I’ve been transparent (ish) about why I support mental health initiatives here in Canada, especially on Bell Let’s Talk Day, but I feel I haven’t been transparent enough, meaning that I have to get on a personal level.
I’ve spoken openly about my being a psychotherapist prior to owning the café, but I haven’t shared as many details about my own struggle with my mental health.
Transparency is very important to me, in all things. I believe that, in order to be happy and feel whole, we have to be congruent with ourselves and give up on the things that feel as though they work against the grain of who we are. Part of that, a big part actually, is being transparent first with ourselves, then with others. It also means knowing and enforcing your personal boundaries, whatever they may be. If there has ever been a time to enforce those boundaries, it was this past year. But that’s stuff for a whole other blog post.
In my work as a psychotherapist, I became so much more aware of dissonance in and around me and I worked to rectify these bumps in order to feel good. This isn’t a one-day-fix-it-and-you’re-done thing. It takes time, a lot (like A LOT) of conscious effort and acceptance. In doing this, many things and people will no longer fit into your life, and, while that’s difficult to accept, it has to be done in order to feel at peace. I would say that it’s a life-long journey that isn’t always painless, but definitely worth the temporary discomfort.
In the short eleven years that I practiced psychotherapy, I started becoming more and more aware of my own dissonance and suspected mental health struggles. (probably a side-effect of working in and studying psychology). I started to recognize that, in order to truly help break the stigma surrounding mental health issues, I had to practice what I preached. So, I sought my own psychiatric consultation. I believe that was the first step with a life course change. Or maybe it was leaving my first husband 🧐 Regardless.
Now, please, keep in mind this isn’t a pity party. It’s an effort to be transparent and continue to break down those stigma walls around mental health issues. I thoroughly HATE pity parties.
I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and began taking medication, in 2017 I think. This. Was. Life. Changing. I never knew how wonderful I could feel without anxiety because I had never been without anxiety.
I was later also diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (which was in no way a surprise for me) as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from physical health issues in my early twenties and having dealt with multiple close family members’ deaths in a short while. That kind of loss I don’t wish on anyone. My medication was switched to help address both the anxiety and the OCD.
Once I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and all the cards started showing themselves, I became overwhelmed, fatigued and I sought out the help of a psychologist to help make sense of my thoughts and my brain that seemed to be doing a loop around WTF is happening. I’ll never forget when she told me “you’re hypervigilant, so you’re basically always waiting for the other shoe to drop.” That was me in a nutshell at the time, and that simple reflection was the true start of my healing process.
It took a burn-out, several medication changes (which is completely normal, because you have to find the right recipe that’ll work for you), therapy, follow-ups, tears, more tears and a vat of self-reflection to come to accept that I could no longer continue to do what I was doing.
Sounds like a quarter life crisis right?! Wrong. Any life stage crisis is brought on by something, physical health issues, trauma, a divorce, grief, loss, or anything that can change the paths in your brain.
Fast forward to now. My physical health is under control (mostly), with the help of medication, naturopathic supplements and an anti-inflammatory diet. Oh, and weekly visits to the chiropractor (how I lived without a chiropractor before, I’ll never understand). My mental health is in a good place, thanks to medication, therapy, an exceptional psychiatrist and a LOT of self-reflection, acceptance and letting go.
Mental health issues are frustrating, still somewhat taboo, complicated and very difficult to cope with. Truth be told, these issues boil down to the paths in your brain having been messed up (very official word) by trauma, life experiences or just your body. So taking medication for mental health issues is AS important as taking medication for diabetes, high cholesterol, blood pressure, arthritis, etc. The thing is, most people don’t hesitate when it comes to medication for a physical ailment. It should be the same for a mental health ailment. The two are so intertwined that you can’t ignore one and hope that everything will be fine.
Acceptance is probably the hardest thing to reach. When I was faced with the effects that fibromyalgia had on me, acceptance was fucking hard. As was it for letting go of things and people who contributed to the Anxiety and OCD. It’s hard AF, but it’s the biggest part of the puzzle, because acceptance means working WITH an issue instead of against it. And let me tell you, when I started tuning in to my body and my brain and actually LISTENING, I found contentment. I say contentment not because I’m not happy, but because it’s important to be realistic in that you can’t feel extreme happiness every day, that’s an impossible standard to meet. Contentment, however is attainable and can be maintained. Does it mean you’ll have days of pure bliss? Yes. Does it mean you’ll have days that suck? Also yes. That. Is. Normal.
Acceptance also means letting go of the “why me”, “how did this happen” and all the other unanswerable questions. Life just is sometimes. Shit happens. To good people, to bad people, to everyone in between. And focusing on the why something is, is not only useless but will lead to further frustration. Things are what they are. Focus on accepting your reality as opposed to fighting it.
Keep in mind, I’m saying all of this from my own personal experience, struggles and my professional experience in psychology. For all of these reasons, I value Bell’s efforts to fund mental health initiatives in Canada. We are immensely lucky to be able to seek medical attention, whether for physical or psychiatric issues at now cost to us. So seeing someone will cost you nothing, with the exception of medication, and trust me, that is PRICELESS. These issues aren’t things that we seek out, they happen TO us and living in a country that prioritizes health and funds these initiatives is something to be proud about.
So today, on Bell Let’s Talk Day, call, text, watch videos, share Bell’s posts to help contribute to this funding and, more importantly, to educate yourself. Then, ask yourself how you’re really doing and go from there. That’s where it all starts.