Let's talk.

      Bell's Let's Talk initiative, and all the different stories I have read about today on Instagram because of it, have given me the courage to open up about my struggles with mental wellness. The whole idea behind this campaign is to shine light on mental health issues, end the stigma surrounding them and essentially to start ACTUALLY talking about it all. What a time to be alive! I love it.

      Why is this stuff so hard to talk about? There are a lot of factors that go into this I think, but for me personally it has always been fear. Fear that I won't be seen as a productive member of our world. Fear that others will pity me and not trust me. Fear that I'll be seen as a "fake" when I am feeling happy, bubbly and positive (which is 99% of the time). I have dealt with the depressive spectrum since I was in high school. The first time I talked to a therapist was in my first year of university. In my one and only session that year, the therapist had me map out my family tree, provide a brief description of my childhood and state what I was currently doing with my life. He then went on to say, "So, what's the problem?" He didn't see any reason why I should be so sad. UM my first mistake was not going to see a DIFFERENT therapist right away and my second mistake was waiting a few years to go again. (The few times I have went I am glad I did, though it was never something I felt I needed ongoing. The only thing I need is to just TALK to someone.) The cycle that I face is extreme negative self talk, followed by immense guilt over many things, followed by embarrassment over the whole situation all balled up into not being able to get out of bed or spending a lot of time doing absolutely nothing. Like nothing. There have been times that I have sat in a chair for hours because I did not know where to start the day. 

      In a weird way I am very lucky because my best friend goes through a very similar thing. It's amazing having someone who somewhat understands what you're going through in your corner, but it is still immensely difficult to say, "Hey, I can't get out of bed". So instead we text each other the phrase banana hammock. Way easier, right?? If you go through any thing like we do, maybe there is someone in your life you can set up a system like this with. Once a conversation gets flowing everything becomes much easier to deal with. I don't want to make this sound like a magic system that makes all your problems disappear, but little can change if you don't start the conversation.

     Over the years I feel like I have learned a lot about how to keep myself mentally healthy. I absolutely have to get enough sleep. I have to be around people. Staying at home by myself for long periods at a time is hard on me. (Now add in being a stay at home artist/entrepreneur! More on that in a later post.) I need to feel the energy of others, even if it's not in a social way. Even if it's just small talk with a cashier and someone in the Michaels aisle. I socially surround myself with people who build me up, and positively influence me, who encourage me and genuinely want the best for me. Coffee dates with my people seem to do the same for me than any therapy session ever did. Do you know what being kind can do for your own mental health? A random act of kindness can turn your whole world around. When I feel crappy, I buy the next person's double-double or pay someone else's $5 fee at the ReUse Center. I also pick out the positive in everything and let it sink in as deep as I can, almost as if I'm saving it up for the next time I need it. All these things seem so small, but they really do make a big difference in my life.

      Writing this wasn't the easiest thing for me and I know the stigma I have towards myself contributes to the problems we are having with society and mental health. Please know that you are not alone and there are so many ways and things out there to help you feel really, really awesome.

I hope I have helped shine a little light on mental health because we all deserve to be our brightest (most colourful!) selves,
-A.F.


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