In the weeks leading up to Ride Don’t Hide, CMHA Waterloo Wellington will bring you stories from riders and fundraisers about why mental health is important to them. Ride Don’t Hide is a national campaign hosted by the CMHA on Sunday, June 25th, bringing together over 10,000 participants in communities across the country with the goal to raise awareness and help break the stigma surrounding mental health while raising essential funds to support mental health programs. To join the ride or volunteer, visit our Ride Don’t Hide page.
“How are you?” – It’s a commonly asked question. “I’m fine, thanks.” – A commonly reciprocated answer.
This dialogue can be heard by anyone at any time in any place: a passerby at the grocery store, coworkers in the office, friends in the hallway at school, teammates at the arena, tellers at the bank, neighbours on the sidewalk, family members at a gathering – anywhere and everywhere. A common exchange between people who know each other and between people who don’t. It’s simple and easy. It’s accepted.
But what needs to be accepted is that mental illness — of all kinds — exists among many. It’s real. It’s debilitating and devastating. Its not the criminal that you see on the news; rather, the majority of the time, it’s the everyday individual. Its often someone you know. The meaning of mental health to me is about asking yourself, “how are you doing?” If you don’t like your answer, work to change it. Find a passion or hobby, a relaxing endeavour, a meaningful activity, or converse with a good friend — even if it only takes up minutes of your day. For those minutes, you are doing something positive for your well-being.
The words should not be scary: Mental illness. It means strength. It means courage. It means persistence. It means tremendous willpower to face the fight, day in and day out, usually unbeknownst to those in the public.
I have had my own battle with major depression and anxiety. It’s a daily grind which begins with baby steps. You must keep stepping forward, right on top of that stigma. Stomp on it!
Talk to someone. Ask for help, and know that there is absolutely no shame in having this illness. It can be managed, and you don’t have to manage it alone. That’s why we are in this great bike ride event: to show unity. It is both tremendous and empowering to join together and raise awareness.
In my case, my depression was [exacerbated] after suffering through multiple concussions in a condensed amount of time while playing competitive women’s hockey in the region. [I was] diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. Because of my amazing family and close friends (at a time when I thought I had no friends at all), I was able to be directed to the help I needed to get to.
I was finally getting back on track and [had] recovered from concussion symptoms (with a plan to return to hockey again) when I suddenly found myself involved in a serious car accident almost four years ago. I have been through several different treatments and therapies (both mental and physical) since then. Some have worked; some have not, but this will continue to be my reality for a long while as I continue to experience the aftermath. Meanwhile, it is important to partake in meaningful activities when my mind and body allow it. The sense of normalcy is essential, even if just for moments a day.
I mean, there are many things I’d like to do, but just can’t. It is difficult to accept this, but it is easier to ‘make friends with the enemy,’ so to speak. There are things that I had taken for granted in the past that now pose as great challenges for me. These are invisible challenges to everyone else, but they are so real to me and I experience them every single day. It has taken awhile, but I choose to say the word challenge in place of struggle. You see, because a struggle owns me, but I own the challenge.
Enter DJing. Music has always been a passion of mine. It is as powerful as it is present. It allows me to just be. With depression and other mental illness, it is often difficult to be in the moment and quiet the destructive, racing thoughts in the mind. Listening to music is grounding. When I get behind the turntables and wear those headphones, that’s where I am. I am in the music: counting beats, blending songs, reading the crowd, and seeing people dance and smile, because they are also in the music.
Music is a universally accepted language, just as the “How are you?” banter is accepted. Let us work together to see acceptance for mental health. No one asks for a mental illness, just as no one asks for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, a broken leg, hearing impairment… you can see my point. It is important for all [of us] to take ourselves seriously [and] listen to ourselves with compassion like we would with any friend or family member.
Never be afraid to ask for help. Don’t hide behind the mask. Grab a helmet and a bike! Come on out to the CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide, as a rider or a supporter of a friend or family member. Loops N Jamzz DJs are honoured to be a part of the entertainment for CMHA Waterloo Wellington’s Ride Don’t Hide. I am [also] honoured to be riding in the 47km [ride] for the second time. Feel free to stop by the turntables to say hello to us! Let’s hope for a great turnout. In the mean time, listen to music and keep on riding for mental health!
Visit Jaclyn’s fundraiser page.
Read Waterloo councillor Diane Freeman’s story (Ride Don’t Hide Spotlight).
Read Minh’s story (Ride Don’t Hide Spotlight).
Read Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin’s story (Ride Don’t Hide Spotlight).