Everything the Life is Sweet project has taught me

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I wasn't sure what to expect when I announced the Life is Sweet project. I knew that I was going to produce a show to honour my mom's life and put together a month of blog posts about people's experiences with mental illness and loss. I knew that I wanted to honour my mom's memory, get people talking about mental illness and share my perspective on life. I didn't realize how much more I (and those around me) would gain from the experience. Here are some things I've learned along the way:

I have learned that given the right opportunity, nearly anyone can share their story. I have been so moved by the candor, bravery and respect that has been shown on my blog this month. I have heard from many of the guest bloggers that writing their post has changed their life and that they were grateful for the opportunity. If you haven't already, take some time to go and read their posts and share their stories. I am so indebted to them for all of their honesty and love. As a result of the show and the blog, many others that I know as well as complete strangers have opened up to me and shared how mental illness and loss has impacted their lives.  Many have asked to write next year if I decide to do the blog project again.

Curating a month of blog posts about mental illness, mental health, death, grief and many other intense subjects requires you to be an editor, confidante, friend, cheerleader and therapist. It is fulfilling, demanding and oh-so worth it.

When your very first solo show sells out ten days before the event, you will cry at your desk and then run around skipping. And squeal. A lot. And probably cry some more.

Amid songs and stories about the life and suicide of your mom, you may still make people laugh and remind them of all the good in their lives. The experience will be surreal. Enjoy every second.

I have learned that 15 years after her death, I can feel closer to my mom than I have in many years. Family members have told me the same thing. This connection is beautiful and probably something I am most thankful for.

This project has taught me that even with the dreary skies, cold days and sad feelings, February can be an okay month. It's still not my favourite, but this project made me feel happier than I have in as many Februaries as I can remember.

I've learned that after a sold out show filled with a loving, kind, beautiful audience, you may come crashing down a bit and spend a weekend feeling all the emotions you would normally feel in a whole month. This won't be easy, but with the right support system, manageable.

I have learned that those of us dealing with mental health concerns are truly not alone and how important it is to be there for those who need the extra support. A huge number of people have reached out to tell me how this project has touched them and have agreed that it is something that we need to be talking about and focusing our energies upon. This isn't a one day effort or a month long effort - it needs to be happening year round. I have gained a whole new network of people who share this belief and trust that they will help to keep the conversation going and work towards erasing the negative stigma and helping those who need it.  #letstalk

I have been reminded what incredible friends and family and supporters I have in my life. Everyone's love, kindness and generosity has been wonderful. Thank you for all that you've done to help me bring this project into fruition.

Above all else, I have confirmed that life truly is sweet.

I never doubted this fact but the show and blog posts and the support I have received from my friends, family, bloggers, Facebook friends and twitter followers has been unbelievable.  I recently fell in love with the quote "there is so much beauty that you haven't seen yet. don't give up now" And that resonated so deeply.

Sometimes we are faced with more than we think we can handle.

Push through.
Ask for help.

You will get through it and come out stronger on the other side.

Life is sweet in spite of the challenges that come our way and I hope that this project has been a reminder of that for you too.

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