With tears streaming down her face she approached the busy intersection. In that moment, sitting behind the wheel, she wanted nothing more than to end it all. It was the culmination of years of being bullied at the least likely of places – her job. She had taken every measure she could think of to stop the abuse, but to no avail, it seemed. This was her chance to end the pain. She etched forward and braced herself for the worst.
Simone Walsh is a woman whose talents span from designing clothes to motivational speaking and being a fierce advocate for mental health. As founder of Essence of Mind Outreach Program Inc., her schedule is often filled with various community events and speaking engagements.
“What drives me is being able to help individuals and inspiring them towards change,” Simone told The Weight She Carries. “I never envisioned myself being a motivational speaker. I’m very quiet and people will agree to that and also say I’m shy, but life’s challenges and experiences [have] a way of turning one into a “motivational speaker” without one’s permission. And all of a sudden you find yourself sharing your story and people say, ‘You’ve got to keep talking.’”
While she may inspire people today, just 10 years ago, Simone was a broken woman who was trying desperately to find her way out of a dark hole that threatened to swallow her alive.
At the age of nine, she migrated to Canada from Jamaica with her siblings to join her parents who had settled in the Mississauga area.
Life was going well until Simone began working for a particular company.
“I never knew that workplace bullying existed,” she said. “I worked for a company for five years and I had a manager who started to nitpick my work, single me out and use a lot of verbal abuse. I didn’t see it as bullying at the time.”
Simone said her manager would say things like, “Are you stupid?” “You just don’t get it,” or “You need to quit.”
“Then there were things [the manager] would do to just make me feel bad about myself,” she said. “It was repetitive and on a daily basis to where it just really broke me. It made me feel like I was lower than low.”
Simone tried to report the issue but discovered how difficult it was to prove her case.
“Bullying is something that is hard to [substantiate] in the workplace,” she said. “You have to take notes, you have to have witnesses and it’s hard to prove. I went through a long ordeal and I wasn’t getting anywhere.”
The bullying continued for more than two years. Eventually, Simone went to her doctor for relief from some of the physical and emotional symptoms she was feeling. It was then that she was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. She needed to leave her job immediately, he said.
“When the bullying was happening, I kept it to myself for the most part. I did share it with my mother but I didn’t tell friends about it. Partially because of the stigma of mental health. I was very ashamed of my diagnosis. I thought there was no way I’d be telling anybody that I had anxiety and depression. I had a hard time coming to terms with my diagnosis.”– Simone Walsh
Things reached the tipping point when Simone’s tormentor lashed out at her one day. That was her last day on the job.
“The things that were said to me just really tore me apart. I drove home and I was crying. I heard these voices in my head telling me that I wasn’t good enough and that I was everything I had been labeled,” she said. “I remember crying in the middle of an intersection. This is when I made my first suicide attempt. But, by the grace of God, I was not successful.”
Immediately after the attempt, Simone remembers feeling disappointed.
“I felt like I had an out-of-body experience. I felt like I did die in that car, but I was still alive. Like I was dead but still living because of how broken I was,” she said.
Following that experience, Simone rarely spoke, rarely ate and rarely came out of her room.
“I just went into this dark depression. I felt like a part of me was gone. In my mind I felt as if I was still willing to try, but I felt so low,” she said.
Simone’s tormentor was eventually investigated and demoted.
Meanwhile, Simone signed up for some workshops and began seeking therapy. She was using public transport because she wasn’t allowed to drive for some time following the incident at the traffic light.
One day as the subway train approached, the suicidal thoughts returned.
“I stood on the platform while waiting for the train to come and thought it was so easy to just lean forward,” she recalled. “I had a backpack on my back and I stepped forward, but as soon as I was about to step over the edge, a gentleman pulled me back by the hook of my backpack and said, ‘You may want to step back a bit, you’re a little too close.’ Right then the train passed by and I thought, ‘I missed my opportunity again…’”
Simone got on the train wondering why she kept being unsuccessful at taking her life.
“I had to have a talk with God and say, “If I’m going to live, if I’m going to be here, You’re going to have to show me what I’m here for.’ I knew that I was here for a reason because He kept saving me from myself.”– Simone Walsh
Her turning point came after her third and final suicide attempt alone at home, and her mother came and rescued her.
“She broke down crying and said, ‘Have you ever thought of what life would be like for us if you follow through with this? If you are gone, what would people say, what would people think was going on in this family? Have you ever thought about the pain that you would leave your family in?’ I had never once thought about them or anyone else. I only thought about ending my pain,” Simone said.
In that room, mother and daughter shared the most tender of moments, both utterly broken with hearts filled with pain and anguish.
“You’re my only daughter,” Simone’s mother continued. “If you don’t want to live for yourself at least live for us because we love you. We don’t understand what you are going through, but live for us.”
Simone’s mother cried and prayed earnestly for her daughter’s well-being. Seeing her mother break down like that moved Simone and renewed her determination to survive. To live.
“I told myself that I would do it for my mother and my family. I worked hard. I wasn’t consistent with my meds, but I continued to take them. I made extra effort. My mother was my rock and my motivation. I went to an adult treatment program. I was there Monday through Friday for three months,” she said.
The program helped Simone understand her treatment regimen and gave her the tools she needed to combat depression. She was intentional about her daily affirmations and recognizing the negative thoughts that plagued her.
“I took baby steps. I started to take invitations from friends, and I remember the first time I came out of my room. All my family was gathered at home for an occasion. I was in my room and I came down the stairs slowly. Somebody muted the TV and said, ‘Is that Simone coming down the stairs?’ When I came to the living room, they all started to clap and cheer. It was a big thing. They were so excited that I came out of my room.”– Simone Walsh
Still, healing took time. It took about four years until she began to slowly come out of the darkness of depression.
“Depression is a fight every day just to stay alive,” she said. “Getting out of bed is a big deal. Some days you just want to lay in bed, and if you do get out of bed, it is a big accomplishment.”
Doing things like brushing your teeth or coming out of the house are things that one may take for granted, but someone with depression finds it very hard to do, Simone explained.
“I had moments when I was ‘okay’, I thought; then the next moment, I would not want to see anyone or talk to anyone. I withdrew from people and places from time to time. I needed space and often need to renew my energy levels. It was a constant tug of war.”
One of the things Simone began to do religiously was journaling. She wrote a lot of poetry and kept a little book where she wrote all of her thoughts. She bought it with her to her appointment with her therapist, who encouraged her to publish her writing.
Though reluctant at first, Simone took the advice and her book Poetic Diary of a Bleeding Heart was published in 2016. The book is a collection of poetry, self-help activities and daily affirmations to help encourage those facing the same wrath she once did. You can purchase this book online or inside your local bookstores.
“I have seen God’s hand moving in my life. The people whom I’ve met, the things that I have accomplished, where I’m coming from and where I am now…it’s hard to believe it’s me. It blows my mind all the time,” she said. “When young girls come to me after I’ve shared my story and they tell me that they are being bullied and don’t know how to deal with it, knowing that I can help save a life is so rewarding.”
Simone’s foundation’s helps link people with the resources they need to receive treatment for mental illness.
“One of the things that often happens is that there are long wait times to see a counsellor. So what we do is see how we can reduce the amount of time, and step in to help people afford the care that they need,” she said.
Essence of Mind Outreach Program has been recognized by the Mayor of Brampton as one of the new charities that has been helping families and individuals in need of treatment, Simone said.
“There isn’t enough recognition for those who know how to push themselves, even against adversity and they feel like they want to give up. It takes courage. The fact that they are trying to live or change their life is admirable. They are fighting a daily battle with their own thoughts and they are still coming out on top. So I tell them, ‘Be proud of yourself. I’m proud of you for being brave. There’s a reason why you are alive.’”Simone Walsh
“This has taught me that God had to break me to use me. I was broken but not destroyed. I had to go through everything I did to get to where I am now,” she said. “Sometimes you have to go through some stuff. This is proof that I matter and that my voice is important. When I share my story, I tell them that they matter.”