I had another post all prepared for this week. It was going to be light and fun but then I found out that Bell Let’s Talk day was today and I felt like I needed to post something completely different. Mental illness is something that is most times swept under the rug. The words ‘anxious’, ‘bipolar’, ‘anorexic’, ‘depressed’ etc. are so often used as adjectives that the severity of them isn’t recognized anymore.
1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their life and two thirds of Canadians who are going through it, will not seek out help. The stigma around these illnesses are astounding; while the world claims to be more accepting, there are teens, mothers, fathers and grandparents, men and women who are staying quiet about their struggles, in fear of how people will react– that they will be treated differently. There are young men who are afraid they will be seen as weak for struggling with eating disorders while young women are being classified as ‘typical teenage girls’ for struggling with anxiety. People believe that because mental illness has become more vocalized among youth, it is less severe, it is not as bad as we make it out to be.
Hearing people complain that, “well it seems every young person today has anxiety or depression, half of them are probably just looking for attention”; but who are you to say? How can you judge someone else’s life when you have not stepped into their shoes? When you have not heard the thoughts that go through their head, or felt the way their anxiety builds in situations that they are not comfortable in? Felt the way their anxiety builds for absolutely no reason other than the fact that they are anxious.
I remember having my first panic attack in the twelfth grade and I thought I was dying. I had never felt that much pressure in my chest, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think clearly. I remember being in the bathroom with my best friend and just trying to breathe, trying to calm myself down— hearing people walk into the bathroom and being embarrassed. Embarrassed that my panic attack was probably making them uncomfortable. Asking for help was the most nerve-wracking thing I had ever done, not because I was afraid no one would give me the support I needed, but because I didn’t want to be generalized. I have been to therapy and I’m not ashamed in admitting that anymore. I still have days where I don’t believe I should be apart of this world, days where I have to pull myself out of bed and put on a happy face while anxiety bubbles inside me and I know I am not the only one— but we persevere.
No one person’s mental illness is the same, not everyone can be treated the same way, what works for one person might not work for somebody else. It’s all about finding your balance, whether you need therapy or medication, maybe both; but it’s hard to figure these things out alone and the fact there is a two year wait list to see a psychiatrist in Newfoundland is so disheartening because not everyone is able to wait those two years. No one should have to wait to get the help they need.
We all have to be there to support each other; mental illness is a hard thing to talk about, which is why so many people don’t. We are afraid of making ourselves burdens but that is never the case. Seeking help makes you strong, it’s the first step in realizing that you do not have to be your mental illness, you can overcome it, you can regulate it, you can be stronger than your depression, your anorexia, your bulimia, your anxiety, your OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and so many more. Your mental illness is not the definition of you.
You are so loved and so strong, you can make it through.
Not just on Bell Let’s Talk day but everyday, mental illness needs to be treated as a serious issue and not forgotten about, make it part of your daily conversation. Even just by asking someone how they’re doing, you’re letting them know that you’re there and ready to listen.
Let’s fight the stigma around mental illness.
I’ll see you soon ❤