Addiction is cruel.
Whoa, here’s a rant! I’m really glad to see people discussing the issue of sexual harassment and assault generally. The abuse of women by women in power-differential positions has been a particular issue for me, as it deeply impacted my life. This is why I’m still determined to help bring regulation of counselling therapists to BC. At present there’s no way a person whose life has been severely damaged by this form of betrayal, spiritual sodomy, and psychological assault can bring the abuser to accountability, if the ‘therapist’ is unregistered and/or the complainant lacks financial means. I was subjected to ridicule, disbelief, shaming, indifference, and outright hostility, when I sought help; many professionals implied I’d simply been stupid, or naive about being ‘hit on’ by ‘a lesbian’. Their humiliating, spirit-destroying, creativity-crushing, personality-altering reactions left me cynical and bitter for years. My experiences were all the more destructive because I’d originally sought help through therapy in rebuilding my life after leaving a violent husband. To add to this, because I’d sought help in the mental health fields, I was further discounted by being labelled a person with ‘mental health issues’ (of PTSD following abuse). The unsupervised, incompetent, unregistered ‘therapist’ who almost destroyed my life had never felt the need to examine their own drives and motives, so had a ‘clean record’. I believe that gender in sexual assault and harassment situations is less relevant than the power imbalances themselves, and the potential abuse that such unequal relationships invite. I see a need to fully safe-guard issues of accountability and respect, whether it’s speaking respectfully to a person with less political power who’s trying to express opposing viewpoints in a town hall meeting, to listening seriously to a child who’s distraught about being bullied, to comforting and defending a person who’s been raped, whatever their gender. Attempts to categorize, divide, and isolate abuses by various factors doesn’t seem as helpful compared to confronting core elements of all power-imbalance abuses. An iron-clad, law-enforced, school-taught respect for all living beings, adopted as the bottom line, would help ensure that we no longer re-victimize victims who miraculously find the courage to speak out. End of rant. Whew. Sorry about that–yet not.
The recent mass shooting in Las Vegas brings up an issue that I refer to from time to time, and that is the casual – even reflexive – linking of violent crime and mental illness.
As readers know, your publisher writes a great deal about mental health issues – because they are so important and involve virtually everybody in our community, in one way or another.
Perhaps no issue divides Canadians more than the debate over the right to die with dignity.
Your publisher is frequently asked whether religious or spiritual practice can improve our mental health – or mitigate specific symptoms of a mental illness.
Living with a mental illness or mood disorder takes so many tolls. The hardest hurt, the deepest bruise, is to the sense of confidence.
Humans are too good at thinking. We decide on emotional choices based on what seems rational; what makes sense; what is statistically likely.
Sometimes we think ourselves into loops, or to places our hearts tell us are not quite right. This causes us to mistrust what our feelings tell us – to ignore good advice when our more essential selves speak.
The challenges of marriage or intimate relationships are many at the best of times.
But when one partner suffers a serious mental illness, the tasks and trials of keeping things together are multiplied.
Earlier this month, the Canadian Mental Health Association (www.cmha.ca) held its annual Mental Health Week, which is a chance for folks to understand more about a most pressing and human issue.
There is a lot to learn, not least of which is what individuals can do to better the lives of people living with a mental illness.
Now, in some of my past writing on this issue, I have stressed what is wrong with the system: what is not happening; what is being neglected.
One tires of negativity, and so here I’d like to shine a light on the people and services in our community that are making a positive difference – to give readers a chance to appreciate the good things being done and, hopefully, to learn by example.
The Arrowhead Clubhouse, with a membership of something like 130 adults living with a mental illness, is front and center. (Disclaimer: I am a member of the Arrowhead Clubhouse Society board of directors.) Though vastly underfunded, and strictly speaking a Community Services program (www.sccss.ca), Arrowhead thrives on the energy of individual members and volunteers.
At the Clubhouse (www.arrowhead-clubhouse.org), members provide each other with peer support, fellowship, and encouragement. Over the years, countless community volunteers have walked through Arrowhead’s open doors to cook meals, donate food and clothing, and to offer simple gestures of acceptance.
St. John’s United Church, in Davis Bay (www.stjohns-united.org), and its congregation, stands out as a source of support and inspiration for community members living with a mental illness. A few Sundays ago, I took part in a deeply affecting service focused on Arrowhead. In attendance were five people who – either current or past – have held the position of board president for the Arrowhead Clubhouse Society. I was one of those people.
Now, to individuals who make a difference. I can’t mention them all, but they know who they are. If one thing unifies them, it is sheer audacity and hope (to pinch a line from Obama).
Janice Williams is perhaps the most courageous person I know. Her book, “Mental Case 101. Trussed Issues,” is a brutally candid story – written by a marvelously talented writer and illustrated with her equally wonderful art. Janice hosts regular public readings for all writers at her place and also reads from her work at the library and other places. Through these acts of sheer bravery, she gives us an example of what it means to be forthright and honest.
Michael Mann is another writer in our community who spreads the word. Mike is plucky and fearless. His book, “I Am A Man Who Cries,” is not easy reading; but it is essential. Mike, too, reads publicly. Listening to him speak gets into your bones.
Humour is the ultimate solvent; differences, fears, and ignorance melt away with laughter.
Victoria Maxwell is the funniest person I know. (Janice is a close second.) Her one-woman shows are harrowing. However, like the folks I mentioned above, her work is at once distressing but also liberating. She’s a hero to those who have been in her audience – especially to people living with bipolar disorder. Check out her site. www.victoriamaxwell.com
I will mention two other people who exert a positive influence in the Sunshine Coast community: John Gleeson, my editor at the Coast Reporter (www.coastreporter.net), who continues to dedicate scarce editorial real estate to this column; and MLA Nicholas Simons, who is always there for those who need a helping hand or a strong shoulder to lean on.
If you know of someone who is making a difference, however modest, and wherever you live, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like this piece to have a sequel.
A version of this piece appeared in The Coast Reporter.