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Showing posts from 2012

"Melancholy Baby"

Ah, my old companion melancholy.

My mother has long called me her melancholy baby and for good reason. Melancholia has never been far away from me, often following me in good times like my shadow. It's something that I am wary of and never forget about.

If you have been reading my blog of late you will know that life has been presenting me with a few challenges. And that's kind of how I choose to look at it - they are simply challenges to be faced, overcome, and learnt from.

On top of all of this, it is a difficult time of year full of expectations for the holidays, with fewer daylight hours, and cold & flu bugs everywhere.

The last week has been particularly "interesting", for lack of a better word. At various times I have been laughing or crying. I have been calm and I have been super agitated & irritable. I have been fatigued and then beyond angry. I have felt melancholy. That, my friends, is a warning to me.

No, I am not depressed currently. Could I fa…

"For Doug"

Well, it's been awhile, hasn't it? Twenty-two days since my last post. When I last wrote, I spoke about the importance of not weighing ourselves down this holiday season with "must-do's" and to focus on "want-to-do's". I love writing this blog. It gives me great joy. It's definitely in the latter category. But I simply have not had the energy this past month.

December was a mixed bag for me this year. Lots of happy and fun things - good times with family and friends. But it also had its share of not so great stuff. Work has been non stop for the last six months, with no real end to that pace in sight. But that's OK - I can handle that. The most difficult thing to deal with was the diagnosis just a few weeks ago of a member of our work family with terminal cancer.

I have never experienced the sadness and quiet that has hung over our office for the last few weeks. Cancer is a demon that has impacted almost everyone in one way or another. It s…

"A Charlie Brown Life"

Happiness is a warm puppy. Happiness is a fuzzy sweater. Happiness is a pile of leaves. Happiness is one thing to one person and another thing to another person. ~ Charles Schultz Charlie Brown, well, Charles Schultz actually, was pretty wise. I adore Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang for a few reasons. First, Chuck and the gang take me back to my childhood and happy memories of times spent with my grandparents in particular. Life was simple for me then - I knew that I was loved, I was happy, and I had no worries. As an adult, things are different. Although I am happy and healthy at the moment, an adult lifetime of bouts with depression has often challenged my sense of optimism. But I am able to see the lessons in resiliency that Charlie Brown taught me and his never-ending optimism in spite of disappointment. No matter how many times Lucy whipped the football away from him, he kept trying. He never gave up attempting to kick that ball! Every day was a new opportunity for Charlie Bro…

"Fighter"

“Life is a fight, but not everyone’s a fighter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.” ~ Andrew Vachss, Terminal
Today there is a small tear in my heart. I am sad. I feel a bit helpless. Mostly, though, I am mad as hell. My sweet, beautiful nine year old nephew, J, was bullied at school today. He told another, older boy in the schoolyard that the ball he was playing with belonged to another child and that he should give it back. This resulted in J being kicked by the other kid. No, I don't mean a small kick to the shins.

Not a big deal, though, right? Just kids being kids. But it's not the first time that J has suffered at the hands or the words of school bullies. I am not sure what hurts more but I am leaning towards the words.

Oh, and did I mention that it's currently anti-bullying week in Canada? Timely and ironic.

My brother made a great point this evening. He said that if your child is sick, the school will send him or her home right away - can't get …

"Let's Call BullS#!T"

"Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle." ~ Christian D. Larson I started this blog to take a stand - to raise my voice against the stigma surrounding mental illness. An organization that I proudly support, Partners for Mental Health, does just that. I was first drawn to them back in May with their Not Myself Today campaign which shone a light on mental illness and the huge impact that it has on so many of us - one in four Canadians, to be exact. Well, they are back at it. This time they are focusing their efforts on the future of our country - our youth. Their new campaign is called Let's Call BullS#!T - kind of ballsy and I like it! Yes, let's do that - let's all agree that we need healthy kids to ensure a healthy future for us all. What's the big deal? How can kids be "depressed"? What could they possibly have to worry about? Is this even a legitimate problem?  It's…

"Keep Moving"

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ~ Maya Angelou
The one constant in life, the thing that unites humankind, seems to be suffering. Yes, life seems to be equal opportunity in this area. Last week I wrote about some horrible news that I received about someone whom I love. Although it wasn't about me, it hit me in a very personal way.

But I was not alone. Three friends also shared stories of bad news and adversity last week. Although we all suffer at some point in life, it's how we face our struggles that separates us.

My last post was about letting myself feel the myriad of emotions attached to life's valleys. A friend who read it and who has faced her fair share of challenges, shared some advice that I think hits the nail on the head: life is about showing up. Darn right it is.

When I feel sad or depre…

"Adversity in the Face of Adversity"

"It's alright to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you." From "Free to Be, You and Me" by Marlo Thomas and Friends
Sometimes life sucks. It just does.

I recently received some difficult news about someone very dear to me. And it left me reeling. I felt sad and more than a little helpless. How do I help? What do I do? Sad and helpless. As someone for whom the devil of depression is never far away, bad news can also be scary. Will this pull me back into the darkness?

One thing that I have learned is to be vigilant about my health and well-being. How can I be strong enough to support loved ones through difficult times if I am falling apart?

So how have I handled this, how have I processed my feelings? Well, first of all, I let myself cry. A couple of times. Good and hard. There may be more tears and that is OK. Crying can be healthy and good for you - it releases chemicals that can make you feel better.

Step two is that I am following healthy habits: long walks, …

"Rainy Nights"

Well, I love a rainy night
It's such a beautiful sight
I love to feel the rain
On my face
To taste the rain on my lips
In the moonlight shadows
I Love a Rainy Night ~ Eddie Rabbit
My moods are sometimes like the weather, somewhat mercurial. Take the past week for example. Happy, content, annoyed, irritable, grateful, loving. Oh, and anxious. Yes, my old friend anxiety came 'round for a visit. Although I am much more acquainted with her cousin, depression, sometimes anxiety likes to remind me who's boss. Yes, she thinks she's in charge and sometimes that's the case. I awoke on Monday morning to a good old fashioned anxiety attack. As I lay in bed my mind began racing and so did my breathing. I was close to tears, to shutting down and just giving in to it. But I stopped myself. I recognized that old game - I had anxiety's number, so to speak. So I took a few deep, slow breaths and managed to get myself to the shower, then dressed, and then off to work. A few hours in…

"Imagine"

"Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one." ~ John Lennon
I have a dream, too. My dream is that our youth have the opportunity to reach their full potential in this life. A young life cut short is a tragedy. Quite simply, it's a nightmare.
Do you know what the second leading cause of deaths among 10-24 year olds in Canada is? Suicide.

There are a few startling things about that statistic, aren't there? First, we are talking about suicide. Second, 10 year olds?! My nephew is nine and my niece is 12. I think about all that they have to look forward to in life and how incredibly devastating it would be if either of them chose death. Devastating.

I hadn't planned to write anything today. I've been home ill with a stomach bug and while I was tucked away in the comfort of bed, a family was experiencing the worst thing possible - they w…

"Home (?) Away From Home"

What does your job mean to you? Does it define you? Do you work simply to get that pay cheque or do you truly love what you do? What about your coworkers? Do they feel like family? Is your place of work your home away from home?

Considering how much time we spend at work, it sometimes feels like we are there more than we are actually at our real homes. We spend more time with colleagues than with our family & friends.

CBC News reported today about the findings of a new Ipsos Reid study on depression in the workplace. If you have been reading this blog on a regular basis you will recognize the statistic that one in five Canadians is suffering from mental illness. We already know that mental illness is a big problem. But how does it impact workplaces and the Canadian economy? In a big way, it turns out.

The study shows that 84% of managers surveyed feel that it's their responsibility to intervene when they see an employee displaying signs of depression. But 63% say they need be…

"Right Now"

Right now, hey
It's your tomorrow
Right now,
C'mon, it's everything
Right now,
Catch that magic moment, do it
Right here and now
It means everything
"Right Now" ~ Van Halen The biggest lesson that I have learnt on my journey through mental illness and recovery is that right now is really all we've got. Sometimes that has felt like too much. When I was in the darkest days of my illness I wished "right now" away. It was just too much pain to bear. But when you almost lose everything that is dear to you, you realize, once well again, how precious right now really is. One of the gifts of surviving a major depressive episode (or two) is that you gain perspective, you learn to focus on what is truly important in your life. There was a time not so long ago when I had lost my smile and things that I had previously loved doing left me empty, left me numb. That's a classic hallmark of depression - it's an illness that robs you of pleasure and joy. It leaves …

"Everything Old is New Again"

"Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one." ~ Bruce Lee
In honour of Mental Illness Awareness Week I am very happy to be able to share another snapshot of struggle, strength, and recovery from someone else very dear to me. Here's his story. My name is Greg. I have known Kristin since she was a little girl. Our families have been close through thick and thin for forty years. I am so proud of my daughter #2 (inside joke) for stepping up and offering this wonderful opportunity for us to get this off of our collective chests. By sharing our experiences we let each other know that we are not alone. In fact, we are a major portion of society. Here is my story. After my father died, my sister and I cleaned out his house. Among his other prescriptions we found a bottle of antidepressants. This came as a surprise to us because, after all, he was our dad. After going through my own bout with depression, I realize it should not have been a big sho…

"Which 50% Are You?"

"Only 50% of Canadians would tell friends they have a family member with a mental illness. 72% would discuss cancer." source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health The other 50% are probably just being private, right? Um, maybe. More likely is the fact that society still views mental illness as something shameful. Any illness that is so debilitating that those who suffer are unable to function with daily life or who choose death as an option to end the pain should be treated with a healthy dose of respect. We need to make it OK to talk about it. We have to make it more than OK, in fact.
Why is that so important? Well, many people who suffer mental illness are too ashamed to seek treatment - many won't even tell those closest to them because they are too embarrassed. And because we don't talk about it enough as a society, many of us don't even recognize the first signs of mental illness or that many physical symptoms that we experience are actually signs of depre…

"For a Limited Time Only!"

"If you don't stand for something then you stand for nothing."
October is breast cancer awareness month. It's a movement that Evelyn Lauder, then head of the Estee Lauder makeup and skincare empire, started about 20 years ago in order to raise awareness of this awful disease. Arguably, it has become one of the most successful health awareness campaigns next to the red AIDS ribbon.

There was a time when women were ashamed and embarrassed to have this disease. There was also a time when women didn't know the signs of the disease or what they could do to reduce their chances of being afflicted. Thankfully, in no small part to Ms. Lauder's amazing work and dedication, more women are diagnosed early and lives have been saved.

Guess what? In October another vital awareness campaign is taking place in Canada: Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Did you know that?

Sadly, no cute coloured ribbons or products benefitting the cause - just a few of us with "boots on t…

"Depression's Many Faces"

The Incarnations of Depression
I am Kristin’s mom, and she asked if I would share my varying experiences with depression. At first I thought, “Do I want to expose my story?”, and “If I do, should it be anonymously?” Then, I thought that would go against all that Kristin stands for in her fight to remove the stigma still associated with mental illness. So, here is my story that I have never shared in such detail before.
Trying to Bloom
My first brush with depression came in 1974 – it was what I assumed was post-partum depression (or the Baby Blues which people called it then, diminishing its importance). I was 26 years old with a baby and a five-year old. The depression didn’t start right after my son’s birth, but a few months later. And, it seemed to creep up on me. I don’t remember falling into the black hole that accompanied later bouts of depression, but there was a continual grey cloud in my life. A woman should feel nothing but happiness after a baby is born, right? I loved my kids …

"Lean on Me"

"Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on"
Lean on Me ~ Bill Withers 
We all need someone at times in this life. We can't walk alone. You can try but sometimes a friend can make all the difference. Sometimes just knowing that you are not alone in your fight, whatever fight that might be, is all the comfort and strength that you need.

I have found a lot of comfort in sharing my story. It's allowed me to connect with others who have also experienced depression and mental illness. And that's really comforting, especially when you feel so very alone.

One of my new friends is Sara, a true kindred spirit. I "met" Sara on Twitter where I discovered her wonderful blog, Saratonin. She is a community correspondent with Partners for Mental Health and, guess what, so am I as of today! Because I think it's so important that we stand toget…

"Lay Your Hands On Me"

"To touch can be to give life." ~ Michaelangelo "Lay Your Hands on Me." ~ Jon Bon Jovi Depression is all in your head. Um, no. It really isn't. The physical impact of depression is huge and can be just as debilitating in some ways as the psychological symptoms that you fight while in a battle against depression.  Yes, the illness in your head can also hurt you from the neck down. "For a substantial number of people, possibly up to half of depression sufferers, bodily pain is the way that depression presents itself." - Psychologytoday.com When I was in my mid twenties I was new to depression. I knew what the black moods meant but a lot of the other ways that depression can present itself, disguise itself, rather (because it is very sneaky!), were still unknown to me. I clearly remember getting ready for work one morning. I lifted my arms to blow dry my hair when something tiny snapped in my back. This tiny snap left me unable to move without great pain…

"Survival 101"

I could take all my meds at once. I could step off the curb in front of a car. Or, I could just veer into oncoming traffic on the highway. And it would all be over. Done. Gone.

Yes, I thought all of these things on more than one occasion. I have never admitted this in so many words to anyone, not to my family, my best friend, and not to my health care providers. While in the deepest, darkest weeks of my depression I just wanted some peace.

Instinctively, I am quite sure, my parents knew this. And I knew that I should not, could not, be alone. So, one day, my parents drove to my apartment, packed me up, and took me to their home for what turned out to be a few months.

Today is the 10th Annual World Suicide Awareness Day. Did you know that? Did you know that there have been nine World Suicide Awareness Days before this one? No, neither did I. There is still a lot of work to do to raise awareness and eliminate stigma, obviously. Here are a few facts from Statistics Canada:

- In 2009 100,…