I’m taking the opportunity today, on Bell Let’s Talk Day, to share the unfiltered, raw version of my mental health story. I absolutely love that this conversation happens nationally each year on this day, but truly, we need to be talking about mental illness openly 365 days a year. Nevertheless, I open myself up to you today with a little fear and a lot of gratitude for how far I have come since I was consumed by sadness and worry.
I was a nervous child and was heavily preoccupied by my thoughts and worries. I remember walking to school in Grade 1 and having panic attacks on the sidewalk before I got there. It wasn’t long before I was having these attacks on a regular basis. At a very young age, I developed the belief that my mind was a dark and scary place. Somewhat surprisingly I wasn’t actually diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder until I was simultaneously diagnosed depression and anorexia (check out my post on “Body Love” for more on that) at 16. I saw a series of psychiatrists who prescribed me pill after pill to ease my anxiety, and my new-found depression.
Medications affect people differently. For me, feelings of depression and anxiety worsened when I was on one medication, and when I switched to another I become scarily dependent on it. I’m not here to tell you to take the medical route or natural way, I’m here to share my personal experience. Remember: you have to forge your own unique path to healing. In some cases, medication has proved to be very helpful and an essential part of the mental health picture. I decided to stop taking the medication and took the holistic route.
I reached my ultimate, rock-bottom low the same year I received those diagnoses, at 16, when I overdosed on sleeping pills in a frantic, crazed state. I was at my wits end with this dark cloak that followed me everywhere I went, preventing me from truly living. I didn’t want to die, but reached out for something I thought would momentarily take me out of the hell I was in. Once I realized what I’d done I called 911 and got myself to the hospital to pump it out. That is an awful, awful memory. I actually have such a hard time identifying with that version of me, but I understand her. She was lost and keeping it all to herself.
My recovery began when I started talking about it. Although I’m sure this phrase has everything to do with gas and potty humour and nothing to do with mental health I’m going to use it: It’s better out than in. It all started with a serious talk with my mum about how scared and sad I felt. There wasn’t an ounce of judgement or criticism in her handling of my feelings and time and time again I’ve met individuals who have nothing but understanding and compassion for mental illness. After that I began speaking to my close friends about my struggle and felt so loved and supported. I started to see that I wasn’t alone in this fight and I had NOTHING to be ashamed of. We don’t judge people for having the flu because it’s out of their control, right? So, why would we judge people for having a mental illness they didn’t create or ask for?
Talking about it and writing about it released me from the strong hold my depression and anxiety had on me. Every time I spoke or wrote about it in my journal I felt lighter and more free. A few years ago I started taking my yoga practice more seriously and it became a fundamental part of my recovery and continues to support my mental health. But, it’s really more than that. Today, at 25 years old, I don’t recognize that little lost girl on the sidewalk, quivering in her boots. I am so happy, grateful and full of courage to live the best and biggest life I can. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m sitting under it now!
If you get nothing else from reading this, know in your heart that you are loved and never alone. Take a deep breath, put on your kick-fear-in-the-ass shoes and share your struggle with someone you trust. You never know what they’ll have to say or what type of change it could bring about in your life. AND you can always email me if you need a friend (contact info below). As human beings we are connected, linked and in this journey together. You are loved. You are never alone. It’s not over, so keep your eyes on the prize.
It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day national conversation