Do you have depression or some form of mental health challenges? Have you ever considered writing down your thoughts in the form of a journal? Read how I started journaling in 1997 and then go out a get your self a new pen, a nice journal and start writing.

You don’t have to share your journal with anyone. It’s your story, your writing, just for you. I truly hope your writing will help you in some small way.

Excerpt from Count It All Joy:

When I was first diagnosed with depression, I denied that I, a registered nurse with a good attitude and a positive outlook on life could be depressed. It took several months before I could see that the symptoms my body and mind were experiencing were those of depression. I accepted the illness then and worked with my psychiatrist toward recovery. That was the summer of 1994.

My recovery has been very slow, due in large part to the fact that I am a single mother of two sons, one of whom is chronically ill. During the past several years I have experienced some of the darkest hours I ever hope to encounter. The profound sadness, the loss of interest in living and the anxious, restless energy have been very frightening. Throughout my recovery, the tragic events in my life would continue, so the healing was very difficult.

In the spring of 1997, I decided it was time to write about my illness and my life’s experiences. I chose to write my story in the form of a journal. When I began, I knew that my story had to be told but I had no idea where to begin or how to get all my thoughts on paper. Initially, I hoped someone would write my story for me. I was incredibly ill and not overly excited about learning how to write a book.

One morning I selected a notebook and pen, went to the Grabbajabba in St. Albert and wrote my first entry. This was the beginning of a routine that allowed me many opportunities: to express myself on paper, to get out of the house, to meet new people and to chat about the simple pleasures of life. I still continue with my routine. I work toward being a better person, being a great mother to my sons and sharing my story.

Many of the entries in this journal come from the deepest corners of my heart and soul. Some were very painful to write. There are breaks between the dates of the entries, and some entries are very short. Some days, I had no energy or desire to write and could only sleep or do small errands or tasks that required little thinking.

Writing this journal has kept me focused and given me a sense of purpose. Writing about my illness has literally helped me to heal, to feel better about myself and to learn how to accept the challenges I continue to face. I carry the sadness that is in this book. Cry if you must, but please don’t carry the pain. Take what you have learned and be inspired to love more, care more and give more. 

If you or someone you know has depression and needs help, please contact your local Mental Health support agency. A family physician can also provide assistance in obtaining proper medical assistance. You don’t need to face the illness alone.


copyright Sheila Ethier 2014

Journal entries from 2008 and 2009.

December 10, 2008 

On the other side of a dark cold snowy day is a miracle. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and the snow is fresh, white and clean.

Today is a miracle day for me. I can see the trail of pain. I have plowed through the trenches and today I am on the other side of pain. I feel Joy. I feel promise and I feel hopeful.

December 26, 2008

I have just realized that all of the entries I have written in my journal are leading up to the story of Jason’s diagnoses with T-Cell leukemia. I keep mentioning Jason’s battle for life but I don’t really feel strong enough to write about the story.

It’s one thing to remember little pieces of the journey, the smell of the room on the unit in the hospital, the shape of his bald head and the feel of the flannel yellow striped pajama’s. The fleeting images are constant reminders. There is a story to tell but, how do I find the right words to describe those days; how they crushed my soul and continue to haunt me.

Flannel yellow striped pajamas can render me helpless and filled with fear. When I see them I return to those early days in October 1987. They aren’t pajama’s you would find in a clothing store, they are hospital issue pajama’s for children and come in a variety of colors, green, yellow, blue, and pink. Different colors for different sizes, I don’t remember if the pink ones are for babies or for teens. I do remember that yellow is the color for toddlers and that blue is for the next size up. Jason wore the yellow pajamas for three years and for the last few months of treatment he wore the blue pajamas.

As I write this, my stomach is feeling queasy, my eyes are moist with tears and my neck feels tense and achy. As I look around the café I get the sense that I should stop writing and read a book.

I do a walk about through Chapter’s looking at all the books, all the stories. Which one is for me? I feel nervous about choosing a book. What if the story brings me back to pain? What if the story speaks to my soul in a sad profound way? I am writing that story, I have lived that story, and I don’t really want to read that sad story.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

As a person with double X chromosomes I come by my gathering instincts naturally. As women it is said to be within our genetic DNA that we will leave the home to gather food, clothing and other necessities of life for our family. The gathering of things keeps me busy and somewhat distracted from my sadness. If my mood drops while I am out, I talk myself into staying out as long as I can. I run errands and I gather things.

My sadness is deep, profound and all consuming. Today my day will start with a passion filled prayer to God that I live the day with purpose and meaning. I will then head out for my daily walk. Walking in the community that I have lived in for over 50 years usually lifts my mood and fills me with enough energy to find a café and read from a favorite book.

It’s 10:00 in the morning and time for me to fall on my knees and pray. Thank you Lord for my two sons, thank you for all the blessings in my life. Let me feel some measure of Joy today. God you are an awesome God.


copyright Sheila Ethier 2014



October 24, 2014

The memories of chemo days don’t come back to me in the ordered days of the protocol assigned to Jason. They come back to me in little bits and pieces, like fragments of time locked forever in the pathways of my mind. Children’s toys, yellow flannel pajamas, toddlers running down the corridors of the hospital, lab results printed on a sheet of paper and cursory glimpses of WBC’s & neutrophils; the list is unending.

My attempts at writing chemo days has come to a halt.

In the spring of 2012 I had finally summoned enough courage to the file folder containing the copy of the T-Cell Leukemia protocol and the calendars marking the entire 30 months of treatment. I entered all the information on calendar app on my iPad.

Once the facts were entered I began writing the details of the first couple of months of treatment. I had a good rythem of recalling the events of chemo days. And then my dad was diagnosed with a brain bleed and dementia. The story was hard to write due to recollections of my father’s role in charing for my sons. I kept reliving the days of me in nursing school and my father sitting at Jason’s bedside while he was getting chemo. Promises made to my parents that I would pay them back for the support they provided during chemo days So many days, so many memories.

In the fall of 2012 I lost my writing voice. I lost my vision for the book “Angel In My Pocket.” You see, I wanted my memories to come back in order of the days numbered on the calendar. But, memories don’t come back in order. They just appear.

Two days ago I saw a wooden toy train on display in a store. I was walking to the back of the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and out of the corner of my eye I spotted the train set. I was immediately drawn to the toy on display and as I looked at the train, the wood & the magnets, I could feel my pulse quicken, my stomach knotted and I wanted to run.

I didn’t run away, I just kept staring and let the memories flow. I was suddenly back on the toddler unit at the hospital, Jason is 3 yrs. old and is wearing royal blue pants and a shirt with white sleeves and red and blue squares patterned on the front. IV tubing is connected to his central line catheter and hanging out from the bottom of the shirt as high dose antibiotics are being infused. Jason and I are in the reverse isolation room as his bone marrow is suppressed from chemo.

Like a video recorder I can see it all so clearly. Jason is sitting on his bed playing with the wooden Brio train set. It’s his favorite toy in the child life playroom but this day he’s not allowed to leave the isolation room. The train was purchased for long days spent in hospital rooms.

I press pause on the reel of memories and continue on with my errand. There will be tears today. That’s what chemo memories do to me.


copyright Sheila Ethier 2014