7 years ago I opened up about my journey with generalized anxiety disorder, depression and PTSD. The day I was diagnosed I decided I wasn’t going to sit back and pretend it didn’t exist in my life, I decided to welcome people to join me on my journey that had been largely undetected by those around me because I was “smiley”, “highly functional”, and “normal”. Little did people realize how much pain and suffering the smile I plastered on everyday could hide. Mental illness can affect anyone, and I wanted to help give a face to something that people so often hide out of fear, shame, or stigma. If my story could help one person reach out for help, that’s all I wanted because I was one of those people that hid how I was truly feeling for years before I was diagnosed.

The amount of support and attention I have received over the years has been heartwarming. Because of this support my journey to getting healthier and stronger was made much easier. At the same time, opening up about my journey has enlightened me to the struggle many people still face, whether with the stigma of reaching out for help or the lack of resources there to support people suffering with a mental illness. The reality is, our system leaves many behind and something needs to change. We need better mental health services and we need to work together and advocate to make this change. 

Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague. In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.

Mental illness is something that I deal with on a regular basis, but it in no way defines who I am or what I am able to do or accomplish. While along my journey I have had a number of setbacks, I have come a long way in learning to manage the discomfort (like exercise, eating healthy, and improving my communication), but it’s not always easy. I still have bad days or weeks and can still be a little to hard on myself. I’m still learning to embrace the practice of self-love and self-compassion, but change takes time and I’m open to the journey now that I’ve been given the tools to cope. 

I believe #bellletstalk serves an important reminder to those who may not be aware of the many challenges that people with mental health issues, but we can’t let the conversation stop after today. I also find it so incredibly powerful the many stories I’ve encountered today, the bravery it takes to open up is immense and should be recongnzied. Everyone has their own unique story and no two peoples healing journey is the same.

For all the uplifting support i’ve received over the years, i’ve also received my share of being put down. The negative impacts that had on my self-esteem and self-worth and trust in my support system led me to a number of set backs that hindered my recovery. It made me question my own mental health in that maybe I was making things up and that I should just find a way to “get over it”. It took me a long time to recognize that our mental health doesn’t work like that. That bad days are not a sign of weakness. That it’s okay to not be okay. That kindness and empathy should be part of our daily practice as humans.

We need to remember that mental health is physical health and that kindness can go a long way in making sure we take care of those around us. Words can hurt but they can also be used to uplift and help others. We don’t know the struggles people go through underneath their smile, but a simple but genuine question of “how are you?” or saying “I’m here for you” can go a long way in helping someone. Together let’s eliminate the stigma ❤️

If you need to talk, reach out. My doors are always open to listen. 

Know the signs. Learn the actions. Be a lifeline.