Just a thought… To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable. To make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength. [Crissi Jami]
The power of being vulnerable. The strength in asking for help. These are two of the underlying themes that have come to Rob and to me so very loudly and clearly since our daughter’s passing in May of 2015. And they’re what I’d like to shine a light on during today’s Bell Let’s Talk Day.
You know what this day is, right? For weeks – if you’re like me – you’ve been getting bogus “share this and Bell will give 5 cents…” and until this day that hasn’t been true. This IS the day. You’ll see it blow up your social media accounts, you’ll hear about this on the radio and see it on TV. It’s a big deal. Here’s a link for more information.
Sometimes on a day like this, people will take to their keyboards to demand how a company that has caused so much stress in firing X number of people in the past year (looking at you, radio) can be perceived as being proactive in the cause of eradicating the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Others will ask why their son or daughter can’t get into CAMH or get a recommendation to help save their lives. I have no answers for those and the many other critical questions that will be posed today.
All I have is the way I felt about my own struggles: like a great big, fat hypocrite.
Those years where I was cheerily helping to wake up Toronto alongside my partner from 1988 to 1999, Don Daynard, I struggled with depression and a feeling of being unable to cope. I was trying too hard to “have it all” – as the magazines said women of the Baby Boom generation totally could! I felt like a fraud for struggling on the inside while presenting an air that I hoped provided the positive, happy yin to my partner’s lovably crusty yang.
I also fought unhealthy body issues and was a terrible example to our daughter: if I wasn’t doing the latest cleanse, I was getting injections and starving to help me lose weight or making our family eat cabbage soup every night, or going to a Japanese restaurant and just eating the shrimp tails left over from Rob and Lauren’s tempura (along with my own meagre servings of sashimi).
And it’s not like it was effective; when I was dressed like a hockey ref for one of our TV commercials, a co-worker said – on the air – that I was the first person he’d seen who’d made vertical stripes NOT thinning. Yuk yuk yuk. My boss at the time made a point of showing me a comment in Gary Dunford’s Toronto Sun column that a sports guy at a competing radio station made about my looks. It was a comment I wouldn’t have seen, since I was on vacation. But he made sure I saw it. Fat, ugly…keep going….
Surely the calorie intake in the way I coped with the stress, unhappiness with conditions at work and the massive insecurities I fought daily wasn’t helpful: I’d mix myself a bottomless martini or open a bottle (or two) of white wine.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t still struggle with some of the issues that I’ve mentioned – I come clean about the drinking and its toll in Mourning Has Broken – and while I feel deep shame about some of my weaknesses, I realize that I’m not alone and never have been.
Shame is a useless emotion and it just serves to beat us down. (Brené Brown has some remarkable thoughts on the topic if you want to Google her. I love what she says about no one EVER having the right to say “shame on you…” and how many times have we heard those three words?)
Depression runs through my family tree like a thick, black sap. Being on anti-depressants made the sun positively shine in the last third of my mother’s life. I have returned to a prescription in order to help me cope with the last three years of my life; writing and remembering took me to such a place of deep sadness that I found myself asking “What’s the point?” enough to take notice and talk to my doctor.
So here’s the thing: there’s no shame in asking for help. Talking is one of the best therapies there is and if you have someone who will listen to you with compassion and WITHOUT JUDGMENT, then you are already, hopefully, on your way to a better place. Meditation is an amazing thing, too. A quiet time to let answers gently come to you, instead of you having to hammer away like a woodpecker on a phone pole. (Insight Timer is a free app that is worth your while.)
Life is hard. No one gets out alive. Don’t believe the posts on FB and Instagram showing shiny, happy people. But also remember this: pain shared is diminished and joy shared is multiplied. I didn’t write that, I just believe it, and I will try to live it for whatever time I have left here. Which I hope is a lot.
And, please, if you’re not suffering, reach out to someone who is. Let them know that even if they’re not ready to talk now, you will always be there for them when they are.
Even the harshest winter can’t last forever, my friend.