The Wonderful Year That Was 2019

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January 1, 2020

The Wonderful Year That Was 2019

When 2018 was nearing the end I couldn’t wait to see it go. With 2019 it has been such a fabulous year of personal growth, adventure and change that I am in awe of all that has happened. Beginning the very first weekend in January 2019 I went away by myself to Retro Suites in Chatham and stayed in the Study to concentrate on my writing. It was a great couple of nights, so very productive. It was on this trip that I wrote my piece that would later be featured on the OC87 website. It was also the first piece of writing that I received more than just a stipend for – I Want to Live: Turning a Corner with Suicidal Ideation and Depression. Little did I know at the time that it would lead me to take my first solo trip on a plane to another country (it was to New Jersey, but still) to join 50 or so women recovering from mental illness for a writer’s retreat in beautiful Cape May New Jersey. I flew into Philadelphia airport and found my way to the rental car place on my own and drove for the first time outside Michigan (I had visions of horrible traffic and confusing roadways but nothing was further from the truth). The pride I felt in tackling my anxiety and being so far outside my comfort zone still hits me on random days. I can do anything now . . . .

Anyhow, OC87 Women Writers Retreat was amazing. I met so many inspiring women who were eager to share their stories, to be vulnerable and raw and real. It was life changing for sure. It was also during this retreat that I would write “Be A Good Girl” that I later performed at Phog Lounge in Windsor as part of Poetry Slam. Such a personal story that felt so empowering to share with a live audience. I made it to the finals that night, which I never expected and even though I didn’t win I was anything but disappointed. I had fulfilled a dream I didn’t even know I had.

Phog lounge

On the heels of OC87 I was searching for writer’s retreats or workshops to hone my skills. I also wanted to take a trip to Thunder Bay to visit my bestie Angela and came across a once in a lifetime trip to Porphyry Island through Superior Sail in Thunder Bay. The 4 day experience included a boat trip out to the island and an authentic experience staying in the old lighthouse keepers dwelling. It was an amazing group of women and a wonderful experience. I received so much knowledge, support and feedback that weekend. See my post from for more details.

In August I became an affiliate for the Canadian Mental Health Association Windsor Essex (CMHA-WE) – which means I speak at events and help out with mental health awareness activities and/or training. Once again I spoke at the suicide awareness walk in September. My work with CMHA lead to my being interviewed by CBC news about my experiences with suicidal behaviour and the efforts of CMHA to bring suicide prevention strategies and training to the Windsor-Essex area. (see the video here)

Speaking with the CBC about Depression and Suicide Prevention

In September I learned that my current position at work was being eliminated and I would be returning to the childcare team. I was devastated to put it mildly. I loved my job on the intake team – I got to write reports all day in between seeing families. It was the perfect mix and I miss it very much. Around the same time I experienced some setbacks in my mental health and it was decided I would benefit from some changes to my medications. To help focus my attention and keep me grounded I reached out to all my friends on Facebook and introduced the Purple Project. This is where I asked people to write me a note of encouragement to bolster me during tough times. I don’t open them right away but keep them for down days. By writing “purple” on the back of the envelope I know what the letter is for and put it in my coping box for later. This is all part of my WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) which has made me feel safer knowing that there is a plan for people close to me to follow should there be concerns in the future with my mental health. During this time I experienced sudden and unexpected discrimination regarding my mental health from people I thought I could trust. It was demoralizing and could have been devastating. Thankfully I had a lot of support and the new medication began to work wonderfully. Today I could not be happier (well I’d be happier if I had my old job). Take a look at some of the letters I have received through the Purple Project. Thanks if you sent one and if you haven’t, it is never too late – you can send one at any time.

Some of the letters I have received through the “Purple Project” I created in the name of wellness and recovery

2018 was rocky in our family but in 2019 Adam and I have reconnected through therapy and weekly breakfast dates. We have done some home improvements and are planning a trip for our 25th wedding anniversary in 2020. Our puppy Chavez has also brought us closer together (I know Adam, he’s not a puppy anymore) and we love to do things with him including obedience classes. My boys are getting older and needing us less in many ways and yet some days it feels they need us more than ever. 

So this year I have written less in total for the year and I have rarely posted here but it is because I have been too busy living life for once. The writing I have done has been more purposeful and pointed. I am looking forward to getting back into writing regularly and there might even be a surprise in the New Year with a new endeavour I am working on with my brother. Stay tuned.

All the best to you and yours in 2020. Happy New Year.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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