We're two years old today. I cannot believe it and what an education writing this blog has been for me.
IN THE BEGINNING...
On April 9, 2008, I posted my first blog, called Welcome to Coming Out Crazy – and we weren't even live and on line, right at the beginning. (Now everything I've ever posted is archived and online.)
I was just beginning to toy with my own blog and didn't really have a clue about what blogging and the blogosphere was all about, when Brandie Weikle sent me an email asking me if I'd be interested in blogging about mental health for a then-new website The Toronto Star was building called Healthzone.ca.
I just reread that opening post. When I think back to what I thought I would be doing, I'm shocked at how much I've learned and how innocent I was.
As I mentioned, we were not interactive, like we are now. Any feedback came via email that went either to Brandie or directly to me. Our correspondence was strictly one-on-one and a ton of work.
POSTS FROM THE FIRST FEW MONTHS AND OUR FIRST AWARD
At the beginning, it was just a trickle, but the initial reactions were positive and I kept plodding on writing about some of the topics I'm passionate about – like labeling, language, lessons we can learn from abroad, Recovery and Denial, mad pride, madness and more, "framing" or "the 'S' word", ECT and other current therapies, mental health in the workplace and suicide.
I shared stories, like the challenges of living with my pregnant Dandie Dinmont terrier bitch, Lucy – who is not pregnant again, I'm sad to report. And this one I discovered on www.TED.com by Sir Ken Robinson. I called it Shall We Dance.
Most of all, I was learning how much I didn't know and how much more I wanted to know. I made some enemies, but more friends. I began to familiarize myself with the other mental health bloggers on the Internet – and there are millions of them all over the world – but mainly from the U.S., in England and Canada.
I quickly discovered that there were very few newspaper mental health bloggers at that time – besides Liz Spikol in Philadelphia, who writes about her bipolar disorder. I've linked you to other bloggers who have intriguing ideas to share. The more we can share, the more we can learn from each other.
In Canada, to the best of my knowledge, I'm still the only person writing regularly and candidly in a major daily about my personal mental health issues, my recovery, and mental health and wellness in general. If not, please let me know who you are, where you are and join our conversation.
I wrote about one of the most remarkable psychiatrists I've ever known, about schizophrenia, about depression, about my teaching, how I came out in class to my students about my mental health issues, about my hearing loss, about how friendship heals, about "living out loud", about my ongoing battle with food and my moods, about letting go, about stress and about hope.
And I wrote about you.
And Angela and her electroconvulsive therapy, which will be finishing very soon. And I'll be reporting on that, rest assured. Will she need maintenance ECT? I'll keep you informed.
Yet, I've just scratched the surface. There's so much more.
I answered your questions, or tried to, and I explored some of the issues in your comments. I've come to care about you, became acquainted personally with some of you, and even met and befriended some of you.
Now, because of this blog, I have new friends and I'm so grateful to you. This is a dialogue. I thrive on your input. Yes. I live for your comments.
I'VE LEARNED SO MUCH FROM YOU...
I learned so much about you and from you.
How much you need to share, to speak about your personal pain, your traumas and psychic scars, your stresses and anxieties, your feelings of abandonment and loneliness, your fears and frustrations trying to find compassionate listeners who will help you develop the tools for living meaningfully, instead of or in addition to dispensing medications.
And I've made lots of mistakes. One worked out wonderfully. As a result, I met psychiatrist Ron Pies, a professor of psychiatry at Boston's Tufts University and the S.U.N.Y. Upstate Medical University in Albany, N.Y. He has generously helped me with much of my research and become our resident expert and my friend.
From the beginning, and especially after we moved to Typepad in June of 2008, I began to dream of creating, here, a safe and supportive virtual community, where you can share your stories, perspectives, complaints and opinions openly with me and each other.
And once I began linking, I began to love sharing all I was learning with you, too, by giving you sources and seeking out the best references I can find for you. Dr. Pies calls me a "public educator" but we're all educating each other, contributing to a body of knowledge here that can help challenge discrimination and prejudice with information and discussion. Openness. Coming out and staying out comfortably.
Changing the landscape about mental health. Though change doesn't come easily and there's always resistance. We must keep trying.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
For the last few hours, I've been traveling back, touring the archives of this blog. I'm amazed at how much territory we've covered.
And how much more we must cover.
As a little anniversary gift to you, the links above will take you back, too. To some posts that were never on line and are now available as well as others you may remember.
So, I'm wishing you a Happy Anniversary, too. Because without you, I simply couldn't do what I do.
Finally, I want to give special thanks to my editor Brandie Weikle. She not only edits me and all of HealthZone brilliantly, but also ParentCentral, where she writes a charming and informative blog about raising her two adorable young sons, Cameron and Alister. Their cute kid quotes of the day are guaranteed to give you a lift.
Her guidance is invaluable. She works like a trojan and she is endlessly patient with me and my occasional emotional outbursts. Brandie, you're a dream of an editor. I adore you!
I want to say a special thanks to the powers-that-be, and all the editors and moderators at thestar.com for having the wisdom and courage to launch a mental health blog. It's crucially important to give all health issues fair treatment, time and space ~ physical and emotional and mental. It's validating for us and empowering for everyone touched directly or indirectly by mental health issues. And we're all touched in some way, somehow. No one is immune.
With heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all of you.
So far, it's been a fascinating ride – not without a few bumps, mind you. I learn lots from those bumps.
So, here's to continuing on our journey of discovery and self-discovery together for another year ~ in health.
Hugs to you all!