Emily nominates: Hayley on mental health
Emily is our Site Manager. You may not hear from her often, but you see her work every single day in the lineup of our posts, in the photos that are chosen, and in the organisation of the site. None of us could write without her contribution.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Emily has nominated a post from Hayley. Hayley wrote about mental health awareness back in 2015 at a time when she was struggling with her own mental health. Many people with similar experiences continue to feel shame about their reality. The reality, as Hayley says, is that mental health is just as important as physical health.
I am an athlete, and have been my entire life. I have learned that you can push your body through anything. I have learned that pain is just something imaginary, and with a little bit of focus you can make it go away. I have taught myself that it is all mental and you can erase any thought, if you try hard enough. Just like the famous saying, “Pain is temporary, pride is forever”.
But this last year has been difficult. And I wanted to take a moment to share with you my battles. Mental health issues run in my family, but nobody ever wants to talk about it. I have a cousin who is battling depression, which they think stemmed from too many concussions throughout his hockey career. I have another family member who is on medication to help control their anxiety. And then there’s me, someone who seems so tough on the exterior and can push her body to its highest limits but on the inside, she sometimes fears getting out of bed.
Six years ago I went on an anti-anxiety medication to help me through a tough time in my life and I sought counselling to help me learn how to cope with what I was dealing with. But there was, and still is, a stigma associated with mental illness and I was embarrassed. I am an open person and I was open about my struggles and what I was doing about them. Eventually I was able to stop taking the medication, and I ceased my counselling, trying to take what I had learned and move forward.
Fast forward 6 years and here I am, once again, battling with my anxiety. I have spent the first 8 months of this year running away from dealing with the passing of my dad. I had no clue how anxious I was and did my best to ignore those feelings through exercise. I rode my bike for miles and found mountain after mountain to run up. Exercise helped tremendously, as did having a focus, but you can only run from it or push through for so long. There may come a point when you have to acknowledge that you need help.
I am not someone who ever asks for help, and I have been like that my entire life. And I am someone who looks like they have everything together. I work for myself, I own a cute apartment in Vancouver, I am single, I travel, I have amazing friends and I am a great athlete. But if only everyone could see the days where I struggle to get myself out of bed to have a shower. Or when I am afraid to leave my apartment because I can’t face the world that day.
I have asked for help, and I am on the path to getting control again, but this is not something that will ever go away, and I will have to continue to work on it my entire life.
It boggles my mind sometimes why people listen to me, and why people relate to me and why people ask me for advice. But I have come to realize that it is probably because I am not perfect, and I never pretend to be. The realness that I express on these pages is 100% me and 100% true. I struggle, just as much as everyone else does in this world, and I do not pretend that it is easy.
I wanted to share this because I hope to be a voice, even if it is a small one, that mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental illness, in any capacity, is an illness and just like you can’t will away a flu or a cold, you can’t will away mental illness. And that it is ok to talk about it, and to ask for help.
Yesterday, I was supposed to teach my class which I have been teaching for years. It’s a class women come to from all over the city to get their butts kicked and to be inspired. But I didn’t have it in me. I could not pretend I was ok yesterday. I needed a day to just be sad. I had to call into work and tell my boss that I was sick, but not with a cold or flu. And she understood. And she wanted to help. And she did not make me feel less of a person. And rather than feeling weak, she made me feel strong for admitting I am suffering and she, along with all of the staff, offered me their support and shared with me their own battles.
So, yes I am a strong female, and I rock it on my mountain bike and in marathons and triathlons, but I am also human and there are days where I doubt myself. It is when that doubt starts to affect the way I am living my life that I ask for help. And I am not ashamed. If you, or anyone you know, battles with mental health, there are so many resources out there that can help. Click here for more information.