When you feel “different”, and have difficulty “fitting in”, attending social events where you know few people is difficult. You hate being left alone even for a moment, because you are unable to start a simple conversation with another person. With depression and anxiety, socializing is difficult in general, because you don’t know what to say or how to start a conversation without worrying that you sound awkward or stupid. But, when you realize you are in the company of someone you have something in common with or you are able to find common ground, you feel less alone and awkward.
Reading about someone who experiences what you experience also lessens that feeling of loneliness.
One of the first things I did to help myself after my diagnosis was gather information so I could understand myself better. Psychology books, biographies, magazines…and one of the books I bought was “Wishful Drinking” by Carrie Fisher.
Carrie Fisher was not afraid to tell it like it is when it came to her mental illness. There have been many articles written about her passing and her legacy; one such article had a quote that stood out to me:
“The power of celebrity was best shown by Carrie that by being public, and funny, she demystified our diagnosis and showed by example we can live well and thrive.”
One of the reasons why I wanted to blog under my own name and “come out” was because I want to do those same things – show how a person with mental illness can live well and thrive and take away some of the mystery from the diagnosis. I want people to see that they don’t have to be afraid of someone with bipolar disorder or with mental illness.
Next week is Bell Let’s Talk, which is in my opinion a very important day for mental health advocates and for people who want to share their stories as it prompted me to share mine. This year will be my third year as a social media ambassador for Healthy Minds Canada for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. I do feel that every tweet and social post makes a difference; you never know how your words can impact someone else or comfort him/her.
I plan on making it a yearly tradition to take off work on Bell Let’s Talk Day, and use that day as a mental health day. I did this last year, and will again this year, because I want to tweet and post as much as I can, and because it really would be a day about mental health.
Bell Let’s Talk Day reminds us that we are not alone and people are willing to have a conversation about mental health. It’s okay to talk about it.
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!