Mental health issues are scary, right? If you have one, whatever you do DON’T ADMIT IT.
That’s the common philosophy, anyway. Why do we think that? Because we think that by not acknowledging the issue it will go away and no one will ever know we’re not perfect? Because we don’t want people to see us as weak or somehow less?
That’s what I thought, anyway.
I used to think mental health issues were scary. After dealing with my own and talking to others, I now find them a lot less scary.
I used to think people would see me as weak. After being open about it, I’ve discovered the exact opposite.
Right now I’m on leave from work to deal with an ongoing and very stubborn case of postpartum depression. My son is three. That’s a lot of crap, people. A lot of tears. A lot of yelling. A lot of pretending things were okay when in fact they were less okay than they had ever been.
When I first went on leave, I didn’t know what to say to the people I work with so I copped out with “spending time with family”. When it turned out my leave was going to be longer than the month I had indicated, I decided to fess up.
So I sent a note to my branch (about 10 or so of those people report to me) and to some others I work closely with. It took me several days to work up the nerve. And about 18 drafts in my head. And a few very deep breaths before I finally hit send. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
What I expected was responses along the lines of, “Oh, I had no idea. Thanks for sharing. Wishing you well.”
What I got back was so much more than that – nothing but absolute support and sharing of their own personal stories.
Since it’s Mental Health Day I thought I’d share with you excerpts of some of the responses I got. A lot of these say really nice things about me, which I share not to make me sound awesome, but because sometimes these comments only come out this clearly when we tell people something honest and difficult about ourselves.
Here’s what some of them said:
“… I think the part of me that tends towards an emotional sensitivity gravitated towards the sensitivity and authenticity that is part of your nature. I think you’re an incredibly strong and wonderful person and I admire so much not only the way you lead but what you express of yourself, which is enlightened, passionate and straight from the heart. You make it easier for me to feel comfortable being my true self.”
“…What was not a surprise, and rather consistent over space and time, is your courage and ability to communicate and share your thoughts on a tough situation. As always, I’m blown away by your gift, to speak openly about something that is difficult to discuss. So thank you for sharing your story. Although it is tough to hear coming from someone you know (and can’t help them fix overnight), I would prefer to try and understand than to not know ….or worse be told something untrue.”
“I’m giving you a virtual high-five for sharing your story with me. Wow. Your courage is amazing. I’m honoured that you would share.”
“You are very brave and I am honoured that you shared this with me. It is so important to rip the veil off of the entrenched stigmas that keep us believing that we are less than perfect if we can’t just rise above.”
“…thanks so much for taking yourself and your health & your needs seriously and for being kind enough to share a little bit with people who care. You’re a fabulous role model, and I wish you exactly what you need to heal.”
“BRAVO, Robin! It’s a huge thing to come face to face with this issue and to take the time you need to deal, process, feel better, etc. That you would share this with us is also a significant step, and shows that you are serious about your leadership, as well as your efforts to heal.”
“You are a brave and incredible woman, Robin. I had no idea about any of this. That you came forward with your personal news is inspiring and really shows me, and all of us here, about what real leadership and self-preservation mean. And those things are what really matter.”
I know other people’s mental health issues – and willingness to share that information – are different than mine. I’ve seen some people share anonymously. I’ve seen some share selectively. I’ve seen some blow the doors open and just tell people without worrying about what they’ll think.
As for me, at first I didn’t realize PPD is what I was dealing with. And then I told no one, for a long time. And then I told a few people, some of them at work, because I was just not coping and when you’re completely losing it at work on a regular basis people are bound to suspect something’s up. I preferred them to know the truth than to think I couldn’t handle my job.
Then, in January, I started blogging about it. It was a whim, and I had no idea how public that would make it. If you read my first post, you’ll see that my boss found my blog before I had even posted anything. But I kept going. And I told a few more people. And a few more. And I talked about it on the radio. And then, after a long time searching for the right thing to do, I decided to tell my whole team at work.
I still don’t tell everyone I know. I don’t post my blog posts on my personal page on Facebook…yet. But I’m getting there. And you know what? Talking about it has been empowering.
I know not everyone is comfortable sharing stuff like this. But if you’ve been thinking about it, maybe this will reassure you that it might just be okay. If you don’t want to share, that’s okay too.
Either way, your mental health matters and there are so many safe ways to get support. You can start by reading the stories being shared during this Mental Health Blog Party and the resources linked to by the bloggers participating. One thing I know for sure is one of the biggest steps in feeling better is knowing you’re not alone.