Dealing with PTSD: One Dal employee’s experience

I hesitated when asked to write about my experience with Mental Illness.  I didn’t suffer from mental illness, I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I wasn’t ill.  I was back to work full time, therefore, I no longer was affected.

Then I examined why I was reluctant to write about my 18-month hiatus from work, family, friends and life, in general.  That’s when it hit me, I was ashamed.  Upon further contemplation and working through my reluctance, I was able to confront and work through my shame.  I am now able to accept that I AM HUMAN.  Being human means I am flawed, I struggle and I feel.  I am a product of every experience I’ve had and being aware of how these experiences shape my thoughts and actions has made me better able to accept responsibility for what is “mine” and to “let go” of what is not mine to control.

In April 2012, a very good friend and gay activist was murdered.  I could not cope and my body decided it was time to STOP.  It didn’t give me the opportunity to slow down, it just STOPPED.  I couldn’t cope with the violence or the loss of such a wonderful, compassionate man.  Raymond had done what I had done a thousand times, intervened in an altercation to protect someone weaker than himself.  It didn’t work out well at all.  Raymond was beaten to death by a person who was on an unauthorized leave from the Halifax Forensic Hospital.  I experienced so many emotions:  anger – with both Raymond and the perpetrator, remorse, a profound feeling of loss, guilt – why him and not me, and the hardest emotion to overcome: FEAR.  The fear was the worse and longest lasting emotion.  I was afraid for my personal safety and more fearful of making bad decisions for I, too, had acted as a mediator in altercations.

I was amazed how my body literally brought me to my knees.  I had always considered myself as capable of coping with anything.  I had, in fact, managed some huge changes in my personal life and thought I’d dealt with them rather well.  What I discovered was I hadn’t dealt with my stress for years.  Rather I had buried it and considered it over.  Through 18 months of counselling, I read stories of people with similar experiences and reactions.  It helped tremendously to know others had difficulty too, to know I was not alone.  At the end of each story there were questions to be answered and discussed at the next counselling session.  I was encouraged to reflect and answer honestly, which I did on most occasions, and sometimes the questions were too invasive and I felt vulnerable.  In these instances, my counsellor and I would talk about why I was having these feelings and together we would work through my trust issues.

After 18 months, I was ready to come back to work.  I felt as though I had accomplished everything I needed and was better than before.  Upon my return to work at Dalhousie University, I discovered I was different.  I was able to be accountable for me and my behaviours and know that I was not in control of how others behaved and that my desire to control them was futile.  I’ve been back to work now for nine months and I am better able to truly work through the stresses of working.  I am able to recognize behaviours that trigger my desire to control situations and people.  When this happens I know it’s ME that needs to change and that has been easier than I ever imagined.


Kathy Walsh

The 5 Sad Truths About Success and Happiness

I often hear people speak about wanting more out of life.  Some say it out loud and many say it in other ways, but the meaning is clear to me.  Workshops on general health get cancelled due to low registration while workshops on meditation and living a life of purpose get filled quickly.

Here are some regrets of people looking back on their lives.   I hope you can find some inspiration to NOT have these for yourself.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Please do not end up with regrets like these.  Take steps now… right now!… to bring more fulfillment to your every day.


Janice MacInnis, Organizational Health, Dalhousie University



Webinar: Resolving conflicts with a mental health dimension (July 2)

Resolving Conflict (webinar)
July 2, 2014, 1:30 EST (2:30 Atlantic)

The ability to resolve conflict is critical to effectively manage workplace issues. Employees experiencing mental health challenges may have difficulty maintaining healthy co-worker relationships if perceptions are distorted in such a way that it feels like others are judging, criticizing, or threatening you and/or your work. When faced with conflict involving one or more employees experiencing mental health concerns you may ask:

  • How can I best support this employee’s mental health while still resolving conflict between co-workers?
  • Is it possible to resolve conflict without triggering an employee’s irritability, defensiveness, low self-esteem or self-doubt?
  • How can I ensure these conflicts don’t continue in the future?

This webinar provides practical strategies and tools to help address conflict, especially when mental health is a factor and you will hear us demo the approach!

Register online:


You will learn how to:

  • Support an employee when resolving conflict so they feel you’re both working towards their success
  • Avoid triggering negative emotions while addressing issues
  • Stay focused on solutions rather than on who is right or wrong

This webinar led by Mary Ann Baynton:


  • Is relevant for managers, supervisors, team leaders, union reps, HR, and occupational health
  • Costs only $60 for as many participants as you can fit around a computer screen
  • Takes no more than 2 hours – 1 hour of pre-work and 1 hour of webinar
  • Includes real-life examples and experiences
  • Provides opportunity to have your questions answered

“Not Myself Today” mood buttons – helping or hurting mental health at Dal

There are mixed reviews about the effectiveness of the “Not Myself Today” mood buttons.  What are your thoughts?

Do the buttons get people talking about emotions and mental health in the workplace or do they trivialize the experience of those who are concerned about naming these kinds of issues at work?

Things we can learn from a dog

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.

Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Run, romp and play daily.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout… run right back and make friends.

Bond with your pack.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.


[What's stopping you?]