The Mental Illness Awareness Week blog, sharing stories of recovery, personal experiences, and mental health/mental illness news.


Steps to recovery and mental freedom: Part 2: Marie Asuncion

Once upon a time I knew I was never going to be the same. I knew I had this illness, and for a long time I knew I wouldn’t get better, permanently. One day I was working, and felt sick, so I had called in to work to take the day off. I hurried and tried to remedy my situation, but nothing but time did the trick. I needed to step back. Despite the career-driven and motivated young woman I was, I needed to step back. Did I blame myself at all? The answer to that is yes. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to make money the way everyone else did, and not give a single thought of my illness. But, inevitably, the illness found me first. I knew I had to give myself a rest and slowly work my way back up to recovery. Sad, it seems, but I know I need to understand my world, a world where mental instability is always going to be present.

I know that deep down inside I will always have something to turn me away from that scary feeling I get when I am not on top. It's miraculous that someone with a mental illness can dig deep and on their own find remedies without turning to outward advice. Maybe one day we all will find that special something that will always be there when we need it the most. I’m scared that one day my life may never be the same, and I could lose everything. But in due time these things come to pass and I am never left alone, thankfully.

It's all about balance. I cannot be Marie when Marie is doing everything but taking care of herself. She needs to be around positive influences and people who understand that really, her illness will always be predominant in her life and she is trying to remedy everyday of her life to the best that she can. I can be myself, yes, but in the long run it isn't going to be easy, and it never has. I pull through every time but sometimes I lose all hope, and that is when I know I need my space, my belief system that never shifts, and people who surround me with happiness and productivity.

I'm in a way sorry for all the things I wasn't able to do when I was so sick. I feel bad that I couldn't turn back time and relive those moments when mental freedom could have been mine to keep, but instead, God had a much different path for me, which I would not have changed at all. In retrospect, my life would have been more of a burden if I didn't leave the space I was in and turn around and walk away. I walked away from all of that, because I needed to. Nothing would have saved me except for my own selfless ways. There was a burden in my heart every day for seven years and it is not until now that I can feel like I control the steering wheel. No longer will I doubt my capabilities, I can act and action makes things easier rather than just wishing one's life away.

I know I can be happy one day without having my illness affect what I love to do the most. In the end, however, mental freedom will only be by chance. We cannot change the fact that we have it, and so life may take us into unexpected places and we are left with ourselves, and whatever we need to take with us in order to recover.

Wellness is possible. Remember we are all able.


Steps to recovery and mental freedom: Part 1: Marie Asuncion

Whenever I used to get sick, the feeling would be so strong that my mind would begin to wander into places that were so dark, it was depressing. I had lost all my friends during high school, and now as an adult, I pick and choose who I decide to let be my friend, because in a way I need to protect myself. Having a mental illness is something that we as people have to manage on our own and on our own time. You can't expect to be cured when you are constantly busy and have too much on your plate. Recovery takes time so one has to be sure of the necessary precautions they need to take before they feel wellness.

I remember as an adolescent I used to pray a lot. Prayer was my outlet. I could go and pray and the next day I would know that I was being looked after, even during the worst of times. God was a pivotal figure in my life and has helped me recover. My faith has grown ever since, but I am not afraid to share my story, especially with God being the main reason I am better today.

I use certain remedies to help me feel better when I get symptoms. I use my brain, first of all, despite that there is a chemical imbalance I find ways to change the situation and strive to be a perfectionist at it. If I don't know my brain, then it isn't going to co-operate with me. What do I need? Is it medication? Is it time off from work? I let my mind tell my body what it needs, and go from there.

A technique I use a lot is cognitive behaviour therapy. I have read countless resources that I have memorized in the past, so that when I feel confused, or upset, cognitive therapy is one way I can stop the negative thinking; I do this by pulling a plug, so to say. Pulling a plug and letting the negativity drain. This metaphor is perfect since it's what I try to make myself think when I am mentally "stuck". We all have our ways of mentally worrying ourselves. The only thing is that for mentally ill people, worrying can be detrimental to their health. Any little stressor can rock the boat, even sink it. The main goal is to think positive and not to be afraid when failure comes, because it will come, we'll just have to be okay with that.


Mike's Story: Part 5

By May 2005 my sore was healed but I was so skinny all my bones were showing. I had smoked so much weed and tobacco my muscles were withering away, so the doctor at the rehab hospital admitted me for a six-week period. I spent most of the time over the first two weeks lying in bed thinking about my life and how it all seemed to be centred around tobacco and marijuana. My mom suggested I should use the opportunity of being hospitalized to stop smoking marijuana since it wasn’t doing me any good. I thought back about the times when my brother would rip me off or how I would crave it so badly when I couldn’t have it. I decided that I didn’t want to be a slave to it any longer.

The psychologist at the rehab visited me and for the first time I accepted that I had a problem. I told him what happened to me and that I believed I was in hell for my sins. He taught me about mental illness and helped me understand that I had probably been suffering from a psychosis. We also talked about scriptures from the Bible – especially the ones about Jesus coming to the world to save sinners not to punish them. I believed him and for the first time in a long, long time I started feeling good about myself.

When I finished my six weeks in rehab, I decided it was time to do something with my life. I decided to go back to school to finish my high school education. After getting my diploma I took a peer support volunteer course. Now I spend a lot of my time at the rehab hospital visiting new patients and helping them cope with their injury and losses. I also decided to learn more about cannabis and psychosis. I learned that marijuana can trigger and worsen schizophrenia and other types of psychotic illnesses. I’ve learned about cannabinoids – the psychoactive chemicals that are found in the bloodstream after you smoke. I thought a lot about that night I broke my neck. The last thing I did before I snapped was that water bong. Knowing that has made me all the more determined to never ever smoke that stuff again. I’ve come to the conclusion that that night I had a psychotic episode triggered by marijuana use.

In October 2008 I also quit smoking cigarettes. I can now proudly say that I am addiction free. I continue to see the psychologist once or twice a week. I’m writing a book about my experiences. I can honestly say that right now I’m in the best mental shape of my life. I love speaking at the PARTY Program telling my story.

And that’s where I am at today. Even though living in a wheelchair is very difficult, I can honestly say that I very much prefer my life the way it is now – without drugs and knowing that I can do things to help others.

-Mike Parent


Jennifer's Blog

Jennifer Asawasegai is one of this year's Faces of Mental Illness.

She has just started her own blog and would like to invite you to visit it and learn about her personal experiences with mental illness.

Visit Jennifer's blog!

Michael Wilson among Order of Canada appointments

Lauded as a strong advocate for mental-health issues, former Canadian ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson is being invested in the Order of Canada as a companion.

Following a long career in politics and the financial sector, Mr. Wilson became a mental-health crusader after losing a son to depression and suicide. He started the Cameron Parker Holcombe Wilson Chair in Depression Studies at the University of Toronto and has worked with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. He was first appointed as officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.

- Sarah Boesveld
Globe and Mail (excerpt)
Thursday, July 1, 2010.


Social media helping erase stigma of mental illnesses

Web-based forums talk openly about 'the elephant in the corner'

In an article by Gillian Shaw, the Vancouver Sun discusses the many ways social media is helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness by making it easier for those living with mental illness to share their stories in a comfortable environment.

"Once you start clueing people in, you find everybody has been touched by these things but it is the elephant in the corner and we are still not talking about it." Says Steffani Cameron, a blogger and a speaker at Mental Health Camp, on why it is easier to open-up about personal experiences online.

Read full article