“More Powerful Than a Pill”
I’ve lived with anxiety and depression for many years. After being prescribed medication by a psychiatrist, I did get better for a while but it also made me more anxious. I was worried about possible side effects and being on medication for the rest of my life. I knew there was no magic pill but I wanted something to help me take more control of my own mental health.
That’s when I discovered mindfulness. A program was being offered in my community, in my neighbourhood and it was just what I needed. It helped me cope with stressors including people who ask me personal questions about why I’m in a wheelchair. It taught me how to breathe through anxious moments. It taught me to be kinder to myself.
In the groups, it was great not only to learn about mindfulness but also to hear about other people’s struggles so we know that we are not alone. We formed bonds, we formed connections and we built community. And all the while, I could see people changing over time; it was making a real difference in their lives.
I really believe mindfulness has a huge impact because I’ve experienced it first-hand. I noticed such a difference in my own life and continue to see how it makes my life better.
I still ruminate and become reactive but I also know I have the tools within me to be able to cope. When I get extremely anxious, I’m able to breathe through it and eventually calm down. I feel more confident dealing with stress and anxiety because it’s something I know how to do and that feels really good.
That’s why I think the Community Program is so important. I think mindfulness is such a helpful tool but when you’re having trouble with adequate housing, transit and food, you often can’t afford to pay for the help you need. And it’s especially important for those of us who can really benefit from learning how to help ourselves and not just depend on treatment available at hospitals or clinics.
I’m a work in progress but mindfulness is helping me cope with things in my environment that upset me, struggles I have with negative thoughts and just stressors I have in my life. When I’m anxious or feeling depressed, I don’t have to go to a pharmacy because I carry the tools I need with me wherever I go. Mindfulness is so much more powerful to me than simply taking a pill.
– Shelley La Hay
Shelley La Hay is a community artist and musician working in Parkdale for 13 years. As an individual with lived experience, Shelley speaks publicly to raise awareness and educate others about the challenges of mental illness and share the difference mindfulness has made in her life. She is also active in community outreach and engagement, and serves as a consultant for a project with the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
There are many more like Shelley. More than we can currently help. Help us raise money so we can provide more clients like Shelley with access to our Community Program. Meditate for mental health at Mindfulness Challenge 2016.