life advice, mental health

Mental Health and Me

We can gain so much by listening to each other’s stories.

It’s easy to take this for granted when everything is going great, ‘hunky-dory’ as the saying goes–but I’ve been experiencing a change in perspective over the past couple of months that has made me want to reach out, to be a little more vulnerable, and to encourage others to do the same. So, in this post I want to share a little story of what’s been going on with me as it relates to mental health. Conveniently, it’s Mental Health Week in Canada, so I hope my voice will add to the many other important stories being told in the next few days across the country.

Contemplating amongst the trees… Photo credit: Me, 2016.

I’ll just start off by saying that I wrote a blog post on Mental Health and Introversion almost a year ago, and I read and wrote a lot on the subject while I was in university, and in general I have in the past thought that I had a lot of empathy for people who have mental health concerns. And I guess I did–but looking back, it seems like such an empty empathy, just this passing acknowledgement that many people in this world are in a lot of pain mentally and that that’s really sad.

Then my story changed. The big shift in my recent mental health began a few months ago when I decided to move to a new city and, as a way to save some money before doing so, move out of my apartment and in with my mom. Then, I quit one of my two jobs and shortly after, out of pure bad luck, was given less hours at my other job due to a general shortage of work at the company. So, I was just left with myself and… a whole lot of anxiety like I’ve never experienced before.

I think I’ve always had some sort of anxiety, but up until recently I’ve been so busy with either school or work that it has been pretty easy for me to push it aside and focus on other things. Once all of those things fell away, though, it didn’t wait too long to come out. And this wasn’t a type of anxiety based on anything practical. It was so far out and all consuming–just this deep fear that something was amiss. Oh, the places my mind could go…

I’ll skip to the end and say that I was lucky to figure out, through some internet research and a somewhat unrelated visit to my doctor, that I could feel a lot better if I got my exercise, sleep, and diet back on track (iron deficiency is a real thing–women and vegetarians in particular, you best take note) as I’d gotten out-of-sorts with these things since moving in with my mom. I also found out through a friend about a counselling service in town that ran on a sliding scale, which was a huge blessing to get involved with.

But in the meantime, I’d come to experience how painful and debilitating mental health concerns could be, at a much more powerful level than any academic paper had ever provided me with. I was really lucky to be able to access some great resources to help me out with this ongoing concern, and I know that a lot of that ‘luck’ was very related to the fact that I have a strong support system and educational background–things that a lot of people don’t have.

I’ve always been one to downplay my own experiences, believing that many other people have been through so much more than me. But really, we need to own our own stories in order to find peace and healing and in order to help others with their struggles.

So this is all to say, if you have a story to tell, whether it is related to mental health or something else entirely, I hope that this helps you to feel empowered to share it.

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