"How did you turn this around and make yourself ok with people knowing all this about you? My biggest fear is if I admit to all of this and embrace it as part of myself, is that people will identify me as 'depressed' first, rather than as myself?"
Answer to Anonymous (Back From Falling: Part 5)
~ Question from Anonymous (Back From Falling: Part 5)
For years I had no idea how to be ok with my diagnosis. I allowed myself to be made a victim of the Stigma surrounding Mental Health. I felt the shame, the embarrassment, the fear... I worked so hard to get where I am today, and I have to continue to work everyday, complacency is not an option for me if I want to maintain recovery.
I remember a year a and bit ago hearing about Daron Richardson (DIFD), one of so many stories we hear about kids taking their own lives. Perhaps it was the hockey connection or perhaps it was simply where I was in my life; I had found a way to cope with a long list of diagnosis' both happily and productively. In honesty, I'm sick of hearing these stories and I can't help but think we all need to stop allowing tragedy to be our only motivator. This is a real problem, a real Illness, and one that effects so many people. Silence doesn't allow for support, for help to be sought out, or for education.
That being said, I guess I just hit my limits. I walked into my Psychologist's office and asked her if there was any way I could help. She asked if I thought I could share my story with others, if I'd be willing to speak with others and explain my journey. I must admit I didn't give my response much thought at this point, my mind was made up and I wanted to help. Keeping my "problems" silent has never helped anybody else and it has certainly never helped me.
I went into my first speaking engagement scared to death but I made it through. And then there was another and another... Before I knew it I was sharing my story with the media, something I can never take back. I remember the first day CBC aired my story, I woke up to over 50 messages on my phone. (Most of the people in my life had no idea what I had been through before I started speaking) I won't lie, I called in and took the day off work. My initial thought was "what have I done?" I used to be known as the "hockey player" and now I'm just the "crazy" lady. It's amazing how willing I was to assume I should label myself as I feared others would.
I had the same fear as you, that people would only see me for my "illness". That day, I went to CBC online and started reading feedback on my story. I got through the first 20 or so comments, all very supportive and understanding, and then I got to the one that said; "This girl just needs to suck it up and grow a backbone." It hurt for about a second, but I kept reading and realized the next 50 comments were all telling that person "where to go". That one comment will ensure I never stop talking because ignorance can only be conquered by education.
By staying silent we only perpetuate the Stigma. There are so many of us fighting every day to be healthy. It is not expected for a Cancer patient to hide Chemotherapy treatments or for a person to overcome a broken leg without a cast or crutches. We have every right to seek help and in doing so, in my case, I found the confidence to stop caring what the rest of the world thinks. I am more interested in being healthy and supporting others to do the same.
If people look at me and think "there is that depressed, anxiety ridden, crazy lady" well that is their perspective and frankly they are not listening to the story I'm sharing. I am a healthy, outgoing, athletic woman with a great family, incredible friends, a job I love and an opportunity to be a part of a movement to help so many others end the suffering they endure behind closed doors. Yes I have bad days. Yes I see a Psychologist. I do need to follow a Fitness and Nutrition routine. Yes I take medication. I see a Naturopath, and on occasion I may have to cope with a situation differently than somebody without "Mental Illness" would.
To those who feel the need to label me negatively or who find comfort in the ignorance of criticizing what they clearly don't understand, so be it, in all likelihood I don't have room in my life for them anyways, but I will keep talking in hopes those people take a moment to actually listen.
I have found far more people are interested in genuinely understanding the person I am and how I have learned to cope; then to label me as "sick" and write me off. As a matter of fact, I don't know of anybody who has written me off and if they have, apparently I'm not missing them.