When I was younger, I didn’t know how to express myself adequately. I was dating at the time and to try and get my point across on specific issues I would write out how I wanted to say it. I still can recall the shame that I would feel, fumbling over myself as I would grab the crumpled letters from my purse. My boyfriend at the time couldn’t understand why I couldn’t articulate face-to-face, and I wish that I could have told him everything, but I was embarrassed.

I was embarrassed because that’s how I was taught to feel. At this point in my life, I was still living with my Adoptive Father and Stepmother who didn’t know how to handle me. Relentlessly I was told that everything was in my mind, it’s my fault for feeling this way, and I needed to snap out of it. There were others things mentioned, too, but I won’t go into that now.

The guilt that I was feeling became more palpable as the years went on and my condition worsened. I realized that I was blaming myself every day for my anxiety and my atmosphere was not helping in any way. It wasn’t until I was living in another province that I started to heal as a person and grow.

Feeling invalid for all of those years through different people took a toll on me, so here’s a list of what not to say to a friend/family member who is experiencing depression or anxiety:

  • It’s all in your mind
  • But you have nothing even to worry about
  • Stop complaining all the time
  • I always knew you had a problem
  • There is nothing even wrong with you
  • Stop looking for attention
  • You don’t look anxious or depressed
  • You aren’t pushing yourself enough
  • It sounds like you are going crazy
  • You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself
  • No one ever said life was fair
  • You are always no negative
  • It’s your fault
  • Things aren’t that bad
  • Things could be so much worse
  • Just snap over it. Get over yourself
  • You need to get out more

Not too long ago my husband and I were living in the city – as an anxious person, this always caused more stress than needed. Driving was the worst part for me, so much congestion and no one following the fundamental laws made my heart palpitate. I would find myself cringing at the fact of needing to drive. At a certain point, I decided to sell my car and rely solely on transportation.  When I mentioned this to a friend one day all she could say was “Oh, that’s bad.”

In the end, city living wasn’t for us, and we decided to move out to the suburbs. I took what she said to heart and needed to get over my anxiety of driving. Driving in the suburbs was a little easier, but a lot of people still don’t follow the laws. The most significant issues that we have are slow drivers (I’m talking 5km/h) and drivers who do not use their signals to switch lanes. I usually find myself doing the majority of my breathing exercises in my car. They help, sometimes.

On June 12th, two minutes away from my house I encountered a driver that made me incredibly anxious. He was two clicks ahead of me and was going so incredibly slow that I had to slam on my breaks at 20km/h. I had a quick decision to make, cause significant damage to the front end of my car or cause minimal damage by shifting my car into the left-hand lane.  I chose the latter, and all parties pulled off to the side to put their four ways on. I immediately jumped out of my car to give this person a piece of my mind (Thanks, Adrenaline!) but as soon as he saw me walking over to his car, he pulled his window back up and just took off. Appalled, I called up my husband immediately to start naming off his license plate number. In retrospect, I know that wasn’t the best idea, but I was livid about this accident and wasn’t thinking straight. My whole body was in shock and started to shake as I dialed 911 – the woman on the other end tried to calm me down as I explained what just happened but I just couldn’t. I exchanged all information that I could with this woman, took pictures of everything, and saved the tears until I buckled up to drive home.

When I entered my house, my legs gave out on me, and the humidity outside turned my body red. I dropped to the floor as a tightness in my chest began – my breath was slowly dissipating. I managed to grab my inhaler in my bag through the gasps of breaths. I was on the verge of a panic attack, and I needed to calm down. As I laid on the hardwood floor, the whole scenario flashed before my eyes again. How could he just take off like that?

I immediately called my insurance to relay all the information that I could – Unfortunately, my husband was working and couldn’t grab the entirety of the license plate for me, but I did send him in a panic through my cries over the phone (sorry!). Due to the nature of what happened, I am considered at fault for this accident. I gulped down the information as best as I could, kicking myself over the fact that I didn’t grab that plate number. This is my first accident as a driver, and I guess you can say that I learned my lesson on how to react if it ever happens again.

I won’t let this affect me driving, though. Facing my fear is the only way I can tackle this anxiety head-on.  I could easily say I will never drive again but “oh, that’s bad” will keep repeating in my head over and over. All I ask is for everyone to be safe out there, please drive the speed limit and always put on your signal when switching lanes.

My heart breaks.

Mental health is not a joke, and we should not look down on it. We need less judgment and more compassion. More check in’s and fewer shares of one meme “suicide hotline.” I urge you to check in on all of your friends, correctly.

In a week, we lost two celebrities to suicide, but there are many others that we’ll never hear about who did the same. Trying to place yourself in both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain shoes are hard. They both genuinely believed that their children would be better off without them – Can you imagine how much pain they were in to think that?

We lose, roughly, 2160 people a day to suicide and it’s heartbreaking to keep seeing these rates go up. When we want to reach out to someone we need to stop looking down on them. From your wealthiest to your poorest friends, we all struggle with life. Instead of judging each other on which platform they stand – why don’t we encourage and lift others up? Where have we failed as a society to lack such empathy?

While undoubtedly chemical antidepressants have some value and should remain on the table, we need to radically expand the menu of options for people who are depressed and anxious to deal with the grave, underlying reasons why we feel this way.

For those that are struggling with depression – I urge you to hold on. If you’re depressed, if you’re anxious, you’re not crazy. You matter. You’re loved. This is not your fault. You won’t be able to cure this on your own, but, there is hope. Your presence on this earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.

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I’m at the ratty end of a basement remodel, and I am feeling so depleted from it all.
Everyone usually warns you of how you and your partner will be whenever a renovation happens, and even though I fully expected it to happen, I still wasn’t prepared for the emotional drain that it has put on me.

I am quite opinionated whenever it comes to big projects like this, but I decided to take a step back and let my Husband be the project manager. I’ve done the ordinary tasks with no shame. Cleaned up all the debris, knocked out all of the nails of baseboards (in record time, I might add!) and tried to come to a solution on colors and organization. I know I could do more, but I’m trying to respect his decision and stay out of his hair. Saturday morning we got into a fight of how he feels that he’s doing the majority of the work and I just wanted to rip my hair out!

Even though he has taken the brunt end of most of it, he hasn’t asked for much help on my part. I kept offering my help many times, but I stopped at a certain point since he never accepted it. I have a lot of experience when it comes to hands-on work, and I never shy away from a hammer so it’s tough for me to accept that I’m not as involved as I’d like to be.

After our little spat, I started to shake uncontrollably. As my eyes darted back and forth, I began to question a lot of the decisions that we made and looked inward on our relationship. I immediately knew that I was over thinking, but I couldn’t shake off my anxious feeling and started to cry because I wasn’t in control. My husband caught on quite quickly and jumped over the newly grouted tiles so he could swoop me into his arms to calm me down. We stood motionless in our basement as he caressed my back gently to help regulate my breathing.

I hate my anxiety.

I hate that something like this can come out of nowhere and make me so incredibly doubtful of everything.

I hate when arguments lead me to question my relationship with said person.

Do you know what I don’t hate, though? My husband makes me feel like a ‘normal’ person when I can’t see it in myself.

After this, we went to pick up our paint colors and finally agreed not only on the hues but the placement of them. Instead of going home immediately, we went to a local burger joint and took a well deserve and needed break from our mess of a house. It’s always crucial to make sure that you don’t forget who you are as a person and who you are as a couple, knowing that we both needed that space away from our project was our blessing in disguise.

We spent the next day painting the majority of our basement, and I’m happy to say that we’re both feeling relieved that we’re in the home stretch!