About anitamanley

Mother to millennials. Woman with lived experience of mental illness and homelessness. Peer Facilitator/Patient Advisor/Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate. #FACES19

Be Respectful.

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By Anita Manley

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy enjoying my summer, taking care of myself and visiting family out west. I’ll write more about this in future posts.

I’ve been thinking of writing this post about “respect” for a while now. I’m hoping it will help some people navigate difficult conversations about periods of illness.

On the Mother’s Day weekend, 2022, an old friend of mine came into town and we went for coffee at my favourite coffee house, Little Victories. I was a bit anxious about our meet-up as he and his wife had seen me during my darkest times. Although I was excited to reconnect, since we’ve known each other for over 35 years and I hadn’t seen him since about 2009, and a visit was way overdue, I was also worried about potential talk of my illness. This is a topic and period of time that I really prefer not to revisit. It is very painful for me and retraumatizing whenever friends/psychiatrists/psychologists take me back to that time in my life.

So, Allan pulled up in front of my building on his very cool motorcycle. He was in town with his wife from Toronto visting his inlaws. We greeted each other with big smiles and hugs, as long lost friends do. Then, we just picked up where we left off, sharing stories of what we’d been up to, reminiscing about our pasts, etc., as we walked over for coffee.

Eventually, as we were laughing and sipping our hot beverages, the dreaded topic of my illness came up.

Allan inquired, “Do you remember anything about what you were like back then?”, referring to our last encounter in 2009.

“Some of it,” I replied with sadness. “But, I really don’t want to remember or discuss it as I find it way too traumatizing.”

Then, just like that, Allan nodded that he understood and changed the topic skillfully to some joyful memories and started sharing photos and we were laughing again.

I felt heard. I felt respected. He did not push the issue, even though I’m certain he had many questions for me about that period of time.

When we left the coffee shop, we went over to another local business to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. I know the owner, so I motioned towards my friend, saying, “This is my friend Allan, we haven’t seen each other in over 12 years.”

Allan interjected, “Actually, it’s been over 20 years!”

He decided that he would leave out the times when he’d seen me when I was not myself, saying instead that the last time he’d been with the “real, Anita” had been a long time ago, indeed.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciated Allan’s approach. It was heartwarming for me to have someone care for me so much that they did not want to retraumatize me, or evoke memories of what I was like when I was in the throes of severe mental illness. I really did not need to be reminded. It was horrendous enough the first time around. Who needs to revisit a time when they’d lost absolutely everything that was important to them?

Thank you so much, Allan, for the kindness and respect you displayed on that Mother’s Day weekend visit.

Until we meet again my friend!

A reunion during happier and healthier times. Allan and I at Little Victories Coffee, May, 2022.

Be Kind.

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By Anita Manley

Last weekend, we were so honoured and privileged to be invited to our friends’ “Guest Cottage” near Renfrew, ON, along the Ottawa River.

Not only were we invited, but we received red carpet treatment the entire time we were there. Activities were planned, spa music was playing in the background, excellent meals were prepared and served, there was a hot tub and big screen TV outside so we could enjoy both at the same time. We went on a group kayak, did aerobic drumming and even danced in the rain!! Janet and Joe even treated everyone in the resort to a pizza party! Quite simply, the 4 days away was completely FABULOUS and it felt as though we had been away for two weeks!

It is so important for everyone to escape for a bit of a vacation, every now and again. Ron and I do not have the means to spend on hotels, transportation, etc. for a holiday, but these friends of ours did and were happy to have us stay at their “Guest Cottage”. We had the place to ourselves, complete with a kitchen, air conditioning, heating and a fireplace for those cool evenings. They even provided cozy jackets and blankets that we were able to wear around the firepit without worrying about spark damage from the fire.

There were so many mental health benefits of being out in nature, listening to the birds, the crackling of the fire, seeing nature’s beatuy all around us. I personally really enjoyed the long group kayak that we all went on Saturday morning. There is something very calming about being on the water, engaged in converstion with friends.

I recently read a post that said:

“We are not all in the same boat.

We are in the same storm.

Some have yachts, some canoes,

and some are drowning.

Just be kind and help whoever you can.” – Damian Barr

This quote epitomizes our friends, Janet and Joe. Due to much hard work, risk and determination they have been very fortunate to reap the financial rewards. They also are very willing to be kind and generous to their friends, who may not be as well off.

I know that their kindness and generosity lifted our spirits immensely, and we feel bouyed to carry on in this ongoing storm, feeling less weight upon our shoulders, all due to the kindness of others.

Of course, it’s not necessary to do such grand gestures as Janet and Joe. For example, I recently gave a Starbucks gift card to a busker, who was extremely grateful for this random act of kindness. Also, it could be as simple as letting someone go in front of you in line, or opening a door for a stranger. I think if we all set out a clear intention to be kind to others, we will find many small ways to do exactly that.

“Just be kind, and help whoever you can.” It will not go unnoticed and may actually change a person’s outlook on life, or at least bring a smile to their face.

Sitting around the campfire, sharing stories and laughing were some of the many highlights of our little getaway! All thanks to the kindness of others.

Feeling all the Feels…

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By Anita Manley

In May of 2021, I wrote a blog about emotions. I think it is important to revisit this important topic.

I think it is fair to say that with everything going on in the world these past couple of years, many of us have been feeling lots of emotions. Sometimes these emotions may even conflict.

@unsinkablestories says: “Many people can feel confused when experiencing conflicting emotions at the same time, but please know that this is totally normal! The human experience is not that straight forward, and it’s ok to feel more than one thing at the same time.”

@unsinkablestories continues by saying: “Polar experiences can simultaneously co-exist. Such as: Growth/Mistakes, Anxiety/Confidence, Accountability/Self-Forgiveness and Learning/Unlearning.”

An exercise that we do in our “Journaling as a Wellness Tool” group, is to take 10 minutes to write down all the emotions you can think of. It is important to be able to name the emotion in order to better cope with that feeling. Expanding your emotional vocabulary is a good first step.

Brene Brown says: “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

As the CMHA campaign says: “Name it, don’t numb it!”

Brene Brown also says in her most recent book, Atlas of the Heart: “When we name an emotion or experience, it doesn’t give that emotion or experience more power, it gives US more power.”

I encourage you to name your emotions. Journal about them. Get in touch with how you feel. It is ok not to be happy all the time. It’s ok to have conflicting emotions.

Go ahead and “feel all the feels”. I think we all have lots of emotions going on inside of ourselves these days. I know I sure do!

Take care!

It is important to feel all of the emotions. Name them by writing them in a journal.

Things I wish I could tell my 25 year old self…

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By Anita Manley

I recently posted a throwback photo of myself on Facebook (see below). It really spoke to me and I started thinking, oh what I wish I’d known then. So, I decided to write a blog about it. I originally thought I would write 25 things, but the list grew larger. Here are 35 things, I wish I’d known when I was 25:

  1. Practice patience. (As my mother always said, “Good things come to those who wait.”)
  2. Practice self-love. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
  3. Get rid of the negative self-talk track going on in your mind.
  4. Hobbies are not a waste of time, they are wellness tools! Really!
  5. Read a book for enjoyment.
  6. Walk daily.
  7. Join a group/club/team/class to have fun and meet new friends.
  8. Volunteer doing something you enjoy.
  9. “This too shall pass.” The good times, and the bad.
  10. Be yourself – nothing more, nothing less – You are good enough!
  11. You are worthy of love.
  12. Keep busy, but calm your mind.
  13. Have a daily routine.
  14. Practice mindfulness.
  15. Enjoy your alone time. Don’t be afraid to be alone.
  16. Pay yourself first (save and invest).
  17. Relax – learn methods to keep your anxiety in check.
  18. Believe in yourself. “You’ve got this”.
  19. Trust your gut.
  20. Some things are better left unsaid.
  21. Always use the sandwich approach when communicating with people regarding a difficult situation.
  22. When angry – go for a walk, write in a journal. Take time to digest and calm down before discussing. You can’t take those words back.
  23. Compare yourself, to yourself – not to others.
  24. Learn to love and appreciate your body.
  25. Don’t be afraid to feel all of the emotions. You don’t have to be “happy” all of the time.
  26. Journal!
  27. Have an attitude of gratitude!
  28. Stop blaming others. Take personal responsibility!
  29. Have compassion for yourself and others.
  30. Stop worrying about things beyond your control.
  31. Continue to do your best and be satisfied with that.
  32. Aim for progress, not perfection.
  33. Breathe!
  34. Take care of yourself first so you can truly take care of others.
  35. Surround yourself with people who hold similar core values.
When I look at this picture, I feel so much love and compassion for my younger self. There was just so much I had yet to learn.

Tips to Help With an Anxiety Attack…

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from Youth Mental Health Canada

Look around you:

  • Find five (5) things you can see,
  • Four (4) things you can touch,
  • Three (3) things you can hear,
  • Two (2) things you can smell,
  • And one (1) thing you can taste.

This is called grounding. It can help when you feel like you have lost all control of your surroundings.

Give it a try!

Naming one (1) thing you can taste (among other things), is a great way to ground yourself when having an anxiety attack.

Taking Personal Responsibility.

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By Anita Manley

Several years ago, I was privileged to participate in a peer led group called  WRAP® (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). The concepts that I learned from this group, set me up with a strong foundation for my ongoing recovery. The 5 Key Concepts of this group are:

1)Hope 2)Personal Responsibility 3)Education 4) Self-Advocacy 5)Support

I have written a bit about hope and support already. It is important to note that when talking about support, we mean both “giving and getting” support. It’s a two-way street.

In this post, I’d like to focus on taking “personal responsibility” for your actions, wellness and recovery.

For me, I was actually unable to start my recovery journey until I took full responsibility for my illness. I had to look at myself straight in the face and say: “Hey, you’ve lost EVERYTHING in your life due to these delusions you believe to be true. EVERYONE (including professionals) is telling you that they are not true. So, you have to give up believing them in order to see your daughters again.” Once I took responsibility for that, I was off to the races and my entire focus, and energy, went into getting better again. I did everything I was advised to do by my psychiatrist… from taking medications, attending groups, and talking to professionals, with the singular goal of seeing my daughters and rebuilding my life.

During her research of people living in recovery of a mental illness, Mary Ellen Copeland, (the creator of  WRAP®) found that those people who continued to blame others for their mishaps (e.g. if only my kids would behave, if only my husband would help out more, if only…) were less likely to recover, than those who took personal responsiblity and moved on with their life. Those who took personal responsibility, were much further along in their recovery. The others were stuck in the “blame game”.

In my example, I could have continued to blame those whom I thought were responsible for my delusions, but after taking  WRAP®, I decided to own it myself. I also stopped saying “why me?”. I am forever grateful for this group. I liked it so much that I became a peer-facilitator and offered the first  WRAP® for Women group in the Women’s Mental Health Program at The Royal back in 2012.

By taking personal responsibility for my actions. and by implementing all of  WRAP®’s Key Concepts, I’ve been able to completely transform my life.

WRAP® is offered world-wide. Perhaps you can find a group near you.

Stop asking “why me?”, and start taking personal responsibility for your actions, wellness and recovery. You’ll be much better off for it.

Family Day 2022 in Ottawa, Canada

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By Anita Manley

A lot has happened in our sleepy town since the last time I posted in mid-January. Ottawa, our nation’s capital city, was invaded by what was dubiously named the “Freedom Convoy” and approximately 400 trucks took over our downtown core, including in front of Parliament Hill. But today, on Family Day 2022, we are finally breathing a collective sigh of relief! Ottawa Police, with the assistance of the OPP and RCMP, have taken back our streets after a 24 day occupation.

This was by no means a peaceful protest as the occupiers claimed. They took over our streets with their blockades, idling trucks, diesel fumes, blaring horns, noisy partying, loud music, chanting, fireworks, bullying of our residents, racial, homophopic and transphobic slurs, and symbols of hate for over 3 weeks! Many businesses in the area had to close, or had very little business as a result of people feeling unsafe in their own city. Parked cars had their windows smashed. Our residents in the downtown core couldn’t sleep with all the noise and many people, including those with disabilities, and people of colour stayed in their homes for fear of violence. I know people who live in the area who said they could not get the sound of honking horns out of their head, even after a class-action suit brought the horn sounds to an end, thus affecting their mental health. Others, trying to get to work, were harrassed for wearing masks. Thousands, were unable to work due to business closures, but still had to pay their rent. The amount of economic devastation alone is appalling, especially after the past two years. All of this happening over a period that is usually a fun, festive and huge tourist attraction for everyone in our city, Winterlude.

And then there are the children who were brought to this protest by their parents. Protesters travelling with their families and Ottawa families bringing children to the protest as “an educational moment”. Honestly, even during the period of time when police were moving the protestors out of town, families insisted on having their children there witnessing it, despite frequent warnings that it was a conflict zone. I will never understand this logic.

We are all tired of COVID. I know that this far right movement has not come to an end, even if the immediate occupation of Ottawa has.

In the meantime, Ottawa will be getting back to business and to “the city that fun forgot”. I am relieved that this horror show is over… for now!

A peaceful moment captured along the Rideau River, away from “The Red Zone”. I am feeling relieved and grateful to police on this Family Day.

Blue Monday 2022… “Let’s Dance”!

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By Anita Manley

Today is “Blue Monday”, the third Monday in January. It is called that, as it is thought to be the most depressing day of the year.

Newsweek magazine says, “There are claims around this time of year that this specific day commonly coincides with the arrival of some of the year’s toughest psychological challenges.

Issues can include a combination of particularly bleak winter weather, the post-Christmas comedown and being wracked with guilt over yet more failed New Year’s resolutions.”

More on “Blue Monday” here.

Today, in Ottawa, we had a blizzard or up to 40 cm of snow. Talk about bleak weather! So, I decided to take action.

In follow-up to last week’s blog about turning up some inspirational music, and at the recommendation from Canadian singer/songwriter, Serena Ryder on her January 7th Instagram post, I’ve resolved to turn on some dancing music and dance away the blues, or as David Bowie says, “Let’s dance. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” I’ve been doing this for about a week now, to at least one song a day, then maybe more as the mood strikes. It really gets those endorphines moving and helps to cheer me up, so I’ve included it as part of my daily routine. More on the importance of a daily routine for mental wellness here.

So today (on Blue Monday), and everyday, try putting on some upbeat music and “Just Dance”! Be sure to watch Serena Ryder’s post for some inspiration!

Dancing as part of your daily routine can really help boost your mood and burn off some calories. “Let’s dance!”

Choosing HOPE for 2022…

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By Anita Manley

I’m not going to kid you, this last wave of the “super-spreader” omicron variant of COVID has really been difficult. I’ve been struggling. I’m sure that many others are too, as we welcome the New Year with anticipation, anxiety, fear and every emotion in between.

I’ve started wearing a KN95 mask everywhere I go, since it has been said that the 3 layer cloth mask is not effective against omicron. My friend says, “all the stylish people are wearing them.” Folks are worried and want to stay safe. Yet, despite our best efforts, I know several people who have tested positive. Fortunately, they have all been vaccinated and several had also received their booster. As a result, they only had mild to moderate symptoms and avoided serious illness. Vaccines work! Trust the science. Go get vaccinated and get your booster as soon as you are eligible.

I’ve been listening to the radio as I’m driving around in my car, often joining in on the chorus. Songs with lyrics such as: “Everything’s gonna be alright” (No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley) and “And what it all comes down to my friends, yeah… Is that everything is just fine, fine, fine.” (Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette) – and I hold onto the HOPE of these lyrics like a lifeline. I belt out these lyrics with all my heart and soul, and I begin to believe that everything will be fine, it will be alright. It always amazes me how music can do that… change your state of mind, and in this case, make me feel more hopeful than I was before the songs came on the radio.

So, I invite you to also choose HOPE for 2022, because we know that all pandemics do come to an end. We also have vaccines and science on our side. Despite the huge rise in cases, people (in Canada) have been staying out of the ICU and recovering in their homes after just a few days. There is lots to be grateful for, and hope lives on.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy 2022! Choose HOPE!

When I look at this photo, I feel a glimmer of hope on the horizon for 2022.

Volunteering is like a gift to yourself!

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By Anita Manley

It is no surprise that volunteering has been the absolute best wellness tool that I have undertaken on my recovery journey. Since I started volunteering a mere 2 months after being discharged from the hospital back in 2012, my recovery soared. That is because among many other benefits, volunteering and giving to others makes you feel good, gives you a sense of purpose and often makes you realize that you are doing better than you thought. Volunteering helps me stay well. I learn so much from others while conducting my groups, and it makes me feel so good that others are grateful for my time and expertise. While improving my life, I am helping improve the lives of others.

For more about the benefits of volunteering, read my blog here.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) says:

“While it’s often said that volunteering is selfless, we believe the sense of fulfillment that comes from bringing joy to others is priceless. This holiday season, consider the power of giving your time, your talent, and your empathy. You may find that it’s the greatest gift you receive.”

So, if you have time on your hands over the holidays, consider volunteering. It will bring joy to your heart. And who doesn’t need more of that?

A quote from the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). Consider giving your time and talent over the holidays. Merry Christmas to all!