Monday 10 March 2014

"What Matters"


What triggered it? That's what people want to know.

What was it that caused my depression? With that question comes a lot of baggage on both ends of it. The person asking may be coming from a place of genuine caring and a desire to understand. They may also have some preconceived notions about depression, that something bad has to have happened to bring it on. And when I hear that question, I inwardly cringe. I cringe because the answer is not an easy one. I cringe because I am asked to explain a complicated illness.

And there's another reason why I cringe: society dictates that depression and other mental illnesses require an explanation.

It's fascinating to me that in this new millennium, we still don't accept mental illnesses as that - illnesses. The last time you had the flu did someone ask you how you got it? If someone told you that they have MS  or Cerebral Palsy would you ask them what triggered it?

I recently watched a profile of Canadian Olympian and mental health advocate Clara Hughes. The reporter asked her The Question: "What caused your depression?" She answered it by saying that she couldn't answer it - yes, some things exacerbated her illness but there wasn't one thing that caused it.

The thing that I most admire about Hughes is that she is honest and open. She still struggles with depression. It hasn't left her after she first suffered as a young athlete. She eats well, she trains on a regular basis - she is the epitome of health. And yet, she still has this illness in her life at times. I guess we can't tell her to go outside and get some fresh air and exercise 'cause that will make it go away - there goes that solution.

So, how do we change this? We talk about it. We ask for help when we need it. We listen with an open mind and an open heart. I borrowed that last part from an old friend (you know who you are!). Silence equals isolation & stigma, both of which are dangerous.

There is still such an incredibly high level of discomfort surrounding mental illnesses. It makes me feel frustrated and restless most of the time. I want change and action and a better world for those who fight the good fight against these often debilitating illnesses on a daily basis. And I want that change yesterday.

If everybody in the world who has had anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, an addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (and on and on) would all stand up at the same time and raise their hand, I bet you would be amazed at the prevalence of these illnesses. I bet it would blow the statistic of one in five Canadians out of the water.

Back to my hero, Clara Hughes for a moment. Clara, if you have seen her in an interview or been lucky enough to meet her (I hope to, one day!), is infinitely likable. She seems free of ego and pretence. Frankly, she could be terribly arrogant - she is the only Olympian to have won medals in both summer and winter games. Pretty amazing, right? That's not why she is one of my heroes. Nope - not even close. She is a tireless advocate for mental health awareness and when asked what she hoped to be remembered for, she said that she wanted people to remember some girl who did something to bring awareness to mental health issues. Pretty cool, in my books. Oh, and by the way - she is planning to ride her bike around Canada. That's right, I said 'around', not 'across'.

So here's a question that I have for you. Does it matter? Does it matter how someone became ill? Or does it matter more that we open our hearts, release judgement, and just care for each other? I think you know what my vote is.

KB xo

P.S. Here is Tom Kennedy's profile of Clara Hughes and her Big Ride.


  1. Your heart has no boundaries my friend. You're truly an inspiration to all that are fortunate enough to read your blog.

  2. Another amazing blog and well put. You put it out there with out ranting or raving, but you lovenly say it as it is...great work, and NO it does not matter what caused it..It is what it is and we need to help and understand...great job once again..keep up the great work


  3. Thank you. I was getting concerned about you again since it was almost two months. Dave

    1. It was purely a case of being too busy - I am actually doing really well in terms of my health. Thanks for always noticing amnd caring when I am 'not around', Dave!

  4. Oh where to start? People ask me what caused it all the time. Oh where to start? is usually my inward reaction. Outwardly, I struggle. Thanks for your post, it hopefully will give me new language to answer the question.. with "does it matter? I need help anyhow." Like you, I want change yesterday.
    Clara Hughes is my hero also. I hope someday to meet her. I think that would be incredible. I'm trying to learn to be as confident about talking about my own struggles. I'm not there yet, but it's coming.

  5. Clara is amazing, huh? So great to have someone to look up to who is really creating change in this world. Thanks for the comments, as always, Danielle!


"Eating Disorders: What Are We Truly Hungry For?"

    For two years in my 30's I had an eating disorder: bulimia. It took me ten years to admit that to anyone, even my doctor. I f...