My oldest daughter struggled with mental health as a young teen. For parents who want to help, but don’t know how – please learn from my mistakes and learned lessons. Kids don’t know they have depression … it’s a slow gradual feeling, like a blanket wrapping around them, peacefully and slowly, until it’s a tight constriction that there’s no choice but to just submit to the security of complete isolation and retreat.
The flags – It’s the children that aren’t talking, the ones who are always “fine”. The ones isolating themselves in their bedrooms and seem to have lost the little sparkle in their eyes. Get them to the Dr. immediately. Avoidance and denial won’t make it go away. It’s not about you – it’s about them.
If a child advises feelings of worthlessness and general defeat in life, my advice would be not to advise them, they’re not broken and don’t want to be fixed: they want to be seen and heard. They went someone to just be there, support and empathize. They need someone to get through it with them, without judgement, advice, most importantly – not directed to “cheer up” snap out of it, walk it off.
Those we hear of that take their own life, they’re not cowards, they feel hitting the off switch is the only possible relief to make the physical and emotional heavy weight that they don’t get a moments rest from carrying. They’re tired.
Allow them whatever they need, to rest, and never stop reminding them how much you love them – even if it feels like they aren’t listening, I promise they’re hearing every word.
This is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned this last year. Just because someone is in your life, be it family a partner or a friend – when someone shows you how they’re willing to treat you , believe them. We teach others how to treat us by what we’re willing to accept. In many instances, we simply dismiss negative behaviours and defend with “it’s just the way they are”. By doing this, we teach ourselves that we don’t matter. We’re making the choice to compromise our self worth every time we just “let it go”.
We tend to overlook certain behaviours with the mentality “they’ve always been this way”. That’s true, because they’ve been excused and enabled. It doesn’t matter who someone is to you or how old they are, if their words and actions hurt you, it’s not ok. just because something or someone has always been a certain way, doesn’t make it the “right” way. If it’s unhealthy for you – express it and make the boundary known. If you want change, be the change and don’t compromise your mental well-being to appease another. Not doing this, you’re telling yourself that you don’t matter, you’re compromising your integrity.
This wasn’t easy for me. It hurt badly, the feeling of being disposable to someone you love. Then I realized, the only ones who will ever leave you for setting healthy boundaries, were the ones who benefitted by you not having any. They weren’t ever truly in your life, it simply benefitted them having you in theirs. Just because someone’s always been in your life, doesn’t mean it was a healthy relationship for you. The right ones stay, the ones who don’t – were never really there. You likely just clung onto the idea that they were supposed to be.
Make the choice to stop sacrificing your emotional needs to appease another. If you feel you have to, that’s when you need to be accountable to “why” and stop permitting it. Learn to love yourself enough to excuse yourself from a table that no longer serves you. Choose whatever and whomever fuels your soul, not consistently depletes it.
The world will adjust, the right ones will remain and the ones who left – were like weeds in the garden, choking out growth to become the best most authentic, healthy version of yourself. Choose you. 💜
Part of this “un-becoming” journey to healing, was not only being accountable for my choices, understanding the “whys’ of my decisions in life, but also, facing some significant “tough experiences” for me, that I’ve either struggled with or buried away (avoided). Just as good cream always rises to the top, eventually, so will the traumas that were never faced, to allow healing.
Sadly, I’ve attended more Funerals in my life than Weddings. A few of these, were lives that were taken far too soon. We don’t come with an expiration date (or warranty), we have the blind faith that we’re immortal, especially in our youth, but ultimately, when your times up – its up.
Losing a senior (grandparents) loved one, is hard, it hurts, however whether it be terminal illness or simply their body lived a long full life and was too weak to continue, its “expected” almost, they take their last breath, you miss them, allow the void of their absence and embrace the times you were able to make special memories, which will fill in the dark space inside. I, unfortunately lost friends, close to my own age, many actually, before I turned 28… lives taken suddenly, its not simply processed or considered a reasonable expectation, there is no way to mentally prepare or process a life that was just there – and now, gone. These were each very traumatic experiences for me, as mentioned in the “#3 Coming Home” entry, we didn’t discuss the “tough stuff” in our home, these were definitely tough, I developed a coping mechanism apparently of shutting down and tuning out traumatic incidents as never developed the skills required to effectively process them – out of sight out of mind… but they don’t go away, not ever. They’re compartmentalized, packed up, sealed tight, placed up o a “shelf in the back”, never to be revisited… but, they’re always there…..
A childhood girlfriend, her younger sister was murdered by a previous sex offender that had just been released from prison, a very close girlfriend, engaged to be married and just beginning her two weeks vacation before starting a new career, died unexpectedly in her sleep, two friends brothers were killed, one by a drunk driver, one in a small plane crash, my cousin – took his own life, (along with multiple family members and friends parents passing in between these occurrences). Two sudden deaths, were simply far too traumatic to ever accept or face, I lost two male friends, each, I had such a strong bond with, to date, I’ve never faced, accepted or allowed the stages of grief, until now.
I met Dan, when I was 12yrs old, he was 13, at one of my twin brothers BMX races, just by our house. He was scruffy, nervous, awkward, and we knew, the moment our eyes locked, that we were supposed to be friends. As life has it, I applied at a local golf course just down the road, during my orientation, while walking the grounds, there stood Dan, stopped right in his tracks. Turns out, the golf course belonged to his parents… we became inseparable. As we grew older, I knew he hoped our friendship would turn to more, I only saw him as a brother, the friend zone. He was a “wild child”. Private School, Sports Cars, living the “high” life, was how he was made up. Drugs and alcohol didn’t fall far behind. I was the country girl, lived simply and (likely because of my Dads issues) never got into any “trouble” never mind reckless living styles. Dan’s graduation from College was approaching, he asked me to please come with him, being a private school, it was far away so I’d have to go for the weekend. In all those years, he never had a girlfriend, said he was waiting for me. I was 18, had a boyfriend and didn’t feel comfortable going away. That Sunday, I was working in the Club House Lounge when a friend showed up and asked to talk. I KNEW, just from the look in his eyes… something happened to Dan.. I could feel it. I flew down the stairs and ran over to his Mom’s house on the property… His Step Dad met me at the door, he didn’t have to say a word. Dan was a passenger in an SUV, there were 4 others in the truck, they were all impaired, the driver lost control, crashed into the side of a mountain, Dans body was ejected from the vehicle, everyone except the Driver were killed instantly. My Mom took me to the funeral, beforehand there was the service, as I approached the casket, I noticed the lid was open? I’d never attended an open casket funeral prior. I remember kneeing beside him (oh god.. I’m typing through tears here…) I put my hand on his, it was so cold, he looked like a wax figure from a museum. I told him I was sorry I wasn’t his date, I will miss him and love him, he wasn’t there, I couldn’t feel him there at all. I was in shock. Following this, at the burial, I remember being calm, until they began to lower him into the ground. Complete terror and fear took over, I started screaming and two people had to hold me back from jumping in after him. We drove home in silence, it was never discussed again. I visited him mom a few times in the days to follow. One night, I’m sure she must have had a couple of drinks, she looked at me and said “Why didn’t you just go with him, he loved you, he always did. If you went, he never would have been in that truck”. She sobbed and all I could do was hold her – as the guilt and the “what if’s” filled up my entire soul. Not a single day has gone by following where I don’t think of him, where he’d be in life, would we eventually, when he smartened up, have ended up together… I can’t speak of him without tearing up. I did reach out to his sister via email just last week (I searched for her contact) as was hoping to connect with her Mom, told her I haven’t ever healed from losing her brother and would be so happy if she could pass on my message. She never responded.
Another loss, I’ve never accepted, was my childhood neighbour and friend Steven. He was the first friend I made when we moved to the country, he lived right next door. This tall skinny blonde cutie was 7 and I was 5. He was the older brother I never had. Steven chose a very toxic path in life, much different from mine. From 19-45, he was in and out of prison. When he ws out, he was back in my life, when he went MIA, I knew why. But he was ALWAYS there. 4 years ago, he developed an infection in his heart, I drove to the hospital, we reconnected without missing a beat, I was going back to see him the next night, he passed away peacefully before I could make it. Here’s the reason why its SO IMPORTANT to allow the 5 Stages of Grief…. I didn’t attend his funeral service or the burial. My family did. I simply shut it out of my mind. Wouldn’t accept it, face it but mostly, never said goodbye, even if it was at his final resting place. I hurt his Mom also by doing this. It is without question, the single worst decision I’ve ever made. I live with horrible regret and guilt, and I can’t ever get the chance back again to rewrite this. His Mom knows how difficult it’s weighed on me, but my avoidance of losing his, has left a large dark void in my heart that causes physical pain when I think about him. I am going to drive out to meet his Mom and go to the gravesite together before end of Fall this year to make peace with not only losing him, but to atone for not saying goodbye. I feel both Dan and Steven with me regularly. Part of me believes they need me to let them go.
Grief isn’t easy, its not supposed to be, if it didn’t hurt, their lives wouldn’t have been significant in your life. The more it hurts, the more relevant they were. Hurting means you’re feeling. The stages hurt like a SOB, but allowing them, learning to cope with the pain and working through each as they present – is the only way to be able to fold up everything special, into the memory box piece by piece, blow it a kiss and THEN, place it up on the “shelf”, to revisit should you want to view a happy prior memory. The alternative, when it decides to surface, I promise you, it will – is far more painful and damaging than any healing stage of the process. Its like losing them over and over again with every memory. Their spirit needs to rest, and so does yours.
Mental Health, for lack of a better description is at a current global #crisis state. #endthestigma, #shame, #anxiety, #depression, #PTSD, #suicide & #addiction, in many cases aren’t because people are sick broken or weak, they’re tired from being strong for too long and are suffering. After taking a poll I posted on #Twitter, 50% say they are suffering in silence due to the fear of criticism, judgement and or possible dismissal from work. The reality I’ve learned for many, is simply this – saying #I’mFine for too long, the load became too heavy and something had to give, their mental health. This is also my personal truth. I’m part of the 80% suffering of those who took the anonymous poll. Currently, 1% of medical funding within Canada is put towards Mental Health. The suicide rate, prodominantly with First Responders is skyrocketing to all time highs. I can say from personal anecdotal experiences I’ll share throughout, its a very broken, weak system with very little accountability and direction from the relevant professionals in the field. A little personal insight, I’m 48, a Self Employed Health, Safety & Mental Wellness Professional, Certified First Aid Instructor, single Mom, on the outside, a positive, happy person with a “great life” – who hid behind the #shame of admitting to mostly myself – that it was just that, appearances. If only Mental Illness could appear on the outside – I ‘d surely have looked like I fell into a wood chipper. I managed to get to my 19th year of marriage, which came to an end, amicably, where the events, choices and experiences began to add up within the 6 years following, much of which resulted in significant anguish and multiple traumas.
It was spring of 2019 after being faced with 3 individual traumas/stressors within an 8 month period, the final one, pushing me off the “edge”, resulting in a severe anxiety attack (literally felt like I was having a cardiac episode – or dying, lasting for hours & into the next day) followed by a deep dark depression and ultimately a complete breakdown of my mental health (I’ve just recently even been able to share this with my parents – apparently I’ve mastered the coping mechanisms to hide behind the smile) I saw my physician, was prescribed medication & secured and have attended recommended therapy. For two months, I barely if ever left the security of my home, completely isolated myself from all friends and family. It was a good week if I decided to simply take a shower. It is only as of very late, I can see a little bit of sunshine through the dark black skies of depression. The reason I’ve chosen to share this insight is as follows; I have always been an advocate for others to speak up with their stories, the non-judgemental listener, advised to consider seeking medical attention for professional help, I shared the posts with the #’s supporting mental health and wellness – the reality is, I felt like a complete hypocrite & was doing exactly what so many others do – submit to the #fear of the #shame stigma. I’ve learned that speaking your personal truths, knocks walls down, it encourages others, resonates with some that “OH MY GOD, someone gets it.. its like reading my own story, I thought I was alone”, its completely empowering! I’m here to tell you that you’re NOT alone. The reality is, I feel anyway, my mind, body & soul – had to completely “power-off” to rest and heal. I don’t know if I could have possibly faced another single challenge during this time, that terrified me, how fragile I became/am. Was all I could muster just to not let my daughter’s home fall apart taking her Mother along with it, I felt grateful that my oldest daughter lives in London, Ontario so I could at least spare her.
I met with my therapist early this week (best decision ever BTW), she asked me what fuels my internal “guage”. My honest answer was – “helping others”. I’m admin. on a private Women’s Support Forum which I take so much strength from, however its intentially small. As soon as she mentioned journalling (which is a big help, just to write thoughts down – even if all you have is one sentence that day, its making the decision and allowing some of the internal chaos – out) It IMMEDIATELY resonated to share my journey on my Blog. It’s win win, I can express openly to help heal myself & even if it allows one single person to feel less “broken” and alone – to possibly allow someone else hope that they CAN get through this, aiding to smash the stigma surrounding Mental Health, be part of the solution, not add to the problem – then HELLO – this seems like a perfect forum.
Following this post, under the title The UN’Becoming Truth, I’m going to share as often as I’m able, my story, broken down into “chapters” as each one is relevant to my breakdown. The story and journey is 100% authentically mine, however, I’m not an academic in this field in any regard, I am however jam packed with real life experience, and my journey back to a stronger, healthier version of myself, along with the tools and methods that aided the process, in the hope to raise awareness – can’t learn that in a text book.
I KNOW, and have learned the hard way, you can’t possibly build a strong future, on a broken foundation. I didn’t truly think a month ago, I’d ever feel “ok” again, and a few really bad days following that, I was just too far gone – BUT, here I am, typing this blog, as effortlessly as fluid, I can validate that this has been hands down the most difficult time in my life, its not cliche’, the words we’ve all heard, that sometimes you truly have to personally hit rock bottom, and then plumet lower after that, before you can begin to rebuild. It WON’T be easy, but I PROMISE that you’re worth it, WE’RE worth it. Minute by minute, thats all it has to be – remembering to look out the windsheild ahead, the rear view – is to look back and learn from, which is also an important part of healing, at least for me, I had to look alllllllll the way back, to understand who I had become, and “UN’Become” that person to make room for who I will be …