Anneliese (Annie) Lawton: Mental Health Advocate and Friend

The older one gets, the more difficult it becomes to make friends. I mean, true friends. In my case, throw in my introversion and non-approachable resting face, it’s a recipe for shying people away and keeping my small friends circle, well, small. My friends are tried and true. A little network of ride or dies that I’ve been able to count on since well before the Spice Girls gave us Girl Power. The innocence of our pre-teen years, the uncertainty of our teens, the exploration of our twenties, settling into our thirties and YIKES this year brings us into our forties. We’ve been through it all together. Sometimes very closely and other times at a greater distance.

Life gets in the way of true friendships but we can always count on them when we need them no matter what and regardless of whether it’s a mid-afternoon crisis or middle of the night panic. As the years unfold, it's not about the quantity of friendships but the quality. The bonds forged in shared experiences, laughter and tears are the ones that stand the test of time. These are the friends who, regardless of the miles or the years that may separate us, are there in an instant when life takes an unexpected turn.

And then there are those unexpected friendships that blossom when you least expect them. In this digital age, connections can be made through the click of a button, turning complete strangers into confidantes.

A chance encounter

I met Annie by chance. As I worked to get Cuddle for Keeps off the ground and needed to brainstorm with other women entrepreneurs, I leaned on a Facebook group of kick-ass women supporting other women to grow their businesses. In my true introverted fashion, I mostly followed this group of women to learn and gain insight from a distance. But one day, as I reached closer to making Cuddle for Keeps a reality, I put out a call. A call for someone to strategize with me and brainstorm potential outcomes of my own business. While it was clear in my own mind, I needed someone to bounce my thoughts off of.

Annie answered that call. I had never heard of her. A quick Google search taught me that Annie is an accomplished marketing and business growth strategist. Perfect, just what I needed. But not only that, Annie is a best-selling author, inspirational leader, mother, mental health advocate and dedicated community member. Great – there is no way I can afford her. But, inspired to know more and at the very off chance that she might be the one to help me on my shoestring budget, we set a time to meet.

A blossoming friendship

You know when you’re immediately connected to someone? Like, you just get each other? Yup. That was Annie and me. Two women with dissimilar journeys to and through motherhood, but a common understanding of all the challenges that come with it. Two women working to make a difference.

Through her mental health challenges, many of which were amplified after having children, Annie became a fierce advocate for bringing awareness to women’s mental health, like post-partum depression, and breaking barriers by sharing her experiences. In her book, Welcome to the Jungle: A frantic journey through motherhood and self-discovery, which candidly addresses the challenges of motherhood, Annie opens up meaningful conversations about the diverse facets of motherhood. Her storytelling serves as a source of encouragement for other mothers, creating a supportive community that fosters understanding and solidarity. She has become an inspiration for women demonstrating resilience, strength, and the ability to overcome obstacles.

Annie is relatable. If you’re a mom, whether you’ve had mental health challenges or not, Annie will accept and understand you if your house is constantly a mess, if you forgot to pack a school lunch for your kids one day, and if you wear the same pair of leggings more than a few days in a row (maybe even un-showered, and especially in the first months of motherhood).

And that’s not all. In addition to chronicling her challenging journey of motherhood, Annie helped champion the 2023 Shopper’s Drug Mart Run for Women, raising $150K in support of women’s mental health. I mean, come on!

Building a community of connected women

Annie’s leadership extends beyond her business marketing and strategizing, writing, and philanthropy; she actively engages with the community offering support and guidance to other women, mothers and female entrepreneurs. I am honoured to have Annie in my circle. Annie gives time, encouragement, words of wisdom and strategic direction to women and women-led businesses, including my own – businesses that aim to make an impactful difference in the realms of mental health and maternal challenges. She gives voice and encouragement to women who may not otherwise believe in themselves; she is a champion and a cheerleader who recognizes the importance of giving back to the community. Not only is she passionate about making a difference, she also showcases her dedication to the well-being and success of those around her.

Nurturing friendships through different chapters of life

Even as I enter my forties, I can confidently say that it is still possible to make friends. Good friends. Friends who inspire and who one can grow with. And, for the record, Annie is not one of those friends who will be entering her forties this year – just to be clear. In Annie, I found a kindred spirit. Someone who not only understands the intricacies of business marketing and strategy, but who shares a deep understanding of the challenges of womanhood and motherhood.

I recently had a conversation with someone – someone who I haven’t seen in probably 12 years but who, thanks to social media, keeps us connected and in contact every once in a while. This someone, an old friend, holds a special place in my heart for, among other things, having been present when my son was stillborn. In our recent conversation, it lead me to say “moms are everywhere but we are all so alone”. That hit a chord and it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about since I said it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if moms could stop putting so much pressure on themselves and stop comparing themselves to other moms (who are also imperfect, by the way), and just support each other? Understand each other? Be there for one another? Speak up for each other? Well, Annie is one of those moms. I encourage you to get to know Annie. Follow her. Reach out to her. She gets this whole mom thing and trust me when I say, you are not alone.