Faith from the Edges

Faith and life from the perspective of me.

Archive for the tag “mental-health”

Let’s Talk about Mental Health #bellletstalk


In Canada it’s Bell Let’s Talk day to talk about mental health. I am not here promoting a particular communications network, what I am here to do is to share my own personal experience of living with a spouse who lives with depression, of living with depression myself for the past 2 years, and of knowing many others who daily struggle with PTSD, anxiety, mood disorders and so much more.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with a situational depression related to my diagnosis and subsequent treatment for ovarian cancer. I was in tears all the time, I had lost my appetite, sleep was not happening and work was impossible. Fortunately I have a very good family doctor, a good oncology team, a listening therapist and so much support from my family and friends and my boss. However, if you had told me that I would still be dealing with a depression at this point I would have not believed you. I thought I was going to get over this, but it turns out that sometimes your brain gets changed in such a way that you don’t get over what has happened to you.

Each day I wake up and I do an assessment of how I am doing – are my feet hurting from neuropathy and arthritis or just neuropathy? are my hands achy? have I got a headache? did I get enough sleep? Every morning I wake up and do the same thing. I also check in with my feelings – am I feeling positive? am I dreading the day? That’s because, it turns out, that living with depression is like living with my other chronic conditions – it doesn’t go away, it abates sometimes, it comes on strong others, but it never goes away. I am learning how to live with it. I am learning that it is another part of myself that I have to take care of. I can’t ignore my mental health anymore than I can ignore my physical health. If I did I would not be the functional person that I am.

My dear one has lived with depression for most of his adult life and for most of our marriage. It is his chronic condition. I am not going to talk about how he deals with it but how I deal with it. I have learned to read his signals, to check in with him regularly, to make sure he eats well and to give him the space he needs to cope. It has affected our marriage, in the same way that my cancer diagnosis has, by making us more aware of the other and looking out for them. In fact both our conditions have brought us closer as a couple, which helped our family and has encouraged our friends.

Today and everyday I am going to be open about how I am doing with both my physical and my mental health. There are days when I just need to stop and rest and sometimes do nothing and then there are days when I know I will get things done. I live with both these realities.

Here’s what I also need to say. I work for a part of the church that takes care of it employees. I have access to mental health counselors. I don’t have to tell anyone that I am doing it and no one asks me either. I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I know that there are many Canadians who don’t have the same benefits. We need to make mental health care be part of our overall health care. Most family doctors know that taking care of your mental health means that your physical health will be better. I think as Canadians we can and should do better to look after this as well. Mental health, mental wellness, matters for all of us. It is not just an individual responsibility, it is the responsibility of the whole community.

If you need help ask a family member or a trusted friend to assist you. Talk to your family doctor. Talk to your priest or your pastor. Reach out, help is there. I am glad I did, you will be as well.


#AdventWord #Wilderness

#AdventWord #Wilderness

I hope dear readers that some of you at least have been able to get to a place where river and mountains meet. For me Jasper, Alberta and the national park there is one of the holiest places on earth. It is a wilderness that feeds me every time I go there. I took the above picture this past summer when we were there for a few days with dear friends. I was having some issues with my foot but I really needed to get to the Athabasca River and be near it for a while.

When I was in the middle of my chemotherapy for ovarian cancer the dear one and I took a week long camping trip there. It was being in the midst of the jackpine forest, hearing the river go by, going up a mountain, seeing so many elk come through our campsite – that I felt the most alive and the most healthy in months. Every time I go back to the mountains or by the water I am reminded that God provides spaces for us that are meant to ground us and remind us that we are also part of God’s creation.

Time spent in the wilderness, doing things more simply, sleeping more, eating good food, reading good books – these are all the things that feed me, centre me, ground me and give me energy to do the work that God is calling me to do, the work of reconciliation. Time spent in the wilderness is a gift that I will keep on taking as often as it is possible for me to do so.

Mental Health – mine, yours, the other persons


Let’s all be the light!

In the Christian church today we remember Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. It is also the day when we here in the northern hemisphere recognize that we are half way between winter solstice and the spring equinox. Where I live you can definitely tell that the days are getting longer. I happen to love Candlemas and the coming of more light. It reminds me to be light whenever and wherever I can.

A year ago today the dear one went away on clergy retreat (it’s where he is at the moment as well). A week before he left I had just been diagnosed with depression as a result of having cancer – still dealing with that by the way – and I had just started my medication. For those of you who have dealt with that you will know that it takes at least  3 weeks to begin feeling the least bit better. We both thought when he left that I would be okay. Well I wasn’t. I was in tears, I was afraid, I was anxious (the twin sister to depression), I was not okay. I wouldn’t be seeing my therapist for another week and I was not okay.

It meant that on the second full day of his retreat, that I texted him and asked him to call me as soon as he could. We had agreed before he left that he would check his phone regularly to see how I was doing. He phoned me and I was in tears, so many tears, ugly tears, tears that just wouldn’t stop. He spoke to our bishop and the retreat leader and they prayed with him and sent him home. I look back at that episode and realize that I was the lowest emotionally I have ever been. I couldn’t take care of myself. The competent, independent, thoughtful, caring for others woman could not take care of herself. It was awful and I hope I never go back there again.

In my family, both immediate and extended, we talk a fair bit about mental health and how we are all doing. We have all been touched by someone who is struggling, who is on the road to recovery, who seems to be coping well. We have had honest conversations with each other about how we are doing. We have leaned on each other and continue to do so. I have friends who have had similar conversations with me about my mental health and about theirs. Mental health issues has touched everyone I know. It probably has touched you as well dear reader.

You may ask why the connection between Candlemas and mental health. The Feast of the Presentation is about an old faithful man named Simeon who took Jesus in his arms  when his family had brought him to the temple and said this:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
    for my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

As Anglicans many of us are familiar with that prayer being used during the service of Evening Prayer. It is about God’s light coming for the whole world, a light that cannot be overcome. I think of my mental health in this way, if I am not healthy emotionally, mentally, spiritually then I can’t be that God light for others. I am called to be that God light, you are called to be that God light and so is everyone that we know.

Today I am doing better, I am trying to get enough sleep, eat healthy and take the medication I need to help in that process. I have not so good days, but they are nothing compared to the dark days a year ago. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for the good care I have received from medical professionals, from my therapist, from family and friends, and most of all from the dear one. I am one of the lucky ones, I didn’t slip through any cracks and got the help I needed. My hope and prayer is that others can be taken care of in the same way.

Let’s all be the light for each other and when we can’t let others be that light for us. To that end here are some pictures I have taken recently that capture the light. Enjoy.



P.S. I promised way back at the beginning of the year, that I would try to do two posts a month, here’s hoping that this month is better than the last one.

Time to get over the Stigma #BellLetsTalk

Here in Canada it is Bell Let’s Talk Day to talk about, think about, write about and to de-stigmatize mental illness and those living with it daily. Bell Canada is paying 5 cents for every tweet and share of the Facebook image. (By the way, I am not promoting Bell Canada, just the great work they are doing raising money for their mental health initiative.) I have written about this before and I will probably write about it again because I know from my own family’s struggles that mental health is so important to all of us. So I am doing my bit to share the news with you my readers.


I know family, friends and others who have lost their jobs, been told they weren’t good enough, shunned by those that they thought would support them, had their church community turn their backs on them all because they shared about their mental illness. When I share about my chronic illness I do not expect people to do any of those things. In fact, I expect all of those that I share that with to be at the least sympathetic and if I am lucky to be empathetic.

I think it is time for us all to change our attitudes about mental illness and mental health. In fact, I think we would be all healthier mentally if we took the time to share with those we love, those we work with, those we play with, those we worship with our mental health struggles. I know that I do better when I take the time to meet with health professionals and sort out how to deal with my rheumatoid arthritis and when I meet with health professionals when I am struggling with my mental health.

We all need the support that we can get to make our lives better. I am standing up to the stigma and saying enough is enough! Will you?

I am more than my RA: Arthritis Awareness Month

A long time ago and in what seems like a land far away, I lived without daily pain. I lived energetically, enthusiastically, full of ideas, creative thoughts and plans. Every now and then I still get to visit that place and I feel so grateful for that.

Then back in 1997 I got the diagnosis I was dreading. I have rheumatoid arthritis. I had been having almost daily stiffness in my feet and hands and then pain for about 2 years before my doctor was able to successfully come up with this diagnosis. It has now been 17 years since that time. There are days when all I can focus on is the pain and how to manage it. If I get one task  that I have set for myself done then I feel like it is a victory.

EN-AAM2014-Facebook-Cover-851x314_webSeptember has been a month of dealing with pain every day. I seem to be more affected and have my RA flare when we go through seasonal changes and the change from summer to fall has been quite erratic here in central Alberta. We have had temperature and barometric swings almost every day. I am one of those with RA that is affected by my environment – both the physical and emotional environment.

One of the effects of this recent flare is that I have fallen into a bit of a dump emotionally, a mild depression. This is not unusual when you are dealing with chronic pain but  obviously not a happy place to be (yes, the pun was deliberate). It is hard to get moving physically when everything hurts and you are hurting on the inside.

No one told me that with a diagnosis of RA I needed to take care of my mental health, although you would think that doctors would now recognize that chronic conditions and the state of one’s mental health are intertwined.

Here’s me today:

Arthritis AwarenessOne of things I am doing to help boost me out of this state is to dress with the style that I love and can rock by the way. It is also a way to remind myself that I am more than my RA. I am a beautiful, savvy, faithful, full of gratitude, rocking middle aged woman who has lots of great ideas. I am more than my RA. I am more than my RA.

That is my my mantra for the moment. That I am more than my RA. I know how easy it is to get defined by the chronic condition that you live with and I have to remind myself and others that I am more than my RA. That can be difficult when you step on to the floor from your bed in the morning and your feet are screaming with agony. That can be difficult when you have to take frequent breaks from typing your blog to give your hands a stretch and a rest. That can be difficult when you are so fatigued with pain that you can’t even put a full sentence together coherently. I am more than my RA.

I am more than my RA. What do you need to be more than?

Time out


I have given myself a time out today. I was really, really grumpy with the dear one this morning and I told him take the van and he said what about church and I said I am not coming. I got my buttons pushed this morning and I got angry, really angry. So yep, I am on a time out. I needed to be by myself and calm down. Ever been there?

It isn’t that important as to what pushed my buttons this morning what is important is that I let them get pushed and then I pushed them so more. I forgot to take a step back and breathe, so that I could remember that the dear one loves me and that I love him. I am immensely grateful for that love but you wouldn’t have known it by how grumpy I was this morning. I don’t really like myself when I get that angry, I am not a nice person then and I take it out on the people that I love the most. As I used to tell my children when they got like that when they were little it is time out for you – in this case me.

I am going to work on remembering this the next someone or something pushes my buttons, that I need to breathe, walk away and take a time out. That I need to do that before things to get out of control, or as in this case I get out of control. I want to find ways to express my discontent or disagreement without having to yell it at the top of my lungs. I want to be the person that I know I am called to be. I am not going to give up my anger I just don’t want it to control how I behave in the moment that I am angry. To get there I am going to need to give myself more time outs to breathe and remember my better self and how I want to really be in with those I love dearly, especially the dear one.

Living out a life of faith is not easy and learning how to be a better human being is not easy. You would think in my middle years that I would have much of this sorted but I am still working on it. Likely that I will be working on it until I can’t remember that I need to be working on it.

I am going to take a time out when I need it and remember that I am a better human being than my anger makes me. Blessings to you all as work on whatever you need to work on in your life.

Busy week


This is going to be a crazy, busy and hopefully fun week, this week! I am feeling full of energy this morning as I think about all the things that I need to do to get  ready to move into our new home.

I have a long list of things I need to get done in the next couple of days. Isn’t it amazing that when you can see a clear purpose in front of you that your energy just rises and you know that you will be able to get it all done. I know that the dear one are called by God to be part of this church community and the wider community. I am feeling at peace and full of hope for a change. Going to hang on to this feeling for as long as I can.

So here we go a song to keep me pumped and to rejoice in this next step of my journey to health and solidifying our presence here in our new community.

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