Life is Sweet, Even in February

It's been 15 years since my mom committed suicide.

In 15 years I've finished junior high, high school, college and attended nutrition school, started 8 jobs, performed in countless shows, dated, been engaged, been in love, traveled to cities in North America, Europe and the Caribbean and moved out on my own. I've loved and lost and my mother's death has been a part of all of it, every step of the way. Since high school, I've been very open in talking about my mom, her depression and her suicide. When I started writing this blog I never had the intentions of sharing her story through my writing, but on Mother's Day in 2009, I went there

Her life and death is a part of who I am, ingrained deep within my DNA and all of my being. Every February I am faced with a bleak, cold month in Toronto with my mom's death anniversary on February 24th to top it all off. For the last couple of years I've made concerted efforts to do something nice for myself on that day to make it easier to cope and to honour my mother. 

This year I decided to create something that has been rumbling in my soul for a long time. On February 22nd at 9:30pm, I will be performing in a show called "Life is Sweet, Even in February" to honour my mom. The show will feature a range of songs that my mum enjoyed and songs that remind me of her alongside stories of her life, our time together, the impact of her mental illness and my journey through healing after her death. I've been collaborating with musical director Tara Litvack on the show and I'm thrilled that this project is going to culminate in my very first solo show. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and proceeds from the show's ticket sales will be donated to the CAMH Foundation.  

More details are available on the Facebook event or Pubaret website, or you can just head straight to the ticket site to secure your spot!

Ashley Gibson
MJS Photography
And then that brings us to the blog. 

As I've said, I've been very candid in discussing my mum's death and wanted to give a voice to other people affected by mental illness, depression, loss and all these things we don't talk about. As a society we so often neglect to openly discuss these concerns and in many cases, thy are are shrouded with an incredibly negative stigma. Health Canada's 2002 Report on Mental Illness stated that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime. The remaining 4 will have a friend, family member or colleague who will. With these presenting concerns affecting all of us directly or indirectly, I truly believe that it is imperative that we learn how to talk about them with one another and work together to get rid of the negative stigma.

Over the month of February I will be hosting blog posts from friends, family and bloggers who will be sharing their personal accounts of experience with mental illness, depression, anxiety and loss. I am so proud of all of these people for sharing their stories, and believe that in the act of sharing we will truly confirm that no one is alone. I've utilized my network to also include posts from practitioners on strategies for dealing with mental illness, as well as posts on working through challenges in life and finding the light and love in all of it. 

I don't believe that there is one answer to dealing with the challenges we face in our lives, and I hope that through this month of guest posts I have covered a wide range of experiences, ideas and opinions. My guest bloggers range in age from early 20's to late 60's. They are men and women from all walks of life. Some will share their identities openly, while others will remain anonymous. All of them believe in the power of sharing their stories and perspectives, and I am so honoured to have them on my blog. I hope that you'll visit the blog for their posts throughout February and share the content via your own networks and by using the hashtag #lifeissweet on the Twitter

I've been sending out press releases about the show and the project and have set up a few interviews. I'm grateful to the people who have already offered to share details of the project through their blogs. If you would like more information about the show, the project or would like to feature any of the information on your blog or site, please send me a note and I will be in touch. 

Why Life is Sweet?

A friend gave me lyrics to Natalie Merchant's song Life is Sweet sometime around the 9th or 10th grade. The chorus goes "Oh they told you life is hard, misery from the start, it's dull, it's slow, it's painful / But I tell you life is sweet, in spite of misery, there's so much more, be grateful" and this has always resonated with me deeply. 

In everything that has happened to me in my life, I have tried to maintain a positive attitude and outlook on the world. This has proved to be hard at times, but I've come to learn that life truly is sweet, even when faced with difficulties, challenges and sadness. We have so much to be thankful for and I hope that through this project I will be able to honour someone who had a profound impact on my life, get people talking, work towards raising awareness and removing the stigma around mental illness and also inspire hope and positivity in those who encounter the project with the message that life truly is sweet

7 comments:

Nancy D said...

Thank you for this... this post, the show, and the blog project to come. What a wonderful way to help remove the stigma. I struggle with depression, and I find strength in places where I can talk about my story and hear the stories of others. I'll be away at the time of your show, but would love to donate the price of a ticket. I'll DM you!

LauraA said...

Love it - so excited for what's to come on the blog and especially for the show!

Heather said...

Sweet, sweet girl. Your message made me cry. Thank you for sharing your story.

VeganLisa said...

Ashley, you are such a gift to this world. Thank you for sharing your energy, your insights and your passions with us all. I look forward to following along all month, crying, celebrating and resonating with the honest words of pain and love that make up our lives. Thank you.

Amanda said...

Finally, I know what #lifeissweet is!

I think that bringing some light to the issues around mental illness is one of the best ways to spend a February, and I am so proud of you for tackling it in such a public way. Hugs!

Unknown said...

Really love your project! And Life Is Sweet is/was a fave song of mine, it resonated with me as well. :)

Rae said...

I'm so impressed that people are finally starting positive conversations about mental illness. THIS is a trend I can support. ;)

I write about a fairly misunderstood disorder at my blog. I'd love to be a part of your project, if not this year, than next, so I can help dispel the myths about compulsive hoarding disorder.