Despite progress made toward eradicating the stigma around mental health and mental illness, for persons with lived experience, choosing whether or not to disclose remains an important and difficult decision.

After careful consideration of the pros and cons, I decided to disclose my mental illness in September 2015 through Toddcast Season 1 Episode 2 and have absolutely no regrets. In fact, doing so was extremely liberating and I physically felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders.

In the follow-up episode Toddcast Season 2 Episode 10 I talk about how disclosing allowed me to be The Real Me (a poem I wrote especially for this episode to express my appreciation):

The Real Me

Women are from Venus Men are from Mars

Or have you heard one of my personal favourites – Labels are for jars?

The fact is sticks and stones will break my bones and words can really hurt

The Real Me.

Growing up I was taught to be seen but not heard

I just wanted the shouting to stop and the pain to end but never uttered a word

Until at 18 I thought I’d figured it out – a permanent solution to a temporary problem – a way to free

The Real Me.

But God had a different plan that required me to live

A plan to use my experience and recovery to help others and to give

Hope by sharing my story through a Toddcast that allowed everyone to see

The Real Me.

I want you to ask yourself How can I end stigma? What can I do?

I think the great Gord Downie said it best “Armed with will and determination. And grace too.”

This is how we’ll create a world where everyone can say they’re truly free to be

The Real Me.

With the support and encouragement of colleagues, senior leaders and family and friends, I’ve since participated in numerous mental health awareness activities including personal testimonials, a Twitter chat and Human Library event, video recordings and guest blogging for Healthy Minds Canada.

I am no longer the person I was in September 2015. Today I am stronger, more knowledgeable, have high self-esteem, rediscovered my faith and am humbled to be considered a mental health advocate and leader within my workplace, the Government of Canada.

It turns out there is a name for this transformation:

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning. Posttraumatic growth is not about returning to the same life as it was previously experienced before a period of traumatic suffering; but rather it is about undergoing significant ‘life-changing’ psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world, that contribute to a personal process of change, that is deeply meaningful. [1 

Often characterized by decreased reactivity and faster recovery in response to similar stressors in the future, there is no doubt in my mind that I’ve experienced PTG. Despite the constant struggles that we all have and continue to face, my life has incredible meaning and fulfillment and by continuing to use the tools in my recovery toolbox, I know I will get through life’s challenges. My advocacy work is extremely therapeutic and continues to motivate me to help others.

And so,

I want you to ask yourself How can I end stigma? What can I do?

I think the great Gord Downie said it best “Armed with will and determination. And grace too.”

This is how we’ll create a world where everyone can say they’re truly free to be

The Real Me.

About Darlene Marion

In 2015, I decided to disclose that I live with mental illness by sharing my story publicly through a Toddcast (http://www.toddlyons.ca/2015/09/toddcast-season-1-episode-2-mental.html). Although it wasn't easy, it was necessary. It allowed me to start living my life without shame or guilt or fear. By sharing my story, I want to help eliminate stigma and spread the message of hope and recovery.

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