Super Bowl Sunday in 2001 was the day I looked into the abyss. I had spent much of that day just walking and, by the time I finally got home, I knew that my life was over. I couldn’t see how I could go on another day. In the days preceding that day, I would get to work early and go sit in the washroom stall. I would tell myself that, when I went back to my office, if no one was there I would get my stuff and leave and just drive away – from work, from home, from my life. But someone would invariably be in the office and they would say “Good morning!” and I would be trapped for another day.
So I walked and thought and walked and thought and went to bed that Super Bowl Sunday and spent a sleepless night. When the morning came, I couldn’t get up and go to work anymore. I got in my car and just drove around. Somehow, I ended up at the Douglas Hospital. That was the beginning of a fight that lasted almost two years. A fight that required me to tear down my life and rebuild it from scratch.
It was a tough fight but I was lucky. The people in psychiatric emergency at the Douglas referred me to a day hospital program they ran called Crossroads. The therapists and patients at that group therapy program were by my side every step of the way while I razed my life and self-esteem until only a pile of rubble remained and then I painstakingly began to rebuild it. They saved my life. And they did it mainly through talking. Yes, I took medication (and it was an important component in my recovery), but the lessons I learned about myself and about how to live – lessons I learned just through talking to the therapists and the other patients – are still with me every single day. “You really don’t understand yourself very well, do you?” my therapist said after a long session early in my time at Crossroads, and she was right. But they helped me to better understand myself, and that gave me the foundation that I used to get back to being a functioning, productive member of society. And, despite some bumps in the road, I still am.
I swore that I would never be ashamed of what I went through and I have tried to be open about it with other people. However, there are times when you need to do a bit more. Today is Bell Let’s Talk day (http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/). This campaign aims to break the stigma surrounding mental illness and raise awareness of the importance of mental health. Bell will contribute five cents for each text message sent, mobile and long distance call made, Facebook share and tweet using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. I’ve already tweeted a number of times with this hashtag and I hope any readers will contribute as well. But, more importantly, we have to talk about mental health. If you’re suffering, you have to say something. If you want to help someone who’s suffering, you can’t stay silent. If you want to improve the programs available for those in need, or access to those programs, you have to speak up.
So let’s talk.