Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guest Blog: Dysthymic Dad

In an effort to reach out to those dealing with mental health illnesses, now & then we will be featuring a guest blog post.  These people are dealing with anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, stress, and other disturbances to their mental health.

Everyone featured has granted us permission to post on their behalf, to share their stories, their blogs, and hope that you will find solace and comfort in that you are not alone.

Today's post comes from Dysthymic Dad on Twitter.  This man has been very brave in battling his Depression and Dysthymia.  This blog post comes on a snowy day in Ottawa, which makes the analogy he writes about understandable.

Visit for more blog posts from Dysthymic Dad. 


Depression: Driving Stick-shift, Uphill in Wintry Conditions
My mental health muse must’ve taken a holiday, what with over a month since updating this blog. I kept telling myself I should write another entry, but the motivation / inspiration simply would not materialize. Symptoms of my condition? Mayhaps… Meanwhile, I’ve been filling the “creative” void, 140-characters (or less) at a time… hence why you should follow @DysthymicDad!

But I have been giving some thought as to how I could explain what I’m going through, to those I choose to disclose my condition…to come up with an analogy, a “story”, to explain what Depression feels like. Or at least, what it feels like for me. Being Canadian, you know weather had to factor into the story, somehow!

When first diagnosed with Major Depression and likely dysthymia, I’d been stuck at the bottom of the hill for so long, spinning my wheels in 5th gear, I’d no clue what might lie on the road ahead. At first, the blizzard-like conditions of my depression swirled around me, blinding me to my surroundings. Complete white-out conditions.

What revealed itself to lie ahead was one very steep hill to climb, riddled with unavoidable icy patches. I felt overwhelmed, ill-equipped to weather the wintry storm and topography ahead; I was an old beat-up clunker with balding summer tires, no map and no GPS device. I wasn’t even sure anymore what destination I was trying to reach. My internal On*Star navigation system had completely failed me.

Extended sick leave from a supportive employer allowed me to put some gas in the tank and recharge the battery. With the help of my GP, I equipped myself with winter tires – an anti-depressant called Cipralex – to gain traction on the road to recovery. Both my GP and EAP (Employee Assistance Program) Counsellor were of great assistance in pointing out the destinations that are open to me. 
 And my Mindfulness practices are the polarized lenses that allow me to notice the individual snowflakes, and see through them as I plod ahead.

I have no illusions that conquering this hill will take time. There are still days where I feel stuck in neutral, all traction lost on an icy patch as I slide backwards. Sometimes my GPS acts up when I hit a pothole. Loosening my white-knuckled death-grip on the steering wheel of anxiety doesn’t always come easy. And there will be times when I may need to call out a tow truck to get me out of the ditch.
But progress is being made, one gear shift at a time. Sometimes I do need to downshift, and I’ve learned to accept that, if not outright welcome those opportunities. I’ve given up on *wishing* that the weather clear up, or a sand/salt truck magically appear ahead of me. The road and weather conditions are what they are.

What drives me now is knowing that I will reach the top of this hill. Maybe not tomorrow, or next week, or next month. But one day, I will reach the summit… and hopefully find a level parking lot where I can do doughnuts to my heart’s content.

As always, the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is here for you, at any time, day or night.  You can call us at 613-238-3311 to talk about what you're experiencing.  We're here to support you.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Letter Response

Back in January, we came across a "Letter to Editor" in a local Ottawa newspaper. 

"Talk mental health

Why in 2013 is it still acceptable to openly discuss cancer, stroke, and heart failure, and not mental health?

The mental health crisis line is 613-722-6914. Yet one has to wonder what happens when that number is dialed. Will you immediately speak to a professional? Will you be put on hold or told someone will call you back shortly? Will you be forwarded to a message machine? Is the call confidential? If you’re a parent, will five cop cars and someone from Children’s Aid arrive at the door while you’re on the line? How many then, would make that call with so many unanswered questions?

We hear very little about mental health, no one canvassing at the door, no big gift lotteries offering houses and cars, and I don’t think many are running or biking for it.

So we hear and say very little about mental health, leaving some, perhaps many, to struggle in silence, fearful of being judged."
We wanted to respond to the writer, as she asked many questions that needed an answer.  While our response wasn't published, it's important for those who have similar questions to see the answers.

This is our response!


Why don’t we speak more openly about mental health? It affects each and every one of us in one way or another, sometimes without realizing it.

When someone makes the decision to call the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region or the Mental Health Crisis Line, they’ve taken the initiative to talk about the issues they are facing. When the number is dialed, you are reaching one of our volunteer Crisis Line Specialists. Each of these individuals has undergone 59 hours of extensive training, including the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop so that we are prepared to provide support to anyone calling in, no matter what the problem, at any time of day or night.

While the vast majority of calls are answered immediately, it’s possible that if we’re experiencing a high volume of calls, that you may be put into queue, to wait for one of our Crisis Line Specialists to finish supporting another caller. If you are placed in our queue, you’ll hear the message letting you know that we’ll answer your call as quickly as we can. You can be assured that every single call that comes into the Distress Centre & the MHCL is completely confidential and information is not shared outside of the centre, however; if there is an immediate danger to yourself, another person or a child, this will fall under our obligation to involve emergency services. We are here to provide unbiased, non-judgmental support to anyone in need of help, including those dealing with relationship issues, finances, mental & physical illnesses, employment concerns, local resources, sexuality & interpersonal issues and suicide ideations, and much more. Remember - anything that is affecting your day to day coping skills, is a reason to call.

As much as the society is starting to open up and talk about mental health, there is still room for improvement, and we are working hard to get people talking - talking to us, talking to family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers. In fact, the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is participating in the Ottawa Race Weekend, and invites others to raise funds and awareness for our Crisis Lines. There is also an annual fundraising event called “A Chocolate Affair” on May 2nd, to do the same thing.

We invite everyone to learn more about the Mental Health Crisis Line at and the Distress Centre at    If you need someone to talk to, you can call 613-238-3311 (Distress Centre) 613-722-6914 in Ottawa, 1-866-996-0991 (MHCL) outside of Ottawa. We’re here for you, no matter what.