Today is a uniquely important day. But it shouldn’t be.
It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day. The Canadian telecommunications company Bell is now in its 10th year of promoting mental health causes. Today, they have set the stage for the public to have an open dialogue and to promote conversation by donating five cents every time someone uses the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on social media. While Bell Let’s Talk Day isn’t just limited to the hockey world, the fact that they are a Canadian company has created a strong tie to the game we cover here at Anaheim Calling.
It’s an objectively good thing for us to spend this day focusing on mental health and sharing not only our personal stories, but the stories of those we love. To help end the ever-lingering stigma around a sickness that affects almost everyone, yet is so difficult to definitively categorize.
But it shouldn’t be the only day we devote to this cause.
The World Health Organization estimates that one in four people suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives. These mental health issues are broad and can cover anything from anxiety to suicidal actions.
And yet, there is still an aura of taboo with regards to openly talking about mental illness. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so open about my struggles with this issue. Especially lately.
The last couple of months have been some of the most difficult of my life. Anxiety attacks. Panic attacks. The crushing feeling of sadness leading to emotional breakdowns and spurts of sobbing. General emptiness with no feeling whatsoever. Relentless self-image issues where I feel so inadequate and hopeless. At certain points, it has interfered with my work both at my day job and with my responsibilities here at Anaheim Calling.
In a vacuum, given the events in my life that have triggered these mental issues, I don’t have much logical reason to feel this way outside of some temporary sadness and grief. I have a fantastic support system at home as well as with friends and colleagues. I have a job that pays me above the average wage. I live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood and have a relatively non-dysfunctional family life.
But that’s one of the worst things about mental illness. It doesn’t care who you are or what you have. It does not discriminate based on age, sex, class, race, or any other situation. Mental illness makes you lose control of your reality. It’s extremely dangerous to say that the circumstances that are causing your mental illness are not valid because someone else has it worse than you. Mental illness doesn’t give a shit.
I’m extremely lucky to have been raised by parents who know the importance of mental health treatment. The significance of it has been ingrained in me since I was a teenager, and allowed me to recognize immediately that I needed to seek out therapy as soon as certain life events happened late last year.
Therapy has, quite literally, kept me alive these last few months. I have made a lot of progress, but I still have bad days and setbacks. Just yesterday, I had one of the biggest mental breakdowns of my life after having a long stretch of good days. Progress is not linear, and it is not on a set timeline. It’s like a line graph (you thought you weren’t going to get statistics references in a mental piece from me? Think again, suckers): there might be ups and downs, but as long as the overall line is going up, you’re on the right track.
Not everyone is as fortunate as me, however, in terms of understanding when and where to get help. There are still so many misconceptions not only about mental health itself, but about the methods used to treat it. Talking to a therapist does not make you an insane freak. Being prescribed medication does not mean you’re a hopeless druggie. Talking about it does not mean you’re a negative, hopeless person.
It means you are a human who is using the tools available to address a critical health problem. It is a health problem.
Let me say that again.
It is not an attitude adjustment. It is not a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mindset. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain that you have very little to no control of on your own. If you get a cold, you can’t just will yourself to get better. You need to stay home and rest, get fluids, take medication, and use the resources available to you to help promote healing in your body. Mental health is no different. Therapy, medication, self-care; these are the vitamin C, the rest, the Advil of treating mental health.
Mental health treatment looks different for everyone. Finding the right therapist doesn’t always happen on the first go-around. Therapists are human beings too with their own personalities and their own flaws. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right one for you. But what they should be are impartial observers who have the tools to help you shift your perspective and help empower your need to get better. They can’t do the work for you, but they enable personal growth and change on a level that friends and family with inherent biases and lack of training about how the human brain works cannot give you.
Medication isn’t for everyone, but for those who are prescribed it, they play a powerful role in effectively undoing the imbalance of chemical issues in the brain. For many, they are an essential ingredient in the recipe for wellness.
These tools work differently from person to person, but you should know that these tools are not only available to you, but can be tailored to your specific circumstances. What has worked for me will not necessarily work for someone reading this. But knowing that the options are there and that they can be customized is the first step towards being ok again.
I still have a ways to go before I feel like I can live my life uninhibited. But talking about these issues openly, without prejudice and without barriers, is a critical component of solving the alarming mental health crisis afflicting our society right now. I wholeheartedly believe that mental illness is one of the root causes of much of the issues we face as a species, and being open about what it is and how to address it is the first step towards a brighter future as humans.
I can only hope that this piece resonates with at least one of you reading this. If it does, know that you’re not alone and that long after Bell Lets Talk Day is over, I, along with so many others, will continue to promote mental health dialogue.
It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to feel annoyed. It’s ok to feel angry. Lean into your emotions. Let yourself feel them. Because you can’t fill your bucket up with happiness if you don’t empty it of the negative feelings first.
If you want to explore getting help and don’t know where to start, use this site to help locate mental health professionals in your area.
Additionally, mental health treatment isn’t affordable for everyone and isn’t considered a basic need, but it absolutely should be. Use this site to find your local representative and ask them to make mental health affordability a priority.