Elizabeth Charlotte Bogod was unique and there are many in Victoria who will relate to the help she gave to them on their paths to wellness. Kind, gentle, loving, intuitive, deeply thoughtful, compassionate and forgiving, Elizabeth was always at the ready for those experiencing difficulties, fighting with courage and conviction for their needs and rights. She was known throughout the Victoria Mental Health Community for her advocacy and for the inspiration she gave to so many in their own battles. At a time when she was, herself, in immense emotional pain, she went for help to Psychiatric Emergency Services at the Archie Courtnall Centre, Victoria, where she was greeted by a social worker, “So you are Elizabeth Bogod, I am proud to meet you”. At her memorial ceremony, there were over 100 people. It is said the value of one’s life is often seen in the numbers who attend one’s memorial.
Elizabeth was born a 9.5 lb beautiful, cute, baby girl. Specifically, people would remark about the deep brown of her eyes. When she was three months old, something flashed white in this baby’s mouth. It was a little alarming to think possibly she might have ingested some foreign body. She had. It was two teeth!
At the start of her second year, the family left the UK to go for two years to live in South Africa (as a result of a company transfer). They rented a house which came as a package with two staff (a maid/nanny and a garden boy). Elizabeth spent most of her first two years enfolded in a colourful blanket on the back of the household African maid, Rosemary, while this African “mother”, as is the custom, went about her household chores. When the assignment finished, as the family bade goodbye to Rosemary, it was somewhat disconcerting to hear her reply the only thing she would really miss was her baby girl! Elizabeth, of course, remembered none of this and was only able to see photographs. She regretted very much that she was too young to remember the African experience.
Elizabeth was three when she came to Canada. At playgroup, the teacher said Elizabeth had asked for her ‘broekies’ and she did not know what she meant. The teacher was told this was the Afrikaner word for underwear!
Between three and four, Elizabeth was great friends with another three/four year called David. It was neat to watch the two playing together oblivious of gender difference, swimming naked in our pool in the heat of the Toronto summer. But, as is convention, all had to come to an end when both started kindergarten because it is non-u for boys to be seen playing with girls. This was perhaps the first of Elizabeth’s social disappointments.
As a child, Elizabeth took ballet and Suzuki piano. There is a posting in the Photo Gallery on this Web Site of her in her tutu. It is suspected she inherited some of her maternal Grandmother’s musical ear but she never really explored music. She was much more interested in the visual arts and, of course, her passion for horses.
She was much loved by her older siblings. There was an age difference of ten years between Elizabeth and her older brother, Nicholas, and six years with her older sister, Karen. Elizabeth adored her big brother and spent many happy hours with his trendy teenage friends as they partied in “the night club”, as the basement room was known in the area. Karen was elated when, at school, she received a call from the Principal that she had a new baby sister and industriously set to as the mother and nurse – for the parents, sometimes a little nerve-wracking! Both girls were into dressing Barbie dolls, passing many hours with their hairdo’s, their fashions. When an identical dress could be purchased to fit an 11 year old and a 5 year old, the two proudly transitioned into twins.
Elizabeth did not walk until she was just over two but did a curious shuffle around on her btm. A little concerned, she was taken to an orthopedic surgeon who dangled her by her fingers like a monkey and confirmed all was okay – just a question of time. She also had small talking difficulties – a spoon came out as a “poon” and two consonants together such as “th” (“three” sounded as “free”). Speech Therapy classes resolved all but the “free”. At five, there were beginning to be signs of difference. She could not write her name and she could not count to more than ten while most others kids of her age could count to more than one hundred. The kindergarten teacher made contact and the result was that Elizabeth was held back to repeat kindergarten. There was half-day kindergarten both in the mornings and in the afternoons and Elizabeth, who had been attending the morning sessions, now, found herself doing morning and afternoon sessions – a full day. Read her write up on “LD Pride.net” and you will see in her own words this is the first time she, herself, appreciated her difference.
Elizabeth was challenged by neural deficits and learning disabilities. These took the form of slow processing skills and presented as a slower reaction to situations and settings which, with some, set her apart as “different”, difficulty with humor, understanding body language and facial recognition, poor gross motor skills (sports were majorly difficult). Math and French were problems as was handwriting which was slow (she was left-handed and never did find a way to hand-write, only to print). Thanks to the introduction of the personal computer, she was saved embarrassment and was, indeed, a fast keyboarder. These were not just childhood challenges but were permanent disabilities which affected her adult day-to-day life in very real ways. And, as if these problems were not enough, there was another problem. Elizabeth throughout her adolescence had Crohn’s Disease, the nature of this illness is an embarrassment for anyone but particularly to a teenager.
Elizabeth had a remarkable intellect. She loved nothing better than good conversation, discussion, offered well thought-out philosophies and logical insights into topics of the day – even politics. Verbally and creatively she had above average abilities but it was always within that mixture of innate social deficits which impacted her day-to-day living. In a shopping mall, she would find difficulty in taking 10% (or even more difficult, 15%) off a marked-down item. A competition skill-testing question – (3 x 10)-(1 x 3) would baffle her. It was not that she could not add or subtract, no, this was not so at all – it was the speed of processing involved to do the math.
Her deficits restricted her from the kind of usual jobs students and young people take. There was no way she could process a cash register job so retail work was out as was an office job where attention to detail was involved. She took a job as a bus girl at a seniors’ retirement complex and was fired for slowness. She took a job as a house-cleaner and the same thing happened, fired for slowness. All this had an enormous effect on her self-confidence to the extent that she was very much in trepidation at applying for any job. At community college, her deficits affected the multi-tasking a student has to do to listen while making handwritten notes. Disability Support at the College provided her with what was termed “an accommodation” – a scribe. It is so understandable when she said that having a scribe in class was embarrassing. However, her high IQ, took her to pass her college course with honors and to make the Dean’s Honors List. In fact, she was one of the two students who were asked to discuss with the professors the efficacy of the program at the end of the school year.
At school, Elizabeth experienced horrific school bullying, rejection and isolation. In those days, there were no policies on school bullying – it was all said to be part of the course in growing up. Her parents spoke with school staff about the bullying. At one appointment with a school principal, the bully was called in to the Principal’s Office and asked to apologize to Elizabeth, which he did only later, outside the Principal’s office, to repeat the same bullying!! A well-meaning teacher addressed the students in Elizabeth’s class to say that Elizabeth needed a friend and were there any candidates? The taunting that resulted in the playground was immeasurably cruel. The results of bullying, of rejection, of exclusion, were to remain with Elizabeth her whole life. Children are said not to tell their family about bullying but the family knew that Elizabeth’s childhood school friendships and friendships with even same age neighbors’ children, were sparse and inconsistent and did learn from Elizabeth about the bullying. The picture Elizabeth drew when she was 20, depicting her sitting on the school steps in the playground, graphically illustrates the trauma bullying caused her. Look under the Post, “The Face of Loneliness” to see this picture captioned: “Why won’t anybody play with me?”
Doubtless, if Elizabeth had a cast on one hand, classroom students would have been quick to rush to scribble their names on it, but her deficits were not visible. Had she had this cast on her wrist inscribed “invisibly disabled”, she might have elicited sympathy even empathy, but such visible signs were not apparent. However, the invisible signs could be perceived by those who wanted to see. Her difficulties in recognizing social cues and her slow response times made interpersonal relationships a problem.
Horrific as bullying is, it should be said that some of the isolation she experienced, both at school and in her adulthood, was the result of the innate nature of us, as human beings, to “include” those with whom we best fit and “exclude” those with whom we do not and this applies to children as well as adults. For example, we may like that person, “Gertrude” but there is something about her that isn’t quite for us, so “Gertrude”, nice as she is, is not a part of our social circle.
Likened to the two ends of the Poles – at the South Pole, there was Elizabeth, the brilliant, creative, passionate and driven. At the North Pole, there was the Elizabeth neurally disabled, traumatized, overwhelmingly emotioned, unable to understand herself or others. Both Poles collided in the middle, and it was at this middle point, she was unable to make the two connect to happiness and fulfillment. The North and South Poles were simply incompatible leaving a brilliant young woman struggling.
Elizabeth excelled verbally. She was selected to represent her school in public speaking and we remember, proudly, attending this. She did really well. No notes, right off the cuff. A precursor to the future, she became an accomplished public speaker giving innumerable community presentations and a radio interview (see attached CFAX radio sound file).
Elizabeth had an extraordinary connection to horses. Her most happy times, as a child, were spent at the stables and well remembered are those wintry, freezing Toronto days, waiting for her to “tack up” or “muck out”!! In fact, she loved all animals. One birthday, it was decided to give her a hamster. She had no idea what her gift was to be. Asked to go into the basement to find something special there, she found a hamster in a cage and her elation was magic to behold. In her final years, she was able to have a cat. She decided to get a rescue cat from the SPCA. To select “her” cat, she spent one afternoon a week for three weeks, sitting on the floor in a room at the SPCA where the more sociable cats were allowed to wander freely. Each time, one specific cat would come to her lap. His name was Charlie. “This is my cat”, she said, “Charlie”. Charlie was nine years old and it is a sad tale. He lived with Elizabeth precisely one year and because of sickness had to be put down. Elizabeth took it sadly but well. She had given an unwanted cat, who because of its age would likely have remained unadopted in the SPCA, a loving home until his death. (See the Post, “Charlie” – the Story of Elizabeth’s Cat).
Elizabeth was exceptionally talented as an artist and a poet. Examples of her work, e.g. “The Tree”, are included on this website. Originally, “The Tree” was narrated by a professional narrator (and we give our profound thanks to Shoshana Litman for the immense amount of time she spent with Elizabeth to record this narration). It was subsequently made into a Power Point Presentation with video and sound. However, technology is not that dependable and sound and music have somehow detached and it will take a great deal of work to connect up together. Elizabeth would have had no difficulty doing it – technically, computer-wise, she was a whiz. Christmas 2012, she showed the complete Presentation to her nephew and nieces in Toronto and they were all three entranced for 30 minutes. Someone who read her Veggie Poetry said she will never look at a potato in the same way again!
Elizabeth had a long, frustrating and stressful journey, most times a fruitless one, with the Mental Health System. It took a long time to diagnose her illness. She was frequently taken to Psychiatric Emergency Services and constantly discharged as being – dare one call it – fake or as, it was said, “acting out”. Eventually, the diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder (“BPD”) was arrived at. When eventually, she had a diagnosis, she was elated. At last, she could put some work into helping herself – and, of course, being Elizabeth, to helping others.
A natural follow-on to her work as an advocate for those with mental illness, was to go to Camosun Community College, Victoria, to achieve her Mental Health Worker Certificate. She then worked as a Peer Support Worker and a workshop facilitator at the Victoria Branch of British Columbia Schizophrenia Society. Here she devised, wrote and facilitated an 18 week workshop. Some of the many “peer clients” who are indebted to her for her outstanding, caring and professional help are to be seen under the Post “Thank You for Your Condolences”.
Elizabeth pioneered the frontiers of the mental health system in Victoria, challenging it to revisit itself. She long maintained that those with the experience of mental illness were best equipped to help those in distress. She was a strong advocate for the Peer Support System, maintaining that those who have had personal experience of mental health are better able to support others. She researched the then current treatment for BPD and found a skills program called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) created by Marsha Linehan, a Washington University Professor. DBT leans toward validating emotions as a therapeutic approach into a disorder which is about overwhelming emotions. DBT is perhaps the major of the four psycho-therapies for BPD which, while incorporating cognitive therapy, has a different approach, that of validating emotions while offering the skills to help deal with them. With her own researched knowledge, Elizabeth created and built the New Light Recovery Program, an 18 week skills training program based on Dialectical Behavioral Skills for those who have overwhelming emotions. It is still running as a Program today (thanks to the BC Schizophrenia Society) and has a waiting list for admission.
She co-founded the Borderline Personality Disorder Society of British Columbia, a non-profit peer-led society to advocate and support the cause of BPD. She also started and facilitated a weekly Support Group for those with BPD to which family members, significant others, and friends are encouraged to participate. This group continues to run today. Participants at this group have said it is the one place they can go and feel not judged, really accepted and safe.
Elizabeth hated the label “Borderline Personality Disorder”. She felt the words in no way described the nature of the disorder. In her view, those with BPD are neither at the border nor do they have a personality disorder. She felt it was very discriminating and the public perception was that of a bad personality, even a bad person. She wrote to the American Psychiatric Association, the professional body responsible for the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders) about changing the label to Emotional Dysregulation Disorder and also did an online petition. To-date, there has been no major change except it is understood the word “Personality” will be eliminated in the next reprint and the disorder known as Borderline Disorder.
Elizabeth you did so much for others in the short time you were here despite your very serious challenges and we are proud of you. Your innovations to help others, your creativity, your writings, your poetry, your art work will live on. Your technical expertise, your ideology, your passions, the many peers you have served so well, are here in positive and visible ways for all. You will not be forgotten. The world is a much better place for having had you in it. How many of us can say the same? You have left a legacy and you will live on in many hearts and in many practical ways. Thank you.