Yesterday was Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” Day, dedicated to raising awareness and funds to destigmatize and support mental health issues. I am a big fan of the initiative, though ironically I felt I was too silent when the day actually arrived.
I changed my personal profile picture with the special Let’s Talk frame. I retweeted Let’s Talk posts and “liked” as many as I could. In the past, I’ve also raised money for the Royal Ottawa Hospital’s mental health program.
One thing I haven’t truly done is speak out for myself.
It has been 12 years now since I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, acute performance anxiety, and ADHD. I also believe I’ve struggled and continue to struggle with other things as well, for which I’ve not been formally diagnosed – impostor syndrome (common with biz owners!), and general and post-operative depression, for example.†*
I’ve tried a handful of medications that made me feel more detached and apathetic, so I now manage with diet and supplements, and for the most part I’m worlds better with than without.**
I’m thankful to say that I have so many more good days than bad, and structuring my days to mitigate negative self-talk before it starts helps more than I thought possible.
I’ve not been secretive about my issues, and have in fact used myself as an example in my own workshops on mental health or when discussing foods and products as they have worked for me.
But at this point I feel it is essential for others to understand how a person with mental health issues lives day to day. If we’re going to destigmatize mental health issues, it starts with removing the masks we live in.
It starts here – I’ll remove my mask. My inner monologues on the worst days – what I can actually manage to put into words – tend to go like this.
Get up and get working! Lots to do today! I don’t have the energy for this. It’s too much. Where do I even start? Why do I do this anyway? No one really cares. I need coffee. Never mind, I’ll try again tomorrow.
I really want to make that chili recipe today. Or maybe I’ll use up some of that rice. I should also use up those zucchinis before they go bad. Ugh, the kitchen is a mess. Why can’t I ever keep things clean? I’m so disorganized. This whole place is a mess. I can’t deal with this. I’ll just have pasta and sauce again. This is why I’ve gained so much weight since the surgery. I suck.
Okay, so today I’m finally going to go to the gym again. I’ll restart my C25K app and set up a new playlist. There’s also a yoga class there soon, that would be cool to get back to. The weather’s not too bad, so walking there will be no sweat. My back hurts again. Everything hurts today. What if one of the trainers recognizes me and starts talking to me? What if I see someone I know? They’ll know how out of shape I am. They’ll see how much weight I’ve gained. I have no more muscle tone. I don’t want to go alone. I’m too nervous… Great, now I’m having a panic attack.
[Hey! How are you?] 😀 Not bad, you? I’m not doing nearly as well as others in my field. My back hurts again and my leg is still numb. I haven’t been to the gym or done any workouts at all in forever and I feel gross. I spent the entire day yesterday in pyjamas binge-watching TNG and Friends instead of working. I had a protein bar for breakfast because I was overwhelmed by the mess in the kitchen again. I haven’t made enough time to care for myself. My hair looks awful. Someone I know is really sick and I can’t stop thinking about it and putting myself in their shoes. The world seems to be falling apart. There are so many people and animals I want to help but can’t. Being an empath sucks. I had a fight with my husband again but everyone thinks we’re perfect so I shouldn’t say anything about it. Why does he even stay? Why does he even love me? My own sex drive has evaporated for over 2 weeks and I’m creating a program for a healthy sex drive. My cat isn’t a kitten anymore, she has arthritis… I don’t know you well enough to say any of this. I don’t think you even really like me.
Just keep smiling. Just keep joking. I’m fine.
†Update: In the week since I hit publish on this post, I’ve had lots of positive responses, mostly to tell me I’m brave for stepping forward, and a few privately to tell me your stories as well. Thank you so much! It is so important to remember that we are never alone – and that is the point I’d hoped to hammer home with this post. I’ve also had some express concern, and therein offer support, and I thank you for that as well. I will say that my experiences over a long period of time have been condensed here. I am so glad to report that I have not felt this intensity in quite some time, and am finding my own way back to myself.
I mention earlier in the post that I mostly manage through diet and supplements. I will add that there are lifestyle habits that I’ve picked up and am getting back into that have also helped a great deal. These include recognizing when I’m hitting my limits and actually taking time out for self-care, meditation and visualization (I highly recommend “Creative Visualization” with accompanying audio CD, by Shakti Gawain, which features loads of present-tense affirmations and meditative exercises, guided on the CD), discussing issues in online support groups, practicing yoga, colouring and otherwise engaging in a hobby, cuddling with my cat, dedicated quality time with my husband (yes, my sex drive is back to normal as well!), and writing – I had honestly forgotten how cathartic writing could be until I actually wrote this post, and am getting back into journaling. (Coming back to visualization, I find it helps me to think of the act of journaling as removing things from my brain and leaving it behind in the journal – literally closing the book on it.)
I could go on, as there is, of course, always work to be done to continue improving and nurturing oneself. I hope you, too, will find something to take you back to yourself. ♥
If you suspect that you or someone you know requires help, check out Bell Let’s Talk’s resource page.
*These are not meant as diagnoses, they are my own personal suspicions based on my own research and experiences, and this is the first time I’ve revealed them. I do not nor will I ever recommend self-diagnosis. If you suspect you have a mental health issue, please do see a therapist.
**I received the okay from my therapist at the time to stop taking those medications. If you have been prescribed a medication, take it as prescribed; do not stop taking it without your doctor/therapist’s supervision as some have serious withdrawal effects; and advise your doctor/therapist of any complementary or alternative therapies you wish to try to rule out any contraindications.