Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

My 1st letter to the editor!

theglobeandmail-logo

Today, I did something that I’ve never done before… After reading a newspaper article, I wrote a scathing letter to the editor!
Disclaimer: Although I did write the letter, it wasn’t actually scathing, nor even that harsh. (Sorry, I’m Canadian.)

One of the things bouncing all over my social media today during Bell Let’s Talk Day was an opinion piece published in the Globe and Mail on Jan 28th, “People with mental illness don’t need more talk” by Philip Moscovitch.

I don’t know Mr. Moscovitch personally, but after stalking browsing his online profiles, I see that we have a lot in common. We both live in Nova Scotia, we both really enjoy fermented beverages, and we both love to write. (And while he may be MUCH more successful at the writing-thing than I am, I figure I could give him a hell of run for his money in the fermented beverage category!) Perhaps most importantly, however, we’ve both been personally and significantly impacted by mental illness.

I’m not going to summarize his article for you because I want you to actually read it yourself. (Again, the link.) You will discover that it’s extremely well written and that his points are clear, concise, and CORRECT. Yep, I pretty much agree with everything he has to say. Why then, you might ask, did I feel the burning need to write a letter of rebuttal to the editor of the Globe? (Don’t worry, I recognize that I’m being overly dramatic.)

Well, here’s the gist of it… I agree with Mr. Moscovitch’s opinion about Bell Let’s Talk Day, but with an important proviso:

Yes, 24 hours of “talking” is not enough. While it’s fantastic that $7 million (CDN) will be raised today to support mental health initiatives, it still burns that Canada’s mental health care is so grievously underfunded that it requires this corporate charity.

HOWEVER, as I once wrote in this post, I’m okay with being a bit two-faced regarding #BellLetsTalk. I shamelessly happily shared and tweeted my butt off today, to make the most of what was being offered. I will also gladly continue to be a “dancing monkey” and give talks about my own mental illness, because every time I do, I save lives. This is not hyperbole. After almost every one of my talks, someone asks to speak to me privately and then discloses that they are in serious crisis. I then put everything on hold and help them find help.

I spend A LOT of time doing this “dance” and I do it all for free. And, on the odd occasion that I’m gifted with an honourarium (yes, even by Bell), I turn that money around to support the initiatives I know are more crucial. And while I certainly agree a colouring book in the break room isn’t what’s desperately needed, if it’s that’s only thing that’s being offered to me today, you can bet I’m going to colour the shit out of it!

Anyway, Mr. Moscovitch, thanks for getting so many people talking and thinking about the chasms in our mental health services with your excellent article. (You do WFNS proud!) Most importantly, however, thank you for advocating so well for your son and others who live with psychosis.

Just as you predicted, most of my conversations today were about “mental health”, but I have a mental illness and have come perilously close to losing my life because of it. Maybe it’s due to this commonality with your son, and because my family has never once stumbled on any of the many hurdles my illness has thrown at them, that I was so moved by your article. Honestly, the pure love from which it was written was nearly blinding.

Wishing you nothing but the best,
Stephanie

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Funny things my kids say #26

ferry

Yesterday, The Husband and the two boys were taking part in the Hometown Hockey activities that were happening on the Dartmouth side of the city. I had dropped them off earlier in the day, and after the festivities, they took the ferry across the harbour to catch a bus home. Our ferry boats are for foot and bicycle traffic only (pictured above) and aren’t large.

ET obviously couldn’t remember the previous times he had been on one, because last night as they boarded the boat, the 9-year-old asked his father…

“Is there a buffet?”

Not sure what kind of lavish cruise he was expecting for the 10 minute crossing.

Previous: Funny things my kids say #25

From Digby with love

digby-boats

I wrote this last night but it didn’t post due to a wifi glitch.

I’ve been busy over the last couple of months working on my fiction, which is great, but it means that I’ve neglected the blog. I’m spending tonight alone in a hotel room and I’ve just realized this is the perfect time to write a post. I have a few things on my mind and it has been far too long since I’ve put my thoughts down on paper screen.

First of all, you may be wondering why I’m all alone in a hotel room in Digby… so let me tell you.

I was invited down to this incredibly beautiful part of Nova Scotia to give a talk as part of an evening being hosted by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. Very timely because…

miaw

Tonight began with a talk from an expert, child/adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Jerry Gray, and then I followed with my story. As happens sometimes, I got a little choked as I spoke about my university suicide attempt (I’ll chalk it up to me being tired after a long day, work until 1:30 and then the three hour drive) but the audience was warm and receptive and I was able to continue after a deep breath.

After I spoke, Ryan Cook played a couple of songs. It was beautiful music therapy and closed out the evening perfectly.

https://twitter.com/MentalHealthNS/status/783436531008757761/video/1

He’s a super nice guy and incredibly talented. Plus, he’s a huge tennis fan so that endeared him to me quite a bit. All in all, a good night.

The other thing on my mind tonight is the recent decision I made to accept a nomination onto the board of The ALS Society of New Brunswick & Nova Scotia.

als

I’m incredibly honoured because, as you know from some of my previous posts, this is an association that is very close to my heart. At the same time, I really had to think long and hard about accepting the position.

As the name states, this is a shared organization between two provinces so there is a little bit of travel involved. Not a lot, but enough so that it will interfere a few weekends a year with our family life. Before I said yes, I needed to discuss it with The Husband. He was, of course, ready to support my decision either way.

Also, I was a little hesitant because I could already feel the weight of the position. I know how important the Society is in the lives of NS and NB families living with ALS and I had some doubts that I would be able to fill the role well enough. I’ve never been a “Director” before… what if I suck at it? What if I can’t do justice to the memory of the amazing people I’ve watched die from this horrific disease.

Well, I’d quashed those doubts as best I could and accepted the position, but until tonight I was still feeling a little nervous about my decision. That is until I learned that Angie Cunningham died.

Angie was an Australian former professional tennis player who worked as part of the WTA Player Relations and Operations group. I didn’t know her well when I was working on the tour, but whenever  I saw her, she had a huge smile on her face. I’ve heard she kept that smile until the muscles in her face stopped working.

angie

Angie was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Motor Neuron Disease) just over three years ago. I won’t tell you anymore of her story, suffice it to say that her death today has put all my hesitation to rest. I want to play a bigger role in the fight against ALS, I think I’ve NEEDED to do more ever since I had to give up my position in neuromuscular research four years ago.

If you are wondering why, just take a few minutes to read this interview she did earlier this year. For those of you who haven’t been close to this disease,  it will give you some idea of the terrible toll it takes.

Well, that wraps up my musings from Digby. I’m tired and I have the long drive back to the city in the morning. I’m actually really looking forward to it because it is just so damn beautiful this time of year.

fall2

Goodnight everyone.

Rain, rain, go away…

Image: CBC

Today in Halifax. (Image: CBC)

The rain kept away the crowd… I’ll assume there would have otherwise been a crowd… but my talk today at Saint Mary’s University went very well, nonetheless. It was the opening of their Mental Health Awareness Month and I was giving the keynote address.

Several of the students in attendance were members of the university’s new initiative, the SMU Healthy Minds Team. This is a group of student volunteers who will work throughout the year to raise awareness of mental health issues and help reduce stigma. Because these volunteers made up the majority of my audience, I tailored my talk to them and spoke directly to their task. This actually made my presentation better.

If there is one message I want to get across to this young population, it is that it is okay to need help. This is the message that I needed to hear, but didn’t, when I was at my lowest point.

The same way you would go to the doctor for a persistent cough, you should go to the doctor for a persistently low mood. Depression is a medical condition. It may not always need medication, but it does require medical attention.

Today was a great day, even with the torrential downpour, because I connected with these bright and engaged students. They even asked if I would come back and talk with their group again.

I told them I would, of course, in a heartbeat.

What would you tell your younger self if you could?

A beautiful day

HfxSailboats

It is a beautiful day in Halifax and I was lucky enough to spend part of it biking around downtown. Usually, on a day like today, I would miss the best part of the day stuck inside the hospital, but today I was booked to give a talk over my lunch hour. And, lucky for me, the conference room I was in had a bit of a view of the harbour.

Today I spoke to a group of people (most from the NS government, some in from Ontario) who are training to become trainers of the Working Mind program. They are taking part in a week-long training program and I was thrilled to be their “lived experience” speaker.

I think the talk went very well and I was delighted to have a chance to chat a little bit with some of the folks afterwards. It is always wonderful to hear that my voice has touched them in someway. I even got a couple of hugs!

It was a great day for me personally… lots of sunshine, good exercise, and speaking up for mental health!

Hope you had a good day too!

Reaching out and saving lives

World-Suicide-Prevention-Day-2015

Today in Canada …
11 people will end their lives by suicide.
210 others will attempt to end their lives.
77-110 people will become newly bereaved by suicide.

It’s World Suicide Prevention day. For those of you who don’t know why this is an important day for me, you can read this post, My fish are dead.

Since this year’s motto is

Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives

I figured today was the perfect day to give an update on what I’ve been doing with my days off – I’ve been taking meetings and booking speaking engagements!

The next one is in a couple of weeks, I am going to be the “first voice” speaker at a Government of Nova Scotia mental health training program. It will be a session where I discuss my personal mental health and how it affects me in terms of my job and workplace.

Then I have two dates booked with Saint Mary’s University. They are having a mental health awareness month in October and I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker at the official opening and also to appear as a panelist at a session later in the month.

My most recent meeting was with The Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Also in October, I will be giving a presentation to their student body. This talk will focus on mental health self-awareness, awareness of peers, and the importance of seeking help.

These university talks are very exciting for me because this was the age I was at when I tried to kill myself. My goal is to reach one young person with every talk.

While I’ve been preparing for these presentations, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and I’ve realized something important… Maybe I’ve lived such a full and successful life, not in spite of my depression, but because of it.

If this is true, and I really believe it is, then I have a responsibility to embody this year’s motto and will continue to seek out, and accept, whatever speaking opportunities I can. So far, so good!

Have any suggestions for me?

After Freshly Pressed…

Image: Tim Krochak

Image: Tim Krochak

Hurricanes are usually downgraded to tropical storms by the time they reach Nova Scotia, but in 2003 a category 2 hurricane hit us square on. Hurricane Juan at was peak intensity for 24 hours and Halifax was heavily damaged. (Not Hurricane Katrina kind of damaged, more like Hurricane Sandy damage.)

The morning after, Haligonians crept out of their homes to find trees down, cars smashed, and silence…

An eerie quiet had settled over the city. There was no power, roads were closed and only the Tim Hortons at the hospital was open. People wandered the streets pointing out damage, whispering sympathy and discretely taking pictures.

It was the literal embodiment of the proverb, “There is always calm after a storm.”

I have received more hits in the last two days than I ever have in an entire month. My “likes” and “follows” have skyrocketed and my comments are spilling onto multiple pages.

I’m now a little worried about the calm that will settle on this blog after the Freshly Pressed storm has dissipated.

I’m not being negative.

I’m ecstatic to have been selected and honestly never dreamed it would happen. I’m especially thrilled that it was this post that made the grade. I have received a tidal wave of support and I hope that one or two people may even have read something that has helped them.

I’m just a little confused where things go from here.

I’d really like for some of you stick around. I know it was my depression that got you here but I really am so much more than that. I’m also weird lists of 11 things, sappy nostalgia, and snippets of my family’s lunacy.

I’ve heard of the phenomenon where good blogs have shrivelled and died after the Freshly Pressed dust has settled. That the pressure of follow-up was just too much and bloggers have fled in panic.

While I admit I have no idea what to post next, this is really no different from my usual process. Hopefully one of the boys will crap his pants in a funny way and I’ll write about that.

See you then!