Public Panic

I have been having panic attacks since the beginning of high school, however most of the time I never realized what it was.

My breathing speeds up, thoughts bounce around inside my head and I feel like crawling out of my own skin. Often times I just want to run, sprint away from whatever situation I am in, but it feels as though my feet are glued to the ground.

Normally it happens in the comfort of my own home, on my own or with a family member. Not many have witnessed the madness and ultimate meltdown.

But of course on one of the most important days of my university career it happened publicly. In front of a large group of my classmates, in the middle of an exciting presentation. I lost it.

To be honest the 7 minutes ended up being a blur, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see and I could barely speak. I remember coming to the end of the presentation and there being silence through the room. All I could think was; shit. Did that actually just happen?

I had a panic attack. With all the pressure and passion associated with the project I was overwhelmed and lost my direction. When I think about those 7 minutes now, a few months later, I get sick to my stomach. Things couldn’t have gone worse.

But guess whose got to do the presentation again. This time with even more riding on it. What will I do better next time? Well I’ll definitely be taking some lorazepam beforehand (there’s no shame in planning ahead). Ideally I will be able to present my ideas without passing out, however at this point I’m just hoping I can stay standing.

Public panic attacks are not recommended, but unavoidable. Ultimately it takes deep breathes, slow speaking and a sense of humour to navigate the disaster that comes from inside yourself. Anxiety is experienced differently by everyone, from what I’ve learned, you just have to roll with the punches and sometimes its impossible to avoid. Don’t take life to seriously.

I am writing about this experience and will continue to write about my experience because I feel no shame. I am tired of the highlight reels. I am interested in the raw, unfiltered and unapologetic truth that surrounds every individual. No matter the destination how you got there is much more inspiring.

“There is life — abundant and exuberant life after darkness… I choose to discuss my own battles with mental health to fight isolation, share authentically, and to give hope. Secrets so often are associated with shame. In keeping these pieces hidden, I feel like I would be endorsing the view that mental illness is something to be ashamed of and it’s just not.” – Allison Tedford, To Write Love On Her Arms



Sending love and laughs always 
xoxo – JO


Love Day

Happy (belated) Love Day.

For me Valentine’s Day is another one of those holidays that I have mixed feelings for. It is traditionally a day for love between people. However I like to use the day to appreciate everything I love in life, from the places to the experiences.

As a hopeless romantic I am a sucker for the bouquets of flowers and heart shaped cookies that the day inspires. I just wish it would last all year long.

The main difficulty I have with Valentine’s Day is really the whole self-love thing. My skills are more in the realm of self-doubt. But I am working on it.

Today (yesterday) instead of dreading the day of love by napping it away, I took the opportunity to treat myself by doing all my favourite things. Which included getting a bouquet of flowers from Crown Flora Studio, picking up a new book from chapters (The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas) and an afternoon spent working at Dineen Coffee Co.

On a day where I normally feel lonely, I found myself feeling grateful. Grateful for my body, my experience, my opportunities and my surroundings. Grateful for the places I’ve been and have yet to go. Grateful for the people I’ve met and yet to encounter. Grateful for laughing till I cry and singing till I can no longer speak. Grateful for a good book that brings me to tears and a movie that helps me see the world in new ways. Grateful for my individual, unique and special experience of life.

If you are feeling alone today (or any day) take time for some self-care and self-love. Whether this means taking a good long nap, binging something new on Netflix, making a delicious meal or having a one-person dance party. Be your own valentine. Instead of letting this holiday remind you of what might be missing in your life, use it to express gratitude for who you are, where you’ve been and what’s coming next.

The truth is we are all our own love stories. Life is a journey in search of love for yourself.

My motto is why wait for someone else to buy you flowers when you can just get them yourself. Never has it been so clear to me that all I need in my life is to be my own biggest fan, because who else is going to be.

“It’s not that i don’t like love. i love love – i think it’s the best thing that happens on the planet. It’s the biggest dream inside me. But i bought a lie somewhere along the way. i bought the lie that says i’m not alive if i’m not in love. i bought the lie that says if i love someone but then they stop loving me or they start loving someone else, then i must have no value or power or worth. i bought the lie that says if i’m not in love, then i’m as good as dead.” – Jamie Tworkowski



Sending love and laughs always 
xoxo – JO

Blue Mondays.

Blue Mondays. Oh yes, they are definitely real.

Weekends are built up to be the best part of the week. No doubt they often are, however these high expectations that we have created are what set us up to fail on Mondays.

For instance I have had an awesome, fulfilling and inspiring weekend. Nevertheless I know Monday is going to be tough. By putting so much pressure on two out of the seven days I find myself with little to look forward to afterwards.

What I have come to realize is that each week is a new challenge. Highs can only come from lows.

This is resilience. A concept that I did not fully understand until a few months ago. It’s not about immediately bouncing back or jumping right into the flames.

Resilience is balance. It is taking the wins with the losses, the challenges with the triumphs. It is finding the awe in the everyday, not just the good days.

So take this Monday as the one step back before your next two steps forward. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed about the blues, for every peak there is a valley.

“you are not crazy. you are the glow. you are the story of our ancestors and the glory of our future. you are a brilliant storm. you are a body made of magic. you are a well of love. be an unapology for your presence. be the entire novel of your excellence, even if it is difficult and muddy. especially when it is difficult and muddy. you are en route, friend. take courage. the road is patient. the sky is open. feel everything and do not apologize for any of it. you are the formation and in the necessary words of kendrick lamar, ‘we gon’ be alright.'” – Tonya Ingram, To Write Love on Her Arms


Sending love and laughs always 
xoxo – JO

Those Days.

It’s just been one of those days.

Some days, my heart just hurts. It aches with sadness for no reason. My body tense with emotion, tears well up in my eyes. My throat starts to sting with panic and a meltdown coming my way.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.

Eventually the first tear falls streaming down my face. Sometimes that’s both the beginning and the end; those are the good days, however today is not one of those days. It continues until my face is tight and dry, my sinuses throb with pressure and I have yet to figure out what triggered this moment.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.

I wash my face and hold a warm cloth to my puffy eyes. My head and heart are heavy with uncertainty, I decide that’s enough of today for me. I climb under my duvet and open a book in hopes to pass the time.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.

Once my eyelids begin to flutter and I can no longer get through a page, I put the book aside and reach over to turn off the light. It is time to leave the heavy behind and move on to the next day. We’ll try again tomorrow.


Sending love and laughs always 
xoxo – JO


Welcome to my not so regular blog posting. I felt today was a good day to start up again. It’s my favourite day of the year, #BellLetsTalk Day. A day in Canada centred around starting a conversation about mental health and well-being. Here is my conversation. I am going to be brutally honest for a moment, so prepare yourself.

We all have mental health. It doesn’t have to be a scary topic.

Mental Illness is a serious issue. Mood disorders can be just as difficult as any physical illness or disease.

My name is Joanna Kadwell and I have Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed May 15th, 2012. I have panic attacks, I have depressive moods and episodes, I have self-harmed and I have thought about suicide.

I say this because this shit is real and it’s happening to people. I am one of the lucky ones, who’ve found the light in the darkness.

Over the past few years I have tried a multitude of anti depressants and anti anxiety medications and still do. I still have low days and dark days. I still have panic attacks and anxiety. I will have these for the rest of my life. Some days I can’t get out of bed, some nights I lay awake for hours. I have difficulty with confidence and self worth, and I have difficulty entering into new social situations.

I would describe my mental illness as captivating and unpredictable. Some days I am on a high, motivated and energized, ready to take on the world. Other days I cry myself to dehydration. That’s just the way it is. I have come to learn that this is just a miscommunication in my brain, a chemical reaction. It is not my fault or anyone’s fault that I have a mental illness.

I am extremely grateful for the support system I have and the things I’ve learned throughout my experience.

I have an amazing family. They hold me when the lights not shining brightly. They support me when I am ready to take another step. They cheer me on when I doubt myself. And they listen when I need to be heard. To them, I am forever grateful.

What I want you to take away from getting all the way to the end of this post, and thank you by the way, is that you are not alone. It is okay not to be okay.

Just promise me tomorrow. Always give yourself the chance to start a new day.

“I know tomorrow isn’t something you think about a lot, and, if you do, it’s not with rose-colored glasses. Sometimes tomorrow feels impossible. The night is so long when you feel like you want to die and the dawn seems miles away. I know…. The promise I need you to make is this: We’ll see each other tomorrow. Tonight doesn’t always keep its promises, but tomorrow has potential… Tomorrow is a place where things can be handled and coffee (or tea) can be made and you can have your favourite dinner. Tomorrow is a place where we can figure out a better way to cope with living and tomorrow is a place where, one day, we won’t be coping – we’ll be living. Tomorrow is where I’ll see you. I’ll see you tomorrow. I promise.” – Fortesa Latifi, for To Write Love On Her Arms

xoxo – JO

P.S. I am always here to chat.

World of Threads Festival


“This fall I found myself wandering the halls of Queen Elizabeth Park Community Centre, lost in a magical world of color, texture, and innovation.

As someone who sews, knits and has studied textiles, I thought I knew quite a but about the world of fibers and threads. However I had been missing out on a traditional medium of incredible creativity, referred to as fiber and textile art.

You have till November 27th to visit this amazing exhibit. There are 315 textile artworks by 134 artists, from 24 different countries being displayed for viewing at no cost. The non-for-profit World of Threads Festival began in 1993 as a single exhibit called the Celebration of Craft.

The medium of fiber art goes back to the ancient Egyptians who created elaborate decorative tapestries, which later became fabric designs.

Today we see a variety of materials and techniques being used – from plant to synthetic fibers, and quilting to embroidery. Instead of a strictly practical use for the fibers and textiles these artists find ways to illicit a message. These works of art put more focus on the craft rather than the intellectual meaning

The festival has grown over the years, creating a community for local artists and curators. The addition of a weekly artist interview series has pushed the audience internationally to 90 different countries. I had the chance to briefly speak with a couple of the artists involved.

For instance Gwen Lowery spends up to 2 months developing a single piece. Working mainly with machine and hand embroidery, creating colourful, eye catching, and geometric works. Lowery’s 7 towers and 3 canvases of art can be found in the “Cosmic Geometry” section of the World of Threads exhibit.

But how do these artists get involved in such a specific craft? Lowery explained,

“Since I was a child, I have always made clothes, knitted, and embroidered. Eventually, I got tired of using the specific patterns created by others and started having thoughts about creating my own work.”

Marilyn Clarke another artist from the festival creates with a different technique. She uses free motion stitching, much like drawing with pencil but with a sewing needle. It comes together as an intricate surface of light, depth and motion. From a distance one might think its is an acrylic or oil painting.

When describing her craft she said, “I use the darker threads to emphasize shapes and lighter threads romp across the surface to instill movement and colour.”

It is easy to get lost in the gallery corridors they have curated for the 2016 Festival. The three dimensional surfaces, inventive designs and layers of artwork will change the way you look at this artistic craft forever.”


True Classic Style

Chatter over tea with my grandmother,

“It was the camel hair poncho with lynx fur trim – her favorite piece in her wardrobe. Something I have seen her wear more than a hundred times, whether it is with a cream tweed jacket or cardinal red dress.

Having worked in the fashion industry since she was 32 years old, she’s become a retail expert. Currently holding a part time position at a women’s wear boutique.

We are talking about my grandma, who turns 85 at the beginning of December. Do the math. That comes to 53 years in fashion retail, and still going. When asked “How long have you worked in retail?” she answered “Oh gosh Joey, feels like 100 years.”

At 82 she was on the search for a new job, and with some help, was applying online. However worried that she would not be hired because of her age, grandma told the manager she was but a young 75, anything above 80 seemed a bit unrealistic. This year her coworkers are looking forward to celebrating her 80th birthday, which brings great laughter to our dinner table.

My entire life my grandma is always, no matter the occasion, the best dressed in the room. Growing up with a couture seamstress as a mother, it was easy for her to become obsessed with the art of fashion from a young age. Her luxurious look takes time to create, and always includes a pair of statement earrings. In our phone interview she explained that she gets her style ideas from working in the store, reading magazines and on television. We were sad to hear the news of the loss of Oscar de la Renta in 2014, as his elegant designs have always been Grandma’s favorite.

As a single mother of 3 boys, she was very happy to welcome 6 granddaughters to the family. However I ended up being the one who’s fallen into her fashion footsteps, therefore whenever we are together there is always a discussion about my current projects or latest purchases. She doesn’t seem to mind when I refer to myself as the favorite grandchild.

The beautiful world of fashion has helped us develop a special connection. When I get to 85 I just hope I can rock a cheetah print blouse as good as grandma does.”