Growing Up in Fear of Judgement and Isolation

I don’t know much about hockey but I remember a few years ago a well-known hockey coach revealed to the public that he couldn’t read.

After Googling it the other day I discovered his name was Jacques Demers. He spoke two languages, coached in the National Hockey League (NHL) for years and won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

He was 61 when he went public with his struggles.

I remember the shock felt by others.

How could someone that successful in a highly competitive field be illiterate?

Others couldn’t make sense of it, but I could.

While there is a huge distinction between living with mental illness and being illiterate, I could relate to the fears he must have had about being found out. I could also relate to how resourceful he would have had to become in order to keep his secret under wraps. I could understand the role stigma played in him being reluctant to come forward.

When you are trying to so desperately to conceal something you can almost perfect deception.

Both genetics and trauma played a role in the onset of my mental illness as an adolescent. Since that time I have struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and panic disorders and Bipolar II Disorder.

As a young person experiencing this for the first time I was becoming more and more ill each day. I was a difficult person who was often aggressive and impulsive.  I was a mess.

In and out treatment at this time, I managed to graduate high school and get accepted into the nursing program at Durham College. I coped

When I talk about my journey people are often amazed at that part. But when I was struggling and feeling alone, I found ways to cope. I was motivated by a fear of judgement and isolation. I found ways to keep my illness a secret as I lived my life.

The environment in which I grew up and then entered adulthood didn’t allow for candid discussions about my mental health. It was incredibly frustrating to be living with something so disabling and not be able to talk about it.

That feeling of loneliness and shame is part of the reason I am sharing my story this week as part of the #5in5 series on #MindVine during National Mental Health Week May 1-7.

Struggles and all, we should be allowed to be ourselves at every point in our lives, especially in our youth. I didn’t choose mental illness and I didn’t choose to deal with a complicated and sometimes debilitating health issue at such a young age.

Growing up is difficult enough without the burden of shame and no one should have to deal with it.

Katie Enright has worked at Ontario Shores as an RPN for more than 10 years. She is sharing her experience as a mother and mental health nurse living with mental illness as part of our #5in5 series on #MindVine. Each weekday during National Mental Health Week Katie will post a new blog about her experiences in an effort to create conversations and eliminate stigma.