BringChange2Mind

February 25, 2011

Slow and Steady

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , — Linea @ 8:47 pm

I’m sitting here today, having remembered last week’s post about returning and taking care of yourself, and I am realizing that I should probably follow my own advice. I have indeed started to come back into the world, weary, afraid, and hesitant, but in doing so I did it at full speed.

After deciding to finally return to my life and work I managed to quickly race back into the life I had been living when I was my healthiest. The first thing I did in my blind hurry was present at a conference in another state followed quickly by a presentation, in front of all my friends and family, at a talk prior to Seattle’s showing of the Tony Award Winning Next to Normal.

I didn’t take it slow and easy. I didn’t do it gently knowing that I was fragile. I didn’t do anything I said in my last blog. Instead I did it as if everything was better. I forgot this was a process. So, do you know what happened after I was finished with my whirlwind tour? It’s easy to guess, I crashed. I was a disaster and quickly returned to my early state of panic attacks and food restriction.

It is not an all or nothing process. There is in fact a middle ground between lying on your bed crying and traveling to conferences presenting about mental health while maintaining the “I’m better now” face. But it took me until yesterday to realize this.

I am a very stubborn person. I don’t like to say no to things I have already said yes to. I follow through. But sometimes my body has to remind me that this can’t always be the case. Following my Next to Normal speech I had two more nights of talks. And while my stubborn side was saying “I have to do them”, my tired body and emotional mind were telling me otherwise.

So, after countless back and forths I realized that I did want to get better. And getting better meant taking it slow. Getting better, to use my past analogy, meant not just running out of the cave like everything is fine, but coming out gradually and letting yourself adjust.

And today I did just that. Today, at the last minute, a time when I feel the worst backing out, I said no. I said that I couldn’t do it. For my health I had to turn this one down. And it’s so hard! I do feel like I’m letting people down, I do feel like a slacker, I do have all these nasty words and thoughts creeping up to tell me that I’m doing the wrong thing. But I’m right. It is necessary to take things slow. It is necessary to take life one second at a time and listen to one’s body. Hopefully this time I will remember to read and listen to my own posts!

Best,

Linea

November 16, 2010

Making Hard Decisions

Filed under: Story, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , — Linea @ 12:29 pm

A few months ago I got the exciting opportunity to work on a project that fit perfectly with my interests. Though I already had three part time jobs I felt that this opportunity was too exciting and wonderful to pass up. I convinced myself that I could do it. I am a pro at juggling many things and persuaded myself I could manage it all based on the fact that I do my best work when I am right on the edge of having too much.

All was running smoothly at the beginning, but like life always does, something I had not planned or scheduled occurred. Though I am not really religious it was as if something or someone was stepping in to intervene, reminding me that when you schedule every minute of your life you have no time to take care of yourself or those unexpected events.

As I was going along working all of my jobs, feeling excited and challenged, I forgot about my yearly manic/mixed episode. I forgot that sometimes I can’t actually control my feelings and mind and that I can’t just make it go away by ignoring it.

On a Sunday afternoon, after weeks of anxious energy and agitated depression I had a visit from my parents. Though my parents are wonderfully caring and always present we rarely sit in my apartment and talk. But this day, the two sat across from me in true intervention style.

They were worried. They knew I had stopped eating again, losing ten pounds in a little over two weeks. They knew I wasn’t sleeping, but instead cleaning the bathroom at midnight. My wonderful parents knew that though I loved this project and the woman I was working for it was detrimental to my health, the added anxiety taking me through the roof with my mixed, energized and anxious depression.

My drive to do everything is like an addiction. Though I know it is bad for me I simply cannot stop, constantly convincing myself that it is necessary. I had to quit this need to do everything at once. I had to stop working for ten hours a day for months without taking care of myself, seeing my friends, or even spending time with my boyfriend. My life had been nothing but work so even thinking about cutting back led to anxiety attack after anxiety attack.

Something dramatic had to change before I had to be hospitalized again, and yet, I couldn’t image my life with one less thing on my plate. I didn’t know what to do to take care of myself.

I eventually resigned from the position, sending the email with my heart in my throat and my eyes swollen with tears. Today I am trying to continue taking care of myself. Trying to find time to just sit and do nothing. But it still makes me unbelievably anxious.

Taking care of yourself is a process. And though people may think I am “together” or “stable” it is something I still struggle with. We all deal with the frustration and pain that accompanies these illnesses in different ways but it is important to remind ourselves to care for our needs, even if it seems impossible and painful in itself.

I am very lucky to have the family I have to help me realize when I am in a bad place, but many times all we have is ourselves. Remember to check in with yourself when you feel that you are moving further from a place of safety and care. Reach out to friends as you try to change bad habits or make changes in your life. I know for me it will be a constant process as more and more opportunities come my way, but I will try because I know that I want to continue the work that I am doing, because I know that I want to see my friends and family again, and because, most importantly, I know I don’t want to be hospitalized again.

What are you doing to take care of yourself? How do you make these difficult changes and why is it important?

November 3, 2010

Getting Started

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 8:19 am

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” -Booker T. Washington

When I was a junior in high school, I suffered a severe depressive episode (my diagnosed one) Entering my junior year of high school I was gearing up to be the student body president. I was in mostly advanced placement classes. I had set up an internship with USA Today. I was on the fast track to a good college. I was on the fast track to a good job.  I was SET. Then my world crashed down around me. I stopped seeing the meaning in life. I felt an emptiness that I still can’t fully articulate.

I went from the honor roll to rolled up in the fetal position on my couch begging my parents not to make me go to school. I went from living life to the fullest to threatening to end it all. That was the first time I ever articulated my suicidal ideation. It wasn’t a cry for attention, but I was thankful for the attention that I did get. My parents and their friends basically watched over me. They ensured that I did not take any drastic action. I laid there crying, miserable, unable to move. Eventually with the help of caring teachers, my principal, family, friends and medical professionals, I got back on my feet. But my goals went from a 4.0 to making it through class without leaving in tears. I had a free pass to the guidance office…THANK GOODNESS. And my teachers knew just to excuse me, but I went from being a prized student to feeling like I should get a medal just for showing up.

I assumed the severe depressive episode would be the biggest mental health ordeal I would have to endure. That was until my severe psychotic break in college and the recovery. Once again my goals shifted from “successful” college student to showing up. I worked myself back to a productive state, but I never set any long-range goals for myself. I cast about without meaning. I floundered. I threw myself into the “here and now” with a reckless abandon that betrayed any sense of long-term vision or plan. There is nothing wrong with passion due the moment, but it was misdirected. I lied to myself. I said that I had written off five-year plans because my psychotic break had shaken me to my core. Really I was really just terrified to admit that I had lost any sense of a higher purpose. I had no calling. I had no cause greater than myself. I passed up opportunity after opportunity out of fear.

Eventually I got better. Eventually I healed. But it took time. My point is: It’s hard to see the summit when you are standing at the base of another mountain, but by setting manageable goals and getting used to achieving things again, you can at least start the climb. Bit by little bit, we get there. Bit by little bit we make progress, until that day when we look back down on where we were, amazed at all we’ve accomplished. It’s not about how long the journey is…it’s about starting it.

Thanks for reading,

Marc

PS. Connect with me on Facebook to read all my previous mental health blogs.

October 4, 2010

The Benefits of Advocacy: Healing through Empowerment

Filed under: Story, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , — Linea @ 12:58 pm

em.pow.er.

1.the giving or delegation of power or authority; authorization

Some of my favorite synonyms for empowerment are “permission”, “acceptance”, “promise”.

I find it is perfect timing to write about this topic given such amazing blogs with similar themes. Themes of healing, community, and hope. Discussions of what selfishness means and what learning means. Please read Kim and Marc’s posts to get a sense of the kind of empowerment I am speaking of. These are the things I will attempt to discuss in this far too short blog post.

I think it is important to admit that I have very bad self-esteem. What I originally thought to be perfectionism is indeed something deeper, darker, and more painful. It is interesting that it is not an urge to be better or more perfect than others, but instead a need to be better than myself. A need to prove something to myself. A constant search for the words “good enough”.

Saying that having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder aggravates this problem is an understatement. To someone striving desperately to hear myself say, “You are okay. You are good enough,” having a diagnosis and an often uncontrollable grasp on my emotions is sometimes more than I can bare.

The unbelievable power of advocacy is an important part of my recovery. Through the last couple years of public speaking, writing, and completely baring my soul to thousands of strangers I have done exactly what Kim has done. I have learned and received far more from my audience then I have given.

Through the ability to be honest and open, and through the commitment to stand up and speak about the injustice of the current state of mental health I have healed, gradually, but thoroughly. These are the things that I have taken away:

I have seen what bravery is. Through perfect strangers I have witnessed the bravery that accompanies getting up in the morning. The bravery to go to work everyday. The bravery to tell a love interest that you have to deal with something he/she may not understand. I have seen the bravery that comes with being your full and complete self no matter how people see you.

I have seen what love is. I have felt the love of a community of people that in the past I might have seen as strangers. The love and complete understanding that comes from five minutes of sharing your story. The complete understanding that comes from others that have “been there too.”

And most importantly I have become empowered. I have given myself permission to be who I am. I have learned to accept that I have flaws and that I have the ability to use them for the betterment of myself and my chosen line of work. I have healed from the love given by a community that I feel more than honored to be part of. The love from people who know my darkest secrets and worries. Through my commitment to fight for change in an often broken system I have been given the ability and courage to forgive and accept myself. I have given myself the power and authority to be who I am.

These are the things of empowerment. These are the things that help us heal while simultaneously helping others struggling to do the same. So here is my plea: share a story, speak up, or silently listen and acknowledge. No matter how you go about advocating I promise it will be worth it. Though the road is rocky sometimes and though things may seem to disprove this belief, keep pushing. Proof is visible when you look at the family on the BringChange2Mind Facebook site. Proof is visible when you look at the family that you develop out of one truly open and honest conversation with a peer that has been there too. When you look into the eyes of someone searching for the courage to tell the story but is waiting for someone to go before them. Lead the way, you will not regret it.

August 5, 2010

Why I am an Advocate, by Brandon Staglin

I have schizophrenia, and sometimes I think about whether I have let my illness define my life. I work for my family’s nonprofit, International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), as a mental health advocate. If you asked me when I was a kid what work I would want to do, the last thing I would have said was to take on a family enterprise. I used to value my individuality above anything else, and dreaded being corrupted by conformity. Thanks in part to my illness, my values have shifted since then.

Brandon Staglin

I had a psychotic break in 1990, the summer after my freshman year at Dartmouth College. A friend managed to get me to a psychiatry ward. At first, I could not accept that I had a mental illness. I had a life plan, to be an astronautical engineer! I would not be cut down by a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Three nights into my first hospitalization I decided I would get out of the psych ward immediately. I was unable to sleep, furious, and refused to take meds. A nurse was on her way with an injection to make me sleep. I would not let her violate my consciousness! In fact, I would just knock the syringe from her hand and walk out of the unit before she could do anything. …Of course, when I tried that, several nurses wrestled me onto a bed, strapped me down and gave me the injection.

Now I understand their perspective, but at the time I felt mistreated. Still, when I woke up the next morning I realized I needed to get better somehow and get on with my life. Hard though it was, I agreed to a treatment program.

I was able to return to college, get my engineering degree, and secure a job designing communications satellites. I kept my illness under my hat.

When I had my second psychotic episode in 1996, it became clear to me that I could no longer work as an engineer. The job was too stressful for me, I admitted, with disappointment. But, my wonderful parents offered me a position in the winery they own and run, Staglin Family Vineyard.

A few years later, a film director was interviewing our family for a wine film he was making for international release. The time came when the director asked my parents what had inspired them to start their annual fundraiser for mental health research, the Music Festival for Mental Health. I made a split-second decision. I did not want to hide my illness, such a large part of my life, any more.

“I can tell you about that.” I told him my story.

The director, a little hesitant, asked, “Do you want me to keep this out of the film?”

I blinked, and said, “No, by all means put it in!”

Although my disclosure (and our mental health advocacy) ended up on the cutting-room floor, a change had taken place in me. I volunteered to help produce the Music Festival in its next year.

I began to talk more openly about my disorder. People were interested! When asked why I was so gung ho about helping to raise awareness, I explained that mentally ill people could be misunderstood by the public. Often, even caregivers found it hard to understand their patients’ suffering. I realized as I spoke that I wanted people with mental illness to be understood, to retain their sense of self-worth. I thought then, “This is something I can help with.” When asked, I began giving interviews for local radio and TV.

The next Fall a Music Festival patron, Liz Browning, sent me a link to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article about her son’s experience with schizophrenia. The health care system had failed to treat Marc adequately, the article reported, and after years of progress of his disease, he may have been beyond therapy. I was heartbroken for her and for Marc. This issue was much, much bigger than what I had experienced.

Since then I have met many people whose experiences with their own illnesses have inspired me. In September 2009 I appeared in the BringChange2Mind PSA. Talking with the Closes, the other principals and the people who helped to produce it showed me how much passion there is behind this cause. The momentum of that day caught me up and has never let me go.

Today, my job as communications director and blog-writer at IMHRO enables me to pursue my own passion for the cause. Has my condition defined my life? Yes, to some degree–and I like it. It has given me a new direction which I hope makes people’s lives better. And, it has led me to compassion and patience. I love my life and would live it the same way again, illness and all.

To learn more about the Staglin family and the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO) please visit their homepage: http://www.imhro.org/

To watch a video clip of Brandon and his mom, Shari, sharing their story with BringChange2Mind, please visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa3CddPGD8A

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.

June 27, 2010

BringChange2Mind in Seattle, by Cinda Johnson

We were two moms and two adult children chatting at the dining room table after a Seattle dinner of salmon on the grill and salad. We had met each other in person less than three months before yet we were bonded as close as family. Calen and Linea talked about their experiences hospitalized because of psychiatric illnesses. They talked about their “breaks” (these weren’t school breaks!) and how it affected their relationships with their friends. Jessie and I talked about the pain, love and profound respect we experienced as we traveled with our children through their illnesses. Jessie and Linea talked about when suicide was stalking them and how they stayed healthy and stable. We talked about my brother and the others who were no longer with us. Calen connected with Linea as they discussed how sharing their stories and voices as advocates for mental health treatment and understanding had strengthened them. It was just an ordinary evening, yet profound in our shared heartache, heartbreak, recovery and thankfulness.

Linea Johnson, Cinda Johnson, Jessie Close, and Calen Pick

Calen Pick and Jessie Close were in town to present at Seattle University’s College of Education celebration of the 75th year of educating teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, community mental health counselors, principals, superintendents and leaders in higher education. There were a few questions around campus about the connection between “celebration” and “mental illness”. Calen and Jessie spoke of their own battles with mental illness and their slow road to recovery. They shared their commitment to the very mission of Seattle University, “…empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” Yes, there were a few in the audience who looked uncomfortable as Calen described his hallucinations and Jessie her battle with alcohol in addition to her bipolar disorder. But the vast majority applauded the courage and willingness to put a face to frightening illnesses; two beautiful, wise, and “normal” (whatever that is) faces to which the audience could relate.

Mental illnesses are insidious and terrifying but also treatable, manageable and even offer opportunities to connect to others with honesty and love in ways we may have previously not been able to do. Although both Jessie and Calen and Linea and I speak to large audiences sharing our stories in order to assure understanding, resources and care for the millions of people with a mental health condition, it is the personal connections that strengthen this movement. Linea and Calen are examples of the power of young people stepping forward and changing the face and understanding of mental illness yet they are two young people in their twenties who love books and walking and music and art and deep philosophical discussions. Jessie bravely shares her own experiences struggling with bipolar disorder. Yet she and I also connect at a deep and lasting level of “mom”; mothers who will do anything possible to keep their children safe and wish with every fiber of their being for their happiness and safety.

Seattle University's 75th Anniversary Celebration

BringChange2Mind is a powerful movement with almost 13,000 Facebook fans and emails and requests for help coming in every day and from all over the nation. Requests that are responded to within 36 hours! This movement is taking hold and taking off. The conversations on Facebook are powerful, the walks across the country with our NAMI partners were life-changing for many, and the support and understanding developing within this community is awe-inspiring. Together we are an influential and significant grass-roots movement started by Glenn Close. Yes, a famous actress but also a sister who is connected to every family with a mental illness because she knows. Just like the connection around the dining room table, into the community and across the country. This BringChange2Mind community gets it. Together we can change the face of these illnesses and together we can be the leaders needed for a just and humane world for all people, particularly for those with mental illnesses.

June 9, 2010

Finding Dry Land: Linea’s Story

There was a moment in my life when I almost drowned.

Living in the largest dorm in the country with three best friends, experiencing my first serious college boyfriend, living what I thought to be the perfect life of a college kid, I couldn’t have dreamt of anything better. That is, until I turned my back to the ocean and was swiftly and dramatically pulled in by the undertow.

One moment I was there and one moment I wasn’t. It was as if I had suddenly had my brain replaced by someone weaker, angrier, sadder. I didn’t know where I was or what I had set out to do anymore. I couldn’t understand what went wrong. I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly seeing violent images every time I closed my eyes.

Though I didn’t know it, this was a dramatic and intense case of depression. I stopped eating. I broke up with the man who was, at that time, the love of my life. I stopped leaving my room. I stopped all contact with the world, and whether I pretended I was there or not, my eyes were empty.

This went on for several weeks. Floating around Chicago, the city that I had worked so hard to get to. To me this went on for a lifetime. I floated out to sea.

Then my boyfriend, who was now just a friend-friend, called my parents. He called, and just as swiftly as I was pulled under, I was pulled out.

Completely.

My dad arrived from Seattle no less than ten hours after he was called. My life, my room, and my thoughts were packed up and shipped out. Flown back to Seattle and, in my mind, never to return.

Nothing could have been more painful. Nothing could have been more dramatic to me at that point and place in my life. Nineteen years old and suddenly I was forced to leave my friends, my life, my freedom and everything that I had built within the last two years of hard-earned independence.

I arrived home tired, cold, and wet, water still in my lungs.

The next couple of years moved from an undertow to a tsunami. My mind moved quickly from a “simple” depression to a devastating suicidal obsession. Looking back I am amazed I am even here to tell my story.

In the next year and a half I spent time in hospitals for suicide prevention and for overdose recovery. I spent time in apartments, manic and drugged and depressed and dangerous. I spent so many hours feeling completely out of control of my mind and so many hours trying to fight against it with every form of self-medication and self-harm I could find that I am amazed I have the ability to form thoughts or press my fingers to these keys.

It took me a long time to come to terms with what was happening. After having a “wait and see” diagnosis of bipolar disorder II at nineteen I spent many, many months fighting the label and implications before I received my final, “for sure” diagnosis of plain old bipolar I. My months and years of fighting only made things worse and it took me a long time before I realized that if I was good to myself and my body, my bipolar would be good to me. Who knew stimulants could make you manic or alcohol could make you devastatingly depressed? Though it seems obvious, I sure didn’t.

Once I finally gave in and decided to change my life things began to turn around again. Though it took lots of self-care and finding the right doctors, counselors, and meds, my stability allowed me to live the life I had always dreamed of living. My stability was more than just taking care of myself and finding the right help however, it was also my amazing luck to have the opportunities and support network I do. It was this fact that inspired me to begin to make a difference in the mental health world.

Having spent time in the worst psych units with the saddest cases I realized that things must change. I realized that people need to talk about these things. People need to be able to talk about their thoughts, lives, and feelings. We need to be able to share our stories.

So…here I am today, graduating, speaking at conferences, in classrooms and auditoriums, writing and collaborating with mental health and education professionals, working with amazing mental health organizations, writing a book, and volunteering with BC2M. Through my experiences I have realized that I needed to make a difference, and through my opportunities I have hopefully begun to do so. I am so excited and pleased that I have the opportunity to make the differences that I am seeing.

Today I have found my way back to dry land where I can finally stand on firm ground, and it is here that I will help others do the same.

Photo by Linea Johnson

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.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: