It Wasn’t Courage That Kept Me Alive…

My Mom calls me “Sunshine”.

By nature, I am an OPTIMISTIC person who adores people. I like to engage in conversation, share kindness, give hugs and openly express love. I enjoy LAUGHING, having FUN and being SPONTANEOUS. I have been like that my entire life.

Unfortunately for the past year and a half, I didn’t sleep.

For most of those 18 months I thought I was a FAILURE and FRAUD.

For almost 446 days I regularly fought suicidal thoughts.

How could this happen to my Mom’s ray of sunshine?

Well, the same way someone gets Crohn’s disease – the body attacks itself. My brain wasn’t healthy and was attacking my physical, mental and emotional self. It could be genetics or just bad luck but like Crohn’s disease, it’s not my fault and it wasn’t due to being lazy, having a bad attitude or an unhealthy lifestyle.

It could have been triggered by exhaustion from the intense schedule leading up to Jog4Joy, which led to what I thought was Seasonal Affective Disorder but by the time I realized it was a deep, clinical depression and intense anxiety and panic attacks it was too late.

The illness stole my voice and I was unable to ask for help.

To most of the outside world I was functioning fine. I went to work. I did a bit of running. I post on social media.

I seemed normal.

To the very few who knew a bit about my inner world and illness, when I wasn’t working, I was crying and inconsolable or I was sitting in the dark numb and zoned out. I was very ill.

I am one of the fortunate to have risen from the ashes and share the last year and a half with you.

In that time I lost friendships, missed out on many celebrations and being a support system for loved ones who were terminally ill or suffering grief and pain in their lives. I wasn’t able to be the friend, aunt, sister, daughter, cousin or mentor I knew I could be if I was healthy.

I lost income and financial stability and gained debt.

I lost my ability to write or ask for help.

I no longer knew who I was because my connection to instinct and self disappeared. I couldn’t access the Tina I worked so hard to become.

Any decision was stressful…

Any task monumental…

What I easily handled before, I could no longer deal with on any level (mentally, emotionally or physically). Answering emails/texts or returning phone calls took everything I had until eventually I no longer responded…I apologize if you were one of those people

With mental illnesses, stigma states you are weak or selfish if you commit suicide but it’s not the person ending their life; it is the ILLNESS, just like any other deadly disease.

With Chrohn’s disease, the immune system attacks healthy parts of the digestive track. With mental illnesses, your unhealthy brain attacks itself and sends confusing thoughts/messages. Essentially, your thoughts are diseased.

I am no more courageous for being alive than someone who lost their life to mental illness.

It wasn’t courage that kept me alive…it was chance…or perhaps luck, medication and some key people in my life.

Just like someone with breast cancer may survive while another may not, so it is with mental illness.

IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LOVE OR COURAGE. IT HAS TO DO WITH HOW MUCH THE ILLNESS HAS PROGRESSED.

If there is a silver lining in all this perhaps being so severely ill reminds me of the depth of the illness and I can begin to share what I learned…

Today, I feel COURAGEOUS for sharing my story because throughout that time I let many people down, including myself. My actions were not consistent with my work ethic, values and morals. By sharing, I also risk the judgement from employers, colleagues, clients and others.

I am not 100% but I am a thousand times better than what I was before and I continue to improve. I still have triggers that affect my anxiety, but speaking up helps. Thank you.

Ultimately, I am susceptible to this illness and will always be at risk. I don’t like it but that is my truth which I have to face daily. Just like any other illness or disease there are ways to keep healthy but they don’t guarantee immunity. Exercise, healthy, nutritious food, proper sleep, limited alcohol consumption and a balanced social life are important to my health. I am also on medication which was absolutely necessary for me.

This blog has taken me months to complete because I had so much anxiety mixed with guilt and shame, trying to explain what happened to Jog4Joy. The illness stole my ability to organize the event, which was especially heartbreaking to me…I am passionate about Jog4Joy and continue to feel the cause is extremely important and worthy of continuing.

IF YOU REGISTERED, THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING THE EVENT BUT FOR THIS YEAR, YOU WILL RECEIVE A FULL REFUND. 

My hope and belief is we can revive Jog4Joy. It’s my heart-project and I don’t want to let it go because it feels like I’d be giving up on mySELF and others who are ill and suffering.

My mental illness almost killed me; I can’t let it destroy my dream.

The fact is 1 in 9 women will get breast cancer whereas 1 in 5 people (men and women) will get a mental illness in their lifetime…200,000 people have Crohn’s disease in Canada whereas the numbers are expected to be in the millions for mental illnesses. The bottom line: our chances of mental health issues are far more likely yet as a woman; I am more comfortable stating my breast health versus my brain health. THIS HAS GOT TO CHANGE.

If you are suffering and can’t speak up, I understand. Please press SHARE and allow these words to speak for you. You are not lazy, weak, stupid, fucked up or useless. Your BRAIN is ILL and needs MEDICAL ATTENTION just like any other part of your body that requires attention when it is sick.

I highly recommend watching this brilliant TED talk that explains mental illness from a raw, truthful and intelligent 17 year old’s perspective.

Thank you for being here.

With a smile,

Tina

 

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