A Tale of Four Illnesses

Lately I’ve been seeing the slogan of CAMH’s new campaign, “Mental Health is Health.” It is very true – mental health is a critical part of our health and there is no difference between mental illnesses and physical illnesses, although they are often treated much differently and there is still a lot of stigma with mental illness. I have personally suffered a lot from depression and anxiety, and have many friends that have too. A good friend of mine suffered from schizophrenia and she took her own life a few years ago – I miss her still.

In my journey, I’ve received a lot of amazing support – from friends, family, and the system, and it is my hope that everyone is supported in this way. We have a long way to go when it comes to fixing the system and ensuring everyone has equal access to care, no matter where they’re from, how old they are, or how much money they have.

It’s time we said no more discrimination, no more ignorance, and no more funding gaps. It’s time for every Canadian to rally together to ensure mental illness gets the same priority as any other illness.
– CAMH website

I’ve written these four short descriptions/poems that from my understanding, describe a little of what it feels like to be suffering from these four illnesses. These are just four disorders that come to mind… there are so many others, and so many variations.

Depression

A creation of the human mind that plagues us, brings
us down into the mud, further away from natural joy,
further away from who we really are. The black hole,
the spiral downward,
the point of no return, when it feels like nothing is good and nothing is bad, and everything is just nothing.
numbness.
It’s dark in here, darker than it’s ever been before
I used to know joy but now I can’t remember the feeling,
Has anything good ever happened to me before?
Is there a purpose to my life?
Sometimes I wish I’d never been born.
Sometimes I wish it would all end.
I am so angry. I want to squeeze every last drop out
of everything I love.
Depression is rage turned inward they say, and
I know it to be true.

Anxiety

A state of racing, rushing, worrying,
running, ruminating,
over-excitement, giddiness,
breathlessness, unsettledness
hurry hurry hurry
the thoughts say
You will never have enough time.
You will never get it all done.
It will never be perfect.
The dreaded “What if?” that runs the show 
always one step ahead, predicting scenarios
that only the most imaginative of souls
can dream of.
“What if, what if, what if?” the question repeats itself
and you have no choice to answer every question,
and plan for every outcome.
But at least there is still hope in the form of worry —
trying to make it right, trying to make it all perfect.
Because it’s all so important, everything matters so much.
So much so that there is nothing that can be left undone.
At least I haven’t given up completely.
There’s no time for that.

Schizophrenia

What are those voices in my head that speak to me and tell me what to do,
that make me suspect you, that make me not trust you or anyone else.
Why do I find it such a struggle to get through the day or justify why it’s worth existing this way?
Without my meds the voices scream louder,
but with them, I am void of personality,
I am no longer myself.

PTSD

It happened so long ago,
yet why do I feel like I’m still there,
as though it is happening all over again,
as though it is happening right now?
Why does the body remember what the mind
so desperately needs to forget?
I can still smell him, see him, my fists
clench when I hear the tires screech against the road,
the sound of footsteps, and the clock
striking 12 in the background.
Why can’t they make a pill that makes me forget.
I see the world around me,
yet I still feel trapped inside.

In Between The Pauses

Embers of fury

follow me, creating pathways into

the fissures of my heart,

unrelenting in the face of my

determined despair.

Why does the wind blow in the

direction of passivity?

Why do the red birds take me on a

journey without any clues?

The beauty of life seems to radiate the most

in between the pauses.

My soul awaits,

gasping for air,

overwhelmed by the pain and the virtue,

that interlock and intertwine,

and enhance each other through their filters.

The beaten path makes me weary,

yet knows me more than I wish to admit,

reveals more of me with every turn.

Windy Cities

Wow, what a crazy week it’s been. Feels like nonstop from Wednesday till now. On Wednesday evening, I went to Toronto (road trip with my neighbour) for a Salesforce conference. The conference took place at the Beanfield Centre all day Thurday. It was pretty good – I networked, learned about how the software is used in universities, went to a session on Salesforce in healthcare, and learned a bit about their Artificial Intelligence module called Einstein. But I must say that the highlight of the day was winning Cody the Bear, a plush stuffed animal that I had to wait in line for 45 minutes for (!!), and also successfully complete a training module.

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Thursday night I went to Scaddabush restaurant with my brother, and we were both very impressed by the quality of food. I had an amazingly yummy peach & mango belini that looked like a birthday cake.

Friday morning I went to my old-time favourite coffee shop, Balzac’s at Yonge & Bloor, and then spent some time reading at the Reference Library. It felt so good to be back in that place of peace and wisdom, leafing through new finds, and reading a chapter from one of my favourite books, “The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephen Cope. (a must-read if you haven’t read it already).

That afternoon I met up with my friend Cybele and we went to the OCAD design fair (showcasing student projects and artwork) and hung out in park… it was the perfect day to bask in the sun, lounge in the playground, and stroll through the park.  Around 5 PM we went to grab some nachos at Margarita’s on Baldwin, and that’s when the fun began. The wind picked up pace, objects started flying about, trees started to sway violently, and people started to get frantic. We walked towards Queen’s Park, feeling as though we were going to be blown away! We came across one tree that had fallen down onto the street, blocking traffic, and taking a hydro line with it. Luckily someone was already calling the police as we passed by, so we continued on.

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Fallen tree & hydro line, Henry St.

We met up with Jasmine at Innis Town Hall, and watched the Finnish documentary “Entrepreneur”, about two very different businesses that are trying to scale up and become successful. One sells meat from a truck, and the other sells a popular meat replacement product which they call “pulled oats”.  We were not impressed at all (it was so slow moving and not at all engaging). After the movie, Cybele headed home, and Jasmine and I went back to her place for a fun evening getting sushi (late celebration of her bday!), watching movies, and catching up.

Saturday I went for a walk by the harbourfront and then caught my train home from Union. I met an amazing woman from Lebanon and we chatted for a lot of the trip. My parents and neighbour picked me up, and a few hours later we went to the International Fair at a local church, where we were dazzled by amazing entertainment, representing many different cultures, and sampled delicious food from across the globe.

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My favourite ladies, heading off to the International Fair

Today was Easwaramma Day at the Sai Centre, celebrating the birthday of Sathya Sai Baba’s mother. We got home in the afternoon and were totally spent!!

Hope you all had a wonderful week/weekend too!

A Fun-Filled Day

Yesterday was a super packed day!! I spent the day downtown Ottawa, where I attended the Ottawa Art Gallery’s grand opening, strolled through the streets, enjoyed my tea and reading time at Chapters, met up with my friends Hetal and Manasa for a yummy dinner at Aroma Meze, and then went to a session at the Ottawa Writer’s Festival. Phew!! By the time I got home at around 11 PM, I was exhausted.

Here are a few pics/videos from the day:

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New Ottawa Art Gallery, $38 million project

 

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Ottawa art gallery, sari display

 

 

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Music speaks louder than words, Elgin Street

 

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Reading our latest book club pick, Chapters

 

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Dinner with two amazing ladies, Aroma Meze restaurant

 

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Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks Street

 

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Books for Borders & Belonging session

 

I loved listening to Sharon Bala read from her new book, The Boat People. There is something about being read to that is so soothing. A nice end to a busy day!

The Moment

What is it about poetry that just makes time stand still? It gets me every time! National Poetry Month continues, and I find myself paying more attention to poems and poets – new and old. I came across this beautiful poem by Margaret Atwood just now (is there anything this woman can’t do?!), and I love it. Not sure I totally get it, but love it nonetheless. ;-)

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Somehow even though she writes about unfurling, holding back, taking away, it makes me feel the opposite – letting go, exhaling, being at peace.

“the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.”

I like the imagery of the pivotal moment, after years of a long voyage, standing in the centre of your room, house, or whatever anchor you have, and reflecting on how you got there, and owning your journey and the moment.

I love how she draws a parallel between the moment and layers it with the idea of trees unloosing their soft arms around you…

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Layers and layers and layers of words, that create a poem. Actually Margaret Atwood says exactly this, in a quote of hers that I love:

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Words definitely have power, and she knows how to spin them, craft them, rearrange them, to give them power that last a lifetime.