Aimee Mullins at TEDMED 2009

Record breaking athlete Aimee Mullins delivers an outstanding talk that properly redefines the word ‘disabled’.

I Had Cancer

Heatheran talks about her experience with ovarian cancer. She is a survivor but becoming one was not easy, this is her story.

The Pear

By Andrea Shewchuk

What is care?

What is caring?

Who is the “care” in healthcare”?

What is the worth of a pear.

It’s Sunday September 30th, and in 6 days it will be one year since I found myself in the Emergency Room for the second time, afflicted with appendicitis (which I fondly refer to as “Appendicitis II”). Now, I am enjoying a day of knitting, yoga and quiet and, a pear.

This time I was in a cozy ER room within earshot and a good view of the nurses’ station. I had been at a play earlier that evening, ignoring the familiar pain, hoping it was just the play and the result of rushing through dinner.

The ER physician told me that the pain couldn’t be “that bad” because I refused the morphine. I told her that I practice yoga and am able my voice trails off as she leaves the room. She was replaced by 2 young male nurses. The trainee was instructed on the insertion of my IV (saline), at which he was unsuccessful many times. Though I am generally an assertive person, I was watching and weighing the consequences of voicing my concerns about the growing number of punctures on my arm vs. how they may be interpreted. I decided to ask [...] continue the story

The Orange Light or Room-mates

By Andrea Shewchuk

Almost 11 p.m.

We looked out of the 14th floor wall of windows at the orange CN Tower. The CN Tower was lit different colours to mark seasons or occasions. It was that time of an evening or that time anytime when something happens and all truth can be spoken and it’s safe. You just “know” that “time”. We had just come back from a walk around “the lap”. “The lap” was the obstacle course of gown and other disposal units, nurses’ trolleys and other walkers rather than safe passage for people with disconnected abdominal muscles and the impediment of an over-sized, shapeless, hopeless gown with malfunctioning closures to be managed concurrently with an IV in tow.

My room-mate was J. She had a gaping wound that ran several inches vertically from her chest down her abdomen. The doctors had left it open to “heal” after having worked on it in the afternoon. I wondered where I was. I thought of the movie Beautiful Dreamers.

J. had recovered from surgery to remove part of her colon because it was so damaged from one of the many possible syndromes, conditions and dis-eases that we have names for. And then a year later, she wasn’t feeling well and it was discovered that the [...] continue the story

The Present

By Michelle Lemme

Twelve weeks of Day Treatment and 8 weeks of Anxiety Clinic all come down to being mindful; actively participating and staying in the present. Sounds easy right? Not so much. Just ask anyone who lives with chronic anxiety, (anxious predictions lie in the future, not the present), depression, bipolar, OCD or any other mental health challenge. My prediction is that they would tell you that being mindful takes practice, dedication, and focus and that sometimes it is just plain hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why “all roads lead to mindfulness“. When you are actively focused on the present, there quite literally is no room for those pesky, irksome “should haves”, “could haves”, and “what ifs” that can drag us back into the past or take us to some imagined crisis in the future.

Being mindful requires living with uncertainty (frankly, just typing the word causes my heart rate to accelerate). Personally, when the gnawing, nagging fear of uncertainty starts to take over, I do my best to quickly identify the thought, push it away, and then deal with it in my “worry” place (area reserved for worrying, where I challenge and then change the worry thought triggering [...] continue the story

Journal Entry

By Michelle Lemme

UGH, longest day ever in Day Treatment… I hate how I feel; fat, bloated, irritable, sad, exhausted (depression or menopause; doesn’t matter, the symptoms for both are almost identical), skin and everything else totally dried out, worrying non stop about everything and nothing until I want to scream STOP. Jeez, with all these amazing feelings how can I possibly NOT love myself (core belief=I’m unlovable). In any case Wednesday is the day we do Self-esteem, Depression and Worry (I am a star pupil in all classes, but these in particular, I really excel at).

Key learning in Self-esteem today? Apparently having a minimum of 10 “Rules to Live By” is a bit ambitious for someone like myself to take on and “challenge”. I need to get it together, focus and figure out which one or two rules are the most debilitating so I can damn well start to change my automatic thoughts. Such difficult work; honestly, overwhelmingly, mind numbing hard work and self-examination. Needs to be done or change is not possible. I need to control my thoughts, my thoughts can’t continue to control me (I’m exhausted just thinking about how difficult this will be for me to master).

The [...] continue the story

Closing the Door on Cycle 4 2011

By Aryssah Stankevitsch

Last time, the Cycle 4 Team and I were continuing our journey across Canada –remaining kilometers: 1500, Toronto to Digby. We had already completed roughly 5500 from British Columbia. So no sweat, right?

Well, no. There was sweat. Plenty of it. Half of the reason cyclists always wear glasses is to avoid rain, bugs or dirt in their eyes. The other half is to avoid sweat splashing from the rider in front of them.

No matter the amount of perspiration, the next few hundred kilometers would be extremely special for me. I was fortunate enough to bike through my hometown in Toronto’s east end, and enjoy seeing all the places that have meaning to me; my grandparents’ street, the Tim Horton’s where I usually meet friends, the mall where I had my first job.

My second “hometown” of Kingston, where I spend more than half the year as a student at Queen’s was also one of our stops. To see my friends and family welcoming me home, in both cities, just spurred me on to pedal faster and harder for the last few legs of our ride into Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

I can firmly say that no other region [...] continue the story

The Journey Continues

By Michelle Lemme

A major part of my journey back to mental health is “self care” which includes dragging myself to the hospital every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning to attend/participate in Day Treatment.  Wednesday’s tend to be the most draining, as we cover self-esteem, depression and anxiety. One thing I now know to be true is that you can be depressed and not have low self- esteem, however people who suffer from low self-esteem almost always suffer from depression.   I happen to be one of the unfortunate ones to have low self-esteem, depression and severe anxiety.

Honestly, if you were to meet me or ask anyone who knows me, to describe me, they would not use the words “low self-esteem“; which makes me feel all the more like an”impostor”, which, it turns out is one of the many aspects or types of anxiety that I suffer from. Needless to say, I am learning a great deal about myself.

At the heart of self-esteem lies the central bottom line or core beliefs that we have about ourselves. These are almost always deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about ourselves and the kind of person we are.  These beliefs are the result of experiences in our lives, particularly those that occurred in early life. [...] continue the story

Protected: No Hockey. No Problem. 2.

By Dave N.

Imagine that you have to tell your young son that he cannot play hockey with his friends. This son may be around nine or ten years old, and his friends have told him that the hockey they play is non-contact. Imagine how hard it would be to tell your son that he cannot play organized hockey, our national past time, because of a medical condition where an awkward fall into the boards or a fall on a shift could be life-threatening.

I have a bleeding disorder known as hemophilia. My blood lacks a certain protein in the clotting process, Factor VIII, and I need to take this replacement factor intravenously whenever I experience internal bleeding. My medical condition does not allow me to play any intensely physical sports like hockey or football.

When I was around ten, one of my good friends told me about the non-contact hockey league he played in, and I tried to convince my parents to enroll me in the coming fall. Both of my parents told me that they did not think it would be a good idea, but, being a ten year old, I pleaded with them to enroll me. “But it’s non-contact!” I [...] continue the story

What is Major Depression?

By Michelle Lemme

Webster’s dictionary defines major depression as “a mood disorder having a clinical course involving one or more episodes of serious psychological depression lasting two or more weeks each with no intervening episodes of mania”.

I realized, only recently, that what happened in May (see blog archive) was, in fact, my fifth episode of major depression, this time with psychotic features. My first episode occurred when my girls were just 2 and 6 months old. My then and now ex-husband confessed to me that he had been having an affair, on and off, with his best friend’s wife for the better part of our 6 year marriage (wonderful news for my already low self esteem).  His confession came just as I was returning to work after having our second daughter and 2 years after I lost my father to cancer (while I was pregnant) at the young age of 60.  I felt completely alone, isolated and ashamed.  I was embarrassed and scared; I could see no way to survive outside of the marriage and so I stayed, despite ongoing and continuous “mental abuse” suffered at the hands of my narcissistic husband; I could see no financial way for me to leave him and take care of my young children. I stayed [...] continue the story