Don’t let Ikea Instructions or A 15 ft Wall get in your way!

Taking one of Brene Brown’s course’s means looking at how I am with putting myself out there / taking chances and failure when it doesn’t work out ( in her words, when I’m Daring Greatly and Rising Strong).


Through her research as a Shame and Vulnerability expert, she discovered there are ten elements to the Physics of Vulnerability; The first being:

“If I am brave enough, often enough, I will fall;

this is the physics of vulnerability.”


In her course, I was reflecting on how I got up after a fall/failure and wrote the following words:

“I haven’t experienced many (I’ve had some) failures. They happened early on in my working career, and I got smart in how to avoid them.” (more…)

Peer Support for Professionals – Mental Health, Toronto

Is it possible to experience a mental health challenge and be effective and succeed at work?

Many wonder if it is indeed possible for a person living with a mental health challenge to work effectively, accomplish goals, reconnect with self and others, and recapture meaning and purpose in life.

 Peer Support for Professionals builds local community and connections among working professionals who have experience with a mental health challenge. (more…)

4 Steps to Achieving Your Goals

Course corrections can only come from deliberate reflections!

June is the halfway mark in the year. Six months have passed, and we have six months still to go. I’ve often wanted to review my goals at this time and have either forgotten, or it was too late when I remembered. This year is different. Looking at what we have done in the 1st half year will give new insights into what needs to be focused on for the remainder of the year. This is all in service of achieving our goals and outcomes.

Use these three simple questions:

  • What has worked?
  • What has not worked?
  • What do you need to have in place for those things that didn’t work to work?

I believe reviewing the last six months might just be the piece that has been missing for me. There is research that shows the link between how often reflection is done and the ability to lead more effectively. Those who engage in reflection are said to be more grounded, able to handle a crisis effectively, are empathic with their peers and more successful in their stated personal and business goals. I believe this can be used in our own lives. We are all leaders of something, our lives, our family, our mental health, and our physical health. (more…)

A Leap of Faith – Disclosing Mental Illness in the Workplace

Telling a potential new client that I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder 17 years ago was the farthest thought from my mind last Friday. We were sitting in their boardroom hammering out the final details of our contract. Our next step was to review and agree on what both parties had put forward and sign off on the 1-year agreement. Still not a done deal.

I’m not sure how this happened; we started talking about our personal lives, and suddenly my partner looked over at me and said “what’s your passion, Leslie?”

Time slowed down; my heart dropped to my stomach, I felt a tightening in my chest; my mind started racing from one thought to the next, and as I looked at the clock on the wall, I realized I had three minutes to share my commitment and passion in transforming the Mental Health system in Canada. (more…)

It feels like my brain doesn’t work

Sometimes it feels like my brain doesn’t work. And I can’t articulate the words or thoughts that I want to. Sometimes I think that I’m just not smart enough to be writing a blog.

I think I’ve been experiencing writer’s block.

But that thought just keeps getting pushed out of my mind. How can I have writers block if I’m writing emails or blogs for other sources?

Maybe it’s that I just don’t think I have anything interesting to say about mental health anymore.

After spending weeks of trying to get inspired to write by reading articles, profiles, and websites, I’m no farther ahead today in being inspired to write. (more…)

Letting the Dragon Out…..

As I stood in the warm kitchen with my back up against the sink for support, trying to contain my anxiety, the voice inside my head  kept repeating:

  • ” You can shut this down right now”

  • “The escape is the backdoor, 2 steps to your left”,

  • “Don’t tell him you are crazy, he won’t want to be in a relationship with you”

This repeated in my head over and over and over again.

The warm breeze of late summer was making everything hotter than it should be. I kept reminding myself that there is an escape plan – the back door and my freedom was just steps away. I could be outside away from this conversation in less than 3 seconds. (more…)

Can we talk about this?

On February 13,  I appeared on Mind Matters a Rogers TV program hosted by Stacey Dombrowsky. The show included Dr. Roger S McIntyre, Head, Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology and Dr. Ben Goldstein, Director of the Centre for Youth Bipolar Disorder.  Stacey’s questions had us discussing: what bipolar disorder is, what you might experience  during a bipolar episode and how to support yourself when you have been diagnosed.

Check out this clip from the Mind Matters program on Bipolar Disorder.

Here’s the thing I keep noticing, we need to talk about mental health more. There are mental health organizations who target our youth and our youth are talking about it! Recently, Partners for Mental Health extended their Let’s Call BS campaign because it was such a huge success. The Youth get it- they are talking about mental health.

I’ve also noticed those of us a generation or two above todays youth aren’t doing as well in the talking department. In the last month I’ve had a number of people who have asked me to speak to their friend, colleague or peer becase they are going through something and can I please  help them? Of course I can and each time, I find the barrier to that person getting the  help they need; getting support from their family or from their their work is the fear of others judging them for their illness. 

It’s 2013 people, what do we need to do differently for our friends and families who are too scared to ask for help?  What do we need to do for our colleagues who could be super effective at work if they could just ask for an accommodation to help them manage their work load?

The answers to these and other questions can be found if we come together and fight the stigma.

Where do we start? Partners for Mental Health has a new campaign – one that is targeted at organizations. The Not Myself Today campaign is designed to educate and engage Canadians on the issues of mental health in the workplace throughout the month of May and culminates in a national Not Myself Day @ Work on June 6. Check it out you can:

  • Learn – Why workplace mental health matters.
  • Share  – Join the conversation my sharing your own story
  • Act – What you can do right now
  • Invest – Step up as a company leading the change

If your organization is looking to get involved let me know or just check out their website for more information.



Story Unfolding

Imagine a world where people offered assistance to individuals on the street who are hungry, who have no shelter and are in desperate need of medication.

Imagine a world where no one went without proper medication or support. Imagine a world where everyone is accepted for who they are and not for what they have been labeled or diagnosed as.

Well that’s the world I’m fighting for; a world where society’s perception of mental health has been transformed.

Growing up I never imagined the difficulties I would face. I came from a middle class family from North Toronto where my sister and I had everything we needed.  We had an easy childhood but like every family, we had our stresses. Ours included my parents separating when I was 10 years old and then reuniting within a year and a half. My brother, who was older than I, had been born with a Neuroblastoma on his spine and had to have surgery and radiation at the age of 6 months. There were complications resulting in multiple physical and mental disorders. Never did I think that the grief I felt surrounding my brother not being with us and the separation of my parents would be the source of my diagnoses with a mental illness

I was very depressed during high school and all I wanted was to be numb, so I turned to marijuana to self medicate. I loved the feeling of being high and wanted it all the time. I planned on quitting once I graduated high school, then in university I thought that I would only keep smoking until I graduated. Finally I stopped thinking about when I would quit.

After university I moved to Vancouver. When I first moved there, my life consisted of working during the day and coming home to an empty one bedroom apartment.Vancouver is known for the rain and at one point it seemed like it had been raining and gloomy for 35 days straight. The darkness seemed to take over and the only light I experienced was when I was smoking marijuana.

My parents knew something was wrong so my mother came to visit me. Within 24 hours of her arrival, she had me seeing a doctor. The doctor prescribed me antidepressants, which seemed to work. I was still smoking marijuana and began to think I could function without the antidepressants so I foolishly stopped taking my medication without my doctor’s supervision and I descended into a manic state. I was unable to find a reason to work or be responsible for myself or my life,  I began partying constantly and  I had no idea that the choices I was making would deeply impact my mental health.

After a few months I came home one morning only to find that my keys wouldn’t open the door. I was mad and angry and began banging on the door. Finally my roommate answered but wouldn’t let me in and he told me I needed to take care of myself, but at the time I didn’t understand what he meant.

My roommates had changed the locks on the all of the doors because they were so afraid of my erratic behavior and they felt they had to do something drastic. They acted and called my mother to come toVancouverand take care of me.

My mother and sister Heather came out hoping to bring me back toTorontoso they asked me to meet them at a local restaurant. Before I met them I asked a friend of mine to bring his video camera to the restaurant because I was positive my family had been cloned and that these people were not my mother and sister. I intended to use the video tape to take to the authorities as proof that someone had cloned my family.

This was the first time I remember experiencing psychosis. My world was totally make-believe; I had been hallucinating and having delusions for about two weeks. I was curious to understand what certain symbols meant; sometimes solid objects spoke to me and I believed I could speak back to them. I was carefree and a danger to myself and others. Risk-taking was a big part of my manic episodes and I took risks with my body, my health and my mind. All of this behaviour had the same end goal for me; I was craving pleasure and excitement which could only be found in my made-up reality.

At the end of the two week psychosis I found myself in a locked room. It had no windows and very low lights. The only furniture was a mattress on the floor. I wasn’t sure how I got there and nobody would answer the door or responded to my loud screaming or banging on the walls. This was my first night in the psychiatric ward at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver.

It was here that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I moved home to Toronto and worked with a psychiatrist, underwent psychotherapy and began applying for all of the documentation I had lost during my psychosis. I needed for my life to get back to normal and I began working to figure out what was a normal life for someone who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

For me, it involves taking my medication every morning and night, regularly doing blood work and checking in with my doctor on a regular basis. It means learning as much as I can about mood disorders and sharing my experience with others.

The way I see it is when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness there are two paths they can take in life. They can either hide their illness and pray no one ever finds out or they can own it and take control of their life. After 12 years of hiding my mental illness, today I own it and share my experience with others. I am certain that this outlook has made me the woman I am today.

Since that life changing summer inVancouver I have been managing my diagnoses successfully and have been stable without an episode since 1997. I have been working full time for 13 years, enjoying a successful career in leadership coaching and facilitating.  I married the man of my dreams in 2003 and together we own a home. I take great solace in sharing my story with others and hope to ensure that their journey is lighter and less harrowing than my own.

Writen and presened by Leslie Bennett April 2008