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PTSD - Guest Post

Hey guys! This time around I have an incredible woman who has graciously written her story regarding her PTSD diagnosis.  She is brave.  She is inspiring.  She is a warrior.

"I was diagnosed with PTSD in early 2016 after going to my doctor - all because I was “burnt out”. I figured after everything I have gone through in my life, it wasn’t a huge shock, but still hearing that diagnosis was like “whoa, that explains a lot”. On that day, I was going in as a mom of 4, with a husband who worked shift work and a lot of the household tasks and child raising and getting to where kids needed to be fell on me. I felt like I was literally going to just break down, and wanted to run away. I couldn’t feel anything – happiness, sadness, anger – nope – just so tired. I knew something was wrong, as I was always the happy, bubbly, go-with-the-flow girl. I was debating whether or not to leave my husband; my biological mother had resurfaced after my uncle had passed away; and I felt I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t be a wife, a mother, a friend, all I wanted to do was just sleep and not wake up. And because I had an earlier diagnosis of depression and anxiety, I just chalked it up to these disorders rearing their ugly heads. 

That wasn’t the case. My doctor sat me down and told me I had situational PTSD, along with my diagnoses of depression and anxiety. Finding out I would see my birth mother triggered my younger years and every traumatic event in my life came up and I couldn’t stop focusing on them. 

My birth mother left my dad, my younger sister (3) and myself (7). We rarely kept in contact after that as she moved to another province, and then another country. I haven’t heard from her in years. 

From the age of 21-25 I was in an abusive – verbal, emotional and physical - relationship. During that time, I had a stillborn full-term baby and never fully recovered from that loss. This is when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety a short time later. I went on medication for about a year and a half, until I ended up getting pregnant again 18 months later (with the same person). I left her father when I was six months pregnant. I was blessed with a beautiful healthy baby girl (who’s now 13). But that’s when I started to become paranoid over losing her. The loss of my son kept coming up and I would stay up for days watching her sleep because I was so scared of losing her too. 

Knowing her father could pop up out of anywhere, with the temper he had, made me paranoid. He ended up stalking me, calling me and showing up at my house at all hours of the night, threatening me or anyone I was with. It got to the point where I was scared to even leave my house and I always had to check my surroundings before leaving a store or work or daycare and always looking over my shoulder. I started to get easily startled and very jumpy, as my body went into the flight or fight mode expecting that any little noise behind me could be him. 

I attempted suicide at one point a few months after losing my son. Overdose of prescription drugs. Even had left a note. There have been a few times I have thought about it since, because that seemed to be the easy way out to get away from all my problems. Thankfully those thoughts passed, but it scared me afterwards to think I wanted to just end it. I would be driving and wanted to drive my car off the road, or into oncoming traffic. 

It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I was actually diagnosed with PTSD. After having been abandoned by my mother at a very young age (which I now have issues with in any relationship I get into to), I feel like I am not good enough – if my own mother left me, what is stopping any guy from leaving me. I have walls built up that are very hard to break down. I become very irritable over nothing, and often outbursts of anger take over me, even when I know it sounds silly to get so angry. I find myself sometimes in my own little world, and unable to concentrate on what’s going on around me. 

I had gone on to have another daughter 6 years later (now 7). Beginning at 8 months old, she started having breath-holding spells, which caused her to go stiff, eyes roll back in her head, lips turn blue, then go limp. She would be unconscious for a good 15 -20 seconds. This again brought up losing my son, as I was so afraid of losing her. After about a dozen of these spells, she finally outgrew them at the age of 4. I still constantly fear losing my children; always thinking worst case scenario. The what-if’s sometimes consuming my thoughts and I can’t stop them. I have become better at talking myself out of them, after much practice. 

After years of therapy (which I highly recommend), medications, and self-care (i.e. gym, yoga, meditation - which I find to be the most important of all), I am thriving as well as can be in this crazy place we call home. Sure I have days that I get triggers and my anxiety flares up; my body goes into fight mode, but they are few and far between now. I try to keep myself out of situations where I know I could get triggered, but sometimes they are unavoidable and after many years of working on myself, I can usually prepare myself and get through the situation best I can."

Got Depression?

Got depression?

It’s okay.  Okay, well it’s not okay that you are feeling this way.  But, you are not a freak or a weirdo or insane.  And you are not alone.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians have experienced a mental illness.  By the age of 40, 1 in 2 have experienced a mental illness.  Let that sink in.  There are approximately 36.29 million people who live in Canada.  That is a LOT of people who have struggled with mental illness.

And yet for some reason there is still a stigma around it.  People who experience it feel shame and guilt, as if there is something to be embarrassed about.  Let me tell you – Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Depression, ADD, Anxiety, Post Partum Depression etc etc etc etc….NONE of them are something to be ashamed of. 

Stigma prevents people suffering from mental health issues from getting the help they need.  And stops them from talking to those around them.  This breaks my heart.  When someone has cancer or diabetes or MS, their close family and friends are aware and provide support.  Shame and guilt are likely not participants.  My hope is that one day we can talk about mental illness like we talk about physical illness, without embarrassment.

It took me many years to finally speak publicly about my mental illness.  I was horrified at the thought of telling anyone other than my parents.  I felt shame.  What would people think of me?  Would they judge me?  Will they treat me differently?  Will they think I’m a freak?

When I finally did start speaking about it (telling friends and family, through my blog, at conferences), I felt a release.  I felt empowered.  At that point it didn’t matter if anyone judged me.  And it still doesn’t.  The people who love and care about me have embraced who I am, mental illness or not.  Have I had people judge me?  Very few, but yep.  Oh well.  Those people don’t matter.

Depression happens.  Anxiety Happens.  Post Partum Depression happens.  Mental Illness happens. And it sucks.  But there are a lot of us in this together.  Never forget that.

The Longest Winter Ever

So here we are on April 12th, 2018.  It is cold, raining, snowing, and gloomy.  What is up with this, Mother Nature?  I suppose I should be happy we are getting lots of rain and snow, as it will help fire season.  But man, I am NOT.  I have been watching my Facebook friends share pictures and status updates from April 12th from previous years.  Kayaking, fishing, hiking all while the sun is shining.  WHAT is going on??  Where is spring??

If you’re like me, it’s a harder time of year.  SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) starts to appear or has already been hanging around for some time.  I have talked to at least two handfuls of people in the last month who have said to me, “You know, I’m just not happy right now and I can’t figure out why.”  Because Mother Nature is being a semi bully right now.  She is forcing winter to stay and hiding the sun behind dark and gloomy clouds.  So if you are feeling quite blah, know you are absolutely not alone!

It’s hard to feel any sort of motivation.  I’m tired of having to get my kid dressed in seven layers before we leave the house.  I’m tired of having to trudge through snow.  I’m tired of it being too cold to go for walks.  And I’m tired of looking up at the sky and seeing nothing but grey.  And I’m also just plain old tired (And not just because my child would rather party at night than sleep)!  The lack of sun can really suck the motivation out of people.  Who wants to do anything when it has been what feels like the longest winter in history.

SAD is a type of depression that affects people at a certain time of year, which for most people (but not all) is winter.  Some common symptoms of SAD are being tired all the time, gaining weight, change in appetite, feeling sad and down on yourself, feeling hopeless and guilty, being irritable, feeling stressed and having lost interest in activities you used to enjoy.

It is said that 1 in 3 people suffer from SAD.  This is a lot of people! So again, if you’re feeling this way, you are absolutely not alone!

I’ve talked a bit about SAD before and discussed some things that help, which I’d like to go over again.  Light therapy is amazing!  This means sitting next to a light therapy box for 15-30 minutes each morning.  I got mine on Amazon.  If you’re thinking about purchasing one, it’s key to get one that is at least 10,000 LUX.

Of course exercise and eating healthy always help.  I absolutely realize it is hard to do those things when you feel like a bag of crap but they definitely help! Some days I have to force myself to do these things.  I try to get outside for a half hour walk at least once a day.  Even if I have to drag myself out.  I am not a doctor, of course, but it may also help to speak to your doctor about taking Vitamin D drops each day.

Counseling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy help as well (You can get CBT booklets online, from MHAS, or from a counselor).

Lets keep our fingers crossed that we receive some warmer temperatures and brighter skies soon!

Bell Lets Talk

Oh hey! I’m a little late here.  Life has gotten away from me a bit.  But lets get down to business.

Bell Lets Talk day was very recent! And guess what? The actions of those who participated in the day resulted in Bell committing more money to mental health! There was a total of 138,383,995 interactions which resulted in a whopping $6,919, 199 being raised.

For me, personally, the best part about Bell Lets Talk day is the way it brings discussion around mental health.  I’ve said it a million times – the more we talk, the less the stigma.  The more we talk, the more normalized mental illness becomes.  We need to talk about mental illness like we talk about diabetes, MS, cancer and all other physical illnesses.  I can’t wait for that day.

Over the years I have had to fight my way through the system in order to get help.  I’ve been pushy with doctors, I’ve demanded to see specialists, I’ve forced my way into meetings in order to facilitate change.  I look forward to the day someone can go to see a doctor without shame and guilt, and there are no questions asked in relation to whether the feelings are real or not.

I want change.  Real change.  Resources in small towns.  Not just for extreme situations, but for the average person dealing with mental illness.  Groups, facilitated CBT, MHAS that is active in the community, doctors in hospitals that take suicide seriously.  I could go on and on.

Bell Lets Talk gets people talking.  This year I had plenty of Facebook friends share their struggles.  Hundreds of articles and stats and information on mental illness were shared. 

This is a BIG deal.  I was 16 the first time I was diagnosed with depression (I say the first because I ended up getting an accurate diagnosis at 22) and absolutely NO ONE talked about mental illness then.  It was embarrassing and I felt ashamed taking medication.  I told very few people.  There were no campaigns or commercials, and especially none that reached out to youth.

I’m proud to see how far society has come in regards to talking about mental illness, but it definitely has a long way to go.  I challenge you to talk.  Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is part of our power.

It is OKAY to not be okay

Lets talk about this summer.  We had fires.  Not campfires, real and dangerous forest fires.  BC was in a State of Emergency.  Our homes were in danger.  We were evacuated with a reality of never seeing our houses and items in them again.  Many homes burned.  Our neighbors, our family, our friends.  Some were evacuated more than once, as the fires travelled quickly.

I have several friends that had to leave due to the town being evacuated and deserted.  Nowhere to get groceries and other necessities.  Trying to get funding for food and accommodations because of this was beyond frustrating.  I won’t lie here.  I won’t sugarcoat it.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what each family received.  One would get $300 for a family of 6 and the next would get $600 for a family of 2. 

Constant updates on Facebook.  The rumors.  This town is burning, no it isn’t.  There’s a new fire, no there isn’t.  We’d like to think the updates were informative but in reality, they caused a lot of STRESS.

Coming home, we could view the damage that was done.  Burned trees and grass and houses.  Kilometers of dirt where nature used to be.  Fires still blazing in the distance.  The threat of being evacuated again once we were back in our homes.

Let’s get serious for a second.  The deaths.  Suicides and attempted suicides by both adults and children.  I can’t even.  Not only is this devastating for the victims, but also the families and friends and first responders.

Sudden deaths by car accidents and disease.  There is never any way to prepare for death whether you see it coming or not.

Deaths of animals, so many animals.  I can count on both my hands how many friends of mine had deaths of animals this summer.

My point in all of this is that it’s okay to not be okay.  Let me say that again.  It is OKAY to NOT be OKAY.  We all deal with stress and tragedy differently.  Don’t let anyone take the way you feel away from you.  Whether it’s happiness or darkness, own those feelings.  They are yours and they are okay to feel.

It is also okay to get help.  It’s okay to see a counselor and it’s okay to seek medication.  Go easy on yourself.  No pressure.  We get enough judgments from other people, we don’t need to judge ourselves.  Find time to do self care, whether that means a bath or just going for a walk.  Just be.

It’s okay to not be okay.

PostPartum Anxiety

Oh hey. It’s been awhile.  I’ve been waiting for some inspiration for my next post, but in all honesty, fall leaves me feeling a bit unmotivated.  My days are also a lot busier than the child-less days of Netflix and reading a book a week.  The exhaustion and lack of sleep are also very real.  My brain does not comprehend or think as well as it used to!

Being a mamma has brought a lot of new and interesting emotions.  I’ve been feeling a lot of postpartum anxiety since my son was born.  I’ve also been doing a lot of reading about it.  I don’t find I worry a lot.  I don’t have visions or anxieties about my son getting hurt.  My anxiety more revolves around day to day activities.

  • What do I do with him all day? 
  • Is he tired?  Should I put him to bed? 
  • Why is he crying?(cue total panic) Please stop crying. 
  • Okay what toy do I put him in front of next? What if he hates it?
  • Should we go for a walk? What if he cries halfway through.

I panic when he wakes up from a nap.  Why?? Seriously….I have absolutely no idea. 

I have no idea why I feel anxiety over such simple things! I love my son and my heart beats with happiness every time I see him.  The panic is puzzling to me.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to come up with a reason for these extreme emotions over simple things.

I started this post planning to write about my experience, hoping others would be able to relate and find comfort. But, honestly, I’m hoping others may be able to relate, which may provide me comfort lol!  The type of postpartum anxiety I have read about includes mostly worrying about your baby’s health and safety.  My worries about health and safety aren’t more than the average mamma.  The anxiety’s I do have are…..strange. Random.  Sensibility, where are you?

What a complicated thing parenthood is! 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

I have started this post 3 different times.  And then deleted them.  I’m having a hard time feeling inspired lately.  Its possible it’s because it’s getting darker and colder and that generally comes with a type of laziness. 

SAD.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  What is it?  It’s a depression that comes with season changes, otherwise known as the “winter blues.”  The days are darker and it’s colder outside.  It’s more work to go outside.  If it’s not snowy where you are, it’s usually rainy and cloudy.

Have you ever felt changes in yourself when winter is on its way (SAD is also possible during the summer months but for the purpose of this blog I will be writing about winter SAD)?  Some of they symptoms include:

  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Moodiness
  • Depression
  • Feeling sluggish and low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

SAD can affect anyone and everyone, no matter if you’ve struggled with mental illness before or not.  There are definitely a few things you can do through the fall and winter to help yourself out!

Light Therapy

I love my Light Therapy Box.  You can get them at a few different places but I’m a sucker for Amazon so I ordered mine from there.  I use it for a half hour every morning while I have my tea and eat my breakfast.  When purchasing a light box they recommend one with at least 10,000 LUX in order for it to be effective.

Medications

I know a lot of people who are apprehensive about medications.  There is so much stigma around them.  Would we shame people who are on medications for MS or high blood pressure?  Hard no.  So why should we feel ashamed to be on a medication?  If it helps during these months, then it’s worth it!

Lifestyle

There’s many small changes you can make in your every day life that help.  Make sure you have lots of lighting in your home.  Eating healthy and exercising daily can make a huge difference.  Try to get outside as much as you can.  I know, it can be hard.  Especially when you’re feeling sluggish.  But man, does it ever help.  I’m also a sucker for yoga and meditation.  Get out to a yoga class or even do it at home like I do most of the time.  Take a bath and meditate (There’s an app called Headspace that will guide you through meditation).

 

These are the things that I use through the winter in order to help the winter blues.  What do you do?

 

 

Partners for Mental Health

I’ve been a volunteer with Partners for Mental Health for 5 years. Wow…has it really been 5 years?? I guess it has.  It’s been 7 years since I’ve come out to the world about having a mental illness and started speaking about it publicly.  In the last 7 years I have grown immensely.  Writing a blog has given me a chance to learn more about myself and create a strength I could only wish for.  I’ve gotten to speak to many amazing individuals who struggle with similar things or have friends/family members that do.  I can tell you that there are a lot of people out there who are stronger than they realize.  I’ve spent the last 7 years being inspired by everyone I talk to.

My time as a volunteer with Partners for Mental Health is unfortunately coming to an end.  PFMH is ceasing operations, but there are many positives to this move! 

PFMH’s workplace mental health program, Not Myself Today, was transitioned to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in July 2017. CMHA is Canada’s largest and longest-serving mental health charity with a particularly strong track record in the area of workplace mental health. The addition of the Not Myself Today campaign to CMHA’s suite of workplace resources will ultimately provide companies with a one-stop source for workplace mental health and wellness expertise and resources. 

The Right By You campaign in support of youth mental health will be transitioned to Jack.org in November 2017. Jack.org has extensive experience mobilizing young people both digitally and face-to-face through volunteer opportunities, speaking engagements and events. Right By You will expand Jack.org’s offerings and will further engage parents and caregivers. PFMH will continue through to Fall 2017 to promote Right By You and will be partnering with organizations to spark mental health conversations with youth in events across the country.

At the end of November, with the programs properly transitioned to other mental health stakeholders, Partners for Mental Health will cease operations. While this decision was not easy to make, it was made in the best interest of these initiatives and the individuals they serve. It is the hope of the organization and the Board that the legacy of PFMH serves as an example of the incredible achievements that can be made when organizations and everyday Canadians combine efforts and partner together in support of a common cause.

As my time as a volunteer with PFMH comes to an end, my blog will not.  I may have started it because of my duties as a volunteer, but I will keep it going as I feel it’s important to talk about mental health as much as possible! 

BC Wildfires 2017

Before I start this blog post I want to take a minute to state that I know I’m lucky.  We are safe.  We currently have a home to live in.  My intent isn’t to complain.  It’s not to be negative.  And even though I’m not speaking for anyone else, we need to know we’re all in this together and a lot of us are feeling the same way.  We each have our own story, our own experience, but in the end we’re dealing with similar situations.

I stare at my packed bag on the floor.  My heart races, my palms perspire, my mind doesn’t stop moving.  Like thousands of other people, I was evacuated from my home 3 weeks ago due to wildfires.  As of 1 week ago we were allowed back in our homes.  As of 1 day ago the alert was lifted.

It’s one of those things that you don’t actually know how daunting it is until you’ve experienced it.  Being told you have to leave right away, that a fire is coming towards your house, and knowing you have to live the next few days or weeks without knowing whether your house has burned down.  The evening after we were evacuated my husband called, as he stayed behind to work while my 4 month old and I took off to southern BC.

“The police and firefighters are 90% sure our whole community is going to burn down within 2 hours.”  90 percent.  Entire community. 

My heart sunk.  I wanted to throw up.  It’s just stuff, I know.  But I’ll be the first to admit, I like my stuff.  I’m a sentimental person.  My home is filled with things I have made and refinished, things from places I’ve travelled, and things that were passed down from my grandmother with whom I was very close.  Yes, in the end it’s just stuff, but it still doesn’t make it easy.

Where would we live?  My husband works here.  Would his employer put us up somewhere? How am I going to do this?  I can’t do this without my partner.  *Breathe* 

Thanks to the wind and some extraordinary firefighters, our homes were saved from the Gustafson fire.  The amount of gratitude I feel for these men and women is overwhelming.

After we left our home, I drove to a friend’s house about 20 minutes outside of town.  We spent the day there and then made a last minute decision to drive down to Southern BC.  I remember packing my kid in the car, rushing to make it before the highway closed.  I had no idea where I was going.  Edmonton, to stay with family?  Kamloops, to stay in a hotel?  The lower mainland, to stay with friends?  In the end I made the right choice.  But thinking of that alarmed feeling with a sobbing baby in the back still makes my breath quicken.

A few days after being evacuated we (my infant and I) flew to SK to be with family.  I spent the next 2 weeks visiting with friends and family.  I spent a lot of time feasting my eyes on updates on Facebook while simultaneously telling myself not to.  The weight of worry is crushing.  My baby wasn’t sleeping.  Waking up every 1-2 hours at night for 2 weeks.  Severe lack of sleep, taking care of an infant, stressing about my husband, worrying about my house, thinking about all those homes in danger.

After 2 weeks we were allowed to go home.  The drive home was very emotional.  Barren land where houses, grass, and trees used to be for miles and miles.  Smoke rising and bouncing in the sky.  As we drove through Clinton, BC there was what felt like half the town standing at the top of the hill watching the flames scorch the countryside, while it moved towards their town.

I’m breathing a tiny bit easier now that we are off alert.  But I would be a fool to assume we are okay.  We are still under a Provincial High Alert status. It is a tough pill to swallow knowing that fire season is actually just starting and we will be going through this for at least another 4-6 weeks.

Over the years I’ve developed coping mechanisms to help with my anxiety and worries.  This is a new situation, one most of us have never dealt with before.  Right now it’s try to live as normal as possible.  Because, at this point, what else can we do?  Adjust.  Help where help is needed.  Support each other.  Make life as regular as I can for my child.  And, breathe.

Thank You

For you.  Thank you.

Thank you for the support during my pregnancy.  Thank you for bringing me food, for cleaning my house, for checking up on me with a text or a phone call.  Thank you for bringing me gravol, for picking up my medications, for making me peppermint tea.  Thank you for throwing me a shower, for the MANY gifts, and for making my baby the luckiest baby in the world before he was even born.  Thank you for listening to me vent and giving me support at all times of the day and night while I barfed every day, and thank you for driving me all the way to Williams Lake for appointments and non-stress tests.  And thank you for helping us move when we bought a house, while I lay on the floor or on the couch while barfing.

Thank you for the support for the weeks after my labor.  Thank you for visiting me in the hospital, for bringing my family meals, for bringing me extremely large underwear, enormous pads, and an endless amount of stool softeners.  Thank you for eagerly wanting to come over when you can, close or far away. 

Thank you for the support with a new baby.  Thank you for the advice (truly), for putting him to sleep when I’m struggling, for holding him when I eat.  Thank you for coming over so I can talk to another adult, for taking him for a few hours so I can nap or taking him so I can remain sane, for babysitting or offering to babysit. And thank you for being just as excited when he smiles or rolls over, for changing his diaper, and for showering him with love.

And above all, thank you for being open and non-judgmental.  I hate seeing moms argue and judge each other about various things in mommyhood.  I don’t care how you put your baby to sleep, if you formula feed or breast feed, if you baby wear or not, if you need time away from your baby to be a better parent, if you cloth diaper or not, if you co-sleep or not.  All that matters is if you love and care for your child. Parenting is like a sport.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  Sometimes you are MVP and sometimes you get kicked in the crotch.

I feel like the luckiest person in the world.  I have a support system in my hometown and I have a tribe in my new town.  A few weeks ago I felt myself starting to go downhill.  I hadn’t felt any post partum depression or anxiety up until that point.  I wallowed for a couple weeks.  The anxiety is too much at times.  But I’m trying my best to make sure I’m too busy to even think about it.  I’ve been pumping instead of directly breastfeeding for a while and I’ve recently made the decision to formula feed.  Getting up in the middle of the night to pump and trying to find time to pump in the day with a baby that doesn’t nap has become too difficult.  And I feel that the hormones that come with pumping are a main contributor to the depression.  So here we go with an attempt to get through the early months of this motherhood thing!

Mental Health Week

Okay I’m pretty late…Happy Mental Health Week!  Mental Health Week was May 1-7.  Okay…so I’m very late!

Life has been crazy busy, having a newborn and all.  Other than the regular hormones, I’ve been feeling mostly great.  Baby boy does not nap much but I am very luck that he sleeps wonderfully at night! Getting a good 6-9 hours of sleep every night has been exceptional for my mental health.

I’m shocked I haven’t had any bouts of PPD.  I know how lucky I am.  I think I can credit this to placenta encapsulation.  I know….kind of gross…I may be judged for this.  But I decided that if I possibly prevent PPD, I would give it a shot.  I have felt a lot of energy and been generally pretty happy, other than the normal struggles with a newborn.

Anyway, lets talk a bit about Mental Health Week and what it means to me.  As you know if you read my blog, I’m all about talking about mental health in order to lessen the stigma.  Recently I’ve been hearing about many teens and young adults struggling with their mental health.  I can remember being 16 and realizing “wow this is not normal,” but also feeling like a total freak.  Doctors?  No.  Medication? No thanks.  Therapist? Are you kidding me.  Psychiatrist? Never!  I finally got help at the age or 22 and it was the best decision I've ever made.

The stigma around mental illness has come a long way in 14 years but it still has a long way to come.  I believe in a small town it is especially hard for teens and young adults to reach out.  Will everyone find out?  What will people say?  Will they judge me?

  • It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
  • Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
  • The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.
  • Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities.
  • Mental illness is increasingly threatening the lives of our children; with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world.
  • Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
  • Schizophrenia is youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 year age group, affecting an estimated one person in 100.
  • Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
  • In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.

(Statistics taken from http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.WR3z_xiZP6Y)

I truly hope that someday in the near future, more teens are willing to talk about their mental health, help each other more, and be less afraid to speak out.  The world can be a scary place, but it would be wonderful if we could come together and help each other out.

Spring - Right by You

Hi friends! Happy spring! The sun shines, the snow melts (okay sorry to you East coasters ;)), and summer is almost here.  I find that February and March can be very frustrating for people, as it’s the end of winter and the gloom becomes too much. I am very happy that we are halfway through April and it is warming up.

This also means the launch of Partners for Mental Health’s spring campaigns.  I’ve valued my time as a volunteer with PFMH, as it gives me an opportunity to talk about mental health and work against the stigma.  I will say it over and over – the more we talk, the less the stigma, and the more people are willing to reach out for help.

Right by You is a long running Partners for Mental Health campaign that aims to improve mental health and prevent suicide among youth, by mobilizing and engaging Canadians to help drive fundamental changes that result in:

  • Increased awareness and attention toward teen mental health
  • Greater understanding, acceptance and support for young people living with a mental health problem or illness
  • Increase access to teen mental health services, treatment and support

PFMH has launched some new tools and resources for parents and caregivers to use in talking to teens.  These include:

  • Weekly tips: Parents and caregivers can sign up for emails over a 12 week period that include tips on how to talk to teens about mental health:  http://rightbyyou.ca/en/get-weekly-tips
  • Questionnaire: The website has a quiz that gives personalized content and tools based on your answers: http://rightbyyou.ca/en/take-the-questionnaire
  • Top 5 Times and Places: Ideas for the best times and places to engage teens in conversations that can lead to discussions about mental health: http://rightbyyou.ca/en/top-5-times-and-places
  • Ask the Right Questions: Tips and sample questions to help parents start conversations with youth: http://rightbyyou.ca/en/the-basics
  • Other Resources: The free Right by You guide has been updated and is available for download, plus PFMH also has 3 videos of experts, parents and youth sharing insights on how to talk about mental illness and suicide: http://rightbyyou.ca/en/resources
  • Facts: A great place to start with the campaign is the “Facts” or “Issue” section of the Right by You website, as there are some intense statistics there. 

Happy Right by You and happy spring!

Pregnancy and Self Care

Here I am 39 weeks 4 days pregnant.  I planned on writing a lovely long post, but the combination of large belly and pregnancy arthritis is making it hard to do so.

So here we are with a short post :)

As most people know, I’ve had a hard pregnancy.  All the things.  ALL of them.  I’ve hated every second of pregnancy.  That does not mean I take for granted that I was able to get pregnant.  It wasn’t simple for me to get pregnant, and I do know that I am lucky.  But if there is one thing I’ve learned, is that it is OKAY to hate pregnancy.  It is okay that while I lay on the floor simultaneously vomiting and peeing 24/7, I don’t lay there with a smile on my face.

Anyway, another thing I have been reminded of through this journey is that self-care is very important.  I am a type A personality in that I like to be organized and have the house clean etc.  A messy living room causes me anxiety.  These last 9 months have taught me that this is really not that important.  Dishes not done?  Oh well.  Dirty laundry on the floor? Doesn’t actually matter.

There are other simple things I have done throughout these months in regards to self care.  Showering.  Honestly, I know, sounds ridiculous.  But forcing a quick shower after barfing for 72 hours feels amazing.

Being okay with not being okay.  This is so important.  It’s okay to do nothing.  It’s okay to lay on the couch all day for a week straight or to lose your shit.

It is OKAY.

What kinds of things do you do for self care?

Bell Let's Talk 2017

It’s almost that day again! Bell Let’s Talk is tomorrow, January 25th.  Each year on Bell Let’s Talk day every text, call, and social media post made with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives.

Text: If you have an iphone, make sure your imessage is turned off!

Call: Includes Bell customers

Social media: Includes Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

Snapchat: Use the Bell Let’s Talk Geofilter

 

The campaign started in 2010 and has raised $79.919,178.55 since that time.  Money raised has went to programs such as McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, Embrace Life Council, St John’s Ambulance, Yukon Social Services, Canadian Red Cross, and many more organizations and initiatives.  To find out more about where the money has went, take a peek here:

http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/results-impact/

One of my favorite things about this campaign is that there are many celebrities involved.  I’m a huge believer in talking about mental illness.  Having celebrities involved, talking about their struggles with mental illness, allows for stigma to slowly melt away and for others to feel comfortable speaking out about their struggles as well.  There is Clara Hughes, of course, as the face of the campaign.  Celebs such as Howie Mandel, Michael Landsberg, and Serena Ryder are also involved.

When I was 16 I was diagnosed with Depression by a family doctor.  At 21 I knew that there was something else going on.  I was lucky enough to see a psychiatrist within a few months and get a proper diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and GAD.  And even luckier, the medication I was prescribed worked amazingly for me.  I say lucky, because I know there are many people out there who struggle to find the right combination for a long time.

It took me a long time to talk freely about my struggles.  I think back to being 16.  And I think about where I am now.  It’s campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk that have given me confidence to speak out.  The stigma was alive and real 14 years ago, at 16 years of age, terrified and embarrassed to be taking a medication every day just to give me a bit of happiness.  Yes, there is still stigma.  I still run into it every so often.  But in my experience, there are many more people willing to speak out.  There are blogs, organizations, campaigns, and people willing to fight for their own and other people’s rights. 

I see things going in the right direction. 

#b4stage4

Hi friends!  Have you heard of the b4stage4 Manifesto?  This manifesto is calling for equality of mental health and addiction services.  It aims to improve the systems of care for mental health and addiction in British Columbia.

As the manifesto website states, “We don’t wait until Stage 4 to intervene for cancer, so why do we wait to treat mental illness and addiction?”  How true is this! Mental health is just as important as physical health and should be treated as such.

We need to start improving our mental health care systems NOW.  There are so many people in this province not receiving the care that they need.  The need is loud and clear.  I have seen so many people being turned away from hospitals.  I have seen people struggle to find resources to help them.  And I have seen people desperate to find someone who believes in them.  This is not okay.

The manifesto aims to:

-->Focus on prevention and early intervention

-->Build access to addictions health care

-->Strengthen recovery closer to home, in community

-->Improve crisis care

-->Lead change in mental health and addictions

 

97% of British Columbians believe mental health conditions should receive the SAME or HIGHER funding priority as physical health conditions.

3 out of 4 diagnosed with a mental health condition in BC are not receiving the mental health services they need.

$6.6 BILLION is the estimated indirect and direct costs of mental health and addiction issues affecting adults in British Columbia each year.

You can sign the manifesto at www.b4stage4.ca.  By signing the manifesto, you are agreeing, "I stand with the Canadian Mental Health Association in calling for a system of care that addresses mental health, addiction, and physical health equally.

Well, hello there!

Damn, it’s been a very long time since I have written a post.  For a few reasons.

1. I am pregnant! Yay! It’s been a, well, adventure! I was very sick for the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy and struggled quite a bit with my physical and mental health.  I’m feeling a LOT better, but definitely not 100%.

2. I wasn’t feeling motivated.  I lost my drive for a little while.  I wondered why I was writing my blog, what the point was, and felt like I was forcing it.

One thing about being a writer is that forcing yourself to write is really frustrating.  Well, I think forcing yourself to do anything that is enjoyable to you is really frustrating.

So, I’ve taken a break.  I wasn’t sure about continuing my blog and what was in the cards for my mental health advocacy.  I will ALWAYS be a mental health advocate.  But I never want to force anything that is no longer enjoyable.

That being said, I have felt lots of encouragement lately to keep writing and it’s feeling really good to get back at it.  Why do I write about it?  Why do I speak the truths about my struggles?

 

STIGMA.

 

Mental illness is just as important to talk about as physical illness.  We should not be embarrassed to have mental health struggles.  Talking about it, lessening the stigma, helps others reach out for help.

That’s the only thing I can hope for.

That being said, I’d like to talk about a local company called One in Five Apparel

One in Five was started by a very brave local teen male who suffers from depression.  After getting the help he needed, him and his mom started a clothing company to raise awareness around mental illness stigma and raise money for CMHA.  One dollar of every item purchased goes towards CMHA.

One in Five people will suffer from depression in their lifetime.  One in Five.  Think about that.  That is a LOT of people!  And many won’t get the help they need because of fear.  We fear being judged and ridiculed and not believed because it is an illness you cannot see with your eyes.

If you would like to support One in Five Apparel you can check out the website here:

http://oneinfiveapparel.com

#GETLOUD

CMHA’s 65th Mental Health Week has started up - May 2nd to 8th, this year the theme being “Get Loud.”  Each year I like to celebrate Mental Health Week to honor myself and others who have struggled with mental illness.  It gives an extra reason to talk loud and proud about the things we have overcome, and to let others know they are not alone.

 

There are 10 things we can do to GET LOUD:

Wear Green! Green ribbons were used to label people as “insane” just over 100 years ago.  Time to reverse that thought and use green to show support.

Speak up!  Whether its blogging, talking to a friend or family member, or using social media tools, lets talk about mental illness to help erase stigma.

Be that friend.  Be that friend who approaches struggling people without judgment and with listening ears.

Get help.  Review your own mental health situation.  Think about how you are doing.  Perhaps take this time to do some self care or make some self care goals for the future.

Advocate! Demand help.  It’s your life and you deserve the help you need.  Advocate even louder – talk to local representatives.  The government needs to know we need more funding and resources.

Promote a healthier workplace.  Book a CMHA workshop or contact Partners for Mental Health about educating employers and employees on mental health. 

Host an event!  Arrange an event to raise awareness or funds for CMHA or another mental health organization. 

Be creative!  This could include so many things.  Poetry, songs, art etc.  And share it with the hashtag #GETLOUD.

Use social media.  We all know that topics can spread like wild fire on social media.  Hashtag the crap out of #GETLOUD to raise awareness for Mental Health Week!

Give.  Whether it’s a monetary donation through your local CMHA branch or some extra time spent with a friend who needs it.

 No matter what you choose to do, let's just #GetLoud for Mental Health Week!

We are Strong, We are Mighty

One thing that I've noticed, talking to friends acquaintances who struggle with mental health issues, is they are all stronger than they think they are.  The situations and illnesses that they go through are devastating and they affect every part of their lives.  Yet they still persevere and probably don't give themselves enough credit for it.

I, myself, like to remind myself of my strength through my "Warrior" tattoo on my wrist.  It reminds me of who I am and what I have overcome.  Each time I am struggling, I look down at my wrist and remind myself that I have conquered every obstacle I have had with my mental illness at a rate of 100%.

I've spoken to several others who have found strength in these types of tattoos as well:

My tattoo means "strength" in Hebrew. It's on my left side to symbolize strength found in my weakness.  It's in Hebrew because I wanted something biblical and to symbolize my strength found in God.

 

 

My tattoo symbolizes freedom from generations of addiction and the pain of unstable anxiety and OCD. I still have an anxiety disorder but consider myself the most stable healthy I've ever been in that regard, and am grateful for that. Hooray for treatment!

 

I got this tattoo in January of 2015 as a part of my healing over the loss of my mom. She died just over 5 years prior, after struggling with bipolar disorder her whole life and finally by taking her own life. The candle represents 3 things: 1) at my wedding, my dad lit a candle for her. My stepmom decorated the candle holder with a piece of ribbon and a heart charm, which are also included in my tattoo, because I know she was there that day. I've lit the same candle every year since on the anniversary of her death. 2) when a person dies by suicide, it's often said that they simply shined too bright for this world. This idea captures the wonderful, artistic, clever, and funny woman my mother was when she was well... And when she was manic. Finally, 3) when I was a child, my mom taught me to sew, and she did this by teaching me to stitch letters into old flannel sheets. After many afternoons spent practicing, she gave me a piece of flannel with the words "to Caitlin, May your own light always shine so bright. Love Mom" stitched into it and a small candle charm attached. The candle stick of my tattoo is the perfect likeness of that charm. My tattoo represents my grief, my mothers illness, struggles, beauty, and legacy, and has helped me so often as I navigate my own depression. It is a mark I will wear forever, proudly.

This is Yeshua in Aramaic...."Jesus"
It helps me realize I can make it through anything, and my problems aren't as bad as they may feel.

 

 

 

In the end, all of these tattoos remind of us one thing, the most important thing: We can do it.  We are Strong.  We are Mighty.

Not Myself Today

Hands up - How many of you have felt stigma towards mental illness at your place? 

I remember a specific moment for me.  A few years ago I was at a meeting with my boss and other co-workers.  They were discussing another co-worker.  At some point they found out (possibly she told them) she had Bipolar Disorder.  I listened as they snickered and talked about her illness as if it was a joke.  There was some “Get over it”s and some “What a drama queen”s.  My mouth fell open but I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t speak up.  I felt scared.  Here were these three superiors in my work place speaking horribly about a girl’s illness that I have as well.

500,000 people in Canada miss work each week due to mental illness.  44% of workers say they have dealt with mental health issues and only 23% said they would talk about their mental health issues with their employer.

So that’s where Not Myself Today comes in.

Not Myself Today is a Partners for Mental Health run campaign that happens every spring.  The campaign partners with organizations by giving them support, tools, and resources to educate and engage employees around this issue.  The campaign was created to reduce stigma in the work place and improve mental health at work.

Not Myself Today homes to assist companies in achieving the following outcomes:

  • Better understanding of one’s own mental health
  • Reducing stigma
  • Fostering a safe, open, and supportive work environment

Since 2013 over 320 work places have participated in Not Myself Today and in 2016 alone, over 150 have signed up!

If you are interested in finding out more about Not Myself Today for your work place or what you can do as an individual, visit www.notmyselftoday.ca

I am Angry

I am angry.

On March 17th, another Canadian police officer, an RCMP officer, died by suicide.  Since the beginning of the year, 12 first responders and 3 military members have died by suicide.  I talk about this topic a lot, mostly because it blows me away that this is happening and the stats are rapidly increasing, yet the preventative measures taken by work places are either zero or really slow to come into action.

9.2% of Canadians will experience PTSD.  First responders experience this at two times the rate.

So I am angry.  I am angry that this keeps happening and I am angry that I have to keep writing the same frustrations year after year.

I am angry that I have to advocate for my husband by calling out his workplace organization regarding their lack of efforts when it comes to suicide prevention and programs/resources for struggling members.

I am angry that human beings are going through this type of pain because of their work with little help from their work.

I am angry at the bullying and minimalization of feelings surrounding those with PTSD.

 

So what can we do?

A and B include talking.

a) If you’re related to or friends with a first responder, encourage them.  Encourage them to talk to you or talk to a professional if they have went through a traumatic situation.  Help them know that it’s okay to talk to someone about it.  Knowing they are supported by friends or family makes all the difference.

b) Just keep talking.  Talk or write to politicians.  Talk on Facebook or Twitter or blogs.  Words out: This is NOT okay and for whatever reason, the actual deaths are not getting the attention needed to create change.

 

PS. As always, I am in no way diminishing those with PTSD unrelated to first responders. This topic is especially close to me so I write about what I know.