Tuesday, 24 May 2011

...Though-out the last 18 months of Gracie's life she realized her previous judgments of her mother had been harsh and built upon the vision of the girl who had originally formed them. They were ridged judgments of a mother who had been caught in an existence of chaos. While Gracie could now see her own failings, she realized that it was pointless to get too caught up in her own guilt. Rather then simmer in her own guilt, now was a time to help others face their own realities….

From my first novel.
Copyright © 2011 by Holly Ballantyne

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Schizophrenia is a devastating illness that affects hundreds of thousands of Canadians each year. The cost to the individuals and their families is extensive. The onset of the illness can be rapid, with the start of the symptoms over a few days or weeks; well others will develop their symptoms slowly over many months or years.

In 2004 Angus began to exhibit behaviors that were unusual for him. A young man of 20, he was a caring son and brother, a student studying at the University of the Fraser Valley, with the hope of entering into a social work program. But the gradual onset of schizophrenia grounded his hopes for a number of years.

The following selections come from journal entries and letters written by me; Angus' mother, through-out the gradual onset of his mental illness.

Dr Seiman: G. P. 
Diagnosis: Depression 
Effexor 100 mg.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

February 10, 2005
Angus never sleeps anymore. Awake day and night. For days! He wanders in circles at home; he wanders in circles on the streets: always with loud, angry music playing on his Ipod with the head phones on. The look in his eyes is so different; my son has become a stranger to me. What is happening?

March 11, 2005
I am a wreck! My ability to focus on my daily tasks is challenged minute by minute. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture and none of us sleep these days.
Angus and I spoke today; he admitted he is not doing well but is not ready to get help. He does not wash or change his clothes, he hardly eats or sleeps. He spends a lot of time alone in his room having heated discussions with the voices in his head. As a result, his voice is raspy from all the work he gives it.  When Angus looks at me, a stranger looks into my eyes. Clearly he does not know who I am. I can no longer touch him, I miss being able to hug him. I miss his company. I miss my son.

Please remember that this is original work that can not be reprinted without the consent of the author. Blog entry Copyright 2011.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

About Stigma & the Language We Use

I had coffee with a friend the other day. It was wonderful to once again sit in the warm cocoon of a local coffee shop and shoot the breeze. We talked about many things, from family, to school, to work. Finally we touched on the subject we both shared, our battles with depression.

The conversation was nonthreatening so we both felt comfortable in sharing all we had been through. Her story was as brutal as one could imagine and yet she refused to label herself as ill. In fact she felt it was a label which furthered the stigma we both live with. She informed me that she preferred to use the phrase, ‘I have mental health issues’ rather then the common phrase, ‘I have a mental illness.’ I have been pondering this idea ever since.

I am very comfortable referrer to myself as a ‘mental health consumer’ instead of ‘a mentally ill patient’, and yet I held on fast to the phrase ‘mental illness.’ So I am now questioning do I need to take it one step further, and begin to remind myself that I am dealing with issues and not illness. As I consider I realized that if someone were to ask me if I am ill with depression today, I would say I am in a remission. My symptoms are presently under my management instead of me under the management of my symptoms. But with that said, I am nothing like I was before my last episode, I am more vulnerable and far more fragile. But am I still ill and should I allow myself to speak of myself in that way?

Stigma is my chosen battle ground. I strongly believe that my energy is best used shifting previously held prejudices and misconceptions of all mental health illnesses or issues. As I go through my day taking all opportunities to enlighten others it now occurs to me that maybe I had room to grow in my own enlightenment.

I believe my friend has hit the nail on the head. I am no longer mentally ill, while in remission I am dealing with mental health issues. This phrase just feels more appropriate. Like I am a consumer not a patient, I am not ill just dealing with my issues. To my friend, and you know who you are, I am so grateful for the gift of enlightenment you bestowed upon me that afternoon at Timmy’s.

Monday, 9 May 2011

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