This is an important day for many, many people, including myself.#BellLetsTalk day is a chance to start a conversation about something that affects millions of Canadians — and people around the world — every single day.

My struggle with mental illness, namely anxiety, started in the fall of 2014 at Thanksgiving dinner with my family. Out of nowhere I just felt trapped, scared, and like I couldn’t breathe. I’d never experienced something like it before. It lasted for 17 hours. I had to miss work the next morning, which snowballed into me being fired from my job. Since then, there are some days where I’m short of breath, stuck in my own head, and constantly worried that everything is out to get me. There are some days, too, that I am completely content and ready to tackle the day ahead. You don’t know when it will rear its ugly head. It just does.

A little more about how it affects me. I’ve had times where I’ll be driving from Saskatoon to Regina. Suddenly I’ll feel panicked and like I am in immediate danger. My chest will tighten. I’ll feel trapped and like I’m going to pass out at any moment. Seemingly irrational to you; very real — in the moment — to me.

One thing I’ve learned though, is that it all passes. I feel like I’m dying in the moment, but it passes.

I would not be able to battle this alone, and I am thankful every day for the support group that I have.

Sometimes when I say “I’m stressed. I’m struggling.” I get told “Welcome to the real world.” And that is exactly why this conversation needs to be had. The stigma around mental illness is that it’s all in your head; only experienced by those who just need to “toughen up”. I can assure you that I can handle broken bones and bruised skin, but you can’t treat mental illness with an ice pack and a cast. You cannot treat the unseen with a simple Band-Aid. You cannot make someone feel what you’re feeling in that very moment. It is below the surface.

That is why I think mental illness is treated with such a passing glance. It’s unseen. It’s subjective. You can try to talk someone through a panic attack, or a bout of depression, but you cannot feel what they’re feeling at that very moment. It is hard to talk someone through something that they may not be able to fully articulate themselves. But this is why it is so imperative that youdo have those conversations. Do at least try to understand how someone is feeling. Let them know they’re not alone. It could save someone’s life.

Now, not everyone is going to reach out to you every time that they are struggling. Be proactive. Talk to your friends. Ask them how they’re doing. Help them through their battles, no matter how small.

There is a quote that really speaks to me about the issue. You might recognize a little bit of Braedon in it:

“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” — Robin Williams

To many, I’m known as the joker. The life of the party. The funny guy without a care in the world. I just want you to know that I care. I care way, way too much. One of my favourite things to do in the world is make people laugh. In laughter, I find solice. You forget about your current problems. Your current worries. You feel okay. I try to bring that to people, and I use humour to do it.

My pursuit of happiness led me to improv last fall, and I’ve fallen in love with the art. For 20 minutes a month, I get to become someone completely different and to help everyone in the audience forget about what they’re going through; even if just for a few hours. These are the kinds of things that I live for.

So, with all of that being said, I want you to know one thing; you are not alone. You are never alone. You can make it through your dark days. You’ve made it through every previous one so far, haven’t you?

If you’ve made it this far and are ever struggling, ever feeling like you need a friendly ear, just send me a message/text/anything. We can talk each other through it. Let’s talk.