Your Mental Health Matters ~ A Personal Story
Did you know that it’s It’s Mental Health Awareness Week?!
Mental Health Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness.
One of MIAW’s major initiatives is the Faces of Mental Illness campaign, a national outreach campaign featuring the stories of Canadians living in recovery from mental illness. Source: http://www.camimh.ca/mental-illness-awareness-week/about-miaw/
In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of my story and journey with mental health.
Hi, my name is Sarah Kathleen, Yoga & Marketing Manager and Emotional Health Practitioner here at Clarington’s Wellness Path. As a certified Yoga Teacher, Master Healer, Intuitive Energy Worker and Lifestyle Wellness Coach I have been serving my clients and their customers in mind-body-soul exploration, healing and evolution for almost a decade. My story of mental health is long standing.
I hadn’t been an overly happy child. Misunderstood by many, I was bullied daily from Grade 3 to Grade 8 which included physical violence, constant threats and finding myself being chased home by a mob of kids only to make it home to collapse in the landing sobbing and declaring to the universe that “I don’t need any friends!” I had a challenging go of things to say the least. It was often days full of anxiety and gloom for me and the mounting sadness and loneliness only brought on darker and darker days.
As high school came and went I found myself manifesting an auto-immune dis-ease, struggling with weight, suffering from depression and feeling embarrassed and ashamed for not being able to “keep it together”. I didn’t seek help. Instead, I internalized everything, struggled to put on a happy face and by the end of high school I had a bout of Epstein Barr that would have me deciding to drop out of university, return home – go to college and work three jobs to “make it happen”. I did my best to take care of myself with all the self-help knowledge and complimentary therapies I could get my hands on and teach myself. I focused on nutrition, yoga, meditation, journalling, vitamins, herbs and supplements and for a time it all worked and life was good. I felt the mental fog lift and the veil of sadness evaporate. I found the Louise Hay book, YOU CAN HEAL YOU LIFE and began to understand that my thoughts and how I handled stressed were having a direct impact on my physical reality.
Here is a sample of the manifestation of dis-ease in the body I was seeing in my life and her underlying reasoning behind the dis-chord in the body:
- Thyroid Gland: Humiliation. I never get to do what I want to do. When is it going to be my turn.
- Fat or Weight issues: Oversensitivity. Often represents fear and shows a need for protection. Fear may be a cover for hidden anger and a resistance to forgive. Running away from feelings. Insecurity, self-rejection and seeking fulfillment.
- Epstein-Barr Virus: Pushing beyond one’s limits. Fear of not being good enough. Draining all inner support. Stress.
- Depression: Anger you feel you do not have a right to have. Hopelessness.
As I collected information for this piece I would find the following that resonates with me as well. Another insightful gift from our dearly departed, Louise Hay….
“If you struggle to communicate–whether the difficulty is not listening to others or not expressing yourself effectively–you likely have health issues in the areas of the mouth, neck and thyroid…people with thyroid problems are frequently very intuitive but are unable to voice what they see because they too often struggle to keep the peace or win people’s approval.” ALL IS WELL ~ Louise L. Hay and Mona Lisa Schulz M.D. Ph.D.
In the past, expressing myself and being heard by others was a challenge especially if the notion of confrontation was in the mix, which it often felt that is was or could be. Even though I have struggled, in the past, with speaking up and speaking out, I continue to work on my throat chakra and healing and I know and trust that everything in my body, heart and mind as with everything in my life is always getting better and better every day, in every way.
…but I digress…
During the college years I would encounter what sadly would become my first abusive relationship. The instability and crazy making of that relationship had me doubting myself on all fronts and struggling to understand what it was that I was doing that was “wrong” – “what was wrong with me?” I would later, much later come to know that I was loving those who felt unworthy….perhaps I was even trying to love myself through others.
I finished college and that relationship which ended in a call to 911 and took myself to university. And when I was finished I found myself experiencing a deep loss that I was unprepared to manage. I was devastated I was “done learning, done exploring and sharing ideas with professors” and as strange and odd as that sounds it really did take some time for me to recover emotionally and mentally from that perceived loss. I had felt at home engaging with professors and for a time I felt lost.
It wasn’t long after I graduated university that I moved away for a job opportunity with a high-tech company. This I had told myself was my time to shine! I had promised myself I would never again find myself in an abusive relationship, I practiced self-care in a big way and was feeling great! What I hadn’t planned for was to encounter someone I would later be told by authorities and community service providers was a “professional con-artist and abuser who had honed his skills.” When I finally found the courage to leave that action almost cost me my life. What had been an abusive relationship on all fronts but physical turned violent in a flash and so began several years of police dealings and court proceedings. The story of “Why I Stayed So Long,” I may share with you another day.
To add the stress level, during that time my best friend and first love died suddenly of a massive heart attack – he passed in his sleep.
The strain and stress of dealing with these life experiences were just too much for me to manage and yet I still found it difficult to seek help. How do you do that? How do you tell someone that you feel like you are loosing it, like life just doesn’t feel worth living? I knew I needed to get help but I just didn’t know how to ask for it. Luckily, I found myself at the doctor’s office for a regular check up. There was a poster on the wall that said do you feel like…..and it ran down a list of depressive symptoms. As my doctor walked into the room and asked how I was I pointed at the poster and burst into tears.
For a period of time I took medication that helped me manage the depressive symptoms and anxiety that had become a daily part of my life and as the crying stopped, I began to feel better. And as the court proceedings which dragged on for a couple of years finally came to an end I managed to wean myself off the medication. The year that followed, I found myself struggling with limited use of my limbs, struggling with my mobility, mental faculty, numbness, joint pain and challenges with my diet among a host of other symptoms. It would seem that the prolonged stress and anxiety of the assault, court proceedings and the affect it had on all areas of my life which included me working religiously to build a new high-tech consulting business with my business partner, a business that we are had started shortly before the assault happened, had my nervous system and immune system so taxed, that I was eventually diagnosed with another auto-immune dis-ease. This time it would be Lupus. I returned to the teaching’s of Louise Hay to read this, “A giving up. Better to die than stand up for one’s self. Anger and punishment.”
Those past years had been my darkest. Thankfully that day in the Doctor’s office I’d grabbed a life line. And while it was a struggle and challenge physically, mentally and emotionally waiting to see specialists and to start treatment – thankfully medication was able to bring an end to the symptoms and I was eventually even able to stop the mediation all together.
Fast forward almost 7 years and motherhood would knock the wind out of me. I suffered from un-diagnosed postpartum which brought depression and anxiety to the surface and after almost two years I finally sought help. Again, a short course of medication to get through the darkest days and some major life decisions and changes to set my heart right – I would decide that after almost 10 years of marriage I could stay or I could grow. I decided to grow.
I am almost four years into working to settle our new arrangement and as much as that causes me an incredible amount of stress and turmoil – I am managing to thrive emotionally. There are down days, there is no doubt about that but I’ve made depression a distant friend and I remain focused on my self-care. I have continued to invest in growing and learning and over the past year have come to understand myself more and more thanks to the Highly-Sensitive Personality workshop I attended at the Wellness Path at the beginning of the year. What I have come to know is that I am different – that my feeling different throughout my childhood was most likely because I am one of 20% of the population that is highly sensitive and that, that is part of my gift that I am here to offer to you. I look forward to offering you highly sensitive personality workshops in the near future.
I continue to focus on my health and well-being whenever I can and I am so grateful to have the Wellness Path, Durham’s largest Wellness Centre, to go to for a host of natural options for health and happiness. Part of my on-going healing, recovery and management includes:
- Acupuncture with Catheryne Dahlke, RAc, RTCMP
Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner for stress relief and to address muscular tension in my body, digestive discord and more,
- Food sensitivity testing with Nancy Metcalf, B.Sc., RHN
Clinic Director, Holistic Nutritionist & Allergist and Live Blood Cell Analysis with Pavlina Cavojska, RHN Holistic Nutritionist, Live Blood Cell Analyst and Weight Loss Specialist as I dig deeper into my digestive and nutritional challenges,
- BEAM sessions with Rev. Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown
BEAM, Clairvoyant and Master Healer for past and current emotional release and release of trauma. And, I am looking forward to becoming a certified BEAM practitioner in the new year as well.
- Spa sessions with Chand Khan
Spa Esthetician / Therapist for aroma massage, reflexology and Indian head massage and I’ll even squeeze in a brow & lash tint and pedi-polish when I feel I need a little extra outside boost to my energy 🙂
Know that all of our Spa Therapists are ready to offer you a wonderful selection of self-care options. We also have an Osteopath, an Active Aging Specialist and almost a dozen Registered Massage Therapists at your service.
I know that my story may pale in comparison to the challenges others face with mental health daily. What I do know is that self-care matters. That help is ready and waiting for the asking. That having a plan when doing anything in life is always better than not having a plan at all. That structure is always best when working to develop new habits and ideals and that having access to a support network be that a life coach, therapist, trusted doctor, dear friend that you can access regularly to begin with and than as needed to maintain and continue moving forward in your life is invaluable and priceless.
I have also learned that doing the work to love yourself above all others allows you to love others more fully and in ways that allow you to set clear boundaries so that you can remain an individual as you come together for interrelated purposes. Whether it be in relationship with your child, your partner – personal or business or your friends, relatives or boss – you can come together for a greater purpose and still have plenty of room to be you. If that is not your reality, then perhaps it is time for a shift. Perhaps it is time to speak with someone who can help you wade through your thoughts, feelings and emotions so that you can design a life you love to live.
Whether you book an appointment with our Psychotherapist, Amanda Cappon; with myself for lifestyle wellness coaching, intuitive energy session, Reiki, or iEnergy Life Session (a combination session of intuitive energy work and lifestyle coaching); with Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown for BEAM, Reiki, Reading or Reiki and Reading or want to explore your wellness path with one of our other qualified practitioners or by joining one of our yoga and meditation sessions, events or workshops – we are here to meet you right where you are at.
You are always welcome to speak with myself or our Clinic Director, Nancy Metcalf if you are not sure of where to start.
I hope that the story of my journey with mental health has given you hope. I am grateful to have had the courage to share with you in this manner and I thank you for taking the time to read one part of “my story”. I trust that together we can recover, overcome and thrive – for it is our divine right to, SHINE. And together, we will shine brighter and be more radiant than any single star in the sky. It is your turn to SHINE.
Here’s to living in greater health and happiness!