End The Stigma Around Mental Health

Please Note: this blog post mentions self-harm and various symptoms of mental illness. If this is triggering for you please be gentle with yourself and keep yourself safe.

In honour of Bell’s Let’s Talk Campaign, I thought it was a good time to discuss mental health.

Mental health is an incredibly hard topic for some to talk about, it is highly stigmatized, and often not viewed on the same level as a physical ailment. However, if we don’t talk about our mental health we will never move past the negative stigma associated with it.

Mental health is a topic that hits very close to home for me. Granted, I am not one to talk when it comes to being open with and discussing my mental health. I spent a good portion of my life hiding it any way that I could. I was very guarded when it came to my mental health — I didn’t want to be seen as weak, manipulative, or toxic.

But over the last few months, I decided that hiding what was happening wasn’t doing me or anyone else any good. In fact, it was probably doing more harm to everyone than if I had just been straightforward and more accepting of help from those around me.

Although you might feel like this is something you need to go through on your own because you don’t want to drag others down with you, I can assure you those around you love you and want to help you.

I know explaining what you’re feeling can be difficult, because how do you explain to someone that your hobbies no longer bring you joy, or how you spend every waking moment fighting your own brain, and the oh so lovely, I can’t move from the uncomfortable spot I am laying because my limbs feel like they are made of lead. 

How do you explain that you don’t feel anything at all and yet still manage to be sad or anxious? Mental illness is full of contradictions that are near impossible to explain to someone that doesn’t have first-hand experience with it.

If you do try to explain it you worry about the reaction of “just go for a walk” or “just try and be happy.” Or, even worse, the “but you always seem happy and you laugh and joke with your friends. How can you be fighting with mental illness?”

These reactions can happen but reaching out is a very important step to healing and recovery. It’s easy to believe nobody cares about you because that is what your mental illness is whispering to you but don’t let it win. You are loved, reach out. Try not to isolate yourself because you don’t need to do this alone. Accept help.

There are many steps you can take to start healing: talking to those around you, booking a counseling appointment, talking to your doctor about medications, even the act of telling one other person you trust how you’re feeling can do wonders.

I know these steps sound scary and impossible. Believe me, I understand, but take your time and take small steps. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient. It is a slow process and sometimes that process stops and other times you fall back a few paces.

Recovery is not linear; it does not follow a set path and everyone has to go about it differently. Bad times happen, and that is something we all must accept.

Those dark nights will creep up on you even though you feel like you are doing so well. Those nights and those intrusive thoughts don’t mean your progress is lost or a waste of time. It just means you had a bad day.

If you struggle with self-harm, there is an app called “Calm Harm” and it helps to distract you during your “wave.” If that doesn’t work, try drawing on yourself with a gentle pen, hold an ice cube against your skin, shuffle cards, watch a movie, go for a walk, look at pictures that make you happy, watch stupid cat videos on YouTube, write down what is making you want to hurt yourself, shred some paper, call a friend to talk, snap a rubber band on your wrist, play with your bracelet/ring/necklace, listen to music that makes you happy or something you can yell along with. Do anything that will take your mind off of self-harm.

If you do relapse, that is okay. But please take care of yourself afterward, clean your wound if there is one, wrap it up or apply ice and keep it protected. Make yourself some tea and food; your body is probably tired. Make yourself comfortable and put on a movie.

It happens, your recovery up until that point was not a waste of time, and your recovery is not lost. You are stronger than you were and you will continue to get stronger.

Please remember self-harm does not always draw blood or leave a scar. It can be starving yourself, hitting, biting, scratching, not sleeping, placing yourself in dangerous or triggering situations, reckless driving, staying in an abusive relationship/friendship, or picking at scabs. Self-harm is literally anything that is self-sabotaging.

Reaching out, at least for me, seemed impossible for a long time. Eventually, I did reach out on those bad nights and my friends were more than happy to help me. I’m still not the best at asking for help but I am trying and that is really all any of us can do.

Even if you ask for help just once it’s a step in the right direction and you should be so proud of yourself.

If you’re not in a place where you can reach out to someone around you please consider using a helpline. Nowadays hotlines offer to text, online chat, or email, so if talking on the phone is stressful for you consider one of the other options.

Crisis Centers British Columbia

Text Chat Lines

UVic Counselling Services

There are cats and bunnies to pat, sunsets to see, flowers to smell, oceans to swim in, and beautiful things to experience and adventures to go on. Make sure you’re there to see them. I know it’s hard, but you are strong and you can do it.

You deserve help, you deserve to eat, you deserve to live, you deserve to feel safe. You are loved. Be gentle with yourself. Stay safe. You are so important.

           

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1 Response

  1. Morgan says:

    Love, love, love this article.

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