A to Z Theme Reveal

It’s that time of year again!! A to Z is just over a week away and today is theme reveal day. I found out about A to Z the day it started last year. I was a new blogger and thought it was a good way to meet people, so I jumped in. It was a lot of fun and I met wonderful people who are still my bloggy friends today. I did make it to the end, but not without some struggle.

survivor-atoz [2014]

Writing a post every day is not easy and some letters are really hard to write about! This year, I decided to plan ahead. I would research topics and write posts ahead of time. Have I done that? No. Life has inevitably gotten in the way. I will be flying by the seat of pants through A to Z for another year. My theme this year is….

Mental Health

I know, I know, I did the same theme last year. I’m giving myself a real challenge though. I’m not going to reuse anything I did last year. Eeek!! My stomach is doing flips just trying to imagine what I’m going to write about for Q, X and Y!

Why write about mental health? Well, because it is important, duh!! Everyone at some point in life experiences problems with mental health. It can be anything from stress or low self-esteem to psychosis or suicide. The more we talk about it, the more we all understand and the better we relate to each other. The best way to eradicate mental health stigma is through education.

Now, I am not a mental health professional, or a doctor of any sort. Well, maybe that’s not true. I am an almost doctor…a Ph.D. candidate, but I study eyes, not mental health. That is beside the point though. I have experience with mental health. I have a variety of diagnoses, but to make a long story short, I have depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), if you want to be formal. I have had signs and symptoms since childhood and have been getting treatment for the last 9 years. The plan for A to Z is to share my experience with mental health and what I have learned. You may laugh, you may cry, but you’ll be entertained and you’ll learn something. I think that is the most important part. 🙂

If We Were Having Coffee….

If we were having coffee, I’d say let’s go to the coffee shop down the street. The street I live on ends at a little village. It’s a really cute place in the summer because you can see the details of all the old stone buildings and the water lies just behind them. In the winter, I start to miss it. We can drop into Bilboquet. It’s primarily an ice cream shop, but during the winter they get most of their business from coffee and treats. I usually opt for a mini cupcake…or two. They have such fun flavours.


If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how your week was. My week was relatively stressful and I am exhausted, but it was a good week overall. The stress was brought on by my boss’ great time management skills. She gave me some instructions, sent me a list of references and asked me to make a presentation. Normally, I enjoy this sort of thing, but I got all out of sorts for a couple reasons this time.

  1. I hadn’t read most of the journal articles on the list yet which meant a lot of reading
  2. The journal articles were old and I couldn’t access a lot of them
  3. Her instructions and the content of the articles were conflicting
  4. The presentation was to be long, an hour at least.
  5. She gave me less than two days notice so I had to drop all the things I was supposed to be doing in order to get this done.

Being the head honcho, I think she sometimes forgets how long it takes to put things like this together. Plus, I am a perfectionist so I make a lot of trouble for myself. That part isn’t her fault. I finished making the presentation with enough time left over to go figure out how to plug my laptop into the big screen TV in the conference room. Anyway, the presentation was a hit, so much so that I’m going to be presenting it at a conference in the fall for continuing education (CE) credits. This is awesome. When your talk qualifies for CE credits you get your flight, conference registration and two nights in the hotel paid for. While we are on the conference topic, I’d also add that I completely lucked out and was awarded an ARVO travel fellowship! ARVO is the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. They have a huge conference every year that I go to. I always apply for the travel award, but never get it. This is good. Really good.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I spent one night this week on FaceTime with one of my dearest friends. Even though we live about 6 hours apart, she has been one of my best friends since the 6th grade. It was nice to catch up with her and her daughter. I helped her set up a blog on WordPress. She has decided to try blogging as a way to cope with all that’s going on in her life. She is one of the few people from my real life that knows about my blog. Her blog is Sparkles and Darkness. I’m sure she would love it if you stopped by to say hello.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that #1000Speak took place yesterday and it gave me the warm fuzzies, lol. I know people value compassion and wish there wasn’t so much hate and violence going on in the world. Despite this, I still see so little empathy, nevermind altruism. I was comforted to see all these bloggers, people like me, who are conscious of the lack of compassion and try to practice it as often as possible. It has restored some of my faith in humanity. I learned a lot doing some background research on my post, It All Starts With You. I focused on human compassion in society, but other posts talked about self-compassion, which I think I needed a reminder on. How can you continue to be compassionate towards others when you are being so hard on yourself? You can only give so much before you have nothing left. Being kind to yourself prevents that reservoir of compassion from getting too low.

speak for compassion

If we were having coffee, we would probably have finished our coffee and goodies a while ago. I’d thank you for the company, bid you happy weekend and we’d be on our merry way until next time. 🙂

(This conversational coffee post is part of a weekend link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster. Join in the fun!

MDD and BPD and OCPD, OH MY!

The Blog for Mental Health Project is back! For those of you who don’t know, the purpose of this project is share your experiences with mental illness, to educate, to reduce stigma and most importantly let those suffering know that they aren’t alone.


“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

I have had a lot of labels thrown at me. I have Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). More recently, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Obsessive-compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) have been added to the mix. I’m not a fan of these labels. I don’t feel like I fit these cookie-cutter definitions. This is what makes mental health so complicated. Each case is unique and must be treated as such.

This is my story…

I started treatment in 2006, but it began long before that. I think I was born hating myself. Mental illness runs on both sides of my family. It must be in my genes. I was always a very serious child. People would say I was moody, which I suppose was true, but it was more than that. I had terrible stomach aches and threw up a lot when I was younger. I guess I didn’t understand how I was feeling so it manifested physically. As I got older, the physical symptoms waned, I developed body image issues, anxiety, perfectionist tendencies, anger issues and the moods got harder for me to handle. Eventually I stopped going out, I stopped sleeping, I stopped functioning and I prayed that I would just disappear. Since it was unlikely that my prayers would be answered, I did the next best thing. I got help.

Currently, I wear many different hats. I am a Ph.D. candidate, a wife, a lab manager, a wannabe artist, a daughter, a sister, mum to the cutest kitty ever AND I am climbing my way out of the worst depressive episode I’ve ever had. Thanks to my family and closest friends, I am still here. Mental illness, whatever labels they may give me, will be a battle I will fight for the rest of my life. It’s a battle no one should have to fight alone. Blogging has been a great help in coping. I get to sort my thoughts out in words or at least doodles and connect with a whole community of people that understand what I am trying to say. Not only has blogging been a comfort, I have met some wonderful people and learned so much about mental health. I plan to continue blogging about my own experiences with mental health along with some art journaling, doodles, Lego, blog challenges and adorable cat pictures thrown in a long the way.

If We Were Having Coffee…..

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how you felt about cats. There are two different Cat Cafes in Montreal. I haven’t been to either and I’d really like to go. Of course, none of the cafe cats could ever be a cute as my Ewok, but I think it would be a fun experience and it’s something I could check off my life list. We would go to Cafe Chat L’Heureux. It looks like this cafe lets you hold the cats, the other one doesn’t. I’d get a coffee with one of their lemon raspberry marshmallow kitty paws. What are you in the mood for this week? A cat-pucchio perhaps? Haha! I’m not kidding, that’s on the menu!

marshmallow cat paw

Here is my order! Coffee and marshmallow cat paw. This is a picture from their menu.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how you were and how your week went….after I finished gawking at the cute furry beasts. Sorry! I swear, you’ve got my full attention now!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my week went by pretty fast. I did get some bad news from my friend Lynne though. She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer last spring. By the time they found it, it was a stage IV liver metastasis. She has been on chemo all this time and handled it really well. She kept her strength and only felt sick when she was actually plugged in to the drug. The tumor in her colon is pretty much gone and the one in her liver has shrunk significantly. The next step is surgery. This is the bad news. They have to take out 70% of her liver. Removing this much means it will not regenerate and if the cancer returns, they can’t remove anymore. The surgery is also risky (8% mortality) because the excision site is right by the portal vein. If she makes it through the surgery there is a high chance of liver failure afterwards. When she asked about the colorectal surgery she also needs, they told her to forget about it. They wanted to get though the liver first. It’s really not sounding good. Lynne is a quiet and kind person. She looks after animals for a living. She doesn’t deserve this.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I spent the first half of the week tied in knots and completely dreading going to work on Wednesday. I had a list of patients from a previous study (a few years ago) that I could use for my study. I had to go to their retina clinic and find out who was dead and who was still alive. A rather morbid task, but this is something you have to do when you work with a geriatric population. I was dreading this because I knew a rather nasty ophthalmologist was going to be on duty and he always sneers at my genetics research. Also, the last time I tried to do this, the clinic staff was just annoyed with my presence and refused to show me how to use the computer system. I anticipated the same thing this time. To my surprise, it wasn’t like that at all (probably because my supervisor came with me). Dr. Nasty didn’t say anything about my research and the clinic staff were very helpful. I got into the computer system and determined about half of my list had future appointments booked. There may be hope for my research yet.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I am still loving the art journaling. I had brunch with a friend last weekend and we went to a scrapbook store afterwards. I bought some new stencils to try, some metallic watercolour pencil crayons, a waterproof pen and a cute little cupcake stamp. I love cupcakes. I’m hoping to have a chance to play with my new goodies later today. I’m also going to participate in “Happy Mail” with one of my art journal groups. Happy Mail is basically a trade of scraps of unique paper, stamps, stickers, charms or anything else you can journal with between artists via snail mail. Different things are available in different parts of the world. It’ll be fun to see what I can get and make some other people happy.

2015-01-23 10.59.21If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that Thursday was really zen. After getting over the shock of Lynne’s news and my work anxieties, I was able to relax a little. I spent the day at home with Ewok and got caught up on research articles and blog stuff. Ewok was really sweet. She sat with me all day drifting in and out of nap land. She got up only a few times to play, snack or drink. We have a water fountain for her to drink out of. When she was just a little thing, she was always desperate to get to the tap whenever we turned it on. So we thought getting her a tap-like water fountain would be a good idea. She’s a little weirdo with it though! Before she drinks from it, she swipes her slipper paw through the stream of water. It’s like she is testing the temperature or something. Even weirder, she sticks her head right under the falling stream of water! I thought cats weren’t supposed to like getting wet. Ewok hated the two times she got a bath, but she gets her head soaking wet! I often pick her up and kiss her on the head between her ears. Sometimes when I do this, it’s like kissing a puddle. Silly kitty.

2015-01-23 10.57.20If we were having coffee, I’d thank you for joining me and tell you I think it’s time we go. There is so much to do on a weekend. I’d probably grab a souvenir to take home to little Ewok and we would bid adieu to our new feline friends as we head out.

2014-09-04 09.25.35(This conversational coffee post is part of a weekend link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster. Join in the fun!)

Liebester Award II

liebsteraward When I got back from NYC, I was pleased to find that Tempest Rose over at Nonsense and Shenanigans had nominated me for the Liebester award. Thank you, thank you! If you haven’t visited her before, you definitely should.  She’s creative, funny and controversial. Her blog is always a good read.

How do you feel about blog awards? I’m finding a lot of people don’t like them, are sick of them or appreciate them, but don’t participate. I think they are fun. I like to know when you like something I write/draw or if you appreciate my blog. Hearing that sort of thing makes my day! The Liebester is extra fun because it comes with questions to answer…something I love to do. Then I get to ask questions and read the answers when I pass it on…more fun 🙂

Normally, the Liebester is passed on to smallish blogs that you admire. Since I have done the Liebester before and recently nominated a bunch of my favourite blogs for other awards, I’m going to answer the questions I was given and post new questions for you (yes, you reading this) to answer.

Here are my answers to the questions from Nonsense and Shenanigans (big thanks again :D)….

1. If you could change one thing about your country, what would it be?
Language laws. I think being a bilingual country is a great thing, but it has to be done right. Do I know how to do it right? No, but I know there has to be a better way. No doubt, many of you were laughing at the antics of our language police here is Quebec over the last year or so….Not allowing terms like “pasta” and “calamari” on a menu at an Italian restaurant because they weren’t the proper French terms….please! I also remembering hearing something about artwork in a restaurant having to be removed because it had English words in it. I understand the intention, but it was getting a bit ridiculous. Things are better now, but far from perfect. Going from one extreme to another….I have lived in Quebec for 11 years and I am not fluent in French. Am I ashamed? Yes! I grew up in Ontario and took French all through school. I got excellent grades and was declared fluent in French on my report cards….then I moved to Quebec and learned I couldn’t speak or understand at all. It really is too bad. I think French is undervalued in the rest of Canada, but carries a lot of resentment with Anglophones in Quebec. It would be nice to even things out across the country.

2. What is one thing about your country that makes you unbelievably proud?
There are so many reasons to be proud of Canada. People make fun of us, but I like that we have a reputation for being kind, polite and understanding. We accept our neighbours regardless of race, sexuality or religion. There’s nothing wrong with “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” either. 🙂

3. Do you remember your dreams? If so, what is the last dream you had that affected you?
I remember the dreams that I have over and over again. The others tend to fade away. The last one that got me was about my Gran. I dreamed she had been alive these past ten years and I hadn’t known. I was so upset that I had missed out on all that time with her. Hubby said I was crying and whimpering in my sleep. Woops! I have this dream a lot, slightly different every time. I wake up so confused.

4. If a blogging genie came to you and offered you three blogging-related wishes, what would you wish?

  1. I wish I got paid to write my blog and draw my pictures.
  2. I wish I knew some programming so I could make it really original
  3. I wish I had more time to brainstorm for posts.

5. If you had the opportunity to explore undiscovered areas of the earth, OR to explore undiscovered areas of outer-space, which would you choose?
Earth definitely. I am interested in anthropology and paleontology. I’d love to learn more about ancient humans and extinct animals. There’s the ocean too. So much of the ocean has yet to be explored. I am interested by life, which is something that hasn’t been confirmed in space yet. Stars and planets are wonderful, but until we find life, I’d much rather study the Earth.

6. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging because I wanted to talk about my mental health problems and connect with others going through similar things. I thought talking might help me feel better, or understand myself better. I thought maybe I could learn from the experiences of others. This is a part of myself I keep hidden from most of the people in real life for the obvious reasons, so blogging under an alias seemed like a good idea and so far it has been going well.

7. What is your one, ultimate, life-long dream?
I just want to be happy. I want people to be proud of me. I want to feel that I am enough, that I have accomplished enough. I want to stop worrying and working and fighting and just be able to enjoy things.

8. If you had to give up your other achievements to accomplish that dream, would you?
This is a hard question to answer. I guess I’d be fine with having different achievements, but my achievements are a big part of my dream, so I wouldn’t be accomplishing it if I gave them up. I think my dream requires a change in attitude. There isn’t a limit you work towards that says you are adequate. It’s an ongoing process. I need to learn to enjoy while I work. Easier said than done.

9. Do you believe in ghosts? Aliens?
Ghosts? I’m not sure about. The whole energy cannot be created or destroyed makes me wonder sometimes. Aliens? I wouldn’t say believe, more like hope. How could it be possible that properties have combined in this one place to support life and no where else. The universe is so vast. There has got to be something else out there.

10. What religion are you most intrigued by? (It doesn’t have to be your religion, you don’t have to be religious — just one that interests you, in good ways or bad.)
Ah religion, always a sticky topic. It can bring so much hope, but also cause so much destruction. I am interested in East Asian religions, Taoism in particular. I don’t know a lot about it. I took an Eastern Religions class in university and it briefly touched on it. I like that Taosim is associated with nature and the flow of energy. It’s about balance which strikes me a peaceful. I hope to learn more some day.


So here are your questions. You can answer them in the comments or on your own blog (make sure to send me the link!) You can pick and choose which you answer if you’d like, but I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

  1.  How do you get motivated when you’re in a rut?
  2. Where do you get most of your blog post ideas?
  3. Do you have any weird habits? Explain.
  4. What is something you’d like to learn more about?
  5. If you could have a vacation home anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
  6. What are three of the items on your bucket list?
  7. Who do you look up to?
  8. Which one of your posts do you think is best, why? Provide the link.
  9. Share a quote you find inspiring.
  10. If you could try out a new career, what would you try?


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