In support of Bell’s annual mental health awareness initiative, I put out a series of posts on Facebook. They were vulnerable and a bit scary, but I did it to not only help end the stigma of mental illness by sharing my own story, but I did it in little bits to keep using the hashtag and help increase Bell’s contribution to Canadian mental health organizations. This blog post will be the accumulation of these posts, so if it doesn’t flow as naturally as usual, that’s why.
Here it goes…
Today is #BellLetsTalk which donates 5 cents to mental health initiatives for every time the hashtag is used. I’m going to share some parts of my own mental health journey over the course of the day. And of course, since every use of the hashtag gets a nickle, I’m going to spread it into a few posts. Please accept my spamming as it’s for a good cause.
I’ve written a bit about my mental health struggles, but I’d like to share a bit more with you today because I believe that it’s in the sharing that we begin to erase the stigma. And honestly, with the increases in anxiety, depression and stress (not to mention other troubles), it is amazing to me that a stigma can even still exist. I don’t know what the stats are, but almost every single person I know has struggled with mental illness in some capacity.
In my family, we have it all… anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, addiction. Each of us cope with it in different ways… some of us didn’t cope well at all and are no longer with us. The reason I can share this is because I know that my family isn’t the only one. I know that while people aren’t talking about it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening behind closed doors EVERYWHERE.
I talk about self-care being preventative medicine, and I should REALLY clarify that, especially on a day like today with mental health being at the forefront of the discussion. So to be clear: I’m not saying that meditation (for example) will cure schizophrenia. There are a lot of illnesses that are a result of a chemical imbalance or a hereditary condition… I’m not talking about those.
I’m talking about the things that ail us because of the modern lifestyle. Because we are in a society that though we are more connected than ever thanks to technology, we are more disconnected from our friends, family and peers. We lack community. We are over worked. We deny ourselves pleasure (no time, no money, no energy for it). We are often unempowered in our jobs or our circumstance and that leaves us feeling SHITTY. But these are the things we can change. This is where we can reclaim that power.
Last March, I challenged myself to meditate every day for a week. It was during an anxious time in my life (not the peak anxiety period, but there was enough discomfort that I was talking to my doctor about my options). It felt so good that I set out for another day, and another, and out of the 31 days of March last year, I meditated for 27 of them. *FOR ME* meditation matters. It reduces my panic, it quiets my mind. It restores my inner chill.
Omg, I need to just rant about this a bit because I’m so guilty of making bad food choices. During my anxiety recovery, I had to quit coffee… I experienced heart palpitations that were so overwhelming I was convinced I was dying. Imagine how the body must feel experiencing that rush on a daily basis – sometimes several times a day. Tea has been really good for me… not only because I enjoy the taste, but when I’m drinking caffeinated, it’s not as strong and the rush doesn’t happen so quickly… but it’s also part of my night time ritual (especially in the winter) to help me unwind. Last year I did a program with Carmen Dunn Nutrition which was amazing (she focuses a lot on food’s relationship with stress) and during that time and about 2 months after I gave up ALL of my food sensitivities. I had more energy, my blood sugar was stable so no hanger episodes, and I noticed a bit shift in my attitude. But then… I splurged and have been back on the gluten and dairy bandwagon, and if I’m honest, they’re both super hard to give up. (I’m not condemning these as a general principle, but they’re both high up on my food sensitivities, so not great for me personally). This is the one area that I really need to not only improve, but remain consistent and VIGILANT with.
Wow… the reason this one was such a challenge for me when I was in my lowest point was because getting out of bed just to use the bathroom was an ordeal and a half. When I started cognitive behavioural therapy, I negotiated with my counselor that I’d leave the house every day – and that if it was a particularly bad day, I’d at least make it to the back yard. Sometimes, I didn’t make it outside until 10pm. And if I’m honest, most of those times, I only made it outside because my husband would invite me to go look at the moon. What people who don’t have the struggle don’t realize is that it seems so OBVIOUS and so EASY. Like how hard could it possibly be to just step outside and look at the fucking moon? But when you’re in it… my God… it’s like.. every step is walking through thick, deep mud, and it could become quicksand at any moment. You use all of your energy just to exist, let alone anything else. I don’t mean to sound bleak, but it really can take everything you’ve got.
The struggle is real folks… and it’s growing, sadly. I know more people who struggle with this stuff (or have struggled in the past) than who don’t/haven’t.
We need to have the discussion. We need to end the stigma. We need to help each other. Because struggling with mental health is hard enough… no one should have to do it alone.