Blogging for recovery (mental health)…

The road to mental health recovery is a long, challenging one. There are curves and dips, mountains and valleys, switchbacks and stalls. Often moving so slowly we feel as if we’re in reverse. Occasionally we truly are. Sometimes the entire process has to restart, and while it feels like we’re back at the beginning, we never truly are. Each leg of the journey adds to the process – sometimes hastening the forward momentum and at times forcing us to a crawl.

Just as with the act of running, if there are two feet moving in a mostly forward direction, eventually we’ll get further ahead than when we began.

There is no magic cure. No pill to suddenly change the mood and make all of the contributing circumstances irrelevant. There are many factors that must each be tackled when the time is right, and eventually depression can be – if not entirely then at least mostly – overcome.

I am by no means in the clear when it comes to mental health. I know that life will continue to throw me curve balls and that my state of being in the moment will have a significant impact on how those events are dealt with by me.

I am confident though that today I am better equipped to weather the storms.

Photo credit: Debbie Roberts

Photo credit: Debbie Roberts

People ask me what I have done to improve my mental health, and there is no single thing. It took an accumulation of events for me to stop coping in a healthy way. It is an accumulation of activities and life changes that have allowed me to arrive on the other side.

Medication can be helpful as a sort of kickstart or bridge depending upon what you need. In my case, it was adjustments to pain medications – rather than an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.

But that it is not what helped the most. My complete lifestyle change starting with leaving a job that was killing me in an almost systematic way is what did it. I started a new job in a much healthier environment where the ultimate goal is helping build a healthier community. I feel as though I have aligned myself with professional work that marries well with my own passion.

I have always found health-related changes easier to make when there is already a big change happening. While off to my new job, I started a better routine of exercise and eating well.

Today, almost daily I do 20-30 minutes of cardio and a light weight training circuit. 1-3 times/week I switch it up and take a land-based fitness or aqua fitness class instead, or in addition. Ultimately I knew I had arrived at my desired level of activity when not partaking became something I missed. I feel more like myself when I am active daily. And I am more conscious of what I put inside of my body at the same time.

None of these things are easy. I still see a doctor frequently for chronic pain issues. I still have days that I want to bury my head in the sand. But change really must come from within. Being ready to take ownership of my health and take risky steps to improve things required commitment and support. Whatever that support system looked like I used it. I saw a therapist who really just heard me and validated my feelings while encouraging me to keep moving forward. Friends and family, even passing acquaintances each played a role. Whether in the form of a wellness challenge at work, or bi-weekly tea dates with childhood friends… was all good.

Have you been wanting to make a change?

Just go for it, and stop being so hard on yourself!


Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun or email me at trish at trishblogs dot com!

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Stop. Commit. Act.


We’ve all said it at one time or another. I wish I could do such and such, but I just don’t have the time… A speaker at a mom’s networking event recently shared some very wise words: we CAN have it ALL, just not all at once. Once we get that, we can make time <and yes it is ALL about MAKING time> for ourselves.


Once I made the decision to fit fitness into my life, it happened, other less important things got pushed aside. Activities that I once completed in 2 weeks, would take 4. It was OKAY! I was out there, pounding the pavement, coming back with my heart racing and my lungs on fire – feeling glorious!


Guess who benefits from your self care time? Sure you do, and that is the most important thing, but for some the motivation to do so comes from this: we cannot give to others all of ourselves unless we take care of ourselves first! It’s true, the less we care for ourselves, the less we have of ourselves to offer others. Guess what – when we are feeling refreshed and alive we treat our loved ones with more care, compassion and concern. We are able to empathize better, and we actually ENJOY giving to others.


What is the trick? Scheduling ME into the calendar first!


I know this is easier said than done, but it’s critical. The next step being: following through with the schedule. Which is where I still struggle. Yes, I see that 15 minutes of mindfulness before I leave my room in the morning scheduled in my calendar, but I’m JUST going to check on the noises coming from 8-year-old’s bedroom before I get started… Guess what? I don’t get started.


One thing I have learned from past successful attempts at making time for self care is that I need a goal, something to work towards that provides me with both accountability and a sense of accomplishment. When I was running, I would enter an event that coincided with the end date of my current goal. There is nothing like fundraising for a cause and not only starting, but finishing the 5K, 10K or even half-marathon I just signed up for to get me motivated. People are counting on my to bring their message across the finish line and many people are aware of my deadline!

So, how do I incorporate that into my current goals? I am no longer running, due to knee injuries. I’m not a fan of winter cycling, and the pool hasn’t been working for me lately, no matter how much I love it. So, it’s walking and mindfulness for me.


I’m sure there is a walking event I can sign up for, similar to my running challenges, but what do I do about the mindfulness I so desperately need to slow down and experience?


Share your ideas with me and I will report back with a plan of action! Perhaps you’ll join me?





Wishing to be a former self?

Do you have those days when you wish you were your former self in some way? 5 years ago, and 20 lbs lighter a guy once commented on how lean I was. Ya, that kind of wish.

People don’t always believe me when I say it, but it’s true. I am about 20 lbs/9 kg over my optimal weight. Of course once I give the actual weight a number, then it seems plausible. I weigh 80kg/176lbs. I am 5’10” and my weight seems pretty evenly dispersed which is likely why I don’t appear to have any weight to lose.

At the time that I met this guy, I was physically fit, better than I had been in a decade, but I was also coming off of a very negative split with my ex-husband during which time I threw myself into training for a half-marathon for the first time ever … as a way of coping with my stress. The stress effects my appetite and I likely also lost some of the extra weight I’d been carrying around simply because I wasn’t eating well, and because that’s what my body seems to do when I’m stressed.

Since my pain has gotten worse and my stresses have increased again I haven’t been very active. While I’d like to be that 20-lb-lighter-self, what I really want is to be that trained-for-a-half-marathon-self.

This goal is part of my one year plan. Feeling vibrant and healthy again! Training for events that motivate me. And let’s face it, having an attractive man I don’t really know tell me how lean I am wouldn’t be the worst thing either. 😉

Do you have a plan? I’d love to hear about your goals!


Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun, email me at ceilidho at ceilidhontherun dot com, or use my contact form!

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Rum Runners Relay 2010 – Leg 5 (or return of the mojo)

For those who do not know, the Rum Runners Relay is a ten stage relay race starting in Halifax, NS, traveling along the South West Shore to Lunenburg, NS, where teams of ten runners (usually) each take turns running a “leg” (or stage). The legs are selected in advance by the team. All of these stages are very scenic and they vary in difficulty as well as distance. I was part of Team 16:  Long story short, due to nagging back pain I switched from my planned second shortest (8km) leg of the race to “the short leg” (3.9km), thanks to a very flexible friend.

I was in no way motivated to run this race, my back pain had prevented me from continuing my training for the last 4 weeks.  In fact I considered dropping out (Ian would have readily and easily run the leg for me in addition to his own). I actually ran because it was our anniversary.

We’ve been celebrating our anniversary at Rum Runners Relay Race every year (except last year, when I spent the day with my sister who was visiting from BC, while I recovered slowly and poorly from an injury).  Technically Ian & met online, and we met in person on the day that we did because Ian was going to run with our relay team and he needed to sign the team waiver.  We went out for supper and a walk along the harbourfront and hit it off.  This year it was kind of special.  The anniversary of the day we met  fell on the day of the race.  I felt I just couldn’t miss it.   I think if we ever do decide to have some sort of a ceremony, it will have to be tied in with the relay.   😀

I was pretty sure I could run the 3.9km leg without much trouble. I was more concerned about how my back would handle all of the time in the car.  At the last minute we decided to take our own car, rather than car pool so that I could leave after my run, if need be.   I felt pretty good in the morning and we managed to get to the race course during my previously scheduled leg and cheer on my good friend.

Leg 4 ends and leg 5 begins at one of my favourite beaches (Queensland). This summer our family had spent several beach days there body surfing.  My run starts along the road following the beach then turns up onto the secondary highway that most of the race course follows.  It then takes a little detour through a beautiful neighborhood, has a few rolling hills, with a relatively steep climb before ending with a sharp turn downhill to the Hubbards public wharf.

The only real negative for me with this switcheroo was that it meant I couldn’t do my customary swim in the Atlantic Ocean at Queensland.  I just couldn’t see getting all cold and covered in salt water before running, and I couldn’t go back and swim after because Ian needed to get to his start (leg 7).  It would have been a great day for a cool fall Atlantic Ocean swim, and one of my team-mates made up for it, by diving in when he finished leg 4.

Prepped and waiting for my start (accompanied by Ian)

Photo credit: Mike M

The run went much better than I’d expected. The lower back pain went away while I ran, but moved to my shoulder and ribs. By the time I finished it had all sort of worked itself out. My only goal was to run just a little faster than my training pace has been. After 4 weeks of not running I wasn’t sure how that would go. As it turned out, it was not a problem. But I was really feeling it when I made the final climb before turning into the downhill finishing chute.

Leg 5 start: Queensland Beach road

Photo credit: Ian M

That downhill was one of my favourite race finishes ever. I’m always afraid to over do it when taking advantage of gravity mid-race, but this was the end and I just let myself go with the pull of gravity! It was so much fun to whip past (at least) 4 runners who’d been ahead of me (perhaps all had passed me at some point). The reaction of the woman who was just meters from the finish line was priceless, she just didn’t see/hear me coming. And the only person I know who witnessed it was Mark, the race announcer. None of my team were able to get to the finish before me because it’s such a short leg and they got caught up in a little detour. I wandered around cooling down and stretching for several minutes before they all arrived. They seemed to still be expecting me to cross the finish line when I found them. 🙂

The rest of the day was your typical Rum Runners fun-filled cheering, eating and air-guitar.

Air Guitar

Photo credit: Ian L

The best part about it, I am feeling motivated, inspired and determined to make a conservative/cautious fitness routine work for me. I got my mojo back!

Happy Anniversary Sweety! 😀

Life plan baby steps

I’m here – half standing, half sitting, perched on a bar stool at my counter height table – wishing more than anything I had a nice comfy lounge chair to be outside enjoying the unseasonable end-of-summer heat. I left work early due to back spasms that just aren’t letting up. Fortunately, I have a sweet spouse who offered to swap me massage appointments (we see the same RMT) so that I can get in tomorrow morning, rather than wait until Thursday. In the meantime, I’m trying to get by on ibuprofen, alternating ice and heat.

As usual I’m struggling staying focused on anything. I found some great sources of information to help me hone my desire to do something unique while satisfying my personal goals in life, but as I ran out of time on the day discovered I also lost my focus moving forward. Somehow I need to get back there and continue the momentum. I can see why people need to take week-long hiatuses to go through this process effectively. Unfortunately that’s just not in the cards for me right now. And so I flounder (again).

This back pain is a prime example of how the distractions in my life seem to just take over and interfere. I know that in many cases it’s simply because I have let it happen, in others I just haven’t found the answer yet.

When it comes to my fitness the latter applies. Being diagnosed with fibromyalgia three years ago was at first a bit of validation that I was dealing with something that was not all in my head. But it doesn’t give me any real answers. It hasn’t helped me to feel better. I have tried many strategies, and have managed to improve the situation in bite sizes, however the pain still interferes far too much with my daily life and my long-term goals. I want to be fit. I want to be able to just hop on my bike and do a day trip that involves a long ride there and back. I do not want to be hurting three weeks after every carefully planned attempt at restarting my fitness routine. I have tried so many things. I’m sick of this cycle of un-success. Today I did what feels like the last option (of course I thought that with my last course of action, not knowing about this one). I called a pain management centre I recently learned of. They work with chronic pain sufferers in a self-managed/referred program that will likely involved some pretty dedicated commitment. But if I can get back to daily exercise that is not at the expense of my ability to function, I want it.

Some people would say: if it hurts, then just don’t do it. Many would love a reason to just not bother. But, I know in the long run that if I can find a way to make this work I’ll be healthier for much longer. Sedentary lifestyles result in heart disease, or Type 2 diabetes, or other disease… The short term sacrifice is SO worth the long term gain. Besides, my current mental state will also improve significantly with regular successful physical activity. Whether it is wise or not, I am really banking on this next step making room for significant changes.

Then there are the many other aspects of my life in which I must focus and achieve greater momentum and accomplishments. I started the process of planning, but haven’t completed the nitty gritty yet. I do know that I want to focus on one of my hobbies, learning how to become a better photographer. I bought the camera, and I’ve been playing around with it, but I need a little help getting this ball in motion, so I signed up for a basic municipal recreation evening class in Digital SLR. I can’t wait to get to know my camera and its abilities better!

I also entered a deadline into my calendar for blogging. I need to hold myself accountable. I want to write more. I want to write SOMETHING everyday. I’ve decided that publishing some written work daily on my blog is not entirely realistic for me at this time (just as publishing a photo a day isn’t). So I am committing to two new written entries each week. However, I hope I will somehow make time to write everyday, and then some of that can be stored up for future publishing when I have unforeseen challenges arise (i.e. illness or family obligations). After I start my photography course I’ll commit to two new photo entries each week as well.

These are actions to be added to my life plan that got stalled a week or two ago. They are baby steps, but at least I can feel like I’m doing something.

Dedicated supporter & My fitness/training plan

I am so fortunate to have tremendous support when it comes to bettering my life, in almost any way. If I want to become more learned, he’s behind me. If I need to follow a crazy strict sleep schedule to combat insomnia, he’s behind me. If I want to make more time for my children, he’s behind me. If I want to spend more time with family or friends, he’s behind me. Lately, his support has been focused on helping me get into a regular daily morning exercise routine. So much that he thought he’d rally the troops, by asking my mom for a favour… for her to push my butt out the door on Thursday while I’m at their place… little did he know, it’s a scheduled rest day. 😉

Tomorrow after work I’m heading to my parents (some other big supporters) where my children have been visiting since Sunday. I haven’t seen my girlies, except for a three hour visit on Sunday afternoon. In three weeks (less two days). I miss them, so I’m taking the first chance I’ve got to get to them. I’ll stay overnight and have a nice relaxing visit with mom & dad, then return to the big city (& home) on Thursday morning.

Part of my planning involved the consideration of my fitness routine. And I’ll admit I wasn’t at all disappointed that it would work out that Thursday is a rest day. Of course, I haven’t fully briefed himself on my plan, as it is a work in progress. Since I am prone to fibromyalgia flare-ups, and often overdo it (what seems reasonable for everyone else, often feels fine in the moment, but is a killer for me in the immediate aftermath) I want to be extra careful. I also have a nagging ankle injury that will never entirely be back to normal.

So, I started off a couple of weeks ago with a plan to run 30 minutes (my limit from my physio/osteopath) every morning before work (and the same time every day that I’m not working – to establish a sustainable routine), I didn’t want to give myself an easy out (but in the back of mind mind I was thinking 1-2 rest days/week would be reasonable). However, I don’t want to allow myself to just skip a workout because I found an excuse not to go.

After a few days, my ankle started hurting – so the plan was altered to include rest days when my body tells me I need them. Then I decided to try substituting some cross training once in a while to help prevent the problem while still maintaining the routine. What seems to be working for my body right now, is no more than 2 days in a row of running. And one rest day/week to rest & repair longer than the 24 hrs. It’s all experimental, so I’ve been working through most of this in my head.

The current “training plan”: run 2 days, ride 1, run 2 days, rest 1, run 2 days, ride 1, run 2 days, rest 1, etc. Most weeks I will workout 6 out of 7 days, occasionally the cycle will allow 2 rest days in a week – which allows for a cut-back week.

I know eventually I will need to change things up a bit to make it interesting, but for now the current challenge is to establish the consistent routine of early morning workouts. Since 30 mins seems to be a reasonable limit for me, I thought rather than attempt to increase the length of time I would gradually increase the intensity, as my fitness level improves. When I’m ready to attempt long runs again, I will have a good solid base of weekly mileage to start with.

I won’t run if it hurts me, but I have a plan now that I am going to stick with.

To get back to himself. I am so thankful that he’s thinking about me and that he’s got my back. Hopefully we’re both on the same page of the training plan again. 🙂

Yes, there is still a plan / AKA Writing challenge: throw a topic at me!

I have not entirely completed my current (any) life plan. I haven’t clarified my goals, nor written out my plans: short term, long term and individual to each goal. I believe I must make time to do this, then begin following the plan(s).

Today I decided that any physical activity of some level of intensity of up to 30 mins, everyday would become a part of my fitness plan. There will be some more specific goals and challenging activities, but EVERYday, I will spend up to 30 mins working out. For the time being, this involves swimming during my children’s lessons at the lake each morning. Last week I swam daily and the level of intensity was entirely inconsistent. I took Saturday and Sunday off. Today I decided for this week it will involve swimming across the lake and back (approximately 900 meters).

I want to start working towards each of my goals this way, one small activity weekly or daily depending upon the relevance. Photography: a photo a day, everyday. Photo must be taken in manual mode and be something I am willing to share online. For today I chose to start with reading about getting out of the auto settings (I never use the actual “AUTO”, but the predefined semi-auto are my comfort zone), so I know this involves getting to know my camera better – tomorrow’s task: read the rest of the camera manual.

When it comes to my career related goals, I will need to take more time to eek any semblance of a plan out.

Writing: post at least one blog entry everyday. The toughest part of writing for me is getting started: deciding what to write about. So I decided to start a little experiment. I posted a Tweet/Buzz and Facebook Status asking for topics. I am challenging myself to write about every topic, no matter how strange, boring irrelevant to me. They do not necessarily need to be posted everyday – I may have other ideas that compel me to write as well 😉 , but I will have a running list to refer to and challenge myself with. Unless I start getting more topics thrown at me than I can ever keep up with, then I will need to set some clearer limits and expectations. I have received three suggestions so far. Two I have an idea of where to go with, the third I haven’t looked at yet (I was told not to if I a still on vacation– but realize now, I’ll at least need to add it to my list).

So here’s to moving forward, starting with little baby steps.

***If you have a suggestion for my writing topic challenge please add it to the comments on my blog!

“Blog-storming” a life plan

“Blog-storming” a life plan

Forming a plan. Not as easy as it sounds. I had this fantastic idea last night, that I just need to sit down and truly plan what I want out of my life. Hell!? Where do I begin? Short term? Long term? What aspect of my life? This isn’t a new idea I had, I’ve talked about it many times before. What makes me think THIS TIME, I can come up with something that makes sense and is doable?

I really don’t think that, but I know I must believe it. I am so tired of floundering and considering my options and my million interests and my assets… and my limitations.

Getting started

So, where do I begin? The big vision? Here’s an attempt: One day I hope to see myself with security, with a good quality of life where I need not worry about the future. Having been a mom and a woman making sacrifices for my family and my ideologies, I have very little in the way of a nest egg. I haven’t socked away a big savings, nor established a promising investment for my retirement years, or my children’s future. I would like to see myself able to travel where I choose, when I choose and how I choose. I would like to see myself able to provide the kind of support my family might need, in whatever form that might take. I want to be confident I can take care of life’s surprises, including my (and my family’s) health as well as humanly possible. I want to know that I contribute to a better, more equitable society.

While I’ve always had a lot of ideas of ways I’d like to contribute to society through my career and benevolence, I know that deep down I’d like to find a way to do that while self-employed. Yet, I do not feel confident taking the full-blown plunge into self-sufficiency (i.e. leaving my job and opening a business). However, I have taken the first step towards making it possible, by securing a part-time job in my field that leaves me with time for my family and my other interests and endeavours. Now what is the next step? How/when do I know to take the plunge into a sea of possibilities and unknowns?


What are my dreams? Realistic options? My priorities? And in what order do I pursue them?

Here’s an in-exhaustive list:
Master’s degree
Social business: bookswap & fair trade coffee
Help to establish a Not-for-profit childcare facility (or lobby for public daycare)
Sustainable home (eco-friendly & efficient)
Involved parenting
Significant role in a cause that I’m passionate about
Physical fitness
Accomplishment of at least one of my hobbies/interests (photography; learning another language; musical instruments; etc.)
an orderly, yet comfortable home

What comes first?

What are the immediate priorities for me? I don’t see this as numbered in a sequential order, but more organic in nature. Parenting is at the top of the list to be certain – and with this means juggling the unique needs of a family that is non-traditional: 4.5 years separated/soon-to-be-divorced; and shared custody with their military dad who lives in a neighboring province. Self-employment is something I’d like to begin working towards, and think some of my other dreams fit in towards realizing this (i.e. consulting/freelancing). Advocacy/activism is inherent in my life, but I would like to make it a bigger part of what I do outside of my job – it’s time to assess where my greatest passions are. Physical fitness has to be one of the top priorities. Self care is of course a priority. Aside from my physical health, I acknowledge the need to make time for me. I will pick just one activity to pursue further, a little bit at a time – photography.

Down the road

Where does that leave some of the other dreams? The Master’s degree is something I’d like to pursue sooner, rather than later. I can table this consideration to a slightly later date – deadlines for Canadian Universities are somewhere around December or later for entry into the Fall 2011 start cohort. The social business, may or may not happen – something to keep in my back pocket for now. The childcare centre may fall into the advocacy work that I want to do, or may be something to consider becoming involved with down the road. Consulting/freelancing could easily be an avenue for some of my top priorities and should be a strong consideration for immediate future/present work. Politics is definitely a down-the-road consideration for personal participation, but again could fall in with some advocacy work in the near future. Travel is always something I do, if only in small ways (i.e. daytrips & short vacations). One day when I do not have two young children whose lives would be so greatly disrupted, this will move up on the list of priorities. Gardening can happen when we find the time/money to make some changes to our property. For now, I make small progress in the bits that currently exist. A sustainable home is something that we take baby steps toward everyday. We do the manageable pieces like recycling, changing light bulbs and turning off lights, flushing selectively, etc. One day I’d like to make a bigger investment into equipment that will allow us to reduce our footprint far more substantially. This too will have to wait until we have the financial resources to pursue it further. Playing a significant role in a cause that I’m passionate about, will happen as my advocacy work unfolds. At some point, I will know that I am really making a difference. First I need to find my focus. Accomplishment of at least one of my hobbies/interests is something I can make small steps towards, but I may need to table the really big work until a later stage in my life. Having an orderly, yet comfortable home is something I am continuously trying to achieve. I never feel like I’m “there”, but do feel like there have been big steps in the right direction. With so many other interests, I just have to accept this will never entirely be, without the financial means to hire someone else to maintain it for me. 🙂

So not exactly a plan, but the first step in forming one. After a short break, I will come back to this (today) to try to eek one out.

To recap, my main focuses will be (in no particular order): parenting; becoming self-employed; activism; physical fitness; and hobby: photography.


Drop me a note in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @ceilidhontherun or email me at trish at trishblogs dot com!

I invite you to subscribe to my blog using one of the options available on my page (email, rss, Google Connect, like my page on Facebook, etc.)

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