My name is Shalyssa. I have anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD, and I’m recovering from depression. I’ve had anxiety ever since I was a little kid, but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was a teenager. By that time, I had also developed depression. I was always different, never got along with kids my age but always wanted to be accepted. I remember being jealous of my sister every day because she always seemed like she knew what she was doing, and had so many friends. I always admired her, and yet we’d fight all the time. It was hard growing up alone. I remember crying every day because I hated how different I was, while I had no idea what made me different from anyone else. I wouldn’t say I rebelled against my parents, but I definitely didn’t make it easy on them. I fought with them every day, and I was so sensitive that I let myself get upset by any and everything. I believed for years that I wasn’t loved, and that no one would ever love me. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never have anyone love me. How could they?


I was loner until 2011/2012. Those years were so crazy for me. I lost my grandfather, travelled to Europe where met my boyfriend whom I’m still with today, attempted suicide, was hospitalized at CATC, was diagnosed with ADHD, graduated from high school, lost my grandmother, and started university in the States. I remember being diagnosed with ADHD. I was so angry at my psychiatrist. I didn’t know much about it at all; I believed that it meant I was disabled or stupid. It took me until my second year at university to understand just what it meant and how it affected me. I learned about disabilities and found my passion for fighting for equality.

In 2011, I met my boyfriend in Europe. Our schools were matched together to go on this trip, I had never met him or anyone from his school before. As of March this year, we will have been together for 6 years. I never thought I could ever meet anyone like him. He’s my best friend. He’s always supported me and he’s been there with me through so much. We had only been dating for a month or so when I attempted suicide and was hospitalized, we were only 17. 

I enrolled in the Social Work program at my school, but three years into the program my professors decided that the fact I had mental illness clashed with their values of who could be a good social worker. I was kicked out of the program, and had to return to Canada. That year was one of the worst in my life. My anxiety skyrocketed and my belief that my mental illness didn’t define me shattered. I had to be hospitalized again because of my panic attacks. That fall, I enrolled in Brandon University in the Psychology program. The first day was horrible because I didn’t know anyone and after three years in another school, I couldn’t work out how the school system worked. The second day, by complete chance, I met my best friend. We pretty much became inseparable since that day.

Now I’m in my second year of university, graduating next year, and planning my next steps. I am closer to my family now than I ever was, and even though I don’t get to see them often, we talk almost every day and visit a few times a month. My sister and I still fight once in a while, as sisters do, but I’m so glad I have her here in the city. And I know, that she would always be there for me if I needed her.

This campaign gave me the opportunity to pull myself back together into how I was when I felt empowered. It gave me that chance to believe that I am not defined by my mental health. It’s a part of me, but I am so much more than that. My mom always said things turn out for the best. As always, she was right.

Photo credit: Ed Bowron

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