I haven't felt like writing in a long time. The fall months and the Christmas season were hard on me - I struggled with my depression and anxiety on an almost daily basis. It was tiring. I just didn't have the energy to write nor did I have the inspiration.
Sometimes life is like that. It can't always be constant sunshine and happiness, at least not when you live with a recurring mood disorder. It certainly didn't help that I found the U.S. election results deeply upsetting and the Christmas season just too much (too much of everything).
So how did I manage? What did I do to avoid free-fall into another depressive episode? I pulled out my mental health bag of tricks: I got lots of rest, I played with our dog, I took my medication every day at the same time, I read good books, I tried to eat as healthy as possible and I talked about my illness.
Yes, I talked about what I was feeling and experiencing. I talked to my carpool buddy & friend, Lindsay, who was a frequent support to me. I talked to my mom and my brother and my dad. And I talked to my manager and colleagues (who are really more like friends - yes, I am lucky).
I am highlighting this particular tool because it helps. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of therapy that combines talking with exploring how your thoughts impact your mental health and well-being. It can be an important tool in the treatment of mental disorders and it has certainly helped me in the past. But CBT can be expensive if you don't have healthcare benefits that cover it. And if you are experiencing mild depression or anxiety, it can be very effective to just talk about your challenges with a friend, family member or your family doctor.
I recognize that it can be frightening to take that first step and tell someone how you are feeling. So here is what I want you to know: YOU are not alone. There are people who love you and want to help. In my early days of gingerly stepping out of the closet of mental illness I was surprised and comforted by the fact that so many people that I shared my story with have either experienced a mood disorder or they have someone close to them that has.
January 25th is once again Bell Let's Talk Day in Canada. It's an important opportunity to speak about a topic that still carries the weight of misunderstanding, stigma and silence. If you are a person who is experiencing a mental health challenge, please know that is is OK - it's OK to lighten your load and ask for help. And if someone chooses you to share their challenges with, it's OK to not have any answers. Simply listening in a non-judgemental manner is an act of friendship.
Finally, it's OK to not be perfect. Perfection is highly overrated, anyway. And guess what? I feel better for talking to YOU today. Thanks for being there.
P.S. If you live in British Columbia and are seeking help for a mood disorder, please check out the Canadian mental Health Association B.C.'s Bounce Back Program. It is free with a doctor's referral and offers some great tools and resources.