For a few years now I have been an advocate of supporting mental health research and awareness. Through this, I’ve encouraged many to speak openly about mental health and to share their experiences. With a recent campaign to raise funds and awareness coming to a close, I’ve had some time to digest all the support and feedback. This is when I realized that some individuals close to me still didn’t understand why this is such an important cause in my life, That is when I decided it was time to practice what I preach. Here is a bit of my story, and my experience with Mental Health.
Almost 10 years ago, 2007, with encouragement from my sister I went to my parents with concern about my mood, lack of energy and loss of motivation. Quickly, with the advice of my doctor I began treatment through medication and counseling for depression.
Counseling was hard for me. I didn’t have a lot of surface issues to talk about: no trauma, no recent loss. I quickly, and without giving it much of a shot, decided against treatment and relied solely on medication to ‘cure’ my depression.
Without putting any further effort in, my depression worsened until I hit rock bottom. In February of 2008, I attempted to take my own life, by swallowing a large amount, and large variety of prescription medications.
The morning after my attempted suicide, when I woke up in ICU with my mother at my side, I remember an overwhelming feeling of guilt, relief, confusion but most of all fear. Fear of what was to come, what damaged had I caused and how was I going to face what had just happened.
As I started to get answers and find out that I wouldn’t have any long term health problems from the overdose, I physically would be as healthy as I was before and that now, it was no longer up to me what type of treatment I would get, my mood and outlook started to change.
One thing through the immediate few weeks after my suicide attempt that remained constant was that I had more support than I ever realized. The night I went to the hospital, while nurses and doctors worked like mad to save my life, the only thing I remember is who was there. The couple weeks I spent in the hospital, I remember who visited, who sent cards and who snuck me in junk food. Not only did friends, family, teachers and more step up to show their support for me, but they stepped in to support my family who was going through an equally challenging time.
As I started to regain strength I was meeting regularly with mental health professionals. My mood and outlook changed so quickly. Once there was no hiding my depression, I instantly made the decision that I needed to make all along, ‘I was going to do whatever it took to beat this disease.’ At this time I stopped suffering from mental health. I continue to battle mental health, but I refuse to suffer from it.
Through the next couple years my life didn’t get any easier. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I dropped out of college three years in a row due to health issues. I had to change my entire life plan; had to start new on a new path and find a new dream. I dealt with this. I continued to get treatment through medication, therapy, whatever I had to do to live a happy life.
In 2014 I found myself at the doctor talking to him about depression. I hadn’t been to him for this reason for a few years, and it was so different this time. After talking with him extensively he concluded that I wasn’t experiencing depression; I was experiencing something new, anxiety.
I immediately began medication and as I’ve always done, I researched. I wanted to know everything about this new disease so I could best prepare myself to battle it, and not to suffer from it.
The best thing I ever did for my anxiety was tell my family and friends, and share what I was going through. Sometimes my biggest trigger was that someone wouldn’t understand why I was doing something differently, so I made them understand.
For about a year now I could almost say I had experienced no mental health signs or symptoms. Up until 1 month ago that is, when I had an anxiety attack. What caused this? At the time, a small detail of a plan had changed and I didn’t know 100% what was going to happen.
Now – I work hard to plan everything in my life, I set aside time tonight to write this note. Every detail of my life is planned and when it changes, I make a new plan. This is something I’m working to change but… still a work in progress. Having a plan change at the last minute, and having no control over it was something that at that very moment I didn’t think I could deal with.
After a short period of time where I did everything I’ve ever practiced to get myself out of those moments, I told one of my closest friends what had happened. I immediately shared my story and worked immediately to get myself out of that funk.
Through this past month I’ve had a few small bouts of anxiety. I’ve told a few more friends and I’ve worked hard to surround myself the people who I trust and feel most comfortable around. I’m already working to get out of this ‘funk’. I’m not suffering. I’m battling.
I’ve battled mental health for almost 10 years now. I’ve shared small parts of my story publicly and larger parts privately. Talking about it has helped me immensely and I hope in some way it helps others too.
I often think of the friends I never would have met, the places I wouldn’t have seen and the experiences I never would have had if I had of taken my life in 2008.
When I get truly lost I think back to my mom at my bedside in ICU. To my grandma crying telling me I’d make it and to never do something like this again. I think of the strength my sister had to go to school and tell the people we loved why I was in the hospital. I look at the posters, stuffed animals, or cards that my loved ones brought to me in the hospital. The support my friends, family, coworkers, and more have shown me over 10 years of battling this disease. I can truly say that I am living a full and happy life. Some days, even some weeks, are tough. Sometimes I have a ‘mental health flare up’. That’s when I remind myself that I refuse to suffer, and I start to battle again.
I decided to write this, not for myself, but to let anyone suffering know that it gets better. You may have to fight like a warrior, but you will get through this. Seek help. Tell your support system what is going on. Call a professional hotline or go to a clinic. Research the disease so you know what is going on in your body. Remind yourself what you have to fight for, even just one thing.
Every second I spent battling was worth it. I almost missed my chance. Your chance is now.
To talk to someone about what you are experiencing please contact the numbers below. If you are in immediate crisis call 911 or attend your nearest hospital emergency room.
Canadian Mental Health Hotline: 1.866.531.2600
Connex Ontario Mental Health Helpline: 1.866.531.2600
Algoma District, Central Access: 705.759.5989 or 855.366.1466
Kids Help Phone (5 yrs.- 20 yrs.): 1-800-668-6868
Good2Talk (17 yrs.- 25 yrs.): 1-866-925-5454