About the Cause - Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Why Am I Running?
The purpose of my run across Canada is to raise awareness for anxiety and depression, which affect a significant portion of the population but are often misunderstood and neglected.
I want to run across the country to talk to people who are currently battling anxiety and depression and share their stories. I want them to let people know that these illnesses can happen to anyone, and they do. I want to talk to people who have fought off anxiety and depression to see how they did it. I want to ask some passionate health care professionals to share the facts about the illnesses: the symptoms, their courses and the resources available to combat the illnesses. Ultimately, I want the average person to know about anxiety and depression like they know about the flu.
The fight is close to home for me. I have suffered from General Anxiety until the age of 30, when I took up long-distance running and began to have my anxiety under-control. Growing up, I always began the day with this intense worry feeling in my guts that something was going to go wrong and I worried about everything. I didn’t know that what I had was anxiety until I went back to school to study psychology. Ironically, that was a year after I began running and discovered that I could control my worries.
Why Do I Want to Talk to People?
The average person doesn’t understand anxiety and depression that well. I have had this worry feeling in my stomach for as long as I can remember but I never knew that I had a treatable medical condition. I always felt that something wasn’t quite right but I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I took some psychology courses when working on my first degree in university but that didn’t give me any clues that I was suffering from anxiety. I didn’t know that I had anxiety until I went back to school to study psychology. I felt relieved that I finally knew what my problem was and I stopped thinking that something was mysteriously wrong with my head. I realized that I had an anxiety disorder and it affects other people as well. I can’t believe it took me, a psychology student, so long to find out my problem. The average person with anxiety or depression might never have the chance to find out about their problem and get it properly treated.
That's why I want patients and healthcare professionals to talk about these illnesses and hopefully it will inform the average person to be able to recognize these problems and seek timely professional help. Given that anxiety and depression are so common people should know their symptoms well enough like they know the flu.
Why Should We Hide It?
Do you know someone who has anxiety or depression? The chances are high that you do because these illnesses affect at least 20% of the population! I remember one of my classmates used to tell me that her mom suffered from depression for many years but the family never talked about it. That is the problem: people don’t tend to talk about anxiety and depression around the dinner table. Even people who suffer from anxiety and depression don’t tend to talk about their problem because of the stigma.
What Is This Stigma?
People don’t want to talk about their anxiety or depression because they don’t want to be seen as crazy or weak. It doesn’t make sense. One would quickly see a doctor if they have a physical illness such as diabetes or flu and they would likely talk to family members and friends to get support. Why should we hide anxiety or depression given so many other people are affected by the same illnesses?
The problem with hiding anxiety or depression is that the illnesses tend to get worse, making them more difficult to treat. As a result, the patient and the people around them go thru unnecessary sufferings. This doesn’t make sense at all!
What Can We Do?
I truly believe that we who suffer from anxiety and depression can join hands with our families and friends to break the stigma attached to our condition. I often get reminded of the stigma people had towards cancer patients before cancer was accepted as a disease that could affect anyone. Cancer patients used to hide the fact that they have cancer and they would wear hats to hide the hair loss caused by chemo therapy. It took some brave people, such as Terry Fox, and celebrities, such as Lance Armstrong, to make people realize that cancer can happen to anyone. It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, short or tall, a genius or the average Joe.
These public figures who publicized their cancer normalized the illness. They made people realize that it’s not uncommon to have cancer and you don’t have to hide it if you have it. Most importantly, it took the shame out of cancer patients.
I truly believe we can do the same with anxiety and depression. For those of us who have anxiety and depression, we need to be able to tell our family and friends about our illnesses without feeling inferior or shameful. Imagine all of us standing up and telling people that we have anxiety or depression, there would be at least 20% of the population telling people that anxiety and depression are more common than most people think. It can happen to anyone, it doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, short or tall, a genius or the average Joe. We would be able to normalize these illnesses. Ultimately, we would take the shame out of anxiety and depression.
Imagine the day when people can freely speak about their anxiety or depression. We would be able to tell our family and friends about our problems and get their support. Imagine the day when people can recognize symptoms of anxiety and depression like they would recognize flu symptoms. We would be able to get proper treatment right away and not let the problem get worse. Imagine the day when people accept anxiety and depression as normal human illnesses. We would be able to look at the facts, face the truth and fight it together. That day, my friend, will come soon!