Thursday, November 24, 2016

A note on tonight’s episode of Second Jen:


I can’t tell you how much it means to talk about women’s sexual health in an open way. This episode was a labour of love (no pun intended); I’m so glad that we made it, and that our network supported us so unconditionally.

It can be difficult, especially in immigrant families, to talk about subjects like reproductive health, medication, and even illness. But it’s so integral that young people communicate their needs, worries, and healthcare concerns; and that they are listened to without judgment.

A regular PAP test and physical is one of the most important things young women can do to prevent issues with future reproductive health, STIs, and cancer (among other things). Let’s remove the stigma around sexual health, and ensure a healthier future.

For more info on PAP tests, cervical, ovarian, and breast cancer, please visit the Canadian Cancer Society’s website at cancer.ca.

-Amanda Joy

Monday, October 31, 2016

How Going For Walks Totally Cured My Depression

Lately I've been mega depressed; like, Harry Potter Book 5 depressed. But now thanks to this image macro I saw on Facebook, I learned that the cure for my crushing mental illness was not the pill that took many years to admit I needed, but mother nature!
The viral image that solved all my problems
Who knew all along that the cure for Depression was going for walks! I mean, no one has ever told me, or any other depressed person to go for a walk before. Of course I immediately threw out the meds my doctor had prescribed to stop me from spending entire days sprawled on the kitchen floor. Sure it was medically inadvisable, and sure these drugs are a godsend to me and others who suffer from similar symptoms. But I've learned the truth- SUNSHINE is the only selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor one needs!
I know what you're thinking: I could continue taking my medication while also treating my depression with exercise, healthy foods, and fresh air, as most doctors recommend. But as this image macro clearly states,  pills are "shit" and my doctor's an uncaring hack paid-off by big pharma. ILLUMINATI CONFIRMED

Back to my walk. Five out of five stars as far as walks go. I had barely made it four feet out the door when the cool spring air infiltrated the dysfunctional serotonin neurotransmitters in my brain, ensuring that they'd start doing their job instead of half-assing it in the fulfillment of a cruel genetic defect. 
Worried that this euphoria might not last, I made sure to eat an avocado for lunch. Avocados are delicious. And they cure anxiety.*

As a bonus, while that Vitamin B worked to stop my defective nervous system from over-producing adrenaline, I instantly lost five pounds from all the yummy avocado fats! After taking several pictures of my lunch, I decided to really zap my mental illness with the ultimate cure: yoga in a picturesque location. Now I know this may seem like overkill, because I'm already curing my genetically inherited condition with trees, and things that grow on trees, but the internet has taught me that yoga in picturesque locations cures every mental illness and cancer.

When I came home from my walk, I couldn't help but laugh at the hamster wheel I was in before-- taking medication every day to make sure one of my major organs worked properly? I mean who does that? Except diabetics, and hemophiliacs, but maybe they should just start going for walks too. 

So anyone out there who's suffering from Depression be warned: doctors will try to prescribe things to you. But unlike every other drug on the market, these drugs have side-effects and chemicals. And not the chemicals that are already in your body, or that literally make up the entire universe and everything in it. Scary chemicals!
Too long have we lived in the dark, believing only a minority could fully manage their mental illnesses with lifestyle changes... believing that only a slightly larger group could manage their symptoms with expensive and largely inaccessible therapy sessions. Fuck medication, because THAT IMAGE ON YOUR FRIEND'S FACEBOOK THAT MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE SHIT HAS ACTUALLY SOLVED THE MENTAL ILLNESS EPIDEMIC.
And any sheeple who disagree should look up a little something called "mindfulness."
*unless it's 2014 in which case Kale cures anxiety.
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Look, I don't normally write about things happening in my social circle. Because it's petty, and there are more interesting things to talk about in the world than how Sandra's "TOTALLY FEELING #ALLDAYBREAKFAST RIGHT NOW! #YOLO..."*
*though I confess all day breakfast is one of my favourite topics.
But there is a post going around the community. And by "the" community I mean the entertainment industry, because I'm a narcissistic artist and to me this is the only thing "the community" can mean. This message, while I'm sure well-intentioned, is the sort of harmful statement that discourages  people from receiving help for their mental illnesses. And as many of us know, mental illness is a life-threatening, serious epidemic that is especially prevalent in our community.

So look, I don't care if the guy who added me on Facebook is pissed off because I don't think spaghetti squash cures schizophrenia. That's not why I'm writing this. I'm writing this because it could literally save someone's life.

Don't get me wrong, meditation, CBT, mindfulness, etc. can help manage depression. But these things can't "cure" depression. Except in certain cases (some traumatic depression, etc.) depression is a lifelong condition. There is no "cure." Only treatment and management. For a lucky few, symptoms can be managed without medication, but for many others, they cannot.

The big problem with this viral image is that it reinforces the stigma surrounding mental illness- that it's not real, that medication is somehow the lazy/wrong way out, that Depression is the same thing as sadnesss. Many sufferers of mental illness feel too guilty, or too ashamed to seek help, because of messages like this. Why is this important?

Depression is the most common illness among those who die from suicide, with approximately 60% suffering from this condition. [source] Along with suicide, there are lifelong complications associated with mental illness: constant hopelessness, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and increased rates of cancer and heart disease (to name a few). Every day someone doesn't receive treatment is another day they are forced to suffer in silence.
I could go on and on about the science of Depression and Anxiety, but there are so many peer-reviewed sources available- sources that are more reputable than my blog. So for the sake of this essay I'll just say: People, it's not that hard-- mental illness has physiological roots that emerge as psychological symptoms. Just because obsessive compulsive disorder doesn't make you break out in itchy welts, doesn't mean it's not a disease that needs understanding, appropriate treatment, and -yes- self-management. You wouldn't tell a diabetic not to take their insulin and just start speed-walking. Because it's fucking dangerous. So don't go around telling mentally ill people not to take their medication. You don't know what they're going through, and you don't know how they might interpret what you're saying. They may...
  • Be newly receiving treatment for a serious mental illness, but still be in denial of their condition.
  • Feel guilty about their disease, and think seeking medical help makes them "weak."
  • Doubt that mental illness is real and can be treated.
  • Be suicidal and already self-loathing. 
When you say "medication is shit" what you may mean is that you think "nature is great." But what someone with depression reads and interprets is that nature would cure them if they weren't so useless. You may mean "I think drugs are over-prescribed" but what someone suffering from a mental illness reads is "If I were any good I could manage my own symptoms without medical help."  You may mean "I think walks are great for helping with sadness." But the depressed person reads "My disease isn't real."
CAMH recommends that we use the "STOP" method when evaluating how we speak about mental illness. Because regardless of what we mean, our words can often have more power than we know. It can even be the difference between life and death. 
We reinforce stigma around mental illness when what we say:
  • Stereotypes people with mental health conditions (that is, assumes they are all alike rather than individuals)?
  • Trivializes or belittles people with mental health conditions and/or the condition itself?
  • Offends people with mental health conditions by insulting them?
  • Patronizes people with mental health conditions by treating them as if they were not as good as other people? [source]
So what should you say?
This pie chart from Buzzfeed gets it across pretty well:


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Ride Home


Filip sat in the driver’s seat of his old, rusty van, reading the news on his phone. He was sixty-five but still wore a newsboy cap; his winter gloves were worn from years of snow shoveling, and a strong aversion to throwing things out.

The door handle creaked and clicked as his daughter, Annie, piled into the passenger seat, dropping her bag on her feet as she buckled up. He’d heard from others that she smiled a lot, but he knew what that smile was-- an exhausted girl, bouncing a ball in the air over and over, for fear of it hitting the ground.  

“How was work?” Filip asked, starting the key in the ignition. It always took a few tries to get it going.

Annie didn’t answer. She stared straight ahead and slouched in her seat as the van pulled away from the Kiss and Ride, clattering and clanking as it went.

Filip and Annie were more similar than either might like to admit; both lived in their own heads, and when allowed, preferred to stay there. Out of some sort of mutual understanding, they took nearly every trip in silence. But not today.

As they sped onto the highway, Annie told her father about work— about the situation with the man in the office. Filip grumbled; he couldn’t understand why Annie constantly let the man speak to her the way he did; why she chose to sit silently as he continually crossed all levels of respect.

“What’s your problem!?” Filip cried, protectively, “Don’t let him bully you. Talk back to him!”

He couldn’t understand why, despite all the lying and cheating, she still wore that tired smile.

“If you were a man you would have punched him!” Filip blurted out, offering his encouragement and fatherly rage—rare for such a quiet man “Instead you sat there quietly? And went through the rest of your day with that smile!? That’s crazy!”

Annie looked at her father, with that same tiredness she always bore.

“Don't you get it, Dad?” she sighed “ If I stop smiling, that’s when they’ll start calling me crazy.”




Photo credit: Getty Images

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reflections on a New Year

Today was the first meeting of the year for the Young Emerging Actors Association at ACTRA Toronto.

Sitting in the board room I saw the passion from our members-- the joy of community, of creating art, and of understanding. I also saw the hurt, the rage, and the confusion over the narrow-mindedness of our industry.
I feel, more than ever, that despite competing for jobs, we are family in our craft, and in our dreams for Canadian media. At this crucial time, it's up to us to unite as the salt of change-- as storytellers, actors, and artists. Even though sometimes it doesn't feel like it, I know there are those in power who are advocates for inclusive, fresh voices that reflect the beauty of our nation in all of its diversity. And as the public psyche changes, these advocates will seize the opportunity to help these stories emerge. However, it's up to us, the artists, to create, fight for, and make our projects with the integrity and passion that they deserve-- to create and tell stories worth telling. If my experience with YEAA is any indication, then we are doing just that.
There were so many talented, intelligent, thoughtful, and passionate people in the room today, who have -and continue to demonstrate- the power of collaboration and of creating work that speaks to our genuine experience. I know that one day we're going to look back and know that we as artists each pushed an inch, and together pushed a mile. Thank you ACTRA, YEAA, Diversity Committee, and TAWC for bringing us together, and for proving just how strong we are together.