Dodo

Eh petit bébé, il faudra se taire
Ouais même si papa frappe ta mère
Bah il faudra s’y faire
Je sais qu’il fait mal
Même quand il s’en va
Mais c’est tout à fait normal
Car papa a les plus gros bras

Et si monsieur louche sur toi
Il faudra se taire
Pendant et après que monsieur te touchera
Chut, chut
Il faudra se taire
C’est dur, ouais, c’est dur, ouais
Mais il faudra s’y faire

[Refrain]
Dodo l’enfant Do
Bébé dormira bien vite
Dodo, l’enfant Do
Bébé dormira

Dodo l’enfant Do
Bébé dormira bien vite
Dodo, l’enfant Do
Bébé dormira bientôt

Et puis tu verras
Que maman n’est pas mieux que papa
Car maman aime voir d’autres monsieur
Et même si c’est bien fait pour papa
Tu n’aimeras pas
Quand papa la tapera elle criera

Car il se fâchera encore une fois
Et il te fera ce qu’on lui faisait
Et il te dira que c’est ta faute à toi
Que les grands hommes mâles ne pleurent pas
Mails qu’ils se battent, enfin battent leur femme
Mais surtout leurs enfants et tu pleureras
Oui c’est pas grave
Oui tu oublieras
Tu verras tu l’feras…

[Refrain]

Plus que quelques fois dormir
Pour que papa n’se lève pas
Même si tu n’seras qu’un peu moins triste quand il disparaîtra
Et encore beaucoup d’fois dormir
Et enfin tu t’reposeras
Pas tout de suite mais dans longtemps, très longtemps tu dormiras

Enfin tu dormiras
Enfin tu dormiras
Enfin tu dormiras

Enfin tu dormiras

On disclosure

Disclosing mental illness may look like a risky thing to do, and in some ways it is. I understand that it may turn people away from me, that it may even make me miss good job opportunities.

But if for example I am not hired for a job because my mental condition may put my abilities in question, then would such a missed opportunity be that much of a good one? Rather, doesn’t it mean that I am dodging a bullet by avoiding a toxic work culture where mental illness is considered weakness or incompetence? Having a good job is not only about having a good salary: it is also very important to be in a space where I can cater to my well-being, which cannot be achieved if I were to face stigma and intolerance on a daily basis.

I wish to fight the stigma around mental illness and contribute to the dialogue

By putting myself out there, blogging candidly about it, and therefore exposing myself, I wish to fight the stigma around mental illness and contribute to the dialogue that is currently going on in Canadian society. I hope that eventually, mental illness will be better understood and that society at large will be able to see beyond the prejudices and stereotypes.

Also, not having to hide is a weight that I allow myself to take off of my shoulders, because I’d rather spend my energy on something more positive, like taking care of myself and making sure that my needs are met (which is a bit of a new concept to me, but that I have come to accept as paramount to a proper recovery).

I have been abused verbally, physically, psychologically during all my childhood. I have suffered neglect. I was sexually molested. I have been homeless. Today I am suffering the consequences and I am bearing the invisible wounds of my screwed up upbringing. My emotional development is flawed and incomplete. I have PTSD.

And yet, I have survived, I have built a decent life, I have my own family and our relations are based on love and mutual respect, not fear. I may not have had a role model to follow, but I was given an example of what I did not want to become. I was still able to build my own set of core values, and because I stuck to them I not only survived, but managed to make what I consider a good life.

Granted, I have issues. But I am working very hard on them, and the present residential treatment at a mental institution is a huge commitment – it is an investment in my future, the future of my family, and I am very determined to better myself. I refuse to be ashamed of it. Isn’t it time I allowed myself to lick my wounds and make sure I can heal, cope and grow in a healthy fashion?

So if I lose a friend, a job, or any opportunity in life due to my fiercely fighting mental illness, whose loss is it, really?

Awareness

I am now half-way through the PTSR (Program for Traumatic Stress Recovery) at the Homewood Health Centre and it feels like it only started yesterday.

One thing this environment offers is a place I share with 30 peers who have personal experiences that are similar to my own to a certain degree. It creates a space in which I can express myself in an open and safe manner, without worrying about being judged or misunderstood. In this context, and through discussions and exchanges of ideas with both co-patients and professional staff, I am learning a lot by seeing things from a different perspective.

I have hidden my emotions my whole life, not only from others but also from myself

The strategies we are learning here are based on DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) and are meant to challenge deeply ingrained thought patterns. In this light, I realise that I am in for an uphill battle, and a big part of it will take some time.

The two challenges I face are the following:

  1. Being aware of my emotions: I have hidden my emotions my whole life, not only from others but also from myself. As a result, I am completely out of touch with my inner feelings and experiencing or even describing my own emotions is something I am incapable of doing. I have to learn to feel, and the way to do it is by being mindful. Mindfulness – living in the present moment and being aware of myself as well as the world that surrounds me – takes practice, and I have barely touched the surface. I strongly believe that awareness is the key to the success of my recovery. I have to be patient and I am convinced that over time I will learn to be more in tune with myself.

  2. Once I am able to observe what is happening inside of me, I will be in a position to apply the techniques and strategies I am learning in order to shift and reshape the way I respond to the world, to other people, and to my own inner experience. This second step, which I can try and start to put into practice as I am also doing step 1, will probably take years to yield noticeable results, but I am hopeful that I will one day be able to reach a point where I can finally have better control and understanding of my emotions, and respond adequately so that I can fulfill my needs in a healthy fashion.

This means that at the term of these two months at Homewood, the PTSR program will have provided me with skills and tools that I will be able to use in my daily life, but it also means that we should not expect me to be miraculously fixed when I walk out of the Homewood Health Centre premises.

The end of the PTSR treatment will mark the beginning of a new journey, one that may take a lifetime, but one that will eventually lead to the reward of a better life for myself and my loved ones.

Weekend pass

I just completed the assessment phase of the PTSR treatment at Homewood and was given a weekend pass. Noey picked me up Friday evening after work, and the family spent Saturday with friends to celebrate Canada Day. Sunday we had Dim Sum brunch and did some books and art supplies shopping. I am returning to hospital Monday afternoon since it is a long weekend.

These first 10 days at Homewood have drained me. On top of the psychiatric evaluation process I went through various classes, workshops, information sessions and activities, some of them quite heavy emotionally. I learnt about the effects of trauma on the brain and how the survival responses that made sense when the trauma occurred are now so deeply ingrained that they automatically take place even when I am in a perfectly safe situation.

My mind is constantly on the verge of switching to survival mode and the most mundane event can be perceived by my brain as imminent, life-threatening danger. Because this keeps happening, survival mode is constantly being activated, causing hypervigilance, startle reflex and other fight-or-flight responses; and when things become too intense then dissociation occurs: as a protection against overwhelming stimulation, the mind disconnects from reality. In my case this means that I will have a blank: my mind shuts off and I don’t remember anything. I suppose I have a blank stare during the whole time. Another form of dissociation makes me feel that I am standing beside my own body: everything becomes dream-like, the world is made of Jell-O, sounds are muffled and time is flowing in slow motion. I used to have the latter form more often, it now only happens when I am in a period of depression.

So yeah, I’ve learnt quite a few things already, and I am glad that it is going in the direction I was already heading towards in terms of goals and strategy. It is a task I cannot undertake alone and this is where the PTSR program comes into play, providing me with the guidance I need as well as a few weeks entirely devoted to learning healthier coping skills and strategies and how to gain better control of my emotions.

The active phase of the program is starting Tuesday morning, and things are going to get serious.

I am sick, I am not weak

I may be sick,
I may have a debilitating illness,
I may be damaged,
I may not be fixable (but I may too),

however…

by no means does it make me a weak person!

I am the tiger licking his wounds. Beware the wounded animal: when comes the time to strike, he will show no mercy.

So ya, that’s it: I am sick, I am not weak. Don’t underestimate me.

I may be scared,
I may live in perpetual fear,
I may be untamed,
I may not easily trust you (but I may too),

however…

by no means does it mean I am dangerous!

You treat me well, I treat you well. If you earn my trust and confidence, I will do anything for you. Anything.

So ya, that’s it: I am sick, I am not dangerous. I’m a nice guy, believe me.