Talking mental health

About a year ago I was at a serious low point. I was in a stressful job that didn’t align with my beliefs. I worked long hours, took too much on, and kept increasing the pressure on myself. I neglected my health and let the stress impact just about every aspect of my life. I didn’t feel “good enough” and struggled with social interactions because I didn’t see myself as interesting or worthy of spending time with. I was angry, very self-critical, and I cried a lot. I didn’t like who I had become and I didn’t like the direction I was going.

I was taking anti-anxiety medication and talking with a counsellor, but things still looked bleak. My doctor suggested anti-depressants months before when he prescribed the anti-anxiety medication, but I refused to acknowledge that I couldn’t fight my way out of this mess on my own.

When I went on leave from work at the end of February things got even worse. Through March, I wallowed in the depression and struggled to do more with my days than eat toast and watch Friends on DVD. I had to accept help and started taking anti-depressants while continuing with talk therapy.

Sofie making Laura smileIt took months of trial and error to get the anti-depressants right for me; there were many backslides and bad days. I came to recognize the early warning signs of sinking back into depression (the desire to eat nothing but toast, the indent of my butt on the couch, the resistance to being still in yoga, the obsession with weighing myself, the negative self-talk and judgement) and started to recognize that it was okay to ask for help.

Throughout the process of getting mentally healthy (or at least healthier), I’ve had incredible support. My husband has been outstanding. My parents have been incredible. My brother, his fiancee and my sister-in-law have been wonderful. My friends, new ones and old, have been accepting and encouraging. My now-former colleagues and boss have been understanding. My doctor and counsellor have been exceptional. And our dog, Sofie, constantly reminds me that there are many reasons to be happy and that a snuggle makes the world better. I could not have gotten here without help.

I’m still on anti-depressants, although I can now see a future where I won’t need them. I’ve come to understand that using anti-depressants does not make me weak; it was refusing help and denying there was a problem that made me suffer.

My struggle with self-acceptance and feeling “good enough” continues. I am, however, far happier and healthier and I like myself again. Learning to be gentle with myself and being comfortable in stillness has been a challenge. I’m still trying to rein in my A-type tendencies and let the world unfold as it will.

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, which invites people to talk about mental illness to help fight the stigma. You may have seen the ads with Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, who discusses her own mental health struggles in Wednesday’s Globe and Mail. As much as I’m wary of corporate giant Bell using mental health as a publicity-grab, I can’t deny that talking about depression and mental health issues is a good thing.

I’ve been candid with people in my life about my mental health issues and I encourage everyone to continue talking about mental illness; not just on February 8, but every day.

Introducing Laura

Born and raised in Richmond, BC, I now live on the North Shore with my husband of 10 years and our small dog.

Laura and Sofie on the rocks at Mosquito CreekI’ve practiced yoga on and off since age 16 and it became an increasingly important part of my life three years ago when I struggled to physically balance running and horseback riding. I took up yin yoga to help loosen my hips and it allowed me to continue both running and riding.

My yin yoga practice quickly became about more than my hips and it began to transform my sense of self and view of the world. I turned to yoga and meditation to help me balance a stressful job and in early 2011 I decided to concentrate on my well-being by taking a leave of absence from work.

While on leave, I continued my meditation and yin practices and also found a wonderful kundalini yoga community. My kundalini practice and the support of teachers and other students within the close-knit North Shore kundalini community inspired me to leave my corporate job and pursue a more healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.

Yoga is an integral part of my journey to integrate all aspects of my life and find balance. I am particularly drawn to the concept that yoga is always “practice,” and not a competition for mastery. I enjoy teaching and sharing knowledge; being a yoga teacher gives me the opportunity to help others with their yoga experience and well-being.

I have experienced the transformational effects of a consistent yoga and meditation practice and want to share that power with others.