This week from May 5th-11th is Mental Health Awareness Week. I was lucky enough to be asked as someone with lived experience to give two short talks to employees at Ontario College of Trades as part of their planned events for the week. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a trained public speaker so the level of nervousness I experience (on top of diagnosed general anxiety) is high. However, the cause of mental health advocacy is worth it every. single. time.
Part of what I discuss concerns the fact that I, like so many others, have had past work experiences where the level of understanding about mental health has been much less than desirable. Obviously frustrating when one of the elements that individuals find unhelpful is silence surrounding their experience. Social supports, even professional in nature, help move towards assisting the individual rather than stuffing their issues back into the closet.
It is so very heartening to see organizations and businesses like the Ontario College of Trades take part in these events. It means that the importance of opening up a dialogue surrounding mental health and encouraging additional awareness and supports to be put in place has not been lost in the fray. People at these organizations are striving for change. By bringing in people with lived experience and experts from the medical community, they spread knowledge to those who might not have had it previously.
What I Read: Then Again by Diane Keaton
…but I also have an extended family. The people who stayed. The people who became more than friends; the people who open the door when I knock. That’s what it all boils down to. The people who have to open the door, not because they always want to but because they do.
saving sanity wherever I am able to
reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
thinking about the now
listening to Kacey Musgraves
drinking homemade lattes
trying to make a shift
writing more.. about travel, mental health, and the process
dreaming of black sand beaches
donating my time
walking even when I don’t want to
trusting when I’m unsure
craving cinnamon and nutmeg
It’s National Poetry Month!
Now, the world of poetry is a beautiful thing because like most forms of art, it covers a wide range of topics. I find slam poetry to be especially powerful because of the emoting and tone that is connected to powerful words. Poems are able to tackle subjects that are not as easily tackled in day-to-day conversation.
In tribute to April being National Poetry Month, I’ve gathered five videos of slam poetry that touch on mental health.
Aaron Burstein – “Social Anxiety at 130 BMP”
Catalina Ferro – “Anxiety Group”
Neil Hilborn – “OCD”
Rage Almighty – “Depression”
Marge Johnson – “Mental Illness”
If you know of any other slam poems out there regarding mental health, comment with the link so I can watch it as well.
What I’m Reading: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me – A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney
I really enjoyed reading this graphic novel. Quotes wouldn’t be as effective without the accompanying illustrations so I’ve included two snapshots from the book itself.
I have been the one underneath that blanket a countless number of times. I would have loved to have read a book like this when I was a teenager. Something that not only would have made me feel less isolated in the depression itself but that showed how creativity could be used to battle it – to produce something that was both fun and emotionally relevant.
David Bowie: It isn’t possible to just choose one version. He has gone through so many incarnations. I try to take away his spirit of reinvention and exploration of unfamiliar and new things. When I was lucky enough to see him in concert, another fan leaned over to me and said, “You’re a Labyrinth kid, aren’t you?” (Maybe it was the fact that my hair was blue-black and styled with a crimper. Jareth from Labyrinth was my first exposure to Bowie and I’ve been hooked ever since through my own tales of eyeliner, pirate traditions, tight pants, and jaunty accessories.
Dolly Parton: big hair, bigger personality. I grew up listening to Dolly Parton and was enamoured by how sparkly she was. She just radiates joy, wit, and glitter. She’s unapologetically herself. She is an amazing song writer and has a genuine air of kindness about her. Not to mention, an amazing business woman to boot. I’m going to make a pilgrimage to Dollywood someday (a big part of this is outfit planning); I hope the gift shops have enough wigs and rhinestones to suit me.
Cyndi Lauper and Deborah Harry: Two musical ladies who again, are unapologetic for rocking out as their own selves. Between hearing Cyndi Lauper’s voice on the Goonies and catching a glimpse of the cover of “She’s So Unusual“, I was hooked. Debbie Harry was so rough around the edges but simultaneously girly as the front person for Blondie. Dyed or bleached hair? Colourful accessories? If that’s what being a grown-up was all about, sign me up.
Clara Hughes is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater and has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports. She is one of a handful of people and the only Canadian to have won medals in both the Winter and Summer Olympics. Clara is also dedicated to advocating against the stigma that is often associated with mental health issues. Having battled her own depression, she has not only been open about her struggles but in engaging communities in a larger conversation about providing more support for mental health.
& right now she’s doing a Big Ride all the way around Canada! The launch was earlier this month in downtown Toronto and I was lucky enough to be able to attend it and raise the Right By You banner high in support of all things mental health.
It was really inspiring to hear Clara speak before she headed off. The cycling journey to all the provinces and territories of Canada will be several months long and promoting more awareness around mental health. I was happy to hear that she’s speaking at a lot of schools and youth organizations because I think it is so important for younger people to know that there needs to be more compassion and less stigma about ending the stigma of mental illness.
& there she goes! The event itself was lovely. I got to meet some of my fellow Toronto volunteers! There I am, hiding in the back left.
And here’s a photo that my fellow Toronto Community Correspondent Casey snapped of us at lunch.
Gatherings like this are so important because not only does it bring recognition to a great cause but it also makes you realize that you are not only in these struggles; it is something that many people deal with on a daily basis and the less silence there is, the better.
See when Clara is coming to your area here! She’s already covered a surprising amount of ground; what an athlete.
Taking the train from Milan to Venice was relaxing. Train travel is such a nice way to rest, to get the chance to stare out the window and write a bit.
Being a gondolier was a male-only tradition until 2010 when the first female gondolier was licensed. That being said, a handful of women tried to become licensed previously but claimed they were treated unfairly in their various exams, and thus failed. Regardless, seeing the gondoliers with their uniform of striped shirts and straw hats paddling through the canals never got old for me.
Couple attach locks with their names written on them to the bridges swear eternal love and throw the keys into the river.
The Basilica di San Marco was another stunning piece of architecture.
And the Rialto bridge had a great view during the day and at night-time. It is the oldest of the four bridges crossing the canals.