What having an Invisible Illness means to me.

Tomorrow, September 26th to October 2nd, is the start of  Invisible Awareness Week.  This week is to bring to light the many invisible illnesses out there, the mental illnesses that we do not see.  As a person who battles Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Deep Depressive Disorder I felt it might be right to for me to talk about what having an invisible illness is like for me.

I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression when I was 19 years old.  This was following the tragic death of my mother at age 11.  I was later diagnosed with Chronic PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder after being in an abusive marriage for 15 years.

So what has living with an invisible illness been like? Let me explain.

Living with an invisible illness has meant, to me;

I can never assume someone will make an accommodation for me.  I have to be my own advocate for what I need.  If you can’t see the ailment often you may not know or will forget what someone is fighting.  As a result  I have to be really aware of what I need and tell others.

There are times when I have to back out of engagements.  I have to put my health first and sometimes that means turning down helping at the Christmas Tea or Bake Sale.  It also means there may be people who do not understand why I am not there, but I have to look after me.

I make less money.  Before my diagnosis of PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder I worked in the Corporate World and made a good living for my family.  Since my diagnosis my doctors have taken me off of work permanently and I live on Disability.  This has meant a considerably lower income and ironically a loss in benefits (just when I needed them most).

It means my fiance is asked why  don’t I work? I am 43 years old and I don’t look like I am sick so why am I a useless bum (well maybe that is not exactly what they say, but it is how I feel when they inquire)?

It means having more heart to hearts with my kids in my bedroom, while I rest, than anywhere else in the house.

It means taking every single day one day or one moment at a time.

It means finding a strength within me, that I didn’t know I had, to face the many symptoms of PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder.

It means sometimes I feel like a failure because sometimes that strength is just not there and I struggle to do the simplest of tasks.

It means praying harder on the tough days and trustin that God has got me.

It means wondering if my illness is shorting my kids of their mother or my fiance of his partner?

It also means I have met some of the most amazing people who also fight invisible illnesses and they give me hope.

At the end of the day these are the cards I have been dealt and so I deal with them.  It’s not completely the end of the world.  I have learned how to cope during the bad days and to speak up for what I need.  This battle is not how I envisioned my life to be at 43 years old, but I still have air in my lungs and a beat to my heart so there is a silver lining.

During this week I encourage you to join a worldwide event in support of Invisible Illness Awareness Week.  Look up your illness online. Each one has an awareness ribbon in a certain colour. Take your colour and paint or marker a happy face on your hand,wrist or arm.  Bring awareness to your invisible fight! #IIWK16 #InvisibleFight #InvisibleAwarenessWeek





Walking a tightrope; my balancing act with Mental Illness


May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Mental illness indirectly affects all people either through co workers, friends or family. In Canada 20% of all adults will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. 1% will experience bipolar disorder and 8% of adults in Canada will experience major depression (per Canadian Mental Health).  Sadly almost half of those who experience depression and or anxiety will never see a doctor for treatment. This is due to the stigma and discrimination associated to Mental Illness in our society. Many people, as a result, go throughout life untreated. The thing is Mental Illness can often be treated effectively.

My battle with mental illness began in my teens. I started a serious battle with depression at the age of 16 yrs old.  Depression and anxiety are due to genetics, biology, personality and environmental factors. Myself my depression set in as I grieved the death of my mother and there was a separate traumatic event where I was raped as a teen. With no counselling and very little home support my depression was  overpowering me and by the time I reached 19yrs of age I was heading for a breakdown.  It was at that time I was diagnosed with clinical depression, prescribed antidepressants and started a four year journey of psychotherapy.

In time I was able to come off of the antidepressants. I tell you though being on meds helped me immensely. They balanced out my brain chemicals and I was able to function. I am a firm believer that is ok to seek treatment for your mental health. Like any other organ in your body, your brain can also get sick. So why not seek treatment to make it better is my thought.  Yes I have experienced the awkward silence when I say I am going to see my Psychiatrist, but hey I figure I am pretty cool to be looking after my overall health. I do not let ignorant attitudes stop me.  Also I know how horrible life would be if I did not treat my depression. I would struggle to get out of bed, there would be a lot of tears and I would have no motivation. It would feel like the end of the world and who wants that? Not me.

Almost 20 years after my depression diagnosis I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) Disorder with Deep Depressive Disorder. I have to say this diagnosis has been harder to deal with.  If you are not familiar with PTSD it is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. It is a traumatic injury that happens after a traumatic event such as war, combat, car accident, plane crash, rape, domestic violence or childhood sexual abuse. 1 in 5 women who experience Domestic Violence will also be diagnosed with PTSD. I am one of those women.  I was diagnosed after 15 years of Domestic Violence and let me tell you it has been a life altering diagnosis.  I first noticed something was not right in the first year my ex and I separated.  I was not sleeping well, had a lot of nightmares, flashbacks and I struggled greatly to focus on anything.  At work I struggled to stay on task and I noticed I had very  little for short term memory.  A customer would tell me their name and what they needed and at the end of that sentence I would not remember a thing of what they had said. I was terrified. I thought I was losing my mind and my quality of life was seriously going downhill. By the time I was able to see a Psychiatrist, to be diagnosed and receive medication, I no longer knew which end was up.

With medication my quality of life has greatly improved.  I am able to sleep with a sedative and an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication has helped level my moods, but it has not solved everything. That is why I feel like I am walking a tight rope everyday.

Every day when I wake I never know how my day will be.  Will I be completely exhausted, before my feet even hit the floor, because the night before was full of terrifying night terrors?  Will the PTSD monster rear its ugly head and I will be triggered by everything around me?  Or could my day go smoothly with no set backs? I  never know.  I also have to carefully assess the choices I make. Will accepting one more volunteer job completely overwhelm me? To a point where I will be in bed for days on end?

As I enter each new day I step very carefully, trying my best to not take on too much or do something that may trigger the PTSD beast. It is a great big balancing act.

Some days I slip though. Some days I completely fall. Some days I crawl into my cocoon and cover myself with the heaviest blankets. I lay in silence, whispering  to myself that I am safe.

AYPKEDMental Illness is like any other illness. You need to do what is best for your health and you need to make choices that reflect that. My balancing act I am sure is no different than the diabetic who must watch their sugar intake or the heart patient who must watch their diet and physical activity. It is all about caring for you and walking your own  balancing act. Taking one careful step forward each day because none of us want to fall off of our tightrope.


Janet B


Robin Wlliams, in life and death you keep teaching the world.

Since Robin Williams death I have been quietly watching the world react. There has been an outpouring of grief over a great man who kept us all laughing. There has also been some negativity. Comments made directly to Robin’s daughter Zelda Williams, to a point where she has closed her twitter and Instagram accounts saying she does not know if she will ever return. Negative comments said by Gene Simmons (to the point where two Winnipeg Radio Stations have banned Kiss from their airwaves), the Toronto Star was slammed by its comments and quite a few others. All have since retracted and apologized. What were the comments about?

Mental Illness

It has long been known Robin suffered from Depression and had to go into rehab for drinking. He was fairly open about his journey, including it in some comedy routines.

So what were the digs, the comments?

They revolved around the fact that Mr Williams had Depression AND commited suicide.

It is not a secret that I battle my own mental illnesses; Deep Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Depression I have battled since a teen, the PTSD for the last five years. Like many who battle Mental Illness I have had hurtful things said to me like;

“You are faking PTSD. It is easy to do”

“Because you have PTSD you should never be in a relationship with anyone.You are dangerous.”

“You should not be allowed to remarry because you have PTSD.”

“You wrap yourself in darkness.”

“You should get out more and experience life.”

“Just let it go.”

“Get over it and smile more.”

Each comment has hurt my heart, but I try not to carry it with me. These comments are often said in ignorance, if anything they make me angry. I nor anyone who has a mental illness wanted their illness. We didn’t ask for it, just like a cancer patient never asked for cancer, it is simply what life gave us. We don’t like it. We don’t enjoy it and no we can’t just get over it and smile more. That is like asking someone with a broken leg to get up and run a marathon. What we can do is learn to cope and manage the symptoms like patients with other chronic illnesses. We do our best and we shouldn’t  be persecuted or shunned due to our illness, but often we are. Yes sometimes the darkness does take over and things end like they did with Mr Williams. This shouldn’t be rediculed. Moments like this should make the world stop and say “This man had it all and still the illness got him. What can we do to help people who fight mental illness. How can we help?”

Slowly I am seeing those talks starting and THAT actually does make me smile.

Rest in peace Robin Williams. Even in your death I see you continue to teach our world something valuable. Genie. You are free. (Twitter)


About Janet B

I am a Domestic Violence Survivor, who battles PTSD. I share what I know to help others on their journey and to help educate society. I also Supervise a Mentoring Program at Verbal Abuse Journals (http://verbalabusejournals.com/). This program matches Survivors who have been out of the abusive relationship for a few years, and are now Mentors,  with Survivors who are either still in an abusive relationship or have just left. A mentoring relationship is set up via email where the Mentor offers guidance and support to the Survivor for as long as they need. Please feel free to sign up for this free service at  http://ow.ly/LSii8

Verbal Abuse Journals facebook https://www.facebook.com/VerbalAbuseJournals

I have been working/volunteering at Verbal Abuse Journals as a Mentor to other Survivors of Abuse.

My facebook page: Freedom Within: My Journey through Domestic Violence and PTSD https://facebook.com/fw.dvptsd

twitter: https://www.twitter.com/within_freedom

Pinterest: Freedom Within