May 6 -12, 2013 is Mental Health Week, a week designed to raise awareness and continue the conversation about mental health.
This topic is one that is close to my heart because last year I was finally able to face my own issues. For years I had problems that I couldn’t diagnose but I was afraid to seek the help of my doctor because of the stigmas I had in my own mind. Growing up, I was around a distant family member who suffered from an extreme form of mental illness that manifested in bizarre behaviour on her part and I had mistakenly thought that admitting I needed help would make people think negative things about me — that they would think I was “crazy”. I actually look back at how I felt and I am embarrassed and ashamed. I’m not embarrassed and ashamed that I needed help but I have those feelings because I held my own prejudices surrounding mental illness and never realized it!
Last year I finally decided to go and talk to my doctor and tell him how I was feeling and the ways in which stress and anxiety manifested itself. There were days when I didn’t even want to leave the house because dealing with people caused me so much stress. My doctor (who I have to say is a wonderful guy!) prescribed medication for me and suggested a book for me to read that he felt would help me.
A year later with some tweaking, I feel better than I can ever remember feeling in my life! Though I don’t think I’ll ever fully be without anxiety, I am able to consciously stop fixating on things and to recognize that most of my fears are unwarranted. It amazes me that at the age of 41 I finally feel like my true self has emerged. While it might sound corny, I feel like I’ve escaped a cocoon I’ve been wrapped in almost my entire life and I’m a butterfly!
I have to admit that when I started writing about Mental Health Week, I never planned to share this part of my life. That being said, if my experience can help even one person to seek the help they need and to understand it really is OKAY to admit that you need help, it will be well worth it!
You can learn more about Mental Health Week and find evnets in your community by checking out the Canadian Mental Health Association website.