Protecting Minds - 'I felt as though no one understood me'
I never thought I would make it to 18.
For as long as I can remember, mental illness has been a big part of my life. At 15 I recognized something was wrong with me. Just getting out of bed and going to school was a difficult task.
I met a pediatrician who told me I was working too much and that everything was fine. A few months passed and my struggles became unmanageable. I began to self-harm and shut people out.
At 16 I tried to kill myself and was prescribed medication that worsened my symptoms. I felt as though no one understood me.
Following multiple hospitalizations, I saw several psychiatrists in my current residence of Welland, Ontario. Treatment made me feel like a science experiment. I never knew if the medication would work. It's a lot of trial and error and can be frustrating at times.
I was misdiagnosed until I met a psychiatrist in Toronto who provided me with great care and an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. There was finally hope. I was understood in in a way no other therapist understood me.
Soon after, I went on a mission trip in Uganda. Being in a third world country caused me to be triggered by the things I saw and I was hospitalized again. Although the trip didn’t end the way I hoped it would, my experience in Uganda was the most growth I’ve ever had on my journey to recovery. Since, I have not been hospitalized or tried to self harm.
During these unpredictable times of Covid-19, it’s been hard to adapt to the “new normal.” When struggling with mental illness, the biggest help is a strong support system which is difficult to have during a pandemic. My job as a deli clerk in a grocery store has affected my mental health. Living with my grandmother carries a burden as well because I am worried I may catch the virus and infect her.
Fortunately, I have found ways to cope while staying safe. I have socially distant fires with friends, spend time reading, taking photos and just going for a drive to clear my mind. My employer has given me a lot of relief.
Now, at 21, I feel privileged to be at a point in my life where I can advocate for Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores). I’m at a place I never imagined I would get to in my life. Not being okay is okay. Living a full and joyful life with mental illness is possible.
By supporting Ontario Shores, together we can help remove the significant barriers to coping with mental illness and provide helpful support to those who are struggling. I want others to know they can find hope in their journey to recovery much like I did.
Mental illness is not a death sentence. Recovery is possible and learning new ways to adapt will help in getting to a better place.
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.