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My Take

Mental Illness and Daring to Try

Good morning guys! I’m starting this at 3 a.m. because I’ve barely been able to sleep and I’m laying my essay to rest for a little bit. I think it’s important to share my current reality with you and provide updates because without context how can I usefully share thoughts, ideas and advice? How can I honestly display progression without acknowledging the ebb and flow of my own emotional tides?

That said, here’s a quick resume. I had my first week of school and today marks the beginning of the second. What do I feel? Everything. Literally everything. Up, down, sideways, diagonal, spiralling and all that’s in between. From hot air balloon to sunken ship, I’m a kite in the wind and unfortunately, self-harm has become a serious struggle again. I suppose that’s to be expected seeing as my emotions rival the fluctuations of the stock market, but it’s definitely not to be left unattended. As I was saying though, I feel everything…which means that I’m also elated and excited beyond belief! Other than brain chemicals running around with their heads cut off, there’s a huge reason for this joy! I have the tremendous privilege of being part of the Bell Let’s Talk event hosted by John Abbott College. This is something that I didn’t see coming until last October when I was invited after getting up the courage to ask if I could take part in the Mental Health week of the Fall semester. (Bell Let’s Talk was also a dream of mine since my first semester in CEGEP but one that I never believed would come true.)

Fast forward 3 months and here we are! For those of you who don’t know, Bell Let’s Talk is an “awareness campaign created by the Canadian telecommunications company, Bell Canada, in an effort to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental illness in Canada. It is notably the single largest corporate commitment to mental health in Canada.” Authorized groups like CEGEPS can host events in their name, which is what’s happening across Canada this Thursday, January 28th. My part was to share my story, the necessity of getting help and the hope that this personal project has brought me. Originally I was going to be speaking live, but COVID has made that impossible. This is really bad, but the fact that I could record a video instead made it possible for me to actually take part. The anxiety I’ve been facing has been brutal but it lessened when this new option came about. Most importantly, last Friday I sent my piece to those in charge. I could’ve spoken for hours, but I hope my 9 minutes get across the compassion and hope I pray to share with every viewer!

Trusting the Unknown

I really want to write about the unfolding of these events, because it’s an excellent example of taking a leap of faith and doing what you can in the moment. Why is this important? Because I broke my state of paralysis and only now months later do I truly see the value of what I did. I’m always talking about celebrating little victories and I finally have something I’m proud of. Many of us equate mental illness with stagnancy, but I’m here to prove that great things can still be accomplished.

Last summer I was trying to put myself back together and in many respects I improved a lot. But more importantly (and a big reason I succeeded in improving), is that I willingly dared to go down a new path. This path has already taught me a great deal and yet I know that I’ve only scratched the surface. When I published my book August 2nd last summer, it was really scary! Just rereading it to make sure it made sense was emotional, so clicking that button to share with the world was very meaningful for me in ways I can’t describe.

It was the official start of my goal to pursue a life in mental healthcare. (I truly mean life and not career, because this is not merely a profession to me. All of this? My book, my articles, the video and all that’s to come, is from me and is me. It’s us and it’s alive. My soul, my spirit, my experiences, my passion…all of it, and I believe that to disconnect this pursuit from my humanity would be the biggest mistake.) But before I digress, I started up my blog with the help of my parents since I had no idea how to do this and I was sure that I’d be terrible. Useless. What the heck did I think I was doing?! I still feel that way sometimes but that’s not the point. The point is that I did it anyway. Despite the anxiety, the pain of remembering it all, the strangeness of writing while still going through it…I still did it and I’m keeping it going.

Then I went back to school and in October I was shy and reticent to contact Student Activities to get involved in Mental Health Week. Again, with the encouragement of my family (and kicking myself in the derrière) I spoke up. It doesn’t sound big, but for me it was. And I realize now that if I hadn’t pushed myself last summer and again in October, NONE of this would be happening.

Why is This a Big Deal?

The goal of this post isn’t to say, “Yay, look what I did!” but rather “Look at what WE can do when we try – When we take that step which seems beyond our capabilities.” This is why one of my favourite quotes of all time is the following:

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of out lives.”

-Lemony Snicket

I really wanted to share that quote along with this anecdote because I think it’s incredibly significant. We are capable of much more than we believe, especially when our confidence and self-esteem has been eaten away by things like mental illness. It’s like a trap – one set to keep us in a state of paralysis. I get the feeling sometimes that if I take a step in any direction I’ll move off a pressure plate and trigger something even more horrible. That notion of ‘better the devil you know’ acts as barbed wire. While it appears that things won’t get worse this way…they absolutely can. More importantly, even if things won’t get worse they won’t get better either, right? Hence, the dreaded paralysis.

Now I understand that my choice of quote may seem contradictory to my other thoughts on taking the time we need to get better before beginning or resuming something. However in the end they aren’t opposing ideas, more like…two viable avenues and one must choose which to take when appropriate. There are times when we must stop and recover, but there are also times when we need a little push. Unfortunately, knowing the time and place for each is a very personal choice and not my place to say.

I hope this short tale of reflection can bring you some courage if you feel stuck on that pressure plate as I so often do. We are both on it, and can step off it- together. Dare to try!

We won’t always win, but remember: “Life is about making mistakes. Death is about wishing you had made a lot more.”

– Jennifer Aniston

I’ll be posting a practical piece of artwork that I’m finishing up; it’ll be in the gallery fairly soon. Have an excellent start to the week!

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Photo by Sachin C Nair on Pexels.com

What's YOUR take?