Two southeast Saskatchewan residents are sharing their battles with mental health issues, and how they have been able to overcome them.
Christalee Froese, a Montmartre author who released Journey to Joy: The Transformation of a Life … 21 days at a Time, and Jeremy Taylor, an oilpatch worker from Carnduff, spoke at the Southeast College’s Estevan campus on Tuesday afternoon.
While their speeches focused on issues such as anxiety and depression, they ended on a joyful note.
“When we talk about those subjects, it often gets dark and heavy, and it will start off that way, but by the end, we hope to sort of lighten it up and make people realize that it’s a prevalent thing, and you’re not alone,” said Froese.
Journey to Joy is based on a breakdown that Froese had seven years ago, and how she overcame it. The book was released earlier this year, and she found that during her promotional appearances, she couldn’t talk to anybody without hearing a similar story.
“People are really touched by mental illness, but it’s just something they don’t talk about,” said Froese.
She ordered 100 copies, thinking her family would gobble up most of them, but it sold out very quickly and she believes it has been popular because it has touched a nerve.
“People struggle with depression and anxiety on a regular basis, and to hear somebody just put it all out there and talk about it in the normal course of the day has helped put people at ease with it,” said Froese.
Froese’s background is as a journalist, but seven years ago, a number of events happened, including the loss of a baby and a journey to China to adopt a child that pushed her anxiety levels through the roof and caused a nervous breakdown. It took two years of counselling and medications, as well as three weeks in hospital, to get back on her feet.
“I took on 21 things each month that I thought would make me happy, just because I read that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So I started with joy itself, and then it kind of morphed and kept going, and it went to food and it went to fitness and then it went to things … like peace and charity.”
Not only has she reclaimed joy, but her family has adopted two babies from China, including one with Down syndrome.
“By the end of it, I just felt like I had something to share with people about being low and coming back,” said Froese.
She still has bad days, but she tries to make the best of them.
Taylor, meanwhile, spoke about mental illness and how it has affected him, but also how when he reached out to people, they spoke to him.
“Many people think they’re suffering alone, or they’re scared to talk about it, and it’s amazing once you start reaching out, the feedback you get. So I just hope that for me doing this more people won’t be scared to speak out, and won’t be held back,” said Taylor.
At one time, it was difficult for Taylor to share his story. So he posted a video on Facebook, and found it easier to talk into the video app on his phone.
“It’s nothing you ever really want to talk to people about face to face,” he said. “Everybody leaves it behind closed doors.”
It was the Facebook post that drew Froese to Taylor’s story.
“I watched it and I thought ‘This is the poster child.’ He’s young, he’s vibrant, he’s working, he’s in the oilfield, but yet he suffers from depression,” said Froese. “I think a lot of people can relate to him.”
Taylor said he suffered an injury this past summer, and gives updates on it. The feedback he received has been uplifting.
“After the one video, when I saw the positive reaction, and how many people are actually going through what I was going through, I realized there are so many who are scared to speak out, and they shouldn’t be,” said Taylor. “So if I can help people get over that, and start taking the steps to speak out, I think it will do a lot of good.”
His employer, Integrity Oilfield Hauling out of Carnduff, and the people he knows from work have been great throughout the process.
This won’t be the last time they speak together. For Bell Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 30, 2019, there will be a More Joy event at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina, when they will be joined by Froese’s psychologist and colleagues, along with representatives of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in a fundraiser for the CMHA.