On pretending

16 Mar

On pretending

A friend shared this quote from George Takei’s Facebook today. As someone who has suffered from recurrent depression this made so much sense to me.

I like to pretend. I’m really good at it. Especially when I’m not feeling well. Inside I feel like I have rocks in my tummy, like anything could make me cry and I’m exhausted. Outwardly I’m sunny and for the most part, I seem like the regular me. Those that know me well will eventually detect the truth, the different side. The familiar voice or hug gets the real story when I dissolve into tears. Sometimes *I* don’t even know things aren’t good until they really aren’t good.

When I’m experiencing an episode of depression, I tend to isolate. I cut myself off from those that know me the best because its easier for me not to talk about it. To keep up the charade. That way, I’m really good at convincing myself that I’m actually ok. But I’m not. And the distancing… well it actually makes it worse. The “feeling bad feelings” creep in more intensely, burrow deeper and convince me that my friends don’t care, or don’t want to spend time with me, even though its me that is doing the pulling away. It just makes it worse and worse.

When I was going through a particularly dark period last May I decided I needed support and I was seeing a Counsellor regularly. I spoke to her about the fact that pretending that I was ok all day at work was exhausting. She asked me how I acted at work, I told her I smiled all day, when people would ask me how I was I’d reply “great!”. That I would laugh, move quickly, and try to be as ‘normal’ as possible. She challenged me on this. She said “Laura, do you think you could ever respond honestly? Do you think you could try telling people: ‘I’m not feeling that great this week’?”

I was confused. This suggestion did not make sense to me. Wasn’t it my job to “think positive”? To “fake it until I make it”? To try to send out positive energy with the hopes of it shifting my own mood? The suggestion that there was another option was mind-blowing to me.

For someone who has pretended for so long it is hard to be honest with yourself and with others. I started slowly at first. Having more honest conversations with myself first, and then with others.

What I discovered was that being honest about what I’m thinking and feeling is REALLY freeing. Giving myself the time to feel when I’m feeling bad is good. Being honest with others about how I’m feeling is good. Its OKAY to be blue for a week. To skip the gym now and then and lie on the couch, watch a few hours of Netflix and eat pizza for dinner. To let myself off the hook. When asked if I’m okay, I CAN say “you know what? I’m a bit grumpy today” or, “I’m kind of having a tough week”. Its okay not to be the chatterbox or the social coordinator for a week or two. To not try to be everything. To just be.

So now for my mind blowing advice: don’t worry about being Eeyore now and then. Let yourself be blue. Take comfort in the friends and family who love you anyway. Let them sit with you to watch Netflix, or talk to you on the phone while you cry. Be honest with them about how you are feeling. Don’t feel the pressure to be together all the time, because who is? But MOST IMPORTANTLY know when being blue is a little more than a passing phase. When to reach out for help and talk to someone who can support you. Know when you need to take it a step further and see a professional who can suggest the appropriate interventions for whatever you might be dealing with.

It can be hard not to pretend. But know that being honest with yourself and others is so much better. Even if that makes you feel a bit like Eeyore once and awhile.


Chase Away the Sunday Blahs

25 Feb

We will get to “chasing away the Sunday blahs” but first some news:  Things are starting to come together for the third Friends With Benefits event in Ottawa on May 2nd, 2014.  We have booked the venue and we’re doing the legwork to put together another fabulous evening of silent auction items, music and inspiration in support of the Jennie James Depression Research Fund.

I get so much energy from participating in the organization of this event, it makes me feel like anything is possible, like people are good and that I’m a part of something bigger – a movement to end the stigma around depression and other mental health challenges.

Beyond the event planning for Friends With Benefits there’s the promotion of the event, and some awareness-raising stuff I like to do, most of which is done through this blog.  So for my first post of 2014 I’m thinking about chasing away the Sunday blahs.

Do you get the Sunday blahs?  For me, Sunday is the day I love to hate.  It’s a great day for brunch, maybe a workout, sleep in, and if you’re feeling productive, for getting stuff done. Did I forget to mention its also a great night for TV ?(Girls, anyone?).  But when you’re someone like me who tends towards the downward swing in life Sunday can be a no-fun-day.

This year I have been doing a lot of work around “designing my life”: setting things up to go as I’d like them to instead of being stuck in the same routine, hoping things will change.  I have been working with a super cool, super frank, super caring coach named Molly from the Handel Group who got me onto the idea of changing the way I think about Sundays.  How can I take the day on which I usually feel the loneliest and make it something great?

Over the past few months I’ve been trying some different things to make Sundays more Laura-friendly.  I don’t know that I have figured out a 100% foolproof plan to chasing away the Sunday loneliness, however I have come pretty close.    Here are 5 ideas to help you chase away the Sunday blahs:

1)   Plan your day

If you know that Sundays are an icky day for you, make sure you have some plans or structure to help ease you into the day.  Plan some errands, a class, or even what book you are going to read or movie you are going to see.  If you have a plan, it’s a bit easier to negotiate the day.  You can spend more time focusing on the task at hand, and less time feeling the suck of Sunday.

 2)   TREAT YO SELF – 2014

Three words for you Treat. Yo. Self.  Thank you Parks and Recreation for this inspiration!

Sunday is a great day to book an appointment for a massage, the spa, or another treat of the week.  Perhaps this isn’t realistic every week but if you can think of something you can do to make yourself feel good, it’s a great day to do it.

For me, treating myself can be as simple as a fancy coffee and the weekend paper.  Or, taking a walk in my neighborhood and people watching.  Sometimes its making something more decadent for dinner and watching a movie.  Go with whatever gives you the warm fuzzies.  Maybe some fine leather goods?

 3)   Connect with friends

This is a BIG one for me.  For me, Sunday feels like it should be about togetherness – whether its with family, a partner or with friends.  I’m not going to lie that part of my Sunday blahs related to the fact that in my ideal world I would have a tall, dark and handsome dude helping me up dinner in the kitchen.  But there is something just as good if not better than that: which is connecting with friends.  In Toronto I have been lucky to have been adopted by a rad group of people who host Sunday family dinners almost weekly.  These dinners are a great way to connect, have some laughs and end the night with a warm heart and full belly.  Plus it’s a great excuse to share the cooking duties and there’s the leftovers…

If you are away from your close friends or find it hard to connect in-person on Sunday night, make Sunday your “catch up” night.  I have a few really good friends who know how I feel about Sundays and who always make an effort to call.  It’s a great time to catch up on the weekend and have a few laughs before shutting her down for the night.  It might surprise you how much closer it makes you feel when you make the effort to reach out to friends or family for a regular phone date.

4)   Exercise

You have the whooooole day – why not get those endorphins pumping?  I feel about 100% better on Sunday when I have made an effort to get a work out or a yoga class in.  It makes me feel accomplished, awake, and less like a lump on a log.  Plus it’s a great way to fill some time if you don’t have other plans.

If you’re not a regular member of a gym, many fitness studios have reduced rates for first time clients.  Since you’re not rushing to or from work, Sunday is a great day to take on a new challenge.  Ballet barre or Crossfit anyone?

5)   Take it easy on Saturday night

If you like to indulge in a few drinks on the weekend, you know that Sunday can be rough. For me, Sunday is sooooo much better if I have been well behaved on Saturday night.  Besides the wine-flu and gin headaches, anxiety and depression are two of the ugly side effects of a hangover.  Individuals pre-disposed to depression are likely to have elevated feelings of the blues or anxiousness after they’ve consumed too much.   Alcohol also disturbs your sleep patterns.  Less drink makes it so much easier to get a good sleep and wake up on the right side of the bed.  So maybe next Saturday we’ll think about one less drink?  Yes, yes we will.

I still have a good case of the lonelies on Sunday  now and then, but I have learned a lot from Ms. Molly about how I can better take charge of my days to achieve the good vibes and good feelings I want to live.  If you can believe it and if you can plan it, chances are you’ll feel great about your day.  I hope that these small words of advice will prove useful to you.  I’d love to hear how you design YOUR next Sunday.


If you need some inspiration to make your Sunday sing, try this:



P.S.- If you want a free consult from a Handel staffer on whether or not coaching could help you click here.


Save the Date

24 Feb

Save the Date

Save the date for Friday May 2nd, 2014. More auction, more dancing, more inspiration and more funds raised for the Royal.

The words “thank you” don’t feel like enough

12 May

472491_10152788626405117_168611097_o 189407_10151535315561832_1856306922_n21248_10152788626180117_537684207_n 946393_10151535314751832_262470392_nI feel like I have an excitement hangover.  So much happiness and love has surrounded us this weekend.  As I write this I’m sleepy but buzzing with a million thoughts and words in my head that I want to get out into the world right this instant!

Friends With Benefits on Friday was a wonderful success.  I have never felt a room filled with so much love, excitement, hope and unity.  While the night seemed to pass in a blur of wonderfulness I have some wee snapshots in my mind that sum it up perfectly: the fierce competition for silent auction items, the many hugs and words of appreciation, seeing Jennie’s sister and her friends break it down on the dance floor and the vibes of love and support I felt as I made my speech about the importance of the evening.

All in all, I think we did it:  we gained the momentum and support we all hoped we would in year two.  Although we don’t yet have our “total raised” for the evening, my gut tells me that we will at least match, if not exceed, what we hoped for for this year because of all of those who sponsored and all of those who attended both in person and in spirit.

Yesterday with it being all over, it was an emotional day.  I felt proud of what we had accomplished, but still felt like it was not enough.  I kept feeling like: “this is so frustrating!  It can go well, raise money and awareness but at the end of the day its not going to bring our friend, our sister, our aunt, our daughter, or our life of the party back”.  That is hard.  But I know that what we can all take comfort in, however, is that we are raising awareness and funds for individuals and families who so desperately need the support of The Royal.

I’m not confident about a lot in this life and this is something that is a “work in progress” for me.  What I am confident about is my ability, our collective ability, to bring people together to celebrate Jennie’s legacy and to raise awareness and funds for The Royal.  I feel more strongly now than I did even a year ago that this needs to be a bigger part of my life.  I’m not sure what that looks like yet but I’m excited to find out.

I’m not sure if this all hangs together or even makes sense but what its meant to say is THANK YOU! Thank you to:

Kimberly Sullivan and Boom 99.7 for believing in our vision and supporting us as a presenting sponsor.  Thank you, Kimberly, for being there and acting as a most excellent Emcee for the evening.

– To Nicki Bridgland, Founder of the Ottawa Sport and Social Club, and friend of Jennie’s.  Thank you for your support again in year two and by taking on the role of presenting sponsor.  It made our vision possible and for a beautiful evening at Lago;

-To Trend Trunk and Kott Lumber for being our supporting sponsors who helped us to promote the event and to provide a great experience to our guests;

– To Peter Hammond and Kathryn Laflamme for doing so much to make the evening possible.  You took on more than your share of work and helped us to secure a great new venue for this year.

– To Francine Charbonneau who is an amazing PR specialist, marketing maven, and social media guru extraordinnaire.

– To Andrew Moonsamy and Katie Wallace for your help in securing silent auction donations.

– To my parents and all of the wonderful volunteers who helped to make the evening run so smoothly.

– To Trouble Clef who played the most beautiful music.

– To Lisa Provencal who caught the whole thing on film.

– To Tracey Welsh and her team for their guidance and support.

Finally to all those of you that came in person or who sent donations or words of support.  You are what helps us to grow this event and make it successful for the second year in a row!  You are great friends… with many benefits for the Royal.


The Royal – You Know Who I am – Melissa’s Story

9 May

Melissa Kruyne is CEO of Kott Lumber here in Ottawa. Outside of her work with Kott Melissa is a top fundraiser for Mental Health and is one of The Royal’s “Women for Mental Health”.

Women for Mental Health is a philanthropic program at The Royal bringing together like-minded women who will inspire conversations and support for mental health – to shift attitudes and make real progress in changing the way people think about mental health. This change will help transform patient care and research at The Royal.

In this video, Melissa talks about her special friendship with Jennie. Friends since the age of 6 Melissa and Jennie shared in many of life’s special moments together. Melissa talks about why she supports the Royal and what we can learn about supporting our loved ones who are suffering from depression.

For more information please visit:

Kott Lumber is a Supporting Sponsor of Friends With Benefits

What’s in store on May 10th at Friends With Benefits

6 May

We are under one week away from Friends With Benefits for the Royal’s Jennie James Depression Research Fund.  Friends With Benefits is a fundraiser…yes… but its also a PARTY!  We want to celebrate the many people who are living AND thriving despite having a mental illness.  We also want to raise awareness of the importance of stomping out stigma surrounding depression and other mental health issues.  

Want to know what’s in store?  Check out this interview with the Friends With Benefits emcee, Kimberly Sullivan, where Laura Hammond Event Chair tells you what you can expect on May 10:

Did you know that this is the second annual Friends With Benefits event?  Check out these photos of last year’s event!


You Know Who I Am

30 Apr

You know who I am.

I’m the girl you see in the cafeteria over lunch or gasping for air as I finish the last five minutes on the treadmill at the gym. I’m your friend.  I’m your colleague.  I’m your neighbor. I’m just your average 30 something trying to balance work and life.

I’m also someone who suffers from a mental illness.

To look at me you might not guess I had been a client at the Royal.  I’m pretty together now, more so than the struggling 20 year old who was crying all the time and couldn’t make a simple decision.  I guess I’m a different me now, but I wouldn’t be this me without the support of The Royal.

When I was 20 years old in my second year of University in Toronto my nearly perfect life began to unravel.  I cried all the time.  No amount of sleep every seemed enough.  School assignments that I normally would have tackled with ease seemed insurmountable.  I was anxiety ridden and social interactions that were normally pleasant for me were painful.  I felt like I was carrying about 20 pounds of extra weight in my heart and in my head.

After a trip home to Ottawa at Thanksgiving my parents could sense something had changed in me.  My mom came down to and shacked up with me for a week in my dorm room to help me manage the back-half of the fall semester.  One cool fall day she bundled me up shuffled me off to the University Health Centre.  After a quick visit I was sent packing with a prescription for Paxil and a counseling appointment in two weeks’ time.  Dropping a course provided temporary relief, but the Paxil made me shake and I hated the way I felt, so I stopped taking it.  I felt hopeless but also felt that I had to keep going for myself, for the successful and happy girl I wanted to be, and for my parents and friends.

With my parents support and the want to pretend nothing was wrong I got through until almost the end of the spring semester.  I thought I was doing a pretty good job at pretending everything was ok.

I later learned that my roommates would open my door after I went to sleep at night because they were so worried about me.

It was my final paper for my Women’s Studies that became the final straw.  I worked for hours at the library putting together a paper for the next day.  I typed, and re-typed and after almost a whole day I looked at the screen in a moment of clarity and realized I only had one paragraph.

That day was the day that the will to keep going dried up for me.  I felt I had nothing left.  My dad heard a sad, scared me on the phone that day.  Through my tears I heard him tell me to hang on, that I must promise to hang on, and that he would come and get me.

Two days later I was in the hospital.

I don’t remember a lot about that time.  I think forgetting hard times is the brain’s way of protecting us.  I sometimes have small flashes of memories in my mind like how I hid in the bathroom of the doctor’s office because I was convinced everyone in the waiting room was looking at me, or how once we got the hospital I begged my mother to take me home.

My first hospitalization at the Civic in Ottawa is where navigating the health care system in search of support began for my family and me.  It’s a tricky thing access care for a mental health issue.  You practically need to be running naked down the middle of Rideau Street before get to the front of the line.  For me a scared but clean-cut 20 something from a middle class up brining in the suburbs, it wasn’t so obvious.  I thank goodness that my parents didn’t give up and tried their darndest to find the right kind of support for me.  The finally found me help at the Royal.

I was admitted to a rehabilitation program at The Royal in October 2002.  The goal of the program was to help individuals who had been treated for mental health issues to regain a sense of routine and normalcy and learn important lessons about self-care and managing their illness before transitioning out of the hospital setting.  While in this program I managed to take a course at Carleton.  I worked with a kind and caring doctor named Dr. Miura who listened while I talked and cried.  He had me paint pictures and write about how I was feeling.  He helped me to find the right combination of medication to help the fog of depression lift a little.  He explained what was going on in my brain and helped me to understand what I was feeling in my heart.  A gifted Social Worker named Kenna McCall worked with my parents and I to learn how to work together to manage my illness.  She taught me important strategies to manage stress and anxiety – some of which I still use today.

In 2003 I was discharged.  I came away from the program at the Royal a different me than I had been a year and a half earlier when the depression first set in.  There was still much work to be done for me, but the Royal helped me lay the foundation to do that work.

In the ten years since I was first diagnosed with depression, much has changed for me.  With the right support and a little emotional elbow grease, I finished school and started to build what’s been a pretty exciting career in Human Resources.  I’ve built new friendships, bought my first home and been in love.  The familiar beast called depression still lurks within me.  I take medication to manage it and I’ve also come to know myself better so I can give myself what I need to feel ok when I need it.  I am so thankful I am here, and not there where I was on the edge of giving up.

A co-worker said to me the other day “Laura, you’re always so cheery – it is hard to ever imagine you in a bad mood”.  This comment made me giggle a little.  I thought  back to some of my darker moments wonder what my colleague would think if they knew about my journey. That I feel deeply sad and anxious sometimes. Or, that I take Effexor every morning.

What this is all meant to say is: you know who I am.  I’m a human resources professional.  I’m someone who cares deeply about my family and friends.  I am that girl at the gym gasping during the last five minutes on the treadmill!  I’m a friend, a daughter and an auntie by proxy.  Ilove indulging in celebrity gossip, my evening work outs and yoga.  I enjoy laughing until my belly hurts, my new bike and cappuccinos.  I’m the social coordinator.  I like being silly and making other people laugh.  I love babies and new clothes. I am passionate about raising money for mental health research.

I am all these things thanks to the support of The Royal.   It was The Royal who helped

C'est moi!  Proudly displaying my Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal for my fundraising for mental health research

C’est moi! Proudly displaying my Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for my fundraising for mental health research

me to learn that I’m so much more than my illness and that with the right tools I can manage my depression.