Friday, July 1, 2016


Do the stuff people say you shouldn't. Do the stuff that seems impossible, silly, difficult, immature, irrelevant. We can create a long list of reasons why we shouldn't do something, but a very short list of why we should. There is only one reason why we should do that thing that seems impossible or silly or ridiculous.... because you want to!!! Because your heart is telling you to do it, and your heart never lies, so listen to it!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

So What Happens to People After Treatment?? Are They Cured?

This might be a question some of you have asked of this blog or of those you know who received treatment for mental health problems. "Where did she go?" "Is she OK?" "Maybe she's cured and has nothing to talk about any more?" For those of you visiting this blog for the first time, I've chronicled my journey to wellness here, so I invite you to start at the beginning if you or someone you love struggles.

Well, I'm still here, have't really gone anywhere except for Greece and Italy which was AMAZING!!! I'm ok, but I'm certainly not cured!! I wish!! Or do I...

Since leaving the PTSR treatment program at the Homewood in May 2013, a lot has happened. I made a gradual return to full time work over a period of twelve months, I've traveled to far away places for the first time in my life and alone on one particular occasion! Along with my regular day job, I've dabbled in some entrepreneurial work which I continue to develop, I've given talks about transitioning from treatment back into the real world, I've served on committees for mental health in the workplace, and I continue to see my psychiatrist every three months, and I continue to have really bad days and short periods where I fear I may be sinking into darkness again, so am I cured? Absolutely not!! But I am coping well and enjoying a content and balanced life for the most part, but not without a great deal of effort.

My depression over the last couple of months has been mild to moderate on an almost daily basis which creates problems with motivation. Sometimes I feel like working out at the gym or going to yoga which are essential to my treatment and progress and sometimes I don't. I have to exercise compassion for myself while also holding myself accountable, it's a fine line. My lack of motivation and difficulty focusing spills over into my work as well sometimes making me feel inept or "less than"again requiring me to be gentle with myself. Sometimes I need to force myself to go to the gym or do work, and it isn't easy, but I always feel proud of myself after I've done what I didn't have any desire or energy to do earlier.

I also witnessed a horribly fatal car accident this past week where I was witness to a transport truck colliding with an oncoming vehicle killing the driver and orphaning her 11 year old son. Having received treatment for PTSD, I find myself now sorting through the intrusive memories from this event as well as the numbness that accompanies witnessing such a senseless tragedy. I have moments of rage when I hear others complain about the stress of the holidays or who didn't give them what for Christmas, and I expect this will continue for a period of time until I learn to once again employ the tools I was taught to help process this very intense and triggering experience. I also find myself getting angry for having to deal with all these issues all over again!! I did this already!! I spent a great deal of time and energy doing this two years ago, and I don't want to have to do it again! But I do have to do it again, and I expect this most likely will not be the last time I have to do it again, but unlike two years ago, I now understand what happens to the human brain during a trauma like this, and I also know what I need to do to self nurture and promote my own healing.

So what happens to people after treatment?? I suppose one of two things.... sadly, I think some either fall back into being a victim of their illness, criticizing themselves for not doing better or being better and perpetuating the cycle of shame that comes with a diagnosis of mental illness, and relying on old ineffective habits to cope simply because they're easier and more familiar.  Or they work every day, to use those healthy coping tools to make progress, and to learn to enjoy a happy and fulfilled life; they learn to take risks again and to push their own personal expectations so that they can experience more than they're experienced in the past, and we do all of it knowing that any day, something can happen, a neurological imbalance can occur, a medication can stop working, or a tragic life event can side swipe us back into darkness, but we mustn't stop working to be well. None of us, mental health diagnosis or not, must ever stop trying to be the best version of ourselves we can be.

To all of you out there, I hope 2016 brings many opportunities for you to grow and experience the beauty of life and living, and to feel the love the lives inside of each of us!! Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Good-Bye, Mr. Williams: Gone but Never Forgotten...

Like millions of others, I was shocked to awaken yesterday morning to the news that Robin Williams had succumbed to an illness that so many of us struggle with daily. Why shocked?? I'm not sure..... Maybe because he just seemed so jolly, happy, gregarious, carefree, comfortable, confident, secure, financially stable, loved and admired by millions, in control of his illness because he was so damn successful. I realize now, it was a mask some of the time, I can fake a smile or laugh on my worst days too. Maybe, even though I suffer from depression as well, the stigma of the illness still lingers within and even I find it difficult to believe he's no longer with us.... when he had so much to live for. Ironically, on the evening he decided the pain was too much to bear, I watched him in the movie, "The Grumpiest Man in Brooklyn". Not one of his finer films, but ironically his character attempts to commit suicide because he is dying. It never occurred to me how much art was imitating life that evening.

Robin Williams has been on my blog page since I began writing it over two years ago. I chose his image for the exact reasons I'm now shocked that he's gone, because he is all these things while also being open about his struggles with depression and addiction which is also a mental illness. I was also struck by the quote  "I used to think the worse thing was ending up all alone. Now I think the worse thing is ending up with people who make you feel alone." Loneliness and alienation are very familiar to those with depression. I remember when he first confessed to the public his mental health struggles many years ago. I believe he was one of the first of a long line of celebrities to admit their struggles with their mental health. I hadn't been diagnosed as having concurrent illnesses at the time, but I remember being in awe of his courage. Mental illness was far more stigmatized at that time then it is now. Some progress has been made thankfully. In fact, I'm certain many found his admission clear evidence explaining his "wackiness". It wouldn't be the first time a creative genius was revealed to have mental illness. There does seem to be a correlation somehow. 

Another irony, Mork was an alien who was banished from Ork because humour was forbidden. He was sent to Earth to study human emotions and at the end of each episode, Mork would report back to his leader revealing his latest revelations regarding human behaviour. Robin Williams seemed like a wise and gentle man even in those "pretend" reports to his superior.  I wonder what Mork and Robin would have done without humour in their lives.... what would any of us do without it?? Laughter is said to be healing, and sadly even in the throws of his own illness, Robin Williams healed us time and time again. 

I'm angry that he gave up! I'm certain there were other times when he considered ending his pain, but he got through them, we all do, why not this time??!! Why didn't he just ask for help? Why didn't he wait till someone came home?? If he, with all his wealth, success, and admirers cannot find a reason to stay alive, what hope is there for those of us who don't have a fraction of what he had?? What does Joe Blow have to live for if Robin Williams has nothing?? ... This is the nature of depression, he had everything to live for, but his mind told him otherwise. I'm not truly angry, but I know it's how many feel who are left behind to grapple with trying to understand that which is not understandable, that which is completely illogical.... except to those like myself who have had a brief glimpse of that moment, but survived. It's a terrifying question to ask, but what hope is there with a disease that seems to possess the minds of its victims rendering them their own worst enemy possibly even their own executioner?? How do I protect myself from myself??  In that moment, when our brains process a decision that is without logic, a decision that defies our very instinct to survive, when the pain of the illness is so severe that nothing is what it seems, and we compulsively seek to end the pain, at that moment there is no hope, unfortunately.

Hope lies in the days, weeks, and years before that moment. In the treatments and care that need to be accessible to everyone. Hope is in educating families on how to recognize and care for those with mental illnesses just as we educate on how to avoid the flu. Hope is found in a society that doesn't look at Robin Williams and others who have been lost to depression as cowards, or as weak. People who suffer from depression are strong and resilient, they have to be. The decision to end their own lives is not their decision, they are not in their right minds, it is the disease that takes the lives of so many just as cancer does. Hope lies in the radical acceptance that if a loved one suffers from depression there is a possibility that that person might one day arrive at the same moment he did. In that radical acceptance of the illness and all the possible outcomes you can say to that loved one "if that moment arrives when you don't see a future, before you do anything, call me." How do I protect myself from myself?? I don't know if I can except by working hard trying to remain healthy. Don't ever let your loved one feel alone in this struggle. No one should ever leave this world without a loved one holding his/her hand. Yes, we have loved ones tragically ripped from our lives abruptly and violently sometimes which in itself can create a mental health issue, but where ever possible, no one should ever leave this world in absolute solitude, and that requires a profound paradigm shift in regards to how we look at death, life, and love.  

I am profoundly saddened that Robin Williams lost his battle with depression, but I also know that part of what made him someone I admired, someone whose quirkiness was extremely entertaining, someone who was able to make me laugh at the not so pretty people and aspects of life, was probably partly to do with his illness. Exedor was the "crazy" character on "Mork and Mindy" and studio audiences would explode with applause and laughter as soon as his made his entrance in his robes and flourishes. Many of us, myself included, like people who are little wacky when no harm is being done, some of us even admire them for having the courage to be themselves. Personally, because of my depression, I revel in the moments when I don't feel numb or sad. The simplest things give me joy, and I can find humour in almost anything... why not?? Sure as hell beats being depressed!! I believe too I have a lot of compassion for the pain of others, I'm easily moved by an act of kindness or someone else's vulnerability. I'm not saying I'm glad I have depression, I'm just saying that paradox strikes again and perhaps what we loved most about Robin Williams, his authenticity, his humour, his compassion, were the result of the very same thing that took his life. Good and bad exist in everything simultaneously.
Good-bye Mr. Williams. Since my childhood, you've been making me laugh. Thank you for the laughter, for the healing, and thank you for reminding us that there is still much work to be done. I'm grateful your suffering has ended, I'm sorry you couldn't find another way. May you rest in peace, sweet man.