Keith is a regular contributor to Bring Change 2 Mind’s blog, and to the Good Men Project. If you are interested in working with Keith feel free to reach out. Contact WL if you want to be a Guest Blogger.
Worth Living Ambassador Lorna Morrison
My name is Lorna Morrison and I am a 22 year old Film and Television graduate. I blog about mental health and my recovery from an eating disorder in the hopes that I can aid others to seek the help they deserve.
I know that saying your mental health disorder is a voice in your head sounds like some stereotypical rubbish that you don’t want to hear. Believe me that’s what I thought when it was first explained to me.. However, once I started to look at it in this way it helped me so much.
Living with an eating disorder you have a voice nagging you from the moment you wake up to the time you fall asleep. It won’t let you forget it. It has an opinion on most things you chose to do and a lot of the time it takes these choices from you. Whilst you’re suffering, the eating disorder voice is the loudest one and you just succumb to its desires. The difference once you start going through recovery from an eating disorder is that it can feel like you have two constant voices in your head battling with each other. One the “eating disorder voice.” telling you “you’re this, you’re that, you need to do this.” and then your own voice that is trying to fight it off telling yourself you’ve come too far to go back now.
I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been in recovery for 2 years now and I still get days when I suffer badly from this voice but honestly that voice gets so much easier to dull the further in your recovery process you get. It becomes so much easier to tell your own thoughts from the disorder and to be able to push that cruel voice away knowing what it is telling you is untrue and unhealthy. For me now, I’m aware of the voice, when it starts trying to get inside my head again I can tell straightaway it’s my eating disorder talking and not me and because of this I’m now a lot stronger to not fall into the behaviours it tries to tell me to do.
A big part of recovery is being able to detach yourself from your eating disorder. You are not your eating disorder you are so much more than that. You are you!
Quit putting yourself in the bracket of your eating disorder it isn’t what makes you. I felt so attached to my eating disorder that sometimes it just became who I would define myself as in my head and that’s so unhealthy.
In my group therapy, we were given a work sheet to write two letters to a friend on how we would imagine our lives in five years time. One had to be our lives still living with the disorder and the second had to be what our lives would be without the disorder. This was so that we would detach ourselves from the eating disorder and make us look to a future without it and see how much better life would be. This was an activity that really opened my eyes to what I could have if only I removed that voice.
If you are suffering yourself try this activity and read the letters back and see how different they both are. Hopefully it will help you chose what you deserve. Recovery!
Please follow my personal blog at www.bitingback1995.blogspot.co.uk/?m
Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier
Hello I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I like music, coffee shops, art, poetry, and I do weightlifting. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia.
Warning: These are my experiences alone and I do not speak for all survivors of sexual violence. Please be warned that the following content may be triggering and discusses sexual violence as its topic.
I never expected as a child that existing would be this hard. That being me would more often involve surviving than it did living. That I would be wearing a perpetual sign on my forehead reading Hurt Me. It wasn’t long into my childhood before I experienced violence for the very first time. I didn’t realize then, that violence would be a recurring theme in my life. People warn children not to talk to strangers. We’re all guilty of teaching our children only about the people we perceive to be monsters. The man in the white van, that offers your child candy. The stranger who lures your kid into the forest. These are what we imagine predators to be. They are the monsters that jump out at you in the dark, wolves snarling, baring teeth. We know what monsters look like; at least we think we do. We teach our children about these monsters, but fail to teach them about the wolves in sheeps’ clothing. The family member, the kind neighbour, the friend, the boyfriend. The ones closest to us, the ones we may even love.
Sexual violence kills someone’s soul. It tears it out and leaves it on the floor to rot. I remember hearing someone in high school once say they rather be raped than murdered. I remember being angry with them but not knowing how to put my anger into words. I never had the words until now. Being raped is like being murdered except you don’t get to die.
When I was eight years old, I experienced repeated sexual violence. I did not understand what was happening at the time. I just knew that it was happening. The perpetrator was not a stranger, was not in a white van and wasn’t even a man. The incidents did end. I don’t even remember why. I don’t think I even thought about it until years later. Thinking back, I don’t know why the person did what they did but I don’t think the reasoning is relevant. All that mattered is that it happened and that it hurt me.
I’m not sure if I was predisposed to being vulnerable. If there is something in my DNA that makes me weak or easy prey. It’s hard to feel like I wasn’t to blame for my victimization when I found myself in another sexually violent situation a few years later, and a few years later after that… and after that.
I began to realize that this is how it was for me. I was a small fish in a world full of sharks. The sharks mostly took form in the shape of men. Hungry for what they claimed to be theirs. A fish isn’t a fish to a shark. It’s just food.
What did middle school look like for me in terms of sexual violence? It looked like eighth grade boys grabbing at my body like a free-for-all buffet, a male friend describing how he would rape me, and yes, he used the words rape. A friend telling me how her father would assault her over and over again. Her mother telling me that his abuse was somehow my fault. It looked like a girl who was assaulted in the stairwell. The teachers telling the female students to take a friend to the washroom with them just in case something happened in the hallways. As if that were the solution instead of charging the boys for assault. It looked like a teacher telling my mom it was best if I stayed home but didn’t give her a reason as to why. The reason was that the boys at my school were treating me as theirs to take. Steak served and ready to be devoured. Starving eyes staring back at me.
When you are young you are told that the adults are there to help. If something goes wrong, they will save you. I soon realized the only saving would be the saving I did myself.
After being treated like subhuman for so long I began to feel subhuman. I gave up on myself. I put myself into situations I shouldn’t have been in and didn’t deserve. I didn’t fight back. I once casually took my jacket off after realizing someone had spit on it and proceeded to clean it off in the snow. I didn’t make a big deal out of it because I felt that maybe I somehow deserved it.
Slut. Whore. Worthless. Every time someone uttered one of these words it made its way under my skin leaving wounds that still haven’t fully healed over. And it wasn’t just the kids- in my middle school some of the staff thought I was selling myself for sex (but didn’t do anything about what they thought was happening), a staff member once told me they knew I was a good person deep down inside and that I should respect myself more. Apparently I was taking advantage of the boys and not the other way around.
Tenth grade. A boy- no a man befriends me. He just wants to be friends. He just wants to be friends but now his hands are down my pants and I can’t scream. I say the word “no” but it barely comes out. He laughs. It’s a joke to him. It’s not a joke to me because I still have nightmares to this day, I still see his face on strangers on the street and I still flinch when people touch me.
Twelfth grade, I’m walking up the staircase. I feel a hand where a stranger’s hand shouldn’t be. I turn around. I say “why did you do that” to which the girl replied, “Because I felt like it.”
There are some experiences that just begin to feel inevitable. Catcalls, sexist jokes, being sent to the principal’s office for having a skirt too short, because your teenage body is being sexualized. By adults. Men who sit too close to you on the bus, men who follow you home… shall I continue?
Boyfriends who go too far without asking, boyfriends who I let go too far because I think “what’s the point of trying to say no?”, The way I always type 911 on my phone when I walk home in the dark ready to press CALL. Considering carrying pepper spray in my purse but realizing I am more likely to be assaulted by someone I know, and knowing I have my own personal statistics to back this up.
These are just the way of living I tell myself. This is what I know. I remember telling a male friend that I wish I could go for a walk at night whenever I felt like it. He answered “Why can’t you?” I remember seeing a sign on my university campus that said “We Believe Survivors” and another male friend said “Why would you believe them all?” As if people speaking up about their assaults has ever been easy, has ever gone their way. As if survivors should receive any ounce of doubt.
I remember being in a criminal behaviour class and the topic was sexual violence. The males in the class were talking about how the video the professor played “Was just not realistic” and ” Men aren’t like that” I remember thinking to myself moments before how accurate the video was.
Recently I was listening to a spoken word poem and the speaker said “You don’t just get raped once because the world rapes you a second time.” And that is nothing further from the truth.
In a world that literally hates women, where women are raped and killed for just being women, where men almost always stay silent when they are the victim, it’s hard to see the light. I know that I will continue to experience violence even if it is not to the degree it has been in the past. Healing is a long process. It’s hard to heal in a world that is built against you. A world that re-traumatizes. I know not everyone reading this will be comfortable, but this isn’t supposed to make you feel comfortable.
I didn’t share every story of sexual violence- there were too many, and sharing all of my experiences, would just be far too vast to fit neatly into a blog post.
Although this article strays far from being uplifting, I want you to take one positive thing away from it. I got through all of this, and much much more. I survived. I will never edit my experiences down to make them flowery or easier to read. Although I may spare you the gory details I will always tell the truth. The point of writing for this blog is to share with you real life experiences relating to mental health. Sexual violence has been one of the biggest parts of my mental health and a contributing factor, in my opinion to many of my illnesses. Sexual violence is a hard topic to tackle but I chose to share this with you. If it can help at least one person out there feel less alone, then I have accomplished more than I could hope for.
I was once told that my life was like the series of unfortunate events but worse. I’ll take that as a compliment. I have experienced some terrible things in my life. But I survived. I survived.
Worth Living Ambassador Michele King
Hi! My name is Michele and I am 28 years old. Living with both depression and anxiety, I want to be a positive force of change to help end the stigma associated with mental illness, with hopes that what I share will help at least one person who comes across it.
OH MY G.A.D.
How I LOATHE you and
The tricks you play
on. my. mind.
OH MY G.A.D.
The moment I think I have you under CONTROL
You’re already giving me something to think about
And think about…
And think about…
And think about…
Oh my G.A.D.
My heart is racing now.
My palms are sweaty too.
My mind is stuck in a battle
I see a glimpse of reason coming through. Oops… It’s
Just. Out. Of. Reach.
Oh my G.A.D.
Take a deep breath now.
Always remember to
Worth Living Ambassador Thomas Morgan
My name is Thomas Morgan. I am a 21-year-old Sociology student at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I am a brother to both a younger sister and an older brother. I am a son to two wonderful parents. I am a suicide survivor. I also have Bipolar.
Warning: Thomas mentions Suicide
On June 3, 2016 a good friend of mine took his own life. When I had originally wrote this, I had no intention of putting it out for everybody to see. As it is spoken word poetry I had planned on actually performing this, but at the time I cannot bring myself to do so. Because of this, coupled with the fact that in a short time it will be a year since he died, I thought publishing this piece of writing (the first poem I have let anyone read) through Worth Living was a good way to honor his memory.
I don’t know what to say, other than I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that I didn’t introduce you to my old roommate sooner.
I know, he’s a real dick.
He’s probably the worst roommate you could have.
He has a habit of tearing your new wallpaper off the walls because it isn’t “his style”.
He always runs to answer your phone before you get the chance.
He’s a very bad drunk, to say the least.
He will rarely leave the apartment.
He never showers.
He seems to know everybody you two run into because he would always be the one having a conversation with them.
You were always fun to be around. It was never my intention to make you feel left out when I left.
I left because I had to try and get away from him. Hell, I moved across the country.
Despite this, he comes to visit me sometimes, ignoring my constant protests.
You and he have a lot of the same friends in common though.
And I hope you get to see them often.
I’m sorry I didn’t introduce you two earlier. If I had, maybe you could have been prepared. Maybe you could have avoided him entirely.
I’m sorry, and I miss you. I don’t know what else to say.
Man, isn’t depression a bitch?
Worth Living Founder Keith Anderson
Lenny Kravitz – in memory of Prince
Pearl Jam Better Man
Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others — “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Cream performs “Sunshine Of Your Love” at the 1993 Inductions
Wilson Pickett and Bruce Springsteen Perform “In the Midnight Hour” at the 1999 Inductions
Chuck Berry With Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Johnny B. Goode
U2 Bruce and Patti Smith Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary
Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary
Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary
U2, Mick Jagger, Fergie – “Gimme Shelter” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary
Worth Living Ambassador Ann Ottaway
Ann is a 30 year old former legal assistant, animal lover, and a believer in new beginnings. Ann shares her recovery journey with the hope that her story allows others to realize they are not alone.
One year ago it seemed as if I had it all. I had a successful career on the rise, an active social life and an amazing home that I shared with my best friend. I was financially independent, I had medical benefits and a pension. I was trying new things, meeting new people, and stepping out of my comfort zone. Friends and family were praising me for my accomplishments and noting how I seemed so happy and free. I worked hard to make a life for myself and present myself to the world as a successful woman. I had a nicely decorated and personalized home. I made sure my appearance was professional and stylish via an ever growing wardrobe and a wealth of aesthetic and hair treatments.
On the surface it appeared that I had control over my life but deep inside I was in a rapid downward spiral. I faced a constant push and pull of emotions. Not fully understanding the complexities of my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I experienced racing thoughts, episodes of hypomania, bouts of severe depression and, at times, crippling anxiety.
I kept my diagnosis quiet short of my parents and a few close friends, I was terrified of the stigma that looms in our society. I was trying to find treatment but faced wait lists of up to two years in length and struggling to find time to access what resources were immediately available around a demanding career. I experienced constant nausea, tightness in my chest, and an overwhelming urge to cry which, when repressed, resulted in incredibly painful muscular tension and headaches. There were days that I forced myself to get out of bed and use every ounce of energy I had to get through the day appearing as nothing was wrong; only to arrive at home mentally and physically exhausted with no choice but to pour myself into bed.
I was constantly second guessing myself and feeling incredibly insecure. I was terrified to let others down. I feared rejection to the point of paranoia. No matter how many friends I had I was terrified of being disliked. My BPD enabled thrived on a fear of rejection at a subconscious level. People seemed to like this version of me and my illness made me believe that rejection could come at any time and I made all efforts to do what seemed to make others happy to avoid this.
I could spend all of my money on clothes, haircuts, makeup and manicures and still feel ugly. If I received praise at work, I felt like I could have done more. I felt like my home should have been cleaner. It didn’t matter how much I exercised, I was always uncomfortable with my body. I felt weak in my vulnerabilities which were coupled with shame as I appeared strong to others. I was struggling to build a life for myself while making my best efforts to mask severe illness.
To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement and eventually it all became too much. I was exhausted and I felt like nothing was ever going to make me feel anything but misery. I felt completely hopeless as I had worked so hard to try and live my best life possible to no avail. One day I just stopped. I stopped coping and I stopped feeling all together. I wanted the whirlwind of emotions to stop. I was tired of trying so hard to make a life for myself and still feeling miserable and then feeling guilty because I had everything I needed and more. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I just wanted to be free from the pain. One morning I began to cry and could not stop. I could barely breathe and began to feel numb, like I was trapped in some sort of dream. I had fully entered into a crisis which required hospitalization for my own safety.
I remember lying in my hospital bed feeling completely empty. The world felt like a strange and frightening place in which I didn’t belong. The sound of my own voice speaking to doctors was completely foreign to me. My reflection in the mirror looked distant and surreal, I no longer recognized the person looking back at me. I was touching without sensation. In my mind I had already left this world and was in purgatory. At one point I decided that I was going to refuse to eat, speak or do anything but wait for my existence to end. So I just laid in bed and I prayed to fall asleep and not wake up.
One day, the woman I shared my hospital room with said something I will never forget, “I don’t even know you but I don’t want to see anything bad happen to you.” That statement is what got me out if bed. After a rough few weeks of rest, medication, and another hospitalization I chose to work on myself and seek proper treatment. While this may seem like an easy task, it is one filled with indescribable anxiety and guilt.
My recovery journey has been a balancing act of symptoms and treatment inclusive of medication and multiple outpatient programs. I am now in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, which is the only treatment for BPD and is highly sought after but difficult to access due to limited funding. I can understand, rationalize, and utilize the tools given to me. I can make better decisions and practice self -care but the symptoms still surface and I still struggle with them.
A year after my illness took over I am still here. I don’t have my own home, I don’t have my career, I don’t have an active social life and many friendships have grown distant and contemptuous, I don’t have the means to support myself let alone treat myself to any of the luxuries I was indulging in before. I have to depend on others on a regular basis. In spite of all of this I feel a will to live that seemed so impossible before.
I am getting to know myself for the first time and discovering the life that I want for myself. I am starting over and am constantly faced with new challenges every day but I feel incredibly blessed to have a life to start over. In all of this, I have learned that I don’t need material things to feel good about myself and that I don’t need to live life for anyone but myself. The lifestyle I had did not dictate my character. It did not define my positive attributes. I learned that I am still worthy and cared for as a person simply for who I am.
I used to think that I had lost everything but I now realize that I had everything within myself already.
Worth Living Ambassador Katie Campeau
Hi, my name is Katie, I’m 20 years old and am in my 3rd year of Sociology at Acadia University. I love writing and reading, and I’m very enthusiastic about learning. I also happen to be dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. I know, just your stereotypical student…
Thoughts are a powerful force. We have them every day. They dictate our day to day actions and we go about our lives with these internal monologues. Even when we’re having conversations with other people, we can drift off in our heads. Sometimes they’re nearly impossible to turn off, so we try to find distractions like reading a book or watching a movie, something that will direct our focus away from them. Thoughts vary from being random to direct, intellectual to passive, and positive to negative. As human beings, we all share this capacity to have these day to day range of thoughts.
So, as I just told you, I share this with you. But because of my OCD, my brain processes thoughts differently. The reason I have this mental illness functions on a neurological level, specifically because a part of my brain, the basal ganglia, is overly active. Whenever I have a thought, I immediately attach a meaning to it. It’s not strange to attach meaning to thoughts, I mean a lot of us do that. What makes this abnormal is that I attach meaning to thoughts that are both completely random and intrusive.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but we all have intrusive thoughts. They’re thoughts that forcefully enter your brain at random and cause a great deal of discomfort. The difference between how I interpret them and how you interpret them is what differentiates us from having a mental illness or not.
As someone without OCD, you can have a random thought, like, “Let’s push that person in front of a car.” Without even knowing it, your brain looks at this random thought and discards it right away because it’s able to identify that the thought is meaningless. Your brain knows that this thought has no relevance to who you are as a person, so you’re almost not even aware of having the thought and get rid of it as soon as it comes.
Then there’s the way my OCD brain interprets the thought. Unfortunately, I am more aware of these thoughts and my brain quickly attaches a meaning to them. So when I think, “Let’s push that person in front of a car,” I immediately think I’m a bad person for having this thought. I ultimately believe that because I had this random thought that I must actually want to act on it. It’s uncontrollable and I can’t push the thought away, instead I give it my full and undivided attention for hours, days, or even weeks. I obsess over this thought and try to alleviate my anxiety by performing a ritual, like tapping a wall four times.
Like I said earlier, thoughts are a big part of our lives. They influence our existence. I’ve been influenced by my intrusive thoughts for many years, and they led me to the conclusion that I was a bad person. From a young age I decided that my intrusive thoughts made me the worst person and that it was just a matter of time before someone would notice. It wasn’t until I went into therapy and met my psychologist that I was able to acknowledge that my intrusive thoughts were a part of an illness. I remember when my psychologist told me for the very first time: “Intrusive thoughts are just thoughts.” It took me a while to actually believe this, and even now I struggle to identify what’s an “OCD thought” compared to a “normal thought.” But the difference between me pre-therapy and post-therapy is that my intrusive thoughts have a little less control over me. There are days when I can look at the thoughts more objectively and see that they are 100 per cent meaningless.
This brings me back to now, in 2017, and this tattoo. I love tattoos and as a result I told myself a while ago that one day I would get a tattoo to commemorate my mental health journey. I wanted something that would put my illness into perspective in the most simplistic way. Plus, I am a huge fan of the Semicolon Project and wanted to incorporate its importance of open discussion. Tattoos don’t have to have meanings, but this one most definitely has one. When I look at this, it shows me how far I’ve never let my illness stop me from pursuing my goals. There have been times where I’ve been in dark places, wondering what the point of living was when I had to live with these unwanted thoughts for the rest of my life. Everyone who has a mental illness has a moment of doubt, a moment where they believe that their life is unbearable and they’re unable to continue to move forward. It’s scary. But it happens.
This tattoo is a reminder of how I didn’t let my thoughts gain full control over me. I have accomplished so much and that is while living with a debilitating illness. It’s also a reminder for those days where I give the intrusive thoughts meaning, that they are just thoughts and have no power over me.
Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier
Hello I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I like music, coffee shops, art, poetry, and I do weightlifting. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia.
When discussing mental health, we often hear the words “ you should get help” or “you are not alone.” Although when people say this, they probably have good intentions, what they don’t realize is how difficult it actually is to get said help. A story I heard today, actually inspired me to write this article. Now I had already intended to write an article about getting mental health help; however, this incident pushed me to write it as soon as possible. I heard a story about a teenage girl and her recent experiences with the mental health system in my city. I was so angered that she received no help and that her experiences very much mirrored mine. I had hoped that things had changed in recent years, but evidently they have not.
When I first started really struggling with my mental health, I went to my family doctor at the time and she referred me to a psychologist who was supposedly good with helping youth. Now this was my first time dealing with any kind of mental health professional and at the time, I trusted my doctor’s opinion. Why wouldn’t I? Professionals know best right? Wrong.
So I went for my first appointment with this psychologist. Her office was in an old house with a funny smell at the top of a staircase. I assumed her to be younger for some reason, most likely because I was told she was good with youth. In reality she was old, and I’m pretty sure she had a birds nest in her hair. She wasn’t helpful whatsoever.
Now I was 12 at the time, but she treated me as if I was perhaps 6 years old. She made me draw pictures and then tried to analyze them. Now my pictures had no hidden meanings- I was just drawing them because she told me to! So no my picture of a flower didn’t represent my unresolved childhood trauma, it was literally just a flower. She referred to my anxiety as “worry dragons” and decided that the death of my dog was at the root of my issues. She couldn’t have been further off track. I don’t remember how much longer I saw her, but it wasn’t for much.
The next psychologist I saw definitely fit the description of what I thought a therapist for young people should look like. Her office was large and bright and she was much younger than the previous one I saw. However she too was less than helpful. One of my tasks was to write a positive word for each letter of the alphabet. What is that supposed to achieve? Nothing. The answer is nothing.
I went back to my family doctor who referred me to a medical doctor who specialized in youth with mental health issues. Sounds promising right? It was quite the disaster. She kept prescribing me different medications and was constantly looking for some made up problem that she could attribute to how I was feeling. The medications she put me on just made me a lot worse and I eventually stopped seeing her.
My teen years were mostly a blur. During my youth I visited the hospital many times. Now if you tell someone you are experiencing severe mental health issues or feel suicidal they will most likely tell you to go to emergency services. Now maybe, to you reading this, that seems like an idea you would agree with. To me, it sounds like a terrible idea. If you hurt yourself and need medical attention then I think going to a hospital to tend to your physical injuries is important. I do not however think hospitals are well equipped to deal with mental ones. Now I can only speak for the hospitals I have visited in my city. I have visited hospitals many times. I have even stayed in one as an inpatient for three weeks. You would think that the mental health staff at a children’s hospital would be empathetic and well equipped to deal with mentally ill youth but you couldn’t be more wrong. I have dealt with many staff members and if you have ever seen the 1975 film One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Nurse Ratched isn’t that much of a stretch. I am not sure what possesses someone to enter a career where empathy and understanding are vital but the lack of caring for the mentally ill is prevalent amongst professionals.
Now if all the people telling young people to reach out and “get help” with their mental health issues actually were to find out what the “help” entails they may be shocked. So shall we begin?
If you go to a hospital for your mental health crisis you most likely will find yourself waiting there for well over a few hours. You may also be left sitting in a random hallway if you are lucky. The less lucky end up in rooms straight out of a horror movie. All alone in an empty room with writing on walls saying things like “get me out of here” and “help me.” Now maybe you think the people wrote those things because they were mentally unstable. But let me tell you, if you were in one of those rooms you would probably be doing the same thing. What also boggles my mind is the length of time they leave you alone. If you are feeling lonely entering the hospital you are probably going to feel at least 50% more lonely when you leave. Not only because they left you sitting somewhere for hours on end but also because of how you are treated once the “professional shows up.” You may think that you stepped into a police interrogation instead of a hospital. A very unfriendly staff member of an unknown profession (Are they a psychologist? a social worker? You’ll never know) will talk with you and probably not for long. They will ask you some questions and most likely none of them will be relevant. If you did hurt yourself or were planning to, they make you feel very guilty about it but it won’t lead you to a hospital stay like you may think. They will look for reasons as to why you are perfectly fine. I was once told I must not be suicidal because I was wearing earrings and had makeup on. I was also told it was just the teenage years and things would get better. After making you feel ten times worse, they may leave you with a page of community resources. They may not. And then you will leave tired and very hopeless. Stepping out into a world that looks even bleaker than it did before.
Now if you are lucky, and I am saying lucky with loaded sarcasm, you may possibly get admitted into the mental health unit. The staff will insist it is not a psych ward but a “mental health unit”. I see no difference. The doors into the unit are locked and there is something called a “quiet room” where people go for “quiet time”. You can put the pieces together. There is also no privacy and say goodbye to your sense of humanity. Now some may argue this is for safety, but believe me there are other ways to go about treating the mentally ill. There has been a long standing argument about mental health units or wards or whatever you want to call them. The treatment of the mentally ill has been long questioned. The push for outpatient services has become increasingly common. You would think a place you go to get better would be inviting, with bright paint, and I don’t know a plant perhaps? I felt very lonely during my hospital stay. Sleeping was hard for the first few nights but you eventually get used to the nurses shining flashlights into your eyes periodically. I felt the staff were condescending, unhelpful, and quite frankly power tripping. I understand there is a need for inpatient services but I do not believe they should be functioning the way they currently are.
Shortly after the hospital stay when I was fourteen, I got into the outpatient services at CHEO and was assigned a psychologist and psychiatrist. This was very lucky because it is almost impossible to get into the outpatient services at CHEO. The psychologist did not help very much and the psychiatrist was arrogant. The psychologist left for a private practice and I got a new one. She was the first mental health professional who ever truly helped me. I stayed with these services until I was 18. After you turn 18, you are left to fend for yourself. Again.
After a period of being in mental health help purgatory, I ended up getting into the ROYAL. I have heard many good things about the ROYAL. However, in my experience I have never received poorer mental health help. One psychiatrist I was assigned just disappeared. Yes, that’s right. Disappeared. I was assigned another psychiatrist who told me I did not “look like” my diagnosis. I walked out of that appointment and never went back. I remember leaving that appointment feeling at war with the world, and very alone.
Now hospitals are not the only place people go for mental health help. Often teens reach out to guidance counsellors or teachers at their school. I know at my high school mental health was kept on the down low. I did not receive much help at my school and the support system there was almost non- existent. One counsellor once told me that my problem was not forgiving the person who sexually assaulted me. I walked out of that session. Now if we back up to middle school, the support there was even worse. In fact there was no support. The staff members at both of the middle schools I had attended had no idea how to handle mental health issues. I ended up leaving one school because of bullying and my mental health problems. The staff had no clue how to deal with me and were relieved to see me go. At the next school, everything was much worse and towards the end of the semester a teacher told my mother that it would be best if I just stayed home from school. I did. In fact, I don’t think I ever returned. University isn’t too much better, and the mental health services aren’t very good. I have used them a few times but would not use them again nor recommend them.
Another issue I have, is with the police. They are very ill equipped to deal with the mentally ill. My experiences with them were quite terrifying. I was once in handcuffs for hours. How many hours I don’t recall but long enough that I doubt it was even legal. I was around fourteen at the time, so naturally I didn’t question the police that much. I now realize that I doubt they were allowed to do that, as I had not committed a crime. For more evidence of how the police treat the mentally ill, a quick google will suffice.
I have many more mental health “help” horror stories I could tell but I should mention some of the positive ones because it isn’t all doom and gloom. Just mostly. For some of ninth and tenth grade, I was in a hospital program for youth suffering from mental health issues. The program only had a handful of kids at a time and you received therapy, got to work on a few classes at a time, and even had field trips. It was honestly a very good program and helped me a great deal. I wish that program had more funding and other youth got the same opportunity I did. The Child and Youth Worker who worked there was a wonderful person. I also have seen a psychotherapist for a couple years who was a lovely person. He helped me grow and had what many other professionals lacked, which was empathy. Sadly he stopped practicing in Ottawa. I am currently therapy-less and trying to figure out my next course of action which as you can probably tell will be hard with the lack of services out there.
My journey of getting help has been a long and hard one. I see many flaws within the mental health system and it deeply saddens me that I see no changes. It should not be this hard for people to get help. I think one of the main issues is the lack of empathy and understanding. We can’t just continue to tell people to “get help” when there is none.
They say the people most likely to seek mental health help are white females. And if it’s this hard for me to get help or even attempt it, it bothers me beyond what words can express what it must be like for others. I know, as I type this there are people out there as lonely and helpless as I was.
One of my goals in life is to expose the mental health system for what it really is. There is a flaw at the very foundation of it. The only way to “fix” a system is to tear it down and rebuild it completely. I hope that one day this will happen. Until then, I want to share my experiences and let the truth be told on what getting help for your mental health is really like.
Now this story was probably not uplifting and there isn’t much of a happy ending. But the point of this story was not to be uplifting. I want the raw reality to set in. Next time someone is speaking about mental health or it’s Bell Let’s Talk day, take a moment to think about what help is really out there. What are people’s options? We need empathy and education. We need people to be able to take charge in their treatment. People centred treatment. More funding and accessible services. Let’s get talking and humanize mental health.
Worth Living Founder Keith Anderson
DJ Scratchley Q, the Official DJ for Worth Living, is busy preparing for a humanitarian trip to Kenya so I will be trying to step into her DJ shoes! Warning – there may be a different run of videos from Scratchely Q’s lists!
Van Morrison Wavelength – a personal favourite.
Simple Minds Alive & Kicking
David Bowie Heroes
Soul ll Soul Back to Life
The Guess Who – possibly the greatest Canadian rock band.
Leonard Cohen Hallelujah – words are not needed.
Stevie Wonder Sir Duke
Youssou N’Dour – 7 Seconds ft. Neneh Cherry
Morrissey I’m ok by myself – my theme the last couple of years.
Worth Living Ambassadors DJ Scratchley Q & Zippah
From Kenya to Canada and around the World. We hope you enjoy these choons as much as we do! Worth Living Official DJ Scratchely Q is joined by her friend Zippah from Kenya.
From Kenya, Zippah’s throw downs…
5. Bazokizo -Collo ft. Bruz Newton
4. Goodlyfe Magnetic – Radio & Weasel
3. Hands – (A song for Orlando) Various Artists
2. Oyoo (Nipende)- Susumila & Timmy Tdat
1. Mungu Pekee – Nyashinski
From Canada, Scratchley’s throw downs…
5. Chantaje – Shakira ft. Maluma
4. Love – Lana Del Rey
3. Sleep On The Floor – The Lumineers
2. Stargate – Waterfall ft. Pink &Sia
1. Redbone – Childish Gambino