The story behind Fighting Normal

There is a way to fallEdmonton author Amy Willans was a university student and elite-level athlete on the Canadian National Precision Skating Team when mental illness forced her to leave the team and quit school at age 22. The next five years of her life was a cycle of hospitals, medications, invasive treatments and the shocking reality of isolation and stigma.

After years of learning to manage her illness, Willans has dedicated her life to fighting stigma, educating the general public around mental illness, and supporting those living with brain illnesses. She recently spoke with Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art, about her journey and how writing has been part of her path to wellness.

In 2013, Willans and Edmonton artist Laurie MacFayden created the multi-discipline instillation Fighting Normal which combined text fragments and paintings to examine the stigma and trauma of mental illness.

before you are well you must know things

you must know the hollow side of sadness

carved into the cave of your body

you must know hunger in its primal form

where you could eat your fingers and never be full

in a bed

no lovers

i’m covered in purple blankets

that smell of funeral homes

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