Written by Laurinda Lee-Retter
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day dedicated to ending the stigma around mental health conversations. These are conversation that we have at Kind Karma all the time because mental health IS health. And given the extra strain of a pandemic, lockdown and quarantine, it is more important than ever to normalize conversation about how it is okay to not be okay.
Mental health has been a topic that is very close to my heart and I have always been an advocate for speaking about it primarily because I was always told to NOT speak about it.
As some of you may know, I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression and anxiety during my third year of university. Back then, it was pretty much a taboo topic so even though my diagnosis was not uncommon, it was isolating. Because it wasn’t talked about, my friends didn’t know how to help me and their presumed feelings of helplessness eventually led them to stop visiting, stop calling, stop listening.
I was told to “just snap out of it” and if you experienced something similar at that time, that's because it was common advice given to the depressed. When I couldn’t “snap out of it”, I became more frustrated and eventually I stopped talking. Completely.
I couldn’t use my voice to even answer simple yes or no questions and every day I wondered how I would get through the next hour, hour by hour.
Unlike other illness, there was no timeline to recovery, no assured cocktail of medicine that was sure to prove effective. As such, mental illness was something that I lived with for a very long time and as I eventually became well enough to enter the workplace, I bore the mental illness as a shameful secret I felt like I had to hide. My father reminded me every day to make sure I told no one at work about my depression because I would face ramifications. And I did.
I had one bad day at my first job, a yoga apparel company that promoted healthy minds and bodies, and was fired for crying in the stock room. It scarred me and the pressure of having to keep something so life consuming a secret only made it worse and prevented me from holding employment for very long.
This was my experience and I still vividly remember the shame, embarrassment, frustration and anger that I felt which is why I am determined to do my part to make sure no one else has to feel that way. I talk to our youth artisans regularly about what is happening in their lives and love being able to give them a safe space to discuss their emotional and mental wellbeing. I love being able to give them the sense of support that I never felt because I wasn’t allowed to talk about it.
We have come a long way and if anything, this pandemic has taught us how important mental health conversations are. Experts say depression rates have tripled since the start of the pandemic and with all that happened last year politically, economically and socially, it isn’t hard to see why.
Little did my friends know that even though they felt like they weren’t doing anything, just sitting beside me or calling to check in actually made me feel better. So reach out and have those conversations. Ask “how are you doing?” and listen if the answer is “not good”.