About sex, BABY! Or not… let’s talk about something less fun, but just as important.
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. For those of you who aren’t in Canada, that’s the day our large telecommunications company takes 5 cents from the money they have basically stolen from our pockets the other 364 days of the year and donates it to mental health programs every time someone uses #BellLetsTalk on Twitter, or uses special Bell Let’s Talk filters on other social media platforms. They also donate 5 cents for every text or phone call made using their network, and for every view of their Bell Let’s Talk video on Instagram or their website. The other 364 days aside, this is an important and much appreciated initiative.
As anyone struggling with their mental health knows, mental illness is not treated the same as other illnesses by our health care system. As misunderstood as mental health is by society at large, those struggling with any form of mental illness are often mistreated by the very healthcare system that one would think is equipped to support them, or experience barriers to access of mental health support outside our provincial healthcare systems. Perhaps they lack the funds, or perhaps they lack moral support and fear the stigma. Without a good support system it can be hard to even get away from the daily grind in order to attend appointments. I myself am waiting for a doctor’s appointment so that I can get a note stating that I would benefit from the services of a registered psychologist. The insurance company requires a note each year in order to issue any reimbursement and its very hard to get in to see my doctor quickly unless suffering from a major crisis. In October I called to book an appointment and was given a date in December. I was unable to attend due to illness and couldn’t get in again until the spring.
For as long as I can remember I have struggled with anxiety, though it has become more
pronounced and manifests in different ways now. For example, I didn’t even know that the irritability I often feel is a symptom of anxiety. Turns out I’m not an a-hole after all, sorry. I can’t help it. And I don’t mean to use that as an excuse to behave poorly. I actively try to overcome my anxiety every single day. Symptoms of anxiety include and are not limited to the following:
•Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
•An unrealistic view of problems
•Restlessness or a feeling of being “edgy”
•The need to go to the bathroom frequently
•Trouble falling or staying asleep
•Being easily startled
The Bell Let’s Talk initiative is important because while there are so many of us that know the struggle of living with mental illness, there are more people that don’t understand and unfortunately still others who don’t want to understand. I have all types of these people in my life and the latter make it hard to talk about. Even as I type this I know that they will judge me, but my younger self was a feel the fear and do it anyway type of person, so I’m channelling her strength at the moment.
Becoming a mother has been simultaneously the best and scariest thing that has ever happened to me. To quote Elizabeth Stone, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” For someone who feels excessive and ongoing worry at the best of times, this is a pretty scary prospect. At the time I became a mother I wasn’t ready, but that doesn’t mean I love my children any less. I remember my midwives going over a checklist of items with me that they use to measure the likelihood of developing postpartum depression. I believe I checked off 8 of the 10 boxes. I was told to be aware and watch for symptoms, but when you’re in the throes of it you often can’t see it. I felt very very alone, and there were times when I voiced this and was told ‘Well you wanted to have children’ or ‘You have so much to be grateful for. Why can’t you just be happy?’ or ‘At least the baby is healthy.’
What stands out to me most about these responses is that they are completely devoid of empathy. For anyone struggling with how to connect with someone suffering from anxiety and/or depression, I would recommend watching this little video clip by Dr. Brené Brown.
This is exactly what I needed from people but wasn’t getting, and the more I was met with a lack of empathy the more I closed off and the more anxious and depressed I felt. It got a lot worse before it got better.
During my last pregnancy I built myself a better support system, and although I would still say I suffer from Postpartum Anxiety and mild Postpartum Depression, I do have people that I can turn to for the empathetic response and it has made all the difference. I have also been able to be there for others going through the beautiful yet isolating journey into motherhood. No one can prepare you, but they can be there for you if they want to and if you let them. If you need someone to be there for you, let’s talk.