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The Struggle with – LOOK, A SQUIRREL!

I have ADHD. Surprise! Who would have guessed, right?! Actually, to most of my friends, it’s pretty obvious. My train of thought is more of a streetcar on detour rather than a train, and my stories have virtually no end. But why did it take 24 years for a doctor to actually diagnose me?

When I was a kid, my teachers told me I was “gifted” and “above average”. I finished all my work before everyone else, and often got bored in class. Instead of acting out, I would zone out or work on something different. Sometimes it was writing stories, or reading a book under my desk. By the time I was in 6th grade, I was running a gum and candy business from inside my desk. I never really got in trouble, because my actual school work was finished and I was always the first to hand in my exams or in class assignments. My parents thought I was just bored because the content was too easy.

In reality, I struggled with focusing. I struggled with doing one task for an extended period of time, and would rush through tasks before my attention span ran out. There was constantly an attention hour glass that ran out just a bit too soon.When I was young, it was cute – I had messy writing, didn’t color in the lines, and couldn’t cut a piece of paper in a straight line. Everything was a race, and quality slipped through the cracks. As I got older, it became less cute and more annoying. School got harder, and I didn’t magically know all the answers anymore.

I tried to explain to my parents that I thought I had ADHD when I was about 12 or 13. When they took me to a doctor, I didn’t fit the usual ADHD bill. I wasn’t disruptive, I didn’t act out, I didn’t have bad grades. I wasn’t necessarily hyperactive. I just wasn’t disciplined enough because I had always had it so easy.

In university, I skipped a lot of class, because I barely got anything out of lectures, and when I was in class, I would be doing a million other things. I struggled with studying, and could only accomplish anything if I was having a “power hour”. I didn’t realize my “power hours” were actually a part of ADHD. In the ADHD world, it’s called “hyper focus”, which means that you have these bursts where you put so much focus into one thing, that the rest of the world is basically shut out. It was brilliant for writing papers and studying when it happened, but the problem was that it never really happened when I needed it to. Sometimes, it would happen when I was trying to work, but my focus was directed at something completely irrelevant. I always finished exams early because I could barely pay attention in a 45 minute lecture, let alone a 3 hour exam.

PC:”Auntie, Me & My ADHD” via Facebook

ADHD impacts every little bit of my life – from getting restless at work and needing to walk around every hour or so, to losing my keys, wallet, shoes, etc. to forgetting important dates like birthdays and social obligations. I lose track of more things than I can count, and find it difficult to follow through on a lot of things I commit to. It’s like being scatter brained on steroids. It’s also incredibly stressful.

This past year, my doctor asked if I ever had issues with attention and focus. I was seeing her because I had gone into a deep depression and my anxiety was out of control. Her question seemed irrelevant and surprised me, but when I did some of the diagnostic tests and realized I actually experienced a ton of ADHD symptoms, something clicked. It turns out that it’s really common for undiagnosed ADHD to manifest itself as anxiety and depression. We learned that part of the reason I was “treatment resistant” was because some of my anxiety and depression came from my ADHD. The stress of not being able to stay organized or the anxiety that comes with having a messy apartment (and let’s be honest, kind of a messy life), actually heightened my anxiety and depression.

I was actually quite relieved to get my diagnosis, but a big part of me was sad too. Why did it take so long to get diagnosed? What could have been different had I not struggled with my ADHD for so long without knowing? Could I have done more? Achieved more? Could I have avoided my depression and anxiety getting so severe? I’m not sure, and I guess I’ll never really know.

But I do know that we talk a lot about people being misdiagnosed with ADHD, and stimulants being over-prescribed, but we don’t talk nearly enough about how women and girls are often looked over and not diagnosed. The way that ADHD manifests itself can be quite different for young girls and boys – girls are more likely to retreat and disconnect, while boys are more likely to act out. Therefore, the boys get diagnosed because it’s a lot easier to see. Girls are more likely to be “inattentive” (like me), while boys are more likely to be “hyperactive”. We also think of hyperactivity as being a physical thing – like running around or being disruptive, but “hyperactivity” (in girls especially) can be more emotional – like having outbursts or emotion that don’t quite make sense or fit. This leads to the inattentive girls being labelled as lazy or stupid, and the emotionally hyperactive girls being labelled as drama queens or crazy.

Stimulants (medication for ADHD) can be dangerous and very easy to abuse, so it’s important that we are not over-prescribing these medications. It’s also important that we don’t under-prescribe to those who need it, especially girls who are already under-diagnosed. 

Now that I’ve bounced around enough, I should probably get to my main point which is this: a proper diagnosis can be absolutely life changing. And getting it sooner rather than later is really important, not just for medication, but because it can explain a lot. I struggle a lot with my self-esteem and always felt stupid or forgetful, but it was really just a part of my ADHD. It’s a lot easier now that I know what’s going on, but it was a long road to get here. When we let our knowledge of a condition be guided by misinformed stereotypes, we become blind to some important warning signs. When that happens, we let people slip through the cracks or misdiagnose them and treat problems with the wrong medications, which is dangerous and expensive.

Keep Surviving by Living.  

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I had anxiety before I knew I had anxiety

I am often asked when I first started dealing with my mental illnesses, and I generally go on a tangent of how it started when I dealt with conversion disorder and subsequently depression at the age of 19. Anxiety, however, is generally an after thought that I mostly considered an unsurprising side effect of my high-functioning personality, crippling depression and other mental health issues. Until now. A few weeks ago, I was transferring files from an old computer of mine to a new one. I stumbled upon my old high school papers and decided to read a few of them, just for fun. Nestled in the literary analysis and Shakespeare essays was a file simply labelled “anxiety.docx”. It was penned at 11:37pm in early 2012 – almost a year before I was officially diagnosed with a mental illness. I don’t have any memory of writing this, nor do I remember dealing with anxiety in high school. My mind had blocked it out. So here it is, my 17-year-old self’s take on anxiety, and also the first time I ever wrote about anything mental health related…six years ago.

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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.

#TheFactIs

Our mental health system in Canada is broken. And it’s entirely unacceptable.

Today, the Nova Scotia legislature is holding an emergency debate to discuss what is being referred to as a “crisis” in the mental health system, where people are being turned away from mental health services when they clearly need it. Dexter Nyuurnibe is taking a stand and getting attention on social media by exposing the facts about the dismal state of mental health care.

“#TheFactIs I shouldn’t have to wait 3 months, or for my next suicide attempt to see a doctor.” -Dexter

I wholeheartedly agree. I also have some facts of my own that I feel are important to share. I’ve been fairly lucky with the medical care I’ve received, but the wait lists are far too long or the services are inaccessible for many people.

#TheFactIs I shouldn’t be turned away from affordable mental health care services because my case is “too complicated” because I have a less common mental illness.

#TheFactIs people shouldn’t be refused help because they are too much of a liability.

#TheFactIs students and people with minimal income shouldn’t have to spend upwards of $200 an hour on therapy because free services are unavailable.

#TheFactIs emergency room staff are often undertrained in terms of mental health sensitivity and people often have horrible experiences.

#TheFactIs people who need help are released too early or not admitted at all because hospitals and psychiatric facilities are over capacity.

#TheFactIs waitlists for psychiatric help are entirely unproductive, because when people are in crisis, they need help NOW.

#TheFactIs we live in Canada where health care is supposed to be free and accessible to everyone. Not just physical health care, but mental health care as well.

#TheFactIs there isn’t enough support. From 6 month wait lists for psychiatrists, to month long waits for assessments alone, to hour long waits on crisis lines.

#TheFactIs asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, and to be turned away or told to wait can make those efforts seem futile.

#TheFactIs our system is designed for crisis intervention, instead of crisis prevention. We are reactive rather than proactive.

#TheFactIs Mental Health Matters. And Canada can do better.

Keep Surviving by Living.

“Be Kind to One Another”

That’s what Ellen Degeneres says at the end of her talk show. She also says “Be cool. Be kind. Don’t judge.” I couldn’t agree with her more. But it’s about more than that. It’s about more than just being kind to each other, it’s about being kind to ourselves.

The first thing that goes when you’re dealing with depression is your ability to see the good in yourself. You’ll make a small mistake, but your mind will take that and warp it into something huge as proof that you’re entirely incompetent. You then spend the next million thoughts criticizing and scolding yourself for what you’ve done wrong.

I remember once a therapist asked me to say all the bad things I tell myself every day. It consisted of something like “How could you be so stupid? You’re literally the most useless person ever and you screw everything up.” Somehow I thought it was okay for me to tell myself these things. Then, she asked me to think of a little kid I cared about in my life. Someone young, innocent, and someone I cared deeply about. She made me visualize this person and then asked me to yell all the things that I tell myself at the imaginary person. I couldn’t do it. When she asked me why, I said it was mean and would hurt the kid’s feelings. I was taught if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Why didn’t this logic apply to myself? Why was it okay to say horrible things to myself when I would never dream of being so cruel to another person?

It’s not okay. It’s not okay to be mean to yourself. We need to learn that criticism can be helpful in certain contexts, and the ability to provide yourself with constructive feedback is undoubtedly necessary, but we also need to be our own biggest cheerleader. You need to be the person in your corner cheering you on, encouraging you, and telling you you’re doing just fine. Sometimes I get really negative thoughts about myself, and then proceed to get mad at myself for thinking such things. You can see how that is completely counter productive.

So today I have a challenge for you. Be kind. Find five people you care about, and give them a compliment. It’s not hard to find the good in other people. Here’s the real challenge though: for every compliment you give someone else, give yourself one too. You’re fantastic, you just need to tell yourself that too. Be kind to one another and be kind to yourself more.

Keep Surviving by Living.

Dealing with a Dual Diagnosis

What a lot of people don’t realize is that more often than not mental illnesses like to stick together. It’s actually really likely for a person to have more than one mental illness, and many illnesses have overlapping symptoms. For example, many people with anxiety also suffer from depression and people with OCD can often have panic attacks. I’m one of the many people that have not one, but two mental illnesses: depression, which I talk about openly, and conversion disorder, which I still try very hard to hide.

Many people don’t understand conversion disorder. Simply put, it’s when my brain converts some sort of psychological “trauma” or stress into physical symptoms. This doesn’t mean that physical symptoms of conversion disorder are somehow less real, but it just means it has a different cause.

For me, my conversion disorder manifests itself in a number of ways that lead to other health problems. I am mainly affected by psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. That means that sometimes I lose complete control over my body, and every part of me convulses and shakes. Most of the time, I’ll end up losing feeling in at least one of my limbs or body parts and have to patiently wait for sensation to return. Other times I’ll forget where I am or my vision will become blurry. Though I’m not constantly having these seizures, I have tremors almost every day and deal with consequences of my muscles being so fatigued. Simple tasks like tying my shoes or buttoning up a shirt or rolling up my sleeves become really difficult. For the past three years, my ability to write has deteriorated to the point that I hardly write and prefer to type. I’ve had days where I can’t walk properly because my ankles will lock in weird positions, or my muscles are so tight that even small movements can be excruciating.

I hope that by being open about the struggles I face almost daily, people will understand that mental illnesses can be a very physical thing. And just because sometimes they’re not visible or noticeable doesn’t mean they are any less real. Getting a diagnosis for my conversion disorder was especially hard because there were unexplainable physical symptoms that didn’t make sense. Many medical professionals thought I was making up my struggles or looking for attention. They couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Most people haven’t heard of conversion disorder since it isn’t nearly as common as depression or anxiety, but it is a huge part of my life. I found a video the other day about someone whose story is quite similar to mine, and wanted to share it in case someone is interested in learning a bit more about this confusing and mysterious illness.

The video is a little long, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you have the time.

Conversion Disorder can be really scary and painful, especially because I have minimal memory of what happens during my seizures and have no control over what happens to my body. It takes a lot of patience that I sometimes don’t have, and it can be difficult to accept there are simple things I can’t always do. Ultimately, I still feel very blessed that I’m doing alright and am learning new ways to deal with my challenges every day.

Keep Surviving by Living.

You Are Still Here

I’ve talked many times about how recovery is an ongoing process – there’s ups and downs, and the only consistent part about my mental illness is that it’s inconsistent. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to forget that I have a mental illness, but there are still many reminders along the way. I think most people, myself included, get so caught up with our lives, our responsibilities, our obligations that we begin to forget how to take care of ourselves. We don’t allow ourselves those necessary moments where we slow down and take in the day. I always like to push myself harder than I sometimes should, commit to more than I should, and use my stubborn determination to remove the word “no” from my vocabulary. I asked myself why I do it. Why do I put myself through so much when it’s clearly a bad idea? Why can’t I cut myself a bit of slack and take a moment to just do nothing? I’m not sure I have an answer, but I think it has something to do with wanting to be in every moment, and not miss out on anything. In the worst of my mental health struggles, I felt myself slipping away and missing out on some of the best times of my life. I don’t want to slip away.

I visited the Aga Khan Museum the other day, and was amazed by the peace and stillness of the park. I didn’t have to be running around doing a bunch of things; I could just be. It was a feeling I’ve felt guilty for wanting but it was something I desperately needed. Sometimes you need a break from the craziness of every day life and the struggles that come with it.

I’m certainly not very educated when it comes to art, and though I appreciate museums and exhibits, I’m hardly ever impacted by pieces. Then, I saw one piece that I couldn’t stop admiring. In one of the exhibits is a small mirror. I didn’t think much of it, assuming it was one of those overrated and meaningless pieces that I didn’t quite understand. I moved closer to the mirror, and when I stood in the mirror staring at my reflection I noticed four words etched into the glass.

You Are Still Here.

Seeing those words over my reflection in the mirror hit me harder than I expected, and forced me to stop and remember that I’m still here. I’m here. I’ve been through hell and back, but I’m still here. The blurb next to the mirror spoke of the piece’s commentary on struggle and loss, and the idea that no matter what there can still be hope.

So for anyone struggling with their mental health, or feeling like they’re slipping away and becoming invisible like I feel all too often, never forget that you’re still here.

Keep Surviving by Living.

Coping 101: Exam Stress Edition

This time of year is the hardest for any university or college student. Finals take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional health. That stress compounded with a pre-existing mental illness can become a slippery slope, and self-care becomes of great importance. I have a few strategies that not only help me, but they can help pretty much anyone – not just someone with depression.

1. SLEEP – I have so many friends who pull all nighters and study through the night without recognizing they need to sleep. Sometimes university life does that to you, but it’s important to not make it a habit. Sleep is really important, and not getting enough can be really harmful. I start to feel my mood dip if I’m not well rested, and I need to have enough time in the mornings to get going. Early exams are the hardest because it takes me at least an hour to will myself out of bed. Yes, even though my depression is well managed, I still have a hard time finding motivation to do things in the morning.

2. TAKE BREAKS – People say Netflix should be banned during finals, or that it’s terrible luck that Game of Thrones started right when finals began, but it’s physically impossible to study allllll the time. Take breaks as needed, and reward yourself for working. You won’t be as effective if you don’t take frequent breaks to help keep your mind active. I’ve had days where I start early in the morning and don’t stop until really late at night – not necessarily by choice, more by circumstance. Either way, I’m not an energizer battery and I can’t just go, go, go forever.

3. TAKE YOUR MEDS – Okay, this tip is more applicable to me, but it’s still really important. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like taking my anti-depressants, but I really need them. Medication can be a vital part of managing a mental illness, and without it, my mood can drastically take a turn for the worse. If I don’t have my brain regulated, the natural stress of the time of year really starts to get to me.

4. SEE YOUR FRIENDS – I get really lonely. Like, really, really lonely. Not being around people makes me really depressed, because loneliness is one of the biggest parts of my depression. If I’m spending a significant amount of time alone, it gets to me very quickly. Sometimes it’s as simple as not studying at home, and studying on campus where I can run into a couple people I know. Other times, I meet up with other friends for dinner just so I can get rid of that crippling feeling of loneliness.

5. EAT PROPERLY – It’s towards the end of the year, and for many students that means they’re low on money and time. This means that a lot of students are likely surviving off of ramen and dry cereal. Eating well is absolutely necessary, if not more important than ever during this time. Take some time on one day of the week to make a LOT of food, and then keep it stored for the week so you can grab and go.

6. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF – My mind does this thing where it likes to spiral out of control for no apparent reason over really little stuff, like so: I didn’t know the answer to question #17 –> I’m going to fail the whole exam –> I’m going to fail the whole course –> I’m not going to graduate from university –> I’m going to get kicked out of school –> I’m never going to get a good job –> I’m going to have to live with my parents forever. As you can see, this can get really exhausting if it’s constantly through your head while you’re trying to study. It’s vital that you try and let go of the littler things, and try to let go of the tough exam you just wrote while trying to prep for the next one. It’s tough, but it’s important to try.

7. TALK ABOUT IT – If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, talk to someone about it. A friend, a family member, a counselor, anyone who you think will listen. Often if we articulate what we’re feeling and thinking, we can make better sense of it to cope better. I don’t like talking about what I’m going through, but sometimes it’s necessary so that my emotions don’t get all pent up and erupt like a volcano.

Remember, you’re not alone. People all around you are feeling the same way, and there are tons of resources available to help you cope. Exams aren’t everything, and while they’re really important, your health is more important than anything else, so make sure that’s your main priority.

Keep Surviving by Living.

Support Me as I Defeat Depression

As I’ve said in countless posts before, these past 12 months have been crazy. I’ve changed so much in my life, and had many people be very giving of their support whether I asked for it or not. I’ve been so terrible at asking for support when I needed it and as a result know first hand how important support is.

So today, when I’m finally in a place where I am happy and fighting my depression without feeling like it is beating me, I’m asking you to support me. I’m asking for support not just for me, but for the 1 in 5 people that have a mental illness, and for the countless people that are unable to ask for support for whatever reason.

During my presidency at the Mental Health Awareness Club, I promised I would do everything I could to ensure its sustainability and wanted to create a lasting impact. In collaboration with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the UBC Mental Health Awareness Club will be hosting UBC’s first Defeat Depression Run. The event is open to anyone and everyone, so if you’d like to participate, click here to sign up today!

On March 29th, 2015, I will be participating in the run. Though I will not be able to physically complete the run with everyone else since I am one of the organizers, I’m still asking for your support as I try to pull off this event with the help of my phenomenal team. Click here to get directly to my fundraising page.

Every dollar makes a HUGE difference, and 75% of all proceeds go directly to the Mental Health Awareness Club with the other 25% going to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

I can’t believe how far I’ve made it, and I’m hopeful that events like these will continue to spark a much needed conversation about depression and mental health. Together, I have faith that we can defeat depression!

Keep Surviving by Living.

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