After 30 years as a reporter, feature writer and columnist for The Toronto Sun, Sandy is now a freelance writer, public speaker, mental health advocate and Seneca College instructor. You can learn more about Sandy here, and contact her here.
"Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light." Groucho Marx
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Toronto's Mad Pride Week 2009 is drawing to a close tomorrow. I don't know if it's a coincidence or the stars just happened to have it in for me this week, but this has been, without a doubt, the craziest week I've had since beginning to write this blog.
I am sitting here exhausted. I have a stomach ache. Emotionally I'm all churned up inside. I had no idea this was going to happen. Last year's Mad Pride Week, the world didn't land on my door with questions, comments, concerns and complaints about the meaning of Mad Pride.
This year, it did. Literally. I wasn't expecting it and reviewing the last five days, had I known this was going to happen, I would have taken a holiday. I wasn't prepared. Now, I think I'm prepared for anything.
Ahhhh, the power of lived experience. But I didn't have a clue last Friday, when I announced I'd be writing about Mad Pride this week.
Since then, I've been deluged. I try to answer the comments I receive and the personal emails, especially if they're from people stressing out. This week, for some reason, many people decided to connect with me. To "come out" to me! And I respect them and engage with them. How can I ignore a cry for help? It's not my nature.
My email box is overflowing with unanswered personal emails. Personal questions from people who need to share their life stories of survival and suffering.
And asking advice.
That's one thing I don't do – advice.
Like whether you can emotionally handle the rocky terrain that's covered in the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Next to Normal if you have a family' history of bipolar disorder.
How can I answer a question like that? I'm still processing it, but the short answer is, this is a remarkably hopeful rock opera. Judging from the spontaneous standing eruption of applause as the show ended and the empathetic and heartfelt comments I overheard leaving the theatre in June when I flew down to see it, people were touched, surprised, and visibly quite uplifted with what they had seen, heard and experienced.
When I'm not posting here, I'm keeping up with other activities related to mental health and wellness – this week Mad Pride was the focus. I'm always learning. There's so much to learn.
And speaking of learning, I have another life, you know.
Right now, I'm a teaching a course called Women in Canada, part-time at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. I've taken over the last half and I'm getting to know about 18 new students and helping them through the shell-shock of adapting to a teacher with a completely different teaching style than my predecessor, who created the course around 1971, when I graduated from Seneca with an Applied Communications Media diploma. Now I've come full-circle.
On Wednesday morning, following my two-hour class and a stream of students who came to see me to ask questions about assignments and connect with me personally, I rushed home to ready my house for the annual Board Meeting and Summer Social of the Executive of the Seneca Alumni Association I belong to and I offered to host.
I only slept for about four hours that night. My female Dandie Dinmont Terrier Lucy is in season right now, so she wakes me up at 5:50 a.m.
Yesterday, all I wanted to do was write my post and plan my lesson for today's class at Seneca. But that wasn't going to be. I was too drained physically to concentrate intellectually, plus I received requests from several journalists for interviews. After all, it's Mad Pride Week, and I've been musing about it since last week.
Some question. Huge. Mammoth. The answer is endless. I couldn't resist. I can go on all day with an open-ended question like that and I did, for about 80 minutes until I and the journalist ran out of time even though I was just getting up to speed.
I was late. I was behind in my lesson planning for this morning's 8:00 a.m. class at Seneca. I was late posting for you. I had to get all gussied up for this family affair at my sister's and I didn't even know where to begin.
It was pure madness. Art imitating life. And my life felt out of control. I desperately needed sleep, but that wasn't going to happen because when we came home after the dinner at 10:30 p.m., I still had to finish my lesson planning and then try to think of yet another brilliant insight about Mad Pride for you.
And I was empty. Dry as dirt. I couldn't think yet I couldn't sleep. And that's my tale of madness.
So I'm signing off right now and going to bed. It's 3 p.m. If I don't, I'll go out of my mind, crazy, bananas, nuts, bonkers, insane, mad, manic. Sleep heals my mind. I hope you'll forgive me for not writing another word about Mad Pride.
Because as far as I'm concerned, we each have to find our own answers, our own paths, our own meanings, our own ways to live peacefully with ourselves.
There is no magic bullet. it's a life-long process. Not just one day a year or even one week. It's every day, 24/7 – all year, every year,all your life. That's what Recovery is and as far as I'm concerned Mad Pride and Recovery are joined at the hip. It's not easy, quite the opposite. It's often painful – a series of struggles – but it's worth it.