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Wednesday 27 January 2016


When you spend everyday talking about mental health, what do you write on a day like Bell Let’s Talk, that you wouldn’t say any other day?

That’s been the question I’ve been grappling with all day, as I sit in the fort I built in my living room.  Maybe, that it’s okay to be you.  Everything that comes out of my brain seems cliché.  But, it is the truth.  Find people who like to be around you in all your weirdness.  I sent my roommate a message last night that I was going to be taking over half of the living room with a kickass pillow fort and his response was “sounds awesome.”  That’s how I know he's a good roommate.  He accepts all my weird stuff.  In turn, I accept all his weird stuff.  And we are happy.

So, on this day of mental health awareness, I ask you to be aware of your mental health.  Do the things that you want to do.  The things that make you happy, which may not be the same as the things that society expects.  From my experience, society doesn’t know how to be happy.  There is no set of rules that apply to everyone and trying to get everyone to fit into the same box makes most people feel uncomfortable and crowded.  Stay out of the box!!!

So, here is my "out of the box"...  these are pictures of my kickass new blanket fort called, The Fortress of Soliloquy (because it is also my new writing office).  I’m 34 years old and it felt great to build.  I made plans and everything and I’m very happy with the result.  I shared these photos on Facebook and it was one of the most liked albums I’ve ever had.  It’s funny, all the things that I share that are really weird and out there get the highest response from people.  Doing things that make me happy, seems to make other people happy too.  Being brazen and confident about my eccentricities let's other people feel comfortable about their own.

And that’s really the heart of what I have learned in my own journey to mental health; when you take care of yourself, others are inspired/free to care for themselves as well.  I think that’s the real principle of the “teach a man to fish” parable – you can help someone with their problem, or you can show them how you solve that same problem.  You couldn’t teach a man to fish if you didn’t know how to fish yourself.  You can’t help someone love themselves, if you don’t know how to love yourself. You can’t make someone happy, if you are not happy with yourself.  Everything starts and ends with you.

That’s why mental health awareness is important.  Too often it is the voice in our own head that makes us miserable.  Our inner dialogue tells us that we aren’t good enough.  We haven’t done enough.  We aren’t worthy.  That is the demon we all have to face.  And the scariest part is that no one can change it but us (and it knows all our secrets!).  That’s why talking to people helps.  We get to know our demon when we give voice to it.  We can see how it thinks.  What it says.  How it feels.  Then we can begin to change. 

For me, therapy was the answer.  For others, it was yoga, or exercise, or writing, or art, or any countless number of things, but the important thing is to express whatever is locked away on the inside.  And to not be scared of the darkness.  From a very early age, we are taught that bad things lurk in the dark, so why would we want to look at the dark corners of our souls?  That’s where the bad things are, right?  Wrong.  That’s where we hide the things that hurt, but hurt is the other side of joy.  It is much like Newton’s Third Law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Every feeling also has an equal and opposite feeling.  That means until we look at our hurt, we cannot know the full extent of our joy.  We need both of them.  And if we’ve tucked all our hurt away where we can’t see it, then of course we feel empty, because we have no basis for the joy we know we should be feeling but aren’t. 

So, I ask everyone to shed some light on the demons in the dark.  When we look at them, they tend to be less scary than we think and in need of a little TLC.  Be kind to yourself.  Be forgiving to yourself.  Be honest with yourself.  And let yourself feel all the things your body is telling you you want to feel.  What you feel is right.  You are worth it.  You are good enough.  You are brave enough.  You are alive, and that is reason enough to try. :)

Also, check out my post written as a guest blog released for #BellLetsTalk, here.

Fort Life!


This is a guest blog I wrote for Everything But The Cat, which went online today.  I'm sharing it here, as well.  Please click here for the original link.

To My Fellow Traveler:

First, I want to offer a sincere apology.  I am sorry you haven’t  received what you need to stay in this world.  I wish someone was there to hold you now.  I wish someone would tell you everything will be alright.  I wish that was a promise someone could keep.  I want you to know you are not alone.  

It is for this reason that I’m writing this letter.  You have every right to choose to end your life.  I will not think any less of you if you do.  But, if you can find a way to stay alive, I ask that you try, because I need you.  I need you because there are so few people in this world who ever see the darkness that you see right now – and darkness is where beauty lives.  

So few people are willing to look at what you are facing right now: that raw, scary side of ourselves.  That side that is dark and hurts.  That side that we are always told to hide away, that people don’t want to talk about.  The ugly, raw stuff that is at the core of our being.  It scares people because it is not polite.  It is not nice.  It is not sunny.  But, I have to say, those people are full of shit.  The fear of their own darkness keeps them from looking at it in another.  That’s bullshit.  And it kills.  It kills our soul.

Only in darkness, can you experience the true splendor of light.  Much like our atmosphere during the day, the expectations of society create a false roof on our world.  You need to wait until the black of night to know the stars exist.  Don’t allow this cage to kill you.  It is not real.  There is so much more beyond what you can see right now.  You have set sail on the sea of night.  That is where the stars live; where infinite possibility lies.  

Right now, you feel like you are the only ship on an endless black ocean, but I assure you the shore is near.  There are people who know the darkness well and keep lighthouses burning for lost ships, like you, through the night.  They remember too clearly the loneliness of the sea.  I urge you to sail long enough to reach a lighthouse.  

You may long for death; I beg, don’t do it.  Do anything else.  Explode your life.  Run away.  Grab whatever you can and head out down the road into the unknown.  Leave everything and everyone behind.  RUN!  Start over – anywhere.  Do anything.  Just stay alive for a little bit longer.  Look for someone else who has seen the darkness you now see.  Find a way out.   Death never stops being an option, life is finite.  What do you have to lose?  If the alternative is always death, why not try anything else?  Just stay alive for one more day.  I need you.

I need you to join my legion.  A legion of people who have danced with death and lived to tell about it; walked the darkest depths of the underworld and come out the other side.  People who have known the extent of human suffering and survived.  It is through suffering that we gain the capacity for compassion.  How can we truly understand another’s pain, if we refuse to know our own?  This world is lacking true empathy.  Too few people can face themselves and live.  You stand at the precipice.  Just keep sailing.  Those people running the lighthouses have found a way through the night and are looking for you.  On this black ocean, we need as many sailors to reach shore as we can get – there are too few lighthouses, and fewer who know how to tend them.

I know what I ask isn’t easy, but neither is your other choice.  I don’t know what takes more courage, life or death.  Maybe they are different sides of the same coin.  Either way, you are brave.

Thank you for taking the time to read my plea.  I hope, one day, to meet you and talk about the darkness.  Hopefully, we can lessen the weight of it for each other.  But mostly, I hope that you find peace in your soul.

So, though we may not have met, may never meet, I want you to know that I carry love for you.  I love your darkness because it is the only way to see your light.  If you do choose to depart this earth, know that I mourn your passing and pray that you will find what you seek in the journey beyond.  May you wake to a kinder life.  

Much love and respect,
AJ Laflamme

Thursday 14 January 2016


Recently, I have been reading some of my old scrawlings from before I began my road to healing.  It has helped me understand how far I have come.  As a new feature on this blog, I will share some of these journals from the past that really describe the where I came from.

The first is from 5 years and one day ago, to the hour.  I am blown away at how opposite life feels now.  This entry epitomizes my journey.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2011 - 11:54pm
Each day I sit down at my computer.  To procrastinate.  I am so afraid of the future, it has become paralyzing.  Even when it stands before me, a hopeful shining beacon.  I am being dragged forward kicking and screaming by time.  I sit and wonder how I let fear become the most powerful force in my life.  I used to have such drive and motivation.  It all faded away in my years of waiting and now I am afraid.  My heart aches and I don't know if I can handle failure or rejection... or success.  Pain and solitude have become so welcome and familiar that I don't know how to live without them.  The thoughts of returning to China keep coming to mind, but I don't know what I hope to find there.  What I left behind has vanished with the passing of time.  My fairy tale is over and I should continue to look forward and not back.  The past couple of years have beaten me so, that I am weary and weathered.  My thoughts are scrambled and I find it hard to focus each day.  I go through the motions and appear where I am expected, but in body only.  Artificial happiness is all that comforts me now.  Or, as was pointed out, artificial numbness.  The absence of feeling, it is close enough to happiness to suit me.  To get me through the long and lonely days.  It does not battle the fear but it eases the pain of the solitude.  Perhaps it is the winter and being unemployed again (well, unemployed-ish!)  I do have many things to be thankful for, but I still find myself down in the doldrums.  There is the part of me that feels determined to make this year the best one yet and the following even better.  I will accomplish all my dreams.  I just need to keep persevering.  It becomes hard when it seems like the world is beating you down from all sides.  I wish people could see the pain inside.  I wish they could see the amount of will it takes just to get out of bed each day, just to wake up.  My heart is bleeding out and just when I think that I have mended some of the wounds, a fresh and deeper cut comes quickly and often unexpectedly.  Tomorrow is a new day, with new possibility.  I will try to take advantage of each one.  Oh, I also have to add, Thanks be to God!  His miracles never cease to amaze me each and every day.

Friday 1 January 2016


As 2015 comes to an end, I have spent some time reflecting on what has been one of the most formative years of my life.  Appropriately, I am sharing my struggles and accomplishments here.  Mostly, I just want to see all the things I’ve overcome in one place and honour this journey and the person who did it all, me.

I think this post from my Group Therapy journal sums up January the best:
This was when I was in the heart of the underworld.  It is the “hell state” of the process.  Everything hurt.  I had no control over my emotions.  It was almost like being a baby and rediscovering the world for the first time.  All I could do was sleep and cry.  Not to mention that I was working full time during this time, so yeah… that was a thing.  It was, by far, the most difficult part of the entire process (well… sort of… it was the most difficult for the longest time). There was psycho-somatic hallucinations, lucid dreams, overwhelming despair and a whole host of other things that made me not care about a single damned other thing in the world.  It was sort of great.
I was also grieving the death of my father during this time.  I visited his grave for the first time since he died 11 years before.  I discovered that a headstone had never been placed.  The man I never knew was lying in a grave I could not find.  I did eventually find the place where is he buried, but I did not get the closure I was looking for.

Again, I will describe the month with a picture from my Group Therapy journal:
Most of the month was spent in/moving out of the hell state, but by the end of the month, I began to get my feet back.  I think it is pretty safe to say I spent a lot of time in the bath and napping.  This was when I began to become more vocal about what I need and really focused on taking care of myself.  I remember telling my therapy group that there were weeks I just wasn’t going to come because I needed 24 hours when I did not leave my apartment.  And I did this without feeling guilty.  I started to realize my power.  I will no longer back down and let people walk all over me.