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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.

Dear Doctor

Dear doctor:

I come to you to share my most vulnerable self.  I should trust you immediately, considering the nature of your job.  But not everyone has been compassionate and considerate regarding my vulnerabilities.

Dear doctor, your judgments can impact my world.  They can lift me up or smash me down to the ground.  Your bedside manner means the difference between reaching out for help and not reaching out.  If you are hopeful, I feel hopeful.  If you are negative, I feel negative.  

Dear doctor, please don’t tell me I am faking it or it’s all in my head.  I have enough of those types of people in my life, including myself sometimes.  I need kindness and gentleness with my feelings.  After all, I see you when my mental health is in its most rough state.  And what you don’t know doctor is that it takes a lot of courage to come see you.

Dear doctor, when you take the extra minute in a routine appointment during your busy day to ask how I’m doing, it means everything to me.  To have a doctor care, even just a little - makes all the difference to anyone who is struggling with their mental health.  You may not understand, but you still care.

Dear doctor, you may not realize it but your non-verbal communication is important.  Standoff-ish VS listening intently, eye contact VS looking elsewhere, hand gestures VS turning your back towards me.  It all means something.  Something like eye contact goes a long way.

Dear doctor, I’m not telling you how to do your job.  I’m telling you that the way you deal with a mental health patient can be the difference between getting help and not getting help.  It can change lives.

From,

Me.

 

Youth Suicide Prevention

I just realized how long it has been since I posted last!  My last post was January 15th.  Whhaaaaaaat?! What the heck have I been doing??

Well, the start of this year has been a little crazy.  January was gloomy but February was a rock star!  It was spent in SE Asia on my honeymoon J.  Pretty glorious, but I’m happy to be home.

One of the first articles I saw when I came home was an article about Partners for Mental Health’s call for the new Liberal government to create a $100 million youth suicide prevention fund in its budget.  I’m extremely proud to be a part of this organization – one that isn’t afraid to step up and call for change.

The reality is that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people in Canada ages 10 to 24, most who have made one or more previous suicide attempts.  Teens are admitted to the hospital for suicide attempts more than any other age group.  And suicidal ideation can start as early as 8 OR 9 YEARS OLD.  These stats are horrifying and should be disturbing to all Canadians. 

The plan would include creating youth suicide prevention programs in 25 different communities across Canada over the next five years, which could save approximately 127 lives.  The cost of the initial investment would be $100 million, but would end up saving $200 million over the five years.  It is said that provinces, territories and philanthropists would also match that cost.

The program would be based on the Nuremberg model.  The Nuremberg Alliance Against Depression first started in 2001 by the German Research Network on Depression and Suicidality.  The concept is based on cooperation with GP’s, an information and awareness campaign for the public, education training for multipliers (teachers, priests, caregivers etc), and support and initiative of self-help activities.  After 2 years of this intervention, the number of suicidal acts were reduced by a whole 24%.

It is my, and many others, belief that the Canadian government needs to send a message that the suicide stats in this country cannot be happening anymore.   We need these stats to stop, but we, people with mental illness, need to know our government acknowledges that mental illness is a serious issue.  That they’re taking it serious and it’s not being something that’s continually being swept under the rug anymore.

If you’d like to learn more about Partners for Mental Health and their initiatives, check out their website here:  http://www.partnersformh.ca

Being an Empath when Tragedy Strikes

Over the years I have always chalked up my sensitivities to everything as just being overemotional.  Then I heard the word Empath.

What is an Empath you say?  An Empath is an individual who feels others energies and plays off them.  Life is unintentionally influenced by others emotions and moods.

I’m going to take a quote from a blog by Christel Broederlow, as she describes it perfectly.

“Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others.  Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods.  Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions.  Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people.  You either are an empath or you aren’t.  It’s not a trait that is learned.  You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others.  Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily.  These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all.  Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.”

(Source: http://themindunleashed.org/2013/10/30-traits-of-empath.html)

 

Reading through the sigs of an Empath, I just kept nodding my head at each point. 

Need for solitude, yep.  Creative, yep.  Constant fatigue, yep.  Taking on others symptoms, yep.  Always looking for the underdog, yep.  Digestive and lower back problems, yep.  Loves adventure, freedom and travel, yep.  All applied except for a few.

Sometimes, when misfortune strikes, all hell breaks loose inside my head.

A tragedy here in town happened last week.  I’m not going to get into the details, just that it didn’t perhaps affect me directly but it did affect my friends and my husband.

Being sensitive to people’s energy can be debilitating when there’s something devastating happening.  I can pick up intuitively on the feelings of someone else, including those that were affected by the tragedy (a personality trait of an Empath…not a paranormal kind of thing). I easily connect with people that are suffering and experience the heartbreak they are encountering passionately, even if the situation doesn’t affect me.

It’s a weird thing - feeling a strong sense of grief through someone else.  It’s frustrating and painful and a little guilty feeling as well.  Guilty because of not necessarily being directly involved in the situation, but still feeling immense grief.   I spent a few days bottling up my emotions because of this guilt.  It built up inside me and eventually threw up into an overwhelming sense of anxiety.  It’s impossible to understand how one minute I could be completely fine and the next BOOM, I’m feeling someone else’s grief.  Sometimes it’s difficult to understand which emotions I’m feeling as my own and which one’s I’m feeling as other peoples.

To some of you, this whole Empath thing might sound crazy.  But to others, you may be nodding your head.

As I learn more about Empaths, I’m slowly getting used to finding ways to separate myself from others emotions during difficult times.  Talk therapy for sure.  Spending time with positive energy (I’m lucky enough to have amazing friends with an energetic and upbeat aura) in order to “pick up” those vibes instead.  Setting limits.  Knowing my mind and recognizing when empathy has gone too far.

Being an empath, absolutely has its perks as well.  Creativity, intuition, daydreaming, adventurous, great listener…and so on. 

Never a dull moment in this world.

**I'd like to note that I am not in any way comparing feelings as an Empath to those of anyone grieving directly

It's 2016!

Happy New Year! It’s 2016. A year of many changes for me.  Honeymoon, finishing school, finding a job…and much more.

I spend a lot of time, perhaps too much time, thinking about how the past 2 years, since becoming an RCMP wife, have been the hardest in my life.  I’ve went through depressions, panic attacks, being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, missing my friends and family and plenty more struggles.

I will not lie, I spent the first couple days of 2016 kind of feeling sorry for myself – I have been going through a “fibro flare” – perhaps that is why.  I go through a cycle of feeling bad and then being angry.  Angry that I’m constantly feeling this way back and forth.

Even though I am struggling, I’ve made the decision that this is not the way I want to start my year.  I find that a lot of times forcing myself to think differently actually works.  So I have made a month long list of “Mentally Healthy Challenges” for myself to start off the new year.

I share this list in case there are others out there interested in doing the same.  So much of mental illness can be fought with changing our thoughts.

(I start on January 5th, as my self pity took up the first 4 days lol)

 

  • 5th - Look at myself in the mirror 3 times today and say “I am beautiful.”
  • 6th - Have “worry time” – spend time worrying for only 20 minutes, and concentrate on worrying zero for the rest of the day
  • 7th – Meditate for 1 hour
  • 8th – Spend an afternoon writing
  • 9th – Write down 10 things I love about myself physically
  • 10th – Write down 10 things I love about my personality
  • 11th – Write a letter to someone I admire and look up to
  • 12th – Do yoga for 1 hour
  • 13th – Write down quotes that inspire me and display them
  • 14th – Create a cookbook of all my favorite healthy recipes
  • 15th – Create a fitness schedule
  • 16th – Color for 1 hour in an adult coloring book
  • 17th – Write down 5 positive memories from the last year
  • 18th – Write down 5 goals for this year
  • 19th – Do something I’ve never done
  • 20th – Exercise outside
  • 21st – Write down 10 things I’m grateful for
  • 22nd – Do something that makes me smile
  • 23rd – Practice deep breathing
  • 24th – Read a book for 1 hour
  • 25th – Journal for a ½ hour
  • 26th – Buy myself flowers
  • 27th – Go to bed 1 hour earlier
  • 28th – Listen to a motivational audiobook
  • 29th – Clean the house while dancing (honestly one of my favorite things to do)
  • 30th – Spend the afternoon without any technology
  • 31st – Take a bubble bath

So there it is - my list in full. I'm looking forward to this challenge :)

Counting My Blessings

It’s only been in the last few years where I’ve been able to think positively about my mental illness and force myself to think positively when I’m feeling depressed – basically fake it till you make it. And I’ve made it, for the most part.  I’ve become good at looking in the mirror and giving myself positive reinforcement and making positive statements in the morning right when I get up in order to set myself up for a good day. I feel stupid sometimes, but it works!

As of lately I’ve been counting my blessings and assessing the positive parts of my illness.  Five years ago, I probably would have thought of zero. Today, I can think of plenty.

1. Empathy

It’s extremely easy for me to empathize with other people.  It seems to me we are more aware of our friends and family who are struggling, whether it be because of social media or because mental illness is slowly being more easily talked about.  I find myself being able to identify those struggling even when they don’t show it, as I know the signs. I have been there.  I have showed them.  I feel for that person and will do my best to help where I can.

2.  Bravery

I have never been so brave in my entire life than I have in the past few years. I have fought through many barriers and continue to do so, fearlessly (well, for the most part).  Starting this blog was one of the scariest times of my life, and each post I reveal more about myself, but I do so because it’s important to talk about mental illness.  I now power through each high and low and panic attack, because I know I’ve made it through each time before.

3. Creativity

I’ve always been a really creative person.  I started writing poems (Looking back at them…LOL) at 14 and moved forward with poetry and short stories, doing poetry jams and live readings.  Writing is an outlet for me.  I’d like to say I’m good at painting or drawing but I am NOT.  It’s horrifying.  But I still enjoy it! Music is a big part of my life – I played drums for 10 years and wrote songs and played guitar.  And so on…..

I’m not so sure I’d have these interests if I didn’t have a mental illness.  Or at least not be as passionate about them.  Creativity is an outlet for me.

4. Appreciation for life

I have an appreciation for life on a whole other level.  I appreciate goodness in my life.  A good day is a great day.  Each good moment is a great moment.  When I have a good sleep or go a whole day without feeling anxious or feel motivated enough to work out during the winter – it is a treat!

Concentrating on the positives of my struggles works wonders on each day.

Right by You

Hi friends!

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about Partners for Mental Health.  I’ve been a Community Correspondent for PFMH for about 3.5 years now and they’ve had really super fantastic campaigns!

The 2015/2016 campaign is called Right by You.  The Right By You campaign was created by Partners for Mental Health 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 youth mental health
  • Greater understanding, acceptance and support for young people living with a mental health problem or illness
  • Increased access to, and funding for, youth mental health services, treatment and support

PFMH’s work continues as they provide additional resources to parents and caregivers to support youth mental health and rally Canadians across the country to lend their voices in calling on provincial and territorial governments to further invest in youth mental health. They aim to make mental health-related services, treatment and support available to all children and youth as soon as they need it, not just to those whose families can afford to pay for them.

There are several tools PFMH has developed in support of getting youth the help they need:

  • Bust the Myths videos: There are 3 new videos interviewing parents, youth and experts about common myths around suicide and youth mental health http://rightbyyou.ca/en/bust-the-myths
  • Petition: We are asking the provincial/territorial governments to further invest in youth mental health services. Please sign the petition and help us get to 50,000 signatures, or help spread the word by sharing the petition with your network. http://rightbyyou.ca/en/take-action/
  • Guide: The free parent/caregiver guide to youth mental health is a great resource that covers the myths, warning signs, the dos and don’ts of talking about suicide and other youth mental health resources: http://rightbyyou.ca/en/get-the-guide
  • Community toolkit: One great way to get communities involved is to download or order the community toolkit, which provides posters, postcards, stickers and petition collection forms: http://rightbyyou.ca/en/take-action/#?section=spread
  • Share your story:  Check out some of the moving stories of experiences people have had trying to get help for youth with mental health issues, as well as personal stories of living with mental illness, on the story wall, and encourage people to share their stories too: http://rightbyyou.ca/en/share-your-story/
  • Infographics: In addition to the resources on the RBY site, there is also a number of infographics about youth mental health available on Facebook here that you can add to your blog posts or share on social media:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.919275541486702.1073741833.172902742790656&type=

 

There's always lots to be done in regards to improving youth mental health, and mental health resources in general! This campaign is a step in the right direction!

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Besides medication, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) has helped me with my depression and anxiety.  CBT is a form of psychotherapy and it works to help change thought patterns, thinking, and behaviours.  Our thoughts about a situation affect how we feel and CBT works to re-organize those thought patterns.

I took a class a few years ago on anxiety and we learned many techniques on how to tweak our thought process in order to lessen our anxieties (and depression).  I’m not a health professional (yet) – so I’m not going to say these work for everyone.  But these are the top three exercises that I use regularly.  (It’s also important to note that these aren’t going to always work right away.  These are skills.  According to studies, they should be done regularly for 3-6 months to be able to change an individual’s thought process)

Worry time!

Now this one is hard.  Seriously.  The basic explanation of it is allowing oneself to worry for 20 minutes at a certain point in the day and then not worrying the rest of the day.  Yeah, like I said, it’s a toughy.  You can choose the time of day, but I would suggest not starting out your day with negative thoughts.  When I practice it, it’s usually mid afternoon.  You can worry as much as you want for those 20 minutes.  But when it’s done, BOOM, it’s done.  Push those worrying thoughts away.  Like I said, it takes loooooots of practice for this one in order to not worry outside of worry time.

 

Scales

Okay, I honestly don’t even know the name of this one so I made the name up.  This is the one I use the most.  I get a lot of anxiety in a regular day because of the assumptions I make.

“I accidentally talked over someone so they must be really annoyed”

“I ate too much at a dinner with _____.  They must think I’m a pig”

“I spoke too loud.  They must think I’m obnoxious.”

It’s amazing the things we tell ourselves and totally believe them!

When I catch myself in one of these thoughts I write down the thought.  So let’s say you’re at work and your boss asks you to correct some spelling in a document you typed.  You’re thinking “My boss thinks I’m an idiot.”  Next to it, write a number between 1 and 10 that represents how much you feel the statement is true.  Now think practically for a minute.  Maybe put yourself in their shoes.  Now write a number between 1 and 10 that represents what is actually true.  Chances are, you’re feeling around a 9 that your boss thinks you’re an idiot, but after you think about it, your boss probably doesn’t think you’re an idiot at all.  It’s likely they haven’t thought about it since they asked you to make the correction.

Practicing this takes time, but your thought process will eventually change.

 

Exposure

This is basically what the words mean, exposing yourself to situations that cause you anxiety.  I have exposed myself to probably a zillion situations that cause me anxiety since I’ve moved.  I have social anxiety.  Moving two provinces away, I needed to make new friends.  This is scary for the average human.  I pushed myself into situations that I wouldn’t normally do like joining clubs and trying all sorts of new activities in order to meet people.  I even responded to a “wanted friends” ad (lol! A whole other story…) on Facebook and she is now one of my closest friends here (and not a serial murderer, I promise).

Exposing yourself to situations is one of the scariest things a person with anxiety can do.  But it’s also so satisfying.  Once done, you can see that it wasn’t so scary after all, and most of the time totally worth it.

I recently had a mini panic attack.  I agreed to volunteer at a retirement home.  I drove up to the home at the agreed time.  I was so nervous to go in, I couldn’t breathe.  I had to leave.  I’m still extremely embarrassed about this because really, I was scared of doing crafts at a retirement home?  But somehow I am writing about this.  Let your freak flag fly, right?

Anyway, a friend offered to come with me next time and I took her up on that.  A couple days later we went and had such a great time!!!! We are going to go back once a week.  Again, an anxious situation exposed and conquered.

Those three are my fav!  Again, I am not a health professional.  Just a user who these have worked for :)