It’s World Mental Health Day and I’m celebrating. There won’t be any gifts exchanged or special feasts or tv specials but I’m celebrating that I’m happy and healthy and alive.
I’ve always been an anxious person and if you ever encountered me during exam time, you’ll understand how my anxieties often took over and ruled my life for days at a time. My time away at university was amazing and fun but stressful and had me dip into a pool of depression I never want to swim in again. No, it wasn’t sadness or being homesick, it was illness as worthy of treatment and compassion as cancer or any other disease.
I consider myself to be lucky to have studied health sciences, so I was surrounded by tons of research and knowledgeable people. I spoke with my doctor and began anti-depressants and cognitive behavioural therapy. I was also lucky enough to have been surrounded by supportive friends and family who listened and encouraged and loved, like the biomechanics professor who told me to be good to myself and offered his help.But I also had people in my life who didn’t understand quite so well. I can remember my boyfriend at the time referring to me as crazy during one of my crying spells. Not too helpful. (He is NOT the man I’m married to today, by the way.)
Since university I’ve had a few battles with the black dog (I love that video, by the way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc ). I ended up losing a job indirectly because of depression. I was also judged and misunderstood by another employer (in the health industry, if you can believe it). Not everyone understands and even though the campaign to end the stigma is out there, we still have a longgggggg way to go. I am ever vigilant and have a stack of resources on hand to refer to. I have a light therapy lamp. I take vitamin B. I exercise regularly. I make time for friends. I pursue things I enjoy.
I’m a military spouse and over the last 10 years I have seen significant changes in the how the Canadian military address mental health. But I’ve also seen serving members not seek treatment or hide it because of fear of being posted away from the jobs they love. I’ve seen families suffer because of lack of support or fear of their spouses’ job being impacted. My sister is a public health nurse in a high school and she copes with students suffering on a daily basis. Can you imagine what it’s like to counsel a suicidal student on Tuesday, refer them for medical intervention that night only to have them back in class the next morning because of a bed shortage or waiting lists? The state of our mental health system is not something to celebrate but the strength of people who are sick is.
We cheer celebrities and athletes for their accomplishments and I’m saying it’s time to celebrate the accomplishments we all make. Accomplishments like getting up out of bed in the morning or making time for self care or making the decision to seek help. I celebrate that I’ve learned strategies to cope with harmful thought patterns and that I’ve learned to recognize my triggers and that I make time for exercise and relaxation. I celebrate others who make the decision to start counselling or cut unsupportive people from their lives.
There is so much chaos and negativity in the world and it can be hard to sort through it all without losing your joy. I was horrified at what happened in Las Vegas last week, but I know my own limits for news coverage and I choose to focus on the stories of heroism and compassion. Do what you need to do be healthy and happy. I encourage you to ask for help even if you’re not sure you need it. Learn about anxiety and depression and educate yourself (https://cmha.ca/document-category/mental-health/). Show compassion to others and yourself. Talk about it. Journal about it. Life is tough at times but I believe it’s always worth living. Celebrate that you’re working your way through the struggles. You’re alive. Celebrate that.
IN BC Mental Health Support Line: Call 310-6789
Call 911 if you need help right away.