As of last Thursday, Bell raised more than $7.2 million in donations through its annual Bell Let’s Talk Day campaign. The campaign aims to normalize discussions around mental illness. While I don’t begrudge the intention of this campaign or the substantial sum of money raised, its prevalence on social media had me feeling pretty low. Why? Because it made me realize how busy we are talking about talking about mental health. Meanwhile, the majority of those suffering still aren’t talking about depression.
I’m not one to hold stuff in.
After receiving umpteen messages from Facebook connections asking me to watch Bell’s fundraising video, I uploaded a picture of my face on Instagram, along with this caption:
THIS IS ME.
I attempted suicide when I was 18. Between then and my mid-40s, I’m pretty sure I cried at least once, at least every second day. I went to a lot of therapy. In my mid-40s I began to take anti-depressants and I still take them today. I have battled many battles and come out the other side. Today I live a very full, very happy, and very cup-half-full life. I am a wholehearted optimist.
Bell says “Let’s talk!” OK folks. Then let’s talk! PLEASE.
I appreciate the gesture of those spreading awareness through Bell’s 5-cent-a-video-view campaign, but let’s put mental health FUNDRAISING aside for a minute. Let’s walk the talk. Let’s stop putting on brave faces and stop spreading the “word” instead of putting our innate vulnerability out there so that others don’t feel they have to hide their depression or anxiety in shame. We don’t need someone else’s logo to create a conversation.
Let’s SHARE our truths.
THAT is how we can encourage others to talk. THAT is how we can help them. THAT is why I’ve shared the link to MY DEPRESSION STORY in my Instagram profile.
Let’s put OUR OWN faces to the story.
If you have a story I challenge you to post a picture of yourself with the hashtag #thisismystory?. Will mine be the only face there?
I’m not like most people.
I call myself an over-sharer (perhaps those words came to mind as you read the above post), but the truth is I only say that to make others feel more comfortable with any discomfort they may feel around me putting my authentic self out there. Think classic break-up line: It’s not you. It’s me!
I believe in talking about depression, not just talking about talking about depression. While I have no research to support my thinking, I have an enormous hunch that if more people were openly talking about depression, we wouldn’t need to spend $7.2 million on special resources for people suffering from mental health issues.
I’m not saying zero funding is required. The mental health spectrum spans everything from mild to completely debilitating. But if more people experiencing depression, anxiety and the like could open up, I believe we could ease the desperate sense of loneliness and “otherness” that requires sufferers to seek funded help versus a non-judgemental shoulder to lean on. But that’s not the way it works.
Why aren’t more people talking about depression?
My brother brought a dark but funny clip from the movie Annie Hall to my attention and I think it captures the answer perfectly. In this clip, Dwayne, played by Christopher Walken, confesses the following:
“Sometimes when I’m driving on the road at night I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast, I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly and head on into the oncoming car…”
To this, Alvy Singer, played by Woody Allen, replies:
“Right. Well, I have to go now, Dwayne, because I’m due back on planet earth.”
Go ahead. Watch the clip. It’s funny, in a dark comedy kind of way.
I am not alone but I am lonely.
As someone who does talk openly, I must give credit to the friends and family members who have seen me through my ups and downs, and who still listen to me as I share excerpts from my personal growth journey — because I still marvel over the fact that I have found the inner peace that eluded me for much of my life.
I do not take my joy for granted. In light of the negativity I once lived with, my day-to-day happiness continues to blow my mind. But, sometimes I still feel lonely. I remain acutely aware of my otherness.
In the Instagram post I shared above, I included a hashtag and invited anyone with a story like mine to post a picture of themselves using that hashtag. I did not expect anyone to take me up on my invitation. Sure enough, nobody did.
I totally understand each individual’s right to choose how much of themselves they want to share. I also totally understand that we live in a society that does not make sharing easy, so those who might feel compelled to open up face hurdles they’re not equipped to overcome. But I wish, oh how I wish, that we could capture the same spirit as the #metoo movement and shamelessly own our mental health issues, for our own sakes and in the interest of showing others that they are not alone.
Viv for today xo
P.S. The invitation still stands. Feel free to join me at #thisismystory?.
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