I listen wholeheartedly and often to stories from people in regards to our mental health system; and just how broken it truly is.
Maybe you don’t necessarily believe it or maybe you choose not to believe it if you have never experienced it for yourself or a loved one while desperately trying to advocate for them but I’m living proof that too many of the stories I hear are very real and beyond disturbing at times.
I myself have walked out of many psychiatrist’s offices and emergency rooms shaking my head in disbelief and left feeling even more defeated than when I first walked in which is why when someone shares their own personal anecdotes with me I can feel every ounce of their pain, sadness and frustration.
Recently a friend of mine confided in me about one such experience when she took her son to the emergency room after he came to her telling her that he had been having very intrusive thoughts of hurting himself.
Before I go any further I just wanted to first say BRAVO to this young boy for having the courage to confide in someone he trusted about how he was feeling. Many of you reading this may not realize just how much fucking strength that takes, like the kind of strength that only superheros are made of. BRAVO. BRAVO. BRAVO.
Hearing these words from anyone let alone your own child is beyond terrifying and I’m sure she probably felt very much alone at the time but also knew that the safest place for her son to be in that moment was in the trusted arms of a team of knowledgable, compassionate mental health professionals.
But sadly that is not what happened at all. In fact it was quite the opposite and instead as she stood pleading with the Psychiatrist on duty at the hospital that day to help her child he turned to this young boy and his mom and told them that he should go home. He continued by saying how lucky the boy was to be so privileged enough to not have to deal with the stresses of living on the street or in a third world country.
My heart broke in a million pieces as I heard her speak these words, words that I know are spoken all too often by ignorant folks who still believe that depression and/or suicidal ideations are nothing more than a chemical imbalance that can quickly be fixed by taking a pill or going for a long walk but when these words are spoken by a mental health professional and to an impressionable and vulnerable young mind no less, there are truly no words.
I know this is thankfully not the norm but it happens more often than it should because even one time is too many. I myself have had many amazing, incredible and compassionate experiences with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals (and thankfully I still do) to help me through the darkened days throughout my journey but those bad experiences can and will never be erased from my mind.
When seeking the help of a mental health professional try and watch out for signs that indicate that they are competent, invested in your wellbeing and most importantly a good fit for you.
Make sure they are not overconfident, dismissive or arrogant. Make sure that they are not quick to prescribe medication or diagnose you. Make sure they take into consideration your own unique circumstances. Make sure they do not threaten to use their power to treat you with unnecessary treatments that you are uncomfortable with. Make sure they properly inform you about the many side effects of the medications they do prescribe to you and that they also properly wean you off the ones that aren’t working for you (weaning off certain meds can be very dangerous and must be done slowly and cautiously) and make sure that they work together with you and for you and alongside your loved ones which should include regularly monitoring your progress, making a plan by offering up next steps and new or appropriate solutions and may at time also include them turning to colleagues or outside support for guidance so not to miss out on something.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself (or a loved one) and make sure to ask lots (and lots) of questions especially if something doesn’t feel quite right or you don’t understand something. It can be a very long and burdensome journey, trust me, I know, but it’s your journey and no one else’s and having the proper support behind you that you so deserve while on your journey towards healing can make a huge impact.
Today is World Health Day. Its campaign has become a day of recognition around the Globe since 1948 and was first created by the World Health Organization (WHO), a name that has become increasingly more and more familiar to all of us since the Pandemic started.
This year’s campaign is focused on building a “fairer, healthier world” for everyone but living in Canada right now it doesn’t feel fair at all.
The vaccine rollout in Ontario (and Canada) has been a complete and utter disaster (imo) and I can’t believe that I am actually about to say this after what we have all witnessed over the past year in the United States but I am beyond envious of all my friends and family living south of the border right now as I witness the success of how their vaccines are being rolled out (and Israel, well they deserve a fricken gold star!).
Earlier this morning both Rich and I were able to book appointments to get vaccinated simply because the Government has now deemed our postal code a “hot spot” along with several others in our region which has afforded us and anyone else in these select few areas who are between the ages of 45 and 59 years old to do so as well.
I’m not gonna lie, once we both received our confirmation emails with our appointment times set in place I became super emotional (surprise, surprise there were actual tears) that this was actually about to happen.
I am beyond grateful to be given this opportunity and I feel that it is my duty to get vaccinated when my time comes in order to help stop the spread of Covid-19; but I’m angry all at the same time.
I’m angry that teachers and admin staff have not been prioritized to receive a vaccination first or the factory workers, grocery store clerks, wait staff in restaurants, construction workers, immune compromised individuals, those in more marginalized communities, the 20 something year olds who have been blamed most for spreading the virus and everyone else who works in an essential service and CANNOT work from home.
I just hope that soon enough all Canadians (and many other parts of the world) can celebrate World Health Day together by actually building a fairer, healthier (and more united) world to live in.
It was one year ago today when I made my very first ever appearance on a National Television Morning Talk Show. It felt like a dream come true for me, but as soon as it was all over I collapsed from mental exhaustion.
Leading up to that day I had been working my ass off nonstop for several months ensuring that my new children’s book got into as many hands as I possibly could imagine but when the show ended and I arrived home, I felt a sense of defeat and decided that I needed to take a step back from my whirlwind tour.
I had intended it to be a short break, just until the new year which by now was only a few weeks away and just long enough to get my mojo back but what came next noone could have ever predicted because way before the Pandemic hit in mid March my life took several other unforeseen turns.
New Year’s Day 2020 came quickly and as I had promised myself a few weeks earlier I began organizing my calendar for some new and exciting upcoming events on my “book tour” and I also began looking at what other avenues I wanted to explore in the coming months ahead as well. But no sooner was it than 24 hours later when I found myself in bed for the better part of January with a concussion caused by numerous fainting episodes on the early morning hours of January 2nd.
I soon became further defeated and on a downward spiral as I lay in bed feeling dizzy, exhausted and headachy, cancelling events and trying to reschedule others, most of which never ended up taking place at all because, well we all know the answer to that.
Many more unforeseen events and unfortunate mishaps continued to unfold in my life over the course of last winter and before I knew it I had not fulfilled one promise to myself from the previous December day when I decided I needed to take that short break.
But who knew what was waiting for us just around the corner right at the exact moment I was finally ready to get back to where I had left off all those months earlier, who could have possibly known? Noone could because noone truly knows what the future holds.
But there we all were, together, facing so much uncertainty and unknown and nowadays we spend so much of our time fearful of the “not knowing” and as someone who lives her life with a major depressive disorder and severe anxiety I’m not quite sure if the not knowing what the future holds (depression) is worse than always trying to predict it (anxiety).
My illness has caused me to look to my past with many regrets and when I look to my future it feels very purposeless and uncertain. But I know I’m not alone in my feelings of an uncertain future especially after what we and the rest of the world have been living through for the last nine months or longer.
2020 has become the year that nobody could have ever predicted and has crippled so many people with fear and uncertainty of what their future’s hold and has also created a sense of powerlessness in so many more, even those amongst us who may have once enjoyed a lifestyle of risk taking or living unpredictable lives.
This year has sucked big time for all of us. If I hadn’t already before 2020 hit, I have for certain by now lost so much faith in the kind of hopeful future that lies in wait for me and I am pretty certain that I have felt defeated more times than I think is humanly possible this year alone but as the year quickly comes to a close I can’t help but take note of the many valuable life lessons we have (hopefully) all learned as well.
Some of my thoughts:
Our relationships with family and friends must take precedence over all else
We are never to busy to make time for the people and things that matter the most to us and we must stop using it as an excuse
Taking care of our health needs to be a top priority
We CAN actually live without many of the “things” we once thought we “must” have in our lives in order to live a more fulfilling life
Saving money for a “rainy day” is imperative
It’s okay to take time to stop and smell the roses
Our definition of who is an essential worker has changed. Honour and respect them all equally as they continue to tirelessly (and with very little pay for some) take great pride in and care for all of us each and every single day
We are all human beings and we all deserve to be treated as equals
Last night I watched “The View” from earlier that day (yes I tape The View every day and once I even got to sit in their VIP seats for a live taping many moons ago!!!!). The ladies were discussing the tragedy that unfolded in Philadelphia earlier this week when Police Officers were called to the home of Walter Wallace Jr., a young black man who was in the midst of a mental health crisis. For those who don’t know, he was shot (many, many times) and killed by Police Officers because he was wielding a knife (not a gun!) and had ignored their pleas to drop it even after his mother was heard hysterically begging them to help him. This is yet another story of unjust in America today especially amongst the Black community but sadly the Police in many parts of America don’t have the necessary tools or training when it comes to deescalating a mental health crisis. Family members of this young man had called 911 to request an ambulance and medical assistance but instead the Police showed up with their guns drawn and ready for battle. As the ladies further discussed the tragedy itself and the imminent need for proper tools and training in police departments across America they then continued to support their cause by stating facts on how many other countries are so much better equipped to deal with these types of mental health crisises and how they have also taken the important steps forward to deescalate similar situations in a more humane way. I was most proud when Joy Behar gave a particular shout out to Toronto for having these tools and training in place. I have found myself in situations where 911 has needed to be called during a mental health crisis. And yes, I may not be black or living in America or have ever been in a state of psychosis or armed with a weapon for that matter to fully compare the two situations but when 911 is called during a mental health crisis here in Toronto (and its surrounding areas) I can tell you first hand that an ambulance will arrive on the scene and that a police officer will always be accompanied by a trained mental health professional. This very tragic outcome was also very preventable and should never have happened. Apparently since this tragedy just days ago, Police Officers in Philadelphia are now required to carry a taser with them (which they didn’t have on them at the time due to there being a shortage) when responding to mental health calls which could have made a difference between the life and death for this young man who deserved to live and get the proper help he needed, the help his family stood by begging for as they watched him be shot again and again and AGAIN. He was not a CRIMINAL, he was SICK and it’s time for America to take a page out of Toronto’s Playbook. #makesmeverysad #mentalillnessisnotacrime #mentalhealth #mentalillness #itsoktonotbeok #youareenough #proudtobecanadian @theviewabc
This Pandemic has changed the way for which we live our lives (forever) and it’s also changed the way for which we die as well. In just a few short days this week I’ve witnessed several friends and loved ones having to face losing a loved one or watch their loved one battle sickness and disease from afar.
If witnessing a loved one having to battle an illness or even death wasn’t hard or traumatic enough before Covid-19 now it is just unimaginably cruel and almost punishable as a crime as they are now being forced to do so all alone.
Life…and death are still happening all around us every single day and more often than not it is unrelated to Covid-19 even if we are being led to believe otherwise which makes it that much more difficult to understand how so many people are now being forced to battle life… and death all by themselves.
Our new reality may also be leaving many loved ones feeling an added sense of guilt, powerlessness and helplessness as they can’t physically be with their loved one or hold a proper funeral for them if need be or be by their side to hold their hand, connect with them emotionally, comfort them or even to be comforted.
It’s weeks like this one that really make you see just how cruel life can be sometimes, it’s also a reality check as to just how real this virus is and it’s definitely a gentle reminder for anyone who may need it of what truly matters in life… and death.
I’m sure that many of you reading this have heard about the recent deaths by Suicide of several Frontline Workers in the news. Even before there was such a thing as Covid-19 certain occupations have always been at greater risk for experiencing Mental Health challenges such as PTSD or Suicidal tendencies. Among them are of course some of our bravest and most courageous Paramedics, Police Officers and Firefighters who are exposed to the most traumatic events or circumstances imaginable.
Now we must sadly add to the list of occupations to which PTSD and Suicide rates will likely soar in the months ahead given that the rise has already begun. It may not happen all at once, in fact, many of the Frontline Workers and First Responders could experience an “aftershock” of the Pandemic when life starts to settle down and get back to “normal” (a term I use very loosely these days).
But for many other Healthcare professionals and First Responders they are in the here and now of the Pandemic and even though they may be our Superheroes they are also human beings first, being faced with extreme and unprecedented situations. Many of these brave men and women are carrying with them a very heavy overload through every long and gruelling shift they work and beyond which can also leave them with very little time to be able to release the traumatic events from their minds before moving onto the next one.
Most people who choose an occupation in Healthcare or as a First Responder were probably drawn to their profession because they wanted to help others and protect them from suffering or pain but now with the inordinate amount of death they are facing each day it is taking a further toll on their Mental Health and Wellbeing. For many of these Healthcare professionals and First Responders they are beginning to feel a heavy burden on them when they are unable to save a life, or they may be feeling powerless or defeated due to working with limited resources in many places around the world and many, many more are just simply burnt-out no matter how strong others may perceive them to be.
So our Superheroes need to be taken care of more than ever before. They need to know that it’s just as brave and courageous to take time for themselves whenever they are not working as they would take care of their patients. They need to make sure to practice setting healthy boundaries and to ensure that they stay grounded and mindful each day and of course they may need a helpful reminder that it’s okay to not be okay and that it’s more than okay to ask for help. If you know a Frontline worker or First Responder or are lucky enough to love a Frontline Worker or First Responder go check on them now and for the rest of you leave a heart emoji in the comments to honour our Superheroes.
if you are in crisis and need support go to your nearest hospital or call your local distress center for help.
As another week in quarantine comes to an end tell me what your biggest win was for you this week. Maybe it didn’t seem like such a big win to you or maybe it wasn’t really a win at all in someone else’s eyes but keep this in mind; no one is expecting you to use this time in quarantine to learn a new language or to paint the Mona Lisa or to become a Rocket Scientist so don’t ever feel otherwise, not even for a second because right now our focus is to stay safe and to keep our loved ones safe.
So if your biggest win this week was that you got outside for some fresh air or fed your family scrambled eggs for supper or managed to find some time to work from home while tending to your 3 young children or you got dressed in something other than your pajamas or maybe you got out of bed before 1pm one day this week (that’s my big win) or for an added bonus; you made your bed then go ahead and give yourself a big pat on the back because you deserve it. (see blog; Make Your Bed: https://youareenough712.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/make-your-bed/)
But most importantly don’t forget that “we’re all in this together” and that being quarantined is not a competition as to who can learn a new language best or paint the Mona Lisa best or become the best Rocket Scientist. We’re all doing the best we can with the knowledge and resources we’ve been given and the only person who should be able to ever determine your self-worth is you and only you! Let’s try to not lose sight of what matters most right now and then every moment will feel like the biggest win!
Two years ago this coming July I wrote a blog titled “Distress Centers, Demi Lovato & Doug Ford” that I wanted to share with you again today because I feel like it is quite relevant to our life right now. A lot has changed since I first wrote this blog including my reference to being a smoker for over 30 years because as you all know by now, I no longer am!
Something else that has changed since writing this blog on July 29, 2018 was my great dislike at the time for our then newly elected Premier of Ontario; Doug Ford, but over the last six weeks he has really grown on me ALOT as he continues everyday to prove to the people of Ontario (and Canada) what the true definition of a leader and a mensch are.
He has stepped up to the plate and gone above and beyond what’s in his actual job description and shows his genuine concern and compassion “for the people”. I can’t say for sure I will continue to feel the same way about him after the crisis is finally over but for now I don’t think we could ask for a better man (or woman) for the job.
Something else that this particular blog touches upon is addiction, our mental health and asking for help. Our mental health is imperative right now and figuring out ways to ensure that we take the very best care of both our bodies and minds.
I fear that more and more people are going to come through this Pandemic with new or worsening addiction and mental health issues, both young and old. And being in quarantine many may not realize that if they are feeling vulnerable, alone or scared that help is just a text or phone call away.
But taking that first step to reach out to someone can feel next to impossible for many, but will also be the greatest thing that you do for yourself so if you are feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed and need to talk to someone, Kids Help Phone and 310-COPE are just two of many helplines that are available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; they are the definition of an essential service!
Who else watched the series finale of Modern Family last night? If you have been following the series for the last 11 seasons then last night did not disappoint with its usual silly humour and quirkiness mixed in with an emotional tribute and send off.
I loved watching Modern Family all these years for how very relatable it was for so many families and how it taught us about inclusivity and how being different is okay, it taught us that no 2 families are the same and that too is more than okay. It also taught us about love and acceptance and most importantly it taught us that we are all imperfectly perfect.
I simply loved the ending as they showed the outside exteriors to each of the three homes turning off their porch light, but quickly flipping one of the lights back on as a nod to a scene earlier in the show when dad Phil tells his family that no matter how near or far they venture away from home, the porch light will always be left on in order for them to find their way back home; basically letting the audience know that family is number one and that no matter what, we will always be there for one another because that’s what family does.
And when we get through all this I know there will be millions of porch lights left on to help each and every one of us find our way back.
And if you’re wondering, I had a really good cry as I sat curled up on the couch next to my family who I’m pretty sure already know that our porch light will always be turned on.
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