Spring is fresh and new. The hope of brighter, longer and warmer days. Cleaning, organizing and preparing for the garden. Every year at our home it’s the same beautiful feeling. Right now my family is waiting for the last bit of winter to disappear…
Our four oldest children (Stefanie, Phoenix, Aaron and Evie) are itching to play outside without all the winter gear to slow then down. Lately on slightly warmer days they are outside with boots and no coat. We have given up on trying to convince them to, “Put on your coat!” It’s like they don’t feel the cold.
Our babies (Elijah and Claire) haven’t yet experienced the soft green grass, camping or the taste of watermelon. We are all excited to share those moments with them.
We are the kind of people who are outside as much as possible when the weather is good. We hate being stuck inside.
Funny how the transition from winter to spring (at least where I live), can drive one a bit crazy. I have found that on the bright and clear days, I am full of energy. Then, somehow winter creeps back in… Our winter gear never gets packed too far away until we are sure winter is over. Sometimes not until May.
I have been watching the many seeds that I have sprouted. The hope, faith and promise of the food that will come. I love home-grown food! There is nothing that compares to it!
All this talk of spring renewal, sparks thoughts in my head of other things. Like how beautiful it could be for people with mental disorders to be made new again. To have a fresh start, erase the past and be accepted by the world.
I will be the first to admit that people associated with having a mental illness can display inappropriate behaviours. I have been there, oh yes I have. I have also seen others in their moments of weakness, and I am sad for them, but I understand why….
Stigma is a mark of disgrace or a bad reputation. In reference to mental illness I somewhat humorously think of it as, “The dark mark.” (At least for dramatic effect) Although invisible, it leaves a stain.
Many people have it. I have it. Even my sweetheart has it.
How is it possible to erase a stain from the minds of others? How is it possible to find common ground? My only answer at this point is to educate with a message of hope. Through real and whole nutrition, it is possible to recover and feel better than you could ever imagine. Truehope EMPowerplus and farm/garden food are examples of some of the wonderful blessings I have in my life that contribute to healing.
I have had to stop caring about what other people think and continue on my own pursuit of happiness. My life has carried on without many because all they see is my weakness. It seems almost impossible for me to get out of the “rut” once I have been placed there. I am often misunderstood. That aside, there are a greater number of beautiful souls who have entered my life. Friends and kindred spirits. Many I would not have met had I not been in the dark, many of whom I would not want to live without. The people I can be myself with.
A word for all those who feel a dark mark pinned upon them…Rise above it. You are worth so much! If there are judgemental or emotionally abusive people in your life, LET THEM GO! Embrace the relationships you have with uplifting people. Healing and life success will happen faster if your soul is unhindered and at peace.
Recovery is a constant progression. It takes years to get back the time lost in some cases. Sometimes it seems that one is reborn and must learn everything all over again. This is extremely overwhelming if you are an adult, to wake up and realize you don’t know how to do anything!
The best place to learn and grow is a safe place. Bronwyn and I try to keep our home as our safe place. A place where dark marks don’t exist. A place where no judging or abuse is tolerated. A place for learning and remembering who we are.
Complete healing and life success is coming to all who seek it. After all, we are just new little sprouts pushing our way up toward the light. Spring is coming…
My kids are so exciting to go on adventures with. Sometimes a dull, overcast Saturday can turn into something really special. Life is so simple to them. It’s like I am a kid again, even for the afternoon…
I’m walking through life doing what I do, and every now and then I get asked the question, “What’s it like to be well?” Sometimes it takes me a moment to reply, as I usually have to remember that once upon a time I wasn’t well. Where does one begin to answer that question?
I have begun to put myself “out there” in hopes of helping others achieve wellness. In doing so, many many memories and flashbacks have drifted into my mind. Some disturbing, some down right crazy. All surrounding the way I was. I have tried on more than one occasion to make sense of it all. My conclusion is that one cannot make sense of the mind that is ill. So don’t even try to!
Today the only way that I know how ill my mind was, is because I experience my mind in a state of health. So what’s that like? Here are some of the symptoms of wellness I experienced during my transformation and to this day:
-Remorse, embarrassment and realization of actions during illness (which I still relive from time to time)
-Self control and a welcome sense of calmness
-Focus and clarity of the mind (can’t forget to mention the ability to make good choices!)
-A desire to be alive and have a future
This is only the start of what has evolved into a rebirth of self. Provided I take care of myself, all symptoms of mental unrest have completely dissipated. Do I experience stress, life growing pains and emotion? YES! Am I imperfect and human? ABSOLUTELY! I still have personal struggles and strifes as we all do. Mental wellness does not mean invincibility or immunity to the roller coaster of life. Nor should it. What I do know for a fact: I am still here because I am well.
Before I met Bronwyn, she was living up in Grande Prairie, AB trying to leave her darkest days behind her. Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, she had been in and out of the hospital. She was taking a couple medications. The meds made her symptoms worse. She wasn’t sleeping right, hearing voices, seeing undesirable images, scared of the shower and she was disfunctional with any kind of relationship. For such an attractive and talented young woman, her life was headed down the same road mine had been destined for.
The month before I met her, she decided suddenly to refuse to take her meds. Her parents were a little uneasy I’m sure. Her mother had heard of Truehope years before, and seriously started looking into it. One day at work, her mother was given a copy of the May 2005 Discover Magazine featuring an article about Truehope. She brought it home for Bronwyn to read. Bronwyn read it and her first thoughts were, ” I wonder how this Joseph guy is doing now?” and “Is it really possible for me to have a normal life too?” Feeling rejected and judged by people in Grande Prairie she decided to go online to find someone to talk to who could relate to her.
Meanwhile, my brother pretty much forced me to go online and meet a girl. So he set me up. That was’t normally something I would do, I’m just not like that. One day Bronwyn’s picture popped up on my screen. I decided to try talking to her. For some reason I felt compelled to initiate communication with her. I tried two more times after the first. She pretty much completely ignored me until the third day we were both online. She must have been bored and thought she’d humor me. So we chatted about nothing important. Then she asked me a question. “Where do you work?” I replied, “Have you ever heard of Truehope?” Having been primed for this moment by stopping her meds, and having read the magazine article, she said, “Yes, I was just looking at the website. I’m Bipolar!” She seemed to say it with such enthusiasm and trust. I think if I had been any other guy, I would have been freaked out and shut off my computer. As soon as she found out I worked at Truehope, she warmed right up and started talking to me for a change. She hadn’t yet realized that I was ‘the Joseph’ that she had been wondering about not longer than a week before. All she knew was that I was someone she could talk to. Someone who could understand her.
Finally we had the opportunity to talk on the phone. Man that was an amazing experience! We talked about everything from bipolar to the weather, for probably five hours. From then on we had many more online or phone conversations. I was falling hard for her, and I desparately wanted to be with her in person. So we arranged a weekend visit. I was living in Magrath at the time so I drove about 10 hours up to Grande Prairie. It was interesting driving all that way to meet this beautiful woman you HOPE is waiting for you at the other end! But all doubts aside I drove a long way, and it was totally worth it. She was very lovely indeed! It was almost like one of those love at first sight experiences.I brought her a bottle of EMPowerplus. She says I was her knight on a white horse coming to rescue her. I met her wonderful family, and felt her mother’s concern for her.
We were able to spend some time alone. One of those moments was walking through the lovely Muskoseepi Park in GP. I loved being there with her. I noted to myself how easily we connected, I could talk about anything with her. I felt that same ease from her as well. Her hand was so soft in mine, I was smitten. During that walk I picked a flower from a nearby bush, and put it in her hair. I didn’t think too much of it, she had beautiful hair. But Bronwyn said that was ‘the moment’ for her. She knew this was the start of something wonderful. Unfortunately that weekend had to end at some point. It ended with her and I driving in separate cars. She had to work and I had to to go back to work ten hours south of there. At our last intersection together we waved and parted ways. What I didn’t know at the time was that Bronwyn had turned around to follow me and say goodbye one last time. The only problem was that she never caught me in time. She drove after me but gave up, turned around and cried. As sad as I was to hear this after, this was when she realized that she loved me.
Weeks passed and Bronwyn was taking EMPowerplus and not feeling so bipolar anymore. She got well. She became a glorious woman without a mental illness. She was and is forever grateful to me for this. I was able to drive up and steal her away for a week. This time the drive south was much more fun. We were finally together again and we talked about life and sang our hearts out to music. Since she was only visiting my family for a week, I wanted to ‘seal the deal’ before she left. I bought her a beautiful ring. A couple days before she was supposed to leave, I took her to a lovely place with a waterfall (she loves waterfalls). I walked her over to some big rocks at the bottom of the falls and we sat down. I proposed and she said yes! We embraced and I stole a kiss. It was a moment I will never forget…
From then on life has stayed in fast forward motion. We eloped about a month later (which was the most romantic thing ever), and planned a reception for a couple months later. Here we are now six and a half years later, still married with four wonderful children. Life shows no sign of slowing down. We have had many rough moments in our marriage to work through. But mostly it is the happiest fairytale come true. We laugh together and cry together. We keep each other sane in an insane world. We’ve both been there… I am grateful everyday for my sweetheart.
I miss her… I miss her so much, it hurts. I miss her so much I’ve come to resent her, even hate her. It shouldn’t be this way, because I love her. She’s my mother. But it is this way. Afterall she suicided and left me, and what was left of my family in a mess…It hurts me to think about it, the morning my life changed forever. It still burns in the back of my mind. I become physically ill, and even gain weight. My body and mind still remember the pain, and they tell me about it…. Every January.
We’ve all been through so much as a family. I can only imagine the pain some still feel because of what she did. It is so hard to let this go, but I know I must. Afterall, so much good has come from her death. So much pain has been taken away. So much hope has been given to the hopeless.
We have an answer to mental illness.
Reading my sister’s book (‘A Promise of Hope’) was not easy, but helped greatly in my healing. I grieved the loss of my mother one more time. It felt so good to let it out, I even lost weight. Thank you Autumn, for suffering and healing with me! I’m so greatful for the words you wrote, and the message we have to spread. You wrote the words none of us have the courage to think about. (www.autumnstringam.com)
Mental Illness still exists. Bipolar, depression, ADD, it’s all the same… It causes pain and it destroys lives. We don’t need to live like that, the answers are right here. If it hadn’t been for my mother ‘s death and my sister and I living with the illness, my father never would have asked questions. Questions are powerful, it’s what gives our hearts and minds room for answers. The answers have always been here. Almost always it takes something tragic or life changing for our eyes to be opened to the truth. One really must want to know the truth, for it to be made known.
My mother’s death was not in vain. Now because of her…
YOU can find ‘true hope’ and healing in this life. I have, and I was a nothing. Now I am someone with a story worth telling. If my experience only helps ,just one person, it makes her death and my illness all worth going through. Underneath it all, she gave me the most precious gift she could give…
Last summer my family and I visited a beautiful place not too far away, called ‘Waterton Park’.
It is a beautiful summer day. As we slowly make our way down the winding road leading into the park, the kids are already excited about the playground. The playground is the first place we always stop when we arrive.
As we settle on the bench, the older kids are already at the waterpark and playground. The twins are still in the double stroller, longing to be out! I lean over and whisper to my wife. Her face lights up and she whispers back to me. I pick the right moment so the kids don’t see me slip away as I go across the street. Usually we don’t eat sweet things, but today was a nice day to do something different. I came back and hid the treasure. Today this treasure was only for Bronwyn and I. Besides the kids don’t need licorice anyways.
It is nice to have someone to have a secret with, even if that secret is only candy! There is so much that we have together, my wife and I. We both have memories from our pasts that haunt us. We both seem to have our moments when we dwell on memories that should be long gone. Sometimes it’s very hard to wake up and face what you were before. Then to pick up the pieces of life and continue on. So many stupid things I had said and done…So many times I had embarrassed myself….it’s all in my bipolar past. When the playground gets old, we walk through the lovely town.
It’s fun for us to dream. We love to look at the boats in the marina. We stop and talk about how one day we will get a boat. We all sit on a nearby bench for some food. If anyone knows about the deer that live in Waterton, they can be a bit too friendly. At first our kids are wildly happy and excited about this deer that approaches us. Needless to say, I ended up shooing it away after some tears were shed over stolen food and it getting too close. They were happy to see the deer go. We continue down the usual path we take, along the water. As we walk people that pass us by smile or say hello. Some even say, “Looks like you’ve got your hands full.” I suppose with twins it looks crazier than it actually is. It is quite funny when people stop and notice us with our twins though. (By the way, going grocery shopping with twin babies is one of the easiest ways to draw unwanted attention to yourself). The closer we get to the beach area the less people we see.
We are happy about our peace and quiet. Now our kids can enjoy the rest of the day on the picturesque, but rocky beach. It’s hot and we revel in our well deserved solitude. Wasting no time, out come the buckets, shovels, boats and water wings. Even the babies are out of their stroller confinement. My wife takes some pictures and we play. After the kids are entranced in their own world, I settle down beside Bronwyn. We watch the little ones, who thankfully don’t go too far yet. I soak in this moment. It is like a dream, except I am living it for real. It is a curious idea to live for so long a certain way, and then one day it is totally different, but better than one could have ever imagined it to be.
Those haunting memories of the past often come racing back to me. For now, it’s these beautiful moments, that consume me at this beach. It’s all part of this new life I have, trying to deal with the past and still face the future boldly. Somewhere right now, someone is enjoying summer weather. Soon it will be my turn again.
At some point in time each and every one of us will feel like there is a lake of fire to cross. For some of us it may be economic hard times, for others it could be something like bipolar. The fact is, nothing is impossible. If a power engineer can create an answer for bipolar, then it seems that we all have the ability to do great things. To overcome and cross our own lake of fire. I have crossed my lake of fire. I stand on the other side, stronger than before.
The biggest obstacle to face is fear. Everyone has something they are afraid of. To learn, grow and be stronger we must face fear. Look at it straight in the eye. After it has been faced, it’s as though that fear just disappears. To be on the other side is to look back and know that you have conquered it. Life is not meant to be easy. That being said, it is not without it’s rewards.
I got mine…
Getting over bipolar is just the beginning, healing your soul is the real journey.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. From now on you’ll be travelling the road between who you think you are and who you can be. The key is to allow yourself to make the journey.” (Meg Cabot)