Ending the Stigma of Alcohol Addiction - by Patrick Bailey

Struggling with any mental illness can be extremely isolating and discouraging, and alcoholism is no different. Addiction is a mental illness that develops through unhealthy coping mechanisms for triggers such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, and more. Addiction can also be a genetic risk for some, or can develop through excessive drinking habits, including socially drinking. Regardless of its cause, alcoholism is a difficult illness to recover from alone. Ending the stigma for people who struggle will increase the likelihood of successful recovery, reintegration into society, and survival in a healthy environment they can be proud of. Individuals and communities alike benefit when the stigma of alcohol addiction is understood and refocused on recovery. Implement these easy strategies to enhance your community's support of those struggling with addiction.

Getting Educated

The first step to supporting people with alcoholism is to simply get educated. Without understanding the disease, you will miss warning signs and essential conversations with those affected. Learn what it means to have a predisposition to addiction as well as which environments create the triggers for someone to develop a drinking problem. Research long term consequences of alcoholism such as liver cancer and withdrawal symptoms that worsen over time. You can also educate yourself on resources available for those who suffer with alcoholism, so you can be an ally who directs them towards treatment if you see the opportunity. Educating yourself and your community will help you see the illness as it is scientifically, while seeing the victims as people first.

Allowing Conversations

Conversations about alcoholism may be difficult, but they are powerful enough to bridge the gap between those who suffer and those who want to help. Asking questions and providing information are the best ways to understand what people are dealing with when they suffer (and how you can support them). Think about how difficult it feels to ask for help for any of your various struggles. With addiction, it is even more difficult due to the stigma around addiction and the isolating feelings the mental illness can cause someone to experience. If you are worried someone is avoiding a difficult conversation about addiction with you, you can still reduce the stigma by providing them a helpline or anonymous resource where they can ask for help. This still creates the space for a conversation that can lead to recovery.

Building Community Resources

Creating a community that accepts people who suffer from alcoholism and promotes a recovery-oriented point of view is a powerful way to create a resource that will help everyone. People who suffer from addiction often isolate themselves from their community due to fear of stigma or shame. Worse, they retreat into unhealthy habits and environments that promoted their addiction in the first place. Creating a community where people can get educated, feel supported, and exchange their unhealthy habits for socially healthy ones will allow them to thrive and stay sober in the long term. Consider lobbying for affordable alcohol rehab centers to be created within your community so recovery can be promoted within people's existing environments. Reducing the stigma of receiving treatment is effective when healthy treatment centers exist within driving distance of those who suffer.

Creating a Safe Space

Creating a safe space for those struggling with addiction is a powerful way to reduce interpersonal stigma. Shame and judgment around addiction often occur when one party is ashamed to be vulnerable or the other party is unwilling to understand the situation. By reversing this negative narrative, people will feel safe in sharing their struggles knowing their support system is open to hearing and helping. Creating a safe space can look like inviting someone who struggles into your home for a change of scenery or a positive conversation. It can look like offering yourself as a resource in case of addiction emergencies, or as a contact if they'd like visitors in treatment. If you are unsure what your community members need to feel safe and supported, asking is the best place to start. Asking questions like, "How can we support you as a community?" or, "What do you need from me to feel accepted and supported?" show individuals struggling with addiction that you are here to help.

Getting Involved

Activism is an effective method to reduce stigma around addiction and other mental illness on a large scale. Mental health organizations and events help increase visibility of the struggles of addiction while showing those who suffer that thousands of

people stand behind their journey to recovery. Activism spreads information that may not otherwise be available to those at risk or already victimized by addiction, such as medical resources or statistics on consequences. Activism can also have institutional impacts, giving people the power to lobby for laws and resources supporting those with addiction. Police trainings, government mental health employee placements, and addiction centers are all positive results of activism for those with addiction. Your community members will feel supported and encouraged to seek help if they witness resources and community events designed to promote healthy recovery. Lastly, activism can include community-building events that promote awareness such as addiction awareness walks and days of recovery. Get creative to build a community of activism that reduces the stigma of suffering from addiction.

Bringing Experts In

The last effective method to eradicate the stigma of addiction is to bring in a variety of experts to educate and empower the community. This ensures that important information reaches people at risk for addiction, and that resources are available for those who are already struggling. Bringing in experts to be active members of your community erases stigma by normalizing the journey of recovery and the ability to ask for help. Encourage licensed psychologists to practice in your area and conduct support groups for those at risk and struggling with addiction. Advocate for holistic treatment centers to provide affordable and local care for those needing serious interventions for addiction. Organize peer mentors to look out for those who are at risk and provide a support system beyond what most other community members can do. If you find that addiction is a public health crisis in your community, collaborate with doctors and addiction experts to implement more preventive measures in major institutions. Working with experts to provide information and resources promotes a positive community response to addiction, reducing stigma and allowing people to seek help.

Erasing stigma around addiction is best done at both individual and institutional levels. Creating safe spaces for individuals who are at risk for addiction (or who are ready to seek help) is the first step, so conversations can be had to understand their needs. Then, the community can advocate for their resources and support their journey of recovery, which is most successful with group support. Experts and institutional changes can support community activism and spread important information to reduce stigma while educating the population on addiction and important warning signs. Lastly, peer mentorship and community resources can provide ongoing support for those struggling. When approached at a holistic level, activism can create massive change to reduce the stigma around alcohol addiction, and community members can feel supported and encouraged to speak out when they are ready to recover.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. You can reach him at any of the links below:

Email ID: baileypatrick780@gmail.com

Website / Blog URL: http://patrickbaileys.com

Social Profile URLs (all):

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

Google+: https://plus.google.com/112748498348796236865

It is Bell Canada’s annual “Let’s Talk” Day - by Jim Thomas

Thank you to all my family and friends for your continued support and love ...

It is Bell Canada’s annual “Let’s Talk” Day. The concept behind the event is to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness that continues to permeate our society and to raise funds for research and support. One in five Canadians will be struck with a mental illness in their lifetime. That is a lot of people suffering not only from their disease, but from the effects of stigma, judgment, and prejudice. This figure does not include the people who will be directly affected by having a loved one struggling with mental illness. As the saying goes, “it is the family game – everyone gets to play.” I am a one in five.

The term mental illness covers many specific diseases, just like physical ailments such as cancer. Some of these are easily treated and recovery time is quick. Others are more complex and may require extensive treatment and/or hospitalization. And there are those who will never recover. If left unchecked, it can be no less progressive or fatal than cancer.

Mental illness is NOT a choice, or a sign of moral weakness. I am not lazy, crazy, or stupid. The fact that I have the concurrent disorders of Addiction and PTS, does not make me less of a person and my illnesses no longer define me. I will never be fully cured from either disease. It is incumbent upon me now that I am in recovery, to ensure that I do what is necessary to remain healthy. My journey took me to a hell that I could not imagine existed and cost me everything; up to and including making the decision to take my own life. Why do so many suffer in silence? In my case, it was fear of being labeled and being judged by my peers and family. Pride also played a huge part. Like most emergency services organizations, mine did not understand mental illness. To “come out” with it meant the kiss of death to your career. Stigma causes so much damage and hinders opportunities for recovery. The entire policing culture and environment needs to change. Management needs to take this crisis seriously and not just pay lip service to it. Not long ago, three of my colleagues committed suicide in less than a month. A dear friend of mine attempted suicide in his garage recently. The problem is not going away by producing a smoke and mirrors response. As well, peers must stop crucifying their team mates who lose time from work because of their illness. I have heard such idiotic statements such as, “Oh she just wants the summer off”, or “He needs to get his medication adjusted” with regularity. Those words are cutting and harmful. I can tell you that spending a year of my life in a psychiatric institution was not my idea of a fun-filled, all inclusive vacation.

So please ... Let’s Talk! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone struggling with a mental health problem. When I was in the hospital, not one colleague (except for my Association Rep and a dear friend) came to visit me. Today, I understand that for the most part, people just did not know what to say and they were afraid of causing further harm. Take it from me - a call, a card of encouragement, or a personal visit goes a long way with someone suffering from any illness. If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed, make the effort to learn about their disease and how you can best support them. There are free or very reasonably priced local courses available such as Mental Health First Aid and Suicide Prevention that offer a wealth of valuable information. Get a Naloxone kit, learn how to use it and keep it readily available in the event you come across someone overdosing on opiates. Put it in your first aid kit along with all of the other life saving equipment you have. When you hear derogatory statements such as, “He’s crazy” or “She’s nuts”, have the courage to confront and educate. Calling someone Crazy is tantamount to hurling a racial slur as far as I am concerned. Finally, don’t feel that you have to put someone in recovery in bubble wrap, or that you have to walk on egg shells around them. Learn how you can provide support when necessary by talking with your loved one. They can tell you how you can best assist them when in crisis.

These are all simple, and doable ways that can make a significant difference in the life of someone dealing with mental illness. Hope you took some time to participate in the Let’s Talk campaign.


So you are contemplating suicide... - by Anne Moss Rogers

I want to scream, “Don’t do it!”

I want to beg you not to.

I want to tell you how utterly devastating it is to lose a child and reveal all my naked, agonizing grief over my loss.

Really what I need to do is just listen and let you know you matter.

You think you don’t matter. You might even be scoffing at this letter saying, “This woman doesn’t know me!”

What you don’t know is that you are the centre of someone’s universe. Your brain won’t let you believe that right now.

I know you think we’d all be better off without you. But your leaving would throw off the balance of people.

You see, most people who want to die by suicide are highly sensitive individuals. Deep feelers.

They are often very creative. They can spot a fake a mile away. They see when others are hurting. They are not put off by other’s misery.

So what happens if you check out?

We will have lost your incredible intuition, your kindness and sensitivity to others.

If you check out, we’re left with analytical bean counters.

Don’t get me wrong, we need bean counters. But we need you, too.

Without you, the world is drained of colour

It’s beige and boring.

It’s your lyrics, your writing, your art, your acting, your music, your creativity that stirs deep-seated emotions in us. Only you can do that. I know you have darkness in your soul–the price of having such amazing gifts.

I want you to know that we have not realized your potential yet. If you leave, you take those gifts with you forever and we don’t get to appreciate what you have to offer.

You cheat us out of you. What you can be.

So what do you do next? Reach out.

You won’t find the answer in isolation. Your brain won’t let you.

If you won’t reach out to a friend, reach out to a stranger. Call the Suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255, text the word start to 741-741. Tweet @annemossrogers and @onelastkick71Make comments here.

Please give us a chance.

You didn’t run into this letter by accident. It was meant for you and you stopped yourself long enough to read it.

If you are still not convinced, see what my friend Jody wrote. I was working on this letter when I saw hers.

She knows. She’s been there. She gets it.

Heaven can wait.

P.S. The international suicide hotline numbers are: 




My Crazy Life Made Me Crazy - by Mika Hayes

My mother was a prostitute

My father was a thug in and out of jail

They had a very abusive toxic relationship

Mother tried to abort me by throwing herself down a flight of stairs when she was 5 months pregnant

She drank alcohol and did drugs while pregnant

She had gonorrhea when I was born

I was born a blue baby and had a blood transfusion right after birth

Mother beat/abused/neglected me for the first 6 weeks of my life

Sister and I were traded to a taxi driver in exchange for a bottle of rye

I have 5 older half brothers I don’t know and 2 half sisters who are estranged

Given to foster family at 6 weeks old

Lost bio family

Raised with so much love by foster parents along with my full bio sister

I was an angry, sad, lost, very hyper, rage-filled, out of control baby, toddler, adolescent, teenager and adult

Foster mother continually brought me to our GP but was always told I was just a hyper girl

Bio mother told me when I was 10 that I almost died at birth, she wished I would have and that she hated me

When she did contact us (once every few years) she was either drunk or high

Best friend died of cancer in grade 2

Bullied and teased all through grade school for my name, my looks and that my parents gave me away

I failed grade 7

Had to change my last name from Papineau (my dad’s name) to Hayes (my Moms maiden name) because that’s what was on my birth certificate. She put my father down as “a friend of the family”

Drinking, smoking, drugs, and sex at 14 yrs. Had my first puff of a cigarette when I was 4 years old. Stealing smokes at 6 years old

My bio mother was murdered by a john when I was 15 years old

My foster mom died when I was 21

Was in a 3 year mentally and physically abusive relationship at 23 when my Godmother had an affair with my boyfriend

My foster dad died when I was 23

Lost foster family

My bio dad came back into my life when I was 23. He came to us at the viewing for my foster dad

It took awhile but we formed a relationship that made both our hearts happy

Some members of bio family came back into my life as well

Met my husband (common-law) when I was 24. He was separated from wife and had 2 babies.

Moved in with him the night I met him

Was pregnant 5 weeks later

Had my daughter when I was 25

She was born with a tumor on her tailbone. Had surgery at 2 weeks old. She was in NICU at CHEO for the first month of life

1995 was diagnosed with ADHD

Moved to London ON from Ottawa ON leaving my family and friends behind at 27 for a better life.

Worked different jobs since I was 16 years old always to be fired

2005 almost died from heart issue

2006 sister in law died from complications from a simple surgery

2006 diagnosed with OCD

2007 best friend of 26 years died from cancer

2008 diagnosed with Crohn’s colitis disease after being sick for a month and a half with what I thought was a bad flu bug

2012 diagnosed with fibromyalgia

2014 had to stop working and started my application for CPP disability which I was denied 4 or 5 times now and still waiting for an answer to my latest appeal 2 yrs ago

2015 August I saw a psychiatrist. Horrible person. Cold and uncaring. Put me on Paxil on top of the Cymbalta I was already on. Nightmares started soon after. OCD and anxiety went through the roof for months. By January I wasn’t able to leave my bedroom. By March I was suicidal. Finally got off Paxil in April

2015 bio dad died and lost bio family for the second time

2016 diagnosed with PTSD

2016 husband left me after 22 years

2017 got approved for ODSP

2018 still trying to figure out this crazy life and my crazy brain but I’m happy, full of love and looking forward to the future.

My Chronic Childhood Trauma Resulted in Complex PTSD - by Mandy Emmerling

There is a big difference whether a traumatic event remains the exception, or whether it happens repeatedly, such as sexual abuse or multiple rapes. It's crucial, whether it is a stroke of fate or an injury, the fellow humans inflict on us. This mental injury throws many people off track. Days, weeks, perhaps months or even years later, symptoms may occur. Particularly trauma-endangered are children, because their psyche is not yet stable and mature, as that of an adult.

Childhood trauma can be fatal to further brain development and even reduce the volume of certain brain structures. Possible consequences include behavioural problems, learning difficulties, depression and other mental disorders. That's why it is so important to respond quickly when a mistreatment or abuse of children is suspected because what happens to them not only hurts the body but also the soul quite massively!

No phase of our lives is as intense as our childhood, whether in the positive or negative. Traumatic experiences are already bad for adults - but they are often catastrophic for children. Adults know that, for example, beating, kicking or rape is a bad thing. A child experiences the bad happenings and cannot classify it - and barely even talk about it. Childhood experiences are forever shaping not only a large part of our life but also the idea we have of it. The bond that we build to our protectors, our parents, who guide, care for, and provide for us, paves our development process to become self-assured personalities. But when we experience trauma in childhood, such as violence, abuse, and neglect, it is an incision into childhood; an injury that will remain forever. Unfortunately, that is a fact. And as children, we are little human beings who are not yet able to defend themselves and even less do we understand why the "evil" in life actually exists. We just have to deal with it.

These physical, mental and emotional wounds have a major impact on our development and maturation process. These deep wounds, caused by mental stress and suffering, we carry within us forever. They are deeply rooted in us. And they will always be there because they are part of us.

The most difficult traumas to treat are those that started in very early childhood and were caused by confidants (teachers, parents), especially in the case of family abuse. A child cannot rationally understand what happened. And sexual violence is the most psychologically harmful thing that can be done to a child. I have suffered from PTSD since childhood.

My childhood trauma became too strong at a young age because I was not treated early. During my long-term trauma, I was held in a state of captivity, physically and emotionally. In this situation I was under the control of my parents and unable to get away, because I was too young. I grew up with contempt, rejection, neglect, abandonment, withdrawal of love, maltreatment, violence and sexual abuse. I have experienced hell for almost 13 years. That has shaped me, and it has burned in my soul and my brain. My past burdens and haunts me to this day.

There are things in the subconscious mind that I don't perceive but have a profound impact on my physical health and my daily life. I'm jumpy, suffer from sleep disorders and severe anxiety. I don't trust anyone, I'm sceptical of strangers. I don't like crowds, or if someone comes too close to me. I keep my distance because I'm afraid that someone will hurt me again. My everyday life is limited because I avoid things and places that might remind me of the trauma. My body is under constant stress, on alert and always ready to flee. My body is very sensitive to physical and mental stress because my immune system does not work as well as others. I am more prone to skin disease, and infectious diseases (stomach, intestinal, bladder and kidney infections, colds, flu). I get headaches very quickly, and the longer I am exposed to a stressful situation, the more exhausted and feeble I feel. Sometimes I even feel sick, even though I'm physically completely healthy.

The subconscious mind is a dangerous confidant, it knows all the things that I really don't want to know anymore. The memories break out of me, in unexpected moments, and my body reacts with a panic attack. Sometimes I cannot even say what triggered me. It's just there. For me sometimes the tiniest things are triggering. It can be very trivial things like colours, sounds, smells or even a taste. I even avoid physical exertion or sport because I try not to get out of breath as much as possible because an accelerated heartbeat evokes the experience in me again.

These recurring, sudden memories in the form of nightmares or flashbacks are like a horror movie. But worst of all are the emotional flashbacks, where my feelings overwhelm me. Then suddenly I feel like the frightened, rejected and hated little girl of yore. I feel useless, worthless and unloved. In those moments helplessness makes me cry. And my mind cannot act against such moments. Then I need help from dear people who support me and show me that I am not alone and wait patiently for my inner child to calm down again. But it's mostly the demons, those little evil beasts, who've settled in my mind, telling me over and over again that I should be on my guard. Those who want to warn me of situations, although there is no danger, but cause anxiety in me. They show me these ghastly pictures, to remind me again and again that I am not safe, and something terrible could happen at any time.

I try to avoid situations, of which I know that I get triggered and that they cause a bad panic attack. But sometimes it happens when I don't count on it. And I cannot control it.

An example: I go shopping in a supermarket. I am in good spirits and working my shopping list off. The moment I pick up a bottle of milk, terrible memories of the basement suddenly come rushing in, without warning and, above all, no apparent cause. I see myself lying on the ground, only vaguely recognizable in the darkness above my father.

Since then, about 30 years have passed, and my mind knows that the supermarket is safe and brightly lit. But I panic through memory, from one second to the other: My heart is beating like crazy, my pulse is racing, my palms are getting wet with sweat, my whole body is shaking, my face is pale, and I can barely breathe... One tiny, triggering stimulus is enough, and I relive the terrible events of my childhood again. All the emotions, all the feelings and impressions, the smells, the sounds, even the taste in my mouth are as present as if the terrible experience happened right now!

I try as far as possible to handle my everyday life alone, which is not always easy because I have a few quirks. For example, I always buy too many foods because I'm afraid to go hungry. I wash very often, shower three times a day because I want to feel clean. And I change my clothes several times a day to just feel good. I just want to make sure that I smell good and look good. I felt so terrible when I was a kid when I had to go to school unwashed and dirty with dirty, broken, holey and much too small clothes. That's deep.

My mental health is very important, so I go to my therapies twice a week because they are vital to survival. If necessary, I commit myself when I feel really bad and I can't handle it alone. And for my well-being, I take regular breaks to rest my body. And I make sure that I get enough sleep.

To keep my mind clear, I listen to music or meditate to sounds of nature. And I go for a walk or I go hiking to get my strength directly from the source. Sometimes I just sit outside somewhere in the solitude of nature (especially in summer), enjoy the sun in my face, feel the wind on my skin, and bathe my feet in the water of a stream. I enjoy the silence, listen to the birds or grasshoppers. That's calming and relaxing. I often take my camera with me and focus on the beauty and beautiful uniqueness this world has to offer. I take photos of animals, flowers, blossoms and other things that fascinate me. In this way, I recharge my batteries when a day is very stressful and exhausting. Or when a storm rages in my head, or when my demons try to tear me down. Some days it's a really tough fight...

I Want You to Want to Live - by Jody Betty

SUICIDE….Catch your attention yet? It’s a shame if it didn’t because the actions most certainly will.

The rate of suicide is on the rise worldwide in all age categories. It affects all ethnicities, cultures and religions.

 It is bias free.

It is a last resort, a desperate attempt to quell the never ending and relentless pain that monopolizes your mind. It has become the only feasible way to rid yourself of the burdensome weight that has dragged you to this level of despair.

That is how I feel anyway, the countless number of times I have and do fall into the darkness, and because I can empathize, take a minute to read this letter to you.

Dear You.

If you are reading this there is a small piece of you that wants to hold on.

I am so proud of you for reaching out, even if you have done so without words. You have kindly given me a few minutes of your time, and I do appreciate that.

I want you to live.

I want you to want to live.

I won’t feed you some bullshit like it’s all going to be ok with time because it may not be, and it may not turn out as you wish, but you will never know if you don’t stick around to find out. I will instead tell you I am here with you and let’s take this a minute at a time.

 I will remind you that although I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I will be by your side to find out.

You are so important.

I won’t make you feel selfish by telling you to stick around for your family or friends, because I know you feel that leaving would not only end your burden, but theirs as well.

 I will tell you that someone loves you despite how you feel inside. I will remind you that you are not and never will be a burden. You may not see or even hear it, but your life is valued by someone out there; it is valued by me. I don’t know you, but I do care because I can empathize with your pain; I feel it myself.

You are incredibly strong.

I won’t ever tell you that you are being dramatic and don’t really want to die.

I will instead be here to listen and validate your feelings because they are as significant as you are.

I am so proud of you for still staying with me.

I won’t ever tell you things could be worse, or that other people have it worse than you and don’t want to die.

I will acknowledge your despair and lack of hope. I will never compare your pain to another’s. It would be like observing two gunshot wounds, one in the chest and one in the leg. Yes, it is worse to get shot in the chest, but it does not take away the pain of being shot in the leg.

You are beautiful.

I won’t use the old adage “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

 I will say that your problems might not be temporary but I will be with you and help you to find a coping mechanism that works for you. I will tell you that suicide is simply not a solution.

I won’t shove the ideas of therapy or medication down your throat as that will not help at the moment.

I will ask some of the most important words of all “how can I help?” I will provide you with a suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255 or text the word “start” to 741-741.)

You are a warrior.

You are a survivor. Your track record of making it through trauma, heartbreak and devastation is 100%.  Despite the rocks life has thrown at you, you have emerged with scars and grit. You have proven those wrong who expected you not to make it, those who gave up on you long before you gave up on yourself.

You are amazing.

You have a purpose in this life, whether you realize it at this point or not. Your book has so many chapters to be written. You are needed, your voice and your story are essential for someone, be it a stranger or a friend.

You are your own hero. You have done what you think you cannot do. You have looked death in the face, stared it down and walked away having won another battle in your war.

If you are still reading this, I am incredibly proud of you for stopping what you were doing, and giving me a few moments of your precious time. Just reading this is the beginning…you have extended your arm, you just have to unclench your fist. I implore you to keep this conversation going, be it with a hotline, a friend or family member, or even me (@onelastkick71). You have taken the first step; let’s make it to the second together.

You are loved.

Jody Betty


**You can read more about Jody at http://jodybetty.com/

You may not get to show your love tomorrow, show it today💕- by Alyssa Gingras

I let someone make me feel bad about who I am the other day.

I received a nasty message from someone blasting me because "it's wrong for me to tell people that I love them and I miss them if it's not a close family member or a spouse"

I let it bother me. I questioned if how I speak to others IS in fact wrong. I even considered minimizing how I feel about all the amazing people in my life. Then it hit me; if I did that, I wouldn't be ME. I never want my kids to feel like they can't be exactly who they are and I decided I wasn't going to let anyone make me feel like that either.

I do love with my whole heart. I tell people exactly how I feel because I may not get to tomorrow. I do kind things for strangers because all of us are human beings and deserve to feel accepted and loved. It saddens me that the man at Costco (I let go ahead of me because he only had a few items) was so shocked that I called him over from 4 registers over. I will raise my kids to be like me because that's all I know how to do.

To everyone of my friends and family members; I love you all with my whole heart no matter what anyone else thinks. I may love you as a parent, I may love you as a family member, I may love you as a friend, I may love you as someone I have something in common with or I may love you because you were in my life at the exact moment I needed you to be. Regardless, I have love for every single one of you because you've all helped make me who I am today. You may not get to show your love tomorrow, show it today💕

I'll Love you Forever... - by Venessa Hannah

To My Mother,

You were robbed, WE were robbed…
Robbed of the bond between mother and daughter. Robbed of the unconditional love that a daughter feels for her mother.

I spent over thirty years questioning everything. I was told you didn't want to be a mother, you didn't want me, you were too lazy to have kids and (unfortunately) SO many other terrible lies…

The truth is, up until 7 months ago, I wasn't able, wasn't strong enough to question all the things I'd had driven into my brain from such a young age by some of my most (then) beloved family. They were driven into my head in the most manipulative and deceiving ways…
So much so that I never questioned ANY of them…

But I digress, what I really want to tell you is that while I cannot take back the mistakes of the past, I can and will continue to strive for better, to nourish our relationship, to see you for who you are, more importantly who you have ALWAYS been. Someone of INCREDIBLE strength, perseverance, unconditional love and many more admirable qualities.

A Mother who adores her children and would give and do ANYTHING for, a mother who wanted nothing more than to be the best Mom to her children that she could be. A survivor who fought against ALL the odds, who overcame the terrible past she had endured to BE that amazing Mom she was, is and continues to be today. One of compassion, empathy, care, unconditional love and ALL the amazing and incredible characteristics indicative of a good Mother.

Did she make mistakes? Sure, but all Mothers do, especially the good ones. 
In fact, so many times I catch myself and I think how did she do it? Single mom, working to provide for her girls with basically no help, support or encouragement from her own parents, from any of her family of origin. They pretended to care but there was always judgement, ridicule and even that 'pretend' support never lasted long.

I have so much to say but I'm a mess of emotion so for now what I will say is this – THANK YOU, you 'done' great, Mom! I feel so very proud to call you my Mom and if I turn out to be half the Mom you were, are and continue to be… well I'm #winning

I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my mother you'll be. How fu$king lucky am I?!?!

One last thing, unfortunately we can't go back in time to fix things and this is something I struggle with daily because I feel as though I got "screwed" but I will continually strive to grow our relationship and instead be grateful that I now know. What do 'they' say? Better late than never, right?! Xoxo

**You can read more about Venessa here: https://oneramblingmamablog.com/

Yes, #LetsTalk - by Venessa Hannah

Let’s talk about how crippling it can be to even think about your own mental illness, never mind talking about it with others. 

Let’s talk about how even in 2017, there is still SO MUCH stigma surrounding mental illness. That there are still intense feelings of shame and guilt for the sufferer; not to mention the judgement we get from some people when they know or find out. 

Let’s talk about how when you’re having an anxiety attack or spiralling downwards from depression that the feelings of loneliness and shame can be so possessing, almost insufferable; so in actuality: you want to ‘forget’ talking about them because you don’t even want to be ‘living’ them. 

Let’s talk about the fact that although you can be surrounded with loving family and friends (for the most part) — when you are mid attack or deep in depression, you are also feeling embarrassed, worthless, alone and genuinely unable to reach out.

For those who have never been ‘here’, it’s unimaginable; unthinkable. For example, they may even think “Oh, just get over it.”  “Can’t you see how fortunate you are, your life is?”  

The truth is, deep down we are already thinking this!  I myself often feel a considerable amount of guilt for my thoughts and feelings of both depression and anxiety.  I catch myself thinking or even speaking aloud to myself – “Why can’t I be happy, I AM lucky!”  “Why can’t I just chill out?”  “I’m focussing on the worst case scenario, the odds are it WON’T even happen.”  

I cannot speak for others, but I can assure you that I would love to “get over it.” Whatever “it” is at that present moment in time (a downward spiral, an anxiety attack). However, I am also quite aware that as much as I have tried, it doesn’t work that way.  Please believe me when I tell you that living in my head is not a place I enjoy being. It’s a place where I ‘sit’ on edge, in hyper-sensitive mode 24/7, where I am anxious about EVERYTHING, and likewise (self) loathing. It’s most definitely not a loving place; it’s a place of constant (self) judgement and (self) criticism. It’s a place where everything I say and do is over analyzed. Conversations I have (or don’t) and then catastrophic thinking like “Oh man, did I really say that?”  “Do they hate me, did I talk too much?” ...and much, much more.  It is a lonely place, indeed.   

When things are spiralling,  I don’t want to talk to anyone, see anyone, do anything, or go anywhere – I want a cloak of invisibility so I can still walk my daughter to school, get errands done, etc. but without having to really ‘be’ wherever I am. And all of this is for no other reason than I begin to turn inward, and shut down. 

So #letstalk, let’s share our struggles and our victories. Perhaps the only thing that gets me through most of my days (aside from my wonderful husband and children) is knowing that I’m not alone in this fight, that by talking we have won this battle, but only by ending the stigma, will we win the war! 

**You can read more about Venessa here: https://oneramblingmamablog.com/


An excerpt from If I Really Wanted to Die: A little book of FAQ's About Surviving Chronic Suicidality - by Josey Quinn

April 27, 2016

My suicidal ideation stems from bipolar disorder, but many other conditions, including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa, also can cause a person to have ongoing self-destructive thoughts. According to research cited by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), studies show that "the overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide--90% or more--had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. Often, however, these disorders had not been recognized, diagnosed, or adequately treated."

Both internal and external stigma can stand in the way of people with a mental illness asking for help, receiving the care they need, and sticking with a treatment plan.

It is an established fact that suicidal thoughts and actions are often symptoms of mental illness. But stigma tells us that when we display suicidal behavior--especially in public--we are seeking attention or misbehaving. If we are in crisis, it is because we are too weak to control ourselves. If we have lost control, it is because we want to create drama. Stigma makes sure we know exactly how we have failed, no matter how hard we tried to help ourselves.

When I have bipolar disorder symptoms, something in my brain insists that suicide is inevitable, that I must do it to solve my problems, and help my family and friends. It tells me I have nothing to live for, no matter how fortunate I might seem to others.

What does it feel like to have my brain tell me such dangerous lies? From my bipolar perspective, suicide and self-harm are closely related to intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and compulsive behavior. When I'm in a mixed state of hypomania and depression, especially, the self-destructive thoughts are loud and clear, and there is no escaping them.

I find these thoughts terrifying and comforting at the same time. Whatever is going on in my life---negative or positive--intensifies, and I obsess about suicide plans and cutting or burning myself in response to these overwhelming emotions.

How do I know that suicidal ideation and self-harm are not just normal for me? How can I be so sure that these are symptoms of an illness rather than personal failings? For years, I didn't know.

From the age of eleven, I criticized myself as broken, needy, and melodramatic. Fear had me sweating under the covers every night, refusing to pull the blanket down even far enough to breathe. I was frightened of the solid nothingness that represented death to me, but I couldn't stop thinking about it until I finally passed out each night.

When did I realize that it was possible to overcome the fears and compulsions? When did I realize that suicidal feelings were not me; that they were happening to me? The respite between major mood episodes helped me see that it was my "normal," or my baseline. Unfortunately, I blamed myself for losing touch with this sense of normal, making each subsequent mood shift a little more difficult. This is internal stigma.

Most of the time, when I am in a mood episode and feel like I want to die, I understand that it is a temporary desire. It may come back again next week, next month, or next year, but it does subside. Having these thoughts are beyond my control, and they do not represent my true wishes. They are the twisted ideas of my illness. If someone treats me harshly because I've injured myself, she has mixed me up with my bipolar disorder. If someone tells me that if I want to die so badly, I should make sure it works next time, he is condemning me for having life-threatening symptoms of an illness. This is external or societal stigma.

I only recently began sharing my experience with bipolar disorder. For the most part, it has been empowering. The scary part, though, is revealing my long history with suicidal ideation and self-harm, including two suicide attempts. I didn't plan to talk about this aspect of my bipolar disorder until much later in this advocacy journey. I realized, though, that people struggling with chronic suicidal thoughts can't wait for me--for us--to be more comfortable with the topic. We can't continue to let internal and external stigma keep us quiet.

Yes, talking about suicide can be awkward at best. The closest most people come to discussing suicide is making cracks about how they're so stressed, they will kill themselves. I know they mean it in a lighthearted way, but I can't laugh it off. I cling to my sense of humor, even when I'm struggling the most, but this is one topic that simply is not funny on any level.

To reduce stigma, we must be clear in our conversations that suicide is never a joke or a weakness or a failing. It is a devastating premature death that causes profound pain to the family, and friends left behind. Suicide survivors are filled with unanswerable questions and a unique kind of grief, one that has strong undercurrents of guilt and anger. They are at greater risk for dying by suicide, too.

To reduce stigma, we must support suicide attempt survivors. The fact that they are alive is a reason to celebrate, not an excuse to treat them with harsh impatience. They've emerged from one of their darkest times. Let's help them embrace a life that once seemed unlivable.

**You can read more about Josey at http://kindsoulstudio.com/   or   @kindsoulstudio