It's an amazing day. They started the Bell Let's Talk day 6 years ago, and I have been a willing and proud participant each year. It's incredible to see the enthusiasm and support this day has received, and how it grows bigger and bigger each year.
I paused to think about it this morning, and how much has changed over the past 6 years thanks to initiatives like Bell Let's Talk Day, as well as organizations such as Do It For Daron, and celebrities and athletes coming forward like Clara Hughes, Howie Mandel, Michael Landsberg, and so on. 6 years ago, mental illness was still very much a taboo topic. People didn't talk about it like they do now. People were ashamed. People were hiding it and trying to act like nothing was wrong. People were taking their own lives and their loved ones were left shocked and heart-broken, wishing they could have done something to help.
I know that still happens today, 6 years later. I can think of several people over the last few years that we've lost and had no idea they were fighting demons, waging war against depression or anxiety. And it makes me so sad, because they were so loved. They had people who would have done anything to keep them here with us. They are the ones who leave us thinking, "Was there something I could have done? How did I not know?"
But I know that is happening less often now. People are more open about their mental health issues, they are more likely to seek help. They are more likely to talk to someone. They are being encouraged not to hide it like a dirty secret. They are being told they are NOT alone, no matter how isolated and afraid and sad they are. We are doing everything in our power to erase the stigma, and while I know there is still a lot of work to be done, it is happening.
I hesitate to throw my hat into the "mental health issues" ring, as I know there are people who deal with far worse than I do. But I do battle anxiety on a daily basis. And I can trace those feelings of anxiety as far back as I can remember. I have never seen a therapist about it, but I have no doubt that if I did, I'd be diagnosed with some sort of anxiety disorder, maybe even more than one. On good days, I consider myself nothing more than a silly little worry-wart. But there are bad days, usually brought on by outside sources that I can't control. I have a very big fear of change, I stress out greatly over things I have no control over, I obsess over things I DO have control over, I'm pretty sure I have an issue with commitment (hence why I'm happily single and the thoughts of going on a date makes me want to, quite literally, throw up), and I think I have the ability to become a hermit if I'm not careful.
Coming out of my comfort zone is painful. I try very hard to keep myself in a calm and relaxed happy place as much as I can to avoid feeling like I'm tied up in knots all the time. And also to prevent myself from breaking out in hives. And also to prevent myself from eating all the foods.
I have masked my issues over the years with jokes and humour as much as possible, and I still do. I downplay it. I laugh about it. But it doesn't make it any less real.
I have coping mechanisms. I have a circle of family and friends that I know I can turn to, and I'm not afraid to talk to them about it. They know me well enough to know when to push, and when to let it go. They know when I need a little hand-holding, or a good swift kick in the ass. I have never been in such a dark place that I felt I didn't have anywhere to turn. Thank God.
I also have creative outlets that help. If it's something I can't talk about, then I write. Writing things down always seems to help ease my worry and strife. I have learned that artistic outlets, such as painting and adult colouring, also are a big help to me. And, though it's taken me a long, long time to realize it, I know that exercise is also a big help. Nothing seems too big or too difficult after a half an hour of sweating my ass off.
And I pray. I know the mantra "Let go, and let God" might sound corny and clichéd, but I say it a lot. I talk to God, I bear my worries and fears, and I ask Him for help. Then I try very hard to let go and let Him do his thing.
I repeat things like, This too shall pass, and remind myself of other times when life wasn't exactly going along lickity-split all smooth-like, and then remember that those bad days eventually faded away and good times came again. And the good times will come again. I truly believe that. There are times when I hold on to that belief like a life-preserver.
I am grateful that a day like today exists now in this world. I'm grateful for Bell Let's Talk and Do It For Daron and all the people who are spearheading this mission to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. I am glad they are opening doors and shedding light and allowing people to not be so afraid or feel so alone.
Today, I am tweeting and sharing, not only for myself, but for the people in my life who I understand now so much better because they have felt they can share and try to explain what goes on inside their heads rather than hide it and feel ashamed. Because of initiatives like Bell Let's Talk Day, they are more open and using their voices to advocate.
I can't help but think of the ones who could not be saved; the ones who saw no light at the end of the tunnel, who fought their battles alone and ended up thinking this world was better off without them. The ones who didn't talk about it. The ones we didn't know about, or didn't realize it was that bad. The ones who we would have done anything to help, if only we had known.