Tag Archives: disabilities

help me! what should i talk about?

raul and i are gearing up for vancouver’s second mental health camp, the conference about the intersection between mental health and social media.

i’m hoping to give a presentation there. last time the topic of my session was blogging yourself home – using blogging to find a voice, a place, a community.

would you help me decide what i should talk about this time?

we have a topic – it s “breaking our silence. setting us free.” the idea is that silence is a form of stigma, and in order to break free from it, we need to speak up.

with that in mind, i have come up with the following topics:

12 steps online and anonymity
12-step programs are an important part of many people’s recovery. there is alcoholics anonymous, gamblers anonymous, overeaters anonymous, alanon and naranon (for people in relationships with people who drink or take drugs), etc. there are many strong online 12-step groups. the backbone of the 12 steps is anonymity. in their case, it is silence about certain things that sets them free. how does that work? what are the drawbacks?

mental HEALTH – are we silent about it?
there is mental illness, and then there is mental health. in a recent blog post, we started making some inroads into investigating what “mental” health means. one definition we came up with was that mental health is “authentically felt wellbeing in all aspects of one’s inner life and behaviour.” the practice of working towards this wellbeing is something that is alluded to here and there but no-one takes it really seriously. people are constantly encouraged to work towards their physical health through activities such as taking up jogging or eating healthy foods. but when has your boss asked you lately to get a yoga teacher to help you destress or stop drinking coffee to improve your anger management? it’s just not happening. as bloggers and social media people, we often write about great ideas to manage our mental health, but what’s happening in the real world?

is all this social media really setting us free?
social media requires quite a bit of time and commitment. would people with mental health issues be better off using their time away from social media?

bloggers break the silence
for this session, i would survey and report on some mental health bloggers to see how they have broken the silence, and how that has set them free.

who gets to speak up about mental health?
in the process of coming up with a useful definition for mental health, we also realized that there are different ideas who “gets” to have a mental illness and who doesn’t. depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder – all these are “accepted” mental illnesses. but what about the mental health of people with addictions, brain injuries, aspergers or ADHD, just to name a few? are they taken seriously when they speak about mental health? and what about the perceived hierarchies among mental illnesses – from anxiety being “better” than schizophrenia to binge eating disorder being more “noble” than a crack addiction?

action!
this would be an action-oriented workshop, similar to the social justice session at northern voice. what can participants do within the next little while, concretely, that will create more “voices” for people with mental health issues, or make those voices more effective?

okay, people, help me! which presentation should i make?

diversity and inclusion

here’s a little more from raul’s blog. the topic raul broached was diversity. by the way, those of you who are not engaged in social media, please don’t run away. because guess what – what’s happening in social media is very similar to what’s happening IRL – i mean, in real life 🙂

raul quotes tamera kramer

“diversity actually means diverse voices too. and I also would throw in that while lack of women’s voices is a HUGE issue, we should also be talking about opening the field beyond white/ straight/ physically capable. let’s define what being truly diverse really means.”

tamera is absolutely right. why isn’t there a conversation around diversity and what it means both in general for the speaker’s circuit and for the social media world overall?

there are some very good comments on raul’s blog, ranging from whether “having a conference for example for gay Latino men that excludes everyone else” is or isn’t the answer (tris and cecily say something about that) to underscoring the need to hear the voices of people with disabilities (ganga and glenda weigh in on this) to wondering how supportive social media in vancouver – and probably elsewhere – really is (kudos to steff) to warning of the pitfalls of social privilege given to people with diverse backgrounds, using the example of livejournal (atomicpoet).

here are a few things i added to the comments

inclusion AND diversity, once we go beyond the obvious, are very difficult, one of the reasons being what tris mentioned – it’s HARD to grasp.

it’s like fish trying to understand why humans fear drowning, or a grasshopper trying to grasp what’s so good about living under a rock 200 m deep in the ocean.

or wait! in most cases that would be the wrong metaphor – because a grasshopper sees no need to imagine the life of an undersea creature.

or wait! THAT’s what social media and blogging are – theoretically – so good for: hearing/seeing/reading what “those other” people live like, love, hate, and laugh about.

social media and blogging have helped open a lot of topics that were previously taboo or accessible only to far-off corners of society. terra gave a fabulous example of that when she talked about how mommybloggers did away with stigma around mental illness during MentalHealthCamp.

are we ready to take the next step?

the next step is going from nodding enthusiastically to acting on what we have found when we looked through the social media windows into other people’s lives. here are a few ideas if we truly want to hear the voices that so far we have not heard, for whatever reason (one of them being that our ears were closed). how do we make it possible for those voices to be heard?

let’s take the voice of poverty. how is someone on low income going to get to an event in a far-off suburb? car? probably not. public transit? IS there public transit going to the event? and if so, how much does it cost? how do you think it feels for someone on low income to always ask for money for such events? and remember, they need to get the money for it beforehand, not after, because if you are on low income, you have days where you have no cash whatsoever.

the voices that haven’t been heard much are often untrained voices. tris says we should look for “the best person to speak on that topic”. it’s easy for the mainstream to say what “best” means, and that measuring stick is often self-referencing. does “best” mean polished, up-to-date, articulate, in-group like? or could it mean someone who adds a new perspective, someone who wakes us up, perhaps by making us feel uncomfortable? we all love to quote people like gandhi, dr. martin luther king or einstein for the courage they instill to go against the grain. easy to do in hindsight and from our comfy chairs. but think about how lonely, scared, inept and other they felt when they first started out. are we ready to tolerate, even embrace that otherness?

inclusiveness means including everyone. here’s an example, which is the second part of my comment on raul’s blog

re blogging dads, tris – one of the reasons why social media here in vancouver is clique-y (and it’s not terribly clique-y but still noticeable) is because the vast majority of people who can get together at a bar on a thursday evening at an hour’s notice are single, mobile people, who live and/or work downtown.

a south vancouver grandma like me, or rob who has two little kids – well, it’s hard for us to do that. so the cliquishness comes from different lifestyles, among other things. added to that are the unique social skills and habits that social media types display.

my point is that inclusion is not only about the obvious. tris also made a good point – that being in loud crowds does not appeal to everyone. now of course we can’t always try to make everyone happy or comfortable. but it’s important to remember that if a group always behaves the same way, it automatically appears unwelcoming to those who don’t or can’t behave in that way.

a big topic, i know.

which is why i like to propose something: let’s have a topic for our next northern voice blogging and social media (un)conference:

diversity and inclusion!

then maybe we can think about it and take it into the flesh-and-blood world …

mental health week: alcohol and epilepsy

woman struggling with alcohol today for my post on mental health, i’d like to share with you a letter i received a few days ago from a fellow canadian. while it is about the mental illness of addiction, i’d also like to think about it as a move towards mental wellness; wellness achieved by sharing our stories with others. here it is:

dear ms. mori

i am writing to you, as i have to many other ‘alcohol’ awareness/help organizations, regarding what i feel is a fairly unknown health problem. while everyone is painfully aware of society’s affair with drunk driving, i have only found one or two individuals, in the last few months, who have ever heard of this health problem and its cause. i’ll try to make it as brief as possible, however, please feel free to contact myself, should you require any further information what-so-ever.

to set the stage, the years preceding our health deterioration, we had both quit drinking for a year here and there, with no reactions at all, but went back to it, in order to keep some sanity in our previous/former bad marriages.

neither of us had ever heard of possible dreadful health effects, were warned only, of course, not to drink excessively for the obvious reasons, and then, not to drive! we both found it to be somewhat of a stress reliever though, as we were prone to worry.

both myself and my late husband were born to alcoholic mothers. they drank before, during and after pregnancy, but we were both born in good health. we picked up the nasty little drinking habit quite well, in our late teens. we were both well educated and held down good jobs with excellent income and work associates who, unfortunately, also loved to drink. never any illnesses or health problems, never a sick day off work, nor hospital visits. this all came to a devastating halt, for us both in our mid 40’s. it is called ‘grand-mal seizures’ (epilepsy).

there is no known cure!! prescription drugs are the only help. along with complete alcohol abstinence, permanently! the current drugs have pages and pages of horrific side effects and are costly. we both were forced to give up our occupations, which is unbelievably difficult to do when you have worked happily your entire life, not to mention being accustomed to a certain level of income.

seizures do not hit all drinkers, some not at all, some earlier, some later in life, with no rhyme or reason, similar to many health problems facing today’s society. i have a distant relative whose daughter was born with it, and, while her mom and dad have never consumed alcohol, suspicion is that her dad’s biological parents did. however, being adopted leaves the question unanswered.

your drivers license is suspended immediately when it hits, and not returned until you have made 6 full months, without an attack. however, it is like having a wretched poisonous snake, dwelling permanently inside of you, forever and ever, and ever! the medication professes to hold it down, so to speak, and yes, it does, however, it is always on your mind especially when your license to drive is returned and makes travelling costs to many doctor’s appointments slightly more affordable. there is a little journal book always here in our home, where it is noted, time and day the medication is taken, in dreaded fear of missing, then being served notice basically, by the python inside. he is very aware when he hasn’t received his breakfast or supper, call it his ‘tranquilizing medication’. consequently, you may or may not be served his wrath! i trust you get the picture.

i never ever leave the house without checking this precious little diary, always sitting in clear, plain view, as having a seizure while driving could cause horrendous dreadful consequences! this is not drunk driving, so to speak, but the aftermath of drinking for years and years, not to mention the worry of it causing a fall, splitting your skull open (again), or breaking bones.

a year before my spouse passed away, he had a seizure while in a large parking garage, negotiating two upward steps, and literally flew over 20 ft., landing and breaking his hip, resulting in surgery, then a year long recovery process. this is for someone who at 6 ft 4″ tall, in excellent physical condition. but he was lucky that time! not to mention a previously broken arm & ankle, from the same cause! never had he broken a single bone in his life!!

i am attempting to bring this to as many organizations attention, as possible, as well as our government leaders, hoping that it will eventually result in them ruling for all liquor containers to bear a large warning, and to raise the purchase prices as well! cigarette manufacturers have been forced to do both, while our government still makes plenty of money from them, so, they don’t lose out. but i can’t remember ever hearing of a terrible traffic accident or severe fall, caused by smoking !?!

this type of life with a minor affliction is difficult. again, it causes a great deal of stress. my beloved’s passing away a year ago this month was a direct result of bleeding internally from a perforated ulcer, and his reluctance to go into the hospital for treatment immediately, as he didn’t want me to be on my own, i suspect, in case of an attack. needless to say, i’m on my own now.

i trust you will pass this on to others. i have been replied to by some folks on the subject, they believing, seizures are only caused from alcohol withdrawal! well, not so, not so at all !! it’s like wondering if the tenant inside is dead, alive, pissed off with you, bored or maybe, just maybe, unusually content! (for now!)

sincerely yours, in the hopes of helping others,

sjg in canada

(image by melody)

international women’s day: misbehaving women

it’s international women’s day week and this is my blog from the misbehaving women event, a fundraiser for the avalon women’s centre, organized by zoey ryan.

5:50 i’m sitting here at the heritage hall with glenda watson-hyatt and her husband darrell. unfortunately, they cannot partake of the wonderful spread here because they’ve been assaulted by a stomach bug but i can!

i have on my plate a samosa, a skewer of chicken satay, a fruit skewer, chickpeas, thai noodles, naan bread, sesame yam and some fancy salad. oh, and buried under this i just found a spring roll! for dessert, some sinfully decadent chocolate from rubens. no, not the painter, the canadian chocolate company.

it’s 6:18 and we’ve started. they have someone who’s translating everything into sign language. cool!

zoey starts it all of with a very short metta. may we be happy, may we be healthy, may we be peaceful, may we be free. what a lovely way to set the tone. thanks, zoey!

6:22 michelle shares a few words about avalon. avalon helps women who are dealing with abuse and addition. alcohol, drugs, eating disorders … “addictions of the lost soul”. they support women to take back their lives. last year, they had 30,000 visits and phone calls. very happy to be able to help out a bit.

6:28 key note by glynnis osher-anderson of mystic masala. she has an ayurvedic aromatherapy business and works on a fair trade program with a group of women in nepal, “wild earth nepal“. she spoke so passionately:

our herbs bake in the himalayan sun and bathe in the himalayan moon. each one small bar of soap is a beautiful miracle. every time i have a shower, i feel the work of these women and the himalayan herbs on my entire body. what we give back to them is fair trade. every bar of soap goes to education, maternity leave, vocational guidance for the women, food and a career that nourishes the spirit like nothing i have ever seen. it literally touches the lives of thousands of women all over the world.

6:55 the “misbehaving woman of the year” awards are based on the laurel thatcher ulrich quote “well behaved women seldom make history” and honors a woman or women who have refused to be pulled into the cultural drift of complacency, who have dared to make a difference, taken a risk and enhanced the lives of women in her community.

the award winners:

karen taylor – she was kicked out of kindergarten five times. she is deaf (which doesn’t prevent her from being extremely articulate). the first deaf person in UBC’s deaf teacher training program. travelled europe alone as a deaf woman. built first private school for the deaf in canada. built her own two-storey log cabin. built a summer camp for deaf children in canada.

bonnie morgan – a kindergarten teacher who dances with her students every day. misbehaving is a spirit, a way of saying, i’m not better than you, we’re all equal. if you’re perfectly behaved, you can’t be empathetic. only the misbehaved know how to behave.

alma vaugeois – “one of the most quiet and unassuming misbehaving women you will ever meet.” she heals as a psychologist, as a singer (through song) and as a yoga teacher.

carole tulpar – “i’m out there and i don’t give a damn”. she lives way, way outside her box. teaches ESL, writes, and … ask her about her underwear!

susan borax – she dares, she said! stands up on the stage and sings clutter away. supposedly, she has an online clutter museum but i couldn’t find it. maybe it was – sung away?

glenda watson-hyattand last but very much not least, glenda watson-hyatt, who i had the pleasure to nominate (here she is in the picture). glenda’s whole life is about misbehaving. lots of people didn’t expect her to talk – she was supposed to be institutionalized. she was never expected to make a living, never mind write a book, win a gold medal in horseback riding or give speeches! today, glenda is an author, a blogger, and an accessibility specialist. oh, she also has cerebral palsy. you know why glenda is this success maven? because she said, “i’ll do it myself”.

glenda doesn’t listen to the people who say, oh, you can’t do this. she doesn’t listen to the people who say, oh nobody can do this. she just goes ahead and does what she puts her mind to.

and glenda inspires us. most of all she inspires us with her life but she’s also made it her business to inspire others. on her blog, there is a whole section on that. there’s inspiration from a flushed toilet – i’m am glad i’m not the only one who blogs about stuff like that; from just one word that can inspire you for the rest of the year; and from the excitement of the first time you dare to do something new and risky.

that’s why she wan the misbehaving women of the year award in the category of inspiration.

some thoughts on the robert latimer affair

today, the appeal division of the national parole board overturned a board panel’s decision to deny robert latimer day parole. latimer, who has served seven years of a life sentence for killing his severely disabled daughter, will soon be released to a half-way house.

here are a few blog reactions to this.

what are your thoughts?

at the university of alberta

in essence, the board had denied parole because latimer remains convinced that he did the right thing and thus “lacked insight” into his crime. the appeal division rightly found that the board’s decision was “unreasonable and unsupported” and that there was no evidence that latimer represented an “undue risk to society,” which is the only basis for denying parole.

whatever one thinks of the legitimacy of latimer’s conviction and sentence, he should not have been denied release solely because he believed his actions were moral and justified. the state has no right to compel us to think “correctly,” only to take reasonable measures to ensure that our beliefs do not manifest themselves as harmful behaviour.

john murney from the saskatchewan liberty train

so, latimer is finally going to be released from prison after serving 7 years. i know the robert latimer controversy is very emotional and i expect to get a lot of different opinions on this matter. personally, i wouldn’t have done what latimer did, but i haven’t walked in his shoes either. latimer should not have served any prison time for what he did. if anything, i feel tremendous pity for him and his family.

and some comments on that blog

important things to consider: why did he attempt to hide his “crime?” what were the rights of his daughter? i’ve worked with people who suffered from similar disabilities, like the one afflicting latimer’s daughter, so i cannot comprehend euthanasia as the only option.

as well as

the cerebral palsy had strangled her muscles … she had a dislocated hip, believed to have been caused by the two steel rods in her back. her left chest was twisting in towards her spine. her lungs were constricted. she regularly suffered from bronchitis. her stomach was constricted. at times, she could barely swallow. her rigid back left her with pressure sores at the base of her spine.

it hurt to move, even a bath was painful.

and because swallowing was hard, she often had vomiting episodes that went on for months at a time. and another long surgery to come, with only liquid tylenol as a pain treatment latimer lied about it at first because he was trying to buy time for his family to have a proper funeral.

i remember when mrs. latimer was on the stand she said, “whatever hell they put him through will not begin to match the hell that our little girl went through.” that was her mother.

brigitte pellerin at pro woman pro life writes

so robert latimer is to be released from jail. that makes me angry. i understand that he’s no danger to society, and that he’s unlikely to re-offend. but that’s not the point, and never was. it is illegal – and wrong – to take the life of disabled people no matter what the reason.

finally, at alas, a blog, a blog written by a person with a disability

while there’s always been a frightening and enraging degree of support for latimer’s actions (which, interestingly, played out while susan smith was simultaneously being castigated for the murder of her non-disabled children in the u.s.), much of the fervor has been about the mandatory sentencing that required him to serve at least ten years in prison. the canadian supreme court overturned a lighter sentence that failed to follow sentencing guidelines. he’s currently spent seven years in jail.

in an appeal to his conviction, latimer contended that he “had the legal right to decide to commit suicide for his daughter by virtue of her complete lack of physical and intellectual abilities.”

grant mitchell, a lawyer representing disability groups in relation to the case, said yesterday:

“i think it’s really sad that he’s still maintaining that he committed no crime … that killing a member of his family was a private matter that the public had no business getting involved in. and i think it’s particularly concerning that when he was asked by the parole board whether he would do the same thing if another member of his family were in distress, he said he wasn’t sure what he would do.”

i agree with mitchell. more importantly, i agree with the guilty verdict that holds latimer accountable for murdering his daughter.