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We need to talk about mental health more than ever
Last week, during Bell Let’s Talk day, Canadians were invited to join the conversation to support everyone’s mental health. “Talking and getting help is still difficult for some people today. But for me, it’s a sign of strength and it gave me the tools to get through these uncertain times.” said comedian Maxim Martin.
Why talk about our health problems?
A few years ago, I was reluctant in sharing my health problems. I suffered from insomnia and spoke little about it. Insomnia was probably the biggest problem I had, as it lasted almost a decade. I would sometimes tell family members or close friends about it, but not to others.
I remember driving on the highway to work. I already had a headache, having barely slept all night. The daylight was bright and I had to make an effort to stay focused on the road. Sometimes, I would only sleep for 2-3 hours. I even had nights when I remember that it was getting light outside, and I still hadn’t slept yet. It was terribly frustrating and I would not wish it on anyone.
At the time, I was working (I’m an accountant) for a very kind manager. There was no real reason to keep my health problem a secret. However, we are brought up in a “proud” society; our problems, we keep them at home. Plus, maybe I kept it to myself for fear it would become an obstacle in my young career, who knows?
In my late thirties, I started to be more transparent about my insomnia. I mentioned it to my superior (another), which I should have done long before. He reassured me that it was okay if I get to work later after an awful night. Obviously, I couldn’t arrive late if I had an important meeting in the morning. Arriving later wasn’t something I did often, but having this option reassured me. If it happened, I would stay later in the evening to make up for the work. I know this option may not be available to everyone, but sometimes we find some alternatives by confiding our problems.
Even today, I still have problems with insomnia and need to take some medication. The other day, I tried to not take any meds. However, I ended up not falling asleep because I had flashbacks of Zackaël and the accident.
Why did I start talking more?
I think as I got older I started to realize that it is often best to be transparent and real, especially if we have some concerns. I recently read that being vulnerable isn’t a weakness, but rather shows some emotional maturity.
Vulnerability isn’t a weakness
“At some point in our lives, we realize that showing emotion, admitting we are struggling, and asking for help are not signs of weakness but acts of courage. Knowing it mentally is one thing, but going one step further and actually applying it is next-level maturity.” Psychologist Cassandra Dunn,
Why write a blog?
Following the accident, I read everywhere that one way of “healthy grieving” is to share emotions. Keeping our emotions inside is unhealthy. When Adélie was still in the hospital, I was lucky enough to confide in a social worker, who helped me tremendously. However, even after a year, I had to keep talking, for myself and for others.
On that matter, I remember that for months, I felt lonely in my grief. Not alone physically, but alone emotionally. Yes, I had Carl (my husband) in this grief, but it was already heavy for him; he also had his own grief to go through. I was looking for testimonials from bereaved parents online. I had great difficulty finding personal pages of bereaved parents, especially in Canada. They seem more popular in France. I had found a Facebook group, but I wasn’t sure if that was what I needed.
I was invited to participate in support groups. However, I didn’t have the courage to participate. When we lose someone very close, we are not necessarily ready to share our story and hear the stories of many others. We don’t have a lot of energy and patience. Personally, I preferred reading online more. I can do it when I feel like it and not at a specific set time. In addition, it allowed me to be with Adélie who was still hospitalized.
With writing a blog, I thought that it could certainly help other people as well. Blogs allow us to connect with each other, especially during the difficult times of the pandemic. They also allow you to touch in-depth different topics each week while providing a certain perspective. Anyone can read the publications whenever they want, at any time of the day, which is important in times of mourning.
Here is part of a message I received last month from a mom who recently lost a young child:
“Hello Brigitte, thank you for your kind words. A few days ago I was unable to sleep, so I decided to read your blog and it made me feel good. It’s very difficult at the moment, I say to myself “one day at a time”, but I find the days long and very difficult … As for the group of parents that is on Facebook, I find it difficult 😓 to read all this sadness. I no longer know what is good for me, and what is not. “
Why does it help to talk about our problems?
Research from Southern Methodist University suggests that writing about traumatic experiences or undergoing talk therapy had a positive impact on a patient’s health and immune system. The study argues that holding back thoughts and emotions is stressful. You have negative feelings either way, but you have to work to repress them. That can tax the brain and body, making you more susceptible to getting sick or just feeling awful.
Until it happens to you
I’ve heard people say that they are the type to keep their problems and emotions to themselves if difficult situations arise. It may be, but not necessarily. We shouldn’t assume. Statements like ” If something similar would happen to me, I wouldn’t do that” can be judgemental in nature.
For my part, never would I have thought that I would talk about my problems openly. Writing a blog was never a project I considered. But situations change us. We become more vulnerable after certain events, and also, as we age.
If people feel uncomfortable reading my blog or reading about grief, maybe it’s because they have never experienced much grief. If they are uncomfortable supporting those who have problems, it may be because they have never had “big” problems. Or maybe I’m wrong?
You’ve seen relatives or friends write a post during Bell Let’s Talk Day? Let’s not forget to empathize and support them by responding. We should also be proud of their courage. They demonstrate not only their vulnerability but also their emotional maturity. It’s by talking and helping each other that we can all get better.
Lady Gaga – Till It Happens To You, Live Oscar Performance 2016
That’s it for now!
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