"Shoot for the stars. Nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it!"
By: Christine McFarlane
For some reason, when someone hears that you suffer with mental health issues, the immediate thought is “that person is crazy,” or an individual will only hear the word ‘mental health’ or see a particular symptom and walk away from you. In part, I don’t totally blame individuals who think this; I blame society, and the negative stigma that they have attached to mental health.
Mental health encompasses so much more than just the make up of an individual. Within the Aboriginal worldview, health is seen as encompassing the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. I know and have come to understand that yeah, maybe the way my life started out could have played a huge part in how my mental health faltered in my later years, but I am not going to bemoan the fact that what I have been through, is what has made me who I am today- a fighter!
I am just one individual who has struggled with chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic anxiety and eating disorders, and I believe that each of us, whether we do it individually or collectively, can help take steps towards eradicating the negative stigma that society has imposed on the issue of mental health.
Tonight as one of five recipients to receive a Transforming Lives Award from CAMH (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). I was struck by the outright resiliency of each recipient and how we all have managed to keep going despite our struggles and difficulties. I remember when they called my name, and I had to walk up to the stage. I was literally shaking in my shoes, I could say boots, but I wasn’t wearing them (lol) They had me stop and watch the video they had made of my story. It was the first time I had seen the video since it had been taped and when my story replayed out in front of me, I almost started to cry. The tears were not out of sadness, but out of the sheer pride and joy I feel at finally being able to turn my life around for the better.
There were so many people that I wanted to say thank you to, but when I got in front of the mike, I froze. In part, I said:
“I want to say chi miigwetch (a big thank you) to my friend and mentor Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, who happens to be here with me tonight and is someone I aspire to be like.
I also want to say a huge thank you to First Nations House at the University of Toronto for being there for me throughout my years of study and for helping me to feel like I finally belong.
Lastly, for my niece,
Obstacles can be overcome!
I wanted to say so much more, but the fear of being in front of 900 people got the best of me, so I said what I could. But in my heart, I hold a special place for everyone who has been with me through my journey. The journey hasn’t always been smooth, nor should I ever expect it to be, but I have made it. CAMH- the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the great people who have been in my life have helped in more ways than one, and for that, I am forever grateful!
Congratulations to my fellow recipients of the Transforming Lives Awards 2012!