I’m an American. Therefore I don’t know much about “Bell” other than they’re a Canadian company. A few years ago I noticed the #BellLetsTalk hashtag and that it was an initiative by this company to de-stigmatize talking about mental illness. Now normally I think Hashtag activism is malarkey and doesn’t accomplish anything but virtue signaling and people arguing with one another. But this hashtag was raising money and also was bringing attention to something i’m rather passionate about because it’s something I deal with.
I have severe anxiety disorder with panic attacks and depression. I had my first panic attack at age 21 and they’ve been a part of my life for 15 years now. In many ways my anxiety has become my life. It controls everything and I give into much more than I beat it back. I’ve allowed my anxiety to cost me relationships, opportunities, career advancement, and any real meaningful happiness. I say “I’ve allowed” because of pride and the fact that I probably want to feel as though I do have some control over the anxiety, which I do. But let me emphasize the word “some” there. There are days where no matter what I do to care and cope, the anxiety makes functioning pretty impossible. Some family members and friends will say “relax” or “stop worrying” not knowing that inside it feels like i’m gonna pass out, or fall over, or drop dead right there. If it was as simple as ‘just relax” i’d fucking relax. It’s not that simple. And when you tell someone with anxiety or depression to “relax” or “cheer up”, you’re clueless. If only it was that simple.
Back to the hashtag and why I think it’s important. Even if they didn’t raise any money (which they most certainly do). Asking for help or support is extremely tough. That phone weighs about 2000 pounds when you lift it to try and call or text someone to tell them you’re hurting and you need help or just need a friend. My anxiety and depression goes in ups and downs. I tend to go stretches where I’m doing well and stretches when I’m not. I’m currently not. I spend my days in “safe” places like my car or my room. I get food in drive thrus or delivered so I don’t have to go into crowded places. Or I go to the grocery store at 5am before anyone else. I had a panic episode on my morning walk in the mall a week or so ago and basically got to my car with no breathe left and my legs feeling like they were going out from underneath me the entire time. I got to my car. My safe place. And I did all my breathing techniques and soothing techniques and everything I could think of to calm down. Later that night I was still anxious. I sat in my car in an empty parking lot sobbing and whaling and screaming. I feel so lonely sometimes because I’ve basically withdrawn myself because of the anxiety.
I picked up my phone and scanned thru my phone and desperately wanted to call someone. I have 163 contacts in my phone and after scanning through all of them I found three people I thought I might be comfortable calling. I didn’t even want to talk. I just wanted and needed someone I knew cared about me to be with me for a few minutes, even if it’s just over the phone. But I couldn’t hit the call button. The embarrassment was too much. I have so much shame about my mental illness and I let it define me. I also probably subscribe too much to the theory that it’s me being weak. Plus I feel like I’d just be bothering them. But in those times of pain, many bad thoughts go through my head. And it’s those times when I really do think that I need to hit that “call” button to those friends.
That’s why I like the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. Because maybe someone who is struggling will see a friend who posts that and realizes that they do have people they can turn to in times of struggle. Maybe they’ll see that many others are dealing with the same things they are. Finding community and support is so important for all of us. I need to start finding mine again. What’s funny about thinking there was only 3 people I could call is that I bet almost all of those 163 people would take my call. And I’ll bet many more people I know would take that call. Just gotta realize it’s ok to make that call and talk.