Thursday, 29 October 2015

"Aftershocks"

It's OK, I once heard that losing someone you love so dearly does not become easier or less painful-- you just learn to " live thru your day, and just keep moving forward. The hurt is still there you just learn to live with it. I know you will do that as well, for your very strong, remember I love you and all the other people in you life who loves you too:

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 and safe: home. And the final aftershock: fatigue. Once I got home I spent the afternoon in bed sleeping.

As I write this I am feeling much better, almost myself once again. And I know that by tomorrow the aftershocks will have abated and, although likely still tired, my mood will be back to normal. What's interesting to me is that at this point in my life with mental illness I often view myself and my experiences with curiosity. I want to know how I can learn from an anxiety attack or depressive episode; how can I  use what I learn and apply it to my work in disability employment and mental health advocacy?

I wasn't the only person in a good size office building to have experienced distress today. I am not here to tell their stories, however; I am here to consider their experiences, in addition to mine, and try to make things better. Does a one size fits all approach really fit all? No, I don't think it does. It's time to consider safety (yes, we need to conduct fire drills) and mitigate risk by looking at it from a new angle and in consideration of people with disabilities. Would you know what to do in a real emergency to help a colleague who uses a wheelchair? What about a colleague who has a neurodveleopmental disability? I assume that someone knows what to do but who is someone?! A few things to think about, yes?

In my last post I wrote about dignity. I think it's very relevant here and now. Nobody wants to be the one that draws attention to themselves for what they perceive to be a moment of weakness. Is there anything worse than having people watch you cry? OK, there are worse things but my point is that it feels really uncomfortable and, frankly, embarrassing. I think we can spare people that feeling.

Keeping our employees safe and healthy in the workplace is important. Let's do what we can to mitigate risk and ensure that our workplaces are truly inclusive for all. Let's think outside of the existing box and build something better, together. Oh, and let's tell that jerk, anxiety, that he isn't welcome.

KB xo

P.S. Here are some great tips and reminders to manage stress and anxiety courtesy of HelpGuide.org
  • Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
  • Adopt healthy eating habits. Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel more anxious.
  • Reduce alcohol and nicotine. They lead to more anxiety, not less.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.
  • Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep a night.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

"Dignity & Mental Health"

11 Quotes That Perfectly Sum Up The Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness:

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 of discrimination was still legally and socially acceptable. We've come a long way though, right? Maybe not.

Today is October 10th and World Mental Health Day. The theme this year is Dignity in Mental Health. Why dignity? Here's how the World Health Organization explains it: "Thousands of people with mental health conditions around the world are deprived of their human rights. They are not only discriminated against, stigmatized and marginalized but are also subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilitates and the community." And if you think the WHO just means third world countries you are mistaken.

My own career has suffered some blows through my episodes of major depression. I absolutely had colleagues who thought that I was using mental illness as an excuse. And excuse for what, I am not sure. It certainly wasn't a get out of jail free card. And yes, it still stings when I think of the manager who was pretty transparent in her wish to be rid of me and that job that I was qualified for but passed over for someone far less experienced. I didn't speak up because I didn't want to upset anyone. I don't think anybody worried about upsetting me. And I am pretty sure nobody was thinking about the Human Rights Act, my own human rights or my dignity when any of that happened. In fact, I felt stripped of my dignity and it has taken me a long time to reclaim that.

In all honestly I don't believe that any of the discrimination that I experienced was intentional or mean-spirited. But that doesn't make it feel any better. I have friends and colleagues within the world of mental health advocacy who have experienced far worse than I: families that abused them or turned their backs on them in their weakest moments; health care professionals showing indifference and misdiagnosing illness; employers terminating employment or eliminating a candidate for a job because of mental illness. Come to think of it, I did experience some of that. Hmmm.

Thirty-eight years after the Human Rights Act legislation was enacted there is still wide-spread discrimination for those with disabilities. And to be clear, mental disorders (including mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, as well as neurodevelopmental disabilities, Autism, ADHD, etc.) are considered disabilities. You may not have known that, perhaps. This is a common misunderstanding and misunderstandings lead to stigma and discrimination.

So how do we change this? How can we ensure that all our citizens are able to claim their rights and freedoms? I am glad you asked. Here are some suggestions:

* Unconscious bias is real thing that we all have. But we can choose what information serves us and eliminate what we know to no longer be true. Challenge yourself and challenge others.

* Be aware of the language that you use. I don't mean that we all have to be politically correct and worry about everything we say. What I am suggesting is that we recognize that words have a power of their own. Don't refer to a person who has Downs Syndrome as retarded. Don't say that you are depressed because your favourite TV show was cancelled. And here's your final 'don't': please don't say someone is Bi-polar. A person cannot be an illness. We don't say that someone is cancer. Someone has cancer.

* Decide what kind of community, province and country that you want to live in. Become educated about mental health issues. Volunteer for mental health organizations. And vote in elections - yes, your vote can make a difference.

I lost my dignity. I lost my self esteem. I lost my courage. And yes, I lost my voice for awhile. But once I found it and began to exercise it, I began to reclaim those other things. Most importantly, I made a promise to myself. I would not be a second class citizen. And neither would anyone else, if I could help it. As our federal election looms in the very near future please remember that our rights and freedoms are hard fought - don't neglect them. Find YOUR voice and fight for the dignity of those who need your help. We are all in this together, Canada.

KB xo

Want to learn more about mental health issues or become involved? Read more about the fabulous organization that I volunteer with: Partners for Mental Health

Other resources:
Canadian Mental Health Association
The Kettle Society: Strength Through Mental Health
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Inclusion BC: Advancing Rights. Promoting Abilities.






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