Today I am writing about an issue I came upon recently. One of my biggest flaws is that I personalize things that really don’t have anything to do with me. It is something that I have really realized in the past little while.
To give an example, I was on Skype with my sister in law the other day. I am planning on going over there for 5 days next week. She mentioned that Cadence had a rash and a possible viral infection. I was worried that my trip would be cancelled if Cadence was ill. I phoned my dad in tears because I was looking forward to the trip for a very long time. Later that evening, my sister in law said that the trip was still on. This made me feel great, my vacation was coming!
I was riding in the car with my dad yesterday and he made a really good point. See, I immediately thought about myself and my trip when I found out Cadence wasn’t feeling too good. I panicked, thinking that this trip that I had been looking forward to for so long wasn’t going to happen. Really, I should have been thinking about Cadence. Is she okay? How sick is she? When is she expected to get better? Are some of the things I should have asked. Instead, I thought of myself and what would happen to ME personaly. I should have been more concerned about Cadence’s health.
I also personalize a lot of situations with different friends of mine. A lot of the time, I will get stressed out, thinking it’s my fault that someone is struggling or isn’t able to meet for coffee. I feel like I have done something wrong, when really, I am not even related to the real situation.
So, it is my goal to start analyzing my behavior more. I want to realize when I am being selfish or thinking about just myself. The world does not revolve around me. Everyone is going through their share of issues, just as I am. It doesn’t mean I am at fault, though. I am going to start thinking of others first, before I make it anything about me.
I encourage you to do the same. Look at how you react to situations that are really not under your control or don’t have anything to do with you. Think of the person in the root of the issue and be understanding that they need to deal with things as well. It’s not always about you.
I am constantly working on my flaws, and this is just another step in my journey.
In 2016 I was presented with the opportunity to take a unique course for an organization called Stand Up For Mental Health. This is when I met the amazing David Granirer. David is a stand up comedian and founder of Stand Up For Mental Health.
Going into the course, I was facing a long bout of depression. I took the course in hopes that it would benefit my public speaking skills. What I got from it was something so much more, so powerful. At first, I started out slow, not feeling like I was able to laugh at what I was going through. But, through the teachings and wise words of David, I started to realize that my illness is not a death sentence, that I can laugh about it. The course lasted for 3 months and at the end we did a show at the White Rock Playhouse Theater. I had been so used to doing public speaking, but this was a whole new experience. I will never forget walking on that stage and feeling so supported and encouraged by the audience. It was very empowering and I delivered my set, to cheers and applause.
Fast forward to January 2017. For the last year, I had been asked by many people when I would be doing my next stand up comedy show. I never really thought about it, figuring it was just a one time occurrence. However, as the new year started, I thought of an idea to have a “reunion show” for the White Rock stand up comics. I was fortunate at the same time that someone walked into my life and really believed that I could be successful at stand up comedy. At first, I was skeptical. Did I really want to start doing comedy again? Then I remembered the feeling, how it felt to get on that stage and make people laugh. Through a lot of encouragement, I decided that stand up comedy is something I really want to do. I ended up helping plan the reunion show. There is no greater feeling than having people appreciate and laugh at what you have worked so hard on. I realized that this was a whole new way for me to help others.
Thanks to the inspiration of a friend, I went back and read my jokes, forming a set list for the reunion show. Now, I am happy to announce that I have four stand up comedy sets lined up in the next 3 months. I have found that doing comedy really makes me happy and it’s something I can do for my own enjoyment. That feeling, the rush of being on stage is a feeling I crave. I know it’s not going to be all puppies and rainbows, but it is a new journey for me that is already progressing and I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of it. We all have a purpose in life. As much as I love being a Peer Support Worker, stand up comedy is something I can do in my spare time and it’s something that I do for myself, something that makes me happy. To make people laugh is a big passion of mine, and I know by sharing my story through comedy, I am helping a vast array of people. I look forward to what the future has in store for me in stand up comedy.
I was recently presented with the opportunity to do some pretty important training for my job as a Peer Support Worker. The task seemed very daunting to me, and everything inside my head told me “you can’t do that, you’re not good enough” and “you will fail, don’t take it”. I ended up listening to what my head was saying and said that I was not capable of the training. Fortunately, I have some amazing people in my life that support me constantly. My dad being the main one. He explained to me yesterday about me selling myself short. He said that sometimes I hastily make decisions, thinking I’m not good enough or I can’t do the task at hand. My dad said that that is selling myself short and not giving myself the chance to do things that I am actually capable of doing and that will better me in my career. I miss opportunities to move forward because I am constantly holding myself back. So, yesterday I was doing some thinking about the whole situation. I realized that there are many times in my life where I don’t do something because I think I can’t. Riding the bus. Going to events at the Whale House. Facilitating groups. What my dad said, made me realize that I CAN do so much. I need to stop using the word can’t and replace it with CAN. I CAN ride the bus, I CAN go to events at the Whale House, I CAN facilitate groups, and yes, I CAN complete the training that I will be taking. I CAN and I WILL. So, I encourage you to take a look at your own life and see where you are selling yourself short. You are capable of much more than your head lets you believe, as am I. Take time to make decisions, don’t back out immediately because you don’t think you’re good enough or you can’t do it. Have faith in yourself. We as individuals are capable of amazing feats. Keep your head up high, don’t listen to those thoughts that undermined you. You CAN do it, and you WILL do it.
As the year 2016 is soon coming to a close, I find myself reminiscing about my mental health journey. It has been full of ups and downs, many victories and some very trying times. However, I look back at where I was a year ago, and it is amazing to see how far I have come. It has been my goal this year and heading into next to really challenge myself in terms of my anxiety. I can say with pride that I have done that so far this year. I started off the year with taking the Stand Up for Mental Health class. To say it was life changing would be an understatement. David Granirer taught me that it is possible to laugh at what we are going through and not to treat our mental illness as a death sentence. When I started the class, I was quite depressed and lacking hope. However, I came out of it at the end a new person. I have more confidence, a new sense of humour and a whole new feeling of hope. I am so grateful to have taken the SMH course and meeting David because it was truly life changing.
This past summer was also a big victory, thanks to some amazing staff at the Whale House and my amazing friends. I was able to tackle my bus anxiety. I finally realized that people wouldn’t take the bus if the seats were as bad as my anxiety says they are. I watched people get on the bus and sit anywhere, not obsessively looking at their seat to see if it was "clean". With this new understanding, I managed to ride the bus to and from the Whale House almost every day of the summer. I can finally step onto the bus and quickly find a seat, sit down for the duration of the trip and not get up every few minutes to check my seat. It just doesn’t bother me anymore, and if it does, I quickly shut those thoughts down.
In the past year, I have also been making some decisions to better my physical health. The biggest change I made was to stop drinking pop. What a change! I never realized how much pop I was drinking until I lost 30 lbs. in the first 6 months of not drinking it! I am constantly getting people commenting on how I have lost weight and it is encouraging. One of the problems with some anti-psychotic medications is the side effect of weight gain. I have gained a lot of weight over the last 15 years. But! I have lost quite a bit in the last year. It is something that I continue to work on.
One thing that I joke a lot about is eating with my hands. I would eat EVERYTHING with a knife and fork. I would use a Kleenex to take my medication. I would eat pizza with a knife and fork. I would eat sandwiches and garlic bread with a knife and fork. I would eat potato chips with a fork. However, just in the last 2 or 3 months I have really challenged myself to start eating with my hands again. What a huge success! I think the biggest victory was going to the Peer Support Worker training day and eating my bread roll with my hands. NO one noticed but I gave myself some credit because that was a huge step. When I went to the island to celebrate my birthday with Christopher, Michelle and Cadence, I shocked them by eating my pizza, taking my medication, eating snacks and sandwiches all with my hands. Now at home, I eat my potato chips with my hands. I take my medication straight from my hand. It certainly is less cutlery to do! (haha) and also another step at not letting my anxiety control my life.
Probably my biggest success this year has been training to become a Peer Support Worker. It's been a very interesting time studying. However, I have realized that it is my passion in life to help others. It took just over 2 years to complete all of the training, but on December 2, 2016 1 graduated as a Peer Support Worker. There were times where I thought I couldn't do it and I couldn't finish my practicum. But, I had the support of so many people. I shadowed some amazing Peer Support Workers who taught me so much. I had great classmates who were always a support. I had my dad pushing me along, encouraging me to have a positive attitude, even through the low times. When I step off the IPU after a shift, 1 look to the sky and smile because I know I have found my meaning in life. I have finally found where I am meant to be. As my mom was a nurse many years ago, I know she is so proud of me going into the hospital to help the IPU patients. I have a job doing the very thing that I love. There are many opportunities coming up after the holidays!
I hope I haven't rambled on too much. I just wanted to share some of the changes and victories I have had in 2016. I notice that when I am out with people, things don't bother me as much as they used to. Riding the bus. My weight. Eating with my hands. Those are just a few examples. I have made SO much progress over the last year, and I feel like a whole different, better person, than I was a year ago. I feel like I have grown immensely and battled my illness with great victory.
So, my message to you is to keep fighting! There will always be the hard times. There will always be struggles. But! If you stay strong, determined and have a positive attitude, you can accomplish so much. Take things one day at a time — don't expect a complete overnight success. There is so much hope out there. It took a lot of trying and determination for me to make it to this point, but I know you can do it too. Keep your head up high. Be proud of who you are, and tell those people/things that try to shut you down, that you CAN do it!
So, I have written pretty extensively about my journey over the last 16 years, dealing with Schizophrenia and OCD. I have found though, that I was wrong in my initial thinking that mental illness is a death sentence. When I first started hearing voices and was going through psychosis, I thought I would be turned into a drugged up drooling zombie in a padded room. This scared me so much that I went for 2 years without telling anyone that I heard voices. However, my journey has been very' different than what I thought it would be. I was very fortunate to have the Early Psychosis Intervention program parachute in right at the beginning and they brought a lot of hope and answers to what I was going through. I also from the start have had a very strong support network. So, along with medication and a lot of hard work, I have blossomed into this successful, intelligent young woman, who lives in her own apartment and pays her own bills. I have realized that having a mental illness has actually been a blessing in disguise. For the last several years, it has been my goal and fight to erase the stigma that is associated with mental illness. There just simply isn't enough knowledge out there for people who are struggling, and they continue to struggle because of that. No one wants to talk about mental illness or disclose that they have mental health issues.
I go to high schools, colleges, meetings, workshops and even the RCMP and 911 dispatchers and I do talks about how far I have come. It is so great to be able to bring hope especially to youth and young adults that are struggling because I was once there myself. I have really been blessed with an amazing father as well. We are pretty well known in the mental health community. We have been dubbed "a great tag team" and we do a lot of talks together, me sharing my story and my dad sharing from a parent's perspective. We get all these cool opportunities to share our story all over the place. We have talked to thousands of family members, mental health professionals and people going through psychosis themselves. This is such an amazing opportunity to have. My dad and I are able to go out and change lives. We bring hope to so many people where there once was none. We bring strength to families and the idea that with psychosis, recovery can be expected. You have no idea how much I love being able to do that. My dad and I have touched so many lives.
So, I would definitely say that having a mental illness has been a huge blessing in disguise. If did not go through everything I have in the last 16 years, then I wouldn't be changing lives. I wouldn’t be bringing hope to people. I wouldn't be going to high schools and helping kids who are going through their own personal hell. I get to fight stigma and be a beacon of light to not only people with psychosis but also their families. How awesorne is that? Without everything. I wouldn't have such a strong bond with my dad- I wouldn't be as close to him as I am now. There are so many amazing things on the horizon for my life and I have made it so far. It is my life goal to help others and show that mental illness isn't the end of the world.
So, if you are facing a mental health diagnosis, remember, it is NOT a death sentence. There IS hope. You CAN recover- There is so much positivity and a future out there for you.
Ok, so I did a talk a few months ago and there was a mother in the audience. As I finished and was accepting questions, she spoke about how her son spends all his time on video games and that she has to constantly get him to stop playing so much. Now, I know what a lot of you think about video games, that they are a waste of time. Well, this is a big subject for me because I am an avid online video game player myself.
I told the mother that it's not the end of the world that her son is so into video games. There have been many studies about how video games can affect a person. Games are actually a lot more than just staring at a screen, mashing keys on a controller. It is a fact that video games online can promote healthy, social relationships. Online video games can also be an escape from anxiety, depression and anger. I’ll speak from my own experience...
Go back to the year 2000. I was fourteen years old. My mom's health had been severely ailing for the last several years. On March 30, 2000, she passed away. I was a shell of emptiness, anger, depression, frustration and hated God for taking my mom from me. I remember however, before she passed away she gave me some money to buy myself a video game. Now, at the time I wasn't a gamer. I was into ice hockey and music. I went out to the store and bought myself Rainbow Six. I had never really played any video games on the computer before. I played the single player for a while and then discovered the online feature. My computer was very low tech and my internet was slow. However, I did have a desktop microphone. At first I just joined games and played with others, being absolutely terrified to speak into the microphone. Finally, I built up the courage and said "hello" to the group of people in my game. That's where it all started. Rainbow Six was the first game I ever got into. I went on to buy the next Rainbow Six game called Ravenshield. I met some amazing people online in that game. I think back to the hours I spent playing that game in which I was especially into the co-op mode. I loved the fact that I was fighting terrorists with people from all around the world. As I got more and more into the game, I met more and more people — people from all over, from Canada and as far away as Australia. I began talking to people. I will never forget my first online "friend", Chris. We played so many rounds of Ravenshield together that I couldn’t count. I could tell he really cared. Now, you always hear on the news that there are tons of creeps and weirdos on the internet, and I will acknowledge that yes, there are some interesting people out there. However, the internet is also the home of some of the most trustworthy, caring, understanding individuals. I began to realize this very quickly.
As I was trying to deal with my anger and depression from losing my mom, I got more into online video games. Alongside my buddy Chris, we played many different games, one we got hooked on was Shot Online, a golf game. I was able to talk to Chris about my life, about losing my mom and expressed to him how depressed was. I remember many late nights talking to him. He was there for when my "real life" friends ditched me. I had found an outlet. I was getting out my anger and frustration in a healthy way, it was my alternative to self-harm.
When I turned 16, I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. This is where I really needed some coping mechanisms and support. I had started playing a plethora of other online video games, from Call of Duty to Left 4 Dead. I found that getting online and talking with the amazing people I had met, made the voices a little quieter, the anxiety a little less severe, the sadness a little less overwhelming.
As the years went by, I met many different people and became close friends with people of all ages, genders, races and locations. Some people came and went. Some people lasted for years. Some people are still in my life. I went from talking to no one at all in my life to talking to friends online and getting advice and help from them when I felt like I had no one to go to in my real life. I created a social environment where am not judged or criticized, and I actually TALK out my problems.
I had finally found something that gave me relief from the mental affliction inside my head. Video games. I met my best online friend a few years later, my good buddy Goose. Goose and I have recorded a ridiculous amount of hours playing Left 4 Dead online together. He is definitely my best online friend and I feel really comfortable talking to him about my illness and what is going on in my life. He is the funniest, most encouraging person I know and he can make me laugh no matter how bad I am feeling. There have been many times where I was having really bad anxiety, and I would turn on the computer and send Goose a message to play some games together. As soon as the games started, the anxiety went away. The voices calmed. I had found a reason to wake up in the morning.
I was finally introduced to the amazing game, World of Warcraft, in 2010. About a year ago, I Google’d "friendly WOW guild" and came across Two Percent. I am now part of an amazing group of people that play World of War-craft together. These people all know that I have Schizophrenia and OCD. They all I know I suffer from extreme anxiety. I have shared many things about my life with them, and they genuinely care. They can tell in my voice when something is wrong, and they are more than willing to talk about it. They are a huge support to me and huge in my support network.
You might have a better understanding now of my love for video games. I'm not the only person out there like me. I've come across countless people who actually credit video games for them not committing suicide. Video games can bring so much hope and joy into people's lives. I agree, there are negative aspects, like video game addiction, but if used in moderation, Video games can be an escape, that volume knob to turn the anxiety down, to get away from sadness. I advocate for video games because they have given me a reason to live, and they take me away from things when I am having a hard time. I also realized that I am not alone. There are SO many people out there that suffer with the same things that I do. I have a special bond with these people and we are able to talk about our illness and come together to fight it.
So, the next time you want to get on your son/daughter's case about playing video games, take a look at how beneficial they are. They might be that key in your child's life that is helping them hold on. There are countless people out there who genuinely CARE. I am lucky to know so many of them and I have a beautiful internet family. THAT is why I play video games so often. They quiet the voices, calm the anxiety, and brighten the sadness. Video games are my joy and passion.
A big shout out to my online friends, Chris, everyone in Two Percent and especially my friend Goose. You guys bring me an incredible amount of happiness and hope. Thank you.
It's always good to look at the accomplishments you make in life. Working on the IPU I am sometimes reminded that I was once there. At that time, I was living with my dad and I was completely hopeless. I found solace in self-harm and isolating myself from the world. After some turbulent years of medication changes and therapy, I have made it to where I am now. Next month I am 31 years Old. I have been living with Schizophrenia and it symptoms since I was 14.
So, as you can see it has been a long time. I credit my dad for helping me recover, he has dedicated his life to me and I would not have made it this far without him. Also, it has taken a lot of personal self-work. Writing this blog has helped me express my feelings and share with the world what works for me might work for them too.
Reflecting today. In February I will have been living on my own in this apartment for 6 years. I am surrounded by the things I love. Guitars, 2,500 CDs and an awesome gaming computer. This is my own little slice of Heaven. I was just looking around the room and realized how lucky I am to live here. I realize how lucky I am to have come this far in my recovery. A lot of people don't have that. I am so grateful that I can live on my own in my own apartment and not need assisted living or living in a group home. My job on the IPU shows me the rawest emotions and struggles that people face. I was there 15 years ago, I am just appreciating what I have and how blessed I am.
You can never be too grateful to be in a good situation. Recovery takes a LOT of hard work and determination. It also takes different amounts of time for different people. We with mental health issues all struggle and succeed in our own ways. We are all on a path in life.
So, I sit here, happy and content. I know my future is very bright. I am cozy and warm. I have a roof over my head. I have food in my fridge. Yes, I have a mental illness. No, that does not determine the outcome of my life.
Hard work. Determination. Gratitude. Love. Hope. Empathy. The will to fight. We need all of these to progress and move forward in life.
I have been honored with the opportunity to facilitate a family support group with the Early Psychosis Intervention Program. Tonight, was the first night of the 4 week long group.
I sat among parents who are for the first time going through the horrors of having a family member with psychosis. I could see the pain on their faces as they described that they had no clue where their wonderful young son went. These were parents that were just trying to keep their heads above water, trying to grasp for an understanding of what their children are going through. I saw the confusion and hopelessness as they talked about their family members, their beloved children, how they are lost to this ugly, viscous animal that is psychosis. It really tugged at my heartstrings. I realized that I myself was there 14 years ago, and my dad sat in the same chairs and expressed the same agony and despair of what he saw me going through. The feeling of not having a clue what is happening to his daughter, the feeling of her life slipping through his fingers. My dad and I have been to the depths of hell and back in the last 14 years.
This evening was an eye opener and confirmed for me that I am doing exactly that I was meant to do in this life. If I can be that beacon of hope to these parents, then maybe I could show them that things DO get better over time. I have come full circle, going through the EPI program myself and now working for them. I can share my Story and provide hope for families and people that are suffering from psychosis.
It was an eye-opening night. I am now more certain than ever that I was placed on this earth to help others in their own personal hell.
I wanted to take a moment to write about the most amazing man I have ever known. My dad. My dad surpasses the definition of unconditional love and compassion. He has selflessly been serving others during his stay on this earth. He took care of my mom for all the years that she was sick, walking each day with her and making sure she was taken care Of. He raised 4 children selflessly and lovingly. He continues to serve others and his love for his family is astounding. I guess I have always been a "daddy's girl", I've always been close to my dad, I have memories of playing games with him on the computer before we had the internet. I have memories of him taking my brothers and I to the beach. I have many good memories of spending time with my dad. Honestly, I was a complete brat growing up. However, my dad loved me anyway. I wish I could go back and change some things I did growing up but it's all a lesson learned.
My life changed forever on March 30, 2000. That is the day I lost my best friend, my mom. I remember after hearing the news, just leaving the house and walking. I didn't know where I was going. I ended up at my school and the rest of that day is a blur. However, my dad also lost his best friend, his wife. After tireless years of caring for her health issues, she was finally free from her pain. My sister had already moved out several years before, so my dad was left to raise a 14-year-old me, 16-year-old Matthew and 18-year-old Christopher. My dad had to become a mom and a dad.
Fighting on, my dad loved us and continued to keep the family glued together. Shortly after my mom died, things really changed for me. Not only was I missing my mom, but my life was slowly crumbling down. This is when I started to hear voices. The next years were filled with long nights alone, cutting myself with a kitchen knife. Other nights I just sat in fear from what I was hearing in my head. My dad had no clue what was going on with me. After I confided in a teacher what was going on in my head, I finally got the help I so desperately needed.
My dad didn't ask to lose his wife and for his daughter to be diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 16. However, he took the life he had been dealt, not only keeping himself together but holding on to a family that needed each other.
The last 15 years have definitely been a rollercoaster. I have been through stays on the psych ward, numerous medication changes, countless hours of psychological counseling and long bouts of fighting for my sanity. The one thing that I can definitely say thought is that I would not be typing this today if it wasn't for my dad. My dad has been there for me through everything I have experienced on my mental health journey. He has been walking with me every step of the way.
My dad is the most selfless man you will ever meet. He has dedicated his life to not only helping me but also helping others, both individuals and families, through their mental health journeys. He serves on several committees and facilitates groups to help others. He is almost busier now being retired, than he was when he was working. He will go sit on the psych ward at the hospital and if people need to talk, he's there. If no one talks, it's just another night. He gets up early in the morning to go to meetings and Stays late at night as well. I had the honour of being on the panel with my dad at the Early Psychosis Intervention conference last week. It was really cool to just walk around with him and see all the people that knew him. There were so many people that he has worked with and families that he has helped. After the conference, I gave my dad a hug and told him thank you for always being there for me. My dad has done more things for me that I will never be able to repay. So, I hope by writing this, you the reader can have an idea of how amazing a man Mike Singleton is. He doesn't get enough recognition for everything he does. and he doesn't mind. He continues to serve and help others. He continues to be my rock and main support. He is also my best friend.
My other intention of writing this is to maybe show just a little bit to my dad how much I love him and appreciate everything he does for me. Maybe by writing this, he can know that he is loved and admired by so many people. Maybe he can know that he is making a huge difference in the world around him and changing lives for the better. I hope his reads this and feels proud. I hope by writing this. I convey how much I love him and everything he means to me.
So, dad, I love you beyond words. We have spent the last 15 years battling a terrible monster, but you know what? I can say that we're doing pretty damn good. We make such an awesome team presenting together and changing lives. I know sometimes I can be a brat but I want to know that I am grateful for everything you do for me. I appreciate you. You are an amazing dad and an amazing man and you deserve all the joy and happiness this world can provide.
My dad encouraged me to write about a place that is very special to me. This place is called the Whale House — it is a psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouse for those with a mental illness.
I have been going to the Whale House since 2009. It took my dad a very long time to convince me to check it out, but after getting a tour of the place from my mental health worker, I decided to give it a try. That was one of the best decisions I have made in my recovery. I still remember my first day there, I was greeted by many friendly people who made me feel welcome. Right there was when seeds were planted into some great friendships that have grown over the years. I have met and made so many friends at the Whale House that have supported me, and I support them. We are all on a common ground and at different stages of our recovery, which means there is no judgement there.
The staff have always been amazing as well. I really enjoy talking and laughing with them. They have also helped me through my dark times and were a huge support. To me, they are not staff members, they are friends. The amount that they care for all of the Whale House members is incredible.
I am so grateful to have the Whale House in my life. It is my social connection to the outside world. It is open Monday to Friday. We do a lot of fun activities like bowling Tuesday nights; Wednesday afternoons we go to a mall for a couple of hours; Wednesday nights there are outings to different places like mini golf, walks on the beach and different restaurants. Thursday is when we have our sports. Right now we are in the middle of our baseball season. We have a team and we play against other clubhouses that are around. It's a great way to socialize and get exercise. All of us on the team really enjoy playing and it brings us closer together.
The Whale House is my home away from home. I always feel welcome there and I feel great when I'm there. The members and the staff are all very special to me.
I encourage you to check out a clubhouse in your area — they are all over the place. It will change your life. It changed mine.