Carry On Bags

In light of one of my favourite holidays, Canada Day, during times of glaring contrast with our southern neightbour, it’s so easy to see where Canada outshines other countries in the world, specifically in terms of our health care. Not once did I worry about a bill or affordability in terms of seeking immediate medical care, and with the amount of care I actually needed, without a doubt my parents would have gone bankrupt if we lived elsewhere. We live in a country that allows access to doctors, nurses and medicine without having to sacrifice somewhere else in our life because of the financial strain. And for that I am grateful.
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But this does not come without gaps. Severe gaps in our system that not only IBD patients face but anyone who has gone through a medical trauma or catastrophic injury. Our practitioners can hook up an IV, demonstrate how to maneuver an ostomy, preform hours of surgery, rehabilitate your muscles, plaster on a cast, staple a gaping wound, administer antibiotics, or empty drains. But what happens when you’re physically “better?” ….You’re sent on your way, out of the hospital with a treatment plan and a course of action to keep you healthy, left to navigate the real world on your own. Yet no one tells you your life has drastically been thrown off track and your SOUL has been turned upside down.

Some days I don’t give a second thought to having a J-Pouch or colitis or any sort of inflammation. But I can confirm that not a day goes by that I don’t actively practice mindfulness and consciously put my anxiety and ego in check by vigorously taking care of my mental and holistic wellness. And do you know how hard it is to learn how to take care of my emotional wellbeing without the help from a single professional? HARD.

During a time with organizations like CAMH and BellLetsTalk taking an effective approach to dialogue and stigmatization of mental illness, why aren’t our hospitals and doctors being more proactive to patients of the system? How is it that I spent 14 days at Mount Sinai going though the worst experience of my life without ONCE being asked how I’m feeling emotionally? Without ONCE being offered counselling? Without ONCE being tossed an Ativan?

Why is it that we have to be diagnosed with an illness, or identified has having a mental disturbance before we are offered help? In fact why are we left to seek that help on our own before professionals offer it? I consider myself an extremely reflective and self-intuitive individual but I have yet to check off “find therapist” from my TO DO list which has been on there for the past 3 years. And what about the people who are sent back home and are not as self-aware? Who genuinely just believe there is nothing worth looking forward to or their life sucks and no one to help them recognize that there is positivity after trauma?

Come on Canada, we can do better.

I went to a session about IBD and mental health in March and there were some absolutely wonderful individuals on the panel sharing their stories emphasizing the importance of advocating for yourself and seeking support because of the mental toll the disease can take. However they also discussed the resources and social workers available at hospitals for crisis patients during their time there, before being sent home. And I actually left feeling deflated since those options were never once presented to me. Perhaps I wasn’t “crisis” enough? (Sitting in isolation with C-Diff and an obstruction….on my birthday).
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And what about the caregivers? Where is the support for family members who watch their loved ones wither away or who cry endlessly yet are not able to help? For the people who’s own lives have been thrown off course, careers put on hold, and own emotional health taken a beating? We preach about being there for each other but not once has a medical professional offered help for my family.


In the face of a new political climate I urge you to continue this conversation and take part in an advocacy for anyone who is sent home from our health care system without being quipped to handle the distress our minds have gone through. Sure we can fundraise and send a #bellletstalk tweet. We can participate in our walks and rides and post inspirational quotes, but how often do we show up at someone’s front door unannounced to show that we care? And we can be there for one another physically in person.  And how often do we hold those in power to a higher accountability (and rather responsibility) to make those who are ignorant to the resource, more aware?

I haven’t written for my own blog in a while because I’ve become disconnected with the content behind struggling with IBD. It’s so much easer to find something to write about when you’re experiencing new aspects of the disease every day. People who are out living their best life rarely want to sit down and write about the pain. But what I haven’t become disconnected to is that urge to reach out to others; To have those authentic, vulnerable conversations about chaos, pain, and darkness, because within that exposure is clam, strength, light and humanity.

So many times I’ve thought about shutting this blog down. To end this journey and bring it to a conclusion by thanking the readers and moving on. To delete it, deactivate the account, and be left with only the memories of the positivity it brought.

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Except I’ve decided to make a shift: Although theoretically the content was supposed to be about the ostomy and IBD, in reality there is SO much more to Baggage Claim. And I believe we have a lot more work to do….

I think every single person has a story to share, and I want to help you share it. There is so much power in the human capacity to show compassion by simply listening. I’ve shared my story. You’ve heard it. Now please, let me help share yours. Use this little platform I’ve built to highlight the gaps in our system in an effort to simply make them better. Use this outlet as a means of support that our health care structure lacks. Use this channel as an influence for inspiration, encouragement and connectivity.

Use me to help you with your carry on bags:

Stacey.willins@gmail.com

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