Today (January 25, 2017) is Mental Health Awareness Day in Canada. And regardless of what my nationality is, or what country I call my home country, I will support this cause each and every year.
I’ve shared one of my experiences every year since learning about #BellLetsTalk. It was the first time I experienced any kind of anxiety and depression and I think it’s important to talk about that first experience. In the years since that first brush with anxiety and depression, I’ve experienced both on several occasions, but especially following the PULSE Nightclub shooting, the police shooting in Dallas, and especially after the 2016 election and especially now with the new administration that’s just been sworn into office. The difference then and now is that I’m not as scared to ask for help. I’m not as afraid or ashamed of talking about my experiences. It’s uncomfortable initially because it’s letting people in and sharing some of my most personal thoughts and feelings. But knowing there are people who are there to listen and support me, and share their own experiences, it makes it easier to talk about. Knowing I’m not alone and not the only one struggling the the same things makes it easier.
I have shared my first experience with anxiety and depression on twitter via multiple tweets last year, and I will do so again this year. And I am also re-blogging (read: copy and pasting) my post from last year, in hopes that my story can provide comfort to someone else who might be struggling, and in hopes that it also encourages them to not be afraid to ask for help.
We all have our ups and downs. And we all have some kind of demon(s) that we’re constantly fighting. I’ve certainly fought my own demons, still fight them from time to time, and I’ve definitely had my low points. But I fought my demons, and I clawed my way up from the bottom because I wasn’t alone and because I had an amazing support system.
When I look back now, I see, and remember, that low point so clearly now. I remember how alone I felt even though I was surrounded by so many amazing people who cared about me. At that point in my life, I didn’t realize that I was pushing away the people who cared about me. I was pushing them away because I was so defensive and argumentative, always insisting I was fine, even though I wasn’t. I kept chalking everything up to stress because I was trying to balance my dance training, work schedule, and college schedule. It got to a point where I actually ended up in the ER one night due to a fairly serious anxiety attack. I should have seen that as a sign, but I didn’t. I kept plodding along as I had been, convinced that I just needed to adjust to my hectic schedule.
My mom realized something wasn’t quite right after a series of anxiety attacks that I experienced over the course of the next few weeks following my trip to the ER. She did her research and asked around, and made me an appointment with a therapist. I wasn’t aware that she was doing any of that until she told me she’d already scheduled my first appointment.
I was so upset with her when she told me. Livid would probably be a better word. But I went. She didn’t give me much of a choice to be honest. And I’m glad she didn’t. As I’ve gotten older and experienced life a bit more, I’ve come to fully realize that my mom seeking out help for me was one of the best things she could have ever done. And I now fully realize why I was so against talking to a therapist. I had this notion in my head that speaking to a therapist made me weak. And boy was I wrong. You know what I learned within two visits? I wasn’t weak. I was human. And I wasn’t the only one who battled the demons I was battling.
Realizing and fully understanding that I wasn’t weak and that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help were two big turning points for me. My circumstances might not have been as dire as they are for others, but I look back at where I was and where I am now and I am completely blown away. I’m blown away by how much I’ve grown and how much my outlook on things has changed. I’m blown away by how much stronger I am now than I was then because someone who loved me took the step that I was too afraid to take. I will be forever grateful that my mom did what she did so I could get the help I needed.
Something else I learned along the way during my sessions was that I had to get out of the mindset that “I’m a burden to my family and friends.” Changing my frame of mind from that mindset was extremely difficult but I did it. And even though it took me awhile, I realized that the people who truly care about you, will be there for you even if they don’t have the answers. They’re going to be right along side you, helping you fight. They’ll be there to support you and help you in any way they possibly can because they love you and they want to see you succeed and thrive. I truly did have, and still do have, one of the best support systems around and it’s because of those people that I came out on top.
Please note that my personal experience was very much centered around dance and where I was in my dance career at the time. Also please keep in mind that just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two people’s experiences with mental illness are alike. No matter how mild or how severe your case may be, it impacts your life.
It’s very important that we not be afraid to reach out to others. Just because someone looks okay on the outside, doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting a war with themselves on the inside. Reaching out to someone, even if it’s asking how they’re doing and showing genuine interest can make all the difference in the world, especially if they feel like nobody cares and/or notices.
If you find that you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. That’s a lot easier said than done. Believe me, I know. And reaching out for help is the scariest part. But remember that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re human. It means you’re strong and exceptionally courageous. It means you’re ready to take charge for yourself and to kick the demons you’re battling in the ass. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help.
Remember that you’re not alone. There is always someone there that will be there for you. And if you don’t feel there is, I’m here. I’m here to listen and to help you in any way I can because you are important and you matter a whole hell of a lot. And whether or not I know you personally, I care about you and I want to see you fight, survive, and thrive.
MENTAL HEALTH IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH, IF NOT MORE IMPORTANT. We should do everything we can to continue raising awareness and breaking the stigmas surrounding mental illness so those who are suffering and struggling can get the care and help they so rightfully deserve. Because someone who suffers from this type of illness deserves the same kind of care, support and treatment we get for any illness or physical injury.
If you’re on twitter, use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on all tweets, even if you’re not talking about mental health. Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives in Canada for every tweet with the hashtag. Like I said at the start, regardless of where home is or what my nationality is, I will support this cause every year because mental health is an important issue, and we should do all we can to help continue raising awareness and ending the stigmas surrounding mental illness, so those who need it, can seek the proper care and help they deserve.
For those who aren’t familiar with Bell Let’s Talk, here’s a little blurb from their website:
Bell Let’s Talk is a multi-year charitable program dedicated to mental health.
Bell has committed over $100 million to support a wide range of mental health organizations, large and small, from coast to coast to coast.