Day 31: Official Welcome into Winnipeg
This morning was my official welcome into Winnipeg. I cycled to the perimeter of the city as I was going to be joined by the Fire and Paramedic Departments. The Fire Department had generously planned a small event and reached out to their local media contacts in the hopes of getting some coverage for Ride Away Stigma. When this happens I never know if any media will show so I try to not get my hopes up. I rode to our meeting location and was greeted by two paramedics on bicycles and a few chiefs from both services, in their vehicles. They gave the three of us an escort to one of the fire stations near by. I really enjoy when I have the escorts as I don’t have to worry about traffic.
We pulled up to the fire station and were greeted by additional fire fighters. There were also four different TV stations present: City TV, Global, CBC and CTV. I was blown away. This was the highest level of media interest to date. After meeting all the fire fighters and chatting for a while they shared that they wanted to present me with something. I was given a challenge coin from both the Fire and Paramedic Services. I was honoured to receive these coins, as it is a symbol of being a part of them. They are now kept with me, on my bike, and will remain there for the rest of the ride home. Following this I talked with the TV stations and did a few action shots for them. With all of the media coverage following Robin Williams’ passing, I was pleased to be able to provide a supportive and positive message about mental illness.
The two paramedics offered to cycle with me to my next event. They suggested a more scenic, while longer route, through the Assiniboine Park. It was an absolutely beautiful park with bike paths throughout. Of course I had chatted with them regarding my obsession with ice cream so they suggested that we cross over the bridge to go to Sargent Sundae. Sargent Sundae generously donated an ice cream of my choice and my face lit with happiness.
We arrived at my next event hosted by Klinic Community Health Centre. They invited all their staff to come learn more about Ride Away Stigma and have lunch together. As they went around the room sharing their different roles I was amazed by all the services offered. When I shared my delight for the variety of different programs, a couple of the staff expressed how they still wish they could do more and that there is never enough resources. Unfortunately, funding for mental health is not a high priority. I did share my belief that Winnipeg is still fortunate to have numerous programs that other cities do not have. And I could tell they also had many individuals who cared so much.
In the afternoon I was chatting with a friend from home. She told me that she has been sharing my blog with everyone she knows and especially when she has heard of people who are struggling. I thought this was very sweet of her but what stood out for me more was a feeling of responsibility to people who are reading the blog, to know that there have been ups and downs with the success of the campaign. I decided to post a photo of myself holding the first ever article written about the campaign and wrote this message:
“In honour of #throwbackthursday / #tbt I wanted to post this photo of the first article written about Ride Away Stigma. Before this article came out I began struggling with my mental health. I was having a lot of anxiety manifesting in chest pains and shortness of breath. I also had my first ever breakdown in front of my brother and sister in law. I could not stop crying so much that I was struggling to breath. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Could I be spiraling back down? Through the support of family, friends and my therapist I realized that the pressure of launching the campaign and not knowing how people would react was terrifying me and taking over. I was able to find new ways to manage the stress and since that time I have not struggled even close to that level. Sometimes we need to not run from uncomfortable situations, rather work through them with support. I could have run. I could have called off the whole thing thinking it could negatively impact my health. But I pushed through and have come out stronger. I am sharing this because I know times can be scary when we go outside our comfort zones or allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But it also can be a time to grow and learn about yourself. Don’t let fear get in the way.”
My hope in sharing this episode is to let people know that ups and downs are ok, and not to think of them as a failure or set back. It is all a part of the journey and gives us an opportunity to evaluate, grow and find strength we didn’t even know we had.
As I was leaving the movies with my mom I saw on my phone that I had a tweet from Clara Hughes! I was really excited that she had given me a shout and made me aware of an article that was written about both of us. Holy cow! My name is mentioned in an article that is also talking about her. As you can tell I found this pretty exciting. I am asked about her a lot throughout the journey. I find it really positive that people question me about her because it means that she did a great job in reaching vast numbers of people, and, they are remembering. So, when I follow behind with another story, the impact and awareness grows. It is all pretty exciting how much momentum mental health is gaining right now.
Before I end the blog for the day I would like to thank Comfort Inn and Westmont Hospitality Group for hosting us in Winnipeg!