The 16,000 kilometre road trip planned long before last minute surgery scheduled did not change my mind about staying or going. No way am I missing the six communities visits leading into Bell Let’s Talk Day. Only thing that would stop me is a blood clot, which, well, certainly would not bode well for travel. With the green light from my Doc, we hit the road, not running, but nonetheless we are on the road and that’s all that matters. Thankfully this mental health awareness sharing and listening tour is NOT by bicycle. It’s more than doable, it just takes more time to managing getting from point A-B. Which is a little complicated when traveling from Fort MacMurray to Iqaluit, Montreal, Halifax, Ottawa, Kingston and finally Toronto.
An adventure, for sure.
What made the decision to stay or go are the countless stories I hear. Daily. People sharing their mental health journeys. People who day in and day out make differences in the lives of those who struggle. Those who struggle and find their way onto the healing path, then reach out and help others. All the love that is in this world, despite all the stigma that still prevents many from getting and receiving help. Or at the very least experiencing basic human kindness that every person deserves.
The wonderful students at École McTavish in Fort MacMurray, Alberta. Séan McCann brought his music and made our hearts shine!
The people we in each community giving, sharing, helping and healing makes my heart sing. Makes my knees feel less pain and makes moving around on crutches oh-so-slowly feel like not that big of deal at all. I neglect to do any physiotherapy or spins on the bike the entire 12 days of travel leading into Bell Let’s Talk Day. I am too tired, emotionally and physically, and practically speaking there is just no time. That the recovery from surgery takes a big step back is worth the setback because I have the chance to really listen. To LISTEN to so many unsung Heroes and Survivors from all over Canada.
Iqaluit, Nunavut! Inuit culture and kindness, games and creativity, kindness and caring at its best.
What makes me most happy about this trip and the big day of awareness Bell Let’s Talk Day that I’ve been a part of for seven years now, is that I truly feel I am no longer needed in this conversation. The collective sound of stories being told, the beautiful sight of deep listening topped with the powerful voices of Canadians young and old, from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds, has become a beautiful roar. Youth from all walks of life, from elementary, to junior and high schools, to colleges and universities, to city centres and small communities, are letting this entire nation know from coast to coast to coast that MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS and that silence and stigma are plain stupid and need to be gone. I see this, I hear this, I feel this and believe this whole topic of mental wellness has indeed become mainstream. Sort of ordinary. Only it’s not.
Sharing circle then mindfulness yoga and meditation with a group of Canadian Forces Veterans at the Set.Anne de Bellevue Hospital in Québec!
It’s a relief to know you are a face in the crowd. That there is nothing special to your story or your struggle. That others have been lifted up and gained confidence to share the struggle, the joy, the help and the healing. To talk about the barriers between sickness and healing. To begin to demand more from the leaders who make the changes in funding and legislation. Demand more from employers. From unions. From family and friends. No doubt there is a mountain of work left to be done, but I know, it is not on one person’s shoulders. In fact, this burden, this labour of love, never was one person’s responsibility. Mental health belongs to us all. It is a collective darkness and light we all feel and are all intricately connected to.
A shared lunch at the Laing House in Halifax!
So after year seven of Bell Let’s Talk Day, after announcing hundreds of thousands of dollars of more funding all around Canada, I feel this is all in the safe and secure hands of many. I feel at peace and feel in awe with what has happened and what’s yet to be done. I feel broken physically but emotionally hopeful. I feel the efforts I’ve made have been deep and so absolutely worthwhile. I feel overwhelmed and loved through the struggle and the joy of pursuing human excellence, help and healing for all.
Queen’s University $1 Million announcement for the continuation of the anti-stigma chair Dr.Heather Stewart! Not to mention the incredible voice of the varsity athletes…
A sharing circle with Jack.org Queen’s University Chapter followed by mindfulness meditation!
And these knees…well it’s going to take time. Anyone who’s been through this kind of surgery knows you can’t rush things. And that the best things take time. So as I sit inside, day after day, as I struggle through little walks in airports now that I am off the crutches, I am reminded of what is out there in this big and beautiful natural world. I am reminded daily of the resilience of humans as we try to make this world sort of okay for us all. I am deeply touched by the young people who have taken the torch of awareness. I sit and watch in wonder and awe as the human excellence and capacities living in each and every one of us begins to shine through.
Ottawa! Funding for mental health specific first aid training with Saint John Ambulance, a special therapy dog and a wonderful visit to the Wabano Center for Aboriginal Health!
I sit and dream of riding my bike outside again. Walking the trails again. Hiking a mountain pass again. Breathing and living and being again. Connecting to nature and self again. This too shall pass, and soon these dreams will be real again. The lessons learned from not having what I want in the way I want it will never be forgotten. In fact, they continue to teach, each and every day.