Written by Anita Levesque

The mental health community was in shock yesterday, March 29, 2016.  Patty Duke passed away at 69.  She was a very well known actress but she was best known for her mental health advocacy work since her bipolar diagnoses in 1982.

It was in the late 1980’s and I remember my grandmother talking about my father going to psychiatrists and counselors when he was a teenager, because she knew there was something not right, she called it a chemical imbalance.

When I was younger, I knew there was something wrong with my father and tried to be patient with him. There were days he didn’t want to see or talk to anyone and would be in his room for weeks a time.  Once he comes out, he’s happy, ready to go places, buy whatever we wanted.  Other days he was so angry at the world, violently angry, veins growing on his neck and face beet red angry, he would take it out on anyone who was around him; family and/or friends.  He lost a lot of friends and some family didn’t want anything to do with him.

As I was getting older, my father needed someone to talk to, I was the only one that took the time to really let him vent and listen.  As we kept doing our middle-of-the-night chats, our bond grew.  I was starting to feel what he was feeling and why he was feeling it.

This is when my interest in mental health began. If I could help ease my father’s mind, maybe I can help others.

I wasn’t sure how to start so I didn’t do anything right away.  I went off to college, got married, had a daughter.  My marriage had it’s ups and downs, like most, but my husband was very narcissistic, jealous, controlling and this lasted 12 years.  I ended the marriage, I felt not myself and lost.

I now have a wonderful boyfriend who has mental illness; severe OCD, clinical depression and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).  He was off medication for a year and this is when I saw the true affects mental illness has on a person.  I’ve seen from both perspectives now; too much medication (father) and no medication (boyfriend).  From all this, I have learned what to say, what not to say and the best way to listen.

I knew this was the time. I became a mental health advocate and now I help people all over the world, not just at home; Canada, United States, UK, Africa, in particular.

I’m very proud to able to call myself a mental health advocate and that I can follow in the footsteps of those great advocates such as Patty Duke.

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