How did they fail me? Well, in short, the lady on the phone discredited my experience. She told me that because I had not been physically abused, I had not truly experienced sexual assault. She told me I should not have accepted the drinks he gave me. She told me I should have tried harder to push him away. She told me it had been a simple misunderstanding – but tell me, how can saying “no, I don’t want to go that far” three times in a quiet room be called a misunderstanding?
For those of you feeling guilty about your ‘unwellness’, I hope that you neither ignore it nor are overtaken by it. When you notice the guilt and then take control over it, you’re empowering yourself to connect with others and with yourself.
Project Pilgrim will continue, but on a much smaller scale because I strongly believe that my work in this project is not done yet. Until the day that everyone I meet is comfortable talking about their mental health with me, their family, and their friends, the goal I set for Project Pilgrim is not complete.
I am one of thousands of Distress Line, Peer Support Centre, and other supportive listening volunteers. I’m the person you call, or see, when crisis rears its unwelcomed head. Many do not know about people like me, or, what to expect when reaching out to talk to us.
I’m a procrastinator. This post has taken 4 weeks longer than it should have, because of mindlessly scrolling Facebook.com and more mindfully reading cool posts on waitbutwhy.com and also coming across videos of baby kangaroos jumping into little pouches. But aside from being distracted by cute baby animals hopping into cozy pouches, I have found myself re-writing and cutting and pasting and deleting as I try to find the words to convey my thoughts on this topic. So that I am saying something that will be meaningful to you. So that I’m not wasting your time with my ramblings. Because if all 3,791 people that have liked Project Pilgrim happen to be reading this then I’ve already used up about 29 hours of your collective time.
Today Megan Hartwick is heading off to begin the Appalachian Trail which she will complete in sections over the next few years. Each year that she completes a section hike of the trail, she will choose another organization to benefit, each being one that helps youth with mental illness.
I often surprise people when I tell them I have depression; I have a big personality and I’m constantly making stupid jokes and laughing at myself. What my own experiences have taught me is that everyone has a story and you cannot always tell what people are going through. I have spent the last five years battling depression and I have often felt as though I am losing. But I would not take it away if I could. I would rather use my experiences to help others than pretend they never happened.
Going on medication, was the best decision but one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. Years of therapy have helped as well, but there’s a point in your life where you can no longer let other people help you, you need to help yourself.
My mother has been suffering from mental illness for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I didn’t really understand what it was. I just thought she was going through a bad time. The bad times were so constant that eventually it just became normal. The constant arguing in my household was normal to me. I eventually just tuned it out. But more recently it got to a point where I couldn’t tune it out anymore.
Blaming someone for their mental illness, telling them they simply need to change how they think and feel, disregarding the importance of a mental illness are all hurtful attitudes towards mental health. They do not help, but only fuel the stigma that exists today, which can make it discouraging or more difficult for someone to seek help.
Mental health is something I think about and advocate for on a day-to-day basis. My own mental health, on the other hand, isn’t something I talk about often and, in fact, I didn’t even begin to talk about until a few years ago. My struggle with anxiety is something that’s hard for me to articulate and I’m still having trouble with it myself. I seem to have mastered the art of appearing put together even when I’m falling apart, or at least I’d like to think so. It has been a constant barrier that I have had to adapt to and learn about in order to conquer and overcome.
Observing Connor and all the incredible things that he has done has motivated me to make this post. This is one further step to addressing my challenges and building myself a better tomorrow. I hope one day that I will be strong enough to put my name to my experiences. I hope this admission serves as some support to others that you are not alone.
I don’t have a moment or an event in my life when I’ve lost grip of my thoughts or noticed that I had slipped into a darker place. And because of that, I felt like I had nothing to write about that was worth anyone’s time to read. Consider me “lucky”. In the same way I never needed braces as a kid or never broke a bone going skiing or never contracted strep throat at summer camp… I have never been struck with a serious mental health issue… all perhaps by chance.
Mental illness is so difficult because it’s easy to deny and hide, nobody knows how much you’re suffering because they can’t usually see it. People often don’t get the help they need, and mental illnesses are both hard to treat and challenging to recover from; they’re also dynamic. I’m glad I finally reached out and sought help. Looking at where I could have ended up is terrifying, especially in comparison to the great place I’m in now.
“In physics we are taught that weight is simply a force that acts upon us due to gravity. It is not a measure of goodness, selflessness or well-being. So why do we use it to measure our self-worth? Why do we try to solve people like physics problems?“
Recovery is exhausting, emotional, and unpredictable. You have a few good days here and there, and during those days it’s like “by golly, I’m cured!! I can see clearly. I’m normal. I’m okay. I’m going to make it.” But then the darkness comes back. Then you’re left feeling empty and hopeless and tired and fuzzy and like you want nothing more than to not exist so the pain could just finally end. You’re reminded of every single reason why you need the help you so desperately sought, but also of all the reasons why it took so long to ask for it in the first place.
I was committed to a high security mental facility, and things began to change. They were so open about mental illness, and it made me feel something I had craved– “normal”. The doctors and volunteers at the hospital made me understand that what I was experiencing wasn’t weakness, nor was it particularly rare. I had hit rock bottom, and was tired of digging myself a new hole to fall into.
I hit a point in my life where I became so busy that days were flying past me, and I had little time to reflect on how I was feeling. My family noticed how completely run down I was - I had lost a lot of weight, my skin and hair became dull and dry, I was irritable and on-edge… but I was moving so fast that I barely had time to notice. Once I took a second to reflect, I realized that I was not happy, productive or satisfied with my current life.
Most of the time I am, but there are some days when I’m not. I may wake up in a bad mood, and it will not take much to set me off, colouring all of my actions and emotions for the rest of the day. One day will sometimes – rarely – turn into a number of days.
Some of us have heard the story from our best friends or read about it on a stranger's blog.
Some of us have told the story ourselves.
It’s the story of silent struggle; the story of depression, anxiety, and fear; of someone who was struggling inside, but was too afraid to ask for help when they needed it most.
Mental health is being talked about more than ever before. And yet, so often, we hear stories like this. We hear stories about people who suffered in silence for years, who never found the courage to speak up and ask for help.
People blindly instruct me like this time and time again with careless, apathetic remarks, as if to point out some personality flaw. This “no, you” mentality seems to dismiss the realism of those who struggle with their mental health. No, you can control how you think. No, you need to make a change. No, you just need to find a hobby. No, you are in control of your destiny. No, you... Me?
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Jack Summit, the largest gathering of youth mental health advocates in the country. Two hundred delegates from across Canada gathered in Toronto for one purpose: to innovate ways to decrease the burden of mental illness in our society. It was a great weekend where I made amazing new friends and gained incredible insight into the current status of mental health advocacy work in the country.
I’ve always thought mental health problems were solvable with a good hug, and a pint of ice-cream. My struggle began in grade 8, at the peak of my budding confidence as a high-schooler I forced myself to see my body for what I felt it was: ugly, needing improvement, too big here, too small there… etc. I was an extreme perfectionist who was also entering into another big change in her life.
Let's discuss this for a second. Spine surgery? Me? At the age of 19? I was struck with waves of disbelief and anxiety. I had never been an anxious person, but the news of this surgery made my head spin uncontrollably. How was I supposed to act like everything was okay? How was I supposed to be a pillar of strength, when the thought of being potentially paralyzed consumed my existence? I decided in that moment that if I wasn't going to be strong, no one else would be.
Not everyone is going to like you. That is a fact and it cannot be changed, nor should you let it affect the way you think about yourself. Just because you aren’t a size 2, and you don’t have a thigh gap or you don’t have protruding hipbones does not mean you can’t eat breakfast. Just because you woke up this morning and weighed 2 pounds more than yesterday does not mean you have to workout an extra hour this evening. Just because you can’t see the beauty in yourself right now does not mean it isn’t there.
I was told that my mental health story would make me appear unstable in court. I was told that it would be better to walk away, that closing my laptop would solve the problem, and that, perhaps, I asked for it.
If you’re suffering from anxiety and/or depression, you’re really not alone. During those bad days, I know how bad it gets, and it’s so easy to be stuck on those bad days but know that that’s not forever! If you really work towards recovery and start to seek help and be more open minded, you will get better sooner or later.
Losing dance left me in a state that I can only compare to grief. I wasn’t just a dancer; dance was me. I identified with it wholly and having not only my present self but everything I envisioned for my future be literally broken into bits was heart-wrenching.