Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage” – Brené Brownhttps://medium.com/the-mission/how-to-embrace-vulnerability-as-your-greatest-strength-d2ac2b80ba52
It’s no big secret that I have been struggling for a few months. I only recognized the signs of my own depression in the middle of June this year. In hindsight, I can clearly see the signs I was exhibiting, which started sometime in January. I went down hill from there. I went downhill, because I wasn’t aware. I went downhill because, initially, the people around me either weren’t aware or they didn’t care. Either way, this is unacceptable. Whether it was from lack of education on how to treat someone with mental illness or whether actions were knowingly taken to undermine and cause further harm, the obligation is on the organization to implement the laws that govern the responsibilities which institutions are required to undertake and adhere to . This institution has a legal requirement not to discriminate, neither overtly nor non-overtly, against an individual with mental illness. When the very people and the institutions that are responsible for governing us, that write legislation, and approve funding, have zero awareness or empathy for their own people who are struggling with mental illness, where does that leave everyone else, given the prevalence of mental illness in New Brunswick? It leaves everyone out in the cold. It leaves them alone to struggle, to play Russian roulette with their lives. It leaves those who are struggling to function everyday, alone and afraid to reach out for help; it isn’t there anyways, so who are they reaching out to? It leaves out the families and friends of those who are suicidal, desperate to find help, compassion, and understanding. It leaves them out in the cold, with no one to reach out to for help. It isn’t there. Mental illness is not taken seriously by our elected officials. It’s an uncomfortable topic. People don’t like to talk about things that make them uncomfortable. We have people of all ages, all backgrounds, all socioeconomic statuses, and educational accomplishments, who complete suicide everyday. We all heard about the very tragic, public suicide in our province recently. We’ve all had a chance to hear other people’s stories, about the desperation felt by those struggling, and by the friends and the family members who are desperate to find them help, only to discover it isn’t there. My family has experienced two suicides in recent years; both beautiful women. One of them very young, with hardly an opportunity to experience life; the other, an educated, accomplished, woman, who had every reason to be proud of herself. My own depression has brought me to a surprising place on two different occasions. I had never before experienced what I have gone through in recent months. I couldn’t have fathomed it until I personally experienced it. I took all the necessary steps to recover. I did everything I could to pull myself out of the deep state I was in. It lasted…for a while. Another fall was inevitable. It was inevitable because I wasn’t being honest with myself. I wasn’t thinking of my own goals, my own passions, my own fire. I couldn’t work towards getting better because I was still feeling conflicted. I was still feeding the anger. I was pushing things I didn’t want to think about aside. I was unable to make a decision. I was being pulled in so many different directions, it made me struggle with my inability to see a clear path. It hit me, very suddenly, dead in the face, just the other day. When it did, an instant calmness and acceptance washed over me. The light finally came on, and I was able to make a decision. I felt at peace with it. I still do. I’m doing what’s best for me and channeling my sense of purpose into areas that ignite the inferno in my soul. I know what I need to focus on, and my intensity and passions will take me where I need to be, where I belong. I found the courage I had all along, it was just steamrolled out of me temporarily. It made me falter. It shook my confidence. It was like taking a bat to the knees. It brought me down, but I have been slowly crawling my way back up to a standing position, gloves up, chin protected. Sharing my vulnerability has given me so much strength. I faced my fears and chased down my demons, exposing all the things about myself that I perceived as weakness, I tossed these painful truths out at the world, and I felt immediate connections with others who reached out to me; some to offer strength and support, other’s to share their pain and struggles. Each one of these people, played a crucial part in keeping me here in this world, at a time when I didn’t feel worthy enough to be a part of it; they helped me see my story isn’t over yet.
“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” Steve Jobs
Mental Illness Affects More People Than You Might Think
The thing about depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, is they are much more prevalent than some might think. It dramatically increases in those over age forty. The fear of stigma and judgement usually keeps those who are suffering from asking for help. Tell your story. It might just be the lifeline someone else clings to that offers them a sliver of hope. You are not alone. Share your story. It will get better.
My life-long anxiety made me more vulnerable to the depression that hit me this summer. I experienced a dramatic shift in my thinking over the winter. People I had put blind faith in, and gave automatic trust to, were not deserving of it. Lesson learned. Always lessons to be learned, and I often learn them the hard way. I tried to hold on as long as I could considering the circumstances. I’ve had to forgive myself for feeling the failure of not being able to live up to the commitments that I had made. The reasons were twofold. First, there was the moral dilemma I was facing, the personal inner turmoil of knowing something had been done wrong, and my complicity by remaining in my position. Secondly, my mental health had reached a critical point, due to my anxiety and depression, exacerbated by the actions of others. I had no choice but to resign and to leave. To a person who feels a strong sense of loyalty, duty, and dedication, setting those principles by the wayside is extremely difficulty to do at the best of times; when caught in the unyielding grip of anxiety and depression, faced with alienation and isolation from those around you, it’s potentially deadly. I’ve had to forgive those who don’t think they’ve done me wrong. They don’t even know they’ve done others wrong. I can’t change that. I’ve had to forgive myself, for the anger and frustrations I expressed when I was ready to give up hope. I’m trying to forgive myself for my high expectations, of myself and of those around me, for harsh judgement of myself, and for turning my back on something I believed in, right to my very core. I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. There is nothing wrong with leaving a situation or leaving people when things don’t feel right to you anymore. If you can’t be your authentic self, and you can’t be honest or respected by those with whom you are associated, it’s time to move on. That isn’t to say that moving on is easy. It never is, for anyone. As always, I see things in others easier than I do in myself. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge and recognize my own short comings. I recently heard the phrase, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” I heard this from people who embody and exemplify principles like honour, and doing the right thing. It was at that exact moment that I knew wholeheartedly, I had done the right thing months ago. You owe it to yourself to be honest. It’s expected. There’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. I couldn’t in good conscience, as a human being, turn my head and look the other way. Doing the right thing often difficult. When I come to those many forks in the road, as we all must do, I may debate and struggle momentary on the cusp of a decision, I will instinctively weigh the cost or the benefits of my actions; inevitably I listen to my gut instinct, and to that mantra in my head, ingrained in my psyche since I was a child; my father’s voice, “there’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.” Do the right thing.That doesn’t always mean I get it right. Sometimes I get it wrong, but I always try, and I admit and own up to my mistakes. I am not perfect, I have much to learn. I also have much to offer. It took me way to long to realize this, but it’s something I will never allow myself to forget. I have many friends who keep reminding me. I can only live my truth, and spend my time and energy where it is best served, where my strengths are; with writing and fighting for women’s rights and equality for all.
Coming Full Circle
Life is funny sometimes. I find it odd how lessons are delivered to me at times. Sometimes I don’t even realize it’s a lesson until I’ve had time to reflect. That’s life. Nobody has the handbook on how to live life perfectly, although lots of people think they have the formula figured out. The high volume of self-help books and how-to books confirm this. The truth is, nobody has everything figured out. We all stumble around sometimes, unsure of what to do, cruising along on autopilot, just putting the days in. Other times, we’re at a high altitude, reveling in the glory that is life. If we are lucky enough, we will find our calling, our purpose. It took me a long time to find my purpose. The traumas I experienced throughout my life, sidetracked my goals, and made my vision cloudy. It was when my kids moved out and went to university that I finally found the time, and the chance to delve into what would rapidly light my fire. My natural protective instincts led me to champion for women’s rights. At the time, I was already on board with the Liberals, but Brian Gallant’s stance with ammending the 84-20 regulation, was in my opinion, and many others, not enough. This inspired a call to action for me and for my daughter. We found ourselves protesting the Gallant government at the legislature for their failure not to extend public funding to private clinics. The following year, my support for the Liberals was cemented by Justin Trudeau’s declaration of support for women’s rights, among other policies that I was happy at the time to get on board with. The point is, women’s rights were what sparked my fire and drew me to the Liberal party. Somewhere along the line over the last four years, I lost sight of what inspired me in the first place; equality and social justice. Temporary people taught me permanent lessons. The time has come around again for me to invest in my own growth. See you in the ring…
When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.”“cOPYRIGHT” – 2019 – jEN sMITH