Today, I want to talk about health. Personally I don’t like drawing a big line between mental health and physical health, because mental health is stigmatized and seen as lesser, but I will for now to clarify what I’m saying.
Last August, Rick Rypien took his own life. A former Vancouver Canuck who was due to play with the Winnipeg Jets following the summer, he had been struggling with depression for years. His death prompted the creation of mindcheck.ca and got conversations flowing amongst hockey fans about depression and mental health issues. So, in Rick’s memory, a few words on mental health.
One of the most important things that needs to be said, again and again, is that struggling with mental health issues is not a downfall. It’s not about being weak or broken or lazy. It’s not a fault. It’s no more an indication of your character or will than having a broken leg or migraine is. You are not, ever, a lesser person for it.
The world often wants you to believe that pulling up your bootstraps, exercising 20 minutes a day, and getting some sunshine will cure you. Maybe it will, but probably it won’t. And while it is well-intentioned to tell someone that “everyone gets sad sometimes” or “just try not to worry so much”, it’s not that simple. The lack of understanding around mental health is an indication of how society perceives it, and not how it is. Please don’t believe that you are failing if exercise doesn’t make it better, or if you can’t get out of bed at all, let alone exercise today. You are not failing.
The best advice I’ve received regarding mental health came from my friend, Billy. He is an addictions counsellor and one of my favourite people. We were talking about the feeling that you should be beyond this – that you should be doing better or doing more or be further along in your recovery than you are that day. Billy said that on your worst days, your only job is surviving, that’s it. And that being alive and safe is the only thing that you need to do right then.
The idea has stuck with me since then – it takes a lot of strength to battle with yourself. A hockey team is not always on the offence; you have to play defense, too. Some days you need to simply wrap yourself up in survival, nothing more. If some days you are up to doing more, then great – but at your lowest, please just survive. Please don’t feel guilty for where you are today.
If ever you are struggling with a mental health issue, as difficult as it can be, you deserve to get help and you deserve to have someone share the load with you. Reaching out for help takes an incredible amount of strength and patience – sometimes the first person you talk to may not be able to help. But it’s worth it. Whether it’s medication, therapy, a friend, whatever – just find something that can lessen what you’re going through.
If you are doing okay with your mental health, be an ally to those that aren’t. Talk to your friends, be aware of their behaviors, check in with them every once in a while and make sure they’re okay. Listen if they want to talk and understand that sometimes mental health issues manifest in ways that make it hard to be social. Understand that it’s not something that can be turned on or off, or cured through sheer willpower.
And lastly, if at any point in time you need someone to talk to, please feel free to look me up. It doesn’t matter if we’ve ever spoken before, I would be happy to listen or help you find resources, or whatever you need. So even if you feel alone, just know that you aren’t. You will be okay.
Two links I find beneficial:
Rob Delaney On Depression & Getting Help (an incredibly insightful view into what depression is really like)
Emotional First-Aid (some ways to handle anxiety or panic attacks)