I Want To Talk, But Also Listen. #BellLetsTalk
It’s true, I struggle with mental health. I live with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and depression, and no matter how much I want to hide it some days, or pretend it doesn’t exist, it’s a part of me.
A few years ago, the thought of vulnerability, especially with my personal struggles, was terrifying. Showing emotions was (is) never easy for me, not only because I am a generally shy person a lot of the time, but also because of fear.
The truth is, stigma is a huge barrier for anyone dealing with mental illness. 1 in 5 people will experience challenges with mental health in their lifetime, yet a lot of these people will not ask for help because of rejection, judgement, or ridicule from others.
When my anxiety became more noticeable in high school and college after a few years of being bullied, I would brush it off and suppress it as if it was nothing. I told myself that I needed to be strong, and positive, however I was going for a solution without knowing what triggered the problem(s) I was facing. After college, I started dealing with panic attacks, incredibly low self esteem, social anxiety, and borderline agoraphobia. I would wake up most mornings with a heavy chest and muscle pain, sometimes headaches and nausea too. Of course, this all triggered my depression as well, and went into a cycle of feeling hopeless and exhausted. I was guilty and ashamed of feeling this way, and the stigma attached to mental illness made it that much scarier to open up.
Once I finally started reaching out to family and friends and receiving support from many different people, I began to notice that the more I was able to reach out for help, the more I could relate with other people as well as feel a lot less alone with what I was going through. It was worth the fear for three main reasons:
- I was able to find some of my strengths and learn a lot more about myself through being open
- I started to gain coping mechanisms to help me calm down in stressful situations that induced anxiety and/or panic
- I started to gain more hope and confidence, and felt less ashamed of my depression and anxiety
A few years back, when I began to speak publicly to elementary and high schools about my challenges with mental health, I learned about Bell Let’s Talk, and I thought “wow, this is really great to have such a big company be an advocate for mental health!” And although this is the motivation behind writing my first story on here, I want to be able to use my struggles to help others by spreading awareness.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this:
I have been fortunate enough to have many people to talk to. I still talk to my family and close friends all the time even if it’s something small (with GAD it can take a long time to process things that are simple because it can trigger a whole bunch of other thoughts and worries). I’ve also talked to thousands of students, teachers and parents altogether. But, alongside Bell Lets Talk Day, I would like to also be there to simply listen to others who need support and offer advice in any way I can, even if it’s directing them to the right resources or sharing my own experiences.
It truly is the best way to help someone struggling — to not judge or say “it’s all in your head.” The best support a lot of the time for me was just having someone to nod and say “I understand.”
For more information about today, click here and help spread awareness, and start the conversation, or simply use the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.