Every morning, for the past 6 weeks, the first thing that I do when I wake up is take a little white pill for my anxiety and because today is Bell Let’s Talk day I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about it.

I have always suffered with anxiety and some of my earliest memories are filled with anxious feelings and for as long as I can remember I have had paralyzing moments of anxiety. I just thought this was normal and everyone felt like this, which is a little bit true as we all suffer from anxiety from time to time in our lives; however when it starts to affect the quality of your life then it is not something that you can deal with alone.

I was lucky though, because I managed to stay just on the brink of a breakdown for most of my adult life.  I used exercise to help keep my stress levels down and I did my best to maintain a healthy way of living.  Looking back with hindsight, especially over these past 3 years since my dad died, I have realized that my life was like a sinking boat and as hard as I worked I could not bail the water out as fast as it was coming in. The stress of my father passing away took me to my edge and my lifeboat became filled to its max, which meant that any other stress that came my way became a disaster, even if it was something small. Every event became a tragedy and caused my lifeboat to sink a little bit deeper. It wasn’t until I was about to submerge completely after experiencing a terrible breakup that I realized I needed help.

So, I asked for it. I began seeing a counselor and started on a medication, which was something I had been denying I needed for a very long time. When you suffer from anxiety, or depression, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain which is something you can’t fix, as hard as you try. Sure you can keep your symptoms at bay with exercise, diet, meditation and therapy but a mental health disorder is like any other illness and sometimes medication is necessary. My best friend, who is a public health nurse, said it best to me. She said, “Hayley, you have had an injury to your emotional body and it is in pain.  When your physical body is in pain you take something to help it heal, and this is no different. Your emotional body needs help healing”. I started medication the next day.

I feel great now, better than I have in years, but I can’t help thinking that I am cheating. I know that the counselling has played a huge role as well as me just providing myself with more self-care and finding more self-love but I still can’t shake the feeling that that it really isn’t me that is feeling this way but rather the pill. Which is why today, Bell Let’s Talk Day, is so important. It is important for all of us to talk about mental health and erase the stigma so that all of us who are on medication to help us feel “normal” or who battle through mental health struggles every single day can talk, without judgment, from themselves or others.

I have been talking a lot about my medication since I started taking it, as well as the other steps I took to heal, and I have shared with everyone around me how great I feel. But what I am so proud of is how people are coming up to me and asking me what I did to find myself again, because they want to go talk to their doctor and talk about the best options for them. My talking is getting them talking, and their talking is getting others to talk. The more we talk the more we educate ourselves, and others, and together we can continue to erase mental health stigma.

That is my challenge to you today. To talk. To find someone you trust, who is deserving of you and your thoughts, and share with them how you keep your emotional body healthy and prevent your lifeboat from sinking. Let’s keep this conversation going.