It's Time to #endthestigma with Mental Health

We all have our good days, and we all have our bad days.

 Photo by  Meghan Hemstra

When I'm feeling comfortable in my own skin, this is me. Big smiles and laughing til my stomach hurts.  

When i’m struggling though, I find myself curling into my little turtle shell.  Even seemingly simple interactions with others turn into a challenge.  Some days it can be a struggle to get out of bed.  Some days it can be a struggle to leave the house.  That's 100% okay.

From a very introverted teenager to a fairly outgoing adult, i've had my struggles.  In honour of #BellLetsTalk, I thought I would take a moment to share some of my own experiences.

Back in 2009, at the ripe age of 18, I was diagnosed with tongue cancer.  It was the first case of my kind, as a female, in my age group, in BC.  To say that I was scared shitless would be an understatement.  I remember living in this thick fog as I tried to process, not only the diagnosis, but how it would change my life moving forward.  Not only did they have to remove the tumour (and by extension, more than a third of my tongue), they removed the lymph nodes in my neck, and formed a graft from my arm to replace the portion of my tongue that was now gone.

Post surgery, I was in hospital for close to 4 weeks.  And I had a ton of complications.  I'm not going to lie, it was a pretty rough go.  The recovery was long and insanely infuriating.  I had to relearn how to eat again.  I had to relearn how to speak again.  I had to relearn how to use my arm all over again.  Losing my ability to communicate for months in addition to having to eat all things liquid-purée, I was in a pretty dark place. 

I remember crying myself to sleep more nights that I would care to admit.  And I can honestly say that it was the darkest and loneliest time of my life.  But slowly, with the help of amazing friends, I started to feel more human.  I started to feel more like "me".

Even though I'm happy with where my life is now, those struggles aren't all in the past.  Mental wellness is still something that I work on continually.  It takes effort, and it's not always easy.  When I think back to that time though, I am flooded with gratitude for the beautiful souls that still embraced me for who I was and stayed with me through the tough.  I'm grateful for the acceptance and the openness they showed.  And now, I strive to provide that same level of support to those that need it.

So to those that are struggling, know that you are not alone.  There are people in your corner that want to help.  Lean into them for support.  

Until next time,

XO Natasha