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  • Writer's pictureJ.C. Hannigan

Can I Be Candid?

I've always tried to toe the line between oversharing and being honest about my experiences, but that line is often difficult to see. It's a translucent line, fading completely away depending on where you're standing.

Sometimes, people can take the things you've written or said and use it as weapons against you. But silence on mental health is the quiet killer that has lurked in the shadows for centuries. Even back when my parent's were growing up, there just wasn't a label for it...or room for conversation. Go back farther, and these "fits of madness" were handled by locking people up and ostracizing them from society.

Beautiful photograph of a sunrise with orange and yellow sunlight reflecting off angry looking storm clouds.
Sunrise in Hastings, Ontario: July 2020

The notion that it's bad to talk about your struggles is one that many people share. It's why I've struggled over recent years with being as candid as I used to be with my blogging. I've revealed a lot of myself online, and thinking about it kind of wigs me out a little. But with that being said, I know that conversation is one of the only things that'll spark change. Sharing my story, my struggles, my voice is crucial to keep changing the tide.

So, yet again...I'm going to be candid, even when it scares me.

A few weeks ago, I suffered a severe manic episode that landed me in the hospital overnight on a Form 1. I'm not going to lie, that experience was absolutely terrifying for me. Although I wasn't a risk to myself or others, I couldn't stop the onslaught of thoughts rushing at me like the downstream current of a raging river. I couldn't separate fiction from reality, the lines all blurred and I felt like I was living in both.

After an initial assessment and a psychological evaluation, they determined I have all the symptoms of Bipolar 1. I'm on a new medication called Olanzapine that's helped a lot. I'm sleeping more and taking better care of myself as a result. When you are sleep deprived and unable to rest, you tend to forget about "minor" things like eating and drinking...which I had done without even noticing. I kept feeding the kids, they were well-taken care of...but my own needs got swept away with the current of a mania episode I didn't even know I was having.

It all made sense in my head, the stories and how they aligned with reality. Of course my stories align with reality, I wrote them that way purposely...but in my mania? I somehow convinced myself that the words I wrote in my books were coming true in real time. That meant if I had to do X Y Z, it'd have a negative effect in the real world. I also was able to retain a lot of my common sense, wherein I argued with my own thoughts.

Trippy shit, but I will say that this experience helped me flesh out a few plot holes I couldn't solve.

Now that I'm able to look back objectively, I can see how my slow decline became a rapid one. I'm very thankful I have the friends and family I do; they were able to recognize something was amiss before I could process it myself, and get me on track on help and healing.

This pandemic has been extremely difficult on everyone. Even if we don't admit it, we're all carrying more these days. More stress, more anxiety, more uncertainty. A lot of people are breaking right now, and that's not a comforting thought. But we have an opportunity to do better: to create more mental health initiatives in our communities, schools, and even in our own homes.

So, the takeaway? Take care of yourself. See yourself. Make sure you're talking to friends and family, try to see a counsellor if you can. Don't keep shoving the anxieties away with more things on your to-do list, acknowledge them and let yourself process them...let yourself rest.

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