Bell Let’s Talk – Mental Health

Most people think of January as the “winding down after the holidays” month. They feel lethargic and reluctant to continue with monotonous routine. This January in particular has apparently felt unusually long to some people, but not to me.

I live for Januarys for one reason: Bell Let’s Talk Day.

For anyone who isn’t from Canada let me explain. Bell, a huge telecommunications company in Canada, holds an event designed to stimulate conversation surrounding mental health. The company itself ends up donating to various mental health programs each year, and claims to have donated over $86 million since 2010. Tweets and statuses hashtagging #BellLetsTalk today will each raise 5 cents that Bell will donate.

I love Bell Let’s Talk; it’s the one day of the year society has deemed it acceptable to talk about your mental health status and not feel like a total pariah.

Do I sound bitter yet?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea and I love how engaged it makes everyone. I just think that, considering mental illness will affect 20 per cent of Canadians in their lifetime, this is maybe a bigger issue than an annual thing.

This past month, I was given a brand new diagnosis from my gastroenterologist: CVS, otherwise known as Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. The gist of this condition is that stress and anxiety trigger something in my brain that causes me to vomit. On average, I’m sick 3-4 days a month, but sometimes I’m out seven or eight days. It depends on my stress levels, and obviously those vary constantly.

The fact that I also have dysthymia (now called persistent depressive disorder) and anxiety disorder make CVS a hell of a lot worse because every time I experience any kind of stressful episode, my body physically retaliates.

Since it’s Bell Let’s Talk, I wanted to talk about what it’s like for just a moment.

On days when when I’m sick, I can usually feel it coming. I will have been nauseous the night before, usually after a stressful event (most recently it was my laptop breaking just weeks before I’m moving to Australia). I wake up early that day, sometimes at 3 or 4 a.m., to horrible stomach pains.

I groan and roll myself from bed, knowing in moments I’ll be sick. I have to keep a bucket beside my bed now for emergencies because one time I almost didn’t make it to the bathroom before it started.

Sometimes it’s not so bad, I throw up two dozen or so times over the course of about three hours and then  feel fine. Other times however, I’m not so lucky and I’m dry heaving until my stomach feels inside out for up to seven hours.

After I’m done being sick, my belly is in pain for roughly the next 24 hours. My muscles are sore from contracting, my throat is sore from stomach bile rushing through it, my head is sore from dehydration. I usually spend the remainder of the day sleeping, knowing in the back of my mind that this will happen all over again in a matter of days.

I’ve been told there’s nothing I can do short of taking Gravol, which I usually just throw up (and let me tell you ginger is disgusting to throw up) so it doesn’t really help. I have asked doctors what my options are and I’ve been told to “avoid stressful stimulants”.

As if someone with anxiety disorder can just avoid being anxious, especially when I’m preparing to move and get a new job and start a whole other life. But thanks, doc.

So part of me loves Januarys because I get to open up each year and talk about how sick I am to hopefully end the stigma that my mental illnesses makes me weak. They’ve made me strong; they’ve made me a fighter.

Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you’re weak.


St. Patrick’s Day

There was a party
I went to when I was sixteen
at a stranger’s house
– friend-of-a-friend’s friend –
and for the first few hours
it was a warm, golden glow
a happy and tipsy paradise
of adolescence
and cheap alcohol.
But the clock struck
a sixth or eighth or tenth drink
and stranger’s hands
– friend-of-a-friend’s hands –
bruised my flesh
so I used cheap excuses and beer
as crutches to lean on
when they reached out
a sixth or eighth or tenth time
from a third or fourth or fifth boy
whose names I couldn’t even remember.
I never said “no”;
the thought turns my skin pink
where there fingerprints
once touched me;
but I never said “yes” either,
never invited strangers
– friend-of-a-friend’s whatever –
to invade my precious
personal fucking space
and this thought
turns the boiling blood surging through my body
into a future of
abhorring alcohol
and staying home.
I wondered that night
as I threw up
my eleventh drink
whose fault it had been
and not knowing where to throw my hatred
it shadowed me
and I kept silent about it
but oh yes,
it happened to
me too.


With all due respect
to Mr. Proenneke,
I have to humbly disagree
in regards to packing:
sadness does not dwell
in my carry-on.
The pages of my passport
are stamped with happy faces
blessing me with cheerful departure wishes
because they know
it does not matter to me
if where I am going
is as good as where I have been.
The very act of going
in the first place
is the heroin in my veins sir,
and if my mind is already a million miles away
exploring the unknown anything and everything
I figure I may as well join
and be damned if I’m not excited.

a response to Richard Proenneke’s quote

First Home

My imprint is no longer
in the memory foam beside your sleeping body,
my fingerprints don’t grace your windows
blurring outside images of strangers,
my breath isn’t on top of yours
creating sweet agreements, dinner plans,
my laughter has emptied
from hallways where my photograph once hung,
my footprints have been erased,
vacuumed away with time,
my name has been scratched out
of the home you made for it in your heart

so it’s time to move out.