Do you remember the feelings as a kid of being on a roller coaster? Do you remember the mixture of both anticipation and terror as you slowly crept to the top, knowing that in just a matter of moments you were going to plummet down hundreds of feet at breakneck speed. That is what living with a mental illness can feel like.
You wake up in the morning and open your eyes. You feel almost normal, but you have a nagging heaviness that seems to creep in as each second of the clock ticks by. You get out of bed and get dressed, realizing that you're feeling exhausted just by doing these little things that everyone else finds so simple. You brush your hair, brush your teeth, and get dressed. Then you make your way out the door and head off to do whatever it is that the day has planned. This is the top of the roller coaster. This is where you sit in anticipation, feeling the terror creep in that you won't be able to hold it together, and that people will see how weak you are. And so it goes, day after day, and each day you pray that you can one day get off this ride, before you fly off the rails. This is the roller coaster that I have lived with for most of my life.
October 4th to the 10th is Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week. It is a week where we are able to acknowledge the roller coaster that so many individuals are living with on a day to day basis. It is a week where we are able to shine a light into the darkness that so many people hold onto.
Mental Illnesses affects 1 in every 4 people in this world, and every 40 seconds someone, somewhere commits suicide, which means close to 800,000 people every year succumb to this disease. This is the Pandemic that no one wants to talk about. We know that there is no vaccine for Mental Illness so we must ask ourselves what can we do, and how can we stop it?
Even as far as we have come in this world over the last few decades, the stigma over mental illness still continues to maintain it's grasp on the lives of people. People are still afraid to talk, they still feel isolated and alone, they still feel the judgement by family, friends and coworkers. They still deal with Health Care providers that think a pill is the answer to all your woes. They still slap smiles on their faces and go through the day hoping that no one sees through their façade. They still go to bed praying that they won't wake up, only to wake up the next day and repeat the same pattern. They still suffer in silence.
The reason that this week is so important is because it opens up dialogue about mental illness and that is where we begin to make change. Mental Illness needs to have a voice. It needs to be acknowledged in a nonjudgmental way, and it needs to be freely and openly discussed.
For those of us who suffer, we begin to recognize and acknowledge that we are not alone. We realize that there are people out there who understand what we are going through. We begin to see that there is a path that can lead us off of this roller coaster that we have been living on. Open and honest dialogue helps everyone understand that for every drop in the roller coaster there is a rise, and we just have to get through the dips and valleys.
So reach out to the people in your life and talk about Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week, you never know who needs hear that it's ok to open up and share.