If we’re going to talk about getting loud for mental health, as Bell Canada urges us to do every year on 31 January, we should talk about the 364 days in between. And the importance of listening as well as talking, airing and sharing. Thanks to Christine Cogger for permission to repost this fantastic blog from her website, and for sharing that, even energetic, indefatigable, strong people need to manage their mental health.
A year ago, I wrote a post about how I came to admit to myself – and others, by virtue of pressing “publish” – that I struggled with depression. It was scary but also really liberating. It was like I was forcing myself to walk the talk, to prove that there wasn’t stigma around the issue of mental health.
Fast forward 365 days. Once again, it’s “Bell Let’s talk” day in Canada. In some ways, very little has changed. In others, everything has changed.
A friend suggested that perhaps I write a follow-up, detailing how I came to tackle my situation. It took a while, but here we are.
I don’t know that one ever truly overcomes or gets “cured” of the twin towers of depression and anxiety. Rather, for myself, it is an evolving process of managing my symptoms and triggers, and figuring out what works for me. Maybe time will tell?
Of course, there are days when I feel unstoppable. Those as so fun. Partner those with days when I feel like I can’t get out of my own way and I think that’s a pretty accurate description of the roller coaster I pilot.
You know what I think that makes me? Perfectly normal.
The most critical piece in getting myself to where I am today has been to surround myself with people who make me feel safe.
I don’t think I’ve ever typed such a corny sentence, but voila. It’s my truth.
I don’t need to constantly talk about my feeeeeelings, but knowing that those upon whom I rely are there to listen if I need them is critical. Sometimes, it’s as simple as knowing that they’ll respond when I send that text that simply says “fuuuuuuuuuuuck…”. You know what I mean.
Seeking medical help (and continuing with it, still) was the best decision I could have made for myself – and for my kids. The next best decision was coming clean, as it were. Because no longer am I hiding behind a facade and suddenly, not only have I gained more people upon whom I can rely for help, I became someone that others could come to talk to.
And so, I listen. Because, I think that’s the other part of “Let’s talk”.
Here’s what I wrote last year.
I will never forget the day that I knew I needed to ask for help.
My life, as I knew it, was crumbling around me. My mother was dying. My marriage was falling apart. I didn’t know which way was up and was barely going through the motions. I was faking it in almost every aspect of my life. I was pretending I was fine.
I so clearly wasn’t fine. I was down to 100 pounds. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t eat. I was barely present, I couldn’t focus and was operating in a fog, seized by anxiety.
I was scared, sad, and I felt almost paralyzed. Of course, I had a few close friends in whom I confided (to a degree), but those nights, alone at 3:00am, when my mind was spinning, it was a dark and ugly place to be.
My whole life, I’d always tried to power through the emotional stuff, driven by the motto of “this too shall pass.” Stiff upper lip, and all that, right?
But that day, as I sat at my desk unable to type because my hands were shaking so hard, operating on 3 hours sleep, I knew then that this had to stop. I called my doctor, and walked through her door 15 minutes later.
She knew immediately upon seeing me that I needed help. She was gentle but firm. She asked me what I felt were prying but necessary questions. She drew me out, listened to my halting speech, and by doing so gave me that tiny little bit of confidence, that little push I needed to take those first steps towards getting help and getting well. I needed someone to take control, to give me a plan, to confirm that no, I wasn’t losing it completely.
‘Cause it sure as hell felt like I was.
Fast forward to today.
I am healthy, mentally AND physically. I am SO much better.
I’ve learned to read the signs of when things are starting to slide. I know when to ask for help, and from whom. My treatment is, and will always be, ongoing. I don’t feel shame in this; rather, there’s a sense of power that comes with knowing that I was brave enough to take this on.
Today, in Canada, it’s #Bellletstalk day. The goal of this campaign is to invite others to join the conversation and end the stigma around mental health.
By sharing my story, I hope that in some way, you know it’s ok to share yours.