I had the honour of receiving the John Graves Simcoe Medal of Excellence tonight from MP Alex Nuttall, in commemoration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

I want to share this picture with you and ask, “what do you see?”. You will probably say that you see me among many amazing Canadians who have made tremendous contributions to their community and country, and that I am proud to have had the honour to stand among them. This is true. But let me tell you what else see in this picture.

I see a woman who is scared because she is battling ‘looking normal’ while she stumbles her way through feeling alien and out of place because she is hovering between layer 1 and 2 of her depression. I see a woman wearing earplugs in order to be among the loud crowd. I see a woman who has slept the entire day up until one hour before this event, and who could barely drag her body out of bed. I see a woman who feels guilty for not being excited to go to this celebration – and a woman who doesn’t know why she can’t be. I see a woman who can put on the best smile and give a great handshake. Who can do a news interview on the spot without batting an eye. Who can confidently answer questions from anyone in the room about PTSD and mental illness and injury. Who may have hope in her eyes, but a disconnection from the world in her heart. I see a woman who is trying to take a group photo but needs to look at her friend to feel safe, and no one around her knowing that anything is wrong with her at all.

PTSD and mental illness robs me of being able to truly celebrate and smile. I wish that it was impossible to fake-smile. The world would be able to know who to help so much more easily.