Here we are, not too long after #BellLetsTalk day, and it already seems that the talk about mental health issues has subsided on social media.
Following the lead of my colleague Balraj, who wrote an open, honest, and truly vulnerable article about his mental health journey, I am writing this article to keep a real conversation about mental health going.
Like Balraj, and many others, I had known that something wasn’t quite right for some time, but in my case I was unable to admit to myself, let alone anyone else, that I was struggling and suffering.
About 9 years ago, I was first diagnosed with depression. At that time, given my situation and the information that I divulged to my family physician, it was thought that I was suffering from post-partum depression (a.k.a. “baby blues”).
It wasn’t until recently, having finally admitted to myself that ignoring this problem wasn’t going to make it go away, that I realized that my depression likely started much earlier in my life, when I was a teenager.
It was only after recently being in crisis mode and committing myself to make active efforts to change that I finally admitted to myself how deeply my depression runs.
Despite being treated medically for depression, I have been in self-denial. I realize now that I was not admitting to myself or others the issues I was having, mostly due to fear of being perceived as weak (by myself, and others) and thinking the problem was minor (as “baby blues” might imply) and would resolve itself over time.
This past autumn, I was in my doctor’s office for my annual physical and she asked me how I was managing with my depression. I quickly and confidently responded that I was doing well.
Fast forward four weeks and I found myself back in her office in a puddle of tears and full of anxiety, asking for help.
Until that moment, I hadn’t even admitted to myself what was happening, but in that moment of crisis, I am glad to say I had a revelation. My doctor helped me realize what I was doing.
I needed to accept what was happening, let go of the stigma I was applying to myself, and fully admit that I needed help.
Today, I am still fighting. I am getting better, but I am certainly not “cured” and may never be. I am learning how to manage and cope in healthy ways.
I am taking medication, talking to my family and friends about how I am really feeling, and seeking out other guidance and support. I have started to cleanse my life of things that were providing no joy and of people that also contributed to stress and negative feelings.
I am participating in a gratitude challenge – naming something I am grateful for each day for 30 days – and it sure feels good to revel in those warm and fuzzy feelings.
Keep talking to stop the stigma
To build on Balraj’s messages of “It’s okay to not be okay” and “You matter”, I’d like to add that we all need to work on accepting ourselves for who we are.
When things are not going great, don’t be afraid to admit it to yourself and to others. Be active in your self-care, reach out and talk – talk to stop the stigma!