I never thought my mental health issues should hold me back. Everyone else did. In the beginning, I did let it get to me. I already had the “I can’t do anything” mentality, so if others thought it too, then it must be true. When I was 17 years old, I realized that listening to these people (who clearly had no interest in building me up) would stop my life. I wanted a life. I decided to view every “you can’t do that” as a challenge. I can do it. I’m the one that decides if I can or cannot do something.
There are 3 areas of my life where I accepted the challenge and succeeded: work, social work and being a mom.
Work: “They’ll fire you!”
For some teenagers, having an after-school job is a right of passage. I wanted one! A family member, looking to protect me, told me to not tell any future employer about my mental health issues. They said that if I showed any signs of a mental health issue at work or told my boss I had one, I could be fired. This terrified me! I avoided work for many years. When I finished university, I knew I had to get a job. I had to change my fear into confidence. In order for me to feel confident I had to be prepared. I put a lot of time and effort into writing my resumes, cover letters and organizing my job search. I looked up practice interview questions and practiced my answers. When I begin working in child care I did research into child development and fun activities to do with the children. My effort showed me that I am a good employee regardless of my mental health issues.
Sidenote: My employers never cared about my mental health issues.
Social Work: “Depressed people can’t be social workers.”
I decided in grade 10 that I wanted to be a social worker. When I told my friends and peers that I was applying to university for social work I was told that a depressed person couldn’t be a social worker. Having had a few social workers throughout high school I knew that having lived experience would be an asset as it was something I looked for in a social worker. I pushed through the doubt and was accepted into Ryerson University for social work. Throughout my social work education, I used my lived experience with mental health issues to help educate my fellow social work students (oddly enough mental health, and disability in general, was rarely talked about in the program when I was there). I also joined a group of social worker students and professors who also had lived experience to do research about how other students with lived experience were treated in the social work program. All of my social work jobs have required lived mental health experience. My lived experience has been a great asset in my social work career.
Becoming a Mom: “I feel bad for any children you may have.”
Moms with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) have a very bad reputation.When I would express on my blog that I wanted to have children I would sometimes receive rude comments about how I couldn’t be a good mom because I have BPD. My work with children already gave me confidence that I could be a mom and I also knew that I was still not emotionally where I wanted to be when I had children. I found a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills class and began learning the tools to better regulate my emotions, tolerate distress, communicate with others and be mindful. I saw other areas of my life drastically improve and my loved ones even commented that I seemed happier. I am now the mom of a 5-month-old and I am rockin’ it! No parent is perfect and I never expect myself to be. I do believe that the effort I put into improving who I was as a person will play a huge role in my ability to parent.
I would like to challenge all of you to try and do something people have told you that you cannot do. You will not always succeed at everything you do. You will not always succeed right away. Try, do your best, ask for help, take your time and believe in yourself.
About Kristen Bellows
Kristen lives in Southern Ontario with her partner and their new baby boy! She identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. Kristen is a registered social work, working as a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills group facilitator. She is also training to become a birth and postpartum doula. Since giving birth, Kristen has become interested in exploring how mental health issues intersect with motherhood. Kristen identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. She loves cats, reading, singing, pickles and learning. You can read more of Kristen's blog posts on her personal blog www.prideinmadness.wordpress.com