To be honest: this was my question to myself when contemplating whether to attend a local support group for depression. I did go. It served as my first step in my journey toward crushing stigma!
Here is why (copied from my journal):
Today (June 6, 2015) was my first day attending a support group session with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Petrified might be a better word. Why? Because this was the first time that I spoke openly about my mental illness, especially in a group setting.
In the three-plus years since having been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, I’ve been proactive in learning about this disorder and identifying and adopting perspectives in my life to help manage depressive symptoms. I’ve done a lot of writing and research on this disorder and produced a self-help book on overcoming these symptoms based on my own personal experiences and perspectives.
I went further and set goals toward becoming a life coach and motivational speaker on the topic of depression/mental illness. In fact, I would dream about speaking in front of thousands of people, sharing my perspectives and promoting mental health in the home and in the work place.
I realized that despite my efforts over the past few years, of self-healing, writing and dreaming, the reality was, I never spoke publicly about my illness. Only a handful of people in my life knew. My kids, immediate family, relatives, in-laws, co-workers, none of them knew. I was forced to come to terms with the truth: I was afraid to talk about it, depression. I lacked confidence and this was eating me up inside.
In my book, I talk about my approach to “unweaving” depressive symptoms in daily living. I decided to apply this approach and unweave this emotion of fear I was feeling about my disorder. So a week ago, I picked up the phone and called the local chapter of the CMHA to find out when the next support group was scheduled.
Today was the day! Indeed, I was scared when I walked through the front door of the local CMHA office and especially when I walked into the boardroom to take my seat amongst the group of strangers that surrounded the table. I soon realized that as people started talking and opening up about their own experiences, we were no longer strangers in the context of mental illness. Rather, it felt like we were family, like we understood one another. There was no judgement, only acceptance. And when I finished sharing my story, a tremendous weight was lifted from my shoulders.
I crushed my fear.
I realized a valuable lesson in my experience: today was my first action step toward crushing stigma, my own stigma toward this disorder!
The true gift in attending this particular session was being in the company of the brave women and men who, despite their individual challenges in this disorder, manage to find the strength to give a little of themselves for the greater good, to come together, share, and encourage.
The following is a list of future blog topics I’m going to write about, inspired from our meeting today:
- Double-edged sword of anti-depressant medication
- Lack of understanding in mental illness
- Social stigma