The power of a conversation


When I was in high school I read a powerful memoir by Jean-Dominque Bauby entitled, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. 

In his memoir, Bauby, then editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine, suffered a terrible stroke one day and ended up in a coma. When he woke up 20 days later, he had locked-in syndrome, basically meaning he was physically paralyzed but mentally aware; the only movement he had was in his head and left eye. So, he worked with a transcriber who read him the alphabet beginning with the most frequently used letters of the French language (E, S, A, R, I, N, T, U, L, etc.). She would read the letters out loud and when he heard the letter he wanted to use he would blink. The book took ten months (four hours a day) and 200,000 blinks (with an average of two minutes per word) to write.

Talk about determination.

While Bauby was technically paralyzed, trapped in his body, he made sure he did not allow himself to be trapped in his mind.

Bauby knew he was a butterfly, not a diving bell.*

Often, for those that suffer from mental illness, which is on average 1 in 5 Canadians, it can feel like you are trapped in both your mind and body, unable to break free. This is why it’s so important we talk about mental health.

Whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, or substance abuse, or have problems related to work, family, and friends, talking to someone can help shed light on your situation. Your support system, or in the words of Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, “your person(s),” can help you see the situation from 360-degrees, encouraging realizations and offering new perspectives and solutions.

It’s important we give voice to our pain.

Whether you confide your struggles to a school counselor, pastor, friend or therapist. Allowing a non-judgmental, kind person into our raw and vulnerable state can help us lighten our load.

Whoever you choose to speak to, it’s important that that space is safe, confidential and trustworthy.

By sharing, you give yourself a voice and you allow yourself to be heard. You also open yourself up to healing. Together, you’ll walk through challenging times and transitions, encouraging yourself to admit hard truths while also owning powerful breakthroughs.

There is no shame in seeking support, an ally in the fight. There is no shame in asking for help. And there is no shame in wanting to live a happy, healthy life. The deepening of your self-awareness, or perhaps the start of a treatment plan, will give you the tools you need to ensure your wellbeing and mental health is a priority – you are worthy of all good things.

St. Isidore, mentor to St. Moses the Ethiopian, has this amazing quote that I’d like to share with you:

Early one morning before dawn, St. Isidore, Abbot of the monastery, took Brother Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of the dawn come over the horizon. They stayed there until the new day had begun. Then St. Isidore said, “Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day and, thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.”

When we start talking, we realize we are not alone. When we start talking, we start connecting, and when we start connecting we realize that while we may struggle and have dark times, the sun will always rise again. The rays of the sun may rise slowly, but a new day is on the horizon. 

The power of conversation is the power of connection, and the power of connection is the power of conversation.

Let’s talk about mental health.

*A diving bell is a rigid chamber used to transport divers from the surface to depth and back in open water, usually for the purpose of performing underwater work.

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Jessica is an employment specialist for marginalized youth in Toronto, Canada. She enjoys teaching, traveling and observing - especially the relationship between mind and heart. Jessica also has a passion for outdoor walks, dancing, and all things offbeat and authentic. You can contact her at

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John Q

Well written post! It’s easy for people to talk about problems when the problems aren’t theirs. But I know first hand that it’s not as easy when the problems are yours. The good news is we are not alone and you’re right Jessica when you say there is no shame in seeking out support,as there are people who are feeling what you’re feeling, and it’s ok to allow others in that may help. Sometimes when you end the silence you end the stigma. I enjoy the content on your site.
-John Q from St. George Church