One was a picture of a half-sunken ship with the caption, “Sometimes the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.” I thought it was hilarious at the time until I started to believe it was true.
I Didn’t Feel the Same
I remember not coping very well after the birth of my daughter, my second child. We were just posted to Kingston. 9/11 had just happened, and my mother was recovering from a collision which resulted in a brain injury. And I had helped care for her and deal with insurance and rehab.
I wasn’t sleeping, and the running narrative in my head was telling everyone around me to shut up – shut up – shut up. The looming holidays made it hard. Remembrance Day was emotionless for me, and holiday decorations and parties highlighted how I didn’t feel the same anticipation or joy I used to.
I Thought I was Fine – But I Wasn’t
I thought I was fine. Fast forward 16 years, and I now know I was not. I had a mental health problem, perhaps undiagnosed postpartum depression, a mental illness most commonly affecting women after birth or adoption. Mental health problems, if left untreated, can grow worse, and research is showing that the sooner people seek help, the more likely they are to get back to their “normal.”
If anyone even suggested I needed help at that time, watch out. That’s when I got angry and resentful. It was amazing how my past military experience, or even the way I was brought up, with a suck it up and be strong mentality, stopped me from listening to those around me. With some informal social support (friends, family, and husband) and some physical activity, which led to better sleep, I started functioning again.
World of Mental Health
However, there was always something not quite right, things left unsaid, feelings gone unchecked, and so eventually, I decided to dive into the world of mental health. What services are available for what problem, and which tools do I need? It was confusing, to say the least. This confusion led me to investigate, which turned into loads of volunteering, and then a Masters in Science in Applied Psych.
At great cost, I finally found the tools to help myself (fantastic but expensive therapy) with the amazing bonus of now being able to help others. So please benefit from the financial expense of my Masters as I give you practical tools to enhance your mental health.
3 METHODS OF SUPPORT
Three ideas that come to mind to help you support yourself or someone else are:
1 | TRY THE TALK.
Allow the conversation about your personal and others’ mental health to happen; this is now possible with the destigmatization campaigns and concepts about how to communicate non-judgmentally (not an easy feat). Please know that help is available, and people do get better.
2 | SEEK THE ADVICE.
Try different resources. Perhaps start with education on mental health (sometimes called psycho-education), which helps increase your knowledge and tools (CMHA is a good start). Not all services work for everyone, so keep trying. Courses like Mental Health First Aid) can also help, and it is being offered free through Veterans Affairs Canada across the country.
3 | INHALE & EXHALE
Okay, this one may be simple. Just breathe. It is far better than saying “relax” since whoever relaxed after being told to, really? Take a few moments and breathe in for a count of four, out for four. The physiological calming you get immediately is beneficial in a simple way. And if there is a bonus suggestion, be kind to yourself. We are human, and sometimes, how we physically react and behave isn’t always in the best interest of ourselves and those around us. Just try again.
Best Time to Plant a Tree
Trying these tips is important, as well as being mindful that it may be harder for some, especially around holidays, but making the change is important. A mentally healthy person means a more mentally resilient family, community and so on. Be the change.
I like the saying, when is the best time to plant a tree? Answer: 100 years ago.
When is the next best time? Answer: today.