Today is Bell Let's Talk Day. It passed last year almost unnoticed for me, but this year I want to share. I am ready to talk.
As a small business owner, it's hard to feel comfortable sharing personal information with the world. Especially information about your mental health. What if people think you won't be able to do your job? What if people think you will let them down because of your mental health problems? I've thought about this a lot. And I believe that the answer is: if you are honest and open and compassionate with yourself and others, you will find yourself surrounded by like-minded people. And those people will continue to support you in your business, no matter what you share. Bell is right- it's time to talk. So let me tell you a little story.
In high school I was a shy, awkward teenager. I had body issues- I thought I was fat and huge. I was fearful all the time. I was afraid to draw attention to myself. Afraid to speak up. Afraid to ask for help. I had a particularly bad year when my circle of friends decided that they didn't want to be friends with me anymore. All of a sudden, lunch was a horrible hour of hiding in different places around the school. When I tried to eat, I felt like throwing up. It lasted for weeks. I would put food in my mouth and chew, chew, chew, and then start gagging. I was not consciously trying to stop eating- I wanted to eat. I was hungry, but there was a knot in my stomach that never went away. I went from 150lbs to 120lbs in 2 months. I was 5 ft 9 inches tall.
Something interesting happened then. People started talking to me and giving me compliments. The dad of someone on my soccer team. Boys I'd never spoken to at school. They told me I looked good and said I'd lost weight. Every time it happened, I felt kind of odd. I was getting attention now. And I didn't want it. And the reason I was getting it was because I felt like throwing up all the time? That felt wrong.
This is where I'm glad that I am a stubborn and strong willed kind of person. I rejected the idea that my weight would define me. I decided that I would just be me, however that was, and not worry so much about what others thought. Those boys who talked to me weren't worth my time. Suddenly, I could eat again. I'd somehow worked it out in my head and the knot in my stomach had lessened.
I wish I could say that was the only time I experienced mental health problems. But it is a lifelong experience for me to feel these feelings, to feel different from the world. I have had periods of depression, periods of anxiety, panic attacks. I've been on medication and I've been through counselling. I'm much, much better now. Now, I can recognize what's happening. I can take a moment and try to breathe. Ask for help. I've surrounded myself with people who understand. I don't hide away anymore (not much, anyway).
When I started a Pilates business, I wanted a name that would share my philosophy with the world. I wanted something that would be both a reminder to myself, and a reminder to others. Compassionate Body Pilates was born. I work on treating everyone around me with compassion, every day. Even more importantly, I work to treat myself the same way. To forgive myself when I have a bad day. When I can't manage. To step back and be kind. And try to set that example for others.
Lots of love and compassion to you all out there. If you have mental health issues, please take care of yourself as best as you can. Please ask for help. Let's talk.
Diane Archer, Pilates Instructor from the UK now living back in Canada. Blog of tips, thoughts, home challenges.