Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Real Legacy of Maddie Coulter

The Things I Miss Most About Maddie

I've not written about Maddie in more than six months.  I get emotional while writing about something that is so near and dear to my heart.  I often ask if I'm writing for myself or for others?   Does reliving the pain help me to deal with my grief?  I realize that not writing about Maddie makes me lose the vividness and clarity that will always be my daughter and one of my three children.

Much of my writing about Maddie stems from our experiences that started about six months before her passing.  In my writing I've talked about: strategies that parents can hopefully learn from our loss; how it's affected our family and friends; sharing the awareness that has come from our loss; and some of my innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions that largely I'm asked about by people that have reached out because of my writing or shared experiences.

Much of the messaging over the course of the last two and a half years has been centred around awareness and prevention.  Not enough has been focused upon the life lived for the lion's share of Maddie's almost fifteen years.   The real legacy of Maddie Coulter should be focused upon the tremendous person she was and not the kid who ended her life so suddenly with so much promise.  Those fading details are the things that I want to cherish and honour my daughter's memory with.  For all the good that has been achieved in Maddie's loss, it would be lost upon us if we didn't acknowledge the life that she lived, the person that she was and the lives that she touched along the way.

These are the things I miss most about Maddie.

  • I miss the huge collection of girls shoes and boots at the front door that makes opening the door a challenge at times.  
  • I miss the constant requests for Maddie to clean her room and my pleas being ignored for the most part.  On that occasion that Maddie would clean her room, she would come to me all proudly and ask me to look at her clean room, even though I knew she shoved most of the clutter in her closet, drawers or under her bed.
  • I miss those special requests of items to be added to our grocery list like quinoa, kale, special shampoos, conditioners and special bubble bath salts
  • I miss the shouts from her bedroom after she posted something on Instagram to "Like my picture"
  • I miss her singing Adele at the top of her lungs in the shower
  • I miss the goofy SnapChat photos that she would want me to pose for while driving in the car or the selfies she would take constantly
  • I miss all the comments about my wardrobe she would make and that we were not living in the 1980's or the comments about how I got it all wrong when buying her a birthday or Christmas presents and should stick to giving her gift cards
  • I miss her sitting with me while combing online dating site profiles and her giving me the thumbs up or thumbs down (by the way very few got her approval)
  • I miss her and I watching classic movies together that she would let me select (her favourite was Stand By Me). 
  • I miss our trips to go eat at Freshii or the Sushi Shoppe
  • I miss her sensitivity and empathy when she knew I'd had a tough week, giving me a big hug, seeing how I was doing and saying, "I love you, Daddy"
  • I miss that ruckus laugh and bold outrageous character that she often had and didn't care who she was around when she had it that could shake a house and light up a room when she was in it
  • I miss her bossing Zac around and Zac being only too happy to conform to her wishes
  • I love the way she automatically held the shotgun position in the car and the boys didn't even dispute the issue.  She would allow Zac to be in the front seat of the car only on Wednesday mornings 
  • I miss her absolute love of music and her ability to recite every lyric from every song and her unabashed way of singing at the top of her lungs
  • I loved the way she started a One Direction fan club on Twitter well before they became popular and had over 1,500 followers within a couple of weeks
  • I miss her intensity, focus and the way she would motivate herself before every swim meet or race.
  • I miss how non-conforming and individualistic she was.  She only did the things that she wanted to do.  She was one of the first kids to go to Camp Wapamao but left because too many of her friends started going and there was too much drama about who would be in her cabin
  • I miss all the videos she would create within PhotoBooth that would mysteriously appear on my computer or iPhone.
  • I miss E-Mad.  Madeline and her cousin Emma who would perform comedy skits and entertain everyone after dinner each night at the cottage.  They would include Zac and Sawyer in the production but make no mistake, it was all about Emma and Madeline
  • I miss how Maddie and Emma could absolutely make my mom lose her mind in frustration with their antics
  • I missed all three kids sleeping the same bed on Christmas Eve and waking up at 4am and try to negotiate with me to get up and start unwrapping presents.
Admittedly, some of the details and vividness are starting to fade.  I never want this to happen but unfortunately it is happening.  We can capture things with pictures and videos but the very essence of Madeline's personality needs to be constantly refreshed in my memory banks.  The place she holds in my heart will always exist but those individual stories, the personality who was Maddie needs to be replenished.

The Maddie Project is a wonderful initiative and continues to address some fundamental challenges within our society as it relates to youth and adolescent mental illness.  Let's not forget the young girl that made this initiative so important, so necessary and so relevant.

If you have a particularly special memory or story of Maddie, I would love for you to share it with me.  You can either leave it in the comments section or email me privately to  If you could put "A Personal Maddie Story" in the subject header and if you'd like to share it publicly or keep it private.

Let's continue to keep the spirit of Maddie Coulter alive.  Thank you!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Road To Self-Discovery Can Be Painful

The Road To Self-Discovery Can Be Painful

By Chris Coulter
This year should be renamed the Year of My Enlightenment.  There's been a number of highs and lows throughout the year and fortunately more highs than lows. One thing is true, all these moments are part of the continuing education of Chris Coulter.  Perhaps that I'm more aware of my surroundings, environment or vulnerabilities.  Perhaps these moments are around us all the time and we choose to ignore or not acknowledge these messages.  Maybe we need to be in a different state of mind to realize they exist at all.
Last week, I was approached by a former business acquaintance about how and why I had decided to make a career shift and any suggestions that I might offer.  We discussed the obvious need for passion in what we do, the need to continually grow personally and professionally and whether there was a viable income stream associated with the change.  I don't think I gave her much direction but it certainly made me more reflective about who I am and who I have become.
Our meeting became more esoteric than a step-by-step lesson on how to relaunch a career.  RD had pointed out a few things about our previous encounters that I was unaware of but thankful for her honesty.  Previously, she had said that I was intimidating and formal.  I interpreted that as I was an asshole!  She was right.
There have been a number of events over the last few years that have helped to change me.  I'd like to think for the better:
  • I'm now in a relationship that is supportive, loving and empathetic.  We have a tremendous friendship and partnership.  We lean on one another when needed.  We share experiences...good and bad.
  • We closed a company that I learned a tremendous amount about running a business but most all how fortunate I was to have such a loyal business partner, mentor and friend
  • I realized that working for a company that compromises your spirit is not a place worth working at
Gratitude is Realized
I've always been told that you need to be grateful for things.  I realize that gratitude isn't something that you can turn on and off in a moment.  Gratitude is realized. Gratitude came to me after many of the things I had had disappeared.  At that point in time, you can choose to be contemptuous or you can choose to be grateful.  Fortunately, I chose the later.  See where living in contempt can land you.  Although my 14-year-old daughter probably doesn't believe me, I'm grateful for her everyday.
There's Sincerity in a Smile
My enlightment last week reminded me of another realization from my past.  Someone who I knew from a peer advisory group that I was associated with had shared his first impressions of me when we met.  Frank, I thank you for your candor that day.  I think about your critique and observations often. There's not a first meeting that I walk into that your words don't enter my mind.  Today, I walk into new meetings with a bright, inviting smile on my face and try to be approachable mostly because that is genuinely who I want to be.
The Journey of Self-Discovery Doesn't Have to Be a Lonely Road
Self-discovery is a life long journey.  No one can attest to this more so than me.  I have learned more about myself in the last few years than the previous 45 years combined.  Perhaps it's not a coincidence that all these revelations occurred while encountering adversity.

Hey RD, I'm sorry if our meeting didn't leave you with any clearer direction of your future but it helped to reinforce that the journey I've been on has been essential to who I've become.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

What Would I Say To Maddie Today?

Today, April 11th, will mark the second "angelversary" of Maddie's passing.  It's hard to describe what has transpired since that dreaded day.  It has left this indelible imprint upon the lives of our family and so many of our friends. Yet it is a legacy that has touched the lives of so many.  Some that knew Maddie, many that didn't and some that want to leave a positive footprint on the lives for the youth of today and tomorrow.

I often reflect upon what I wish I had done differently, the regret of some things I'd said and others that I hadn't said.  Do I parent differently with Sawyer and Zac?  I don't think so but I'm keenly aware of our conversations and the possible consequences that can arise from them.  I'm a better listener.  I'm more protective.  I'm infinitely more aware of my reactions to our discussions.

What would I say to Maddie today

There are some mornings that I wake up and I've dreamed that Maddie and I have had a conversation.  I'm not sure what prompts these dreams or even if they're a dream at all.  Sometimes it seems so real.  How our subconscious plays on our emotional loss can be cruel and yet can give us hope. My dream never seems to last long enough.  I never want them to end....but they do.

What would a conversation between Maddie and I look like today in the wake of everything's that happened?  Would there be regret?  Would anything have changed the ultimate outcome?  Was I a good Dad?

The relationship between Madeline and I was anything but predictable and it certainly wasn't perfect.  We had our moments and don't believe they were dissimilar from many fathers and their teenage daughters.  Our relationship was predicated on humour.  It helped to cut the tension in our conversations sometimes.  It could also be the cause of some of the strain.  Admittedly, I didn't understand what she was going through as a teenage girl and all of the challenges associated with that burden of an adolescent growing up today.  I wasn't unsympathetic, I just didn't always get it.

Madeline was our first child.  She was also the only girl in my family that came from a long history of boys.  When I first laid my eyes on this perfect little angel, I realized love under a completely differently light.  She had my heart the second she entered into my world.  This little 5lb 14oz child came into world with a flurry of excitement and left our world leaving so much promise in its wake.   Admittedly, when I found out we were expecting Zac,  I didn't think I had the capacity to love another child as much as I loved Madeline.  As a parent, you quickly discover your infinite ability to love.

"So Dad, how are the boys doing?"

"They're ok.  They still talk about you as if you're still with us.  Zac moved into your room because he wanted to be closer to you.  Sawyer has a lot of questions.  There's a huge void in all of our lives. They are so different in personality but you not being here has brought them closer together.  Holidays are the toughest and when your presence is missed the most for all of us."

"How's Mom?"

"She has her good days and her bad days.  She's in a lot of pain but tries to keep your memory in such a positive light.  She started The Maddie Project in your honour.  She's incredibly strong but I know she struggles every day as I do.  A big part of her was lost the day you passed away.  I think knowing how many people have been positively affected by The Maddie Project gives her some solace.  Your brothers and so many of your friends have embraced the cause.  You left such a huge hole in your leaving but so much good has come from it too.  I know you would've been so proud."

"And how are you doing, Daddy?"

"I miss you more than you could ever imagine.  I wish I had more answers. Could we have somehow prevented you from leaving us?  Every day is a new journey and I'm not sure what awaits me.  There are songs that I hear that always remind me of you.  I can't hear a song by Jason Mraz or Ed Sheeran without crying.  There's a huge hole in my heart.  I see some of your friends, they're growing up and they're wonderful young adults.  It makes me think of all the things that you'll miss."

"Tell me Mads, is your pain gone now?"

"Dad, I miss you, Mom and the boys everyday but I couldn't put you through the pain of dealing with my situation anymore.  Leaving you guys behind was the hardest part of my decision.  I hope you'll understand one day.  I'm in a better place now".

"Daddy, will you stay with me?"

"I'll stay with you as long as I can.  I wish I could stay with you forever but I have your brothers to think of too.  My work isn't done here yet.  I'll see you soon enough.  We miss you with all our hearts. Keep well, my Baby Girl.  I love you."

Please support our youth that are struggling.  Help Maddie's legacy live on.

Please share and help to support The Maddie Project by bringing greater awareness and access for youths and their families affected by depression and other mental illnesses.

The Maddie ProjectWebsiteFaceBook PageInstagramTwitter

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Stigma of Anti-Depressants

By now my story is well documented.  I’ve suffered through some devastating events over the last number of years.  I’ve talked about the struggles of a failed marriage and business, and most tragically the suicide of my 14 year old daughter, Madeline.  All these events significantly contributed to my own personal battle with depression.   I’ve also talked about my own personal victories; the reinventing of myself and launching of my new business, The Finish Line Group, the successful way I battled depression and turning the tragic death of Maddie into a platform to bring greater awareness towards youth mental illness.

Is my life normal?  It’s questionable whether it will ever be truly normal again.  There are some events that will have a life-long effect upon who you are and what you have become.  By no means does today’s events predetermine who you will be tomorrow.  My only true realization, by doing nothing will certainly not change your future path.  What works for you today will not necessarily have a positive effect upon you tomorrow.  This is as true in life as it is in business.
The stigma of anti-depressants

I’ve been taking anti-depressants since a month after Madeline’s passing.  There was an initial reluctance because of the often-feared side effects of anti-depressants and my less than great experience with them in the past.  When the emotion became too great to function normally, Dr G convinced me that it was the right thing to do.  Within a week, the medication allowed me to focus, relieved some of the emotional lows that I was experiencing and allowed me to function on a day-to-day basis.  It’s not that the medication made me emotionally void but instead allowed me to resume life with limited side effects. I had always looked at this as a temporary remedy.

About eighteen months after I had decided to go on these meds, I had decided to ween myself off them. I decided that I didn’t need the help anymore.  I had people close to me offering different opinions.  Some said that I needed to get off them as quickly as possible and others questioned my decision and said it was too soon and to carefully weigh my decision.  A part of me didn’t want to be dependant upon medication to feel better.  I thought I could deal with this on my own.

I talked to some people who had confided in me that they were on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. I said that, “I would never have known.” “Exactly my point”, they would respond.  They had tried to go off their medication but realized the negative side effects of not being on them, far out-weighed any side-effects of being on them.  For them, these meds help to normalize their life, allowed them to greater contribute to society and manage their own lives and those of their family.

Does that make them strong or weak?  I’m not sure but it certainly makes them smarter in recognizing that that their richness and quality of life, productivity and functionality is positively impacted by the aid of these meds.

"Maintaining mental health is as important as the diagnosis"

Mental health is a state that people with a mental illness hope to get to. Whether they’re able to achieve it by exercise, counseling, medication or their approach to living life, it’s better to have mental health regardless of how you achieve it.

One of the objectives of the Maddie Project is to bring greater awareness to youth mental illness and to reduce the stigma by putting up your hand and asking for help.  If medication assists in the achievement of mental health, then maintaining it is as important as the diagnosis.
I’ve decided that my mental health, at least for the time being, is achieved by the aide of me taking medication.  Whether this is a permanent or a temporary assist, it’s one that at least for the time being, contributes to my mental well-being….and I am the only one that can make that determination.

Please share and help to support The Maddie Project by bringing greater awareness and access for youths and their families affected by depression and other mental illnesses.

The Maddie ProjectWebsiteFaceBook PageInstagramTwitter