Owning my story

While I was shaving my legs, which practically needed hedge clippers, I was rehearsing how I was going to answer the inevitable question that people ask when they meet someone for the first time, “so, what do you do?” I was shaving my overgrown leg hair and dressing up in a skirt and blouse to attend the very first fundraiser for Shameless Circle.

My default answer to, “what do you do?” has commonly involved me describing what I do between the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday. While I truly feel like I hit the jackpot with my job because of the company I work for and my awesome co-workers, what I do outside of the office is a whole other layer to who I am.

Last night, this is what I told people I do: I write a blog devoted to mental health and the outdoors and I coordinate and lead hikes for women. I went on to talk about how nature plays an essential role in holistically managing my mental health and that I encourage women to use the outdoors in their healing. I also mentioned that I am three years sober.

I embraced my vulnerability. I owned my story and from that came real and authentic conversation for the remainder of the evening with the people at my table. I have sat at tables with strangers and felt invisible, among the mindless small talk that people pretend to be interested in. Not last night.

The fundraiser had three guest speakers, Mitch Bourbonniere, an award winning mental health advocate; Craig Heisinger who created Project 11 to promote mental wellness with students and athletes; and Rochelle Squires, elected member of the Manitoba Legislature and the Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

The topics were heavy and focused on their personal stories: trauma, shame, mental illness, mental wellness, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and suicide. The message was clear: victims can rise to be survivors and survivors can rise to thrive when community comes together to lift their members up and say, “we got you.” Shameless Circle is a community for women where they are supported.

The funds raised from the dinner support the Empower Me Fund, created by the Shameless Circle. Women can apply for financial support for something specific that would not be covered by another organization or agency. An example given was a woman needing steel toe work boots to begin employment but unable to afford the upfront cost. Shameless Circle believes in providing a hand up and have asked women who need assistance to think outside of the box when it comes to their own empowerment. The reasons for applications are endless.

I led a gentle hike through Assiniboine Forest with a group of women from Shameless Circle during the summer. Most of the participants had no idea that there were walking paths in the forest and it opened a world of accessible nature within the city. This activity was so important to Sara Usman, co-founder of Shameless Circle that she mentioned it and thanked me in her closing message at the fundraiser.

To my recollection, I think that was the first time that I have been publicly thanked in front of a room full of people. Her acknowledgment of my contribution reaffirmed the work that I want to continue doing. I want to take women into nature to help them heal.

“Empowered women, empower women,” was spoken last night and is a phrase I align with and motivates me.

Photos courtesy of Shameless Circle
Assiniboine Forest

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