We all need a better mirror and a little kindness

I was in sixth grade when I started noticing the things about myself that were different. The most obvious difference was my skin. I don't tan. I burn and then go back to my pasty white skin.

I was dubbed Casper. It could have been worse, I suppose.

And then it got worse.

"Did your mama drop you in a tub of bleach?" was just one of the cracks they made about my pale skin. 

It wasn't bullying. No, it was just inconsiderate children not knowing when to stop because they're hurting another human being.

The day it stopped was the worst day of all. Incessantly pointing out how pale I was. Making jokes that weren't funny...at least to me.

I felt like less and less likeable the longer the barrage continued.

I finally left the room without a word to my teacher or fellow students. I ran to the bathroom and cried, wishing with everything in me that I was not the person I was.

If you can’t see something beautiful about yourself
Get a better mirror
Look a little closer
Stare a little longer

Eventually I stopped listening to the voice in my head telling me that being different was a bad thing. I learned to appreciate my pale skin. I stopped caring so much what my peers thought about me. I figured out how to like myself as I was. 

It may seem like a trivial matter, this issue of having pale skin. So, let me add some context: I was eleven and lived in Florida.

It mattered to me, even if it didn't matter to anyone else.

It's still a battle sometimes to like parts of me that I view as less than perfect. But I have never let myself go back to feeling as if the person I am isn't good enough.

I hope everyone who sees this video goes out to find a better mirror, take a closer look and stare a little longer until there's no doubt in their mind that they are beautiful and valuable, just as they are.

Kindness Week in Ottawa is wrapping up today - let's go be kind to one another every day for another year, my friends.

Anxiety with severe depression

I nearly had a panic attack when I heard those words last year from my doctor. It's been just over a year since she said them to me. I still don't fully understand what the catalyst was, though I have my theories. It wasn't a single circumstance.

Ultimately, I had a lot going on in life that was weighing me down. The previous summer, we started the process of looking at Brandon's speech and communication delays. Then found out he had motor skills delays in December, so moved on to the possibility of a developmental disorder. I registered him for kindergarten, but worried that he wasn't going to be ready just days before going to see my doctor.

I remember thinking in December that I was so out of shape. Walking to and from work was taking my breath away every time. Except the change happened overnight. One day I was fine, then next I was winded. Odd.

Except I wasn't winded. I was hyperventilating. And it wasn't just on the walk to and from work. It was at varying points through my day and I'd forgotten the months of hyperventilating when I started high school at 14. Just like those first few months of high school, I was so tired. I seemed to sleep well, but stress was weighing me down. I couldn't focus and my work was suffering.

I probably should have gotten help over a year before I actually did. The day I sat on the bus and couldn't catch my breath, tears streaming down my face for no apparent reason. To this day, I have no idea why I had a panic attack on that day at that time. 

It wasn't easy to go see my doctor last year. I'd been depressed in the past, but I was always (somewhat) functional. I kept going and tried to do things to help alleviate the depression. It was usually circumstantial, which seemed easier to recover from, not that PPD after a miscarriage is a walk in the park. Time did heal.

Last year, I had to admit that I wasn't functioning well at all. I was sinking further and further and I knew I needed help to crawl out, especially not knowing what we were facing with Brandon.

So, I went to the doctor, listened to her diagnosis and felt terrified and relieved at the same time. She handed me a prescription and a note for work. I was taken off work for six weeks and monitored.

It took a couple of weeks, but I soon began to feel more like myself. I was engaged, energetic and focused more so than I'd felt for a very long time. It lasted for several months and then I started sinking again, so I went back to my doctor. A temporary solution that was to have lasted just six months has stretched over a year now. I've missed taking my medication occasionally and I know I'm not ready to go without.

I'm writing this today because I've only ever eluded to my struggles in passing. It was an intensely private and personal struggle, much like my fears of the unknown with Brandon were last year. Even family members don't know the details of what I'm sharing today. It's not that they don't care - it's that I just wasn't ready to talk about it. I'm not totally sure I'm ready now even though I believe in talking about mental illness with everything in me. That's why I'm just going to put it out there anyway.

Today is Bell Let's Talk day which is all about ending the stigma of mental illness and helping raise funds for mental health. I don't have a Bell phone line, and most of my friends have iPhones (iMessage and BBMs don't count), but I can tweet up a storm and I'm happy to share the Bell Let's Talk image on Facebook. (Go do it from this link so you get counted.)

bell-lets-talk.jpg

When we have the flu, we go to the doctor. We go to the doctor with broken bones. We shout from the rooftops when we have cancer, because it sucks so bad that so many get it and there's no cure. We aren't afraid to tell people about these kinds of health issues, so WHY is it so hard to admit when we're struggling with mental health issues?

It shouldn't be. It's a sickness in a part of our body that needs treatment and attention. So, let's talk about it. Share your struggles so it's no longer considered a weakness. And if you don't have mental health issues, show your support. The world will truly be a better place for it.