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Let’s talk

January 30, 2011

February 9th is Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk day.

Bell is donating 5 cents from every text message and long distance call placed that day to help the 1 in 5 Canadians with mental health problems. They are also donating 50 million dollars over four years to mental health initiatives, and they have launched an ad campaign to encourage people to talk openly about illnesses like depression and anxiety, and to get help. They have even signed on my all-time favourite Canadian, uber-Olympian and one-time depressed chick Clara Hughes.


I was all geared up for The Apocalypse taking a huge lead. And now not even the potential for this being a crass marketing campaign supported by the pharmaceutical industry can stop Humanity from scoring this week’s point.

I mean, this is kind of my business. I train mental health workers to manage suicidal crises and more than 80 percent of people who commit suicide are suffering with some form of mental illness, mostly depression and addiction.

And it’s also my life. Although my mental health disorder of choice is anxiety, I have also been treated for major depression. I suspect most people who know me had no idea. One of those highly functional depressives, I went to work every day with a smile but spent every Saturday morning curled up in bed, longing for death. Eventually, my girlfriend dragged me to the doctor and, in the waiting room, handed me a sheet of paper with the title whited out. I read the checklist of symptoms, saw exactly what she was up to, and said, “I am not fucking depressed. I only have 8 of these.” She gently replied, “You only need to have five.”

I didn’t mind taking the medication so much. Well, the 40 pounds I gained in 8 months despite going to the gym three times a week was no picnic, but between having to go out and buy new bras and being a mother who frequently longs for death, the choice was reasonably clear. I found a brilliant therapist to help me take care of all the stuff the medication would not fix, and I slowly got better.

What was difficult was hearing people talk about depression. It was a lot like being in the closet again, feeling hurt and ashamed of not being able to stand up for yourself because no one can know that they are talking about you. For the record, no the whole fucking world is NOT on antidepressants. If they were, we might have fewer suicides. And not all doctors give out prozac like tic tacs. And there is nothing easy about having to take a little orange capsule every morning just to get out of bed.

My depression was painful but not debilitating. I think that makes me a little bit more responsible for speaking out. We reluctantly admit that those who are so depressed that they cannot function at all are sick. But those of us lucky enough to have symptoms that are manageable are subjected to the anti-medication backlash, and that makes it pretty damned hard to seek help.

It’s time to stop feeling ashamed of being sick. Especially since January light-deprivation and pre-menopausal hormones are causing some of the darkness to seep back. (Last week, while lying in a hot bath, my thoughts travelled with alarming rapidity from, “Oh, the caulking around the tub needs to be redone,” to, “Brigitte’s going to realize how worthless I am and leave me, so we’ll need to get a good price on this place if we want to run two households on the money we make now.”)

For her courage in speaking publicly about her own depression, Clara Hughes scores her second point for Humanity. I just hope my brilliant therapist has an opening on February 9th.

The Apocalypse: 24

Humanity: 20.5

  1. Beautifully said. I like the idea that those with illnesses-less-than-debilitating have a responsibility.

    This lack of consistent sunshine thing is bringing me down too (along with a host of other issues, of course). Wanna go fake-bake?

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Just what my pasty Irish ass needs- deadly UVA rays. Let’s get tatoos instead. You have inspired me to get my back inked with my favourite line from Bleak House:

      “Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.”

  2. Ouch. We should probably hit a bar first.

  3. elah permalink

    Nicely said. It’s time to squash that stigma! Booze helps.

  4. Very nicely put. Just because an illness has degrees of severity doesn’t mean it’s any less painful for the person living with it. No one would ever say “Oh, she’s just got a little bit of cancer”, but they’re more than ready to say it about someone who is mildly depressed. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  5. The blogosphere misses you.

    • Thank you. That was sweet. Now cut it out. You are ruining my carefully crafted persona.

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