Faces of Mental Health - Sophie's Story
Mental illness is not anonymous. Those who struggle have names and faces, lives and families, passions and challenges. To help break the stigma, the Outrun the Stigma Edmonton planning committee reached out to the University of Alberta community to share stories on mental health.
Hear their stories and their experiences.
I did not give my mental health the importance it deserved until last year. Frankly, it was because I did not realize how important mental health was to my functioning. When I look back to my life as a teenager and a young adult, I realize now that I have suffered from anxiety and depression for many years. I remember feeling "awkward" all the time and never knowing how to talk to people. My heart would pound, my mind raced, my throat would get tight and I would laugh because I did know how to be in social situations, and then I would come home and beat myself up about it. “This is why nobody likes you. You are so weird.” With these words, my self-esteem lowered and my anxiety grew. When I got into university, it got better, but social gatherings over beers and having tons of friends was just a short-term relief and a distraction from what I was actually feeling. I did anything and everything so I did not have to be alone with my thoughts and face my anxiety and my sadness.
As I have often heard from many people who have suffered with their mental health, there is a defining moment which convinced them that it was time to get help. This is exactly what happened to me. I went through a pretty bad breakup in which I thought my world was destroyed. Feeling that awful, all I wanted to do was to feel better. So four days later, after years of being asked by my mom to talk to someone, I called a therapist and made my first appointment. It was scary. It was hard and it was sad. In the first few sessions, I realized that I had been feeling awful for a long time and this was the just the cherry on top. Through the last year of therapy, I have learned how to sit with my thoughts, accept my anxiety and in doing so, slowly accept myself for who I am. It hasn't been easy, nor will it ever be. Some days are good, some days are bad. But how I think about the bad days is an indicator to me that my mental health is improving.
On most days, I am no longer my own worst enemy and I treat myself and my mind as friends. Being aware of how I am feeling, how I am coping, and what I am saying to myself has been the biggest game-changer in my mental health journey. I know when I need to practice self-care. I know when I need give myself the time to go talk to my psychologist. Mental health is just as important as physical health and they need to go hand in hand. I have taken more sick days because of my mental health than my physical health and this should not be stigmatized. Unfortunately, stigma still exists, even from people who don't even know they are perpetrating it. When I told my friend that I was going to write about my mental health journey publicly, she warned me that this might come back and haunt me in the future. But see, I am me. This is my story and I am not ashamed. And I do not want anyone else to feel ashamed because of their internal or external environments. So let’s outrun the stigma on October 15 and continue outrunning it everyday.
Want to join the Faces of Mental Health campaign?
We would like to thank the brave individuals featured in this campaign for their openness and resiliency in the face of struggle. Thank you for opening up and sharing your stories!
Do you need support?
If you in immediate danger of hurting yourself or someone else phone 911. For other support please call:
Calgary: Distress Centre Calgary - (403) 266 HELP (4357)
Edmonton: The Support Network Distress Line - (780) 482 - HELP (4357)
Are you somewhere else in Canada? Find a crisis line near you.
International? Find a crisis line near you.
To chat with someone live online go to 7cups.com.