Last week was one of the hardest weeks that I’ve ever dealt with, both physically and emotionally. I’ll start chronologically on this one, with the beginning of February when my grandmother, Evelyn, was admitted to the hospital. I kept in close contact with my Aunt and Uncle during this time, we all knew that she would not be going home. We sat on the edge for weeks, wondering when the fateful day will arrive; my aunt & uncle were swarmed in her final arrangements while I held myself back in Toronto, tending to my little bump. My grandmother has always been a strong person, so it was no surprise to us all that she held on for as long as she could. On March 5th, two days after her 94th birthday, she passed away.

Even though I knew that this was coming, it was still a gut-retching thought to know that I will no longer hear her voice twice a week. Losing someone so close to you changes your day-to-day life, leaving you in an extremely vulnerable place which causes anxiety to surface in profound ways. Since I’m no longer on medication due to my pregnancy, it’s difficult dealing with my grief symptoms on top of everything else. Everyone deals with their anxiety differently, but I know that the best thing to do in these situations is to talk it out.

When I lost my mother at the age of 11, I did not manage my grief well during this time, and I bottled everything up. Most adults in this time frame just assumed that I would ‘get over it’ since I was still in school and would have a good distraction. To some degree, they were right, but not talking about it made my grief and anxiety worse. This time around, I was lucky enough to have a huge support system that kept checking up on me and making sure that I did talk about it. Even though this was overwhelming to a certain degree, having this sense of community was lovely.

I took four days off of work for bereavement before I have to go back to “normal.” Funerals and burials can be considered closure for most people, but due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to attend both. Even though I was in a severe car accident, and worrying about my baby, I kept saying over and over to myself “I can’t believe I’m missing this.” I was unsure if I would get the closure that most people would get and my worrying started to snowball into my anxiety. I became reclusive and blamed it on the back pain from the accident.

I am thankful that my aunt decided to have a Shiva day in Toronto so that I would be able to immerse myself with family and say goodbye in my way. I figured out that anxiety was a normal response to loss, especially when you lose someone so incredibly close to you. Even though I suffer from G.A.D., my feelings were normal and valid. I just needed to remember what I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and continue with my breathing exercises to know that soon enough it won’t hurt as much.

It still does, though, and that’s OK.
I will never ‘get over’ this, but I can learn to live, heal and re-build.

The end of November is upon us, and I’d like to bring up a topic that is still considered taboo: Men and Mental Illness.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve noticed a trend in more people talking about Mental Illness. Instead of being elated at the fact that we’re breaking social norms, it’s come to my attention that all of these posts have a photo of a woman. With this over-saturation, it makes me wonder how we’re addressing the male perspective of mental illness.

When I look back on my upbringing and the primary gender roles that I’ve experienced, whenever I think of “Man” I immediately think: tough & emotionless. All of the males in my family rarely talked about their feelings and the phrase “man up” was tossed around a lot. Don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t be less of a person. Somehow, we’ve skewed the vision of vulnerability as weak, and the fear that subsides within us is too tangible even to admit.

Mental illness is not something that one can sweep under the rug, and it’s imperative that males speak up about it. I understand the fear that is associated with it, especially when it comes to bringing this topic up with your immediate family. “Get over it” still echoes in the back of my head whenever I run into an anxious thought or a depressive state. However, over the years, I’ve grown stronger. I’ve accepted what I’m going through and I own it by discussing it more freely with those who support me.

Everyone’s situation is different, but the fact of the matter is – you’re not alone. Someone else is struggling, too. It’s OK to cry; It’s OK to be vulnerable – you’re NOT less of a person. We’re all trying to live our best lives and some days are going to be harder than others. If someone asks if you’re OK, be honest and say “No” even if you do not want to divulge in its entirety what’s going on. Even though mental illness is considered invisible, it does not discriminate.