Warning: this is my most personal post I’ve ever written, and may ever write again. This week isn’t about steps you should take to build the next great business, I’m going to get quite candid about my struggles with mental illness. I haven’t done an ounce of research like I normally do for my blogs to make sure I’m providing you (whomever you are) with the most current and relevant information. Heck, I haven’t even done an outline that’s been sitting in my Draft Blogs section waiting for the timing to be right.
Over the past 30 minutes it’s taken me to write those two sentences, I’ve jumped off this page 10 times and told myself “no one wants to see this on their newsfeed, they’ll think it’s a cry for attention”. But then I told myself that this needs to be written, because there are likely more people out there just like me who at times feel like they are all alone and no one else understands what they are going through and how they are feeling. I can tell you, that from the very bottom of my heart, that you are not alone.
Being an entrepreneur (even a part-timer such as myself), it comes with some preconceived notions about who you are as a person. For the most part, they are completely true- you are strong, hardworking, highly motivated, loyal to a fault at times, and ridiculously imaginative/creative. Where it can be off-kilter is the notion that we always have it together every moment of the day and that we know what our exact next moves will be. If I had a buzzer right now, I’d be blaring it because for me, this is not the case. Yes, I plan for every day because I need to due to; having a full-time job, being a CIC Officer with a local Air Cadet Squadron, working a Saturday here and there for the local library, looking after family, and making sure that I’m writing on a regular basis, but I don’t necessarily have it together every moment of the day.
There have been many days where it gets to be too much for me, and I focus a little bit too much on what other people think of me and I need to take a step back or change directions before it completely engulfs me. In the past, I used to think I could just keep pushing through it, that if I could see it through to the other side, I’d be stronger. Was I ever wrong about that! I’d try to keep working at my desk (because most times these anxiety attacks would hit me at work), but the work I was doing would take twice as long to complete and more often then not, there would be tears and feeling like a crushing weight on my chest and I’d be feeling every emotion telling (ok, berating) myself to calm down. There were also times that I would feel absolutely nothing, almost dead inside because something had clicked off. People would see me, but they wouldn’t ask if I was ok, they’d talk to others about the fact that “Rachael is crying again”.
Now I know myself better. I know that I can’t just keep working through it and hope it will disappear if I ignore it because that just exacerbates it. If I start to feel overwhelmed (the tears, the weight, the feeling of not having accomplished anything ever), I take a break. Even if it’s just to the bathroom to let the tears out, or to go see someone/something who is guaranteed to put a smile on my face. I always take a few minutes to remind myself of just how damn far I’ve come since I pretty well hit rock-bottom 5 years ago when I: survived an EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), dealt with regret from leaving a distinguished post-secondary institution that would have guaranteed me a job for the next 20 years, had a concussion from when I passed out as a result of said eating disorder, and had some regret over leaving the Basic Officer Training Course a few days in because it got to be too much too fast. One thing I remind myself of is that, during that time, I still managed to graduate from Loyalist College (to my knowledge, I was the first in my family at that point to do so) with a 4.0 GPA. I also now hold positions in incredible organizations where I feel valued and that the work I do makes a difference.
Common signs of anxiety
For those of you who live with or know someone that is prone to anxiety, and for those of us who do struggle with it, but sometimes disregard a symptom as something else, here are the common signs of anxiety, courtesy of the Canadian Mental Health Association:
- Racing pulse, heart palpitations, possibly even chest pain;
- Shortness of breath, panting, dry mouth;
- Nausea and/or vomiting;
- Trembling, shaking, muscle tension;
- Hot flashes and sweating, or chills;
- Difficulties with sleep, and;
- Inability to concentrate.
For more information, please visit: Understanding Anxiety Disorders- CMHA Toronto
Where to go to get help if you need it
If you, whomever or wherever you are, need to chat and don’t know where to turn, you can always send me an email via the Contact page. I also encourage (no, implore) you to reach out to a loved one or call a mental health crisis line. I’ve done both, so I can assure you that it does help and has saved me a few times. Here are some numbers and websites to keep handy:
- Kids Help Phone (for those 18 and under): www.kidshelphone.ca or 1-800-668-6868.
- Good2Talk (for those in post-secondary school): www.good2talk.ca or 1-866-925-5454.
- Mental Health Helpline: http://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/ or 1-866-531-2600.
- Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program: http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/caf-community-health-services/mental-health-resources.page or 1-800-268-7708.
- Open Line Open Mind (a.k.a. 310-OPEN, a part of Quinte Health Care): www.openlineopenmind.ca or 613-310-6736.
- If you can’t access these or live in an area without a mental health crisis centre, and you need help, talk to your doctor. If it’s an emergency, go to the nearest hospital. Please!
As a proud member of the Canadian Forces, I came across this poster on my Facebook newsfeed, and I want to share it with you all.
Let’s GET LOUD BoQ Young Entrepreneur followers and readers of this post!
May 1-7 is Mental Health Week in Canada, a week that is aimed at ending the stigma surround mental health and making it so that people who deal with mental illness such as myself are not afraid to talk about their struggles and get the help they need. Except for my initial apprehension about writing this post, I am a very loud advocate for openly talking about my struggles and mental health in general.
Remember, I am here for you, and we’re all in this together.