Unlike physical illness or injuries, mental illness is invisible. Anyone can suffer from mental illness regardless of gender or status.
The invisibility of mental illness is what creates barriers and stigmatization from admitting the need for help and providing help.
For many years, I have suffered from anxiety and depression. Despite the suffering and the negative impact, it had on me physically, emotionally, and socially, I refused to seek help and kept my mental illness to myself.
From a young age, starting with my own suicidal attempt at the age of 8, I knew there was something wrong with me.
However, I grew up with the notion that being mentally unstable meant being weak. I have been told many times, “What are you depressed about? There are people way worse off than you,” or “You have nothing to be depressed about, be grateful for what you have.” Thus I kept my depression to myself and stayed silent. I felt ashamed of myself which led me to isolate myself from others.
During my childhood, other children called me “a weirdo” which resulted in being bullied and I became a social outcast.
When I reached adulthood, I became an expert in hiding my mental illness. I was socially accepted and I was no longer a “loner.” Unfortunately, mental illness is not something that can disappear no matter how hard you try.
During my first pregnancy, I suffered from prenatal and postpartum depression, and the same during my second pregnancy.
However, during my second pregnancy, I decided to seek help, but I did not proceed with any treatment over the fear of judgment from those around me, but mostly the feeling of shame I felt for myself. Then during my third pregnancy, I went through a severe mental breakdown which led me to admit myself to a mental health inpatient unit.
After the incident, I was determined to seek help and better myself not only for myself but for my children.
I was referred to Ontario Shores LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart Women’s Clinic by my psychiatrist and the attending psychiatrist. I had previously seen therapists who showed no interest in me; I, in turn, avoided therapists. However, Bernadette was different from all others.
From day one she showed me compassion and care. Although sessions were difficult due to the recollection of my painful pasts, she always made me feel safe and at ease.
As each session went by, I came to embrace myself and learn to positively cope with my anxiety and depression. I began to feel different about myself and developed confidence in who I am.
There are times when I do feel overwhelmed and I revert back to my depressive state. But, my therapy has allowed me to know that it’s okay.
I’ve learned to know it’s okay to seek help and be helped. Ensuring one’s own positive mental health is a learning curve since every day there are different stress factors that require different coping methods.
I will be forever grateful to Bernadette, who taught me that it takes strength to seek help, and to the Ontario, Shores LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart Women’s Clinic, for giving me a new outlook on life.
This story originally appeared in the 2021/22 Annual Report.