Stopping the Stigma: #BellLetsTalk

January 25, 2017

535324_10150798966353437_660913436_9592816_663798851_nI’m writing this post as I leave my yoga class with a sense of joy and tranquility – a feeling uncommon to me as of late.

Last week my anxiety caught up to me, which resulted in a very traumatic panic attack at work in front of a majority of my coworkers. Though a number of stressors contributed to my increased feeling of anxiousness, there was one incident in particular that triggered my attack: the belittlement of my anxiety when I reached out to ask for help.

Mental health issues are too often swept under the rug, due to the shameful stigma surrounding them. Not only is it challenging to reach a point where one is able to come forward and say “I need help”. But as my incident last week demonstrates, even when people do ask for help, the seriousness is overwhelmingly overlooked. This causes many to continue suffering in silence, and this is part of the reason we lose far too many lives each year because of mental health issues.

Throughout my life I have witnessed many people and close friends fall victim to a variety of mental health disorders. The most difficult and upsetting memories to recall are the ones involving eating disorders. At a very young age, bulimia was the first mental health issue I became exposed to. Shamefully, I have watched too many beautiful young women become completely consumed by their eating disorders, and the worst part was that I could never do anything to stop it.

Though I had watched many people fight very serious and life-threatening mental health battles, I never realized I too was fighting a battle of a different kind. For nearly my entire life, I tried to suppress my anxiety and write it off as my tendency to be a perfectionist and an “over thinker”. Even when things got extremely unmanageable and I had my first panic attack, I still didn’t want to accept the fact that anxiety was affecting me. I felt embarrassed talking about it, and I feared that it might lead to being medicated.

Ironically, it wasn’t until I encouraged someone very close to me to seek help after experiencing a string of traumatic panic attacks, that it finally registered that I too need help.

Receiving the help and resources I needed has since helped me learn how to better manage my anxiety. Although it tries to creep up on me at times, I no longer feel ashamed and embarrassed to talk about what’s going on and how I feel. It took a long time to reach this point. But now that I’m here, I feel that it’s extremely important to help others arrive at this same destination.

I used to be under the impression that in order to inspire people you need to be perfect. You need to the best. You need to have no flaws. But there is nothing further from the truth. Coming to terms with your imperfections and the way in which you embrace your imperfections, can prove to be just as inspiring (if not more). Sharing your stories, experiences and battles make it that much easier for someone else to find the courage to share theirs. No one deserves to suffer silently, and ending your battle begins with sharing your story.

And that is what today, Bell Let’s Talk Day, is all about: starting a conversation about mental health issues and reducing the stigma surrounding them. Today is a reminder that you can never tell what someone’s going through just by looking at them, reinforcing the fact we should be kind and compassionate to everyone we encounter. For me, today is reminding those around me that they are loved and always supported. That I am someone they can reach to when they are struggling and feel alone.

Take today as a reminder to be kind and gentle to yourself – you’re doing the best you can:)

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