5 Surprising Things I Have Learned Since I Started Running

2012-06-02 13.25.55

1. Rest days are important. I used to think that in order to get better and faster, and in order to prove that I was a “real” runner, I had to run every day. If a training schedule called for a rest day, what it really meant was that I was running for maybe a mile instead of five or six miles. What I’ve discovered, though, is that the right balance of rest days and active days is crucial to my success as a runner. Not only do the rest days help prevent injury, they actually make me stronger, both physically and mentally. Enforced rests due to illness, injury or circumstance usually have a surprisingly good effect.

2. Kids are better runners than adults. Over the years, I have read many books written by runners, coaches and various kinds of doctors, all advising on the best ways to run. It’s not a simple case of putting one foot in front of another, they say. You have to think about what part of your foot is striking the ground, how long your stride is, what your posture looks like, what your arms are doing. I heed all of this advice, and I still have periodic struggles with my form. Then I look at my eight-year-old, who runs for his school’s track and cross-country teams. When he runs, he looks truly magical. He has perfect form and graceful fluidity that I can only envy. Adults are always trying to improve on nature, sometimes to their detriment. Kids, on the other hand, move the way human beings are designed to move.

3. Heel striking is not a bad thing. Most serious runners have heard all about how landing on your heels is a Bad Thing. It creates more impact, and therefore more injuries, and it is a grossly inefficient way of running. I bought into this so much that I went out and bought a pair of Newtons running shoes in order to “teach” myself the art of midsole striking. Six months of excruciating calf pain later, I gave it up as a bad idea. I realized that we are all different, that not everyone is meant to be a midsole striker. A few months later, I read this article which suggests that for some of us, heel striking is actually a more efficient way of running.

4. There is no hard and fast rule regarding fueling. When I started training for my first half-marathon, I spent a lot of time researching all kinds of things, including nutrition and long-run fueling. The gist of what I read was as follows. For runs of thirty minutes or less, you can get by without taking water with you. Between thirty and ninety minutes, you should bring water, but you don’t really need anything else. If you’re out for longer than ninety minutes, you’ll need an energy drink of some kind, and for anything beyond two hours, a gel might be needed. I tried to follow this formula for a while, and it didn’t work at all. For a start, I need water on every single run. I have high hydration needs, and I need at least a sip of water for every ten minutes of activity. Secondly, I need an energy drink for runs lasting longer than an hour, and that is all I need in addition to water. I never take gels. Ever. Not only do they have no noticeable effect on my performance, they have the consistency of snot and make me feel ill.

5. There is a huge mental component to running. I’ve always known this, of course. The surprise is the extent to which it is true. It has been suggested that running is 10% physical and 90% mental. I’m not sure that I agree with that – the physical foundation has to be in place, and it has to be maintained. But for someone running a distance that they have actually trained for (in other words, that they are physically ready for), mental strength does play an enormous role. I have this pattern when I run half-marathons, of moving along just fine until I hit the 18K mark. As soon as I see that 18K marker, it’s as if a switch goes off in my brain – a switch that says, “Hey, you’ve just run 18K. You should be absolutely knackered.” And my body willingly obliges by suddenly feeling exhausted. The pace that I’ve maintained so nicely goes to hell, my legs turn to Jello and my breathing goes all weird and creepy. I struggle along in a terrible state for 2K, and then, as I enter the final kilometre, it all turns around again. A burst of energy hits me out of nowhere, and I sail through the last kilometre. In general, I am a mediocre, middle-of-the-pack runner, but I have a phenomenal finish line kick, and I am sure that it comes from my mind.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Autism Awareness Without Aggravation


Today is World Autism Awareness Day. All over the world, people, governments and companies are participating in the “Light It Up Blue” campaign, which involves burning blue light bulbs in solidarity with individuals and families affected by autism. What this means is that my social media feeds are being bombarded with posts and messages from autism parents explaining why World Autism Awareness Day should not be observed.

I am always baffled by how controversial autism awareness campaigns are. We don’t see this level of animosity and division with other causes. I have never seen or heard a cancer survivor say that they don’t want cancer awareness to be promoted. Epilepsy, mental illness and many other illnesses and disabilities have their awareness days, and those days are embraced by those suffering from the afflictions and the families who support them.

I mean, since when is autism awareness a bad thing? Yes, I know that awareness without acceptance and action means nothing. But acceptance and action cannot happen if the awareness does not come first. Awareness is not this empty concept that many people claim it is.

noun: awareness; plural noun: awarenesses
1. knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.
2. concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.

Awareness is when someone cares about a certain issue and wants to learn more about it. As far as I’m concerned, the more people who care about autism and want to learn more about it, the better. With awareness comes a greater level of acceptance and education, as a result of which my son and other kids like him have a happier life with more opportunities.

Am I supposed to blow that off just because the Light It Up Blue campaign supports Autism Speaks? Am I supposed to hate Autism Speaks because they don’t direct funds to the families of people who are affected by autism?

Well, for a start, Autism Speaks is an organization that exists for the purposes of supporting research, and they have never claimed otherwise. They have never pretended to be a charity that gives money to families.

More importantly, though, the Light It Up Blue campaign does a lot more than fill the bank accounts of the charity that some in the autism community love to hate. Because of the campaign, TV stations and newspapers run special features about autism. Some stores offer discounts on educational toys and books. Schools have dialogues about autism. They encourage students to ask questions, to have discussions, to learn ways to talk to and be with the kids in their schools who live on the spectrum.

All of this, to me, is a good thing.

I am not out to convince people to buy blue light bulbs, or to support Autism Speaks or anyone else. We all have our own views and we’re all entitled to them. All I really want is for World Autism Awareness Day to be just that: a day for individuals, organizations, governments and the media to actively promote awareness of autism.

It should not be a day for people within the autism community to fight with anyone who doesn’t share their views. It should not be a day for controversy and divisiveness. It should be a day for the autism community as a whole to band together in support of what we all really want: a better world for people with autism.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


My Son The Rock Star

It’s Juno Week in Canada! For those of you not in Canada, the Juno Awards are Canada’s music awards. They are kind of like the Grammys, only with colder weather and more Canadians. The awards are preceded by a week of celebrations and festivals, and they include the induction of a well-known Canadian band or artist into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

The Junos are a big deal in my family, because my husband works in the Canadian music industry, designing and building sound systems for professional musicians. He also runs a non-profit recording studio for youth, and we have seen a lot of young talent pass through the doors. Several of my husband’s clients have gone on to win Juno awards, and we are confident that some of the young musicians who have used the studio will make it onto that stage at some point in their music careers. We always watch the Junos with interest, just to keep an eye out for anyone we might know.

This year, the Music Hall of Fame inductee is a band that made it big in the 70s – Bachman-Turner Overdrive, or BTO for short. They are known for the hit song Taking Care Of Business. When we heard that BTO was this year’s inductee, we decided to have a little fun with it, with the help of our very excited and willing eight-year-old son James.

Warning: the following video contains extreme cuteness…

James Doyle – BTO Tribute: Taking Care Of Business

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle.


The Beating Of A Butterfly’s Wings


Last week, while my husband and I were on the road, we saw a man walking dejectedly away from a car that was in the emergency lane. We pulled over and offered him a ride, which he gratefully accepted. It turned out that he had run out of gas, and we took him to his nearby home so that he could enlist the assistance of his wife.

As we were driving him home, he said something that made me feel sad. He said, “I didn’t expect anyone to stop.”

I think it is sad that we live in a world where we expect our fellow man to not help us. All too often, we see instances of people walking past other people who need help. Have we all become so busy and self-involved that we just don’t have time to look around us and lend a helping hand? Or is this a manifestation of the “crowd mentality” that makes us assume that if we don’t do something, someone else will?

What we did for that man was so small. It cost us about five minutes of time, but it probably made a huge difference in how that man’s day went.

The very next day, I went out for a long run. It was cold and windy, and it was snowing a little. Because of the extreme winter that we have had, several of the sidewalks are still packed with ice. About six kilometres in, I was running along a relatively clear stretch, so I was able to build up a decent pace. A man walking towards me indicated that I should slow down.

“There’s a big patch of ice up ahead,” he told me. “It’s hidden under the snow. Be careful.”

I thanked him and adjusted my pace accordingly. As I gingerly picked my way over the ice he had told me about, I pondered the fact that if he had not taken the time to tell me, I could have ended up with a serious injury. Those five seconds of kindness possibly changed the course not only of that day, but of the next few weeks.

It has been said that the beating of a butterfly’s wings can start a hurricane on the other side of the world. In the same way, just a few seconds of kindness can completely alter the course of the recipient’s day, week or month, and it can make the giver feel a whole lot better too. Several studies have shown that the single biggest predictor of happiness is the propensity to be kind.

My wish for all of you reading this is that you will take advantage of opportunities to be kind, and that you yourselves will be on the receiving end of kindness.

Tell me, what acts of kindness have you recently given or received?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Sephyr_Raon_Noxor. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Sometimes Goals Change – And That’s OK


At the beginning of this year, I had some lofty plans. I was going to either launch a freelance business or become gainfully employed. I was going to run three half-marathons in addition to my first 30K. I was going to clean up my eating, once and for all. I was going to find ways to become happier, more fulfilled, and better at being me.

We are two months into the year, and so far, none of my goals are shaping up quite the way I wanted. Although I have been looking for and applying to work opportunities, my heart hasn’t really been in it. I’ve been feeling a little adrift, not really knowing what direction is the right one. In addition, as hard as it’s been financially, there is one aspect of my unemployment that I’ve been enjoying: having time to be a mom. I love being here to get my children ready for school, and I love being here when they get home. At some point, unless I can get enough freelance work to keep the wheels turning, I will have to give that up.

My running goals haven’t been panning out, either, largely because of the winter we have had. Months ago, I registered for the Around The Bay 30K race, which happens on March 30th, and I promised myself that I would set my mind to my training. It has been a lot easier said than done. To be fair to myself, I have tried hard, but the Polar Vortex had other plans for me. Because of the ice storms, excessive snow and unbelievably cold temperatures, I have been forced off the road and onto the treadmill. The few runs that I have managed outside have been challenging – running through snow, running through icy puddles of melting slush, falling on ice and hurting myself.

A couple of weekends ago, while I was heading to the gym for yet another long run on the lab rat machine, I suddenly asked myself how much I cared about doing this 30K race at the end of the month. On the one hand, I hate registering for races and not doing them. But on the other hand, how wise would it be for me to attempt a new distance right after the worst winter I’ve ever experienced?

As I did that run on the treadmill, I pondered the idea of bailing on the Around The Bay race and instead going for the Midsummer Night’s Run – also a 30K event – that happens in August. I mentally experimented with this notion, and discovered that I felt surprisingly comfortable with it. Not only does it feel comfortable, it feels right.

And so I found another runner to take my spot at the Around The Bay race and I transferred my registration to him. As soon as I received payment from him, I signed up for the Midsummer Night’s Run. Now I can comfortably ease myself into outdoor training, and I will have an entire summer to train for this new distance. It means that I will only be running two half-marathons this year instead of three, but that’s OK.

And that is really the whole point of this post – that there is no shame in changing a goal. This time last year, I would have been horrified at the thought of not running Around The Bay. I would have berated myself for deciding to cut a half-marathon from my schedule. I would have thought of myself as a failure, as a person who gives up. But something in me has changed in the last year. Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser, or maybe I’m getting more realistic. Or maybe I’m simply realising that I deserve to give myself a bit of a break.

I still have some things to work on – like sorting out some kind of regular income, and developing eating habits that are consistently healthy. But I feel that in accepting and embracing changes to what I want to accomplish, I am at least moving closer to being happier with who I am.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Autism Parenting: The End Of An Era

2012-09-24 23.02.15

Three nights ago, I made the excruciating decision to kick my children out of bed. My bed, that is.

To give a bit of background, my kids have always had full and free access to me, at any time of the day or night. When they have woken up in the middle of the night having had a bad dream, or feeling sick or lonely, they have been allowed to get into bed with me and snuggle up. It’s not always comfortable, being squished on both sides by children, but I have always loved it. Because what is better than hugs from your children?

As much as I love it, though, there are downsides. For one thing, my children take up an inordinate amount of space in the bed for such small people. It’s like they morph into starfish at night, and there are arms and legs everywhere, squashing my face and poking into my spine. For another thing, these little people are getting less little. George, who is ten, has reached the same height as my mother-in-law (OK, so she’s a little old lady, but still), and eight-year-old James is getting there as well.

What this means is that these nocturnal cuddles are costing me an enormous amount of sleep, and that makes it difficult for me to both function and be a human being that other people want to be around. In addition to that, George has started showing signs of puberty, and my husband and I have been feeling the need to carve out more time with each other.

We have reluctantly agreed that it is time for the kids to stay in their own beds at night.

James has accepted this with ease, but for George it is a massive change. Kids with autism do not appreciate it when the boat is rocked, and this particular change represents a tidal wave for him. It has been difficult for him, and by extension, difficult for us.

For the first two nights, James was the only person who got any sleep. My husband and I would lie helplessly in our bed, listening to George’s plaintive pleadings. He kept wandering into our room, and I kept taking him back to his own bed. I would get him settled, tuck him in and give him a kiss, and then go back to bed. And then I would do it again. And again, and again, and again.

While all of this was going on, George was whimpering, “I want Mommy. Lie down with Mommy in the bed.” And then, as he got sadder and sadder, he was simply calling my name.

I so badly wanted to cave. I so badly wanted to go to him, lie down with him and wrap my arms around him. But I knew that I couldn’t. In order to make this change, we would have to be persistent and patient, gentle and firm. We would have to just lie in bed and listen to our child being sad.


Last night – the third night – we caught a break. George went to sleep in his own bed, and he stayed there for the whole night. There was not so much as a whimper, not the slightest bit of movement. As much as I like to think that this represented an acceptance of the changes, I am realistic enough to know that the poor child was probably just too exhausted to protest. We may be in for another few nights of sleeplessness, and we will deal with it for as long as we need to.

As parents, it is our responsibility to guide our children towards independence, and this is an important step in that direction, even if, at the end of the day, it is harder for me than it is for them.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.



An Athlete’s Lesson In Self-Talk


It looks pretty, but it's not great to run in!

It looks pretty, but it’s not great to run in!

I have been struggling a great deal with my running lately. I had such high hopes, at the beginning of this year, that I would be able to stick to the training schedule I had set for myself – a schedule that was demanding but certainly within my capability.

I tell myself that the main reason for my struggling of late has been the weather, and it is true that Mother Nature has not been on my side. Temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius, snow and ice have combined to make running conditions very difficult. I have gotten around it to an extent by going to the gym and running on the treadmill. Like most runners, I intensely dislike the treadmill, but it is better than nothing.

Still, I have to be honest with myself and ask the question: to what extent have I been using the weather as an excuse? Yes, it’s been hard and I am sick to death of the treadmill. To my credit, I have not missed any of my speed training sessions. But I have missed two of my long runs, in two consecutive weeks. On both occasions, I had the opportunity to make up the run the following day, and I didn’t. Out of the four days – two Sundays and two Mondays – I can only claim prohibitively bad weather on one of them.

The truth is that in recent weeks, I have been walloped with depression. Along with depression comes low self-esteem and inevitably, negative self-talk. I’ve been telling myself that I’m just not good at anything, and I’ve been fulfilling my own words. This negativity has touched every area of my life, without me even realising it.

I got a bit of a wake-up call yesterday. I decided that, snow be damned, I was going out for my long run. I was quite excited as I dug out my winter running gear and put it on: it felt good to be doing something positive instead of making excuses.

Before I’d even run a block, I knew I was in trouble. My breathing was laboured and I was struggling to find any kind of rhythm. To be fair, the conditions weren’t great. It was snowing, and the ground felt all sludgy. Telling myself that this was just a part of winter running in Canada, I trudged on gamely.

I managed about three kilometres before giving up. I kept slipping in the snow, and I just didn’t feel that I was in good enough shape to last for 18K. Bailing on the run was the right thing to do from a safety point of view. If I had continued, there was an excellent chance that I would have turned an ankle. Knowing that didn’t make me feel better, though. I felt that I was failing as a runner.

As I spent the afternoon brooding over how hard it had been for me to run those three kilometres, I thought of how poor my diet has been lately. I have been doing what I usually do when depressed: eating very little, and eating absolute junk on the occasions when I do eat. It’s no wonder that running has been such a challenge, that yesterday’s short distance proved to be too much for me. I haven’t exactly been fueling my body properly.

These thoughts were swilling around my head throughout the afternoon. I told myself that of course nutrition has been a problem. I’m a person who has been going through depression, and I have a messed-up relationship with food at the best of times.

You’re an athlete, piped up a little voice in my head, out of nowhere. Eat like one.

Well. That shut the negative part of me up. It derailed a train of thought that badly needed to be derailed. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that little voice, the one that has confidence in what I can do. That little voice, in addition to reminding me that I am, in fact, an athlete, made me realise just how unkind I’ve been to myself lately.

In a sudden flurry of activity, I attacked my fridge, throwing out junk and old leftovers, getting rid of vegetables that I had bought and let go bad. And then, armed with a shopping list containing healthy foods, I corralled my family and dragged them to the grocery store with me.

Last night I cooked a healthy meal with a touch of carbo-loading. I ate it and went to bed feeling better than I have in ages. When I woke up this morning, I had peanut butter toast instead of breakfasting solely on endless cups of coffee. And then, once I had packed the kids and the husband off to school and work, I went for a run.

It was hard going. For about ninety percent of the time, I was running on snowy sidewalks and streets that hadn’t been shoveled or plowed. In addition to running, I had to work hard to keep my balance, and I had to push off from a slippery, slushy surface. I worked muscles that I didn’t even know I had, and the last couple of kilometres were excruciatingly difficult.

But I did it. I finished 18K.

Because I am an athlete.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


Untouchable Moments


My son George has a thing about hair – specifically, my hair or, if I’m not available, hair that is similar to mine. For a while, whenever we went anywhere, we would have to deal with the problem of him going up to random strangers with long dark hair, and stroking them on the head. We saw the need to nip this in the bud as quickly as possible: it was cute when he was seven or eight, if it was still happening by the time he got to twelve or thirteen, it would be downright creepy.

We have more or less gotten that impulse under control. When we are out, George leaves strangers and their hair alone. But it is still a big problem at home. He obsessively touches my hair, kisses it, and nuzzles his face into it so he can smell it. And it’s – you know – quite a heavy-duty invasion of my personal space.

It’s a tricky problem to solve. My kids love physical contact, and my husband and I are happy to oblige them. We are generous with hugs and snuggles, we chase the kids and play wrestling games with them, and when the weather is nice we go into the back yard and play games like tag. And lately, because George seems to be incapable of touching me without touching my hair, I have caught myself avoiding physical contact with him, either by retreating to places where he cannot get me, or by gently pushing him away.

For a mom like me who’s always been into the hugs and cuddles, it’s a terrible feeling, not wanting my child to touch me. I feel guilty and sad. I want to hug my boy, but I don’t want the accompanying hair-stroking and sniffing that goes with it. Today I’m feeling particularly rough, because George was awake all night, and he was at my hair. All night long. And today, every nerve ending in my body feels on edge. I feel like I will scream if George or anyone else touches me. And I feel like a truly awful mother for declining hugs and insisting on doing things by myself.

I recognise that my hair fulfills some sensory need in George – some complex need that I don’t understand and that he, with his autism, finds it impossible to explain. I sometimes snap at him for being all over my hair all the time, and then I feel bad, because it’s not his fault. It’s not something he can help, and until we can figure out some other way for him to satisfy that sensory need, it’s not really something I can help either.

The obvious solution – one that has been suggested to me several times – would be for me to simply cut my hair. But I am loath to do that, for a number of reasons. Long hair is easy to maintain. Short hair requires styling, and I don’t have the money or the inclination to keep going to the hairdresser in order to look respectable. In addition, when it’s time for me to go running, it’s really easy for me to tie it all back in a ponytail. But all of this is beside the point: I just don’t know that cutting my hair would solve the problem.

I’m sure – or I hope – that this is one of those problems that we will solve, that we will look back on as a memory at some point in the future. For now, I seem to be stuck with my permanently aching scalp and what I hope is a reversible aversion to physical contact. I am hopeful that sooner rather than later, I will be able to fully enjoy hugging my beautiful boy again.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.


My Life According To Cars


The men in my life with the Soccer Mom car

The men in my life with the Soccer Mom car

In 26 years of driving, I have had five vehicles, and each of them has represented a different phase of my life.

My first car was a clapped out old Renault. It took me through my young-and-stupid student years and the first few years of my working life. It wasn’t sleek and shiny like some of my friends’ cars, but it had a great deal of character and it was surprisingly reliable for such an old car. Its decline coincided with the retirement of my mechanic: when his replacement took over, my car started leaving the repair shop with new problems. When I made it onto the afternoon traffic report for blocking a lane of a major road, I decided to sell the car. A co-worker purchased it, fully aware of all of the problems, and restored it. As far as I know, it’s still on the road.

With the Renault gone, I bought my first brand new car – a sexy, bright red Opel Corsa. That was my Single Working Girl car, purchased when I was earning a good salary but had only myself and a cat to take care of. It was the car of someone who is a professional, but who is still young enough to be a little bit adventurous. When I left the country in 2000, my parents bought the car from me. They eventually sold it to a family friend, who is still zooming around in it.

When I came to Canada, I got the Desperate Newcomer car. What I really wanted was to buy a new Pontiac that I had seen, but the dealership wouldn’t sell it to me because I hadn’t been in the country long enough to establish a credit rating. I needed a car, but no-one, it seemed, was willing to sell me one. It didn’t matter that I had a good salary and no debt. Apparently, that somehow made me more of a risk. Eventually, I found a dealer who was willing to lease me a Chevrolet Cavalier. It was an OK car, but I was a little peeved that I had to just take what I could get instead of being able to choose.

The lease on the Chev expired when George was about a month old. When I returned it to the dealership, I discovered that the dealer had actually given me a very raw deal. It wasn’t really surprising – as a newcomer to Canada with no social support system, I had been a very easy target. It meant that I had to pay the dealer a lot of money when I returned the car (and yes, buying it at that point would have been prohibitively expensive). Because of that and the fact that I was living on maternity leave benefits (translation: half of my regular salary), I had no money to put into a new car.

My mother-in-law came to the rescue by giving me the old Dodge van that had belonged to my father-in-law. He had been dead for seven months, so he no longer needed it. The thing was just sitting in the garage. I accepted the car gratefully, knowing that it was on its last legs. It got me from A to B, and since I was on maternity leave, I didn’t have to worry about whether it would survive daily commutes of an hour each way.

That was my New Mom car, and although I only drove it for a few months, I have many happy memories of it. I liked the idea of driving my father-in-law’s car. I had been very close to him, and felt that he would approve of me using his car. Almost every day, I would buckle my new baby into his infant carrier, and we would go off in the van to the mall, the bookstore, the coffee shop, or a park. I had some wonderful bonding time with him, and the old Dodge had a big part in that.

About two months before George’s first birthday, the Dodge shuffled off whatever mortal coil a car can possibly have, and I had to buy another vehicle. My husband and I looked at several used cars, and picked out a Chevy Venture van that was just a few months old and had only been used for demo purposes. Getting a minivan launched me into the Soccer Mom category. It doesn’t matter that I got the van when my son wasn’t old enough to walk, let alone kick a ball. If you’re a mom and you have a minivan, you are a Soccer Mom.

We still have the Soccer Mom van, and it  has seen us through ten years of family life. Since getting it, the size of our family has grown by one. Kids have graduated from infant carriers to baby seats to high-back boosters to bum-only boosters to no boosters. We have driven our children to daycare, to Kindergarten and to grade school. We have taken business trips and gone on vacations, and covered many, many miles.

The Soccer Mom van is now a Soccer Mom rust bucket. One of the doors sticks when you open it, and neither of the front windows will open. Bits and pieces keep having to be replaced to keep the thing going, and the time is coming when we will have no choice but to replace the entire car. We will have to start seeing who has a good – and cheap – car for sale.

Our next car will the the Fraught Mom-Of-Teens car. Whatever make, model and colour we get, it will see us through more of the exciting journey of family life.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, published in accordance with my disclosure policy. Photo credit to the author.


10 Things I Have Learned About Mental Illness


1. It’s not my fault. As much as we humans like to be in control of our lives, the likes of depression, anxiety and PTSD are not things we can control. They happen to us, and we deal with them as best we can.

2. It has absolutely no bearing on whether I am a good or a bad person. The fact that I made some bad decisions twenty years ago that triggered a whole mess of crap does not mean I don’t deserve to be happy and well.

3. The fact that an illness exists inside a person’s mind rather than in another part of their body does not make it any less of an illness. Mental illness should be given the same respect as physical illness.

4. Mental illness can, if left untreated, be fatal. Suicide and suicidal ideations are not selfish, as many people believe. They are manifestations of an illness. People contemplating suicide do not necessarily want to die, they simply feel that there is no other course of action available to them.

5. Depression is not the same as sadness. Being depressed is like being in a black pit of despair from which there seems to be no escape.

6. There is not always a reason for depression. If someone tells you that they are experiencing depression, please, please, please don’t say things like, “But you have so many great things in your life to be grateful for.”

7. I am not alone. Although my specific circumstances may be unique to me, I don’t have to look far to find someone who more or less understands what it’s like.

8. Far too many people either die or spend their lives in a state of absolute anguish because they fear the stigma of mental illness, so they choose not to talk about it.

9. Mental illness is the same as physical illness in terms of treatment: what works for one person won’t necessarily work for everyone. You have the right to make choices about your treatment, just as you do for a physical illness.

10. People with mental illnesses can, for the most part and with the right support, function well in society. They can be successful in their careers, make valuable social and economic contributions, and maintain healthy relationships with the people around them.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Bell Let’s Talk.