Pat Blythe – A Different Path …and Music!

Mental health.

Did that grab your attention? It’s been on my mind and in my social media feeds in one form or another lately. There’s been so much hullaballoo from endless voices (not the ones in my head) and sources including the yearly Bell “Let’s Talk” campaign, personal stories and “helpful” advice on FB to the multiple daily postings from #soul, etc. on Instagram. I’m seeing “regular” ads and click-bate that offer instant help, healing and gratification (whatever the hell that is).

Here is Wikipedia’s description of mental disorders, mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or occur as a single episode.”

We’ve all heard of depression, anxiety and panic attacks, bi-polar disorder (with or without psychosis) and borderline personality disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America the most common of all are anxiety disorders “affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” On the Canadian Mental Health Association (CAMH) website “anxiety disorders affect 5% of the (Canadian) household population causing mild to severe impairment.” As well, “approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives and about 1% of Canadian will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression)”. One very interesting statistic…..”by age 40, about 50% of the (Canadian) population will have or have had a mental illness.None of us is immune.

Causes? Not necessarily one specific thing. Again, from CAMH…..”A complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors causes mental illnesses.” I strongly believe one of those “environmental factors” is us….the human race. We have the innate ability to inflict severe mental and emotional trauma on each other whether intentional or otherwise…..physically and/or verbally.

Now…..I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert on this subject….and quite honestly I don’t think anyone is. I can only comment on what I’ve experienced or what I see and feel, whether it’s visually or intuitively, in others. I am one of the fortunate ones who does not suffer from, or experience, the kind of soul-destroying mental anguish that so many do. By nature I am a rather happy and optimistic individual. However, I have many wonderful friends and relatives who are dealing with one or more of the various mental disorders on a minute-by-minute basis, 365 days a year. There is no definitive cure. It’s a constant psychological and physical struggle to remain, in their words, normal. Perpetually conflicted, wrangling with the demons inside their head, knowing what’s wrong but unable to stop it, logic isn’t working and whatever “it” is, is unremitting…..relentless.  But the biggest problem I believe they fight is invisibility.

Invisibility…..its partners in crime include gross misunderstanding, ignorance, impatience, judgement and ultimately the stigma of mental illness. This is what we, the relatively “normal” folk, offer them.

Invisibility……far too many keep silent, only cautiously revealing to a very trusted few their anguish, the dark places, the confidence wars they fight inside their heads and the self-loathing in their hearts. They tend to be extremely hard on themselves and highly self-critical, using jokes and wry comments as a cover. Most of us don’t notice.

Invisibility – what they silently fear is distance, burn out and ultimately loss of others, abuse of trust, avoidance, not being heard and for some, being alone.

You can’t see, taste, touch or even smell what goes on inside somebody’s head. From the outside looking in, all is right with the world. From the inside looking out it can be like peering through shattered, shards of glass, sometimes cutting and digging until it hurts, or looking at a funhouse mirror where everything is exaggerated and out of proportion, or maybe it’s a kaleidoscope of too bright colours that make your head explode with noise or rage, or plodding through a fog, barely able to lift your feet, with shadows trying to drag you deeper into the mist. For some it’s like trying to fit pieces of puzzle together that don’t quite fit, or sitting quietly at a party, away from the fray, hoping no one will notice, dreading (or terrified) of any kind of interaction. Anything from a screaming baby to an incredibly rude individual can set you off…..creating a highly stressful situation and pushing all the wrong buttons.

To retain a sense of self-control or remain calm, often a sense of order is required…..everything in its place. Rituals become a part of your life. Sometimes it’s a “time out”, away from the situation, that settles you. Most of us can intuitively or automatically shut off the noises or voices we don’t want to hear, whether internally or externally. We can quieten our minds or chose to focus on something completely different or calmly walk away from a highly charged situation without blowing a gasket. In a sense, we can make it go away. For others that’s almost impossible.

Humans….with our quirks, foibles and idiosyncrasies. It’s what makes us, us and life interesting. We need to stop and truly listen, unplug, not just with our ears but with our eyes, minds and hearts. Listen to those who are silently reaching out, who need our empathy and compassion and understanding.  Be one of those trusted friends or lovers, accept and love them as they are. Don’t judge. Be patient, forgiving but also set boundaries….for both of you. Provide a secure and calming environment…..a safe harbour…..not just physically but emotionally and mentally. Give freely of affection…..hugs and the accompanying oxytocin goes a long way. Sometimes that’s all we can give but it’s amazing how far a hug can go.

Actually the real final frontier is the brain. It is the most fragile and the most powerful organ in the human body. It’s what makes us tick. It controls us and our bodies and connects to every facet of our being. It is the fastest communicator in the world. Turn your head and look out the window. How long did it take your brain to tell your muscle to move your head….left or right, up or down…..not even a thought process…..we just “do”.  When things go wrong or are not quite “right”, we can’t dissect it to discover which part needs an overhaul. We are unable to remove the “bad” pieces. We can’t reconnect or disconnect the wiring. So, with our limited understanding and knowledge we do the best we can with what we’ve got. I am convinced our mental and physical well being is intricately tied together and both should be addressed in almost equal measure for healing to take place.

This column doesn’t begin to touch on all the issues surrounding mental health. It’s not even the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I don’t even know if it makes sense no matter how many times I read and correct. I’m not even sure I’ve said what I want to say but somehow I felt compelled to take this fork in the road rather than hike down the usual path. It’s not meant as a “Debby Downer” moment but more as thought-provoking, hopefully encouraging a deeper awareness of the people in your lives. We all walk a different path. Be aware. Take the time to really look, peel back the layers and “read the book”, you may just understand yourself a little bit better.

This…..brand spanking new out by these guys. A fabulously creative trio, James Blonde have a quirky sense of humour and play. On stage, they are on fire. Steph Mercier (the human pogo stick who bounces and twirls while eliciting magical sounds from his guitar), Neil Carson (he of the thundering and snappy bass lines) and Phil Taylor (power player on the drums) are also superb singers whose voices blend together to create some of the best harmonies you’ll hear. In fact, they don’t need instruments. A cappella? In a heartbeat! If you have the opportunity to catch their show, don’t sell yourself short. GO!!! Click here to find out more.

Sh!tshow – James Blonde

When Doves Cry – Prince

Rehab – Amy Winehouse (live)

Just A Little Bit – Julian Taylor Band

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Cut Copy – Black Rainbows

How You Remind Me – Nickelback

…..and a little bit more of Mariposa

Bright Lights – Ziggy Alberts

Ship to Shore – Stars

2018 Tour Cap – Free Label

Keeping Time – The Ennis Sisters

September Fades – Ralph

…..and for laughs….and some truths…..

A Tale of Two Brains

To my dear friends and family members, know that I love you and although I can’t always “kiss the booboo and make it go away” as much as I dearly with I could, “Lucy” is always “In” (spare the nickel) and hugs are always plentiful and free.



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – A Different Path …and Music!”

  1. Shirley Anne Thornton Says:

    Hi Pat this is such a beautiful piece of writing, it made me cry thinking of all the crap mentally, physically and financially I’ve had in my life. People who haven’t had to deal with mental health issues on a personal level don’t understand, even when they’re empathetic. Just like if you don’t or haven’t lived alone, don’t understand the sense of loneliness or feelings of being alone. It’s the same when you have to rely on others when you’ve been independent most of your life. It’s s so hard to ask people to do for you, because you feel like an inconvenience

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