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Meet Alli. This is her Story


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.


On Hope

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On Hope

I have a REALLY hard time with the word HOPE- which seems strange because I've worked hard at learning to find gratitude, joy, and peace in my life- So you would think that I would be a Hope-lover. But I'm not. I'm not writing this in a negative sort of way- I'm writing it because I try and stay honest with myself- because I think that honesty is beautiful and if we want to change something we first have to acknowledge what is happening. So here it is: NOT A FAN OF HOPE.

When I was in the throes of depression it used to really bother me when people would say "All you have to do is have hope that things will get better" or "Hold on to hope". It just never made sense. It almost seemed insulting- like I wasn't hoping "enough". That if I was better at "hoping", things would all of a sudden sparkle and shine and everything would turn around. When people talked to me about Hope it seemed like it was a quick remedy. If I "Hoped", everything I was feeling would all be over and I'd be brand new. What I have realized now is that (for me) if I want something to last, there is a slow process behind that change. Good things take time. Nothing happens overnight. There is no quick fix- especially for depression and anxiety.

Another reason why I struggle with "Hope": When I was younger I used to hope for things so bad. Like I'd lie in bed at night and hope with all my heart (for a number of things I won't get into here). But I will tell you that I grew up real fast- so when I was lying in bed at night Hoping, I was dealing with large-scale trauma already. I was faced with things no child should ever have to face. So my Hopes were really, really big. And across time I was disappointed over and over again. So I think I was classically conditioned to learn that Hoping for something results in deep disappointment.

(*Again- this blog is not meant to offend anyone- I am speaking from my own experience. If you are a grand Hoper, I will support you and applaud you in that 100 percent!!)

I am at this point in my life where old thought patterns are mixing into new ones and it's hard to separate the two. I really have a hard time with Hope some days. As much as I feel conflicted by it, it also seems very natural to gravitate towards it. Moving through life just shutting off and not Hoping for anything can be really tricky. I find myself numbing out sometimes.

Anybody else with me?

It feels like when I Hope for something I'm putting that Hope in the hands of something else. I'm trusting something that I can't see. I'm a control freak and I'm working on this but in the meantime this is what I have learned to do: I Hope in myself.

I put Hope in myself. I shift the focus. For example, I recently listened to this podcast with Elizabeth Smart- she talked about how she never gave up Hope when she was kidnapped (google this story if you don't remember it, it's wild) because she believed in the Love her family had for her- she believed they would never stop looking for her.

I think that Hope and Belief at times can go hand in hand. I love this example and I think it is beautiful. However- what if you have learned to Hope in people that treated you poorly because that is how you were raised or all you knew at the time? What if that was just the way things went?

When I say I put Hope in myself it means that, while we can't control how other people treat us or how things in life are unfolding around us we can always chose to believe in, support, and love ourselves. I could Hope for things to change or get better; or I can place that Hope in my own abilities and I can tangibly use that Hope to begin to grow stronger. It's kind of like taking Hope and internalizing it instead of keeping it external.

Am I talking like I'm bananas? Does anyone feel the same way as me? How do you view Hope?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

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