It’s January 27th, 2016 and it’s Bell Let’s Talk Day so…let’s talk.
What is Bell Let’s Talk?
Bell Let’s Talk is an initiative that aims to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness. They also provide support for mental health organizations across Canada and invest in research to better understand treatments and cures.
To find out more, please visit their website: letstalk.bell.ca
The most common ways to get involved is to Tweet using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. Every year, on Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell donates a certain amount for every tweet with this hashtag on this day to mental health organization across Canada. If you are a Bell Mobility customer, they will also donate that same amount for every text message you send from your phone. If I remember correctly, last year they also did the same with Facebook shares of an image they posted.
My Bell Let’s Talk Experience
This is my second year of actually participating openly in Bell Let’s Talk Day, as someone diagnosed with mental illness(es). However, I had tried to open up on social media during Bell Let’s Talk Day in 2012.
Bell Let’s Talk Day 2012
I was terrified. I had never told anyone about my depression (I still didn’t know I had anxiety, because I didn’t actually understand what it was) and at the time had not been diagnosed, but I’d been struggling for many years by that point.
My #BellLetsTalk tweet was met with complete silence from everyone I knew. It got a couple likes and retweets from people I didn’t know, but only one, ONE, random stranger responded with a lovely positive message acknowledging my struggle. * I had posted something on Facebook as well, but was so terrified of friends and family seeing it and saying that I was looking for attention and other negative comments because people had previously told me that I posted everything on Facebook, in a negative tone. I think it was part of my coping skills. I posted a lot on Facebook so people knew I was still around, I was still alive. Comments on posts always made me uncomfortable, even though I’d posted them (they still do). It’s like part of me wants everyone to see it, but doesn’t want anyone to acknowledge it. But then when no one does, I feel hurt and betrayed. Sounds stupid I know, but I think that comes from my social anxiety.
I ended up deleting the post.
That’s when I decided to keep it all inside. (Although, it wasn’t the first time. **)
That’s also when things began to get a lot worse.
I felt like nobody cared. I was in so much pain but too terrified to say anything to anyone about it. It was during that time, and in the following few years where I began having a lot of suicidal thoughts again, and started self harming again.
Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015
I pretended like Bell Let’s Talk didn’t exist for 2013 and 2014. I saw the commercials on TV, and they made me cry, every time. But I didn’t say a word. Not to anyone. Not on social media, not in person. Nothing. I avoided the hashtag on Twitter. Actually, I think avoided Twitter and Facebook entirely on those days. It just was too painful.
But on November 17th, 2014, I got the nudge I needed to finally reach out and get help. That nudge came from Wil Wheaton, in an episode of Aisha Tyler’s podcast, Girl on Guy, which I was listening to during a drive home to Medicine Hat from Edmonton, which is about a 5 hour drive. (There are some more details about this in past posts and here.)
It took me about a week to finally call my doctor’s office and book an appointment but I did it.
I was still scared to tell anyone. I thought for sure when I visited my parents for Christmas I would tell them. I couldn’t. I intentionally left my antidepressants out on the dresser where they could be seen if they went into my room. They didn’t notice, or didn’t want to say anything. Since I take medication for allergies and asthma, seeing a prescription bottle isn’t that odd, so it’s possible they didn’t think anything of it.
It wasn’t until January 13th, 2015 that I finally decided I needed to tell someone. I didn’t know who to tell or how to bring it up, and then I thought, I’m a web developer. I spend almost every waking moment on the internet, and a lot of that time on social media.
I was originally going to write a post on Facebook, but then decided that wasn’t the right platform for reaching people outside my social circle. I decided to post on my Tumblr blog because I could do some formatting and add links without showing gigantic URLs in the post.
It wasn’t until a week later that I decided that I should start a real blog. Tumblr is more of a social network/mini-blog platform and writing long posts on it can be annoying for followers to scroll through. So, I started this blog on January 17th, 2015.
And then on January 28th, 2016, when Bell Let’s Talk Day rolled around, I knew I had to share my story. Thankfully, I had a lot of positive support. It was wonderful.
Bell Let’s Talk 2016
I can’t believe it has been a whole year. A LOT has changed!! I went through some very difficult things, but I’ve come out stronger having learned from each of those experiences.
It’s a new year. A new beginning.
So, here’s to Bell Let’s Talk Day and a excellent year! Bring it, 2016!
* It seems that lovely woman has since deleted her Twitter profile because I cannot find her reply, but the insights on the post do show that there was one reply, even though it cannot be seen on Twitter.
** This wasn’t the first time I made the decision to keep my feelings bottled up. I’ve been struggling with anxiety, unknowingly, since I was a kid. But I only realized after my diagnosis when I was 26 that it went back that far.
As a kid, I always had stomach problems. I realize now, it was at least partially due to anxiety, but not exclusively. Problem was, whenever I complained about any physical symptoms (that I now know to be symptoms of my anxiety), I was told there was nothing wrong with me or that it was all in my head. I was forced to go to school or whatever social gathering that I was unknowingly trying to avoid.
I was too young to realize, then, there was such a significant connection, let alone any connection at all, between my physical symptoms and what was going on in my head, but whenever I complained about something physical, the adults in my life didn’t believe me, or treated me like I was making it up for attention. (I actually complained about menstrual cramps once to my teacher when I was in grade 7, saying that my stomach hurt, but not why, and she said, in a snarky tone, “at least you don’t have to deal with what I do every month.” I almost burst into tears, I was so angry. Especially because she was a teacher I actually liked. At least my friend sitting beside me knew I was on my period, even though she didn’t get her’s until a couple years later.)
There were times when I was legitimately ill, and no one believed me until I was puking uncontrollably or it was extremely obvious some other way. But if they couldn’t see it, I was treated like I was lying about it, looking for attention, which I never was. That caused me, as I got older, to just “suck it up” (as best I could) and never tell anyone when I was in physical or emotional pain, because I had been treated like a liar so many times. Funny thing is, I am a terrible liar. Always have been. Yet everyone still thought I was making shit up. Pisses me off to think about it now. I still struggle with expressing my feelings because of all this.
Later, in grade 9, my English/Language Arts teacher called my parents into the school for a meeting at lunch to tell them I wasn’t as happy like the other kids. This was around the time I had begun having suicidal thoughts. I was extremely unhappy. I hated my life. I hated everything and everyone. I had struggled to find friends because I had only just started at that school the previous year, after moving over 3,000km across the country.
That was also when I decided I hated that particular teacher (I had only disliked her prior to that day…yes, there is another story there but I’m not telling it right now). My parents tried to tell her that wasn’t like me at all, that I was always a happy-go-lucky kid, and if you told any of my teachers at my old school, they wouldn’t believe you were talking about the same kid.
In hindsight, I know she was only trying to help (or she completely hated me and wanted to destroy my life, but I’ll go for the positive version of that story). She probably didn’t go about it quite the right way but she did notice that something was wrong. Something no one else had ever done.
My parents didn’t know what to do, so they did nothing. They didn’t ask anyone for guidance on how to handle the situation, they just let it continue. By this point I was keeping a lot from them.
Because I have a serious fear of being the centre of attention, that is when I started hiding my true emotions. Putting on the fake smile so many other people with depression know all too well. I got so good at faking it, that I started fooling myself to the point that when people asked if I was ok, and I said, “yeah, I’m just tired,” I thought I was telling the truth. In a way, I was. I was tired. Tired of life. I wanted to die.
I had convinced myself that it was all in my head. There was nothin wrong with me. If I told anyone about the thoughts and feelings I was dealing with, they’d tell me I was crazy or looking for attention.
This went on for many years.