The other day I saw one of those “Bell Let’s Talk Day” ads on TV. It was the one with Howie Mandel, where he talks about the power of well, talking, when dealing with mental health issues. His words really resonated with me, especially when he spoke about feeling in the past like he was alone, and how talking about his issues helped with that feeling of isolation. I too have often felt alone and isolated in my mental health struggles over the past few years, believing no one else truly felt like I did.
That feeling started to dissipate when I started to see a psychiatrist last year, who was so kind to me and didn’t seem the least bit freaked out when I told him about thoughts and behaviour that freaked me out. Then he gave me a diagnosis for how I felt (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, aka GAD, plus a couple of specific phobias). It occurred to me that if there was a name for how I felt, then that must mean that other people feel this way too! Plus he handed me a book to read (The Worry Trap by Chad LeJeune, which I have found very helpful). As I read the book, it seemed to be describing my exact feelings. So I guess there were so many people like me, they actually wrote a book about it! That was definitely reassuring!
Then a couple of months ago, I started going to a support group for people with anxiety and/or depression. There’s just something so freeing about being able to say anything you’re feeling (no matter how weird) in a totally unfiltered way, knowing you’ll be understood and supported by people who feel much like you do. It’s really given me practice with trying to speak in an open, honest way that doesn’t involve being self-conscious and self-critical. I want to work towards that type of communication in all areas of my life.
That brings me to this blog. Because of my GAD, I’m predisposed to fixating on thoughts that just keep going round and round in my head with no resolution. I often find that when I write, I can give those thoughts structure, meaning, and perspective. Then maybe they won’t hang around in my head as much. So, in short, it’s another way for me to talk. I don’t necessarily intend this to be a blog about mental health only – I’m not sure what I’ll wind up writing about. The anxious part of me feels like I need to wait until I really have a clear idea of the direction of my blog before I launch it, and that I should undertake endless research on writing blogs before presuming to impose my thoughts on the world (or at least the half-dozen friends and family who will probably read this). But a few days ago, I remembered some words of advice I once received from a colleague who was an outdoor enthusiast: “The best way to get in shape for cross-country skiing is to go cross-country skiing.” And so maybe the best way to learn how to blog is just to start blogging. So here I am! And maybe there’s a chance that the things that I feel compelled to write down might mean something to someone else as well. Maybe I can even inspire someone out there to start talking about the things going around in their head too.