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We have to make it better
On June 28th, 2010 I came out about my experiences with anxiety and depression.
Any employer can do a Google search and find out about the battles I have fought and how close I came to losing them.
I write to remind myself that the best of what I am came from emerging out of that darkness. To remember how lonely it feels to live at the end of the world.
I learned about mental illness by watching friends die and lose themselves to drug addiction.
We only talk about mental illness when we have no other choice.
Inside the silence 4000 people die every single year of suicide in Canada; in it lies the 2/3 of people who suffer from mental illness who won't receive help due to the tremendous stigma.
It's time to talk about it.
My story isn't special.
Do I have to tell you about the people I have lost to drug addiction, the children I have loved who never became adults; do I have to tell you about my nightmarish trip through insomnia and anxiety? Do I have to make you feel the tears as they slid down my cheeks or can I trust that you have wept? Must I tell you my story when I know that you have your own?
I know you've watched loved ones crawl into the darkness unable to stop them. I know that you've wondered if you could live to see tomorrow. I know that you've run away from yourself and wondered if you could ever get back.
Mental illness convinces us that our story is special. That we alone suffer this great darkness and that we alone are too weak to win it. To feel that you alone are not worthy of being loved.
I called it the Come Out campaign because the LGBTTTIQ community had to deal with a similar stigma when they took to the streets, announced their identity and became a political force that could demand the rights society was denying them. They could have remained hidden, they were an invisible minority. They risked their lives and careers for hope of living the life they wanted without hiding who they were. Nothing could be braver than sacrificing for a dream you can't possibly imagine coming true.
People tell us it's 2012 and things have gotten better. However you merely need to watch a GOP Presidential debate to realize they have a long way to go.
It's 2012 and the World Health Organization says that depression is approaching epidemic levels.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech on MP David's Batters funeral is some of the most beautiful writing on the stigma surrounding mental illness I have ever read:
"We need to know that mental illness like Dave's is shockingly common in our society. It affects the great and the small alike despite the stigma that still too often surrounds it. "The problem is that the same quality of treatment is not offered to the great and small alike.
Our rich can afford the quality therapy our medical system doesn't offer the economically disadvantaged.Harper plans to build prisons for our drug addicts rather than treatment centers, to jail the homeless and mentally ill rather than offer them the healthcare services they need. The Correctional Service of Canada reports that 13 per cent of male offenders in federal custody presented mental health problems when they were admitted in 2008. That's up 86 per cent from 1997. For women, the figure reaches 24 per cent, and 85 per cent increase over the same time. It takes a year to see a state sponsored therapist. To get immediate treatment you must be suicidal and have a plan. We have institutionalized discrimination against people living with mental illness.
There is a difference between words and action.
It's 2012 and Canada's overburdened mental health system is on the verge of collapse.
People ask me about how I recovered.
The answer is that I was lucky. My parents had money so I could afford to get the help I needed.
Most of us find a way to cope without getting the proper help.
For those of you beginning your journey all I can say is that falling down happens in an instant and getting up feels like it takes an eternity. That there is no simple easy one step solution that works for everyone. That recovery isn't writing a blog, doing yoga or even taking medication. It's about self-acceptance, realizing that you can't cut yourself into pieces and live in only the "good" parts of who you are. Realizing that this is part of how you think. You cannot take this feeling away without taking feeling away.
I used to beg just to be free of this pain.
I took drugs, from doctors and drug dealers, I meditated for hours, and I scoured the Internet looking for the pill that would make me a better person.
I couldn't imagine a life so fantastic as to justify such cruel torture.
Too often we look to forget through drugs and alcohol, we run away from the unbearable beauty of a life worth living for. We think that if we curl up and die, that if we starve our system of the things we fear, our demons will die. That if we isolate ourselves so that no one can see our degradation, we will be able to look in a mirror. When it's only by rejoicing, by ravenously seeking life and the things that hurt us that we can find a reason to be here.
No one was born to sit on their couch and watch Netflix. No one becomes more of a person when they do coke. No one does honor to the things they lost by trying to lose themselves.
You aren't broken.
You are whole. Which means you are filled with contradictions, love and hate so vast you can't begin to understand it, created to give you the possibility of compassion for a world that is as crazy as you are. The desire to simplify the world, the desire to simplify yourself, is what creates the horrors in ourselves and in our world. It's also the danger of awareness campaigns.
Recovery means different things to different people. Recovery is the courage to get out of bed in the morning, it's looking for help when you need it, it's going to work, it's realizing that this crushing pain is something we can live with.
.This isn't about false hope but a pursuit of real understanding.
All I can do is hope that when you reach out to the world we reach back. Too many of us look for help and don't find it. In the pursuit of happiness, we have forgotten our right to suffer. No one can tell you that you don't have the right to your pain.
We have to stop telling people it will be okay and start listening to each other.
Great changes begin with a single step. Until we are comfortable saying what we suffer, there won't enough beds in hospitals, access to therapy will depend upon economic status not need, and we will continue to lose irreplaceable people. We can't change the world by hiding from it.
It's 2012 and the journey is nowhere near over.
This isn't It Gets Better, there is no better future promised unless we make it.
Until we can admit who we are without shame, things won't get better.
This is our story.
It's time to tell it.
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