Month: December 2015

Surviving by Living in 2015: A Year in Review

Flashback to December 21st, 2013. Exactly two years ago. Only my closest friends (I can count how many on my hands), and close family knew of my mental health struggles.

As of right now, Surviving by Living has had approximately 10 000 views, with over 4500 unique viewers from more countries than I can name. I am immensely proud of this fact. Not for what I have accomplished, but I am proud of the fact that so many people have engaged with a topic that is far too often ignored.

Last year,  I followed the format of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and thought I’d do the same for the sake of consistency.

The Good:

  • I had tons of friends who openly supported me, my struggles, and were willing to do what it took to help me feel okay.
  • I led a mental health fundraiser, called the Defeat Depression Run, which raised over $13 000 for local initiatives.
  • I was lucky enough to be a delegate for the 2015 Jack Summit, an innovative youth summit changing the way we look at mental health.
  • I was a summer intern for Jack.org, lived in Toronto, and had the most incredible summer with people I will never forget.
  • I won by business school’s public speaking competition, where I openly spoke about my mental health struggles.
  • I’ve been getting the best grades of my life at school.
  • I was featured on As We Are, a style blog about how our struggles shape our unique style choices.

I have had tons of good in my life this past year, and I can’t help but smile as I recall how blessed I am to have good opportunities, good people, and a good life.

The Bad:

Despite the good, I had plenty of challenges in 2015, if not more than ever before. Anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and low self-esteem all reared their ugly heads more often than I would care to admit, and more often than before.

  • My mental health began to decline again over the course of the summer, and as the fall progressed.
  • I had to increase therapy from once every month or so, to 2-3 times per week.
  • I’ve been on 6 or 7 different prescriptions over the course of the year to help with my mental illnesses, and am still on 4.
  • I learned my depression is “treatment-resistant”, and my brain doesn’t respond to therapy or medications the way it ideally should.
  • I will be starting a new, intensive medical treatment in the new year, which has forced me to drop half of my course load, and rethink my spring graduation. Though it is safe, I could have temporary memory loss, experience extreme nausea, muscle fatigue, and migraines, and there is always a possibility of it not working.

The Ugly:

Similar to last year, the ugliest part of mental health is the stigma attached to it. This year, I discovered that our mental health system is broken, and it’s uglier than I imagined.

  • Waitlists to simply see a mental health practitioner can be over a year.
  • Seeking outpatient psychiatric help in the form of group therapy ranges from 5 months to 18 months.
  • Private counselling or therapy can cost upwards of $150 per session. Sliding scale rates usually have a wait list.
  • People still don’t see mental illness as a legitimate illness, and this stigma disables people from accessing support.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of non-accidental death in youth ages 15-24.
  • Someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has stood by my side throughout my struggles. I can’t count how many of you there are, but I’ll also never forget everything you’ve done for me. I’d also like to thank those who didn’t, for showing me how to be a stronger, more independent, and more resilient person. 2015 has been interesting to say the least, and though 2016 may get off to a bumpy start, I’m excited by what is still to come.

Keep Surviving by Living.

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This Week in Mental Health

This past week has been a long one for me. I can’t say it’s been my best week, and I know it isn’t the worst, but it’s been far from ideal. Luckily, it’s also BuzzFeed’s Mental Health Week. I love BuzzFeed. I think the stupid quizzes and taste test videos are sometimes the highlight of my day. This week, BuzzFeed took a more serious look at the realities of mental illness and mental health issues.

Visit BuzzFeed’s Mental Health Week to see their entire spread. To make it easier, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best ones I’ve seen this week. Some are funny, some may make you want to cry a little bit, but every single one is honest. If you have some time, I strongly encourage you to take a look at a few posts.

What you can say/do: 

What to Say vs. What they Hear

21 Things to Say

What People may Hear

What we need to hear

“Just Get Better” #no #dontdothis

The Reality of Mental Illness: 

Panic Attacks

Books to Understand

Depression Lies

Fighting Your Brain

Tips and Tricks:

Mobile Apps

Helpful Playlists

Panic Attack Tips

Medication: 

The Struggle is Real

Why Take it? 

Motivational Posters:

Depression

This is by no means a complete list of what BuzzFeed has to offer this week. Their spread is impressive, with over 100 posts and 30 videos. Some discuss suicide, while others look at pop culture and how it can help. Try navigating a day with depression through their website, or watch one of the movies that have helped people cope. Mental health is something we all need to take care of, not just those of us with diagnosed illnesses.

Keep Surviving by Living.

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

You can ask almost anyone who knows me, and they will tell you Christmas time is my favourite of the entire year. From the Starbucks holiday drinks, to rewatching Home Alone for the hundredth time, I absolutely love everything about the holidays. It’s a time for laughter, cheer, happiness, and lots of love.

That being said, this time of year can be really hard, and it’s important to be sensitive to those around you. Here’s why the holidays can be hard for me:

  1. No more sun. It’s scientifically proven that peoples’ moods decline during this time of year due to the lack of sunlight. I have to use a sun therapy light every morning to help me get out of bed. Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) is a real thing for many people, and seasonal shifts in mood can be quite significant.
  2. Insecurities are heard loud and clear. “Did I pick the right present for them? Will they like it? What if they already have it? I chose a bad present. I hate choosing presents. Its like I don’t even know this person.” Some people get a lot of anxiety about buying and receiving presents. Appearance insecurities are also huge. The holidays are full of sweet treats and fatty foods that people love to comment on. Someone who struggles with body image issues could have a harder time with this.
  3. Crowds. I’m a fairly social person. I love Christmas parties, and I love the way the mall is decorated for the holidays. But, loud noises and crowds bother me. When there are people in every direction at a mall, or I have to navigate a busy, loud party, I can get quite overwhelmed. Many people who deal with anxiety do. In fact, almost every Christmas dinner I excuse myself for about half an hour to rest and rejuvenate so I can be social again. Unfortunately, this is a luxury that can only be afforded in certain circumstances. Don’t be afraid to take a few moments to collect yourself and relax for awhile. A little space from a situation can be really helpful. If you’re a host, don’t feel offended or make a big deal of it.
  4. Goodbyes. For someone who visits home for Christmas, the end of the holidays is always hard. You have to say bye to everyone, and you don’t know the next time you will see them. Maybe it’s a month, maybe longer, maybe until next Christmas. Family and friends are really important around the holidays, but it’s bittersweet knowing your fun times have a time limit on them.

In a (chest)nutshell, try to be more cognizant of the difficulties that can accompany one of the greatest times of the year. Some people find the holidays really tough, but everyone deserves to have the best holiday season they can. If everyone is a bit more sensitive about making sure their friends and family are comfortable, this time of year could be even more wonderful (even though I already think it’s the most wonderful). Happy Holidays to you and your families!

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Keep Surviving by Living.