• Jocelyn Bystrom

Normal, What's Normal?

Ever asked yourself if you're a coward? I'm a coward when it comes to speaking up for myself and approaching challenging conversations, or I once was. Now, I'm seeking support, learning new strategies, finding pearls of wisdom and sharing insights.


When my anxiety skyrockets, I take a step back and remember where I was five months ago, in the Seizures Investigation Unit and how I ended up there. Choosing to hold it all in as I: provided emotional labour at work as an educator, after the loss of a treasured career unexpectedly, managing unresolved grief, supporting my husband in getting a brand new business underway, care-giving for a parent with dementia, and the capper a pandemic. Only recently, am I finding volition and proactively reaching out, seeking support, and initiating pro-actively self-care planning knowing I must on my journey back to wellness. From this high-functioning, driven, perfectionist, who as a passionate leader, floundered and is now finding my way back, speaking up and out about mental health in the work place and as a mental health advocate. I write. This is my, new normal.


This past week, I worked diligently through 'How to deal assertively with Criticism' the 7th module in a free, online workbook, recommended by my psychiatrist, called:

'Assert Yourself'

Prepared by the Centre for Clinical Intervention's, [free, online resources] I'm finding the practice extremely valuable. I'd highly recommend this resource, it's free and easy to use in your own time, at your own pace. The only obstacle getting in the way of my recovery was me, before I said, yes to learning, a growth-mindset and stepped out on the road to wellness.


Simon Sinek, articulates the value of 'trust' exceptionally well when he writes about leaders,


"There is only one requisite of being a leader - followers. People who willingly go in the direction you’re going. They follow not because they have to. They follow because they want to. They don’t follow you for you. They follow for themselves. They believe you have their best interests at heart. They trust you."


I hope you'll trust, as you read this blog and the suggestions offered, knowing that the opinions here are my own. I hope you'll find them trust-worthy and consider some of the resources, readings, and links to support! I've found these extremely helpful on my journey to wellness and as a teacher-leader, feel passionate about sharing my learning and establishing trust with my readers. Let me know if anything, doesn't sit well with you as you read. Leave a comment. I'll re-read, re-consider and double-check for errors, omissions or thinking that may need to be reflected upon, changed or updated.

~Sincerely, Jocelyn Bystrom


Recently I posted about 3 mental health memoirs: one of which was:


Mark Henick's new #mentalhealth memoir (2021), SO-CALLED NORMAL. I have to say, since I have a working title for my memoir of: A Very Rare Normal, for my memoir, currently in progress, Mark's title was an immediate hook.


Captured on HarperCollins website as:



"A vital and triumphant story of perseverance and recovery by one of Canada’s foremost advocates for mental health."


"When Mark Henick was a teenager in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, he was overwhelmed by depression and anxiety that led to a series of increasingly dangerous suicide attempts. One night, he climbed onto a bridge over an overpass and stood in the wind, clinging to a girder. Someone shouted, “Jump, you coward!” Another man, a stranger in a brown coat, talked to him quietly, calmly and with deep empathy. Just as Henick’s feet touched open air, the man in the brown coat encircled his chest and pulled him to safety. This near-death experience changed Henick’s life forever.

So-Called Normal is Henick’s memoir about growing up in a broken home and the events that led to that fateful night on the bridge. It is a vivid and personal account of the mental health challenges he experienced in childhood and his subsequent journey toward healing and recovery."


Jocelyn's Take Away's:



1. Like Mark, I encountered a continuum of people during my struggle over the past seven years, most were extremely supportive of what they understood of my physical struggles. Especially, as I struggled through the health care system seeking answers to why? Why, was I experiencing unexpected, abnormal discharges, symptoms, and seizures? What could be done to make it all stop? Like Mark's "man in the brown coat" each of us, who are alone, struggling needing connection, may or may not realize that what we truly need is the "gift of another's effort and time" to reach through and over the invisible walls we've built to barricade, fortify and protect our hearts and minds, enabling us to learn to trust, surrender and seek support.


2. We buttress ourselves with tools and strategies that may have served us well as children, when our emotional needs perhaps went unmet as a result of trauma, however we can find ourselves trapped and stuck when they're no longer effective. Perhaps, they once served us well, but no longer function for us in new relationships, circumstances or challenges. As Mark points out, "It often seems [we] are torn between obeying authority in order to fit in and avoid conflict, on the one hand, and standing up for [ourselves] and risking rejection, on the other." (Henick, 2021,p.168)


I too, have experienced significant anxiety as a result of avoiding conflict. When we are torn between asserting for our physical, emotional and spiritual needs at the risk of perceived rejection by those who anchor us, we can make decisions through the skewed lens of mental illness. It's time to advocate for ourselves and seek support to learn new, effective strategies that will serve us here and now, where we are.


3. "Not all problems can be fixed. Sometimes all you can do is hold hands." (Henick, 2021, p.231) Similar to Ava's Creed's message in her video story , when she suggests that we can each, "Be the main character in our story, not every story needs to be written alone." We need one another. We need each other and we are #StrongerTogether. Reach out your hand, and ask for help.



Next Up: *posts coming soon

  • We Thrive Together: Discussing Wellness & Anxiety at Work

  • Book Review: A Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (2005)

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