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!
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.