Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Welcome to The Land of Discombobulating…

It has been on the horizon for about a week now, the flight plan was diverted, without my approval, and I have landed right smack dab in the middle of The Land of Discombobulating.

There are no flashy tourist brochures with pictures of happy, smiling people enjoying the sunshine and having a grand time here. There is no website where one can book their all-inclusive vacation in a luxurious suite with an ocean view and 5 star dining!

Nope, The Land of Discombobulating is a very cold, grey, barren, windswept, lonely place, where, much like altitude sickness, ones senses go askew and the simple process of thinking is harder to do.

 As I said, I have felt this coming for about a week, and no matter what adjustments I made, I could not change the flight plan and this came upon me like a mountain top poking out of the fog at 6000 feet.

The good news is that I have landed safely, I have my survival gear with me and I know what to expect.

I hate being here, and get frustrated every time I visit. Life will be running along smoothly and then for no reason that I can gather, I am back here again. I am frustrated, angry, sad, irritated, tired and generally pissed off! However, I have to accept it, take care of myself and wait for this to pass.

The advantage I now have, is that I know what to expect, how best to get through this and how to set up my camp for the duration.

I know that I will need quiet, tons of self-care, and that I will not be able to function at the level I normally do. I know plans may need to be cancelled, and I will need more sleep.

And I need to remind myself this is not a character flaw!

This is one of the biggest issues I have had to work through. Because I do not fit the mold of a “working” person, or because I take time to care for myself, society sees me somewhat of lesser value and dare we say it..even “selfish”

But, I know this is what is best for me. And, what is best for me, is best for my family, friends and society.

In the past, I would fight these moments, keep pushing myself and run around like crazy, and push myself to exhaustion. I would do whatever I could to stay ahead of the emotions, memories, sensations or whatever my brain wanted to work on. I would keep going until I “crash landed” and I would pay dearly for not taking time for myself and it would take so much longer to get back into the swing of things.

I have no idea why my flight plans have been diverted. It may be the time of year, a trigger, the change of seasons or that my brain is just not working well at the moment. This may last a day, a week or more. Time will tell, but I do know what I can do to help it along.

I do know that being loving, kind and gentle with myself will help speed the process. I know I have resources that I can pull in to help me through this time, and that by staying in the moment, being authentic and not trying to “busy myself up” this too shall pass.

Soon, I will once again be laughing, feel joy and be fully and happily participating in life.

Until then, I am going to set up camp, hunker down in The Land of Discombobulating, do what I need to do and look forward to my flight out of here.

I wish you all well in your travels and remember to be kind and gentle with yourselves.
Cheers and be well


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Youth and Mental Health

Doing it a bit different this time round..this is a letter I have sent to some newspapers on Monday, hoping the editors will print it. Please help spread the word about the need for open and respectful dialogue around mental health.

Mental Health and Youth

As the summer months fly by, we start to notice that the nights are becoming shorter, mornings are cooler and shadows are getting longer. Things start to shift and all too soon the summer that will be, becomes the summer that was. Many of us start to set our eyes on new goals and directions.

For some, this means sending our children off to High school and Post-secondary education. As parents we do our best to prepare our children for this stage of their life.

This can be an exciting time in their lives with dreams and goals.  A time of exploring and belief that all things are possible. It may also be a time of trepidation's. 

And for some, it will be a time of encountering mental health issues for the first time in their life.

When they were younger, we taught them about road safety, strangers, and to wear a helmet while riding their bikes. Never to get in a car with a drunk driver and to always wear a seat belt.

As we buy them supplies, clothes and assorted various other items to put in their care packages, we need to add one more thing along with our love.

We need to send them off with the correct information on mental health.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada “1 in 4 youth will experience a mental health issue. The great majority of mental health issues occurs during adolescence and 70 % of young adults living with a mental illness report having symptoms before age 18. Youth 18-24 are most likely to suffer from mood disorders, substance abuse and more likely to commit suicide”

But there is good news. There is help and the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.

For the last 2 years I have been educating and advocating to various youth groups about mental health. They are bright, intelligent and articulate. They are our future, and some of them are struggling! After each presentation there are always some students that come up and talk to me of their struggles and fears around the mental health of themselves, a friend or family member. For some, this is the first time they have ever spoken about it.
Sure it may be scary to talk to our children about mental health issues.  But by creating an open and respectful dialogue we give them another very important tool to help and support them for the rest of their lives. With the right information and understanding we can help them reach their dreams and work towards making all things possible. Like wearing the bicycle helmet, it does not mean they will fall off their bike and bang their head, but it is there to protect them if they do.

Having a mental illness is not a character flaw, and with the correct diagnoses and treatment one can have a very fulfilling life. I am proof of that.  Undiagnosed mental issues cost the individual and society at large. We all pay the price.  Let’s educate this up and coming generation so that they don’t have to pay the price. If we don’t, some will pay with their life.

For more information visit

Monday, 4 August 2014

One Giant Step For Suzy Kind…..

This last week I met a very interesting young women. Her name is Siobhan Brannign. She is a multimedia student from Ryerson University. She is working on her thesis for her Masters in Multimedia, and is interviewing people for her “From a Negative to a Positive “project.

She is driving across the country meeting and interviewing people she has connected with for her project. I must tell you, it does my heart good to see the younger generation talking about mental illness.
I met with her on Wednesday afternoon, she is a very bright, articulate, brave and beautiful young women. 

She asked me questions about my condition, how I got into public speaking about mental health issues, what I did to help me through it and other questions. When that portion was done we went down to the dock where my teams’ dragon boat is moored and she took some pictures of the boat and myself with my paddle.
For those of you who have been reading my blog, you know I have been working hard around the “camera issue”

As I was standing on the dock next to the 48 foot, red dragon boat, I was calm, somewhat relaxed and leaning on my paddle, staying in the present moment.
It was interesting for me to stay in the present and not dissociate when my picture was taken, I am glad I did all that hard work.

Of course, once she left I thought of a million things I could have said, or showed her more things  that helped me through those rough times…and will in the future.

The next day I received a message for Siobhan- she was staying in Victoria. She asked if she had left her tripod at my house, she did, so we arranged to meet at a half-way point in Nanaimo- at the Chapters book store. Because I just hate book stores wink wink…

My son and I drove down and had time to look around the book store, and believe it or not, I actually looked at photography books, and low and behold bought a photography magazine.

Now this may not be a big deal to folks, but for me it’s a huge issue. It’s a giant step for me…in the past as much as I wanted to learn and discover, I would be pulled away from the photography world…

Later that evening I made a tea and skimmed through the magazine/journal. It is all about macro photography- of course there are terms and things I have no idea what the hell they are talking about, and I was a little overwhelmed with information, so I put it down for a bit.

But I did lean things. I also remember what I read in the magazine, and look forward to learning more.

If I had not faced and worked on my camera issue, I would not have been able to remember the look or to pick up the magazine. To learn and move forward…to discover and look forward to being creative with the camera.

As I am packing to go back up to Sointula for a few more days, I will pack my camera gear and once again take some more pictures and see where my journey goes.

It is amazing where one can go when you deal with your fears and issues. As I continue I will keep you posted on where my journey takes me.

This may be a tiny step for mankind, but a GIANT step for me.
Those are my thoughts for the day

I wish you all safety and wellbeing on your journeys.

Cheers and be well

PS- here is some more info on Siobhan from her Facebook page
This is an ongoing documentary photo based project by Siobhan Brannigan. It focuses on coping with mental illness and creating an open place for discussion
To create a safe space to present people's journeys with mental illness through the use of photography and interviews. To create an opportunity for open discussion, to give and receive advice on coping strategies, and to discuss potential solutions to any problems.
This project A Positive From A Negative started off as a thesis for my undergrad in photography. It has now evolved to become my thesis project for my masters degree in Documentary Media at Ryerson University.

In this project I am dealing with the issue mental health. With the subject finally becoming a big topic of discussion in various forms of media it is time to try and bring a new approach on the subject. My ultimate goal is to create a website. One that individuals can go to and view different approaches and journeys people have had. I also want a space that people can discuss their own issues or offer supportive advice. To do this I need to create a large body of work and that is what this next step is to do.

Mental health and illness awareness is a topic that is just beginning to gain a profile in our society. The statistics that show the number of people who struggle and the number of people who do not understand how to approach the situation is staggering. Mental health is often considered pejoratively, as a stigma, yet many do not realize that many people are able to live a successful, and positive life while facing these ‘negative’ struggles. Due to personal experience with mental health issues and having openly discussed this with the people around me, I have realized that mental health is a topic that rarely has any positive aspects attributed to it and in turn people are not always comfortable discussing their situation. This is an unfortunate circumstance, as through interaction and discussion with others many people can learn better coping strategies and approaches in their daily life.

With my series, A Positive from a Negative, I wish to contribute to a vital discussion about mental health. I wish to create a space for people to observe, to listen, and to talk about their experience with mental health, particularly those leading a positive life. I want to create a safe space for people to learn and for people to teach. There is a lot of information available about mental health but many people do not take the time and make the initiative to seek it out. People should take that time because every person who lives without mental illness has, in fact, several interactions daily between themselves and someone with a mental illness even if they are not aware of it. As well, it is important to be aware that every individual has a different experience, whether or not they share similar mental illnesses.

In this project I record an interview with the participants (audio only), followed by photographing a few things. I want to photograph a place of comfort; one that has been an influence on your mindset or just a place where you have dealt with your struggles, or a place that is a safe haven. I also want to photograph the person; just a detail of oneself that does not give away your identity, unless you so choose. Lastly, I want to photograph a detail of an object that directly relates to how you cope/are learning to cope. (You can view the photographs from the interviews I have already conducted on my tumblr under the photography heading or visit my website