Over the last 12 years in Toronto, I saw not much value in developing a community.
I came to the city to achieve my goals… not to play around.
There was “no time” to spend on anything other than what was directly related to manifesting my music and wellness careers, and besides… I didn’t “need” anyone anyway.
That was the story I told myself.
The truth is, I was scared to let anyone get too close because I was privately struggling with anxiety and depression.
I convinced myself I’d end up even lonelier if people knew the real, off stage version of “Janeybworld.”
I rarely felt a sense of belonging unless I was working. I never felt valuable unless I was entertaining or coaching.
The degree of discomfort I felt on a daily basis living in my own body and mind made me feel like a fucking alien.
It was excruciating and suffocating to try and be “present” with myself, so being present for anyone else was impossible.
I lived life like this for a lot of years without knowing what I was missing, or how it was affecting my health to keep my heart closed off to the world around me. However, my attitude changed last year during one of the lowest periods in my life, when I learned just how important connection and community really is to survival.
“Loneliness is at an all time high and has become a health epidemic. It’s a greater predictor of early death than smoking, obesity and obsessive drinking.
Loneliness absolutely kills you.” Brene Brown
It was summer 2017 and despite my upbeat and fast paced life, I was in a very hurting place.
I was heartbroken by the loss of a long term relationship, sleeping on the floor of a friend’s place, dealing with the pressures of having just launched my new business “Fearce Academy” and debilitated from a low back injury that was connected to a giant tumour inside of me.
These circumstances were extremely challenging, but they were more like the “last straws” on an already very heavy load I had been carrying around.
The accumulation of years of fighting for happiness amongst my anxiety disorder, of pretending to be ok when I wasn’t, of keeping myself isolated and disconnected, of feeling like a loser, an outcast, a failure… that’s what was breaking me and robbing my oxygen.
I was drowning in sadness.
I couldn’t see a way out of the ocean of grief and the waves kept coming.
No amount of success I was acquiring was making me happy and I began to feel like I no longer belonged on earth anymore.
These were my first experiences with suicidal thoughts.
A few of my core people held tight to the other end of my rope to help me stay afloat, but had no idea how dark the waters I was in had become.
No one could understand the place I was in; I felt hopelessly by myself.
Psychotherapy was running it’s course; I sounded like a broken record.
Nothing seemed to help; I was burnt out from trying to stay alight.
I was hanging on but slowly giving up.
In a state of deep depression like this, the chemistry of one’s brain changes.
It becomes irrational and misguided.
That was the brain which was convincing me that I was a burden and unloveable, that no one would understand me if I told them the truth, that my life had lived out it’s purpose.
This was the moment some mAgic happened.
We knew nothing about each other at the time, other than the fact that we were both agents of light with a similar message and the intention to be a catalyst for positive change in the world.
This was cause enough for us to collaborate on a “Tuesday Takeover” – a Creating Space Movement campaign, where you swap instagram stories and share your life with the other person’s audience for a day.
Mid-way through the day, Wes revealed to my audience that the “A” in the Creating Space logo:
symbolizes the bridge in Vancouver where he almost took his life during his professional soccer career with MLS.
Right then and there, the anchors around my ankles lightened a little.
I wasn’t alone.
Here was someone else- just like me- who has been where I am.
This incredible voice, creator, leader and impactor was now thriving despite his mental health battles.
Wes survived the suicidal demons, therefor so would I.
Then, more magic.
A close friend from his Charlotte network who lives by the law of “collaboration over competition,” (owner of wellness establishments “Kadi” and “bloc”- an acronym for “Building Lifestyle On Community”) Katie Dixon showed up in my DMs with a simple, yet powerful message of encouragement.
Unafraid to voice her admiration for my vocal skills and messages of hope, she let me know I was seen, appreciated and that who I am matters.
I reciprocated my awe for the many gifts she was sharing with the world and in the coming weeks what started as an Instagram message between us, lead to an 8 hour phone call of sharing and manifesting, which lead to 4 months of traveling back and forth from Toronto to Charlotte for collaboration, creativity and connection.
The motivational talks, performances, fitness classes and mini documentaries we did together are just a few unforgettable moments that I’m sure will lead to more greatness in due time, but those were secondary gifts to the bigger gems I found in Charlotte.
When Katie plucked me out of my world and put me into hers, she showed me a place where community and family is number one to all.
She welcomed me into her home, with her family and her people and proved to me that I can be loved not just for what I do, what I can accomplish, or who I used to be… but for simply being me.
Her community of friends and family followed suit.
One of our dear, mutual friends Lo Myrick (Life Coach, Business Consultant) even handed me over the keys to her car and apartment while she was travelling, at the beginning of our friendship.
Needless to say she is now one of my best friends and has held tight to the end of my rope in several scary places since then.
The generosity, the kindness, the genuine desire to connect just for sake of sharing energy and uplifting each other was extremely powerful in the Charlotte & Cornelius communities.
These people didn’t have to support me. They didn’t have to like me. They didn’t even have to be nice to me. But that’s just the way this place works. People value people. People care. People trust. People love.
I saw this. I felt this. And it changed my understanding of who I thought I was.
All along, the story I told myself to keep me protected from feeling the pain of disconnection, was that I was a nomad- always roaming, never really belonging.
Of course, this only kept me more disconnected.
Who I see now is a person that if brave enough to let others into her heart, is WORTHY of their love.
I see a person full of love to give others.
I see a person that not only belongs in Charlotte, but also in LA, Toronto, Costa Rica, the wilderness, the ocean, the grocery store, cafes, the stage, under a random tree in a park… Everywhere.
I belong everywhere.
I belong on Earth. In this life.
I belong HERE.
When the waves of life become rough and the anchors around our ankles threaten to pull us under, it’s human connection that holds the rope while we fight for our lives. It’s community where we can find resilience to carry on.
Ultimately, we are the ones who have to keep swimming to survive; we are the answers to our own lives. However, if the anchors are too heavy, we can paddle has hard as we’re able, but might not have enough strength to pull ourselves out of the water without the support of others.
When our community is strong, it proves us wrong when we’re thinking we have no purpose or don’t belong.
If we can be brave enough to start leaning into our people, we will not only find that we belong, we will also discover we have the capacity to help others feel like they belong too.
Community then, is no longer just a “lifestyle,” it’s a lifeline.
To my communities in Charlotte, LA, Toronto and the Thousand Islands: You know who you are. Thank you for never giving up on me.
Thank you for showing me I BELONG HERE.
IMPORTANT INFO: SUICIDAL THOUGHTS
I can’t say for sure what would have happened if I continued to suffer in isolation, but I can say where it has lead many others’ struggling with mental illness who in some way or another didn’t have the support they needed:
Robin Williams (suicide), Whitney Houston (overdose), Chester Bennington of Linkin Park (suicide), Amy Winehouse (overdose), Anthony Bourdain (suicide) … and the list goes on and on.
Mental illness doesn’t have to spawn out of a messed up childhood or from a monumental catastrophe that takes place mid-life.
It can happen to any one of us, for any reason, at any time.
It’s a continuum.
Suicidal thoughts are more common than you think, but not to be taken lightly.
If you are beginning to fantasize about death or illness, please find the courage to reach out to those you trust.
If you’re not sure who to trust, below are some resources which I can personally vouch for.
To those who know someone struggling: it is not your job to “fix” them. They are not broken.
Your only job is to be human and connect with them where they are at, not where you wish they were at.
Show them they are seen, heard and that their lives matter. Then, refer them to a professional who is qualified to help them further.
Start talking. And start actually connecting when people start talking.
This is how we end the stigma.
This is how we survive.
WE BELONG HERE.
Counselling & Therapy Resources: