Sunday 24 April 2016

Wishes Related to my Mental Illness, by Sandra Charron

We are delighted to welcome as our guest mental health blogger Sandra Charron. Of her own blog ( Sandra writes:

This blog is for those of us who struggle with a mental illness. This blog is for those who love someone struggling with mental illness. This blog is for those who wish to understand mental illness. While writing this blog, I will be standing on a very adorably decorated soap box and will speak out very openly and honestly about my own diagnosis of bipolar II disorder (among other mental illnesses.)

We love her blog’s tagline: “I could’t outrun my mental illness, so I embraced it instead.”

I’ve been battling mental illness for three years…well, for three years that I’m aware of. I now know from replaying my life over and over and over again in the farthest parts of my mind lest the closest parts engulf me entirely, well, I can now understand that some of my behaviours stemming back to my adolescence and even my childhood were not, what one would call “normal.”

Of course there is no such thing as normal, so I’m certainly not basing my mental history on society’s expectations, but there are certain aspects of my life that should have been looked into sooner than three years ago.

The only reason medical intervention occurred in 2013 is because I became so depressed that my ability to function as a wife, mother, and a nursing student began diminishing slowly. Day by day I would find my mind clouded with more and more black fog, until eventually, I could no longer see any light. At this time, I was diagnosed as having Major Depressive Disorder, but one year later the diagnosis was finally established as bipolar II disorder.

Now that I am semi-familiar with how bipolar II disorder manifests for me, I hope and pray for certain behaviours; behaviours that should, in a perfect world, mean I’m on the right track, and not about to derail. When that train derails, I take down entire neighbourhoods with me; dark smoke hiding the debris so well that people are unable to help, since they can’t even see where they’re going. So I wish.

  1. I wish that my mind will drift into a peaceful sleep and routinely allow me 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If I begin functioning often and well off of 3-4 hours a night I know I’m becoming manic, which is not good. And if I start looking for every horizontal surface in the vicinity, seeking upwards to 16 hours of sleep a day, I know I’m slipping into depression.
  2. I wish that I can go into a retail outlet and walk out with only the items I was seeking to purchase when I walked in. If I walk out with a pair of $350.00 Michael Kors sunglasses when I already purchased the similar Michael Kors pair last summer, than I know I’m either heading into mania, or I’m there. If I can’t get out of bed long enough to put clean socks on to go to the store, I know I’m heading into Depressionville, population 1, and the last stop will be saturated in that dense, smoky cloud of dust that the train derailment I mentioned earlier has caused.
  3. I wish that my thoughts aren’t racing so fast that I’m unable to write down every item my frantic mind wants to include on my ‘to-do’ list. If this happens, we’re looking at a possible collision in the busiest intersection in town, when the train flips completely onto its side. Casualties may be involved in the form of people I’ve made promises too or lunch dates I’ve canceled at the last minute because my mind is that busy making other plans, which it won’t fulfil either. If I can’t get out of bed long enough to put clean socks on to go on that lunch date, the train doesn’t crash, but it comes to a halt right there in the middle of the intersection during rush hour traffic.
  4. I wish that my stomach doesn’t flip flop in that tell-tale sign of an impending anxiety attack. Swallowing copious amounts of saliva, I seek refuge away from people. Preferably in my bed. But even that doesn’t help when I’m writhing around pinned beneath the train.
  5. I pray that I can hide my pain from my family. I smile A LOT. And make stupid jokes. My pathetic comedy routine is an attempt to morph into another human who doesn’t have a locomotive ramming through her heart every. Damn. Day. Unless of course I’m manic, in which case, I actually think my stupid jokes are funny. And then I just appear ridiculous. No train needed to accentuate this metaphor.
  6. I pray that I don’t overshare. I talk a lot. All the time. It’s a curse really. I’m one of those people who don’t listen because I’m always talking. So my purpose in life is to be a part of the movement that eradicates the stigma associated with mental illness. In doing so I feel it necessary, and authentic, to tell people…my friends and family, what’s inside my wreck of a head. And then, I’ll realize that my head is not in fact a wreck filled with useless knowledge. It is filled with glorious insight that not everyone is privy to or can understand, and in a grand standing gesture, I halt the train with my hand; stopping that bad boy before it crushes me beneath its metal wheels (are the wheels metal? I don’t even know. Whatever. Just go with it), and in a moment of clarity I realize that my curse is also my gift.

Sandra Charron


Wednesday 13 April 2016

How Do You Respond to Challenge?

I had the privilege this afternoon to listen to some inspirational speakers at a corporate event. The speakers included someone I respect hightly as a colleague, and senior managers from across the globe.

The industry, sector, and account on which I work all face significant challenges in the months and years ahead—as many of us do in our personal lives. No amount of “happy happy talk” is going to make the issues go away, but that’s not what was being offered today. It was a call to rethink our approaches. A call to engage. In the workplace. In our wider community. Most of all, within ourselves.

Returning to the office, I was saddened but not wholly surprised at the reactions I heard from other attendees to what—for me—had been an important and empowering message.

Cynicism, bitterness, resentment, and self-righteous entitlement are amongst the shields we habitually employ when challenged to think differently, and be more than we have imagined ourselves to be.

It doesn’t have to be that way.



Monday 11 April 2016

How to Write A Status Report for Your Friend’s Psychiatrist

Supporting someone who lives with mental illness can be challenging, but there is a great deal you can do to help on a practical level, whether you live nearby or—as Fran and I do—on opposite sides of the globe.

Something I am able to do for Fran on a regular basis is write a Status Report for her to take to appointments with her psychiatrist.

This helps Fran because she often finds it difficult to recall details, especially if she has been fatigued or depressed. She also values having another person’s perspective. She sometimes asks other friends to offer their impressions of how well—or otherwise—she is doing, but I am best placed to provide an ongoing perspective, because we are in touch on a daily basis.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to her care and support team. They value my input as someone who knows Fran well and can provide additional input.

I prefer to write my report on the day of her appointment. I start from her current status, as I see it, but also refer back over the period (usually between two and four weeks) since her last appointment.

There is no set structure, but I generally bullet point my comments and observations under the following headings.

What’s Happening
A snapshot of what is going on for Fran at the time, listing any key events, successes, or concerns.

Physical Health
In this section I focus on Fran’s levels of fatigue and pain, how she has been sleeping (insomnia can have a major effect on her other symptoms), and any other physical symptoms she has experienced recently.

Emotional Health
Fran’s general emotional state, for example whether she has been feeling flat, irritated, frustrated, or angry; or positive, motivated, and engaged.

Mental Health
Here I note any red flag behaviours we have detected which might suggest she is slipping into either mania or depression; also whether suicidal thinking has been as issue recently.

People and Connections
Relationships are important to Fran, and a good indicator as to how she is doing generally. I list any significant positive or negative experiences she has had with friends or other people recently (whether locally or online), inviting Fran to explore these further during the appointment.

Anything Else
Anything that seems relevant which I have not mentioned elsewhere, including projects Fran might be working on, upcoming trips or challenges.

Have you ever considered or been asked to write a Status Report for your friend or loved one? Would you be interested in doing so? We would love to hear you thoughts.



Sunday 10 April 2016

Who’s Stupid?

The thing about chronic illness is it never ends. It’s not like you can be friends with someone and say nice things and then they feel better and get over it. Or tell them look at all the things to be thankful for, while they are tormented with symptoms.

Being friends with someone with chronic illness requires stamina, character, and a morality that is purely giving and compassionate, and yes even humorous.

The sooner society gets this message the sooner we can be a part of it, instead of separate from it. We have gifts too.

But please show some respect. The last thing we are is stupid.



Saturday 2 April 2016

Bipolar Goggles, by Joan Jessup

I am currently reading Joan Jessup’s book Bipolar Goggles, and cannot recommend it highly enough. As Fran’s best friend and caregiver for the past five years, so much of this book rings true.

Written with great clarity and honesty, Jessup shares her experiences of living with bipolar disorder. There is no hiding the impact illness has had on her life and those around her, and she is clear about her responsibility to work to be—and remain—as well as possible, recognising also that this is a lifetime condition with no cure.

I believe this is an important book and I encourage everyone to read it—and talk about. It is by sharing our stories, both well and ill alike, that we can learn from one another, and counter the negative stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental illness.

Bipolar Goggles is published by Gravity imprint of Booktrope Publishing and is available for Kindle and in print from and

Follow the author on her blog, Twitter (@BipolarGoggles) and Facebook (Author Joan Jessup).



Friday 1 April 2016

A Day in My Head, by Aron Bennett

Aron Bennett is looking for budding diary writers for his project “A Day in My Head,” a collection of diary entries to be written on May 16th 2016 by people round the world who are affected by a mental health condition. If you are interested in taking part, you can contact Aron via any of the links below.


A Day in My Head

This is a fairly new project and I really need the help of fellow writers.

With the aid of a few mental health charities, I am compiling a book which encompasses a day in the life of people living with mental illness. I am looking for 500 volunteers to each write about one particular day: May 16th 2016, which is the start of National Mental Health Awareness Week. I will self-publish the work and all profits will go to charity.

The aim of the project is to end stigma as well as to raise money for charity. It is also a chance for people to get their voices heard and their literary skills recognised by a much wider audience.

I am looking for an array of individuals with different backgrounds, cultures, experiences and mental health conditions. Professionals and carers are also welcome.

In terms of the content itself, I am asking for up to 750 words (it is fine to write less). It should incorporate your current experiences but can draw on past experiences also. I will be editing only to the extent that entries are grammatically correct and “in good taste” (a very loose stipulation, people's experiences should not be censored at all).

If all that suits you, I look forward to working with you!

Aron Bennet

Twitter: @Mentalhealthproject
Facebook: A Day in My Head (Public group)