By: Sharon Bak
Bell Let’s Talk 2017
My journey began, like many out there, with a traumatic event. When I was four years old my baby brother Steven passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I was there; I saw my mom try to do CPR on him; I remember the frantic ride to town to get him medical help. But it was too late and we lost him. Trauma in early childhood can cause many difficulties in life and it definitely did so for me. I started having flashbacks, anxiety attacks, bouts of rage mixed with hysterical crying, major depression, and severe obsessive compulsive rituals that made every day life exhausting. Because this started at such a young age I never really knew life could be different. And yet a little part of me always wondered… is this really normal?
Now I’ve always been an avid reader and a certain book sparked my interest in pursuing a career in social work. I embraced this challenge while at the same time battling new found challenges, such as binge eating/drinking and increasingly dark times where I contemplated suicide. Now much of social work is about learning and reflecting on your own life and one such assignment was returned to me with a note that said “If you really feel this way about your life, you need to come and talk to me.” That one little comment started my journey to recovery… all because someone could read between the lines, realize something wasn’t right, and cared enough to reach out.
So how did I end up here today and loving life again? Well here is my top ten list of what brought me to the place I am now!
First was knowledge. This was the single greatest weapon I found to learn, understand, and fight what was happening to me. I wanted to know why my brain worked the way it did and why I couldn’t just make myself better. Knowledge truly is power!
It took a long time but training my brain was a huge piece. I’ve been through all kinds of therapy, support groups, mindfulness and meditation, and probably have every self-help book known to man. Using the bits and pieces of each that worked for me allowed my brain to start operating in a different way and I can catch the darkness now before it overtakes me.
Journaling, positive affirmations, laughter, forgiveness, and acceptance have played a huge role as well and are things I continue to use to this day. Was it easy to get there? Absolutely not! But now they are as essential to me as breathing or eating.
Volunteering in the community has literally saved my life. Having a purpose and being able to feel that I make a difference in others lives is a bit of an addiction but one that I happily accept.
The final two pieces of the puzzle have been counseling and medication. The combination of both has been what’s kept me stable and gotten me through times when I thought there was no way back from the darkness. Finding the right person to talk to and the right medication was no easy task and at times I felt like giving up. But something inside me said to keep going and eventually, with a lot of self-advocacy on my part, it all came together.
Now I don’t want to try and sugar coat anything and say that my life is perfect and I’m all healed; recovery isn’t like that. It’s a process that never ends and it’s a way of living that allows you to have insight in to what can trigger distress and how to turn it around quickly. I still have many tough days and there are times when I lose my way, find myself isolating, or have anxiety pop up when I least expect it. The difference is that now I can manage it.
My message to others is quite simply this…..Keep Trying! Yes the struggle is painful and hard and often seems insurmountable. I get that, I’ve lived that, and I’ve had every reason to give up… but I always kept trying. Because it can get better; you can find peace; and there are people and groups out there that can help. My life is not what I ever planned on it being, but is it so much better than I ever imagined it could get!
In 2016, Sharon wrote an original poem in support of Bell Let’s Talk Day.
What I Want You to Know
I am not my illness
I am not broken
I am not lazy or unmotivated
If I could “suck it up”, believe me I would
I do not want your sympathy….I only seek your support
I have hidden for fear of judgement
I have lied to hide the truth
I get up every day and try my hardest
I did not choose this life….it chose me
I want you to challenge me to strive for better
I need the support of others and in turn I want to support you
I must put my recovery as a priority
I’ve endured stigma, jokes, and heartless comments
I’ve smiled through pain and laughed through tears
I have had the choice to live or to die….I’ve chosen to live
I want you to see me… the real me
I love, I laugh, I work, I lead
I have gifts
I make the world a better place by being here
I have a voice