Mental Health First Aid

Just over a week ago I got myself Mental Health First Aid certified! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. The two questions I’ve been asked since (and before, when I first told others that I was going to get it) – what is it? And why?

What is it? Mental Health First Aid trains people how to help anyone in a crisis – be it a drug overdose, panic attack, or someone attempting suicide. It also trains people how to just have a conversation about mental health. If a friend, family member, colleague or even stranger starts to talk to you about any sort of mental health related issue, it provides the knowledge and resources to handle any type or severity of conversation. A lot of the steps of Mental Health First Aid are very similar to physical first aid, and we need to remember that mental health is as important as physical health. Help end the stigma. Health is Health.

Why did I take the course? I feel it should be obvious but if it’s not, then here it is. First, I want to be a therapist and thought a course like this would be a good start, an additional learning opportunity. Second, I like to help people, and this is another way I can. Finally, I am often someone that people come to for a talk. Because they have something on their mind, because they want an ear, or advice. A lot of people who took the certification were there because of this reason. If I have the tools, I can be a more effective helper.

Today is #BellLetsTalk day in Canada. Every text message sent from a Bell phone, every phone call made from a Bell phone, every tweet, watching their video on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat leads to a 5 cent donation to mental health initiatives. Help support the cause!

3 Days in the Life of Chronic Pain

So it’s Friday morning and I’m studying, not doing anything crazy and I start to feel a pain in the back of my hip, near my tailbone. Weird body pains are nothing unusual, of course, but this one is particularly sore and not a normal place for me to get this type of shooting pain. Naturally, I try putting heat on it. Doesn’t really help. I do some stretches, nothing. Weird and annoying, but again, nothing I can’t handle because, after all, I am a chronic pain warrior.

img_1240Life motto.

Around noon I decide that maybe I just need a bit of light exercise and head to the gym. Treadmill, so basically some power walking is my weapon of choice. Rather than making this pain better, it makes it worse. The only benefit is that I had already pre-booked a chiropractic appointment for later in the afternoon. If you’ve ever had any experiences like this, you know that will be my saving grace. But before I get there, I want to back track for a bit.

img_0377I might be slowly turning into a gym bunny.

About a week ago I started to feel a tightness and cramping in my left calf. Normal body response for most people when they need to stretch or drink more water. I drink a TON of water and I stretch daily. However, when this started, I did my best to increase water intake and do stretches more often throughout the day (like literally standing at the front of the store at work, stretching my calves). This feeling is still here, today, more than a week later, though it does seem to be slightly better today.

img_2368My water bottles even end up in my travel pics!

Back to Friday. I head to the chiropractor, tell him what’s wrong, he thinks it’s weird that it just started seemingly out of nowhere but again, this kind of thing happens when you have chronic pain and an autoimmune disease, etc. He’s used to it, I’m used to it, so let’s get to work and fix it. First he check my hips and even I can see in the mirror that my left hip is sitting way higher than my right hip (it’s my left one that’s in pain). Definitely out of place. The plan of attack: he massage my back, adjusts my hip, adjusts my upper back (my lower back was fine), and stretches out my hips. Voila! I feel a lot better! No more hip pain in that SI joint.

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Now, to be fair, I never mentioned the issue with my calf. For one, the more pressing painful matter was my hip. Two, I have an appointment with my physiotherapist on Monday, so I figured he could take a look at that.

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Saturday afternoon, the subway has some major delay and is literally going to make me late for work if I keep waiting for it. I actually determine it will be faster for me to walk to work than to subway. Since I hadn’t gone to the gym (I wrote an exam in the morning), I decided I could use the exercise and walking it is! About half way through the walk, I feel it, the hip goes out of place again and the pain is back. I was fucking walking! And not even at a particularly fast pace. I get to work, silently suffer through the day with a smile on my face. Now I’m trying to figure out if I should try to see my chiropractor tomorrow as well (albeit, assuming they can fit me in as an emergency, I’ll likely be late for work) or just see what the physiotherapist can do (I know that any chiropractors reading this will tell me to go to the chiropractor, and this is likely what I will try to make happen).

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More pressing is why has this started happening? If it gets fixed, will it continue to happen? And is the calf thing affecting the hip? I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but I’m frustrated. I don’t want to go to the gym (which I love) because I know it will make it worse. I have my staff holiday party tonight (yes, I know, it’s weird to have it in January) and being in pain will make it less fun.

fullsizeoutput_9e3Last year’s staff party pics! So much fun!

And thus, this is 3 days in the life of someone in chronic pain.

The Feeling of Wholeness

Just over a month ago I had gone on a few dates with a woman, and I came away with this feeling at the end of one. I didn’t feel any chemistry with her, though luckily we have become friends, which honestly is the benefit of dating in the first place. Dating women at least. I don’t even date a lot anymore. Sometimes my friends tease me and say it’s because I’m picky… which isn’t untrue… but it goes beyond that. And after this lovely woman and I decided to just be friends, I realized what I had been feeling for months; the thing that was the cause of my being picky or not feeling a need to just hop into a relationship with someone. It’s a feeling of wholeness.

IMG_0386My Top 9 on my personal Instagram account.

This was a concept my therapist and I discussed a while back. Probably about a year or so ago. I don’t remember exactly how we got on the topic but essentially it ended with her telling me that when two people who are already “whole” get into a relationship together it will be something better than I’ve ever experienced. Now that I realize how whole I am (despite chronic pain, and the occasional anxiety), I know what she said is probably true.

IMG_0387My Top 9 on my janeversuspain Instagram account.

This isn’t to say that myself or anyone I’ve been in relationships with has been “broken,” because that’s not the right word or concept even. The feeling of wholeness is a combination of self-awareness of both strengths and limitations, it’s your own pursuit to become a better person, to learn and to grow, and it’s knowing that you are always going to be okay, as long as you have yourself. This is not an easy thing to accomplish. We all have baggage, stressful events in our lives, health issues, mental health issues, family issues, the list can go on and on. The things that have lead me here, personally, is the focus on self-care, self-love, mindfulness, meditation, travel, taking more courses through school, and really bonding with friends and family. These are the things that make ME feel whole. And though this may not be the same for everyone, I recommend trying to get yourself to this amazing feeling (especially now that we are in a new year). It starts with YOU, it starts with self-care, self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion.

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Happy New Year!