When looking back on my youth I see now how anxious I was as a child. I was afraid to be outspoken and always terrified of getting in some kind of trouble, constantly thinking about the “what ifs”. When I moved to New Brunswick in 6th grade where I was closer to family, I found myself relaxed, happy, and carefree. It seemed I was in a place I really belonged. In 8th grade my view of the world changed. I felt angry, alone, isolted. It seemed like there was no point in trying for anything. My mother saw the biggest change in me—I was became so irritable and agitated.
After completing an undergraduate degree in Psychology, I’ve learned that depression can manifest itself in children and youth with signs of irritability rather than sadness. Youth also complain of more physical symptoms—headaches or upset stomachs—both of which I experienced on a daily basis. I vividly remember locking my mother out of the bathroom while I cried on the floor and she banged on the door, pleading for me to let her in. I did not know how to express what I felt or what I was going through. We both decided it was time to talk to my family doctor, who assured me I was only experiencing typical feelings of a young person transitioning to teen life.
High school was not so bad, but my self-esteem certainly suffered as it does for many during those years. It wasn’t until I left home for uni and began the real journey of finding myself that I was faced with some confusing and hurtful situations that inevitably left me feeling very depressed. There were days when I could only focus on the constant negative thoughts that circulated through my mind. I would take three naps a day and eat very little. I missed many classes and rarely spent time with friends. I considered myself worthless, and often felt that life had no purpose. Fortunately my boyfriend at the time encouraged me to seek help. I told my mom and stepdad about what I was experiencing, and again spoke with my doctor who diagnosed me with GAD and MDD. Soon I was on the road to seeing a counselor and taking medication, both of which greatly improved my life.
The following December my mother was diagnosed with cancer and one year later I returned home to attend school at UNBSJ, a time which would be marked as the loneliest four months of my life. Unable to find the courage to reach out to strangers and make friends, I spent entire days alone despite being surrounded by others. I barely attended the two classes I was enrolled in, and even skipped the exam for one (which I ended up dropping). I had also stopped taking my meds. My mother passed away that March and I began making drastic changes in my life (some for the better, others for the worse). Since then I’ve had unhealthy relationships, made a few regrettable and uncharacteristic decisions, and learned a lot about myself. This past fall some unhealthy habits which gradually built up over the course of a few years resulted in struggles with an eating disorder. I quickly sought help and since then have recovered in some sense although at any given time throughout the day I am focused on my body or how it appears to others.
In spite of this I feel that I’m learning so much about myself and what I’m capable of achieving and overcoming. I believe this will continue for the rest of my life. I’ve been without any medication for five months now and doing relatively well, although some days are darker than others especially when certain incidents trigger my anxiety/depression. One of the most powerful tools in helping me cope with my mental health issues has been sharing my experiences with others. Since I began to open up about these issues, even with strangers, I have noticed a huge change within myself. I’ve got #mydefinition to thank in part for that. :)