Behind Christina's Mind
On October 26th, 2000; one night in Toronto. I attended a concert with 4 different bands/hip hop artists who performed and it was epic. As epic, as it's concert name, "The Anger Management Tour".
I was 23 years old when my 16 year old brother and I saw Eminem on tour for the first time. That was the same weekend, our father wrote a letter to my mother informing her of his decision to leave her and on that day he walked out.
Welcome to the aftermath.
“I never knew the aftermath would be this painful. I never knew that you miss someone with the same fervour with which you loved them.” Quote by: Ranata Suzuki
They all say we go through growing pains in one form or another; and in my case, circumstantial or experiential ~ however you want to look at it. I took this moment to heart and it set the tone for a lot of my fierce determination to find solace in the midst of mayhem. The solace came in Anger. The comfort came in the form of repression of feelings and pushing it down however emotional I got. Anger set in and took hold of my fear of the future state of my father and his disease with mental health & his life with Schizophrenia. I would love to know what entered my father's mind in that period of time. But, one will never know.
The mind state is a fragile place especially with people living daily with a mental illness. I remember a year later to this event receiving a voice mail from the 51 Division Toronto Police saying my father was found trespassing along Lakeshore Blvd. I immediately went into a panic searching for the police officer; then calling East York Hospital and experiencing first hand the complexity of a family member trying to navigate the mental health arena and Canada's health system.
In April 2013, Schizophrenia Society of Ontario came out with an in depth study to understand the law governing the mental health system called "Unpacking Mental Health Policy and Legislation" for individuals like myself who aren't lawyers but need the facts to comprehend the landscape in lay terms.
I am concerned and interested in the process of admissions at hospitals specific to criteria of the individual with a serious mental illness. This is just one small quote from this document related to the discussion of hospital admission,
“As a matter of fact, due to chronic under-funding of the community mental health sector and the subsequent pervasive lack of access to services and supports across the province, many people with mental illnesses are not able to access treatment until they are in a crisis. Evidence from the field suggests that the reduction in psychiatric hospital beds across Ontario in response to a shift to community care – a sector that is likewise underfunded – has created a situation where there are only enough beds available for people admitted involuntarily. The effect of simultaneously under-resourcing the community sector and limiting access to acute care has led to an over-reliance on emergency services and the creation of a crisis-driven mental health system. This system is reinforced by the current mental health legislation which is focused on hospitals as the main context for the provision of treatment, and where involuntary admission and treatment remain such a large focus.”
They discharged him to a shelter on Broadview avenue not thinking anyone was in Toronto to care. That sounds super bitter, but these words aren't meant to sugar coat how I felt in that moment about hospital protocols and procedures.
I cared a whole lot.
I will remember the next day walking into the Salvation Army Shelter on Broadview Avenue with the police officer. Who I wish, I remembered his name because he was my hero that day. The police officer took the time to come with me and I remember him saying your father is not the man you once knew - he has changed. But, to not be afraid.
When I saw dad for the first time, what came out of my mouth was the following: "Hi Dad, I heard you went for a swim and have been on an adventure!" He smiled through a thick head of hair that went passed his chin and a beard that covered the majority of his face. But, I saw his smiling eyes. He was disheveled in appearance and run down. But, his eyes held me and I was not his little girl anymore, but a woman who was witnessing her father in throes of his illness. And I realized I could not save him from himself.
That day, I rented a car and drove Dad back to Hamilton. He admitted he'd been late on paying his rent at a rooming house and that the landlord was evicting him, and had been withholding his mail till he got paid. My Dad was agitated. I will always remember that drive to Hamilton - windows rolled down while my father smoked, speaking of times long ago and I would look over from time to time to see the ash almost down to the filter, as my father spoke of happier times. Lost in his memories. This moment will stand out to me always. As quickly as the ash of the cigarette burned, so too did our time together seem so quick.
Imagine what came next, having to confront his landlord with authority (and swear words thrown in for strength) to hand over my dad's mail or I would call the police on him and I questioned the landlord, about who else he'd been withholding cheques from. He handed over the mail quickly. I settled my father's debts and proceeded to enter the room my father lived in. At this point, my only interaction with my father was through an ACTT team (Assertive Community Treatment Teams) which are made up of social workers assigned to my father. It was always the same dialogue - "your father is clean, has shelter and is fine. He is not a harm to himself or anyone else". They couldn't divulge anything more then that because of the laws binding confidentiality of the patient. I get it and then I don't. But, you have to get it because any "normal" rational person just follow's the rules and complies. Your hands are tied - as are all people who care for individuals with a mental illness and God bless those first responders, social workers doing there job. We the family couldn't do it without them.
Long story short, was the task of helping him find a new place to live. Without the knowledge of where to go in the city of Hamilton. I found a shelter who accepted him for 10 days. That was the best I could do in such a short time.
At the end of the day, I bid farewell to my father not knowing what else to do and drove back home to Toronto to close the door to my apartment to come home to my tears, anger and distress. I found out the next day my dad had left everything behind and jumped on a bus headed to Kingston.
I realized I couldn't help my father in the way I felt he needed to be helped. Because he doesn’t want my help and that this is his journey to live. The anger is still there, but with help from professionals', I have learned to accept this complicated landscape of my father's life and that it is not my journey or story. It is his. I like helping him when I can and when he will accept.
I share my experiences with schizophrenia from the place of a daughter. I share my experiences with the mental health system in regards to what its really like to navigate as a family member, and in sharing these experience my hope is we can begin to change the mindset and stigmas associated with mental health. But, I do hang my head down and cry for so many people out in the world who are lost and prefer to be lost. Those are who I worry about.
Everyone has a different story about there experiences with mental illness. Live bravely my friends.
I want to see change. I want us all to be kind to our minds. I want to have a better mental health system.
That is all.
A little about Christina Lord:
I have personal experience of having lived and cared for someone with a mental illness.
This lived experienced has brought me today to work with caregivers, individuals and groups in learning to navigate our mental health system. Through holistic care treatments, coaching, mentoring, facilitation, advocacy, mental health awareness, education and peer to peer support. I feel strongly we can all learn to help ourselves. To advocate for ourselves. To speak for those who need a voice. To learn to understand the governance behind the current system in order for us to successfully navigate through its complexity. To talk the talk in order to get answers.
I am passionate about seeing others succeed and in helping the world, one individual and one community at a time. The work I do is my heartfelt mission to serve others.
Time and time again, I have witnessed in others the life-altering changes that mentoring and holistic healing can offer. If you are ready to make a powerful shift in your life, I would be truly honoured and grateful to guide you.