On September 4th, I launched a little passion project that I thought would be my own space to sort out my thoughts and work through my tough stuff. The moment I had the idea to invite friends to join me, was the moment I felt I had touched on something pretty special.
I expected that everyone would do some sharing, but never did I dream that they would make themselves so vulnerable and write with such courage. I am so proud and grateful for their contributions. Soon I expect that we’ll have some variety in the type of posts that we will be publishing and we will have more to share on the topic of wellness, that won’t necessarily be written essays. We are also committed to put out new content at least six days a week, so you can check in daily.
If you have come across our site just recently, I thought I would take a moment to tell you a bit about the little community we are growing here. I have pulled from the different elements of the site and put it all here in one place for you.
I am writing from the Region of Durham and as of now, the friends who are joining me from our collection of Voices, are all writing from the Greater Toronto Area. I encourage you to check out all of our contributors and maybe you’ll learn something new from a fresh perspective.
What brought us here – The Journey to Wellness:
Everyone has a story. Everyone experiences suffering. Everyone has challenges. Some try to just get on with life and ignore them. Some face them head on and see it simply as a bump in the road. Others put on a happy face, display beautiful snapshots of their happy life on social media and no one ever knows the struggles they are facing in real life.
I have been lost in the haze of dealing with one crisis after another in parenting my three boys (twins with autism and one with mental illness) while juggling a fast-paced career. There was never enough money, never enough time, never enough help. I felt trapped with no options. I was stuck. My stressors couldn’t be reduced as long as I had these boys to take care of. I couldn’t run away from my problems or bury my head in the sand. There were still mouths to feed, crises to manage and bills to pay. If I heard one more person tell me that I needed to take care of myself, I was going to scream. Of course I knew that I had to, but there was no time for gym memberships, no time to catch up on missed doctors appointments and no money to pay for respite so I could run away on a holiday for “self-care”.
But in early 2020, the wheels fell off from the stress. They tell you when on an airplane that if you are traveling with a child, to please put on your own oxygen mask before helping the child. Easier said than done when it goes against every instinct to put your needs first as a parent. But along came a pandemic to shake everything up and put it all into perspective.
Without taking away from the stress and horrors that COVID-19 has brought to countless people around the world, this time of change has been my blessing. Early self-reflection jolted me into finally understanding the importance of that airplane instruction. How could I be in this game for the long haul if I don’t take care of myself first? Thus began my Journey to Wellness and becoming unstuck.
Throughout my life whenever I have felt alone or trapped, writing has been my way out of it. I created this site to share my experiences, stories and learnings to hopefully inspire someone else who might be going through their own struggles. But it occurred to me that because I haven’t got all the answers, I would invite a group of friends who are also on their own journeys, to join me in the sharing. Together, we can get unstuck together.
Our Voices come from different perspectives from everyday people, with struggles touching on themes of disability; ally-ship; battles of mental illness, physical illness and addiction; caregiving and fighting injustices in the world. We may not all share the same views, but this is a space of free speech, inclusivity and respect for each other, while understanding that we all have the same goal of wellness and love for others and our community. I am inspired by each one of these individuals and hope you will be too.
I have been told that life is meant to be full of landmines and shit. It is how we deal with those challenges that defines us and it is how we battle to find the goodness and the joy within those challenging times, that will help us to be at peace. I also believe that giving back and offering a hand to those bogged down in the muck, is our true purpose.
I am getting unstuck myself and with the help of these friends, I believe that we will be well on our journey to wellness together. – Stacey
Willowjak will open hearts and minds towards people with mental health challenges, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Willowjak Journey to Wellness is dedicated to enriching the sometimes difficult conversations on mental health, transformational life changes, disability, diversity and inclusion.
- Inclusion: We foster inclusive communities.
- Diversity: We honour what is unique in each individual.
- Allyship: We commit to continue learning how we can be responsible allies. We choose to make a choice to take a stand against oppression or social injustice and speak out when others can’t or choose not to.
- Empowerment: We create an environment where everyone can bring their authentic selves to the conversation and make it easy for others to do the same. We create opportunities to pursue full potential.
- Respect: We operate in an environment of cooperation, collaboration and dignity.
- Excellence: We elevate standards and performance.
Where we are headed:
In the coming months, I’m looking forward to inviting more contributors to write with us and to have guest contributions on a variety of issues.
We invite you to share our posts and comment on the actual site if you ever have questions or want to start a discussion about something you have read.
There is a lot of work behind the scenes and fortunately, I have @liza-mcclelland and @amy-m helping me. Both of these superstars are helping to manage our Instagram and Facebook accounts as well.
Thank you so much to all of you who have joined us on this ride.
I’m trying my best to pay it forward by dealing hope and sharing stories & tips on caregiving and how to survive hard things. I blog a lot about single parenting my adult twin sons who both have autism, and the challenges we face in surviving the everyday challenges and planning for a future full of unknowns.