This morning Clara Hughes, Canadian hero for her dual-sport Olympic success and commitment to changing the conversation about mental health, posted this brilliant, brave, honest picture and caption on her social media streams:
|Click to enlarge|
It broke my heart. I like to see the broad, open smile Clara is famous for, even though the reason she is an advocate for mental health is because of her chronic battle with depression, even when she was one of the most elite athletes in the world (go ahead - tell me I'd finally get better if I exercised more). I want her to be well. I want to think that being well is possible, and that if I try hard enough maybe I can get (and stay) there myself.
And then I read this. And I realised that even if I were 100% sparkling today, there's no way to guarantee I'd stay there. Clara's post also reminded me of something that Freckles said to me last week - that it doesn't help anyone, certainly not myself, when I pretend to be doing better than I am, when I post only happiness on Facebook, when I turn my phone off on days when I can't talk without crying. In short, when I lie. It doesn't help me, it feeds the stigma of mental illness, and it doesn't create a clean path for other people to be honest about their struggle. I said nobody wants to hear it. She said that wasn't the point.
So, here's the thing. I'm better, but I'm not well. Some days I think I am, or that it's close enough that maybe I will be. I'm well aware of the good in life and how blessed I am - being loved, having adventures, having (at least in this moment) a home I love and food that nourishes. I know that. Knowing makes no difference.
|I see you, Clara. I see you.|
There are still days, like today, when the homeless man outside my favourite bookstore took one look at my face when I apologized for not being able to help and said "stay strong, Sister."
There are days like today when just getting out of bed was touch and go but the shame of cancelling another meeting outweighed the desire to hide.
There are days like today when trying to find something to give my sons for Christmas sent me down a rabbit hole of hopelessness and loss thinking of past Christmases, the years between that are littered with dead and dying traditions, the lack of connection, the reality of a Christmas after 11 months on medical leave, and the gaping void between the mom I want to be and the mom they got.
There are days like today when trying on much-needed winter clothes left me heaving with self-loathing.
There are days like today when I can't make words string themselves into logical sentences in a meeting or follow the conversation with a girlfriend at lunch.
There are days like today when just seeing my sweetheart's incoming phone call is enough to make me cry throughout the entire call, and the vicious circle of his sadness at my tears.
Tomorrow will be different. I suppose it's worth noting that 10 months ago I couldn't have faked my way through a meeting and lunch. So, there's that. That's the way it is right now. Better - sometimes much better - but not well, and sometimes worse. I truly love Christmas. It's extra disappointing (and unusual) to have my unruly brain tarnish this season. And, this year, or at least this night, that's just the way it is.