Over the course of the last number of years, as I have shared stories about my journey, I have been approached by those who find it curious that I have the freedom to talk about mental illness and how it has impacted me. And then last week I had an ah ha moment. But first let me share how I got there.
In 2003 I was a hog producer. I was chairman of Manitoba Pork Marketing and I was an active mediator with the Manitoba Farm Mediation Board, dealing primarily with hog producers. The hog industry was in turmoil, creating financial stress for everyone. On a daily basis I was dealing with that stress on my own farm and also with the people I was dealing with in my other work.
As that stress started getting to me my behaviours changed. I could do nothing right and neither could anyone close to me. My coping skills were not good. Relationships began to suffer. And eventually that overwhelming stress pushed me into the labyrinth of mental illness, where I experienced significant anxiety and eventually slipped into depression.
At the time there was still a stigma attached to mental illness, there was little knowledge of resources I could use and the ones that I did use were lacking in knowledge of the intricacies of agriculture. It was difficult to find a path forward.
That is why I am so passionate about the Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program. Over the years the stigma has been reduced. Great strides have been made in building awareness. And the message, you are not alone, is loud and clear. Had I had the opportunity to participate in such a program my life could well have been different.
People have also suggested to me that they do not require counselling because they are not experiencing mental illness. Sure, they admit, stress can be overwhelming. My message to them is, be proactive. Through counselling you gain the tools necessary to cope better, to find ways of dealing with that stress before it manifests itself in something much more difficult to deal with.
Back to my ah ha moment. During that interview I came to the realization that “talking about it” has given me freedom. Sounds strange, I know. But there is a freedom in being able to come out of isolation, to be able to talk freely about those things that are dragging me down, to be able to articulate the darkness that can so easily overwhelm.
There is a new reality. That reality is that one out of three people suffer from mental illness. That reality is that as strong as we think we are there are issues that will kneecap the best of us. That reality is we need to find someone that we can talk to. That reality is we need support. That reality is that we live a secret life and want release. Booking an appointment with a Manitoba Farmer Wellness Program counsellor can help you in finding that freedom. Its okay not to be okay. Its okay to reach out. Talking about it is a freeing, life giving experience. Book an appointment today at www.manitobafarmerwellness.ca . Make it a good one.