We’re keen to get to know you, our readers, no matter where you are and where you’re from, and whether you have a mental illness or not. We’d really love to hear from you (and interview you) – in fact we’re using Jedi mind tricks to persuade you to get in touch. Thank you, dankie, ngiyathokoza, ke a leboha, ke a leboga, siyabonga, inkomu, ndo livhuwa, enkosi, ngiyabonga to La Sabrosona for being our first victim guest; she is one seriously witty lady. Without further ado…
Who, what, where, why and how are you?
I’m a lovingly prepared four course meal. First course is humour – a light and amusing mixed salad with a fresh vinaigrette. Second course is serious – a heavy penne alla vodka with a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon to tint my lips. Third course is heavier than the second – delectable chicken Marsala with baby roast potatoes and steamed veggies. And the fourth and final course indicates a sweet and naïve demeanour along with a sugar and caffeine addiction – a generous slab of Sfoglia cake with custard and strawberries and a big-ass mug of cappuccino.
Think Nigella Lawson meets a Hispanic version of Joan Rivers. I’m not Latina, but I do swear like a sailor in English and Spanish.
I’m a proficient day-dreamer and a disastrous housewife who longs for a maid. I’m an irreverent Roman Catholic with strong opinions and a soft spot for the underdog and illegal immigrants. I live in Spanglish – English and Spanish – and focus my energy on raising my bicultural children, managing bipolar disorder, and writing.
If you have a blog, please link us to it tell us about it. Feel free to give us your social media links too.
Blog: My Spanglish Familia
My one year blogiversary is approaching fast – the end of November 2015. I’d love to say that my blog can be calculated in dog years, awarding it a sophistication and experience it doesn’t have yet, but I’m confident that my words and stories about my Spanglish familia are heart-warming at times, heart-wrenching at others and always authentic. There are no paid actors cajoled for dramatization purposes, our real lives are food for your thoughts. These are the major themes: The abc’s of living with bipolar disorder; Spanglish living; motherhood; bicultural family; humour; creative writing; photography; music; Irreverent Catholic; Mexican food and odd food combinations and the occasional rant.
There’s me – La Sabrosona – which loosely means ‘deliciously attractive woman in a curvy sense’ and no I’m not tooting my own horn, believe me I have just as much insecurity as the rest of you, it happens to be an apodo or nickname my husband gave me. My heritage is Acadian French from Eastern Canada, but my French is very rusty and I’m quite comfortable switching back and forth from Canadian English to Mexican Spanish. ¡¡Orale, eh!!
There’s Cabezítas – my eldest son – his is a made-up nickname that means ‘little head’ in Spanish.
Finally there’s Cabezón – his nickname means ‘big head’ in Spanish.
Have you chosen to be public or anonymous on your blog, and why?
Even though I’ve posted photos of myself and my family, I’m still an anonymous blogger because I don’t use my real name or my family’s real names. I’m warming up to the idea of using my real name, but I’m just not ready yet. I think I’m waiting to accomplish something bigger or more significant in real life in order to have more to attach my name to. A project that I’ve only barely started right now is working on a graphic novel for children, loosely based on the adventures of my Spanglish familia and my kids growing up bicultural and the fact that their mother has a mental illness. Once I get that book self-published then I will be proud to slap my real name on it and promote it like a mad woman on my blog.
Do you suffer from any mental illness/es?
Yes, I have lived with depressive episodes and anxiety my entire life but was only diagnosed with Bipolar Type II, Rapid Cycling in January 2011 – at 34 years old. I’ve never had a psychotic break, but I did hallucinate when I first started blogging on WP and it was quite embarrassing. It was December 2014 nearing Christmas and I was sleep deprived, searching through the “Freshly Pressed” blog posts and saw posts from three bloggers including the famous Bipolar Saffer from Blahpolar Diaries. I messaged one of them directly on her blog– not zee Blah – and congratulated her as that’s quite the accolade. She messaged back right away and said she had no idea but thanks for letting her know. I felt my cheeks stinging with embarrassment as I clicked back to Freshly Pressed and none of the posts I had seen less than 10 minutes earlier were there.
Has a Saffer ever caused you to suffer? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the pun.
Lol, Rofl, Lmfao, yes of course a Saffer has made me suffer but I would say I have made myself suffer before properly laying blame. When I first started blogging I was super-insecure and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I really wanted to fit in and find my tribe, so I started leaving comments on bipolar bloggers’ posts. One of those bloggers was zee Blah, Blah Humbug from Blahpolar Diaries. I left quite a few comments, or so I thought, to warrant a follow back (in my insecure bipolar mind) and when I didn’t get a follow back I was quite pissed and stopped visiting. Good thing I worked through those negative thoughts enough to start visiting zee Blah again because she eventually followed back and there’s so much learning to be had on her blog.
How have your mental illness/es impacted your life?
This is the Ugh in ‘ugly’ kinda question. It’s literally ruined relationships. My mind becomes a hot bed for paranoia, obsession, looping negative thoughts and a totally fucked up sense of reality that I have and continue to say very inappropriate things because my emotions are intense and I have issues with self-control. In the past couple of years I’ve done more work on figuring out my triggers but I find it very difficult to control my responses.
I’m on disability right now and don’t work outside the home because my moods shift so quickly that I have a lot of difficulty concentrating, following through with tasks, severe energy fluctuations from extremely caffeinated to sloth-like and I am often extremely irritable and angry. This affects my loved ones – my husband and my children. They are often on the receiving end of these shifting moods and my words are coloured by my moods. When I’m calm my words are calm. When I’m angry, my words are angry. It’s problematic and I’m working on it.
What would you say is the most important thing to have in your remission toolkit?
First of all, that’s just cruel to expect me to choose only one thing, hehe. I’m notoriously indecisive but I would have to say that besides meds, which work on healing the brain from toxic depressive and hypomanic/manic states, being able to connect with humans who validate what you’re feeling has been monumental on my camino towards remission.
Family is not always the obvious or best option in this department. Sometimes the “formal supports” such as psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers are the best tools in one’s kit because they are trained to have a neutral/compassionate attitude whereas family can be very impatient and judgmental.
I have to say that my formal supports saved my life. And once my life was looking up I discovered mental health bloggers and that kind of support is priceless. I wish I had discovered blogging years ago (although I might have gotten my un-medicated self into a lot of trouble).
If you could offer one piece of advice to those with a mental illness, what would it be?
I’m snortling over here because asking me to give “one piece of advice” is like asking a dehydrated elephant to only suck up one lonely droplet of water through its trunk. Three is my favourite number.
1. Listen to your gut. You know something is wrong and you are not well, so grab a friend or loved one by the hand and go get help.
2. Listen to others. If you are in denial then listen to others telling you that you need help. Pride does fuck all for saving lives or keeping families together. Trust one person who is telling you that you are not well and need help and grab that person’s hand and go get help.
3. Educate yourself & advocate for your own remission and if you are not well enough then appoint someone you trust to make all manner of inquiries regarding what services may be available to you and when you are feeling better then take responsibility for your wellness, gather information and throw everything you learn in your “remission toolkit”.
Have you encountered stigma/discrimination for any reason/s and if so, please tell us about it?
Well, I’ve encountered stigma in my own family. I’ve had a family member call me a whackjob. That was a bit insensitive, don’t you think? The more serious forms of discrimination happened while securing employment. I was employed by an American chain restaurant. They have a very elaborate application and interview process and at one point in the application process I had to fill out a questionnaire. I don’t remember the wording of the questions, but I recognized right away that some of the questions and multiple choice answers were designed to weed out ‘mentally and emotionally unstable’ people. I just lied and worked there less than a year before I fell into a depression and quit.
Stigma has affected me whenever I have tried securing employment. It’s been torturous and painful to have to explain long gaps in my work history and often I’ve had to make things up in order to get the job. I’ve had to “hide” who I am – someone who struggles with rapid cycling bipolar disorder, and that’s been branded deep into my body’s memory bank. There’s a lot of shame that comes with not having a job, not being able to keep a job.
What do you see as major advantages and problems with issues surrounding mental illness in your country? If you’ve spent time in any other countries, please tell us about issues there too.
I live near Toronto, which boasts CAMH Canada’s highly esteemed Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I have never been treated there, but I have acquaintances that have sought treatment there and it was a positive experience for them. The way I see it is this: Canada has plenty of resources, hospitals, centres, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists but we are lacking in how to properly prepare someone recently diagnosed and their family and give them guidance and tools to cope.
Four years ago my psychiatrist told me I had bipolar disorder type II rapid cycling and gave me a ridiculous pamphlet and sent me on my way. I cried for days and tried to reach out to friends and family but no one seemed interested in hearing me out. Those were very dark and lonely days. I had three other formal supports/counsellors to help guide me to services but I basically had to Google my way to remission. This is totally unacceptable. Someone with cancer or heart disease or diabetes isn’t given a diagnosis and given a ridiculous pamphlet and sent home to manage their illness all on their own.
We have a lot of resources, but the organization and linking of such resources should already be done in order that patients can receive effective short and long-term care.
Also, one issue that can be said for many countries, Canada houses a lot of mentally ill people in jails. An estimated 15 to 20% of inmates in Canadian correctional facilities have a serious mental illness (SMI). Law enforcement officials seem to have no clue how to diffuse situations in which someone with a SMI is in crisis. In 2013, Sammy Yatim, an 18 year old man was in distress, by himself on a streetcar in Toronto brandishing a small knife and many officers stood by and did nothing to diffuse the situation. Instead one officer shot him once, then tased him and once he was collapsed on the ground proceeded to shoot him eight more times. That officer is currently in court being tried for second degree murder.
From what you’ve read, have you noticed any similarities and differences in healthcare and attitudes between your country and South Africa?
From what I remember about healthcare in South Africa there seems to be a shortage of doctors and psychiatrists in order to administer effective healthcare. If one doesn’t have private health insurance here in Canada many prescriptions need to paid out of pocket. Doctors and psychiatrists are covered under free provincial healthcare plans; here in Ontario it’s called OHIP, Ontario Health Insurance Plan, but not all medication is covered.
What influenced you to follow and read Our Lived Experience?
To be fair I did “meet” zee Blah first and I sincerely appreciate her enthusiasm for writing about bipolar disorder, a sort of edutainment, and all things Saffer. And I’m very happy that through her I “met” Yvette, also a mother and wife, who works hard to manage her symptoms and family life. There’s much learning to be had on Yve’s Corner.
What kind of posts do you enjoy and what would you like to see on this blog?
I have quite a range of what interests me. I love learning about other cultures and the idiosyncrasies of other countries. What I love most is reading stories about how one lives. I want to see photos and know what they eat and how they raise their kids. I want to see their art and listen to what they have to say. I love eclectic. I love down to earth. I want to learn a new language. Is that too much to ask for?!
If you follow any saffers on wordpress, please tell us their names and links.
Have you picked up any South African slang along the way?
Yes on my virtual travels to South Africa, I have picked up the BEST, the MOST efficient words for sympathy: shame and strongs. I am partial to strongs and would like to ink it on my skin somewhere, but my husband tells me he’ll file for divorce if I get tattoos so that would not be very lekker, if that happened.
Any last words for us?
Claro que sí! I must sign off as I always sign off and that’s by wishing all you lovely readers a bonito Thursday and besitos. Don’t be shy, there’s hammocks and donuts on my blog. Come and have a visit eh!