On several occasions I have started and restarted writing a book. I was reading back on some of what I had written and came across this. I am so very grateful I chose to share my story, to move beyond the fear of having people know "me" and the truth about what I face in life. I am so grateful for all of the support I have found, the conversations I get to take part in, this journey. I just thought I would share...
I often wonder what my life looks like from the outside. I envision this snapshot, a picture captured in a moment. In one moment a definition is created and analyzed. Quite like any picture, putting forth a perception that allows people to see what they want. If only they knew what reality lays outside the frame. I hold on to those moments, the ones that convince the world of my strength, my independence. I have been told when I walk into a room people notice me, that I have mastered the arts of communication and people skills. That is exactly what I want people to see. I am proud of that person, the one that radiates happiness and confidence. It is in my nature to want to be that person, and I am, but outside the frame, there is a very different story to be told. Ever since I was young, I have known exactly what I wanted from life, and I was never going to let life offer me anything less. I was going to be in control of my destiny. I was going to be successful, and more importantly, I was going to make a difference. Perception plays games with us. It allows us to become our harshest critics, and worse yet, it allows us to become enablers of our situations. Life is much easier to get through if you can always find a way to point the finger of blame just beyond yourself. And it is not to say that there are many things in life that we cannot control; it is just a question of being able to take what life hands us and make of it what we want.
I have often written out my circumstances, attempting to tell a story that would allow me to make something positive of my situation. I have contemplated hiding behind the anonymity of writing, leaving myself out of this story in order to maintain some semblance of pride. Only in doing so I would be failing myself, in hiding behind my story I would simply be enabling myself to continue hiding. I am tired of hiding. It has taken me a long time to recognize that this is even my story. Because I know once I accept this as my story, then I have to accept the responsibility of telling it. I will no longer be able to hide in that picture, in that moment of silent perfection that I can alter into whatever enables me to hide beyond myself. That moment of blissful ignorance that convinces me I can make you see only what I want you to see. I once believed control was a gift we each possessed, given to us to provide us each with the ability to make the world cooperate with us. I was wrong. Control is a beautiful illusion, a trick played on us, and an ignorance we have created in the spirit of self-preservation. I believe control is simply a theory dangled in front of us, and we grab on with both hands in the spirit of feeling more powerful. I wish I could say I recognized this sooner, but if I had, then I would be writing a different story.
Follow my personal journey. Learn more about what it is to live with Mental Illness. Experience my ups and downs and see what it takes to overcome them. Most importantly, help me to spread the word and join the efforts to destigmatize Mental Health.
Answer to Anonymous (Back From Falling: Part 5)
"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?"
~ 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.
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