EMILY GILL: EMPOWERED

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I haven’t blogged since the beginning of January. My lack of blogging can sometimes be because I am nervous to “offend” anyone with the truth, don’t have too much to blog about, or even just want to keep under the radar. However, that hasn't been the case these past few months. Since January, I have seized every single opportunity to make a difference for those living with a mental illness. This is something that at times has been hectic, nerve wracking, risky, but nothing short of empowering for YouAreMore, and myself. I have surrounded myself with an amazing group of people, who believe in my passion, and that I deserve everything that I strive towards and have conquered. This may have made my core a little bit smaller, but it has been worth it! The results of focussing on what my dream for YouAreMore is, and my attitude towards life has been altering. This blog is about the wildest, emotional, and inspiring past three months. Let me break them down for you guys...

JANUARY. January ended with an amazing trip to Mexico for All Star break and an encouraging #BellLetsTalk day. The weeks in between consisted of heartbreak, an idea coming to life, and lots of reflecting. Sadly, Colb’s hometown experienced three young suicides in the first two weeks of January. This news broke my heart because being a suicide survivor, I know what they were thinking and how they were feeling in that moment. My blood boils now and I cringe at the lack of understanding for those with a mental illness, and recognition to the severity of the stigma, which every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide and 25 people will be like myself and have attempted but failed. After hearing what happened in the Battlefords, I reached out to another mental health advocate and friend of mine Michael Landsberg. Michael, has personal connections to the Battlefords and we both agreed that we had to do an event to help the community. This was the beginning of what ended up to being an incredible, motivating, and life changing experience in the beginning of March. However, I will come back to that later in more detail! #BellLetsTalk Day 2018 was on January 31st, the last day of the month. For those of you that don’t know what #BellLetsTalk day is, it’s a day where Bell donates 5 cents for every hashtag, tweet, or text to mental health initiatives in Canada. It brings a great amount of awareness to mental health, and shows fighters that they are not alone in their struggles. This year, Bell raised over 7 million dollars! Although, #BellLetsTalk day is a Canadian thing, YouAreMore partnered with Dr. Grant Collins in Minnesota to help bring awareness not just the one day but the other 364 days of the year. Our #BellLetsTalk post reached over 75,000 people!! When Dr. Grant Collins told me the statistics, I was reminded that what we do is extremely important in today’s society. Mental health fighters are some of the bravest people in this cruel world and being an advocate to those who feel like they don’t have a voice is a difficult but an amazing thing. 

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FEBRUARY: Colb and I have always been very close with the Bruins fan club. We both believe that athletes wouldn’t have their jobs if it weren't for their fans. This is something that all athletes need to remember, and appreciate at the end of the day. In the beginning of February, Colb and I were asked to speak on the SomethingBruin in PVD podcast about YouAreMore. Our podcast interview consisted of talking about the stigma in the hockey lifestyle, what we can do to help one another, and served as a reminder to be kind to everyone as you never know what someone else is going through. I was extremely honoured at the end of the interview to hear that each selected player of the week would now be called “YouAreMore’s P-Bruins Player of the Week.” The hockey lifestyle has been a bittersweet journey for me so this meant the world to me to have YouAreMore recognized. This wasn’t the beginning though, shortly after I would get the “thumbs up” to do an event, and a big “gesture” with the team next season to help bring awareness to mental health. It feels great to have this all come into action with some amazing support and help over the next upcoming months. For now, this is all I can say but I look forward to sharing more exciting news in the future! YouAreMore and mental illness is slowly and finally being accepted and appreciated in this difficult life. So thank you to everyone who has helped this all happen! It’s about darn time!! 

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MARCH: This month has left me speechless. My little idea to help the Battlefords in January with Michael Landsberg became a reality. On Thursday, March 15th a group of incredible individuals along with Michael and myself, spoke to a high school during the day and then the whole community at night. These incredible individuals included Beverley Mahood, Chris Getzalf, Weston Dressler, Tessa Bonhomme, and the members of the One Bad Son band who shared personal stories, brought a glimpse of hope to this hurting community, and much more. We reminded them that mental health, and suicide is nothing to ashamed of, or joke about. I shared my story of living a double life growing up because the fear of the stigma, being obsessed with death and dying, and my suicide attempt to just under 3,000 people. I have never been so raw, nervous, proud, and humbled in my life. That moment on stage, reminded me that there was a reason I lived and this was it. I have always had my close friends and family but since founding YouAreMore it has given my life a whole new meaning and passion. It has given me motivation to keep going, to help others, and prove to everyone who didn’t believe in me that I am sick, I am not weak. This event, opened my eyes far greater to the magnitude of people that are struggling, who understand and support mental health, who have the same dreams, feelings, and thoughts as me. The definition of empowering doesn’t even come close to what March 15, 2018 has done and will continue to do the rest of my life. We ended up raising over $35,000 for the Battlefords that night. This event has grown the fire stronger in me to continue to make a difference through YouAreMore. THANK YOU to every single person I met during the event, or made it possible. Whether you were behind the scenes working to make my idea become a reality, shared your own personal struggles with me after the event, or even just came to listen, I wish I could personally hug all of you. Although, I was sharing my story on stage that doesn’t mean that I have my whole life together now. I am far from that but it reminded me how far I have come to be able to stand on that stage! It reminded me of my journey from the once young, confused, and hurt girl to the now brave, strong, and determined woman I am today. It reminded me that I am what I was preaching and that is worthy, wanted, loved, and most importantly MORE. I could go on about this day but will leave it at that. To end the month of March, I went to a Demi Lovato concert as she is huge mental health advocate and has designated her whole tour to raising awareness. There were two parts of the concert that really stuck out to me. The first was her taking a moment to share her struggles, story, and talk about her YouTube documentary that I encourage you guys to watch. She made the whole audience feel like you weren’t alone in their mental illnesses which was extremely powerful. The next part was when Demi showed all the mean tweets, and horrifying comments that people have said about her on her stage screen. This one hit very close home to me as it is something that I have and continue to go through from stigmatized and cruel individuals BUT in that moment, I looked at it from a different perspective. It isn’t just me who gets backlash for being “different”, and it became extremely motivating and comforting. I will continue to work on reminding myself that life is too short to let a small group of individuals drag you down, when you have an incredible and HUGE amount of individuals lifting you up!

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I will end my blog with this… I am excited to see what YouAreMore will accomplish the rest of the year. I am anxious for the future backlash that comes with being in the public eye that is inevitable. I am hopeful to help other people around the world that are daily mental health fighters just like myself. I am empowered by the other mental health advocates who have gone before me, and currently walk beside me. Above all, I am proud of myself.

EMILY GILL: 31 DAYS

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It's been 31 days since I decided to take a much needed “break” from YAM. I made it very clear that my break wasn’t going to be long but it was needed for my own well being. I have been running YouAreMore all by myself for two years and can proudly say that not many other 24 year olds could do that. I have met people all around the world, been given incredible opportunities, spoken loudly about my story, and helped many fighters out of their low moments. However, the constant comments telling me to “kill myself”, being laughed at, the hate emails, and YAM constantly being attacked started to take a toll on me. It took everything out of me to step back from my passion, and dream because of the difficult decision I was in. The first few days, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t letting others “win” by taking this step back because I was going to come back stronger, louder, and prouder. 

I received so much support from people once I made my decision public. The past few weeks have really opened my eyes to the magnitude of people that truly support YAM, are struggling with mental illnesses, and how important it is to the continue to kill the stigma. There are so many people who are amazed by YouAreMore, my determination, the honesty behind my story, and more… so why couldn’t I push aside the negative people and comments and be amazed to? The answer is very simple- I couldn't shake the shame-inducing and abusive shackles of some of these negative people. Although, I am well on my way to releasing the expectations of others which isn’t so easy with people who think they know best, are judgemental, and a world that squishes us into the same cookie cutter, emotionless robots. I had been trying to fit an image of being the person that a group of people thought I “should” be, and actually wasn’t focussing on the person who I really am. In the past month, this is something that I have been working on. There is no one in the world with the same outlook, passion, and skill set as me. I know I was created to be unique and impact the world in my own way but it was time to fully start doing so… with no fear. 

A few days after I shut down YAM, I was contacted by a friend and shortly after Michael Landsberg. Michael Landsberg is a former TSN host, and Canadian sports journalist. Michael has been extremely open through his organization SickNotWeak about his struggles with mental health. He is one of the faces of Canada’s #BellLetsTalk campaign, and frankly an all around amazing mental health advocate and person. I got to share with him about what had been going on and he like many others was shocked, horrified, and furious. Although our stories are similar, Michael has no issue being able to tell the world to f*ck off without fear of it affecting him or anyone he cares about. This outlook is something that many people admire about him, he is incredibly brave. I have struggled with this because I don't want to upset anyone or it impact some of my loved ones. This is something (not giving a shit) that I will continue to work on with support from my core this year. I am excited for what is in store for both SickNotWeak and YouAreMore this year and how together we can continue to kill the stigma centred around mental health. Michael, thank you for being YOU and helping so people who are struggling with mental health, the stigma, and fulfilling both our passions. You have reminded me that although being in the public eye for mental health is extremely difficult at times, it is extremely rewarding.

Many other positive things happened during these past 31 days. I was asked to be Mindfulness Without Borders, newest “One to Watch World Leader”. Mindfulness Without Borders (MWB) is a leading provider of best practices and evidenced-based programs on secular mindfulness and social-emotional intelligence to youth, educators, health and corporate professionals in communities around the world. At its core, their programs build community and connection by nurturing safe learning environments and cross-cultural conversations where people of all backgrounds can reach across things that seem to divide them- in order to see possibilities for what they might create together as world citizens. Since 2007, they established certified facilitators in Canada, Chile, China, France, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Botswana, Singapore, Turkey, Uganda, and the United States. This is an incredible honour and I am looking forward to sharing my video for MWB in the near future. I have also been asked to be one the first people to share my story for one of the iPhones newest apps called Guided Minds. The app will soon be available for iPhone users to search personal motivational videos of those who have struggled with a variety of illnesses. You can check out their Facebook page for more information in the mean time! Lastly, after saying I never wanted to go to school again, I have decided to go to Harvard working towards an amazing masters program and non-profit organization and leadership certificate that will help me fulfill my true passion becoming more successful. Non-profit organizations and charity work have always had a special place in my life. I am definitely the best version of me mentally, academically, and emotionally when I am doing something within the non-profit sector field. I am so excited to have finally found a program that will help me continue my education but also make me the happiest!

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YouAreMore will have a breakout year not because of all what I said above, but most importantly because the GOOD people in this world who support our mission. My core that has stood beside, watched how awful people can treat someone, and encouraged me to continue to be the unique person that I am. And because I will not let negative and uneducated people ruin something that has saved so many people’s lives. They don’t get to scare me out of speaking my voice anymore. After 31 days, YouAreMore is officially back, LOUDER, STRONGER, and PROUDER. So bring it freaking on! 

SIDE NOTE: Also in the past 31 days, we finally got to share the big news that my sister is pregnant!! Auntie Em and Uncle Colb will be reporting for duty in June and we couldn't be more excited! AND my best friend made his big NHL debut, I couldn't have been more proud of him or know anyone who deserves it more. Just like my Dad said at Christmas dinner… this is OUR year.

EMILY GILL: THIS MOMENT

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Want to know the truth? Long distance relationships TOTALLY suck. I am hardly a relationship expert but if you are currently in a long distance relationship trust in this; if you two are able to love, support, and acknowledge the spark from a distance then you'll be unstoppable once you're physically together. Never underestimate your love, near or far. That’s all… just kidding. It has been 52 days of living in ‘Merica and no longer being in a long distance relationship! In the beginning, it didn't feel real to either of us. The first week, I felt anxious that I was going to have to board a plane and say “see you later”. However, once I got my head around the fact that I was STAYING… it hit me… hard. I didn’t have to fly back to complete an internship or finish school, I wasn't leaving this time. We had spent countless hours on FaceTime talking about this, and endured what felt like a million miles between us so we both could work on our dreams… for THIS moment. 

Colb, was already the weirdest, most annoying, loving, goofy, best friend and perfect person that I knew. So adding roommate to that list would be a breeze, right? NOPE. If any couple tells you that when they first move into together that they don’t bicker about stuff… they’re lying to you. Don’t get me wrong I thought I loved Colb before I moved here but when you’re roommates with someone, you see a side of them that no one else does, and it’s not always pretty. It’s snorting while laughing, it’s cleaning up their puke when they’re sick, it’s the tears when it feels like it’s all crashing down. It’s the random dance parties in the kitchen, it’s the anger and it's the joy. It’s not always an easy ride, but my God I have learned it’s heaven of a ride. Some of the best and funniest days of my life so far have been over these past 52 days. One of those days being the day we moved into our place. I really do wish we had a video of the two of us. We had a moving truck filled with a huge couch, a king sized mattress, bed frame, tables, TVs, storage bins, and everything else under the sun. We somehow managed to carry it all out of a storage trailer, into the truck, out of the truck, and then up three floors without any carts! Shockingly, we didn’t kill each other. Phewf, we had passed our first test as roommates and could laugh about it!

The next test would come a few days after. Colb, gave me his credit card to pick up a bunch of stuff for him while he was at the rink. When I was at Walmart that morning, I saw a little kid crying over a toy. I am not talking about crying like a spoiled brat because if that was the case I would have shook my head and kept on walking. However, it was very clear that his parents couldn't afford this toy for their son and it was heartbreaking to watch them try and explain that to him. I ended up buying the toy for the child but couldn’t help to be nervous about Colb's reaction to a children’s toy on his receipt. When he got home after practice, I broke down crying and apologized that I used his card to buy a kid a toy. I knew deep down he wouldn't be mad at me for doing it but I felt bad and needed to get it off my chest. His first reaction was “how much are we talking here?” which quickly turned into “how can I be mad at you for doing that?” Phewf, we passed our second test as roommates and only a few tears were shed! 

As time went by, I started noticing some tendencies of Colb that I hadn’t seen before. One night, I hesitantly asked him what quirky tendencies of mine had he seen since I had moved in. Before even taking second to think, he blurted out “your OCD”. I was shocked at first, I am not gonna lie so he explained to me why he picked that. He said every time that he comes home from the rink, the blanket on the couch is folded the exact same way, the TV remotes are lined up at the bottom right corner of the coffee table, and a candle is lit. If he is cooking dinner, I will clean up and put away stuff around him. Most of the time he still needs the stuff that I am cleaning up but if the kitchen is messy before the food is done, I can’t just sit, eat, finish dinner, and clean up later. In the bathroom, our towels are always folded a certain a way. Our calendar in the kitchen is filled with appointments, games, guests visiting, and any other significant time or date so we are always organized. When making our bed I will never tuck the sheets in on my side because I hate feeling trapped. I remember being terrified of this as a kid and that I wouldn't be able to escape. Lastly, I have to follow my shower routine in order to feel completely clean that day. I have talked about this in previous blogs but if I don’t follow my routine, I feel gross the rest of the day. After he was done sharing these tendencies, I began sharing what tendencies I was noticing of Colb. Once we were both done, we agreed that this kind of tough love is the love that accepts you where you are but also the kind that nudges you to grow. Phewf, we passed our third test as roommates and no feelings were hurt (kinda)! 

One of the last tests we had as roommates was this past Saturday. It’s been a big and sometimes difficult transition for me moving here. In the beginning especially on Canadian Thanksgiving, I missed my family and friends greatly. As time has passed, I have been lucky enough to find a great group of church friends and med students that have taken me under their wings. This upcoming Thursday is American Thanksgiving so we had been invited to a few Friendsgivings. However, on Saturday we were at dinner with my group of friends and I was reminded how this move was the best decision I’ve ever made. Colb was a little nervous to attend but stuck it out knowing that I have gone to countless hockey events with him. Before we started dinner, we went around the table to give a little bio about ourselves. When it came to me, I talked about my education, my family, YouAreMore and my decision to move here for Colb. When it came to Colb’s turn, he looked at me, in front of a group of people he didn't know, and started off his bio by saying “I am the proud boyfriend of Emily”. He has no idea how proud I was of him in that moment. He was so nervous what he was going to say but he wasn't ashamed to shock a few people with his answer. This is the moment I realized he is my number one fan and ain't going anywhere. This is the warm and fuzzy moment that I had prayed for as a little girl. This is the moment that all the suffering I have endured became worth it. This is the moment that I realized losing what I thought was my childhood love, not only made me stronger but it gave me Colb a few years later. This is the moment that I realized everything was worth the wait. So for anyone who is currently in a long distance relationship, single and struggling to find a partner, who is heartbroken over a loss… this below is for YOU. Don’t lose hope of this person or this day because it will come, I promise you. 

Dear younger me,

 This is him. This is the boy who will love you despite your every fault and all your tendencies. This is the boy who thinks there is nobody in the world like you. This is the boy whose loyalty and love for you will top the charts. This is the boy who will become a man whose determination to provide a future for you will set him apart from others. This man will do his best. He will make mistakes. He will cry to you with regrets. But he will fight for you. He will love you wholeheartedly and unconditionally; there is nothing in the world that can tear him away from you. Other people will try. But this is the man who will shun all the others because to him, you are irreplaceable. This is him. You will forever have his love because this is the one. So love him and soak up his love… because he believes you are worth it.

EMILY GILL: EGG SHELLS

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It’s been awhile since I’ve had the mental and emotional strength to write a blog. After having to delete a blog this summer, I began to feel that I had lost my voice and couldn’t post anything without having to tip-toe around eggshells- the truth. This is something that I told myself I would never let happen to me or impact YouAreMore but here I am writing this blog. In saying this, I have spent the past few months struggling to find the fine line of being a mental health advocate. You are constantly putting yourself in vulnerable situations in hopes to help others who are struggling. Some days you get by without thinking twice and some days the negative comments hurt so bad that you feel it in your bones, and hear them ringing in your ears. It takes so much strength to pull yourself together after receiving a cruel message, or be told things like “Are you sorry for being alive?”. As a mental health advocate when you hit rock bottom, you promise yourself that you will never be the kind of person who judges or is cruel to others. You already know what it is like to not fit into society’s “norms”, be judged for something out of your control, and to be bullied to the point of abuse. So this is why you strive to be the person who asks someone if they’re okay twice because they look upset. You smile at people even if they don’t smile back at you. You become the person, the friend, and the mentor that you wish was there for you. You are determined to be brave enough to stand alone in a crowd for what is right. However, this also makes you more sensitive to other people’s pain, how mean people really are, and you can become fixated on all the negative. I have recently found myself in this position a lot. I became terrified to speak my voice, stand up for what is right, and forgot what I believe my purpose is here on this earth- to help others. It wasn't until I remembered a bible verse that I learned at Christian camp that I began to regain my strength to write this blog. In the mean time, I had cried, screamed, and hurt greatly the past few months but then I decided to do the most difficult thing, I forgave. I forgave the people who dulled the fire and passion within me. I forgave the people who are currently stuck in a tunnel vision that is created by the stigma, jealousy, hurt and many other things. I forgave myself for letting them take away my voice, YouAreMore and my passion to help others. But most importantly, I did what I learned at summer camp years ago… I turned my other cheek to them. 

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” - Luke 6:29

I don’t think I could’ve ever imagined back then how much this verse would mean to me now. Each and every day, as a mental health advocate, I have two choices- I can either choose to be defeated, silenced and judged by people, or I can stand up stronger, louder and give compassion to those people. I have to try my best to love every single person beyond what this world understands and offer grace beyond what anyone could ever expect, because it is through those actions that people may have their eyes opened. 

I am not saying this is easy by any means. As I have said, I have spent a great deal of time struggling the past few months to find a line and come to this point. I have wanted to live out YouAreMore’s mission statement- to inspire individuals to see beyond their obstacles, but at the same time I was guarding myself from getting defeated and second guessing my dream. I have had countless conversations with close family and friends about how I could balance both the negative and positive that I receive through YouAreMore. It wasn’t until I was FaceTiming a good friend, that something clicked in me. I didn’t go through the trauma I did, experience a magnitude of hurt, had to fight for my life, and then create YouAreMore, just to let the bullies win. In that moment, I realized I have already been through hell and back, and worked too damn hard to give up now. I enjoy the grateful emails from people around the world thanking me way too much, my heart melts when strangers recognize me in public for YouAreMore, and most importantly, no one is “more important” than me that they should be allowed to make me feel invisible. 

This is something that I will have to continue to remind myself, with support from my core because my purpose on this earth is not easy and it will continue to be tested. There will be times, that I will not be able to stop myself from questioning if it’s worth the ridicule, spending nights crying, having long showers to “wash” off the gross feeling, finding myself blasting worship music while praying “why me”, and many other things. I am human just like everyone else and doubt will always touch us in waves. However, that doesn’t mean my purpose isn’t important, it’s extremely important and I must continue it. Although it may be rare right now, I look forward to the day that my bravery to stand up to the stigma, and speak the truth will not be something to make fun of, judge or have to be hidden. In the mean time, I will work on doing an extremely powerful thing… taking the words that people have used to break me and start reclaiming them. So here are the first words I will start to reclaim- bible thumper, worthless, ugly, fake, and messed-up.

EMILY GILL: BETTER OFF DEAD?

That title got your attention now didn't it? This will be an extremely detailed blog so here is your warning. The reason for this detailed blog is because the more open and transparent we are with our trauma and experiences, we can help each other to heal. This one is for all the mental health fighters who are bullied for their diagnosis.

I recently watched the new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”. I was left in tears as I watched a young teenage girl take her own life because she was being severely bullied. I want you to take a moment to think about who you last talked negatively about, spread gossip about or judged. If we are all honest with ourselves we can think of someone. Now, take a moment and think about the last time you were bullied. I bet you were left feeling broken, helpless and upset. So here is my question, why do people continue to hurt, gossip, bully, and judge one another if they know what it is like? It is like putting your hand in hot water and getting burned but turning around and dumping a whole pot of boiling hot water over someone else. We need to remember that our words and actions are powerful, they can kill. This Netflix series was a chilling reminder of that. Seriously how many suicides does it have to take in order for people to realize what they say hurts?

I hit rock bottom 5 years ago which is something I have been open about for the last few years. I had made up my mind that I was better off dead and there was no changing it. Although, I didn't have a physical illness like cancer, a heart problem, diabetes or whatever else, I was very sick. My body was working but my brain wasn’t and as a result I didn't want to live. Situations that I had experienced added up and I didn’t know how to cope with it. I wanted it all to end because my brain was tricking me, I was tired of hiding the cuts under my name brand clothes and I didn’t want to live the rest of my life feeling disgusting, crazy and alone. I am now lucky enough to be one of the ones that see this wasn’t the case.

When I was going through treatment in the hospital, I received countless messages and phone calls telling me to kill myself. Just like Hannah Baker in “13 Reasons Why”, I was severely bullied because I had a mental illness. Although in the past 5 years great strides have been made to the stigma around mental health, back then it was unbearable. I remember waking up one day and deciding that if I am fully honest about my struggles then hopefully no one could make fun of me for them. I used the hospital computer and made a status with a photo (all 78 pounds of me) explaining that I was in a psych ward learning to deal with certain issues. Today, we see many people opening up about their struggles with mental health but back then this was extremely unusual. I would like to think this is the day that my passion to create YouAreMore started. 

After this was posted, the bullying became worse. I realize that some situations were because the lack of knowledge people had about mental health. However, there were some people that personally went out of their way to let me know how they felt. They wanted me to know that maybe I should have dug that blade a little bit deeper, I should have taken a few more pills or that I asked for what I went through. Makes sense right? NO. It continued to escalate to being told that I was better off dead, that I faked my way through high school to get good grades, and my brain was so messed up that I could never be normal. There was a certain group of people who kept leaving me voicemails while I was in the hospital. They wanted to make sure that I knew I was crazy in their eyes, disgusting, and shouldn’t be alive. They continued to give me no reasons to live, only reasons why I didn’t want to live. It came to the point where my Dad had to tell them to never contact me again. I would like to say that 5 years later things have changed but sadly this is not the case. I am still trying to put pieces of me back together, slowly but surely. These bullies broke me, burned me and made my fight to live a living hell. I may be mentally stronger now, went through extensive treatment, founded YouAreMore, and have great friends and family but that will never fully take away the pain. It took me years to take what I went through and make something out of myself but honestly… I still wake up crying from nightmares at night, I still see some scars on my skin and I still have people who are trying to remind me that I don’t deserve to be on this earth. 

There was recent a situation that reminded me how powerful words can be. A photo was posted of me and some individuals (ones that my Dad once told to never contact me again) were posting rude comments. These are people that I have not talked to in 5 years but felt the need to comment how I was a piece of junk, brutal and the most horrific was that they thought I was "dying". It then continued to escalate to “how was I not dead yet” messages. As I read these comments while doing an errand, I collapsed in a parking lot crying and my heart broke into a million pieces. It felt like I was being thrown into boiling hot water, I couldn’t get out and I was starting to drown. I would never wish this incredible pain on anyone, even on these bullies. It took me awhile to be able to pull myself together and get home. When I told my family and close friends they were shocked that these individuals had the nerve to contact me. I don't know how to put this in a nice way… but grow up. This situation shows that there is still a lot more work to be done towards killing the stigma centred around mental health. I am also reminded why stories like “13 Reasons Why” are being turned into movies. This is still happening all the time, it’s incredibly painful and IT NEEDS TO STOP. 

So to the individuals that are being bullied for having a mental illness, I am so sorry. I am so sorry that you have to go through what feels unbearable. I am sorry you have to cry yourself to sleep. Hold on because if we talk about our experiences together, we can help show others that no one is ever alone. Now to those who bully others to build themselves up, who judge mental illnesses and pick apart other people’s flaws, I hope one day you never have to feel the pain that you have inflicted on others. I hope you never have to find a loved one who has lost their battle to a mental illness because they were told that they are better off dead. Most of all, I hope you know you will not break me, ever again.

EMILY GILL: THE MERRY-GO-ROUND RIDE

There are two different definitions that can describe a merry-go-round. The first definition, which most of you will think about is an amusement park ride with seats often in the form of animals (as horses) revolving about a fixed centre. For me, I think of it as an example of describing how my brain works, a cycle of activity that is complex, fast-paced or difficult to break out of. Ever since I was little, my mind has always been “on the go”. It can jump from one thought to the other, creating a long list of questions or possible scenarios. It becomes amplified and lightning fast when I don’t understand something, or when I have flashbacks of certain situations. Although, my depression hasn’t touched me in a few years, my severe anxiety and minor OCD sometimes sends me on merry-go-round rides. 

When you are diagnosed with any form of a mental illness, there are two factors that the doctors will look at… your genetics (family history) and your environment. My diagnosis fell into both these two categories. I have stressed and will continue to stress that I was extremely blessed growing up by my amazing parents. However, there were some situations that they couldn’t protect me from even though they tried. It has taken years to accept these situations and try to learn how to prevent them from sending me on merry-go-round rides.

From a young age, I was always terrified of the unknown. I hated not knowing how much further we had to drive, how something worked, or why a person would act a certain way. My biggest fear of the unknown came in full force at night. I remember checking for the “monsters” under my bed and in my closet. I had to make sure nothing or no one was hiding in them. Still to this day, I have to check from time to time. I will check behind every shower curtain, under every bed, in every closet and any other possible hiding spot because if I didn’t… I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. My mind goes on a vicious merry-go-round ride and I am left paralyzed with fear. There are some nights that I can fall asleep right away… while other times my mind is rewinding, fast forwarding, pausing and replaying. In order for my mind to be able to rest at a complete ease, I must understand every possible situation or question that I am currently thinking. It is in these moments where you can find me fiddling with something, very quiet or sometimes disengaged because my mind is trying to solve what I am worrying about. 

Although, my fast pace thinking, complex questions, and good memory had me tested for a gifted program at a young age, this is where I started my coping skill of looking at situations as a “formula”. The merry-go-round ride would not stop until I figured out the answer to the formula (the encountered situation). Today, I still look at situations as a formula. My brain has been trained to not turn off and move past it until I fully understand it. Some people consider this annoying, call me a worry wart, don’t understand why I can’t move forward or simply think I am being ridiculous. However, I have accepted that no doctor, therapy program, love or support will ever be able to fully turn off my mind. Yes, I have learned strategies and found places to help me relax when I am on merry-go-round ride but I will always have something on my mind… it’s the way I am wired. I look at this NOT AS A FLAW of chemistry in my brain or genetics, but as a strength. It has made me who I am today.

In my past, there are a few things that have happened which at times sent me onto merry-go-round rides. When I was a little girl, I would sort through my smarties dividing them into different groups by their colours. My brain told me that if I didn’t eat each colour group all at once, that they would miss their other family members and friends. Looking back on this now, this action seems very odd. However, I think it was my way of subconsciously showing how much I struggled with my extended family. As a little girl, I dreamt of having a big family and never really understood why I couldn’t have sleepovers at a grandparents house, go play with my cousins on weekends or why I didn’t have a family like all my other friends did. I did know though, that every time I did see some of my family members, it usually ended up with us hiding in a room, leaving abruptly, or one of us being hurt. I don’t mean a scratch on the knee kind of hurt… I mean traumatically hurt. 

My parents always share a story of when I was little that happened at one of our family functions. A horrible situation had gone down and we were packing up our belongings to leave immediately. I looked at my Dad and said, “Lets go to a hotel Daddy, they won’t bother us there.” After we left, we ended up having a picnic in the middle of a field. My parents explained to my sister and I that we needed to pray for them so that they would “feel better”. My parents have always instilled in us that forgiveness and compassion is the best thing you can give to people who hurt you. Maybe this is why I always ate my coloured smarties together because I just wanted us to be one big happy family? At this time, I had no idea to the extent of damage these family members that I once wanted so bad would end up causing me. It wasn’t until a few years ago, that my whole view, opinion and feeling towards having a big family changed. The actions that were done to myself, and the rest of my family were traumatic, disgusting and wrong. I would be lying if I didn’t say it has changed me for the rest of my life. This merry-go-round will always be reoccurring and spin for me because I will never be given answers despite how much I want them. It wasn’t until this past summer that I hit a real milestone in forgiving and forgetting what had happened. In saying this, I am beyond thankful for the many people who have stepped up taking family roles over the years to support our family. You all are so appreciated!

Lastly, the biggest merry-go-round ride that I dealt with all centred around sickness and I don’t mean the flu kind of sickness. I mean at the age of 5, watching my sister lose the use of her legs and having to learn how to walk again. I mean having my Mom carrying me after one of my skating recitals and dropping to the floor as she was having a seizure. I mean me covering her face with a pillow because she “looked scary” after having one of her strokes. It was watching one of my best friends battle cancer for years and eventually lose his battle. It was the doctors sitting my Dad, sister and I down to tell us that my Mom only had 24 hours to live. It was her surviving but years later, suffering a severe brain injury which still to this day has changed all our lives. There is many other sicknesses and losses that I have experienced but these were the pressing ones. These are the ones that still spin around in my head when someone says they're not feeling good because when you see death up close and personal, it changes you. This merry-go-round is the one that almost killed me, it sent me spinning out of control. I had seen so much illness and death that after years, I had eventually convinced myself I was dying too. However, when I did almost die, I realized I wasn’t ready and I needed to get the heck off this merry-go-round ride. This wasn’t how I wanted my story to end.

There is many of you reading this who have experienced/ or are experiencing something that has spun you onto a merry-go-round ride. I am not going to tell you that it’s going to be a fun ride and I am definitely not going to tell you that it will be easy. I will tell you though that by holding on for dear life, when you are being spun around in what feels like never ending circles, you are growing, you are surviving and you are winning. We may have not asked to be thrown on the ride, be given a mental illness or dealt a bad hand of cards in life but that doesn’t mean we should give up when it’s hard. YOU ARE MORE.

So my dear friends, hold on for dear life because your merry-go-round ride, whirl wind emotions, pain and suffering WILL end. I promise you, better days… calmer days… they are on their way.

EMILY GILL: I AM DIFFERENT

This blog had been a long time coming. When my World Suicide Prevention Day blog went viral, I realized that much more how important it is to be raw. I had written rough drafts of this blog a few times but after the past few weeks I felt it was time to share. 

You know that age in middle school, where its kinda of that touchy age, you either go with the party crowd or you try and make your own way to figure out who you are… that was the age it became very clear to me that I was different. I remember crying saying that I don’t fit in, and being told that thank god Emily that you don’t fit in, I know its hard right now but one day you're going to be so glad that you didn't fit in. 

God promises to make something good out of the storms that bring devastation in your life. 

For those of you that know my story more in detail, you will know that life has been far from easy for my family. Our close family and friends can tell you that there is just something about the “Gill Luck”. Looking back now, I know that in those difficult moments I was being taught to be different in order to be who I am today. I was being taught that there is a reason that I don't fit in with certain crowds, there is a reason that I care so much for anyone and everyone, and most importantly I was being prepared to go into battle for people who are struggling.

I have always had the ability to feel when someone was hurting around me. I don’t have to be told anything but I can sense that someone is being bullied, sick, in a storm or needs a friend. This is my biggest strength but also my biggest weakness. I am constantly being told that I “care too much” and I find myself biting off more than I can chew. However, I love that I have the ability NOT disability to talk to complete strangers who are struggling, that people feel comfortable enough to share their stories with me, but most importantly I love that God prepared me through great loss, and extensive pain to have the gift of compassion. 

These past few weeks have been a complete rollercoaster. My gift of compassion has been tested in full force and frankly its been exhausting. From our house being broken into and our valuables gone, to dealing with some heartbreaking news, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was struggling to see the good in these storms. There has been countless nights where I have cried, days where I have been left speechless and struggled to wrap my head around how cruel people and life can be. This is the stuff you don’t make statuses about but it’s why I am making this blog. Everyone feels that they have to hide their emotions and we can’t let anyone know we are hurting. Heaven forbid, we feel, we take off the fake masks, and we cry. If I have learned anything from being raw it is that although many people will talk about this negatively… there is a group of people tonight who are struggling, feel different, and have lost trust that need to know they are not alone. So here's to whoever is reading this, I know you feel like your heart can’t take anymore but you are strong, and you certainly don't have to hide. Remember it may not be tonight, it may not be tomorrow or the day after, but I promise you that it will get better. This isn’t coming from a girl who has a picture perfect life right now, it’s coming from a girl who’s heart is hurting too. So to all of us in battle right now, lets remember that it is good we are different because we have the ability to now help others. I truly believe, there is nothing more rewarding than using your struggles to lift others up.

In saying this, if you have not been hit with a devastation in your life yet… not just that you broke your nail but a heartbreaking situation, I hope you remember that in a split second everything can change. Life is funny that way, you never know whats going to be thrown at you. So remember to show empathy to people who are currently struggling because the money you have now, high education, or whoever your significant other is... it can be ripped from you at anytime. For goodness sake get off your high horses, strive to be somebody that makes everybody feel like a somebody because NO ONE is better than anyone. Be raw, have compassion, cry your eyes out, love hard, and remember no beauty shines brighter than that of a good heart.

I want to end this blog with a story, my hopes are that it will help those who are struggling tonight to accept that being different is a good thing. I recently went through interviews for my internship that will be completed in my final semester. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of working with children that were dying. I believe that there is nothing more inspiring than the sparkle in their eyes, their vulnerability to be raw, the way they live life to the fullest and simply love one another despite what they are going through. After many interviews from different internship offers, I was finally contacted by my dream job. I was first short listed, and then went through two interviews before I got the call on Friday that they chose me. I was in complete shock so you can imagine I cried lots when they told me. The one thing that hit me hard during the phone call, was that they told me I was chosen because of the unscripted parts of my interview. This was something that when my interview ended, I had convinced myself would be the reason they wouldn't pick me. They shared that they could tell what I was saying came from my heart and that it is clear that my passion is to help others. I think that call will stay with me for the rest of my life. This is because in moments like those I am beyond thankful for being different. Although, there comes a great deal of pain in being different, as I have been reminded in the past few weeks, I know I wasn’t offered my dream job because my GPA, resume but because of my heart. How amazing is that? On Friday, I finally figured out the reason to why I cried and felt like I didn’t fit in for so many years. It was because me being different isn’t a bad thing, it is inspiring, motivating and has determined me to move mountains in this world.

My prayer tonight is that one day you will find out why you are different, your passion and for you to know YOU ARE MORE. xo

EMILY GILL: WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY

I remember swallowing all those pills down with a big glass of milk and then wrapping myself in my favourite blanket on the couch with hopes I would never wake up. The next thing I remember is an out of body experience I will never be able to explain. I could hear my Dad crying saying that he loved me while he was on the phone calling 911. I could hear sirens coming in the background and eventually feel the first responders taking my vitals. However, I remember feeling like I couldn’t talk or move. I don’t remember much after that until a few hours later when I was being forced liquid charcoal down my throat. My teeth felt like they were wearing sweaters and my whole mouth was pitch black. 

These memories although foggy will be with me for the rest of my life. There were many factors that led me up to the moment I decided I should take my own life. I was never really scared of dying, I was scared of having to live in constant fear and pain. Unless you have been in the position I was, you truly have no right to judge and if you are judging I ask you politely to stop reading this here. People don’t understand how stressful it is trying to explain whats going on in your head when you don't even understand it yourself. When you are first admitted into a psych ward you go through extensive interviews and tests. I remember talking to multiple doctors over and over again until they could come up with a diagnosis for me. I know some doctors, nurses and social workers only saw an incredibly privileged young girl wearing name brand clothes, who looked like a golden child, with extremely loving parents in the waiting room. I don’t think it was until I started begging one doctor to admit me into a psych ward that they realized how serious I was about not wanting to live. Most teenage girls want to be partying with their friends instead of being in a hospital. However, I knew that if they discharged me it wouldn’t be that much longer until I would be right back in front of them or even worse not alive. I told them my story, that I felt crazy, I felt disgusting and that I was unworthy of living. Shortly after I was being stripped of any sharp objects on me, my cell phone, the laces on my shoes and was admitted into a psych ward. 

This psych ward became my home, it was my safe space for a very long time. On my first “accompanied pass” a dear friend of mine took me to get some fresh air. I wore my slippers and pjs walking around downtown Toronto for about 15 minutes before I had a panic attack and had to go back to my new “home”. I spent the rest of the night talking to one of my nurses about how I was determined that everyone was looking right through me, like they knew what had happened to me. This is where my love for long showers started. Although, I shared a room and shower with four other patients I would spend a long time trying to wash off the disgusting feeling over and over again that I felt for years. This disgusting feeling about myself stayed for awhile even after being discharged from the hospital. For two summers, I was too scared to go out in my own city because I wasn’t known as the popular, outgoing and smart girl anymore, I was now known as the crazy girl who tried to kill herself for attention. Looking back now, what astonishes me is that all the people who were judging me didn’t know the truth to why I decided to take my own life. I guess that is the worse part of the stigma because if you were to make a Facebook status about having diabetes, or any other physical illness, you would have friends making support groups, receiving hundreds of likes and being called a champion for bravely fighting your illness. However, if you make a status about having a mental illness you are called psycho, a coward, selfish, you lose friends and you sure in heck aren’t called a champion. 

As I said before that psych ward became my safe place, my floor mates became my family and my medical team became my heroes. Some conversations I had while sitting around the colouring table with other patients are ones I will cherish in my heart forever. I had never been able to be raw with people who truly understood what it was like to feel what I was feeling. Those conversations are what I keep close to my heart on days where I feel hurt by people’s lack of understanding for mental health. When I went back this fall to visit after a few years, that warm fuzzy feeling I once had about the psych ward was gone. This is the moment that I was reminded that even though I may still have scars, I courageously survived. It took me three hospitalizations, extensive therapy and a lot of support for many years to finally accept the truth that I am not crazy, disgusting or unlovable. 

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 15 to 25 year olds in North America. Every 40 seconds someone commits suicide and 25 people will have attempted and failed. I recently heard a statistic that made me realize that much more how lucky I am to be alive. Out of those who survive their attempts just over 90% are left living with severe repercussions. These repercussions could be anything from being paralyzed from the neck down from failing to fully hang themselves, hooked to dialysis for their kidneys, or even their face appearance altered from a bullet. This was another shocking reminder of how lucky I am to be able to share my story today because I have no permanent damage done to my brain, liver, kidneys or the rest of my body. I know what I have been through and after much healing I have accepted it. I also know now that I have people willing to stand beside me no matter what happened in the past, a diagnosis, or what today’s society makes people believe about someone with a mental illness. 

I am proud to say I am a suicide survivor.

Emily Gill: ANXIETY, I AM NOT AFRAID.

“You’re a social butterfly, how do you have anxiety?”

This is a question for a very long time that I battled with to find the right answer. However, in the past six months I think I found it. For years my depression at the time and anxiety was paralyzing. I guess you could say I was kinda living in a cocoon. I was suffocating, I was hiding and I was completely terrified to break out and spread my wings. What if I couldn’t fly? What if my wings weren’t pretty enough? What if people judged me like they had before? What if I fall? What if…? What if…? What if…? 

Although my depression hasn’t paralyzed me for a very long time, my anxiety on the other hand still makes me want to clip my wings from time to time. It wasn’t until the last few months, that I really had to challenge my anxiety in certain situations to not go right back to my old tendencies and hide in my cocoon. I am extremely self-aware of my surroundings and overanalyze just about absolutely everything. So meeting new people and being in an unfamiliar setting can sometimes feel like one of those “I want to hide in my cocoon” moments. I always like to know what my family and close friends are doing, I need to have schedules (this could also be my mild OCD), and if I don’t know these things my wings feel very heavy making it hard for me to fly. All these fears came at me like a freight train when I started dating Colby. I started to learn that during the season I would be throwing out my once needed schedules because everything is last minute. I learned that Colby’s job and the reputation that comes with it doesn’t define who he and some other players are as an individual person… that one was a huge one for me. After witnessing some shocking things, trust immediately had to become a crucial part of our relationship. I also learned that nothing smells worse than his hands after a game! Colby learned that YouAreMore and helping others is my passion which I will let absolutely nothing stand in the way of that. This I think was tough for him because I tend to find/ put myself in certain situations from caring “too much” or being “too nice” as he always says. He also learned that post-secondary education makes me want to chuck my calculator across the room and that nothing makes me happier than pizza, tea or ice cream even if he can't eat it with me! When the season ended and we were back in his hometown, we had a discussion about how we’ve both changed the past few months. We both adapted, learned and had grown in things that we wouldn’t have without each other. We agreed that me talking about my experiences could possibly and hopefully help other people.

Being exposed to two completely opposite lifestyles, two new cities, and two incomparable friend groups, was all challenging to say the least. Take a moment and think about your biggest fear… is it public speaking? Or how about heights? Or what about snakes? My biggest fear is being judged, being different, and heaven forbid if one person doesn't like me… I become a wreck. I am a people pleaser and will always be. However, I had to learn very fast in order for this relationship to work I had to muster up all the courage in me and become extremely vulnerable to fight against my biggest fears. I was going to be flying back and forth between two new cities, I was going to have to become friends with new people (some who would be very welcoming while others were not) and most importantly I was going to have to trust what Colby said from day one, “You have nothing to worry about.” I had to tackle many uncomfortable situations, grab my anxiety by its horns and tell it that I am not afraid. Fighting my anxiety has never been easy for me so it became an even bigger challenge to conquer over the past few months. Colby believed I could do it and for the first time in a long time, I did too. My anxiety has always made me feel like I don’t fit in for many years. Even though growing up, I was on sports teams, extremely involved in school, and what many people thought “a social butterfly” on the inside I was extremely anxious which I think alienated me even more. I had to do everything in my power with the support of Colby to jump off that cliff fearlessly with open wings and a mindset in order to make sure my anxiety didn't win.

Here’s what I think is the answer to the question that I am constantly being asked. In order to become the true social butterfly I am, I had to be open and honest about my anxiety. I had to tell myself that it’s okay to be scared to fly but how remarkable would it be to escape this cocoon? When I learned that I didn’t have to pretend I loved flying, meeting new people or new settings, I actually began to truly love them. Weird right? I learned that if something makes me nervous, it’s okay to talk about it. If I feel like I don't fit in or someone doesn’t like me, I tell myself that it's okay too. I constantly have to remind myself that even though I have anxiety, I don't have to live in a cocoon overanalyzing every possible thing. When I started having this changed mindset, I realized that my unique but anxious wings despite a diagnosis are still beautiful and most importantly THEY CAN FLY. My anxiety will always be apart of me but that doesn’t mean new opportunities, nor my wings should be clipped because of it. In the 1800’s if you had a mental illness you had to wear a green ribbon to show that you were “mentally insane”. I can only imagine how many incredible wings were clipped because of those ribbons. People who struggle with anxiety, depression, OCD, or whatever their mental illness may be can still fly too!! I encourage each one of you to remember that life is hard and if you have a mental illness it shouldn’t be made harder for you. We can still fly freely… it just may take us a bit longer! So to anyone who needs the courage to break out of your cocoon, conquer your fears and jump, I believe you can do it. Embrace your unique wings, show them off and fly! It’s worth it.

Emily Gill: EVERYONE LOVES YOU WHEN YOU'RE 23!

To say my life has been hectic the past few months would be an understatement. Despite always being on the go, school being incredibly hard, traveling tons, living out of hotels and suitcases, I couldn’t be happier. I have always been told that one day you will look back on all the dots representing every little moment in your life and it will all connect, it will all make sense. I am currently standing here in the middle of a beautiful masterpiece finally realizing why I had to go through what I did. I know… I know… I have said that multiple times AND I know that in a season of struggle it is so hard to comprehend that there is a reason for it. I have been there… multiple times. Don’t get me wrong here, I still have hardships that I am facing every day between family, friends, and school. However, these hardships are bringing out more of the survivor in me. There is so many people surrounding me that think I am beautiful, brave, smart, strong, and fearless and slowly piece by piece I am starting to believe it. I know I am worthy of love, I am worthy of being happy & being happy every single day at that. 

Growing up school was always pretty easy for me. I loved attending, I loved being involved with extracurriculars, and I LOVED putting up my hand to answer questions. I was the definition of a teacher’s pet. When I graduated high school that changed very quickly for me. I know the reasons why this changed and for a long time I was too ashamed to talk about them. It took me awhile to accept that I now have to use learning services for my post-secondary education. I write all my tests in a private room compared to a lecture hall with other students in order to be able to concentrate and not panic, I get extra notes and recordings of my lectures incase I can’t pay attention, and I get time and a half on all my school work. This sounds like every students dream doesn't it? Not for me. I would feel humiliated going to hand my professor at the beginning of every semester my learning plan. It felt like I was sticking a huge sign on my forehead saying that I wasn’t “normal” like their other students. Eventually, I grew to accept that in order to get the marks I wanted and be able to get my dream job this was my new reality. The moment I became unashamed and accepted that this is just an extra tool that I need in order to succeed, I became a lot happier! I am now incredibly thankful to have so much support from faculty and other peer students that I couldn't imagine now not having a learning plan.

In 24 days I turn 23 years old… WHAT? I grew a whole new perspective on birthdays after spending one in the hospital a few years ago. I remember that morning not wanting to get out of bed, I remember my family coming to visit, I remember my friends bringing me a cake. However, the most chilling thing I remember was blowing out my birthday candles wishing I was dead. The thought of that now breaks my heart. For anyone who has got the privilege to know my rockstar Mom, knows growing up she SPOILED us on our birthdays with incredible birthday parties. So when I didn’t want to get out of bed that day… I knew I was choosing death over life... I was at rock bottom. As I have shared before it has taken me a long time and many painful memories to realize that I was more than what had happened to me, my struggles, and that is was all going to be okay. I still have my moments of worry as I remember some unpleasant memories but they are nothing compared to the paralyzing worry and fear it gave me years ago. One of my friends at the time came to visit me every day in the hospital and would read to me Dr. Seuss' "Oh the Places You’ll Go”. It was amazing how a book made for young children somehow helped me change my life but boy am I glad it did!

Oh the places you’ll go, today is your today! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!

A few years later, I am now seeing the places I am going and let me tell you it’s exciting! The people I have encountered over past few years, YouAreMore, and God’s unfailing love and grace has changed my life. I am lucky to be alive and celebrating my 23rd birthday in a few weeks. All the dots are connected and I see now I was created for a purpose. I was created to help others who are struggling and show them they are wanted, loved, more. So this year when I blow out my birthday candles, I will be wishing that anyone who is struggling to stay alive, to get out of bed, that feels they are alone, that you too will be able to believe in all the places you will go! It’s not going to be easy but it will be worth it. You are never alone. YouAreMore. 

Emily Gill: WORTH MORE BROKEN

As I reflect back on the last two months my heart is filled with deep gratitude for everyone’s love & support in making YouAreMore the success it has been so far. It is hard to believe that today marks our two month anniversary since our website was launched, Nov. 26th will always have such a special place in my heart! Your guys’ willingness to come together to make a YAM family, inspiring others through your stories & acts of kindness we have touched many lives! Every time I receive messages from people all around the world either wanting to share their story, their personal struggles or sending encouraging comments has been an amazing & humbling experience for me. It is so important we all continue to recognize the importance in striving to fulfill our mission & be excited for the future with YouAreMore! Recently, we have been asked to speak at a few engagements & are in the beginning stages of designing our own clothing line! We will keep y’all updated & ask you to encourage others to stay connected with us through our Instagram & Facebook pages! 

The purpose for this blog is share that tomorrow is #BellLetsTalk Day. This is an important event & has the potential to raise a lot of money for Mental Health. Bell donates 5 cents for every text message, long distance call, hashtag & share on Facebook to raise awareness for Mental Health & kill the stigma centred around it. SO PLEASE make sure y’all tweet, share, hashtag & spread the love tomorrow!

Recently, I had a personal eye-opening experience that reminded me how hurtful the stigma centred around mental health can be. This experience was truly an example of how people who lack correct understanding of mental health can unfortunately destructively promote the illness. As I have been reflecting on this personal situation, I am reminded we all struggle, we all have hurt someone, we all have a story that has made us who we are today. Some people will choose to hide their story, some will whisper it, or some will yell it. I have decided to yell mine with the intent to bring understanding & hope to those that suffer with a mental illness. I want to make sure that no one ever feels alone, YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. My other purpose in yelling my story is to try & respond in a constructive manner to those that choose to abuse the stories & lives of those who have/ had a mental illness for their own personal reasons. My hope is someday that people who try to humiliate others for their past struggles as a humorous topic of discussion will recognize the harm they can cause.

For years I suffered in silence because of a stigma.. my family & friends almost lost me because of that stigma. However, I chose to live, I chose I am stronger than the stigma & people’s hurtful opinions. Millions of people along with myself don't ask to be born with this or just go through a season of this incredibly lonely illness. Mental illness is no different than a physical illness! It’s truly mind-blowing that there is a stigma around the most important organ in your body- your brain. No one should ever feel alone, crazy or unwanted for having a mental illness.

Over these past few years in my healing process, I have had my eyes & heart opened greatly. I want to live a life full of empathy, patience, understanding, forgiveness, & compassion. One of my all time favourite quotes is “Be somebody that makes everybody feel like a somebody” which ties in with a verse from Proverbs 22:7 “Anyone can find the dirt in someone, be the one who finds the gold”. I want to be the person who is constantly seeing the best in someone, loving someone & helping someone despite their past, current obstacles, or whatever it may be. So let me take the time to say this.. 

You are loved despite your current obstacle & I promise you that you will overcome this. Your life is SO valuable. God loves you! I love you! People love you!  

This is how I believe together we can beat the stigma. We must rise up & do what God has called us to do- LOVE one another unconditionally. 

I wouldn't be here today without my amazing family & friends who have stuck by my side through thick & thin. My incredible doctors & nurses who never once made me feel I was different & who continually save countless lives everyday. I couldn’t brag enough about you all. Without them over the past four years, I wouldn’t now be running my own amazing non-profit organization, have healthy relationships & be living my life everyday to the fullest! 

I will not back down to this stigma, today, tomorrow or anytime soon. I will continue to pray for the day it ends & in the mean time I will yell my story so people know they're not alone. I am so much more than my struggles, past, & insecurities. I am just short of 23 years old, I have such a bright future ahead of me! I am summer girl over winter (I get to wear my cowboy boots!). I am obsessed with pizza. I am a sucker for cute love stories. I am a HUGE country music fan. I am a London Fog lover. I am a Christian. I’ve been broken but its made me who I am today.. I am resilient. I am strong. I am beautiful flaws & all. But most importantly I am a SURVIVOR. 

 

 

Emily Gill: NO ONE HANGS HARD TIMES ON THE WALL

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, & oh my goodness Tinder!! Hashtags, Followers, Likes, DMs, Filters, or being Instagram Famous…the list could go on. Urban Dictionary defines social media as your electronic second life. I would be lying if I didn’t say at one point in time I had all these forms of social media throughout the past few years. As I am writing this blog, I am currently checking down on my phone seeing who liked my new uploaded Instagram picture, & sending goofy, no make-up, hair on the top of my head, snap chats to my closest friends... that I trust not to screen shot & put on social media... save them for my future wedding day!!

Social media has been such a blessing & a curse in my life... it still is. In today’s society, majority of young people are addicted to their phones, it’s a harsh reality. We are defined by our social media accounts because who doesn’t feel good when they get a lot likes on a photo, a retweet or comments telling them how pretty they are? No one. Don’t get me wrong, social media can be amazing! I have met some incredible people through it, who I now call some of my closest friends. Also, Amy & I have had an incredible outreach through our YAM account of people being wanting to be involved! We love it! It’s just a simple fact that today we live in a high technology world full of social media but I believe IF we use it to our benefit it can be extremely positive in our lives.

Here’s where it turns negative, when you are lying in bed at night staring at your screen wondering why you can’t look more like her, why do you only have 17 likes, should you use this filter to make your skin look clearer, who is your crush following, why are they liking another girl’s photo… it doesn’t stop. You now spend the rest of your night, with your head spinning around and around until you’re shedding tears behind a screen… and a powerful screen at that. Your insecurities hit you like a freight train as you compare yourself to other girls who have whiter teeth, more name brand clothes, and a “picture perfect life”. I have/had these moments way too many times. I catch myself the next time spending that much longer picking the right filter, making sure the lighting is perfect for my snapchats, trying to write a witty caption or status so people would think I am funny. LET ME TELL YOU… it is stinkin’ exhausting. I spend so much time dreading trying to keep my head above in the social media waters, to make everything look perfect in my “electronic second life”. WHY? WHY? WHY?

Social media can be so superficial. Majority of people only want to see your pretty selfies, your fun moments, and everything that makes your unrealistic filtered life. No one wants to see the real moments... the ones that keep you up at night where your pillow case is covered in tear stains, the moments where you wonder if he does really love you, the moments where you just want someone to hug you and tell you that you’re beautiful not for your looks but your heart, your struggles, your flaws, your heartbreaks. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I decided to try to post more “rawness” on my social media. I was tired of portraying a completely false lifestyle, I was annoyed with guys only messaging me when I had posted a recent photo in a bikini which resulted in many comments about my body, “how are you so skinny with such big boobs?” Blah, blah, blah. Ironically, not only did I dislike these compliments deep down when I received them because I felt so uncomfortable but I still continued to post these photos and then respond with my classic “awe thank you”. So I began to start posting photos about mental health, previous photos of me in the hospital, statuses that were describing how I truly felt in that moment. At first, I lost a lot of followers which then I found myself upset about. I take it so personal as if the person (who I most I have never met) really matters to me and benefits my life, I guess that comes with being a people pleaser. I have to continually remind myself that the number of followers I have doesn’t define me even though in today’s society you’re made to believe that they do. I would rather live an unfiltered life, a life that showed the true Em whether that is on vacation, going out with my friends, studying in the library or simply just having a rough day. It was when I started to receive positive feedback from my raw posts that it began to change my outlook on social media. Social media is POWERFUL. What if everyone started to use it this power in a way that could help, inspire, and encourage others? I guarantee all of our lives would be greatly changed.

You always hear people say you have to love yourself before other people can love you, you have to be confident in who you are- filtered or unfiltered, likes or no likes, comments or no comments. This is something I still have to work on every single day but I am getting a lot better. Oh boy do I ever still have my moments where I creep people, compare myself to others, etc. I think that is just a part of being human but I am trying to not let it impact me. I also remind myself that no one truly knows the battles others are facing in what may seem their perfect life. Take a moment, imagine how amazing would it be if we all felt comfortable enough to share our lowest of lows, and together through social media we could love each other in those moments? There is nothing more beautiful to me than someone being vulnerable. I think that person deserves a million likes & encouraging comments because it’s brave to be different in a world that is making everyone all the same!

I know I will never be able to influence the world, I will never be able to help people that are struggling behind their filters, hiding their flaws IF I don’t continue to unfilter my life. I hope that my vulnerability can connect me to the rest of the world full of people suffering & together we can help one another. I dare you, whoever is reading this to take this stand too. Whether you’re a professional athlete, student, accountant, stay at home parent, pastor, whatever, try and live your life full of rawness, live a life that isn’t picture perfect. Society will always be too fragile to truly accept people for what make us truly beautiful and whole but that doesn’t mean we can’t try! When I was younger, I always wanted to be beautiful, I wanted to have the perfect boyfriend, I wanted to be that girl that others looked up to and said today’s hit word “goals”. I wanted the picture perfect life just as social media portrays. Now that I’m older, not only do I realize that this is completely unrealistic but that there’s no need to be perfect to inspire or be loved by others. You will find someone, some amazing people, who will be inspired or love you for your unfiltered, imperfections. Let people give you likes or follow you for the real you, your intelligence, thoughts, hardships, dreams and passion. Try not to buy the social media lies, disguise yourself through filters, live an unfiltered life because the most beautiful you, that’s the true you!

Emily Gill

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Hey! My name is Emily but most people call me Em! I couldn't be more honoured to be a co-founder of YouAreMore. As I write this blog, I hope to draw upon our mission statement & inspire individuals to see beyond their obstacles. For most of my life, I suffered from severe anxiety & depression. It makes me so sad looking back on all I hid or missed out on because of the stigma centered around mental health. However, right now, trying to write my first blog, the verse John 13:7 comes to mind: Jesus replied, "You don't understand what I'm doing now but someday you will." I find comfort & truth in that. I would have never thought that He would bring me to a position where I can potentially help others through my own struggles.. but here I am! :)

For years the thought of sharing the darkness inside of me to others was a paralyzing fear but now the thought of not sharing & someone pulling a trigger or taking a handful of pills because they feel alone terrifies me more. Mental illness is a silent battle & can be a lonely one too, because no one sees how hard you're constantly having to fight against your inner turmoil & pain. What I've gone through & what millions of others go through everyday . . . it breaks my heart. But in the face of all of that suffering, I can honestly say, today, the bravest thing I've done thus far [in my 22 years on this earth] is continuing to live when all I wanted to do was die.

I was born into an incredibly loving family. Growing up I was so richly blessed & it’s not until now, since I’ve crossed my finish line, that I can see that. In saying that, my family didn't always have it easy. At a young age I was exposed to many deaths, life threatening illnesses & unexplainable losses. I believe that this is where my obsession with death & fear of loss began. When anyone asked, "how's Em?" the answer was always, "great!" & it wasn't until years later it came out that it wasn’t necessarily the case. As I got older & the hardships got more difficult with loved ones, the little Em that used to be academically gifted & outgoing slowly lost interest in anything that once made her happy. I began to hurt myself on the outside by being destructive to myself & others. All I wanted to do was kill the feeling on the inside that I couldn't explain to anyone. I never did feel “normal” growing up but it was in my teenage years I took a severe turn for the worst. This "picture perfect" young girl who had everything going for her lost her faith in everyone, herself & most importantly God. I started lying to many loved ones in fear they wouldn't understand the depression inside of me. I created a "new life" that simply was a distorted view on reality - I was struggling, I needed help, light, hope . . . I needed God.

Looking back on those years now, the people I hurt, the girl I had become because of fear of stigma or someone not loving me because I was unwanted, ugly, dumb, depressed, broken, “crazy” -- it makes me feel sick. Why is it in today's society that if someone has a physical illness & takes medication it's okay but as soon as you have to take medication for the most important organ in your body - your brain, there's a stigma around it? Why do people feel they can mock a pain they haven't endured? How can someone tell another that their life isn't worth the fight & to go kill themselves?

Lastly, (for now) I would like to share the turning point in my story where I decided I couldn't live a life feeling like this anymore because I was never created to live depressed, ashamed, guilty, defeated or unworthy. I was created just the way God intended -- loved, wanted, worthy . . . MORE! I had attempted to take my life a few times before & ended up in the hospital. This day though, I remember so clearly, I had woken up & decided that the stigma & my pain was stronger than anything I could handle. I overdosed & not long after was found unresponsive. I thought this was a unselfish act & was the best thing for everyone; I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I regained consciousness, I was surrounded by my loved ones. I don't know how to explain it other than God showing me that He just wasn't finished with me yet. It was in that moment I realized I was wanted, I am still wanted, I am loved, I am worthy -- despite my obstacles. He & many others love me for who I am... with all my imperfections. Thank you for allowing me to share my story & being open about my journey. I don’t want to stop until there is no one left on this earth who is suffering or feeling that they’re alone. You are never alone. YOU ARE MORE!