An Interesting Experience in the Psychiatric Ward

During my last 3 week stay in the inpatient mental health ward, I had a very interesting experience.  It was terrifying in the beginning and heart warming by the end.  I was terrified and then I laughed hysterically. And no that wasn’t a part of my mood disorder 🙂

I was walking with my cane at the time, when I came across another patient. A Jamaican woman in her 60s, Miss P.  She was a calm and helpful person from what I’d seen but my cane seemed to trigger her.  I won’t write everything that she said because some of it was foul, but the gist was “move your **** from me! Nuh come back here or I will take your blood**** cane and smash you head in, and splatter your brain pon di blood**** walls.”

I was like what the heck? People usually like me!  I couldn’t understand why this woman had such a strong hatred for me and we’d never met.  I told the staff because I was convinced I would be murdered in my sleep!! I think the staff thought I was paranoid and delusional. They never witnessed the behaviour I described.  They simply said “she’s harmless, she’s never hurt anyone.” Ummmmm that’s not helping me very much.  You could have at least tried to seem concerned.

This kept happening so I would always lower my eyes to the floor so I wouldn’t be making eye contact with her when she started to rant.  I didn’t want her to think I was confronting her.  I would always turn and move in a different direction.  This was very scary for me because I honestly believed she would attack me if she had the chance.

Then one day the same woman, Miss P, came right up to me with a big warm smile on her face apologizing to me for threatening me.  She said she has a daughter who looks like me and has a cane like me.  At the time she was threatening me she believed that I was her daughter and she thought I was there trying to break her out of the “prison” (the psychiatric ward).  She said those things to me because she was trying to scare me (her daughter) away so she wouldn’t  get in trouble for trying to break her mother out of the hospital. She apologized profusely every time she saw me and then we would just laugh! Wow, what a turn of events.

The icing on the cake.  Miss P came to me and said her daughter was there and I had to meet her.  I met her son and daughter and we both basically said “she is real!!”. Like the Christmas M&M’s commercial when the see Santa Clause and realized he is real. Up until then, neither one of us knew if the other existed.  We were about the same height, same age, both had similar hair and both had canes!  We laughed so hard as Miss P said “I told you so” and she was beaming.

Miss P had so much respect from the staff and patients.  She would give me extra desserts and juice.  She would offer to let me go to the front of the line for food.  We built a nice friendship and we had some wonderful conversations.  I was even able to de-escalte a situation between her and the staff which stopped them from calling security on her and forcibly giving her an injection. Even though I was unwell I was easily able to recall my training. She was a mother figure to me during my stay.  Warm, loving, caring and funny.  Just imagine how the relationship began.

Inside of every person with mental illness there is a person in there. They are a person first.  I always make sure I remember that.  That’s why I’ve had so much success working in mental health.  I believe they are the same as me.  Not because my mental illness, but because we are all human.

Peace Love and Understanding,

Maïsha

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Hold Hope

I do a lot of things to stay balanced and well. So I place a lot of importance on my inner circle. These are close family members and friends. I believe that friends are the family we choose, so everyone in my inner circle I consider family, even if we are not biologically related. Everyone in my inner circle has proven to be incredibly loyal and they’ve stuck by me through the good and the bad. The highs and the lows. Seeing as I have bipolar disorder, there have definitely been a lot of highs and lows.

One thing that has been amazing and moving from my inner circle, was from 3 very special ladies. My mum (aka my best friend) and her two sisters. I while ago I heard this concept of people holding hope for other people, until hey could hold it themselves. There was a time when I was severely unwell with bipolar disorder. I couldn’t function, was almost non-verbal (which is shocking if you know me), I was unable to work, go to school or do much of anything. I felt horrible about my inability to function and participate in the world. I didn’t think I would ever work, be a contributing member of society, or be independent again. These 3 ladies gave me very consistent messaging to the contrary. Each of them told me repeatedly, in their own way, that I’m not well right now and I’m recovering… But once I’m well I will be successful and there would be no stoping me. I didn’t believe them at the time, but at the same time I respected the fact that they were all very intelligent women and maybe they knew something that I didn’t. Maybe they could see something in me that I couldn’t. They turned out to be absolutely right.

Do you have people in your life that hold hope for you when you can’t hold it yourself? People that believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself? Hold onto those people. I recently held a thank you dinner for those 3 lovely ladies to thank them for all of their love, encouragement and support. They were so very appreciative. So many times we think lovely things about people but we don’t tell them. I’ve been making an effort to tell people how I feel about them.

Hold hope for someone.

Peace & Blessings,

Maïsha

10 Steps Behind

For a long time when I struggled with severe mental illness, I felt like I was 10 steps behind other people that didn’t have the same challenges as me. I spent years unable to function, completely isolated from people, socially anxious, in and out of episodes and hospitals, and struggling with negativity and self-hate.   I was unable to work for a number of years and had no career like most other people my age. People were in long term relationships, getting married and having children and had years of working in their careers under their belt… me zero. Their lives seemed to be amazing from the outside looking in and I was genuinely happy for them. But it also depressed me that I was not thriving, happy or successful. My life seemed to be a mess. I felt trapped in the aftermath of mental illness. 

What I didn’t appreciate or give myself credit for, is that during this time (and 10 years in therapy), I was working on me. Combing through some serious issue surrounding trauma, mental illness and self-hate. I realize now that it was a blessing that I had the space, time and support to deal with those things. Volunteered, went back to school and slowly started to reclaim my life. I got pieces of myself back bit by bit and found new strength  that I never knew existed! 

It’s cliché, but I am so much stronger as a result of everything I’ve fought my way back from. I have a career that I’m proud of working in the mental health field. I’m good at it and proud of it. I get to help people everyday which has been something Ive always loved doing. It was instilled in me by my grandmother who was a nurse. I’m proud to be able to honour her in that way. 

I had a full circle moment yesterday. I went to a studio for a photoshoot. My first one in almost 20 years. The pictures will be used for my website and promotional materials.. for my business! maiLIFE! It’s been an idea I’ve had in my head for so long and now it’s real! maiLIFE is a word I created when I was unwell and now other people are making reference to it. Using it. It’s a real thing! They’re excited to hear what it’s all about. Here I was standing chatting with a group of black business owners.. and it hit me! These are my peers! I too am a black business owner.  

It’s so interesting because so many of my friends and the people around me are where I am now. Starting their own business (or having recently started them). They’re at the same stage I am.  

I no longer feel like I’m 10 steps behind because I’m not. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. A 9-5 that I love. Creating a business that I love. Love from amazing friends and family. Self-love like I’ve never known before. Life is amazing. So blessed and incredibly grateful. 

Peace Love & Dreams Actualized

Maïsha

maiLIFE

http://www.mailife.ca

Peer 

So I’ve finally arrived. I’m finally here. “Where is here” you ask? I’m in a place where I no longer feel shame about my mental illness. I’m not discouraged or oppressed by the stigma surrounding it and I am proud to speak about my experiences with people. I’m thriving in spite of it.  This is a gigantic step forward for me. Very important in my work as a Peer Support Specialist and for my business (MaiLIFE) as a public speaker. 

A “peer” is someone who identifies as having a mental illness. It’s in my job title! Everyone in my agency knows that I have a mental illness, because of my title. The thought of that terrified me for a long time. I wouldn’t have even applied for the position this time last year. I feared that if people knew I had a mental challenges, I would be judged harshly and viewed differently. Now I wear the title proudly. I’m getting valuable practice disclosing to people as I introduce myself to 90 new clients and explain that I am a peer, and what that means. 

Years ago, while in hospital, a social worker said to me “Wow! You have a mental illness and you finished university?! You’re SO high functioning!” (Ever since I heard the words “high functioning,”  in that context, I’ve hated them). This was someone who worked in the mental health field and was shocked at the fact that I’d completed a post secondary degree?! What a sad state of affairs. I quickly understood that some people did not expect much of people with mental challenges. More than ten years later I still get that reaction from some people. Some of whom work in the mental health field.  The reality is there are many peers like me out here. We live among you! We’re living well. We have completed or are completing post secondary studies. We have healthy relationships and are productive members of our communities. We love. We feel pain. We have accomplished amazing things.  We are living “normal” lives. 

I want to make that known to people. So yes, it’s on my business cards. Yes, it’s in my job title. Yes, I will continue to be open and share  my experiences with people if I think it will be helpful and if they want to listen. I’m proud of every part of who I am. Mental illness is not who I am, it’s what I have. I’m living well, enjoying life, I’m successful, healthy and genuinely happy.  It is possible!

Peace,

Maïsha

MaiLIFE

This is the beginning of the new look of this blog. After years of thinking/talking/dreaming about it.. I finally registered my public speaking business! MaiLIFE! It’s something that I love to do and did it happily.. and for free.. for years. Eventually I started really looking into what it would take for me to make this into a successful business. There have been many people over the years who have told me “when you’re ready, let me know and I’ll help however I can.” I finally started taking them up on their offers.  I’ve believed for a long time that “when the pupil is ready, the master will appear.” That’s what has been unfolding in my life as of late. I’ve found a great mentor who is sharing her knowledge with me about the public speaking world. I’m so excited to be working with her. More to come on that. 

I plan to officially launch my company in April/May 2017. 

This blog will be about sharing my thoughts and experiences as a business owner, public speaker, workshop facilitator, mental health advocate, black woman and human being. 

I have a unique voice as I have a degree in psychology, I’ve worked in the field of mental health as a case manager and I am a survivor of mental illness. 

I hope you enjoy the read. 

Peace Love & Happiness

Maïsha