Maria Garito

@mariagarito | contributor
Hi I'm Maria and I write about Mental Health, Education, Motherhood, and Autism. You can follow my thoughts on my Facebook page Max and Me. https://www.facebook.com/MaximusandMe/
Community Voices

10 Things I Want People to Know About Mental Illness

Part 1 of 2 May is #MentalHealth Awareness Month and as someone who has been battling, and sometimes winning with #MentalHealth, here are 10 things I want people to know. It’s not by any means an exhaustive or extensive list, but it does lay out what I’ve learned and continue to advocate for.

1. #MentalHealth is a Medical Condition.

Yes, it’s the brain that is trying to cope with chemicals that are not being produced or are missing. If we understand this, then number #2 will make sense.

2. For Some Individuals, Medication Is Necessary.

We have come a long way to reduce the stigma of needing to take medication to help our brains stabilize and regulate, but we’re still not there. If you were missing insulin, you would take it. If you were suffering from #Hypertension, you would take meds to help with that.
Medication for the brain is the same. If you need it, you need it.

3. Language Matters.

When someone says they are “depressed,” it doesn’t always mean they are clinically depressed. #Depression is a #MentalHealth that can be clinically diagnosed and affects the brain, its functions, and the body as well. We all can feel sad about something but that doesn’t mean we are depressed. Leave the terminology to the people who actually need to use it to describe their clinical status.

4. #MentalHealth Can Take Lives.

Yes, it can. I don’t know why we need to hide this or be embarrassed to talk about it. I’m no longer embarrassed to say that I have been suicidal or that I fight this still. The more we start accepting that people feel this way because they cannot control what is happening in their brain, the more we prevent people from being isolated and alone- which means we are saving lives. #MentalHealth can be so insidious and dark, that it will literally suffocate someone. If talking about it and getting people to talk about it saves lives, then I’ll yell it from the rooftop.

5. So Many People Are Carrying Heavy Loads We Cannot See.

I know there are great people out there doing great things like curing people, making products to better our lives, and winning medals. But let me tell you who I think are the most amazing beings- those fighting #MentalHealth. They have to endure day after day a slew of symptoms that they don’t want and sometimes you’ll never know how much they’re carrying. Yet, they wake up everyday knowing that tomorrow will be better and that there is hope. They fight their own internal rhetoric that they know is trying to bring them down, and they fight through everyday tasks that seem so easy for others. Things like taking a shower can be a triumph and eating a meal can be life saving. Imagine waking up with the flu everyday and having to fight to go to school, to work, or family functions, all while putting on smile? The amount of masking individuals with #MentalHealth have had to endure is mind blowing and although I hate to use the word resilient, I don’t know a group of folks who deserve this title more.

6. Universal #MentalHealth Care Now.

How do I say this any louder so that we actually do something drastic to change things? We have a heart problem, we see a cardiologist. We have a kidney issue, we see a specialist.
We have a broken leg, we see a doctor.

So-

If we have a #MentalHealth we need psychiatrists and #MentalHealth practitioners. Yes, #MentalHealth is health, so then everyone should have access to covered #MentalHealth clinical supports. No apps or on line webinars will take the place of clinical supports, OK? They may help a few but for God’s sake would we be telling heart patients to fill out info on an app to get medical attention ?!

7. Therapy is Necessary.

I don’t know why we think that talking to someone to help us figure out how to best help ourselves is optional. I’ve learned to cope, uncover, gather information, empower myself, and learn to heal by seeing different therapists. It’s a personal thing so finding the right one is important

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Community Voices

10 Things I Want People to Know About Mental Illness

Part 2 of 2 but when it does happen, literally your entire being is able to shift and be healed. Sigmund Freud first figured this out by reporting that his patients felt better just by him allowing them to speak to him. He coined it “The Talking Cure.”
If we can save lives quite literally by allowing people to be seen and heard, then let’s get on this. Sure, speaking to a trusted friend is great but they are limited in how to proceed with clinical supports. We need to be seeing clinically trained therapists to help us and there is nothing weak about that. In fact, it’s the strongest and most brave thing you can do to want to help yourself.

8. #MentalHealth Is Health

We need to recognize that being physically sick is not the only form of being sick. We can be mentally sick and people need time to heal from that too. They may need days or weeks, or months just like any other physical ailment. Employers need to understand this, and so do governments. I would love to see a world where someone can walk up to their employer and say they need a #MentalHealth day. This acceptance is healing alone. Schools need #MentalHealth days too, so if students just can’t deal with school or need time to process, then they should be able to say that and not be judged for it.

9. People Are Trying More Than You Know.

I’ve had so many things said to me over my life time that I’ve lost track, so please do not assume people aren’t already doing everything they can to cope. We have learned the art of putting together a toolbox of strategies and we try each day to see what works- we exercise, we listen to music, we eat right, we take meds, we meet up with friends, we take walks, we sleep, we change our environments, we take up hobbies, etc.

BUT SOMETIMES-

Despite everything we do, things stop working. That’s not our fault and we don’t need people telling us to do more. Trust me we are trying more than you know.

10. Empathy Always.

If you don’t know what to say to someone with #MentalHealth or someone who is battling a severe episode, then the least you can do as a good human being is to just sit beside someone for support. We don’t need someone to solve things we just need to know someone is there. Maybe check up on us, bring us a meal, or offer to take us to our appointments. There are so many ways to just let someone know they are not alone and that your ear is always ready to listen. Accept us where we are at, and please don’t try to force us to do things we are not ready to do. If you don’t know what to say, you can say that you’ll sit with us in the darkness and ride this out with us, and help us in any way you can.

What people don’t need is judgement. You may see someone sleeping more or eating more. You may see someone not eating at all. You may not hear from someone, or see that person becoming more withdrawn. Try to see why that is and see if you can help and if not, just always offer. Keep calling us or texting us, and letting us know we are being thought of.

Even someone like me who seems put together and coherent in written form can shut down and not be able to string a sentence together. I may not know why I’m depressed or have a reason so what I need in that moment is for someone to understand that I need time to figure it out, maybe some space, and to know that someone is there on the other side when I come out of my dark place.

I’ve come to know now, “All storms run out of rain,” as the great Maya Angelou once said, so I tell myself that every time I’m in the storm.

I hope you’ll remember that, too.

Community Voices

What is something you need to hear right now?

<p>What is something you need to hear right now?</p>
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Community Voices

She's Not Ignoring You

She’s not ignoring you,

Or avoiding your call.

She’s not screening her messages,

It’s not like that at all.

She’s not thinking you’ve not done enough,

Or not been there when things got tough.

But she’s feeling alone, and there’s a sense of doom,

So she sits by a window in a very blue room.

She watches the rain of her storm all alone.

And wonders how long it will take her to get back home.

She’s lost her words,

Her feelings too.

She doesn’t know what she’ll do.

She’s tired from her life, and the things that won’t change.

She’s so desperately trying to turn the page,

To the place where she sees her light,

That for now, no longer shines bright.

Her tears fall long down to her toes,

Thinking of the pain she only knows.

So stay near a bit longer,

Until she becomes a bit stronger.

For she’s not ignoring you,

Or avoiding your call.

She’s not screening her messages,

It’s not like that at all.

*Written by Maria Garito from www.facebook.com/MaximusandMe

#MightyPoets

Community Voices

What You Can Do Now For Ukraine

I’ve seen a lot of folks online so gutted over the invasion of Ukraine and asking what they can do to help.

Naturally, we want to do something when we see the destruction that comes with war.

Yes, donations are a start.

Yes, prayers are very much needed.

And perhaps, in this case, boycotting Russian imported goods may be an option.

Ultimately, our governments are taking action on the global level.

All of the above are legitimate and warranted in a time like this.

But may I suggest something that you can personally do from your corner of the earth from this day forth?

If you’ve ever felt that your voice wouldn’t do much to change things- let me say this.

Bullies are made. They aren’t born that way.

No one comes into this world, believing they can walk over people and rise to power.

We help them get there.

How?

Sometimes, it’s staying quiet in a situation because it’s best to keep the peace.

Sometimes, we look the other way hoping someone else will do something.

Sometimes, we’re in the situation where someone is bullying us, and no one helps.

What we need more now than ever, is intervention.

Intervention in helping others not because they may be worth helping, but because we just should.

There’s an infographic circulating informing the public why Ukraine is important, and it lists all of the country’s goods and services.

Do we really need to know about a country in order to defend our decision to help? Shouldn’t we just do it because just like us, these people have families and friends, and feel the same things as us, and at the end of the day, want the same things?

So here’s the answer.

Start by committing to never allow a bully to thrive and rise.

Not at school.

Not at work.

Not in government.

Intervene. Say something. And if you can, do something. If you can’t, then find someone who can or will.

Make the commitment to never be complicit to injustice.

Because it’s everywhere.

It’s the person who’s yelling at the cashier.

It’s the nurse who’s being hit by a patient.

It’s the student who’s hiding in the washroom.

It’s your best man’s wife who never seems quite right.

It’s the waiter being berated in the restaurant.

The truth is, bullies sometimes look like your best friend and carry on normal-like lives.

But the one thing that sets them apart is that they know they can keep doing what they’re doing, because no one has stopped them before.

Bullies escalate.They try, and they succeed. And it’s because no one intervened.

If the images you’re seeing of the bombardment on Ukraine are triggering, then make a commitment today to never be a bystander in any scenario you are witness to.

If not, we are doomed to repeat what we are seeing now.

Intervene, act, repeat.

Stop the never ending cycle of #Topic .

And we just may never have to see people sheltering in undergrounds again.

Maria Garito

Canadian Convey Protest Against COVID-19 Restrictions Is Harmful

I’ve been on the front line. I know what it’s like to feel so passionately about something, that it literally forces you to get up from your seat. Sometimes, you do it not knowing if it will make a difference or if anyone will care. I know what it’s like to be on the front line of education and see what disparities exist in our schools. I know what it’s like to carry mental illness and chronic disease in a place that doesn’t have supports, or is severely lacking. I know what it’s like to care for a child who is disabled and not have access to the things he needs. I know the weight of trauma from domestic abuse, and what it’s like to be the only woman in a room full of men. I know what it’s like to be mocked and bullied because I didn’t fit in. I know what it feels like to be without a home. I’ve walked the front line. Sometimes alone. But I’ve never taken someone else’s peace to do it. Never have I threatened anyone with words or physical violence. Never have I desecrated memorials or stepped on the graves of the brave. Never have I blocked others from billions in revenue, or cost my government millions in protective measures. Never have I asked police to risk their lives in sub-degree weather to protect me and others from attacking others. Never have I used children as human shields at border crossings. And I certainly never brought ammunition and threatened lives. The blockades in Canada don’t represent the Canadians who have suffered throughout the pandemic. The ones who did what they needed to stay alive and to help save others. The ones who now need rest and healing from the trauma they’ve endured from a global pandemic. The blockades aren’t Canadian. They don’t speak for us, and they don’t give us hope. I’ve been on the front line in the cold, in meetings with government officials, on the phone with community agencies, and sitting on the floors of places writing letters because I didn’t have access to a computer. I’m on the floor right now writing this from my phone. For the people who are at the trucker blockades, I beg you to go home. Because one day, all of this will end. So will the mandates and all that came with this insidious disease. But what I fear will stay behind, is a division that is so severed I’m not sure how we will ever recover. Canadians are being traumatized by these blockades. The noise, the anger, the overt images of the Confederate flag, and massive vehicles. Images of calling for the death of our Prime Minister and all who support him. One truck had a noose tied to the front. You are traumatizing us. Our mental health is being affected. It all crushes us. People like me. Please go home. And be part of the healing that we all so desperately need. I will defend someone’s freedom, and every other Canadian’s right to disagree. But not this. Not like this.

Maria Garito

I Won't Give Up on You, My Son on the Autism Spectrum

I won’t give up on you. Even when the world around you would rather you be somewhere else. Away and hidden, or left to be unseen. Even when the schools do not have a place for you to thrive because the spaces, places, and tasks do not match your abilities or talents. Even when the therapists themselves struggle, or do not know how to help you. I won’t give up on you. Even when governments and those with the power to change things do not or will not because they do not understand you, or do not believe that you deserve help. Even when family and friends have forgotten about you or have lost hope in you. Even when I’ve become so tired and angry that I can’t seem to do more for you or get things changed the way they should be. Even when 50K of your friends in your province sit idle on lists for services that include medically necessary treatments, therapies, respite programs, and mental health supports. I won’t give up on you. Even when people stare at you for twirling your fingers, for pacing back and forth, for staring at the dancing dust in a sunlit room, or for watching the excitement of the store door opening and closing. Even if people glare with disgust at you, exclude you from places, and say things to you in anger for things you cannot understand or do not mean to do. Even when you sit on the ground to calm yourself down. Even when you cry and yell because the words and meaning just don’t come the way you want them to. I won’t give up on you. Even when you won’t sleep because the night becomes day and the day becomes too difficult to face. Even when you become so afraid to venture outdoors because of fears and experiences you have endured. Even when people say that I should discipline you more. Even when people tell me I should consider finding your forever home now, because you may never be able to live alone. I won’t give up on you. Because now, dear child, we have become “us” instead of you and me. Because your happiness is mine too. Because you are my teacher now, instead of I, yours. I won’t give up on you.

Maria Garito

I Won't Give Up on You, My Son on the Autism Spectrum

I won’t give up on you. Even when the world around you would rather you be somewhere else. Away and hidden, or left to be unseen. Even when the schools do not have a place for you to thrive because the spaces, places, and tasks do not match your abilities or talents. Even when the therapists themselves struggle, or do not know how to help you. I won’t give up on you. Even when governments and those with the power to change things do not or will not because they do not understand you, or do not believe that you deserve help. Even when family and friends have forgotten about you or have lost hope in you. Even when I’ve become so tired and angry that I can’t seem to do more for you or get things changed the way they should be. Even when 50K of your friends in your province sit idle on lists for services that include medically necessary treatments, therapies, respite programs, and mental health supports. I won’t give up on you. Even when people stare at you for twirling your fingers, for pacing back and forth, for staring at the dancing dust in a sunlit room, or for watching the excitement of the store door opening and closing. Even if people glare with disgust at you, exclude you from places, and say things to you in anger for things you cannot understand or do not mean to do. Even when you sit on the ground to calm yourself down. Even when you cry and yell because the words and meaning just don’t come the way you want them to. I won’t give up on you. Even when you won’t sleep because the night becomes day and the day becomes too difficult to face. Even when you become so afraid to venture outdoors because of fears and experiences you have endured. Even when people say that I should discipline you more. Even when people tell me I should consider finding your forever home now, because you may never be able to live alone. I won’t give up on you. Because now, dear child, we have become “us” instead of you and me. Because your happiness is mine too. Because you are my teacher now, instead of I, yours. I won’t give up on you.

Maria Garito

I Won't Give Up on You, My Son on the Autism Spectrum

I won’t give up on you. Even when the world around you would rather you be somewhere else. Away and hidden, or left to be unseen. Even when the schools do not have a place for you to thrive because the spaces, places, and tasks do not match your abilities or talents. Even when the therapists themselves struggle, or do not know how to help you. I won’t give up on you. Even when governments and those with the power to change things do not or will not because they do not understand you, or do not believe that you deserve help. Even when family and friends have forgotten about you or have lost hope in you. Even when I’ve become so tired and angry that I can’t seem to do more for you or get things changed the way they should be. Even when 50K of your friends in your province sit idle on lists for services that include medically necessary treatments, therapies, respite programs, and mental health supports. I won’t give up on you. Even when people stare at you for twirling your fingers, for pacing back and forth, for staring at the dancing dust in a sunlit room, or for watching the excitement of the store door opening and closing. Even if people glare with disgust at you, exclude you from places, and say things to you in anger for things you cannot understand or do not mean to do. Even when you sit on the ground to calm yourself down. Even when you cry and yell because the words and meaning just don’t come the way you want them to. I won’t give up on you. Even when you won’t sleep because the night becomes day and the day becomes too difficult to face. Even when you become so afraid to venture outdoors because of fears and experiences you have endured. Even when people say that I should discipline you more. Even when people tell me I should consider finding your forever home now, because you may never be able to live alone. I won’t give up on you. Because now, dear child, we have become “us” instead of you and me. Because your happiness is mine too. Because you are my teacher now, instead of I, yours. I won’t give up on you.

Maria Garito

I Won't Give Up on You, My Son on the Autism Spectrum

I won’t give up on you. Even when the world around you would rather you be somewhere else. Away and hidden, or left to be unseen. Even when the schools do not have a place for you to thrive because the spaces, places, and tasks do not match your abilities or talents. Even when the therapists themselves struggle, or do not know how to help you. I won’t give up on you. Even when governments and those with the power to change things do not or will not because they do not understand you, or do not believe that you deserve help. Even when family and friends have forgotten about you or have lost hope in you. Even when I’ve become so tired and angry that I can’t seem to do more for you or get things changed the way they should be. Even when 50K of your friends in your province sit idle on lists for services that include medically necessary treatments, therapies, respite programs, and mental health supports. I won’t give up on you. Even when people stare at you for twirling your fingers, for pacing back and forth, for staring at the dancing dust in a sunlit room, or for watching the excitement of the store door opening and closing. Even if people glare with disgust at you, exclude you from places, and say things to you in anger for things you cannot understand or do not mean to do. Even when you sit on the ground to calm yourself down. Even when you cry and yell because the words and meaning just don’t come the way you want them to. I won’t give up on you. Even when you won’t sleep because the night becomes day and the day becomes too difficult to face. Even when you become so afraid to venture outdoors because of fears and experiences you have endured. Even when people say that I should discipline you more. Even when people tell me I should consider finding your forever home now, because you may never be able to live alone. I won’t give up on you. Because now, dear child, we have become “us” instead of you and me. Because your happiness is mine too. Because you are my teacher now, instead of I, yours. I won’t give up on you.