This post was inspired by the magic of the Bell Let's Talk campaign. For every text message sent (make sure you turn off iMessage) and long distance call made (by Bell customers) 5 cents is donated to fund mental health initiatives across Canada. Bell isn't your provider? Fear not. The same donation will be made for every tweet, Instagram and Facebook status using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. Get the conversation going, reduce stigma and show those who are suffering that they are loved and supported.
I sat there with my forehead pressed against the window, eyes glazed over with a blur of road lines whizzing past me. My expression was blank. My heart hurt and I had a pain inside my soul that I couldn't explain to anyone because I didn't even understand it myself. I wondered how I'd gotten to this point and felt overwhelmed by the thought that this was the new 'normal' for me.
More lines whizzed past me as the car moved forward.
I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"I know it's hard for you to see this right now, But one day you'll look back on this moment as a blessing in disguise"
I glanced over at my Mom.
It was late November of my third year of University. I'd been silently struggling with anxiety and depression for as long as I could remember but had mastered the art of disguising it. The Type-A, perfectionist in me that triggered my poor mental health was also what allowed me to keep it hidden for so long. In the past few months, my lows had gotten more and more intense and my attempts to conceal my pain less and less successful. People noticed. I spent most of that semester battling anxiety attacks, missing class, avoiding friends, and wasting the majority of my days away in bed with the lights off and the door closed. After a few dramatic outbursts - that were most definitely loud cries for help - it was obvious that something had to change.
I turned back to the window and fixed my eyes on the road lines moving below me. A late night call from my sisters to my Mom had landed me here. She'd driven up to London, packed up my clothes and got me in the car - headed for home and a much needed visit to my doctor. I pretended to be frustrated by the whole ordeal, but deep down, I was grateful that some special people around me (you know who you are, I love you) had the courage and compassion to take the steps for me that at the time I couldn't take for myself.
Fast forward almost nine years and surprise, surprise:
Mom. Was. Right.
I'm now able to look back at that very low point in my life exactly as my Mom said I would:
a blessing in disguise
(a very nasty disguise)
The mental illness I struggled with is what ended up propelling me forward. It forced me to recognize that the way I was dealing with things wasn't working, that hiding my problems was only making them worse and that lying in bed, under the covers, waiting for something to change was not the path to healing. The fact that things got so bad was what landed me in the doctor's office that day and got me the medication that was necessary to get me functioning again. That doctor led me to connect with an amazing therapist. She (with the help of my Mom) forced me to start doing yoga regularly. Yoga introduced me to a whole community of people who were open about the struggles they'd been through and made me (finally) feel that I wasn't alone. My love of that community and practice is what led me to complete my Teacher Training, open a studio in Muskoka, and what now allows me to spend my days sharing what I've learned with others.
As you can see - in hindsight - definitely a blessing.
I am where I am today because of how low I was in that car. And I still don't have it all figured out. The issues I struggled with then are always going to be a part of me, but I now have the tools to cope with and manage anxiety and depression when it creeps back into my life.
So, what if you're not there yet? What if hindsight is a long way away? What if you're relating more to the girl in the car than the girl writing this post? What if you're reading this from your bed, with the lights off, unable to snap out of it and with a pain inside your soul that you can't explain?
Then I hope you find some comfort in the fact that (I think) I know how you feel.
I often wish I could go back and tell that girl in the car a few important things. While I haven't figured out how to turn back time (yet) I know that there might be someone out there, in that very same state that I was in, who could benefit from hearing what I've learned in these last nine years.
PEOPLE WANT TO HELP YOU
You know all of those people that you think don't want you around? The ones you're shutting out because they just won't get it? The ones you're avoiding because you don't want to bring them down with you?
They probably really want to help you.
The tricky thing is, they can only do that if you let them. It's scary, it's hard and it's awkward to speak up but things won't change unless you do. Your family, your friends, your doctor, your therapist - they want you to feel better, maybe even more than you do. Open yourself up to the help and support around you.
DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT
I feel that I need to preface this with the fact that I know the most frustrating thing someone can say when you're dealing with depression is to 'snap out of it and do something'. I know how important it is to honour your body and let yourself rest when you need to. I know that feeling better takes time and you can't rush the process.
I also know that healing isn't going to be magically bestowed upon you while you hide under your duvet.
When you're depressed, the easiest thing to do is nothing. So you do nothing and you stay depressed. The only way to change how you feel is to do something. But doing something as simple as getting out of bed can feel really, really hard.
It's a tricky cycle.
So start with one small step. Wash your face. Get dressed. Eat a piece of toast.
Then another. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend.
Then another. Tell someone your struggling. See your Doctor.
Then another. Go to yoga (yes - I'm biased but I swear it helps).
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER
Life is always changing and believe it or not, so are you. Take comfort in the saying 'this too shall pass'. I know it can feel like things will never get better, but with the right support, they do. If you're willing to reach out, admit you aren't okay and put in the work, your life (and the way you feel about it) can change.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
This is the number one thing I wish I could go back and tell myself. One of the most debilitating and painful parts of my journey was how isolated I felt. I can't tell you how many times I wondered what's wrong with me?
I know the answer now. NOTHING. I'm human. It's not weird to struggle. In fact, everyone does.
You know that perfect girl at school or that friend that always seems so happy or your boss that has it all together? Even they are dealing with something. We're all just really good at covering it up. If mental illness happens to be your something, know that everyone else has their something too.
If everyone has their something, then the best thing we can do for each other is be kind and compassionate. The Bell Let's Talk campaign is a wonderful step in that direction. Let's embrace this opportunity to spread the message that there is nothing wrong with struggling. That there is power in stepping up and admitting that you aren't okay.
Let's use today as a chance to make it clear that we love each other when our days are bright and we will still be there for each other when life gets dark.