Archive for Awareness

Mental illness is not a game.

Nor is it a joke.

Prior to September 3rd 2009, I was a relatively normal, mostly happy, pretty well adjusted person.

Then I lost one of my closest friends.

I’ll never forget that day. Depression robs you of so many things (including your memory), but some things are forever etched so firmly into your memory that no matter what you do, you can’t forget even if you wanted to (and yes, sometimes you really want to).

Everything changed for me that day, I didn’t know to what extent until quite some time later. I just knew that I wasn’t OK and didn’t feel like myself. I had never lost someone so violently and so unexpectedly until that point. I’m no stranger to death as most of my family is gone. It wasn’t until several months later that I started to do some digging into what was wrong with me.

Diagnosis: Type A-Typical depression (typical when you suffer a traumatic event including death or a really bad break up and more). It generally doesn’t last forever and if you’re fortunate, talk therapy is usually the ‘cure’. I say ‘cure’ because depression doesn’t truly go away. It’s a disease and it can lie for a long time before rearing it’s ugly head again. Something that rears it’s ugly head whenever I loose someone that I love.

I also got diagnosed with anxiety, which is depressions best friend.

Along with OCD.

Having to live with all three of these things changes you, it changes who you are. It constantly affects every aspect of your life. Personal and professional and there’s not much you can do except learn to cope with it.

Depression is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. It robs you of your memory, it robs you of energy, it robs you of having a normal life.

It’s not something that I often talk about, there’s a huge stigma and a lot of ignorance surrounding these things. People mean well, but it’s so frustrating that it’s just easier to not say anything at all and try and deal with it the best way you know how. I am also a private, somewhat introverted person. I don’t often share my feelings with most people because they really don’t get it.

I don’t hold that against anyone because it’s not their fault, they haven’t walked the same path(s) that I have, nor have they suffered the same losses that I have either.

It does not however, make it any less real.  

Just because it’s not something that you don’t understand, it does not give you the right to dismiss it, nor does it give you the right to mock someone who suffers from these things (and more) so that you can have a laugh at someone else’s expense.

So needless to say, it really upsets me greatly when I hear incidents of people being the butt of someone’s jokes or the punchline or people who deliberately go out of their way to upset someone because THEY think that’s it’s funny.

Because it’s not. 

Mental illness is not a game. We have no control over how we react to things, believe me, if we did, we would. So when you openly mock someone that you know, care about or love, you are not only dismissing them, you’re also dismissing their disease.

That’s not okay, that is never, ever okay. 

When I see/hear/experience these incidents, it calls into question a persons character. I can’t speak for anyone else but it truly makes me wonder what on earth is wrong with you.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

End the stigma, don’t contribute to it.

How do you say i’m sorry?

*This submission comes from Robert, who allowed his first name to be used.

Dear Friends…

I am looking for a more powerful word, compound word, or sentence-in-a-word–in any language–that conveys “I am sorry” in a much more powerful way than the lameness that seems to be how “I am sorry” has come to be regarded. Why? Well, most of you know who I need to say I am sorry to and why, but years of my depression have left it in a way that “sorry” is just woefully insufficient.

In fact, I hurt four people who need to know just how sorry I am, who need to know that it is more than a passing blurting of “sorry”.
Sorry seems to me the word you use when you accidentally step on someone’s toes in a crowded metro station, it’s not powerful enough to convey what I need to say to the four people I hold most dear. It is not powerful enough to really get the message across to any of them, and most especially to my lovely wife who I hurt the most in all of this.

How do you say to the woman you yet adore, who you still want to grow old with, who you want to be the first and last person you see everyday for the rest of your life, how do you say to her “I am sorry that I hurt you while I was depressed” in a way that doesn’t just seem as casual as the way you say “sorry” to stranger as you navigate that crowded public space.
Do you know what I mean? Sure, we mean it when we say sorry to someone in public like that, but it’s shallow. It’s of no real consequence because, well, so what right? We’ve already stepped on their foot and we’re moving on. We probably don’t have to see them again–ever.

This is why “sorry” is not enough to say to the woman I have loved for well over 20 years, to the woman I married in 1996, to the woman who gave birth to our three beautiful children, to the woman who held my hand so many times that I needed support, to the woman who encouraged me all this time to find my way in breaking free of depression.

This is why “sorry” is not enough when it comes to three children I love so dearly. Sorry lacks the depth to tell them “I do love you, I wish you had not seen me feeling so badly for most of all of your lives. I have so much more to give to you as a father who loves you.” Sorry doesn’t convey that, sorry just says “oops, I did it again” and leaves it hanging out there.
Sorry doesn’t take away the sting. Sorry doesn’t ease the pain all four of them have felt over the years.

Sorry doesn’t make go away the fear that Robert will lose it over what seems trivial yet again. Sorry doesn’t immediately make a child forget that for most of their lives even the smallest little thing–like knocking over a pile of recently folded clothing, mandating it be refolded–will not turn into Daddy shouting again. Even when this time he laughs and says “rats!” and just picks things up and sorts them out. The memory of what had been the typical response does not fade in one moment.

Everyone I know, my lovely wife included, knows that I want to end this separation. I want to make my every single day about living sorry rather than just saying it. I want to improve the lives of the four people I love the most in this life. I want us all back under the same roof–I want us all living at the same address.
Yes, it has only been 30 days since my wife left. But it feels like it has been 30 years. This is the first week of rotating custody weeks for our three kids. It has only been a couple of days and I feel like I have been in solitary confinement for an eternity.

The sad thing is that I know now just how long my misery was affecting my little family. Until things started clearing up for me only 75 days ago, I was not only oblivious to what I was doing to them, I was unable to remember most of what I said and did. My memory was affected by my state of mind. Now, oh my gawd, I see it all. My pain is now not depression but sorrow for how I know they must have all felt as they watched me suffer.

Oh yes, some of you know that there was an underlying physiological condition that at the least magnified–if not caused–how badly I felt. I understand fully how it can and does seem unreal that this condition may have existed for a decade, maybe more, maybe even preceding the day I first met my wife. What convinced me that it has been around for over a decade was the disappearance of a very big problem I started facing in 2004 that limited my ability to enjoy many situations in the years since–my apparent “allergy” to parfum. Anything that had parfum in it–perfume, cologne, shampoo, conditioner, soap, cleaning products, laundry detergent, you name it–they all triggered migraine headaches. Oh what I went through with most people not believing I had migraines.

But I had them. And, miraculously, they are gone. I mean gone. Imagine this: I used to enjoy wearing cologne. I had been wearing it from my teens until my problem stared in 2004. Then I started having migraines so bad that I was blinded–at times for hours, even more than a day–by the pain of the headache. And then, sitting in a waiting room a couple of months ago, shortly after I felt the depression lift, smelling nothing short of a cloud of perfumes, I did not get a migraine. This was shocking to me. I went looking for things with parfum in them exposed myself to them… and nothing happened. I have since even wore cologne again–no migraine!

This was something–the migraines–that was a big part of my suffering in recent years as I worked in a job that I not only disliked, but that exposed me to a great deal of fragrance. In 2014 a series of massive migraines–day after day for months–contributed to my rapid decline into such a depressed state that I was a) given meds for depression and b) started a disability leave from work that lasted 50 weeks!

Over that 50 weeks my mood ebbed and flowed. It was better at first because I was removed from the things that made me feel the worst. Then it got bad again when the meds backfired. Then it got better. Then it got worse when the Short Term disability became Long Term and the insurance company tried holding back money as a means to get me to admit I wasn’t depressed, I just wanted a vacation.

In this time, every time my mood sunk, I hurt the people I love. I hurt them so badly they surely felt “Robert does not love me, how could anyone hurt the person they love this badly?” (Substitute “Dad” for Robert for three beautiful, wonderful children and you see how I hurt everyone I love). Extend this to my parents and my sister and my friends who not only recently but for years had to put up with only hearing about how badly I felt.
There was a time in my life when I had a pretty good group of friends, and over the years I either withdrew to hide them from seeing how badly I felt, or they withdrew when they got more than a glimpse of how I felt.

So I came to a point this year when I thought in my head that I had no one and nothing to live for. And I did the nastiest thing I could ever do, I tried to hurt myself–and not only that, I did it in front of the love of my life. I couldn’t stop myself. The only thing that stopped me was when she cried.
Something that night “shocked me” (and I’ve had medical and mental health professionals agree on that) and from there I emerged from a depression that was so long and so deep that I had no idea how bad it was. And, the physiological problem changed to boot.

Now I sit here with an emotional and physical wellness that, and this is something, I realized recently, I have NOT felt since late 1992, early 1993. That’s right, before I started dating the lovely, beautiful, brilliant, funny, sexy, charming, enchanting, caring, compassionate, woman I married in 1996.
But I sit here alone. I am alone because my illness drove her away. And now, every other week my three amazing kids are with her and I do not have the privilege of seeing them every day, of sharing meals with them, sharing time with them, hugging them before bed, tucking them in, listening while they tell me about their interesting days, playing cards, watching TV, just “being” with them.

And so I crave knowledge of how to apologize in that way that really begins the healing so that we can be a whole family again.
I love them all so deeply, every atom in my body feels it.

I know, a hurt like I put onto them–especially onto my wife–is not one that goes way in 30 days. But I hope for the day when my dream–the vision, in fact that I have already had–comes true and she comes home to start rebuilding our relationship, to allow me to be the doting husband I should have done a better job being all along.
I guess that’s a hell of a lot to take in. Thank you to anyone who dare to read this far.


3 years… Time to make a difference.

September 3rd 2009 was the day that everything I thought I knew ceased to matter.  Everything changed for me that day.  I came home only to discover that my best friend had shot himself to death in the wee hours of the morning.

I miss him. Every. Single. Day. It’s normal for me, missing him is like breathing.  I’m so used to it now and the hurt hasn’t be completely erased but it is no longer the hellish nightmare that it once was.  Jason’s death however, was not in vain.  No matter how bad a situation, I try to take something positive away from it.


If anything to make it suck a little less.  I have learned that life is short.  Too damn short.  I stopped caring what people thought of me and started living life for me and me alone.  That’s why I am the way I am today.  It took something to rock me to the core of a soul that I never even knew that I had to wake me up.  I stopped taking things for granted.  I stopped taking people for granted.  I’ll admit it, I was one of those people.  I always thought that I had more time.  Don’t we all?

We always think we have more, I think in a way it’s a defense mechanism to offset the guilt.  Such as when we ditch our un-wanted animals in the alley.  We figure that they can fend for themselves.  Right?  Perhaps we drop them off at the local pound.  They’re super smart/cute/unique so they’ll get adopted fast! Right?


I will spare you the horror stories of how many cats I alone have seen in this area either dead or near death due to the carelessness of someone else.  I have assisted in the rehabilitation/rescuing/fostering and re-homing of several dogs and all of my animals have been rescues.  You’re likely wondering what NAYOP and animal rescues have to do with each other.

It’s quite simple actually.  Jason had the biggest heart out of anyone I had the privilege of knowing.  His kindness and generosity was something that always stood out to me and he would often donate to charities.  Jason also suffered from severe depression/bi-polar disorder and anxiety.  Jason was told that there was nothing they could do to save him.  Animals have been proven to have a calming effect on people who are suffering from some forms of mental illness and art has also be proven to be exceptional therapy.

When I lost Jason, my world fell apart.  I honestly and truly believed that I was going to die from a broken heart because it just hurt that bad.  It was because of someone else who was a part of my life at that time that I got in touch with my creative side and started painting.  I also started to focus on my photography more and Bandit, this amazing sweetheart of a dog from the SPCA stole my heart.

So I decided that this year on the anniversary of his death that I was going to do something a little different.  I am choosing to pay it forward using my art work, along with the donations of several other people’s work to assist the voiceless.  That being said (I’m) Not Afraid Of Your Pain (NAYOP) and Stuff by: Chef Steph will be sponsoring this event.

A special smug mug account has been set up.  You shop and smug mug does the rest!  The quality is exceptional and their customer service exceeds even my highest expectations!  Please share this album with your friends as it will only be around for a limited time!

Click here to check out the gallery and purchase prints!

The two rescues who will benefit from this for the month of September are: I am alive dog rescue and Bell’Anima rescue.  I am hoping that this is so successful that I can keep doing it (using different images) for different rescues across the globe.  There is so many and after doing countless hours of volunteer work, the costs are far more vast than one would think!

Along with the smug mug goodies, Chef Stephanie will be selling batches of her homemade dog biscuits!  Made out of 100% natural ingredients, they are fit for human consumption, a good source of protein and best of all: They’re made in Canada from start to finish!  Everything is locally sourced.  For more information on Chef Steph’s dog cookies please go to her facebook page for more information and how to buy.

Thank you all for your support!  It means a lot.


What about the others?

This is likely going to hit a nerve or five most likely.  It’s not my intention to do so, this however has been something that’s been riding on my mind for a while and I feel that it’s time I spoke up and said something.

I support and stand by anyone who has a suicide related cause, after all we’re all working towards the same goals.  This is not a competition, this is a fight for survival.  However it saddens me greatly that the media generally focuses on the younger LGBTQ community due to the rash of suicides that occurred (sadly) last year.  Now before you start sending in the hate mail, I have scores of friends who are members of the LGBTQ community and I absolutely adore them!  They add color to my life, inspire me and help me to learn about their plight(s) and in turn allow me the benefit of educating others.

That’s a beautiful thing. For that, I thank you!

However, what about the others? The friend who couldn’t cope with his broken heart and hung himself from a tree in his best friends yard only to have his best friend find him?  What about the friend that was suffering from bi-polar disorder, battling an addiction and just couldn’t cope anymore and took matters into his own hands by shooting himself in the wee hours of the morning? What about the guy I went to school with (both elementary and high school) who ended his life because his rights as a father were taken away?  What about the friend who felt that he couldn’t contribute to society and for whatever reason decided to end it one night after overdosing on barbiturates? What about the person I knew who jumped to his death because life had taken too many wrong turns?

Those are just examples of people that I know of personally.  They were all straight, white and male.  They all suffered in their own minds for reasons that I and others that knew them can only speculate upon and where’s the attention for them?

Bottom line is this: Yes bullying IS an issue, being different or LGBTQ can in fact be a struggle for some as well.  However it’s just not the bullied or the LGBTQ community who suffers.  We all do at some point in our lives and sometimes there comes a point where regular everyday people can’t take it anymore and take matters into their own hands and end it all.  Leaving their loved ones to wonder why.

They matter too.  Let’s not forget about them.


It’s not going to turn out the way you thought…

*Re-posted with gracious permission from Kate   NAOYP has no direct affiliation with Kate or any of her subsidiaries or business.  Stephanie just felt this was a lovely, meaningful post worth sharing, please enjoy!  

It will happen later. His best friend will ask you out instead. You’ll be kissed in the movies instead of on a beach. You’ll end up going to a different school because the one you thought you’d get into didn’t work out.

She’ll move away. Someone else will move in next door. She’ll be a little weird at first, a little more shy, but ultimately really good at riding bikes and playing dolls.

That part you always wanted will go to that other girl instead. And you’ll rock it out in the chorus like your life depended on it. Because on some level it does.

The road you were going to take will be flooded and closed. The inn where you were going to stay will be under renovations. He’ll be taller than you thought. And have a funny accent. But will be a good kisser nonetheless.

You’ll get a flat tire on the way to that crucial meeting and end up peeing your pants laughing with the gas station attendant over a copy of Us Magazine. And someone else will fill in for you because they always do.

You won’t get that dream job like you thought you would. It will go to someone else with far less creative drive and vision than you. Someone far better suited for a cubicle than you.

You’ll be put in groups with people who put your panties in a wrinkle. You’ll sit next to someone on the plane who you’d never talk to except that they won’t shut up…and you’ll end up staying in touch for years and taking family vacations together.

Five years after you graduate life won’t look anything like you would have imagined. You’ll be single when you thought you’d be married. You’ll have kids when you thought you’d be in the Peace Corps. That trip to Laos will get delayed because you’ve got to stay home and take care of your grandmother. Laos will be there. You’re grandmother won’t always.

He’ll move over seas and oddly the Atlantic Ocean between you will bring you closer than you ever dreamed possible. You won’t get engaged, married, or pregnant when you thought.  You’ll miss the bus/train/plane/ferry that you thought you just HAD to be on.

You’ll fall off the turnip truck. You’ll jump on a different bandwagon than you intended.  You’ll get fired when you thought you ought to be getting hired.

You’ll realize you forgot the outfit you had planned to wear and that the shoes are all wrong now that you have a full-length mirror to see the whole outfit. Your shirt will be wrinkled and you’ll spill red wine on your white jeans.

Your dog will eat your five-year plan. You’ll drop your Blackberry in the toilet (at least once.) Your computer will crash and you’ll delete the first draft of your magnum opus. You’ll accidentally delete your hard drive and end up with a clean slate.

You’ll show up late to the date with the guy you were sure was going to fit into your husband suit and realize he’s less than graceful under stress and not so flexible. (Better to know now than later.)

When you thought you’d be baking pie and living behind your very own white picket fence you’ll find yourself doing something so entirely different you couldn’t have even imagined it a year before.  There will be moments when you’ll look around and not even recognize your own life…in a good way.

You’ll take a wrong turn and end up in an entirely different city than you intended. You’ll dial the wrong number and end up in love with an entirely different person than you intended.

You’ll flunk out and end up taking five years instead of four to graduate. You’ll have your heart broken when you were sure you were with the one and then meet the other one a month later. You’ll move to a new city to start a new business with those perfect new business partners and then it will all go to shit. And you’ll move across the country again only to realize that that’s where you belonged the whole time.

You’ll drive as far away from home as possible thinking that it will make you feel free. Then you’ll get homesick and drive back four months later because you suddenly feel trapped.

You’ll imagine the open road, country music playing loud, you signing at the top of your lungs, and flirting with a new man in every town. And then you’ll invite someone to come with you on a whim and realize driving around the country by yourself was a terrible idea anyway…and that its way more fun when you’re traveling with someone you love.

You won’t do it at the right time.

You’ll be late.

You’ll be early.

You’ll get re-routed.

You’ll get delayed.

You’ll change your mind.

You’ll change your heart.

It’s not going to turn out the way you thought it would.

It will be better.