Mental Illness Awareness Week through Saturday


The stereotypical walls are long gone this Mental Illness Awareness Week which finds me bridging between a recent, quietly-endured “brown out” state-of-being in Toronto and my absolute delight as I bask in the love of family members gathering in the splendidly autumnal Town of Perth in eastern Ontario.

I’m thinking of Jamie Hubley‘s loved ones and friends as the first anniversary of his death approaches. And of David Dewees and all who cared so much for him.

In the midst of these tragedies it was an occasion to speak candidly about the despair that can lead to suicide and acknowledge times in my life when I have felt those demoralizing feelings.

Yet there I was, last year like this year, trying to keep my emotional head above water by talking about it, them, vague ideas, trying not to raise alarm – ich!

CBC Radio’s Tapestry began an exploration of “coping” last week and it seems likely that a telephone comment I left may be aired either this week or next.

Producers narrowed me down to what, for me, was the liberating diagnosis of bipolar II several years ago.  I emphasize “narrowed down” because my original email was a long list of things, familiar to my readers, I check off as having coped with:

*-childhood bullying by an elementary school principal/head teacher*
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*-bullying by peers in high school*
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*-alcohol abuse beginning in college*
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*-coming out as a gay man, as fully as possible, in 1981*
*
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*-contracting HIV no later than 1989*
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*-leaving paid work in 1990, to which I have not returned*
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*-surviving AIDS-related infections (while caring for a few – and mourning
the deaths of – countless peers)*
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*-believing that “if anyone deserves AIDS, I do!”*
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*-being involved in political actions, HIV/AIDS-related and otherwise*
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*-surviving a taxi-pedestrian (me) accident  in 2003, with a broken femur
and right radius, hospitalized for five weeks at the height of SARS in
Toronto*
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*-being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes (despite being alarmingly
under-weight)*
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*-being diagnosed with bipolar II (which may turn out to be the best
thing that ever happened!)*
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*-losing my older brother (a mentor who was also gay, also HIV+) in a
freak fall on the sidewalk in 2007, resulting in traumatic brain injury (he
was on life support for about two weeks)*
*
*
*-personal work and therapy intermittently on all of the above.*

I don’t expect I’ll hear Coping: Part 2 over the air this weekend, which is probably just as well given the family gathering which may find me underneath a giant pile of leaves!  However I never miss the weekly Tapestry podcast.