“I embrace growing older. It’s liberating, especially for a woman,” says 50-something Kristine Erglis, a Halifax artist living with a mental illness. Once a wild child who started smoking at age 13, she finds that these days, she’s a little short of breath. Though she’s quit cigarettes for what she hopes is the last time, she needs to use a walker to make her way around town on the sidewalks and buses.

“I embrace growing older. It’s liberating, especially for a woman."

The physical ailments that are part of aging, are “not so liberating,” Erglis admits. She still feels somewhat sad and upset about the state of her physical health, but says, “It’s just a transition phase I’m going through right now.” She knows she will come to accept the aspects of her life which, as an aging person, she isn’t able to change.

Erglis also has her mental health to think about. “I know I have to stay out of hospital because as you get older they have more options with what to do with you,” she says.

She knows first-hand of several seniors living with mental illness, including a friend who took a cocktail of prescriptions for mental and physical illness and, whose mental state was affected by the interaction of medications. Her friend’s doctor wanted him to go to a nursing home but his friends intervened. This experience made Erglis sensitive to the fact that the people who once advocated on her behalf - such as her mother - aren’t there anymore.

Erglis knows her flamboyant personality and fashion sense may be a liability in the eyes of health care providers. She consciously “toned down” her “eccentricities” after seeing a specialist who wanted her to change psychiatrists so she could be put on medication that would make her more “normal.”

“I don’t have to be medicated so I fit this person’s idea of normal,” she says. But she has chosen not to attract any more attention to herself than necessary, in order to protect her independent lifestyle.

“I don’t have to be medicated so I fit this person’s idea of normal."

Being careful to take her medications, eat and sleep well, and stick to a routine are also tactics Erglis uses to stay well and away from the hospital.

“You don’t want to stop taking your pills and paying your bills,” she says. “I have to act like an adult now.”

About Anna Quon

Anna is an accomplished freelance/creative writer and writing workshop facilitator. She lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  She is passionate about many things, especially writing. It is through her writing, and her volunteer work with community organizations, that Anna honours the lives of people who, like her, are living with mental illness.

In 2008, Anna received the Inspiring Lives Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. In 2009, Anna published her first novel titled Migration Songs which was shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award.

Visit Anna's website.