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Showing posts from 2015

"Inhale Love"

As I write this the world is mourning yet more terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. Well, mostly they are mourning for Paris; Beirut seems less worthy, somehow, of Western media's attention and, in turn, our sympathy. I can't turn on the television or check Facebook or twitter without more sadness and reports of violence and death.

It all makes me sad. Sad for those killed in the Paris attacks and even more sad for the people who are lost to violence and terrorism all over the world who don't seem to receive our acknowledgement or attention. As a particularly empathetic and sensitive person who tends to soak up emotions and energy around me like a sponge, this is bad news for my mental health.

I know that I am not alone in this feeling. It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that the world is a scary, dangerous place. Certainly, there is a lot that is not good. But there is also so much good all around us. So how do we balance the negative energy and news that…


If mental illnesses were people, depression would be an asshole. He would be the mean-spirited person who chips away at your self esteem, day by day and moment by moment. His little brother, anxiety, would be the insensitive practical joker who has the world's lowest EQ; anxiety is the jerk that loves to scare you and instead of apologizing says something brusque like, "I was only kidding - lighten up!"

Today that jerk anxiety stopped by. Again, he was triggered by a fire drill at work. The last time that I wrote about this I described my experience within the heart of the attack vividly. Today I was very aware of the delayed effects - the after shocks.

Once the fire drill ended and things were getting back to normal, I began to notice some emotions within myself. Tears surfaced and streamed down my face slowly for about 30 seconds. A few minutes later I felt anger - I was so mad that a simple fire drill had caused this. Then I just needed to retreat to somewhere quiet …

"Dignity & Mental Health"

What do human rights mean to you? Is it the ability to vote? Maybe it's the freedom to choose where you live, your job and who you will marry. What about freedom of expression? Do you exercise these rights and freedoms or do you take them for granted? If you are like many Canadians, I would wager that you take them for granted a good deal of the time. Don't feel bad - I do, too. But is that OK? Is that right?

In Canada we have a Human Rights Act. The wikipedia  definition  is this: "The Canadian Human Rights Act is a statute passed by the Parliament of Canada in 1977 with the express goal of extending law to ensure equal opportunity to individuals who may be victims of discriminatory practices based on a set of prohibited grounds such as sex, disability or religion." Before former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau signed this Act it was not illegal to refuse a job to an applicant if she was a woman or if he was Jewish. Imagine that - only 38 years ago that form o…

"The Best Medicine"

Did you laugh today? I don't mean a giggle or a chuckle - I mean a big ole belly laugh. The kind where your tummy hurts and your cheeks ache. If it's really good, you'll also have tears of laughter rolling down your cheeks. You may even pee your pants (it's OK - happens to the best of us!). That's when you know it's a top-notch, high quality laugh.

Kids do this all the time. Laugh, laugh, laugh. We are all born experts in joy. But at some point we all slowly start to lose this expertise. We become adults with busy jobs, kids to pick up from school, ageing parents, and our own health issues. In short, things get more serious. We laugh less, worry more.

Laughter is one of my favourite things in life. It's also a barometer of the quality of my life. Have I laughed much lately? Am I taking life entirely too seriously? Yes? Time to reassess things, which I did recently.

When I walked out of my doctor's office five weeks ago it was not with a prescription fo…

"Karmic Catch-Up"

"The past five weeks have been intense, wouldn't you agree? You've been challenged to hold your own while continuing to cope and reach out for more. Recognized or not, it's been a karmic catch-up, crossroads, or fruition time. No matter how this critical reassessment cycle played out, you've made it through and you're still standing."

That is my horoscope for today and boy, it could not be more fitting. The past five weeks have been intense, alright. I have struggled with my mood and anxiety in particular. During this period I have been off work for more than half of it. It has been a painful summer, to say the least. Summertime and the livin' is easy? Not so much.

When you live with a chronic illness such as a mental disorder you always have two choices: let it overwhelm you or let it be an opportunity for growth. Not exactly simple choices. Over the 20 or so years of this personal journey I have often wanted to just give up. But there has always bee…

"Allies Show Their Colours"

When you go through a difficult time you learn a lot. You learn about yourself and you certainly learn about others. Sometimes the people who you think will be there for you when the going gets tough, aren't.

I have learned a few things in this life, through my own ups and downs. One of the most important lessons is the importance of cultivating good, strong, healthy relationships in life. Cultivating means giving just as much as I receive; sometimes more. That's not always easy for people and maybe not so easy for me at different points in my life. Being a good friend is something that I have worked hard at. Although far from perfect, I think it's safe to say that I try my hardest.

I am inspired to write this post in honour of those who have chosen the not always easy path of being an ally. I know that it has been difficult for those closest to me to know what to do or how to best support me in my darkest moments. For those who didn't give up, I am forever appreciati…

"Opposite Day"

I don't hate summer; I just don't really love it. What?! Summer?! Surely I must mean winter, right? Nope. I mean summer. It's not my favourite season. In fact, it's a really difficult time for me.

You have likely heard of seasonal affective disorder, commonly referred to as SAD. Did you know that for about 10% of people impacted by SAD, they experience it in the summer months? Lucky me, I am among that 10%. It's like opposite day for me when the rest of the world seems to be embracing the heat, having fun at the lake or getting together with friends for backyard BBQs. Sure, I enjoy some of that but mostly I am uncomfortable - mentally and physically. And that's a really hard thing to admit, especially when it seems to go against what you think the rest of the world feels. Just look at facebook where everyone is just having The. Best. Time. Oh, the pressure.

For someone who is pretty in tune with her moods and triggers after all these years, I was surprised whe…

"Old Ways New Doors"

Standard police checks will no longer include mental health records or acquittals under new Ontario law. Wow. This is a significant step in the right direction. Good for you, Ontario! But wait. Did you even realize that this was standard practice in Ontario and continues in other Canadian provinces? Or, maybe you wonder why this even matters. It might matter if you are applying for a job.

The information that is supplied to potential employers as part of a criminal records check is used to influence a hiring decision for some organizations. Much of that information is important and relevant to certain jobs and industries. But mental health information should not be included and revealed to potential employers. As both a mental health advocate and a human resources professional, I have long believed that this is a violation of privacy. It also speaks to so many flaws in the way we view, react to, and treat those with mental illness.

Police should not have to act as first responders to…

"Hands Together"

I have surprised many people over the years when I say that I have depression and anxiety. The response that often follows is this: but you seem so happy and outgoing - I can't believe it! The reality is that depression and anxiety are complicated illnesses with many layers. The assumptions that we make about mental disorders are largely untrue. Yes, there are moments when I am in a depressive state and I may laugh and seem alive and in high spirits. Sometimes I am, for a moment. Sometimes I am fabulous at deception. And sometimes I just don't have the strength or desire to pretend.
If you ask me why I became an advocate for mental health awareness and many other social issues, the long answer would have to do with who I am at my core - I am empathetic with a strong sense of responsibility when it comes to this world that we live in and the people who inhabit it. It's not enough for me to just go through the motions in life. The short answer is that I wanted to make sense…

"Let's Get Loud!"

Why am I still talking about mental illness? Haven't I said all that I can say on the topic? You might be asking that question. After all, it's been a few years since I started this blog. Yes, I have asked myself once or twice if I should keep going or maybe close up my laptop and sign off. Maybe it's time to just stop. Then I see a report like the one that I watched last night.

Pop Quiz Time:
Question #1: If you are suffering from a mental illness and you go to a Canadian hospital, will you receive the care that you need?
Question #2: If you are admitted to a Canadian hospital because you are deemed at risk for death by suicide, will you be safe?
Question #3: If you are on suicide watch in a Canadian hospital, will you be watched?
The answer to these questions is, sadly and shockingly, not always.

Remember a few years back when Michael Moore made the documentary about the state of healthcare in the United States? Canada was held up as a shining example of a top-notch sys…

'Imagining Inclusion'

Do you feel part of your community? Do you have a community? What is community?

One of the gifts that I gained after experiencing depression has been, oddly enough, a sense of community, of being part of something bigger. But let me tell you, when I was in the depths of the illness, I certainly felt all alone.

A classic hallmark of depression is a feeling of isolation. The illness has a way of ensuring that, most of the time, you do the opposite of what you should be doing to be a healthy, functioning member of society. You stay home when you could be out for dinner with your friends. You pull away from loved ones because you don't want them to see the pain that you are feeling. You fall prey to the negative dialogue in your head and the self-stigma. Get it together! What is wrong with you?!

Frankly, society doesn't really help matters. Often, it makes things worse. Why is there such a thing as self-stigma? Why do we believe that mental illness is just weakness? Partly becaus…

"The Secret"

In my last post I asked you to be brave, just a little bit. I think it's only fair that I take a brave step, too. So here goes. I have been writing this blog for about three years and speaking openly about my experiences with depression and anxiety for a lot longer than that. I have shared much with you. Some things I hold back and keep for myself. But there is something that I want to share because it's time that I stop feeling badly about it. In the depths of my depression, in the darkest of times, I was bulimic. I have only told my doctor this, and perhaps one or two other people. I feel no shame about depression and anxiety but I have felt shame about bulimia. It's been my dirty little secret. It's time to let go of that. So why now? Why have I chosen to disclose this in such a public way? Partly because it does feel a bit hypocritical to be encouraging others to share and let go of self-stigma when I am holding onto some, myself. And partly because eating diso…

"Tipping Point"

I spend almost as much time selecting the image at the top of my blog posts as I do in writing them. This time I was certain that I was going to select something serious and stark - something that would grab you, my dear reader, by the neck. Something that would stir feelings deep within you and compel you to take up the fight. And then I decided on simplicity.

The topic of this post is Bell Let's Talk Day and this year I am feeling bold. The call to action that I feel in my gut is particularly strong right now. You see, I feel that we are at a tipping point. We are so close to creating a shift in how we view mental illness. We are so close and yet still so far. Frankly, I feel impatient.

I recently conducted some highly scientific (!) research. I asked my fellow Partners for Mental Health colleagues to answer these questions:
1. Do you feel that awareness of mental health issues in Canada has increased or remained the same over the past couple of years?
2. Do you feel that stigma ha…