While mental illness takes many shapes and forms, and some do become dangerous to themselves or others, the majority of us struggling with mental health are the people sitting opposite you in class, your bus driver, your boss, your friend, or your brother. And there is a fairly good chance you had no idea.
To celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week from October 4 to 10, Vancity Buzz will be publishing stories from readers who have struggled with mental illness either currently or in the past.
“The End of the Darkness”
My struggle with mental illness began early in my life, however, October 4 is a very significant day for me.
October 4, 2009 I awoke from my last bender. The day before, my brother had called every police station and hospital between North Vancouver to Hope searching for me in fear. This day was the awakening for me and the first day of my recovery from addiction.
Growing up I had difficulties fitting in; I was bullied and constantly felt like an outsider. I was a black-out drinker by age 14. It gave me a way to escape my thoughts and feelings. I could numb my self-doubt and lack of self-love, which didn’t help much in the long run but I didn’t know any better. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with borderline moderate to severe depression. As timing would have it, I met someone who exposed me to drugs and I started a new chapter of my darkness.
The next four years of my life thereafter are a complete blur. It was a time filled with shame, guilt, embarrassment and disgustingly poor choices fueled by my lack of self-worth and my need for a substance to fill the void I felt in my soul. By age 21 I had wrecked practically every friendship, lost my job, my apartment, every penny I had and nearly lost my family. I could have lost much more but I am so very grateful this was the end of the darkness in my life.
October 4, 2009 I realized I had to stop the damage and try to change my life. Two days later I was walking into The Orchard, a private drug and alcohol treatment center located on Bowen Island (just a short ferry ride away from West Vancouver). This was only the beginning of my healing. Over the last six years of being in recovery I have not touched drugs or alcohol. Today I am a contributing member to society who enjoys taking care of my well-being and can look at myself in the mirror and mean it when I say that I love myself. I still face moments of depression but today I have tools to get through those tough times. I share my experience with other women looking to live clean. I enjoy giving back through my Rotary club in Langley and other volunteer initiatives I take part in.
Who I am today is so VERY different from six years ago. If you are suffering, reach out to someone and know that life can and will get better! If you have a friend or family member that you are scared of losing, talk to them, let them know that you care and won’t judge them.
Healing happens. My family is closer today because of my journey with addiction to recovery and that is a sentiment I share with so many others who have found freedom from addiction. It exists.
Check back tomorrow for another story from our “My Mental Illness” series.
For information and resources on mental illness, please visit the follow:
- Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Here to Help BC
- BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services
- Kelty Mental Health for Child and Youth information