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.

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.

Let’s Talk

I just got home from Chapters – I spent the afternoon there reading. I have exactly three weeks before my next book club meeting on the 21st, and my goal is to read the whole book at Chapters (can’t buy them all!). The book selection for this month is “Stay With Me” by Ayobami Adebayo. It’s set in Nigeria and it’s about the consequences of wanting to have a child at any cost, and touches on the themes of betrayal, jealousy, and insanity.

What I look forward to most about Chapters is getting my tea/latte and a treat. Today I had an English breakfast tea and a Valentine’s Day heart cookie. The barista informed me that I had been missing out on free refills! I didn’t realize that with my gold card, I can get free refills on tea. She was really nice and gave me a couple tea bags to go.

Here are a few of my pics from the day:

While at I was sipping my tea, I read one of my favourite blogs, written by my old writing teacher, Beth Kaplan. She’s in New York City right now, where she is going to deliver a talk, and is touring the city and taking in its wonders. I love her writing style – she is so honest and funny, and not afraid to write about the rough parts. I especially love her commentary on Donald Trump, who (like most of us), she absolutely detests. Here is what she wrote about him today:

Another great thing was that we completely missed the State of the Union address by the orange blowhole.
– Beth Kaplan

Lol! The orange blowhole. I know exactly how she feels. I tried watching the State of the Union address yesterday, just to be informed, but couldn’t get through even five minutes of it – it’s like nails on a chalkboard. On a funnier note, why is he obsessed with celebrities these days? One of his latest tweets was directed at Jay-Z, and he said “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!”.  Hopefully this is true, although even if it is, can it really be attributed to his policies? There is a big difference between correlation and causation (but that is a topic for another day).

While I was reading at the shared table near the back of the store, I met a woman named Alice who was very chatty and sweet. She said “When I was 80, ….”  Huh?! I couldn’t believe she was actually starting a sentence with “When I was 80”.  She didn’t look a day over seventy. Alice told me that she moved to Ottawa from Victoria Island over ten years ago, and loves it here because everyone is so friendly. She lives close by to Chapters, and comes often to read and meet new people. I hope I run into her again!

My Dad picked me up after a few hours, and we dropped off some books at the library before heading home. The roads were incredibly slippery and snowy – and when I got home I stepped into what must have been at least three inches of snow! It was beautiful. I had to resist jumping in and making snow angels. Overall a fun excursion!

Hmmm what else is new with me? There are many things on my mind these days, some of which I’ll fill you in on in the near future (just send me your positive vibes in the meantime – there is something I am hoping for and the wait is killing me!).

Today is Bell Lets Talk Day, which was created to raise awareness about mental health and to stimulate conversation, reduce stigma, and improve dialogue. For every tweet or text that uses #BellLetsTalk, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health initiatives. It’s around 7 PM right now, and the website shows that there have been over 100 million interactions today (so that is a total of $5 million dollars – wow!). I talked to my friend Mandeep on the phone earlier, and we were discussing the importance of ‘talking’ – not just texting and tweeting and giving the elevator pitch on mental health, but actually striking conversations with strangers, and being friendly, open, and compassionate. I am always amazed that how in Toronto, a city of over 3 million people, it is possible to still feel lonely. No one that is surrounded by that many people should ever feel lonely!

Speaking of isolating experiences, this morning my sister sent me a video about a hypnosis experiment conducted in Netherlands that simulates the experience of being a refugee. In particular, it follows the journey of a female refugee and all that she endured in escaping her country. It was pretty tough watching it and seeing these ordinary people have to endure the torture of this plight, but it helps knowing that they will be relieved of their hardship in only a few minutes. The end of the video is very touching – definitely worth a watch if you have the time:

Well that’s all I have for now, will write some more soon I’m sure!

Hope you all have a great evening!