IM Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of.

IM Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Team Work...

I belong to a ringette team. The Comox Valley Cougars. http://comoxvalleyringette.com/index.htm       We are a master’s team, meaning players are over 30 years of age- I’m WAY over- I have been playing with them for 5 years now.

Growing up in the Comox Valley, there were very few opportunities for me to skate, so close to the age of 50 I thought why not, as I wanted to play hockey. To make a long story short, I found out about the Ringette team. I had been skating for about 6 months at the public skating at the local indoor rink. I realized that I am not going to be learning much if I kept  skating around in circles, so I contacted the ringette team, as their web site said all skating abilities welcome. They got back to me and told me that their team roster was full but if I wanted to come out and play the game I was more than welcome, and as they say the rest is history.

Three weekends ago, we went to a ringette tournament in Langley. I love my team and enjoy going away with them. My team is a mixture of players, from all walks of life and all playing abilities. Some have been playing since they were wee lasses, and after many years away from it have started up again. Some played hockey in their younger years and continue to do so, and then some are like me, totally new to the game, and the skating.

When I mean new to skating, I mean, putting skates on and hanging onto the boards as I went around the rink!!!

With the amazing acceptance and support from my team I have slowly improved, dared to take chances and try harder. The first night I went to practice I was terrified, scared I would not be good enough, could not skate well enough, make mistakes etc. But they were amazing and supportive and I loved the game. As time went along I became more comfortable with the team, and was able to relax, well sort of.

So, at this point, you may be asking, “Why is she writing about her ringette team in a blog about hope and mental health?”

Well, my smart ass answer is “because it’s my blog and I can write about what I want.” But, the real reason I am writing this is because teamwork can be just as important, powerful and valuable for your mental health!

I have a mental health team. I have not always had this. I remember the dark days before I was correctly diagnosed, when I thought I was crazy and felt like I was the only one in the entire world who felt the way I did. I was struggling to keep my head above the water. A time where it felt like everywhere I turned life was knocking me down and it was getting harder and harder to get up again. A time of felt hopelessness and wondering how I was going to carry on.

I remember the fear of going to see my family doctor, and telling him what was REALLY going on, afraid he would think less of me, turn me away, say I was crazy etc. To my pleasant surprise he did not. I was referred to the adult day therapy program at the local hospital. Once again, on my first time there I had the same fears and trepidations, and once again I was pleasantly surprised, and they taught me a lot. I was then referred to a psychiatrist who had a group for people with Complex P.T.S.D.  I was to meet him first, and see if I was right, but more importantly, to make sure I was ready for group work. I remember the morning of my first meeting with him. I sat in my car, in the parking lot looking at the door to his office thinking “I could just go for coffee right now.” I’m glad I didn’t. 

When I was correctly diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder my family doctor had never heard about it, but he was open minded enough to learn what he could, and he has become one of my biggest advocates, especially when the chips are down and I need to be admitted to the hospital.  And, once again, to make a long story short, the rest is history.

I have come a long way, there have been many people on my mental health team, all wanting the best for me. Some have retired, some have moved, new ones have come on board. Some are professional, some are family and friends. Each one has brought their unique skills and insights to me and I have become better for it. I am now doing more than I ever thought would be possible. Yes, I still struggle at times, I still get frustrated and sometimes I need to pull away from activities and focus on myself. I am able to ask for help during these times, and with help and support I cannot just get through these moments, but grow and learn from them. Coming out the other end a better and more whole person. More confident with who I am.

Team work does work, in sports, and in mental health. With support, encouragement and help, one can become more and do more than they ever thought possible, and if you are lucky, you may find some lovely surprises along the way.

During the weekend away with the ringette team, we played 5 games. The first 4 games were played in 30 hours, it was busy! We played our 1st one on a Friday afternoon, we lost. Our 2nd game was Friday night. During that game, with 4 minutes to go, we were down by 1 and I scored the tying goal. It was a beauty, a backhand shot, went in the top corner of the net. It was an amazing feeling. I did not know I could get so excited and yell for so long. My team mates that were on the ice came over and congratulated me. It was like a big team hug and all I kept thinking was “don’t fall down” I was in shock, I could not believe I had just done that and I had this huge grin on my face. On my next shift, with less than 4 seconds to go, I assisted with the winning goal. It was an amazing feeling, and in the locker room my team gave me the M.V.P.  Needless to say that grin stayed with me throughout the weekend.

The next day I got another goal and assist. We came away from the tournament with the bronze medal.

I am not the strongest player, and I am far from the best player or skater on the team. But, I can still be part of the team. Also, I did not score those goals alone, it was a team effort, and some players scored amazing goals, many in fact. It’s amazing to watch them. Then, there is our amazing goalie. I don't know how he does what he does.

My ringette team knows about my illness and support me and accept me just the way I am.  It is because of this welcoming and supportive environment I keep going back. That and the love of the game. Unlike hockey, a player cannot carry the ring all the way down the ice, you have to pass the ring over the blue line, going both directions on the ice. So, this truly is a team sport.

The people on my mental health team support, and accept me for who I am. It is because of this welcoming and supportive environment that I keep asking for, and receiving help and support when needed. As with my skating and playing skills, they did not improve overnight. It took a lot of work, my willingness to ask for help. The work-both skating and my mental health- is ongoing, and most likely will be for the rest of my life. One thing I do know, I am not alone with this and  I could not ask for better team mates!!

These are my thoughts for today. I wish you all well in your journey.

Cheers and be well

Suzy

Thursday, 27 November 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I came down with a flu bug of some kind. The usual tired and achy feeling, so I retreated to my bed, got lots of sleep, took some painkillers, kept hydrated and ate when I could. When I was starting to feel a bit better I would go sit on the couch, watch a bit of TV, have a cup of tea, then go back to bed to sleep. I didn't have much energy to do anything, and I knew it needed to take its course. I could not fight it, or hurry it up, or just snap out of it.  I just needed to take good care of myself, remind myself I would not feel like this for ever and not push myself.

I had to cancel plans, going for coffee with friends, a birthday lunch with my best friend, Ringette practices and a book reading and signing by author Matt Rader  ( http://fccs.ok.ubc.ca/faculty/mrader.html)

 Some of these things I could re-book, or start up again when I was feeling better, but not the book signing. Matt was my creative writing instructor at the local college here a few years ago when I took the plunge to take a writing course and he was very supportive. I was looking forward to seeing him again.

Recouping from this bug gave me lots of time to think. I was getting well wishes from my friends and family, telling me to get well, hang in there, and if there was anything they could do for me, I was to let them know. I am fortunate.

As I was lying in bed, I was thinking how for most of those with a mental illness or mental health challenge, they do not get this kind of support. Then of course, as I had time to think I started to wonder why and what I could do about it.

As I had plenty of time, my mind wandered and I thought about one of the things I tell the psychology students I talk to.

I was a young adult when the AIDS epidemic hit in the early 80’s. Even though I was married and lived in a small town, I remember the fear, and misunderstanding that surrounded it. Being told that you could catch it by being in the same room, not to hug anyone with AIDS, and of course the blaming and shaming that went with it.

There was a lot of misunderstanding, and a lot of fear. In time the medical community, and then the public started understanding what this was all about, and research was being done, and things are now different.

I only wish this were so for mental illness.

I understand that part of the problem is, unlike a broken arm, you cannot take an x-ray to see where the brain is broken. Mental illness is a lot more complicated than that. There is still fear, shaming and blaming that happens, but I am hopeful that it is slowly changing. More people are talking about it and bringing it into the open and “Main Stream,” but it could get better.

So what can I do, to help it along its way?

I have amazing support from friends and family, and the professionals in my life, but it did not “just happen.” It took a lot of work and soul searching on my part. I needed to become educated about my conditions, so that I could educate those around me. The next step was probably the hardest, I needed to not only ask for help, but let people know what they could do to help me. 

This could be anything from phoning or e-mailing a friend and asking them to take me out for coffee, or go for a quiet walk with me, or make me a cup of tea. Other times it meant touching base with my family doctor more often if things were getting rough and to have an intake plan ready for when I do need to go into the hospital. This explained what I had done up to that point to stay out of the hospital, why I was there, and how they could support me so I could get better.

I also needed to acknowledge and accept that supports in all areas of my life help me become successful. An example is when I took my writing course, I let Matt know about my condition. Luckily he had taught past students with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I let him know what kind of support I would need. So, when I forgot what we had talked about in class, didn't understand something, or what the homework was, I would e-mail him and ask him to send me a quick reminder, and that was all I needed to get me back on track. This helped me complete the course successfully.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that talking about and bringing mental illness out into the open is a two sided coin. Yes, we need to start educating and talking about what mental illness is, and is not, but we also need to start talking about what will help those of us with an illness.

Visualize two hospital rooms. One patient has just had surgery of some kind, in the other room is a person with a mental illness. Chances are that the person who had the surgery will have visitors, flowers and get well cards and wishes, the one with the mental illness will have fewer cards, well wishes and visitors. I have experienced and seen this.

So, when we are having a tough time with our illness, please tell us the same thing you would tell someone who has a physical illness.

Things like, “I hope you feel better soon. If there is anything I can do let me know. Would you like a hug? Can I make you a cup of tea or warm a blanket for you? I’m sorry you are going through this, what can I do to help? I don’t understand your illness, could you please explain it to me and tell me how I can support you. I am by your side through this. Just wanted you to know I am thinking about you.”

I know that one of the hardest things for those that love us, is to see us in pain and suffering. I know the feeling of utter helplessness when a loved one is struggling with a mental illness. If they had the flu I could give them Tylenol and ginger ale, when they are struggling with a mental illness I can’t give them anything to take it away.

But I want you to all know, that even though you cannot give us anything to take it away, your love and support and acceptance does help us. And please, do not take this struggle personally. What I mean by that is that we are not doing this to make you miserable, or to feel bad. We have an illness. And just like a physical illness we are sick. And no amount of cajoling or criticism, ie “just snap out of it”  “if you really cared about me you would get out of bed” – is going to hurry up the process anymore then if you told that to someone with pneumonia. In fact, we will feel more shame for our illness.

Communication and understanding is the key. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I find it amazing as I talk about mental illness,  be it formally, or amongst peers, once people realize its OK to speak about mental illness, more questions are asked, concerns voiced, experiences shared and we, and our communities, all become richer for it.

Those are my thoughts for the day
cheers and be well
Suzy
To learn more about mental illness, supports or how you can support a loved one visit  
For info on youth and mental illness visit
http://www.forcesociety.com/news

To learn more about a the great writer Matt Rader visit
http://fccs.ok.ubc.ca/faculty/mrader.html








Friday, 10 October 2014

Why I Do What I Do....




Today is World Mental Health Day, and as Mental Illness Awareness Week comes to a close, I sit here with my cup of tea and think of one question I am often asked by people when I tell them I’m a mental health educator/advocate.

“Why do you do what you do?”

My answer is usually something along the line, that living with a mental illness myself, I know how hard it can be, and the public’s stigma and misconceptions around it. I hope to educate and get people talking about it, as it affects 1 in 4 people, and 500,000 Canadians have missed work today because of a mental illness, and those are the ones we know about.

Since its World Mental Health Day, and Mental Illness Awareness Week is winding down, I thought I would elaborate a little bit more about why I do what I do.

Yes, I know from firsthand experience what it is like to live with a mental illness. The stigma, misconceptions and days of frustration because you can’t seem to function “like everybody else can” I have been down to Hades and back so many times I should get frequent flyer points, and had days where it just took too much energy to get out of bed and get dressed. Days where, doing the very basic things like shower and eat, were too much for me.

I also know, that the one with the illness, is not the only one affected by it.

I was brought up in a family where one, if not both of my parents had an undiagnosed mental illness, and they self-medicated with alcohol. I can tell you that not one of us 9 children got out of that family unscathed.

I look back now and wonder how any of us got out of there alive. I also now realize, they were in a lot of pain. Mental illness was not something you talked about in my family, even as some of my brothers showed obvious signs. We didn't  have “an elephant in the room”, we had a herd of them all under the same roof.

I remember the craziness, chaos, and unpredictability while growing up, and I remember at 4 years old wanting to die.

I remember growing up and as an adult wondered why it seemed I could not remember doing things, having bouts of depression, and anxiety that followed me around. I remember crashing and burning in 2001 and no longer able to work at a job I loved, and was good at, losing our house, and credit, and my world crashing down around me as I could no longer keep the fa├žade together.

I also remember being correctly diagnosed in 2003, and finally understanding what was wrong with me.  With the tenacity of a “terrier with a bone” I worked, with the help of many amazing people, harder than I ever did in my life to get better. And the good news is, I did get better.

I will always have my illness, but I am not my illness.

Yes I am a statistic. I am one of those 1 in 5 Canadians who have a mental illness, I was 1 of those “75% of children and youth with a mental illness who will not receive treatment," and “there but the grace of God”, I am not included in the #1 accidental death of youth, suicide!

Yes, I am a statistic. I am living proof that with the correct diagnose, understanding and support, one can have a very fulfilling life, while having a mental illness.

I am a statistic, but I am more than that, as is anyone with a mental illness. I am a mother, wife, friend, and writer. I have captained my dragon boat team, play Ringette and belong to a singing group. I volunteer for various organizations and I am a very much loved member of my community.

I have talked to my doctors medical and practicum students.  Along with nursing and psychology students, and various groups of youth. I hope to talk to more groups, and various places including colleges and universities. 

I also know, that being correctly diagnosed probably saved my life.

So now you know why I do what I do. You can also make a difference.

Start talking about mental illness, and why mental health is important to everyone. Realize that having a mental illness is not a character flaw, or anything like Hollywood portrays.

You can go to the links below and start the conversation rolling.

Mental Illness Awareness Week may be coming to an end, but the conversation need to keep going, for everyone sake.

Those are my thoughts for today.

Cheers and be well and I wish you all well in your journeys.



http://www.cmha.ca/



This week Bell Canada is having its campaign to help end stigma around mental illness. With every phone call, text message sent, and tweet using #BellLetsTalk on January 28th, Bell Canada will donate 5 cents to a mental health intuitive. http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ . They have some great Canadians as spokespersons, Michael Landsburg, Howie Mandel, Mary Walsh and Clara Hughes.

Each and every one of these people are very successful in their chosen field, and it does my heart good to see they are standing up, sharing their own, very personal stories, and helping to end the stigma on mental illness.

Will I ever meet these people, probably not, but I do have something in common with them. I also speak about my experiences and advocate and educate about mental illness and mental health challenges. No, I will never be on national television, I do not have a media team putting together my campaign, but I, as one person, continue to do what I do, and like the Bell Canada spokespersons, I am making a difference.  

This last December I had the opportunity to once again speak to some youth at one of the local high schools. I spoke to a grade 11/12 psychology class, and as always, was amazed at these youth. I loved speaking to them, opening some great dialogue, answering their amazing questions, and, as always, before we knew it time was up.

The teacher of this program is amazing, she is really interested and connected with her students, and it shows. During the next couple of classes, she asks the students to write a short note to me, about my presentation and what they thought of it. This, too me, is a gift.

No matter how many times I have talked to her students-(I have been doing it for 4 years now) - and the comments that are sent to me, they always surprise me, bring a smile to my face and at times a tear to my eye. These kids are smart, well-articulated, and get it.

This shows me, that one person can make a difference. Here are a few of those comments

“Thank you for speaking to my class. You really opened our eyes about Dissociative Identity Disorder and made us understand that it isn't what Hollywood makes it out to be.”

“The fact that you have been to the lowest of lows and come out such a happy person is very inspiring...”

“ You made me open my eyes more in life and realize that my life is crap right now but will get better one day…you showed people that there’s more out there in life and that they just have to wait for that day to come.”

“You have made me realize there is so much more to life”

“I think people have a lot a misconceptions about mental illness and you did a great job clearing those up”

“Your presentation was truly inspiring because despite what you have been through you know who you are. I think it’s hard to find yourself, regardless of the situation. You helped me understand that even if it is hard, I will find who I am, and who I want to become.”

“..I realized human beings are very tough and can persevere through almost anything…”

“… It helped me understand how to see and treat people with D.I.D. and also other mental health issues.”

“Your story was really meaningful and inspired me. Life can suck but it can be good and never give up, remember better times are coming.”


For some of these youth, this is the very 1st time they have learned, discussed and asked questions about mental illness. And I know, that for some my stories resonate with them because this is the first time in their life they learn that they are not alone.

I am not and never will be a celebrity. I am not and never will be a national spokesman, but I do know I make a difference. I will continue to do what I do, quietly, in my corner of the world. And when I hit times where I wonder if I am making a difference, I will pull out the student’s comments and read them once again.

I am not the only one making a difference. There are many, many individuals and organizations out there doing their part in helping end the stigma on mental illness. A few individuals I know about are

The following organizations are doing a great job and have amazing resources on their sites, be it how to talk to or help someone with a mental illness.
Partners for mental Health http://www.partnersformh.ca/
The Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca/

And here is an amazing resource for parents with children with mental health issues and challenges. This is a B.C. organization, but great resources.

The F.O.R.C.E. Society for Children and Mental Health, http://www.forcesociety.com/

It is amazing to see the energy, passion, and drive that these individuals and organizations have. We All believe that through better education and understanding, we CAN make a difference, and help END THE STIGMA and misunderstandings surrounding mental health issues.

Start talking and keep on talking, long after the campaigns are out done and out of the limelight. Just because the causes and campaigns are over, does not mean that stigma surrounding mental health stops. 

I will never have the lime light shining on me, but I do know that by my talking, I shine a light that  reaches and helps someone else.

Those are my thoughts for the day.
Cheers and be well

Suzy






Monday, 6 October 2014

We can move forward with mental illness....



Today is the beginning of Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I'm sitting here wondering what I am going to say for this. There are many campaigns going on, and that's great to see, but it still has not hit the main stream, and many people don't know about it, but many people are spreading the word, and that brings me, and others hope.

I also think of the frustration of having a mental illness. The frustration that if one has a physical illness, people understand when you are not feeling well and need rest and self-care, but when one has a mental illness they are often told, "You could do it if you really wanted it bad enough."

Well, you have no idea "How bad I really do not want to have this Illness!!!"

This is one of the many reasons why we need to start talking and have open and respectful dialogue around mental illness. To bring education and research front and center, to bring it all out of the shadows. To shine a light on it and get rid of the stigma and misunderstandings. This will allow all affected by mental illness to move forward.   

This time last week I was preparing to go away to the Children and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Congress in Kelowna. I was being sent by The F.O.R.C.E. society for kids mental health. I didn't know what to expect, but let me tell you, it was amazing. And here is a prime example of what moving forward looked like.

It was an amazing couple of days and I am still digesting that time. I met amazing people, heard phenomenal speakers, and met many courageous parents and youth. I could not get over the fact that I was in a room with 300 other people, who believed as I did, that we need to talk about this. By talking and being open, we can make change happen, In that room were Parents, Youth, Doctors, People with lived experience, policy makers and many other service providers. Here we were exchanging ideas, asking questions, and all with the same goal. To do the best that we can for our Children and Youth with mental health and substance use issues. We also know that it’s not just the person who has the illness that is affected. It affects the whole family.

At the end of the congress, we were asked to do a survey, via smartphone/computer and one of the questions was “What are you going to do by next Tuesday to make a change happen." As people answered this, they answers were showing up on the 2 screens at the front of the room. I had never seen anything like this before- being the techno dinosaur that I am- but it was pretty amazing. Things like, talking to my M.L.A., talking to teachers, caregivers, school counselors, tell their stories and a ton of other things. It was amazing to see what the 300 people in that room said they were going to do, and it was pretty powerful. I thought, if this group was going to do that, imagine what would happen if we could get a fraction of the population making a commitment to make a change.

Needless to say, it gave me fuel to keep doing what I am doing, and if it works out, to do even more. I no longer felt like I was the only one trying to make a change. I knew I wasn't alone, but it sure felt good to see, meet and hear others who also wanted change to happen, and to all be in the same room. 

We will all most likely be touched by mental illness at some time in our life. Be it lived experience, family or friend, co-worker, children and parents we work with etc. The list goes on. The theory of the six degrees of separation states that “everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps"

This also applies to mental illness. With the correct information, and by taking it out of the shadows and leaving the stigma behind, we can support those with a mental illness and their families, just like we support those with cancer, and their families. 

So, as Mental Illness Awareness Week begins, think of what you can do to make a change happen. It can be something as simple as talking to a co-worker or friend you know who may be struggling and saying “I care” It may be education yourself on how to support and help a friend. It may be going to the links below and sharing them on Facebook and Twitter. It may be letting others know, they are not alone, they are valued and there is hope and help out there.

Each and every one of us can make a difference. I have seen what moving forward can look like, let’s do what we can to get mental illness out of the shadows and into the light. To get rid of the stigma, to get the public and policy makers talking about mental illness, and realize, it is an illness, not a character flaw. And, as an illness, it deserves research and educational funding, just as any other illness receives.  

Those are my thoughts today, I wish you all well in your journey and may you never give up hope.

Cheers and be well

Suzy








   


Friday, 26 September 2014

Just Around the Corner



Well, its been an interesting few weeks. It has been a struggle, it has been frustrating, and, I know, it will happen again.

Living with an invisible chronic illness is a challenge, add stigma to that, and things can get tougher.

Life was humming along nicely, I was getting my long morning walks in, writing, playing golf, going out with friends, laughing and smiling. Then, it came on slowly, visiting every once in a while throughout the week, then more often, then on a daily basis, then it decided it liked my company so much it decided to stay with me 24 hours a day.

I had another "episode" where my brain was not function at its optimum level, things were a challenge and in the end I needed to take care of myself, pull away from activities and have lots of quiet time and do a ton of self care. It seemed to take so much energy to do anything, read a book, go for a walk, talk to anyone.

This drives me nuts!

 I love September, the changing of the seasons, but for some reason this is a really hard time of the year for me. I don't know what it is, I have given up trying to figure it out. All I can do is be aware of it, and be extra vigilant with my self care and what I do.

I  am very fortunate to have very caring professionals in my life. When life gets like this, I pull in my resources to help me through these times. My family and friends know I have a mental illness and they support me the best they can, and they do a dam fine job of it. They also know that I am not my illness. They love and support me and accept me for who I am. That in itself is an amazing gift.

I have been through many of these "episodes" and I will again. Some, like this one will last a short while and I can deal with it at home, and I know, there may be a time in my future where I will need the help of the hospital. I also know, no matter which way it goes, it is not a character flaw, and I am not my illness.

I also know, that "this too shall pass." There have been times in my life where I doubted that, where I wondered if  I would  make it to the next day, and wondered " how will I get through this." But I have, and now, since my correct diagnoses, I have a much larger tool box, with much better tools to help me through these times. And life just keeps getting better.

Two nights ago, I was out with my son. We were having an ice creme and song came over the stores sound system. It was a song that was on the hit parade when I was 17 years old. I looked at my son and thought about that teen I was back then. How messed up and afraid of the world I was. Of how much pain I was in. I never would have thought that 37 years later I would be enjoying time with my son and laughing with him. I guess that's the thing about life, you never know what is around the corner.

A couple of weeks ago while I was coming out of this episode, I received an e-mail from as organization called F.O.R.C.E. Society for Kids and Mental health http://www.forcesociety.com/ looking for parents who might be interested in attending the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Congress. I thought "all they can do is say no" so I applied and am thrilled to say that I have been accepted and I leave Sunday morning for the congress in Kelowna, and get back Wednesday night. I am looking forward to meeting others who believe we need to talk and educate about mental illness.I look forward to leaning and being inspired.

And I am still amazed at what life puts on my doorstep.

Life is a challenge for everyone, it has its ups and downs, winding roads and dark alleys. It also has its rainbow, rays of sun shine and spring mornings. I also know I am loved, supported and not my illness. I also know, I have no idea what is around the next corner.

I wish you all well in your journeys and  that you find many lovely surprise's around your corners.

Those are my thoughts for today

Cheers and be well

Suzy




Thursday, 11 September 2014

Welcome to Hope and Mental Health

Welcome to my new blog Hope and Mental Health.


A new day and a new adventure awaits me, and I am spreading out in the field of writing.

For those of you who have read my other blog http://suzy-livingsucessfullywithdid.blogspot.ca/ you know that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, Complex P.T.S.D. and issues with depression. In that blog I write about the struggles and adventures of living daily with these conditions and my journey through life. I will keep writing that blog.

I am also now going to be writing another one, this one. I have been wanting to do so for the last year or two, but you know how life happens! But the time seemed right, so I contacted Partners for mental Health http://www.partnersformh.ca/ They have what is called a Community Correspondence which gives me another opportunity to speak up and campaign to help change the way people think about mental illness. Sounds like a good fit for me. So I contacted them, spoke to them and emails back and forth and here I am. I am pretty excited about this.

So, here in my first blog post and  I would like to introduce myself and tell you a little about me.

I live in Comox, B.C. and am a mother, a wife, a friend, writer, dragon boater, golfer, ringette player, photographer and a much loved member of my community. I also live with a mental illness and am an educator and advocate on mental illness.

I also know how scary it can be to think you have a mental illness, especially, if while growing up ones family never talked about,-even if it was an obvious issue-or if they did talk, it was always in a negative and scary way.

When I was correctly diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder ( D.I.D.) in 2003, the 1st thought that came to mind was "thank christ I'm not crazy", then that thought was immediately followed by  " Wholly shit! I must be crazy!!! The only understanding I had of this condition was what I had seen in the media. I soon learned it was nothing like that, and with education and research I learned what it really was. For more of this story go to http://bc-counsellors.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/IICC-Dec2012-winter.pdf (page 28)

Since then it has been one heck of a journey and now I write and give  presentations and talks to medical and nursing students, high school and college psychology students and meet with various youth groups. And one of the very 1st things I tell them is it is nothing like you see on T.V.

 I do not work, I am on a disability pension,- that's another blog for another time,the mentally ill fighting the government for a disability pension one paid into- so I can freely be open and talk about my illness and advocate around mental illness. I have nothing to loose, no job etc. Unfortunately it is not like that for everyone.

Yes, I know it can be scary to talk about it, but I truly believe that with open and respectful dialogue we can all come to a better understanding of what mental illness is really like, and why we need to be concerned about ones mental health, even if you don't have a mental illness. By doing this, I can help reduce the stigma and misunderstandings surrounding mental illness, one person at a time.

I have had a few people say to me-( I now understand out of their own fear)- "you're just opening a Pandora's Box." It may seem like that to them, but I also know, first hand, what its like to grow up in a household where  one or more of the family members  have an undiagnosed mental illness. We all payed the cost, and some of us continue to pay for it to this day. And like Pandora's box, while all the focus was on what came out of the box and trying to deal with that,, or ignoring it,  very few people looked and saw in the corner that thing that keeps me going. Hope!

And I hope that's what this blog does, to bring hope to others and to help educate what mental illness is really all about and slowly start to chip away at the stigma, misunderstandings and misconceptions that we all deal with.

Those are my thoughts for today.

Cheers and be well

Suzy