Canadian Mental Health Association, You’ve Failed Me

Canadian Mental Health Association: I’m another one who has fallen through the cracks.

I no longer have faith in community-based supports for mental health. You either need to pay for it, know someone within the system, or you’re on your own. Why build structures only to let people down when they need you most?

I had such hope for the CMHA. I felt helped in moments of crisis; at times, I felt like I was getting somewhere. But now my file has just gotten lost in the oblivion of other people struggling. Promises for community support has turned into crickets. I’ve been waiting 3 months for a call. Now I just feel forgotten and left to become a statistic. Sometimes I don’t have the strength to be my own advocate. It’s hard to when you’re struggling, and a bit broken, and you’ve already asked for help, and that was a hard thing to do within itself.

Thank goodness I DO have many supports helping to fill in the gaps. I just feel a little lost and jaded by the resources that were supposed to give me hope. Sadly, I’ll be moving to BC without the resources that CMHA had offered me, and were critical to my recovery. Hopefully B.C. will have better supports.

We need more mental health solutions in Ontario, Canada, and the WORLD!

How to Love Someone with a Mental Illness

People with mental illnesses aren’t the easiest to love, but we are lovable nonetheless.

I lost the love of my life due to my own mental illness. I wish I could say that my mental illness story had an ending where I can say “my partner threw his unconditional love and support behind me,” but that’s not my story. This is my tragedy.

This is a deeply personal post, because it divulges a lot about my own life with mental illness, and what led up to it. I write this because I don’t ever want someone with mental illness to be punished for something they can’t control.

Mental illness does put strain on relationships. Sadly, when you’re partner to someone who is mentally ill, you bear the brunt of it. The mentally ill can leave scars. I left scars.

If you or someone you love lives with a mental illness, take it from me: they need love. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you stand by their side during one of the toughest moments of their lives. I come by this all too honestly.

Separate the Person from the Mental Illness

My husband chose not to continue with our marriage because he didn’t want to be married to someone with a diagnosed mental illness.

Despite mental illness playing a role in the actions, behaviours and manifestations of the mentally ill, there needs to be a large degree of separation between the individual and their mental illness. They are not their mental illness, and their mental illness does not define them. Think of it as another kind of disease – cancer – people don’t become different people when they get a cancer diagnosis. They just become enlightened on their health concerns. A patient with cancer isn’t cancer, and cancer doesn’t become the patient.

While it may be hard, try to envision the one you love living with a mental illness as a whole person, not broken, working very hard to weave themselves back together. Quite often, they know what they need to do, and have tremendous goals of overcoming their illness. People are not their illnesses.

Remove Triggers Where You Can

Sadly, my mental illness was exacerbated by the very person I turned to help me find my stability. Due to the people that were brought into our business, my safe space became a space of bullying, sexism, and intolerance. I couldn’t say anything without having a sexist remark thrown back at me, and I was in an environment that threatened my sense of security and safety with simply vile behaviour. After months of pleading to have this person removed, I realized that I wouldn’t be defended by my husband and business partner. My mental health meant less than a tattoo artist being within the shop.

Had the triggers been removed – and we’re not really talking triggers, but serious threats to mental well-being – I know that I would have been able to get through this experience a bit easier. Sadly, I was not the chosen one, and the person who led me to my declining mental health still occupies his place in my former business.

My partner didn’t remove the triggers, but instead, forced them upon me. After pleading for some space away and some disconnect, the trigger would always be brought into my life. It was almost like torture.

It was this that drove me to the suicide attempt, where my husband literally had to bring me back to life, and the attempt that brought me home to Canada to truly take care of my mental health.

If a loved one has triggers in their life that seriously threaten their mental health, do all you can to remove them. Even if you don’t understand why they trigger, just understand that they do. Sometimes the mentally ill just aren’t strong enough to “live with” these triggers, and deserve the dignity of having them removed.

Understand their Diagnosis

When I got my diagnosis, I tried to educate my husband on it, so that we could both understand it, and move through it together. Instead, he shut me down upon the diagnosis. He never read the materials that myself and my family sent him on my diagnosis, and rather used it as a tool to detach.

If you or someone you love has received a mental health diagnosis, understand that knowledge is your power. The more you can understand mental illness, the more you can begin to navigate it with your loved ones. My reading on my mental illness has allowed me to do a complete 180 and see things from different perspectives. Just because I now know. I wish he could have understood things too.

Be Strong & Seek Support

Not everyone is mentally fit to live with, and love, a mentally ill person. It’s as simple as that. My husband wasn’t strong enough. He won’t ever be strong enough, and I don’t blame him for that. I have compassion in knowing he doesn’t have what it takes to be with me.

But there is a degree of strength, resilience, and thick-skin that loved ones of the mentally ill must develop. You kind of have to be ready to deal with whatever that person throws your way, and that takes strength.

Make sure you are seeking support not only for your mentally ill loved one, but for yourself. You need it, and you deserve it.

Love the Shit out of Them

Sometimes when a mentally ill person loses control of their mind, all they need is a hug, and to be held. Not to be challenged, not told that they are “messed up”, and resented for their mental illness. They just need to be loved. To be held, and told that everything will be OK.

It’s not always easy to love someone with a mental illness, but remember, they aren’t their mental illness, and there is a person in there that you fell in love with. They can’t help what their brain does to them, and their loved ones. But there’s love. There’s always love. And you know what they say, love conquers all.

I hope that others’ love will conquer mental illness, as I conquer my own mental illness. Alone.

Regressing To Plunge Forward

I drive a 2002 Honda Accord, and every time I get in, I always think about how life is so similar yet so different than it was in 2002. In 2002, I was living with my parents. I was driving a 1991 Honda Accord. I had broken up with my first love, and I was getting ready for university, and leaving everything I knew behind. I had the greatest of friends. My vices were boys, alcohol, cigarettes, and cannabis. I was a bit all over the place then, and didn’t really understand my own brain and why it challenged me so much throughout my life.

It’s now 2018, I just broke up with my first husband, I’m getting ready to go into the unknown, as I have left everything I knew behind in Costa Rica. I live with my Mom again. I have better friends in my life than I ever have. My vice is no longer boys or alcohol, but cigarettes (temporarily) and cannabis still are. I am starting to understand my brain, but there’s years of cobwebs to get through.

Sometimes I feel I regressed, but then I remember that we all need to press “restart”, take a few steps back, in order to plunge forward.

Sweep In Front Of Your Own Door

The news can be a real bummer. It’s easy to say the world is going to shit. It’s easy to get fired up about the news, people’s opinions, and want to debate stuff (especially on platforms like Facebook) with total strangers.

We only have one life, and only we can control what we invite into our lives.

The best thing I ever did for myself was control my news intake. This happened after a very long break from Facebook and a very strong cleanup of things I followed, people, etc.

I found that my mood and my day could be affected so greatly by the news, people’s opinions, and “keyboard warriors” that I really had to consider my priorities. Would I let myself get upset by someone’s racism? Would I devote my energies to trying to change the opinions (and policies) against gun violence in the U.S (where I have no control)? Would I spend time yelling through the keyboard at sexist assholes that are getting entertained by bashing feminists? Or would I just exist right in the world in front of me, trying to be a positive agent for change, in places in spaces where I COULD have impact?

You don’t have to turn to ignorance when the news gets to be a bit tough to deal with. Nor do you have to turn to your keyboard to prove your point, debate facts, and spend more time talking to strangers than the people in your life. We don’t get anywhere by being ignorant, or trying to change the opinions and thoughts of ignorant people.

Instead, as Goethe said, “Let everyone sweep in front of [their] own door, and the whole world will be clean.” Stop focusing on Trump, and his constant vomiting of shit. You can’t control what he does (especially if you’re Canadian!). Don’t let him characterize the rest of the world for you.

Choose causes on the international front that interest you, and have a chance to make change, and put your efforts there. Turn your attention to what’s right in front of you, the people, the places, and the events that are happening that you CAN control, just by bringing a positive presence.

Keyboard warriorhood against issues that you can’t change does nothing, but getting up, and sweeping in front of your own door will help the whole world become clean.

Cultivate The Life You’ll Be Proud of On Your Death Bed

When you are on your death bed, what are the things in your life that you’re going to be most proud, happy, and satisfied with?

Will it be your house, cars, designer furniture?

Or will it be your adventures, experiences, and connections?

What if you were given the news that you only had 24 hours to live?

Would you be satisfied with what you cultivated within your life?

Would there be things you wished you had done with your life but never got around to?

Are there places you wish you had visited?

Conversations you wished you had?

Talents you wished you had fostered?

People you told you loved?

Conflicts that you wished you’d let go of?

People always seem to wait til “later” to get what they want from life. Or there’s an excuse for NOT doing what you want in life. Think about the fragility of life, and the privilege of having this blank slate ahead of us.

When it’s your time (hopefully old, and after a good long life), will you be happy with the mastery of your own ship of life?

Cultivate your OWN life NOW. Plant your seeds. Let them harvest. Leave this world with a smile when it’s your time, because you know you did the very best with your gift of life.

My Fucked Up Family True Crime Story

DISCLAIMER: This is an awful story, but it is going to be submitted to the My Favorite Murder podcast soon. It’s a dark and macabre story from within my own family that gives me goosebumps. For people who don’t like true crime or morbidity, move on. For those who thrive off true crime stories, read on.
 
It was the 1970s, and she (“she” being a cousin by adoption/weirdness within my family) had gotten herself into quite the amount of trouble. Despite being a loved, and lovely young woman, she had fallen into a sketchy crowd, gotten into drugs, and had an extremely abusive boyfriend that made her life miserable.
 
They were driving down a country road in a truck, at top speeds, like teenagers do. Having a good time, hanging out the back of the truck, hooting and hollering. All of the sudden she was gone.
 
Her body was flung out of the truck and onto the dirt road at top speeds.
 
She had died from suicide. Her relationship, and the mental torment that she had gone through had whittled her down. She saw no hope, and saw her opportunity — a life lost too early.
 
My parents, who were living in Alberta at the time, came home to Sarnia to see the young, beautiful, tortured soul laid to rest.
 
When they returned to Alberta, their friend asked them, “Weren’t you just at a funeral for a young relative?”… Hesitantly my parents said yes, and were told the news.
 
Her friends had been caught at the graveyard, digging up the body of the young, beautiful woman. They didn’t get too far before being caught. Luckily, because what they were intending to do was morbid, macabre, and sick.
 
Their plan was to exhume her, and place her dead body on the lawn of the boyfriend who had tormented her so much, in a sick act of revenge.
 
They were charged, and the story made the national news. I am going to try to find the archive some day.
I only heard of this story a couple years ago, and naturally, my sisters and I sat there, jaws dropped in disbelief. Of course, while this story is fucked up, sick, and sad, my true crime obsessed feelers went into overdrive, and this is why I’m telling you this story today.

Grandma Ryan, The Protestor

Grand Bend, Ontario
Summer, 1968

It was an has always been known as one of the tumultuous years in modern history. 1968. A time of free love, anti-war, anti-authority, land disputes, resource disputes, and political protest. Lots of political protest.

It was a hot day. The ladies of the Ryan family decided to take themselves to the beach in the nearby beach town of Grand Bend, in Ontario.

It was a time when the news not only reported the news but also shaped it. When questioning authority, and rebelling against them, had become the norm. Trust for the government was hard to come by, and it was felt on the Canadian side of the border, as the spirit of protest reverberated across the St. Clair River and Lake Huron.

They set up their day at the beach. Sun butter, chairs, and likely one of those portable foil sunners that people crazily used back in the 1960s. They sat and watched the water and all the people and families out enjoying the splendors of a hot day on Lake Huron.

All of the sudden they heard a commotion and were stirred from their pounding sun rays. They looked up, and the Ryan daughters realized they had lost someone pretty important to their group: Grandma Ryan (their mom).

After packing up and walking along the strip, they realized what the commotion was. Teenagers packed the streets, chanting, protesting. Sadly, the topic of the protest was lost in posterity, but it was nonetheless heated, and important for the time.

Still looking for Grandma Ryan, the girls walked further, noticing there were lines and lines of impassioned people.

They still couldn’t find Grandma amongst the crowd.

They walked to the front of the protest line, and finally: there she was. Holding a sign, a woman in her 70s, Grandma Ryan standing amongst the emblazoned teenagers, yelling at the top of her lungs in civil protest.

“I thought I’d throw in my support,” said Grandma, matter-of-factly, as they returned to the beach to catch up on their tans and slug back the few beers she was always known for.

I think I know where I get my fierce spirit from. (Grandma Ryan is my paternal great-grandmother)