Friday, January 30, 2009

Why a Light in the Dark?

Dear Night-Lights,

A Light in the Dark takes place January 31st at 8pm.

Why do we need an event like Light in the Dark?

For every tinder
that would make a spark

For every spark
that would be a flicker.

For every flicker
that would become a flame.

Make it bright.
Light the night.

I've lived with a diagnosis of a mental health condition for about 12 years now. In the 12 years of my experience living with this condition, so far I haven't seen any concerted awareness campaigns about mental health, nor really have there been any large-scale public events to help raise awareness about mental health issues.

Canadian apathy towards public education and awareness is simply astounding given the research findings that are reported below:

Some striking numbers:
The Globe and Mail reports that nearly 1 in 5 people will experience some type of mental health event in their lifetime, whether this is depression, psychosis, obsessive/compulsive behaviour, anxiety, and so on.

Recent surveys completed by Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) report that 50% of Canadians believe that "claims of mental illness" are just an excuse for poor behaviour.

25% of Canadians, according to the CAMH survey, report being afraid of a person with a mental illness.

You know what the sad thing is? Those people who make up that 25% statistic aren't afraid of "mental illness." The thing that 25% of Canadians are afraid of is the mythology of mental illness; the rumors and superstitions and half-truths that are circulated in the media. What is even sadder, is that those who live with conditions affecting their mental health have to live in communities where 1 out of every 4 people they see in a day might fear them.

I live day in and day out fully understanding that there are people in my community who might fear me. I live my life every day affected by the fear our communities have of those who have conditions of mental health. And can I be honest? It's not fun or easy or comfortable to live in a world where people fear you. In fact, it is very difficult, and it is very frustrating. When you live in a world where people fear you it is very difficult to get help when you are unwell, it is difficult to find a comfortable place to call home, and it is even more difficult to find a job, let alone keep one when your dirty secret eventually slips out.

Mental health is our last *dirty* secret...
Most of us know at least one person who has lived with a condition affecting their mental health, if we aren't living with one ourselves. Since so many of us know someone with a mental health condition, and since so many of us struggle to maintain a grasp on our own mental health, I think it's time we finally start talking about these things.

By talking about mental health and the issues surrounding mental health, we will finally be able to confront some of the problems that have been plaguing those living with mental health conditions.

Some of the "bigger" issues are:
access to proper treatment
equal educational opportunities
social inclusion
apathy towards public education which supports continued circulation of mythology
flawed legal systems

Some of the problems that plague those living with mental health problems are:
lack of financial support
difficulties with gaining stable and meaningful employment
unethical employer practices/policies
unstable supply of medication
difficulty finding safe and stable housing
pervasive social mythology that is perpetuated by media
unjust legal system

By introducing the annual Light in the Dark event, we aren't interested in solving these issues, or really even talking about them on an open stage at this point, what we are interested in doing is demonstrating to our communities and to our social and political systems that there is a foundation of support for those living with conditions affecting their mental health.

Those of us who understand mental health problems and the related issues know very well that these conditions leave us and our families exhausted. That is why we are encouraging a vigil on January 31st that takes place in the comfort of our own homes as we kick up our heels, relax on our sofas, and recover from our busy day and our complicated lives.

Those who live with issues that affect their mental health need to know that they are supported by their loved ones and by their communities. Lighting a candle is the simplest effort to let us know that we are welcome in the spaces and places that we hope to call home.

Let your light show!

Lighting my candle Jan. 31st and hoping you will light yours too,

More on Light in the Dark...

Dear Cold, Humbled, and Huddled Masses,

I have heard of an interesting event taking place January 31st:

A Light in the Dark: A silent stand in the night.

A Light in the Dark is a quiet show of solidarity and support for people living with a mental health condition.

Let a flicker of compassion become a fire of solidarity.
Light the night with love and hope.

January 31st.
8pm to 10pm or later.
Light a candle, put it in your window.
That is all you have to do.

Are you a mom, a dad, a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, spouse, or friend of a person living with a mental health condition?

On January 31, be a light in the dark, and show your support for the people you love and for the people who love you.

Light a candle, or put a small bare lamp in your window in a silent stand of support.

Stand up against dark mythology. Be a light in the darkness of discrimination.

Show your compassion, show your solidarity - Show your light. January 31. 8pm.

Stand up and let the light shine in.
With love,

Light in the Dark... This weekend!

Hey Lite-Brites!

Don't forget that this weekend is the 1st Annual Light in the Dark event!!!!

*January 31st from 8pm to 10pm*

Light a candle and place it in your window (away from curtains and window dressings!!!) as an act of solidarity with those who live with conditions affecting mental health.

Show your love!

Show your light!

Light the night!!!!


Monday, January 26, 2009

How to make friends

Dear Loneliest of Lonelies and Those Suffering from the Blahs,

Where I come from, it is winter. It is grey, for days and days, and it is enough to drive one batty! (If you aren't batty already, like me!)

I find that the best way to cure the Winter Blahs is to chase them away by doing things that are pleasurable.

If you like a warm bath, then I say indulge!

If you like to be among friends, then I say, pick up the phone, and invite some people over.

Now, I know, when caught in the grip of the winter blues, it is hard to peel yourself off the sofa and find the motivation to do something. But I suggest, with emphasis, that you *do* something. It will make you feel better... trust me. I *know* things, not many things, but some things.

If you are seeking friendship here is the best way to make friends... offer them some cake! Trust me. People like to come around when you offer them cake.

Possibly you will also cure the mid-winter blahs, which is a good side-effect to be sure!

Having my cake and eating it too,

Knowing Olivia...

Hey to the People who Like to Know Other People,

I was reading this blog the other day, and I came across this interesting list of 100 things you have/have not done.

It's possible that this little list will help you get to know me a little more, if you are interested. Feel free to copy the list yourself, and post it on your own blog.

The things I've done have been put in bold type. I've added a few comments to some of the items.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars - yeah... that was c-c-cooold!
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity - I'd love to do this, but it's hard to squeeze blood from a stone!
7. Been to Disney World - Sad to say, no. And now that I'm grown up, I don't care to go!
8. Climbed a mountain - Yeah, I wheezed my way up a mountain, tyvm!
9. Held a praying mantis - I have touched my friend's praying mantis tattoo... does that count?
10. Sang a solo - Sad to say, yes. I cannot sing. Will never, ever do this again.
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea - Over Lake Superior! So pretty!!!!
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child - Furkids count right?
16. Had food poisoning - Ugh.
17. Walked to the top of the CN tower
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked - Hell no!
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill - Yes, but this was before they created "mental health days."
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon - Not interested!
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse - When I was a kid... it was so cool!
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise - Toured the Mekong... does that count?
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person - Kind of tacky with the lights and whatnot.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language - Well, I tried. Sort of.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke - Norbang anyone?
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - Errr... See number 6.
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing - Fishing in Gawas Bay?
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie - I have been on a TV program...
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class - Yes! TaiChi! The art of Warrior Relaxation!
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited a gravesite where people from the Titannic are buried
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Great White North - I'm dying to go to Northern Canada!!!
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone - Surprisingly, no.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - Yeah, with no helmet! When in Rome, but never again!
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book - I'm working on this one as we speak.
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car - People can afford cars nowadays?
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - My dad did, and I watched. That one counts, right?
88. Had chickenpox - I say yes, my mom says no. It's an ongoing argument.
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - Define famous, but yes, I suppose I have.
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one - Not yet, cross my fingers!
94. Had a baby - Not yet, cross my fingers and toes with a double cross!
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Dead Sea
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Lots of Love,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wake Up Sleepers... It's a New Day!

Dear Sleepers,

Wake up, for today is A New Day.

I'm afraid to be overly dramatic, but I want people to understand what America represents historically. I want people to understand the message, the symbolism, of this day.

Long ago, and not so long ago, in lands ruled by monarchs, oligarchs, and idealists, citizens found themselves repressed and restrained from acting out their will and their beliefs. Some citizens sought relief from the oppression so that they could bring their ideas to light in the world. Others sought freedom from war torn lands that were raped of the fruits meant to sustain them. Even others sought refuge from the persecution and threats of imprisonment, torture, or death that hung onto their every action.

Rumors of a new land began to circulate among the oppressed; a land that is rough and untrained, but a land that is free.

The citizens of these lands, hailing from the four corners of the Earth set out in ships, and later on flying machines to find a place where they may have peace.

They came to their new land, built it up, and carved the path of progress in rocky and almost unwilling earth. Despite their labour, and their toil, a land was made. Cities rose. The nation rose. America was a nation invented by those fleeing oppression.

Recent history has caused many Americans and many observers of America question whether or not the leaders of the Free World remembered their first promise to the oppressed: America the strong. America the brave. America the free. Come to our land, and we will offer you a new life. You will be free here.

Many have wondered, due to recent events, whether or not America has shaped itself as the new Rome, a nation of freedom for a chosen few; a nation of oppression for those not lucky enough to have been chosen. Many have questioned, is the America of today the America of the free that our ancestors imagined?

Most certainly, the day we are in informs us that America is the land of the free, for a new president has been chosen; a president whose ancestors were once bound by the chains of servitude, a president whose father's fathers and mother's mothers carved a path in a new land of promise. A new president, who promises to uphold the virtue his ancestors laboured over, has been elected. A new president who promises to fight for the freedom of EVERY American has been elected.

Welcome, the poor, the huddled, the humbled, and the oppressed masses, to your New America.

Congratulations America.

With gratitude,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Aminal Luver

Dear Lovers of Aminals,

I have recently come across some disturbing information. Apparently there are people in the world who believe that people with a condition affecting their mental health should not be owners of pets.

What logic is behind this notion? Well, the logic is that while pets can provide companionship and love in the short term, they inevitably die, and their owners (remember, the mentally ill owners) will be so stressed from bereavement that a relapse is likely to occur.

To be honest, I found this logic a little strange. Number one, the logic denies the natural order of life: All things will die.

At some point a person living with a mental health condition (MHC) will have to confront the concept of death...

People age. Accidents happen. Life happens.

No one can be protected from what is inevitable.

And so I think of pets in the same way that I'm sure most parents do when they find themselves dealing with the similar issues for their bereavement-naive children; pets are a primer to help all of us deal with the concept of loss.

Wait! Don't get me wrong... I don't think that the only goal of a pet is to help people gain experience with bereavement.

Secondly, from experience as a pet-owner, animal lover, and as a person with an MHC, pets provide a lifetime of love, companionship, and joy to their owner. For some reason, in times of severe distress, when I found myself overwhelmed and unable to reach out to people, I was able to reach out to my pets. The pets in my life have always been there to soothe me, distract me, and entertain me whenever I needed it most. In exchange for their companionship and attention, I gave them good food, clean water, and a constant supply of belly rubs. Not a bad deal, I think, for either me or my pets.

When my first pet died, I had been living with my diagnosis for about 7 years. Did the loss of my furry friend cause me to relapse? No. She was sick. Her being unwell was very stressful for me, and it gave me comfort to know that she was no longer suffering. Did I cry? Yes. And did I learn something from that experience? Yes. I learned that it is okay to cry, and to cry hard, when you are very sad. I also learned that veterinarians are nice to sad people who have just lost their pets. And so are most other strangers you meet while you are a young girl, on your way home from the vet, crying your eyes out about the loss of your little buddy.

I also learned that the hole that your loved one left behind in death can be filled with other things over the course of time.

More than animals teaching about bereavement, they teach us about relationships and care, and they show us what unconditional love *really* looks like.

So the next time anyone wants to argue that pets cause too much stress for people with an MHC, you need to explain that the rewards are worth the loss - a loss that we all know is inevitable at the end of the day.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Submit to Occupancy!

Dear Readers of This Blog,

Do you want to get it off your chest? Have a rant about a social issue that has bothered you? Do you have an experience that you want to freak out about in a safe and anonymous way?

Submit your letter to and I will (likely) post it here.*

Restlessly waiting for your response,

PS. See the disclaimer crap below. Standard stuff.

*Letters that express violence or intent to harm will not be published. All names will be changed to protect and ensure privacy. I will not publish any information relating to contact information, and I prefer if such information is omitted from the content of the letter at the time of your writing. I respect your anonymity and will never contact you, nor will I ever publish, collect, or sell your email address. I reserve the right to edit letters as required (although I hope I don't find that I need to do any editing), but I assure that I will respect the intent of the writing and the integrity of the message.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Why Obama is Special

Dear Lovers of Humanity and Optimistic Ideologists,

We need to identify why it is so special that Obama is president. We keep saying it very ambiguously without articulating why this moment in our North American history is quite so important.

Historically persons originating from Africa weren't even considered human. They were considered savages. They were considered to be irrational beings, incapable of logical thought or even learning. And based on these presumptions, members of their culture and communities were enslaved, abused, and stripped of their human dignity. This is the history of their community, culture, and of their people. Well, it is one part of the history; it is the very very cruel part.

Some people still are sick enough to believe things like this today, sadly. And some people are even sicker in that they think that these ideas of hate and discrimination are "rational" enough to bring into the world through articulation, discussion, or debate. How logical is it that we find ourselves in a place debating the composition of humanity? How rational is it that we would use these sordid fruits of our debate to find reason debase and abuse members of our human species?

While I know that some pundits are interested in splitting hairs, breaking down Obama's origins into percentages and postulating how those origins have affected his life experience, the truth remains that every day he dons the shirt of his cultural experience, and a part of his experience is the history or histories to which he is tied.

We cannot ignore the truth of a significant part of Obama's collective cultural history. While he may not be living out that history at present, the river of that experience, of that oppression, flows through his body today. So for a person to rise from that part of their history, where they didn't even belong in the realm of rational autonomous beings, to come to a position of preeminence - the *leader* of the free world, by the way - is a little more than a special thing.

Not only has Obama risen from a history that threatened the lives of so many, he rose from a history that creeps into our present, poisoning every prospect and opportunity for not only this one man, but for every man, woman, and child who shares a part of him.

And so we need to consider the true significance of this event. Obama shares a history with a group of people who at one time weren't even considered human. And today, we have come to recognize him, respect him, and trust him to lead us into the most confusing times our nations have experienced.

America: place where dreams come true. America: where everyone is welcome. America: land of change, indeed. America: home of the free.

Barak Obama as president of the United States of America is much, much more than a "significant thing."

Hoping the promise of hope is real and keeping my damn fingers crossed,

Monday, January 5, 2009

Woohoooooo! News!

Dear Students with Loans,

For the record, my loan payment deferral request was approved.

I guess the letter that I sent them was enough. See the link below for more details about the letter and its contents. (I'm hoping the letter made more than one person laugh!!!)

Grrr... Student Loans and Poverty

I've gotten some calls about the bunny pimping. Seriously. O.o

Chuckling my way through indentured servitude,

Hoppy New Year!

Dear Revellers,

Alas, it is a New Year. For some of us, it is a new beginning. For some, a time of reflection. For others it is just another day.

I always find New Year's a bit of a mixed blessing. I try hard not to care about the New Year, but it's very hard not to. You see, I was born on the first day of the New Year, and so not only is there a lot of hype rolled into that special calendar year turn over, but there is also an element of aging and age-based reflections that get thrown into the mix.

And so I'm dealt with a bit of a one-two-punch every time this event rolls around.

As a combined New Year/Birthday celebration, some of my friends and I went out to dinner. Inevitably we all began summarizing our year, reflecting on our successes and failures, and outlining conclusions about whether the year was a "good" year or a "bad" year.

For the most part, my friends were positive or benign in their responses, but I answered honestly: I've had a horrible year. For me, 2008 has been the worst year so far in my experience. Considered as a whole, I struggle to find good aspects of the past year.

And I'm not going to rant on about why my year was awful, since some of it is described in this blog; but I do want to talk about the reactions my friends offered after my confession.

Most of them thought I was expressing resignation or sadness about my year. They cooed and said things like, "O, it can't have been that bad! Find something good in it! Don't worry, it will be better this year!"

And I think they made a mistake in assuming where those statements were coming from; I was not complaining or looking for platitudes. I was doing an honest appraisal of the last year of my life.

It sucked. It *was* depressing. I cried over the events of the past year. I tore my hair out, and beat my breast, and got lost in despondency.

I know my friends found my flat (and relatively negative) summary surprising. Surprising maybe because I didn't lightly gloss over the past, and speak only of the positive things, like so many of us are prone to doing. I was being honest, and sometimes, honesty, well... it makes others uncomfortable, I guess.

Despite the discomfort of my friends, it was important for me to be truthful about my experiences. Sometimes life is downright overwhelming, and I think it's important to admit that. And sometimes life is quite ugly, and I think we need to be honest with others about that too.

Pretending that things are great all the time does nothing for us as social beings. Perhaps keeping up illusions of a perfect life experience works in some cases, but I think in most cases, illusions can be destructive and counterproductive. How can people help you, or love you, or give you things if you never ever express a need?

Telling people that life has been difficult helps them to understand why I've been a little standoffish for some time. Explaining to my friends that I've spent a lot of time sitting alone in a corner, licking my wounds, enables them to understand that I haven't actually been a neglectful friend; I've just been working on some difficult problems, and that they should still call, even if I'm too tired or preoccupied to engage in meaningful visit.

And so yes, my year has been shitty. No, I've not been around much. And no, there's nothing anyone can do to fix any of it. Of all the things you can't do, there is still one thing you can do: You can continue to be my friends.

I guess there was one very positive aspect to the last year: My friends. My very kind, very loving, very caring, very understanding, and exceptionally loyal friends.

Cheers to you all! Drinks are on me the next time around!
Your bff who is keeping her chin up,

PS. I do predict that my next year will be immensely better than the last. I have some serious plans to roll out, and some interesting projects on the sidelines!!! Do I have a great job lined up yet... er... well, still working on that one!!!