Robin Whitford

I am a passionate and multi-faceted person and have many interests. I used to work as a counsellor and manager within military family services, and before that I worked with abused women, I now have a very small home based embroidery business called Sew Crazy, have a Facebook group for women with mental health challenges to support, and I write a blog called Thriving in a Crazy World.

I love to paint, knit, horseback ride and I’m always wanting to take classes and workshops to learn new things.

I am also a mom to two amazing teenagers and a wife of 18 years to my best friend.

Who inspires you in your life and why?

I am inspired by everyone I meet who is working towards being their true self and following their dreams. I love to hear people talk about what lights them up, what makes them want to get out of bed in the morning and how they want to make their mark (no matter how small) on the world.

I am inspired by stories of people who think outside the box and often face harsh criticism or jugdment because they decide that their mission is more important than fitting in.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your life?

All of my biggest challenges have stemmed from October 2, 2003. It was the day my husband called me from Afghanistan to tell me his vehicle had been blown up and 2 of his peers were dead. From that point on, nothing was ever the same.

My husband was later diagnosed with PTSD and I left my career to stay home and care for our kids and him. By ensuring that I had our home and family cared for, he was able to return to work for the military and was only medically released in 2016 after 21 years of service.

It is impossible for me to adequetely explain the challenges we have faced. But the harrasment and alienation we experieced, as well as the all too frequent news of more veterans lost to suicide, were the most painful.

All of this came to a head when my husband was working for a unit that did not want him there and harassed him until he couldnt take it anymore. After picking up the pieces yet again, I myself had a full breakdown. I had been working to care for other military families yet I was struggling to find help for mine. I was eventually diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. I thought I could take a few weeks rest and be back on my feet in no time. But this was not the case. It took months for me to even feel slightly rested and then many more months for me to get back on my feet, but I will never be the same.

I knew I could no longer keep up the balancing act and I resigned without knowing what I would, or could, even do. It was also during this time that my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and being that we are very close, this shook me to the core. It is now over 3 years later and she is still coping with chemo but is able to enjoy special days like Thanksgiving with us.

What did you do to move through them? What did you learn?

Although it is still difficult to see this experience as anything positive, it has certainly given me multiple opportunities for growth.
I am stronger and braver than I ever would have dreamt possible. I have faith in my inner voice to guide me where I need to go and that as long as I am aware when fear and self-doubt creap in, I know I can also be push them back out.

I have learned that the power of our relationships with others, with ourselves and with all living beings, is more important than any material things.

I have also learned that it is never too late to make big life changes. If something is not feeling right to me, I am now able to give myself permission to let it go and try something new.

What are you most proud of?

I am the most proud of my family.
The fact that my husband and I have survived this rollercoaster of a marriage, and still enjoy each others company after 20 yrs together surprises even me. Also, the fact that our children are growing up to be such awesome people considering they are living in home where PTSD, depression and anxiety are present. I am proud that we have been able to prioritize family time, laughing, and being grateful for everything we have.

I am also proud that I am now finding the courage to talk and write about my journey with mental health. I feel that the more we can talk about it openly and honestly, like any other condition we can finally end the shame and stigma that still prevent people from being able to move forward.

What do you want younger women to know?

I hope that younger women will not feel the same stigma about mental health challenges that I did. They will know that these challenges don’t define them or prevent them from having a full, fun and purposeful lives. I also hope that young women will learn to trust their inner voice sooner than I did. I wasted an enormous amount of energy worrying about doing the right things, in the right way, and at the right time. When in fact there is no one ‘right way’.

What does living fully mean to you?

Living Fully means to live everyday with purpose and passion. Some days that may mean cuddling on the couch all day with a warm blanket and good book, if that’s what you are called to do. Other days it means reaching deep inside for the courage to do something you’ve wanted to do for years but were too afraid. It also means being your truest self to those you care about, no need to pretend to be anything or anybody else.

And lastly, it means loving others and loving yourself with equal measure.

Favourite quote?

This is not a quote, but rather my favorite mantra. I was taught it in a workshop I took as a teenager and now almost 30 years later, I still say it to myself whenever I need the reminder:
“I am a strong and worthy person” and so no matter what happens, I know I have done my best and I will be ok.

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