I remember the exact time I had my first anxiety attack 17 years ago. I remember the feelings explicitly, although at the time, I had no idea that’s what it was. I was physically and mentally aware that I was having a 4-week term miscarriage. What I did not know was that the heart racing, nausea, dizziness, out of control, barely able to breathe feeling was anxiety.
This miscarriage took place three years after delivering a healthy baby girl, with no pregnancy or delivery complications. Following my miscarriage, my obstetrician sent me for various tests. Not to determine why the miscarriage happened, but to determine if there was anything physical that could be found in order to move forward for another pregnancy. It was during that time that I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid cancer. It was a lucky find. Nothing anyone was looking for or anticipating finding. Of course, this did not happen overnight. There were ultrasounds, biopsies, specialists and many appointments before cancer was confirmed. I had my full thyroid surgically removed followed by two radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) sessions (to sum it up simply, I swallowed a radioactive iodine pill each time that absorbs healthy and cancerous thyroid cells). This all took place over a span of three years, during which time I was advised not to try and conceive. All baby-making plans were on hold especially after RAI.
I recall many moments of anxiousness during this time. I was worried for my daughter and my husband. I was lucky in the sense that I had a highly treatable cancer, found at a very early stage. However, removing your thyroid is not as simple as it sounds. Your thyroid produces hormones that control every aspect of your metabolism, from your heart rate to how quickly you burn calories. Needless to say, I was thankful for the cancer to be gone, but struggled tremendously with the symptoms of having no thyroid. My daughter was young at this time, 7 or 8 years old. My husband and I wanted to protect her from the worry, the scary bits, and generally just allow her to be a kid without dealing with big stuff. We now know that it should have been more carefully thought through. Children are extremely perceptive, and they usually sense when something of a serious nature is being hidden from them. She knew...not exactly what...but she knew something was up. We never intentionally set out to keep things a secret, we just wanted to protect her. Now we know that we were creating a false sense of reality for her, which we would never ever repeat.
Ultimately, after five years of navigating through this time in my life, we decided (lovingly, affirmatively and logically) to not have another child. We were comfortable with our decision. Enter the world and its opinions....and that all pretty much fell to shit for me. I was often asked questions such as “aren’t you having another child”, “don’t you want to give her a sibling”, “aren’t you worried that she will be alone”. And more. It took me a very long time (years) to finally move past all of this negative and toxic “advice” and knock it down one person at a time. There are a multitude of reasons why people have one child – check out @momof1anddone whom I adore for “squashing the stigma of being an only child parent.” We need more Amandas in this world. And for anyone who knows my daughter, she has definitely squashed the stigma of being an only child.
Today, I can affirmatively say that my daughter is my best friend. And vice versa. I only started calling her my best friend in the last year – she is now 20. I just don’t understand how I could have been her best friend before that since parenting involved being an authority and imparting guidance. Yes - I care, love and feel compassionate towards my friends and my daughter, but I don’t act authoritative with my friends. I was not afraid to discipline my daughter, nor did I feel the need to overcompensate by trying to be her friend. Today, my daughter is an adult. My daughter and I choose to spend time together, to talk daily and share what we want to share. She also has the confidence, trust and ability to tell me to back off if need be, because let’s face it, I am still her mom. And I’m ok with that. It’s not her job to fulfill my emotional needs.
Raising a child in the 00’s is hard, and it’s busy. Things go so fast. And there is so much to deal with all the time. As parents, we always made a point to talk to our daughter and there were no topics that were off limit, based on her age. We often went beyond levels of comfort and had conversations with her about sex, drugs, alcohol and mental health. We were never afraid to set boundaries with her. But we always made sure to explore why we were setting those boundaries. Everything was different from the way I grew up. Therefore, I chose to educate myself, to read, to research, to listen to podcasts. If I didn’t know, I researched, made notes. I felt the need to stay relevant and aware especially with help at my fingertips. And I am so grateful I did. Because when the time came for my daughter to tell us about her anxiety, her panic, her phobia and her overall mental health, we were so thankful that she felt comfortable enough to tell us and for us to know enough to validate her feelings and help her get the professional help she needed. This time, I did not protect her from the scary stuff. I openly and truthfully shared with her my journey with anxiety, medication and mental health. Today, my daughter and I openly and lovingly share resources, tools and therapies related to our mental health. We continue to learn every day.
My name is Beatriz. I am a proud mom of one. A wife. A daughter. A sister. I am an entrepreneur, a teacher and a mentor. I have had a full thyroidectomy, cancer, and a full hysterectomy including both ovaries. I have anxiety. I take daily medication. I am strong, loving and compassionate. I am smart, opiniated and tenacious. I am many things, but my favourite by far...I am a proud mom of one.
My daughter’s name is Madison – the creator of Speaking Truth Company.
She is not afraid to take chances. She is loving, yet strong willed. She is able to “put it all out there.” She is ready and able to fight stigmas. She knows when to ask for help. She knows how to help. She knows how to stand up for herself. She is smart, loving, empathetic, compassionate and well-rounded. She is Madison. And she is my daughter.
She just taught me how to “put it all out there.”
Unmatched energy, untapped potential.
Not much compares to the progress we can make through taking what’s known as a leap of faith.
Now, please don’t go jumping from building to building and telling people Jake Myles told you to take that life changing leap, that’s not what I’m getting at.
But have you ever taken a chance on something you knew with your whole heart was meant to happen?
Now flip it.
Have you ever taken a chance on something you knew without a doubt it wasn’t going to happen for you?
If you said yes to either of those questions. You know exactly what I’m about to get into.
Leaps of faith are chances, they’re risks. Taking control of a situation, looking it dead in the eyes and deciding to make something happen for yourself that you normally wouldn’t do.
A word I want to highlight here, is “belief”.
It’s one thing to strongly believe in what you can do and what you can control, but believing in things that you can’t control, something like the the unknown and still pushing forward is what’s so great about these decisions, they’re ours to make.
Belief is what will get you to take that leap. Believing in, not only the outcome, but yourself. Knowing deep deep down that you will be okay, regardless of what the outcome may show and that will make it easier to trust your instincts in the future. Once you take that first leap into something special, it’s so hard to ever look back.
I guess that’s what any of us really want right? To live a life full of mystery and excitement with new opportunities around each corner, but how do you expect to live that real authentic, meaningful life, without testing who it is you want to be?
How many times do we switch up the people we want to be and the things we want to do?
And how many times do we lose ourselves along the way?
The thing with taking leaps is that we will most likely fall. You’re not gonna land every jump safely on the other side but where you land, that safety net or window ledge or whatever you want to call it, might just be the landing you were looking for. That change in pace, that new environment or however you choose to look at it.
I believe everything happens for a reason, I have for a long time and I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before on the mic but if you don’t land exactly where you wanted to be, take it for what it is. There’s a reason you landed there. There’s a reason that chance you took put you in the position that you are now in.
Long story short, you have to trust yourself. Trust your vision and trust your heart.
This profound belief that good things will happen when you choose to take control of your life harnesses this type of protection against your fears.
Is it scary? Yes.
Is it hard? Without a doubt.
But is it worth it? Absolutely.
I’m still trying to find that for myself. The total confidence to be able tot are those leaps whenever they arise. I’m definitely becoming more aware of the fact that often I can’t control when they appear and just what lies ahead but I see it differently than I used to. I’m so much more conformable with the unknown, I mean I still have a long way to go, but I’m not as scared as I used to be.
Whether you’re not he verge of following your passion or you have that gut feeling inside you and you’re not sure whether or not to follow it.. take that leap and follow your heart.
Know that when you follow your heart, you’ll never regret it because at one point in time, it was everything you wanted, and more.
Hold onto that as tight as you can and never let it go because it goes by so quickly.
And do you want to spend the rest of your life wishing you had, or do something now and spend the rest of your life, thanking yourself for what you do today.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this question: how did I become a glorified drug dealer?
Ok, I’m not a drug dealer. Not in the original sense of the word. But I do sell cannabis. Weed. Pot. Marijuana. Whatever you want to call it, but for right now, we’ll call it cannabis. I work at a legal retail cannabis store called Tokyo Smoke, one of the largest cannabis retailers in the country. But if you would have told me that one year ago, I never would have believed you.
Ten years ago I joined a competitive dance team. From that point on, dance became my whole life. My schedule was always dance first, everything else second. Almost every night after school, I went straight to the dance studio. A lot of my parents’ money was spent on me dancing. I moved a few times to attend different dance schools and studios. I moved to Toronto to pursue an education and a career in dance. I’m proud to say I have earned myself a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance Dance. So I think it’s normal to feel like there is a lot at stake, a lot to lose, and a lot of pressure to put all that work, time and money towards a dance career.
During those 10 years, no one could change my mind about what I was “going to do'' in life. Every time I would get asked that lovely question “what do you want to do?”, I would just say dance. All I knew was dance. I sacrificed a lot of socializing, partying and hanging out as a teenager for rehearsals, competitions and classes. We all did. I took myself very seriously. I worked very hard. I got to work with some incredible people and do some incredible performances. As graduation day approached, the pressure grew. As artists, I think we build this idea up in our minds that if we don’t do the thing which we’ve devoted so much time and effort to, we’ve wasted it. That pattern of thought has been with me for a long time and continues to be. I used to think that if you gave up your artistic passion for a “9-5” job it meant that you never liked it enough, or you weren’t strong enough. What do those labels mean? The elitist attitude within artistic communities led me to believe that certain careers were better than others. So there I was, 22 years old, over confident, a degree in dance, a lot of training, a lot of experience, about to launch myself into my dream career. What came next doesn’t need to be explained… (Hint: it rhymes with plobal sandemic)
Six months later, I work full time at Tokyo Smoke and have not taken a dance class in just as long.
I never smoked cannabis in high school. It was never spoken about in my house, but I was never explicitly told not to do it. I just knew not to do it, somehow. Society had ingrained that judgement in me. My relationship with cannabis started in university when I had a bad experience. This was before federal legalization, and that bad experience just furthered my beliefs about cannabis. When federal legalization was about to happen, my curiosity grew. I was also searching for a natural way to help with stress, anxiety and overthinking. I remember a pivotal conversation I had with my mom where she said that maybe “something more natural could help”, and that was the moment my preconceived ideas about cannabis started to change. The legal cannabis market was appealing to me because it made it easy to understand. I knew there could be more benefits to it then just getting high, and the legal market opened up the floor for canna-curious people who wanted to be educated safely.
When I found myself bored in the house and in the house bored, I had time to dive a little deeper in interests I had other than dance, like music, fashion, sports, and cannabis. I was at a fork in the road, I wanted to dance but I couldn’t just sit around and wait for live events to start again, I needed to make money. I applied for all sorts of jobs, just to get me off the CERB. After multiple interviews, I got a job at Tokyo Smoke as an educator. Three months later I got promoted to a community lead position and I love it. I have learned so much about cannabis, business, marketing and managing. I am part of many different communities. And the most exciting part is that I got into a young industry on the ground floor. It is really exciting to be part of a fast-growing industry. The possibilities feel endless.
Cannabis was a gateway drug for me. A gateway to so many more interests in my life. A gateway to a new kind of happiness, one I didn’t know could exist. I laugh at myself now because I am one of those people who I judged. I feel happy. I’m learning that it is not about asking whether I am more or less happy than I was, it is just about this moment. So what I’ve learned from the past year is that things can change. Pivoting can happen. Don’t be so stubborn. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t fight the current, go with it.
My journey with (diagnosed) mental illness started when I was 12. First came anxiety, and then depression, and, most recently, bipolar disorder. Though these 9 years have been difficult, I have been fortunate enough to be able to receive therapy. I know this is unfortunately not the norm for many struggling with mental illnesses; many go without help (that is another blog post all in itself). That is why I wanted to talk about 3 things I have learned in therapy that have helped me expand my thinking in order to cope with my various mental illnesses.
Just a reminder, I am not a professional. I’m a 21 year old simply speaking from experience. These skills have taken me a long time to work into my coping toolbox, and even still I am not a master of them. Give yourself grace.
Dialectics falls under the umbrella of DBT. Dialectics is the shifting of the mind to see that two things can be true at the same time. I used to be confused when I would feel two emotions at once, because I didn’t really know if that was normal. When I learned about dialectics in group therapy, I realized that two things can in fact be true at the same time. For example, I can be sad *and* excited. I can be lonely *and* content. Instead of saying “I feel X *but* I also feel Y”, I have gotten into the habit of saying *and* instead.
Here are some other examples of dialectical thinking provided to you by Sarah (@sar.thrives on instagram)
2. Feelings are not facts
When I am experiencing a depression cycle, I sometimes *feel* like my negative emotions will last forever. I *feel* like i am not strong enough to rise up and beat off the zombies. Then i learned that just because i *feel* a certain way, that does not mean it is a fact. It is simply a feeling. We must not attach factuality to feelings or thoughts because you can end up believing some nasty stuff about yourself. So, here’s a tip: when you are in your most grounded mind, or your “wise mind”, we must tell ourselves that what we feel is not always the reality. Repeatedly. This will help us when we are in times of distress, because we have already been reminding ourselves of this.
3. Radical acceptance
Ah, radical acceptance, my favourite. Simply put, radical acceptance is the act of accepting your reality, when you cannot change your reality (despite the desire for it to be different). We cannot change what we cannot change. This is a tough pill to swallow! That’s hard! That’s why for me, radical acceptance is the key to letting go of suffering from what I can't change. Once I accepted my reality, I could stop fighting so hard. Resisting my “present'' so much. So, whatever we are experiencing suffering from that we cannot change -- i.e. our weight / our bodies (yup, I said it. We cannot change our bodies long term...), our face shape, our current situation in life, etc etc, we must work to accept it wholeheartedly to reduce suffering.
I want to reiterate that these skills, like acceptance for example, are so much easier said than done. So so so much easier said than done. For me, effective coping comes in waves. Sometimes I am a mess for weeks on end, and sometimes I can pull myself out of it quickly. It all depends on how actively I am working to make myself feel better. Having mental illness(es) is a full time job. So fight like hell. While fighting like hell, though, have some patience with yourself. Be gentle. Be kind.
From the outside looking in you’d say “wow, look at this guy… he’s got it all!” “He’s always so happy”…
I mean, why wouldn’t I be happy? I’ve had so much success professionally and not too many people in my industry can say that but it’s what happens when the lights go down and screaming fans are not there… that’s when you are tested the most.
Despite what everyone thinks, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows … Imagine not really knowing if people liked you because you were you or because you were someone famous and all they wanted was to be around that. Imagine having critics chew you up and spit you out because they didn’t think your work was good. Imagine having people on your team that you trusted for years to only have them disappear off the face of the earth with tens of thousands of dollars of your money. Imagine after having so much success being told by your record company that they’re “going in a new direction” or having family members repeatedly struggle with addiction… These things can really mess with someone mentally and I fell into a bit of a dark place.
My career started when I was very young and I was brought up in a home full of love but we weren’t the “come home and tell me what you’re feeling” type of family… If you were sad, you dealt with it… If you were mad, you dealt with it… Problem with that is when you’ve held in so much over so many years, you’re setting yourself up for a nuclear bomb of emotions to explode. The other problem I was facing was that because of my upbringing, I wasn’t comfortable talking about my feelings. “I’m a man and I should just deal with it myself” or “I’ll figure it out” but I came to realize that is not healthy and I wasn’t gonna figure it out. Well I mean my wife really helped me realize that as it really started to take a toll on our relationship so I needed to make a decision… Go and get help or be unhappy and keep making the people around me unhappy. Well… I decided to go and get some help and it was the best decision I ever made.
In 2019 I started seeing a therapist once a week. To be honest, the first time was kind of weird… You’re thinking that this person is judging you because you’re a bit of a screw up, “Why are you here?”, “What is your biggest problem you think?”, “What do you wanna work on?”…
Umm how about EVERYTHING! Haha! The more he spoke and the more I spoke I became really comfortable talking and realized he was not judging me, he was listening. I think that’s a huge part of it for men, we just want someone to listen to us, support us and not judge us. Atleast for me that was a huge part of it. Every time I left there I felt lighter and felt like I took something away from the session that I could use everyday at home with my wife and my kids. I’ll never forget this one exercise we did that REALLY hit home for me…
My therapist picked up a piece of paper, rolled it up and asked me to grab one end as he held the other end and said “I am the bad thoughts you think of, The fear of what your wife is gonna say to you when you open up to her , the fear of talking about your feelings, all of that stuff and right in front of you is this dark hole and I’m going to pull you into it… what are you going to do Shawn?” At first I thought to myself “I don’t know what this guy is trying to teach me here, it feels kind of dumb playing tug of war in his office, this is what I’m paying for?” He asked me again “Shawn, I’m your thoughts, fears and I’m pulling you into this black hole, what are you gonna do Shawn?” to which I answered “I have no idea what you want me to say” then he answered “Just let go” so I let go and said “WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!” I didn’t expect that” So deep yet so simple! It’s crazy how that moment has stuck with me for 2yrs and anytime I feel embarrassed about saying something, expressing my feelings or feeling depressed in someway I just say to myself “Shawn, Just let it go and say it!
This whole idea of a man felling like less of a man in terms of seeking help is so backwards to me now… I believe it takes a real man to realize he needs help and not be embarrassed about that. Sure maybe 30 years ago this wasn’t a thing but in times like we are living in right now, it is more important than ever to seek the help you need and deserve. Since going public with my struggles, the amount of support and other men who have told me they’ve experienced something similar has been so inspiring. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not perfect (my wife will tell you that herself…haha) and I’m still a work in progress but I continue to work on it everyday.
I’m not sure there is one answer on what makes you happy in love and in life but I hope my story can help someone feeling like there’s no answer get the help they need to at least find their answer.
Stay safe & much love
I'm Maddi and Im a full time student (studying Child and Youth Work), Here I have my blog and my shop, I hope you enjoy!