The phrase is old, so forgive me, please, for reaching back in my handy dandy saying suitcase. But it’s specifically profound when, hopefully, thousands of people will greet Thursday morning saying those familiar words.
“Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”
Wednesday was Bell Let’s Talk day, the annual 24 hours set aside when Bell makes a significant community contribution to raising funds – but more importantly – awareness for those two words which are becoming invading into our lives at an alarming rate.
And so, we emailed, texted, tweeted, did the Facebook fodder to generate as much money as we could Wednesday. Bell – and God bless them for doing so – invested five cents for each type of communication towards fighting this illness, an illness loaded with the social stigma ever so gently whispering, “We really can’t talk about this stuff. C’mon. Snap out of it.”
Funds raised will certainly go to programs and services to help people who live with mental health.
But, for me, the one thing that made Wednesday wonderful was the opportunity Canadians had to speak, text, email or tweet that they, in fact, live with mental illness. They could do so in an ultra-safe environment where people were encouraging them and cheering them on to share their secret. We did that collectively, of course, so they can access the help they need.
And, push the play button on their life.
I speak from personal experience. Coming up to almost 16 years ago, I admitted I was depressed. I had no joy, no get-up-and-go, no purpose and an empty appetite.
I didn’t want to come clean with my feelings. I live with a disability, cerebral palsy, and felt enough resources were being utilized to meet my physical needs. It wouldn’t be fair, I constantly and silently told myself, if I told everyone I had another … need.
How could I burden my family with that? Would my friends think twice about picking me up, throwing my wheelchair in the back of their vehicle to take me to a hockey game, knowing my mood was sombre and down? How could I keep my job? What would my boss think?
Funny how things play out: it was my boss, Barb Wilkinson, that summer morning, who stopped me after a staff meeting and asked me one of the questions I’ve ever answered.
“Are you depressed, Cam?” she asked.
I felt my bottom lip quiver. I bit it hard, and even swallowed harder.
“Yes,” I said.
Within hours, I was in my doctor’s office, tears of shame in my eyes, when I mumbled those words out loud: “I’m very depressed.”
But, then something magical happened – this unbearable weight I felt on my shoulders collapsed to the floor. I felt, for the first time, I could lift my head up. And somehow carry on.
I remember waking up the next morning feeling that it was OK to be depressed. I was on medication. Since then, thanks to my wife, son, grandsons, friends and my faith as a Christian, together we pressed the play button on my life.
I still struggle periodically. But I’m doing much better.
I often think where I would be today if I hadn’t admitted to what I thought was my biggest weakness. Frankly, the answer scares me.
Every day is an exciting day – especially when it’s a new, fresh chapter in your life.