For Canadians - today is one day a year that we all know what the phrase "Let's Talk" is about. Bell, the phone company, has decided that on February 12 they will be donating money towards mental health awareness, research and care for every text or long distance call sent on their network, as well as every tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. It's the one day of the year that I'm sorry I'm not with Bell as my cell provider because I'd be texting the HE-double hockey sticks out of their network today.
I've heard over and over again that the #1 lie everyone tells is this: "I'm fine." and I honestly believe that's true. So often we smile, lie and move on because we either don't believe that anyone else wants to know our issues or problems, or that they don't really care. Maybe that's true in some cases, but let's stop lying to each other and especially to ourselves.
A day like today certainly hits home hard for me. I've struggled with anxiety and depression most of my adult life (and certainly through my teens). Both of my parents and my sisters deal with depression, anxiety, "checking" disorders, and other mental health issues. Some are small, some are manageable. Some are situational.... others are not.
As many of you know, last year on June 10th my entire world got turned upside down when I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and lost our baby and went through emergency surgery all in one day. Not only was I grieving the extreme and sudden loss of our baby, but I was an anxious and emotional wreck in the days, weeks and months following. I had convinced myself (read: lied to myself) that I was okay, and that I could go back to work driving a school bus in September only a few short months after our tragedy. I was wrong. So wrong.
Daily, the depression remained much the same - the intrusive thoughts I've dealt with in most of my adult life switched from the generic "you're a bad mom, you're a bad wife, they'd be better off without you" to the truly horrible "No wonder your baby died, you're a terrible mother, you didn't deserve to have another baby, it'd been better if you went too." And the anxiety ramped up to a maximum. I couldn't drive down the street without stopping twice, sometimes three and four times to make sure my littl'un was properly buckled into his carseat. I compulsively checked our front door's lock, the stove, the boys asleep in their beds (are they breathing? Are they sick? Are they feverish?), to a point where I was becoming so anxious until I met my breaking point. Becoming physically sick on a daily basis probably due to a combination of anxiety and IBS. I had a raging panic attack before work, couldn't leave my house, just... lost it.
And thankfully, I have probably the most encouraging and supportive partner in life ever - the Hubs cares for me deeply, and takes his "through sickness and health" vows pretty seriously. So when I finally managed to say "I think I need to be not working right now." he didn't rage about finances or other stresses, he just said "I think you're right."
I've been seeing doctors, many of them. I've got appointments with my own GP, a GI doc, and a psychiatrist. But the reality is there are still days when I think it'd be easier to just smile and say "I"m fine." even though I'm definitely not.
There is a stigma attached to mental health. For some reason the term "mental disorder" brings to mind people who don't know the day of the week, who they are, having voices in their heads (that they don't know aren't real), multiple personalities and the like - and while these are all very REAL very SERIOUS forms of lack of mental health, they are certainly not the only forms, and definitely not the most pervasive and common. The reality is that there are many many people who deal with mental health issues, and even more pressing is that there are many who suffer undiagnosed because they feel like they can't tell anyone or talk about it.
So today is an important day. It's a day to talk about it. Even though it's difficult, even though it's painful, but it's necessary. It's hard for me to talk about my depression and anxiety, but today - I will. Today: Let's Talk.
Bell Canada provides a Let's Talk toolkit at: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/toolkit