It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Recently I watched the movie It’s Kind of a Funny Story. For those of you who have not seen this movie, it is about a clinically depressed teenage boy named Craig, who checks himself into the psychiatric ward of a hospital after contemplating suicide. There were quite a few things I learned from this movie:

  1. People think mental illness can be cured almost instantaneously. In the movie Craig check himself into the hospital in hopes of being given a quick fix to end his suicidal thoughts. He learns that this is not going to happen as depression can’t be cured overnight.
  2. A lot of people may not accept or understand your mental illness. Craig’s father is aware of why he checked himself into the hospital and about Craig’s constant struggle with depression, however he still places a lot of stress on his son. He does not realize that one of the reasons Craig was suicidal in the first place was because of this constant stress.
  3. Not all mental illnesses look the same. When Craig’s friends find out he is in the hospital, they are both shocked and confused. It was not apparent that Craig was suffering from depression and would consider ending his life. On the other hand, when Craig first enters the psychiatric ward, he sees another patient talking to himself about what seems to be nothing. He is quick to question who this man is, and informed that he suffers from schizophrenia.
  4. It is important to find escapes or activities which make you happy. While in the hospital Craig attend an arts and crafts class in which he begins to draw a map. He realizes that this is something he loves to do and plans to continue drawing once he is released as it helps him forgot about all his problems and worries.
  5. There are people who love and care about you. When seeing the hospitals psychologist Craig reveals that he did not actually attempt suicide because he knows he has his friends and family who love him. Throughout his stay he comes to realize how important these individuals truly are.

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Taking time off…Is it showing weakness??

Since when did needing to step away from everything for a while show weakness…Or does it?

When you come from an old school family, taking time off, stepping away from a situation or anything that involves time to think and reflect meant that you were doing one of two things…giving up or just being lazy. Why it’s believed I do not know. I mean in some cases I understand the rational behind it, you know if it was that I was at home day in and day out on by butt watching TV instead of going to work or doing something with my life, not having a purpose then I get it. But when you honestly just need a little break from the life of school, when you just can not handle the stress anymore and mentally just can not do it anymore when did that become a weakness.

In my family, there is this whole thing of mind over matter, to the point where if anything was wrong they would just insist that if I say i’m okay and keep telling my self I am okay than I will be okay…. And even though for somethings it worked, when it came to mental illness and depression, that wasn’t really the best way to deal with it. That’s just pretty much saying that my problems will just disappear if I try to ignore them. I guess before me and my struggle with mental illness, my family never really believed mental illness to be a thing, and there are still people I know that believe that mental illness is just a hoax, and that I am just over exaggerating and stuff like that. What are you to say to those people, the people that just take you as a joke or a fake, and act like your just putting on a show and that if you really wanted to you could just snap out of it and be “normal”… but what is normal??

As I have stated in a blog before, this year has been one of my toughest mentally and because of it, I think it would be best to take a break from school next year, even for just one semester to just step away and breath. I love school, I always have and I know for a fact that I will go back to school if I take the semester off, or the year because I love learning, but I do need a break. How are you suppose to explain to someone who thinks mental health is not a “thing” that I need to take a break from school for the sole purpose of my mental health, and that it’s not me being lazy or giving up but the fact that the state of my mental health is more important and it’s okay if it takes me an extra year to graduate. I guess I am just tired of having to explain myself, and it’s not even having to explain myself to my own family but its my friends and my boyfriends family as well. Why should I even have to explain myself! To this  day, when you say you have a mental illness a lot of people see it as a weakness, and I just don’t understand how? Why is something that you are struggling with all of a sudden become a weakness, why are we sometimes seen as a lesser person and how can we as a community over come this stigma!

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Roller Coaster

Image result for roller coaster quote
Sometimes it feels like I’m on a roller coaster that doesn’t stop, a series of ups and downs. As soon as things look up there’s always a 5ft drop.
The year after high school ended and going into college, I started becoming super close with my friend and her family who lived in my hometown, they were like a second family I guess you could say. Before I started college, even when she was at school, I’d be there with her parents and siblings. Most nights I went to sleep there, and most mornings I woke up there. It was like a second home to me. I spent every waking moment and chance I had with them. My parents during this time seemed rather annoyed that I spent all this time with them and not my family. During this time my depression and suicidal thoughts were on the rise. My “second family” was always there to support me, and even at one point brought me to see a counsellor.
Summer 2012 I had a falling out with these friends, this was difficult for me. Going from spending every moment with them to not at all was a big adjustment for me. I tried endlessly to work things out with them, but every time I did I made things worse. That summer, they ended up calling the police on me. I guess you can say when I tried to work things out, I was a little bit persistent with it. I’ve never been one to give up on people or let people walk away, even when they tell me time and time again to leave them alone. With summer coming close to an end and me moving to Peterborough for college, this was a positive for me. I’d have something to do, and would meet new friends. But as the school year started my depression and suicidal thoughts continued to climb. My “second family” eventually came around shortly after school started, on weekends I would go there. Slowly, the good started turning bad again with them.
With the end of first semester rolling around I learned that math and science wasn’t for me and dropped out of the pre-health program that I was in. I later applied to the Child and Youth Worker program for the winter semester.
Over the Christmas holiday marked my first suicide attempt that brought me to the hospital. I ended up over dosing on Tylenol and my sister brought me to the hospital. I spent a couple days in emerge, and a couple in the intensive care unit. This was a hard time for me over hearing doctors that I might need a new liver if things didn’t improve, and the concern my family had for me was really hard. I was so glad to be alive, it made me realize that I would never want to put my family through losing me. Eventually I was released from the hospital.
January 2013, I was back in school and meeting new people again. My parents were constantly on my case post-hospital visit and didn’t allow me to see my “second family” as much, along with that “second family” didn’t want me there as much. I think they were worried that things would go bad again. Slowly but surely, I lost them again. This was difficult but I managed to push through it this time, and even started seeing a counsellor at school. The child and youth worker program wasn’t for me either, but I applied to Police Foundations for the fall of 2013.
Fall fast approached and I started Police Foundations at Fleming College. I started making new friends, I got more involved in school, and my grades were well. Things were good, I had a group of friends at school that supported me, I found a program I liked and was happy with where I was at. But the roller coaster I was on went down again.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

Mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, it can happen to anyone at any time in their life. Sometimes, all we need is a little support and reassurance that we are not alone and that we can do this.

Here are 15 positive affirmations to live by when you live with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness to remind you that you are a warrior.

  1. Self-forgiveness is essential for self-healing.
  2. Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what can be.
  3. You are enough.
  4. It is okay to ask for help.
  5. It is a disorder, not a decision. Be kind to yourself.
  6. Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
  7. Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.
  8. You were given this life because you are strong enough to handle it.
  9. Pain is real, but so is hope.
  10. Always remember that the future comes one day at a time, and so does recovery.
  11. Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times.
  12. You are loved.
  13. You have a right to heal at your own pace – you are allowed to take your time.
  14. Whatever it takes. You can make it through it.
  15. Your circumstances don’t determine where you go, it merely determines where you begin.

 

 

Where it all started

*Trigger warning*

I’ll start with some boring background information on how it all started.

My childhood was for the most part normal, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at a young age which made my childhood a little bit different but not much. I didn’t let my disease define me. My parents fought and eventually got divorced, I was too young to remember this. My sister however has more of a vivid memory of it than I do.With that we moved away from Toronto to Kawartha Lakes. This is where my mom met my step dad. Overall, I had a pretty normal upbringing and would say I have a good relationship with my family, with the exception of my younger brother. My younger brother and I have not had a healthy relationship for as long as I can remember. He’s like the typical bratty teenage brother who thinks he’s always right and has rude come backs for everything. I try to tell myself that he’ll grow out of it.

I never had many friends, growing up I was the “outcast”, having 1 or 2 good friends.

High school rolled around and with that I met a more stable group of friends. Being a teenager isn’t easy and most of us don’t even know who we are at that point, add on mental health issues and it makes the teenage years even harder. It wasn’t until I was 15 or 16 years old that I realized I was “different”. A lot of my friends during this time were discovering their own mental health and I noticed they were resorting to self-harm. During this time I was facing relationship problems with my on-again-off-again boyfriend of 3 years. This made me depressed and down at times, so I decided to do what my friends were doing and resorted to self-harming in hopes of this helping what I was going through. Self-harming slowly became thoughts of suicide as time progressed, none of which I ever thought I would act upon.

Stay tuned my fellow bloggers,

Montie93

Mindsight

Over the break I completed the online educational training called “Mindsight.” This is an excellent resource created by a professor here at UOIT. The aim of the module is to reduce stigma by promoting awareness of mental illness, as well as providing a greater understanding of the basic signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses. Self-help strategies and those for helping friends, peers, and/or family members are provided. Community resources are also available through this resource. There are 10 different sections to this training: stigma, depression, anxiety, substance use, suicide, self harm, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, psychosis, and trauma. Once all the training and quizzes have been completed, a certificate of completion can be requested.

One of my professors mentioned this online resource last semester in class, catching my attention. I found this training very interesting and highly recommend it. So many people are affected by mental illness, and it is important to reduce the stigma surrounding it, as well as help those suffering in any way possible.

Here is the link: http://mymindsight.uoit.ca/

My Experience with Stigmatization

Stigmatization – the degrading attitude that discredits a person because of an attribute they have (in this case, mental illnesses). 

Stigmatization is the one thing we all learn about in school, the one attitude that can discriminate and make others feel helpless because of a certain attribute they may have. My experience with stigmatization is a bit different than what others may have, it has not directly happened to me, but others that I have been around.

I volunteer at a great government-run organization where I get to help children under 12 who have a wide range of mental health issues. I have the pleasure to volunteer with children who live with depression, anxiety, OCD, ODD, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and many other mental health related disorders. I get to know these children, I get to hangout with them, I get to listen to their hardships, their achievements, and their stories about birthday parties and school days. As much as I love this position, it can be hard at times because I get to know many children who are taught to hide and be ashamed of their issues.

Its sad to think children this young have been taught to keep quiet about their issues, to act as though they do not have them. I remember one pair of siblings who told me they weren’t allowed to tell their friends or family that they come to the organization – instead they tell their friends they go to a babysitter’s house. I’ve had another child ask me if he’s a bad person because of his diagnosis, and another laugh about how her parents tell her to lie to her friends about who I am (I guess I’m her “fake” cousin). These children are so young, yet are already taught that they need to “hide” a part of them, as if attending this organization is unnatural. This makes them feel as though their mental illness is wrong, is something to be ashamed of, and is something that you need to lie about in order to be considered “normal”.

My question is what is the big deal? Why is society so quick to stigmatize mental health issues – and why are parents teaching their children that having a mental health disorder must be hidden? These creative, smart, witty little individuals are being taught that their psychological disorders are restricting, rather than something that is completely manageable. A person is not defeated by a diagnosis; a person should not be labelled as their diagnosis; a person and his or her diagnosis are separate entities that live together. We need to break this cycle of stigmatization and ensure children, teenagers, and adults don’t have to be ashamed of their mental health. We need to stop labelling mental health issues as “abnormal”, because in reality, what is normal anyways?

 

Top 5 Ted Talks About Mental Health

To gain a better understanding of mental health and mental illness, I’ve spent a portion of my time simply researching about my condition, as well as others. I’ve found that medical journals aren’t always easy to follow and don’t always offer that comforting aspect you may be looking for. I’ve compiled some of my favourite Ted Talks that have helped me understand, accept and progress in my diagnosis.

One of the best ways to better understand mental illness if you aren’t experiencing it firsthand is to hear other people talk about it, and perhaps offer up information that allows you to look at it from a new perspective.

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How Does It Feel Taking Anti-Depressants?

I have Generalized Anxiety, Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder and this is my experience taking anti-depressants to cope.

Terminology & Definition: Generalized anxiety is characterized as extreme worrying almost every day; it is excessive and disproportionate about several areas of one’s life. A panic disorder is characterized as a psychiatric disorder where a debilitating fear and anxiety arise frequent, and without explanation. A panic disorder triggers panic attacks, and its symptoms are (but may not be limited to) pounding heart, sweating, shaking or trembling, shortness of breath, choking sensations, chills, hot flashes, nausea, dizziness, numbness or tingling sensations, fear of dying and fear of losing control. Many people fear that as a direct result from a panic attack, they will have a heart attack, go crazy, faint or embarrass themselves. Agoraphobia is an extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places, which makes it difficult to attend lectures and enjoy a social life.

So whats it like being a 20 year old female enrolled in university with high expectations and ambition with such a debilitating condition, the answer isn’t so simple.  It’s tough, however embracing my illness was the best decision I’ve ever made. Acknowledging what is going on is the first step to finding a stable balance, and getting a proper diagnosis is crucial because there are many reasons to explain why one could be experiencing symptoms of anxiety or panic. No two diagnoses are identical and no two conditions are identical – each and every person suffering from mental illness will experience and react differently.

Synopsis: I was diagnosed by my family physician with GAD and a Panic Disorder, she then recommended me to a psychologist for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). After five months of that, medication free, it was decided that I needed to explore the options of Anti-Depressants. I began on Citalopram (5mg) and graduated to the brand Cipralex, a form of Escitalopram (20mg) with the occasional Ativan when needed. After about a year on the anti-depressants, my panic attacks went from 6+ per week to 2 per month, or less. However, my panic disorder under control, my anxiety was not. From then my family physician consulted with a psychiatrist who recommended clonazepam, a benzodiazepine. I now take 0.5mg of clonazepam everyday along with my 20mg of Cipralex.

How does it feel? I have never felt more like myself in the past few years. There is so much fear surrounding anti-depressant usage, a fear that they are not going to be themselves, clouded or worse off in their condition. I don’t dispute this as a possibility; however it could mean that the medication isn’t the proper fit, or that it takes a bit longer to adjust and the side effects will wear off. So if prescribed, don’t be afraid to try anti-depressants because the potential negative effects, are often outweighed by the positive.

I have good days and bad days like anyone, and I’ve found a healthy balance with my medications, therapy and overall health.

I credit a large part of my success to not only my medications, psychologist, friends, family and boyfriend, but I also give credit to myself. I embraced this, never once thinking that I would become my diagnosis. I saw this as a challenge to become the best version of myself that I could be.

My advice to those who suffer from any mental illness – embrace it, laugh about it, joke about it, and become comfortable with it. It is a piece of you, and not one to be ashamed of. Advocate and teach those who don’t understand, because I promise you, you will find a way to live happily despite it.