January 29, 2020

Kristina Shelden, Resource Coordinator, PIRC

I was reminded about Bell Let’s Talk day and asked if I had a blog I could share. I admitted that I didn’t, mostly because I find it difficult to be honest with myself about my mental health, never mind be public about it.

Those close to me know that I’ve struggled with depression for a very long time. I have an “excuse” now, which is my spinal cord injury and chronic symptoms. But, being honest, I’ve struggled with my mood long before my excuse came along.

Growing up, my family life was far from stable and I was an outcast for most of my life in high school. I was lucky and near the end started to find my place, and for a few years, it kind of seemed like I was accepted and happy. But the truth was that as long as I can remember, I’ve only had brief periods of “happiness”, and endured long periods of fighting, losing myself in, and submitting to the darkness.

Mental Health After a Car Accident

And then when I turned 24, I was in a serious car accident that changed my life completely. And in a very weird way, I felt relieved. Suddenly I was allowed to be unhappy. It was almost expected of me. And I was somewhat strong-armed into therapy, through which I eventually realized I had really needed all along.

If you’ve found yourself saying things like, “but my life is great. I have no reason to be sad.” but you are sad… don’t wait for a catastrophe to get the help you could use. I genuinely wish I’d had the awareness prior to my injury, that getting help was what I needed, and should have done.

This is not to say I’m riding a happy wave that lasts forever. My health has had more ups and rickety downs than the Old Roller Coaster in the PNE. But having accepted that help has taught me ways to recognize when I’m dipping, ease that downward spiral, and often avoid crashing altogether. A hard pill I’m still struggling to swallow is that I may likely always struggle with depression. But, with help, I’ve made my life a better place. This has been one of the better winters I’ve ever had, mental health-wise. I mean it definitely helps that the weather has been so great! But I know the main reason is my tool-kit of mental health strategies.

My Mental Health Approach in Recovery

I often think that if you want to change your body, you lean on professionals to teach you the best, safest way to work-out and eat. So why not do the same with your mind? If you want to change the way your mind acts, ask someone who has the experience on how to do it.

I also genuinely believe that psychology (not just psychiatry – although I definitely support taking medication now, too, in some circumstances) should be included in our BC Medical Services Plan. I hope one day this happens! In the meantime, there are options. Speak with your GP and tell them you’re interested in speaking to someone. I personally recommend CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). It’s like working out for your brain. And it’s helped me.

One option I can suggest is Bounceback, a do-it-yourself program from home that helps individuals overcome symptoms of depression or anxiety. This free program can help you manage your feelings, and assist you in being more active and assertive.

I also recommend the suicide hotline (http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/ or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/). They can provide acute help, but also recommend other programs or options moving forward.

Please don’t feel ashamed or like you’ve failed if you’ve found yourself asking for help. That’s an old way of thinking that we’re learning is completely incorrect, and counterproductive t’boot. Know that you have my full support, and the support of many, many others. Dealing with mental health issues isn’t easy, but I know we can do this. We don’t have to do this alone.

Note: This blog post was originally published in January 2018 and has since been updated

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