One January 3 2013 – I went on a retreat to find myself and no this is not a sandals resort either…
I went and got me an all-inclusive pass to the funny farm, the Happy Hills Hilton otherwise known as the Mental Hospital.
Life is hard my Friends.
So I ask that you pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable.
Because shit just got real.
But….first may, I ask that you remove every horror movie and preconceived idea or notion that you have of whatthat looks like in your mind’s eye.
Control . Alt. Delete.
So go ahead….
Remove the bars from the windows and take a big breath in.
Remove the white walls and paint them with colour and artwork and poetry.
Remove every locked door to a rubber room and open your mind.
And take a walk down memory lane with me – you just might find pieces of yourself along the way
Truth be told the sanest kindest most authentic people I’ve ever met in my lifetime I met in that joint..
And perhaps the bravest.
They were willing to take the masks off – the hats they wear, the titles they have, all the things we do to seem normal – as if life is one grand masquerade ball – because sometimes it is.
When did taking a seat, when you are finally ready to stand become normal?
When did zipping your lips when you desperately want to speak become normal?
I spent much of my life feeling like Rose did on the titanic. – all dolled up like a princess – but still hanging off the back of a boat… saying it – out loud “ I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room screaming at the top of my lungs and no one even looks up!”
I hear ya Rose. I hear you and ya said it long before that ship began to sink….
Ya see, I took ALL my shame, my secrets, my sins and I put them in a box, wrapped it in duct tape and marked it FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE, DO NOT OPEN and shoved it into a dark corner in my mind and carried on, pretending it wasn’t there. And yes like Rose, it sucked the life out of my eyes, and the light out of my soul, to wear and bare that pain like a corset – under those layers and layers of Victorian dresses that look so picture perfect.
BUT it worked for a long while until it didn’t.
When on, one crisp fall morning, in October…I watched my 10 year old daughter prepare for school photos, in the mirror – trying so hard to hide her prepubescent awkward self, dressing layer upon layer and adding a scarf just in case.
I saw how young 10 was.
How innocent 10 was.
How tiny 10 was…
And realizing that those things that happened to me at that age – I was just a little girl too!
And with one lightening bolt of a flashback, that box that stored everything from my youth and every other thing from my adulthood – that I had stuffed in the the fragile space along the way – that sudden jerk – it flipped that box end over end.
Dizzy, unsteady, shaking …. I slid down the wall of my sun soaked red kitchen, sitting on the floor – my life now laid out before me – in pieces, a 1000 piece puzzle with no picture to reference to put it back together.
A storm of the sadness, anger, grief, fear and all that pretending to be fine – ripped through like a tornado, tearing down my white picket fence façade…..
And with a huff and a puff -it blew my house down.
The shame, the silence, the sins, the sexual assault – all now left now in a heap in the rubble – to pick apart and put back together.
And finally realizing that there was absolutely NO safe place left to hide from the truth – I asked for help!.
Is that crazy?
It was my first weekend in hospital.
I hid in my room – feeling frightened and alone.
As I clung to my warm fuzzy cream throw like a security blanket.
I peaked outside, the door slowly with what little strength I had left.
So depressed I was exhausted but too anxiety ridden to sleep.
So angry I couldn’t breath and yet….
I felt beckoned – by the call of one bigger than myself, the sound of laughter and the smell of warm buttered popcorn, to follow my senses and leave that lonely space.
I cautiously tipped toed – as I always had – into the unknown – to a slumber party of roommates and friends just hanging out on the couch – watching one flew over the coo coos nest.
Us depressives, we have a sick sense of humor but so does life sometimes, doesn’t it?
I stood behind them, where I had been standing my entire life – watching, waiting for an invitation to join in. Not knowing whether to step forward or to go back to my room.
And on that big tv screen was THAT scene – the scene where the distinguished, clean cut, oh so serious psychiatrist sits behind his big desk with his accolades and picture perfect life up on the walls for all to see and admire.
And Mac — Jack Nicholson, on the other side stubbly, disheveled and yet, without so much as a flinch- so damn honest.
When the Shrink asks THE question – Why do you think you are here?
To which he replied- well as far as I can see doc – I fuck and I fight too much!
And then that one sentence, that I have never forgot said by Jim – a co-patient, a CEO millionaire stockbroker on Bloor Street and yet just a fellow traveller here on this journey with me….
say “ Ain’t that the truth?”
Is that crazy?
For many, it is…
So we laugh at the irony and nod in the affirmative, whether we are sitting in the west wing lounge at a Mental Health Facility or sitting at home in our own family room….
And think, damn if that’s crazy – then maybe we kinda all are?
Stop right now, the truth….
The truth is dangerous – all those feelings, just keep them to yourselves. You are making us uncomfortable.
Because my truth is actually your mirror – a reflection of our own insecurities, our own pain and our own crazy.
In fact we actually prefer if you just keep the damn masks on please.
So we do what we can – right ?
We deflect, to silence our fears, to stifle our tears, to restrain our emotions, to numb and frankly to hide from all of it.
Some drink it down it down with wine. While others drug it up with other substances.
Some gamble with it. While others don’t even place a bet just to play it safe.
Some cut into their own flesh. While others break their own hearts.
Some eat their feelings until they feel better. While others ignore their hunger panes and starve them.
And yes some like Mac – who try to screw it and scrap it away.
Is that crazy?
In my humble opinion, crazy is as crazy does.
So I stand before you as the face of mental illness. I found I have PTSD.
BUT I ALSO found healing, redemption and freedom in the most unlikely of places!
My face -me – I am the face of your elderly mother, your daughter, your sister, your colleague, your nurse, your pastor and your president – and maybe even you?
Because mental health does not discriminate.
It knows no colour, gender or social status.
It doesn’t care if you have your GED or your PH D.
Nor does it care if you are an average Joe or a celebrity with 2 million followers on Instagram – no one is immune from being affected….
And according to my research what I’ve found in unequivocally –
100% of the population has at least once, in their lifetime struggled with feeling depressed or anxious and experienced some form of trauma.
We have ALL lost a our marble.
Some of us – even two.
So can we shatter the fucking stigma?
And stop seeing discomfort, as something taboo?
Ya I’ve been called a drama queen.
Some prefer the lies,
But I’m a fucking trauma queen,
And from that psych ward … I DID RISE.