Breaking the stigma

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Hey everyone.

I hesitated writing this because it’s a personal thing, but I think that the message is SO important and if I can help others by telling my story, that is what this blog is all about. I made a vow to be transparent and open when I started writing this blog so I will continue to endeavour to do so.

As some people know, I wrote an article for the Canadian Mental Health Association for their 60 Conversation in 60 Days, #NowImStronger campaign. This campaign really endeavours to raise awareness of mental health and get people talking about it. Many people suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to mental health and I really want to help break that stigma. There is NO shame in seeking help, which is something I have recently learned.

I started seeing a psychiatrist at the University. Originally, I went because I was referred to him. I didn’t want to at first, because I didn’t want to admit that I was seeing a psychiatrist. I didn’t want to admit to myself that maybe I did need help. I know the stigma; you feel embarrassed that you are seeking mental health treatment and you feel crazy. At least I did. Though, when I think about it, I’m not sure why I felt that way. I’m not sure why there is such an overt stigma surrounding mental health and seeking help. If I had cancer, I wouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed to seek treatment. It’s the same with any other physical ailment; people generally aren’t embarrassed to seek help if it’s a part of their body that needs treatment. Well, the brain IS a part of your body. It is an organ, just like any other, and sometimes, it is sick and needs treatment. I have been struggling more than anyone knows for the past few months, and I wasn’t able to tell anyone because I felt crazy, and that no one would understand. My psychiatrist knows this now and he was really thankful that I divulged to him what I was going through.

Even if you aren’t comfortable with talking face to face about your troubles, (I am absolutely NOT comfortable doing this) there are so many different ways to communicate with your therapist. What I did was I wrote a note saying everything that I needed to say that I couldn’t say to his face. At our first appointment, I didn’t divulge much but I wrote him a note afterward and dropped it off for him. At our next appointment, he was stunned and he had no idea that things were so bad and he was happy that he had the information that he needs to help me.

I won’t go into the details of my diagnosis, as that is private and I want to keep it that way but I am so incredibly glad that I did go to that initial appointment because my psychiatrist is freaking amazing. We spent the last like, 10 minutes of my appointment yesterday talking about Dr. Phil and My 600 Pound Life which, admittedly is my favourite show at the moment, He doesn’t judge me, even when I do feel completely nuts and I know that I can tell him anything which, believe me, is extremely gratifying. To be able to get something off your chest that you’ve been carrying alone for so long is almost freeing. I still struggle but I am so, so glad that I have him to go to.

My message is that there is absolutely no shame in seeking help or treatment. Your mental health is just as, if not more, important than your physical health. We need to break down this stigma surrounding mental health and let people know that it’s absolutely okay to talk in the open about it. If we start the conversation, people will continue talking and that is the best way to break the stigma.

Continue talking about it, and never feel shame in seeking help. It will change your life for the better.

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