Coming Out

Happy Monday everyone!

It’s extremely cold in Ottawa today. We broke a record, in fact. Unfortunately, as a result, our car wouldn’t start this morning, forcing Pat and I to face the cold head-on. Thank the gods for efficient public transportation! Thanks to this cold snap, the office is a little strange today. Not a lot of people in, so its both very quiet and very busy.

A lot of people in the blog world have been talking about The Bloggess’ recent post about mental health. I am definitely going to join in. So, first, go  here and read her entry. When you’re done, come on back.

All done? Thanks for taking the time to read that. Just like the lady asked, I’m joining in.

This is something that I feel very strongly about. I’ve posted about it before. Too often I hear about men and women suffering in silence, unwilling to “burden” their loved ones with their problems. Mental illness is a disease, not a weakness of character. It requires treatment from the medical community and support from your loved ones.

At the age of 10, I saw my first psychologist. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder which was manifesting in OCD behaviours. I was taking all my stress and any external issues (fight with my parents, troubles at school) and taking it all upon myself. I had a massive guilt complex that would spiral completely out of control. I would end up physical ill due to all of this anxiety.  My treatment involved therapy sessions, meditation techniques and journal writing.

In my teens, my whole immediate family attended family counseling sessions. My sister and I were fighting with my parents a lot. We weren’t doing well in school and our teachers were concerned about us. We were both diagnosed with depression and as a family, we attended counselling sessions to work through our differences.

In university, I attended free therapy sessions with the on-campus counselor to assist me with my anxiety and issues surrounding the illnesses in my family. It was also then that I first started taking medication for my sleep issues and my depression.

Two years ago, after my father passed away, I started having terrible nightmares and as a result, had a really hard time sleeping. I had run out of my sleep aid, so I booked an appointment with my GP. He told told me he wouldn’t write me another prescription unless I went to see a psychologist regularly. So, I did. She turned out to be one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, and I’ve been going regularly ever since. I am no longer on medication for sleep, and I have many coping strategies that I use to manage my post-traumatic stress disorder, my anxiety and my depression. It’s still a battle, but I have had incredible support from my friends, Pat and my in-laws.

I can say, with absolutely certainty, that I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t taken a moment to tell my parents, my doctor or my husband how I felt.  Mental illness is something that is common in my family. My father struggled with depression and alcoholism for most of his life. I have a nephew who is schizophrenic, and both my sister and I have depression and anxiety. My parents created an atmosphere in which we were able to come to them when we were going through a hard time.

It’s so important to be there for our loved ones, to let them know that we are there to support them, and that we love them the way that they are. As someone who may be facing a difficult time, it is important to know that the first step is to speak to someone about what you’re going through. There is help out there, but you need to be willing to talk to someone you trust. Trust me when I say that they want you in their lives, no matter how broken or fucked up you feel.

Please, take a breath, reflect on the people you love and speak up. You’re not alone.

EDIT: I wanted to take a moment to add to this post. I’ve had a day to ponder more on the subject and I want to make sure I’m not misunderstood. Sometimes we go through hard times, and we need support and care from our loved ones. This isn’t necessarily mental illness, however I think it’s still important to ask for that help and support when you need it. Stress and hard times can be hell, without mental illness entering into the picture. Please don’t take from this that I think you are “sick” if you need support. That isn’t the point at all, but rather that everyone needs help sometimes. If you do have depression/anxiety/etc… or if you just need some understanding and support, know that there isn’t anything wrong with you, as an individual, and that it isn’t your fault.

Also, I think North American society has a tendency to diagnose and medicate every issue that comes up. I am not in support of medicating our problems away, however I am aware that some mental illnesses require medication for treatment. That is up to the individual and their caregivers. Whether you seek support from the medical community or from your loved ones, know that if you are going through a hard time that you are not alone and that there is help out there.

Thanks :)

9 thoughts on “Coming Out

  1. Thank you so much for such a candid personal post about an issue that is all too often left in the shadows. I have battled what I thought was just depression and anxiety since childhood. After years of trying to struggle through it on my own, I found a wonderful therapist who saved my life. She then referred me to the bestest psychiatrist in the world. I was officially diagnosed with Cyclothymia (soft bipolar). I started medication in December and can honestly say I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life. I know that this illness is not ME, and as a result my who vision of myself and my relationships has been revamped.

    Thank you, again, for this beautiful post.

  2. Heather, thanks for sharing this. It’s very courageous of you. It is hard to share in those darkest times, at least I find it so. I’m not diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but I’ve certainly experienced both acutely at several points in my life and there are few people that I’ve been able to talk to during those times. All it takes is one person though. I volunteered for awhile with a crisis line and it is a great option for when people are feeling like they can’t open up to anyone else – there are people waiting to talk to you and make you feel heard and supported. Here in Ottawa the number is: 613-722-6914 for anyone that needs it.

    P.S. I love the Bloggess. I wish I could write like her!

  3. Pingback: My Dark Cloud « In Among the Heather

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