Mental Health is at the forefront of our conversations lately and it’s about time. It’s so important that we are talking about it as a community. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, all Canadians are affected by mental health at some time through a family member, friend or colleague and 20% of Canadians will experience some form of mental health issue in their own lifetime.
Although I am not aware of any mental illness in myself I definitely had a season in my life where my mental health was failing and I was desperately crying out for someone to hear me, to help me and to heal me in some way. Let me share a part of my story with you in hopes that it will help you understand that we all need to be aware of our mental well-being.
Most people know the side of me that is always smiling, always cheerful: The happy and hyper side of my personality. That is the side that I want everyone to remember me by. This side always looks at the bright side of things, loves every waking moment with children, can take on multiple projects at once and still enjoy the process. It’s the side of me that seems to have it all together. In actuality, I think everyone in the world would like to be seen as flawless.
But as we know, perfection is an illusion; a fiction; a fairy tale. As every fairy tale has a wicked witch or a big, bad wolf, we know that there will be a time or times in our lives when the dark side will rear its ugly head and at the most inconvenient times.
Up until a year ago, I thought that I was a pretty positive person. I believed that with faith and hard work I would see my dream materialize. This was the foundation that I stood on and the platform I used to motivate young people to believe in as well. But 2015 hit me like a ton of bricks and I began to feel like I was losing everything I had worked so hard for.
You see, in the summer of 2012, I decided to “go big or go home” with The Saidat Show. My desire and lifelong goal has always been to have a children’s program that would reach the masses and to one day have a national TV talk show for children. This has been my goal since high school. With what I felt were means to fund an amazing entrepreneurship, I invested a substantial amount into my blooming business and passion. Although my heart was in the right place, I used only my heart not my head, or wise council, and I threw all of my assets into my business. I mean all of it!
I actively pursued everything I thought would get me the exposure I needed to make my dream a reality. I invested time, energy and money in anything I believed would get me to the place I wanted to be – multiple music videos for kids; teaching videos for teachers to use in the classroom; I funded a short film about bullying; I wrote and published a children’s book; we invested in new props, backdrops, sound equipment…you name it, we had it.
All great ideas, each and every on but, regrettably, none of this brought prospects of bigger opportunities at that time.
By 2013 I was beginning to see that the funds were disappearing but there was no true sign of success. Now, we had many times when it looked like it. We say, “This is it – the big break”. There was a possibility of a tour in the United States, a possible record label signing, a possibility to be featured on a popular talk show, so many possibilities but nothing solid. I threw more funds into the possibilities but by the end of 2014, I knew that I was in trouble.
So my idea was to take on another job with direct sells. It is an amazing company and I tried my best to make it work. I thought that this second income would help me run my current children’s business as well as give me revenue that would sustain my family so that I would not have to depend directly on the success of being a children’s entertainer. But trying to run two businesses and make them both successful was not feasible at that time. In the end, I decided to give up the direct sales. I still love the business and the product but it didn’t go as planned and I was falling even deeper into debt.
2015 became what I like to call “survival year”! Finally, the investment in 2012 and the hard work since 2004 were starting to show signs of success. But I wasn’t enjoying it. I had invested so much time, energy – mentally and physically, and finances into the business that I was not celebrating the developing results. I was only focused on all of my failures throughout the years.
Most people didn’t know the struggles I faced. I still loved my job! I was still making motivational videos for the world to hear. I was still smiling, dancing and singing my way into the hearts of thousands of children in 3 Provinces with our school tour. The Saidat Show was bigger and better than ever, but something inside me was dying.
Kristina, my fiancée and business partner, asked me about my well-being on a daily basis. Statements like, “You ok? Something is wrong. I can feel it. What can I do to help?” My new assistants who were traveling the nation with me experienced many days of me crying for unknown reasons between shows, being extremely stressed and the Saidat everyone was familiar with – the happy and hyper Saidat – was only visible during the “show”.
I was showing signs of depression. Time and again the people closest to me would tell me that everything would be ok. I was telling these amazing young people throughout my tour the same thing, but in my mind, I felt the darkness and I could not get away from it. I knew that the source of my sadness was partially from exhaustion, and constantly reviewing all my mistakes in my mind while trying to “survive” the mistakes. I would try to cheer myself up by reading stories of now successful business people who persevered despite making big mistakes, but that heaviness stayed with me for a long time.
I read stories about Darren Hardy, Lisa Nichols, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey…anyone who managed to overcome obstacles on their journey to success.
You see, by the 2015/16 school year I was living my dream. I was now working every school day (what I had dreamed of). I was recognized as an amazing children’s entertainer and acknowledged by many great people. I also had that television talk show. The only thing missing was my happiness in it all.
Now I had been talking to students the entire 2015-16 year about having a ‘growth
mindset’. I was teaching them that failure is part of life and that you keep going even when it feels like you need help. I told them to always ask for help but was I living what I was teaching? I needed help but felt that no one would understand what I was going through. Boy, did I have to learn a lesson in practice what you preach.
There was a deep sadness inside me that would not go away. I tried getting away from it by eating as much food as possible, 20 pounds later I realized that wasn’t working. I tried working harder but the darkness would not go away. It was only when I decided to take my own advice and ASK for help that I began to feel better. I also had to allow others to ask for help for me. By following what I was teaching I was able to foresee the passing of my season of darkness.
The 2016/17 school year is now off to a fresh start. Because I was willing to reach out and ask for help; because I was blessed by a network of amazing supporters; because someone at a great bank helped me get my business sense and (cents) together I can go forward and bring an even stronger message to young people because I have had the experience of living in that dark place for a season.
Here are some of the many things I have learned:
1.Listen! Listen to yourself!! Be aware of how your feeling! Just like when we know if we are hungry or full, we can also sense when something isn’t right inside us. Pay attention to your feelings, your mood or any changes in attitude about life. Don’t just shrug it off. Start early by journaling how you are feeling or talk to someone you trust and ask them to let you know if they have seen any changes in you.
2.Ask! I know that this phrase is redundant but DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. You never really know who wants to help you and you will never find what will help if you don’t ask. Ask a friend, a doctor, a parent…anyone who can lead you to the answers you need.
Try saying positive things to yourself.
Try getting outside and going for a walk.
Try listening to your favorite music.
Try learning something new.
I say TRY because if you try these things and you are still feeling down and the feeling is not going away you need to go back to step 2: ASK for help.
4.It’s OK not to be OK!
I saw this in a newspaper once and it really stuck with me. Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to have a season of “not OK” We can even let the people close to us know that although we don’t know what is wrong we are working through it. Let them know that you appreciate their patience and will let them know if they can help.
5.Make Mental Health Your Priority
Being successful in life and business is not as important as having your sanity and happiness. You are valuable. You are loved by someone. And you make a difference in the world every day, but you can make a bigger difference when you can be your best YOU!