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healing

Meet Alli. This is her Story

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Meet Alli. This is her Story

August 8th, 2004 is a day that will forever leave a painful mark on my heart.


It was a Sunday morning that started like many other mornings; I slept in, grabbed a glass of water and went downstairs to find my parents to start our day. I picked up my pace heading down the stairs, and that’s when I heard some painful gasps- which I soon learned was coming from my Dad. I walked into his office in the basement to find him hunched over in my Moms arms, crying (which I had never seen) and I knew.


To give you some context, let me tell you about Garrett.


Garrett was my half brother (we shared the same amazing Dad). We had a big age difference and lived in different cities- but we were very close. Garrett was a top shelf, full package guy. He was tall, good looking, had killer hair, was active, a marathon runner, loved to cook, drove a Volkswagen and a motorcycle, had great style, was kind, thoughtful, knew his wines and was an Air Canada Pilot. Pretty solid line up, right?


This is why I was beyond excited to move to Toronto (where Garrett lived) after being accepted into Ryerson University. Not only that, Garrett lived in a loft near the Campus so I was going to get to see him regularly- team workouts, team dinners, you name it... there was so much to look forward to!


We first learned of Garrett’s battle with Bipolar Disorder when he was diagnosed with the illness in the year 2000. What followed was a four year battle for Garrett and our family that had many peaks and valleys. Garrett was very aware of his battle and looked for some alternative therapies to help him through his illness; this is where he developed a love for running. Like many things Garrett did, he nailed the whole marathon running thing pretty much immediately! He ran the Toronto Marathon, New York City Marathon and always dreamed of doing the Boston Marathon.


My parents and I lived in Winnipeg during this time, so my dad was making regular visits to Toronto to spend time with Garrett. Garrett also spent time flying back and forth to Winnipeg.


Garrett had planned to attend my high school graduation in June of 2004 but unfortunately wasn’t able to make it. He was feeling very “off” that month and admitted himself to the hospital to seek appropriate treatment. Though I missed having him join us for that milestone, I understood. I had already been accepted to Ryerson by that time so we knew we had lots to look forward to....


On August 8th, 2004 Garrett took his own life.


Despite a lot of opinions and questions, I moved to Toronto at the end of August 2004 and completed my four year Fashion Communications program at Ryerson.


I have since had some incredible career experiences, met some very special friends, met my husband, bought a house and have run 10K and 15K races in memory of Garrett. Fitness became a very powerful outlet for me throughout my grieving process and more so a way for me to feel connected to him. Running to a good playlist will make me think of him, boxing will release any pent up emotions or anger and yoga helps me to connect my mind + body and feel deep gratitude for a beautiful life.


There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my brother. Losing someone to suicide leaves you with so many unanswered questions and painful feelings.
Though I miss Garrett terribly, I know he is at peace and watching over me and my family.
We talk about Garrett often and toast him on his birthday, Christmas and even the anniversary of his passing.

Life is still meant to be celebrated.

 When we celebrated Garrett’s 10 year anniversary, I wanted to celebrate it on a bigger level and do an event in his honour and in support of Mental Health. I had the opportunity to partner with the incredible team at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for this event, as well as many others these last few years.


Mental health awareness has become a big passion of mine and something that I will always support. I have found that being open and honest about my experience with losing Garrett has not only helped my grieving process over the years but I have been able to use it to help others.


Losing Garrett has taught me many life lessons- but most of all to appreciate and enjoy life.

You only get one, so be sure to live it to the fullest.

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I'm Cayla. This is my Story. Chapter 3.

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I'm Cayla. This is my Story. Chapter 3.


I am driving through back country. Dusk is falling, but there is still sun peeking above the horizon and it casts a soft glow around the entrance of the parking lot I begin to pull into. As I slow to a stop in front of the church, the stones underneath the tires ricochet off the bottom of the car. Clink clink. clink clink.

I round my back and peer through the windshield and I see her running towards me, waving. She stops on the way to say goodbye to someone, turns, laughs, continues running.
Wait- I think I should re-phrase that. She's actually not 'running'. She can't keep her composure when she runs and she gets too embarrassed so she just sort of quickly shuffles her feet with her arms pinned to her sides instead.

As I'm waiting for her to shuffle to the car, I am reminded that we were just in this parking lot a few months ago when she grabbed my hand, concerned.

"I have squishy sides", she said.

"Feel them".

She took my finger and poked it right above her pant line and in hindsight it's all so ridiculous because she's tall and blond and beautiful and we can't go anywhere without someone being completely enamoured by her.

She's excited to see me. She's just returned from three weeks in Europe and she says she has photos and stories. She opens the door, throws her overnight bag in the back, turns to face me.

"How was Europe?", I say.

Her eyes sparkle, then widen right before she smiles mischieviously. She lowers her voice.

"You're going to have to burn my journal if I die", She giggles.

My left arm is draped over the wheel so I push her leg, hard, with my right.

"Don't joke about stuff like that", I say.

I switch gears, she buckles up, I turn the car back onto the road.


Months have passed. It's 4am. I am lying on my back in complete darkness, immobilized.
I feel both everything, and nothing.

Earlier that evening I frantically search through my dresser for a medicine called Rescue Remedy.
Six drops under the tongue are supposed to help calm panic.
I finally find it underneath a bundle of socks. I unscrew the lid and throw it on the floor.

I drink the entire bottle.


The next night everyone in the house is crowded around a tiny tv to watch the evening news.
I feel a flash of anger wash over me as the reporter starts talking. He reads out the news of her
accident like a grocery list; two sentences on a flashcard.
I grab the blanket strewn across my legs and clench my fist into it until my knuckles turn white.

She is more than just two sentences on a Goddamn flashcard.

I blackout.
I come to.
I blink.

The only other thing I process from the newscast is a photo of her car with the driver side splayed open.
There is blood running down the window.
 

 

7 years later I finally call Andrew to ask for the intricate details of what happened that day.

I hear him exhale heavily into the phone. "Are you sure?" he hesitates.


The sun is shining, she leaves the house first. She is going home to study for our Psychology final.
The sun is so strong the rays block the bus that is coming, so she turns right in front of it.
They are only minutes down the road so when they see the accident in the distance, it takes a moment to register.
It's her.
They pull up and run over to help.
Tim is so overwhelmed by what he sees he leans over and vomits in the ditch.

This is the part I make Andrew tell me.
What did she look like?
Was she conscious.
How much blood was there?
How bad was it.

When my brain recounts this part of the story, it is never able to land on the actual horridity of it.
I instead, always seem to focus on two mundane details.
I sometimes wonder if this is the only way I am able to process what happened as a whole.

She is wearing sparkly lotion on her legs. That's the first one.
They see it underneath her hospital gown when she is hooked up to life support.

That morning she eats toast for breakfast. That's two.
Her Mom find the crusts on a plate when she returns home to her empty room the next day.

Sparkly lotion. Toast. Accident. Blood.

Tim is vomiting in the ditch. Andrew is holding her in his arms. They are waiting for the medics.

"Do you think she was gone at that point?"
I am holding wine in one hand, driving my fingernails into my knee with the other.
My eyes well over.
My breath hitches in my throat.
There is a long pause on the other end of the phone.

"I'd like to hope so", Andrew says.

She was wearing sparkly lotion, she ate toast, she made one wrong turn, and if I think about it too long it overtakes me.

I drive out to visit her grave and I kneel in the dew covered grass in front of it, alone with my head in my hands.
I scream out a one-sided conversation. I am angry at her for so many things.
I hate the way you run.
Your shoes are in my closet.
How could you not see a bus?
Who eats chocolate in the morning?
My chest heaves up and down when the memory appears and as the dew begins to dampen my feet, my knees, my elbows,
I close my eyes and see her smiling, holding her mittened hand towards me with a mars bar nestled into the center.


The night after I drink the rescue remedy my brain repeats like a broken record.
I just want to see you one last time
I just want to see you one last time
I just want to see you one last time

It is a plead that comes from the bottom of my soul, from the centre of my grief.

She visits me in a dream, she is surrounded by beaming white light. We hug and I feel her squishy sides and it is the last moment I have with her that feels real.

In an effort to frantically search for closure, I print off every email she's ever written me, every msn conversation. I paste them hastily into a scrapbook and when I put them in chornological order I realize something, drop the notebook, stare at the wall in angst. She always told me she loved me whenever she signed off, except for the last email she wrote me one month before she died. In that one, she said "Bye".

I don't think there is a word in the english language that exeplifies the feeling of wanting to Crawl out of your own skin.
If there was, I'd use it.
But that feeling is there, and it's real, and nothing makes sense and if I could run away from the pain, I would.
But I can't.
And I don't know what I'm doing.
And I don't know where she is.


She visits me in my dreams still, only now there is no talking.
Just her.
Strong wind.
Bright light.


That's it.

 

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Q + A with Lisa on Lyme Disease, Holistic Nutrition + Tapping Into Your Healing Power

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Q + A with Lisa on Lyme Disease, Holistic Nutrition + Tapping Into Your Healing Power

 

Lisa is a Holistic Nutritionist + Skin Coach that specializes in Skin, Digestion, Mindset + Deep Healing. Her personal journey is a complex and layered one; she tells us about how she conquered Lyme Disease, learned how to tap into her own healing power, and finding the positive when moving through dark times.

 

Q: Have you always wanted to be in the wellness industry? Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you do and the story behind how you came to do it?

 

L: I have quite the journey as to how I came to be doing what I do today. I actually wrote a 140 page eBook on my as my health journey as it’s now spanned over a decade! So boil some tea, and dig in.

Super long story short- in 2006 I was living in South Africa when I started to fall ill. It started off mild and then progressed; the most bizarre and alarming symptoms would flare up, disappear and then reappear in a completely unpatterned way. There was no rhyme or reason to it, and quite honestly it left doctors perplexed. Some thought I had MS, and they said to just wait until lesions started showing in a few years and they would do another MRI at the time to see. I then got told it could possibly be a tumour on my spine as I was presenting very neurological, but all of my brain and spinal scans were clear. The only thing they could find in my blood was a slight B12 deficiency and Mono. The Mono took months to clear; but as the months went by, and months turned into years I still wasn’t getting any better. In fact, MORE symptoms started to present themselves. At one point I had over 100 symptoms ranging from vertigo, to body numbness to eye floaters (so bad it hurt to go outside), to excessive weight gain (30 pounds in two months- which is a lot for me, as I’m naturally slender and lean), cystic acne, hair loss, brain fog and fatigue to name a few.

Fast forward to New York, where I had moved to go to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). This time of my life was supposed to be the best! I was living in one of the greatest cities in the world, but I found myself my sickest there. I was scared to tell people how sick I was because it all seemed so hard to believe, so a lot of my family and friends didn’t truly know how bad it had gotten. Also doctors were telling me I was healthy and OK- which I was anything but. I was very ill but no one could give me answers. I saw Doctors, Specialists, Naturopaths, Functional Practitioners- Most thought I was crazy and some even prescribed me Anti-Anxiety + Anti-Depressant meds, which I never ended up taking because I knew deep down I wasn't crazy and there was something wrong with me.

 

Rewind to South Africa: This is where my passion, devotion and complete love for nutrition started. Western medicine was failing me so at first it started as an informal way to provide me with some peace and answers. I’m extremely lucky that I connected the dots of, quite simply, we are what we eat. We are cellular beings- so therefore what we eat feeds our cells. I quickly decided to go vegan, and remained vegan for eight years (I’m not 100% anymore due to my intuitive connection to my body & mind). The vegan diet cuts out a lot of inflammatory foods so this helped initially, but there was still a lot of work for me to do. (But it was a start!) So I studied, read and researched for years, while trying to support and heal my body on my own.

 

In September 2012 I had a pure angelic moment and out of nowhere Lyme Disease popped into my head. Two weeks later I was in Calgary at a Lyme Literate ND’s office to investigate this thought further. She couldn’t confirm if I had it but gave me a test kit nonetheless, and the next day Fedexed my blood to a tick borne illness lab in California (unfortunately, Canada didn't, and still doesn't, have proper testing and treatment). Sure enough, two weeks later my test results came back: I had chronic late stage Lyme Disease that had ravaged my body for over six years.


I’m cutting a lot out, but from that point on I knew it was my mission to help others heal. I studied holistic nutrition formally and did my own intensive natural healing for a year (too much to go into detail, but I explain much more in my book). I also knew in order to fully heal I would have to move away from home (Edmonton, AB), which may sound crazy but I knew it was part of my journey. It was either Vancouver or Toronto- my heart told me Toronto and here I am.


I believe without discovering these things (which I help my clients find!), it’s near impossible to heal in a way that is sustainable long-term. People don’t always like to hear this because it takes patience, trial and error, unblocking old patterns, beliefs, habits and time (my healing journey took over a decade). This is why I do what I do every single day- because of my own health and healing journey, and the amount of time it took to figure things out. All the body wants to do is innately heal itself. It is not out to get you! Once we start to co-create with our bodies and the Universe healing starts to take place- and that is such a sweet place to be. You regain confidence, energy, vitality, zest, vigour, happiness, glow, and your trust is strengthened. When we turn into the miraculous nature of the body, and utilize it, so many doors start to open not just in health, but in life. This is what I help my clients find. It’s holistic - body, mind, and soul. The trifecta of healing. 

 

Q: The Move to Heal Project is all about how moving the body can be a helpful aid when working through anything mental health related.

Do you believe the mind and body are connected?

L: I believe the mind and body connection are literally everything. So many people ask me how I was able to heal on such a deep level, and I always say it was placing a focus on Mind first, Body second. Our subconscious mind is 30,000 times more powerful than our conscious mind (which we think is in control!). We live with such rooted programming and beliefs as to how we’re supposed to be and I truly believe this has an affect on healing at a deeper level. Without a solid foundation of this relationship it doesn’t matter how healthy we eat or how much we move, the core essence of healing must come from the Mind. 

 

Q: If someone is feeling a disassociation between their own mind and body, is there a simple exercise or mantra you have found to be effective?

L: I work on an individualized level so I think this would look different for everyone. However- I would say the first step is Self-Awareness. So many of us go through our days robotically and are extremely detached from what we do, say, eat and how we act. We do things mentally but don't connect the effect to our bodies. This is also bi-directional; we do things to our body, and don't think of the mental or emotional impact that follows. A wonderful first step is to keep a running journal. Start to take note as to when you’re acting out of fear, envy, jealousy, pain, old programming, etc. I believe the first step of any healing is becoming aware of things / thoughts / actions that aren’t serving you. 

 

Q: So many of us have moved, or are moving through difficult and painful things. You mention on your Instagram that no healing is done in isolation. Can you elaborate on that?

L: Healing requires constant support, guidance, love, nurturing, and advisement. When going through painful or difficult periods we can’t see things as they are, or how we want them to be. Again- we can act out of old beliefs, pains, and fears when we’re in it. I consider my clients friends, and they have 24/7 access to me via email and text. It’s just not just about a client / practitioner relationship, but a deeper bond that exists by showing and telling them that they will get through these periods. It’s not IF; it’s WHEN. It can feel really isolating when you're moving through a difficult time- like no one gets it. That’s just not true. There really is so much help, guidance, and support around. However, the first (and maybe the hardest) step is to reach out. When you are trying to heal but remain isolated, you will continue to reinforce pain, symptoms, fears, and instability. Reaching out in healing creates a foundation. It creates clarity. When you reach out there will always be a hand to lift you back up. 


Q: I created the Fuel to Heal portion on the site to prompt discussion about what we are eating and how it affects our body. 

Do you think the foods we eat can affect our daily moods and energy?

 

L: Food is Everything

Food is information to our body. It’s deep cellular nourishment. Food is the information we give our body to tell it what to do. The body does not recognize foreign substances and toxins found in a lot of foods today. We live in a society that’s been disconnected from what we truly need to thrive. Our bodies are miracle machines and work so hard for us every minute (millions of cells are replicating every single second). Yet- people are often feeding it things that don’t fuel this process. We will put premium fuel in our cars- yet we want to feed our body sub-par food, and then expect it to run optimally. However, the beauty of all of this is that we can shift it on a moment to moment basis. Food can heal : “LET FOOD BE  THY MEDICINE, AND MEDICINE BY THY FOOD”

 

Q: Do you have any go-to power foods? Something that gives a boost of energy or gets that long term feel good hormone going?

 

L: Greens - Endless amounts of leafy greens

-Heaps of pure / clean spring Water ( At least 2L a day)

-To Nourish the brain: Healthy fats- Avocados, seeds, nuts, lean proteins, olives, wild fish

-For Power/Energy: Protein- Sprouted legumes, wild + organic lean protein, bone broth (one of my favourites), nuts, seeds

-For Mood-boosting: Sweet potatoes

-For Blood flow: Beets

-Complex carbs: Brown rice, millet, quinoa, oats, parsnips, carrots

-Fruit - Deep-hued berries, green apples, lemons, grapefruits, pears, kiwis, watermelon

-Cruciferous Veg - Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels, asparagus, kale

-For Brain Health + Inflammation: Omega 3’s (critical), Flax, chia, wild fish

 

Q: It can be incredibly easy to get stuck in negative thought patterns. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can break these?

 

L: Time, patience, love, guidance, deep acceptance, and self-awareness. We often first have to find where are those negative thoughts coming from. Did we see our parents being negative (and therefore so are we)? Did we see people be negative and become successful? I believe we ALWAYS have control over our thoughts. It’s not just about “thinking positive”; it’s about doing the work to see how those patterns are showing up and when. For example: Do you find yourself negative around certain people? Then you must assess those relationships and see if they are healthy. Are you negative towards strangers ? Maybe this means flexing your compassion muscle. Are you mad or upset at yourself? Why? Are you not where you want to be. Etc. This process will look different for everyone. I always talk about doing the work; how healing is a journey.- because it's true! Society feeds us quick fixes and says that results are instantaneous. I think that deep patience, love and acceptance for where you are in your journey today can be some of the best tools. This moment is all we have and if we are fully living in this moment, it is the only place where anxiety + fear can’t live.

 

Q: There's a post on your instagram where you talk about loneliness. Depression, anxiety and trauma- they can all feel so lonely. For anyone out there that is reading this and feeling isolated or lonely- can you offer some words of guidance, support, or first steps?

 

L: I don’t believe anyone is meant to go through this journey we call life alone- especially a healing journey. First- we aren’t isolated humans. We were built for connections, community, and to apart of tribes. Second- know that there is zero shame for seeking guidance, support, love, and nourishment. I believe the body, mind, and soul to be one's best investment. If we aren’t healthy, nothing else truly matters. Even though I am a practitioner, I still have my healing team (naturopath, acupuncture, herbs I use, supplements, etc…) because I believe ones evolutions is never over.  Anxiety lives in the future, and depression lives in the past, so I fully and constantly tell my clients that being in Now is one of the best gifts and tools you can use, and have.

When you operate from a moment to moment to basis it doesn't seem so overwhelming and isolating. In reality it’s what any human is trying to do. So I would say - I love you, I fully understand where you are, and You can heal. We can all heal. Our bodies are built to heal. It’s not about what happens to us, it’s what we choose to do with it that matters.

AND NO MATTER WHAT - Do one thing every day that brings you Joy + List one thing you are grateful for. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for even in the darkest times. The Light is always there. 

To Contact Lisa:

Instagram: @lifebyleese

Website: www.lifebyleese.com

 

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Meet Nolan. This is his Story

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Meet Nolan. This is his Story

I’ve always felt a bit sad; Not the 'breaking up with your first love'/ 'not receiving the mark you thought you deserved' kind of sadness, but a sadness that I can only describe as a rotting feeling that plagued my entire perception of happiness.
 
                  When I was in high school, the words 'depression' and 'anxiety' were terms most definitely not universally used to describe the mental agony people could feel. Instead, they were used as placeholders for when students were feeling a sense of nerve or disappointment.
 
“Ugh. I’m so depressed. This gives me anxiety,” became a sentence I became far too familiar with.
 
During this time, the best example actually came from my parents when I told them that I was sad but couldn’t explain why:
 
“Son. You’re just in a rut. You’re fine and you’ll get out of it. Depression isn’t real,”
 
With stigmas surrounding these words, where did it leave the small margin of people who actually identified with these forms of mental health?
 
I carried this feeling of deep uncertainty inside me for years. It wasn’t until I moved out of my parents’ house and fled to Toronto when I accepted that I was living with both depression and anxiety. Over the years I had spent countless moments buried in self-loathing, emptiness, exhaustion, frustration, and pain. There was once a point when I wouldn’t even allow myself to feel happiness because I was convinced that it was temporary and unrealistic. As I'm writing this, my mind is running 1000KM/h and my fingers are flying across my keyboard; even I’m in disbelief that I have felt this way too many times over.
 
Although my mental health latches on like weights on my shoulders every single day, today I am a stronger person.
 
The key to a resilient and fit mind is treating your body in the same respect. Although I have been boxing on-and-off since I was 11, I dove heavily back into the art when I began to feel myself slipping away like sand through my fingers—contained yet falling beyond control. For the first six months getting back into it, I vividly remember mentally projecting myself at the end of each jab; each hook; each over-hand right; hoping to beat my demons out from within. I was frustrated. Mad. Hurting. I wanted change so badly.
 
Through boxing I restored my body with discipline, a hard-work ethic, drive, passion, and purpose. Today I am reminded of all these things: I AM FUCKING STRONG. I AM A WARRIOR. AND NOT A GOD DAMN PERSON WILL EVER TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME. To my friends who seek change mentally and physically, TOMORROW IS TODAY. Get after it. Move your body. Every day is your chance to make things count.
 
-n

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