As promised, after the Bell Let’s Talk mental health awareness campaign, here is my story about my own mental health crisis
A few years ago my mental health plummeted. I started to have episodes of extreme panic coupled with a chronic sense of anxiety sprinkled with bouts of crippling depression.
I guess we can’t ever know exactly what triggers these things. Hormones? Chemical imbalance? Obviously I wanted to understand what would have lead to such a crisis. I do know that my sister had recently died of cancer revealing some profound deficits in my family and leaving me grasping for meaning. I can also tell you that I started having migraines and headaches with greater frequency than ever before.
I recently asked Dragon what she considered to be the most challenging phase of our relationship so far.
We have been through some transitions. From our harrowing beginnings (me coming out, divorcing and losing my house, business and reputation) to the loss of her cherished Grandmother, Noni, my mum’s stroke, losing our dogs Shawn and Betsy to illness, and to more positive but stressful nonetheless experiences such as getting married, writing and publishing our book etc.
And she said that the mental health lapse I am describing was the hardest. She was scared and didn’t know what to do, how to help and if I would get better.
It was a really scary time. I sometimes felt desperate and didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, would cry all the time and I even had dark thoughts about suicide. I remember googling “what do you do if you feel like killing yourself” and keeping the suicide hotline page open and holding the phone open with the number ready to dial. As I said, it was a really scary and sad time and there were layers of distress to grapple with.
What did I do?
How did I climb out of the hole?
Or did I?
I reached out to friends who were health care professionals and asked for recommendations, I started seeing my therapist more often, I started drinking pots and pots of mint tea, removed sugar and caffeine from my diet and started taking vitamins, herbs and supplements from the health food store.
I think one of the most helpful modalities was regular osteopathy sessions offered by a very talented and sincere osteopath named Ken Allego. I felt things shift literally after the first session with him. But it took months and many relapses to actually feel that I was out of the woods. In fact, I received treatments for a full year before I started to wean off. I have learned that I am someone who suffers from mental health conditions that can be triggered by stress, hormones and adversity. Actually, maybe I will never be out of the woods entirely but am now in the thicket with clear glimpses of meadow on most days.
Taking care of my mental health now is fuelled by visits to the gym for weight training, acupressure sessions with gifted healer Marjorie Silcoff, , yoga, prayer and meditation, and a careful nutrition regimen.
On a final note, I would like to remind us all that we can still live a wonderful, healthy, meaningful and productive life if we have been afflicted by anxiety and / or depression. Getting sick doesn’t mean we will always be sick. Many people recover, find strategies to cope, and even channel their pain and suffering into an opportunity for helping others, being creative and for social impact. It is important that we continue to de stigmatize mental illness and to support one another in radical ways.
We need to give ourselves permission to feel all the feelings and relieve the unrealistic pressure of being happy all the time.
Always Remember ….Empathy matters! Be Kind! Be generous!! Be grateful! Be You!
(you may download this image HERE)