BringChange2Mind

March 14, 2011

The Power of Kindness

Filed under: Contributing Blogger — Tags: , , — BringChange2Mind @ 10:20 am

Kindness is not given  proper respect.

During the years I spent recovering from depression, I had lots of time to think about how I was treated by people. Some people simply ignored me, their voices not heard in 8 years now. A few came forth and not only offered to help, but actually did so. They helped me sell my vehicles, took no realtor’s commission on the sale of my house, helped me pack up and store my belongings at that time. Others simply took me for a drive around the city, always cautious of how I was doing that day. Getting out of the house was a huge event in my life at that time.

These were friends who were kind to me, thoughtful and considerate of me. This was so needed and appreciated as I struggled to regain my health. As well, when the vast majority of people I knew shunned me and my diagnosis, to receive such kindness was overwhelming , but the good kind of overwhelming.

But the idea of kindness goes beyond this considerate treatment of me. I see kindness as an authentic  expression of concern or interest, as a thought or action towards someone. We are often greeted by people with “hello, how are you?” It is simply a greeting, nothing more, and at times it rings hollow. But when I was  ill, some people asked the question and were actually concerned as to how I was doing. That simple question would provide a level of comfort.

Kindness from strangers was and is truly inspiring, such as someone being kind to me in the local bookstore. A smile from a stranger as we walked past each other on the sidewalk would provide hope that there are still nice people in the world. I am now able to return such kindness to others.

I know being kind to someone and having others be kind to me are such powerful acts due to the effect they had on me. Being kind can provide you with a sense of worth. Receiving kindness can light up your day.

Being kind only takes a moment. A  smile. Holding the door open for the person behind you. Using  words such as “please, thank you “ whether in person or in an email or message.

I see kindness as part of respecting others.  To be curt or even rude shows a lack of respect. No one has the right to behave in that manner. Being kind is simply part of being a good complete person.

I am healthy now but even recently received acts of kindness such as being shown around a new city by a new friend with dinner included, and an unexpected package in the mail from another friend still provide a mental boost.

Kindness allows us to realize that the world though too often cold can still be one of warmth and acceptance. We are part of the world, we are not alone.

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March 11, 2011

Eight Years Ago, By Keith Anderson

Filed under: Guest Blog, Story — Tags: , , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 10:20 am

Eight years ago this week my life came undone. On March 7, 2003, I was diagnosed with depression. On March 11, 2003, I was suspended by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. On March 11-12, 2003, I had a mental breakdown. Devastation all around. Not my best week.

The file that lead to my being suspended was my own personal file. No clients were involved, I was the client and also the lawyer.  I had found a house, hidden from the world, a mile long driveway, no neighbours for miles, located on a lake. My getting that house meant my survival, I too wanted to hide from the world as my depression was taking control.

The Bar Society recognized that the wrong and improper decisions I made to purchase the house were governed by my depression. In 18 years of practice, I had no disciplinary history. All parties understood that something had gone wrong in my life.

As we all know from watching Law & Order and other legal programs, lawyers work in an adversarial system. I had a lawyer, Guy Lafosse, and the Bar Society had a lawyer, Alan Stern. They each worked and ‘fought” to attain the best results for their clients. Thus, Mr. Stern’s job was to see me removed from the practice of law. After much discussions, we all agreed on a suspension and that I need to be healthy to return.  The Bar Committee Chair told me to go home and get healthy. I held onto those words for years.

A couple of years ago, the Bar Society asked me to write a first person account of my depression, its impact on my life, and my recovery. It appeared in The Society Record, a monthly magazine distributed to all lawyers in Nova Scotia. I included my email address at the end of the article as I always do. I received emails from about 20 lawyers, some of whom I knew, others I did not. All very supportive and a couple even shared their story of depression. To read their stories, from other lawyers, I felt that I was not alone.

But one email took my breath away. Alan Stern’s name appeared in my inbox. I opened it, and read:

“ I just read your article in the Society Record. Thank you for having the courage and taking the time to tell others about what happened to you. One of the facts relating to your real estate practice that stood out to me at the time was how well all of your files were organized. My obvious conclusion was that you were a highly competent real estate practitioner. Over the years I have provided advice to individuals on reinstatement…and should you need such advice I would be pleased to talk with you ( at no charge of course) Sincerely, Alan”

Unexpected words from an unexpected source. Tears of joy for a moment.

Here was the lawyer, the person, who wanted me out now offering to help me get back in.

I have met Alan ( we are now on a first name basis !)  several  times. We have spent afternoons together. We have discussed mental health, my volunteer work, exchanged some legal gossip, and gotten to know each other  both on a personal and professional basis. He is quite impressed with the work of BringChange2Mind.

We are now working on my application to return to practicing status. The Bar Society is also interested in seeing me return. My personal circle was completed a few years once I was healthy. This will complete the professional circle.

The Bar Society understood mental illness. Alan Stern understood mental illness. So, one never knows from where understanding, support, and true assistance may be found.  It has all provided me with a sense of acceptance and a level of redemption. I have gotten hope from within myself  and from others,  from people I didn’t expect. Life presents itself in strange but wonderful ways.

 

July 22, 2010

Bouncing Back, Advocacy and the Canadian Mental Health Association, By Keith Anderson

The BringChange2Mind blog is going to start featuring some of our favorite resources. Here’s Keith to tell you about one of his favorites…

By the fall of 2007, three years after my breakdown, I was confident that I was well on my way to being healthy. So, I turned my thoughts to seeking that public voice to discus my mental illness, its impact on my life, and my recovery. I knew I wasn’t yet capable of speaking about it, but I thought I could perhaps write something.

I emailed the National Post newspaper, which is distributed throughout Canada, with the suggestion of a first person account of what happened to me. The following day, I received a response, and was told that my story was a perfect fit for a new upcoming series, “ All About Bouncing Back”. My story appeared in the paper on February 20, 2008, titled “ How I Returned to a Life Worth Living”. My first sense of accomplishment in many years.

Then I wondered how I could use this article to continue with my advocacy. Up until this time, I had used the internet, as I recovered, to read news and sports. I went looking for websites on depression. I had read somewhere about the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). So, I thought I would see if CMHA had a website.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has a full and comprehensive website ( www.cmha.ca ). I first found a list of mental illnesses and clicked on “depression.” Under “signs of depression” I read what were the signs of my life the last dozen years. Just reading these symptoms gave me a sense of comfort. I knew again that I was not alone with my depression, it was real illness with real symptoms that other people had as well.

I was also impressed with the section on “Public Policy” which listed various reports and submissions that CMHA had presented to government bodies and agencies. This was a group that was taking visible and strong positions in the area of mental health.

But the most impressive part of the site was the list of locations. There was a national office, but also provincial offices, and even local offices. I live in Nova Scotia, which is a small province in Canada, small in terms of geography and population. But CMHA has a Nova Scotia Division and also eight local offices in different parts of the province. I really felt that CMHA with such an extensive network had a handle on helping people.

So I emailed my National Post article to CMHA, Nova Scotia, with no expectations at all. Within an hour, I received a response from Carol Tooton, the Executive Director, asking if I wanted another audience. I replied positively, but not knowing to what I had agreed. In her second email, Ms. Tooton asked if I wanted to speak at the CMHA National Conference in a few months time. The Conference was being held in Nova Scotia to honor CMHA, NS, and its 100th anniversary. So, I went and spoke for the first time in public in five years. It went well for me, and the audience was receptive. I then knew I was still capable of speaking in a public venue, perhaps no longer on behalf of clients, but with my own story.

CMHA’s website initially provided me with information and thus a sense of acceptance. It then provided me with a means to advocate more on mental health issues. I realize that it is a Canadian based website, but we all know that mental illness knows no boundaries and the internet knows no boundaries. I have learned about depression from this site and from sites based in other countries.

I suggest finding a site that provides the information and thus the guidance that you think you need. From that site, many benefits can arise, and your life can even be changed.

In the interest of being open and forthright, I note that I have done some volunteer work with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Nova Scotia Division, over the last year and continue to do so, and will be volunteering with the Winnipeg Region, Manitoba, on an 18 month project, beginning the weekend of July 16, 2010.

To learn more about the Canadian Mental Health Association please visit their website here: www.cmha.ca.

May 30, 2010

Life is Over Rated, by Keith Anderson

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 7:20 pm

Keith Anderson

“Life is over rated.”  I made that off  the cuff comment one cold morning as I traveled to a local ski hill. It became a phrase we would jokingly use at my law firm when a file went astray.  Little did I know that in time, I believed it.

For me, life in my 20s was wonderful. I did well in school, then at work.  I was optimistic.  Life was easy.  When my 30s rolled around, personal challenges surfaced.

My father died in 1992, at age 59.  I come from a close family.  My everyday life changed after his death. Depression moved in and the pressures of  life became overwhelming.

I thought I could handle my own difficulties and just kept trying to get through each ugly day.  As  a lawyer, I solve other people’s problems. I don’t ask for help, people ask me.

Life had become a series of bad moments and bad days, leading to worse months and years.

I withdrew from my friends, classmates from university. In London, we had all been foreign students and we became very close. After graduating, we kept in touch, sharing holidays, weddings and anniversaries. I shut down those relationships.

Tears occurred daily as I drove to the office. I would collect myself in the parking lot, walk in and work all day.  Pretending to be fine was exhausting.

Insomnia took hold.  During the week, I slept two or three hours a night.  By the weekend,  I would collapse. This routine went on for years.  I hated life so much, I stayed awake to delay the next morning’s arrival.

My last relationship was shortchanged.  As my self-worth eroded, I couldn’t commit to a trip or even dinner the next night.  I thought I did not deserve to be happy and slowly cut off contact. Looking back, she may have been “the one.”

Then life got even worse. I was diagnosed on March 7, 2003, with depression. I was suspended by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society on March 11. I had a breakdown on March 11-12. Not my best week.

I had no disciplinary history in 18 years of practice. The crux of the 2003 complaint did not involve a client. I had found a house, isolated from the world. Its driveway was over a mile long. No neighbors. I thought if I could get this house, I could hide, breathe. In my struggle to survive, I acted as my own lawyer and  I made improper decisions. Depression twisted my mind making logical thought difficult.

My family provided strong support such that I felt protected and safe. They were simply wonderful.  My mother, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew saved me.

The Bar  Society was even helpful.  John Merrick the Society Chair, said, “I need say no more, but Keith go home and get well.”  They understood the devastating role depression had played. They also provided a list of psychologists.

I had never been to therapy before, but the floodgates opened and out flowed my life. I attended therapy weekly for two years. It became the highlight of my week.

So getting healthy took the support and understanding of my family, my psychologist, and the Bar Society. But I also worked hard as well, and a series of small steps lead to major accomplishments.

I would go to a favorite restaurant, get take out and eat in my vehicle in the back parking area. After awhile, I moved to the front parking lot.  Then one day, six months later, I ate inside.

This is actually a happy story.  Getting suspended was a good thing.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still devastating. But it removed me from an unhealthy workplace Being diagnosed with depression was a relief. I then knew I had a mental illness.

Before the diagnosis, one solution that I often considered was a late night canoe trip on the lake in front of my house with no return. The events of March 2003 were certainly a better option.

I lived off my savings for a few years but now I have no house, no vehicles, no money. Life is good though.  To focus on what I don’t have is not fair to what I do have. I have my good health.  I have my family. I can read a book. I sleep well.  I have learned how to be happy again.

Life is not over rated, it is wonderful, once again.

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