Talking about mental illness is important to me. Sharing information about what I deal with could help someone else. Talking will emphatically improve mental illness awareness. Open discussion could end this stigma! Yet, the stigma surrounding issues of mental health scares me. It scares me to the point of never pushing the publish button. Since it’s Bell Let’s Talk day, I feel that I must press publish and do my best to add value to the conversation.
The stigma scares me
I get scared because of past work related issues that have related to my depression and anxiety.
The stigma felt prevents me from wanting to share my issues related to depression and anxiety with the public. Even though people say they are understanding, I’ve experienced opposite reactions.
You’re like a rollercoaster.
Imagine hearing that from the CEO who is aware of your issues with bipolar depression. I heard it about 5 years ago. It still seems to cut into me like a knife.
Taking medication definitely helps me with my depression and anxiety. It’s not perfect. It helps stabilize my mood, but it doesn’t make me perfectly balanced. I’m human after all. Taking anti-depressants and mood stabilizers can have side-effects causing difficulties.
Medication has even caused me to ruin great things in my life. With bipolar, a manic episode is very tough. It can be difficult to know if I’m happy or manic. I’m left wondering if I should feel good. A manic episode, alcohol, and being on medication sabotaged the greatest job I ever worked. No second chances when it comes to these kinds of issues. You’re left to feel like you’re too much of a liability. You go from feeling like you’re part of a family to disowned. All the while, you were lead to believe that family would be there to support you in a freak scenario. It’s tough.
Time is healing. Moving forward, even through micro actions, is healing. Searching for what might work better for you is healing. But, you’ll still wonder if you’re the problem. You’ll wonder if you’re broken.
Am I the problem?
I find solace as a self-employed photographer. It allows me to work on my schedule, based on my energy and feeling. Every day there is some kind of battle or fight that involves the thoughts in my head. Many workplaces will not accommodate or tolerate times when these issues show up. You need to hit that target metric for widgets every day, regardless. Even if they say they’re understanding, it still leads to problems. It either holds you back or employers begin to find other reasons to dismiss you. They call it managing someone out.
For years, I felt that I was the problem. I still have those thoughts. Cognitive behavioural thinking has been able to help me turn those thoughts around. The issue could be around terrible or inexperienced managers. Trouble could be due to inflexible company processes related to mental health issues. Or no process at all. Yet another reason for the importance of Bell Let’s Talk. The stigma needs to end.
Dealing with depression
There are many ways to deal with depression. As mentioned earlier, medication helps me. Feeling depressed is scary, though. My faith reminds me that it will pass. I spend time leaning into faith for strength.
Other times, I try and find the light within the darkness and fight evil by fighting back head on. This is what you read about in my publication within the Unsplash Book. Photography is another form of medication for me.
Photography forces me to open my eyes and make connections with the great things that exist around us.
It's a reminder to be positive and never give up.
Shooting photography forces me to get out of my head, open my eyes, and create. It becomes a reminder to be positive and never give up. Art makes living in this world better.
No Giving up. No giving in to evil.
Being a self-employed architectural photographer is where I’m happiest. I’m able to do work in a way that manages my issues with mental health. This allows me to do even better work than I thought I was capable of doing.
Coming to this point in my life has taken a long time. I remember writing the dark and dangerous thoughts I had at 13. At that age, I had no idea about depression. I never thought things would improve for me.
If you ever think this way, I want this message to be for you to not give up. Mental health issues don’t go away, but there is hope. It might take a long time to start to feel better on a regular basis. We need to keep searching for what helps each of us.
I find hope in faith, photography, exploring creativity and being self-employed. You might find it within programming or gardening. Look for what brings you happiness and continue to move towards it with a smile.
Music, photography, writing, painting and other art shine light on the bad shit that’s happening. They also create a feeling that’s absolutely needed to fuel the fight against evil, and that’s: “I am not alone in feeling that this is wrong because someone else expressed what I feel in their art”.
So make art. Share your art. Collaborate with other artists. Get political with it if that’s your jam. The world doesn’t need less art when it sucks, it needs a lot more.
Evil wants you to undervalue art and creativity because it’s so powerful.
Paul wrote that the day after the Women’s March in his newsletter. I easily applied it to the evil inside my head. Apply it to your own difficult times as well. It aligns with the reason I continue my pineapple photography project. It makes me feel better and brightened the day of many others.
Talking isn’t easy
Sharing this article is not easy. There is still fear within in me, but nothing is going to improve if we continue to stay silent. Bell Let’s Talk happens one day per year. Talking about mental illness for one day per year isn’t enough.
From here, I’d love if you check out Sick Not Weak. The rest of the year, Sick Not Weak promises to help carry the torch and keep the conversation going.
Please feel free to connect with me as well.
**above rollercoaster photo by Tim Gouw via Unsplash**
Also published on Medium.