The first step: Close your mouth, open your ears and heart, and listen to a person.

Video

Do not give us advice.
Do not tell us what to do.
The most important thing is:
Listen to us.
Let our voice be heard.

The answer to a question

Vancouver BCFor years I have honored, in silence, this season of endings and beginnings.

To share one’s own suicide attempt is harrowing; it brings up deeply polarizing emotions. There are many who believe that those who have committed suicide are selfish, mentally ill, weak, cowardly. These labels come from grief too heavy to bear. If you carry this stigma, who you are today is shadowed by who you were in a moment of losing your way.

On November 22, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, across the world women and men come together to mourn their heart-breaking losses and celebrate those lives that ended too soon.

Many will not take part in this community. Biologically we are wired for survival, and when someone attempts to die, executes that attempt and dies, the balance is disrupted. We celebrate, and rightly so, the resilience of the fighter who wins against all odds.

The healing […]

I needed to forgive myself. Forgive myself for not knowing how to go forward, forgive myself for giving up hope, forgive myself for being ashamed and guilty year after year.

I needed to forgive myself for not trusting my intuition and not holding up the flickering light of my inner resources when the shadows closed in.

I needed to forgive myself for an eviscerating eating disorder that broke me down and drove me to that night. I needed to forgive myself for the self-destruction of my body, forgive myself for believing that I was worthless and deserved all of the abuses at my biological parents’ hands.

I needed to forgive myself for not honoring how strong I had been, for having the courage to leave behind a biological tribe and find my place in the world.

I needed to forgive myself for having tried to take away the spark that is a divine gift, and I needed to forgive myself for hurting me, for hurting my soul already crushed by others. I needed to forgive myself for having not held myself up and refused anything but love, compassion and being seen.

Forgiveness brought me home; it allowed me to call back the part of me that had fled in terror during those three days in a coma; welcome back each beautiful and unique part of myself I had attempted to destroy — in heart-breaking parallel to those who had oppressed me physically, spiritually, and emotionally and attempted to break my spirit.

Source: On Being with Krista Tippett: Survivor’s Account
Contributor: Rebekha Cowell

From Illness to Independence

Bipolar

Source: International Bipolar Foundation

This week I will be posting a series of awareness to advocate for people who suffer mental illness. As much as I would like to discuss my experience, I would rather share what is happening NOW.

I want everyone to know that a lot of people are striving to be back in the main stream and live a so-called “normal” life with the help of caring people and  communities.

It pains me to read and hear that these people are called “selfish” because of the illness especially one committed suicide.

The other night, I was watching the news how a boy raised funds to help his friend received the operation his friend badly needed. His friend is suffering from cerebral palsy and can hardly move. He raised more than enough money for the operation. The main question for the boy was what made you do it.

His answer was: “If you see someone needs help, you just help them.”

Yes! Just help. It’s that simple from the mouth of a boy.

The world would be better if we can help one another.

Thousands of people with chronic mental illness live productive lives in Metro Vancouver thanks to the support offered by Coast Mental Health. The non-profit organization provides housing, vocational training and employment opportunities, and community resources to over 4,200 people with mental illness every year. In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 6 to 11) Coast strives to spark meaningful discussions about mental health.

Mental illness is a thief. It can rob you of your identity, take away your livelihood and isolate you from friends and family. It can leave you a shadow of yourself – alone and hopeless. And if diseases like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were not bad enough, add to that the pain of stigma and discrimination.

Coast Mental Health is a non-profit private organization that supports recovery from mental illness by providing intervention and care. From our meal and clothing programs and supported housing, we see restored dignity. And from our life skills training, education and employment programs, we see reduced poverty and increased security.

With the right supports, people can and do recover from these illnesses. Mental illness is simply another obstacle in life.

Find out what Coast Mental Health does to help individuals suffering from mental illness and homelessness, click here.

Source: Coast Mental Health and International Bipolar Foundation

 

Self-Disclosure: Doodling my way through CBT

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has three components thoughts, behaviour and emotions arranged in a triangle.  These are important factors in personal change.  The three sides represent the three aspects of my lives.  When one side of the triangle changes the rest also change.  When I change my way of thinking, I will act and feel according to my thoughts.  When I change my emotions, my actions and thoughts will change.  When I change the way I do things, then my thoughts and emotions will alter.

CBT

Sounds easy, right?  Not really.  In order for me to understand the psychology of CBT, I thought of three words that is the driving force of my whole being. These are faith, hope and charity.  Drawing the same triangle, I came up with this.

Theology of CBT

Then I incorporated the whole thing based on what works for me to get better.   I called this new and improved diagram the Theology of CBT.

CBT Combo

Of course, this is just for me doodling my way through a ten-week CBT course.

When CBT first came out in Vancouver, I was one of the guinea pigs.  I volunteered to be one of the subjects.  It helped me tremendously as well as the Faculty of Psychiatry.  Of course, familiarity breeds contempt.  I thought I got it all made and don’t need to carry on with the “experiment” to myself.  Soon, I fell out of practice and old habits returned; automatic thoughts.

Automatic thoughts are similar to a movie; a constant rewind of a scenario mostly negative.  I counted how many times an automatic thought came up in a given minute.  There are 60 seconds in a minute, I must have thought of it 100 times.

I took the course the second time around two years ago and the modules have much improved as well as the therapists.  The therapists are better trained, the doctors are well versed with the course and there are more participants.  I speak highly of this course for anyone who needs to “get” a hold of their own well-being.

I never called this disease as “mental” disorder.  I vehemently argue about this terminology.   I know it is a disease of the brain and I waited a long time for someone to speak about this until I heard in TED “Understanding of mental illness.”  This is a big relief for me.

Going deeper to doodling, a new diagram arose based on my love for trees and gardening.  This keeps me grounded.

cbt nature

Finally with all these knowledge and training, I realize that medication tremendously helps.  There’s nothing wrong with taking medication.  Insulin is for diabetics to control the disease taken for the rest of their life.  No stigma on that.  Antidepressants work well for my brain to balance the serotonin level taken for the rest of my life so I may live to the fullest.  Nothing wrong with that!