Getting pro help is hard

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Over the past few months, I’ve frequently gotten the impression that the mental health services in Winnipeg are set-up in ways to discourage people from using them.

Going to an open house at the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) is as easy as showing up to one of two monthly sessions (which is a prerequisite for beginning the intake process), but they won’t hand out paper applications on the spot. In fact, they won’t even email it later. People have to call or email, wait for them to snail mail a paper copy, then fill out and send it back. At the open house I was at, the woman admitted this was because they couldn’t handle the rush of applicants after every event and needed them to be spaced a bit.

Compared to other services I’ve tried to access, this was actually pretty easy and straightforward. And it made me wonder if maybe they’re overwhelmed with applicants because they offer services at a variety of times that are affordable and their staff are quick to respond?

I’m expecting my snail-mailed application from ADAM in the next day or so and I plan to send it back immediately. But then I’m told they’ll call me to schedule an interview within three weeks of receiving it.

When I read that email, I felt like I lost the little hope I had in that moment. Three weeks may not seem like a long time to some, but for me it is. I think about the days I’ve worked from bed in the past three weeks. The nightmare-filled 10 hour sleeps I’ve woken exhausted from and all the meals I’ve missed because of the nausea. There were the nights I wanted to do something fun with my partner but I ended up crying on the couch instead. Can I really do another three weeks of this?

I should have started looking for help a while ago, but I thought I could take care of it. I’m now reaching a point where somedays I don’t have the energy to try anymore. I can’t see a future for myself. I feel stuck and I’m certain this is where I’ll be forever.

After getting the email, I used these feelings of helplessness to motivate more research. I registered for an open house for a mental health recovery program and signed-up for a mindfulness course, both with the Canadian Mental Health Association. I looked for alternate support groups which I could perhaps get into immediately or just drop in on.

I calmed myself down with promises that I can hold on, keep making small changes and try to stay positive until I get help, but the fact is that there shouldn’t be these barriers and hurdles. People who need help shouldn’t have to call and call and call therapy centres to try to get applications. Anxiety-suffers shouldn’t have to spend hours searching for programs and then sitting in open houses to see if the program is right for them, and then wait weeks to months to actually get into them.

I’m sure this post will get me the usual list of resources, but before you comment, think about how accessible they really are. When you call, does someone always pick up? When you stop by the office, is it guaranteed there will be someone there to help you out? Do they respond to emails? How long is the waitlist? Is it affordable? Like, actually affordable, not affordable to people making $20,000+ per year.

I don’t have a solution. Maybe we need to be more open about mental health issues so people reach out for help before they feel like they’re drowning. Maybe we should be putting less pressure on children to succeed and give them the tools they need to be present and happy. Maybe we just need more funding going towards mental health programs.

For my part, I’ll just keep publicly bitching until I feel well enough to actually think about what could have prevented me from getting here.

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Why don’t we know we’re fucked?

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Since I started blogging about anxiety and being raped, quite a few people have reached out to me for advice or support, or to give advice and support.

That’s pretty sweet, but also troubling.

Some folks said what was going on with them wasn’t something they were able to speak about with family or friends. Some people didn’t even understand what their deal was until they listened to me talking about my issues.

I didn’t identify anxiety as something I was struggling with until late 2014 when I dated someone who had pretty awful anxiety. Listening to him talk about his problems, I understood that I was going through similar stuff and anxiety was what had been fucking me up for years. It wasn’t until I was quite deep into exploring my mental health that I got how being sexually assaulted continued to affect me outside of my sex life, specifically by being a cause of anxiety.

I’m an educated woman with a good family. I have supportive friends who come to me to talk about their problems and who are always open to listening to me vent about mine. I know the important people in my life love me no matter what I do or how much I screw up. So, how did it take me years to realize that constant full body tingling, difficulty breathing, poor memory and constantly being scatter-brained isn’t normal? And how come others are in a similar place?

I was taught by my family, teachers and media that hard work comes first. It comes before feelings and taking care of ones-self. This sentiment was cemented when I moved out of my parents’ home at 18. Bills and rent needed to be paid with enough leftover cash for food. I covered my university and college tuition without loans and was damned if I was going to slash my GPA with shitty grades because I was taking time to relax. Taking care of others was work that someone had to do, and I took that upon myself. That came before taking time for me.

As a young woman, I was in school and working full-time. I had an unemployed boyfriend at home smoking pot and playing video games all damn day. Being strong was ignoring my feelings to take care of him and our cats. Being strong was pushing through the shit and pretending everything was fine. I thought strong women took care of themselves and everyone around them without cracking under the weight of work and school and care-taking and past hurt.

What a crock of shit.

I wish I could go back and tell myself that a strong woman woulda kicked that SOB out sooner. A strong woman knows when to say no and take care of her needs first. A strong woman faces her feelings in a terrifying and raw way, not pretending to herself or anyone else that the hurt is any less than it is.

If we all put our grown-up dresses on and screamed with honesty about how messed up we are, we’d grow up knowing it’s okay to be less than fine. Sometimes people’s heads are a little fucky, and that’s totally okay. Sometimes it takes forever to feel your way though shitty emotions, and sometimes you never do. That doesn’t make you any less of an awesome, loveable and inspirational person.

I wish adults had had honest conversations with me growing up about anxiety and depression, about the importance of prioritizing my own needs and facing life with honesty and vulnerability, especially to myself. And I wish someone would start having those conversations with the young folk of today. Realizing at 24 how fucked up you are is a lot more troubling than just dealing with issues as they arise throughout life.

I’m going to keep talking about being anxious and being messed up from being raped, because it makes me feel better and it seems to make other people feel better. Also, it’s getting me some pretty awesome advice, like this:

Counselling helps
I have no real experience with counselling, but other folks apparently do and suggested these affordable places in Winnipeg for anxiety and/or victims of sexual assault:
Klinic
Women’s Health Clinic
Jewish Child and Family Service
Aurora Family Therapy Centre
Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
This type of therapy helped a friend of mine! That’s cool. Maybe look into it? She tells me that Klinic has two counsellors trained to do EMDR.


Gorgeous artwork with this post, eh? I didn’t do it! It’s by Lucia Whittaker! Check her out.


podcast artwork4And I’m back with another podcast. This week, I’m talking about how much better talking about this all makes me feel and announcing a change to the podcast’s format for future episodes. Woot woot!