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Today Is Mental Health Awareness Day; And So Is Tomorrow; And The Next Day

Baby Hands

I decided to take part in Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk day, yesterday. As part of my contribution, I shared something about myself that not very many people know about and had a very hard time hitting the “Publish” button. The response to that post has been overwhelming to say the least and I appreciated all the kind messages I received, both publicly and privately.

I went into the day not knowing how I felt about the corporate tag being attached to the concept of speaking out about mental health and I wasn’t alone. I saw a lot of discussion surrounding the issue, some reasonable and some just bashing for the sake of bashing, but I wanted to add my thoughts to the discussion. The reason I decided to share my story on this particular day was because I knew that I would be able to generate more discussion than if I posted it on any other day. It wasn’t about the page views; it was about starting a dialogue. And it worked.

For me, the day changed from a corporate marketing event to the real deal when I received this comment from a complete stranger, “After reading your story I now feel that there may be light at the end of this and it’s as easy as talking to your family doctor. Thank you again”. It may not be as easy as going to a family doctor but it’s a better start than doing nothing. Either way, the thought of someone reacting to something I had written in that way, was eye opening.

That comment made me realize that there are so many people suffering in silence and that inspired me to reach out even further. So, I put out an offer for people to email me if they needed to talk, not thinking anyone would actually do it, and to my surprise I received two emails during the day. I read the emails, without judgment, and welcomed them to write me anytime they wanted. I don’t know if it helped them to send me their story but it certainly couldn’t have hurt. I also made sure to point out that I am not even close to “professional” help.

I want to stop here for a minute because as I write this, I can’t help but feel like this is sounding a lot like a “Look at me!” post, and I want to assure you that it is not. A lot of things have changed about me since I have been blogging and the biggest one is the realization that this voice I have created is useless if it is not used to do some good. It also means that if there needs to be a corporate tag attached to an event to get people talking, then so be it. If we’re being completely honest, fear of failure and crickets is why I wouldn’t have started a movement like this by myself, so I’m glad a corporation took the initiative. Maybe I’ll get there someday.

All that said; my offer still stands. If you are having a rough go and need to just share your story with anybody, please feel free to email me at chris@canadiandad.com and I will gladly lend an ear. I am no counselor, so I can’t offer anything but an ear but maybe it’s a start. You don’t have to suffer alone, please remember that.

I guess the main thing I learned by participating yesterday is that we need to be supportive of each other. Everybody has a story to tell and it’s not always easy for them to share it. Yesterday was a great start. I saw so many posts on blogs, Facebook and Twitter, of people sharing their struggles with anxiety and depression, and I hope we can keep the conversation going outside of just that one day. It’s an important discussion and one that deserves a high amount of attention.

Until we meet again, thanks for listening!

The Day the Darkness Crept In

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Edited May 15th: The Dad blogging community recently learned that one of our compatriots, Marc Block from Divided Dad, had succumbed to depression and taken his own life. Now, a number of Dad bloggers have decided to work together to share our stories and hopefully raise awareness about the effects of mental illness and to let others know that it’s okay to ask for help. My story is below and I have linked the other bloggers stories at the end. Thanks.

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It’s hard to pinpoint the exact day it began. The trigger was easy to decipher. It wasn’t long after my father had passed away that I started experiencing the symptoms. Nagging pains, fatigue and a lot of tears quickly became a part of my daily regimen. I was excellent at hiding it, rarely breaking down in front of even my wife, if at all.

When my father passed suddenly after an ATV accident, I felt like my entire world had been stripped from me. Instead of dealing with the grief and pain in the way I imagine most people do, I decided to take on the role of super strong male provider guy, so I wouldn’t have time to stop and think about what had happened. The strategy worked for a while, and then things started to go horribly wrong.

I remember the first trip to the emergency room like it was yesterday. I had shot out of bed with a pain in my chest and shortness of breath and decided not to take any chances. You can imagine my surprise when the doctor’s said everything was fine. The events that followed this visit are something that I will never forget. I must have visited the emergency room about 12 more times that year, along with 10 more trips to my family doctor, 4 specialists and 3 CT scans. Every trip was more discouraging than the next as I was getting no answers and was quickly becoming the poster child for hypochondria.

My lowest point was while we were living at my in-law’s house, with our new baby, while waiting for our new house to be built. I can distinctly remember the feeling of emptiness that was sweeping its way throughout my body. I would try to put on a face for everyone but there came a point where I just didn’t care anymore. There were many sleepless nights, hours wasted just lying on the couch and more trips to the emergency room. I wasn’t exactly an absentee father but I definitely left my wife high and dry, and I certainly wasn’t feeling whatever it was I was supposed to be feeling about fatherhood. I’ve never felt so emasculated and useless in my entire life. These were the hardest days and the ones I regret most when looking back on my son’s first year.

My last trip to the emergency room provided the awakening I had been searching for. I had been thinking a lot about how much better off my family would be without me and my problems in the picture. That’s not to say I ever thought about harming myself, because I didn’t. I just knew how hard I was making things for my family and wondered if things would be better without me, if that makes any sense. The doctor in the ER was sympathetic and asked what I thought was wrong with me. This week, for no valid reason, I believed I had Multiple Sclerosis. He ran some tests and quickly dismissed my fear; and then he saved my life.

He asked if I’d ever been to a psychiatrist, to which I responded, “No way”. You see, I wasn’t crazy and only crazy people needed to see a psychiatrist; or at least that’s what I thought. The doctor insisted by explaining that he thought I had an anxiety disorder and that it could help. To my surprise, it only took a couple visits for me to start understanding why I experiencing all of these symptoms. By the time four months had gone by, I felt like a new man and was well on my way to recovery.

My last session with the psychiatrist was about 3 years ago and I have been almost symptom free ever since. Sure, there are times when I feel the anxiety building, but I am now equipped with the tools to deal with those instances. My point in sharing this story is to let you know that suffering in silence does nothing but make things worse for you and everyone around you. Reaching out for help doesn’t make you less of a person and in fact can only make you stronger, in my opinion. Don’t let the darkness take over, ask for help, you’ll be glad you did.

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Krazy Dad Memoir – Do Not Go Into That Good Night

Dad of Divas – The Time Is Now To Ask For Help

Clark Kent’s Lunchbox- Dump Truck Full of Dead Babies

Dads Who Change Diapers – When the World Goes Numb

Dad’s a Lawyer – Words From the Wife

The Daddy Files – Come Back to Me

Dads Round Table – Strategies to Fight Depression

Be a Little Weird – Recognizing Depression in Men for What It Really Is

12,474 Reasons Why This Was A Movember To Remember!

Every once in a while, something happens that inspires you and reminds you that there is still a lot of good left in the world. Usually it comes in the form of a random act of kindness or something you would see on Ellen. That occurrence, for me at least, happened with my participation in the most recent Movember campaign.

When I decided to put a Movember team together, I thought it would be a fun way to get together with a bunch of friends, to grow our crazy moustaches and to raise awareness and a little bit of money for the cause. The original goal of $2,000 seemed lofty at the time, especially considering the state of the economy and the sheer number of causes out there around the Christmas season.

The series of events that followed completely changed the way I look at a lot of things. Not only did we smash our $2,000 goal before we even started growing the moustaches, but I was inspired by the willingness of the participants to want to make a difference. I quickly realized that this wasn’t about the moustaches. It was about supporting something that we believed in, that we as men are affected by, on a daily basis.

I saw people going the extra mile to make that difference. From selling personalized short stories and MoTies to giving away awesome Movember gear and sharing some very personal stories, this group of guys (and one MoSista) continued to surprise me at every turn. I’ve been a part of a lot of fundraising campaigns and had never seen a dedication like this.

Then there were the donors. It seemed like every time I mentioned that we were close to a milestone, someone would swoop in and proudly declare that they wanted to be the ones to get us there. Most of the time these were people that I had never met and had only interacted with a couple of times on social media. To these people, I say a huge heartfelt Thank You!

We even had corporate donors. They owed me nothing and I have little to offer in return, yet they still offered what they could to help support our journey. Whether it was a cash donation or products to give away at our closing party, I am endlessly grateful for their contributions and will not be forgetting it anytime soon. I want to give a shout out to those companies and hope they know how much we appreciate them. They are:

PlaSmart, Logs End Inc, Burnbrae Farms, Tag Along Toys, Elm Hill Kids, Play It Again Sports, Cloak and Curio, Fathead, Adult Essentials, Sarah J’s Cupcakes, Parent Tested Parent Approved & The Short and Sweet Kitchen.

If you are looking to buy from and work with good people, these are some of those very good people and I highly recommend all of them!

In closing, I really just want to say Thank You to everyone who had a part in helping us raise $12,474! It took me awhile to realize that this was actually a big deal and if you had said that we’d raise that total at the start, I would have laughed pretty hard. I’m very proud to have been a member of this team. It has inspired me and opened my eyes to what is possible when you put in the work.

I leave you with one of the coolest things I saw this Movember. Here is the MoCake that was made for our closing party, by Andrea from The Short & Sweet Kitchen. Pure Awesomeness!

Movember Update And A Birthday Wish!

I’m struggling with writing today’s post for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to attempt to accurately capture how proud I am of the Movember team I am Captain of. I’m guessing typed words won’t begin to show my passion for this cause or how excited I am that we have already raised $4,836 towards our goal of $5,000, with 16 days left to go.

The other issue is that today is also my Birthday, and while I realize the poor etiquette in pointing that out to everyone, I can assure you that my motives in doing so are pure. I wanted to share my Birthday wish with you all. If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know that I don’t believe in a lot of superstitions, so sharing my wish with you all shouldn’t be a big deal.

There are a million things I could wish for, with most of them being things that you would never see come true. Wishing for health and prosperity is nice but those are things that you can’t really control, except for following a healthy diet and going after your dreams. My wish today is a little simpler and a lot easier to obtain.

My wish, on my 34th birthday, is for our Movember Team to reach its goal of $5,000! That’s it. We’re $164 away and I know that this is an attainable wish for today, so let’s make it happen!

PS – Thank You for all the birthday wishes today! It’s only 8am and I already feel more spoiled than I deserve to be.

PPS – A special thanks to our Movember Corporate donors: Tag Along Toys, Play It Again Sports & Logs End Flooring! We couldn’t have gotten to this point without your support!

Cheers!!

The Mo Slowly Grows; But The Cause Is The Key #Movember

With Movember season in full swing, this will be my first weekly update on how the Mo Grows. More importantly, it’s a chance to talk a little more about why I’ve decided to Grow my Mo for this worthy cause and to give an update on how Team Canadian Dad 2.012 is doing in their efforts.

As much fun as growing a moustache for Movember can be, it is obviously not the primary objective. We are raising funds and awareness to support men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives. These are issues that need to be talked about on a more consistent basis and Movember is helping to get the conversation started. It was in reading some of the stats below, that you really start to take notice of the change that is needed in our mindsets:

* On average men die five to six years younger than women.
* Suicide rates are four times higher for men than women.
* More than five men die prematurely each hour from potentially preventable illnesses.

While Movember does encourage more men to actively participate in the management of their health, studies also show that a lot of men are still ignoring their issues, rather than seeking the opinion of a doctor. Please, don’t be afraid to see your doctor if you think something is a little off. There is nothing uncool or unmanly about going to a doctor’s office to get checked out.

My Story

This initiative hits home for me on a couple of levels. Both my father and cousin are cancer survivors and without the proper funding and awareness, things could have turned out lot different. As far as me personally, after my father passed away from a vehicle accident, I went through a very dark period. For almost two years, I spent countless hours and many sleepless nights, thinking that I had every disease under the sun. I bounced from emergency rooms to specialists to my family doctor, until finally, after getting yet another negative result, one of the emergency room doctor’s referred me to a psychiatrist.

As you can imagine, the thought of needing to see a psychiatrist didn’t sit too well with me, but I went anyway. I’m not sure if it was my time with that doctor or just the realization that I was letting my family down, but I snapped out of my funk and haven’t looked back since. That’s not to say I don’t go get checked out when I feel a bit off, but I don’t let the negative thoughts creep into my head and take over my world anymore.

How You Can Help

We’re not growing these Mo’s for nothing! If you’re interested in helping out, I encourage you to visit our team page at Canadian Dad 2.012 and please make a small donation. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, just whatever you can spare for this great initiative. Our team has been working very hard and we have already raised over $3000 in 7 days, so I’m excited to see where we can take this.

Furthermore, if you have a business and would like to make a corporate donation, I am offering a sidebar ad in my Movember Supporters section (until Dec 31st), as well as mentions in my upcoming Movember posts. We already have two wonderful sponsors in Tag Along Toys and Play It Again Sports Ottawa and I couldn’t be happier to have them on board!

Please feel free to contact me via email with any further questions and as always, Thank You so much for your time and donations! You are the driving force in the battle to change the face of men’s health!

Cheers!

Canadian Spotlight: Elizabeth Manley

Another week, another new feature on the blog! This one sort of came out of the blue though. If you’ve talked to me since I began blogging, you’ll know that I have a love for Twitter. After all, it was Twitter that helped me convince Jann Arden to call my wife on her birthday this year.

Imagine my surprise this week, when I ended up in another conversation with Canada’s Sweetheart, the one and only Elizabeth Manley. Her Twitter handle is @Lizmanley88 by the way. You should follow her now and say hi for me. She was incredibly friendly and I decided to abuse that friendliness by asking her if she would let me feature her on the blog. You would have done the same so don’t judge!

It’s not often that you get a chance to talk to an Olympic Hero and I think it’s important that we don’t lose touch with them either. Besides that, Liz (I hope I can call you Liz, we never really discussed it) has been up to some great things in her post-Olympic career and I think it’s worth sharing.

Let’s start with a quick Elizabeth Manley recap for my American friends, because all Canadians should already know this stuff… ;)

Liz is a member of 5 different Hall of Fame’s (Olympic Hall of Fame, Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, Skate Canada Hall of Fame, Belleville Sports Hall of Fame, and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame).

She has won 4 World Cup Championships, 2 U.S. Open Championships and has won over 50 national and international medals.

She has also written two autobiographies, “Thumbs Up- The Elizabeth Manley Story” and “Elizabeth Manley- As I Am”

There was something else but it’s slipping my mind….. Oh Yeah!!! She won a freaking Silver Medal at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary!!

Not too shabby, right? I also forgot to mention that she has also had a Park and Arena named after her in her (our) hometown of Ottawa.

With all the great accolades and achievements, something people don’t know is that Liz battled a very severe depression that weighed on her for years. It never really goes away but these quotes from an amazing expose about her shows her strength and courage. Seriously, it’s a great piece and I encourage you to check it out!

“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. Depression was the best thing that could have happened to me. It taught me who I was. I didn’t get lost in a world of sport. I found myself through the whole experience.”

“I was bald, I was 35 pounds overweight, I was locked in a house because I didn’t want people to see me. I’ve had a nervous breakdown. I was 16 and I thought there was nothing good in life for me. Four and a half years later, I was standing on the podium and having my greatest moment. When you think your life is no good, you can change it.”

Flash Forward to today and Liz is busy helping others cope with mental illness and on top of being a spokesperson to a number of Charities and Foundations, has even started her own charity event, Elizabeth Manley & Friends, which will help raise money for teen mental health, specifically the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. In all honesty, while she was telling me all of the things she was doing to give back, I thought “How am I going to fit all of this into a post?!”. She is truly an amazing person and it shines through in her work.

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On top of all of this, Liz was kind enough to answer a few questions for my post and I am very appreciative for that. In fact, this is my first official interview, so I guess I am a journalist now, haha. Here are the results of our brief Q&A:

1. How does someone hire you as a speaker? They can contact sundance@speakers.ca or me directly (Twitter: @LizManley88).

2. Are you still doing skating events (For fun, charity or other)? I am producing my own benefit show this coming winter Jan 26 at ScotiaBank Place called Elizabeth Manley + Friends to benefit YSB and D.I.F.D. It’s still in the works and will have major stars such as Nancy Kerrigan, Elvis Stojco and more!

3. Where is your favourite place in Ottawa? The canal area!!! Soooo beautiful!

4. You have a lot of living left to do, what is your next goal? To make Elizabeth Manley & Friends a major success and a yearly event to benefit local area charities.

Stay Tuned for more info on the January 26th Elizabeth Manley & Friends benefit show at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. I’ll be reminding you about it every now and then as well and can’t wait to see the stars shining once again! In the meantime, if you are interested in sponsoring this event, you can contact Liz on Twitter or let me know and I’ll pass along your information.

Before I leave you all, I just wanted to say a HUGE Thank You to Elizabeth Manley for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to me. It’s always great to see someone emerge from the darkness that is mental illness and want to give back so others don’t have to suffer so much. She is an amazing person and I’m proud to have been given this opportunity!

Cheers!