It can be tough for someone to imagine exactly what depression feels like, especially if they have no experience with the illness. Renascent’s Cynthia Langill describes exactly how it felt for her, “Life was very, very dark – without any joy or laughter. There were days when I simply didn’t have the wherewithal to get out of bed.”
Cynthia is one of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who lives with a mental disorder and her past experience with addiction served to mask her underlying struggles. Sometimes people who experience addiction also have undiagnosed concurrent mental health disorders. In Cynthia’s case, she struggled for many years and it was only when she was in her thirties that she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Years later an additional diagnosis of bipolar disorder followed.
“I grew up in a family that struggled with mental illness. My mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and alcoholism, and in my twenties I too started having difficulties with depression,” says Cynthia, who is an Addiction Counsellor and Registered Psychotherapist at Renascent’s Graham Munro Treatment Centre. “As I look back, I realized that I was trying to quell the mental illness symptoms by using drugs and alcohol,” she explains.
This year, Cynthia celebrated 10 years of sobriety. Among the many factors that contributed to her sobriety, Cynthia credits her diligent approach to safeguarding her mental health.
“I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel after going through a lot of therapy, getting clean and sober, and being able to talk to a sponsor freely and openly, rather than keeping things a secret,” explains Cynthia. “Now I live a very different life – one of joy and purpose.”
Cynthia draws from her life experience with addiction and mental illness to help women at Renascent’s Munro Treatment Centre. She has also made tremendous contributions to Renascent’s fundraising efforts to ensure cost is not a barrier for those seeking addiction treatment. Just this year, Cynthia was recognized for her efforts and was named a recipient of the Yielding Family Recovery Legacy Award.
“What I do isn’t work, it is my passion. I recovered from my addiction without treatment because I was too afraid of people finding out that I was addicted to alcohol. I too would have benefitted from treatment if I had the courage to attend,” says Cynthia who encourages others to challenge the stigma associated with both addiction and mental illness.
“I enjoy working with clients who – like me – have concurrent disorders. I am very optimistic about what the future holds for those who embrace treatment and recovery,” explains Cynthia.
Cynthia shares her advice for anyone who is struggling with mental illness.
- 1. Speak with your family doctor about your symptoms and request a mental health assessment. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Metro Addiction Assessment Referral Service (MARS) also provides substance use assessment and referral services free of charge to anyone who lives in Toronto.
- 2. Reach out for professional help. This could be a therapist, psychologist or another mental health professional. Help is available to you, so please do not suffer alone.
- 3. Speak with others (friends, family members, etc.) about how we feel. You’d be surprised how many people will identify with what you are going through and support you in getting the help you need.
- 4. Remember, mental illness does not define who you are, it’s just something that you may live with periodically. There is hope for a normal life if you seek help.