Get Moving for MINDSTRONG. Let’s stop the stigma!

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Elana and her boys

Bouncing baby boy, husband, career, fabulous friends, devoted volunteer, and postpartum depression. You read that correctly, postpartum depression.

I was scared, ashamed, and alone. I didn’t want my friends to judge or label me as weak.

I was in denial for months as I tried to make sense of my illness. I had ruminating thoughts. Should I have educated myself more on motherhood while I was journalizing each moment of my “perfect pregnancy”? Should I have spent more time understanding how my life would change after I gave birth?

The truth is that it didn’t matter. I was determined to be well again. To be the fun, wacky, benevolent, passionate, ambitious person who I once was.

Unfortunately, the road to wellness was more challenging than I’d anticipated. I was filled with melancholy. I was consumed with guilt and engaged in endless self criticism on account of the lack of connection to beautiful son. It suddenly became a struggle to simply get out of bed.

After a gruelling three months, I sought help. I started counselling for the first time in my life. I felt alone and I was convinced that I was the only one who had experienced postpartum depression or depression in any form. It was extremely isolating.

While I knew that many members of my family and several friends loved, cared, and supported me, I also knew it was difficult for them to understand.

There were times when I felt they thought it wasn’t a REAL illness and that I could easily “snap out of it”.

Therein lies the conundrum- people suffering with mental health issues often encounter 20150509_135704family members and friends who aren’t informed and who too readily mark the person with disgrace or minimize the severity of what they’re enduring.

Fortunately, after some counselling and support from friends and family, I started to feel like myself again. Once a person experiences a bout of depression, however, the likelihood of a relapse is great. I definitely experience rough days.

Back in 2011, I decided to participate in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. I had not been on a bike in decades nor was I was in the kind of shape to ride 230 km in 2 days. I ended up falling in love with the sport, and cycling became my escape, my passion and a natural high.

Over time, I learned that cycling, consistent therapy, and seizing opportunities to give back to the community is what makes me tick.

Research on anxiety, depression and exercise show that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help ease anxiety and improve mood. Experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins.  Exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from reoccurring once you’re feeling better.

This is why I have made the decision to be an active participant, ambassador and fundraiser for the inaugural CIBC MINDSTRONG fitness event benefiting youth mental health.

The objective of the fundraiser is to expand youth mental health services, promote awareness on mental health and above all crush the stigma.

It is important to note approximately 2/3 of mental disorders begin during the formative years of 15 to 25. Early intervention is one of the best ways to facilitate the prevention and recovery of mental illness. The Jewish General Hospital CIBC MINDSTRONG event will be held on June 7th, 2015 at Midtown Le Sanctuaire. A fun-filled epic day is promised that will include fitness classes for all levels, a gourmet lunch, snacks, refreshments, gifts and much more. We are expecting 300 participants.

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The MINDSTRONG team
We need to treat depression and other anxiety disorders as illnesses and we need to quit blaming its victims. Like cancer, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, mental illness is chronic, pervasive, debilitating, and sometimes, as we are too frequently reminded, life threatening.

This is how YOU can do your part and help break the stigma:

  • Join my CIBC MINDSTRONG team.
  • Visit here and kindly donate to an individual or a team.
  • If you are unable to join or donate, please spread the word about CIBC MINDSTRONG.

I’m sharing my experience as I believe it will help minimize shame, silence, secrecy, and raises awareness about how common it is. It’s time to bring mental health into the SPOTLIGHT. It’s been in the dark way too long.

I encourage and urge everyone to educate themselves on mental illness, help break the stigma, and don’t allow your loved ones to suffer in silence. Above all else, don’t judge, choose your words wisely – and listen.

And a special shout out to the team at Midtown Le Sanctuaire who is graciously donating their facilities and food for this event at no cost!

Looking forward to seeing you on June 7th !

Elana Fogel

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  • Thank you Elana Fogel for sharing your heartfelt and important story. We can make the world a better place one story at time. Please consider sharing a personal narrative in my series – Living Legacies – by Canadian Jewish women. All the best! Liz