So where was I? Oh yes … the stairs, the climb up …
Climbing up out of that basement was one of the most painful things I have ever done, both literally and figuratively. For 11 days I had not moved. I had not sat up, let alone stood and moved my legs. With my big strong son for support I slowly made my way up and out of that damp empty basement. Should have been fairly easy right? WRONG!!!
The pain in my arms and legs was extreme, but not nearly so bad as the excruciating pain in my heart, in the deepest part of my soul, when I looked into the faces of my family for the first time in over a week. My daughter, slumped to the floor and supported by the wall behind her back, was silent but the tears streaming down her face shouted her fear and heartache louder than her voice ever could have. My son, after helping me onto my bed, leaned against the bedroom door frame and sobbed, his heaving shoulders evidence of his grief. My husband? Well, he was in the room too. He looked at me with an intense loathing such as I had never seen before. His exact words to me were, “You selfish bitch. Look what you have done to your kids. You’re disgusting!” He left the room. Yeah, it certainly was a hell of a climb up those stairs.
The damage my “retreat” to the basement had caused the family was obvious. But surely this would all be fixed? I would go see my doctor, tell her about “the basement” and she would quip “take two aspirin and call me in the morning”. I was young, healthy, athletic, active. Nothing could possibly be seriously the matter with me. You and I both know how horribly wrong I was.
“Clinical depression” she said, after a lengthy question and monosyllable answer period. Monosyllables on my part of course. Then she launched into a lengthy technical one sided discussion of what that meant in terms of “disease”, “medication”, “relapse”, “statistical recovery”. I had never been ill with anything more serious than the flu in my life. I was struggling to grasp the information I was being bombarded with. Don’t forget, this was in 2002. Let me give you the same information in today’s terms.
According to Health Statistics Division Health Canada 2016, the three leading illnesses diagnosed in Canada last year were breast cancer, prostate cancer and you guessed it … mental illness. But consider these numbers …prostate cancer diagnosis made up 11% of the population, breast cancer was diagnosed in 13% of the population while a whopping 20% of leading diagnosis in the Canadian population was for mental illness. When we think of leading illnesses, cancers, heart disease and stroke most often come to mind. We even visualize yellow daffodils, pink ribbons and red hearts almost as easily as we visualize our own living rooms. Do you know that mental health awareness has it’s own ribbon? Do you know what colour it is? If you look around my site, and you don’t have to look hard, I think you will figure it out. Do you know that mental illness also has it’s own colour? Here’s a hint … my choice of the background colour for my site wasn’t an accident.
So now, thinking back to that climb, I had to look a long way up to see the light bulb. I had to look all the way up to the top of the stats because guess what? Congratulations were in order. I had made it all the way to the top of the heap.
I’m going to leave you all with a bit of a challenge. It starts with first identifying what type of mental illness you are struggling with. Of course, a doctor’s diagnosis would help here but a little self help and research can go along way to building a support network, which, after all, is what we all hope for. Here are some to consider:
- Bi Polar Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Anxiety Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Clinical Depression
Unfortunately the list goes on. Raising awareness of these mental illnesses and working to remove the stigmas that surround them is just one of the many things we can do as a community to help ourselves.
Back to my challenge … identify what illness you or your loved one are battling, go to the clip art link below (no worries, I scanned it, it’s clean) and find your ribbon. Take a step toward raising mental awareness by copying it to your site. I would love for you to leave a comment here telling me what your particular illness is and what your ribbon colour is … let’s start talking about it! I look forward to reading your comments :))