Monday, February 11, 2013

Let's talk. . .

Typically, I try to be somewhat funny and irreverent, and just a little cheeky when I am blogging.  It is a fairly honed skill I have developed over the years - a bit of a stereotype, actually.  You know, the fat funny girl, the one everyone finds hilarious, the one who often does not ever reveal what is actually going on inside.  I like that part of me - it keeps me safe when I don't want to "go there", and plus it is a bit of a bonus that when you are somewhat funny, people like to be around you.  And I really like people around me.

But today I want to be serious.  Partly for me, partly for the many, many people who live with mental illness in this country, and around the world.  Here in Canada, tomorrow, February 12th is "Let's Talk" day, sponsored by Bell.  It is a day to talk openly about mental illness, to try to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, and to assist people to access resources for diagnosis, treatment and support.  I think it is a very important initiative, for very personal reasons.

You see, I have a mental illness.  Yup, it's true.  The fat, funny gal with the big laugh, and bigger butt.  I have lived with depression for many years, beginning when I was first diagnosed in 1st year university, up to today.  Almost 30 years. Two thirds of my life.

Some of you know this about me.  Most people don't.  There is really no need for me to announce the fact to everyone I meet - "Hi I'm Jacquelin and I live with a mental illness, let's be friends!"  But today I want to share this part of who I am, because I believe it is really, really important that we talk about mental illness, that we are honest about our experiences, and that we seek solutions together.  It is not the end of the world for me to have depression, but at times in my life it has sure felt like it.  I am hoping that by sharing my story, I can break down some of the stigma about who gets a mental illness and what that looks like.

So what does it mean to live with depression?  For me it has meant lots of sadness, lots of dark days, lots of therapy, and lots of love and laughter.  Sometimes, life has seemed so dark that I thought I would never survive, I didn't want to.  There have been moments of absolute profound joy, like when each of my beautiful children were born.  There has been an ocean of tears, hours of talking and thinking and listening with  a therapist, and a virtual pharmacy of antidepressants to figure out what would work for me at any given time in my life.  It has been incredibly difficult at times, and I have been blessed with family and friends and a partner who have chosen to love me in spite of the challenges that living with a depressed person present.  Let's face it - mental illness is not for the faint of heart.  Anyone who thinks that it is an "easy" out has absolutely no clue what it means to deal with mental health concerns on a daily basis, year in, year out.

Despite the challenges, I am lucky.  I have had access to therapy, and medication when I needed it, and a circle of supportive people who have loved me in spite of how crazy I have felt ( and acted).  Sometimes I wish I didn't have to still take anti depressants every day.  I sometimes feel like I want to be "normal", whatever that is, and who defines what that is, anyway?  But like an insulin dependent diabetic, I have a chemical imbalance in my body that requires me to manage it with medication.  It is not an easy way out, or me failing to deal with my problems.  It is what helps me to be a healthy mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter, worker, and coach.  And I am all of those things and much, much more.  So much more than a diagnosis.

So, my secret is out.  Never really was a secret, but it wasn't something I felt comfortable sharing widely.  But talking about mental illness is the thing that ultimately is going to help me, and many others like me, and their families and friends.  Mental illness is not a character flaw, nor is it a disability.  It is simply one piece of the complicated puzzle that makes up me.  I am ok with that.  And I hope you will be, too.
For more information on depression and other mental illnesses, please check out the following links:

For info about mental health and children and youth:


Cindy said...

thank you for such an honest post...mental illness doesn't get the same airtime as physical illnesses but it's just as important, and glad to see it's being brought to the forefront through such things as the let's talk campaign and the canuck's mindcheck initiative!

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