Mental Health

It’s #MentalIllnessAwarenessWeek in Canada – Many still suffer in silence.

MHAWThe 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 with 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 with 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!

Anxiety, Depression

Surviving Depression – Help a Friend

I am recovering from depression. What I mean by this is that my chronic depression is well managed and provided I stay on my medication, I will remain in recovery.

Having had three major depressive episodes over the past thirteen year, I’m in a very unique position. I have lived through deep depression, gotten very close to committing suicide… and survived. In having survived, I feel blessed because I am now able to help a dear friend. She too suffers from depression.

This friend of mine is a “work” friend. Though we’ve known each other for over five years, likely suffering side-by-side in shameful silence, it wasn’t until about a year ago where I said the words out loud.

“I suffer from depression.”

It was part of my talk therapy, really. Talking about my depression. Which is hard enough with family and close friends but to admit to a work friend that you have depression can be daunting and scary and in some cases, career limiting.

But, as soon as I said it, I could see a calm, knowing look in her eyes. She has depression too. Finally, it was out there. Finally, we could talk about it.

The thing about being friends with people at work – you know when they’re off “sick” for a few days in a row. In my friend’s case, this has been a repeating pattern every few months or so – a pattern I know only too well having lived it myself. To her credit, my friend called me during the last absence and asked me for advice. She hadn’t done this before.

I openly shared my experiences with her and was happy to do so. It felt good to be able to help someone who is suffering as I have, though I wish the circumstances were different.

Recovering from Depression? Help a Friend.
By hin255, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I have, and likely always will have, chronic depression. It can be really tough, particularly in the long, cold months of winter. But I survive. Day after day, night after night, I survive. As the months and years of my life fly by, I survive. If every 1 depression survivor, reached out and helped another person suffering with depression… and then they helped someone… and then they helped someone… we could build a tremendous web of support and love.

It doesn’t take much. Just reach out…