Hi! My name is Chelsea, and I’m a mental health advocate living in Toronto.

I joke that I’m a professional oversharer, but what I really mean is that I share the things that most people don’t – my stories of living with depression (dysthymia), social anxiety, bullying, emotional abuse & trauma, failed relationships…nothing is off-limits.

Mostly I do this through speaking engagements and workshops, but I also have a blog, which you can find here, and I’ve been featured in some short films and written articles as well.

I believe that the stories of real people are the best tool we have to educate the world about mental health. I think that’s the best way to not just make people aware of what mental illness is, but empathetic as well. My mission is to create as much empathy and tolerance in the world as I can, and I only hope that my stories can help.

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We Need More

Today marks the first Bell Let’s Talk Day that I’m not participating in at all since its inception, and the first one in 4 years that I’m not participating in as a member of a mental health organization.

Let me preface this by saying that the things I’m about to say are in no way meant to undermine the accomplishments of Bell Let’s Talk and the advocates who support it, or to make anyone feel bad for participating. If this campaign brings you hope, a sense of belonging and community, a way to feel like your voice is being heard – I am happy for you and for those reasons I think that it has done great things and is still, by far, better than nothing. 

Some people in the mental health community (and outside of it for that matter) knock Bell Let’s Talk because they dismiss it as simply a marketing ploy. I’ve always thought this viewpoint is too simplistic. Is it a marketing ploy? Yes, absolutely. It has brought Bell a great deal of positive press over the past 8 years. Bell is a for-profit company; they would not run any campaign if they did not believe it would make them money, no matter how much they wanted to. What people do not always understand is that literally everything, ever, is a direct or indirect marketing ploy, but that doesn’t make it bad.

Even everything that non-profit organizations do is a marketing ploy, designed to attract donors and volunteers. Non-profits care about money almost more than for-profits do, because even non-profits need to cover their own expenses and that alone is very hard for them to do. They need even more money to actually expand and, you know, do things. My point in saying this isn’t to make you say, “WELL FUCK EVERYONE, THEN!” None of this is because people or organizations are bad. It’s because this is the way things are because capitalism. What makes an organization good is if they can make money AND do good things at the same time. It’s really easy to do one or the other (although, without money, good can usually only be done on a small scale). It is very hard to do both. The scale and longevity of Bell Let’s Talk shows how effective they have been at accomplishing this elusive goal.

Songs I Needed At The Time

I was watching a Vlogbrothers video in which John answers a question – “What have been the most important songs to you?” And he says that’s a good question because the most important songs are not always the best songs, or your favourite songs.

And finally something that I think about way too often for some reason was put into words. I never know what to say when people ask what my favourite song is, because I feel like that answer changes all the time. My favourite song of the moment is probably something that came out within the last few months, or maybe an old one that I’ve ascribed new meaning to. Songs that I absolutely adored 10 years ago are still incredibly important to me, but not ones I actually listen to very frequently anymore.

So, here’s a list of some of those songs, the ones with specific stories attached.

(There’s…a lot of Taylor Swift and Marianas Trench.)

Abuse is Abuse

Here’s a story I haven’t told before. Or at least, I haven’t told this version of it before.

Usually, I tell a story of two teenagers in love who were tragically pulled apart by their terribly cruel friends. He cut himself; she tried to save him. His family was dysfunctional; she tried to save him. He was struggling under the pressures of popularity; she tried to save him.

All of that is true.

But what is also true is that meanwhile, she was constantly losing friends and almost never made new ones, and her confidence in herself was growing weaker by the day. And he did nothing to save her.

For the first two years of our friendship, we were adorable. We wanted the best for each other. We could tell each other things that no one else seemed to understand. It’s no surprise that we fell in love.

But once we did, he used my love for him to manipulate me in subtle ways. It took me FOREVER to realize it because we were once so pure and great together, and he had so many of his own troubles that I ended up giving him a pass on a lot of stuff. Even if I was initially mad about something, he’d find a way to get me to apologize to him instead because I was adding to his problems.

Here’s the thing – did he know what he was doing? In the early days, probably not. Did he feel bad about it? Absolutely. He took his self-hatred out on himself in the form of slashes into his skin.

But did it all still happen? Did it all still hurt me just the same?