The Untold Story

There’s a part of me that not very many people know; it’s not something I ever share. Partly because I think it may change other’s perception of me. Maybe a little because I don’t want to admit the reality of it all to myself. Mostly it is because mental health issues are not something we talk about, even amongst friends.

The truth is, I have been a victim (is that even the right word?) of mental health challenges for more than half of my life. I have been so lost and felt so forgotten about that I have wondered if anyone would actually miss me if I were not part of this world anymore. I have hated my self to such extremes that I have debated doing harm to my own body. I have sunk down into such deep and dark places that I could not see the light and never wanted to come out again. The worst part is, that despite talking to my closest friends and family about these issues, talking to counsellors, and trying to read things that I’ve thought would help have not. I still suffer from these challenges quite often.

The problem is, a lot of people don’t believe me. To the rest of the world I seem to come across as this bright, happy, positive person, always there to help others, share ideas, and spread joy. So, I can certainly see why some might think that a person who is seemingly happy, and “has it all together” can’t possibly suffer from mental health challenges. The truth is, I’m a good actor. I know how to play the part of a happy person. I know how to hide my anxieties to others and not let anyone see the stress I’m going through on the inside. I can make it appear like I’ve got it all figured out, yet be in total panic inside, screaming for help. A scream that no one hears because I choose not to let the sound escape.

I live in a world of silence, afraid and scared to talk about how I really feel.

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The reason why it has never helped to talk to anyone before is because I’m afraid to tell all of my deepest fears. I think I’m even afraid to tell myself. I’m afraid of what might happen if I find out the cause of all of my struggles. What is it that really makes me so sad or angry or lost or scared? What is on the other side of the problem? Can anyone even help me figure it out?

I do not profess to know all there is about mental health challenges, but I do know a lot about what it’s like to suffer from something that you can’t explain. There are times when I feel sad and have no idea why. There have been times when my entire body would hurt for days, even weeks on end, and no matter what tests have been performed on me, there wouldn’t seem to be anything wrong, so I would continue to lay in agony, mad at the world for not being able to fix me, all the while never realizing it was probably a mental challenge I was facing.

That’s what my life was like growing up as a teenager. I was always “sick”, but no one could ever figure out why. At one point I remember someone mentioning SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is often caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter months. So my mom got me a “sun lamp” to put beside my bed. She’d turn it on in the mornings, and I’d read by it at night. Sometimes I thought it helped, but overall, not much changed. As a result of being “sick” so often, I never really made any good friends in high school. I was a loner, an outcast. I tried hard to fit in with other groups of kids, but always felt on the outside. I was never invited to a friend’s house to hang out. I never went to any birthday parties. I barely even was invited to have lunch with someone. This only made things harder for me to accept the person I was.

I have never been officially diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but I have not doubt in my mind that I should have been long ago as a teenager. As I grew up things definitely have improved, but I still have days where depression overwhelms me. There are days where I feel so much physical pain that I cannot move, and feel like I have the flu. When I was working full time, it took all that I had just to go to work so that I could earn a paycheque. I lost jobs because there were some days that I just couldn’t do it, and felt so awful, yet worked for people who did not understand the challenges I was facing. There are still days where I find myself just wanting to cry and curl up in a ball and I have no idea why. I still get overwhelmed by my emotions, but have learned to internalize so much of what is going on inside my head. I’ve learned not to get too close to people for fear of what they might find out.

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It is because of this fear that I spend much of my time, especially in the winter, alone. I fear going out and socializing with other people and find reasons to cancel or not be available to do things with friends. It’s not because I don’t like my friends, it’s just because I know that I won’t have a good time, and can’t even think of having a good time. I often thought that I was alone in struggles like this, but I’ve been slowly finding out that there’s others in the world also facing the same struggles as me.

There is more talk starting to happen. Things are starting to shift. It’s easier to find people posting about mental health, like this guy Steven, who made a great post about how to help someone with depression (Thanks for sharing it, Katia!) But it’s time for more change. Time for me to change, and time for our society to change. It’s time for more people who suffer from mental health challenges, like me, to speak out. We need to know that we are not alone in our struggle. It’s ok to talk about our mental health, and we all need to do it more.

On #bellletstalk day a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to join in on #STARSRegina’s chat about mental health. I wasn’t even sure what I was getting myself into that night, but it was a game changer. I felt ok to share what I was going through, and was surprised that I was not alone. In the fall a fellow Education student, Meagan, shared her story, and it was very inspiring. Since then we’ve been able to connect on many new levels, and I’ve been so grateful for it. Through the chat though, and the stories that followed, I was able to see just how many others face mental health challenges in their lives. Tears streamed down my face that night. Partly because of the shame I felt for not having shared my story before, and also for the courage everyone was showing that night in sharing together. Another friend, Raquel, wrote a great piece about how much we can learn from the experiences of others. Reading this, and all the Tweets that night made me realize just how far I’ve come, and that I really did need to share my untold story.

I thought that there would be more tears running down my cheeks as I wrote this post, but there hasn’t (ok, there was once or twice for a second or two). While this is slightly surprising, I think it is because I have realized over the last few weeks that it’s ok to say that I have depression. It’s ok to share that with others and tell them how I really feel instead of just brushing it off and thinking they won’t understand.

I am stronger than I think I am. The funny thing is, I think that others around me know this better than I am willing to tell myself. Battling depression does not make me any less of an amazing person. My battles only build me up and teach me lessons of how to persevere. Talking about it with others will help me in my battles, and will hopefully help others in their battles too. There is power in numbers, strength in others, and so much love in the support in the comfort of friends. We all need to speak out, pop the stigma of mental health, and share our voices together.

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6 thoughts on “The Untold Story

  1. raquelbellefleur says:

    Kendra,

    I cannot thank you enough for writing and sharing this post. I can only imagine how difficult and scary it must have been to write these words down. Your account is so beautiful and honest, and parts of it are also haunting.

    “I can make it appear like I’ve got it all figured out, yet be in total panic inside, screaming for help. A scream that no one hears because I choose not to let the sound escape.” This part gave me shivers. It rings so true for me with my experience. I found it much easier to wear the mask of happiness than to have to open up to people about what I was really going through.

    I really appreciate the hopeful messages you ended with: “Battling depression does not make me any less of an amazing person…There is power in numbers, strength in others, and so much love in the support in the comfort of friends.” This could not be truer. I hope you can surround yourself with people who love and support you and who always remind you what an amazing person you are… because you are!! Amazing and brave and strong. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. April Hoffman says:

    Kendra,

    I truly appreciate you being able to open up about the challenges you face each and everyday. This post that you have created proves that depression can truly affect anyone, no matter how big of a wall they have built up to try and keep it all inside.

    Only someone who has had it knows how paralyzing depression can be. No one is immune. It can be so difficult to open up and be honest about how you are really feeling; especially when people perceive you a certain way. It can be scary to let your guard down and let others know that you are not always as strong as you might come off to be. It is extraordinary that thousands of us will suffer from depression and yet so many people will feel the need to hide it. Why? Because of the stigma. People with depression are judged to be weak. Some people even go so far as they think it does not exist. If only we understood that people who suffer from depression are actually the most courageous, brave, and inspiring of us all.

    I hope you know that you have people who are here for you through the challenges that you face — Not to try and fix them, but to provide you with the love and support to push through them. I truly appreciate that you are beginning to open up about your battles, to develop the support systems that you truly deserve — to know that you are not the only one out there.

    You are one of the most genuine, inspiring, innovative and caring individuals I have ever met. What makes you even stronger is that you are able to open up about the challenges that you face. We don’t realize how many people actually face depression and anxiety on a daily basis. I think this is something that we can take into our roles as educators. No matter how big of a smile a student might have on their face, does not mean that they are not crying for help.

    I completely agree that “It’s ok to share that with others and tell them how [you] really feel instead of just brushing it off and thinking they won’t understand.” Not everyone will always understand, but being open and honest may help them to. You are stronger than you think you are — tell yourself that everyday.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I look forward to continuing this journey with you so that you and I can grow stronger together <3

  3. amiereid says:

    Thank you, my friend! It is an honour and a privilege to know you – especially the parts that you have shared here. After reading this, I feel like I just met “the whole Kendra” – a bit simplified, I know, but this is an important part of what makes you special to so many people. Thank you for helping to pop the stigma of #mentalhealth. I hope that others will feel free to share their authentic, whole selves, as well. xoxo

  4. mgchamberlain13 says:

    First off you are brave to write this. Its a tough thing to open up, yet alone about a topic as serious as this one. It really makes me aspire to try and be more open as a person myself. My trials and tribulations may not be near as hard as yours, but yet I still find it hard to open up about who I am or the slight problems that I have in my life. Seeing you going through this and just opening up now is amazing. Not only because you finally showed your other side, but also because of the amazing person you are and were. This not only helps people lean towards changing their look on the mental stigma, but also it is a strong example in showing that you can be open to others by example. I myself can only hope to follow and Thankyou for the great words.

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