The significance of today brings up a lot of different feelings, memories, thoughts and opinions on what Bell Let’s Talk Day stands for.
With the theme of the day, I wanted to share some of my story and connection to mental health experiences I have had and some useful tools I have found helpful along my journey.
I grew up in the 90’s – when mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and otherwise were unheard of in every day conversation. If people were struggling with mental health issues, they were most definitely not discussed out in the open … they were ‘pushed under the rug’, a ‘lets pretend it isn’t happening’ mentality.
For the majority of my life, while my father was alive, I watched almost daily as he struggled with anxiety and depression. I want to respect that is his journey and I can only imagine how difficult life was for him, living with that daily.
I am really passionate about sharing today my experience, to reach out to others who are the family members that are supporting their Mother, Father, Significant Other, Sister, Brother, Friend through the challenging and difficult road of mental illness and how it has a ripple affect.
In a previous blog I discussed how, unlike a broken arm or leg, mental illness can be somewhat invisible to the all-seeing eye.
For example; when family and close friends started to find out about my Dads struggles, they couldn’t believe it.
My Dad, when able to attend holiday parties and well, any other social gatherings was the life of the party. Sociable, fun, a real story-teller!
The truth was; he struggled for those things just as much as he did to go to work 5 days a week.
… I definitely felt the disbelief and confusion as well.
From the age of 8 and up I have many memories of the difficulty that my dad and my whole family faced. As young as I was, I could not understand why on some days he could get up and function like all of my other friends’ dads and on other days he could not manage general, daily tasks.
I felt so confused. I tried everything; being his cheerleader and pumping him up for the event we were going to. Many times, I was sad and disappointed. And when I felt completely fed up and confused, I would get angry. I urged my dad to get up and come out with my mom and I. Raising my voice while standing at the end of the bed, pleading for him to get up and come with us.
All I wanted was the three of us to go out together, for us to be able to rely on my Dad attending to ‘every day life events’ ALL of the time. I was so frustrated and didn’t understand why my Dad wasn’t like my friends’ dads or the “TV Dads”. I most definitely didn’t understand these labels of ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’. No matter the number of times it was explained to me, I just didn’t get it.
At that time with it not being a common topic in schools and other settings, there weren’t nearly the resources that there are today. I am not in the Elementary and High School system today but I believe there is a lot of ground being made with awareness and programs and I am happy to see that growth and change coming about.
I 1000% can only imagine how incredible difficult and painful those experiences for my Dad were and for others who currently suffer. The emotions that would come with wanting to being a good Father figure, a supportive husband, wanting to be there and provide for his family, at the same time struggling with the mental illness and his own personal inner struggles. I only know how it feels to be the child living it and trying to understand what goes on, along with the beliefs and behaviours that develop from the confusion and experience.
One major result of being a dependent going through this (as well as other illnesses, death, etc.) is how we can put blame on ourselves, on it somehow being ‘our fault’. I developed a skewed sense of trust with people committing and had my own commitment issues as a result.
The thing is – there needs to be support for those suffering with mental illness, as well as the caregivers, family and other supporters who are directly connected.
It all connected to being able to trust myself, to know that there is only so much I could have/can do in any given situation. In knowing I can trust myself and in trusting myself that energy flows onto others trust in return. I had to find my way back to myself, to the truths that I know to be. It became an undoing of all of the beliefs that built up throughout childhood that I carried with me into adolescence. As we all have to an extent, some ‘undoing’ of what no longer serves us. Undoing of things that were not all intentional done and part of our growth is to recognize what no longer serves us and to choose to readjust our mindsets and beliefs to fit. To become more of ourselves that we were born as.
This came from working on myself, reflecting, participating in group programs and one-on-one counselling to help me understand my past so that I could uncover and remove the limiting beliefs that had been piling up on life. We are doing the best we can with the resources that we have – every. single. one. of. us.
Here is what I have come to know about anxiety and depression:
All human beings can have an anxious or depressive experience. It is to what extent it affects us that we must pay attention to.
My Variation of Definitions:
Anxiety~ A future event that hasn’t happened yet and we are playing/running a disaster film in our mind.
Depression~ Focusing on a past event that has already happened and holding onto it, not wanting to move forward.
Signs to tell if a family member is suffering long-term effects:
- Weeks of not being able to get out of bed, get showered, leave the house to go to work or school
- Not being able to attend certain or all social events
- Anxiety attacks before going to specific things, doing specific things, speaking to certain people
- Being constantly focused on a past event and it taking up majority of conversations and life
- Loss of energy or mood
- Panic attacks (esp. frequently)
**Note: This is not an official, medical professional fact list, I speak directly to my personal experience in and around it
Resources to Help with Mental Illness:
**Note: This is not an official, medical recommendation, I speak directly to my personal experience in and around it
- Psychologists; the forms I have seen and experienced have covered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Where experiences are discussed, reflection and causes are assessed and future actions are discussed
- Psychiatrist; similar to above and also prescribes medication and monitors medication use.
- Life Coaching with therapeutic modalities; I have myself experienced it and also have worked with clients who suffer from anxiety and depression and have witnessed drastic transformations and positive results.
- Group Therapy; a great option for those comfortable in sharing with groups. Gives people an opportunity develop other support systems, a feeling of community and learning from others’ experiences.
- Books, videos and article on mindset focus and training
I encourage you to reach out and ask for help, if you have been through some traumatic/stressful/painful experiences (which basically all of us have at one point in life, as long as we are human, none of us are exempt from this stuff!). And even if you don’t feel you have, that could be a greater reason to seek some form of counselling or coaching.
Some of the main benefits and most success I had was when I saw a Psychologist and later expanded to work with my Life Coach/Mental Health Practitioner. The biggest benefit is that they are third parties, completely neutral and do not have previous relationships with me. As much as I relied on my friends, family, etc. to help me through the pain (and absolutely, resource them in times of need) but it got to a point where the ‘unloading’ I was doing was no longer helping bring about any change in my life. When I resourced professionals I was able to get honest significant guidance around some major areas of grief and struggle that I went through along my journey and started living a life full of purpose.
I know this for sure: it is a continuous ‘wave-like’ affect that our lives take. It is not a straight and narrow, clean line. The good news is that all of the ups and downs are beautiful lessons along the way.
Whatever you may be struggling with, I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve got this!
Dream BIG my friends,