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I’m going to go to a bit of a dark place, and I would invite you to follow me there because it is important.  I have had (and the way bipolar disorder goes so cyclically, likely will have again) suicidal ideation, and I would like to tell you what it is like.  I’ve never told anyone this before, but I would like to tell you this now because of suicide awareness day, which is commemorated each September 10 in honour of all those who have died by suicide and those living with suicide attempts or suicidal ideation and their loved ones. 

Do you feel like you always have to be doing something? Do you find it difficult to let go of your to-do list and just relax? I needed to go through burnout to learn that there are drawbacks to being a ‘high achiever.’ The pursuit of excellence comes at a cost. Relentless busyness is not good for us.

I was driving my car down the street, heading to a movie with a friend, when all of a sudden: WHAM!  A pothole.  My tire was in there before I could react, and I don’t know what it did – bent my alignment or twisted my suspension or something (can you tell I’m no mechanic?) – but the next thing I know, I am stranded by the side of the road and being towed to the shop, facing a very hefty bill and a long process just to make her roadworthy again.  And I missed my movie.

Years ago, my Roman Civilizations professor began the course by having people shout out things from the Romans that we still use today. Students called out things like cement, roads, and the [Julian] calendar. After a while, he told us to think smaller. No matter what we said, it wasn’t small enough. Smaller, smaller, smaller.

July is disability pride month. This means a great deal to me because, for the first time in my life, I am disabled. I developed a debilitating and chronic post-viral condition after contracting COVID-19. My life has changed dramatically and has become, well, unrecognizable to me. I used to hike, walk, and dance. Go out and meet friends. Travel. Now I use a walker. I have a disabled parking sticker. I struggle to do a lot of things that I used to do.

I know firsthand that it can be tough to recognize when you need help. Years ago, when I was going through a major life crisis, it took me too long to ask for help. Later, I could see that I should have reached out to someone sooner. Why is it so hard to ask for help with our mental health? Would it surprise you to know that 60% of people with a mental health problem don’t seek help?

It took me a long time to tell my Catholic parents that I am a lesbian.  I remember coming home from university one Christmas with my heart in my throat.  This was going to be the time.  I wanted to do it over the phone so that I wouldn’t have to see their faces, so that I could hang up and cry into my pillow, but I couldn’t do that to them. 

Be a part of the solution and join our council, The Hallway Group, which advises the MHCC on its work and priorities. You can make a difference in the lives of people living with mental illnesses or mental health issues.

Many face a lack of understanding from family and friends.  “You don’t look sick” is something they are getting used to hearing. Or people tell them, “I feel tired at the end of the day, too.” For Sarah, it’s a lot worse than feeling tired – more like being hit by a freight train - but it’s too exhausting to keep educating people about her condition. It’s disheartening to have to keep fighting to be seen, believed, and understood. Like many others living with chronic illness, Sarah ends up feeling like she has to stay silent to make people feel comfortable.