Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coming Out Crazy

I have a mental illness.

I have struggled with depression since I was 15 years old. That's more than half my life. I take medication for my illness, and I have a self-care regimen that plays an important role in keeping me healthy.

Over the course of my life, I have had a number of depressive episodes. I have been hospitalized for depression. I have self-harmed. I have taken sick leave from work. I have sought and received professional help. I have done really, really stupid things when the crazy has come to call. But I have fought through the dark and come into the light.

These days, I am happier far more often than I am sad. I struggle in the winter, and always will. I will always take medication - I have tried going off it, with poor results. But I am safe, I am happy, and I know how to take care of myself.

Despite it all, I wouldn't change my past. The crazy, as much as it has been terrifying, debilitating, overwhelming and, well, crazy, has made me so much stronger. By getting help, I wasn't just helping myself deal with a specific depressive episode, but I was building a toolbox of coping skills and techniques that have helped me to get through struggles that would have otherwise crippled me. I have come out of it all a better, stronger person.

Mental illness is more common than you may think. And it's nothing to be ashamed of. The Royal Ottawa's mental illness awareness campaign is called You Know Who I Am. And you do. But the best part of my journey is that now I can say that I know who I am. I know who I am, and I love who I am.

To anyone who is in the thick of it: you are not alone. Keep persevering, keep seeking and getting help, keep pushing through the dark. Because the light on the other side will eventually show you how incredible you are.

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