Looking back on my life, I never would have guessed how important my everyday joys and routines were to me. Now that my husband and I have experienced life without them, I understand the significance of cherishing life and what you have; living in the moment. This was especially clear to me when I was diagnosed with cancer.
It was 1991 and my first Christmas in my new home after my emotionally draining divorce. We lived in a depressed area. My family was 400 km away. I was struggling financially with a small business, helping in the community where I could, while nurturing my four-year-old who had some health challenges.
I believe we need to shift in how women -- and society -- classify giving birth. We need to spend more time encouraging women to embrace their unique experiences. We need to concentrate on educating women on what the body actually does as well as different methods of birthing and various outcomes -- without judgment.
When living with a mental illness, you feel scared and alone. You might have the best support system around you but you still feel like there is no one. It feels like nobody understands what is going through your mind and you are living in this dark scary world. You end up pushing away your family and friends. You become selfish and you don't care how you treat other people and how your actions affect them.
Having worked in suicide prevention, I know that making suicide and suicide ideation taboo plays a part in suicide statistics. Just like Mental Illness has been coming out of the closet in the last few years, suicides can be prevented when it is destigmatized and talked about. We have anti-bullying legislation talk about workplace harassment. But suicide or suicide ideation and mental illness are too often off the table.
We criticize the athletes' outfits, the colour of their hair, their body art and especially their performance. "Oh, he planted his foot too early on that hurdle!" or "She needs to get a better start so she doesn't fade in the last 20 metres!" and so on. What gives us the right to criticize them? Why do we assume that we "know better"? And more importantly, why do we do this at work, too?
Talking about mental health, especially depression, is still highly stigmatized. In a society that values achievements as a sign of success, tackling the topic of depression seems daunting to many of us. In the public's mind, it is connected to ideas of weakness and laziness. Those suffering from depression are aware of this too -- which often keeps them from seeking help.
Everyone struggles. Some struggle more than others, but that doesn't mean we can't support other parents. If someone tells you about their problem, no matter how silly or trivial you think it is compared to your own, or what other people deal with, support them. Lift them up. Say you understand how hard it must be for them, and acknowledge their feelings.
Love is doing acts of service and kindness. That goodness, compassion, generosity of spirit is a kind of light. And the more light we share on this planet with one another the more darkness is diminished.... We love by showing compassion, tolerance and acceptance as we strive for peaceful co-existence with one another.
Society seems to have an issue when a woman asks for help. Women are supposed to be superheroes. We're supposed to do it all and we're supposed to smile and make it look easy. We're supposed to be perfect mothers, wives, friends, employees and citizens, and we're not supposed to admit that we can't do it without a little help.
I have a group of women in my life who can draw on their personal and professional expertise to advise me on everything from decorating to divorce law to the DSM-5. In turn, I'm the go-to person on moving, critical thinking, and how to source a vintage designer bag. I've found that it's so much easier to "do life together" and draw on each other's experience, than for each of us to try to master everything on our own.
I could see my four-year-old son playing on the slide, but my two-year-old son was out of sight -- not unusual as we had a very large, gated yard. I didn't even have time to cover myself before a woman came around the corner, a look of fury on her face and my two-year-old on her hip. "DO YOU KNOW WHERE I JUST FOUND YOUR CHILD?" she screeched.
I felt like I was daring myself to cross some arbitrary line in the sand, and once I did, there would be no turning back. Canadians' perceptions of who I was, and certainly their knowledge of my life story, would be forever altered. Even if only a few dozen people heard my story, it felt big to share personally and publicly.
For my entire life, I've been on the run -- at first it was as a child, "running away" from the violent and daily physical abuse that took place behind closed doors in my home. From that moment onward, I kept everything inside of me, and around me, off in the distance. And thus began many years of escape that came in the form of a destructive alcohol and drug addiction.
Cancer. Death. Divorce. Miscarriage. Infertility. What these experiences all have in common is that they make people clam up. People often don't know how to respond, what to say, what to do or how to react. So often, people don't respond. They don't say anything. They don't do anything. They don't react. And that is wrong. Some would argue that everyone is dealing with their own stuff and don't have the bandwidth to take on other people's problems. But if everyone's head is down and people are only worried about themselves, that is a sad and cynical statement about society. Are people really that busy that they can't be supportive of others?
It's the most wonderful time of the year for Canadian mental health advocates! Wednesday, January 28 is Bell Let's Talk Day. On Bell Let's Talk Day, conversations will be taking place online, in homes, schools, and offices across the country. All wonderful, but, will you be participating in these discussions by sharing your personal experiences? Many people won't.