It’s mental health awareness week and in just a few days it will be Bell’s Let’s Talk day… a topic close to my heart and important for all of us to learn more about and be more mindful of.
I, myself, have suffered from mental illness my entire adult life. I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 16 and for the better part of the past two decades I have treated my illness by taking antidepressants and mood stabilizers. We all have a story to tell. Here’s mine…
I began seeing a therapist when I was a teenager, and I have always found the process of talking to someone to be a valuable tool in healing and learning and working through problems or trauma. By the age of 18 I was medicated for my depression and had already been admitted to hospital, twice, for my mental health. As an adult I have had high and low days, weeks, and months (or what feel like years). I continue to medicate with anti-depressants, and as of recent years I also take a mood stabilizer, and I see a therapist. I continue to feel that talking through something is one of the best ways to let it go and no longer allow it to weigh on my heart. I also reach out to friends and family when I’m feeling a low phase or ‘funk’ (as I like to call it) coming on.
I know the feeling of being alone. I know what it’s like to be so deep in your own thoughts that logic and reason no longer hold any bearing on your decisions, and what it’s like to think the worst of yourself. I know what it’s like to want to withdraw from the world and turn away from people who love you. I know what it’s like to sustain your heart, head, and soul with the poison that your brain is feeding them. I know what it’s like to feel worthless, and that worthlessness can lead to helplessness. I know these things, but I also know that there are other options! I know to avoid certain television shows, people, and topics for what they do to my spirit. I know that I need support and that comes from my loved ones. I know that I need someone to listen to me when I’m starting down a dark path, or before I start down that path to prevent me from ever getting there! And I know how important it is to be social. It’s easy to crawl into bed and forget the world exists, but if you participate, see friends, go for coffee, a walk… any of these things will help!
We throw around words like ‘crazy’ with little to no thought to the real meaning of the word. Well, the word crazy was first used to describe someone who was full of flaws or cracks. That’s me! And while I can wear that title as a badge of honour, there are others who are sensitive to it and we should be too. Mental health should be treated as any other ailment and to ignore that it exists because we’re afraid or uneducated is a disservice to ourselves and our community.
There can be such a stigma around needing emotional support. Why? When we require help in our job, we ask. When we need help around the house, we ask. Why is it that when we need emotional, or mental help we are afraid to reach out and ask for it? It’s as though we tell ourselves that we’re weak, damaged, or somehow less than others.
I didn’t know until recently that it’s estimated that more than 20% of us will suffer from depression at some point in our lives, and 1 in 5 Canadian’s will experience a form of mental illness. When will we do away with the shame we feel when we admit that we don’t have it all together when so many of us are going through this battle?
I understand that depression can be caused by emotional, psychological, and environmental factors. My understanding is that it starts by a chemical imbalance in the brain that, in turn, can affect us in every aspect of our lives. But, is medication always the answer? Of course not. For some people, they do yoga. For others they meditate. Some people find talking to someone is the answer. And still others take medication, or a combination of the above methods. For me, as well as anti-depressants, I see a therapist, I write in my journal, and I turn to people when I’m in need. I am not here to say which one is the right path, but to highlight that there is a path that you can take that is better than suffering alone. If singing a song at the top of your lungs will help you, DO IT! If painting a picture is therapeutic for you, do that. But do something. Talk to a friend. Talk to your doctor, a parent, a teacher, or whoever you feel you can turn to.
You are not alone. So, let’s talk.