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"Not Just Sad"

I was recently reminded how depression is still largely misunderstood. I was speaking with someone about mental illness and this person began to tell me about a friend who has depression. She said that she told this friend, "Don't be so sad. You have lots of great things in your life to be happy about." I could tell that she cares about her friend and truly felt that she was helping her to place things into perspective. Frankly, this is a horrible thing to say to someone in the grips of depression.
Telling a person with a mental illness to not be 'sad' because they have so many great things to be happy about is exactly the same as telling a person who has cancer to not feel the physical pain because they have "so many great things to be happy about." Exactly the same thing. 
It made my heart hurt knowing that this woman's friend is not being supported in a truly understanding, empathetic way. And I get it - I really do. People just don't unders…
Recent posts

"How to Not Lose Your Mind Over the Holidays"

I have something to tell you, a tiny secret. Come closer. Here it is: not everyone loves Christmas. There. I said it.
If you were to believe everything that you read and watch on TV, you would think that December is four weeks of sheer happiness. For many people, it's four weeks of ridiculously high expectations, stress, low mood and high anxiety. In the weeks leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah we are inundated with reminders that we need to spend more money, buy that perfect gift, host the perfect holiday party, and on and on. Add to that poor weather and reduced sunlight and you can easily slip into depression. Even if you truly do love the holiday season and everything is going great in your world, stress is still there.
I used to be one of those people who LOVED Christmas - everything about it. I planned and hosted a big holiday party for my friends every year. I searched high and low for the absolute, most perfect gifts for my family and friends, and usually started shoppi…

"Invisible Superpowers"

It's easier to believe in something that we can see, isn't it? With the exception of Santa Claus, God and perhaps the Tooth Fairy, I think it's safe to say that if you can see it, touch it, taste it, it's much easier to believe in it. The same rule holds true when it comes to disability. We can see a person using a wheelchair; therefore, we know that they have a disability. Not so with mental illness.

Have you ever been asked this question, "If you could have any superpower what would it be?" Invisibility would be amazing, yes? You could go do great things - go to places that were normally off limits to you, eavesdrop on conversations and who knows what else. Superpowers are cool and amazing.

But is an invisible illness like a mental disorder amazing? Is it cool? Do we envy people with mental illness? Or do we judge and turn away, perhaps even consider a person with a mental illness to be weak?

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) reports some i…

"Talk About it Already"

Raise your hand if you have ever had to go to your job and work while you were sick. I am going to guess that is all of us, minus the millionaires among us. It's hard, isn't it? Trying to concentrate in an important meeting while your head is stuffed up with a winter cold isn't easy. We tend to understand and feel sympathy when a colleague has the common cold. Guess what else is common? Depression and anxiety.
The number one category of disability worldwide is mental illness. Yes, worldwide. Not just at my workplace or your workplace of even just in Canada. Worldwide. And yes, we still don't talk about mental illnesses nearly enough. We put up posters in workplaces encouraging employees to get flu shots, to stop smoking and to lift boxes safely. Mental health awareness? Not so much. Still.
I often speak at conferences and at organizations about the importance of being proactive about mental health awareness in the workplace. I share facts and figures, I tell parts of …

"Golden Repair"

A person who has a mood disorder often feels broken, sometimes irreparably so. At times we know that what we are experiencing is fleeting and it will go away; the darkness will recede and we will once again feel whole. Sometimes it is more difficult to believe that the light will return at all.
This is on my mind a lot lately. In the last week alone I have had three anxiety attacks and my mood and anxiety have been very off for the last few weeks.
After two decades of living with recurring depression and anxiety I accept that what I have is a chronic illness - it is never far from my mind when I am well. I approach each day and week with this in mind and I always have a game plan. What is in my calendar at work? Do I have a few days with back to back meetings and little downtime to work quietly at my desk? Is my social calendar too full or just right? If I do this thing on Tuesday will I be exhausted on Wednesday? How will that impact the rest of my week? How will I ensure that I eat…

"Words of Wisdom: Let it Be"

The world is full of helpers. I know this to be true because I see the beauty of it every day in the people around me: colleagues, friends, family, people on social media and in the news. The thing that most of humankind seem to have in common is a desire to help others and to reduce suffering. It's easy to become jaded in this world when we see something bad happen but, as Mr. Rogers said so famously, always look for the helpers. They are there.

This week I posted the following on Facebook and it generated a fair amount of discussion:

The conversation among my friends and I got me thinking. I was left asking myself this question, "Why such a reaction about this particular post?"

To be clear, I absolutely do not oppose a wide variety of treatment options when it comes to illness. In fact, a combination of things has been the key to my care plan over the years. And, it should be noted, I do not endorse one form of treatment over another - it's up to you and your heal…

"Hey, It's OK!"

I haven't felt like writing in a long time. The fall months and the Christmas season were hard on me - I struggled with my depression and anxiety on an almost daily basis. It was tiring. I just didn't have the energy to write nor did I have the inspiration. 
Sometimes life is like that. It can't always be constant sunshine and happiness, at least not when you live with a recurring mood disorder. It certainly didn't help that I found the U.S. election results deeply upsetting and the Christmas season just too much (too much of everything).
So how did I manage? What did I do to avoid free-fall into another depressive episode? I pulled out my mental health bag of tricks: I got lots of rest, I played with our dog, I took my medication every day at the same time, I read good books, I tried to eat as healthy as possible and I talked about my illness.
Yes, I talked about what I was feeling and experiencing. I talked to my carpool buddy & friend, Lindsay, who was a freque…