I Have Depression.
Yup. That is right. I have Depression. 12 months ago, I would NEVER dream of telling another living soul. Back then, I felt as though admitting to being depressed was admitting defeat. After all, how could I be depressed? I have always had a roof over my head, food on the table, a family who loves me, and had academic success.
“So what could possibly be wrong? What did I do to wrong to end up with a mental illness?”
The answer: Nothing.
The thing that often eludes people, is that even the happiest, most successful people can suffer from depression. Whether it is for a short, specific moment in time, or a life-long struggle. Because the truth is, no matter how happy someone may seem on the outside, they do not have control over the balance of hormones and chemicals in their body. No matter how rich someone is, they cannot buy their way out of mental illness.
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day so I thought I would get a little deeper than usual and create a post for you where I expose my vulnerability and share some extremely personal info. Why? Because I suffer from Depression and Anxiety and I am NOT alone. 1 in 5 Canadians directly experience mental illness in their lifetime, and nearly every single Canadian will experience mental illness at least once through a friend, family member or coworker.*
I have been suffering with anxiety and depression since I was 13 years old (if not earlier), and I did not seek the help of a counsellor until I was 21 years old. Looking back now, I wish I had realized sooner that accepting that something is wrong and then accepting that I could not fix it alone does NOT make me a weak person. It does not make me a “sick” person. It makes me a HUMAN BEING.
Here is the truth : you do not have to be poor, uneducated, from a specific culture, or a specific age and gender to experience a mental illness - despite the stigma that may try and convince you other wise. The reality is, that people of any age, gender, social class, income level, education and culture can experience a mental illness because EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING has mental health. In the same way that any human being can catch a the flu, anyone can develop a mental illness.
I did not always know this truth. For years I thought that something was wrong with me. I thought I was broken, that I was less of a person because I was sad or angry or nervous all the time. My friends all seemed so happy and care-free, so why wasn’t I?
Flash forward to summer 2017: the summer that changed my life.
I was at an all-time low. My depression was impacting my relationship with my family, I would not answer text messages that my friends would send me and I would turn down every tea or movie night invitation that came my way. I barely even left my house unless I desperately had to (I would even call in sick to work because I could not bring myself to get out of bed). It took this horrid spell to make me realize something important: while it broke my heart to see my friends and family hurting for me, the biggest impact was on myself. I was so unhappy with myself - no confidence, no belief in myself - to the point where it put a strain on my relationship with my incredible sweet, compassionate and loving boyfriend of 8 years. He (aside from my INCREDIBLE mom & grandma, of course) was the only person that had the power to pull me out of a downward spiral and make me happy again. Yet I would reject every act of affection and attempt at cheering me up.
Enough was enough. No more would I push those who love me away. I would accept the help they were offering me, no matter how much it hurt my pride. Because they love me and I love them, and no matter what mental or physical illness I may suffer, they will never stop loving me. I owed it to them, but more importantly I owed it to my self to try something different. Something that made me beyond uncomfortable.
I eventually made the decision to talk to a counsellor (something my wonderful mamma had tried talking me into doing for YEARS…but I had to arrive at this decision on my own because that is how my mental illness works). This was the best decision of my life. Don’t get me wrong, the first few sessions were EXTREMELY uncomfortable and pretty much just consisted of my crying my eyes out in front of a complete stranger who would write down every word I said, whether I liked it or not. After the first few meetings, I started to open up more. I was vulnerable and I discovered things about myself that I may never have discovered were it not for talking to a stranger.
This was two years ago. I now take a tiny white pill every morning that helps keep my depression and anxiety at bay by giving me a boot of happiness (the pill literally only contains Serotonin - a compound that impacts your happiness). Think of it like taking a vitamin to help balance things out in your body.
So to re-cap:
YES, I take a pill every day.
NO, I am not sick or dependant or weAk.
LET’S WRAP THIS UP: It can be extremely overwhelming admitting to yourself that you may be suffering from a mental illness, let alone building up the courage to reach out to another person for it to get help. My mental health journey has been a LONG and bumpy road full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and it is not over yet. There are still lots of things I need to work through. I still have bad days sometimes and that it OKAY. For over a decade, I suffered in silence, while impacting the relationships in my life, as well as my relationship with myself, as a result of trying to cope with so much pain alone. No matter how strong you are, you can only hold in those emotions, anxieties, self-doubts, anger, and fears inside for so long, before they eventually start to seep through into the other elements of your life; impacting your education, work, family and friends.
No matter how strong, courageous, brave, and determined you may be… everybody still needs a little help sometimes and that is OKAY! If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, check out the resources I have linked below and be sure to comment your stories and share this post with your loved ones! If you have any questions for me about mental health or my story, comment below!
It is time we all start acting as a community of allies spreading love and support to one another.
Yours HAPPILY (most days),
Peer Support Canada: https://peersupportcanada.ca
Not Myself Today: https://cmha.ca/programs-services/not-myself-today
Takeaways Toolkit for Workplace Mental Health: https://cmha.ca/takeaways
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Hope for Wellness Helpline: 1-855-242-3310
In addition to these services, many Canadian Universities and workplaces have counselling services available (these are not alway free or affordable for that matter, but often times insurance can cover these visits depending on your coverage). If it is not financially realistic for you to get councelling at your academic institution or in your workplace, there are MANY free services (such as the ones I listed above) and they are JUST AS GOOD as the services that you would have to pay for elsewhere!
*For more stats and information on Mental Health, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association