Changing lives with a call, text or tweet

Imagine waking up every day and having to convince yourself to get out of bed. Not because it’s warm, or comfortable, or because you don’t want to work or go to school, but because for an inexplicable reason the sheer idea of getting out of bed is equally exhausting and terrifying.

You don’t know why, but the thought of facing your day makes you feel extreme dread; a bubbling darkness threatening to swallow you whole.

You make it to work or school, but nothing feels right. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you feel like something terrible is about to happen. When people talk in hushed tones, you keep hearing your name. You don’t know if you’re imagining it. Your heart races–you’re waiting for something bad to happen. Maybe you’re going to get fired. Maybe you’re about to find out all your coworkers and classmates hate you.

You start to question everything. Maybe you deserve to get fired. You thought you were doing great at your job, but maybe you’ve been screwing up this whole time.

Some days you wake up and experience none of this. Others, these fears, these anxieties, the darkness, are so overpowering you can’t escape. You find ways to self-medicate. For some, it’s drinking, others, it’s cutting.

They’re the only things that take the swirling thoughts and darkness and leave you simply numb.

I can still remember the day my doctor confirmed I was mentally ill. It was January of 2010, and I had spent the three previous months being watched continuously by my family. I should have been hospitalised, but as I’ve shared before, I was blessed to have parents who recognised that would have destroyed me further. Instead, they agreed to have me at home, not left alone.

In the beginning, it was terrifying. Not being allowed to spend time alone in my room, and when I was alone, all doors must be open.

It felt like my freedom, my life, had been stripped from me.

All of that paled in comparison to how I felt the day my doctor confirmed our suspicions. I had BiPolar II disorder, coupled with extreme social anxiety disorder, and general anxiety disorder. On the one hand, there was a deep sigh of relief–everything from the previous 23 years began to make sense. My behaviour, my constant panic attacks, my consistent suicidal thoughts, all of it. There was also a huge fear there–a fear of what it meant for my future. Could I recover? Would I ever be normal? Would I be capable of living a normal life?

What I faced, what I face on a daily basis, is something most people cannot ever fathom.

Mental health care options have come a long way in Canada, but there is still a long way to go. There is a large percentage of people suffering from mental illnesses across the country who have been unable to find the correct treatment, the correct medical professional, and the help they need to begin their recovery.

I’ve said before I consider myself one of the lucky few, and the truth is I am. I met an incredible psychiatrist right at the beginning, we were able to narrow down my diagnosis and find the right meds. I got my life back. There’s no such thing as 100% recovery, though. Every day is a battle, some days worse than others. The ongoing assistance I receive is part of what allows me to live a ‘normal’ life.

Every year, Bell runs a campaign designed to raise awareness and funds, and break the stigma surrounding mental health. #BellLetsTalk provides a unique opportunity–to utilise your cell phone (if you are on the Bell network) and social media to help drive up the amount contributed by Bell for mental health initiatives in Canada.

This year, #BellLetsTalk day falls on January 25th, and every call, text, and interaction on social media will see a 5 cent donation made to this campaign by Bell. Although in the past, the social networks were limited to Facebook and Twitter, this year, it has been expanded to include Instagram and Snapchat as well.

On their website (http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/) you can find information on how to get involved (including how to utilise social media to contribute), as well as videos from their spokes-people, such as Olympic medalist Clara Hughes and TV celebrity Howie Mandel.

January 25, I invite you to take part and learn how we can change the face of mental health in Canada for the better.

This column appeared in the January 13, 2017 edition of the Orangeville Citizen.

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