It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day 2019 and around the world, people are using social media to raise awareness about mental health issues. This has become such an important part of the recovery process for so many of us who have been dealing with mental health issues, or have loved ones who are fighting them.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to use NM as a platform to share my story with you each year and even more fortunate that you have been gracious enough to listen and share your own stories. This is the true benefit of this day. Yes, the money raised for mental health initiatives is amazing, but it’s the awareness factor that makes the true difference. Putting it out there so that people realize it’s not just this day, but every day that talking about it, and listening to those who need to talk will have an impact you simply cannot put a dollar figure on.
I wish that each year I could tell you that my journey is getting better. Right now, it’s been careening towards the darkness again.
I recently had a bit of a health scare as some of you may know. A couple days after Christmas I had to go to the ER after my blood pressure spiked. The good part about it was that there was no heart issues along with it, but they were very concerned that I was headed in that direction. Part of the reason for the rise was me neglecting my health. I didn’t eat well. And the other part, which was tied into my diet, was anxiety and stress directly related to my job.
I had always said I would never go back to cooking unless I had no other option. I love to cook, and while I’m no trained chef, I spent a long time as a line cook and I am good at what I do. So when we moved to Ontario and the job prospects seemed limited at best, I resigned myself to getting back into cooking. I took a job at a small country store and restaurant. For the first while things were good, but turnover both with servers and other kitchen staff was high, even for this industry. It was hard to find people, as it’s out of the way from where we live, and those they did find were, to say the least, not suitable for the job for various reasons. It culminated in moving to a two cook rotation at the start of 2018, with the understanding that we’d hire more help in the spring for what we had hoped would be a busy summer.
Summer arrived, but the help did not. And as a result, we had to work more. Longer hours and less time off to the point that we were down to 6 days a week. They had hired help, but she was fired a couple weeks in. Two others no-showed on their first shifts. The toll it was taking on me started getting larger, and my co-worker was becoming more and more problematic. Her substance abuse issues came to a head, and I was forced to work to cover her not showing on my birthday and anniversary. She then quit, and the owner announced that they were closing. I felt like it had been inevitable, so it wasn’t stressful, more of a relief to be honest. Then they asked if I would work more days to keep it open. And by more days they meant 7 days a week. It was really a bad idea for me to say yes, but I felt bad for them, and didn’t want to be why they had to close (it’s stupid for me to have thought this, because there were many factors for the business not doing well, and I wasn’t one of them). So I agreed to it. I worked 21 days in a row before I started breaking down. And one night, after enduring a drunken tirade from one of the owners, I reached the break point and the next morning told them I couldn’t do it anymore. They blamed me and asked me to work out the weekend so they could give notice they were closing down. I agreed.
They then decided to close the restaurant a couple days a week if I would say on. I wanted to say no. I needed to say no. But their guilt trips talked me out of it. The two days off turned to four, but even only working 3 days a week, they were still long days, 12 hours or more, and with no help to do all the stuff needed to keep the kitchen running I could feel myself starting to collapse. And then came the scare. My doctor has advised me not to go back, that the job is too hard on my body and my mental well being.
So that’s where I am now. Unemployed, having spent 3 weeks on top of that battling the flu, and awaiting my follow up appointment to see if I am cleared to go back to work. It would have been very easy to let the darkness envelop me at this point. Fortunately, I have a wife who has been amazing through all of this. She’s kept me up and focused. She’s known when to let me be the sickie bundled up in a blanket on the couch and when to kick my ass and get me up and moving.
She’s also helped me make a huge change in the way I take care of myself. I am proud to say I have lost 16 lbs since Christmas and over 40 since last summer. Making a fundamental change in the way you eat is a massive thing at any time, and even more so when you’re going through something like this. You cannot fight this battle for mental health if you’re not taking care of your physical health, and Laurie’s been amazing in being my partner through all of this.
Anyway, that’s where I am right now, and I know some of our other NM scribes have their own stories to tell today. Listen. Don’t be silent. And know we as a community will always be here for you. If you need to talk, reach out. If you’re on Twitter, my DM’s are always open to you.