How Wallpaper Saved My Life

How Wallpaper
Saved My Life

Quote of the Week

Design won’t save the world –  But it sure does make it look good

My Story


Trying To Take That First, Can I Do This, Step

“The Challenge I am doing this month is called November and it’s just where I try to get through every day in November.“

Pre-nervous breakdown #4, I woke up and started my usual routine. Screamed at kids to eat, brush their teeth (novelty) and get out the door to school. I knew I needed them out of the house, because today was the day I had put off for a long time. Desperate times called for desperate measures: I was finally going to have a call with my psychiatrist.

Not surprisingly, I was dreading this call. I had already missed three scheduled appointments. This is not something one does with public health care providers. Psychiatrists are like GOLD and hard to secure. I had many friends who tried to manage meds with GP’s, and it can be really frustrating for both sides. You end up explaining the various side effects of mixing Brand A with Brand D, that you’ve already tried Brand C and Brand B gives you the shakes and diarrhea. This is never overly reassuring, but you will TRY ANYTHING, so you do it anyway.

I was mildly hopeful and terrified he wouldn’t call because I knew the time had come. The time to be actually truthful, honest, and completely transparent, about how much I was thinking about dying. This round of suicidal ‘ideation’ – as it’s referred to in the medical world – sounds much kinder than it feels. It is how mentally ill people fantasize about death (I have actually been unable to stop myself from telling my friends that if I ever end up on my death bed and I am not surrounded by wallpaper, this would make me very sad). If only wallpaper came in a form of Prozac, all would be better).

All this to say I have long ago given up the illusion of a drug-free mental health ‘path’. And trust me, I have tried. I have drunk the Kool-Aid, I have sat with the birds, climbed the mountains, swam with the dolphins (false, but would have been nice). I have attempted everything in my Google search world to attempt life medication free. Because taking medication for a lot of us adds to our sense of failure, which we are already great at doing all by ourselves (look at me being positive about being good at something).

I do believe that some of us have to go through this process to feel totally, firmly 100 percent ok to tell people we are on medication. That for some of us the choice is medication or death. I am not saying this for dramatic effect, but for a very simple reason.

If you are me, 20 years ago or now, and your doctor’s recommendation is to try medication – please give yourself permission to take the medication. We, along with all humans, deserve to experience joy, the capacity to handle our thoughts, and not live in our thoughts. Thoughts, for many of us, feel like the world is closing in all around you. My rational mind knows this. Humans are allowed to experience life, at least on occasion, through joy, even pleasure, rather than pain. Given the quest for some sort of joy, this question has inevitably plagued most of us who struggle with mental wellness:

To Take Medication or Not to Take Medication?
(This Should Not Be a Question)

For reference, I thought it would be fun to share with you things I have tried (in no particular order) to remain drug-free. Please also understand that this was before I had been introduced to the glories of wallpaper. Who knows, wallpaper may have saved me from some of this shit:

  • No sugar (of course they make you try this)
  • No carbs (of course they make you try this)
  • Candida diet (Google it, it’s horrifying)
  • Daily Yoga (or 3 times a week)(or once)(or once every 2 weeks)
  • Daily Meditation (honestly, who can do this?)
  • Energy Healers (Apparently my 3rd chakra is really fucked up)
  • No alcohol (so give up fun)
  • (Read carefully) Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time EVERY day (Who can do this? Monks?)
  • Minimum of 20-minutes of cardio 5 times a week
  • Going to Church (I know)
  • Squirting grapefruit seed extract up my vagina (yep, did this too)

Needless to say, I have attempted life without medication. Most of us have some sort of preoccupation with the shame around taking medication. This shame has, not surprisingly, led me to multiple long dark episodes. These episodes have robbed me from so many things that I have to discipline myself not to think about them. I have to put them in a locked part of my brain and pretend they don’t exist.

Episodes I am desperate for my children to avoid, and many, many regretful moments with my husband. My husband has always borne the brunt of the most devastating consequences of my breakdowns. My brother, best friends, parents, and family were also not spared. Moments that, when I feel I deserve to feel awful, I go to, to remind myself of the awfulness because this is what is still so shitty: My brain still kind of wants to feel shitty because it can still feel safer to feel bad, than to feel good.

Now, well entrenched into my 40s, I am finally firmly in the camp that medication saves lives. I try to not blame myself for my brain not producing serotonin, especially when there are so many other FUN things for which to blame myself! Medication certainly has not ‘cured’ my depression who, by the way, I am thinking of naming ‘Stan’. Stan still wants me to listen to him, he wants to be heard, and is extremely difficult to ignore. (Also, I am liking calling him Stan – sorry to the Stan’s out there but to me, this name sounds like an asshole).

What medication has allowed me to experience are parts of my life in what I assume is a ‘normal’ frame of mind. I feel sadness, but I can bear it, and I can treat it with empathy, understanding, and remind myself that it may pass. I can laugh out loud, relish in my obnoxious, and – oh so beautiful friends, feel hopeful and proud of my family, and experience the world (at least some of the time) through light.

Bless a non-drug-free life 😉

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WTF Is This?

“They say bodies are 99 percent water, we are basically cucumbers with anxiety“

This diary started with the suggestion from my therapist to start ‘journaling’.  I must confess that the idea of ‘journaling’ made me want to vomit in my mouth. Journaling was for those people. You know, people who think that everything they say is interesting (it isn’t). I knew this because I had read some of these blogs and they usually left me feeling icky and/or inadequate. I couldn’t even stand myself or my own thoughts, why would I enjoy or find it helpful to WRITE THEM DOWN?

Then I took an honest look at what I was reading those days.  Even if some blogs didn’t work for me, all I was reading were blogs, magazine articles and self-help books with very short chapters and very large fonts.  I couldn’t tell you the name of most of these writers, and some were awful. Some of us cannot afford to go on a 4-week yoga retreat to ‘reset’, although if someone offered to pay for this, I am not saying I would turn it down, but some of these stories did provide comfort. They made me feel less lonely and reassured me that people had survived these horrible thoughts and most importantly, they were still around to tell their stories.

I was feeling desperate and knew I needed help. My thoughts were relentless and mean, and I was on the losing side of the battle against them. I had never been a good student, but I was ready to become one.

I decided I was going to try everything my therapist suggested, including continuing with therapy. But, seeing a therapist and telling them what I was truly thinking and not just saying what I thought would make them like me, were two different things.

I mean, she had the PHD, and I have always been a fan of hiring professionals.

So, there I was again, on ‘the Zoom’ with my therapist, trying to find a way to articulate, honestly, how loud the voices had become. The guilt about even feeling sad was mostly unbearable. How do I describe this to someone who doesn’t even really know me? What if they think I am selfish? There are so many others with worse situations than mine. I know this.

But constant suicidal thoughts have a way of forcing you to either move towards wellness, or, well, the other.

So, I decided to start with this story.

I had been driving home from grocery shopping (don’t be jealous).  I was zoning in and out of a podcast which had been recommended for people like me; sad people trying not to be sad.

As the podcast ended, I was reaching for my phone (illegal, I know) when a song started playing that immediately caught me off guard. I am not a big music person. In fact, my friends and family refer to me as someone with terrible taste in music but when I heard this song, and these lyrics, I knew someone out there knew me:

“And to be lovеd, we need to be known.

We’ll finally find our way back homе.

And through the joy and pain, that our lives bring,

We can do hard things.”

I had to pull over because I could not stop crying. I wasn’t sad or angry or happy. It was just such a simple, beautiful moment that managed to articulate how I had been feeling, and yet offer hope at the same time.  Because m’fo, if there is one thing that I can give myself credit for, it is that I can do hard things.

Quick sidebar – shockingly, the podcast is actually called ‘We Can Do Hard Things’ – who knew?

I can’t remember hearing anyone before equating any value or recognition of the mental strength it takes for some of us to just grind forward while we ‘do hard things’. And, what makes it worse, are those hard things that seem so easy for others.

“Boots to the ground! Chin up! One foot in front of the other!”

The thing is, we know these things are not hard things for everyone but when you are depressed, the bar is a very different height. Sometimes washing your hair feels like climbing Mount Everest, and I would never climb Mount Everest. It sounds like a terrible idea.

We hear a lot about ‘resilience’, especially in the context of modeling for our children, but the ‘act’ itself of doing hard things doesn’t seem to merit any value. I have mostly just felt deep shame that I find life so hard. It is usually on my list of self-improvements: STOP FINDING LIFE HARD. You have it EASY. You are PRIVILEGED.

I am a 48-year-old, white woman who runs her own small design business. I am a friend, daughter, sister, wife, and mother. I never know what order to put those in without fear of being judged. What is your identity? What order do you present it to the world? Answers welcome!

I live with severe, persistent clinical depression, chronic migraines, attention deficit disorder and some bits of bi-polar to make it extra fun to medicate.  For the most part, I think I had been ‘getting through’ life.  I worked hard, managed to pay for and get my kids to their various activities so they don’t live on screens, pay my employees so they don’t quit and of course, importantly, covert many of the nay-sayers to the joys and unexpected delights of wallpaper.

Back to the song and that line: “to be loved we need to be known”. It filled my eyes with tears and put my stomach into knots.

Maybe because I live with this voice all the time, the one that tells me if I stopped faking it and showed up as my, gag, authentic self that my biggest fear would come true. People would see that I am indeed not very interesting, or funny (THE WORST), too tall/ugly and of course, a little bit stupid. Thank you ADD.

But, if I just keep running, running like a coyote chasing a road runner, people will not have time to really notice me. They will be distracted by all the dust, and the dust will shield them from me.

So, my hope for sharing my story is that it will not only help me but maybe others along the way. I am motivated, an unfamiliar feeling with depression.  I want to explore how I got there, again, feeling so sad, lonely, and terrified. I was so low that I had to numb myself both to beauty and pain because both felt completely intolerable.

For the first time since my initial ‘episode’ at 15, I found myself curious to better understand how I got to this place. Why did depression still anchor so many of my thoughts and actions? I need to piece it together. I need to get more comfortable in my own skin, to notice where it stretches and pulls. Where it feels good and where it feels bad, and hopefully start to build a trust with this ‘self’ inside of me. The real one. Not the one that is just running from place to place, that is scared to come out and play.

And then maybe, just maybe, I could hear that line ‘to be loved we need to be known’ and experience it through wellness and knowing, rather than sadness.

They say anything is possible.

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The Origin Story

True story: I took this picture exactly two weeks after I was released from the “Loonie Bin”, perhaps more kindly referred to as the “Acute Psychiatric Unit” at The Ottawa Hospital. Not that that matters really, they are equally terrible. If you are one of us lucky ones to be there, you are not in the wrong place, they are just horrible.

So, this picture is an ode to good make-up. Thank god for its existence and to RuPaul because he and his girls have made me a believer in make-up, and its power to live out a fantasy. My fantasy was not looking like a crazy person so thank you cosmetics. Of course, only ethical cosmetics as I am not a monster … yet.  

This sounds insane, which by definition I kind of am, but what got me to this photo shoot, what rolled me out of bed, was my love for wallpaper because I love wallpaper. I mean, I love wallpaper. I love wallpaper so much it can get me out of bed. Even when being in bed is mostly all I can do thanks to this brain of mine, I can rally to go look at wallpaper. Which means, really, anything IS possible, at least some of the time.

Wallpaper has been one of the single most joyous experiences of my life.  It has guided me, inspired me, motivated me, and has never failed to lift my spirits (insert guilt that wallpaper inspires me over climate change). C’mon people, how many things can one person actually say that about? Kids and family excluded. Anything?

These words are my story of how wallpaper saved my life. It gave me the courage to start my own business, it moved me through many bad moments in my life and back to the land of the living.  

My hope for sharing this story is to offer some hope to those of you out there battling your crazy brains. I am not brave, or strong, or unique but I made it to my late 40s, and this is a big win for some of us.

This is for those of you out there who are suffering, those of you feeling alone in your pain. I’ve felt it, and the loneliness can be unbearable. There are many of us out here. You are not invisible to me. I, too (sometimes well and sometimes not so well), walk amongst those people who live within ‘the land of the living’. You know, those people who don’t seem to think that putting on socks in the morning is equal to winning an Oscar – those people.

This is for those of us who are trying to reconcile the person we show the world in order to fit in, and the broken person inside that tells us our lives are meaningless. We hide the punishing thoughts because they’re kind of a bummer to talk about at dinner. 

For those of us who fantasize about disappearing, just so we can feel what we imagine to be relief from the relentlessness of our own thoughts.

For those of us who, despite all of this, keep trying to walk, and sometimes limp, through our darkness towards the light.  

Because there is light! We know this deep in our souls. If there is unbearable sadness, there must be exquisite joy. One does not cancel out the other. They are both inside us and I’m still here, every day, figuring out how to live with this contradiction in my heart.

For my kids, my family, my friends, and my home, you are the loves of my life. You are the reasons I remain tethered to this world. I worried that sharing this story could be difficult for my kids but then reminded myself they haven’t been interested in anything I do since becoming teenagers.

Finally, I also hope that some of these stories will help you find your joy, your wallpaper, in whatever pattern, shape, and colour because the possibilities are as infinite as you.

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Emma Doucet

CEO, Principal Designer,

Grassroots Design and Build


Founder and head Designer, Emma Doucet opened Grassroots Design & Build in 2012 after taking first place in House & Home Magazine’s budget-conscious design contest. Emma left her government position to open Grassroots and hasn’t looked back (ok…. maybe occasionally… reliability is not nothing!). Her designs reflect this belief in taking chances. She’s known for her use of bold colors, beautiful patterns, playful furniture pairings, natural materials, and her greatest love of all: wallpaper. Emma’s design aesthetic is grounded in her belief that beauty and function go hand-in-hand.  She has received numerous awards over her decade-long career. 

Emma’s approach to design has been shaped by being a busy mother of three. She understands that living spaces need to evolve along with us as we move through different stages of life. Emma meets her clients where they’re at in their lives, designing with one eye to the future, while celebrating the past. She firmly believes that good decor and renovations start with imagination (a nod to her lifelong role model, Anne of Green Gables) and finish with impeccable custom construction. Emma is trailblazer a a women CEO in Ottawa’s construction industry. She’s worked tirelessly to make the field of construction more accessible to women.  She would be happy to talk your ears off about this issue if you give her an opening 😉

Emma is also a passionate champion for mental wellness. She is an advocate for safe working environments and housing for all those recovering from mental illness. Emma understands the critical importance of needing safe spaces for healing from her own ongoing struggles with the disease. You can read more about Emma’s experience with mental wellness on her blog “How Wallpaper Saved My Life”. 

Born and raised in Ottawa, Emma’s lifelong mission is to help remove all the stigma that surrounds mental illness and, to promote through her designs that Ottawa is not always conservative…. one reno at a time 😉

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