Little over a year ago Krystal Blakely decided she couldn’t take it anymore. She came home from work, asked her mom to pick up the kids, then locked herself in her bathroom and tried to take her own life. Thankfully her mom and dad arrived in time to get her to the hospital, and Krystal has spent the year since recovering from debilitating depression. She celebrated the anniversary of her failed attempt by holding a fundraiser for her local Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) office, and made supporting others in crisis her life goal. We wanted to know more.
What drives you to help others in your situation?
I was diagnosed with depression last February and got to see firsthand how our system works, and how flawed it is when it comes to supporting people with mental health issues. When I checked out of the hospital and went to the local CMHA office, there was an 11-month wait for counselling. I thought, “That can’t be right.” I literally got a call for counselling on February 11th, 2018. Luckily, I was able to fund prior counselling through another route, but others aren’t always so fortunate. CMHA are under resourced and I wanted to help.
Also, a lot of times moms aren’t paying attention to their mental wellness — because they can’t — especially single ones. As a single parent I was just trying to take it one day at a time. It was all I could do just to feed my kids and make sure everything was okay for them. By the time it was time for me I was exhausted and had to go to bed too, because depression makes you tired. I want to help those moms learn to take care of their mental health.
Tell us about the anniversary fundraiser.
In one of my counselling sessions, my counsellor asked what I was doing for my anniversary, but I didn’t know and hadn’t really thought about it. She suggested that I go to a mental health event, but a lot of those events were directed at youth mental health — which is fantastic and very important, but I couldn’t find anything targeted at people like me so I decided to plan my own, Rise Up for Mental Wellness. I organized speakers on depression and self-care, and vendors of relevant products and services — and ended up with 73 attendees! A local radio station and paper covered the event, and I raised just over $1,100 for the CMHA Simcoe County. Now I’m planning to make this an annual event as it was so well received.
Would you mind sharing more about your own journey in the past year?
Well, I’ve been fighting depression since I was 14. I wasn’t officially diagnosed, but by grade eight I was already cutting. I went to counselling and got better, but I’ve struggled on and off over the years. Last year I got to the point that all the external factors in my life were working against me and I just couldn’t take it anymore when in the past I’d always been able to function.
By the end of January last year I was working seven days a week in child care at a ski resort and parenting solo. And I was tired of telling people my story. I felt I should be better, and was embarrassed to keep talking about it. The day it happened, I remember my co-workers saying, “See you tomorrow,” and thinking, “I don’t know that you will.”
I went home with my kids, and just had enough. I felt I’d exhausted all my options — and I was done. It was like an out-of-body experience. In my right mind I would have never wanted my kids to grow up without a mom. It was like something came over me and I was in another zone. I texted my mom saying I can’t do this anymore, come get my babies, and I went into the bathroom, closed the door, and did what I did. My mom knew that wasn’t like me and came right away – with my dad. She took the kids and dad took me to the hospital. I spent nine days there then did a six-week outpatient program. My mom took an eight-week leave of absence from work to watch the kids. I’ve been working on self-development ever since, which has helped me deal with the lows much better than I’d been able to before.
It sounds like you have a good support network.
I do but I got so sick I was pushing people away. After my suicide attempt I realized pushing people away isn’t safe for me or my kids. Now I have safety plans in place but if I start to feel that low I go stay with my mom, or she comes to stay with me. I’m terrified I might end up there, because it was such an out of body experience.
My plan with the fundraiser was to help others and I’ve decided I’d like to be a life coach focused on helping others with mental health — sharing the tools I’ve acquired in the past year that helped me climb back from rock bottom to where I am today. I want to offer holistic solutions, and use my psychology degree. It helps me to help others.
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