As much as we want to believe it’s gone, it isn’t

It’s May, and mental health awareness month has started. Every year I look forward to the social media programming: the people who share stories of recovery, those receiving support for their current struggles, and the community of providers on social media sharing amazing mental health content. I feel so much solidarity with all of these groups because I’ve been one of them at some point in my life.

As a psychotherapist and someone who identifies as a wounded healer, I feel so honored to witness others’ stories, especially on social media. Even just a few years ago, some people wouldn’t…


Different strokes for different folks

Introduction

In the psychiatric community, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) tend to be spoken in the same breath. Diagnosed with BPD? Then you need to enter DBT treatment. I was one of those individuals for whom DBT was the first-line treatment when I was diagnosed with BPD in 1990, following my second suicide attempt.

According to the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEABPD), “BPD can be defined as a serious mental illness that centers on the inability to manage emotions effectively. …


Finding connection in a lonely world.

Since the beginning, humans have needed others — regardless of gender, ethnicity, or geographic location, we are social creatures. Quality relationships make us happier, healthier, and more productive. Social support buffers stress and fulfills an important psychological need to belong and feel accepted by others.

In an ideal, harmonious world, we would all enjoy plenty of health-protecting relationships, but that is not the reality for many. A startling number of people struggle with loneliness. …


I opened my first psychiatric office in 1989 right across the street from our local hospital. I joined the hospital staff, did consultations on in-patients and, joined the local medical society. In other words, I was visible.

My plan was to make my presence as a psychiatrist known to the medical community. This, I hoped, would coincide with the blossoming knowledge about psychiatric problems among medical patients. Physicians were just beginning to learn that cancer, cardiac, and rheumatology (arthritis) patients, among others, commonly had depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. …


Being awake was agony, and falling asleep was torturous; each day only seemed to worsen

For the past week, I just haven’t been feeling right. My depression was worse, my mood was irritable, and I was so anxious.

I was devastated by this change because I thought I had been doing better. Over the past couple of months, I felt like things were finally turning around. Having this random mood change was difficult to handle.

I wanted to feel like myself again, but I didn’t know how to fix the problem. I tried exercising and drinking water more — instead, it made me feel tired.

As the days went on, my symptoms seemed only to…


Try as I might, I simply cannot quit sugar, and it is causing me both physical and mental issues

Two years ago I was addicted to alcohol and nicotine. My depression and anxiety were strong then, and I found they helped. Except they didn’t. When I discovered how nicotine could actually exacerbate anxiety I decided to quit. And I did. I snapped my fingers and went from six to seven cigarettes a day to none. The incident helped me develop faith in my willpower.

The same happened in the case of alcohol. I eventually realized I required two whole bottles to get drunk where I once needed half of one. And the hangovers were becoming a pain. I drank…


No really, experiencing it for the first time as an adult looks like hell

My first memory of my OCD is when I was around six years old. There were rituals I had to do, but I already felt that undercurrent of ‘Everyone else isn’t doing this, this is weird’. Between that, trauma, and being (undiagnosed until adulthood) Autistic, I experienced a lot of depression.

And I’m glad about that because it would have knocked me off my feet much harder in adulthood.

Lifelong periods of blue

Actually, blue is too nice a color, too deep for the often grey periods that depression brings. It shouldn’t be called ‘the blues’, but the barely colored shades of grey.

I…


Solving this problem — the way modern life interacts negatively with our psyches — is a defining task of our era.

During my 30-year career practicing and teaching psychiatry, there has never been anything like COVID to stress test the emotional vulnerability of our society.

I have written two articles about the mental health fallout of the pandemic (to be clear, I mean life during the pandemic, not specific things like having COVID itself or losing someone to COVID): one at the very beginning looking at what may be coming, and one almost a year later, which took a look at how things were going.

The most significant finding in the second article was that initial research showed young people, from…


Reclaiming my narrative and placing the blame on my rapist is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

82% of sexual assault victims knew their perpetrator; their attacker was a friend, a family member, a coworker, a neighbour. My attacker was my boss, my direct supervisor and the person I was supposed to work closest with. Upon starting my new job, I was told that it was critical that I “get along with Shane” and “work well with Shane”. There was no way to know how much he would take those instructions and twist them for his own perverse pleasure. …


You don’t have to hide from feeling good

Things can and do get better.

After a lot of self-work, resilience, and a willingness to explore your pain, you can start making real progress with your mental health. I have, and it feels pretty crazy.

When this does happen, it can feel weird. Scary even. When you’ve been in turmoil for so long, feeling better can seem like someone is playing a trick on you, so you spend your time waiting for the other shoe to drop. You say to yourself, “there’s no way this could possibly last.”

I’m at that stage now, and I’m figuring out how to…

Invisible Illness

We don't talk enough about mental health.

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