One Day, 12 years ago… #BellLetsTalk Day

Bell Let’s Talk Day (#BellLetsTalk on all the social media platforms) has come again, and so I find myself sat at my desk, writing about my own experiences in the hope that they’ll help someone. If you’re wondering what that day is all about, Bell Let’s Talk Day is one day of the year created by the Canadian telecommunications company Bell Canada to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental health in Canada. It also seems as though there is a lot more openness on Bell’s behalf about where the funds go. For my area: funds impact.

I recognize that there is stigma and misunderstanding about mental health. My openness about my bipolar disorder (rapid cycling type II if you didn’t know) isn’t something I’ve always had. For the first few years I held it close to my chest and I  worried that anyone who wasn’t my nearest and dearest would use it against me. I have been supremely lucky that this has never happened to me. I have had understanding employers since my diagnosis and I now have a great support team in my partner Chris, my friends and family. I go to talk therapy once a week, I (try to) get blood work done every six months to test my medication levels, and I try my best to be honest about my mental state.

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However, 12 years ago I was a mess. I will forever remember the day that began my path to diagnosis. I was sitting in my last college class of the day, which happened to be a human anatomy class taught by a retired RN, at the back of the room. She was explaining the bones of the wrist and hand and something she said just hit me. It was just an innocuous, mundane phrase, but it hit me like she had just announced the sudden death of my entire family. I started sobbing, first quietly and then louder and louder until that’s all I could hear. I got up and left the class and sat in the hallway, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Wishing and hoping that the floor would swallow me up.

I’ve said before that it was that retired RN that took me to the doctor, thinking I had depression from the little bit of information she was able to get out of me. I’ve said how lucky I was to find a caring clinic doctor that really listened to me and correctly diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and started me on lithium.

That was one day of the 11613 days I’ve been alive up until now. (I did math!)

Not everyone is that lucky to strike gold on the first swing, and it hasn’t always been an easy battle, but that one day changed my life. I don’t stop having bipolar disorder when I’m on medication and stable, it’s not something I will ever cure. I don’t look like I have a mental illness and most of the time I don’t feel like I do either. One day a year is a start, it took just one day to get my diagnosis. Let’s aim to keep the dialogue open year round.

*For every text message*, mobile and long distance call*, Bell Let’s Talk Day video view on social media, tweet using #BellLetsTalk, use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter, Bell will donate 5¢ to Canadian mental health initiatives. Let’s work together to create a stigma-free Canada! (See Bell’s website for applicable rules/guidelines/fine print etc.)

 

Anxiety & What (Imaginary) People Think

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That’s me wearing the vest I tailored from a thrift store denim jacket, & most of the patches are made from an old shirt and paint.

I’ll level with you, I hate pictures of myself.

I take a selfie or someone takes a picture of me and I look at it and say, “that’s not me.” It’s not that I necessarily dislike the picture, it just looks wrong. What I see is not what I picture when I think of myself. A tiny part of it is stuff like my weight, but the bigger part of it is self-esteem laced with anxiety. My smile doesn’t look sincere, or I look completely uncomfortable despite feeling fine.

I know my self-esteem needs work, but I also know I’ve come a LONG way from the meek, scared, don’t rock the boat girl from small town Nova Scotia. Attitude wise I’m better, yet every picture I still see that side of myself and I haven’t been able to fix it. How can I make the outside look like the inside?

I’ve tried different things. Dressing more formally? Weird. Less feminine? I hit a combination masculine and feminine that I liked, but I worried that others thought it too masculine or too immature. Then, was I punk enough? Just like when I was scared to admit I was fangirling over Blink-182, these imaginary people (fueled mostly by my anxiety, the media and people criticizing new fans) whose opinions apparently mean so much to me, were holding me back.

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