Brenda’s Corner: My Mental Health Journey
Written By: Brenda Agnew, Client Liaison Yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell Canada created this initiative to open the discussion around mental health and bring awareness to those living with mental health disorders. In addition to raising funds for research and programs, it was also created so that friends, families, and the community would be better equipped with information and insight. It is an outstanding campaign, and it feels good to see the tweets, re-tweets, and shared experiences and stories. Sadly, most of these have faded by the end of the day, and the discussions about mental health go quiet until the next awareness day.
Mental health doesn’t take a day off
For me, mental health is part of my day every day. I have suffered from anxiety and depression for over 15 years, and it has been severe at times. It started with postpartum depression after my first son, and then when I went through the trauma of the birth of my second son and everything that flowed from that seemed to have cemented my feet solidly in the world of mental health, illness and wellness. I spent years feeling guilty about my anxiety and depression. Not embarrassed but guilty because it would often rob me of my ability to enjoy my kids, friends, ability to function, and how my moods would affect the relationships I have with people in my life. I have struggled with the many ups and downs that can happen almost daily, continually attempting to find the right interventions and feeling defeated when something would be tried and wasn’t effective. Then, I feel resentment towards my mental health because of how it has impacted my life in such a profoundly difficult way.
There is no single fix
I always thought my anxiety and depression were caused by a single event, or maybe even a series of events. Lord knows parenting a child with a significant disability and medical conditions isn’t for the faint of heart. The worry, the exhaustion, the never-ending to-do list, the advocacy, the guilt. Those are all the things that accompany me on this special needs parenting journey, and it seemed just a simple way to explain my constant struggles to balance my mental health. Never mind the loss of a child, raising kids in general, juggling work and volunteering, and just all the other stuff life throws at us. It would be enough to make anyone crack a little. I have learned over the years through education and therapy and trials and tribulations that there is no single answer and that this is something that I may live with for the rest of my life. I have also learned that this isn’t something that I made up. This is the way my brain is wired, and I have no more control over that than Maclain does over his uncontrolled movements and physical impairments. Yes, I can utilize many methods to treat my mental health and manage it better to function and get through the days. Still, like any other condition, there is no one fix-all approach, and every person can be affected differently.
Let’s talk, and let’s keep talking
We must talk more about what mental health means and how it impacts the people in our lives. And not just for one day a year. One day doesn’t do it, but I recognize it’s better than nothing. We can’t see mental health disorders with our eyes, so I think many choose to believe it isn’t there. And the stigma that comes with it becomes detrimental when people don’t seek the help they need for fear of ridicule or not being believed. And that is just not ok. No one should ever be made to feel ashamed for their illness. Ever. You don’t have to understand mental health to support people who are living with it. Just like I cannot understand a diagnosis for a condition that I don’t live with, like diabetes or arthritis. But I don’t shy away from them. I try to learn, but more importantly, I support, I listen, and I do not judge. And for people like me who deal with the effects of a mental health disorder and work so hard every day, share your stories. Tell your experiences to others so they can learn, and maybe one day of talks will turn into two days of talking, and next thing you know, it’s part of our everyday conversions. And then speaking out and speaking up about mental health becomes the norm, and then we don’t need a single dedicated day because every day will be a let’s talk day.
Thank you for joining us for this edition of Brenda’s Corner. Please continue to follow her family journey for advice, insights and education related to parenting and empowering children of all abilities. Any questions? Contact Brenda directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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