“I am honoured to be involved with the Sole Focus Project with the CMHA-WECB and help take a stand for mental health. I find it extremely important to spread awareness of the fact that everyone has dealt with or may be struggling with mental health in some capacity.”
I have been honoured and fortunate to be a Sole Focus Project ambassador since its inception: taking a stand for mental health, helping to deliver this important message, and hopefully encouraging others to share their own stories, all in an effort to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Whether you know someone who has faced challenges with their mental health, or through your own personal story, we have all been affected by mental illness in some way. And it’s no wonder – we all have a head on our shoulders and we all have a brain inside that head. We ALL have mental health, just as we all have physical and emotional health needs. This is why it is so important to me to be a part of ending the stigma surrounding negative beliefs associated with mental health.
Getting support for mental health issues should be no different than treating a broken arm or diabetes. Each of us requires strong mental health in order to ensure overall wellness because our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social domains are all intertwined, which means keeping them balanced is extremely important for overall wellbeing.
I am no stranger to the effects of mental illness and stigma, and to the importance of mental wellbeing.
I lost my father at the end of 2011 and my uncle two years later – both tragically, and suddenly to suicide, after losing their battles with their own mental health issues. I was only 23 at the time, which seems like a lifetime ago. Losing my dad in the way we did, learning the ways in which he had struggled all his life, watching him struggle as I was growing up (yet not fully understanding his struggle in the moment), and coming to terms and accepting his peace, has been without a doubt the hardest thing I have had to go through in my life. I am still grieving every day, and that is more than okay. It has made me a stronger and more aware individual, and it has taught me to live for now, for this moment, to never settle, and to continue to strive for my goals, because we are not guaranteed anything, and it can all be taken away in an instant. It has also given me more awareness and has taught me a lot about myself and my own mental wellbeing.
I have not been without my own struggles as a young adult. Sometimes, holding that head up on my shoulders seems like a tough task. Like I am trying to support the weight of the world. It is easy to let negative thoughts and self-doubt inside my head to continually grow until eventually these feelings manifest into something much greater than what could be quieted by self-belief, positive support, and asking for assistance where needed. It is often the silence that is so much louder than words spoken.
Some days I go through very little: little on my schedule and little going on in my head.
Other days my mind doesn’t shut off and I feel guilty if I’m not doing something, anything.
Some days I’m lonely when I’m not alone.
Other days I’m alone and not one bit lonely.
Some days I wake up excited for the day.
Other days I actually can’t wait until it’s time to sleep again.
I get anxious. I get overwhelmed. I get stressed for seemingly no reason at all.
I get sad and shed tears, leaving me wondering what’s even wrong.
Some days I can’t even articulate a reason for these feelings.
But they are there, and they are real.
Further, as an elite athlete, I am not without my own experiences of anxiety, stress, and self-doubt due to performance pressures. I train in my sport six days a week, ten months out of the year, working on my technical and physical skills, all for a race that lasts less than one minute. I travel a lot and am often times inside my own little bubble. I have been afforded a great opportunity in my life through sport, however the lifestyle can also become quite lonely, and that is why the noise in my head can seem loud and overwhelming at times. I am expected to perform every time the gun signals the start of the race, naturally creating a great deal of stress, which for the most part I use in a positive way in order to fuel me, but on the other hand, it can make me question my abilities at times when things don’t go according to plan. This is why working on the mental aspect of the game is equally as important in order to be able to compete at my best and against the best in the world. Remaining positive and surrounding myself with a positive support system that believes in me has been extremely important for helping me to believe in myself and push the self-doubt away. It goes without saying just how important physical activity is to mental health and wellbeing, and the importance I place on this aspect of my health. I have always been an active person, and as I get older, and the stresses get seemingly larger, and my anxiety peaks and valleys, I am very aware of the need to maintain this aspect of my being, through my competitive years and beyond.
I am aware that all of these feelings are okay.
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s even okay if you don’t know why you’re not okay.
It’s okay not to be okay one minute, and it’s okay to be your own okay the next.
My 100% may look different day to day. And my 100% may look different from someone else’s. But my consistent effort is when progress is made. Consistently showing up. First and foremost, for myself.
I find that a great deal of the stigma surrounding mental health is actually inside our own heads. Will people think less of me? Will my friends exclude me? Will my family think there is something “wrong” with me? However, all of these amazing people just want the best for you and would do anything to help you in any way they could! When you realize that, it becomes much easier to continue the conversation surrounding your own mental health needs. However, as always, the first step is often the most difficult.
I am honoured to be involved in the Sole Focus Project as an ambassador as we all attempt to navigate this world together. I believe it is important to have this organization spreading awareness, raising resources, and helping to end the stigma, encouraging health and wellbeing.