Share your story – someone needs to hear it

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Who hasn’t heard of JK Rowling? I’m sure most people out there know that she’s the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. Some say it has become the best selling book series in history.  But you know what I think is even more remarkable about her? That she’s been so open about her battle with clinical depression. JK Rowling 1

The world needs more people like her who unashamedly stand up and tell their story. Someone to challenge the stigma and discrimination against people who live with mental illness.

It’s a little weird that some media report on her story saying it is a “devastating confession” – I’m not so sure what’s devastating about it. And the word “confession” implies that someone is admitting that they are guilty of a crime. Language is powerful. It is so important that we change the language around mental illness.

It is so freeing just to tell people what you are struggling with.

Your illness doesn’t define you.JK Rowling 3 It isn’t a flaw in your character.

Imagine you got blamed for having cancer – crazy isn’t it? Mental illness is just as real. And as the saying goes: labels are for jars…not people.

 

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What defines the essence of who you are?

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I subscribe to Pat Cegan’s Source of Inspiration blog. It is just beautiful. This particular one really made an impression on my today.

Plastic Broom

Don’t give meflowers
a plastic broom.
I only want one of
grass dried in the sun.

Seems like plastic
has replaced real things
including smiles
frozen on faces
that have forgotten
how to love.

“He’s psycho” and other hurtful words

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Something that really bugs me is the language around mental illness – I think this is one of the reasons why there is so much stigma, fear and misinformation. Changing the way we speak about mental illness is, in my opinion, one of the most important ways to counter society’s ignorance about anything to do with mental health.

How often do you hear these words? “He’s crazy”, “she’s psycho” or “she’s gone totally schizo on me”. I hear these phrases being bandied about all the time. I hear something like this almost daily where I work.

But – would someone be as uncaring to say something like “I’m getting really tired of this cancer of yours” or “What?! You mean there is someone with cystic fibrosis just walking around? Can’t we lock these people up?” or “I have to work late now because Joe has had a heart attack or something. Some people will do anything to get out of work”. what depression is

Just think about that. These kinds of statements would make anyone seriously unpopular. Yet – the same standards don’t apply for someone who has clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc.

What if we treated every illness the way we treat mental illness? Why isn’t mental illness treated with the same level of compassion as any other chronic illness – because that is what mental illness is – a chronic condition just like diabetes.

I know how frightening it is to be in a room where this kind of stuff is said – the fear of people finding out and the associated stigma is sometimes worse than living with this condition. But then I read something that says “your fear of stigma is part of the illness”. And that got me thinking. Why must I be silent about what I’m struggling with? This is my story. This is my reality. This is why I recently decided to add a photograph of myself to my ‘about’ page. Why should I hide? It starts with me – I have to treat myself with the same respect and concern I would show to a cancer patient. Depression is just a chemical imbalance, it isn’t a flaw in my character.

 

My one wild and precious life

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Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it is just about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

I’ve been stuck inside all day. It has been pouring with rain since early this morning. But later this afternoon it cleared just enough to go outside for a bit and watch the beautiful stormy sunset. The clouds were all wispy with delicate shades of orange and yellow. I watched the clouds move slowly across the sky. They don’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere. They just move along slowly in the direction the wild takes them.

While I was standing outside I thought that this is actually the way I feel about life. Like the clouds I am in no hurry to get anywhere. Where would I rush to anyway? I am quite happy with a calm life. The more important question for me is what I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? This is a question I constantly ask myself since I came so dangerously close to losing my life.

My answer to this is simple: all I want is to be happy.

It don’t want to exhaust myself chasing status, money or that promotion or fancy job title. I have no need to impress anyone. I don’t want to be busy all the time. I don’t want to be “hectic” all the time. None of these things will make me happy. People often think this approach to life means you “have no ambition”. But it has nothing to do with that. I can think of no better goal in life than to be happy – and if I’m doing what makes me happy professionally and personally I believe I’ve achieved success in life.

I think the glorification of busy is probably one of the biggest afflictions of our time. We live in a world where people are always busy, always on, rushing somewhere, running late, checking emails, clutching their smart phones, checking in to everywhere they go – the gym, the mall, that anniversary dinner. People just need to stop. Check out. Slow down. Ask yourself – does any of this make me happy?

This is the thing for me – I don’t want to miss out on the things that make me happy. Those important moments in my life that no amount of status or money can give me.

I want to leave work on time to fetch my son from school. I want to enjoy the sunset and a glass of wine with my husband on the patio and talk about life and our dreams – not stare into my computer screen answering work emails. I want to walk in the park and look at the trees. I want to notice the seasons change and watch the roses in my garden bloom. I want to enjoy an evening with my friends. I want to make Christmas decorations with my son and not give any thought to whatever needs to be done at work. I want to sit on the couch with my son under a blanket and drink hot chocolate.

What I’ve learned is that it is up to me to set the standards for my life. I have to decide what is important to me and unashamedly stick to what I believe. I have to set my own boundaries otherwise someone else will set them for me. And this won’t be for my benefit. Do what you know in your heart is right. Don’t dance to someone else’s tune.

Opportunity that comes with depression

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opportunity that comes with depression

 

This is a perfect description of what of my life is like living with depression. It is something I have to manage all the time, but it isn’t all bad. In fact I’m experiencing some of the most beautiful times of my life right now. I feel connected. I know who I am. I am healing. And when I feel pain and uncertainty and fear – and this happens very often – that’s okay. I allow myself to go there and experience it. I’m learning amazing things about myself. I appreciate my life and the opportunity to have another go at it. ❤

It’s all about perspective

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I am thankful for:

The taxes I pay because that means I am employed.
A lawn that has to be mowed, windows that have to be washed and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I can walk.
The alarm that goes off in the early hours of the morning because that means I’m alive.

I think this is so powerful. And just beautiful. A good reminder that there is so much to be thankful for all the time. To be alive is a gift. That decision you make to keep on living takes insane courage.