I’m “Better” … Now What? — Bell Let’s Talk Day

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. That means Bell will donate 5¢ more towards mental health initiatives in Canada, by counting every text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and Snapchat geofilter. You can find more information about this initiative here: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/bell-lets-talk-day

In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, the Mental Health Awareness directors wanted to take the opportunity to talk and to share one of our stories. During her time here at Waterloo, Hannah has been outspoken on the topic of mental health, working to decrease the stigma and improve the services available on campus. She’s told her story before, but today we have a side of the story that she hasn’t talked about. This is her story of the long road to recovery and what it means to be “better”.

It is no secret that I suffer from Clinical Depression. I have made a point to be very vocal about it, so that it becomes more normal on campus. I usually try to frame the story as follows:
I have been struggling with undiagnosed depression for as long as I can remember
I got really sick in the summer of 2015, ended up in the hospital twice, and had to put my entire life on hold for 2 months to get better.
Everything is wonderful and awesome.

I am going to take this blog post to talk about point number 3, specifically how wrong it is. It is so easy to open up about your own mental health when you have a victory to talk about, but it’s really hard to talk about all of the bumps along the way. This is where I am going to talk about all of the struggles with adjusting to new medication, and the parts of recovery that people rarely talk about.

I have been taking Zoloft for about a year and a half now, and although it has saved my life, and I would never stop taking it, there were a lot of unexpected adjustments I went through because of the medication. For the first year or so after I “stabilized”, my emotions were completely muted. Basically, nothing ever phased me, I rarely got stressed out, I didn’t really care about anything or anyone, and the most noticeable thing was that I didn’t feel any sort of love toward anything. Since I had been so depressed for so long, I figured that I was just naturally somebody who had a very limited emotional spectrum, and accepted it as normal. This was really bad for relationships, and my own personal well being because I was just so emotionally disconnected from anything.

About four months ago when my emotions started to get back into the “normal” range, I started to get super freaked out because I thought that I was getting sick again. It took me a really long time to distinguish normal, negative emotions from a relapse. I didn’t think that I could be sad without wanting to hurt myself. I didn’t think I could be disappointed or deal with failure without wanting to die. I started getting anxiety for the first time in my life because I was dreading the fact that I was going to spiral back into a very deep depression. It took me speaking to a counsellor, and a lot of thinking to realize that I was actually just experiencing normal human emotions.

I still have times where I will get sick, but it is not nearly as bad. Now when I’m not doing well, it’s a couple of days of zero motivation, exhaustion, and really slow cognition. It sucks, but it’s so much better than the alternative. Life is definitely better, but right now I’m silencing that internal voice that says that I am a failure if things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s ok that I’ll get upset, I’ll get sick, and things are going to suck sometimes.

I wanted to talk about this because there is a lot more to recovery than just going through intense treatment for a short period of time. I’m going to be managing my depression for the rest of my life.

So I guess I can change Step 3 to be this: Way better than step 2, but still not easy.

It’s time for us to stop the recovery stigma too. #BellLetsTalk

If you have a story to share and are interested in being featured on the blog, reach out to one of the Mental Health Awareness directors, or email us at engsocmha@gmail.com