Jan 2018 31

It’s Bell ‘Let’s Talk’ Day to bring Mental Health into conversations.

Although I have struggled with anxiety and mild depression in my life, it was really watching my mother and her battles that have really been my biggest challenges when it comes to mental health.

She was depressed and angry. And didn’t want to talk about it.

She’s been gone for (shockingly) seven years now after a quick battle with cancer. She lasted about two weeks from diagnosis to her death. And although she was in late stage ovarian cancer, and her odds weren’t that good, I really think that she just didn’t have the will to go on. She died a couple of days before doctors wanted to operate to give her a fighting chance. She was done. She wanted it over.

She didn’t have the will to go on because she was depressed and angry. And she’d been that way for at least 20 years. She had a stroke in the early 1990s which took away some of her mobility on her right side. Before she was vibrant and out everyday – at the mall, the bank, shopping, seeing friends. But after, she was too proud and ashamed to be seen walking with a cane. So she became a recluse. Before her stroke, I wouldn’t say she was a warm and loving person, but afterwards she became downright nasty to be around. Short-tempered. Viper tongue. Mean…

We asked her to go to some further physio rehab, but she refused. And she refused to talk to anyone about how angry and depressed she was. It was hard to be around. And luckily for me, I moved out in the years after, but my dad had to deal with it every day. Mental illness affects everyone in the family.

My mother died depressed and angry. And never talking to anyone about her pain, not just around the stroke, but the other things she’d experienced in her life – losing her family in the Canadian Japanese internment was just the beginning of her challenging life.

Luckily, it taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. To go seek treatment. To talk.

I have no problem proudly saying that I have sat on couches in at least 5 different therapists’ offices. I’m sure I will again.

We never stopped reaching out to my mother. And although she alienated a lot of friends, a few recognized that she needed help and stayed with her to the end. They understood.

Today is a good day to remember that none of us is ever really alone. Even if you try really, really hard to be, and try to push everyone away, like my mother did.

PS – I made a small donation to CAMH today in her honour. She would not have approved.