Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams, Depression and Suicide...

I'm not generally somebody who follows the lives of celebrities, unless they make big news & even then, nothing in their lives has affected me like reading "Robin Williams dead in apparent suicide".

I literally cried. And I'm still crying as I put my thoughts into words. 

You see, it wasn't bad enough that we've lost such a beautiful, bright star. Robin Williams was yet another victim of depression. And I never knew he lived with it.

Of course, now it all makes sense. Many of us who live with chronic depression learn how to hide it well from the rest of the world. Robin was a professional at it.

I've lived with depression for as long as I can remember.

For me, the hardest part is the suffering in silence. I've been so close to following through on suicide. I've been to the edge of the river, about to drive in. I've gone further than I ever thought possible.

But not once have I ever had the strength it takes to reach out during times of crisis. Not Once.


I can think of two reasons right away. 

1. Stigma: once people find out you have a mental illness, they treat you differently. I've experienced this. I've lost friends due to it.

2. Misinformed or not understanding: I can't tell you the number of times, I've been told I'm just not thinking positive enough or to just not think that way.

Well, folks, it isn't that easy. That I know from experience.

I can only talk about my own experience with depression. I have some good days and I treasure them. But when the darkness comes, it's very difficult to get through it.

Imagine being locked in a dark room with no light coming through and no way out. Left alone in the darkness with only your thoughts of helplessness and hopelessness. Sometimes our own thoughts can be our worst enemies.

Some try to mask it with alcohol or drugs, which of course creates more stigma and more judgments from others, which of course only adds to the depression.

And hopefully we learn, before it's too late, that drugs and alcohol don't help at all but only add to the problem.

I hide it for the most part. Nobody wants to listen to a downer, right? So those times, when the darkness is taking over, I isolate instead.

I socialize mainly online. I can put up a lot of positive posts and comments, leaving cute little smiley faces to fool the world into believing I'm just another fun loving friend.

And if you ask me how I am? I'm good thanks, how are you?

While inside, I'm hurting so bad and I cannot make it go away. There are times it will climax to the point where I can no longer find good, logical reasons to carry on. 

All of this is in silence. And I know it always will be. 

Robin Williams has brought so much to so many. A friend and I were reminscing some of his early days on Mork & Mindy. Or The World According to Garp (last night I kept seeing the young Robin Williams, being flown to the hospital in the helicopter, with that smile of his saying "I'm flying"). And who could not love Good Morning Vietnam.

It saddens me to learn that in his last days, Robin Williams, who gave so much, was suffering alone. I don't mean to say that nobody supported him. But when depression get's that bad, one is very much alone in it.

We need to bring more awareness to mental illness. We need to break down the barriers, myths and stigmas that prevent people from reaching out for help.

We have to talk about it.

If you have family and friends who live with depression, be there for them. I don't mean just dropping off the number for the local hotline (though I am very happy the hotlines exist). Be there for that person. It doesn't have to be 24/7. Give them a call to let them know you're thinking about them so they know they're not alone.

Open up the lines of communication & 
whatever you do, watch the judgmental statements or you will only shut that person down. 

We already live with the stigma, the last thing we need to hear from those we love, is how crazy we are for thinking that way. 

And yes, make sure they have the phone number for the local hotline. But also make sure they know you care and that you're there for them. 

***If you think somebody may be considering suicide, ask them.*** 

You will not "put the idea into their head". Trust me, if it's there, it's already there. You're giving that person the opportunity to talk about it.

For those living with depression, I'd like to leave you with the words my oldest son just wrote on his Facebook status. Sadly he had inherited the family curse and knows it well.

"If you are going through depression, as hard as it is to 

remember, you're wanted and loved! Find something, 

anything, no matter how little or big, to get you through

the day. Go for a walk, run, swim, bike ride or workout,

play your favourite game, watch your favourite comedy,

hug a loved one, talk with someone, go skydiving, ride a 

roller coaster, read a book, etc. Find that little thing that

keeps you going through an episode. I love you and others do too "

Thank you David - I love you!!

Rest in peace Robin Williams. You will always be remembered and loved.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


It was five years ago, around this time, on this date. I woke up to a phone message from my niece. It was her 30th birthday and, my sons and I were to be heading to Toronto, to celebrate with my family.

The message was not what I expected and it's left a hole in my heart that I know will never heal. 

Lisa (my niece) was actually calling me from my parents home. I naturally assumed she was there to drive them to my sister's house. But it was awfully early, especially for Lisa.

When I returned Lisa's call, I could not believe what she was telling me. My nephew, Lisa's brother, was in ICU at the London Hospital. He was in a coma due to an accidental drug overdose.
When Damon came into this world, there was a problem that resulted in him being transferred to Sick Children's hospital. He looked like the baby in the posters I used to see, while riding the subway, tubes going into almost every orifice.

While driving to London with both my sons, I told them the story of Damon's birth. I told them "He's a fighter. He can win this". Of course I always try to think of the best.
Lisa and Damon were always very close, with roughly 15 months between them.
         When we arrived at the hospital, the truth hit me like a kick to the stomach.

The nurses were wonderful. And they were honest. Damon was not going to pull through this. And if, being a big if, he did survive; he would be forever hooked on machinery, not even aware of his own existence.

It was the beginning of a few days in hell. My sister had to make that decision. A decision I couldn't imagine, nor would wish on anybody.

There were meetings, arguments, blaming and finger pointing. But the reality was, we knew we had to let him go.

On April 24, 2006, my sister, her partner, my niece and her daughter, my mother and I gathered around, Damon while the nurse disconnected all the machinery that was keeping him alive. It was peaceful. For that I will be forever grateful. But it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Every day I hear or read the judgements people make about "junkies". How easy it is to judge when you're not standing by watching, knowing you are doing all you can. When you don't know that person and what brought that person to where he/she is now.
The irony is Damon was in rehabilitation just a few months before this happened. Sadly when he re-visited Toronto for a family funeral, he slipped up. When he returned to London, he failed the urine test and was evicted.

I'm writing this because as much as our government tries to take control of addictions awareness, it isn't enough. And it needs to be more truthful. I won't get into the politics as I do not want to take this in another direction.

There is nothing we can do to bring back Damon. I write this on his loving sister's 35th birthday, knowing that inside she will be crying.

There is also nothing we can do to bring back other victims of drug addictions. And yes I said victims.

When a person becomes addicted to drugs, they're no longer that same person. The addiction becomes their life. It defines them.

We need to do everything we can with our children before they decide that experimenting with drugs can be a bit fun. Or a good escape from reality, which happens to be the case for many victims. 
I love you Damon. And I will always miss you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Very Special Tree...

My mother turned seventy-three almost two months ago. She's always been a real go-getter and though she's gone through surgery for knee replacement and suffers with arthritis, she hasn't really slowed down.

When I was a young child, I remember it being my birthday. My mother and I were walking along Parliament Street when my mother asked me what I would like for my birthday. My reply was a watermelon. Yes, I was a very strange child and I really did want a watermelon.

Well, my mother, being ever so wanting to please, standing 4' 10" and weighing 87 pounds; bought me my watermelon.

We didn't have the cart that day as she really wasn't preparing to be taking home a watermelon. She carried that thing from Gerrard and Parliament to River and Dundas Streets.

Throughout the years, my mother and I have had our share of disagreements. Then again, it was only to be expected. We are so alike yet so different. I take after my mother in so many ways; her voice, characteristics and mannerisms.

But much of that ends when it comes down to our core beliefs, which we've butted heads over many times until we stopped trying to change each others point of view. But I know she's still praying for my soul.

Like many people, things have been tight since I'm been out of work. Barry and I decided together that having a tree was not a priority this year. We were both okay with the idea and viewed it mainly in a practical way.

Well, when I'd mentioned this to my mother, she would have none of that. My mother has a friend who works in a thrift store up the road. And at this time of the year, used artificial trees are often donated. She went there and purchased one at a great price.
And then my seventy-three year old mother, took it home on top of her cart which was already carrying groceries. She walked over 1/2 kilometre home like that. Thank fully she gave up at the steps and left it in a safe area on the main level.

The ball in this picture was Mollie's donation for decorations.
Barry and I drove to my parents apartment the other day to have a visit with them as well as get the tree home before anything happened to it, where it was sitting. My father recently had surgery for cancer and it was great to also be able to have a visit with them both.
Yesterday we had the energy to assemble our tree and decorate it. Now, in our home, decorating the tree involves Barry putting the lights on so he can synchronize them with the music and leaving the rest to me.
By the time we were done, I thought it looked very pretty and I still do. 
This tree has more spirit, more energy in it than any tree I've ever had; real or artificial. It's been loved for some time before my mother carted it home for us.

And if that isn't love, I don't know what is.

Thank you Mom. I love you.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Cat Named Troll...

     He came into our lives when I needed him the most.

     They called him Dustball as he looked a lot like a dustball, blowing in the breeze. I will never forget the day we went to the Oliver farm to choose one of Taz' offspring. They were all orphaned at two weeks of age as their mommy, Taz, was hit by a car.

     We walked into the milking barn, expecting to perhaps take home one of the two orange kittens. Suddenly this tiny little thing came running up to my feet and stopped to look up at me. He opened his mouth but there was only a little squeak. He really was the ugliest kitten I'd ever seen.

     I instantly fell in love and he came home with us.
     Dustball didn't have much of a coat. In fact his belly was completely fur-less and what pathetic amount he had on his tail, had to be trimmed off as he was covered in poop. He did live in a barn, after all.

     When the Vet first saw him, he guessed him to be about five weeks old. He was actually nine weeks old. None the less, he was too frail for vaccinations at that time.
Dustball spent his first months being fed kitten replacement formula that I would purchase from the Pet Hospital. He grew into a healthy cat with a beautiful coat.

     He also grew to be an ornery little bugger. The first time he bit me, I changed his name from Dustball to Dirtbag. He actually drew blood! Of course in our home, all of our furry family members have nick-names. They wouldn't be family members without them.

     As time went on, Dustball's favourite activity was to lie on the kitchen floor and attack our feet as we went by. My son then began to call him the Foot Troll, which eventually was shortened to the Troll.

 Troll in hiding
     He's a spitfire, that Troll. He's my rough, tough, little cream puff. He has the character I've never known in a cat. He wrassles with our dog, Mollie and even playfully swats at her tail. He's never shown fear in all of his seven years.

     A couple of years ago Troll developed his first Urinary Tract Infection. He was put on anti-biotics and the infection went away. For a short time. Not wanting him constantly on anti-biotics, I looked into more holistic ways to keep him healthy. For the most part, he did really well with very few episodes of distress.

     Until the other day. I had no idea what I was dealing with and the only thing I can really say about my calls to the Pet Hospital yesterday is there was a big miscommunication.

     By today, Troll could barely move. He had to pretty much crawl to where he wanted to get. I couldn't watch him suffer any longer so we made the appointment to have him euthanized.

     Well to my surprise, the Vet we saw today was very encouraging as she talked to us about trying to save him. She got a catheter into him and the draining started.
     Our Troll is there for the night. He has intravenous as well as the catheter doing whatever they can to get him through this.

     Now if you've read this to the end, you will understand what a fighter this boy is. I'm not ready to let him go and I know he's not ready to let go either.
     Please...send him your prayers, positive energy, Power of the Paw or anything else to help Trollie get through. I know he's doing his part by fighting with everything he has.

Until next time...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My celebration of the big 5-0

It seems that after such an extremely hot July that August has brought Autumn with it. Even my garden is reacting to the colder nights.

This August is also bringing in a special celebration for me as I will be turning fifty years old. It's really funny how fast that happens. One minute you're holding your new born baby and the next, you're holding your grand-child.

For years I've always detested birthdays. Maybe it's that I don't feel comfortable being the centre of attention. But all that changed when I turned forty. I learned how to say "No" and stick with it. And I learned to not allow myself to be drawn into other people's drama; something I still have to remind myself of at times.

But it left me often wondering what it will be like as I hit fifty. I've actually looked forward to it as I think of all the lessons I'm learning on this journey.

I was born with a condition called Ectodermal Dysplasia. I was very fortunate that I wasn't affected with many of the conditions that are associated with ED. However, I was born without roots for adult teeth and I remember how, that alone affected my self-esteem growing up. I could have also been bald. 

Many children lose their hair due to medical conditions or are never able to grow hair. Though I'm grateful for being able to grow my hair, it hasn't been easy. I've been growing it for over 10 years now and barely made it passed my shoulder blades. 

Since I started to grow my hair, I've had it all planned out that once it reached a certain length, I'd have it cut off to donate. At that time, I expected to be able to grow it a lot longer. But I do have Ectodermal Dysplasia.

Well here I am turning fifty next week, and am feeling very grateful that my hair kept it's natural colour....red. Though my hair hasn't reached the length I'd hoped for, I'm realizing that if I'm going to be able to donate it, I'm best to cut it before I go grey.

And so I started to research organizations who I could send my hair to and found a Canadian Organization called A Child's Voice Foundation. As I searched through their website, I was very impressed with what they do. And when I contacted the foundation with my proposal to raise funds, along with my hair, the response and was fantastic and quick.

My hair cutting date is Friday, August 26, 2011. I'm hoping to raise at least Five Hundred Dollars (ten dollars for each year of my life) for the foundation. I'm almost at my half-way point.

If you would like to support me in my quest, I have an online donations page.
The next evening we will be celebrating by a great fire. It will be a celebration of the journey that I call life. If you're our friend, I hope you will join us.  

Until then....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Pack Rats boots....

For the last few months, one of my biggest challenges has been trying to de-clutter our house.

I've got quite a bit of old crap in miscellaneous boxes but I also have the odd bit that I want to keep and some that needs to go to the 'adult' kids. A big job for the three of us is to take a weekend, to go through our basement and sort things into piles: Donation, Yard Sale and Garbage. It's going to be a big job but the biggest of it all belongs to my husband. I call him the Pack-rat.

What's funny; at least to me, is that he was born under the Chinese sign of the Rat. He LOVES cheese and; he's tiny and cute like a rat, not to mention his incredible intelligence. But I've been saying for a few years that there was a reason I didn't see his room until he was almost completely moved in with me. I cannot believe what this man holds onto.

Now keeping in mind that he's not only a complete geek; Barry has also spent 17 years in the Canadian Reserves. I remember when I used to trip over his 100 foot antenna. 
He really is a one of a kind.

When I first met Barry, he always wore the most UGLY and old construction boots that were never tied and always looked like they should have been trashed years ago. Even when we were to visit his parents, he was told to leave those things at the door while I was encouraged to leave my shoes on.

A year or two back, Barry got himself a new pair of boots. It's not taking them too long to start taking on the look of his old pair. He wears them everywhere; unless it's not appropriate.

But he won't part with the old pair. They have some kind of meaning. Are all men like this??? I mean afterall, those are the boots he wore when he worked on the original 407 project. For all the jobs he's done, there are so many memories in them. So he makes excuses to hold onto them. "They may come in handy some time....afterall so many years ago, I cut out a piece for something to do with Drew's Drums...therefore, you just never know.

This year, I decided to put my creativity to work. It's a strange kind of year where there's very little, if anything that I want to put into my garden. Our life seems to be hanging on one of those cliffs and I'm looking to see what direction we're meant to go. 

In the meantime, I've had my seedlings growing inside of my home. I put two and two together and viola...

A use for both my husbands old boots and a couple of my seedlings....
This one now holds catnip. Being a perennial, I look forward to watching it grow around the boot.  
I can hardly wait to see his face when this one starts to bloom. It's a butterfly flower.
It's just one idea of many. For those of you who  are dealing with clutter or have dealt with it, I'd love to hear about your ideas. Or pop in once in a while to learn about some more.

Oh...and the best part??? He hasn't noticed them yet, muah-ha-ha-ha  ;) I have to laugh because as I'm closing and my husband is completely oblivious a few feet from me. And I'm listening to non other than "Modest Mouse...I think I smell a rat".

It's been a slice  ;)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saying Goodbye Creatively...

There's an old expression I've never liked: "there are two thing you can count on...death and taxes". I don't really mind the taxes so much but I can honestly say, I've had enough of death.
I guess that's how it seems to go as we age but it's so damned painful. I believe our soul lives on in some way. Some people may refer to heaven or hell or an energy of sorts. I feel certain in my beliefs that our loved ones haven't really left us completely. And I also believe we will meet again. Of course there are those who do not believe that at all and I would never consider it my job to change what somebody else believes in.

As I'm hitting fifty this year, death has become something I feel even more strongly about. Or maybe it's just that there's been so much of it. 

What I find most intriguing is the many different traditions that we, as humans, hold. Options have become more varied and a service can be a final reflection of who we were in our human form.

There's even a company out there who claims to make a diamond out of your ashes. So much to choose from.

This time last year, we lost a dear friend. Susan was witty, colourful, and cared very much about nature. Due to her environmental concerns, Susan decided to be buried in a plain, pine box...very much as was done in the past. 

I did say that Susan was very colourful, yes??? We couldn't have her buried in such a plain looking box. The solution???

Environmentally friendly paints and a wonderful group of friends who were happy to provide Susan with all the colours of the rainbow.  The experience was incredible and when we were all finished, the plain, pine box was plain no more.

My Father-in-law recently passed away. He didn't have any real religious beliefs but my sister-in-law, who is in the Canadian Forces, as well as her husband, arranged to have their padre meet us at the cemetery today to say some words for my father-in-law. It was wonderful how she had the most wonderful readings and phrases that seemed to fit all of us.

It was a small, family affair and we also wanted to do something that we knew he would appreciate. 

My father-in-law always loved his brandy. My husband bought it for him every birthday. He never had the opportunity to open his newest bottle. So we brought it to him.

My husband poured some brandy into a flask. I brought my Quaich, or as my sister-in-law referred to it as "a friendship cup". My Quaich was a gift to me in 2008 from a dear friend in Scotland.
We passed around the Quaich so that each of us could toast my father-in-law and when it got back to my husband, he poured what was left in the cup over the ashes. It was very symbolic as my husbands father was a proud Scot and his brandy was his special treat. 

We left with the feeling that we had done what he would have liked. And in the end, I think that's what is really important.