Coming Out Of The Dark
On Bell Lets Talk Day in 2017, I went public with my mental illnesses via an article written for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Thunder Bay. I had been a volunteer and board member there for many years, but had not yet openly stated outside my close circle that I lived with mental illness. The night before was a tough one as I dealt with intense fear and anxiety about what the reaction might be from family, friends, and the general public. I almost emailed them and said to pull the article. Luckily I fought that urge and what ended up happening are two things I still have trouble believing.
I saw the story pop up online that day on the CMHA Facebook page and I hit share then quickly turned off my phone. While pacing around my house and trying to distract myself, I wondered what was happening in the online world. Were people saying mean things? Were my co-workers thinking differently about me? Was my family angry? Finally I found the courage to log back on to my social media and, with a deep breathe, looked at what the comments were. While reading I started to cry. Some of the most beautiful comments were being made both from people I knew as well as complete strangers. People thanked me, encouraged me, and said it would help others. You cannot imagine how floored I was by this outpouring of support. I texted my mother and she had read many of the messages too. Then she told me that she was sorry she had not known how depressed I was as a child…..my heart skipped a beat! Without knowing it, I had waited my whole life to hear that. It wasn’t that I needed it to be living in recovery, but it sure helped a lot and is now a defining moment in my history.
Something else was going on during that day as well; something that hurt a little bit more than I thought it would. Some people were very loud in their silence. People I thought would show public support said nothing. I expected maybe some private messages from certain people and even that didn’t occur. While I respect their choice to not do so, a piece of me was hurt and disappointed. Part of this hurt came from my own expectations, which is always a dangerous thing as you cannot control the actions or inaction of others. Another part came from a place of illness where my mind has always sought approval and acceptance from certain people in my life, even though I had learned a long time ago it would likely never happen. I was searching for an empty emotional well to be filled from external sources instead of from within myself. That insight hit me like a ton of bricks and has never stopped being forefront in my mind.
I choose now to focus on those who express their love and support in many different ways, whether public or private. My expectations of others have changed and every day I work hard to fill my well through self-love and caring as opposed to relying on the external. Of course, we all need some forms of validation and support from others, but to rely on it solely is not a healthy place for me to be. The two things I learned that day was to focus on what I can control as well as be grateful for all the little ways that others show their love. I have no regrets about going public. It has provided me with a whole new world and taken away the secrecy and shame which was part of what kept me so sick. The person I was then and the person I am now are the same in many ways, but in a new and different context that allows me to live wholly and authentically. I came fully out of the dark that day, and nothing will ever put me back there.