Month: December 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Part Two: Surviving By Living in 2014

1,200 people can fit on a subway in New York. Surviving by Living has received 5976 viewers as of this minute, meaning it would take 5 full subways to fit all the people that have seen this blog. I began writing my story in February of this year, and have never looked back.

2014 has been a year of incredible change, and I like to think almost all of the changes were for the better, and that if they weren’t they most certainly served a valuable purpose. I learned a lot, laughed a lot, cried a lot, but most importantly, I shared a lot. If I think back to January 1st of 2014, my depression was still largely a secret that was discussed behind closed doors and with hushed voices among only my closest family and friends. Today, depression, mental health, suicide and my story are discussed openly and publicly because I have shed that layer of shame and guilt no one should ever have when they face a mental illness.

46 blog posts, numerous public speaking engagements, 3 interviews, and countless meaningful conversations later, I can say with absolute conviction that 2014 was a year of tremendous growth. “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” was my most popular blog post to date, and it discussed the various types of people that I encountered when I opened up about my depression. Unfortunately, most people fell under the “ugly” category. I decided I wanted to make this post an homage of sorts to that post, which was written the day after my blog first went live. That being said, let me summarize my year in three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good:
While I am not proud that I attempted to take my own life, I am most certainly proud that I am able to share my story and look back on how far I’ve come. I am so lucky and grateful to be at a place in my life where I feel comfortable enough to open up about where I’ve been and speak to the hope I always have to keep me going. Forgive me for sounding pompous and bragging, but it’s important to note how much I’ve been able to accomplish. If you or someone you know is facing depression, take this as proof that it most certainly does get better. A year may seem like a long time, but in actual fact, it isn’t that long. Here are some of the good things I’ve been lucky to have in my life this year:
– I made many friends who accept me for who I am, struggles and all, and who love me and care about me.
– I received an immense amount of support for starting this blog, from people I know well and strangers who have been able to relate to my story.
– I’ve educated myself on mental health, and have had the opportunity to attend a virtual conference on suicide prevention, and was given a spot for the 2015 Jack Summit.
– I became the President of UBC’s Mental Health Awareness Club, am currently a key member on the planning committee for UBC’s Mental Health Symposium, and am organizing UBC’s first Defeat Depression Run.
– I went from being on academic probation, to receiving more ‘A’s than I ever have before.
– I gained enough strength to let go of people who weren’t good for me, and recognized that I deserve to be treated better by surrounding myself with people who can bring me up and not down.
– I learned that I love to speak about mental health and share my journey, no matter how difficult it can be.
– I was able to accept that depression comes with good days and bad days, but that’s okay because without the rough times, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the good times.
– Finally, I am able to think about the things I have in my life and feel happy, fulfilled, and most importantly, hopeful and excited for what great things are yet to come.

The Bad
As great as 2014 was, it was not without it’s challenges. Self-doubt, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence were key players that held me back at times. For the early part of 2014, depression was still very crippling at times, and I missed a lot of class, got bad grades, and struggled to maintain close relationships.
– I lost a few people whom I thought would be in my life forever. Friendships went as quickly as they came, and connecting with people was difficult because they couldn’t understand my mental state, and I couldn’t explain it.
– With my new found passion for mental health activism, I began to pile countless things on my plate thinking I could handle it all. I was forced to address stress in a new way, and determine how to juggle all my commitments without breaking down.
– I found it hard to shake a constant fear that I could get really bad and depressed again in a blink of an eye, and was unsure of if I’d be able to pull myself out of it.

The Ugly
We live in a world where people are still unable to understand mental illness without first hand experience, where mental illness is treated differently from physical illness, and where stigma is abundant making the fight for positive mental health an uphill battle.
– I encountered my fair share of stigma, from people telling me it was all in my head, to being called “crazy”.
– Our health care system is so focused on using their limited resources for crisis intervention, that prevention and after care are often overlooked.
– Suicide is the leading cause of non-accidental death in youth aged 15-24, yet it’s not talked about enough to make a difference.
– Ignorance from people who don’t take the time to educate themselves on mental health concerns can often cause tremendous amounts of harm and drive people to feel more isolated and lonely than ever before.

2014 has been a year of change, a year of ups and downs, but mostly, it’s been a year of hope. Hope that things will continue to get better, not only for me but for the mental health community as a whole. Hope that people will not struggle in the same lonely and isolated way that I had to. Hope that I will have the strength to continue to share my story and that people will be receptive to it. Hope that mental illness does not have to be an isolating disability, but rather a mechanism for connection and change. In the original post, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, the ugly part was the longest. Now, the good part is the biggest and I find myself struggling to think of more things to add to the bad or the ugly section.

Each and every viewer, all 5976 and counting, holds a special place in my heart. From 62 different countries around the world, I may not know who you are, your name, or how you found this blog, but I am deeply grateful to every single one of you who has taken the time to read my story. Happy New Year, and may 2015 bring everything we could hope for!

Keep Surviving by Living

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The Never Ending Roller Coaster

I don’t like roller coasters. I’ve never liked roller coasters. Perhaps it’s because I don’t find the adrenaline rush of going so fast you can’t breathe appealing, or maybe it’s because I get nauseous when I’m flying in every possible direction. I really think it’s the uncertainty and lack of control that I don’t like; I don’t know how fast I’m going, I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know what is going to happen next, and most importantly, I don’t know how to stop. Depression is a never ending roller coaster ride. It’s a ride I can’t get off, no matter how much I want to. It’s a ride that makes me look like I’m laughing and smiling on the outside, but I can barely breathe and am terrified on the inside. It’s a ride where you feel everything and nothing all at once. (more…)