I can remember being four years old and laying on my Mom’s pregnant belly, trying to comprehend that she had a human being growing inside of her and that I was going to be a big sister. I already loved that little human doll that I was going to get to play with and dress up for my daily tea parties. My big sister and I were so excited for a new baby in the house. Then, very early on October 7, 1985, the phone rang and my Grandmother shared the joyful news that our baby brother had been born. The first boy in our family had arrived.
Like most siblings, we went to meet him at the hospital in the same room that all 3 of us had been began life in. My sister and I giggled in delight and could not wait for our gorgeous blue eyed brother to come home. The sad part was, it took months for Lucas to come home. He was a sick baby and spent months in the IWK receiving surgeries and fighting for his little life. Our prayers were answered and my brother and mom got to come home… the five of us were finally all together. As a result, we always over protected Lucas, never wanting him to ever feel pain again. Sadly, Lucas felt a lot of pain in his life, deep pain we never knew was there and on November 15, 2014, Lucas tragically died from a drug overdose.
Lucas’ drug addiction was fierce and debilitating. It was all consuming and incredibly horrible to watch. We felt helpless, lost and heart broken. We watched our loving, smart, charismatic brother slip into a dark hole. Lucas had deep mental health struggles that we never really knew about or understood. He struggled emotionally in life and was always very sensitive, but we always thought it was “just his personality”. We were never aware of the demons he was fighting inside and the incredible pain he felt. He masked it well under his charming smile and insightful thoughts.
He found relief for the pain in drugs, and became heavily addicted quickly. We watched a star student at Dal Architecture lose his schooling, apartment, friends and his independence within months. We were angry and frustrated. Why couldn’t he just stop? Why wouldn’t he get help? We loved him so much, couldn’t he see that? Wasn’t that enough?
He knew we loved him. However, despite, our deep love for Lucas, we struggled with asking him how he was truly doing. We were fearful in many ways to ask him about his mental health struggles and how he was feeling. We thought we were protecting him by keeping him out of the tough talks and family discussions. It takes courage for the person struggling to speak up, and it takes courage for family and friends to speak up as well.
The day Lucas passed away was truly the worst day of my life. I experienced grief I never knew was possible. When I looked at my sister and mother, their faces were unrecognizable from the sadness they felt. I would never wish such loss on anyone. Through the past year and a half I have worked everyday to stop asking, the “why question” and starting finding the gifts that Lucas left behind for us. He left so many, it’s just having the strength to find them.
One of the greatest gifts was the creation of Lead With Your Heart, which is an organization that raises funds for art therapy programs. Lucas’ family and friends came together to create programs, raise awareness and build a legacy. It helps to fill the deep hole that Lucas left and brings comfort knowing that the programs we fund may help save another person’s life or bring people happiness.
This week, May 2-8 is Mental Health Week but the entire month of May is actually Mental Health Awareness Month. This month is about speaking up and talking about issues that are hard to talk about: our mental health. Go out and have a conversation with a stranger. Talk to a family member or friend that you might be concerned about. Trust me, those conversations can save lives. They also help end the stigma around mental health. Together, we can help give a voice to those who feel silenced and helpless by their illness.
At My HOME Apparel we have partnered up this week with Laing House, in Halifax, Nova Scotia and with Find Your Light in support of programs at Laing House. Both Find Your Light and My HOME Apparel, will be donating 15% of all profits to Laing House from May 2-16, 2016. Laing House is a wonderful peer support organization for youth living with a mental illness.
My HOME Apparel would not be, without Lucas. He inspired me to create a company focused around giving back and gave me the courage to bring a dream business to life. I witnessed how precious life is and I don’t want to waste a second of it.
I challenge you all now to be a warrior for mental health and continue to spread love and kindness as far as you can. Together we can end the stigma around mental health!
May you all lead with your heart,