Be Confident

I almost made a massive mistake regarding my eldest son. Today I was seconds away from ruining his confidence based on his choices. My partner was the one to step in and make me realize there are things that I do as a mother that goes against teaching my son to be a confident human who can love himself.

I try to tell my children to love who they are despite what other people say. This is a core image I want them to hold for their entire lives. I try to teach my children to love their bodies and minds and encourage understanding that their bodies are temples. If they love their temples and treat it well good things will happen to them. I want them to love themselves wholesomely, so they can grow with the world and enter as brightly as they came into it.

My eldest son struggles some days with loving who he is because other people bully him for his personality and his disabilities. This year has been one big disaster of other boys trying to tear him down for whom he is. This year he not only had boys his age bully him but adults as well. School had become a mental prison to him. I have watched him come home in such a state that I tore into his teachers and started fighting back against his fellow peers. No child should through life being told he is a disappointment nor should have the words kill yourself said. No human should have this abuse placed on them.

His disabilities do no define my son if anything I applaud his strength in living with them. He refuses to let his disabilities hold him back. He is this amazing little man with a bold sense of the world. Despite struggling with autism and juvenile osteopathic arthritis, he courageously faces each day with a can do attitude. His issues do not lie with himself but from others. Others see his disabilities as inconveniencing and annoying. Instead of treating him with open mindedness and encouragement they meet him with discouraging opinions. My eyes have been opened this year to how vile and disgusting people can be to others and chose to target those different. My son is being activity bullied due to his differences by his teacher and peers alike. It is my job as his mother to fight for him and show him love for himself to combat those discouraging lack of values in others.

I lost sight of that image today, and I am so grateful my partner reminded me of why we teach him to be confident. As he picked out an outfit that had pink stripes, green shorts, and a fedora with gold flecks, he came to me beaming with pride of his new-found outfit. I looked at it and almost told him to put it back because I didn’t want others bullying him based on looks. My partner stopped me mid sentence and said doesn’t this make him look great. I stopped and re looked at my child, he had the biggest grin on his face. Pride filled his eyes, he was unique. Instead of making him put the outfit back and chose one to fit the norms of society I let him keep it. It doesn’t matter if anyone else dislikes it; as long as he is happy in his body, no one else can take away the pride that he feels.

I often forget the message that I try to convey to my sons. Love yourself and be prideful in your choices. It is not our place in the world to dash the hopes and dreams of tiny humans, instead it is our place to lead by example and show them the pathway to true self happiness.

My son on Canada Day 2018.

Written by Ali Johnson

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Reality Television and It’s Core Image.

American reality television is opposite of the name it portrays. It follows a script that displays poor human behaviour allowing overtly dramatic scenes that lack common human decency. With channels that have the name learning in them, they lack any sense of education within the content showed. After viewing clips on YouTube I found several concerning situations, in the content some examples of this are emotional abuse, child abuse, and scenes of physical abuse. When watching any kind of television one has to understand that it is a far stretch from reality and should not be copied in normal life settings.

With that being said unfortunately many young minds are impressionable. There are people who cannot distinguish fact from fiction and believe what they see and hear. They will watch the abusive natures on television under false premise of ” reality t.v” and feel that the behaviours shown are acceptable. Abusive cycles are hence force carried out from the impressionable viewer.

Television can be a great teaching tool for children or building dreams of future jobs. Not all television is degrading but with vast majority of shows becoming false reality it creates a false morality of displayable behaviour. Most people on reality TV are in it for the money they garner from the shows. Viewers then tune in to these shows allowing for them to remain on air. When shows display utterly abusive or criminal behaviour without any repercussions This sends a message that abuse is completely normal to carry out on others.

As viewers of television there needs to be a call of change on content showed or these shows will remain on air continuing the cycles of abuse. Mandating the voice to end or change reality television could potentially change the future generations in how they act towards other people. Instead of supporting shows with drug abuse, child abuse, and other various forms of abuse we can stop watching these shows completely and take the power away from the abusers who thrive.

Quality over content could save lives and how other people treat each other. Shows on television do not need to be complete human garbage, instead it can go back to education and compatibility to change generations long after the last. Our voices and actions are the change. It starts with potential viewers turning off and speaking out about shows that display abuse and give suggestions for better quality.

In the words of MR. Rodgers, one of the most influential television personas
“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

Written by Ali Johnson


Photo by George Coletrain on Unsplash

Focusing On Men’s Mental Health

I remember a time when I was arguing with my husband; in a moment of causing verbal pain, I yelled at him saying you don’t have to balance anything. The words lingered in the air like bait waiting for the fish to bite. Instead of firing back at me he just simply said I balance just like you, I’m just not as verbal about it. Taken back by that I had a deeper look into what men go through on a daily basis. We as society forget that men have to have balance in their lives just as women do.

We had a moment in our relationship where my partner was feeling depressed. He wouldn’t admit to it but it became noticeable. He was not eating nor sleeping well. One of the more noticeable signs was his anger at little things. He felt that he was burdened with copious amounts of responsibility with no hope to move forward. In his mind he was struggling to be the man that he was told to be. This is a common notion among men in our generation. Having the title ” be the man” creates a monster in helping men understand getting help is not a weakness.

Part of the problem of older generations is the toxic masculinity placed on young boys to suck up their feelings and just deal with it. So when depression and mental illness do arise people like my partner push down their struggles and refuse help. This is problematic for young men who will continue the cycle of trying to be manly with no support system to cope when these hidden illnesses come about. It creates a lack of understanding on what needs to be done to create better supports for fathers, children, and young men.

We as society have to see a different ideal and better understanding of what men go through. Breaking the mould of toxic masculinity is a big step that starts with talking to younger generations about acceptance of feelings. The next big leap for helping men in mental health is breaking the stigma that men do not need mental support because they do not suffer like women do. The third big step in changing this is stop portraying men as bad parents and treating them as unintelligent. We as society need to support younger generations of males and give help to guide them instead of breaking them down. By giving support there would be changes in parenting, changes in suicide rates, changes in quality of life among males. Stronger futures can be made given the chance to pave the way for our sons, brothers, fathers, and boys only if we can end toxic masculinity within our mindsets.

Written by: Ali Johnson

The Art Of Apologizing

In life, we have to offer apologizes to those that we hurt.

I dislike having to apologize for when I’m wrong. It takes swallowing my pride and seeing my flaws to even utter the smallest I’m sorry. I used to say it because it was ingrained into me as a way to not get beat down. So now when I say sorry It needs to hold true value. Recently I noticed there are tons of people I need to apologize to and make better relationships. When I said sorry the first time I wasn’t properly using the word, I only said it to get out of trouble much like children do.

Apologizing is tough because it can go two ways; it can get accepted and your life together moves on, or it gets rejected and everything crashes and burns. There is an art to saying I’m sorry to make it critical in acceptance. The art form has to come from the heart and mind working together. If either one of them doesn’t mean the apology the canvas of that apology is wiped clean, but there is a second part to the apology form. The second part is stand behind every single word of the apology given. You cannot back pedal once you stated why you are sorry.

The best way to apologize is have a reason to utter the words I’m sorry. The beginning of the statement follows “I’m sorry for” enter the reasons here. If you say I’m sorry ensure your body language follows up with your reasons and words. This leads back to merit of apology. If your body does not sync with the rest of the thought and emotion it will become lost. Full honesty must be given forward to the other person wronged. As humans, we deserve respect and honesty with great patience to see human error.

Given the apology is out in the open for interpretation following through is key. In the words of my eight year old no take backs (seat belt, buckle clause). Disadvantaging the person who received the apology creates a destructive pattern of false honesty. In other words mean it, seal it, move on with it. Be a better person and do better for the person that was hurt.

Given that as humans we are flawed in nature we have a chance to correct or mistakes. Some of those mistakes can be corrected by saying I’m sorry for my actions. Ownership of fragility is not showing weakness but the giving the ability to move forward for a better future. It is well-known that humans are prideful, but we can also put our personal issues aside and work together. To ensure this notion we as humans have to receive the ability to accept flaws of others and ourselves.

Written by Ali Johnson

The Start Of a Good Day

I cleaned up my house today and it was better than sex. That was a bold statement but I mean it. Cleaning up your home after weeks of letting depression and anxiety take over it feels good to start fresh. Letting go of all the tension that built up with every piece of avoidance is refreshing.

I hate cleaning during my bad days. My bad spells with my mental illness contain disorganization and discontent on what needs to be done. The laundry piles in the hamper I will keep washing the same clothes over and over again. I only rinse the dishes enough to appear clean but it’s still not my best effort. What other people call lazy to me it’s the thought process of feeling tired. I feel as if my brain is foggy and doing these chores are exhausting. I know when these spells hit my house is the image of what is going on inside my head.

My anxiety makes it hard to focus on my priorities. I often fight within my thoughts as to why the fracture of reality. To one who does not struggle with anxiety they would say just get it done you will feel better. The thing is even when I try to get motivated the brain fog clouts my enjoyment. The challenge of responsibility feels like somebody tied an anvil to my body and said jump. Part of self care and mental health treatment is to know your limits. The more I tried to just get things done, created tension and rising frustration. I kept hearing my aunts voice saying it’s not clean enough and do it over.

Once her voice takes over in the mental compartment I will clean but then obsession takes over. Nothing is ever clean enough no matter if I scrubbed it ten times over. I then start the process of self-destruction. I count my fingers, I need six things to tap, and I will not eat food. Once this process starts; I cannot take enough showers to get rid of my dirty body. I will pick at my skin in stress and find flaws everywhere, nothing is clean enough. These are the lowest of low points in dealing with my anxiety.

Today I felt motivated I cleaned up my home the way I wanted. I felt good enough to eat and control the urge to binge and starve. Tonight I will practice yoga and let it all go again. Cleaning up my home is a good start to bring peace and balance until next time. I have no idea when depression and anxiety will hit again. They stay hidden in the corners of my mind tugging at their release. As much as I know the sadness will take over again, today I will enjoy this small victory.

Written by Ali Johnson

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Us

My son Travis and I.

I’m slightly overwhelmed with my sons recent diagnosis of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA for short). On Friday we entered yet another doctor’s appointment with a new specialist in Toronto. Our expectations of getting a diagnosis were low from how many times we have seen other doctors in the past. Once the specialist gave my son his diagnosis I was the weird mother who laughed, not my best moment because this was pretty serious. I laughed because after three years hearing multiple doctors saying the ugly c word or surgery or the common we have no idea left me feeling frazzled. Hearing the words JIA had me floored.

This all started when we noticed Travis’s knee swelling to softball size. In the mornings he would limp heavily. His knee became so stiff that he could not bend it. We booked a doctor’s appointment with hopes that we could find out instantly what was causing his discomfort. What we did not know was this was the beginning of a long process of multiple doctors and appointments. Our life became speculation and misunderstandings of what was happening inside my sons body. His life was already complicated with autism and with this issue we threw normal out the window.

Trying to get this diagnosis has taken time out of Travis’s schedule and time with his studies. Being eight years old and autistic these are some of the most important elements in his life. We used to be able to count on these two simple routines to follow. With every doctor’s appointment made to get his diagnosis we had extra tasks to follow. We had to prepare Travis mentally in order to travel and be prepared for what will happen in the appointments. Our parental stress came from booking, missing work, and navigating what each specialist did. Often after these appointments we were left with more questions than answers as to what was going on with my son. This last appointment I did not expect to get the diagnosis that we so desperately wanted.

We have been to so many doctors that this last one was finally the one that clicked well with Travis. No longer having to drive to London, Ontario, for a full day of driving we ended up in Toronto. This was a great relief as I finally had time to think about where we are headed with my sons life. My thoughts pondered to how his quality of life will be affected if it was the great scary word of cancer given to us by the last specialist. Although relieved that it is not in fact cancer, I am floored of hearing JIA. This diagnosis was unexpected. When she said the words Travis has Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis my mind went blank, and I burst out laughing.

I’m glad the doctor was not judgmental on how terrible I acted at that moment. She gave me a minute to adjust my behaviour accordingly and led with statistics. One in every thousand child has JIA in Canada. This equates to ten thousand Canadian children and teens. What did it mean my son was another part of statistics. Then she said this is a chronic condition he will probably have his entire life. She then stated he will need to go attend Sick Kids Toronto Hospital for treatment. She mentioned steroid injections,
physiotherapy, and extensive blood test. When he gets this done he will have to be under anesthesia, I’m pretty sure my mom brain blanked after this.

I’ve given myself a couple days to understand the meaning of all of this. It’s a great amount to take in as a parent. When you have children the one fear that is commonly held is their quality of life will one day be compromised, and that as a parent you cannot give them the best. Taking the good out of the bad is that we can get him treatment and support Travis fully. I can raise awareness with more that I learn. Join communities with other parents who are dealing with the same disease and build better understanding of JIA. I still have my Travis and it is my duty as his mother to give him the full support and never give up hope for his future.

Written by Ali Johnson

Trying To Be Super Mom

I parented hard in the last two days, so much, that when my husband called me supermom tonight it felt good to hear. I just got my tiniest human down at ten twenty-seven pm. For the last day and a half we had to manage through RSV and bronchitis.

We were between hospital and home starting at night again in the morning to return due to my eighteen months old laboured breathing. His fever soared to high temps of 39.4 degrees Celsius with no sign of relief. We have been here once before when Max was six months of age. Last time we had this he stayed one week on the pediatrics ward of the Guelph Hospital. Recognizing the signs this time around I’m glad we took a pro active approach.

Going through this again was draining on my emotions and my ability to feel like I was doing my job as his mother. When we had to do his x-ray and nebulizer I felt like the worse mother who existed. The x-ray for infants and toddlers seems like torture devices. As I put on my lead vest, placing my baby into the tube holding his arms above his head, he screamed so loud. I felt so useless, the only words I could say to him was I’m sorry. Tears streamed down both our eyes. I would never cause my children pain and seeing him in distress tore my heart out. I know that these treatments are to help him but non the less I wish I could have stolen his pain away and made his world harm free.

Not my child but a picture to show the x-ray tube. Instead of a calm baby shown here Max was screaming. His looked terrified. I think this was the second moment in the hospital I felt like a failure.

The moment that hit me the hardest was trying to place a nebulizing mask on my sons face. As advised from the nurses I had to hold my son down and keep the mask on his face. The first nurse left Max and I to our own devices. Maximus with his strength of fifty babies on steroids; fought hard like Muhammad Ali in the ring, left me feeling defeated. I was thankful another nurse took sympathy and held the mask while I tried to wrangle Maximus to stay still. Essentially I channelled my inner Steve Irwin and crocodile wrested my stressed toddler. In these moments I felt so primal that afterwards I wanted to break.

This emotional ride of Maximus being sick has left me feeling defeated. I waited for the cab for thirty minutes with him sleeping in my arms. From the wheezy breath sounds and small whimpers escaping from his lips I had a moment of panic. How can I be a good mother when all I wanted to do was get home and cry. I felt utterly selfish at this moment, I wanted to be a good mother but instead I thought of myself.

Since we got home he was given a plethora of medication, adding to the layers of distress. After napping with Max to monitor his breathing I put on Thomas the Train and took a shower. I got my moment of clarity that even feeling defeated is part of the mother package. Being alone today and handling a sick child was my wake up call that even with life throwing some serious wrenches I can do this. When my husband called me supermom; I choked back my tears of self-doubt, and plan to hold on a little longer.

This is a stepping stone in learning motherhood. I can either sink or swim or roll with the punches. I sit here typing feeling relieved to know my baby will be OK, all of this will be OK. My muscles may be sore from rocking my child, my body tired from the last day and half, but I feel clear in how much I love my children and what it takes to make sure they have a mother that cares. I will give one supermom moment at a time until my last breath.

Written by: Ali Johnson

My husband The Caveman, Mr Max, and myself.

Anxiety taking over.

My anxiety this week is out of control and I have no idea why it came on. I started this week on a good note nothing out of the ordinary. I kept to my routines and thought I was on track with everything. Oddly enough I finally had sleep after four days of sleep regression from my toddler. Eating healthy again normally boosts my system in keeping my anxiety down about eating food.

Try as I might I don’t know what my trigger was this time. Knowing when it’s getting bad again because I get the increasing feeling of uneasiness. The irritated feeling creeps up ever so slowly I feel like a volcano about to burst. Self doubt start to plague my every move to the point I don’t want to talk on my phone or answer calls. Plans get put off until I can handle this feeling of drowning on the surface and catch my breath.

Sometimes I can talk myself out of the anxiety spell that falls into my lap. Other times it’s like a bad cold I cannot shake. I know that there is no magical pill to take this all away. Often I wish I could be magic wave some wand casting the spell of clearing my anxiety. I hate how my body feels right now.

I feel so tired not sleepy but emotionally and physically tired. No I did not do anything strenuous but anxiety and depression is like having a concrete being poured all over me. I have no drive to get anything done because it doesn’t feel like it matters right now. Right now I know that my anxiety is affecting everything.

I can do all the tricks to help ease this attack but most of all it will come right back. I know when an awful spell is about to come on and I brace for impact. This anxiety attack was sneaky, a little mind ninja with a sword slicing through my thoughts with rapid succession. I’ll be OK I’m always OK, right now I’m a mess. Not quite at locking myself in the bathroom and fearing the outside world, but I am not myself right now.

I am tired of feeling like I’m drowning on dry land.

Written by Ali Johnson

It's OK to not be OK. But It's Not OK to stay that way.
Picture has mountains and water with a cloudy sky

One bad day away

It takes one bad day to make a normal person to lose control of their life. One bad decision can bring on the domino effect of bad circumstances. I know this from first hand to never take granted what and who I have in my life. I was that person who had one bad day that lead to many more bad choices. Homeless at sixteen, emancipated at seventeen my life direction was complicated.

If someone had asked me in 2009 if I was going to live much longer my response would’ve been no. I was going in such a direction I thought I would lose my life. If it wasn’t to drinking it was being with the wrong person, so many choices I made was the wrong one. I used sex and drugs as a way to numb the pain I was in. I gave up on myself and lost faith in the goodwill of others. Anytime someone offered a glimpse of true help I would treat them as criminal.

Someone once asked me if I regret my actions to survive, my response to this is no. Living with regrets for things I did would not change my future. I see my past choices whether right or wrong shaped who I am today. I used to blame the actions of others on my misfortune it took well into my adult years to see that my choices based on bad days was defining my pathway. What I do now with past choices is to educate others on surviving with trauma and to teach people to have compassion towards others.

I talk to people who were like me I hear the same thought process leading to their choices it was one bad day. That bad day led to one bad choice. Those bad choices led to several others. In between the lines of the bad day and poor choices there is a thin line that shows a person in pain trying to survive. It shows me to not judge anyone because they too can be one bad day away from losing everything.

I don’t know what anyone is going through to lead them on their life path, what I can do is understand survival tactics and give an ear of compassion. I can be that person that allows my mind to remain open to others pain and accept that they to had one moment of weakness. It takes a few seconds to be a good person to understand all walks of life. This is the same give one part of goodness to ease one bad day. I believe that in those moments of living with our choices one small act of kindness can walk someone off the ledge and lead that person to staying alive for longer.

Written by: Ali Johnson