Clara is on the Road

My name is Lisa and I’ve battled depression my entire life.  

I think that’s the first time I’ve said it out loud, in public. I bristle at the thought of reactions I’ve heard from people to an admission of a past mental illness. Everything from, “they’re just  not trying” to “it’s all in their head” to “I have it worse and I get by okay”.

This week, I read the most deeply ignorant thing I’ve seen in a long time from a Facebook “friend” who I have now unfollowed.  He declared himself a friend to the mentally ill as long as they are willing to get up and help themselves. “The ones that just lie around or go and buy a box of beer and sit at home all day, those lazy ones, I don’t give a shit about them if they’re not willing to get off their asses!”

In other words, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone who’s mentally ill.  Part of the illness, for many people, prevents them from seeking help. That’s why you hear about promising OHL players who have asphyxiated themselves in their cars or wealthy lawyers who dive from the tops of buildings.  If your first thought is ever, “Why didn’t they go for help?” then I’m afraid you don’t get it either.

One day when I’m a little braver I’ll tell the story of how I was forced by a couple of human angels to seek help with depression, and how I have had it at bay for many years now.  But not today.  This is a day for Clara’s story.

Clara Hughes is a six-time Canadian Olympic medalist and a depression survivor. Her goal is a big one, to end stigmas against mental illness, as she rides her bike across Canada for Clara’s Big Ride. She left Toronto on Friday and plans to be in Ottawa for Canada Day. Bell’s support with their Let’s Talk campaign and their efforts behind this ride astound me. I loathe Bell with a seething hate my Mom has for snakes but I have to admit, the evil empire is doing wonderful things with these endeavours.

Our amazing friend Laurie has become a London spokesperson for the Ride by sharing her own story of overcoming mental illness.  Laurie’s comeback is inspiring and she has become an advocate for people who have moved past their sickness to get back into the workforce without prejudice. I’m proud of her beyond words.

We can help by telling others about the ride. Even more than money, in my view, we help by talking about overcoming mental illness as if it’s the same as recovering from a broken leg. And just because you can relate to someone’s story of how they’re coping, doesn’t mean they need unwanted advice to “go for a walk” or look on the damn sunny side.  That’s not how it works. So find out how it works, won’t you? And please don’t judge.  It can, literally, happen to anyone.

2 thoughts on “Clara is on the Road”

  1. Only by talking about it and through people like you coming out and saying “me, too”…can mental illness be seen as something that happens to the BEST of us. If we take things out of the shadows, they lose their power. Thank you for using Clara’s ride as a (very good) excuse to talk about mental health and issues in your own life, Lisa. There can be no doubt that it’s wider spread than even we imagine. Kudos. (And I know that’s NOT why you brought it up.)

    1. It’s true, Erin. The campaign by CAMH several years ago was brilliant, I thought, where everyone from Amy Sky to NHL players to politicians came forward and said, hey, this happened to me but I got well again. Powerful stuff.

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