I started and deleted a dozen posts tonight.
You’ve rendered me speechless.
I love you all <3
I started and deleted a dozen posts tonight.
You’ve rendered me speechless.
I love you all <3
P.s. Oh I forgot to add. Lowes has extras for the tent so the money leftover will be used towards a stabilizer & some anchors so we don’t blow away, if it looks like that what we need.
Mental Health. We have to continue to talk about this every day. We need a separate mental health minister, we need a separate mental health emergency ward and treatment plans for every unique person for each step of the way. We need follow up. People with poor mental health are not capable of making changes on their own without support and follow up. Canada doesn’t have a mental health plan. There is no way to navigate the system because there is no system. There is no record of my mental health history that my doctor can see that would include all of my mental health history. Every diagnosis. Every prescription. Every ER visit. Every treatment option, it’s actions and results. Notes from Doctors, Counsellors, and all the Not for Profit Mental Health agencies that are desperately trying to glue together a broken system. There needs to be a system that provides us with real options, a path and a plan. Sigh. There’s more… for another day.
P.S. If we could fix the mental health system there would be very little homelessness and a huge decrease in crime. I promise.
#2. How do you that? How do you just walk right past that girl crying without asking if she is ok, or make an elderly man stand on the bus rather than offer your seat? How do you tell your children to be kind to others and then start bashing over people on the internet?
I’m trying really hard not to judge you but I’m clearly failing.
I guess because I am trying so hard to be a better me because I am clearly seeing the positive outcomes from my work, I just can’t be comfortable around people who would prefer to judge, whine & complain from their stagnant lives. How are they not curious about learning and doing new things? Can’t they see that their whining is just propelling them backwards when all we want to do is to cheer them on and rise together. Again, sigh.
I’m an opinionated little Miss Saucy tonight and I don’t apologize. I wanted to write about how much I love you guys and the exciting sequel to the tent story but those stories will have to wait. I need to get in some painting time. Tomorrow is a circus with errands, vets, visit with a mentor and then I’m doing the photography for a literacy Learner’s awards somewhere… St. Thomas?
Thanks for listening. I feel better now that I got off my chest. You guys are good friends. <3
P.S. You’re my favourite!
UPDATE: Wooo hoo! The goal has been met! In just over a week you helped me raise $500 for this awesome tent and I am so very very thankful! Honestly I am still shocked that I could raise money for a tent… I should try selling tents instead of art. 😉 You have all been so kind and I promise I will make it up to all of you my being as awesome as I can and be a caring Londoner and those of you who donated will get some special mail from me in June. Be patient! It will be worth it! I’ve got a sappy post for you in my head but my printing order came in today and I want to just stare at it for a few hours and be proud of myself and pat myself on the back. You are helping me make my dreams come true. I’m proud of all of us. <3 Thank you, again and again. I wanna hug everyone of you. (But not in a creepy way)
P.s. Stay tuned for a possible story in the Metro about our tent story!
Between all the outdoor art shows I have this year, and events I am planning for @TweetUpLdn*, it became clear that I needed a good tent with 4 walls but all the tents that were suitable were way out my price range($0) and the operating budget for @TweetUpLdn is about -$12 currently. I scoured Kijiji and asked around but couldn’t find the tent of my dreams until I spotted this one on the Costco website.
A friend on twitter suggested I tried crowdfunding and before I even had time to google what that meant, people were offering $10 donations! I muddled about with a few crowdfunding sites before I remembered I had my own ecommerce set up and could do it through my website!
I’d like to raise $500. The tent costs $289.99 plus tax and the remaining balance, if any, would go towards printing costs for the new London postcards I am making! For those who are so sweet as to donate, not only will they get my undying love for life, as many hugs as they can handle, they will also get a hand written, snail mailed, art postcard, thank you from me! (By the end of June)
(BTW I’m super not techy. Please put your address in the message box so I can send you your postcard, and because I can’t figure out how to make it ask you for that info.)
Thank you for supporting the arts!
(and I really mean that!)
* @TweetUpLdn is a social group for people from London to meet up with fellow tweeters in a variety of events. Follow us on twitter!
As of now (5/27) only $110 more needed to meet the goal! Thank you awesome people!! <3
Let me begin by saying that I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv. My suggestions for how to live a more balanced life are based solely on my experiences with what resources I had. If you have more money than me you can skip ahead a few years by getting a good psychologist and going weekly. If you are living in poverty, this plan will work well for you. That’s how it was created. Also, I was living in the land of dial up when I was doing my initial research. Once I moved to London and found the internet, and then learned not to believe everything you read on the internet, (except this blog… it’s for real) it became easier to find resources but not easy enough for a person in distress. There’s no clear map for mental health help in London. That needs to change. In the meantime, take my advice instead. This is the super short version. If you ever have a spare week, I’ll tell you the long version.
Eat well – Seriously. Eat regularly so your brain will function properly. Blood sugar levels out of whack can make you grouchy/dopey. Watch what you put in your body. Be good to it. I’m going to add in here that I think that if you have a mental illness and you are drinking, you are making your own trouble. Co-current disorders are very common so luckily there is lots of help out there for you to quit drinking! If you insist on keeping drinking then make sure your doctor knows so he can make sure your medication can handle that.
Sleep Well – My peak hours are the middle of the night but if I stay up late… I sleep in late. I get grouchy if I don’t sleep enough and I am the queen of naps. But be careful! Too much sleep will lull you into a depression and that’s a comfy place to stay. Don’t do it!
Exercise – go for a walk. In my dark years I was terrified to even leave the house. I started small. The first day I walked to the end of the driveway and back. The next day, one house further, then the corner and soon I was walking 5km a day in the winter! (not barefoot but it was uphill both ways) Walking will energize you, not tire you out. Trust me.
Music – Music will change your world. Start today making a list of all the songs that make you happy & dancy. Play those songs anyday you feel blah and you have an instant happy dance party. Also make playlists for calming your mind and any other moods that need it. DO NOT make a depressing music playlist. Music is very powerful and can drag you places you don’t really need to visit everyday. Save those adventures for when you are stronger. P.S. DANCE
Develop a good routine so that when you are having downdays these things will come easier. If you take meds, set a daily alarm on your phone. I’m not going to say anything else about meds now because it’s a whole nother blog post. (Spoiler alert: There is no magic pill) Keep a mood journal to make it easier to see where you are & to show your doctors. It’s smart to write in your meds, how much you slept, what you ate, exercise etc. I’ll get you some samples if you need one. Make time for yourself daily. If you are at home all the time, make yourself leave the house daily.
Get back to nature. Hug a tree. Sit in the park. Camp. Hike. Garden. Anything. Nature is the world’s free medicine. OD on it.
Talk Therapy – Seems so easy eh? The system is screwed up. The very best person you can have on your team is a good psychologist. Unfortunately they aren’t cheap and OHIP doesn’t cover them. They do however cover Psychiatrists, but psychiatrists don’t want to chat with you. They are primarily for diagnosis and prescribing treatment. ( usually medication). Many a frustrated mental health consumer leaves frustrated expecting help and leaving with a prescription for more of what they don’t want. If you were patient enough to wait out the list you may be fortunate enough to have a counsellor through another mental health organization. Good for you. I made the mistake of not putting my name of lists thinking I’d be “fixed” before then and then having to muck through in my own way. My advice? Take all the free counselling you can get from trained people. Be very careful about peer run support groups. They can be well run or it could just be a big whinefest and that is NOT productive.
Other-kinds-of-therapy – I paint and write and dance and sing and hug people and volunteer and twitter… Doing things that make me happy are my therapy. Now is a good time to stop thinking about how shitty you feel and focus on something else!
Avoid negativity. When I told people I was doing this about 10 years ago, they told me it couldn’t be done. You can’t ignore it completely but you sure don’t have to encourage it by welcoming it in! Avoid whiners, negative and angry people. Just choose not to be part of it. You can’t filter it all out but every little bit you do… lessens your stress. 🙂
Most important: The hardest thing for me to accept was that I wasn’t always in full control of my actions when I was manic and I did not like that feeling one bit. Fear of mania (there’s pros & cons) lead me to ask all my close friends and family to let me know if they felt that I was becoming off balance. I know I get angry at the time but it smacks me back into a reality check. Being balanced is my highest priority. It’s only had to be mentioned to me 3 times in the last 4 years, which was enough to make me force a balance. That’s very good news.
These are really just touching the tip of the iceberg and I know I forgot some so I will write more as the topics pop in my head. I know that readings other’s stories about their mental health journeys really helped me and I hope I can help others.
Have a happy Mental Health Week and be good to yourself & others.
It’s Mental Health week and I wanted to share my story but to be honest it’s more book length so I picked a chapter’s worth.
To be honest, my mental illness and I weren’t always friends. Before I knew the name, bipolar, I was terrified of the unknown ugliness in me. Once we were formally introduced I promptly tried to control my relationship with my mental disorder and being as rebellious as it is.. it fought back. Skip ahead a few chapters and I found I needed to listen to my body and accept bipolar for who she is and learn to live in balance with her. (Yeah… bipolar is a she in my mind because it’s part of me and I’m a girl) Fast forward to today, I have learned to accept some crap (like how I need my friends & family to let me know when they think I am off balance) and I have learned to use the gifts bipolar gave me! Now I have to add in here that I am a little more fortunate that most because I also have a brain injury and the combination of a brain injury and a mental illness makes for one freaking amazing mind. As you can imagine, having an outlet like my art has been great therapy and has given me purpose.
When it’s midnight and others are sleeping, I’m cooking up food, painting a picture or 3, starting several blog posts and jotting ideas onto sticky notes and file cards. When it’s 2 am and you get up for a drink of water and to go to the bathroom, I’m finishing up a proposal for a project, researching grants and daydreaming on art supply websites. I can get more done in 5 night time hours than 8 daytime. That’s when my brain is peak. Sadly I don’t get to stay up all night very often and honestly I hate missing any sunshine because I need it to thrive… still… to get back to myself I need my middle of the nights to be free to be me or I am terribly unbalanced.
I’m lucky in another way. Everyone’s balance is different but their “normal” state usually lies right in the middle. Not happy or sad… they just are and can go up and down. My natural state is one of hypo mania. That’s not manic but a step above happy. More often than not I am cheery, creative, talkative and super excited about life in general. That’s really lucky. It takes very little to excel that, so I have to be careful not to over stimulate myself.. ex. no drinking. My depressions have gotten easier over the years because I have learned how to avoid making them worse and I have a great support system which I worked hard at creating and it took time. Start now.
In the last 10 years I got a brain injury, bipolar disorder showed up, lost my job, house, relationship, went bankrupt and have lived well below the poverty line since then. I’m fine now but can only imagine I went throught the hells I went through… oh and trust me… it was hell… so that I’d be more empathetic to others and be able to help them find the peace with their mental illness and learn to live with it. Maybe they will never love it like I do. Most people have a harder time with it. I was lucky to have good people and resources on my journey. Not every day is cheery for me and I won’t pretend it is. But I’m that much further in the understanding process and once I stopped treating bipolar like it was the only thing in my life and found a way to work it into my life… we both became happier.
I stopped doing mood journals years ago. I have been, for the most part, well balanced over the past 4 years or so. I’m not stupid though. I know that one disappointment, I can handle. Several could lead to a depression. I know a new relationship can cause a mania and when to stand back. I know how to get myself back balanced and when to push myself. I still have a hard time with anxiety on just about a daily basis but I am learning to ignore a lot of that and push forward. I celebrate my successes.
My hope is that others will be as comfortable with bipolar as they are with the colour of their hair or the way they smile. It’s just part of you. Get over it. Learn to live with it. I know it’s many steps away for some people. They will have to keep reading my blog. All my secrets will be revealed.
So to sum things up. Most of my awesomeness comes from being bipolar and every person that I have met that is bipolar, also has a ton of awesome in them! Therefore Bipolar=Awesome.
We’re all so quick to judge, aren’t we? I know. It’s a terribly hard to get out of the habits we have known all our lives. Labeling people is how we’ve always described each other in the past but really… these labels are hurtful. It drives me nuts when people use sweeping generalizations like “All Americans are__________” or “Men are all _________”. By putting that group of people in a box you are missing out an opportunity to really know someone. Not every young mother on the Dundas bus is a highschool drop out on Ontario Works and I’d bet you a million bucks that not every person living on the streets has a drug or alcohol problem. Even if they are, don’t you think their story would be fascinating? Not everyone who speaks well tells the truth or lies, 100% of the time. There is no rule because everyone is different. It’s impossible to be able to know what someone is going through because there are so many fluctuating variables but if you could kindly get over yourself and take a second to even try to just connect with someone on a human level you’d see that it’s worth your precious 5 minutes.
Ever see a stranger and you’re just drawn to them but you’re not sure why? I don’t mean that mysterious blonde in the pick up bar sending you drinks (although that could work too) but it could be male or female and you just know that the 2 of you are meant to connect for some reason? Most people run away from that awkwardness. I used to too. Now I walk towards it and figure it out. It’s lead to a hundred cool stories.
My parents are exceptional people and I was raised well in a home full of unconditional love. They taught by example. They never hesitated to help those in need in anyway they could, and so therefore, I believed that’s the way the world was. When one of us is hurting, the others step in to lift them back up. It wasn’t unusual to have someone or an entire family come stay with us. We’d often had the students my parents taught literacy skills to, over for dinner… and of course I love to tell the story of an American Thanksgiving with so many friends joining our family but still an empty chair and my mom looking seeing a man walking down the street and just looking towards my dad and out he went to invite the man in.
In the summer of ’87 I worked for the Easter Seal Society at a children’s camp in Craigleith and as often as I could I would ask for the job of being on the bus back to Toronto to drop off the kids, spend the night, and then take the bus back to camp the next day with the next batch of kids. I had all but ignored the fact that I was born in Etobicoke and spent my first 7 years in Toronto suburbs, Collingwood was my home. Still, I loved going to the city and seeing all the different people, places and things that couldn’t be found in my small town. People fascinate me more than anything and knowing that each person has a unique story… well… I want to hear them all. I was most curious about the people living on the streets. How did it get to be that way? What events happened that led up to them living in the streets? At the end of the summer I drove down to the city to visit with friends and told them I wanted to find someone living on the streets and take them out to lunch. I was faced with wide eyed stares and comments like ‘Are you crazy?” and “Be careful… that’s not a very good idea” so I dropped the subject but on the way home I drove down by the Eaton Centre to look for a guy I had seen a few times. I must have driven around for about an hour and didn’t see him but finally parked the car and decided I would take the first person to lunch that I saw that looked like needed it. I didn’t do that. The first few people I saw kind of frightened me and then I saw a guy that was about my age and huddled in a doorway. I worked up all my courage and marched over there and promptly asked him for directions to a restaurant that was just a few doors down. He was polite and smiled and pointed to it when I asked so I asked him to join me. He looked at me cautiously but I told him I just wanted some company while I ate being eating alone downtown kind of freaked me out. He agreed. I can’t remember all of lunch because most of it was a blur of me not trying to cry. He had moved to the city to live with a girl. Things were fine for a while but he started drinking too much she kicked him out and he had no savings, no place to go. His family and school friends didn’t even know he was on the streets. He told me stories that broke my heart, mostly of others he had met on the street. After lunch I gave him all the cash I had and my car blanket and gave him my phone number on a slip of paper and told him to call collect (which I am sure my parents would have loved) but I never heard of him again. I didn’t tell anyone about it for many years. I didn’t want to hear “Be careful” again.
For some reason or another I was born with an excessive amount of empathy. I find it very hard to know that someone is going through a rough time when I could possibly be a person that made a difference. This was especially hard for me when I tried to run an online support group for people who are bipolar. I wanted to help everyone feel better. Now I know that support groups should be run by mental health professionals. I realized that after spending numerous nights talking to suicidal people that while I was a great comfort to others, I couldn’t process the pain I took from them. It didn’t take long to burn out.
Still, I needed a way to feel helpful. I know how much a strangers generosity could make a difference. Even something as simple as a friendly smile could change a person’s day completely. When I started coming out of the dark years of depression, my mom reminded me that volunteering is a great way to get over depression mode, help others, get out of the house and she was absolutely right. As always. When I have been mentally/physically able, I have made the point to do as many nice things for people as possible. It started out as doing one nice thing a day but that proved to be far too easy so I just cram in as much nice in the day as I can. Sometimes it’s as little as sitting in the park with our golden retriever so the seniors can come up and pet him and tell me stories of all the dogs they’ve had and missed. Somedays it’s sitting in the hospital for 9 hours with a friend. Somedays it’s hunting the doorways downtown in the rain, looking for people who need an umbrella or tarp. Can you even imagine living in the streets in this rainy spring weather? Me neither. But my friend can.
Cat-Dog-Guy (not his real name) caught my attention 3 times in one day last week so I made a point of talking to him the third time. It was about 8:30 at night, pouring rain like it had been all day, and he was carrying all his belongings in a bulging backpack and had a cat on a leash perched on his shoulder and a friendly puppy on another leash. Now I’ve seen many people down on their luck over the years but Cat-dog-Guy caught my attention for a few reasons. First off, he’s the same age as my kids. Secondly, you don’t see a lot of people living on the streets with pets and thirdly, when I looked in his eyes I saw pain like I had ever seen before. I have made a point to see him almost everyday this week (that’s a story for another time) and it’s been a big focus in my life, trying to find the services and resources he needs so I can provide him with options. My concern is that is can’t make any mentally sound decisions when he is constantly wet, cold, sleep deprived and isn’t in a safe place. My hope is to find him a place where he can have his pets and have a few days to get back to himself and look into his options. He’s very shy and has taken a few visits to open up but I can’t see he has a kind heart. He’s never asked me for anything and cried when I offered him anything. This is not someone I want to still see living on the streets next winter. Or anyone for that matter. I’m not in a financial position to help him and because of my living situation I can’t even have him in to my place so he can dry up and nap and it was becoming very frustrating for me to not really be able to help other than talk to him & pack him a lunch. Trust me when I say that if I had a place of my own I would have had him there already. (insert “Oh Cheri… be careful” here) Then I remembered that I knew people, and the people I knew, knew people and surely they would know of resources that I didn’t. One by one I asked friends what they could suggest and more often than not I was met with “Oh Cheri be careful!” Be careful? Oh Jeez. I never thought of that! After so much crying and talking to my mother & daughter they suggested I keep using my resources and slowly I was getting more messages of helpful support than “Oh Cheri…” messages.
I haven’t seen Cat-Dog-Guy in 2 days and I am hoping that it’s a good sign that he’s found someplace safe to get warmed up and have a chance to think clearly. That’s all I wanted for him this week. A chance to get out of the rain. Unfortunately none of the homeless shelters are able to take him with his animals, and he won’t leave them and I don’t blame him. They are very close. If you know of anything… any way you can help… please let me know. Even if Cat-Dog-Guy is fine now, we’ve found this gap in the system that needs filling. How can we fix that?
Back to being nice, I know it sounds super cliche to ask you to challenge yourself to do one nice thing for others every day so instead I am challenging you…no, wait.. I triple dog dare you to do 3 nice things a day. You won’t believe the spin off. You could have 3 done by the time you get to work. For example:
1. While scouring social media, “Plug” a local business, organization or community person
2. Listen to that person’s story at the bus stop. Really listen and ask a question. I always ask people what they love about London if nothing else is obvious. Make conversation and you will get something out of it.
3. Pay it forward when you go for coffee
Super bonus points:
Pack extra lunch to share with your friends/ other hungry people.
Stand up for someone being treated unfairly
Some people thinks it’s bragging when they tell about the good things they have done. I don’t see it that way at all. I see that it plants the idea for someone else to do the same. So if you do something especially clever please be sure to share it with me and others so we can try it too!
I apologize to those of you who appreciate fine writing. This is not it. My brain is too cluttered for that but I really wanted to say something. I feel better now. I’ll add a pretty picture to make up for it.
P.s. Anyone who has read to the bottom of this blog gets a free hug.
I know, I never blog 2 days in a row. I’m not going to say that I hope to blog more often because that will jinx this streak for 3-9 months. I’m doing it for 2 reasons, that as it turns out, are the same reason.
Firstly, blogging is a lovely distraction from whatever-it-is-I’m-“supposed”-to-be-doing. (My wordy friends are cringing at my atrocious grammar by now.) It’s true that blogging more often is on my to do list but it’s certainly nothing I need to be doing in the middle of the night. I want to start writing more here, as a form of therapy, a way to save my facebook friends from my rants and a way to contain some of my thoughts.
Tonight, I should be painting. That’s the second thing I wanted to write about. Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. Those of you who know me have heard me ask for years “When will I know I am an artist?” or tweet “Okay. I’m ready to get noticed now.” Well… I guess that’s now. This comes will so many emotions but pride being right on top. I have had so many great opportunities in the last few years and each one building a stronger base to build on. New experiences, connections, people.
Right now I am finishing up my obligations throughout the community (well… for the most part) and putting my focus towards my art. I have been given the incredible honour to be one of the artist featured at Banting & Friends VI, a fundraiser for Banting House. This is a fancy affair and just being asked challenges me to improve the quality of my work as well as try to work within a theme since it will all be displayed together. I have chosen to create new works for the event. I’m leaning towards watercolours & ink but I will also have prints of some of my acrylics there as well. Funny… now that I’m said it to you guys I feel a bit better about it. Not so nervous about not measuring up. Thanks guys… you’re great listeners.
I’ve always loved you best.
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I've lived in big cities, small towns and everything in between and now I live in a forest. I love Ontario Canada and could never imagine living anywhere else. Read More…