Posted in Awards, Stigma Talks

Mutiple Awards all in ONE

I started this blog to create a place to openly talk about issues that are too often silenced. My intention was to inform but more to share and have others share to remove the stigma on  physical and mental health, misunderstandings on various issues related to health, culture, race and many human relation issues.

We are all one interrelated trying to find peace and through love there is hope.  This blog is to connect, inform, touch and invite more insights. This is why I am so surprised and touched having been nominated for this award.

I humbly accept,  a multiple award from a very special person who does connect with so many people all over the world , who lives and breathes “love and peace”. Shaun at is an avid blogger, ambassador of spreading love, hope and peace. Check out his blog and see, there is room for all tastes, from global issues, human interests, humour and music.  Thank you, Shaun!

The Rules:  

1-Display the award logos on your blog/ site.

2-Thank and link back to the person who nominated you.

3-Nominate as many bloggers as you like 1 to 20 – up to you!

4-Let your nominees know via a comment on their post.





sunshine-awardnicer pic

I am honoured to nominate:

1)   Rev. Lynn Manyfires  as she follows The Creator  on this spiritual quest. I admire her selfless and tireless dedication.  Blessings…read and follow her on her journey

2)   Laura P. Schulman for being the voice of “reason” and posting on the true face of mental health and mental illness.

3)   Buckwheat gives a voice on abuse; she blogs bluntly and hon­estly about the abuse she’s hoping to raise awareness about mental & emotional abuse.   I believe it needs a voice or many voices!

Congratulations to the nominees’ well deserved awards!



Posted in Did you know?

Living with chronic pain

b me november 3It was 1987.

I had just started studying at Concordia University.  I had already earned a certificate in Gerontology and worked as a personal support worker in home care.

Married 16 years, working part-time,  raising 2 children in elementary school, the typical life of suburbia…2 kids, 2 working parents, owner of a bungalow, a summer camp, catamaran (not noisy motor boat),  except we had 2 small cars and not the station wagon and 2 small dogs and not the huge canine.  It was just plain old suburbia.

I earned just enough to pay little extras, my car, my tuition, books and personal expenses.  My going back to school was a bit of a prickle, my family was somewhat inconvenienced at times.

Life was pretty good.  Summers were a nice break as school was out for Mommy and the children.  I had 4 weeks’ vacation, the children’s father had 5 weeks, so we would share the time together making 7 weeks where the children could  stay at the lake more often, with one parent always there.

I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my neck,  since I was 32, most probably genetic.   Doctors first said, it was a neck sprain from leaning my head forward too much for all that extra reading after a day’s work; they said, lawyers, doctors and other professionals suffered this same problem. {Well, gee! somehow that took part of the pain away to know that people with PhD’s suffered the like!…kidding of course!}   In the meantime, I have added little tiny round mirrors over the side mirrors, on both sides of my vehicle to view better, my blind spot which prevents me from turning my head too quickly…ouch!


…I was a court transcriber/typist at home when the children were young.  {Basically, in those days, if you wanted to earn money homebound you either had a sewing machine or a typewriter.  Remember those big boxes with a keyboard set on the top? Those were typewriters.}

I would work when the children were napping or asleep until the wee hours of the night.  It paid as much as you could put out; I got $1 a page; and it’s with those hours that I purchased my little 1984 Renaud V, 4 speed, in 1986.  It was all paid up by 1987.  Working at this job enabled me to have my own pocket money … I could afford to bring the kids to MacDonald’s {don’t you go up in arms now with how unhealthy it is to eat there. It was a fun outing for the kids after a picnic at  Fort Chambly, a long bike ride, dip in the wading pool and across the street was McD}  So all that combined, it WAS a healthy day both physically and psychologically.


Working as a support worker which meant some strenuous work albeit labours of love and compassion, plus all my other roles (family, community, school, academia), all came to a peak.

young teen thinking of problems SILOUETTEI am sitting in the doctor’s office and waiting for his diagnosis for the symptoms I had presented, insomnia, feeling emotionally drained, tired, and achy joints, lower back pain, upper back tension and headaches, joint pain in elbows, wrists, knees too.  I thought it might be just overextending myself as many of my peers were subject to…family life, going back to work once the kids were in school, school committees, school board committees and the list goes on.

“You have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, he says matter of fact like.  “You may have caught a virus at some point and never quite healed…here is literature you can read {he hands me over 4 sheets of paper stapled together} that explains this condition along with Fibromyalgia.  “What the hell is that?”I thought, “Is he trying to tell me in a nice way that it’s psychosomatic but they have a new name for such things now?”

“You might consider joining the FMS Association,”  he adds, “I can prescribe anti-inflammatory medication for you,” and he writes up a prescription.   My doctor knew how hard I worked, and volunteered for years as a breast-feeding consultant, my school and community involvement as well as returning to school.  He was treating my whole family, and I had been at this same clinic since 1974.    So why wouldn’t I believe this bomb he was handing over to me?

“Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.” 1

I read through the material when I got home.  I did not have access to the internet…come to think of it, who did at that time?  It was not until the 1990’s that most “ordinary” people did…that I knew of anyway.

I worked at a CLSC which is community access for medical and psycho-social and community services.  Quebec has many spread out across the province.  They are the pivotal hub accessing various services both in physical and mental health along with community services.

The doctors at my work often gave me medical journals they received in English. They knew I was a medical information junkie.  I learned more and more about FMS and CFS and it was not too encouraging.  Most doctors understood very little. Diagnosis was not a perfect science…it was almost like it was ‘hit or miss’.  No x-rays to prove anything, just the patient’s word for complaints of constant pain!

Later on a social worker and nurse at the CLSC,  started a support group for patients diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and most of those who attended had multi-disciplinary diagnoses.  Many had psychosocial concerns as well as chronic ailments.  Honestly, I did not want to be part of such a group…my lord!  The stigma associated with this was huge!!  I was also working and living in the same community, hence, there would be little anonymity or confidentiality.  Let’s face it, I lived in a very small town and did not see much relief or support in the near future!

I tried to explain to a few close friends and family but most had no clue what it was so it was difficult to be sympathetic.   My mom tried to understand but if there was no cure she just worried and I could tell it upset her more, so I tried not to talk too much about my aches and pains.

I am not too keen on hearing complaining either.  My mom did complain a lot most of her life…depression, chronic ailments as well, my grandmother too. Being raised by both women, I had had my fill of hearing them complain.  I know they suffered but I also remember hearing and seeing reactions of friends and family.  It was never very pretty.

I had a childhood friend who criticized me for complaining too much. I had not realized that I too had openly complained so much. Boy oh boy did that teach me a lesson, to put up and shut up more.

I started having migraines at 14 years old and this friend and I became friends when I was 13, so by the age of about 20, that’s when she told me I was annoying.   I guess I was to her.  Lucky for her she never had to endure the ailments of any of these invisible conditions.

Let’s face it.  If you have not experienced it, you don’t really know. So, I don’t fault anyone for not understanding…I don’t fault anyone for disbelieving but I do wish there were more compassion…just a little.

Some friends and work colleagues who later suffered with FMS suddenly understood me…sort of; but mostly there were  comments I could live without.

“But you don’t seem to suffer as much as I do. You work every day. You don’t take strong pain killers like I do. You must be a rare case with little symptoms.  Maybe the doctor made a mistake.”

Even my best friend does not quite understand since people she knew talk about their debilitating pain regularly; one of her friends has been accepted on disability.

 A friend in Toronto finally got accepted for disability butTo get on disability, you basically have to live on welfare for over a year and maybe it will accept your condition.

Some friends and colleagues have said to me:  “Well  you don’t really have a strong case of FMS.  You mustn’t have it that bad.”  That is like saying to someone who suffers with Schizophrenia, “Well if you aren’t talking to yourself out loud, wandering the streets,  you mustn’t have schizophrenia that bad.”

I was  getting so fed up of people telling me how I felt! I rarely admitted and even today, rarely do as well acknowledge my FMS…why should I?  Admitting you have CFS or FMS is like telling someone you have genital herpes or warts!  No one gives a shit…really! Not that I do have herpes or warts but I sure do empathize anyone that does (and a lot more do than the public cares to admit…but that’s another topic for another time… the stigma of STI’s).

My family in Toronto does support me, however.  My uncle is a speech therapist and worked many years in homecare…he gets it.  He explained to his wife and my cousin…so they have an idea that I do suffer, and they do have compassion.  They never judge me and often ask, “How are you managing your pain?”  There is feeling of comfort when someone gets it.

When I worked in Toronto at the same help centre for youths, I was hired the same day as another woman.  She was  about 15 years younger than me. She was a slim, frail woman.  She has rheumatoid arthritis.  I could only imagine how long it took for her to get ready for work. How I admired her. She could easily have gone on disability.  She explained once, that it took her several hours to get ready to come to work, yet she did and chose to.  I had worked in home care and knew how debilitating this disease could be.

When she learned I had FMS…she always would ask ME how I was…imagine that!!!   It seems that many people who suffer chronic pain seem to have compassion for others who do.

One year during our annual professional staff development training, she and I had agreed we would try to exercise more to keep our bodies more supple.  We agreed to coach (nag) each other from time to time.  I felt honoured to be coached by such an amazing woman. I so miss her today since I transferred to Montreal!

I don’t really talk much about this with my adult children…I don’t think they really believe or understand that it is a real condition.

Between 1987 and 1997 I decided not to publicly acknowledge I had FMS.  From time to time (at least one a month) I remember sitting in the living room and just breaking down crying.  The kids or their father would ask what was wrong, and I would always reply the same thing…nothing really, I just get at my wits’ end sometimes…so tired of carrying this pain. My neck, upper back and lower back were the worse…I would often lie on my tummy on the foot stool just to take pressure off my back and watch t.v. like that sometimes.  No one said anything…family just looked at me as if I were a bit weird but at least they didn’t mock me.  Everyone sort of pretended all was just normal and continued watching their show on the television.

FMS is too misunderstood…insurance companies refuse any compensation and at one time I took several months off and my doctor had to mark Situational Depression to make sure I received full benefits for the time off work.

I did have an amazing doctor that time in 1993.  She treated holistically…body, mind and soul.  She had prescribed a very low dose of antidepressants to help me resume sleep which in turn should ease my pain.  It did actually impact on a better (not the best but that’s just me) recuperative sleep.  Medical professionals were just learning what they know to be true now, that low doses of antidepressants enable patients to feel less pain.   I would go on and off these antidepressants for the next 15 years.

“According to the Mayo Clinic, “The painkilling mechanism of these drugs is still not fully understood. Antidepressants may increase neurotransmitters in the spinal cord that reduce pain signals. But they don’t work immediately. You may feel some relief from an antidepressant after a week or so, but maximum relief may take several weeks. Pain relief from antidepressants generally is moderate.” 2

Moving to Toronto in 1997, I saw various medical health professionals:  orthopedics, rheumatologists, physiotherapists, naturopaths, acupuncturists…who all specialised in chronic pain.  Upon visiting each one, I pretended not to know what I had…they all came to the same conclusion…FMS.

I finally saw a Shiatsu therapist who told my boyfriend, “You think you have pain!?  You do not know pain until you live in your girlfriend’s body…she carries too much pain.  It will take us many months to find minimal relief.” He was a gentle, kind man who had been practising Shiatsu for over 25 years!   I could have hugged this man…I never told him I was in that much pain…but he knew upon examination, after the scan Shiatsu therapists do over your body.  My current massage therapist does not doubt my condition either and does provide some relief.


I found swimming in warm water, taking hot baths just immersing my whole body in hot water was soothing, Yoga (changing some positions to be more comfortable) was helpful, Mindfulness, relaxation, Tai chi, massage therapy, stretching exercises were several means of finding some relief.

I took anti-inflammatory meds off and on (that too is bad for kidneys and the tummy, ouch), took sleeping pills to stay asleep for at least 3 hours straight, off and on, but that too was limited in the time I could take since you build a tolerance to it.  I’ve tried the natural source of sleep aides like Valerian (yuck so stinky) and Melatonin but they no longer work…I get the most frightful nightmares with them now. I am currently not taking anything except over the counter medication from time to time now and seeing my massage therapist.  I have a referral to see an osteopath too…all these therapies are expensive and covering from insurance companies are minimal compared to all the treatment you really need.

In the past 4 years, I have since developed vertigo. The symptoms  are similar to Meniere disease but doctors say I could not possibly have that because I would not be able to ever get out of bed…so what do I know?

The first months I got these dizzy spells,  I would crawl on the floor to get my grandson ready for hockey…if  I stood up, I was afraid I would fall and living alone, you take extra precautions not to get into a bind like that.

I did start this condition following a sinus and chest cold and put the cause to some ear condition. If I sneeze or laugh, it will make the world spin. I used to be afraid to drive…my doctor still said it was nothing.  Finally, he said in an aloof way, that it was one of the symptoms of FMS and to just deal with it as were my migraines.   And so I do and I have.  The vertigo still comes and goes.  Tonight it was present.  I felt like I was hung over coming out of Starbuck`s getting  into to my car.    I am learning to just cope with it.

Reading through literature at the Arthritic Society has helped me somewhat because this huge recognized organization has listed FMS as a valid condition.  Reading literature with the FMS association gave me less comfort ONLY because society and the medical environment have not embraced this enough…publicly, I mean.

Don’t get me wrong now. FM does not define me in any way and I don’t want to be labelled as the woman with FM, just a bit of compassion if I may be having a bad day would be nice.

I am certainly no expert on any of these joint diseases, I simply wanted to share my story and how the “stigma” of this disease delayed my getting help and often isolates me as other sufferers, I have no doubt.

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, August 2, 2013




Meet Shaun who suffers with chronic pain 

Shaun explains beautifully Fibromyalgia/chronic pain 

Posted in Did you know?

Coping with difficult emotions


So many people at some point in their lives, whether young or old are confronted with challenging experiences that force them to face, feel, live and suffer through difficult emotions. I hear many youths in my work who share such strife and make no mistake on the severity of their pain!   They HURT!

It is so easy to say, “Aw, they’re young, what have they got to worry about?” or “They are of the cyber generation and know not what work is.” Oh, yeah?! I beg to differ.

Again, we (as a society) tend to generalize, label…and there’s that word again….Stigmatize. Youths are not less or more…they ARE human beings that have not been on this planet as long as adults. So What? They are living in a world that we, YOU, adults have created…so I  beg you,  could we be more open-minded…please!

I hear from youths who struggle with screw ups they endured at the hands of  situation often  caused  by other youths yes,  but  mostly by ADULTS…

So let’s all try to put our heads together…young and old and figure out a way to release some of the pain. It may not heal but it could offer some respite…some relief for a little while. You know the lapse between counselling sessions, doctor’s appointments, group therapy, psychiatric evaluations and appointments as well.  What I’m talking about are COPING strategies “tween times” and eventually to enable YOU to manage YOU and YOUR emotions just a bit better.

 What do some of you do that works to unleash intense emotions that sometimes paralyze you?

–  What has worked to finally get you out of bed in the morning, in the afternoon, or just to get up and have a few bites to eat?

–  Share here what has worked even if briefly, it is still a reprieve, right?

–  Do you mediate?

–  What is your mantra?

–  Do you exercise? Please tell me what physical activity that does not demand too much dexterity..{hey, that rhymes!!!} I would love to learn more physical activities but yes, I daresay, I am maladroit. I love to dance and have no care what I look like because I am OLDer now and would care less. So for me, dancing to my favourite music can release the youthful and happy spirit in me. I just let the music fill my ears, my head, my mind, my heart and soul and magically my body responds in jerks, and swings, and steps and sways…but oh, how it feels great anyway. {YaY! another rhyme…I’m on a roll today!}

–  Another thing that helps to relieve pent up emotions that I have discovered is Writing!  I used to journal and that helps too; I’ve ascribed a name to my journal.  This way she seems more like a caring friend/listener and  I call my friend,  Emily. She listens, does not judge, she embraces my words and I feel unburdened after our little chats.

So what do you do to release the endorphin, that amazing natural chemical that makes you  smile …even if just a little smile…or that the frown has disappeared just for a little while.

–  Do you draw?

–  Do you paint?

–  Do you take a glob of clay (sculpting) and pound the hell out of it, releasing some rage?

–  What works for you?

–  Do you listen to music? Play an instrument?  Or perhaps you sing?  Please share here what works for you.

I have tried some chanting and dancing a few steps I saw on APTN … the Aboriginal instructor was showing us  how the simple steps of dancing at a Pow Wow are actually good for cardio and a great way to exercise and tone the body.  Who would have thought that? We Caucasians have soooo much to learn!!

I heard many years ago, somewhere, that some Aboriginals recommend that you cry every night before going to sleep. Now don’t quote me…I heard it somewhere in the 1970’s and surely I missed important directions in that saying. However, I, as a woman, and a person who cries easily, find that shedding those tears DO make me feel better. It release a lot of pent up emotions that sometimes I never realized were there.

–        Massage therapy can help…A few months ago I went for a massage and at one point, one part of my body reacted to the pressure and touch and a burst of tears  gushed out…my massotherapist, in the Ange Gardien, was not alarmed by this as he knew too well, that it was simply a release of tension in some of those “knots” in my body.

Last week I overheard on the radio a scientist discovering that in the tears of a women who was upset compared to the tears of a woman cutting an onion differed greatly in the chemicals within said tears.  The emotional tears had many neurotransmitters…so science has finally caught up with the wisdom of First Nations People…That actually makes me smile…my goofy smile, that is.

Self-talk and trying to manage the thoughts racing through your mind is certainly another way but oh so challenging! (More on this CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy another day).

I often use the same exercise with people either on the phones, in a group session, with children, teens and adults alike…it does seem to work.  However YOU have to find what works best for you.

In the past few months I have used a combination of mindfulness & breathing to relax along with a guided imagery exercise.  Even when I respond to a web post on-line, I will share the exercise so youths can give it a try.  N.B: it only works if you praise at least twice a day for several weeks and when something does upset you…it may help to bring you to a place where you can, at least , function.

CAUTION: Do not practice this exercise operate heavy machinery or drive.

So what has worked for you?

Here is something I just wrote that explains what writing does for me as a person working in the helping profession:

“I met an angel the other night536036_486906314701932_586303520_n
She freed my soul of misery
She helped unburden, thus feel light
No longer do I feel despair
of souls who talk to me most nights
Of broken hearts beyond repair.
the angel freed me of the pain
Now I can sleep again tonight.
Now I can sleep again tonight.”

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, July 16, 2013

Posted in Mental Health

Bipolar and other mental illnesses are not one size fits all disorders

Now, I am NO expert in psychiatry…at all!  But lately I have read up on some literature; I have read several books on the subject and spoken to some friends who have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.  What I found most helpful…profoundly enlightening…were stories shared by persons who suffer with bipolar.

The first book I read was that of DrKay Redfield Jamison…born June 22, same day as my mom, no wonder she is an amazing woman!   {Okay, useless information but I just had to add that tidbit.}  She is professor of psychiatry at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.   I  read, An Unquiet Mind, which accounts severe mania and depression.  This is the book that made me want to know more…it allowed me to see through her eyes.  I just noticed in researching the exact title of this book since I read it many years ago and discovered she has written many others on the subject of depression, suicide and another on her relationship with her husband.  I urge you to look her up to read more about her work.

I only have the utmost admiration for her because she has come forward a long time ago and spoken about her illness. She is a professional and by speaking openly, she is helping people who have this condition, their family and friends and anyone who may be diagnosed one day of any type of mood disorder.

Part of removing the “stigma” is talking about something as if it is NOT a “hot potato” or like it is an STI!! Remember when we hardly talked about any type of sexually transmitted infection?  Well, some of you readers perhaps do not remember but in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it was not talked about too much.  I happen to remember in the early 80’s people thinking you could not shake hands with someone who was HIV positive.  Heck, I even remember in 1996, a social worker coming to the girls’ private school where I was a Family Life Educator.  He was lecturing parents on STI’s and more specifically HIV and how to practise “safer sex”.  His assistant or co-speaker,  was a young man in his early twenties who was diagnosed with HIV 2 years ago.  At the end of the lecture, I and very few parents went up to the speakers to thank them and shake their hands.  Hardly anyone wanted to shake hands with that amazing young man who opened up and shared a bit of himself to help teens be better informed and prevent the spread of any type of STI.  Talk about stigma there…it was ridiculous…it was ignorance that perpetuated fear and not understanding many sexually transmitted infections and how they could be transmitted.

Sometimes I wonder how much we have actually evolved as a society in understanding mental health, sexually transmitted infection, sexual orientation, diversity and culture.  Are some of us embracing this new knowledge and the uniqueness of each other or are we still back in the woods with the shotgun in the back of the truck ignorant as bliss?  I am not intending to insult anyone  having a shotgun or truck or living in the country.  This too, I suppose  is another label I …so I apologize if that hit a nerve.  I do believe most will get the analogy…hopefully.

I have just started volunteering with groups  of  men and women who suffer various forms of mental illness as well as family and friends of people who have a mental health condition.  I am learning so much.  Why?  Because these wonderful people are sharing a bit of their life within the group.  Again, just like Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison personal disclosures, it is from these experiences I learn so much more.

It is not any different from trying to get to know more about a culture. You can’t assume or generalize that everyone.  For example, in my province, working in a French environment, I was once remarked by a colleague…this was 20 years ago, mind you, “Hey you sure don’t act like most English people”.  To which I responded, “Oh, because I am not rich and live in Westmount (very ritzy area in Montreal).”  He smiled sheepishly but that IS what he meant.

So if a person has a mental illness, we cannot assume that everyone will be hallucinating, having psychotic episodes at the drop of a hat and that they could be suicidal.  Oh! And by the way it is NOT contagious either!  What IS contagious is the ignorance and the reaction some may have on mental health disorders.

((((((((((Fast forward and back to July 2013)))))))))).  It breaks my heart when I hear a youth call to tell me that she has struggled with emotional symptoms very difficult to manage and control.  That she has tried for months and months to get support and that her family tell her it is “Part of  being a teenager.”  And that finally after too many months of agony  and being hospitalized, she is finally being treated.  Lots of parents do not want to admit their child may be suffering. I get that!  Some parents are in denial but let’s face it, some adults do not want to recognize that mental health and physical health are equally important.  Mental health is not things people are imaging they are feeling…it is not a weakness and they need to just “tough it out” better.  It is a valid condition that affects 1 in 5 people at least once in their lifetime. But G d forbid that 20% of the population gets help…no, most will not for the fear of the stigma OR for the misunderstanding that it is a valid illness that can get treated!

I urge you to read more about mental health, listen to those talk shows if it helps to better educate you on mental health issues and open your minds…someday you may be the colleague, employer, teacher,  friend, sister, brother, father, mother, grandparent, in law, cousin, uncle or aunt of a person who needs your understanding and helping ear.  Maybe then, you can be the person who makes a difference and does not say, “It’s just a stage we all go through”…and encourage that person to get professional help.

Thanks for listening…

In closing I am recommending  this interesting article on How Often moods cycle in Bipolar Disorder.  What I learned in this article is how unique and different each person is affected on him/her.

Another read that I found amazing and enlightening is  Get me out of here, (My recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder) by Rachel Reiland by Lori Schiller

And my favourite place of all time where I attend yearly conferences and lectures at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.  Here is the link of the video taped lectures I have attended. Imagine that! everything at your fingertips…there is NO excuse to not know…right?

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, July 7, 2013

Posted in Did you know?

Tourette Syndrome and misconceptions

Have you ever had the urge to squeeze your eyes shut real hard? Ever had the habit of twirling a lock of hair?  Ever have to put a lot of effort to NOT use profanity? Come on, before your kids were born?  In high school perhaps, it got you a detention or two or a smack at home?   Ever had the urge to clench your teeth together real hard?   What about smelling your food before taking each bite…every done that when you were younger perhaps? Did you ever bite your finger nails?  Do you still do it?    What about that annoying mosquito bite you got at the bonfire last night…do want to scratch it?  Ever have your snow suit on, scarf, tuque, boots and then notice you got this annoying itch in the middle of your back. What do you do?

I remember when I was a child…all this was pretty much under 10 years old. I used to clench my teeth so tightly my jaw and neck hurt.  I used to get this sudden urge and after doing it I felt a slight relief.  I gradually forced myself to stop as I was afraid of wearing my teeth down. I was probably right too. But I had that option to do that.

I remember when I was pretty young…probably 7 or 8 and I used to smell almost each spoonful of food that I ate.  My grandmother noticed that one time and made a mocking remark, “Hey, cut that out!  You look like a dog who always has to smell his food before eating.”  Hmmm, well besides turning beet red, feeling totally humiliated (my grandmother had a border at her dinner table) and I was scared silly she would tell my mom and dad of this little habit I had just started    {My dad’s reaction scared me the most}…so I slowly  forced myself to bring my food smelling to a hault.  But I had that option to do that.

I do remember my grandson doing that with his food for about a year when he was about 6.  It took me all those years to realize it was not uncommon for children but it was unusual for those who could NOT stop.

I remember going through a time that lasted a bit longer…maybe 12 or older.  I used to squeeze my eyes shut real tight. The completed act would give me a brief sense of relief…until family caught me doing it and I gradually (it took years) stopped.  I still will squeeze my eyes today and feel that sense of relief and am so careful not to do it often for fear my habit will come backBut I had that option to do that.

I used to bit my nails and my cuticles and the skin on my fingers.  Okay, gross, I know, but I did not even notice I was doing it most of the time.  One day when I was about 13 a family friend whom I looked up, asked me, “What are you going to do the day you are engaged and you want to show off that gorgeous diamond ring?”  I thought about that and it took me months to curb that habit but I eventually kicked that habit it. But I had that option to do that.

My father in law used to swear like a trooper ALL the time.  He swore whenhe was happy, when he was angry and when he was excited or frustrated.  And believe me, in Canadian French, you have a WHOLE LOT of CHOICES in that vocabulary…all religious profanity.  He was and still IS a teddy bear.  Not a mean bone in his body but it was a habit…but guess what?  When he went to church or was in public he was able to suppress that habit or say it inaudibly under his breath. But  he had that option to do that.

My dad used to absentmindedly smooth his thumbnail over his upper lip when reading with great concentration.  I  also started that and yep, I still do it. I don’t intend to quit but choose to do that when reading, watching television or listening to music quietly…oh, yeah, even when driving long distances.  It is soothing.  I suppose I could quit completelyI would still have that option to work on it and stop though, now wouldn’t I?

I started twirling my hair when I was in school.  I was probably bored out of my mind to start with but my hair was short, so I would reach for the longest strand in my bang or at the top of my head and twirl and twirl and twirl. My hair is quite long now and I still do it and I do NOT want to stop.  I however, am in the habit of doing it all the time…yep, even when I am driving in the car…it’s easy with long hair!  It’s not my fault. I find it soothing.  Perhaps it started out of boredom, restlessness or nervousness (as a child life did get pretty tense sometimes) but nonetheless I find it soothing.  That is why I never go for those tight curly hairstyles because I like the feel of the softness of my hair.  Contrary to what experts say…I am not sending off messages to men I am with…nope, it has nothing to do with them.  I am not flirting…I just like the feel of the softness.

I am sure you all have a few little quirky habits that you try to curtail and do only in private.  Don’t shake your head there…you do too!

Where am I going with this?  To talk a little about Tourette Syndrome…that’s where I am going.

“Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by tics: involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocalizations that occur repeatedly in the same way. The cause has not been established and as yet there is no cure.


The most common first symptom is a facial tic, such as rapidly blinking eyes or twitches of the mouth. However, involuntary sounds, such as throat clearing and sniffing, or tics of the limbs may be the initial signs. For some, the disorder begins abruptly with multiple symptoms of movements and sounds….” Read more

Yesterday The Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada was using Twitter to help the public see first hand what it was like to live with the condition. You were to Surrender Your Say to Twitter and for 24 hours there would be tweets in your name that YOU have no control over some may be offensive.   It’s an exercise to mimic the involuntary and vocal outbursts that people with Tourette Syndrome have, known as tics.

I surrendered and the deadline to experience this is 17:00 EST today.   But by the time I complete this blog I think we may be past the deadline but I am typing as fast as I can.  This is my first day off of 3 and I am a bit slow to start. 

There is a lot of misconception on this condition by those who have just been diagnosed and by those who do not have it.  Here are a few myths Shelby Crockett, a paralegal, has published on the websites of The New Jersey Center for Tourette syndrome & Associated Disorders.

  1. More swearing – In reality, only a small percentage of those with Tourette’s Syndrome have obscenity specific outbursts.

  2. They are mentally challenged – Tourette Syndrome is not an Intellectual Deficiency.    It is a neurological disorder that is categorized by involuntary movement and speech tics.

  3. It is extremely rare – It is estimated that every 1 in 100 children suffers from Tourette Syndrome.  Many of them go undiagnosed and misunderstood.

  4. Tourette Syndrome can be managed with concentration – Because TS stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain, there is no voluntary aspect to it whatsoever.

  5. Only caucasians can get Tourette Syndrome – As with most diseases and disorders, TS does not discriminate.

  6. TS is debilitating – Most people with Tourette Syndrome can go on to lead rich, fulfilling lives and take part in just about any activity as anyone else, especially if they are cared for properly. Listen to the interview below with a friend and former colleague, Virginia Middleton and she will share her experience living with TS.

  7. Tourette Syndrome stems from psychological trauma – This was the prevailing thought but now, sophisticated imaging technology shows us that it is a neurological disorder.

  8. Those with TS can’t do jobs with fine motor functions – Another false truth, famous Canadian surgeon Dr. Matt Doran was able to do complex procedures even though he had Tourette Syndrome.

  9. They can’t be athletes – How far can someone with the involuntary tics associated with TS go in the sports world?  For Jim Eisenreich, all the way to the World Series of Major League Baseball in 1997.

  10. It gets worse as you get older – While some neurological disorders get worse with age, it is not generally so with Tourette Syndrome.  In fact, many who suffer from it go through the worst during adolescence and can even outgrow their tics in adulthood.

So that is why I made my list of habits you and I may have had or still do but are able to “keep them at bay”. TS is different. As Virginia Middleton states in her interview, it can taper off as you get older.  Yes, there are milder cases.  And I am sure it can be difficult for those who have more pronounced symptoms.  It would make for find “the right fit” for a job for instance as Virginia shares on CBC.

Virginia Middleton’s Interview on CBC

Written interview with Virginia Middleton

It is not an all or nothing condition…just like any other neurological or psychiatric disorder…the Tourette Foundation has launched an excellent exercise via Twitter, even if it is just to give the general public a brief glimpse of this condition.

Here are some interesting resources if would like  to read more on this subject.

 Twitter campaign with TS Foundation

Posted in Did you know?

Thoughts of Suicide?

Here I am resting my poor allergy afflicted sinuses by taking the day off, needing very badly to rest my head on my pillow.  I am feeling very listless. My body has spoken clearly and sleep/rest is what I need.  Staying in a vegetated state will do for now.{smiles}

I know that I should not even think too much today…{snickers} because sometimes my brain literally hurts from contemplating on so many things.   Sheesh!  Thank goodness I do NOT read newspapers and rarely watch the news on t.v.!

sad girl on phoneToday I should not think of anything remotely related to my work either, such as the miseries of troubled teen-grief-pic.jpgyouths, the student who has reached her limit with bullying, the girl who can no longer take the sexual abuse at home, the youth whose mom says she should have had an abortion {Ouch! That one always kicks me in the gut!}; and then the youth that has decided with nail polish remover in one hand and bleach in another that life cannot go on any longer…they have given up.

Nope, I deserve a nice break today.  The rainy dank weather makes the pollen that much more potent and for some reason my sinuses seem to be a barometer that leads my body into feeling great one day or like a pile of …um…sugar…heavy bag of sugar, yeah, that’s what I meant. {smirks, eyes raised to the ceiling}.

I still had to get up to take my antihistamine and a cuppa tea was also needed.  As my tea was steeping, I glanced20130311_233302 at my laptop just sittin’ on the dining room table next to my best friend, Bette…hmmm, may as well have a look to see what’s happening…click on twitter to get snippets of news {I’m sort of a mental health, human interest junkie and I follow several major medias to get highlights of the current news issues.}

Ah, just a sneak peak…then I am tempted to check Facebook to see if my very pregnant friend has gone to hospital yet…and I notice an article another colleague posted.

Her comment caught my attention “This is such an amazing real story and I am a sucker for true human interest stories. I read further at the quote from the article: Don`t Kill Yourself Your Dentist Will Miss You.

grandfather supporting teen boy”There are people that would be uncomfortable ever telling you how highly or how often they thought of you and vice versa because we live in a world that eschews intimacy and affection in favor of the allegedly “comfortable” distance we choose to keep that is actually making a large portion of the population feel cripplingly lonely.” Alana M.

Okay, that did it…I had to read it but first I had to pour my cuppa. {Aww, that’s better! Like the English (UK) does whenever something is troubling you, tea will sooth you everytime…it’s like listening to mommy say “there there”.}

This article brought tears to my eyes.  It was so moving and yes, REAL!  How misunderstood humans are who live with suicidal ideations.  It isn’t as if it is a “one size fits all” symptom and then one clinical approach and one pill that can make it all go away.

older teen live chattingIt is sometimes a crippling feeling and can haunt some off and on throughout a huge part of their lives; it is a constant companion lurking in the shadows creeping out now and then to taunt a suffering soul. Some people may have experienced or had this “visitor” when suffering depression and recovered; the morbid and suicidal thoughts also lifted with recovery.  Others have this feeling revisit them time and time again.

Teenagers and young adults are probably at the highest risk, being more impulsive…their brain is still developing…not quite reached its maximum growth; the ability to control impulses has not quite attained maturity.   {At least now we understand that a human brain has not reached maximum maturity…the frontal lobe where impulse control is situated…and that is what is meant by “teens acting on impulse” and not always thinking things through.  They often want to take back that impulsive action if they could…suicide, you can’t!}

cropped-stigma-photos-mental-health3.pngAdolescence is exciting and fun but it is also a scary and troubling time with raging hormones, academic demands, access to too much stimulation, social networking pulling them in so many directions and trying to figure out where they fit in this world; thoughts of what they are going to do to survive once they reach adulthood keep overwhelming them.

A youth or young adult who shares they want to commit suicide is not always taken seriously.  How often do we hear, “Ah, she just wants attention!” Or a young man is devastated by the breakup with his partner and threatens to kill himself.  To him, life has ended.  How many of you remember the pain and agony the first weeks after a breakup? And NO, it does not hurt more because you have been with your partner for 10, 20 or 30 years. It HURTS at any time PERIOD.  What a younger person does not realize is that the “grief” they are experiencing is a process and in time it will hurt less.  So imagine that feeling again…feel that pain the first week your lover broke your heart!  Now imagine feeling like that for the rest of your life!  THAT is how many youths feel they will be feeling…forever!

T_suicide1-2Suicidal ideation is not all about a breakup or a broken heart…it is often about a broken spirit…a person who says, “I don’t feel worthy breathing air on this planet” or “ I feel I am a waste of space here on earth” or “I cause too much trouble for everyone…if I leave, it will be a blessing for them.” Or “No one will miss me.”  And sometimes yes, it can be the anguish one feels when surviving the death of a loved one through death…sometimes suicide.  Other mitigating circumstances may contribute to these thoughts from mental illness to physical illness…sometimes a bit of both! That’s why it is so important to see a medical health professional to get “both” sides of the picture along with the real expert, the client, who knows what feels right and not so kosher.

It is never “simple” or “routine” in diagnosing a person suffering from suicidal thoughts.  But FIRST, it sure helps to have someone believe the person who is suffering and to listen twice as much as talk…that’s why we have 2 ears and 1 mouth.  Communication is needed so people do not feel they are alone.


© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, June 11, 2013

I am so pleased to have found 2 amazing websites where there ARE interesting human interest stories to quench my thirst.  Alana M. has an added touch to make me actually laugh out loud.  I can so relate to her style of humour.

By the way, if you want to read more from this savvy and quirky writer/blogger, Alana Massey she blogs at  Or if you want more interesting stories you can also go to  the website where this article was published at xoJane,  which is a website  where Jane Pratt is the editor in chief ( also former EIC  and founder of Sassy and Jane.)

Posted in Did you know?

Menopause or Hysteria?

when_helping_hurtsOnce upon a time there was a woman who was challenged…for the umpteenth time by “the man”.  He told her in no uncertain terms, “It’s my way or the highway.”  And this time she did not cry.  This time she did not plead.  This time she did not acquiesce as she always did…for decades.  This time she replied, “I’ll take the highway,” calmly and that was that!

Was this considered to be a surprise?  Not for her because she had lived and relived similar scenes for longer than she cared to remember.  But it was a shock to her family, her children, her friends and her colleagues and believe it or not the most surprised was “the man”.

Since she was about the average age many women go through menopause, the labels…the stigma mushroomed rapidly on why the woman was “taking the highway”.   The man reasoned this way to prove the woman’s “irrational” behaviour.

“She must be going through menopause!”  “Oh, she is experiencing hysteria” “Oh she is not thinking straight” and the list went on.   This way of “branding” a person for taking certain decisions was not helpful.  The woman was sometimes misjudged by her children. The woman felt denigrated and mostly she felt misunderstood.

Fortunately, this woman had many female friends who were supportive. There is a point to this little story…I’m just getting on my soap box. {clears throat}

How many times do we hear such comments?  A teenager or young adult who gets in an argument with his mom and the stigma continues.

A middle aged woman in the workplace gets upset with her boss for keeping her from going home on time for the 10th time in one month, so she  finally says, “No, I can’t stay.  You should have been better organized.”  And her boss may think, “Wow, she used to be so more accommodating before…guess she is getting too old…not able to handle the stress of this job anymore.”

A young man asks his mom for her car keys because he is going out on a hot date. She had already planned to meet a friend across town and says, “Gee, sorry, I already have plans and  but I could drop you off somewhere if you like.”  The man flips and says she is being so selfish…he can’t get over how she is being so unreasonable in her “old age”, “It must be menopause.”

A young mom asks her mother to babysit and mom says, she can’t that evening.  Her daughter, asks what is so important that she can’t babysit her own grandchild?  Mom starts feeling guilty and wonders if she should cancel her outing that has been planned.  She finally decides that she will go for her engagement and not babysit her grandchild.  Her daughter is upset because she could always depend on her mom before and so thinks, “It must be her menopause that is making her so uncooperative.”

Any of this sound familiar?  Well, menopause may be affecting many facets of a woman’s life…may be disturbing sleep, moods, forgetfulness among other symptoms.  However, when a woman asserts herself, when a woman is tired and sometimes has to refuse the extra hours her employer is expecting from her, when a woman tells her adult children she is a not always available…she does, after all, have a life (hopefully) outside of her children…it is NOT always due to menopause.

There are also the sexist remarks and insinuations that hide behind some of those menopausal references.  Watch out for those!

It is not much different than someone telling a girl that she must be  “PMSing” if she is in a bad mood. Again blaming hormones whenever a girl/woman asserts herself or gets upset.  I am not saying hormones do not impact on our moods.  But lack of sleep, stress, fed up of being exploited, personal problems, family problems, school, work etc. also IMPACT on moods and behaviours.


Either way, I felt a need to just share this type of misconception…misjudging…and the stigma that goes along  with the word “menopause”.   No wonder so many women refuse to talk about it in public…in the workplace. It is NOT hysteria.  It is simply the natural termination of a woman’s menstruation and fertility.

So, hopefully people will think twice before making inappropriate judgments and comments about women over 35 years old.

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts

Posted in Did you know?, Stigma Talks

Heaven, Hell or Purgatory?

12_11_17_heaven_hellHeaven, Hell or Purgatory?

It started as a thought about what happens when we die and it evolved more into thoughts on all the pain and suffering people endure…the growing pains for some and the lessons we learn from our mistakes and from the suffering of others. At least if there is some learning, some growth in some of us who are inspired by amazing souls on this planet.  This is for those brave amazing people. stigma-and-suffering8

Posted in Did you know?

I’m not mentally ill, just experiencing an emotional setback…

me in Shawbridge CreekBack in the ’60’s, I remember hearing my relatives and mother’s friends saying things like, “Oh, I just came back from a long needed rest from an emotional setback.”  My mother, the hairdresser/counsellor, would nod sympathically.  My French Canadian Grandmaman would call them, des dures épreuves (difficult hardships).  As a kid, all I could decipher from that was these women went away on trips leaving with long faces and came back refreshed and smiling.  So I figured that many women who spoke to my mom and Grandmaman went on these long vacations and came back rejuvenated.  That was part of my education on mental health.

Then I remember when my parents decided to separate, my mother kept the blinds in the house drawn, constantly played Connie Frances albums (whining and whining) and took lots of valium.  I learned from that how some women did not get treatment or help but just prescriptions for pills that made them zombies.  That angered me and it made me suspicious of doctors who treated female patients.

Back to 2013…

I just completed a 2 day intensive training on suicide prevention. The training is a requirement to be certified as crisis counsellors in suicide prevention.  I feel fortunate that our agency has provided this to all of the counsellors.

I have attended many workshops and conferences over the years but this was amazing.  It was very “hands on” which is how I learn best.  I have many years’ experience in crisis intervention and front line telephone response to suicidal calls but this training reaffirmed skills I did have and also put things in perspective as well as offered us a map to follow.

What I learned was that once I leave a youth and he or she has disclosed supports and a desire to live, that they want to get help and even if they hang up…I don’t have to carry the weight of that worry for days…they probably will get support.   I realized this when looking at the “map”, a phone call came to mind of a teenager who was suicidal and hung up just as I was conferencing him to emergency services.  He had agreed to give life a chance and accepted we talk to his local hospital.  But since he disconnected, I was worried that whole weekend…Fortunately he called back a few days later to thank me and tell me he was safe and had gone to hospital.  Phew!!

That said,  had I had this “map”, I would not have fretted so much.  I know better now:D     This was quite a relief because working on an anonymous phone line makes it almost impossible getting feedback or knowing if a youth is safe or not.

After the first day of training, the trainer gave us an assignment.

1) to share with someone what I learned today about suicide to break the stigma on mental health and

2) to do something to make me feel good…part of self-care.

And so, I decided to visit my friend and we rented a movie at her place. And to kill 2 birds with one stone, she is the person I shared my training with.

One remark struck me, “But everyone has suicidal thoughts from time to time…that is not a mental health disorder!”  Hmmm, I had to rethink how to respond to that one.   I often hear that remark from many people of all walks of life.

It is always a slippery slope, isn’t it when trying to demystify mental illness?  If a person thinks it is a mental illness, they just may not admit they are having certain thoughts; if we sugar coat it enough, people will feel more comfortable thinking that when they were depressed for x-amount of months and going through a difficult period in their lives, that was just an exceptional situation but did not have any relationship with mental health.  That’s right, calling it emotional well-being and getting back on track is easier to digest…right? But does it help anyone really?

If it is always kept in the “closet”, how is anyone going to learn that it is okay to feel depressed sometimes and it happens that it can last for months and months and quess what?  There IS treatment! And news flash: There is also recovery! And there IS help!

Well, it IS part of mental health and just like having  a lung infection  or kidney stones, there is treatment  for those physical health conditions!   Going through situational depression due to, let’s say,  a break-up, major life change etc. is a mental health condition too!

We need to call it  what it is and hopefully more people will admit and talk more openly about the times they have experienced such mental health challenges or “emotional setbacks”  {notice how those last terms seem  to be better digested but they just mask the truth};  why not call it what it is and talk openly that you  appreciate the help you received for that mental health condition way back when?…rather than say you experienced an “emotional setback”…sheeesh!!

stigma-and-suffering8.pngI remember years ago, I was off work for a good 4 to 5 months.  At the time, I knew I was physically and emotionally burned out.  I had worked and volunteered so much to avoid dealing with difficult choices I had to make in my personal life.  My body just broke down, I only wanted to sleep, my back was in constant pain and when I was awake, I could not hold back my tears.  After explaining my situation yo my family doctor,  she diagnosed “situational depression”.

Holding that piece of paper to send to my insurance for benefits was not easy! I kept staring at the words and broke down. I felt so weak, like a failure.  Me,  who was used to working at 2 to 3 part time jobs, raising my family and pursuing my studies at university…plus volunteering on several committees.  How could this happen to me?!  Well, I think about it now and realize I was heading for disaster after job number 2 and all that volunteering.  Keeping busy busy busy to NOT have to look into myself and sort out some of my personal problems. 

It became clear several months later when I was taking a counselling course at my university that lasted from September to March;   we had to be in counselling with another university in the city in order to take the course.  Part of the course requirement was to write a detailed report on our “counselling experience”.  I wish all universities required this. I learned so much and know that today, I am a better counsellor because of that experience.  I also learned to not shy away from going for counselling throughout my adulthood for support during certain transitions in my life.  It helps  A LOT!   I  find that when I am in therapy, my counselling skills also sharpen—A LOT!

After my time off work, I remember going to my family doctor and discussing my goal and dream to start up a 10 week support group for people who have suffered some form of depression, who received treatment and were recovering.  The goal was to allow them to see they were not alone, it was okay to say they had been there and came back and encourage them to feel good about themselves and not ashamed of their past mental illness…My doctor was all for it and told me to let her know when it was up and running as she would refer patients to it when they were ready.

Well, I never got around to doing it as I did get busy with work and life and eventually made that major change in my life but maybe someday soon…I hope.

In the meantime, I have started volunteering at an agency that supports caregivers and friends of people with mental health conditions as well as those who suffer with various conditions.  It is a huge learning experience for me.  I feel honoured to be part of this agency.

Also, I try to be honest about my past.  Ironically, it is in my workplace that I find is the touchiest place to admit this.  Yes, you’ve heard correctly!  I hesitate to share with many mental health professionals.   Some of my colleagues who have experienced past mental health conditions are open to discuss this and embrace my experience as well but those who have never experienced it…professional or not, some may be young and lack experience or just have a perception or attitude of “us and them”;  some may need more education on this…or a shift in their perception …again, the need to talk more would certainly help.

My eyes opened when I was healing from my time off work.  A doctor where I worked had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder and he was also a friend.  He had struggled for years not understanding his mood chanes and finally felt relief…there was a name to his chaos…there was treatment, finally!  And the board of directors of the agency where I worked at the time, accepted that he still practise medecin at the same agency.

I know, personally I was humbled having experienced my depression.    It allowed me to grow as a person.  It brought me closer to life and  made me realize how fragile it can be at times. It taught me how vulnerable I had become and I had pushed myself too hard.  I learned to read the signs better when I push too far…my emotional signs, my physical signs and my mental health signs.  They are all related as one will notice how physical ailments are often linked to mental health conditions. {Insomnia, joint problems, back pain, digestion, migraines etc.)

I am glad I had that assignment to do last week as that comment of “resistance” and “denial” made me realize just how much we need to keep talking about mental health and the mental illnesses that DO exist…that there IS treatment and there IS recovery.

©Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, May 20, 2013