Wednesday, January 27, 2016

20 reasons why i need Bell's Let's Talk Day*

It's time once again for my becoming-annual Bell Let's Talk post (2015, 2014). And this year let me just say, stuff you and your cynicism about corporate greed. You can bitch about an organization that's at least doing something - as flawed, or inadequate, or self-serving as you may judge it - or you can get out from behind your computer screen and do something yourself. 

Want government change? Organize for it. Want to make a difference for people with mental health - ask them what they need. Want to change society so mental illness kills fewer of our young people and stifles fewer people who might make THE difference for themselves and others if they were well - do something that will change our conversation about mental health. 

Do I know what the answers are? No, obviously not. I'm busy trying to get well. But let me tell you what I do know: 

Why I need #BellLetsTalk:

  1. because if I was on medical leave with any other diagnosis, people would be bringing me meals and asking how else they can help*
  2. because telling my boss why I saw my doctor so frequently was a bad career move
  3. because when I met with a new counsellor the other day and started telling him what I've been dealing with, he teared up and I ended up managing his response instead of getting support
  4. because when my trainer asked who I can tell everything to and just be supported, I couldn't answer, and then I couldn't breathe*
  5. because every time one of my sons has a bad day I think A) will it kill him this time AND B) it's my fault - kids can't escape their mother's mental illness
  6. because the last time my son reached out to someone other than me on a bad day the police pushed into his apartment, called him a liar, took him to the hospital in just gym shorts and an undershirt, stole his medically-approved marijuana, and left him locked up overnight with no money to get home. He couldn't leave his apartment for a month after that, and I was too far away to do anything about it. 
  7. (EDITED JANUARY 29) because when my son was in the hospital for 3 weeks after his last suicide attempt, only his grandparents visited him or sent him a card, chocolates, or whatever else people in every other ward of the hospital get**
  8. because the stigma of mental illness keeps my son from asking for the college support service he has a right to and that would make his success approximately a billion times easier for him
  9. because suicide is the second highest cause of death among Canadians age 10-24, and instead of helping them we call them moody, hormonal, attention-seeking, self-absorbed or "just going through a phase"
  10. because when a woman cries over something we don't understand we call her a crazy bitch instead of asking what she needs
  11. because I'd rather stay home alone than have to bear the weight of a false smile
  12. because children from single-mothers households are 5x more likely to commit suicide than those from two-parent households, yet there aren't supports for divorced/divorcing families
  13. because my child's depression is more likely to kill him than your child's cancer, but there's no McHappy Day to battle that
  14. because in Canada, for all our hoorah and sudden coolness and bragging about our (not at all free or effective) universal medical care, only 1 in 5 depressed youth who require medical support will receive it despite the knowledge that early intervention saves lives and minimizes the frequency and severity of relapse
  15. because I am creative, intelligent, educated, adventurous, loving, fun, loved and beautiful, and some days I can't stand to leave my house
  16. because the man I love had to tell me every day for weeks that I wasn't okay before I heard him and asked for real help
  17. because I just want my sparkle back, and I can't find it on my own
  18. because 32 years after my first depression diagnosis I have only now given up caring what you think about it so I can focus instead on what I can do about it
  19. because it's okay for a stranger on the street to tell me I'd be prettier if I smiled, but not for me to tell him why I can't
  20. because even after reading all this, you won't believe that mental illness is a "real illness"
I keep re-reading this list, and each time it gets longer. I am one person with chronic mental illness. I love AT LEAST 4 other people with diagnosed chronic mental illness. Every one of them (and me) is so much more than our diagnosis, and none of us are getting the support we need to be truly well. I have seen my doctor at least 12 times in the 9 months I've been home and my depression (now coupled with anxiety) continues to worsen. 

So go ahead with your cynicism if it makes you feel cool and clever. But who's going to stop the spread of this epidemic? Lord know those of us caught in it are busy just staying afloat.  

*I hope that the 10 people in my life to whom this post doesn't apply know who they are and how much I love and appreciate them.

**(ADDED JANUARY 29) NL read this last night and told me grandma & grandpa visited him, as well as one aunt and cousin from his dad's family. I appreciate knowing that, and the correction.

Friday, January 22, 2016

life in the time of hyperbole

I am sometimes accused of being a drama queen, of playing things up, or (at best) of "having a way with words." Part of that comes from being writerly, some from a vivid imagination, and some from my ongoing mental health battles. But it occurs to me that in this present culture, hyperbole is the norm - a cacophonous crescendo as too many voices work to be heard.

Dramatic tension is the life-blood of all fiction and most non-fiction writing - whether that's for TV, short stories, 'creative non-fiction', or, increasingly and perhaps problematically, journalism. If the story doesn't capture the reader's imagination, some other flashing headline will. I have taken a small and meaningless stand against the mental spam, click-bait, formulaic video and article headlines that are the standard pap of Facebook these days. No matter how compelling the story might otherwise be, if you use one of these ridiculous overstatements, I will not reward you with a click:

Ugh. My head. 

No video has yet changed my life. 
No laughing baby has made me re-assess my philosophy.
No rendition of "Let it Go" has driven me to rhapsodies of spirit and soul.

And yet, I am pulled to play that game. When the whole of society has turned the volume up to 11 and crying wolf is the most common form of communication, how do you make yourself heard, and how do you find the room to think?

That's the task before me for the next 17 days - to create quiet and find a way through the yowling morass to a high place where I can see clearly.

Friday, January 1, 2016

i believe...

I believe. 
I believe in the magic of a new year;
in the possibility of a clean page. 
I believe in fresh starts and umpteenth chances. 
I believe in taking a moment to catch your breath, dust off your scraped soul, and rise again. 
I believe that even though our numbering of hours, days, months and years is a social construct, they are imbued with the power we assign them.
And I assign these days of transition the power of completion and resurrection. 
I believe in the year before me. 
I believe in me. 

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