Two years ago, Bell Let's Talk Day changed my life.
I had a six-month-old baby who I was getting up to feed every three hours and I was hitting a wall, but I didn't know it. Many people in my life have struggled with their mental health, so I thought I would be well prepared to see the signs, but I wasn't. I thought I was just really tired. On Bell Let's Talk Day, I began reading about postpartum mental health issues and recognized the signs in myself. I learned there was a name for what I was experiencing and I worked up the courage to tell my husband, and then my doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, and a group of other mothers led by a public health nurse. It helped me get some distance from the thoughts and feelings I was having and know that I was not alone and not a bad mother.
During the pandemic, I have experienced periodic symptoms of depression and anxiety, but I really hate those names. These two diagnoses have many more symptoms than just the emotional states their names describe, and I would like to dispel the misconception that depression = sad and anxiety = worried.
For me, anxiety includes:
- Intrusive thoughts: suddenly imagining scary and violent outcomes. For me, I would have thoughts of dropping the baby down the stairs, or putting a knife in the toaster while putting away dishes.
- Panic attacks: beginning to feel faint, dizzy, short of breath, chest pain, cold sweats, when doing normal everyday things. For me, it was putting away groceries.
- Catastrophizing: suddenly becoming fearful of something horrible happening despite knowing how small the chances are, like hearing thunder and becoming scared that a tree will fall on the house and kill us all (and I will somehow be blamed for it).
- Tension headaches.
For me, depression includes:
- Brain fog: feeling unable to concentrate enough to read a page or two of text, or do math.
- Short term memory issues.
- Self-pity and self-blame.
- Withdrawing socially.
- Lack of motivation to do the things I know will help me, like exercise, connecting with loved ones, or sometimes even things like getting dressed.
It's not easy to admit all of this, but I hope it will help someone. Now more than ever, it is recognized that a lot of people are struggling with their mental health, and resources are being made more available. I have been able to access several months of cognitive behaviour therapy with my government health insurance, and it has made a huge difference in my symptoms, especially the anxiety symptoms. I credit Bell Let's Talk Day for initiating my personal recovery and I hope that we will continue to normalize talking about these conditions like any other health issue.