Wednesday, January 27, 2016

20 reasons why i need Bell's Let's Talk Day*

It's time once again for my becoming-annual Bell Let's Talk post (2015, 2014). And this year let me just say, stuff you and your cynicism about corporate greed. You can bitch about an organization that's at least doing something - as flawed, or inadequate, or self-serving as you may judge it - or you can get out from behind your computer screen and do something yourself. 

Want government change? Organize for it. Want to make a difference for people with mental health - ask them what they need. Want to change society so mental illness kills fewer of our young people and stifles fewer people who might make THE difference for themselves and others if they were well - do something that will change our conversation about mental health. 

Do I know what the answers are? No, obviously not. I'm busy trying to get well. But let me tell you what I do know: 

Why I need #BellLetsTalk:

  1. because if I was on medical leave with any other diagnosis, people would be bringing me meals and asking how else they can help*
  2. because telling my boss why I saw my doctor so frequently was a bad career move
  3. because when I met with a new counsellor the other day and started telling him what I've been dealing with, he teared up and I ended up managing his response instead of getting support
  4. because when my trainer asked who I can tell everything to and just be supported, I couldn't answer, and then I couldn't breathe*
  5. because every time one of my sons has a bad day I think A) will it kill him this time AND B) it's my fault - kids can't escape their mother's mental illness
  6. because the last time my son reached out to someone other than me on a bad day the police pushed into his apartment, called him a liar, took him to the hospital in just gym shorts and an undershirt, stole his medically-approved marijuana, and left him locked up overnight with no money to get home. He couldn't leave his apartment for a month after that, and I was too far away to do anything about it. 
  7. (EDITED JANUARY 29) because when my son was in the hospital for 3 weeks after his last suicide attempt, only his grandparents visited him or sent him a card, chocolates, or whatever else people in every other ward of the hospital get**
  8. because the stigma of mental illness keeps my son from asking for the college support service he has a right to and that would make his success approximately a billion times easier for him
  9. because suicide is the second highest cause of death among Canadians age 10-24, and instead of helping them we call them moody, hormonal, attention-seeking, self-absorbed or "just going through a phase"
  10. because when a woman cries over something we don't understand we call her a crazy bitch instead of asking what she needs
  11. because I'd rather stay home alone than have to bear the weight of a false smile
  12. because children from single-mothers households are 5x more likely to commit suicide than those from two-parent households, yet there aren't supports for divorced/divorcing families
  13. because my child's depression is more likely to kill him than your child's cancer, but there's no McHappy Day to battle that
  14. because in Canada, for all our hoorah and sudden coolness and bragging about our (not at all free or effective) universal medical care, only 1 in 5 depressed youth who require medical support will receive it despite the knowledge that early intervention saves lives and minimizes the frequency and severity of relapse
  15. because I am creative, intelligent, educated, adventurous, loving, fun, loved and beautiful, and some days I can't stand to leave my house
  16. because the man I love had to tell me every day for weeks that I wasn't okay before I heard him and asked for real help
  17. because I just want my sparkle back, and I can't find it on my own
  18. because 32 years after my first depression diagnosis I have only now given up caring what you think about it so I can focus instead on what I can do about it
  19. because it's okay for a stranger on the street to tell me I'd be prettier if I smiled, but not for me to tell him why I can't
  20. because even after reading all this, you won't believe that mental illness is a "real illness"
I keep re-reading this list, and each time it gets longer. I am one person with chronic mental illness. I love AT LEAST 4 other people with diagnosed chronic mental illness. Every one of them (and me) is so much more than our diagnosis, and none of us are getting the support we need to be truly well. I have seen my doctor at least 12 times in the 9 months I've been home and my depression (now coupled with anxiety) continues to worsen. 

So go ahead with your cynicism if it makes you feel cool and clever. But who's going to stop the spread of this epidemic? Lord know those of us caught in it are busy just staying afloat.  

*I hope that the 10 people in my life to whom this post doesn't apply know who they are and how much I love and appreciate them.

**(ADDED JANUARY 29) NL read this last night and told me grandma & grandpa visited him, as well as one aunt and cousin from his dad's family. I appreciate knowing that, and the correction.


  1. We hear you and we love every part

  2. Did you get dad's comments??

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I suffer from anxiety and depression. While I'm not currently having any episodes, the last one last year, almost drove me insane. My mom is a mildly schizophrenic. I say mildly because when she is on her meds, she is almost normal. I thank God for her doctors and her medication every day. My sister is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and suffers from severe depression and anxiety. She is a single mom and has one son. I worry about his mental health every day. I can empathize and sympathize with what you are going through. People have laughed off my mom's condition, called her "crazy" and said she was just "depressed". Well, she is. But there is so much more to it. But they don't get it. Thankfully, my family is strong source of support. I advocate for more mental health awareness as much as I can and will continue to do so. I wish you well and hope your son sees the sun in the darkness, soon.

  5. I know this is an older post, but I am just reading it now and I wanted to say I agreed with the entire thing. All of it. A few days ago I made a presentation to the board of our college asking them to restore funding for the clinical counsellors that were (mind-bogglingly) cut from the budget last year.

    As faculty I see so much distress among students who are struggling with mental illness and it is really, really important that they have people who can help them. It's not appropriate for me to fill the gap because I'm not a trained counsellor. I can be a listening ear, but at the end of the day they deserve someone who is a mental health professional. It's not a "nice to have;" it's a necessity.

    I appreciate that you wrote such an honest and open post. I hope you and your boys are doing OK.


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