Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Deal with a Mental Illness Diagnosis

The month of October houses Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct 3-7) and International Mental Health Day (Oct 10). In the interest of breaking down stigma, this month’s blog post features tips on how to deal with a mental illness diagnosis.

If you have recently been diagnosed with a mental illness, chances are you have had a long and hard road to get to where you are today. You may have started to notice symptoms in yourself, your moods, your behaviours, your thinking, or maybe a friend or family member noticed signs of your mental health slipping.  Like many, it might have taken you a while to reach out for help because you didn’t quite know what was happening, where to turn or who to talk to or even what to say. It’s quite unsettling to not only begin to experience signs of mental illness and then also not have anywhere to turn to for support. 

After you reached out and confided in someone, you likely saw your doctor who may have been able to help or might have referred you elsewhere for specialized help. It took time to get these appointments, have assessments done and wait for the results to come back.

Now that you’ve been down the long road to a diagnosis, the road ahead of you likely looks foreign, scary and maybe you’re feeling confused, unprepared, or angry. You could also be feeling a little bit of relief that what you’re feeling has been validated by a name. Maybe you’re even feeling hopeful that there is specialized help available for you, now that you know what you are dealing with.

If you’re wondering if this is your fault – it isn’t. Like physical health, there are many factors that contribute to mental illness and no one is immune from mental illness, nor is it entirely predictable who will suffer from mental illness in their life. Different factors like genetics, traumatic events, socioeconomic status, the environment, etc. all play a part in affecting our mental health. In time and with help, you will learn how best to cope with your mental illness and the strategies that do and don’t work for you. Remember, you are not alone. 1 in 5 Canadians will have a mental illness in their life and there are many options of support available to you.

Now that you’ve received your diagnosis – you are probably wondering what comes next.  You will probably want to think about how this mental illness is going to affect your life. Also, what treatments are available (medication, therapy, counselling) and what can you expect through treatment and your recovery. Knowledge is power so you will want to learn the most you can about your illness in order to understand what’s happening and how you can deal with things that arise. Two ways you can gain information are through formal education (lectures, books, credible websites) as well as lived experience of others. It can be really helpful to know that other people have experienced what you are going through and this can give you some ideas on how to go about your own recovery.

As always, no matter what part of your journey you are on, we are here to offer a supportive and non-judgemental ear. Whether you have been experiencing symptoms for a while or have just starting to notice something is off, if you have just been diagnosed or are still waiting or trying to get the help you need, we are here, always.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Why Fall is the Best Season

Need some convincing that it’s okay to let go of summer? Here are three reasons why fall is the best of our four seasons!

Maybe this summer was full of fun opportunities, time spent with family and friends, time off from work and maybe even some time under the sun or on a patio.  Or maybe none of this was feasible or appeals to you in favour of keeping cool and safe from sunburns and that’s okay too! 

While summer and winter both have the potential to stir up some negative seasonal mental health symptoms as a result of extreme weather and temperatures, changing amounts of sunlight during the day, etc. fall can be the perfect “in between” season to find some peace and calm in your life.

1. With lowering temperatures and higher potential for rain, fall brings with it the opportunity to wear comfy and cozy clothes. Ate an extra helping of dessert and feeling a bit bloated?  Throw on a comfy sweater! Don’t feel like shaving your legs? Pull those cozy full length pants on! Without the need to shed layers due to the summer heat, fall clothes can bring comfort as well as some peace to the minds of those of us feeling body conscious throughout the summer. 

2.  Fall food is delicious! Butternut squash soup, chili, pretty much any warm food comes back into our diet after having avoided anything exuding extra heat all summer. Not to mention the pumpkin! Not only is classic pumpkin pie back in season, these days you can pretty much buy pumpkin flavoured everything!

3. Here in Ottawa we are lucky to be afforded a season where we are treated to spectacular views of changing and falling leaves. Although it might be a pain to have to rake for hours after your maple tree on the front lawn decides it’s time to let go, the beauty of driving down a street or sitting in a park filled with different hues of oranges, reds and golds cannot be exchanged. Bring a book to a park in your neighbourhood or head up to the Gatineau Hills for some much deserved self-care time.

Here’s hoping you have a great autumn season! Remember – we are always here 24/7, no matter the season! 613-238-3311.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Travelling with Mental Illness

July. The month of vacations. Should you let a mental illness keep you from enjoying a trip out of town? Absolutely not!

Travelling brings with it a certain level of uncertainty which can be fun to the adventurous but daunting to the rest of us. Even if you are well supported and stable at home, how can you prepare yourself to travel and ensure your mental illness will not get in the way of seeing the world?  Here are some tips to help you get the most of your vacation this summer.

1.       Be Prepared: If disorganization and battling the unknown triggers anxiety for you (which is completely normal), being prepared in advance can help you feel at ease and you will feel more ready to deal with situations as they come up.

Ensure you have enough medication to cover you for your whole trip and a few days extra just in case. Also ensure you have the necessary documentation for your meds if you are questioned at the border (consult your doctor about this).

Buy medical insurance so you can rest easy knowing that if something does happen to you while you are away, you won’t be faced with a hefty medical bill when you return home.

Make lists! Making lists of what paperwork you need to have with you (passport, Visa, flight documents, etc) as well as what clothing you need to pack and other toiletries you’ll need will help you prepare in advance and ensure you don’t leave anything crucial behind.

2.       Know Yourself: Only you know how your mental illness affects your day to day life. Travelling disrupts your daily routine and it’s important to remember to eat, sleep and drink water as much as possible while you are away to keep your body functioning at its best. Knowing yourself includes acknowledging your limits. Listen to your body and allow yourself to rest when you need it before you get too overwhelmed to function and risk losing out on new and fun opportunities on your trip.

3.       Seek Support: The standards of care and stigma surrounding mental health are unfortunately inconsistent around the world. However, depending on your length of stay and location, it may be possible to seek out support where you are going that is similar to home. For example, if AA meetings are a part of your schedule and recovery, finding an AA meeting to attend while away may benefit you. As well, many cities have their own crisis line or Distress Centres that you can call and many of these are 24/7. This website has a list of many different countries and the helplines available: Your Life Counts

4.       Seek Help Upon Your Return: If you notice that you are unable to settle back into your normal routine upon returning home, don’t be afraid to seek support from your doctor or mental health professional.

5.       Have Fun! Try to enjoy yourself as much as you can. The world is your oyster. Stay safe and have fun!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Depression

Summer Depression

June has arrived. Nice weather, kids excited to be out of school for the summer, everyone is packing up their towels and umbrellas for the beach, and you might not be feeling so great about any of this.
You might feel guilty that while it seems to be the most beautiful time of the year and you “should” be enjoying some fun in the sun, you are instead feeling down and depressed. This can happen for a multitude of reasons and you are not alone!  Here is some information about summer depression and what you can do about it.

Causes of Summer Depression
Disrupted Schedules:  It is quite easy to stick to a daily routine throughout fall, winter and spring. With the daylight hours extended in the summer, kids home from school and summer vacations disrupting work, sleep and eating habits, being thrown off your schedule during the summer can most definitely have a negative impact on your mental health.

Disrupted Budget:  Summer can be expensive! The allure of time spent eating and drinking with friends on a patio on a nice evening in July is strong but the bills can add up. Not to mention summer vacations can be expensive, and if you are planning to send the kids to summer camp or have to pay for childcare, having your budget disrupted can cause extra stress.

Heat: Summers in Ottawa, much like winters in Ottawa, can bring extreme weather that is hard to handle.  If you don’t have air conditioning, sleeping can become difficult in the extreme humidity and cooking over a hot stove can be unbearable. If you do have air conditioning, you might find yourself becoming a bit too cozy in the comfort of your cooled living room and could start isolating or avoiding going out into the heat or missing out on activities you used to enjoy that you are no longer engaging in due to the weather.

Body Image: Hot weather and outdoor summer activities often call for more exposing clothing which might have you feeling self-conscious about your body. With social media a major part of our lives, it’s really easy to see pictures of your friends seemingly having a great time in their bathing suits at the beach while you are left feeling down and out by your body. Feeling bad about your body contributes to your mental health and may prevent you from doing activities you could find or used to find to be really fun.

Consistency: Keeping your circadian rhythm in check helps with keeping emotions regulated. Even with extended day light hours, try to keep your sleep schedule consistent throughout the summer. Make use of black out curtains to ward off daylight if needed.

Prepare your wallet: If you know that you will be taking time off work this summer or paying to send the kids to daycare or camp, start preparing by putting a little bit of money away in the early months of the year. This will help lessen your financial strain come summer time and you will be more able to enjoy the summer without worrying about your bank account. Try to pick activities that you know you will enjoy, rather than ones you feel obligated to partake in. You can also make use of less expensive activities like local splash pads to have fun and beat the heat!

Feel good in your skin: Wearing more exposing clothes in the summer can be intimidating but it can also be fun to find new pieces that accentuate the parts of your body that you do like. Summertime clothes are often more colourful and flowing than warmer clothes and for women, a maxi skirt or dress is comfortable, cool and easily hides things you might not want to be seen around the beach!

Get Help: If you feel your summertime blues are worsening or not going away, please contact your doctor for help. The Distress Centre is also available 24/7 and we are more than happy to listen and provide support not only during the summer but all year round!



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chocolate Affair Gala

It's that time of year again, where indulging in everything CHOCOLATE is more than okay with us!

Join us on April 28, 2016 at the Shaw Centre/Centre Shaw for our 9th annual Chocolate Affair Gala!  You do not want to miss out on the most delicious event you'll ever attend.  Tickets are on sale now!  Get in on the Early Bird pricing from now until February 29th and save on your tickets.  

Our event boasts an amazing night of everything chocolate from your first bite of chocolate at the door to a four-course chocolate infused dinner, delicious treats from local chocolatiers, chocolate fondue and scrumptious morsels of chocolate all evening long.  Chocolatiers include Hummingbird Chocolate Maker,CocoHariJoJo CoCoSteeped Tea with Shelly, Cococo Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut and more!  Special guest, Megan Schellenberg as our keynote speaker.

Sponsored in part by the Shaw Centre, our Gala will take place in the gorgeous Trillium Ballroom, overlooking downtown Ottawa and all its beauty.  MAJIC 100's Sarah Freemark will grace our stage with her prescence as our Emcee for the evening.

We can't wait to share a night of pure chocolate indulgence with you again this year!  Get your tickets early, this event WILL sell out!  Eating chocolate for charity?  Amazing.  Buy your tickets here or call 613-238-1089 x 222!
Businesses interested in joining our Chocolate Affair Gala can use the contact information at the bottom of this page.

Don't delay!  Tickets are already 1/2 sold!


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

'Tis The Season

Silver bells...silver bells...

It's Christmastime in the city!

As Ottawa woke up to its first snowfall yesterday morning, it seemed like everyone was A) making appointments to get their snow tires on and B) realizing that Christmas was just a month away!

And then for some, C kicks in, which sounds very similar to B, but in a different context.

C) Realizing that Christmas is just...a month...away....

It can be overwhelming to think that there's just a month till the biggest holiday of the year.  

Shopping.  Wrapping.  Baking.  Parties.  Kid's Concerts.  Santa Visits.  Family.  

And for others it can mean or even result in stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness & fear.

There's something to be said for balance over the holiday season, and while it doesn't always seem easy, we've complied a few ideas that can help keep your Christmas spirit up, and your stress level lowered.


1) Stay Active!  We aren't saying that you need to hit up bootcamp or the gym every day for the entire month, but hey, if you can squeeze in a cardio session, a brisk walk outside with a friend, or even a workout at home of sorts, by all means, this will keep your heart rate up in a good way!  If you have kids, get them involved too.  You can have them come up with a great 30 minute workout that you can all do together.  Or if a run on the treadmill solo will make you calmer, you are entitled to that time too.

2) Watch Family Favorites!  This is something that so many of us love to do!  Is there a Christmas movie that warms your heart, or makes you laugh or brings you back to your childhood, watching your favorites can lift your spirit more than you know!  (My favorite?  Garfield Christmas)

3) Volunteer!  You may be thinking "Come on lady, we just talked about being busy, how on earth am I going to find time to volunteer?!"  Someone once told me that volunteering is the most rewarding experience they could ever ask for, for themselves and their family.  If you can find the time, there are so many great places around our city that you could volunteer at which are completely worthwhile!  Between fundraising for the Salvation Army with their Kettle Bell campaign, to Toy Mountain, to homeless shelter, or the food bank, there are definitely many places that you and/or your family could help out at this year.  If you're looking for a long term commitment for the new year, the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region are always looking for volunteers!

4) Gift to Others!  One of the best things about Christmas is not receiving gifts, but giving gifts to others.  Giving gifts to others is a wonderful way to show your appreciation for those you care for or are special to you.  You don’t need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars. Remember, it really is the thought that counts and people will appreciate small gifts because it shows you have thought about them.  When you give some thought to your gift, your friend or loved one will feel special and loved. This will then flow onto you feeling warm and positive from giving to someone you care about.  You could also talk with those around you who you celebrate with an talk about supporting a charity you all believe in rather than exchanging gifts.  

5) Appreciate!  Taking a moment to sit back with a coffee or hot chocolate in hand, and take in the wonder of the holidays can bring your soul much needed peace.  Whenever you have a stressful moment or day, taking time to focus on the good around you will instantly lift your spirits.  If this is a Christmas where you've recently experienced a loss, don't worry about trying to make it a perfect holiday.  Take your time to grieve your loss and remember them on the holidays.  

The joy of the holidays is within your heart, and with mindfulness, you just may be able to feel it all around you.  

If you don't already know this, the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is open 24/7, and that includes every single day over the holidays - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years...our phone lines always remain open.  So if you need someone to talk to, we'll be here waiting.  


We are wishing you all a happy & joyful month leading up to Christmas!!

*Editor's note: we are aware of the many holidays celebrated around this time period including Hanukkah, Kwanza & those who simply do not celebrate anything.  The Distress Centre is non denominational and wishes everyone to enjoy the next month.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

One Year Later

A year ago today, Ottawa lost its innocence with an attack on Parliament Hill, and the tragic & fatal shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

Ottawa was scared.

Confused.  Angry.  Filled with anxiety.  Hurt.

We shook, cried, screamed and had troubles breathing.

In a single morning, Ottawa changed...and quite possibly, you changed as well.

Last year, we wrote about how to deal with tragedy and traumatic events.  These messages still ring true today as we remain #OttawaStrong one year later.

Today, there are many reminders of this tragedy from all media sources, Facebook friends, Twitter followers.  It's nearly impossible to avoid, and this may be difficult to remember.

Some may feel like they don't want to go to work today, that another targeted event may happen. Having these feelings of vulnerability are normal when a tragedy has affected you.  However, if the feelings are too strong, too much to handle or you don't know how to move forward, this is something that should be addressed, as you may be suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or secondary trauma stress.

There are three main types of PTSD or secondary trauma stresssymptoms and they can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time:
  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma
  • Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

If you are experiencing any of these feelings, we encourage you to reach out for support.  We have amazing people on our phone lines who are there to speak with you and help you through any emotions you may be experiencing.

As the city prepares for a ceremony at the National War Memorial today to honor Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, as well as Sergeant at Arms (former) Kevin Vickers, who was successful in taking down the shooter, and all First Responders, there is an increased police presence to be sure that our city and country are indeed safe.

Today may not be easy for you, or maybe you'll be the shoulder someone else leans on.  Regardless of which side of the page you're on, know that we are all in this together.

And if you happen to be near an Ottawa Police Officer, RCMP, or a member of the Canadian Military, consider taking a moment to personally thank them for everything they do.  

We are here all day & night for you to talk to if you need us.  Pass along our phone number to anyone who may need it.