Since today is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day, and I have been hiding in a writing slump for over a week now, I thought I had better put on my big girl britches and hit pen to paper. First off, I’m not an official sponsor for Bell, but I do believe that what they are doing is good work and good advertising. Well done Bell. But what’s more important is the fact that even though it is Bell Let’s Talk Day I scrolled through my Facebook feed and saw mere smatterings of it on this social media hub. Then I was reminded of the email I sent out to colleagues last year on this very day saying “Let’s Talk” in the spirit of Bell’s day. Only one staff responded – and she did so in a very private corner at work. This makes me wonder…are we really talking yet?
The answer for ME is slowly becoming yes since I have taken to this blog and begun to open up about my personal struggles with anxiety and depression. But the fact remains that it’s still a taboo subject. Most people close to me will ask me how I’m doing and turn to the weather. My very small group of truth-tellers will ask how I’m dealing and get down and dirty with unpacking that anxious baggage. For the most part, I’m still making small talk with people who don’t know what to say. And that’s ok. It’s not easy. No one teaches you social etiquette around these things.
What’s even harder than talking about it is pretending that it isn’t there. Last year a dear friend of mine tried to stuff and squash her depression and anxiety into a proverbial duffel bag so full that eventually it exploded and ended up in a serious trauma - to which there remain lasting effects. I can only assume that she thought it was too much of a burden to ask anyone to help carry it with her. I wish I had been there to help her sit down on the side of her bed and slowly unpack that bag together. Dirty laundry and all.
The fact is that things are changing and bless the folks who make those amazing commercials about mental health and stigma. I think they are really poignant and allow for a spring board for conversation. Use them if you can. Be a champion for change in the lunch room when the conversation starts to blame or scrutinize others for what YOU perceive to be an easy situation. For THEM it may not be. If someone opens up to you about their struggles, listen and offer support, but try not to bombard them with a list of “should’s”. No one suffering depression wants to hear what they “should” do…they know what they should do, and they can’t and that is why they are depressed, anxious and full of shame. In fact, even when I’m feeling well I don’t want to hear a list of “should’s”!!!
People with depression and anxiety desire connection and compassion. We are sensitive folk who care deeply for our loved ones and truly don’t want to make things worse for anyone. Really we just want to know that we are loved through thick and thin, through happiness and sadness. We want to be normalized and understood as "this is something that is happening to me, this is NOT ME."
My wish is that we talk more about this difficult issue, not in the sense of pity. Not in the sense of “should’s”. Let’s talk about it in the sense of compassion and understanding. Let’s treat each other with respect and know that life is hard sometimes and amazing other times and we are all doing the best we damn well can in any given moment!
I invite you to keep an open mind, to remember that
each of us has a proverbial duffel bag. Sometimes they are light and easy to carry. Sometimes they are full of rocks and heavy things. But I’m here to let you know that if you should ever need it, I can help you unpack your duffel bag, one rock or sock at a time.
Yoga has been known to aid in the management of anxiety and depression. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org