I’ve always been a nervous and anxious person, as long as I can remember.

Sometimes I wonder about how exactly I’ve gotten to where I am today, allowing to continue on as I have, but often simply thinking about being anxious…makes me anxious. It’s a vicious cycle that I’m realizing I’ve been inside for so long, it’s taken me this long to entirely¬†realize I’m in it.

Instead of facing the issue head-on, I’ve created elaborate coping mechanisms that shield me from the types of situations I find most difficult, which have built up over the years. I’ve been fortunate to be able to lead a fairly normal life despite this, but it has also insulated me from facing my problems, and living my life to my full potential.

Even writing this has made me very anxious, anxious about what people reading this will think of me, anxious that it isn’t wise to talk publicly about my mental health issues when my work is so precarious etc.

But in going through this journey, I’m starting to see just how important it is to be talking about this, for everyone to be able to talk about their mental health issues publicly without fear of recourse.

Because so many people have some kind of mental health issue.

When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed as being depressed. I thought that it was only because we had recently moved (the first of my life) from my hometown of Wiarton to St. Thomas, combined with assertions that every teenager feels “a little crazy”. I fought against treatment, particularly against any kind of medication, and imagined in time that I was getting better.

And I did, more or less. But it was only in time that I realized that I hadn’t been really myself long before we moved, and that there were still periods of great darkness, though less extreme and less common.

One of the big problems I’ve come to find in myself and seems common for mental health issues, is how we understand “feeling myself”. As a teenager, with my self-esteem, self-worth and identity so fragile, I was scared that medication would make me “someone else”, someone I don’t recognize. But in times of terrible darkness my parents tried to convince me that the depression wasn’t me, that the son they knew was inside, and that medication and/or counselling could help me become myself again.

Looking back, ten years later, I’m wishing I had listened.

But another important lesson I’ve learned from this is, it’s never too late.

Two weeks ago, after years of wondering and anxiety about wondering, I went to my new family doctor and told her my fears. After a long discussion and a few quick written tests, she prescribed a very low dosage treatment for a combination of general anxiety and depression.

I’m still hesitant about medication, but wanted to give it a chance. I realized that no matter what I’m doing, I don’t tend to fully enjoy it, because I’m too nervous thinking about what could go wrong with plans etc., or once plans are carried out, what could continue to go wrong. Instead of anticipation of fun events, I’m often filled with dread, to the point of wanting to cancel out of them entirely, and feeling a sense of relief once they’re over. I’ve come to realize how abnormal and detrimental this is, and have found a determination not to continue living my life this way.

It takes patience. Since starting treatment I’m taking each day one at a time. Depending on treatment it can take a long time to feel any real change, and I imagine it will take even longer to come to accept how I start to feel as a new normal.

I hope to continue writing and sharing about this as I go forward. I’ve been less social this summer as I’ve made the decision to seek help and start treatment, I hope to get back out more and reconnect with friends soon.

The biggest thing I feel from this is, if you have any questions about your own mental health, please don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or even reach out to friends and family to talk about it.

Sarah notes:

There are tons of great resources online too:

  • MindYourMind.ca is a fabulous mental health website that is designed with young adults in mind, but I would recommend to adults as well. Their London team works out of Citi Plaza, and they’re active on Twitter. The website includes useful toolkits, activities, and is a very low stress way of educating yourself on mental health issues. This is my go-to mental health website at work at the college.
  • The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) provides a wealth of information on local support, information, and resources.
  • Mentalhealthfirstaid.ca provides training sessions on recognizing mental health issues and providing critical skills and information for helping others with mental health issues.
  • iCopeU is designed to provide information to students of Fanshawe College on campus resources available for mental health issues, but it’s a well-designed website with some cool stress busting/coping skills games that anyone can play (Gambling Zombies anyone?)

There are so many more awesome websites about mental health out there, and if you know of more good ones please share them with me. The day is coming when mental health issues won’t be enabled by stigma. We won’t second guess going to the doctor for depression, we would go as if we had a broken leg. We won’t second guess lifesaving medication, we would take it the way we would as if we had cancer. We won’t isolate those suffering, we will surround them with the love, care, patience and support they would get if they had any physical illness. Mental health issues are curable. Mental health shouldn’t dictate who we hire, who we date, who we hang out with, or who we love.

If none of this helps, try reading more Hyperbole and a Half. Kenny Loggins.