#BellLetsTalk is this week here in Canada, and this event, which brings awareness and raises funds for mental health initiatives in Canada, was what first got me talking about my husband’s struggle with depression and anxiety (you can read my previous blog posts here and here).
Since opening up about how we deal with mental health in our marriage, I have received letters from people around the world (and from friends close to home), opening up about their struggle either with depression personally, or with their struggle in coping with their partner’s mental illness.
When you are the partner of someone with a mental illness, there is often a lot on your plate. You might be the recipient of a lot of negativity. You might be the person fielding questions you don’t know how to answer. And if you are a mom, you are the glue holding everything together for your kids.
It is easy to feel so alone and like no one understands what you are going through- and the truth is, it is a really hard thing to understand unless you have been there.
So this year in honour of #BellLetsTalk, I’ve recorded a video on my YouTube channel on the questions I get asked most frequently on how I cope with my husband’s depression and anxiety. To watch it, click here or click on the video below.
Here are the top strategies that have helped us to cope with mental illness in our marriage:
1. REDUCE STRESS IN THE HOME
You might be thinking, Lisa, you have 6 little kids- how on earth do you reduce stress at home?!?! So of course, there are certain things I cannot control, like the noise or mess that my wonderful little people make. But I do control things that add to stress in our home, like how busy our schedule is, and how often / late I work. I found providing as much predictable stability as possible in our home life, especially in regards to our schedule, played a huge impact in coping with mental illness.
2. WE DON’T MAKE PLANS TOO FAR IN ADVANCE
This one might sound a bit funny to the outsider, but it very much is tied to the first point above. We don’t commit to things too far in advance simply so that we have the flexibility to stay home if we need a quiet evening in. It does not mean we don’t plan ever (we book holidays in advance, doctor’s appointments, etc), but where social engagements are concerned, we simply prefer to be more flexible. We sometimes book visits with friends as short as the day of, and this has helped to eliminate unnecessary pressure in our home, which has proved to be so helpful for us.
3. I HAVE LEARNED TO LET GO OF CONTROL
This is a really tough one for me. I REALLY LIKE TO PLAN! And in the beginning, having to cancel plans because my husband was too anxious or overwhelmed to go out, was very difficult for me. But I have learned over the years, that being more flexible helped EVERYONE. Conflicts over what time we go to church, or preferences in how the dishwasher is loaded, used to bring about a great deal of stress. And now, I work hard to simply be more flexible with this stuff- and it has really helped us cope. It doesn’t mean I never express my preferences or become a “sacrificial lamb” so to speak- but not sweating the small stuff and being more flexible in thought and action have proved to help things immensely.
4. BE KIND RATHER THAN CORRECT
When I did not understand mental illness in the beginning, I really thought it was something that could be “corrected” or “fixed” rather quickly. I have learned that this is simply not the case. Depression and anxiety is an ongoing illness that needs to be managed, by a combination of good lifestyle choices, medical professionals, and sometimes medication. In the past, I used to use phrases like “can you just make up your mind” or “can you keep up” or “just snap out of it” or “just relax!” But again, I learned that these don’t really work very well. What I find helps us both to cope in periods of anxiety and depression, are empathetic phrases like, “that must be really difficult,” or “wow, that must be really hard.” Of course, this is easier to type than to say sometimes in the moment, but experience has shown me it really is a more effective approach and helps us cope and thrive.
5. GO ON DATES
Going on regular dates in an essential part of how we cope with mental illness in our marriage. I find it’s like medication in a way, and when we don’t do it regularly, we feel the absence of it. It might seem like an impossible task to add to the list, especially when it feels like you are juggling so many things already, but trust me when I say it is so important. The depressed person can sometimes tell themselves a viciously negative story: “it would be easier on everyone if I wasn’t around, I should just leave to make everyone else’s lives easier, I am such a burden to everyone I love.” I so badly want my husband to understand how UNTRUE this is when this story gets in his head. Having regular date nights I have found helps this narrative not speak so loud!
6. GET AND ACCEPT HELP YOURSELF
When you are carrying the heavy load of supporting your spouse, and it feels like too much to handle on your own, get your own help. There are loads of ways to support your own mental health. For me personally, I turn to prayer, non-judgemental friends who just listen and don’t try to fix anything, and the support of professional counselors and therapists as necessary.
Accept help when it is offered- if someone offers to babysit, or cook a meal for you, take it.
Finally, if you would prefer to speak to someone anonymously and just vent emotions you have that you might not share with someone you know personally, there are 24/7 distress lines available by region (here are the ones in the Greater Toronto Area). One day I was so overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, resentful and melancholic, that I spent a good 45 minutes with a very kind and compassionate woman on the Toronto Distress Line and boy did it help me cope.
Finally, and I hope this really comes across in my YouTube video, what I wish everyone knew about mental illness and marriage, is that there is SO MUCH HOPE. You CAN live with depression and anxiety and have a healthy marriage, fulfilling work life, and joy-filled existence. It took us about three years to figure out strategies that work, and we are learning every day, but now we live on the other side of coping with mental illness. We have climbed out of the trench, seen the light, and when we fall back into the trenches again, we have the experience of knowing we have survived a bad experience in the past, and will survive it again.
To learn more about how you can participate in #BellLetsTalk, click here. And to read our full story on how depression has impacted our marriage, click here.
I have developed a free resource that I hope will help any spouse supporting a person with mental illness. Just enter your email below to get my “Positive Self Talk Guide for Spouses of Persons with Mental Illness”
My life as an entrepreneur takes me to all kinds of interesting places, and can put interesting demands on my time. And with 6 kids at home, fitting everything in can be a logistical exercise to say the least! So today on the blog, I thought I would share with you how I sneak in individual time with my baby, and get a few practical things for myself and my family done at the same time. I've partnered with Bugaboo on this post to share how the new Bugaboo Donkey2 helps me do it all.
Working from home requires a lot of discipline, and sometimes I just don't have it! So a hack I have to be more productive is to bring my laptop to my local shopping center, set a timer for no more than an hour, and be focused on a single task like writing an article, or updating my website. Limiting the amount of time it takes to complete a task, and thinking about the reward that will come on the other end is hugely motivating for me!
And baby James can keep a watchful eye on my progress sitting up in Bugaboo's newest iteration of their popular multi-purpose stroller, the new Bugaboo Donkey2. Versatile for children from birth and beyond, it's a stroller that really expands to the needs of your family (you can see what the stroller looks like as a side by side stroller for my two youngest children here). And I just love how you can customize the design to your taste, with three base fabric colour options and 11 different colour options for the sun canopy and side luggage basket cover.
My treat post successful work session is a good old healthy green juice! It's a fast and efficient way to get some energy, and stay on the go. Plus, it makes me feel better about my regular consumption of poutine and chicken fingers.
Paying for my treats is made super convenient with the side luggage basket- the new basket has a small inner pocket for your keys, wallet and cell phone. Plus, the zippered basket cover keeps inquisitive little fingers from things you don't want to lose!
After a quick refuel, it's time to make sure my family is fueled. A quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some essentials for my family is next on the agenda.
I don't know about you, but grocery shopping with kids can sometimes be a hard task depending on the time of day and everyone's moods. So I like to keep it short, and sweet, and keep the shopping trip as efficient as possible to keep everyone happy. I like having a very clear list of what I need, and organize the list by aisle so zipping in and out is truly possible.
With foam wheels and incredible maneuverability, I can dart in and out of grocery aisles pretty quickly. Ample groceries fit in the under carriage of the stroller (my family drinks a lot of milk so this is so helpful!) And the capacity of the side luggage basket has been doubled to now accommodate 22 lbs. of storage- perfect for delicate items like baguettes, grapes and eggs.
As I have shared many times before on this blog, the balance of work and family isn't always an easy task. But with strategic planning, and building your schedule around your greatest priorities, I am such a believer that balance and fulfillment is possible.
Special thanks for Bugaboo for partnering with me on this post. For more info on the new Bugaboo Donkey2, click here.
Where I live in Toronto, Canada, we have had an incredibly cold winter. Like minus 30, freeze your toes, can't feel your face cold. And these cold temperatures have got me craving everything spring! But until then, it's cozy scarves, fur blankets, and doing everything I can to stay cozy at home.
So in the spirit of staying cozy at home, I am excited to be partnering with Dimplex, the leader in electric heating, and creator of some incredibly beautiful electric fireplace units. Now, I know what you might be thinking- an electric fireplace? Can you really use the word electric fireplace, and beautiful, in the same sentence?
In a recent project I have affectionately been calling A Tale of Two Houses, I designed two homes, for two neighbours, with totally different styles. The houses are mirror images of each other, and their styles are totally different (one more modern, and one more traditional).
So when it came time to design the bedrooms, I knew I wanted a fireplace in each of them. Fireplaces in the bedroom, regardless of what climate you live in, are so essential to me- so I want to walk you through why I think every bedroom needs a fireplace.
1. Nothing like that ambient glow
A fireplace provides an ambient glow that is just so cozy, and inviting, in a bedroom. I love making a bedroom feel like an escape, and a sanctuary. And an ambient glow does just that for me!
In this bedroom, we used some pretty amazing technology by Dimplex called Opti-myst. Opti-myst is revolutionary ultrasonic technology that creates a lifelike flame and smoke look using water. Check out how the "flame" dances in my YouTube video here. The technology allows for some pretty cool installation opportunities, including 360 degree, free standing units, with no glass enclosure! In this bedroom I designed, the "flame" dances around in the open space in a truly magical way- and is a great option where little fingers that may get burned are a concern.
2. Controllable heat
While I definitely use gas fireplaces in my projects, one downside of gas is that it gets incredibly hot, incredibly quick. And in a small space, it can be overwhelming. A benefit of electric in a bedroom, especially those on the smaller size, is that you can control the heat really well. In this bedroom, we used the 34" Prism Series by Dimplex. Simple installation, a beautiful modern aesthetic, and controllable heat make this a winner for me, especially in smaller bedrooms.
Don't get me wrong- when I am freezing outside and want to warm up, quick heat is essential. But I also don't want to feel uncomfortably hot- so I love how you can control the heat level with a remote control- even from bed!
3. Easy install and instant results
This is the major benefit that an electric fireplace unit has over other options- incredibly simple installation. You can in many cases, in an afternoon, pick up and install your fireplace in your bedroom and have instant warmth in your space (caveat- you will need to make sure you have the correct electrical outlet to handle the amperage of the fireplace- but other than that, install can be very simple!) Warmth and ambiance can be only a few steps away!
How are you staying warm this winter? Leave me a comment below and let me know : )
Special thanks to Dimplex for partnering with me on this blog post. I work very hard to research the brands I work with to provide info that will make your life more beautiful, and more functional.
A very happy new year dear readers!!! I hope the holidays were restful, meaningful, and full of joy. As I sit down to write this blog post, I am surrounded by boxes as we prepare to move our family into our brand new home!
2017 was a year of adventure and change, and today I thought it might be fun to look back at some key moments from the last year that had a huge impact on me and my family- so I invite you take this somewhat sentimental trip down memory lane.
1. I launched and grew my YouTube Channel
I had been dabbling in YouTube in previous years, but last year was the year I really committed to my channel. What I have loved about YouTube is the conversations I have started with other moms who are seeking balance and beauty in their lives- particularly, I have loved the conversations on my videos on Should a Mom Work and Should You Cruise With Kids. And I loved collaborating with Rachhloves on her kids’ rooms, and my reveal of my Tale of Two Houses project. Video is just so much fun and I look forward to more of it in 2018.
2. We sold our house
We always knew when we moved into this house our family would eventually outgrow it. And since we have expanded fairly rapidly since we have moved in (6 children in 8 years!!!) the time just felt right to move forward and sell. I will miss this house so much, and grateful I got to leave my mark on it in a meaningful way with all our renovations! Literally every single square inch was tackled. Here’s my living room and kitchen, my master bedroom and bathroom, my basement,my home gym, my laundry room, and my backyard. I think I am going to miss that backyard most of all!!!
3. I started coaching moms
As I shared in this blog post, it has always been on my heart to one day help moms beyond interior design. A quick background on this: when I started my career, when I would go to a cocktail party or even of any kind, people would find me and pick my brain about their kitchen remodel, or ask where to buy a good sofa. But as the years went on and I had 6 children in 8 years, the conversations at parties and industry events would always turn to how in the heck I managed to balance things. So I knew eventually I would do more on this but it was always a little foggy to me how.
I have just launched my first 6-week coaching program, and am excited to grow this new arm of my business. Stay tuned for more info in 2018!
4. I spoke to 1000 students at a major conference
This one will go in the books as a huge breakthrough for me both personally and professionally. I was invited to give the opening night keynote at Catholic Christian Outreach’s annual conference between Christmas and New Year’s called Rise Up. I spoke to 1000 Catholic University students from across Canada, and spilled quite a few things about myself I wouldn’t exactly voluntarily tell you if you know what I mean. But I did- and “all my secrets” as my 8 year old called them, are forever recorded here if you are interested in watching my talk on involving God in your plans.
5. I completed some really fun sponsored makeovers
I had the pleasure of working with a few brands this year on some amazing room makeovers, for some amazing homeowners. This bathroom, this laundry room, this kitchen, this kitchen, and more! So grateful for the partnerships I have made over the year, and how interior design can really transform a family’s life!
5. We celebrated 10 years of marriage
For our tenth wedding anniversary we decided to really do it up and celebrate. We renewed our vows, and gathered some friends together, and partied. My husband asked if I could live our wedding over again, or our anniversary party over again, which one would I want to do? And honestly, I would do our anniversary party over again! Because when you marry someone, you’re celebrating the promise, and the hope, and the joy in a new commitment. But in an anniversary, you are celebrating survival, you are celebrating commitment, and we got to do it with all our children present which was honestly just the best. Take a peek at the festivities here.
6. We are having another baby!
When we sold our house, we just felt so sure that it was the right time. Lots of people told us we were crazy for selling in the winter, right before Christmas, and that we would get so much more money if we waited until the Spring. But something kept telling me to keep on course- I had such a strong conviction that selling at the time was right. Well, God of course has the best plans, and His timing is pretty amazing. We found out we were pregnant with baby #7 the night before we signed the papers on our house sale- i.e. we had no idea we were pregnant when we listed the house for sale. Finding out we are growing our family again is probably my favourite gift of 2017.
It was a year of wild adventure, and I am so grateful to you for coming along for our journey. Here’s to a year of hope and more adventure for us all in 2018!!!!