As many of you know today is earmarked for the national campaign #BellLetsTalk. Kudos to this big Canadian company for putting mental health on its list of corporate priorities. They have us talking about an issue that for many years was a dark secret for workplaces and families.
Over the years, I have had the great honour of hearing and writing the stories of numerous individuals who have “worked through” their mental illnesses. I urge you to pick up the winter 2017 issue of Moods magazine to read one of these stories – “Mental Illness and career success“. This special workplace issue is loaded with tips and strategies for improving mental health and addressing workplace issues. Since many of us spend up to 60% of our waking hours at work, its impact on our mental health is significant.
Like many people, I have personal stories that bring this issue closer to home. Sharing these stories is what’s now known to help us see mental health as part of the human condition. My mother was diagnosed with depression several years ago and it has taken a long time for her to find her way back into the light. I am so proud of her and happy to have her “back”. A few years ago, I was the recipient of relentless workplace bullying that depleted my confidence and broke my spirit. As part of my recovery, I made weekly treks for counseling sessions at the Fort Garry Women’s Resource Centre. When our sessions wrapped up this past December, I told my counselor that she saved my life and she responded…no, that was all you. You did that. I’m incredibly proud and grateful for her and for this free resource that makes mental health support accessible to everyone. We are so lucky here in Winnipeg and Canada!
At the last counseling session, I wrote a letter to myself that was to arrive at my home at some random later date. It came last week but has been sitting on the corner of my desk. I was waiting for the right time to open it. That time was today. It feels right to share what I’ve learned by ‘talking about it’ as my contribution to #BellLetsTalk…
I really do admire you in all your quirky wierdness. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that. And many times I’ve judged you. But you keep showing up with the heartfelt goal of always being your best self. How do you keep doing that?
You do it by understanding and accepting that while you believe strongly in your values – everybody else doesn’t necessarily live by the same values as you and that’s okay…as long as no one gets hurt!
You’re doing it by removing judgment in how you see others and the world. This also means stepping back from the power that the judgment of others has on you.
You’re working to be more kind to yourself and others, but also to be more firm in what you will and won’t do. Make these choices free of blame. Live with those choices.
You’re remembering to love. Always love. Love yourself.
You’re learning to let go of those things that aren’t about you. You can’t fix or save the world. Dammit you’ve tried but stop. It’s too big a job for one person. Do your part and find your allies to fix what you can.
You’re starting to realize your own wisdom (or is it wiseness?). Some lessons have been learned the hard way. Be proud that you’ve had the courage to bring it all to the table. That you faced your fears and challenges and asked for help to heal and to understand what you have to do. Keep asking, keep learning, and when necessary, keep walking away from those things that are not yours to carry.
You’re forgiving yourself, you’re loving yourself more. You are doing your best. That’s all you need to know.
Don’t be afraid. When you show up with your best self, there is nothing to fear. You might fail or not get quite the results you’d hoped for. But you tried using the best of what you had to give at the time. No one – including you – can ask for anything more.
As a friend and leader, who I admire very much, often says, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” I know it’s pretty tame compared to those of others who struggle daily with mental illness or illness of any kind. But in saying that, all of our stories matter. I’ve shared mine to honour those like my mom who have walked through the darkness of mental illness, and for my many friends and colleagues who have also done so – some who have found the light and some who continue to struggle.
You are the real heroes of this day. So let’s do this!