If I am honest

If I am honest, my old identity was killing me.

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Today, I find it imperative that I am honest with all of you, myself included. My confession? Most times, I feel nothing. In fact, I feel so little at times that if it could be measured by a heart monitor, you’d see a flat line. Of course, my affect is not completely dead. I know this because every once in a while, there will be the occasional “beep” representing moments where I feel a moment of happy.

However, there is no device that can accurately display my truth – a truth that mental illness, specifically depression, does hold me hostage more often than I’d like. Despite this, if I am honest with you once more, depression’s mindset is designed to force me into isolation. While this isolation seems like it is of my own accord, it is, truthfully, not. I am being honest because I know in my heart, I would rather live in the sunshine than hide in the darkness. I mean, who wouldn’t? Therefore, I want to confront this demon.

This urge to hide from the world is, without question, PTSD. Oh, how I absolutely loathe to see another life lost needlessly. Therefore, it seems safest to avoid all the potentials that lie beyond my front door. It’s pretty heavy stuff.

But it’s more than that. Many people who suffer from trauma also have major depressive disorder. I am, unfortunately, one of these people. Let me tell ya, the two together make for the perfect mental storm. Their potential to do damage is enormous.

What it’s like having major depressive disorder.

If I am honest with myself, I have to admit I hate this. I really, really do. However, like many things that have been laid at my feet, I must do what I have to. This includes, whether I like it or not, allowing these two disorders to run their course at times. Especially when super-symptomatic.

If all this is new to you, if you have been recently diagnosed, hang in there. Let me tell ya, honestly, it’s best to accept what lies before you, too. Think of it – now that you know – that you can research and rebuild a life that accommodates your illnesses.

I know, my friend. it feels like you are being robbed of your identity. If you’ve followed a similar path as me, a massive amount of who you are was defined by helping others. This personality type is hard to untangle oneself from, but does one really have to? I argue that the answer is no.

Front and back cover of the road to mental wellness - 8 sings your relationship is hurting your mental health.
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Let me give it to you straight

Thankfully, the skills of a helper are fixable and very transferable. Honestly, there are endless ways to make a difference. When I could no longer work because of my mental health conditions, I decided to tackle it head on and start anew.

Once again, if I am being honest, I had to go through the pain of losing who I was. I was a firefighter, a health-care worker, and that’s all I knew, all I wanted to be. But…I can’t be those things anymore, ever again…

Finally, after so many years, I have come to terms with my partial loss of identity. If I’m honest about it, I am glad those days are behind me. Why, you ask? Well, simply because what I loved so dearly and identified with so strongly, destroyed me. That by definition would be considered toxic in any other type of scenario, am I right?

If it’s true that it was toxic for me, then why would I want to go back? Even though I have no clear direction at the moment, I have this: firstly, I have the opportunity to heal from the life that brought me so much mental pain and secondly, my life is a blank slate and thus full of opportunity. This is both scary and exciting and as I heal, I will fulfill my passion to help.

With all that said, like the book I co-authored, Lemonade Stand Vol. III, says; “When you’re handed lemons, you make lemonade.” So, that’s exactly what I have set out to do. During these most turbulent times in my life, I am finding the new me. As a helper at my core, I have dedicated my time to helping others by telling my story.

Rebuilding your life when mentally ill.

This blog, The Road To Mental Wellness is now part of the new me – my new identity, if you will. From the feedback I have received since starting this venture, I can say that I am achieving the goals I have set out to accomplish. I want to continue to help others while at the same time, find some therapeutic benefit too. Writing and advocating has been an amazing way to accomplish this.

At the end of the day, we get to choose where we put our energy, even if it’s not as robust and in a way we once knew. So then, how are you going to reclaim your own life? The possibilities really are yours for the exploring.

Check out one of my favourite mental health non-profits, fighting the battle against stigma; Sick Not Weak

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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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