Protecting Minds - 'Covid-19 has been a stressful time for me'

I began to struggle with my mental health at a very young age.

At 19 I went to university and I experienced my first panic attack. I wasn’t coping with my emotions well and I felt very depressed.

Soon after graduating nursing school, my father was diagnosed with brain cancer and my symptoms continued to worsen. I was seen by a doctor who put me on various medications that didn’t seem to help.

I was in a very dark place and tried to just make it day by day.

I went to Thailand with a friend and upon my return I was in a lot of distress. I didn’t want to work - I was overwhelmed and irrational. I saw a doctor in my hometown of Peterborough, Ontario who referred me to an outpatient program and. I started seeing a psychiatrist who confirmed I have bipolar 2 disorder. With the treatment I’ve received to date, I can finally find meaning in my life. 

Currently I’m working as a registered practical nurse (RPN) in long-term care. Covid-19 has been a stressful time for me. I’m having a hard time maintaining balance with my moods and dealing with the uncertainty of the future. This triggered hypomania and I threw myself into work as I was desperately needed.

However, I am coping better with the help of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT). I can find peace in my life through a healthy lifestyle consisting of eating well and working out. I am also continuing my education at Trent University, working towards becoming a registered nurse (RN).

I’ve participated in the Merrett Home Hardware’s Run for Mental Health the past two years and have raised over $1,500.00 and I’m proud to participate in more initiatives to ending the stigma.

I’m advocating for Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) so we can remove the stigma and view mental illness just like any other sort of disorder. 

People often say “you’re 29 with a house, a successful job, a partner, why are you seeing a psychiatrist? You seem just fine!” I work hard at being well. When I’m open about my struggles, others are willing to share their stories and we can break down the barriers preventing people from getting the help they need.

When I share my story I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I want to continue the conversation and encourage everyone to support Ontario Shores so more conversations can be had. 

By being involved in Ontario Shores’ campaign, I’m given the opportunity to advocate for those of us that are still working on the frontlines of this pandemic and also dealing with mental illness. I want to continue to share my story to help Ontario Shores raise awareness, put an end to the stigma and allow people struggling with mental illness to know their illness does not define them and like me, they too can live a life full of meaning. 

Beginning during Mental Illness Awareness Week and throughout October, Ontario Shores and the Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health are embarking on a fundraising campaign to support programs and initiatives that assist people living with mental illness. Participants from all over Ontario volunteered to share their personal connection with mental illness to reduce stigma and increase funding for much-needed programs. Learn more at www.ProtectingMinds.ca.