life, mental health

Learning to Be

The world has stopped. The unthinkable has happened and we’re in crisis mode, trying to get our heads around this ‘new normal’.

I’ve been here before.

No, not exactly like this, obviously. But almost five years ago, my world stopped when I finally admitted I couldn’t teach anymore. I’ve been adapting to my new normal ever since. It’s been a bumpy ride, but there have been many surprising blessings as well.

Learning to be. This is a big one. We are so inundated with messages telling us we need to be doing something all the time. There’s a culture of busy-ness, where the more you’re doing is like a badge of honour. When you have a chronic illness, that’s not really an option because the fatigue, among other things, is so killer that You. Just. Can’t.

So you spend a lot of time at home, sitting around, isolated, without a whole lot of options for entertainment. Sound familiar? I’m sure it’s a new experience for most healthy people, and it can be uncomfortable just sitting in your own skin sometimes. Or maybe that’s just the MS. 🤔

But just being, instead of always doing can be a wonderful opportunity to get real with yourself and figure out what’s really important. We’ve been conditioned to believe we need to be working, be productive, be entertained, be adventurous, be travelling , be consuming, be socializing.

We’ve forgotten that sometimes it’s important to just BE.

When you stop doing and sit quietly with yourself, your mind has space to process. This is why meditation has become so popular. But you don’t even have to be that organized about it. I’m not knocking meditation in any way, I’m just suggesting that you pay attention to whether you take any time during your day to stop doing and just BE.

Staring at nature is my go-to for times when I need to stop and be for awhile, even if it’s just out the window, or the nature channel on TV. I guess that’s technically doing something but the mental health benefits outweigh any slicing of that proverbial hair.

We’ve been running on the societal treadmill for so long that doing nothing, just BEING is a difficult thing for many people right now. I get it. Like with anything though, a shift in perspective can change this strange situation we’re finding ourselves in, into an opportunity to examine our values and decide if we really want to go back to the “old normal”.

As much as I miss teaching, I am grateful every single day for my many blessings. Learning to be comfortable with just being and not doing all the time has helped me enormously in accepting my new normal. I hope it helps you too.

Just be.

Hummingbird in flight feeding
Look what you can see when you stop doing for a few minutes. Just be.
Photo credit: Amanda L. Callin

❤️ Amanda

chronic illness, life, mental health

Milestones and Reflections

At the beginning of June, I celebrated the first year of my blog. It was a huge step for uber-private me last year but the response once I finally faced my fear and hit publish was unreal. I can’t believe I have over 500 followers. More importantly, I can’t believe the support I’ve received and the friends I’ve made in this wonderful community. I’m so grateful. Thank you all. 💕

On this day four years ago, I received my MS diagnosis in the morning before going back to school for the last afternoon with my class. I didn’t know it would be the last afternoon I would spend as a teacher at the time.

It’s been an interesting journey, to say the least. The physical symptoms, especially the fatigue, stopped me teaching but the mental gymnastics associated with being chronically ill really stopped me in my tracks.

Fear, grief, anxiety, depression, guilt. Oh, the guilt! Learning to say ‘I can’t’ – especially to my children, forcing myself to stop when I ‘should’ get a little more done, unable to enjoy the good days because I ‘should’ be working.

I’ve learned to mostly maintain perspective when the anxiety and depression hit because I know it’s temporary, no matter how black. The fear hits pretty strongly when my body does it’s weird party tricks. (numbness, tingling, burning, buzzing, dizziness, tinnitus, spasms, trembling, pain and the fatigue that courses through my veins. #msawareness)

But life is scary for everybody in one way or another. Perspective.

The guilt has been the nastiest of the negatives. It comes up over and over and I’ve struggled to gain the same perspective, especially on the good days. I’d love so much to be back in the classroom that when the uglies lessen a bit, I forget how bad they are and feel I should at least try to go back to work. When they inevitably reappear, I remember why I can’t do the job I love so much.

Four years on, I’m done with the guilt on my good days. I won’t compromise the health I’ve regained since I stopped working by forcing myself to go back to work. And I won’t waste the bonus time I do get feeling guilty anymore, dammit! So there, MS. 🤗 From now on, I’m doing ‘jazz hands’ any time the guilt creeps in – haha!

This day marks a milestone for each of our younger children as well. After knocking our socks off at her Variety Show on Monday singing ‘Defying Gravity’ – (check out my instagram or facebook for the video), our youngest is finishing her last day at elementary school. It’s truly the end of an era, as we started there an unbelievable 15 years ago when our eldest was in kindergarten. Not to mention that my husband and his mother also went to the same school!

Our son is finishing his last day of high school, heading across the country to study Economics at Western University in September. Needless to say, we are incredibly proud of his achievements so far and excited for him, but there will be a big hole in our family that will take getting used to. It’s all as it should be and we can’t wait to see where he goes with his life. This kid is motivated!

Finally, our eldest got her first car so now we have our own taxi 😉 she’s embarking on a whole new level of independence and financial responsibility. We have no doubt she’ll manage her shiny new car with her usual attention and responsibility, and have lots of great adventures in the years to come.

So it’s the end of June and the beginning of summer vacation. The garden’s in great shape, the kids all have exciting plans for the summer, and we have lots of camping planned in our new tent trailer. It’s going to be a great summer!

❤️ Amanda

life, writing

A new career – finally believing

The questions never stop

Can I teach again?

Should I try it?

Am I just giving up?

The best days are the worst

The doubts eat me alive

Two years I’ve pretended

Waiting to get busted

Who gets to call themselves a writer?

Not me.

And yet, the shift has happened

The genes have shifted

What once needed to teach

Is striving to teach through words


I believe

I have a story to tell

Worth telling


chronic illness, life, mental health, MS

Happy New Year: sponsored by gnomes, ogres and a wise ass

Here we are at the beginning of another year. 2018 was supposed to be a stellar year for me because of my birthday magic – I turned 48 on 8/8/18. Bought my 8 lottery tickets and everything but alas, no millions here. Overall, it was a great year, though.

I have so much to celebrate and be grateful for, the most important of all being the health, happiness and success of my three children. They continually boggle my mind with their kindness, insight and focus on developing their individual talents. Pride in one’s children is the best gift of all.

I took a Hiatus for the Holidays, hoping the creative genies would reappear but instead those nasty black gnomes of depression showed up again. Not until Boxing Day at least, so I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with my family. But they showed up with a vengeance, planting their little fish hooks all over me and pulling me down into their abyss.

Depression is a vicious predator. It doesn’t just affect the person suffering but emanates throughout a household. You can ‘fake it til you make it’ as much as you wish but everyone feels the cloud. Then, of course, you can add depression’s nasty cousin, guilt, to the mix as well.

Even knowing intellectually that the depression is either hormonal (perimenopause is a freaking blast, isn’t it? If I tear up at one more stupid commercial…😭🙄) or MS-related, thereby completely out of my control, doesn’t alleviate the guilt.

However, brooding on either isn’t going to help anything. So, I’m allowing myself the space to feel whatever I’m going to feel and trying to keep to myself as much as possible, without being a total hermit. I do one thing a day to feel productive, and call it good.

Depression, grief, mental health

One day, one minute at a time

The black gnomes of depression

pierce me all over

Their fish hooks tug me down

Snarling and giggling gleefully

with the ogres of fatigue

Pulling from the depths

with their leaden anchors

They all swirl together toward

The dark pit in the centre

Nauseating boiling ice

Numbing everything

But despair and guilt

Waking me in the night

Marrying the pain

The soles of my feet peeled like carrots

The tops shrieking, spasming

The ankles stabbing

Praying for sleep

Praying for release

Praying for me

I’m still struggling but I’m thinking of the parable of the mule in the well that I read the other day. Hmmm…should I be worried that I’m relating to a jackass? 😜 This article from Patch does a much better job of telling it than I can right now.

Shake it off and step up : THE WISE OLD MULE – An Inspiring Parable That Can Improve Your Life!

Shake it off and step upThe Mule in the Well parable – Shake it off and step up

I hope 2019 has gotten off to great start for you. If not, take those small steps up out of the darkness every day. It may not feel like it, but things will get better if you keep fighting the fight.

I send you all my best wishes for a happy, healthy and pain-free new year.

❤️ Amanda

Other mental health posts I’ve written:

Not so sunshiny days- Depression and awareness

Anxiety : Depression’s partner-in-crime

Pain and anxiety

life, writing

Resting is not selfish

I apologize to my followers for the glitch last night in sending out a blog post prematurely. Oops.

Anyway, my cup is feeling a bit empty and stained these days so I’m taking time to do things, and not do anything, in order to build up a few spoons and not end up in a relapse.

Below are some current pictures of our garden. When we bought our house nine years ago, the backyard was all sloped lawn. All the rocks, dirt, and driftwood you see were hauled in singlehandedly by my husband. Whether I sit in silent contemplation or take on some simple weeding, the garden is my sanctuary.

I’m off to my other piece of paradise, Willows Beach, also known as my office. It’s my favourite place to write, and my fiction has been stagnating at the bottom of my empty cup for the last few days so I’m hoping the words will flow today as I look out at Oak Bay Harbour and Marina.

Take time to do the things that recharge your spirit, and don’t allow those niggling feelings of guilt any space at all. She says to herself, over and over and over…

Have a wonderful week!

❤️ Amanda