We hit a milestone today. In a year that no one could have predicted (beside perhaps epidemiologists and other infectious diseases experts), we have been forced to live through a collective trauma.
Not in my lifetime, or those of my friends, have we dealt with such despair. We have not personally lived through a war, famine, global pandemic - such as the 1918 flu pandemic, or the like. We only know what it may have been like, through the stories we have been told in history class or accounts from grandparents. We truly can not relate to such distant memories.
Coping with such a fundamental shift in our lives has left some of us numb, hopeful for a new “normal”, tired, scared, or wishing to go back to the old “normal”. What was thought, by some, to be a short disruption to our daily lives, turned out to be a long period of:
The last few months have been the hardest for me. I often feel SAD during this time of year. But for the first time in a long time I felt depression stirring inside. I pushed the feeling down, equating it to nothing more than a few bad days. But days turned into weeks. Sleep was becoming harder and harder to come by. There was no denying it anymore. Although I had been coping rather well (by my standards) through the first 10 months, my mind was now telling my body, something is not right. I wonder if it’s “typical” situational depression or if it’s tied to the pandemic on a deeper level. Do our bodies truly know it has been a year. Are our bodies saying, "no more". No more pretending to be OK, and no more doing things on our own and not asking for help. I hope to explore these questions when I talk with my therapist next week.
After living through this trauma for one year; the one thing I know, is that empathy, patience, and kindness for oneself leads to empathy, patience, and kindness towards others. And we need that more than ever as we head into another year of uncertainty.
P.S. This year showed us that collaboration is possible. The scientific community worked tirelessly to make a vaccine. Canada has now approved four vaccines (in less than I year of the WHO declaring the COVID-19 pandemic). The fastest vaccine ever made previous to this was by a man named Maurice Hilleman. In four years Hilleman developed the mumps vaccine.
"Hilleman cranked out more than 40 other vaccines over the course of his career, including 8 of the 14 routinely given to children. He arguably saved more lives than any other single person." - Radiolab
A reflection as Bell Let’s Talk day approaches
My watch buzzes. It’s 5:00 am. I open my eyes, what time is it? How could it possibly be
morning already? I just fell asleep. I try to recall what kept me up last night. Was it a
weird dream, thoughts of work or coaching track (and field), regret for not cleaning the
condo like I intended over the weekend, napping too long on Sunday, or like most
nights, thoughts of self-doubt?
My body feels heavy, the weight of the day is already upon me. Should I call in sick? My
doctor once gave me a sick note after an appointment. She knew I was in no condition
to go back to work that day. And yet, it still feels like anxiety is not a justifiable reason to
I press snooze (sometimes multiple times) in hopes it will all go away. That’s how I used
to deal with depression. Nothing bad can happen when you’re sleeping. Your problems
may not go away, but you certainly don’t have to deal with them.
My watch buzzes again. It really is time to get up. I roll out of bed, grab my phone that is
charging on my nightstand and head to the bathroom to get ready for the day.
Since I don’t have a TV, my main source for news and entertainment is podcasts. I open
up the podcast app and find The Daily (The New York Times). I wonder what terrible
thing they will report on this morning. An interviewee on a different podcast I listen to,
said something to the effect of, she cannot wait for things to go back to “boring” on
Capitol Hill. I look forward to that day as well. They don’t always talk about what’s
happening in the US. In fact, it was on this very podcast (along with The Current - CBC)
that I learned of a strange new illness in Wuhan, China (A Virus’s Journey Across China
- January 30, 2020).
I often cannot focus, even when doing simple tasks like brushing my teeth. Thoughts
whirl, I try not to pay attention, I hit rewind more times than I can count. This is one
reason I have yet to take on audio books.
As my body slowly begins to wake up, I move to the kitchen to assemble my lunch and
make (stove-top) coffee to take to work. The fog has not lifted from my brain. And
believe it or not, the coffee will not help. It is a ritual that I practice on weekdays. As
much as I love the taste it does nothing for my alertness or energy.
I’m running late. I’ve checked email, Facebook, and Instagram for what, I don’t know.
It’s time to get out the door, but not before I check the condo. Since moving 5 years
ago, I’ve developed this need to ensure the patio door is locked (less so now as snow
covers my balcony) and that the stove is off. I cannot leave the condo if this is not done
(it’s worse if I’m going away on a trip). I don’t have a certain number of times I have to
check, and so I don’t know if I have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder: an often- misunderstood disorder that sometimes accompanies anxiety). Once I feel comfortable that the stove is off and patio door is secure, I can finally leave for work. I listen for any sign of my neighbours. I don’t want them to see or hear me as I leave. You guessed it; I have to check to make sure the door is locked.
By the end of the day, I’m exhausted. I’ve used up all my energy on small talk and
blocking out noise (including my own internal dialogue) all while trying to do my actual
job. Before the pandemic I would rush to the Field House to resume my duties as a
coach. A passion I love, however, it too can be draining.
With track and field put on hold I’m home earlier than I typically would be. I find myself
wanting to sit on the couch and scroll rather than make supper and do other productive
things. My jaw hurts, my shoulders are sore, and my hips are tight. All tell-tale signs I’m
keeping things in and need to release. That release often comes in the form of walks,
jogs, and yoga throughout the week. I also try to eat a balanced diet to help settle my
Once I’ve had supper and cleaned the dishes (or not), I ponder starting something
productive. But first I check email, Facebook, and Instagram. After checking in with my
boyfriend, I decide to read. Its 9:30 pm and my phone buzzes to let me know it’s time to
wind-down. Already?! I just got home from work. Where has the time gone? I’m tired,
but I read a few pages. My eyes become droopy. I put the book down, get out of bed
and check to make sure the door is locked. As I lay down, I hope for a good sleep.
I have come to accept my anxiety. It no longer rules my life, contrary to the above. It
took many years of medication, therapy, and self-compassion to get to this point. Mental
illness is not something one should ever go through alone. Sharing is not only about
bringing awareness, but also about connecting to those around me in a deeper way. I
don’t always have the words to speak. I feel more comfortable writing. I hope in doing
so, you find it within you to share your story too.
It has dawned on me, I don’t think I have ever really told my whole story. I have kept it inside for so long. My memory is fading. My heart has healed.
I think I was likely depressed in elementary school (the later years). I have not processed this and it would take therapy to really dig into it. For now this is what I am able to share.
My story begins 10 years ago. I went into a downward spiral after a breakup. At 29 I thought my life was over. I had very little experience with relationships and I thought this was the person God had brought into my life. I laid awake for months on end going over all the things I could have done better, crying myself to sleep. Negative self talk was on repeat in my head. I could not get away from my thoughts: you’re ugly, you’re not good enough, what were you thinking, you’ll never find someone to love you. I was able to work, but it was definitely getting in the way of my productivity. On the weekends I slept all day, ate pretty much nothing, and was lucky if I could muster enough energy to shower. I lost a lot of weight and people noticed. When people would comment on how I looked, I would brush it aside and change the subject to something else.
It took many months for me to seek help. I had been through this once before about two years earlier (although not as severe). At that time my doctor asked if I wanted to go on medication. I said no.
In August (of 2009) I started counselling. It was about that time I also started on medication. This time around I knew I could not do this alone. Talking to someone gave me a different perspective and allowed space for me to cry or stay silent if that was what I needed. The timeframe is a little blurry, but at some point I decided to start sharing my story. I created a blog and would share things I would never tell anyone in person. Somehow writing gave me the freedom I always needed. I was (and still am) very insecure, but having this outlet seemed to help. A couple of years after I started writing, I lost all of my blogs due to not saving them properly. I was devastated at first, but hoped this would help propel me to write from a different (hopefully happy) place. I was starting to feel better, I had stopped seeing my counsellor and I was off (or weaning off my medication).
I’m not exactly sure when the negative thoughts started to creep back in. I told myself I would not get hurt again and so I closed myself off. Attending bridal showers and baby showers was hard (if I could, I made excuses not to go). I isolated myself - only going to work and coaching track. I had no social life. The more I stayed in the easier it was, and the more worthless I felt. When I did reach out to people and they couldn’t hangout or cancelled plans, I told myself more lies: they don’t like me, I’m not their friend, I’m such a loser.
I could not take it anymore and I made my way back to my doctor (2016).
This time we tried a different medication as I had terrible withdrawal symptoms from the medication I had taken previously. She also recommended a psychologist (who thankfully I connected with). I had a not so great experience with another therapist a few months prior and didn’t want to go through that again.
Now in my mid 30s I was coming to grips with the fact that I was going to be single forever. It hurt, my heart hurt, but I just didn’t see any other future for myself. I was still isolating quite a bit and my therapist challenged me on that. She gave me little things to do (as homework) to help me out of my shell. Little by little I was returning to (or more accurately moving towards) the person I am today. I was so tired of being stuck, so tired of the tears, and guilt and shame that comes along with depression.
I surprised myself sometimes through this journey. I was starting to laugh more, and socialize, and not take things personally when someone had to cancel plans. The wall I had build up was beginning to crumble. So much so that I allowed myself to be open to the possibility of letting someone into my heart. It was a sudden change for me. One that ten years ago wasn’t even fathomable.
Today (at the age of 39) I am in a great place. I am dating someone who I didn’t have to fear telling my story to as he saw it first hand - or at least the parts I was willing to share (we have been friends for just over 20 years).
In September 2018 my therapist told me she thought I was doing well enough to stop seeing her (I agreed) and October 25, 2018 was my first day medication free.
Through this journey I have learned: I am not alone, I am worthy, and sharing my story can give others hope.
Today: Like most, I'm trying to figure things out. Sometimes that's day by day, moment by moment, and even breath by breath.