Did you know October 1st, 2017 to October 7th is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW)?
MIAW is an annual national public education campaign coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health!
This year’s MIAW encourages Canadians to join the conversation about mental illness online using the hashtag #miaw17. As mental illness affects more than six million people across the country, the campaign encourages Canadians to share personal stories and engage in a discussion regarding the need for increased access to mental health services for all Canadians.
As part of MIAW, Little Voice’s author wanted to share her story with anxiety.
Ever since I was a little girl, anxiety has played a role in my life. There were days I was overwhelmed with emotion, days where I was drowning in thoughts, and even days where I simply couldn’t understand my own actions. As a child, I remember hyperventilating in bed before the first day of school, terrified about the unknown year ahead. As I got older, I remember cancelling plans because I simply didn’t have the emotional or physical energy to be in a social setting. There were so many signs that I was struggling with anxiety, from panic attacks to sleepless nights, but even still I never really identified my actions to anxiety. To be honest, a part of me never wanted to self-identify as someone with anxiety because I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want people to think less of me, to think I was less capable, or to treat me differently. When we talk about ending the stigma, this is what we refer to, people being afraid to identify or share their stories. I was definitely one of those people.
For many years I had tried to raise awareness for mental illness, but I never opened up about my own struggle. It was silly that here I was telling people to break the stigma when the same stigma was holding me hostage from sharing my own story with others – a story that had the power of letting others realize that they were not alone. That’s when it clicked. We are all working towards being mentally and physically healthy and yet, we share our physical struggles and triumphs but still struggle to talk about our mental health.
But society is changing. We see it all around us with movements like MIAW and Bell Let’s Talk. More and more people are opening up and sharing their story and, as a result, others are doing the same. It may have taken me a few years to feel comfortable in sharing my story, but I’m glad I did and I hope it will inspire you to share yours or to listen to those who are willing to share theirs.
Your story has more power than you can ever imagine. Do not neglect that power.
As part of MIAW, we encourage you to share your story using the #miaw2017 hashtag. We also encourage you to preorder your copy of our newest book The Lighthouse, which will donate a portion of every book sale in support of the National Canadian Mental Health Association and which will support the conversation around mental illness in communities across Canada.