#BellLetsTalk Day 2019

Bell Canada created the Let’s Talk initiative in 2010 in order to help raise awareness and combat the stigma surrounding mental health. Since the inaugural Let’s Talk day in 2011, Bell Canada has raised over 93 million dollars for mental health programs across Canada.

Hey Puck ‘Er Up, aren’t you based in the States? Does it matter? The stigma of being outside the “norm” for mental health and seeking help for it doesn’t stop at the border, even though no known American companies are putting in the work that Bell Canada is and one in five Americans live with a mental health condition.

Through our Twitter, we asked for listeners to DM us or e-mail us their stories, what they’ve been through and what they’ve overcome with their mental health, because we know that each person’s story is unique.

From Puck ‘Er Up host Julie, who has bipolar disorder:

I’ve been on and off medication for bipolar disorder since I was 17. Mental illness runs in my family, just like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. I’ve always taken medication for it. I’ve gone to therapy for it. Looking back now, with enough wisdom to know how my illness works, I can see the times where I would try and push people away, trying to force them to not like me because I didn’t like myself. I can see the times now when I was going through manic periods, which are hard for me to know I’m in at the time, or when things are on the really bad end of depression.

Medication is what works for me. I’ve never found therapy to be particularly helpful; for me, it seems like a waste of time, even though I have friends who swear by it and truly do benefit from it. I needed the right mix of medications to not only keep the depression and suicidal ideation at bay, but to also stop the mood swings that had me snapping at the flick of a switch.

There’s a downside, of course – in taking other medications for other ailments, I discovered that I fall into a minuscule percentage of people for whom the drug I take for my bipolar disorder was deactivated by a drug I was prescribed for migraines. In the wake of my father’s death, it took three months for us to realize something was actually wrong and it wasn’t just normal grieving. Being prescribed steroids for an infection presented another hazard: a manic episode that lasted the entire duration of a Medrol dosepak, a manic episode I <i>knew</i> wasn’t really because of my illness but drug induced because I was aware it was happening, but had no control over it.

I’m happy to talk about my mental illness. I’m happy to talk about my medications, what has worked for me and what hasn’t. I’m proud that I was able to get help, and that I was able to find something that worked for me – I know that not everyone is afforded that opportunity or has the ability to get the help I’ve had.

If you want to chat, I’m here to listen.

From Puck ‘Er Up host Amy, who has depression and anxiety:

Like Julie, mental illness runs in my family.  My father suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoia, which came to a climax when I was about ten years old, and I saw my Uncle and Mom literally drag him to the hospital because he was a danger to himself as well as the rest of my family.  At the time, my sister and I were told that he “was sick”, but as we grew older, we learned more about what was happening to him. I saw two completely different fathers – the one before and after finding medication that worked for him.

Not surprisingly, his death when I was around 30 was what really triggered my depression and anxiety, and I have been on and off medication/in and out of therapy ever since.  I had (and still do have) a really hard time admitting that I need help or asking people for it, both from a metal health perspective and with life in general. To me, asking for help equated admitting defeat.  It took me forever to realize that asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do, even though sometimes I still need some reminding. I am very grateful that I have found a wonderful therapist that I have been seeing over the past five years or so, and it really helps to have someone to talk to, for me.

If you need to talk, talk. You are not alone, and there are a ton of people out there who will listen.

An e-mail from listener Julie, who shared her battle with anxiety:

I’ve struggled with severe anxiety my entire life. It has only been recently I’ve started getting a handle on it and understanding about what the anxiety has been telling me versus what is reality. It hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve definitely struggled with deep depression; feeling like I was a burden, like I’m crazy, like I don’t belong. All the while I had an amazing group of friends and my family supporting me, keeping me going.

I wanted to share my story because I think a lot of people don’t realize how crippling anxiety can be. When you have anxiety you feel like you are the only one who goes through it. You are so inside your own thoughts it is hard to hear anything other than what your anxiety wants you to see. Seeing and hearing all of these stories about high profile public figures (and honestly just normal people) also having anxiety and panic attacks has normalized it for me. It has given me an opportunity to get outside of my head and realize I’m not alone.

2018 was really hard for me. I had a super successful sales job that I loved and I was really good at, but my anxiety made me constantly feel like I was going to get fired…and like I didn’t belong. I always worked my hardest and wanted to see everyone around me succeed; and even though the company I worked for was overwhelmingly supportive and a real highlight in my life, my anxiety ended up winning. I ended up resigning because I was so inside my head; I thought everyone hated me, thought everyone KNEW about the panic attacks I was having almost everyday at work, and how crazy I felt I was. It was like I was always wearing a mask of positivity so I didn’t make the people around me uncomfortable with how miserable I constantly felt.

My real breaking point was during the last round of our Stanley Cup run. I went to all of the viewing parties in Chinatown, but the crowds triggered awful panic attacks. I was scared of going out…but I didn’t want to miss the moment we FINALLY won the Cup. When that moment came, I thought I would cry with joy, but the Ativan I had to take to calm down the panic attacks made it so I didn’t feel anything. That was the worst feeling in the entire world. I wanted to feel the joy and join in with everyone because I know we have ALL waited for that one moment, and I felt like I was outside of myself.

I knew something wasn’t right; I wasn’t living with my anxiety, my anxiety was dictating my life and taking away my joy. I knew I needed to change something.

I have now been without a job for half a year; while it has been really tough financially (and mentally), I have been able to take time to work on myself and figure out how to better handle my anxiety. I’m definitely not 100% and I’m not sure I will ever truly be 100%…but I’m working on being able to go out more, talking to a therapist, working on the meds I’m taking and things are starting to look up.

I truly wish I was able to feel the joy I wanted to feel when we won the Cup, and I know I’ll never be able to relive that moment; but I’m proud of myself for doing something that scared the absolute shit out of me and being able to have been a part of that moment…even though I didn’t feel like I was there.

Anyways, I hope this story makes someone else realize they aren’t alone…and that you aren’t crazy, your anxiety is just an asshole.

From a listener on Twitter, who requested to remain anonymous:

As a kid I was never really social, I moved around a lot which led me to losing contact with friends. Every time I moved I felt a little piece of me break off and it always used to hurt my confidence that “maybe when I move people won’t like me” and “maybe I should stay here” but in the end I would have to go with my parents. Never having that super stable environment I started to grow a bit weaker. When I started middle school I fell into a depression that I never, to this day, fully recovered from. I started to hurt myself and even had suicidal thoughts. I changed myself from then to “fit in” but I never could. No one wanted to be friends and even my closest friends left me. In high school I never did well with grades and having few friends who always had straight A’s, they would constantly judge me for not excelling. It hurt not having people who would support you through your toughest times and it’s hurt me that even now, years later, I’m still hurting from this. I’m having anxiety attacks, suicidal thoughts and nobody knows about it except my mom. She’s the only person who knows about my anxiety because I feel that if I tell anyone, they’ll joke around about it and belittle me. I’ve lied to family, doctors, friends about this so no one could judge me and I never know whether or not I will ever recover from this.

Also another thing I forgot to mention was as a kid and even now I was bullied because of my weight, my height, my skin, my hair, everything about me was wrong to people and after hearing people say this to me I spiraled down so bad that it’s had a lasting impression on me. I have starved myself before to a point where I ended up in the hospital because of words people have thrown at me. It’s been really rough.

From listener Sheena, who battles anxiety, depression, and eating disorders:

My name is Sheena and I struggle from a mental illness. I struggle with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. I am an emotional eater & have struggled binge eating. I still have an unhealthy relationship with food that I am trying to work on daily.

I have been on depression medicine for as long as I can remember. I truly believe that my depression medicine saved my life. In the past couple years my anxiety has gotten completely out of control. I asked for help when I needed it. I know medication might not be the answer for everybody but for me it works.

I am opening up about this so that you know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

From Dr. Lindsey, who battles anxiety:

When I was in university, I suffered from some very severe exam anxiety – to the point at which I once had to leave an exam to be sedated. I think it’s really important to acknowledge that just because there’s a trigger or a cause for a mental health response (anxiety or depression or anything) doesn’t actually erase the fact that there is a mental health issue.

I had an incredible supportive GP. We realised pretty quickly that medication wasn’t going to work (because of my extreme sensitivity to benzodiazepines and a possible interaction to beta-blockers). He recommended CBT and, honestly? Therapy worked wonders for me.

Different strategies work for different people and the first step is absolutely to be able to talk about it. I didn’t until I broke down in an exam hall. Talking is the first step.

From listener Karen, who battles anxiety and depression:

About ten years ago, I had severe depression and anxiety hit me out of nowhere. I couldn’t function. I didn’t tell anyone and I didn’t get help because I wanted to die. I wasn’t exactly suicidal, but I thought about dying constantly, and I hoped someone would kill me. After a few months of this, the symptoms eased a bit, and one day I was finally able to call a nearby clinic and, through my sobs, beg for help.

I saw a great psychiatrist who got me on medication that saved my life (and as a wonderful side effect, ended my migraines). Once I was no longer overwhelmed by depression and anxiety, I started seeing a fantastic therapist who helped me to work through the abuse I endured throughout my childhood. And years later, I found out that the depression and anxiety had probably been caused by my first (undiagnosed) episode of multiple sclerosis.

I’ve talked with many people over the years who’ve suffered from mental illness, and while we all have a lot in common, every one of our situations is different: different causes, different solutions. I’m a huge believer in therapy, but the first two therapists I saw were terrible. Meds are truly life saving, but it took a few tries to find the right ones for me. The most important thing for me was asking for help, and the next most important thing was being persistent and trying to find solutions even when it seemed hopeless. We all fight slightly different battles, but it’s the same war. Keep fighting it.

From listener Melanie, who battles anxiety:

Looking back, I can see that anxiety plagued me all through childhood. What adults around me perceived as my being “painfully shy” and “quiet,” I now understand was just a byproduct of how distracted I was by the anxious thoughts I was constantly having. It was exhausting, which led me into thinking I was depressed.

Anxiety runs in my family, it turns out. It was only after my uncle, who thought he was depressed, was diagnosed with anxiety and started talking about it that the possibility that I had anxiety even occurred to me. It’s only in the past couple of years that my extended family have started speaking about mental illness and the way it impacts us. It is so, so comforting to not feel alone in it.

The first therapist I saw wasn’t much help and I almost gave up looking. I was in a job I hated and everything felt hopeless. All I wanted was for someone to hear me and do something. I could tell that she wasn’t a good fit for me and I could just feel that talking wasn’t going to be enough.

After a panic attack at work where I was convinced I was having a heart attack despite having been a psychology major and knowing the symptoms of a panic attack, and a referral from my GP (and a mental health day off from work alternatively crying and calling different practices to find a psychiatrist/therapist team,) I got lucky in my second attempt. The doctors I’m working with now are fantastic, and I was very, very lucky that only one adjustment to medication was all I needed to resolve the majority of my symptoms.

I’m so grateful that it was such an easy road to finding the right combination of therapy and medication, since I know not everyone is so lucky. However, it took me a lifetime of anxiety and almost 10 years of more severe anxiety with panic attacks to finally feel that my symptoms were worthy enough to seek treatment. I was backed into a corner where I felt there was nothing else I could do but get help. I wish I’d done it differently but I’m so grateful that I did it at all.

From Lex, who battles depression and anxiety:

About 10.5-11 years ago my world was flipped turned upside down when my grandma passed away from lung and brain cancer. And then again nearly 2 years later when my grandfather passed away. They were my best friends the people who I wanted to call all the time when the good and bad things happen. When my grandma passed I was crushed didn’t want to do much I was losing myself and didn’t know what to do. Then after losing my grandfather unexpectedly I was even more lost and started to sink into being depressed, the thing that saved me from falling way deep into depression was the fact I had a great group of teammates around me all day at school and the close group of fiends that I could call and cry to. Sports were my outlet during high school and kept my head on my shoulders and my head just above water. After high school my grandma and great grandma on my dads side passed away and then one of my good friends from a heart attack and then my uncle passed away cancer. I lost myself but put in a fake smile and attitude saying I was fine I stopped eat for a while and would only drink water and eat a very small amount of food so people would leave me alone. Sports has been my go to to clear my head. From being on the court to being in the stands with my friends or family have made my bond stronger with them and shown me that there is a lot more to life than sitting in my bedroom in the dark kicking myself for not saying the things I should’ve said before they passed away. 5 years ago my good friend passed away from suicide after a long battle of mental health. We all knew she was struggling, sitting here knowing what I do know I look back and wish I would’ve said I love her more and wish I could sit and talk to her and have more time with her. She kept to herself so she wasn’t a bothering anyone with her issues. I have not been able to forgive myself for not being there more than I was for her I feel now looking back I could have done more and she’d be her. Then coming up on 3 years now one of my childhood best friends passed away from an OD. That hit me just as hard as when my family members past away. I have had a lot of trouble dealing with his loss to his day. About a week before he passed away we got into a little argument and the last thing I said was I hate you. When in reality I loved him so much and I still do. Now that made me fall to my weakest point and putting on a fake smile to keep people off my back, dragging myself out of bed to do things and just pretend that I was okay. I would get anxiety when I would call my friends and not get an answer thinking the worst had happen and I play back the day where he wouldn’t pick up his phone after calling him like 4 times that day. Before I got the news that he passed. Now I deal with anxiety when people don’t answer their phones and sometimes even end up having a small anxiety attack until I know that they are okay. I used to not speak to my friends or family about how I was feeling or doing because I didn’t want to feel like I was bothering them. It wasn’t until I was at my worst with not eating and Trying to self harm but never was able to go through with it because all I could think about was the pain I’d cause my family. I was later then able to open up about me being depressed and my anxiety of when it comes to certain things. To my surprise my family and friends were super supportive and helpful to me getting back on track and I’m back to being happy and ready to take on the world. Although with the work I do I battle anxiety a lot working in EMS and the calls we run do take a toll on my mental health. There are days where I have flashbacks of horrific calls that I ran or flashbacks of being in the room while Doctors tell the family members that their loved one did not make it, and even some flashbacks of watching my family members take their last breaths. I now know that I will always have people to help me through and that it’s not my fault and I’ve had to stop blaming myself. So I want to say thank you to all of my family and friends who reach out to see how I’m doing, just that small gesture of them can change the way I’m feeling and look at the day. Honestly without the help of family and friends and the professional athletes who have spoken up and helped raise awareness for mental health I don’t know where I’d be today. So thank you to all everyone who has helped along the way.

From Sarah, who battles anxiety, depression, and ADHD:

Mental illness runs in my family – depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder. My mom would use bipolar disorder as a threat when I was a teenager, I was misbehaving so I was probably going to end up bipolar like her mother and brother and I was going to be basically the worst person ever. 

Joke’s on her, she’s the bipolar one and i just got depression, anxiety and adhd.

My family sucks at talking. We didn’t talk about emotional abuse, drug abuse, depression. My parents somehow stayed married 22 years which is maybe 21 years longer than they should have. We were a simmering pot of anxiety and depression and untreated illness. My parents chose to self-medicate with pot and there was no structure or order for me and my brothers. 

And then one of my younger brothers died of a drug overdose when he was 21. We didn’t get along very well and probably hadn’t even spoken to each other in over a year. My dad said later, when he told me he wasn’t sure how I would even react, if I would cry or be upset or even care. That’s how fucking distant we were.

That guilt still eats at me sometimes even though it’s been 7 years now, I was the older sister I should have pushed at my parents harder to do something or tried talking to my brothers more. And then have to remind myself that’s useless.

But since then, my dad stopped smoking and has learned how to listen. I was able to see my own depression and anxiety for what they were and finally get treatment.

My brother’s death was a terrible awful thing and has led to some equally shitty things but having people and friends who help me not fixate on that has saved my life. I’ve been awful about going to therapy but seeing everyone else’s stories, I know it will be my next step ❤ 

We want to thank everyone who shared their story with us today. Mental illness doesn’t just affect one day out of the year – it doesn’t start and stop with Let’s Talk day. We all woke up this morning with depression or anxiety, or whatever we fight against, and we’ll do the same tomorrow. But it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and there’s someone out there who will listen, even if it’s a stranger with a podcast on the internet.

Talking is just the first step.

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