Recently I spent an entire day with a beautiful individual giving our time and raising money to a great charity organization. No one knew that as he was giving so much to others, he was the one that needed the help. Trevor O’Keefe was a decorated RCMP officer, he lived his life constantly giving to other people in need and pushing his personal needs aside. Corporal O’Keefe is one of countless first responders that are suffering from PTSD quietly. First responders are constantly witnessing horrific things and then expected to “suck it up” and continue with their everyday lives. Now that we are more comfortable with speaking out about mental health issues we need to bring the awareness to absolutely everyone regardless of occupation, race, gender, etc. “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’ illness becomes wellness.” First responders are constantly keeping us safe and making us their first priority but when it comes to their mental health no one is putting them first.
When someone is seeking answers to something, they seek out the experts. Meeting and speaking with them, hoping that spilling their innermost thoughts and feelings and presenting the facts that match to things that they know, they hope to receive an answer that matches the research they themselves have conducted. As for myself, I think I’m afraid to know, but desperate to confirm.
I hate jumping to conclusions and I hate diagnosing myself before a doctor can, but as I have been waiting this long to know what is wrong with me, it is only natural that a paranoid, anxious psychology student would start seeing parallels with the many mental illnesses I study within myself.
Last week, I found myself switching from general anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, and depression, as those can be diagnosed by a GP, to thinking I might have a more severe condition. Thoughts of bipolar disorders and cyclothymia crossed my mind. I almost drove myself nuts seeing if my symptoms matched the reported symptoms of these disorders. However, I am my own worst doctor, I will always think I am over-exaggerating or under-reporting my own symptoms. I don’t condone Google-diagnosis, but I still find myself doing it, in my endless search for answers.
I can’t seem to sit still, my mind is both exhausted and racing everyday, and I just want to keep moving forward but feel so stuck. The anticipation of finally getting some confirmation and answers are almost overbearing. The stress of this term has taken its toll now; I have felt an anxious nausea sitting in my stomach for almost two weeks, feeling both hungry and repulsed by food, yet still overeating. The weather has had me down for so long, my emotions feel blunted to the point I can’t remember what a strong emotion feels like, and the world is both too bright and too dull. I feel crazy and calm all at once.
I try to keep my mind away from focusing on things like this too much, but sometimes its all I can focus on. I really just want confirmation, so that I can stop adding the disclaimer *not yet diagnosed* to my statements on mental health. I hope someone else who is struggling with a lack of diagnosis can relate to my feelings, and maybe feel less alone. I hope if you are reading this, everything will fall in place for both of us in time.
Til then, good luck and much love.
For Bell Let’s Talk day, as many of you know, the Advisory Committee ran a booth with speech bubbles to promote positive mental health and share words of support. Bell Let’s Talk Day is a significant day to me. I have struggled with my mental health for many years now, and oftentimes only the closest to me know. This time around, I thought I would change that and step outside of my comfort zone.
Last semester, I struggled with suicidal thoughts – it seemed that was all that occupied my mind. I let my best friend know, however their lack of care and support made things worse. I sunk deeper and deeper into my depression until I felt like there was no way out. However, with the help of a new course of anti-depressants and help from one of the counselors with UOIT Mental Health Services, I am in a much better place than I was.
I was making considerable progress until the middle of December, when I had a personal crisis and, at 1:00 AM, was the closest to suicide I had ever been. I had distanced myself from the best friend that didn’t care, and moved closer towards another friend. I called her, and she was able to talk me off the – metaphorical – ledge and calm me down.
Then, for Bell Let’s Talk Day, I finally opened up to everyone around me. On one of the speech bubbles, still displayed well into mid-February, I wrote about my suicidal ideation and the fact that I needed to reach out to help. I wrote my name and my faculty on the bubble, not that it mattered because I have a unique name and my campus is entirely for my faculty. But I did it. I put it out to the world that I am NOT perfect, and that I have struggles as well, as much as I like to put out to the world that I don’t.
Since then, I’ve had a couple people come up to me and talk to me, ask me if I was okay, and just offer their support. It’s really hard to talk about suicide, especially when you feel like those around you don’t care. And it’s even harder when you’re supposed to be someone who has their life together. But even us on the Advisory Committee aren’t perfect, and we all have our fears and reluctance to share our vulnerabilities. Sometimes though, you’ll find that opening up opens doors to so many more support networks and people who can help you.
Every year on Bell Let’s Talk day we hear thousands of individuals discuss their mental health. People feel as though this is the best day to come forward and share their experiences with mental illness. It makes it much easier to come forward and talk about our own mental health when we see others doing the same, especially over social media where we can hide behind our screens. The numerous posts with the familiar hashtag #BellLetsTalk make us feel like everyone will accept our mental illness and applaud us for sharing. But this is not how we should feel.
We should not feel as though only because it is Bell Let’s Talk day our friends, family, and followers will support us and be there if we want to talk. It seems like this is the one of the only times we reassure our friends and family that we are here for them if they want to talk about their depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. We should be doing these things everyday. A day should not go by in which anyone feels although they cannot talk about not being okay.
In order to stop the stigma we need to discuss mental health on a daily basis. We need to accept that everyone faces different struggles in life and some cannot be seen by the eye. We need to treat everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve.
And that is why I love this blog. It provides an opportunity for individuals to talk about mental health in a safe and judge-free environment everyday, not just once a year. It allows us to support one another and reassure each other that we are not alone. It allows us to continue the conversation.
** This post may relate to some and may be a trigger. Please always read with caution and take care of your mental health**
It’s interesting, I have had people in my life who really try to understand what I am going through and want to know how I feel during an “episode” but when it comes down to explaining it, I am at a loss for words. How do you explain feelings to someone who has never felt them before? How do you explain an episode when they are different every time?
I wanted to write this while I was at my lowest point because really I think that is the only way to really explain it, but of course when I’m in such a state there is no motivation to do anything so I am going to try my best to give you a glimpse. I’d like to point out this is MY PERSONAL experience and will not reflect everyone who is dealing with depression and anxiety. Also this is describing me at my most severe times which are not always completely reflective of my overall mental health. For me, it took a long time to figure out how I was feeling, I always tried to describe it, but trying to compare and reference my feelings only took away the intensity of my emotions. Within the last week or so I have finally found the one word that can truly describe how I feel: DISASSOCIATION. By definition disassociation is the disconnection or separation of something from something else or the state of being disconnected. Being disconnected is feeling as though everything going on around me is out of my control, like the words I am speaking are not coming from me, but I am watching them being said. Like the consequences of my actions don’t matter because I am not there, a numb feeling that I cannot escape. My mind feels dull and numb while my body is in excruciating pain like someone is constantly stabbing a small knife into my ribs and chest. My ears are filled with pressure and my heart feels as if it is going to beat right out of my chest. When people are talking I can hardly focus as there are a million vicious thoughts running through my head telling me I am not good enough, I am a failure, that my friends are only my friends because they pity me and in reality no one wants me, just the things I can/will do for them. Sure, people have these insecurities at times but these thoughts do not stop, they are running an endless marathon and getting louder and louder with each check point.
This constant pain always leads my mind to the one thought no one ever wants to think; how easy it would be to just end it all, to give up with this being strong bullshit and just be selfish, in an eternal sleep. With that being said no matter how deep I am into my own mind, I always remind myself of a quote that has kept me going all these years, “suicide does not end pain, it just passes it to someone else and I would rather live a lifetime of pain than see those I love suffer.”
Coming out of an episode can be just as scary as being in one. I feel like I’ve blacked out, like the last few hours or even days are just a faint blur – a dream almost. Not only that, but it is completely exhausting both mentally and physically. I feel so tired and ready for bed which happens at any time, even in the morning before I have began to start my day – which usually ends in me missing class because I am unable to get myself ready.
As you can probably tell this post leaves me feeling very vulnerable but I think its important and needs to be talked about. So many people experience similar issues and like me are forced to just continue on with their day. My experiences don’t just happen when I am home. With school and work the triggers are endless, but at the end of the day papers need to be written, bills need to be paid and there is no time to recover. A horrible cycle that many of us face but please remember you’re never alone! Find someone (even if it’s an anonymous hotline) to confide in, get a journal and express yourself, or be like me and join a blog. Letting your pain out will help more than you think! Everyone is suffering and the severity of their suffering does not matter, all that matters is that we can all relate.
On January 26th of this year, 60 Minutes correspondent, Scott Pelley, told the story of Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds and other parents who the American Health system failed when it came to their children who were in crisis. The story focuses on the small portion of the mentally ill that are violent, and a danger to themselves or others. But, Pelley stresses that the vast majority of people who suffer from mental illness are not violent.
“I really don’t want Gus to be defined by his illness,” Deeds repeatedly says throughout the interview. “I don’t want Gus to be defined by what happened on (November) 19th, Gus was a great kid…It’s cleared the system failed Gus, and killed Gus.” He goes on to say that Gus could have been saved, if he was hospitalized that night instead of being sent home because they couldn’t find him a bed in a psychiatric ward.
In this addition of Continue the Conversation, Johann Hari discusses his journey on finding out what causes addiction after he was touched by addiction through his family.
At his TEDtalk in June of this year, in London, Hari talked about his interest in addiction since it’s been 100 years since Britain and the United States banned drugs in their countries. Later, that ban was imposed on the rest of the world. He goes on to say that it’s been a century that a treatment regiment was created to take addicts, and make them feel bad for their addiction. We did this, because we thought that negative reinforcement would make them deter from their addiction and give them the incentive they need to stop.
After realizing that he really didn’t know the answers to basic questions about addiction, and decided to go out and talk to people who had first hand knowledge of addiction after his research still didn’t give him the answers he wanted. His travels and discussions led him to a realization: everything that we know about addiction is wrong.
The story that we are fed is that anyone who takes hard drugs (heroine, cocaine, etc), will immediately become a drug addict. But, what that narrative is really telling us is that if someone has no other choice, they will choose drugs. But, if they are surrounded by friends, family, things to keep them stimulated. A person won’t turn to drugs.
He quotes a couple of Professors that say addiction is about bonding with the drug, especially if the person feels isolated. Human nature is to bond with things, we tend to bond with things that give us a sense of relief. Hari believes that the core to addiction is not being able to bear the idea of participating in your life, and you use your addiction as a means of escape.
Hari also discusses the experiment that Portugal did to deal with addiction, which as seemed to succeeded. It’s a different approach than Britain and the United States, and no one seems to want to go back to the way things was.
“The opposite of addiction is connection,” Hari explained.
As a part of an Australian awareness campaign, Soften the FCK up created a video of a number of young men talking about their struggles and what those struggles led them to contemplate: suicide.
In another addition of Continue the Conversation, we go to Eleanor Longden’s TEDtalk about the beginning of her schizophrenia which was prompted when she first began college.
Today we will be discussing a video posted on Youtube by Casey Throwaway, who recently posted a video of himself coming down from a panic attack in an attempt to show people just how devastating they can be. The video has a very strong message to people who don’t understand what someone goes through during a panic attack, and has widely circulated the internet.