Crazy Daisy’s Petal Power

Struggling with mental illness since adolescence, Sarah Moir launched a floral shop with a mission: to promote mental wellness through flowers

August 24, 2009
Meredith Macleod
The Hamilton Spectator

It’s ironic that flowers have saved Sarah Moir’s life.

Moir, who feels emotions at an often crippling fever pitch, has found her mission in helping others express emotions through flowers.

Struggling with mental illness since adolescence, Moir hit the lowest point of her life at 27.

“It was a major turning point,” she says, with tears sliding down her cheeks. “I had become every negative stereotype. If I wanted to live, I had to learn how to … No one in my life wanted to be around me anymore. I didn’t want to be around me anymore.”

She pushed for help, got a diagnosis for her illness and plunged herself into studying floral design and opening her own business.

Almost exactly a year ago, Moir, 34, launched Crazy Daisy.

It’s much more than a floral shop. It’s a business with a social mission and Moir’s saviour.

“It saved my life. Instead of being a bunch of really horrible statistics, I’m a whole other statistic now.”

Crazy Daisy aims to promote mental wellness through flowers. Specifically, she wants to shine a spotlight on mental illness in the workplace, decrease the stigma, help people with mental illness find, keep and thrive at jobs and to employ people she calls “psychiatric survivors.”

Thanks in large part to a partnership with commercialization specialists Trivaris, Moir has a solid business plan that targets corporations and nonprofits.

Moir hopes that Crazy Daisy and other social enterprises can lead the way to creatively solving problems, beyond simply pumping tax dollars at them. The goal is to go national one day.

Moir has borderline personality disorder. It’s a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, relationships, self-image and behaviour.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, “people with BPD suffer from a disorder of emotion regulation.”

About 80 per cent of those with BPD are women.

In Sarah’s words: “The easiest way to explain BPD is to compare it to hemophilia. The slightest emotional scratch can cause me to bleed to death, figuratively. I feel emotions more intensely, harder and faster than most. They can also last a long, long time. I can’t just ‘snap out of it.'”

She describes being hypersensitive to body language.

“People think you’re overreacting or making it up.”

She demonstrates a facial expression her older sister makes when exasperated.

“For me, a look can mean more than anything she could say … It’s like a shout.”

While positive emotions are also amplified, Moir often felt numb and empty and had difficulty finding joy in anything. That was until she took a job in a floral shop during a stint in college.

She discovered she was good at arranging flowers and more importantly, she loved it.

“I get energy from the colours and aromas. If I’m at a desk, I’m always in my own head. When I’m creating or working with my hands, I’m not in my head in the same way.”

Crazy Daisy is growing slowly but Moir is thrilled with the early support of the local business and health community.

She already provides the arrangements for the mayor’s luncheon series in Hamilton and has a growing roster of corporate clients. She has also done the floral catering for events at Mohawk College and a few weddings.

Her biggest job so far will be providing the flowers for a gala event marking mental illness awareness week in Ottawa in October. While her target is the corporate and nonprofit world, Moir is set up to take small and one-time orders for anniversaries, funerals and birthdays, too.

Along with each of Moir’s arrangements comes a tip about mental health or a fact about mental illness.

For instance, it’s estimated that 70 to 90 per cent of those with a serious mental illness are unemployed, yet productive work is seen as one of the necessary components to leading a fulfilling life.

The Crazy Daisy logo is a pink gerber daisy and Moir hopes that someday it will become a national symbol of mental wellness.

A critical component of Moir’s success so far is a partnership with Hamilton’s Trivaris. The company normally helps high-tech, research-driven startups get their products commercialized.

But after being inspired by Moir’s story at one of their innovation open houses, the company “adopted” her.

“Sarah got up on stage, introduced herself and her social mission,” said Cindy Porter, marketing director at Trivaris. “We fell in love with the mission and we fell in love with Sarah.”

Trivaris staff have conducted marketing trials and strategy sessions with experts and helped Moir build a business plan and marketing material, launch a website (crazydaisy.org) and spread the word about the company.

“We know we can help Sarah be a huge success,” Porter adds. “She can make a difference. She’s very inspirational.”

Moir jokes that Trivaris president Mark Chamberlain will soon earn a commission for all the networking he does on her behalf.

She has a desk and office supports at Trivaris’s headquarters at the McMaster Innovation Park.

Moir is getting set to move the production end of her business into a warehouse owned by Rainbow’s End, an organization affiliated with St. Joseph’s Healthcare that helps people with mental illness start and run their own businesses.

Moir’s struggle started at 12. It began with physical symptoms like ulcers and migraines and progressed to irrationality, lashing out, wild mood swings, an eating disorder, anxiety and depression.

She missed weeks of school at a time, but still managed to graduate an Ontario Scholar from an Oakville high school.

She alienated friends and says her loving family did their best to cope with her behaviour.

There were endless visits to doctors, hospital stays and many different diagnoses and prescriptions. She waited years for treatment.

She enrolled in university and college programs, but then lost focus and dropped out. She got jobs but would get fired.

She watched her friends grow up, move on and head into careers and families. Moir says she kept floundering.

She tried to self-medicate, which only made everything worse.

But after coming to a crossroads at 27, Moir pushed for help, finding it at the North Hamilton Community Health Centre. She linked up with a great doctor there and found inspiration in a patient advocate who has survived mental illness.

She applied and got Ontario disability support so that she could focus on getting well. She finally got a firm diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

A social worker at the health centre took specialized training so she could offer treatment to Moir.

“It’s called dialectical behavioural therapy and it basically teaches me to act opposite to my emotions.”

She explains that she was so nervous before the interview for this story that she thought she would throw up. She dealt with it by acting confident until she felt confident.

“I basically have to reprogram my brain. Mindfulness is balancing emotional thinking with logical thinking. Someone like me never learned that.”

Moir, focusing on her dream of opening a floral business, enrolled in Mohawk’s small business and entrepreneurship program in spring 2008.

She says the support and encouragement of the college’s disability services office was crucial to helping her get through.

Ongoing advice from her instructors, a $5,000 bursary and the help of the college’s graphic design class in coming up with a logo, are just a few of the ways the school continues to help.

In January, Moir will be presented with a Mohawk Alumni of Distinction Award and will be nominated by the school for a Premier’s Award.

While she has taken some criticism for the name of her business, especially from mental health professionals who say it’s stigmatizing, Moir says she’s embracing the label of “crazy” and turning the stigma on its head.

She hopes to open some eyes, change some minds and ultimately, be an inspiration.

“It would be selfish of me not to go full force. I’ve been given a terrific opportunity. I have to give this my all. Even if Crazy Daisy stays local, the next social enterprise might change the world.”

mmacleod@thespec.com
905-526-3408

Reproduced from http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/article/623451