The difference in awareness of mental illness now as compared to even three years ago is astounding. Social media helps a great deal in spreading awareness. I follow several mental health-related handles on Twitter, including CAMH, Elephant in the Room, and Mental Health Platform, to name a few. They have been and continue to be great sources of not only information but comfort as well.
Why comfort? Because there is nothing like knowing that you’re not alone – that others are suffering, just like you.
Many of us who suffer from mental illness suffer in silence.
I was no different. While I have been writing about mental illness for several years (though few people knew about it), taking the step to vocalizing it was a whole new nest of bees. Of course, I had told my immediate family and some very close friends, but I had never gone beyond that – specifically, I had never told a colleague.
Several years ago, one particular colleague and I struck up a rather good work friendship. We would bitch about, and purge our work-related woes to each other (as work friends often do), finding that we had a lot in common. I keenly recognized her to be a high-functioning depressive, like me. I had begun to trust her, but still, I just wasn’t sure how she would react and, even more concerning, if she would keep my confidence.
One day, while walking back from getting an afternoon coffee, and in reference to some of the things we had been discussing, I took a deep breath and calmly stated, “I suffer from chronic depression.” We stopped walking, and she looked at me. This was it: the moment of truth.
We stood for another ten minutes while I shared with her my history of mental illness, both depression, and anxiety. And then something remarkable happened. My work friend shared some of her journey too. Not as much as I had, but that was okay. It was a start.
When we got back to our desks, she thanked me for opening up to her. I took a big step that day, and in some small way, I believe I helped her. It made us closer, and while she has since gone her way and I’ve gone mine, I still think ever so fondly of her and that indelible moment.
It was a risk. I understood it then, and I understand it to this day. You have to read the situation and trust your gut. Since that day, I have shared my mental illness journey with quite a few people, and it becomes easier each time.
Let’s keep the conversation going!