As a teenager, Linda Monteith struggled with depression. In later years, she would be diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a condition that led her to believe cameras were following her everywhere with people behind the lens that would laugh at her. Thanks to an art therapy program, Linda herself has ended up behind the camera, capturing her own images and creating a new story and journey for herself.
What does resilience mean to you?
When I think of resilience, I think of the Japanese proverb “Fall down 7 times, get up 8. Resilience is the strength in your inner core that allows you to get back up on your feet after you’ve been knocked down flat.
What are the dark days like for you and how do you find strength and resilience in these moments?
On my darkest days, I am unable to get out of bed and think of nothing but ending my life. I have a strong physical feeling of being kicked in the stomach that just won’t go away. But I am lucky to have a great support system of family, friends and doctors who remind me every day why it’s important to fight. They remind me that I’ve experienced this in the past and was able to overcome it before. As the old adage goes, “This too shall pass.”
What is in your “tool-kit”? What are the things that help you find strength and resilience?
I see myself as a “Schizoaffective Translator”. It is important to me to explain to people what it’s like to have this disorder and to help break down the barriers such as stigma and promote understanding of mental illness.
Also in my tool-kit is the great team I have in my corner – family, friends and those in the medical field who always remind me why it’s important to keep living. I now have the experience of getting through the dark times many times over, so I can draw from that experience when things seem bleak and hopeless. It is my mission in life is to help other people get the help they need, so that they don’t suffer needlessly because of stigma or lack of knowledge of mental illness. This keeps me alive.
Becoming an artist is what saved my life. In fact, art helped give me a better life than I’d had before.
In 2009, I joined an art-therapy program believing that I was the least creative person I knew. However, after taking some photos of flowers and selling them, I began to believe that maybe I was artistic – maybe I did have a reason to go on living. I even made a documentary on my experience with schizoaffective disorder and am writing a book about my experience with psychosis.
Through art I was truly transformed.
How do you feel about the future?
At my worst moments, I would wake up in the morning profoundly dreading the day ahead. I counted the hours until I could take my night medication and go back to sleep.
Now, I wake up and am excited about the possibilities the day may bring. I look forward to the many opportunities that have opened up to me through my involvement with the arts.
Even if I should stumble and fall back into the pit of depression, I have the tools to help me get back up again. Plus, I will always have my artwork. No one can ever take away from me the joy of artistic expression.
If you need help in an emergency please call 911 or visit your local emergency department. If you’re feeling like you’re in crisis, or need somebody to talk to, please know that help is also available 24/7 through community resources:
- Phone: toll-free 1-833-456-4566
- Text: 45645
- Chat: crisisservicescanada.ca