An excerpt from my blog, www.elephantshoe.co
I’m not good at this. I mean, I’m not good at expressing myself and certainly not in such a public way. But, it’s time for change. This year, 2015, is a big one for me. I’m embarking on my 30th birthday and have recently begun a new job in a somewhat new city, Toronto, Canada. I don’t handle change well and have found these last 15 months or so to be particularly challenging. More of a challenge than the normal day-to-day struggles I face.

You see, I live with mental illness. Since high school I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. The signs came early, and I have been an emotional/anxious being since birth. I was never the one to warm easily to new people, activities or surroundings without lots of encouragement from a trusted person, and this has not really changed as I’ve matured. The anxiety I feel every day is a true struggle. I get so caught-up in my own thoughts that just thinking about being out in the world at times can provoke such a strong visceral response that I feel as though I could throw up. These are the dark days. On these days I shut-down and shut-in. Holding conversations with even my long-term boyfriend (whom I’ve lived with for five years) becomes impossible. In these moments, I cannot turn off the thoughts in my head and escape the weighted burden of anxiety that appears out of nowhere.

For me, my anxiety is a large, heavy elephant. She grabs me as I grasp for breath. She loves to hold me down and hold be back from the world. Some days her weight is so powerful I can hardly move from her sheer size, but thankfully, on many days, I only feel her faint touch. Just her trunk to let me know she’s always with me. Living with my elephant is a consistent battle, but one I am ready to face.

So, as I inch toward my thirties, I’ve made a plan. I’ve decided to take control of my life and my illness. My thirties will be about sharing my struggles and triumphs as a young woman living with mental illness. I will be holding myself accountable as I document certain positive lifestyle steps to make changes in my life, and I hope to improve my mental state and overall health along the way.

For too many years I’ve made excuses, and used my anxiety/depression as a crutch. Medication alone is not enough for me, and never has been. As of this moment I am not stopping my medication, but rather turning to exercise, food and my art as additional therapies. And – the big one! – starting to write!

I don’t think my story is so remarkable that it deserves any special attention. But I do know that so many of us live with mental illness and feel too ashamed to talk about it. I want to stand up to the stigma around mental illness, and I’ve decided to start by telling my own story. Never be ashamed of the battles you overcome and the battles you face.That’s the challenge I’ve decided to face by sharing my journey here.

Jenny (Toronto)