Ignore mental health and develop mental illness

It’s pretty simple yet we treat mental illness differently? Thankfully, I meet people in our communities that know of its importance from lived experience and work so hard to make a change. It’s a tough battle with the challenge of fighting a society full of old beliefs, stigma and misinformation. But we three women at My Free Hamilton are committed long-term to model that we don’t need to settle where we are.

I actively ignored my mental health for over 20 years after an adverse childhood experience, it was easier that way. Here’s a snapshot of how I survived the emotional aftermath in my teens: I bullied, judged others, pushed people away, lied, manipulated, cheated, self-criticized, self-harmed, was promiscuous, drank, did drugs and did more drugs. Was it really easier that way? No. But it was what I had in my toolbox at the time. And so lives the paraphrased quote by Maya Angelou forever tattooed on my arm; “Do the best you can until you know better, then do better”.
I became healthier and matured through my self-help endeavours. I managed to graduate high school and college, climb the career ladder, and I met my awesome husband. As I moved through this life I adopted new activities that weren’t so extreme; I became busy, started eating my emotions away, cleaned my messy house constantly and became a workaholic. It wasn’t until our first daughter arrived that I would take busyness to a whole new level, eventually having a breakdown complete with anxiety attacks and a mask that just couldn’t stay on at work. In 2014 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depression. I felt like a failure of a person, a wife, a mother and an employee. I later learned that ‘busyness’ is a common coping technique that can become very unhealthy. Oh. There’s an explanation for that?

Today, I am so much healthier. I’m not perfect but I’m not aiming for perfection anymore. I have so many tools in my wellness toolbox. I’m currently working on physical and intellectual wellness for my personal balance. This is a lifelong journey; trauma happened and isn’t erased but I CAN work toward reclaiming my life. I can show my girls it’s possible.

Julie & Jen, my partners at My Free Hamilton are on their own lifelong journey. We’ve gained so many tools in the last 3 years that help us overcome the tough emotions that still pop up. We have each other, the other peers we’ve connected with and a huge support network of FREE resources that we have access to in our city.

Right outside your doors are beautifully flawed people that try in whatever way they can to make our communities better and healthier, while navigating a chaotic world. It’s scary out there, we know, and that is why we created My Free Hamilton: to facilitate local access to these resources.
We are not experts; we just know where we were, where we are now and how we got here. Allow us to share that with you so you can find a path to your personal balance. Learn more by visiting myfreehamilton.ca.