Recently I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – I opened up about my own battles with mental illness. Yes. I suffer from mental illness.
I have depression. I have anxiety in crowded spaces.
There, I’ve said it out loud and it isn’t just swimming around in my head.
It may not shock you to hear that there are days I never want to get out of bed. But did you know that on those days I don’t feel like doing anything? Nothing? I don’t want to eat. I don’t want to get clean. I don’t want to think about anything or make a decision. I sit and I think about what has happened in the past and I can’t help but cry. I hate what happened to me and I hate what is happening to me.
There are times when I cancel on events because I don’t feel like being “on.” People will tell my husband how much they miss me and my bubbly personality. But we need to face the truth – I’m not always bubbly and I’m not always the nicest person to be around.
This past year I have learned to embrace that I have an issue. I once again placed it up in front of me and I finally admitted it to myself. Admitting it to others was going to be harder. How do you tell people what is really going on inside you? People can’t see what you are really feeling, and when they ask how you are it is very rare to answer anything but “fine.”
And then I started to see commercials on tv.
And I started to hear people talking about it on the radio.
My moment had come.
I was going to embrace Bell Let’s Talk Day (#BellLetsTalk on social media) and I was going to use it as my little coming out party.
#BellLetsTalk allowed people from all walks of life and of all religions and races to speak out about mental health and end the stigma around mental health issues. It was a day to make people feel like they aren’t alone and a day to hopefully bring mental illness to the forefront of people’s minds. In 2010 Bell Canada, who recognized that mental illness is one of the most widespread issues in Canada decided to start an initiative focusing on raising awareness and encouraging dialogue about mental health.
On January 28, 2014, Bell donated 5 cents from every text, tweet, call or share and by doing so has committed to donating $5,472,585.90 to Canadian mental health programs. That’s a lot of talking!
The morning of January 28th, I woke with a clear head. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and what I wanted to say. In the days leading up I had worried about the fall out but on that Tuesday I knew what I needed to do. I posted this below on Facebook and a similar message on twitter utilizing the #BellLetsTalk hashtag for both.
Within two minutes the likes and comments started pouring in. By the end of the day I had 57 likes on my facebook post. Countless comments from people who felt similar to me or applauded me for talking out and several people who were in a similar mindset but weren’t willing to talk publicly about their issue.
I was not alone.
Many of my friends on twitter congratulated me for being so forthcoming. They had no idea how hard it was to admit, but once it was out there I couldn’t stop.
I talked to several people about my anxiety issues and my panic attacks and was amazed at how many have similar concerns.
I talked about the dark days and how I felt it was important for Canada to continue talking about mental health issues.
I sat and watched as the #BellLetsTalk hashtag grew and grew until my entire feed was nearly complete with posts from people across Canada talking about mental health. It was wonderful.
But then something I didn’t expect to see happen, happened. How could #BellLetsTalk Day have turned into a pissing match for people comparing what their mental health issue is? Why did it suddenly become a competition? It forced me to post this on twitter:
And I got more comments, and it sparked more conversation and thus more tweets using the hashtag and bringing in more money towards mental health programs. If I lost a friend because I wasn’t willing to stand down on this issue, so be it. My mental health issues are not to be marginalized. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need help and getting it. However there is something wrong if you don’t think anyone else is entitled to have issues because you do.
At the end of the day, I was so happy to see that I am not alone. There are others out there that know what I am going through and those that understand I may not always sunshine and light. I have received more loving support than I ever could have expected. I was very happy to post this final message at the end of the night.