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.

 

*TW* Like Ripping Off a Bandage

I just want start this off with a disclaimer here because I am well aware that how BPD manifests for any borderliner could be very different than how it manifests for me. As a rule Borderliners tend to be very high functioning for day-to-day activities however we aren’t always able to maintain that functionality for extended periods of time. It’s our personal lives behind closed doors that are a chaotic mess. And it is only a matter of time before one spills into the other and we are not so functioning anymore. This might not be how another person struggles with BPD, is this is how I struggle with BPD.

For me, I sometimes have to work to get to functioning. It’s not easy, and it can take me weeks or months to finally get to a baseline of just doing the best that I can. Which is a minimal level.

This usually involves a lot of meds having to be administered in order to get myself functioning. If I’m lucky it will involve therapy of some kind at the same time as taking the meds but until recently it was either one or the other. There was no balance. There was no equilibrium. I either could take the meds and just do my best not to fall backwards. There was no support, not the way I needed it. Or I had the support and the meds weren’t really doing it for me.

Doing the meds cocktail, for anyone struggling with mental health issues, or mental health disorders, knows that it can be an exhausting, tiring, and frustrating journey. And it is a journey. It can take months and years; dozens of medicines and dosages, mixing anti-psychotic with anti-depressant, uppers with downers, meds to get you to sleep, meds to keep you asleep, meds to allow you to think, meds that stop you from thinking. Finally finding the mix that works is daunting. It took me three decades and finally a diagnosis of BPD to get the mix that is currently working for me. Although because I’m still struggling, I am still developing the right mix for me. It’s a work in progress.

So I have to choose therapy or meds, if I’m lucky, I’ll get at least one. And it will help me. Because I usually end up back at the bottom of life, I also feel abandoned, rejected, alone, and angry.

Except the anger would be directed at myself. I was a failure for not being able to magically fix myself when I was broken. I was to blame for not having the support I needed. I was to blame that the drugs didn’t work. I was to blame that therapy didn’t work. I was to blame for everything in my life going so wrong that I would end up feeling suicidal. And suicidal was where I stayed until I either tried, or I was able to find my way out.

Having BPD is tough. Every day feels like a battle. Every interaction feels like a wound that starts out bandaged but within moments can be ripped off by either telling me I’m too sensitive, that I need to get over it, that I am being difficult, that I am causing trouble by not letting anything go, that I am making matters worse for myself, or if I feel abandoned or rejected, and just that fast the bandage would be ripped off and my wounds would be exposed, and I would be open to pain and hurt and suffering. Again.

I want to be able to keep the bandage on long enough so that I can heal. I want to be healed enough that it won’t feel like I’m exposed and vulnerable. I want to feel like I can take what someone says or does to me that doesn’t send me spiralling out of control into bad and dark places.

I am fighting to keep my bandage on right now because I’m terrified of having my wounds exposed.

Dear life, please give me time to heal.

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.

 

 

*TW* Trying to Return to DBT

So the last several weeks have been hard for me. Last couple of months? Hmm. So more time has passed than I previously thought. I don’t really know if it’s my BPD, depression, or anxiety…actually that’s not true, I do know, it’s all of it. The whole mess of chaos and confusion that lives in my head and in my body, pinning me to the floor, or pushing me into a dark hole. One just egging the other on until I am a puddle on the floor.

The good news is, during this time I have been continuing to attend all of my weekly DBT Groups, and all of my weekly DBT Individual appointments. So I have a wealth of DBT information on backlog. I’ve wanted to start posting those again but I just didn’t have it in me. I thought I could squeeze them in but it didn’t work out that way.

Despite the backlog of posting any DBT skills, there were a few days the DBT stuff helped me with my stress, anxiety, and distress. Some days, I admit, DBT didn’t even enter my brain let alone my practice. And there were a few days I did think of it and it didn’t do squat. But there have been a few moments when it did help, a lot, and I think a lot of it can help others too. Especially the Distress Tolerance, which is unfortunately the most recent module taught, so it will be the last ones to be posted.

Either way, if it can help me, then it has a chance to help others too.

My goal is to now get back on track with posting the DBT stuff again, and in the midst of that, I am going to still try and climb my way back to my normal. “My normal”, for those of you wondering, is a place where I don’t wake up every day wanting to sink into a deep, dark place and be left completely alone. *TW* Maybe or maybe not, considering if I’ll wait for death, or if I’ll walk right towards it. And where every day feels like moving through tar, in body and mind.

I hope to get back on track within the next few days. Wish me luck 🙂

If Wishes Came True

When I was a little girl I used to pretend that I was an actress. I gave myself a stage name and I even had an imaginary manager, and secretary. I drew posters for my movies, and I even released some albums as a singer. And I would draw the album covers too. I would play for hours by myself as an actress slash singer in my room until it was time for bed. I didn’t even like stopping for dinner, or anything else. It was all about me and all the great things I could do. I would have loved to continue playing after it was time for bed but at the time I had to share a room with my brother and he really crimped my style.

But during the day, when my brother would go out, and my mom would be busy or sleeping, I spent hours, days, weeks, and months just playing my imaginary role. Sometimes I would bring in other imaginary people to play secondary roles, like friends, or boyfriends. It was very elaborate. Everyone had a role and a background. Not that I knew what to do with a boyfriend at that age. I imagined that basically he was just the guy there, and that eventually we would end up married and have kids. He played a really small role. Mostly I just had lots of friends, and lots of admirers, and lots of fans. In my imaginary world, everyone loved me. And everyone wanted to be friends with me.

I believed that I was special. I believed that there was just something about me that everyone liked, and people would gravitate towards me, and they would all want to be in my life. I was like this shining force that people loved. I was the person they turned to when they needed a friend, and I was a great friend. I was the one they would always want to call. I was the one they all wanted to spend time with. My time was so valuable to everyone that it was like being mobbed by fans to find time for all my imaginary friends.

It was a great feeling, to be loved, and admired. I felt like I was this great, special person. I was this important person to all these other people. I was one person they thought of often. whatever party, or event, birthday, or celebration, it didn’t matter, my “friends” always made sure to invite me. It wasn’t a party without me. My imaginary friends would be heartbroken when I had to say no to their invitations. They would beg and plead for me to be there. Me being there was what would make it great. And that feeling, it was so nice. I never wanted that feeling to end.

But then, one day, it did. Because I grew up. We moved, and I got my own room, which was great for helping to build the imaginary world, but slowly my imaginary world started to change. Real life filtered in a lot and it was getting harder and harder to maintain my magnificent world.

And then one day I stopped believing that I was special.

I don’t remember what happened, or the moment it changed, but around the age of 13 or 14 my world turned from sparkly to dark. It went from full of friends to no one. I went from being the important one, to being the forgotten one. It went from everyone likes me, to people not seeing me at all. Not only did I not see myself as special anymore, but now I was starting to believe I was never special in the first place at all, and that I wasn’t worthy of living.

I wish I could pinpoint where it crashed. Or why. Maybe then I could re-trace my way back to feeling special. Maybe then I could have some friends back. Maybe then I would be seen and I would be important, to someone. But I have a sinking feeling that path is long gone, never to be found again. I miss the days when I felt special, and that everyone liked me, and everyone wanted to be my friend.

Now I believe the total opposite of every person I know. Whether they are already in my life or not. That no one likes me. No one thinks of me as important. I am not special. Sometimes I feel like a fool for ever having believed it in the first place. I am not special.

I wish I was though.

Everyday People

When I have to go outside it takes me some time and effort to make my way out. Some days are easy, where I don’t have to prepare myself. I don’t have to work up to anything. I can pretty much just go. And some days are hard, where I need a lot of time to work through the anxiety. When I need to somehow ease the anxious feeling in my stomach and chest. I need to ease my urge to hide and avoid, and often either slow down or soothe a panic attack. Those are the days I may not make it out but I still try because sometimes the tips work.

When I am outside the anxious feeling doesn’t really go away. It stays in varying degrees of intensity from when I leave my home and it doesn’t ease until I’m back home, and even then it doesn’t totally disappear. The time that I am out I am hyper-aware of my surroundings and how long things are taking. I am aware of the people around me and I am aware of the length of time I will be in any given place because I am almost counting the minutes until I can finally go home again.

I have to be very careful about this state though because if it gets pushed too far, and the anxiety overwhelms me, it can push me into a numb, dissociative state. Where I am on automatic pilot and I am sort of aware of my surroundings but it’s a blur and most of the time I can’t recall where I was or how I got there.

When I’m on the bus I watch the people around me. In part I do it to be aware of who is where, what they are doing, and are they posing any threat to me in any way? But sometimes I find myself almost mesmerized by them. I’m mesmerized by their mundane ways of sitting or standing on the bus. I watch them play on their phones, or read a book, or talk to someone they are travelling with, or just staring out the window, and I find myself feeling envious of them.

These people, just normal people, they get on the bus and choose their place to sit or stand and they settle in for their ride. Without a second thought they are just taking the bus and doing whatever they need to do to pass the time on the ride. And they look normal. They look calm. They look bored. They look complacent. And I envy that.

I envy that these people can just walk onto a bus without sizing up the world they’re entering. I envy that they sit down or stand like they own the place and they aren’t thinking of anyone or anything around them let alone if they’re wondering if something is a threat. They aren’t surveying the scene from moment-to-moment. They don’t look like they’re counting anything at all. They look and act so normal. And then I briefly think of how many thoughts I have had in the short time I’ve been on this bus and how many worries and fears I’ve had and I feel jealous that they sit there like normal, everyday people.

I’ve wondered if anyone has looked at me and thought of me as weird, or thought of me as unworthy to take up space on the bus, or any other kind of thought. I’ve wondered if they are judging me or making assumptions about me. Are they thinking I don’t belong here? Are they thinking I shouldn’t be here? Are they thinking I’m a fraud? Are they thinking I look like a bitch? Are they thinking that they hate me?

It makes me feel like a freak. It makes me feel like I’m a nutcase. And it makes me feel alone.

These people go about their day, seemingly without a care, and they work, and live, and function. They go out. They do things. They talk to people. They interact. And I think of my own day that has been filled with anxiety, panic attacks, fear, worry, and shame, and all that races through my mind from the moment I step outside my door to when I step back inside my door and I can’t help but wonder, “how do they do it?”

How do these people leave their homes so easily? How do these people just walk to their bus stops and subway stations like it’s nothing? How do they get on the transit and they’re only concern is if a seat is available and making sure they catch their stop? How do they manage to just take the bus? How do they manage to be around other people as if it’s nothing? How do they sit there and wait for their stop like it’s no big deal? How do they not worry, and wonder if this will be okay? How do they not worry what others are thinking? How do they not care? How do they not feel anxious if they will be okay? How do they not work to hold themselves up enough so that they don’t pass out? How are they able to sit there so complacent and not have a panic attack? How?

My excursions are plagued by any number of worries, thoughts, anxieties, and emotions, and sometimes it’s bad enough that I can’t even leave the house. But these everyday people, they seem to have none of that. They live and function normally. But how? How are they able to function without a thought? How do they function without anxiety? How do they get up and go about their day without worrying about everything?

I wish I could be an everyday person. I wish I could just go about my day and that’s it.

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.