Most people think of January as the “winding down after the holidays” month. They feel lethargic and reluctant to continue with monotonous routine. This January in particular has apparently felt unusually long to some people, but not to me.
I live for Januarys for one reason: Bell Let’s Talk Day.
For anyone who isn’t from Canada let me explain. Bell, a huge telecommunications company in Canada, holds an event designed to stimulate conversation surrounding mental health. The company itself ends up donating to various mental health programs each year, and claims to have donated over $86 million since 2010. Tweets and statuses hashtagging #BellLetsTalk today will each raise 5 cents that Bell will donate.
I love Bell Let’s Talk; it’s the one day of the year society has deemed it acceptable to talk about your mental health status and not feel like a total pariah.
Do I sound bitter yet?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea and I love how engaged it makes everyone. I just think that, considering mental illness will affect 20 per cent of Canadians in their lifetime, this is maybe a bigger issue than an annual thing.
This past month, I was given a brand new diagnosis from my gastroenterologist: CVS, otherwise known as Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. The gist of this condition is that stress and anxiety trigger something in my brain that causes me to vomit. On average, I’m sick 3-4 days a month, but sometimes I’m out seven or eight days. It depends on my stress levels, and obviously those vary constantly.
The fact that I also have dysthymia (now called persistent depressive disorder) and anxiety disorder make CVS a hell of a lot worse because every time I experience any kind of stressful episode, my body physically retaliates.
Since it’s Bell Let’s Talk, I wanted to talk about what it’s like for just a moment.
On days when when I’m sick, I can usually feel it coming. I will have been nauseous the night before, usually after a stressful event (most recently it was my laptop breaking just weeks before I’m moving to Australia). I wake up early that day, sometimes at 3 or 4 a.m., to horrible stomach pains.
I groan and roll myself from bed, knowing in moments I’ll be sick. I have to keep a bucket beside my bed now for emergencies because one time I almost didn’t make it to the bathroom before it started.
Sometimes it’s not so bad, I throw up two dozen or so times over the course of about three hours and then feel fine. Other times however, I’m not so lucky and I’m dry heaving until my stomach feels inside out for up to seven hours.
After I’m done being sick, my belly is in pain for roughly the next 24 hours. My muscles are sore from contracting, my throat is sore from stomach bile rushing through it, my head is sore from dehydration. I usually spend the remainder of the day sleeping, knowing in the back of my mind that this will happen all over again in a matter of days.
I’ve been told there’s nothing I can do short of taking Gravol, which I usually just throw up (and let me tell you ginger is disgusting to throw up) so it doesn’t really help. I have asked doctors what my options are and I’ve been told to “avoid stressful stimulants”.
As if someone with anxiety disorder can just avoid being anxious, especially when I’m preparing to move and get a new job and start a whole other life. But thanks, doc.
So part of me loves Januarys because I get to open up each year and talk about how sick I am to hopefully end the stigma that my mental illnesses makes me weak. They’ve made me strong; they’ve made me a fighter.
Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean you’re weak.