Protecting Minds - 'I began to experience anxiety as a teenager'

As a kid I played a lot of sports and mental toughness was the world I knew. Growing up in world where everyone wants you to be tough, I began to experience anxiety as a teenager.

During university I worked at a grocery store. Often we were understaffed, leading me to be thrown into roles I wasn’t trained in. A buzzer would go off and I would get a constricting feeling in my stomach and my teeth would chatter. I didn’t understand these feelings but looking back I was triggered by the thought of going into work.

I began to experience anxiety again and found it difficult to leave my bed.

During teacher’s college, I experienced crippling stomach pains making it hard to walk. It got so constraining on my daily life that my parents had to bring me home and took me to a doctor who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. I stayed home from school and I was able to grow within my personal and professional life.

I took part in Movemeber campaigns on my social media platforms and provided biweekly blog posts on my feelings and discussed how I cope during my bad days. Being able to be part of this was a rewarding and humbling experience and gave me a sense of community. I focused on getting better and recognized – I am not alone.  

I returned to school and completed my degree in human resources. During my co-op, I heard about the mental health initiatives at my company and shared my story. This helped me get a job offer from my co-op.

To date, I’ve spoken at mental health first aid trainings and have given supervisors tips on how to help their teams cope with mental illness. In 2017 I was nominated for the 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health for my willingness to share my story.

Dealing with my mental health during the pandemic has been challenging. While work slowed down for most businesses, mine was ramping up. I had to adjust to longer hours focused on helping my office deal with the pandemic internally. My commute from Port Hope to work used to be my time to zone out from reality and listen to podcasts.

I found myself not appreciating the little things the way I used to. I felt triggered and didn’t want to get out of bed, workout or eat. I recognized these triggers and decided to make a change. I was honest with my workplace, took some vacation days and I was able to reset mentally.

Mental health advocacy is something I never thought would be part of my life. On the outside I’m a happy, married, 28 year old male. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

By supporting Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores), we are bringing awareness to mental illness by encouraging others to talk about how they are feeling and seek help so we can continue to reduce the stigma.

Together, we can get through it.

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.