How Misleading a Good Day Can Be

Today I had a really good day.

For starters, it was a nice day outside. Not too hot. No rain, and no rain expected. And almost no humidity (because humidity is my enemy right now). Just blue sky, some sunshine, and white clouds.

I had woken up early, with no alarm clock, and well-rested, for an early doctor’s appointment. And as if everything was on my schedule, I caught all the buses on time, and even got a seat, making it to the doctor’s office with time to spare. During my appointment, I had results from a couple of tests come back that were positive or normal. No bad news on the medical front. And no lectures or stern frowns from the doctor for things I should change or be careful about. Just good news to be had and I was on my way. Which was great because I needed to have bloodwork done too and then I was to meet a friend for a late breakfast.

So I got to the lab, and had my blood drawn with no issues, and I didn’t have to pee in a cup. I consider that a bonus because I hate peeing in the cup.

And just as I was done in the medical building, my friend pulled up to the side of the building to pick me up, as if she knew I was done and it was time to go eat. It was like the planets aligned and everything was in sync with my schedule. So I hopped into her SUV, and we were off for breakfast. I had such a good time with her; hanging out, talking, and laughing. It was really nice. Breakfast was good too. Cheese and pepper omelet with home fries. Yum.

After saying goodbye to my friend, I then made my way to my second appointment, again with time to spare. I was able to sit outside, have a cool drink and a bite to eat, and enjoy the nice weather. I remember noticing too that my anxiety levels were very low. I quickly scanned my body and was pleased that, nope, no anxiety was there. I didn’t even feel anxious about not having anxiety. I wasn’t calm exactly, I was just okay, neither good nor bad. And despite the rarity of the feeling I didn’t even probe around my mind to see if I was sure, or if it was okay to proceed, I just let it be as it was.

It felt good. Just enjoying the sunshine and my apple and my water. No rush. No worry thoughts. No anxiety. Just a girl sitting on a bench, watching the world go by. And then that second appointment also went well. Not as much good news as the earlier one, but still good.

And then I found myself thinking, how am I not doing more? How am I not out like this every day? Enjoying the nice weather and being outside. How am I missing all of this? How can I deprive myself of all the day can offer when I stay inside and hide? How am I not all up in everything all the time?

Ad then it hit me… of all the hows I was asking myself, how was I not remembering that not all of my days were like this? How was I not remembering that just yesterday had been a bad day? How was I not remembering that not all of my days were this good?

Somehow I had gotten so lost in the good day that I started to believe that this one day meant that every day could be like this, and that every day I would be in a good place to function, explore, and enjoy, without other obstacles, worries, or anxieties, cropping up. Somehow I had forgotten that good days didn’t happen every day, and that bad days did not outnumber the good days. Right now, bad days outnumbered the good days. It wasn’t a bad thing to believe that all days could be this good. It just wasn’t realistic. It wasn’t what I experienced every day.

Yes, some days were good, some days were even great. But some days were bad, and some days were even worse. And at some point the good days may start to outnumber the bad days. But right now, they didn’t. Right now, each day was a roll of the dice as to whether it would be a good day or not. And believing that one day dictated how all of them would be was a little shortsighted on my part.

Fortunately the reality of my experience didn’t crap out the good day that I was having. The remainder of the day stayed pretty good (relatively speaking). But it did sober me up from believing that this was an indicator of where I should be and what I should be doing. This was a good day. And that was all I needed to know.

Tomorrow might be another good day, or it might suck worse than anything. Whatever it may or may not become really didn’t matter. I had today and today was good. And whatever tomorrow would be I would just have to deal with it when it happened.

I’m glad I realized the reality before I started to have unrealistic expectations of myself…again. I’m proud of myself for not only taking in the day and leaving it at that, but also for realizing that I was getting ahead of myself, and reining in my expectations. Something I have struggled with for years.

I am often inside of a mood, good or bad, and I have a hard time seeing past it and believing that another mood is even possible. The mood, or the day, feels so concrete that believing it can change is hard to imagine. It feels so enveloping that I often forget that moods, and days, are subject to change. And having good days are just as possible as having bad days are, and vice versa. But in the moment of the day, I often miss that.

The good news is that good days are possible, and I can enjoy them, without worrying about the next day, or the day after that.

No matter what happens tomorrow I’m glad today was good. And I’m glad I was able to enjoy it. I hope that I remember again that one day doesn’t dictate how every other day will be, and that a good day can be just that, a good day. And I really hope that soon the good days will start to outnumber the bad days. For now though it’s going to have to be one day at a time.

Until next time… 🙂

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There Is Nothing Wrong With Having Mental Health Issues

This past weekend brought up the conversation of mental health issues in a number of ways for me; from hearing about Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna speaking publicly about struggling with anxiety, and not feeling himself, to conversations I’ve had with family and friends. I feel like it needs to be said again, and again, that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues. I’m going to be repeating this often throughout this post, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

I think Roberto Osuna’s decision for opening up about what he is struggling with, which is no doubt much more common in baseball, and sports in general, than is reported, was exceptionally brave. It isn’t easy to open up about something so personal and something that can be subject to judgement, criticism, and misinterpretation.

Mental health is absolutely vital to our well-being. Without it, we are open to literally falling apart. Mental health is just as important to our being able to function and cope as physical health is. In fact, there are a number of situations where mental health may be even more important than physical health.

The dozens of disorders and diagnosis that encompass mental health are never something to be taken lightly, no matter how, where, when, or why, a person finds themselves struggling with them. Whether it’s a disorder that has been a part of your life since childhood, or whether it’s something that pops into your life in later years, it is always, repeat always, something to be taken seriously. And at no time is it ever a reflection on what kind of person you are, nor does it ever mean that something is wrong with you.

Admittedly, you may need treatment, you may even need medication, but that does not mean you are broken, or flawed, or weak, or a bad person. It doesn’t mean you should be treated differently nor does it mean you should be shunned, judged, ostracized, or criticized. It means that you need help and support, encouragement and compassion, and understanding and patience for a difficult situation or period in your life. That’s really all it means, that you need help. And there is nothing, NOTHING, wrong with that.

I can understand that there are people who have not struggled with mental health issues and may not be able to fully grasp what it means but that is no excuse to treat someone with mental health issues any differently than had they been struggling with something physical that can be seen or quantified. People struggling with mental health issues are still people.

You don’t have to have mental health issues to be compassionate.

I think it’s great that the conversation of mental health is fast becoming more mainstream, and less a “closeted” discussion, saved only for professionals. With places like CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), here in Canada, CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), also here in Canada, the annual Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and several sports and television personalities opening up about their own mental health struggles has made a HUGE impact in people starting to realize and understand that mental health is something that can affect anyone, in any capacity, or social standing, and that it is NOT something to be ashamed of.

I firmly believe that places like CAMH and CMHA are leading the fight in bringing awareness to mental health, bringing the discussion to the masses, and especially with bringing help to those in need. Addressing mental health openly has come a long way in starting to lose the stigma that has been attached to it for so long. But there is still more work to do. And it starts with us, talking to someone when we need help, and not feeling ashamed about what we are going through.

I’m not saying that you need to speak about what you might be struggling with to everyone you know and everyone you meet. It may mean only sharing it with one person, it may mean sharing it with a group of strangers at a support group, it may mean sharing it only with a professional. It isn’t about who you choose to share it with, it’s about owning that you are struggling right now with mental health issues, and that is nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I’m going to repeat that, “struggling with mental health issues is NOTHING to be ashamed of.

Life is hard. Very hard. This is not new information for anyone. Sometimes trying to handle all that life throws at us, and coping with difficult situations, emotions, and difficult people can be more than just a challenge at times. It can be something that permeates your whole being, and for some, it may also mean using more destructive than constructive methods to cope. It can be something that filters down into your relationships, your work, your interests, your family and friends, and even your ability to function at a basic level. Mental illness can grip you like a vise and twist itself around you so that you feel like you can’t breathe. It doesn’t care if you have the time, or the space, or whether you’re ready or not, it can come on without warning and take you over, or take you down. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you work etc, you could be someone who finds themselves struggling with mental health issues just as easily as anyone else.

Mental health isn’t selective in who it affects. No exemptions or discrimination here. Mental health is an equal opportunity assailant.

I don’t want to compare mental health to physical health because I don’t think they really can be compared. The each have their own struggles, symptoms, treatments, and perspectives. But I will say that with as many differences that lie between physical/medical issues and mental health issues, there are also a number of similarities between them too. There a lot of physical illnesses or disorders that can often strike at will to whomever, whenever, without warning or cause, and mental health issues can be just as arbitrary and random in who becomes affected too. There are a number of physical/medical issues that cannot be seen just by looking at someone, and that cannot be measured with a blood test or x-ray, just like not being able to tell just by looking that someone is struggling with mental health issues.

Someone struggling with a physical/medical issue is as important to address as someone struggling with a mental health issue. One issue is not necessarily any more urgent to address than the other. Of course I understand that there are some serious medical issues that can be life-threatening and are important to treat as soon as possible, and that there are some mental health issues that are not as urgent in the moment to treat, but they are still important enough to treat, regardless.

Someone struggling with mental health issues may be able to wait a few more days for help than someone requiring urgent medical assistance, but it doesn’t mean that the person struggling with mental health issues should be dismissed or indefinitely delayed in getting treatment.

All issues that can befall us, whether physical, emotional, or mental, each have their own urgencies or not, in how and when they are addressed, but the important thing to remember is that they ALL deserve addressing.

Repeat: THEY ALL DESERVE TO BE ADDRESSED.

I would like to close this by saying to all those struggling with mental health issues, please seek help if you need it, don’t wait. And please don’t be ashamed or feel less than because you need help. Talk to someone. Share with those you trust in your own time. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, nor do you owe anyone an explanation. You are struggling and you need help. Please remember that. You are struggling and you need help.

For those who have a loved one struggling with mental health issues I would encourage and hope that you give as much time and space to your loved one as you can for them to deal with things as they need. Be compassionate and patient. You don’t need to understand someone to be kind to them. You don’t need to have experienced it to have patience for it.

Your loved one may be struggling to live at some point, and this is NOT a weakness, nor is this something to be taken lightly. Anyone feeling like life isn’t worth living anymore should ALWAYS be taken seriously and at their word. They need help. Please do what you can to help them get help.

Most importantly, for all, please remember that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues.

 

Afraid

 

…going through some of my self-help books has led me to feel jumbled in my thoughts and emotions. A combination of the last few months, the last few days, and the last few hours, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel like I need a rest. I need a break. A break from work, life, my thoughts, my emotions, my worries, my fears, from everything.

I feel like crying. I feel torn. I want to run. I want to scream. It feels like life is passing me by. I feel over cluttered with emotional and mental baggage and objects. I feel like I could explode. I worry that my stress will make me sick and if I were to get sick what would that teach me? If everything happens for a reason, then what will be my moment and will I see it? so many bad things happen to everyone, why wouldn’t I be one of them? how can I let go when it is only a matter of time before I am cut down by something bad? Pain is inevitable right?

If I die having let my dreams pass me by, will it really matter?

If I die having been known what will it matter. I will still be dead.

Life feels so pointless. If I go my whole life and do nothing more, will it really matter?

If I do what I believe is my dream and it turns out that I am wrong?

If I fail then I am right back where I started.

If I end up full circle will the fact that I tried really matter?

Honestly?

There’s no fulfillment in trying and failing.

There’s no peace in starting from the beginning again with nothing to show for it.

I believed that if you found your path, your destiny, that the universe conspired to help you.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

If it is true then I guess I don’t really want what I thought I did.

If what I thought was my dream, my calling, and I am wrong, then what is my destiny?

I’m crying and I’m not sure why.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of trying.

I’m afraid of failing.

I’m afraid of being wrong.

I’m afraid of not trying.

I’m afraid of moving forward.

I’m afraid of standing still.

I’m afraid of who I am.

I’m afraid of who I am not.

I’m afraid of not knowing.

I’m afraid of being lost.

I’m afraid of being found.

I’m afraid of being alone.

I’m afraid of being close to someone.

I’m afraid of the unknown.

I’m afraid of not being seen.

I’m afraid to raise my voice.

I’m afraid of being disappointed.

I’m afraid I will disappoint.

I’m afraid I will miss something.

I’m afraid I will do it wrong.

I’m afraid I will be left out.

I’m afraid that I will be forgotten.

I’m afraid that I will be too late.

I’m afraid that it is already too late.

I’m afraid to keep it.

I’m afraid to let it go.

I’m afraid that all I know to be wrong about me will actually be true.

I’m afraid that I will deserve what I get.

I’m afraid that everything I get will be bad.

I’m afraid that I will be a statistic.

I’m afraid that I will be one of the people it happens to.

I’m afraid that “it” will be only pain and fear.

I’m afraid that any happiness will not last.

I’m afraid that any achievement will be false.

I’m afraid that any good fortune will be lost.

I’m afraid that I will always have to fight.

I’m afraid that I will lose the fight.

I’m afraid that there will never be enough.

I’m afraid that I will never be enough.

I’m afraid that I will never be somebody.

I’m afraid that I will never matter.

I’m afraid that I will be invisible.

I’m afraid that no one will listen.

I’m afraid that no one will care.

I’m afraid that I will never realize my dreams.

I’m afraid that what I know is wrong.

I’m afraid that I will always be torn.

I’m afraid that I will always be broken.

I’m afraid that I will always take more.

I’m afraid that I will always be misunderstood.

I’m afraid that no one will want to be my friend.

I’m afraid that I will never be beautiful.

I’m afraid that I will never be adored.

I’m afraid that I will always be hated.

I’m afraid that this is it.

I’m afraid to admit that this isn’t enough.

I’m afraid to admit that I want more.

I’m afraid to admit that I feel ashamed for wanting more.

I’m afraid to admit that I want better.

I’m afraid that I will hurt everyone I love.

I’m afraid that my flaws outweigh my strengths.

I’m afraid I have no strength.

I’m afraid that I will never be the best.

I’m afraid that I will be alone.

I’m afraid that I will deserve it.

I am so very afraid.

I am so very tired.

 

 

The Seriousness of Mental Health

There is a growing epidemic in our country, in our world, and it’s getting worse, while the patient waits to get better. It’s a silent one that consumes us with everything in its arsenal. The symptoms are many, overlapping, confusing, debilitating, and at times lethal.

It’s not something that can be seen on an X-ray, or traced in our blood (that I know of). Currently it can’t be tested with any current medical equipment (again… that I am aware of). But its affecting millions, killing thousands, and debilitating generations into dark places where even the most basic of functions fall to the side. It’s our mental health.

Today is World Health Day, and the focus is on Depression. I applaud their addressing of a serious condition that many out there still consider to be something to just “get over” or “move on” from. Depression can be a paralyzing situation that leads many to consider suicide, and many more to attempt it, some with success.

And the ignorance that some people have towards this serious condition is frankly ridiculous but mostly it is dangerous. Because of the millions suffering with depression who struggle to find a way to function. Some may even be able to fool you, and themselves that they are functioning, but something just doesn’t seem right. To everyone suffering and struggling with depression, whether in conjunction with another disorder, or just on its own, please reach out for help where you can. Speak up and speak out. You are not alone, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Search the internet for the closest distress centre or hospital, and please, I beg you, reach out.

Mental health is just as important, if not more so, than our physical health. It’s what moves, motivates us, and what takes us down. It will not be an easy road, and it will be a fight, but you are worth it. You deserve happiness whomever you are.

Please reach out and speak up. Even if it’s just to a friend. Let them know you’re struggling. REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Keep the conversation going because mental health is not a one day, 24-hour bug. It’s days, weeks, months, even decades long, day-to-day battle. And the more we open up the less stigma is attached to it, and the more funding comes along, the more people understand it’s not just something to “get over”, and finally the better help we can finally get to actually get better.

To everyone struggling, and anyone who just needs help, please speak up. And keep strong.

A Dedication to CAMH

 

The first couple of experiences I had with CAMH were not ones I care to experience again.

I had gone to my family doctor for help, and after several weeks, and medications to see if I improved, she decided to refer me to CAMH for an assessment. This would be my first visit to CAMH and I was relieved I was going to get an appointment there. It was like I was going to the mothership of mental health. If anyone could help me CAMH could. I did have to wait about two months for an appointment but I didn’t mind because I figured it was going to be so worth it because I would go for my appointment, meet a CAMH professional, they would assess me, and I would be onto bigger and better things from there. But it didn’t quite go the way I had imagined it.

I went to the appointment, and I saw the CAMH professional who then “assessed” me, and an hour later I left with a list of books to check out that the professional thought might help, a list of some therapists in Toronto I could contact (none covered by OHIP), and a disappointed spirit. That was it? Shouldn’t there be more? Had I missed something? That couldn’t be it, could it? Shouldn’t I have been welcomed into the CAMH family with open arms? Shouldn’t they have done more? Had I been wrong? Was this all that they did?

I started to doubt that maybe CAMH wasn’t what I thought it was. Well, that’s disappointing. Now what?

So for the next two years, I lived, and functioned, and worked, and whatnot, but slowly I started to decline again. The emotions that overwhelmed me to the point of tears, the crushing depression that put in bed for days, and the feeling that living is looking less and less like a good idea. So again I reached out to my doctor for help. She again prescribed some meds, and after several appointments with no improvement she again said she was going to send me to CAMH for assessment.

This time I was not as relieved. Would I be brushed aside again with a couple of lists and suggestions and then left to walk out and fend for myself? Would this time be different?

I am sorry to say that it wasn’t. Again I waited weeks for the appointment, and again I was assessed, again given a new lists of therapists (still not covered by OHIP), and now this new sense of defeat that made me feel like crying as I left the building.

What was happening? Why was that it? How could that be it? While in the waiting room, I saw a number of people emerge from the offices, and greet the waiting patients with familiarity. As if they’d known them for weeks or months.

So they did see patients more than once? How? How did they get that? Did they know someone? Or was it me? Was I not sick enough? Was I not in a desperate enough state to warrant my own familiar greeting? Was I okay enough to be sent on my way? Maybe I needed to be really bad off. Maybe these people got special referrals. I wondered how in the labyrinth of hallways and offices there wasn’t one person there who thought I was worthy to be familiar too.

I stood outside the building after that second appointment and stared at it. There was something about this place that made me feel like they could help me? But so far, after two appointments, I was still standing on the outside alone. How could I get in? Was there a password? How could I crack the code to become a familiar? Who did I have to know? What did I have to do? There must be a way. There must be. Because twice now I had witnessed people being called by first names and patients who were obviously regulars. And twice now I had just been “assessed”, listed and sent on my way.

I felt so desperate, and rejected, and alone. I was in a bad way. I needed help and I felt like I was running out of options, and the will to carry on. And I was starting to think that whatever it took to get into the CAMH family, I didn’t have it.

I couldn’t figure it out. And so again I made way back to reality and life, and tried to keep things functioning. But it didn’t last. I declined again. Much more rapidly this time. A string of months filled with extreme stress, crippling anxiety, and deep grief finally pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was done. I was tired of this cycle that whipped my emotions around, and left me feeling worthless, and hopeless. I needed help, now, or it would all be over. I knew it, and I felt it.

Because I had nowhere else to go, I saw my doctor again. And I prayed she had answers and that this time would be different. But no, the same things happened, new meds, weekly monitoring, and yet another referral to CAMH. I was so tempted to tell her to forget the referral because I obviously wasn’t worthy of whatever CAMH had locked behind their doors. I couldn’t handle another assessment, or new lists of therapists I couldn’t afford, but especially I couldn’t handle the rejection. Not again.

And then one night, last summer, during the period of weekly monitoring, I reached a breaking point. This was it. I was done. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt raw, vulnerable and ready to snap. And when I snapped that would be it. I would be gone. I was moments away and for whatever reason I instead went online and looked up the nearest hospital. Because without it, it would be over.

And despite the fact that I live nowhere near it, Google gave me CAMH on College as the first option on the page. I sighed. I hadn’t cracked CAMH’s code so that was a no-go, until the words “24 hr emergency” caught my eye. Say what? CAMH has an emergency department? Really? Was this new? I don’t know what inside me pushed me out the door and in the direction of College St. but I sprung for a cab and went, ending up on College St not long after midnight, staring at the emergency entrance at the side of the building. I felt a sense of terror creep over me. What if they rejected me? What if they sent me back out into the night? What if I was left alone and rejected by them again? But instead I took a deep breath and walked through the door. What have I got to lose at this point? I hoped that if anything, maybe they’ll at least keep me safe and alive for tonight. That’s all I needed. Somewhere to keep safe. Just for tonight. They could do that for me right?

I imagined walking in and again being assessed but this time I wasn’t doing that. This time I was just asking, keep safe for tonight please? Because I’m scared. I’m scared I will do something bad that I won’t be able to take back. I’m scared that this is it for me. And I’m desperate. Can you help me?

As I walked in the door at around 1am, I tearfully told the woman that. I told her that I needed help. Was there someone I could talk to? And that folks, was the code breaker for me.

I sat in their waiting room, alone, crying, hoping that at least tonight I’d be safe and make it through to see tomorrow. And when I spoke to the doctor on call that night she gave me a lifeline. Not only did she say she didn’t want me to go home, she suggested I stay for a few days, maybe even a week. She gave me a choice to stay and I took it. And it saved my life.  I ended up staying six weeks.

The support team in my unit, from the nurses to the nutritionist to the physician to the creative director to the psychiatrist to the social worker, they were all behind me. At first they left me as I was, wrapped in blankets, keeping to myself, and periodically checking in on me to see if I was okay. But then, they helped me stand, and they told me it would be okay. And even though I didn’t quite believe them, I stood. And then they got me moving forward. One by one, day by day, I met my team. I met my village. They all supported me, and listened, and encouraged me. They guided me to finally face forward so I could move forward.

I not only got a diagnosis that finally fit while I was admitted but I also got several referrals, and after care, that lasted well beyond my stay on the unit. I learned skills, got situated with medicine that worked for me, and what’s more is, I met some truly amazing, wonderful people, some of which I am still in contact with.

So even though my first (and second) impressions with CAMH hadn’t been so great. Maybe that wasn’t their fault. Maybe it was the timing of things, maybe it was because in my earlier assessments at CAMH I hadn’t asked for help then. Who knows? But I can’t blame them. I can’t say that I didn’t get help because of them because I hadn’t taken the initiative for myself either. I hadn’t spoken up and told them what I needed. I hadn’t pushed for more. I didn’t let on that I was desperate. I waited for them to figure it out. I expected that their assessment of one hour would reveal all of my pain and desperation. I expected that they would guess how broken I was and how much I needed help. And when they didn’t read my mind, I felt rejected and alone. For that I extend a heartfelt apology to CAMH. For underestimating them and assuming that because they understood mental illness they would be able to just know right away that I needed help. That was unfair of me because it’s a two-way street. And they can’t know what I don’t tell them.

I would like to suggest to them however that maybe there be more than one assessment done, like a follow up, and maybe whoever does the assessment can ask the assessee what kind of help they are looking for? So that maybe they can speak up and maybe they can be told about some of the wonderful programs CAMH has. Or even directed to some of the other great programs the city has to offer, like CMHA, Mood Disorders of Ontario, Toronto General Eating Disorder Program, to name a few.

I sometimes wish I could go back and ask for what I needed then, when I had my first and second assessment. I wish that I had spoken up because maybe that would have made the difference. But regardless of how long it took, and what finally brought me to the emergency room doors, with the nice doctor, and the bed that kept me alive that night, I will forever be grateful that CAMH was there when I needed them. No passwords. No codes. No referrals. No lists.

They took me in, and brought me back. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think it also takes a village to help a child too (or an adult, since I am far removed from being a child lol). And at CAMH I had my own village.

For the following I will not mention any names for privacy sake.

To all the nurses who took care of me every day I was admitted I thank them for asking me every day how was I doing? And for sitting with me when I felt my world closing in and they talked to me and soothed me. When I felt anxious and scared they stayed with me. Day or night. They were there.

To the social worker, who helped me handle my insurance with my work and who spent countless hours researching and listing several things we had discussed about treatment as well as school and more. The effort she put in and the time she gave me made me feel like I was the only one on the ward she had to take care of and I know I wasn’t. She remembered things I had only mentioned despite looking after at least a dozen other patients. And her efforts getting me referred are what got me where I am today. So I thank her deeply for everything she did.

To the physician, nutritionist and creative director that rounded out the team, I thank all of them for listening to me, addressing my concerns, supporting me, helping me, teaching me and giving me the tools and tips and even some fun (with the creative director) that I still use today.

To the facilitator who ran the After Care Program when I got discharged I truly cannot say enough about her. She is an inspiration, an absolute master at what she does, and a wonderful listener. She has knowledge that absolutely astounds me. There wasn’t a moment with her that I didn’t feel heard, understood, and validated by, even with other people in the room. She has shown a kindness and understanding that is obviously part of her core, and I hope one day to work with her again. She is a CAMH treasure. And she will always be someone I think of fondly and I credit with helping me to move forward.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my psychiatrist. The first day I was admitted was a holiday and when they told me I couldn’t talk to her until the next day, and word on the ward was she was new, I felt a panic grip me because no one could tell me if she was nice, or understanding, or was she one of those psychiatrists who just prescribes drugs and moves on with her day, or was she my worst fear, mean. Would she hear me? Would she invalidate me? I had no idea what to expect of her. I prayed I would like her and that she would like me, but especially I prayed that she wouldn’t be mean. And the next day when I did finally meet her I knew it would be okay.

Not only was she kind and understanding but it felt like right off the bat she saw that I was really struggling and that I needed help. And even better, she could help me get to a better place.

Not one time did she dismiss something I said, no matter how much I thought it sounded crazy, no matter how much I thought she would think I was an awful, weird, abnormal person who had these weird thoughts and emotions she had never heard of before. She never once told me I was weird or abnormal.

In fact, she often reassured me that what I was feeling was okay, and that there was nothing wrong with how I felt, and most importantly that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with me, as in I wasn’t damaged goods. I was a worthy person who needed help. She was the first person I truly believed that I was worthy. And that whatever emotion I was feeling was okay because that’s how emotions are. They don’t always make sense, and sometimes they can be completely irrational. For the first time, I wasn’t afraid to tell someone about what I was feeling. Because when I spoke to her, I felt like she was actually hearing me, and taking my thoughts and feelings into consideration.

She has told me by now so many times that I’m not crazy that I’m actually starting to believe her. I thank her for every day making me feel like I was the most important person in the world, no matter how many other patients she had to see, and working with me on how did I want to proceed with treatment or meds. She talked to me not down to me and it made me feel like I wasn’t just some nutcase she needed to dope up and send on my way. She made me feel like a person. A person who has suffered trauma, and a person who has had years of disordered, dysregulated thinking and emotions.

She still sometimes has to remind me that I need time and patience to get through it. She is also the saviour that finally diagnosed by BPD and suddenly brought my world into a clearer picture, where a lot of stuff started to make sense.

I think of her as kind of the leader in my CAMH Village, and I feel safe because of that.

So to CAMH, and all in my village, I thank you profusely from the bottom of my heart, for saving my life, and for helping me save my own life.

For anyone who struggles with a disorder, diagnosed or not, or anyone just struggling, wondering why your days feel dark, not feeling like anyone cares, not caring or wanting to get out of bed, wondering why the tears won’t stop, or why they started in the first place, CAMH may not be where you’ll find yourself again, but it is a great place to start, and is an amazing resource worth exploring. There are some amazing people they’re just waiting to help. And you want to know the secret?

All you have to do is ask.