Looking at her accolades it is hard to not root for Karen Carrington. 2015 Toronto Woman on Fire Single Mother Award, featured in the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper as The Woman Empowered along with being an annual donor for the Canadian Diabetes Association through leading local fundraisers. These are only some of her achievements and yet, in reality, she is so much more. She brands herself as a “motivational speaker, mother, talk show host and author where her mantra is all about encouragement, inner beauty, mental health and physical wellness by inspiring others through her personal story.” Dubbing herself an advocate for human happiness Karen seeks to build her own community of positivity.
That isn’t enough to give you the whole picture though. In order to understand where Karen’s life is now it is best to look back at her past. A place that she once struggled with greatly, Karen now uses it as motivation when inspiring others. When Karen was younger she felt she was swimming in an ocean of inadequacy and felt herself struggling to breathe. Back in 2007 her life was a total mess and she felt constantly overwhelmed about parenting, her self-image, her financial troubles and her relationship with her now ex-husband and parents. That, combined with rough decisions mixing to create even more difficult outcomes, proved to be completely exhausting. To the point where anxious thoughts became accepted as commonplace in her mind. To put it into her words her anxiety reached a point where “if people didn’t acknowledge me, I figured they hated me. I felt unworthy. I felt I had to prove myself to everyone in my life that I was able to manage. I didn’t want to seem like a failure. I had to be constantly perfect. I remember feeling so confused about my life and why my anxiety was very high. At times my mind would race around these things for hours.”
Thoughts such as those would permeate around her as they crept into all of her daily interactions. To the point where one day Karen finally snapped. “One day, I was so on edge with anxious thoughts that I went for a long drive to escape the confusion. I just wanted the pain and anxiety to fade away. I drove on the highway secretly wishing I would crash and that my life would end. I just wanted to disappear. Tears were overflowing, I gripped the steering wheel and I was crying profusely. A voice in my head said to slow down and pull over, this is not safe. I finally pulled over and sat on the grass. “I’m not good enough! I’m not perfect enough! Why am I here? Who loves me?” I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I was so angry with myself for not being able to manage my emotions. I had a rough childhood and these feelings of inadequacy were resurfacing and my mental struggle kept intensifying.” It was in that day that Karen came to the realization that things needed to be different if she wanted to continue living. Karen needed to change and bring about a new perspective. She needed help.
At first she didn’t know where to turn so she began taking prescribed sleeping pills while keeping to herself. To combat her constant stress migraines she would take several extra strength ibuprofen every day to decrease her migraines and she as a result of the stress she rarely slept. This cycle of medication and stress would continue on for some time until she finally decided to reach out for help. Unsure of where to begin and if there was an actual answer to be found she went and made an appointment to visit the doctor. From that visit she was given some guidance and was referred to a nearby therapist in the area. After setting up an appointment Karen finally mustered the willpower to force herself to go to the appointment. To her credit things went better than expected. It was during these meetings that she was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD for short. GAD is “a mental illness which causes someone to have excessive worry, uneasiness and dread for a long period of time. People who suffer from anxiety often worry intensely about health, relationships, family issues, finances or work to the point where it interferes with daily life.”
As time went on Karen notched more therapy visits under her belt as she began to regain control over her life and her fears. She will even be the first to say herself that her journey wasn’t ever easy. But with time and the help of a therapist Karen has been able to confront her anxiety. Things such as coping techniques and the power of faith have instilled confidence in her daily life.
What does all of this translate to then? For Karen it was a journey that enlightened her to the idea of choice. That she has the power to change her perspective and live in harmony with a mental illness that used to control her. Even more importantly though is it gives her a signature to all of her motivational teachings. The signature is “I battled and I came back”. It wasn’t an easy fight for her but she was able to mend relationships and become the mother that she wanted to be. Prouder now more than ever Karen is excited to watch her two sons transform into young men as she maintains an active role in both of their lives.
Karen with her two sons
Furthermore, to illustrate Karen’s recovery I was given a brief glimpse of what her newfound strength looks like. From one of her recent recounts Karen talks about paying it forward when “my son told me that there was someone at his high school who was struggling in academics and life. She could not focus as she was dealing with painful family matters. My son at the time said that I had been such a good mother to him and because he was moving out to venture out on his own, would it be possible to take this young girl under my wing and provide her with shelter and guidance. So I reached out to her and welcomed her into my home. She lived with me and my younger son for two years and I taught her how to be strong, overcome, to save money, to speak up for herself, how to face adversity and helped her regain her self-esteem. We would have long chats about life, depression, relationships, how to tap into her emotions and how to let go of shame and guilt while instead feeling joy and freedom. Today she is a successful young lady who manages on her own! We keep in touch and I continuously check in on her progress. I continue to motivate her! She always sends me beautiful messages and emails about how appreciative she is that I took her in with faith and helped rebuild her life. I am proud that I was a part of her journey. I believe as a community we are responsible for the youth, even if they are not our own children. Some are broken, alone and in pain. Maybe we cannot always open our homes, but we can open our hearts and show that they are valued, loved and respected. They are our future. We need to invest in them. By giving this young girl a stable environment this helped her get on her feet and out into the world!”
For Karen those two years gave her an experience that she didn’t know she was capable of. A mere few years earlier something like this wouldn’t have been considered imaginable. Now, however, she felt drawn to it. The idea of empowering others. So she took that idea and ran with it. It eventually lead her to her book (Hope – A New Way of Thinking) which she was a co-author of and from there began her realization that this was exactly where she wanted to be. She had been given a voice and wanted to use that to help others.
Karen with her book
With that thought in mind Karen began angling for her next move. As she said herself “I have a voice and I intend to use it”. So with that said Karen created a radio talk show. What did it focus on you ask? Nothing other than what you would expect! Again in her words she says it is, “a show to uplift viewers each Monday. We start off the week with positivity, encouragement and inspiration. This show is a platform to spread awareness on mental wellness, healthy mindsets and self-love. It’s a fun and uplifting forum for stimulating conversations around healthy relationships and a happy life balance. The vibe is energetic in a judgement free zone to ignite mental freedom and self-acceptance. A segment of the show is allocated to our featured guests. In these segments our inspirational guests express their achievements and milestones and share how they have overcome adversity, challenges and reached their goals both big or small. The purpose of these conversations are to help motivate and inspire listeners who are perhaps broken, alone, lost, need inspiration with their dreams, struggling with physical, emotional pain, mental illness, self-esteem, confidence or have lost all hope.”
Using her words and understanding her journey that quote above brings out the final unspoken tenant which governs Karen’s current life: goals. To keep everything on track she is always setting goals for herself. Nowadays she is finding she isn’t just reaching those goals but she is shattering them. Talking to her now it’s even harder to believe she ever struggled with anxiety at all given how calm, collected and articulate she is. I will conclude by saying that if she had anxiety before it certainly doesn’t show now. Instead all that Karen Carrington shows now is a vision, a quest and a whole lot of compassion. That and, of course, her truly wondrous voice.