Today is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day, a day that happens twice a year dedicated to eradicating the stigma of mental health issues. The goal is to get folks talking about their struggles, reaching out to others, and creating a community of support and acceptance. There is no shame in struggling, there is no shame in being unwell. Needing help is part of being human and it is impossible to reach out if we don’t overcome this notion that something is wrong with needing help.
The first step to demolishing the stigma surrounding mental health is open communication. If you’re reading this, you know I’m a huge advocate for positive mental health. I post about it on Facebook almost daily. The things I post are things I wish had been shared with me from childhood.
It’s storytime, kids…
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression from childhood. I felt different from everyone, even my family, and it was incredibly isolating. As I became an adult, my anxiety got progressively worse and I had a hard time finding (affordable) medication that helped.
When I got pregnant, I was poorly advised to stop my medications for ADHD and anxiety. I spent my first trimester in a haze from stopping meds cold turkey and the havoc hormones were wreaking on my system. I switched from the OB to a midwife and I was advised to get back on my ADHD meds, as they wouldn’t harm the baby and I was having such a tough time adjusting. I was also diagnosed with Pre-Partum (or Pre-Natal) Depression. I’d spend hours in tears and often wished I weren’t pregnant or even dead. I was in a terrible relationship with a person incapable of supporting me or taking care of me. I was an inconvenience and felt I had few people to turn to.
When Maggie was a few weeks old, I was placed in a Post-Partum Depression support group and it saved me. I had support from a therapist and a group of women who GOT IT. They got what I was feeling, that hopeless lost feeling and allowed me to feel unashamed. I can’t begin to describe how liberating it was to hear my own experiences and feelings echoed in those of others. Almost 3 years later, we’re still friends, still supporting each other, still reminding each other that it’s okay to stumble.
I still struggle, but I’m not alone. I’m here today, typing this, because I reached out. People care, and they can help – without judgement. Mental illness is isolating and dark, but there is help in the darkness and there is no shame in being honest about your feelings. It could save your life and it could save someone else’s.