Participant Profile: Chantal Poitras

On May 23, 300 runners will take off on the runways of the Fredericton International Airport to raise money for mental health programs and reduce stigma of mental illness. Why is the work of the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick so important? Chantal Poitras shares her story below:

Chantal PoitrasLife falling apart, extreme uncontrollable emotions, a feeling of emptiness and daily suicidal thoughts that make me feel ashamed, living without knowing what will come of the next day or even the next five minutes, it is like sitting on a bomb that could blow at any moment. That is how I would describe living with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Once you are aware, it is not so bad, but getting a clear diagnosis can take time. It took me many years to find out that I had mental health issues, to understand that I needed help and, especially, to find that help. A simple email of distress during a suicidal crisis got me in contact with an employee of the Canadian Mental Health Association, a true angel for me. She blew many doors wide open so I could get the help I needed, and in French, my language. She put me in contact with specialists that helped lead me to a more stable life.

The road to a more stable life is long, but it can be done. With a diagnosis, you can get treatment adapted to your needs. I went through intense therapy that lasted a year, and it changed me. I learned to take control of my emotions and not let them run my life for me. I also had to change my lifestyle, with a strict schedule that includes healthy eating and exercise. To move forward and have less suicidal thoughts, I need to have projects, goals and dreams.

Mental illness doesn’t stop me, it forces me to overcome. In 2013, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and my next dream is to run the marathon on the Great Wall of China. Such dreams make physical activity more pleasant. Three years ago, I started running with the Running Room. Running with a group makes it easier not to get discouraged, it motivates me to make it to every session, and it helps me make new friends that accept me for who I am.

In 2012, I decided to live with my mental illness out in the open. I became a face of mental illness, a national campaign dedicated to the promotion of mental illness. It was the best decision of my life to talk openly about my mental illness. It helped me accept and liberated me. I no longer felt the need to hide and feel shame. I also got a lot of support from my family and friends. Living with a mental illness is not the end of the world. It is tough, there are a lot of ups and downs, but you can still have a good life.

Chantal is joining us for the YFC Runway Run on May 23. Pledge your support here.