28 January 2014

Let's Talk (Honestly) About Mental Health.

Source: theagenda.tvo.org

Today there is a campaign to raise awareness about mental health issues in Canada, spearheaded by Bell Corporation, call Let's Talk. (Click on the link if you wish to know more).The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of mental health issues through conversation, removing the stigma that is often associated with one who suffers such a condition. It is a great campaign.

Mental health issues have plagued my family for generations. My mother herself was hospitalised for depression, a condition that came into our home like an unwanted house guest every few months. I myself have had periods of my life where I have experienced the sensation of a tiny rain cloud situated permanently over my head. Mostly I just float around with apathy, not really caring about what is going on, especially to myself.

The thing with mental health issues is that it gnaws at you whether you realize it or not. 

Society has come to equate mental health issues as some sore of condition where emotions are dramatic and the person is unhinged. It's easy to spot the crazy person muttering obscenities in the wind. That is one aspect.

Most of the time though, it is this silent condition that you really don't notice because on the appearance, the person with whatever issue seems fine. Sometimes, the person themselves don't even realize they are experiencing anything until they are knee-deep in the condition. Others are aware, but like the song says "put on a happy face."

This week month, I have been feeling depressed, and most people would never know. I smile. I joke. But I also just don't care. I am tired. All I want to do is sleep or watch TV. The issues of my life and my struggles have piled on to the point where my default emotion, apathy, has kicked in and taken over. I am reminded this week of those I have lost - grandma, grandpa and Wendy. On the surface, everyone says I should have nothing to complain about. At least I don't have kids and can go wherever I want. At least I have a job. At least I have a home paid off. At least I am with someone. All are true. I am grateful. But that doesn't make things better for me or the emotions I feel. That doesn't mean I don't have struggles anyways.

Don't believe the picture people paint of themselves. We can all make our lives a Monet, when we really feel like a Picasso.

I have been lucky enough to have counselling services in the past. I have the tools that are helping me get through this. Writing seems to help. Getting out into fresh air. Talking about my feelings. Identifying though patterns and re-framing them. Removing myself from negative situations. I am using those tools to help me through this.

The truth is that not everyone is lucky enough to afford counselling services. Not everyone can pull themselves out. Not everyone shows their issues on their face. Not everyone realizes they are having mental health issues.

Dealing with mental health issues requires a fundamental way we look at all aspects of life, not just treatment. We need to review how schools both address mental health, and equip our children to deal with issues as part of the curriculum. We need to review workplace standards. Truth is, I pretty much have to lie about being sick just to have a day off. Would an extra week of holiday, or mental health days, or flex-days, or better mental health benefits work out for the employer in the long run? Do we do enough to promote preventative treatment in the health care system or society-at-large?

Mental health issues play such a big role in society, from crime to workplace productivity. The default reaction cannot be to sweep it under the rug and then pretend they don't have a factor in issues that emerge.

Let's start talking - and listening - about mental health issues everyday, not just today.

22 January 2014

2013: The Year That Was

Quote source: Garden State (Zach Braff)


It's that time of year where I look back on 2013, file that away in my memory, and move forwards. Technically this should have been done at the end of last year but, like every other blog post I wrote in 2013, I am late. I can't say that 2013 was a particularly stellar year, but it was better than 2011 so there is that.

Like I did at the end of 2012, here is a recap of 2013.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you have never done before?
I became a fan of NFL football. My husband and I actually took the time to study the teams, sit down, watch some games, learn the rules and calls etc. It was great. I am hooked.

2Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions, and will make any more next year?
Not really. I mean on the whole, I did make little achievements. Nothing to write home about, but achievements were made none the less. I ate a little better, but not to the level I expected. I moved a bit more, but not as much as I could of. That more or less sums up my efforts: did a little bit, but not a lot. My biggest let-down personally was spending so much time on social media, specifically Twitter. I lost track of what was important by thinking that was important. It is not, nor will it ever be. As for 2014, my only resolution is to spend more meaningful time with people that are important to me in real life.

3. Any major life events happen in your life?
Not like I had hoped. I thought by now I would be pregnant (at the very least). Turns out, my body has other ideas.

4. Where did you travel?
I spent a glorious week in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay. It was a fabulous trip and we did fabulous things. I didn't get as much time off this year because of the wedding in 2012.

5. What did you lack in 2013 that you would like more of in 2014?
Honestly, more general excitement or enthusiasm. I felt like I was going through the motions in 2013. Nothing overly exciting happened really. Things were fine. I mean, I can't really say 2013 was a horrible year. But I am generally indifferent of how my year was. The fertility journey probably had a role in my general apathy, because it was frustrating.The only bright spot was spending time with my husband and our Beaumaris Lake walks/NFL Football watching. I really enjoyed those, for it reminded me of the wonder of nature.

I would also like more time with friends. We didn't spend as much time with friends this year. It was weird that way, but with the business of general life...  That concerns me greatly actually, and I want to make more of an effort to connect next year.

6. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?
No specific date stands out. My birthday I suppose because we were in Las Vegas again. Husband's birthday, but for an entirely different reason. His birthday drove home some important lessons which I won't get into here. Let's just say, it made me pause and think.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I would have to say getting laterally promoted into my new job, although I am not sure it was the greatest move I could have made in retrospect. But that might be more of an organizational issue than anything else.

8. What was your biggest failure?
Well this isn't really "my" fault because there wasn't anything I could do about it, but my inability to get pregnant. And the underlying reasons for it. I regret not doing something about my weight sooner as it may have gone a long way to making things easier in the fertility department. Again, it's not exactly my fault, but I feel the guilt none-the-less.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was diagnosed with possible Uterine Adenomyosis (they can only confirm with a hysterectomy, hence "possible") and a follocial cyst on my ovary that supposedly shrinks on it's own. Other than that, I was fairly healthy.

10. What was the best purchase you made?
I would have to say the purchases I made in Vegas, from the awesome hat that kept me sunburn free and looking fabulous, to the tickets to Shania and Michael Jackson 'One' Cirque du Soleil show, to the afternoon high-tea at the Four Seasons Las Vegas, and all the fabulous dinners and the cabana rentals by the pool. To travel and not indulge in memory-making experiences is so sad.

11. What things/people inspired you the most? 
I was inspired by my friends, especially Karen. It was a hard year for her with her marital breakdown, but despite it all, she kept a fairly positive attitude and worked on self-improvement, leading to noticeable weight-loss. I don't know if I would have been as focused in a similar situation.

12. What things/people disappointed you the most?
My answer is pretty much the same as #11. My friends...but in a different sense with two tangents. On the one hand, it was disappointing not connecting with friends as much. It takes a lot of effort to maintain friendships. Some people/days are better than other peoples/days at doing so. Don't get me wrong, in many cases it is understandable. But in others situations, maybe not so much. All I can do is work harder myself. Maybe I need to focus on trying to arrange things that are easier to do, like board-game night or movie nights or coffee nights, etc... back to the basics.

The other aspect is that online "friends" maybe aren't the most supportive. Everyone loves you on Twitter when you go at it with political engagement. Re-tweets and likes and comments galore. But if you share a personal story? Or try to engage in non-political conversations? Perhaps not-so-much. It's time for me to review my list and remove the non-engagers (and the ones that simply offend). Quality not quantity.

And myself. This diet thing should be a breeze for me by now. It is not.

13. Where did most of your money go?
There were a lot of incidental expenses, such as a new dryer or a new furnace motor. Vegas wasn't cheap either. But really, those are a part of living and you either budget or deal with the situation. But if I had to look at the day-to-day small purchases that add up, it's probably my morning coffee addiction. Assume I spend $5 a workday, that is $100 or so a month, which is $1200 a year. I know I spend more than $5 a day. I can get coffee for free at work. My fatty lattes add calories and drain my bank account.

14) What did you get really excited about? 
Seeing my husband every day after work. The fun things we did in Vegas. Joanne's pregnancy announcement. Karen moving to Calgary. The odd scale victory. In an apathetic year, the little things made me happy.

15) What song will always remind you of 2013?
The song 'Shot at the Night' by the Killers. I loved this song above all else. I listen to it all the time. The words resonate. About the person who wants more with their life, a chance to live.

16) Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • Happier or hardened? On the whole, I am happier, even if there were things that hardened me.
  • Thinner or fatter? Definitely fatter. Very disappointed with myself there.
  • Richer or poorer?  Richer in many ways. Except money. LOL.
17) What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I had worked harder at losing weight, and not just going through the motions. I have nothing to show for my efforts. Because there is nothing to show when you don't put in any effort. Funny how that works. Specifically, I wish I had exercised more. 

18) What do you wish you'd done less of?
By far, I wish I had spent less time on social media, especially Twitter. That is a time-trap. 5 minutes end up being your whole night. It is silly really. And all this time contributed to question #12...

19) What was your favourite TV program? Least favourite?
Normally I would say The Biggest Loser was my favourite. And it remains a favourite. But I was all over NFL Football in 2013 as well, especially Fox's coverage.

For least favourite, I would normally say most reality TV shows, and that is true. But can I add some talk-shows? The few days I had off, I was left saying "they cancelled soap operas for that?" It was pathetic, with Bethenny being the absolute worse.

20) What was the best book you read? Worst book?
I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't end up reading anything in 2013. Well, I did try The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, based on Joanne's recommendation. I wanted to like the book more than I did. It started off interesting, but it lost my interest mid-way when they started dealing with her family. Meh. Sorry Jo!

21) What was your favourite song/album/artist?
I like a few songs, some of which I listed in my summer song blog post. But easily, my favourite song/artist etc. was The Killers's Shot at the Night (which I posted above). I also liked 'Roar' by Katy Perry.

Least favourite? Most of the country music this year I found I could barely tolerate. It was very pop-driven and generic...and unbelievable and cliched. Every male-artist I think drives a truck on an old-dirt road, slinging a beer with the girl he fancies. Meanwhile, the female artists were scorned lovers. Meh.

22) What was your:
  • Favourite film this year? I didn't go to any movies this year, so most of the movies I saw were on TV or DVD. I saw Ted, which I enjoyed more than I should have. I saw For The Love of the Game with Kevin Costner and The Natural with Robert Redford, both baseball movies, for the first time. I liked the former a bit more than the latter, but both were good. Oh, I also saw Parental Guidance on the place (starring Billy Crystal). It was enjoyable.
  • Worst film? I can't think of anything in particular. Made of Honor was on TV and I ended up turning it off mid-way. Was it bad, or was I just not in the mood? Meh. 
23) What was the one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 
Any number of things. A pregnancy. Weigh Loss. A better job. Pick one. 

24) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Fat Pants 'R Us. 

25) What kept you sane?
Beaumaris Lake walks with my husband. Just being able to unwind with fresh air and beautiful scenery. 

26) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Fancy the least? 
Nobody really. I appreciate those who use their celebrity to do good things in society. But so much of what is reported is the trash stuff. I do secretly admire some of the European Royals (if I had to pick somebody). They weren't chosen for their roles, but they go out and raise awareness for causes. But if someone has a name ending with Kardashian, I am simply not interested.

27) What political issues stirred you the most? The least?
The most would probably be the High Level/Calgary floods. So much devastation that will have a huge impact on the future of Alberta for years to come. There were some politicians who rose to the occasion (Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi), and some who failed (Premier Alison Redford and her government, who continue to fail on this issue).

The least might be either the Idle No More protests or the Edmonton Election.

28) What news story did you like the most? Hate the most?
I liked stories of where communities and people came together and rose above to help in dire situations, especially during the Alberta floods. As Mr. Roger's says:

I dislike any story in which, while protesting, laws are broken or people are hurt. Whatever support I have for their cause goes out the window when that happens. I also dislike NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issues pertaining to social housing issues.

29) What sports moment did you like the most? Hate the most?
For me personally, the decision to start watching NFL. I have enjoyed watching the games, especially the Dallas Cowboys. It's a good bonding experience with my husband as well. There have been a few games this season that have been simply spectacular and enjoyable.

The most disappointing was the Edmonton Oilers. I so wanted to get back into hockey. I so wanted to cheer for the team. The Oilers had a lot of promise and this was supposed to be the year when all the rebuilding efforts paid off. It's far from that. It's not just a bad season. It's an embarrassing season.

30) Favourite blog (other than yours)? Blog Posts (other than yours?).

  • Favourite Blog: Going with my BFF's A Warm Cup of Jo & The Brooding Woman. I also am madly addicted to A Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor for my royal fix. 
  • Fave Blog Post #1: The Un-Anniversary.  This post moved me to tears. Part because I know her personally. Part because I was in her wedding and I wish I could have done something more before or during to help. Part because she is so open and honest about her painful journey. She is a strong woman my Wren. 
  • Fave Blog Post #2: Roots & Wings. Jo weaved a beautiful story together. A very moving post. 
  • Fave Blog Post #3: Am I REALLY ok? I discovered this blog, The Misadventures of a Darwinian Fail, over the Christmas holidays. This post resonated with me.
31) Favourite Blog Post (of yours?)
I didn't have a stellar blogging year. Mostly just Top Five posts, which were fine, except they were supposed to inspire me to blog more...not be my only posts. LOL. But there were some that were good.

My husband. He is such a great person and I love him so much. He is genuinely my best friend.

33) Who do you miss?
Well I always miss Wendy. This year drove home just how important she was.

I also miss the Dani that was enthusiastic about things. The skinny Dani. The healthy Dani. The confident Dani.

34) Tell us a valuable life less you learned in 2013.
I learned (and am continuing to learn) that real-life moments and people matter. More so than social media and the people you connect. Life, and pictures of, doesn't always need to be shared with strangers.

35) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year? 
"It's like you're always stuck in second gear. When it hasn't been your day, you week, your month or even your year." - The Rembrandt's I'll Be There For You.

36) What do you look forward to in 2014?
Connecting with friends. Going out and doing stuff in this city of ours, rather than sitting at home. Maybe getting pregnant. Our Pacific Coast driving vacation. Living life.