CBC Interview

I had an interesting day today.  With Psychology and Mental Awareness as the focus for February I have been contacted by a lot of great organizations to start sharing my story on a larger scale.  I haven't so much had time to consider what it is I'm doing yet it seems.  Until today.

I have spent 10 years hiding from Mental Illness.  Don't get me wrong, it's not as though I have been able to avoid it, but I have mastered living in solitude with it.  Until very recently only a select few of my friends and family have known the extent of my "suffering".  The fear of the "stigma" has always been on my mind.  The absolutely crippling fear.  Words like failure, shame and embarrassment have always been how I related to my illness.  The self criticism has always been enough to convince me the world would see me the same way.  After all,  this very thought is why I decided to start sharing my journey.  If I can share my story, speak the truth, come out of hiding, perhaps I can be a small part of what will eventually help stop the stigma that comes with living with Mental Illness.

This being said, today I panicked.  I have spoken to schools, small groups, teachers and parents, but I have yet to be faced with the magnitude of choosing to break my silence.  The OPA (Ontario Psychological Association) have asked me to speak at a public forum at Ryerson on the topic of living with Anxiety and Depression and how I have learned to cope.  In addition, several media outlets were contacted to publicize the evening as well as to provide more information during the month of February.  CBC happened to be the first of several interviews that have been arranged.  Today, as I sat waiting for the journalist to arrive I found myself doubting this decision for the first time.  I was sitting there thinking, "I could just keep hiding, not that many people know yet and I could make what I've done so far disappear."  Not the greatest line of thinking when such a recognizable media provider is headed in my direction ready to capture my story on video to stream to the world.

I fought this feeling for a couple of hours.  I was listening to myself answer the questions and I was so aware of how much emotion this brought on.  Until I was asked this, "what advice would you give somebody who found themselves where you were ten years ago?"

I heard myself answer before I had a chance to think, "There is hope!"

At that moment, I felt such a calm come over me.  This all made perfect sense to me.  My mom sent me an email before my interview today, it said "...you are going to do great.  I just wish you had somebody like you ten years ago when you were going through it..."  I've been given a chance to share my story for a reason, and I am so grateful for that.


Taking Back the Day

I mentioned in my last blog my fear in writing from anything less than a "strong place".  I have juggled this notion back and forth for awhile now, and agreeing with my previous idea that not acknowledging my struggles would be a detriment, here I am.

I am not having a "bad" day.  And what does that mean for me.  In the beginning of this illness, I wasn't able to be alone.  I was constantly in fear, in panic, in sheer terror! I was not always sure of what, in fact, it's rarely a clear or concise "cause".  It was an overwhelming sense of impending doom.  The symptoms, irregular heart rate, inability to eat, troubles swallowing, shaking, agitation, head aches, numbness in my hands, etc...  This doom brought such fear, such sadness, such utter lack of control.  When I say I could not be alone...for about a three month period I was confined to my condo.  In that time, I had somebody with me constantly.  If they left the room to go to the washroom, I followed, sitting on the floor outside the door.  It was such an intense fear that I felt if I were too far away, something horrible would happen, and nobody would know.

This manifestation controlled my life for years.  Although not to that extreme, being alone with this illness has always been a struggle for me.  My ability to distract my mind is not always intact, and like anything in life, we tend to draw what we focus on the most.  The powers of the Laws of Attraction are proven in my life.  If I sit and concentrate on panic, on anxiety, on depression, I will undoubtedly draw myself into that space.  Thus it's always been much easier to have company, a built in distraction that disallows the level of solitude I find alone.

As with every facet of my Mental Health, I have learned to work with this knowledge.  I can enjoy being alone again.  In fact, I often prefer it for moments each day, recognizing my inner thoughts has become a very powerful tool for me in living successfully and happily with my illness.

However, there exists a struggle for me that I have not mastered.  Nor am I entirely positive it is a struggle limited to those who struggle with Mental Health issues, however it is amplified in my world.  I touched briefly in my last blog on the fear of reoccurrence.  I have often stated over the years that I'm not sure I could make it through the beginning of this illness again.  A statement I know to be based on the exasperated thought of having to, and I possess the knowledge that I would indeed overcome those moments and arrive at another version of a stronger me for it.  However, there is a very strong and constant fear that exists in reliving symptoms.  The fear that it is "coming back".  Yes, an ignorant statement it seems but one full of understanding for many.  I will always live with this, but I will not always live with the way it was.  The thought of returning to that state of "disfunction", for me, is the greatest fear.

This all being said, life happens.  And in life we encounter negative moments.  I am not having a "bad day" as I traditionally relate to my situation, but am I ever having a horrible time.  In life, we get hurt.  We suffer loss.  We experience moments internally, externally, and environmentally that are "less than ideal".  For me, most recently, the demise of a very important relationship.  It is normal to feel sadness.  It is normal to feel loss.  There are a plethora of emotions that are involved in relationships and even more so, a far less appealing variant of emotions that come when a relationship ends, particularly when it's not what you want.

So yes, that was an incredibly artistic way of saying I've recently experienced heartbreak.  Such a simple concept.  A common occurrence, sadly.  And although I would love to pour the sorrows of my broken heart onto this page just to get it out of me, that is not my intention.  I mention this in the context of living with Mental Illness in addition to living through the "great tragedies" of life, and coming out of it "OK".

The sadness that has accompanied this moment in my life is intense.  But it immediately couples with the fear of sliding into depression.  Into an unmanageable state that pulls me from the vigilance of my "recovery" and ongoing need to not be complacent with my illness.  And yes, this seems so unfair to me.  Everybody, (and if not I am in envy, sinful I know) knows the torment of heartbreak.  The desire to drown our sorrows, curl up and cry, disappear from the world, throw ourselves into meaningless moments of distraction and perceived pleasure.  Unfortunately, for me, none of these are an option.  There can be know long drawn out sorrow and grieving.  I am not at liberty to throw caution to wind and blow my routine.  I have to focus on eating right, on staying active, on focusing my thoughts, getting up and going to work, training, sleeping properly...and every one of these is a struggle through my current sadness.

That being said, this challenge is so common in relation to everything I have learned to overcome.  I do not have to fear being sad.  I do not fear the loneliness, for it is far different than the fear of being alone.  I understand I have the right hurt, but I have a far greater need to not embrace that hurt as my behaviour, instead take it in moments and force myself through the rest.  There is no benefit to laying down and hoping somebody will make my day ok for me, instead, I can only focus on trying to make each of my days the best they can be.  Heartbreak, tragedy, loss, suffering, I have learned these emotions exist outside the context of my illness, so I cannot let them become a direct route back into moments of accepting unhappiness as my sentence.