And so it begins!
My story isn’t unique. Across this country are thousands of people living with various forms of mental illness. They come from all walks of life, all genders, all ages, all economic levels. Like many other health issues, mental illness knows no bounds and it comes with a price; not just economically but at a terrible human cost. The harsh reality is that people are dying and for that reason alone it should be enough for all of us to rise and make change. And yet much of the silence continues due to shame, stigma, and misunderstanding. We need to show people that there is light. There is help out there. There are things that each of us can do to make changes and live a better life.
Yes my story isn’t unique and everyone has one that is their own and is just as important as everyone else’s. What I have learned over 40 years is that each of us has a path and a destiny and a resiliency that only needs to be nurtured and awakened.
In addition to not being unique, I will also say that I am no expert. There are no letters behind my name or scholarly articles I can reference having written. The experts that are out there have done wonderful and ground-breaking work and I have read many of their articles, books, and essays. I cannot express enough my appreciation for how they have helped bring forth new and innovative ideas and concepts. But there is also something to be said for lived experience. Only those who experience the battle of mental illness truly know what it is like from the inside. What I do have is the life I’ve lived, the experiences I’ve had, and the gift of opportunities that many others have not been given.
It’s taken me years to get to the point of being able to be open, to advocate and to speak publicly. Not everyone gets there; not everyone has to. We all play a part in this world and all have a role that matters.
This blog is a collection of pieces of my toolkit, highlighted by personal stories, and while I have tried to be as general as I can, much of what I provide is based on what I use for my particular diagnosis (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Everyone should take and leave what they will and always seek out professional assistance and support when needed. It is the mix of personal and professional help that has kept me going and continues to allow me to function.
It’s important to recognize as well that culture plays a role for everyone and a persons background and upbringing cannot be discounted in the recovery process. I know that I come from a place of privilege in many ways as a white, middle class Canadian citizen. I also know that as a woman I’ve been on the receiving end of gender disparity more times than I can count. Our uniqueness is what makes a one size fits all model virtually impossible and that is something we need to embrace. I view it as an opportunity to learn and to grow and will never stop doing so as long as I live. The journey goes on and in that are gifts beyond measure.
I have been on both sides of this battle; as a worker and as a person with lived experience. Those perspectives are invaluable, and my gratitude goes to all the supportive mentors I’ve had along the way whose guidance and gentle hand have allowed me to keep going even at the darkest of times. I left a career in human services after twenty years not because I no longer could do the job, but I realized that the job was changing who I was. The systems in place are not about people they are about process and money. Wonderful people work in those systems to be sure, but when you see yourself becoming angry and jaded it is a sign that you need to step away. The day I knew I needed to change is one I will never forget. I listened to a story of a woman who had watched her son murder her other son in front of her. And I felt.....nothing. That was the moment when I knew my days in the field were over and that I was better outside the system than in it. But my work has never stopped to make change and never will.