Thursday, 6 February 2020

Reflections on Ten Years of Bell Let's Talk Day by Sarah Evans

Last week was the annual Bell Let's Talk Day. It is the tenth year Bell had this national fundraising and awareness campaign. While I happily realize that this campaign has done a lot to make it easier for people to talk about mental health, there are a number of things that could be done to improve it (as well as the media coverage of it).

In years past, I felt that Bell Let's Talk Day mostly revolved around the celebrities that endorsed it. Not that that is a bad thing; celebrity buy-in is a great way to start to promote a cause. Also, in encouraging people to open up about mental illness, I sometimes felt this underlying message that if people are just courageous enough to open up, help will be waiting with open arms. That has not been my experience or that of countless others. I was so happy on this year's Bell Let's Talk Day when I heard a broadcaster say that, unless a person has benefits at work, it is very difficult to find help  (because, as I have found, it is so cost prohibitive). Or you have to wait on a long waiting list and may only be allowed to have a certain number of sessions.

Another thing I have noticed about this day is that people only tell the nice and clean stories. The ones of people who have had depression or anxiety (or even an addiction) but are well on their way to or are in recovery. There are many other mental illnesses, like Schizophrenia or Borderline Personality Disorder, that are not always clean and tidy. As well, mental health affects all people, like myself, a person with a disability, but I've never seen people with disabilities included in the campaign.

While Bell Let's Talk Day has done a lot to break down the stigma of mental health, which has been it's goal, there are some things that it (and the media that covers it) could do to portray the reality of who lives with a mental illness and what it's like.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Easier Said than Done, By Tamara Richardson

Starting off a new year is often easier said than done. It can feel challenging to get out of bed, when often (if you live in a cold climate) the house is usually freezing in the morning, and the bed feels so cozy and warm. Even I’ve had really high expectations of myself going into this year. I wanted to work out for at least 30 minutes every day, waking up at 5 o'clock in the morning to ensure that I am setting myself up for a successful day. Attempting to fit in everything I possibly could into my schedule. I believe my goals are achievable, and I know it is possible to wake up early and check everything off my list, but perfection isn't the goal here, progress is. Along with my many other goals for the year so far, waking up early and getting my work-out in at the crack of dawn, have indeed been a little derailed and delayed. 

In the first week of January, I was still trying to get rid of all the Christmas chocolate, by, well, eating it all. Then by the second week of January, I came down with a cold, which was frustrating, as I haven’t gotten a cold in years. I also planned on working off all the chocolate that week, it didn’t happen. By the third week, I had only worked out three times, in the morning, but closer to 7:00am, and was still rushing to get to my classes. After looking back at the past month, I felt pretty bummed out, I mean, some things were out of my control, but others were the consequences to my choices when I felt tired, unmotivated, or was giving in to old habits (staying up late, glued to a screen, over-eating, etc.,). 
How could I let this happen? I asked myself. After looking at all my goal charts, my coloured coded planners, and neatly organized system to micro-manage everything, to try and avoid error at all costs, the mistakes had happened anyways. I realized I had forgotten what a new year is all about. A new year isn't all about waking up every single day, intending to check off every box on the chart - the point of the goals is to work towards them because, in the end, you want to feel good about yourself and create the best version of yourself that you can. I must keep reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

However, getting stuck in the habit that everything you’re working on is nothing more than ‘a means to an end,’ an input for output, can cause more pain because the truth is the only time you can work on yourself is the moment you have right now. It sounds strange, but if you really think about it, the single moment you are ever-living in is now, right now. Finding a balance in life and in the 'every day' is difficult for everyone, especially when you are coming from a place where bad habits and old patterns are comfortable, and it feels as though they have control over you. When you are coming from a past filled with symptoms of mental illness. Attempting to manage those symptoms, day after day, it can feel like the illness and the weakness of some of your abilities that society usually rewards for being ‘strong’ are in the driver's seat. 

I promise you they don’t sit in the driver’s seat, nor do they have control over you. From personal experience, I can guarantee you with 100% certainty, balance is possible. It doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't always flow consistently, but it couldn't possibly, or it wouldn't be ‘balance’ at all. Focus on your strengths, focus on what you can do, and the areas that need improvement will come naturally. 

I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired just over four years ago now, and this May will be the fourth anniversary of my choice to eat a whole-foods-plant-based diet and choosing to treat my body with the love it deserves. It was the best decision I could have ever made for myself. I made a commitment to myself, to eat better, to be more active by moving in the ways that bring me joy (like skating, dancing, and practicing yoga), to work on my weaknesses alongside my strengths. I chose to be determined to reach my goals, no matter what challenges come my way, or what obstacles I face, I have seen the benefits and outcomes of getting back up, no matter how times you are knocked down, first-hand. It isn’t easy, but resiliency is key.  

Will I give up my coloured coded planners and micro-managing strategies? Probably not. I need them because, without them, my ADHD wants to take every second of unscheduled time into the depths of distraction. My anxiety tells me that I’m not good enough and that I should just give up on my goals. My depression tells me that my efforts don’t matter and that my work won’t bring positive things into my life. None of these things are true. My ADHD may create time-delays in my actions towards my goals, but by learning about myself and using strategies, I can still reach them and work on reducing those delays little by little. My anxiety may make it challenging to feel calm, fearless, and accepted but that doesn’t mean I can’t practise mindfulness and yoga to bring peace and harmony into my mind. My depression may feel like a weight on my chest, but I can exercise to build the strength I need to lift it off every day.  

Focus on your life right now, what exists in this present moment. Engage in the leisure you love, try new things, practise mindfulness, dive into learning about everything you possibly can, find where your place is in the world and do it on purpose because it has the power to bring growth and joy into your everyday life. Everything can be modified and tuned to you and your life. A bright and blank space stands before you, where you can design what you dream. After all, you are human, this is the beauty of it all. You have the power to create change and create the life you want for your self.  

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