Unless you never watch TV or live in seclusion you will have seen commercials, this week, called “Let’s Talk”. The commercial features Clara Hughes, a well-known and recognized Canadian speed skater. Hughes hit the news in the last year or two when she first admitted publicly that she had suffered from depression. Since then other sports stars, TV personalities and celebrities have come forward admitting to having experienced depression. The focus this week has been on talking about it. I really like the thought of being able to break the stigma through conversation.
It is quite astounding to hear that one in five Canadians is affected by mental illness. That means that many of the people you know personally and intimately are affected. Can you tell? In many cases people hide it well. They mask it. You may ask why. The answer is simple. Depression has always been viewed as a weakness not a sickness. How sad is that? Obviously with it being viewed as a weakness the natural human response would be to hide it and hide it well. As I began telling my story two years ago a reporter made the following comment; “ On the outside, he was a successful Wawanesa-area farmer and pork industry leader. On the inside, he was drowning in a black hole”. I always questioned the “successful” part of the story but the intended point was so true. I was masking my mental health issues. (the full article can be viewed on my website at www.signaturemediation .ca )
I remember well the day that I took part in a call-in radio show about upcoming workshops dealing with men and depression. I had been asked to tell my story during the course of these workshops. Although I had consented to this I never gave it much thought till the host on the radio show asked me about the story. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had said I would tell my story but suddenly I was filled with fear and trepidation. But I had no choice. It is tough to back out of something in the middle of a live radio show. So I jumped in. I started peeling the onion. In the days and weeks to come I revealed more and more of the depression I had experienced. The more I talked the better I felt. It was enlightening. And the more I talked other people also talked and shared. The more I listened the better I understood the illness I had. And the more I understood the better I was able to deal proactively with it.
In many of my presentations and workshops I have a slide that is titled “Find your supports”. I give suggestions as to who that support could be. I mention family, friends, neighbors, clergy, doctors and other professionals. It varies for all of us. I have two very good friends who have often, over the years, taken time to listen to me as I unload. I suspect sometimes they wonder why them. But they always listen. They normalize and validate my feelings. They provide a shoulder to cry on. They are there when I need them. I also have a very understanding better half. She has been beside me throughout the journey. Although initially I found it difficult to share many of my feelings with her, simply because I was afraid of what effect it might have on her, in latter times we have talked often about challenges I have had and continue to have.
So talk about it. Have a conversation. Start the process of healing. And if you know someone that you feel is not doing well offer yourself as a support. There is hope and there is relief. Make it a good one.