I've been transitioning over from Facebook to LinkedIn, and noticing an incredible difference in self (that's a different blog post coming), but one of the most useful features I've found is LinkedIn Learning (available to Premium members).
We should be constantly learning, constantly evolving, and constantly growing our skills and experience. LinkedIn Learning provides hundreds of courses and certifications, and for the minimal monthly investment it's all available. The real question is - how much are you willing to invest in yourself?
Look for creative ways to use "spare time". I'm looking forward to more of these experiences.
Okay. Let’s Talk.
Let’s talk about how this once-yearly event gives us the opportunity to pour our hearts about our struggles with mental health. Let’s talk about the awareness that it brings. Let’s talk about this crisis.
Let’s talk openly and honestly about the process behind receiving help for a mental health illness in Canada (and North America), because if we had a better system, we wouldn’t need to talk about it at all.
From the age of thirteen I understood that my emotions were completely out of my control. When I was thirteen years old, I created a chart to label my emotions and they were ‘angry-high, angry-low, and sad-low’. Errr. What? I started drinking and using drugs at thirteen to cope with my out-of-control emotions.
Doctors, friends, and family all waived it off. “You’re just growing up,” I was told, “Puberty is like this!”
Puberty started to look like a fifteen year old addicted to cocaine to fill the void inside of myself, overdosing twice at that age. It looked like me at seventeen years old, living on the streets because I could use safely and freely. This is not normal, and so let’s talk about the high amount of our youth and teenagers who are addicted to drugs and living on the streets in the Okanagan. Let’s talk about the lack of resources and rehab facilities for these teenagers. Let’s talk about the mental health system.
After suicide attempts, overdoses, and multiple times quitting drugs and alcohol, I was twenty-four years old when I was finally able to get in to see a psychiatrist who believed that my suffering was much more than ‘hormones’ or ‘experimentation’. After a suicide attempt it took me four months to get into her office. It took eleven years, three psychologists, two psychiatrists, two therapists, and over ten counselors, for somebody to take me seriously. There are so many events that should have killed me, by accident or by my own hand. I am lucky. These children and youth who are on the streets, they may not be so lucky.
Let’s talk about the correlation between mental health and drug abuse, because we could be working towards solving our homeless population crisis which has been steadily rising over the past five years.
If you haven’t experienced the throes of drug addiction it’s hard to understand from a secondhand point of view, but let me tell you that every single one of those humans on the street are dealing with an internal suffering that they likely have tried to get help for at some point in their lives. They were told they had to be on a waiting list to receive help. They were told that they had to detox themselves before they were eligible for rehab. They were told that the detox waiting list was two months. They were told that short-term psychiatric assessment had a waiting list of one to four months, and that they had to wait for a phone call, despite having no phone. They were told that after all of this effort, they would be shuffled back onto the streets – or shuffled into a different city entirely. That our rehab centers, our emergency rooms, our doctors offices were all too full for them. When you’re trying to seek help and you’re being pushed away, or told to wait, it’s disheartening.
Instead of building rehab centers, we’re building wet houses. Instead of giving grants to medical students, to funding mental health research programs, to subsidizing our exorbitant student loans to those who are seeking careers in drug and alcohol counselling, we’re raising our costs of living. We pay homage to a five cent hashtag once a year because it’s the easy way out. You talked about it.
What’s wrong with the world? Is this possibly something that’s become environmental?
Mental health diagnoses are on the sharp rise, and it’s worldwide. Everybody has anxiety. Everyone’s depressed. We’re all medicated (well, the ones who make it into our doctors), hell, people are medicated for depression without being clinically depressed because it's easier than digging for a deeper answer, or a more in-depth diagnosis. Is the uprise of mental health due to the way that we have shaped the world? Did we … did we fuck up?
We’ve accidentally created a future that is not feasible and not sustainable for human life. Seriously. Our lives are entirely dominated by computers. We’re assaulted a barrage of hatred and fear through mainstream media on a daily basis on our televisions, on our screens on Facebook, on our tablets, computers, through word of mouth – everywhere. We’ve become addicted to bad news. Not only addicted but desensitized. We’re so used to seeing and hearing about the sad state of our world and current events that it doesn’t affect us consciously anymore – but it still does subconsciously. This is the interesting conundrum, and likely the latent cause of most cases of anxiety and depression.
What can you do?
Shift your mindset. One of my favorite practices is to look for ‘hidden messages’, hidden pieces of artwork. To look for the good in all things. Uplifting images and messaging where you wouldn’t expect to find them, but … this can be translated to people, too. And remember, the people who are suffering with mental illness … they are people.
I have a friend who is addicted to meth and heroin. He lives in a homeless shelter. He lives with a mental disorder, paranoia, delusions and relies on his drug use to get him through the days. To assuage his fears, and to make sense of his emotions. You’ve probably walked past him, or people just like him on the street. Despite being told that the detox beds are full, or he’ll have to wait, he makes the best of his days. He writes with a disorganized and creative ferocity, deep and philosophical works as a form of therapy. He gets high, and he waits for a bed to open up. Someday, he’ll get better. Myself, friends, and his family, have chosen to look for the good in him, and the others like him, instead of becoming desensitized to his plight.
Don’t desensitize yourself to the world around you.
Look for meaningful ways that you can contribute, instead of once a year using a hashtag. Look into local soup kitchens for ways that they can benefit. If you choose to donate, donate where your money counts. Look into underfunded rehab centers, into supplying student grants for people who want to enter into medical profession to help with addiction and mental health. Sit down and get to know somebody who is living on the street.
Yes, let’s talk about it. But let’s also talk to the people who are in dire need and struggling, because you will find that they all have their own stories. They all have a lot to say.
Let’s talk. And let’s listen.
This concept doesn't work for me.
Today it's 9:30 at night. I woke up at 6:30 and got ready for work, then sat down and worked for an hour at home. I went to my day job and worked there all day, came home, worked some more on my personal passion projects, went out for a coffee and discussed and planned the future of Twin Falls, then came home and did a telephone consult with a client about her web services to dial in the content needed.
All of a sudden the day is over.
There are some people who thrive in these fast-paced environments and I'm one of them - always looking for the next challenge, the next goal, the next opportunity to shine and to work hard. Even in an environment strictly in-house work, I have always been the type to take on new challenges, learn new skills, discover more avenues of growth and take these all upon myself - the Atlas of the workplace, if you will.
When potential employers and interviewers ask the question, "What is your greatest strength?" my answer is, "Ambition."
When asked what my greatest flaw is, my answer is similarly ambition. When I'm in it, I'm in it 100%, and I'm in it to win it. I'm able to be in multiple avenues, multiple projects, and that's the way I work best.
There are employees out there who are looking to just collect a paycheck ...
I'm sure as hell not one of them.
The summer that I was ten, turning eleven, my parents shipped me off to Twin Falls Chalet, with my Auntie Fran.
This had nothing to do with punishment, though to a pre-teen girl being told I was spending the summer away from my bicycle, my best friend, my Pokemon cards and my TV it was an adjustment.
I think that at ten years old you don’t have the proper scope of severity for the events in your life. Therefore upon the drive through the mountains when my aunt slammed on the brakes suddenly, I was too busy cracking up at her yelling, “Meese!” to pay attention to the moose standing in front of our car. Our brains aren’t quite yet wired enough to live in the particulars of certain moments.
When we arrived at the trailhead of Takkakaw Falls and I learned that my Auntie Fran adamantly wouldn’t let my Discman or Gameboy leave the car, I sulked, and I pouted the whole way up. I recall stopping for a break and there was a dried out lake I ran across and when I returned, Fran gave me a Werther’s candy.
The few days leading up to our departure for Twin Falls were spent in Calgary, bouncing between my aunt’s friends houses. There are poignant memories for me – watching Legally Blonde on television and deciding I wanted to be a lawyer, discovering one of her friends’ daughters had the entire Sweet Valley High book collection and devouring each one, and my aunt taking me shopping for hiking boots and a cowboy hat – I picked out a leopard print one. Even as a kid, this girl had style.
When we arrived at the chalet I was grateful for the brand new boots, which now in my adult perspective I realize may have cost her a small fortune only for me to outgrow within months. Even at her age (then) we made the climb within only a few hours. I’m sure I complained.
I recall walking up the path and seeing the cabin for the very first time, and lately I’ve been revisiting that moment. Up until this moment any mention of Fran’s life outside of caretaking for my Granny on Vancouver Island to me, was myth. When I first saw Twin Falls Chalet, both of these sides of Fran collided, and I noticed a visible comfort overcoming her, a tension that just slid away. Fran has notably said over the years that, ‘these mountains give back,’ and I cannot imagine somebody as relaxed as Fran was then, though it was time to get to the hard work.
The volunteer team got to work. There was water to be brought up from the stream and boiled, wood to be chopped, beds to be made, dishes to be done, and so much cleaning. This is where my childhood memory blurs because I can’t say if I even bothered to lift a finger. I was outdoorsy then and free and it was a time where you could let a ten year old girl run around in the woods on her own, and so I went down to the creek and started playing in the rocks. I walked up to the chalet bored, and was taught by one of the volunteers how to swing an axe. I loved to crack it down upon the wood and watch it split. I chopped wood until my arms were sore with built muscle, and then the next day did it over again.
There was a library and I was a voracious little reader, always hungry for written word. Without a Discman or Gameboy, I would make do with books. The one I chose was It’s Alive!, a horrific tale about an evil mutated baby that had my young self asking my aunt what ‘birth control’ was, her shaking her head, and me being too terrified to use the outhouses in the middle of the night, with images of the Davies baby chasing me about with scythe-fingers and sharpened teeth.
When my Auntie Fran took me hiking one day over top of Twin Falls themselves, we stood precariously on the little bridge and peered our way over. She told me a story about a couple who had been on the bridge, and the woman had fallen to her death. It was another haunting thought to add to my collection keeping me awake and in bladder pain at night – the Davies baby, AND a murdered soul. On the way down from the falls we were walking along the trail and I inconspicuously grabbed at a dirt clod, pressing it between my hands back and forth and chipping away until I found a perfect quartz crystal hidden inside, like it was waiting for my grubby little paws. I held on to it, and when Fran broke her ankle a few mornings after that, I stood next to her and without her knowing, placed the crystal gently upon her ankle as it was elevated.
“It doesn’t hurt so much now,” she commented. The mountains really are magical.
She was lifted out by helicopter and sent me down the mountain the next day with a Mennonite couple who were guests at the chalet. She trusted them. Before departing they put me in a cotton ankle-length dress and braided my hair in two French braids for the first time. I felt like a different version of myself. They dropped me off at the hospital and upon departure gave me their address, and I began a pen-pal friendship with their daughter who was my age.
Fran and I went to go live in a hotel in Banff for the remainder of the summer, while she ran Twin Falls Chalet from the ground. I remember her driving to the hotel with a broken ankle, and when we tried to leave the car she hit her head on the door and she started crying. When you’re ten and you’re near somebody crying it’s hard to find out how you should react. I think that in that moment she wanted solace, and a comfort I wasn’t yet capable of. Instead I just sat back quiet, and sorry.
I hit my head myself a few days later. I desperately wanted to go swimming in the hotel pool and Fran relented and sent me down with a visiting friend, who ducked into the little grotto. I took the opportunity to practice backflips and on one unlucky occasion hit the very back of my head, my occipital bone on pure concrete. I awoke underwater and began swimming as fast as I could – the wrong way. I turned myself upright and heaved my little body onto the pool’s edge, feet dangling in the water, dizzy and my head throbbing. When I get migraines today, I can still taste the chlorine. This ended my aspiring acrobatic career and for a long time I became very afraid of water.
Fran sent me out frequently with pocket change, and directions to art galleries and museums. I navigated the little streets of Banff and found places I adored – anything to do with geology. I returned one day and triumphantly crowed that I wanted to be a geologist and she shone brightly that day and bought me a library of books about rocks, gems, and crystals. I held tight to the little crystal I had found in those mountains. One day I found a model cabin building kit and I begged Fran and she bought it and in the hotel room I built my own little Twin Falls Chalet.
Every morning the housekeepers would replenish our soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and other toiletries, and every evening I would hide them all in my suitcase. When it finally came time for me to leave to go home that summer Fran had to buy me a larger suitcase just to fit all of my collected shower caps. They sat in the closet at my dad’s for years, along with a model of a wood log cabin with the glue coming undone.
I don’t remember the timeline of events, but during my visit Fran took me to the Stampede where I proudly wore my leopard cowboy hat. We weren’t actually at the Stampede, but a private block party. I went to purchase an Itzakadoozie from an ice cream truck and when I found out they were free, I ate eight of them and had to sit down on the sidewalk to ease my stomach pain. Later I cried when I found an events schedule and saw that my favorite band, The Moffatts, were playing one of the local Stampede events.
I spent my birthday in our hotel room watching cartoons. I phoned my parents and told them that I was bored.
When Fran sent me home at the end of the summer, she boarded me on an airplane for the first time in my life. I went from Calgary to Victoria, where my dad met me with a brand new puppy.
There are certain moments that you can only live in once. Looking back, I wish I had paid more attention that summer. I wish I had asked Fran for her recipe for muffins, instead of asking when they would be ready. I wish that I had known how to comfort her when she hit her head, and I wish I had known what to tell her when I hit my head. I wish I had clearer memories, or that I had spent more time in the mountains with her. Unlike my father and brother, who went back summer after summer, I only stayed for the summer of 2001. I wish I had bought more disposal cameras and that I had taken more photos. Every trip out I would immediately search the car for my electronics, and beg for AA batteries to tune out the world instead of listening to what Fran was talking about.
I have been asked over and over ‘why’ I would take on my aunt’s cause and I think to myself now that I wish that others can have the experiences I did have, and the experiences I didn’t have.
I look at my aunt and I see such strength – such things I couldn’t see when I was ten. She has the secret to life figured out, and for her it’s right there in those mountains. All year she winds and winds, and for her, seeing that cabin in front of her, seeing that winding trail end at Twin Falls Chalet, that is where she gets to shrug off the world and where she gets to just be.
There is an entire world that we don’t know about that goes on around us day in, and day out. There are places out there that nobody has explored, or places kept sacred. Twin Falls Chalet is one of those sacred places, kept safe, and created by Fran Drummond.
I would implore anybody to pull out their headphones, and go spend a few days in the wilderness, and let the weight of the world simply dissolve about your shoulders, when you walk up to Twin Falls Chalet.
Welcome back, me.
For the past number of years this website has been defunct, lost in the ether, and discarded. The bones, and original idea remained, yet I kept this part of me hidden from the world, unpublished and unfindable.
I stopped feeling a though I had anything to say. That my energies were better spent elsewhere. Work, travel, adventure, or just distracting myself from myself. I've come to realize recently that I am my biggest investment. I am the place where my energies should be spent and focused.
Coming back to myself has been an interesting journey. In these last few years I've stuck strong on my recovery path and bettered myself, but what does this look like on a larger scale? One of the things I used to deem integral and important was writing, a hobby I've also given up on. The other was time for myself. Self-reflection breeds awareness. How not to get lost in the mundane ...
This was my haven. This still is my little corner of the internet that is mine, emblazoned with my name, my words, my thoughts and my beliefs. This place that was hidden away for so long is still an extension of me.
I'm looking forward to exercising myself again, my brain and my heart. I've adopted a slogan, borrowed, handed to me in the midst of 'all of the shitstorm' of pre-sobriety, and one I've slowly grown into - "Don't Panic." A slogan I heard over and over as a text message ringtone, a message I painted on the back of three of the cars I have owned, so I can look in my back mirror on adventures and remind myself, don't panic. A slogan that I'm slated to get tattooed upon my body in a few weeks, on the off-chance that I forget. A slogan that's been important to add to this site, and to this stage of growth.
Welcome back, me.
Wow it's been a while since my last post!
I feel like that's good. I'm at a point in my life where sobriety is simply the norm, and something I don't need to consciously focus on during my day to day. Which can also be dangerous - complacency! Especially when it comes to triggering events like music festivals. I already spent one music festival totally sober this year, and on Friday I'm heading out for my second of the summer - Tall Tree!
I know of a lot of friends who are quitting drugs and alcohol, or taking a break, or are just interested in spending parts of music festivals sober to gain a different experience. So I figured I'd share some of my tips and tricks, because why the hell not? This is how I spend music festivals sober.
Take Time For Yourself -
I learned this last Tall Tree. I spent so much of it running around, trying to do everything at once, having a complete lack of sleep, and awful diet, that on the second day I crashed, so hard. The crash extended over to the Sunday. I felt awful. Luckily I'd been sober over a year at that point, but to somebody who's newer into sobriety, that's a huge trigger - exhaustion and poor self-care. For myself, all it ended up taking to cure me was a bottle of water - whoops! Hydrate. Take five to breathe and enjoy the scenery. You're not going to be able to do everything that the festival has to offer. Make a plan and stick with it, or just rock the spontaneity. Take time for yourself.
Locate Your Support System -
Okay. Once, when I was a few months into my sobriety, I found myself at a party where there was booze, and I was having cravings really bad. I got a hold of one of my friends and asked if he could find me ketamine! (Hey! It wasn't booze, but I still wanted to get fucked up.) "Uh ... sure," he responded, only to say a few minutes later that he had looked around and couldn't find any. Damn. The next day he asked if I'd found any, I said no, he said, "Good, you fucking idiot. I made sure nobody would help you out last night." Oh, my heart. These are the friends you want to keep around. These are the people who are going to support you. Be open with your friends before you leave for a festival and explain to them that you may want some extra support in your sobriety, and ask them to be your "check-in"s if needed. And if it's a festival I'm going to, come on up and hang out with me!
Coffee and Other Drinks
Oh coffee. I'm drinking an obscene amount of coffee at this point in my life. Yes, coffee is great. But it's also going to dehydrate you, and you'll end up in that headachey exhaustion. Also coffee is an appetite suppressant, so there go your chances of eating a well-balanced diet. Okay, coffee in moderation ... and replacing your usual alcoholic drinks with something non-alcoholic. I always go for the canned ginger ale in a social setting, which is really the only time I drink ginger ale. The can simulates a beer can, and it mimics the social aspect of drinking for me. Go ahead and try this with root beer, coconut water, bottled water - anything. Make sure to keep drinking bottled water, especially if you're going to substitute alcohol with sugar ... haha!
No, seriously. Stop and look around. Absorb your surroundings. Breathe, and feel the air expand into your lungs and exhale back into it. You are a part of everything that is happening around you, and you are currently happening. You are right there in that moment, and you are being. Aware, conscious, and authentically your own self. People are milling about in the coolest clothing, maybe drunk, smiling, happy, crying, angry, stumbling, laughing, all themselves currently being - and you are yourself. This is my favorite part of a festival, is taking that moment to stop in my tracks and see everything that's happening around me, and I'm watching it and a part of it with clear eyes and a full heart. This is the feeling I hold onto to ensure sobriety.
Don't be afraid to just disappear. Whether it's to your tent, your car, or packing up and actually just leaving - do what you need to do to protect your sobriety, because you need to come first. Don't feel compelled to stick something out because you feel pressured by anything. Your feelings need to come first. Sobriety doesn't just happen, it needs to be constantly accomplished and at the forefront of your mind when it comes to an event you may find triggering. Go sit in your car. Go for a hike away from the grounds. Go for a drive into town. Go lay down in your tent. Or go pack up your stuff and go home, or somewhere you feel safe. Don't berate yourself, because you did the best that you could. Give yourself lots of love, because you can do it. Sobriety is not going to be easy.
On Friday I leave for my second Tall Tree Music Festival. I had an absolute blast at last year's festival which was my first! I stayed sober easily the whole weekend and had a beautiful experience finding inner peace on the top of a mountain, and remembered about self-care after letting myself get too wrapped up in the festival experience. Last year's Tall Tree was a great learning experience, and a beautiful weekend for me. I'm looking forward to branching out on that beauty this year - and I have zero doubt in my mind that my sobriety will be threatened, because I know that I have the tools under my belt to ensure that my health comes first. Absolutely.
I got asked this question today. More specifically, I got asked if I thought that anxiety could be defeated, could be overcome. It got me thinking.
I've always had a theory that when I hit 30 that my anxiety will simply be gone. I'm still holding out hope, but in the meantime, I've no interest in holding my breath. I know I have to spend every day working on my anxiety.
Once upon a time, my anxiety progressed to agoraphobia. In 2014 I couldn't leave my house, even to do something as simple as go shop for groceries. Thankfully, Thrifty's delivered to my doorstep, from two blocks away. I couldn't leave my house without being physically ill. Including my scheduled therapy appointments. I missed my first few therapy appointments, and when I finally forced myself to endure the physical wreck anxiety and panic attacks were causing, it was an ordeal to sit through my first session. This however was where I learned the self-love technique that has rescued me even now, two and a half years later. I still use this whenever I need to. The next time I went to therapy, it was still bad, but it was a little better. It was becoming safer and safer.
Sometimes the unknown is fucking terrifying. In this case, it was for me.
Anxiety is a chemical reaction your body sends to an unknown threat. It's a fight or flight instinct. It's your conscious mind trying to convince your subconscious mind that something is okay, and safe, while your subconscious is provoking the symptoms of panic and anxiety - shaking, sweating, heart palpitations, uneven or difficult breathing, choking sensation, nausea, stomach churning, brain fog and disorientation, racing and rapid thoughts. All of these things are telling you to leave the situation you're in, and you're choosing to either fight, or fly. Don't fly. And don't fight.
Accept it. Allow yourself to feel anxious. Half of the battle of anxiety is pretending it doesn't exist. Wishing so hard before an event that you won't have a panic attack, and then causing one, worrying about whether or not it will happen. Take a few minutes, take an hour, to lie back, to focus on even breathing, and accept it.
Don't let it ruin your experience. The biggest battle with anxiety is reprogramming your perspective and having experiences that don't revolve around anxiety. For instance, when I drive the Malahat, it triggers anxiety in me for some reason. I used to refuse to drive it, because every time I did, I would have a panic attack - I expected this, and I brought it on. It wasn't until this past summer that I drove the Malahat without having a panic attack and I thought, "Wow, I can do this!" The next time I drove it, I had a panic attack. Whoops. Instead of getting angry with myself or upset, I thought to myself, "Hey, remember that one time you didn't have a panic attack? That can happen again." I drive over that stupid mountain countless times a month now. 9/10 times I'm fine, the tenth time, I'll tend to have a panic attack. But I won't let that ruin the experience for me. The other times, I'm fine. And no matter what my subconscious is trying to tell me, I am always, always safe.
I really don't think the focus should be on overcoming or curing anxiety - but learning to cope with it in healthy ways. I think a huge part of it is to be pushing yourself. Start accomplishing small tasks that once triggered anxiety - grocery shopping, driving a long road, going to a show, going to a festival, anything. Tackle the small things, and get them under your belt, then start tackling more and more. Expect that anxiety will make an appearance - it always tends to. Sometimes though, it doesn't.
I almost cancelled a trip to Vancouver with friends a few years ago, because I was feeling anxious at the ferry terminal. I walked back shaking to my car, and told my friend he could have my keys for the weekend and take my car, I would bus back. He rolled his eyes at me, but agreed, until we realized I'd booked the hotel room in my name. I had to go. It was out of my control. So I sat in the passenger seat, and prepared for the panic as we drove onto the boat. I hate, hate, hate boats. The ferry started moving. I was expecting a full-blown panic attack to hit, and it didn't. After about fifteen minutes of rocking in the ocean, I realized it just wasn't going to happen. I got out of the car laughing, grateful, and was fine the entire trip. I don't know why the anxiety didn't come, but it didn't. And it doesn't have to every time. Just like driving over the Malahat, I now have safe experiences about the ferries, and Vancouver trips in general.
Anxiety is situational, and each and every person's experience with anxiety is different - to what triggers it, to the extent, to how they cope and manage. Different things make different people anxious and to different degrees. Everybody has it to some extent. It's all in how we manage it.
I'm fucking grateful for my anxiety. I get to learn the difference between a real and perceived threat. I get to learn healthy coping mechanisms. I got the chance and realization to quit drinking at a young age, and drugs even earlier. I get the daily strength fighting that voice every day that says, "You can drink this away." I've met some very cool people who are as open and honest as myself about mental illness, and become allies in this mutual understanding. I've grown spiritually as a result of it and am more aware and in touch with my body, mind, and emotions than most, because I have to be. And I have the opportunity to promote strength and growth in others, because despite still having it I am able to conquer it daily, be it going to a music festival, or grocery shopping, and show others that you can recover. Whether it be ultimate, or in a constant state, life is still goddamn beautiful.
If we focus on managing our anxiety, the looming prospect of being responsible for curing it entirely is lifted from our weighted shoulders. We're anxious. We don't need any more fucking pressures, thanks. I get asked, "Oh, so is your anxiety gone?" No. No it isn't. But I'm learning to cope with it, and I'm learning to manage it on my own, for myself.
Who knows? Maybe someday it will be gone. I don't have the energy to dream up 'someday's' all the time. Dreaming of a possible or impossible future will emotionally and mentally exhaust me. I'm holding out hope, but I'm not holding my breath - I'm living for today, and today I'm regulating my breath to stay present, aware, and within the moment. If I do these things today, then all I can do is ultimately hope that I am creating an anxiety-free future for myself.
Sometimes, anxiety feels like climbing a mountain. Getting out of bed is taking that first step. Tying your shoes. Remembering your waterbottle, your self-care. Telling yourself every step of the way that you can do this. Maybe I'm always going to be climbing this mountain. But after years of going at this unprepared, barefoot, I've now got a really good pair of shoes. A waterbottle. Confidence. Self-love. I'm looking forward to climbing this mountain.
Mental health struggles aren't beautiful.
The first photo was taken a week before a suicide attempt in 2011. The second photo was taken last week.
I struggled horrifically with addiction, depression, anxiety, and mania during my teens to mid-twenties when I was finally diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, became medicated, and quit alcohol. That was two years ago now.
In addition I embarked on a quest of spiritual growth to find the meaning in my life. My purpose in life is to simply brighten others. I have drive, and a desire to better the world. I am determined to do this through my story.
I've been really low and lost and I know I'm not alone. And I know that anybody who encounters it is not alone, but it's easy to feel alone when it's all you can think and feel. You are not alone. We are not alone.
I am not a disease. I am not depressed, manic, bipolar, or anxious. These things are a part of my life, but they do not define me. I am not my illness.
Nor are you.
It gets better. Please, believe me. In 2011 I thought it couldn't possibly. In 2014 I thought it would only ever get worse. It's 2017, and I know that every day is better now than the one before it, and will continue to be.
So let's talk. If you need somebody to talk to, talk. Don't hide it. 1-800-273-TALK is an excellent resource and one that I once relied on.
Your friends, family. Hell, send me a message if you're struggling.
Don't hide yourself or feel ashamed. We are all human, and we all have stories. Don't end your story early. Press on. I promise, life becomes beautiful.
by Jaden Johnson
I have told many tales of my past before this one. Friends know me for it. With that said this is a story very few know. It’s taken me a year and a half of recovery to tell it. It’s not an easy journey to reflect on, for reasons I’ll get into I have much memory loss about the events. I feel it is time to let the world in on what I’ve learnt through my diagnosis and experiences thereafter. Here it goes.
It all started in a blur. The term was mania, but I wouldn’t learn of it for a few months yet. My new found energy could only be translated by me as some sort of spiritual experience. My mind was full of creativity, ideas, inventions, business plans, and god knows what else. I found sleep to be a bore, a waste of my ideas! All this mixed with the concept that I was unstoppably brilliant. This is all how I felt, now let me tell you what happened.
It was (by only my estimation) February of 2015 it all began for me. As I mentioned before I suffered much memory loss throughout my episode. It was all impossible for me to account for days or money in this state of mind. For simplicity sake I will list all the shenanigans I got myself into from the months of February to May. This is not out of laziness but rather a lack of chronological knowledge of these events. It went something like this:
Walking into work in pajamas, sunglasses, and sandals just to see if my work place was as chill is I thought.
Started many businesses around pot, cigarettes, liquor, and food. Spent and lost god knows how much.
Convinced myself I was the rebirth of Jesus as an explanation for my new found energy and perception of reality. This led me to think I was invincible and if I did die that it was as a Martyr.
Decided through rumors that the Hells Angels were poisoning the city with fake drugs and had a plan to take them down.
Decided to put all my friends through a test of friendship as I feared they were all going to betray me as a friend had in the past. Almost lost some of my best friends.
Got involved with everyone’s personal life to the point of accusing people of stealing money.
And the one that pushed me into the hospital. The story of The Pot.
Now this was at the pinnacle of my manic episode. The day was Mother’s Day and I decided to miss work after a terrible verbal fight with my brother. In my adventures driving around Duncan I found a garage sale. The things I bought were nothing short of absurd and spent nearly $150. From there I decided I wanted to buy some pot and started asking almost everyone. The man who decided to help me was a homeless man whose name slips me. He knew a guy who knows a guy if you know what I mean. After driving to this sketchy drug house we parked in a parking lot in Duncan. We were startled by a women looking terrified and not in the best place. She explained of this artsy ceramic pot she had stolen and how she felt she was being chased by the cops, she then asked to trade The Pot for drugs. I preceded to offer her pot for The Pot as I felt like a businessman that day. We made the trade and I spent the rest of the day with this man. He eventually came out to me as gay through are conversations on my own sexuality. He had never told anyone. How I ended up in the hospital was the Mother’s Day phone call I made telling my Mom the story every detail. At the end of the conversation I said “oh and Mom I am a rock star now and you should get used to it.” and hung up on her.
The next day I was taken to the Jubilee hospital for the most regrettable day of my life. The day my Mom called the cops on me.
I was full of rage this day. It was pent up from my rebellious teenage years. Nothing my parents ever did in their lives every deserved the things I was screaming at them that day. I was set off by the fact that my Mom said that I was seeing my family doctor, when in reality I wasn’t. It was a small thing that I blew up into what I thought was a manipulative scheme against me. I checked myself into the hospital and was then for a moment calm. The thing was is that I was set off by any of my surroundings. Including a women who entered the room with me spouting off about how the hospital hooked her on meds and she couldn’t escape. That is when everything went south.
I needed to get out of there. I was ready to run but thought better. I asked where the exit was and was told to stay. From there I started to dart for the exit. Security followed me but didn’t get involved. I was then reunited with my parents and their distress. In my rage I continued to yell at them and demand to be taken from this place. I tried to find the bus but had no luck. Eventually security asked my Mom to call the police. When they arrived I sat down in the middle of the sidewalk and refused to talk to them. Eventually I was handcuffed and placed in a wheelchair. From there I just remember fear and tears. I woke up in an isolation room. I continued to vent my rage by punching my mattress and screaming at the camera in the room. Eventually I calmed down and began my recovery in PES.
This part of the story is mainly me coming down from my episode. It was filled with the patchiest memories of my life. I played guitar, I drew pictures, my mind wondered all over. My diagnosis came through that period as less of a shock then I expected it to be. I was diagnosed Bi-Polar Type 1. I was isolated in the hospital for 2 months. It was structured in a way to get me ready to go back into society. I slowly earned the right to go for smokes, then leave for an hour then for a day. When I was discharged things were supposed to come back together for me. But that when I found out why Bi-Polar is also called Manic Depression.
I had never been depressed before. It was a new emptiness I had never felt before. I instantly turned suicidal and emotionless. I cannot express in words the feelings of no self-worth, loss of hope in life, and overall giving up. I lived with my Mom for a few weeks until I could bring myself to live at my own house. It took me a long time to become full again. The mania drained me of myself. I spent months finding who I was again, I had to remember how to feel.
After I started to feel better things came around. I started working again, continued with my band and had success, and overall was doing amazing. Unfortunately I wasn’t used to taking meds twice a day. I fell out of habit with my medication routine very easily. I would miss doses weekly and it only got worse. Eventually a one month supply would last me 2 months. Things seemed fine but a storm was brewing. I again lost track of time and money. I knew I was feeling manic again and loved it in small doses. I thought I could control it almost. Until the day I thought my roommate committed suicide.
There was very little evidence to suggest the theory that he was dead. Yet in my mania I broke down in tears and accepted that we had lost him. It was the morning after I decided to check myself into the hospital. To seek help before things got out of control again. It was probably the best decision I ever made.
This time was a lot different for me. I was put in a different short term wing. I knew what was expected of me and all the rules. I almost felt like a veteran there after my last experience. I made friends I still have, wrote a series of poems, and generally recovered. I never suffered the depression I got from my last episode. When I was released after a week and a half I went right back into life with no struggles. Things since then have been stable. I use an app to remind me to take my meds. I have learnt so much through all this it’s hard to summarize. But one thing I can say is no one is invincible. You need to seek help sometimes and not let it bring you down. Life is a constant struggle and the only way to get through is learning to cope, be it seeking others or your own coping. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my story. Jessy and I are great resources for finding mental health support, support groups, and general community activities. I have included my personal Facebook for anyone who wants to get in touch. Thanks for reading.
Thank you so much to Jaden for opening up about his recovery! What an incredible connection.
Jaden also hosts an open mic for recovery every Sunday at the Eric Martin Pavilion here in Victoria. The Facebook group is an excellent way for us all to connect with each other and talk about overcoming our struggles with mental health and addiction.
Jaden can be contacted via his personal Facebook page here, or through his band page, Solvent of Society.
Thank you Jaden! I'm so happy to be connecting with you on this journey!