Category Archives: Mental health

Hindsight is 20-20: Poem Describing Teen Depression/Anxiety: “The Things I Did Instead”

I’ve had a lot of comments on blog posts from parents with teens suffering depression/anxiety. You parents who realize what is happening are the lucky ones, relatively speaking. So many teens suffer without anyone, including themselves, really knowing it. I was one of those teens.
I still got good grades.
I still held down a good part time job.

The signs can be subtle, and often are dismissed as typical “teen” behaviour. Under/over sleeping, being irritable, under/over eating.

One sign to watch out for is isolation.
Do friends ever call?
Does your teen ever go out with friends, talk about friends?

I was a pretty isolated teen much of the time. I knew something was wrong. I knew I was very sad and felt scared and alone. I didn’t know it was depression/anxiety, but when I look back on poems I wrote, I described it pretty darn well. Here is one example. I hope it gives you a little insight about what teens with depression/anxiety are feeling.

The Things I Did Instead:

I saw a beautiful butterfly
It fluttered all around me
Touched my hand and my heart
Then it circled away into the deep blue sky
Left my eyes, and made them cry
I think it is hard to catch a butterfly
But what do I know?
I didn’t even try

These are the things I did instead
I cried night after night until I could take it no more
Then I fell
I fell very far, and I fell very deep
I fell very fast into a death like sleep
I became numb
Free from the pain
And free from the truth
I was so free that I was trapped
Left all alone, again and again
I lived day after after day feeling nothing
Nobody could see
That my soul had left me
There was nowhere I could go
Nothing I could be
I had let that butterfly go
Stupidly, I had ignored the sound of my own screaming
NO

Whatever became of the butterfly?
It kept on going
Circling farther and farther away
Until it got too high
And slowly started dying
Its wings turned black
It started to fade
It got so sick and so weak
Still it soared through the smokey air
Forgot what it was
Forgot that it cared
It became a part of the night
All of its beauty
All of its magic
All of its innocence
Gone

We’re a pathetic pair
That butterfly and me
One chance not taken
A tiny, terrible mistake
And we will never be
But one thing always remains
One thing time can never take
The love of that moment
So painfully long ago
Endures with strength
It will never shatter
It will never break
That day, that sunny smiling day
Shines again every once in a while
It lives in his eyes
It lives in my smile
When I’m walking through the woods and the butterfly pasee by
I tell him to remember
He tells me not to cry

I see a beautiful butterfly
It flutters far away
Once it touched my hand and my heart
I can see it circling in the deep blue sky
It leaves my eyes and makes them cry
I think it is hard to catch a butterfly
But next time it comes near
I promise I will try

Thanks for reading.
Be Brave, and Talk

Let The Pain In

Let the pain in.
Feel it to its fullest intensity.
Accept it.
Endure it.
Thank it.
It gives strength to your heart.
It gives the precious ability to appreciate what’s good to your soul.

You will smile again.
And because of your pain, that smile will be radiantly beautiful.

Thank you for reading.
Be Brave, and Talk.
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Long Lost Friends

Maybe you both work too much.
Or it’s distance.
Busy family lives.
Maybe you grew apart.
Maybe you can’t really find a reason at all.

She vanishes from your life without warning. Your phone calls are unanswered, unreturned. Birthdays pass, holidays pass, time ticks on. Sometimes a song comes on the radio that reminds you of her. You wonder how she’s doing, and if she ever thinks of you. You miss her. You wonder why you weren’t good enough for her to keep you in her life. You shake your head, shrug off the sadness. Oh well. It’s her loss.

Her loss.
Her nagging guilt.
Her deep regret.

You came into her life at a time she desperately needed a friend. Heartbroken and alone, she leaned on you without you even knowing it. You confided in her, invited her to follow along in your life. Your friends and you even called her “Little Sister.” You helped her feel like she belonged when her life was falling apart.
She trusted you.
She admired you.
She loved you.
She loves you still.

She cried the day you said goodbye. She moved to another city. New responsibilities, new relationships. She was absorbed, and overwhelmed. She listened to the messages you left, told herself she’d call you soon. Time moved on, and the thought of phoning you got harder and harder. Cold with anxiety, unsettled in her stomach, she held the phone and took deep breaths.

What if you were mad at her for taking so long to call back?

What if she sounded awkward, had nothing interesting to say?

What if you didn’t really like her anymore, and were annoyed by her call?

What If……so many What Ifs…

What if she called you at home when she knew you’d be at work?

She left you a message, so she’d stay safe, and you would know she still cared. She promised herself she’d answer if you called back, pushed the guilt aside. A few days later your call came, she stood frozen with fear. She realized her lack of action was not the norm. She hated herself for being such a coward. She hated herself almost all the time. Her self loathing made her believe somewhere deep inside that she was unworthy. She truly thought she didn’t deserve you.

If only you could have known.

Her anxiety was too much for her to cope with. The consequence was losing a dear friend.

If only you could have known.
You could have told her she was more than worthy.
You could have told her she had no reason to feel afraid.
You could have told her she deserves friendship.
You could have told her she deserves love.

She tells herself even still, that one day she’ll contact you. Maybe she’ll send a letter, maybe a birthday card.

She says she will do it tomorrow.
But tomorrow never seems to come.

I hope one day you long lost friends bump into each other by accident. I hope you give each other a big hug. I hope you become friends again.

This may not happen of course, but one thing will always remain true. You shared laughs, tears, a special kind of love. You affected each other’s lives for the better. You were great friends.

“Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened. ”

It happened. And that’s never going to change.

Thank you for reading.
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Be Brave, and Talk

**Quote by Dr. Seuss.

Please Stop Saying Sorry

Facebook Status: Today was a terrible day. -feeling lonely. 😞

You leave it up for 10 minutes, check it, see no feedback, then hit delete. People don’t want to be brought down by your negative status.

Facebook status: Whoa! I got 98% on my term paper! Yahoo! – feeling proud. 😃

You leave it up for 3 minutes, then hit delete. You don’t want anyone to be annoyed and think you’re bragging.

Facebook status: My heart literally hurts. Why did she have to do this to me? -feeling heartbroken. 😢

You leave it up for about 30 seconds, then hit delete. You picture that meme with Leonardo Dicaprio wearing sunglasses and laughing at people who post “problems” on Facebook and shudder. People hate drama. What are you thinking? You take a cute picture of your puppy and post that instead.

So much insecurity.
So much guilt.
Why do we feel so uncomfortable being real?

******************************

You stare blankly out the bedroom window and wish it wasn’t sunny. Maybe then you wouldn’t feel like such a loser, lying in bed in the middle of the day while your husband takes care of the children. You hear them laughing as they get shoes on for outside, and your heart sinks. You try willing yourself out of bed to join them, but your aching body doesn’t want to cooperate. You place cool hands on your forehead, try to relieve the throbbing pain. Precious moments pass by wasted, as your family plays in the back yard without you. You bury your head in the pillow, squeeze your eyes shut. There’s no way you’re going to be able to fall asleep. You haven’t slept properly in months. You are sleep deprived beyond belief, but your racing mind keeps you awake any chance you get to catch up. Cursing yourself, you jump out of bed, angrily swallow down some Tylenol, and rush outside.

Your daughters race to greet you, giggling, fistfuls of dandelions in their hands. You put on your best smile, kneel down and let them crash into your arms. You squeeze them tight until they fight to get free and run off again.

“Did you get any sleep?” Your husband’s brow furrows with concern.

“No. No, I didnt.” You snap.

“Why not? Why don’t you go back and lie down?”

“Because! I can’t sleep! My head hurts too much! I’m not well, don’t you understand? Something is very wrong with me! I’ve felt absolutely awful for MONTHS!”

You turn your back so your daughters wont see, and sob into your hands. Your husband gives you a tight hug, you cry into his shirt. You indulge in the comfort for a minute, dry your face with the back of your hand.

“I’m sorry, Love. I’m okay, don’t worry. I’m just really tired, that’s all…..Did my mascara smear?”

******************************

Oh, how I wish I had the power to travel back in time, to you as you stood in the dandelions and apologized to your husband for crying on that sunny day. As you looked him in the eye through your tears and lied, pretending you weren’t breaking inside. If I had the power, I’d hold you tight, I’d whisper in your ear that your pain is not weakness, your anger is not a sin, your tears are not a burden. I’d tell you I admire your determination, caring day after day for your family, when you desperately need care yourself.

I’d tell you to let it out, scream if you have to.
You hurt.
You are afraid.
You are strong beyond words, but you are tired of being strong.
You just want to be truthful.
Please stop saying sorry.
Be truthful. Be real. Be brave, and hold your head high.
This world needs more truth.
And the truth, in time, will set you free.

Thank you for reading!
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Be Brave, and Talk

7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression

The hardest people to love are the ones who need it most.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for showing love to friends and family members with anxiety/ depression:

1.) Give Compliments:

Chances are, someone who suffers from anxiety/depression also struggles with self esteem. Help her challenge her feelings of self loathing by giving her sincere, specific compliments. Being specific is really important, because it will make her more likely to remember what you said later. It will also make her more likely to believe you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re a good mom,” you could say something more meaningful: “You are so patient with your children. I love how you encourage them to keep trying. They are so lucky to have you.”
One thoughtful, genuine compliment has more power than 10 careless comments that feel like flattery. Put your heart into what you say.

2.) Offer Your Company:

Appointments, trips to the grocery store or mall can be very trying for someone with anxiety. If your friend has someone he trusts to come along with him, it can be quite helpful. It offers distraction, support, and ensures he won’t have to face unforeseen events, such as a panic attack, all alone.

3.) Send Texts or Email To Ask How They Are Doing….Really:

Text and email might be better for this than a phone call. It can be very hard for someone to open up if they are going through a tough time. Text or email gives her all the time she needs to respond honestly, and might help her be more comfortable. It also takes the pressure off to say she’s “good” or “okay” when that’s not actually the case. In the depths of depression, it is easy to feel like nobody cares. Ask how she is doing, and really listen. Make it all about her. Let her know you believe everything she is saying, and you are there for her whenever she needs. She is not alone.

4.) Take Care Of Him:

Depression can make even the most mundane tasks absolutely exhausting. Self care is often neglected, because the person just doesn’t have the energy, the ability to focus, or the desire to do things for himself. You could cook him a nutritious meal, pay for and send him for a massage or haircut, take care of his kids while he takes a bath. Remind him that he deserves TLC just as much as anyone. This just might help motivate him to start loving and caring for himself.

5.) Invite Her For A Walk Outside….And Keep On Inviting Her:

Being in nature is soothing to the soul, good medicine for anyone. Exercise increases the body’s production of serotonin, which helps reduce anxiety and depression. Exercising outside just makes sense for someone with mental illness, but the hard part is getting her out there. Invite her often, and if she declines, be sure to not make her feel guilty….she probably has plenty of guilt in her life already. Just shrug it off, and invite her again in a few days. Your persistence will let her know you care, and hopefully she will one day accept.

6.) Hug Him….The Longer The Hug, The Better:

We are all familiar with the healing power of a hug. What you may not know, is loving gestures like hugs cause the body to release oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin causes relaxation, and aids sleep, perfect for someone with anxiety/depression. So hold him tight, for as long as you can, and you will be helping him feel better on an emotional and physiological level.

7.) Let Her Be

The hardest, most isolating part of mental illness is trying to live up to real, or imagined pressure from family and friends to be happy.

Accept that she is not happy today.
Offer no advice on how to change her mood.
Be with her when she is irritable, and don’t make her feel guilty for it.
Let her know that although you don’t fully understand what she is going through, you believe every complaint she has, and you respect her strength in living through it.

Let her be.
Don’t force her to pretend.
Love is unconditional, after all.

Thanks for reading!
Be Brave, and Talk
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Worth Celebrating

It’s what every single one of us needs, desires.

It keeps us up at night.
It soothes us to sleep.

It saves us.
It redeems us.

It’s the reason we live, and the reason we’d die.

It’s powerful.
It’s universal.

It’s the beauty within our souls.

You saw him just an hour ago, but you’d give anything to bring him right back here. His touch lights a fire within you, the beauty of his face fills you with awe. You hear his voice, it makes you shiver. You breathe him in, it makes you heavy lidded and weak. His kiss is an intense rush, you can’t get enough. You bask in the heat that is your attraction, you never want it to end.
It’s a marvel.
It’s an addiction.
It may not be the deepest, but it’s certainly the most fun.
It’s physical.
It’s electrical.
It’s I-need-to-exchange-as-many-of-my-bodily-fluids-with-you-as-possible
Love.

You get that promotion at work, and the first person you think of telling is her. The touch of her hand comforts you, the beauty of her face makes you feel at home. You hear her voice, it makes you cringe, or miss her like crazy, depending on circumstances. Her kiss sends you to sleep each night, it wakes you up each morn. You relax in the laughter that fills your home, you never want it to end.
It’s taking for granted.
It’s appreciation.
It’s not always brimming with passion, but she’s certainly your best friend.
It’s intimate
It’s emotional.
It’s i-think-one-day-soon-I’m -going-to-ask-you-to-marry-me
Love.

You hold her close in the rocking chair, you’ll keep doing it as long as she needs. The touch of her soft skin brings you to tears, the beauty of her face fills you with awe. You hear her cry, you jump, ready to serve. You feed, you soothe, you clean until you are heavy lidded and weak. Her kisses are full of slobber, but still you can’t get enough. You savour the days you’re her number one, you never want it to end.
It’s exhausting.
It’s a gift.
It may not be the easiest, but it’s certainly the most powerful.
It’s unselfish.
It’s pure.
It’s I-didn’t-know-I-was-capable-of-this-much-feeling-until-I-had-you
Love.

You doze in the chair beside his bed, you’ll be there when he wakes up. The cold feel of his frail hand brings you to tears, the beauty of his face fills you with nostalgia. You hear his voice, you smile with relief. He smiles back, heavy lidded and weak. His gentle kiss gives you strength, you help him to stand up and walk. He leans on you, as you’ve leaned on him, you two will endure til the end.
It’s a thousand private jokes.
It’s connection of your souls.
It may not be the most sensual, but it’s certainly the most beautiful.
It’s rare.
It’s forever.
It’s Yes-Dear-of-course-I’ll-apply-the-hemmorrhoid-cream-for-you
Love.

You gaze at your reflection, appreciate every feature, accept every flaw. You know the person beneath the skin, her beauty fills you with pride. You’ve quieted the cruel voices within, fought til you were heavy lidded and weak. You forgive yourself, you take care of yourself, you remember you’re more than enough. You give thanks for each day, try to truly live each day, you’ve got one life and never know when it will end.
It’s victorious.
It’s essential.
It might not come easily, but you’re certainly worth the fight.
It’s all knowing.
It’s all accepting.
It’s before-you-give-your-heart-to-anyone-you’ve-got-to-realize-it’s-worth-yourself
Love.

It’s what every single one of us needs, desires.

It keeps us up at night.
It soothes us to sleep.

It saves us.
It redeems us.

It’s the reason we live, and the reason we’d die.

It’s powerful.
It’s universal.

It’s the light that endures all things.

A Big Deal

A Saturday grocery store trip. A family reunion. Holiday weekend picnic at the park. Visit to the rec centre. Pampered Chef party with the girls. Two hours in a crowded doctor’s office waiting room with sick kids.

People do these things all the time.

They’re just part of life. No big deal.

Or are they?

******************************

“You coming for supper?” Your petite coworker looks at you through amber curls. She doesn’t slow down. She knows your answer already. You’ll make a lame excuse, like you ate a late lunch, or you’ll act like you you’ll be right there, but never show up. Your place of part time employment offers you a free meal with every shift, but aside from the training shifts when you were with someone, you have never taken them up on it. A university student, you don’t have an abundance of extra cash for food. You’ve even gone a week living on microwave popcorn. So, why on earth do you pass on free food?

Because you are absolutely terrified.

You’re sure you will be awkward when the cook gruffly asks what you want to eat. You’re sure you will be unwelcome at the table with the housekeeping or banquet staff. You’ll put your dirty dishes in the wrong spot, you’ll forget to say thank you, you’ll annoy everyone around you. You get a creepy crawly feeling every time you picture yourself going back to the staff kitchen. So instead, you take an extra long washroom break, eat some licorice you’ve got stashed in your purse, and spend the second half of your shift pretending you’re not hungry.

******************************

You stare at the shiny black braid on the girl 3 seats ahead of you. There aren’t many boarding the bus at this time of night, so the steady movement lulls you into a comfortable daze. The bus passes your place, but you do not pull the cord. You are taking the long way home, hoping with all your might that your roommates will all be in their rooms when you finally get home. Your mind wanders, carefully avoids addressing the vague loneliness that rests on your chest. Your stomach grumbles. You lean your head on the window and try to remember what time your first class starts tomorrow. You are relieved the house looks dark as the bus circles back around. You pull the cord at the last possible moment. Part of you really wishes you could just ride the bus around all night. You bid the driver farewell, and scurry across the street.

The smell of some sort of Italian food greets you as you open the door. Perhaps one of your roommates made pasta sauce today. You consider checking if you have any food in the fridge, mount the stairs instead. You haven’t prepared a meal, washed a dish in that kitchen in months. You haven’t wanted to risk your new roommates noticing your lack of skill, your clumsiness while cooking and cleaning.

Safely in your room, you flop on your bed. On your dresser sits a half jar of peanut butter, a spoon, a container of jujubes with only the black ones left. Zoning out, you eat a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, hide it under the bed, and change into your pyjamas.

******************************

Your leg shakes impatiently as you wait for the air conditioning to kick in. You reassure your daughters the car will cool down soon, and give your husband a grateful squeeze on the arm. The new splash pad will no doubt be busy on this scorching Sunday. The temptation to stay home and play with your girls in their wading pool is great. But no, you can’t. This little (actually, for you it’s huge) excursion will be a lot of fun for them. It will give them a chance to interact with other kids. They will love it. You may hate it, but it doesn’t matter. You are doing it for them.

You arrive, and see that all is just as you had feared. It is packed. To your left, a group of teen girls stare at you with heavily lined eyes, smirk (at least that’s what you think they are doing) and smack their gum. To your right, a couple of 12 year old boys whiz past, almost knocking your youngest child over. The sound of delighted shrieks fills the air. You are hard pressed to find a spot to set down your bag. You take a deep breath, remind yourself your family has just as much right to be there as anyone, take your daughters by the hand and lead them to a small duck shaped fountain.

******************************

A Saturday grocery store trip. A family reunion. Holiday weekend picnic at the park. Visit to the rec centre. Pampered Chef party with the girls. Two hours in a crowded doctor’s office waiting room with sick kids.

People do these things all the time.

They’re just a part of life.

But for some, they are a very big deal indeed.

Next time you are at the splash pad, or the grocery store, or the doctor’s office, take a look around. Maybe that mom (or dad) who smiles at you has fought an internal battle just to get there. Maybe they still fight it as they smile at you.

Smile back with encouragement. Help them feel proud.

Because proud is exactly how they should feel.

I Am Safe With You

The most heartbreaking lies, the ones that in the end cause the most sorrow, are the ones we tell ourselves.

A while ago, I wrote about the ways people hide. This poem describes a hiding place I failed to mention before: in unhealthy/ one sided relationships.

I dedicate this to everyone who has ever had the courage to leave an unhealthy situation.

I dedicate this to everyone who is in need of just a little bit more courage to break free.

Follow your heart. Trust in your heart. You are worthy of real love. You deserve a chance at weak-in-the-knees, vulnerable, scary, unselfish, jumping-for-joy love.

**********************************************

I Am Safe With You:

She adds more mascara
Sips on her predrink all alone
Angles around in the mirror
Satisfied with skin and bone
She’s excited to be going
She wants to be seen
She wants the envy of other girls
But confident, she’s never been
He’s picked her up, he’s made her hot
He doesn’t show tonight
She takes off her shoes, checks her watch
Tells herself it’s alright
She takes a deep breath
She drinks a stiff drink
She is comfortable with this
She ignores the screams somewhere in her head,
And thinks to herself instead

I am safe with you
As long as you are happy, so am I
I just look the part, play the role
Smile into the mirror and pretend I am whole
You never have to grieve if you never say goodbye
You never fear failure, if you never even try

She stares up at the ceiling
Rolls over in a crowded bed
She considers going home
Snuggles up to him instead
He’s her main companion
Without him, she’d have no friends
Since he’s wanted by so many others,
Her need to prove herself never ends
He often makes her do things
She doesn’t want to do
Tells herself the lack of feeling
Is because the love’s no longer new
She gets out of bed
She drinks a stiff drink
She is comfortable with this
She ignores the screams somewhere in her head,
And thinks to herself instead

I am safe with you
If you are not happy, I am not
I try my best for you, let you twist my arm
Ignore the guilty thoughts that swarm
I laugh extra hard to make sure I’m not caught
Deep down I know it’s yours, the sole identity I’ve got

She drops him off some money
Although he mocks, and he sneers
He says that she deserves it
And cracks another beer
He shows up in early morning
He threatens suicide
She gives in to him once more
To keep him alive
He clings to her tightly
He begs her not to leave
“Tell me you love me”
“Make me believe”
She gets out of bed
She drinks a stiff drink
She’s not comfortable with this
She listens to the screams that fill her head,
And says to him instead,

I am trapped with you
You are not happy, and neither am I
I dread the part, despise the role
Cry into the mirror and long to be whole
I’m scared of where I’ll be when I reach freedom from this lie
I might achieve failure, but I know I’ve got to try

Be Brave, and Talk

Actually, No. It Is Not All In My Head!

It is estimated that 50% of visits to the doctor for physical ailments end up being rooted in psychiatric causes.

Does this mean that half of a doctor’s patients are imagining their symptoms, or faking it?

No. No, not at all.

As you know, the brain is the “control centre” for the entire body. There are hormones, receptors for hormones, proteins involved in making these hormones and receptors…it is all quite complex, and I’m not going to pretend I know how to explain it. The main idea here though is your brain, along with your endocrine system (hormone system) controls your whole physiology. So, when something is not quite right with hormones, or hormone receptors, or the inticrate pathways these things take throughout your brain and entire body, you are going to experience physiological symptoms: mental, emotional, and physical.

The mind-body connection is a strong one. Not because we have vivid imaginations. Not due to the power of the placebo effect. The mind-body connection is a strong one that is based on real, live, scientifically observed biochemistry.

************************

You awaken to the sound of your baby’s hearty grunting. Normally, this would make you laugh, but your head is pounding. You feel like you can’t move. Cramps squeeze hard on your lower spine. Pain radiates into your pelvic bone. Your sheets are soaked with sweat once again. Taking deep breaths, you carefully roll your body over, wincing at the back pain. You just need to relax a bit, and the pain will ease. The same thing has happened each morning lately.

You loosen up enough to move just as your baby starts crying for you. Standing up makes your head spin, so you sit back down, take more deep breaths.

It’s Okay. You can do this.

You sigh with relief and feel grateful your baby’s bassinet is right beside the bed as you sink back into your pillow and hold her close. You nurse her, and feel comforted, despite the pain in your head. Your mind wanders. Every time you start thinking of what might be wrong with your health, you desperately try to shake it off. Tears sting your eyes when you picture your two sweet little girls trying to make it in this world without their mother.

No. No. No. You do not have a spinal tumour. You do not have ovarian cancer. You do not have leukaemia. You are not dying.

A sharp burning prickles over the skin on your left upper chest. It slowly fades into numbness. Shingles. Your defences are down, your body is tired, your immune system is weak. The chicken pox virus you had as a kid has jumped on the opportunity and come back with a vengeance. You have been enduring it now for 2 months, which you know is a lot longer than normal for a person your age.

Shingles is for weak, old people, isn’t it?
Why did you get it?
Why won’t it go away?

You gently burp your baby, being careful to keep her against your right side. You bend your fingers and notice your hands are slightly swollen.

Maybe it’s your kidneys. That would explain the back pain. Maybe your electrolytes are out of balance. That can cause heart failure.

A wave of nausea crashes over you. Your heart thunders. Your body is rubber. Your bedding feels like it has been stuffed with massive lead bars as it rests upon you. You see black spots rimmed with twinkling light in front of you.

You are going to pass out. Frantically you call to your husband. He needs to wake up and take the baby! When she is safe in his arms, you roll onto the floor. Remembering your lifeguard days, you put yourself into the recovery position. Your frail body rocks back and forth. You suck in air, trying not to pass out. Your stomach churns. You tingle all over.

Your husband has rushed to bring you some juice. He asks if he should call an ambulance.

“I don’t know.” You cry.

You press yourself into the cool floor and will yourself to stay conscious. You take deep breaths, and sip the juice. Your husband kneels beside you, cradles the baby in one arm and rubs your back. Slowly you start to feel better. You stand up, feel an urgent need to visit the washroom, pass loose stools. This has been an increasingly common health concern for you.

You wash your hands and gaze into the mirror. You look green. You lift up your shirt and examine your stomach. At least the hives that covered you the night before are gone now. You step on the scale: 95.8lbs. You have lost all of your baby weight, plus at least 10 extra pounds in only a few months.

Just add it to the list of reasons you think you are dying.

In the living room your children lie on the baby’s play mat and giggle.

Your husband pulls you into a tight hug.

“What’s wrong with me, Lovey?”

You apologize for wetting his shirt and look up at his concerned expression.

“I don’t know, Cutie, but you need to make an appointment with the doctor. No more putting it off.”

******************************

When you first walked into the examining room, your blood pressure was through the roof. 180 over something. You could hardly speak without your voice breaking.

Now, you’ve been waiting for a while, you feel a bit better. You grab your purse tightly. You mutter prayers repeatedly.

The door opens, and you jump. The familiar sight of your competent doctor, his warm greeting threaten to unravel you. You smile weakly. This is it.

Your doctor produces the paperwork from the extensive testing he had ordered for you.

Abdominal and pelvic ultrasound: normal

Chest x-Ray: normal

2 pages of blood work: all normal

Urine test: normal

Tears stream down your face and you sigh heavily.

You aren’t dying. According to the tests completed, you are perfectly healthy.

But why have you been feeling so awful?

You expect your doctor to reassure you and dismiss you, but he doesn’t.

He asks you if you have a personal and / or family history of anxiety and depression.

Yes. Yes, you have both.

“How has your mood been lately?” He asks gently.

Then, you unravel. Your kind doctor passes you the box of Kleenex and waits.

You’ve been feeling scared. Scared for no reason, almost all of the time. You are tired beyond words, but can’t catch a good sleep. You have trouble focusing when talking on the phone, when getting groceries. You get irritated very easily, and take it out on your husband. Never your daughters though, never. You are so worried that your days with them are limited that you try to pack a lifetime worth of love into each day you have. You read to them as your vision blurs. You take them to the park as your limbs tremble. You hold them close in the night, and cry.

You picture your own death far too often. You’ve even gone as far as sprinting home from the park, looking over your shoulder, convinced the man in the white van was coming for you.

Your doctor listens attentively. When you finish, he produces more paper. Information on the emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.

You read and realize you have been having almost all of them.

“This is not your fault. It is nothing you have done or not done. Things are imbalanced in your brain, but I can help you. It is going to be alright. ”

Tears spill onto your cheeks once again. You dab them with a mascara streaked tissue.
You listen as he discusses medication and counselling, and sigh deeply.

*************************************

Humans have a great ability to lie. They can also tend to attention-seek, exaggerate, and be self absorbed.

I think it’s because of these things people often have trouble completely trusting someone when they say they feel sick, anxious, depressed, or are experiencing pain.

“Oh, it is just in your head.”

Or

“Just stop dwelling on it, and you’ll feel better.”

Or

“Some fresh air and exercise will shape you up in no time.”

They might say.

Although saying these things may be well intentioned, they are quite harmful. The person who has confided starts to doubt themselves, to blame themselves, to feel ashamed.

And they stop talking.

The best thing a person who suffers mental illness can do for themselves, is talk.

The best thing a person who listens can do, is say,

“I believe you.”

Be Brave, and Talk.
Be Brave, and Believe.

** stat on number of doctor visits obtained at http://www.nursingassistancentral.com

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Diving into work, coming up only to breathe.
A magazine quality profile picture.
An immaculate front lawn.
A spotless home.
A 4th drink in your hand.
A joke on your lips.
A text message instead of a call.
A 3 times edited facebook status.

We have “reality” shows, and viral videos. We have phone apps that allow us to confess deep, dark secrets, without the accountability of our name attached. We take selfies, posting only the prettiest ones, and write on walls.
We are experts at hiding behind our carefully constructed images, but we long for just a little bit of uninhibited truth. Just a little bit though, because too much makes us rather uncomfortable. We want to watch from a distance, so we can laugh, so we can judge. It’s great entertainment, but it doesn’t affect us beyond the minute or two we watch it on a screen.

At least, that’s what we pretend.

We are a society that loves to hide, and if you suffer from mental illness, you are probably an expert.

***************
You lean back against your dresser drawers and stare at the floor. A stretched out rectangle of sunlight makes each fiber of your worn beige carpet visible, highlights the tiny hairs on your big toe. Your finger nails dig into your palms, they may even break skin. You want to slam your window shut, so you don’t have to hear the laughing voices, the snapping of flip flops, the clicking of 12 speed bikes outside.

As your friends and classmates have a blast, you spend this hot summer evening alone in your room, wishing you could disappear. Part of you is wondering if any of them wonder where you are, part of you is trapped, praying in a compulsive manner.

“Please, deliver me from evil, dear Lord. Please protect us from harm. Please forgive my sins, in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen. ”

You inhale as deeply as you can. The air seems to get caught in your throat, and you gag. If only you could take one proper breath, maybe you’d feel better. You seem to have forgotten how.

You close your window, draw the curtains. Safely hidden, you sob into your pillow until merciful sleep takes over.
**********
20 years later, you lean back in your cool plastic chair and stare at your lap. Your anxiety group therapist turns out the lights. You relax your clenched fists, and focus on her instructions. Together with the other group members, you listen to her count, and breathe. You inhale as deeply as you can. The air seems to get caught in your throat, and you gag.
That’s okay, you get to try again. Your therapist is here to help, and you are not alone. Inhale: 1-2-3-4, Hold it: 1-2-3-4, Exhale: 1-2-3-4… You are doing it. The lights come on, and you listen to a group member who reminds you of your Dad share a success from his week.

Your turn comes. With a shaky voice and tears on your cheeks, you explain how you have a hard time being spontaneous. You usually reject all activities unless they are planned well in advance. This week though, you took your daughters swimming at a friend’s pool with only 20 minutes notice. It was a whole lot of fun, your husband was proud, and once you got there, you weren’t anxious at all.
As you speak, you feel grateful for the looks of understanding from the other group members.

There’s no need to hide here.
You feel proud, instead of ashamed.

If only it could always be this way.

We are a society that loves to hide, because we fear things we don’t understand. Fortunately, we are also quite curious by nature, and ever so slowly, we are gaining understanding of what mental illness really is. We post supportive statements on our facebook wall, we participate in walks for children’s mental health, we show our support for campaigns like tomorrow’s “Let’s Talk” by BELL.

We have a long way to go, but at least we have started.

The truth cannot remain hidden forever.

Understanding will slowly break down stigma.

Love will slowly replace judgement and fear.

Come out, come out, wherever you are hiding.

Please,

Be Brave, and Talk.