Time for some real talk. This will be a long post!
This past year, the topic of mental illness and mental health has been brought front and center on both sides of the fence; with some using it to justify their arguments one way or the other for various lock down measures, or lack there of. I personally feel that mental health right now is simply being used as a scapegoat by people who otherwise don’t care. Here in Canada, there are many free mental health resources, but they are so backed up that it can often times take 6 months to a year to get into a program or even to get to see someone to talk to. If you are in crisis, there is often no easy way to get help. Mental health resources here for the most part, continue to be only for the rich. The same people that are crying about mental health through this pandemic and rolling half-measure lockdowns, are often the same people that under normal circumstances, would not advocate for greater access to mental health resources for all Canadians. That’s what I find so bothersome about this argument now. Mental health needs to be treated the same as physical health and get the same recognition, with the same universal access. We also need to normalize talking about mental health. No one should be afraid or shamed for telling someone about what they’re going through. We are all human and we all need to be able to work through whatever demons come up in our lives.
I know my story is far from unique but here it is…
Most of my life, I’ve struggled with mental illness. And while it’s become more manageable in my later years, it’s still something that I battle every day. For as long as I can remember I’ve had Depression with a light sprinkle of Anxiety. Many people seem to imagine that depression is simply being sad all of the time. It’s a lot more complicated than that though. I don’t find myself being sad all the time. In fact, I am generally a pretty happy person. I enjoy my life and the people in it. Like everyone, I have good and bad days. My good days are productive, on point and pleasant. These are the days that I get the most done and feel that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. My bad days however, are a beast.
On my bad days I’ve struggled a lot with my own self worth as well as with my own value. These bad days were when the little voice inside my head was so loud that it was almost screaming. I had trouble hearing anything else. It used to mean that I would sleep for 12-16 hours in a day. That I would struggle to get out of bed. That I would struggle to feed or bathe myself. It would usually mean that I would miss engagements with friends or work shifts. I couldn’t bring myself to get up even, let alone be in a social or important situation. These bad days also resulted in myself taking part in some self destructive behaviours and involving myself in self destructive situations. This voice constantly telling me that I’m not worth it. That I shouldn’t even bother because no one wants to be around you. You are more of an annoyance than anything to everyone you know; it would say. Everyone would be happier if you weren’t around. If I did manage to get out of bed or out of the house, my day was more of a dream than anything. I would have a hard time focusing and would “space out” a lot. This has cost me jobs, friendships, and relationships.
I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up with parents that had the means to take me to all kinds of psychologists, and psychiatrists, and whatever other doctors they figured would help. I’ve been on various medications as well as tried all kinds of other tricks from meditation, to behavioral therapies. Some of it worked, and some of it didn’t. Through trial and error I found what seems to keep it manageable. I don’t know where I would be without my parent’s being willing and able to help with this. They’ve always been my most vocal cheerleaders.
Many years ago I made the decision that I wanted to deal with these demons without the assistance of any medications, so I set out on a journey to find out how to survive without them. It would be a lie if I said that it was easy and that my life was always improved my not having them. There were years that were very much up and down and I was downright crazy at times.
Moving forward to now, being in my early 30’s, that voice is still there. I still have my good days as well as my bad days, but I have been able to win the fight against my inner demons for the most part. I still have days that I can’t really remember because I move through them in my little fog, but at the very least, I get up and get through them. All I want is to be able to be present, every day of my life. I use a combination of little self care moments as well as behavioural therapy techniques to try to keep myself as level as possible. Now, I make myself get out of bed. Even on days I don’t work. I make myself get up. Even if I have nothing to do, I get up. This has been a huge shift for myself. It doesn’t seem like much, but for someone who used to waste their life in bed in their teens and early 20’s, it’s huge. I make a point now to take care of myself and my house. This also seems like a no brainer but to someone who struggles with their own value and worth, even telling yourself that you’re worth taking care of your body is a monumental mountain to climb. I eat well and exercise often. There are many physical benefits to this but for myself it’s mostly for my mental health. If I’m having a particularly tough day, I’ll go for a run. This usually helps me work through whatever rut I’m stuck in and lets me move on with my life. I’ve also learned to take a moment and look critically at what my thoughts are telling me. Being able to differentiate between my inner voice is telling me and what is actually going on has been the toughest part of this whole journey but it is something that I’m slowly starting to figure out. I’ve also been so fortunate to have friends and family that I can openly bounce these negative thoughts off of to determine if they are indeed factual or not. All of this sounds very simple and almost superficial but it’s something that’s worked for me.
These last few years have really put my coping mechanisms to the test as well. And while I haven’t always been successful and have had to restart on my journey to better mental health a few times, I haven’t given up. I can say that I am happier than I have ever been with myself and I will continue to fight every day for myself. Because in the end, I know I am worth it, and that I deserve to be happy, just like everyone else on the planet.
I suppose I will leave it at that. I’ve taken up enough of your time now. All I will say is that if you are struggling with a mental illness or your own mental health… Keep your chin up. You’ve survived 100% of your bad days so far. One day you will find your peace. . You’ve got this.