In the Spring this year I attended the PowHerTalks Speaker Series in Vancouver, at the invitation of my friend, and one of the speakers that day, Steely Springham. I will be forever grateful. All 18 speakers brought a piece of gold to share,
but there was one whose talk touched a deep chord for me – Victoria Maxwell.

Maxwell brought great humour to her talk sharing her personal journey in mental illness – from crisis moment, to those who made her feel small, and frightened, to those who had a huge impact on her finding health, and embracing life. I found myself completely drawn in. The impact of her talk a physical sensation.

The piece of gold she shared with all of us that day was about holding open the door of possibilities for those unable to themselves. We need to embrace their truth as it is in this moment, without judgment, while also holding open the door of possibilities for what can lie ahead. We hold this for them until they themselves are in a place to hold it open themselves – if they choose to. I still get goosebumps as I share this.

With Maxwell offering her wonderful Catalyst for Creativity and Courage “Playshop” on April 30th, this is the perfect moment to share this Q and A.

8Q Spotlight Victoria Maxwell

What is your current career(s) – paid and unpaid?

I’m the CEO of Crazy for Life Co. Global headquarters located in Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast, and our staff consists of well…me. More precisely, I’m a mental health speaker, playwright, and actor. I’ve written four one-person shows about my experience living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and psychosis, and I perform them across Canada, and the States. I also teach creativity, and courage Playshops, and work as a story, and speaking coach, and mental health coach.

Can you share an interesting thing (or two) about your journey to reach this moment?

Well, probably running down the street naked in a manic psychosis was probably a pretty significant event. It first led me into the psych ward, but then led me into this amazingly wonderful career.

Ironically, had I never ‘gone crazy’, I wouldn’t have the career I have today. I trained as an actor, and worked in the TV, and film industry in Vancouver in the late 80’s, early 90’s. So my background in performance gave me a good foundation for speaking, and playwriting. Having psychosis, and bipolar disorder offered me a lot of good material.

What 3 things would you like people to know about you to give them a sense of who you really are?

  1. I’m wary of women’s groups, but belong to three, and much to my chagrin, enjoy them.
  2. I laugh as often as possible. And because I work alone, that means I laugh mostly at myself.
  3. I experienced mental illness, and a spiritual emergency (or kundalini crisis) at the same time. So it has been vital to my recovery to include a psychiatric approach as well as spiritual approach to healing. For me, it’s medication, and meditation. Not one OR the other, but both.

Highest moment so far?

It’s a tossup. It might be dancing with John Travolta in ‘Look Who’s Talking Too’ – a really bad movie. And despite the fact I ended up on the cutting room floor, not me with John, but the scene, the royalty cheques still end up in my mailbox. Or it could be giving Carol Burnett a full body massage (not THAT kind of full body massage) when she filmed a movie here years ago. She is really nice, but she also has a really bony back – never easy to massage. Or, and probably this is the one, being with my dad over the course of three months while he came to the end of his life. It was a good death, as deaths go.

What are you working on right now? In the next 6 months?

I’m teaching an upcoming ‘Catalyst for Creativity and Courage “Playshop” on April 30th’, on the Sunshine Coast. It’s for the shy, the bold, the experienced, and the beginner. And we’ll learn through laughter as much as through tears.

Over the next 6 months, and more I’ll be writing the first of four books – a memoir. Think of it as if Lena Dunham, Shirley Maclean, and Carrie Fisher’s books had a three way, and gave birth to an illegitimate literary offspring. I’m also continuing my studies in Chi Kung, and a Shamanic training program.

Who and/or what inspires you?

I wished it sounded more erudite, and eccentric, or at least a little mysterious, and coy, but Nature, especially Spring, inspires me. I am amazed, seriously gob smacked every year when these things (you know plants, trees, flowers) come back to life – year after year – in spite of what we may do to this planet. Or in my case, what I do to the vegetation in our yard. My thumb isn’t so much green as, gangrened.

The air is electric, and full of fever. Birds, and deers making all this hoopla so they can make whoopee with the best mate possible, plants pushing their way out of winter’s soil. That’s resilience, that’s overcoming adversity.

How do you personally define success?

Money. Filthy amounts of money. No, I’m kidding.

I guess when I think about it, success is whether or not I feel grateful for the little moments of everyday life. And I do. Every frickin’ day. I have had, and still have, amazing people help me get to where I am today. I am here, and I am well, flourishing even, because of those people who fiercely loved me. I needed it most, even, and often especially when I didn’t want it. And because of all of them, I am doing what I love, and getting paid for it. My work is a thank you letter to all of those people, and an invitation to hope for those struggling.

What to do you to relax, and regroup?

I have a daily spiritual practice of Chi Kung, prayer, and meditation (oh yeah, and usually a pre-dinner cocktail).

Links:

Website – www.victoriamaxwell.com

Twitter: @Victoria_BPP

Facebook: www.facebook.com/victoriamaxwellcflco