I need to just breathe and go with the flow.

F15AEB9B-EF8F-460A-8EA5-C7EC556BDE3AAs the captain of the employee committee, I just want to have fun and do stuff like this!

Lastly, I feel I can be a lot more productive with my time. Those who know me are probably rolling their eyes and saying, Kelsey, you work full time, you’re doing your Masters, and you have two volunteering jobs. But at the end of the day, I always end up watching an hour plus of Netflix (or Disney+) and I could be doing so much more. If I took half that time spent on basically nothing from last year (don’t get me wrong, I think that some down time is great for mental health) on doing something like writing, than I may actually have something written. I want to write a book, I want to write a screenplay or two, I want to make a short film that my friend and I wrote a year ago, I want to start a vlog. I need more creativity to balance the side of my brain that is so focused on research and school.

nMM+GibFRVmZBWDLAr0wogFun and creativity are coming my way.

It’s not new year, new me. It’s new year, better version of me.