Worth Living Ambassador Niko Colletti

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Hey there! I’m Niko, 20 years old, from Southern Ontario.  I’m on a journey to find myself and discover what truly makes me happy, while continuing to learn how to function in this complicated world around me.  I was diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a very young age, and it’s been a long haul living with a brain wired so differently.  I intend to continue bettering myself while sharing my experiences with those who are feeling overwhelmed in their struggles, showing that with enough determination and patience, you will persevere no matter what demons share your company.

As long as I could remember, fitting in was not an option for me.  I was always the outcast, the “strange” one.  The one who preferred to stay indoors at recess, drew in math class, and did his work on the floor under desks in elementary school.  Quiet and shy yet loud and outgoing all at the same time, and constantly focussed on anything and everything but what was being taught in class.  This is what it is like to live with Autism and ADHD.

I was diagnosed in first grade, when I was just six years old.  When my parents told me, I was too young to fully understand. I knew already that I didn’t fit in, and that the same things that came natural to others; socialization, executive functions like planning and prioritizing did not go well with me.  I didn’t know anything about ADHD and only slightly more than nothing about Autism.  All I knew was that I had no concept of time. I had to take a little yellow pill every morning with breakfast and that I would much rather spend recess on the hallway floor than put my snow pants on.

As I grew older, the more I stood out from other kids.  I kept to myself and only socialized with the same two or three people at any time.  I worked hard to build social skills and was often regarded by my teachers as well-spoken when presenting projects in class.  The problem wasn’t with socializing, however.  The problem was with how kids treat someone who is noticeably different.

Having Autism contributed to my lack of understanding of social cues, despite my efforts to improve social skills.  This got better over time as I aged, but I was always behind.  ADHD meant that I was inattentive, impulsive and had a difficult time getting work done at all, let alone on time.  I was always full of ideas and a creative thinker but working at my full potential was a struggle and I was often singled out in front of others which started to destroy my self-esteem.  This coupled with the frustrations of always falling short of expectations, both socially and educationally, started to get to me. This was only the beginning of where I started to truly struggle.

I was medicated for more of my life than I was not.  The little yellow pill I was prescribed is known as Concerta.  This extended-release variant of Adderall is an amphetamine designed to treat those with ADHD, primarily, young children.  I started with 18mg (“Alza 18”)  and as I grew older, my dosage was upped to 27, then later to 36, until I would decide to stop taking it just before turning twenty.  It was great for curbing impulsive behaviour, and while it helped me many ways at school, I still struggled, and the longer I took it, the worse I felt when it wore off, or I forgot to take it.  I would often feel paranoid, irritable or extremely sad, and started to almost become two different people; one of which was the inadequate version of myself I called “Non-Alza Me”.  I began to feel like the “Alza Me” was how everyone’s brain was supposed to work and that I would only have the chance to be accepted in society if I was Alza Me all the time.  This thought terrified me to no end and I began to hate the fact that I took medication just to be “normal”.

I really started to feel like an alien towards the end of Grade 7.  With the exception of a few teachers, I was singled out and humiliated in front of peers by all others.

I was bullied for all of Grade 8 and by June, I’d finally had enough.  No matter how hard I tried to act and talk like everyone else who was considered to be “normal”, I just couldn’t seem to do it.  I was struggling in school even though I had the potential to do well.  I knew I could do great things in school when by some miracle I could manage my time but I couldn’t. I was so fed up with the world I didn’t feel I belonged in that on the week-long graduation field trip for Grade 8, I tried to take my own life.  As you can tell, I thankfully failed.  I sat on the cabin floor for a moment, and thought about what my mom would say, my dad.  How would they feel after everything they did for me to help me succeed in a world that they brought me into?  Even though I truly believed I didn’t belong there, they hadn’t given up on me and so I would NOT give up on them.

High school was much better than elementary for me.  The newfound freedom allowed me to avoid people who made me feel inadequate and the sense of a fresh start motivated me to work on socializing again.  I hung on grade wise, and once I started driving in Grade 12, I felt like I was on top of the world.  I had been working through high school and I was saving up some money and had high hopes for what was next.

Grade 12 came with some hard-learned lessons.  My lack of boundaries, both with myself and others allowed me to be taken advantage of often.  People started hanging out with me for my car to drive them around and I was often guilted into lending people money they never paid back.  My self- worth took a huge hit when I started to realize that the many friends I thought I had, really weren’t my friends at all, but were all using me for what I had.  Despite this, I put it all behind me in an effort to focus on what was next.

This was the second point in my life when I truly began spiralling downward.  I had no long-term goals, and after working two jobs for a year, I settled for a Design Fundamentals college program, hoping to get into graphic design.  Up until this point, my only efforts to socialize were at work and I had isolated myself into depression.  I was lonely and began to hate myself for the way I lived.  If I wasn’t at work, I was getting high.  I was starting to question the point of even trying and was beginning to give up again.  The only way I knew to cope was to just work more and try to numb myself as  best I could until I became occupied by school.

I hit what I thought was rock bottom shortly after starting school.  I got into an accident, completely totalling my car and after outstanding citations, I could no longer afford to insure a vehicle, so I stopped driving and quit working to focus on school.  I began to lose my mind because school was now my life as I could no longer go anywhere on my own.  Once again, I had further isolated myself and fell further into depression.

Shortly before I quit working, I had entered a relationship.  It coloured my world.  Finally, in a world where no one took the time to appreciate and understand me, someone wanted me, even with all of my flaws and mistakes!  Because I was depressed and lonely, I didn’t know I was not in the right frame of mind to be with a person.  I was hurting, and I latched myself to the first person to show me interest because I didn’t want to be on my own.  Not even a year later, the relationship had become toxic and hurtful.  There were many signs from the beginning that should have been enough for me to know that we weren’t right for each other, but I didn’t want to be without her.  I was afraid of losing her because I had never loved someone this way before, and despite how bad things were, I felt that being alone again was still far worse.  I was in a terrible place that I hadn’t really gotten out of when the relationship began. Because of this, that was exactly where I picked up from when we both decided to go our separate ways.

In September of 2016, I entered self-destruct mode.  I had stopped eating, looking out for my own physical health or well-being by any means. I was back at school but I often skipped class.  Even preoccupied with a new job, I was struggling to keep my head together. Every night I was a victim of my own thoughts and feelings, debating on ending it right there and then. I despised the person I had let myself become. I didn’t want to live the way I did when I used to be single.  I had nothing to revert back to because of this, so I felt as if rebuilding was impossible and living felt pointless.
I have never sunken lower than I had three months ago, and November was finally when I decided that I couldn’t climb out by myself.  I wasn’t strong enough this time and if I hadn’t reached out to family and friends when I did, I am absolutely certain that I would not be here writing this right now. I was a shell of a person, with all the anger I had for the world and hatred I had for myself.  My immediate family has been very supportive, along with my therapist and a childhood friend who has been by my side nearly as long as my parents have.  I can’t thank them enough.

I have recently learned what I wish someone had told me a long time ago.  I am different, not less.  I have neglected my mental health for too much of my life because rather than learning how my brain works and how to get the most out of it, I hated it for not being able to adhere the same learning strategies that worked for neuro-typical people.  Having Autism is a great thing!! There is so much I owe it for who I am as a person.  Same goes for my ADHD brain; its capable of so much that it wouldn’t be if I WAS neuro-typical.  And after learning how many of my struggles stemmed from my ADHD, I can tackle them better knowing that there are resources out there to help people just like me succeed.

About half a month ago, I reached out to Keith Anderson, founder of Worth Living, and I fell in love with what this community all about.  Mental health is such an overlooked contribution to our well- being, and if I can help even a little bit by sharing what I know about myself, Autism, ADHD, Anxiety and Depression, than I’ve won.

No one deserves to feel how I have in the past. If you are feeling like you’re not good enough for this world, please know that everyone has a place in life, and while it may be hard to find at first, know that you are never alone. As long as you remain true to and care for yourself, you can do amazing things that will redefine what the world considers “normal.”

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” -Karim Seddiki


Worth Living Ambassador Rachel Burridge

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Hello, I’m Rachel from the United Kingdom and I am 22 years of age. I have been on a journey with mental health for seven years now and facing the stigmas and hush hush around it. I am to recover from my illness while helping others to recover as we all go on the journey together.

I’ve always been such an independent don’t want to burden anyone kind of person, always the one to try and pick others up when they are down but never want to have any attention on me kind of person. Always been strong for everyone else, smile to faces and cry behind closed doors.

But mental illness has taught me one thing so far  is that  you can’t hide it and pretend everything is ok. Faking it until you make it as some say is not practical and is damaging even more so to your mental health. I told myself many times it’s just hormones, it’s just growing up, it’s just nerves, it’s just a chest infection causing me to be breathless, it will pass, I’m just having a bad day. Making excuses has only caused me more harm than good.

A year ago I sought help once from a therapist but I never fully hit the nail on the head. I never fully opened up about some of the symptoms I was experiencing because once again I didn’t think they were too bad, I only scraped the surface of what was really happening.

This past October, I decided after another year of trying to get by, not living only existing, and feeling very little pleasure in my life within myself wasn’t going to work. I needed to speak to my GP.

I made an appointment with my doctor as I couldn’t carry on this way anymore. I wanted to live life to the fullest, in the way I saw the life I wanted in my head and the person I saw myself as in my head.

I luckily got an appointment the same day only a few hours wait. This was honestly the most terrifying few hours ever. I was so anxious I even thought about cancelling it, saying it wasn’t worth it, that the panic was giving me a sign not to go but I knew I couldn’t go back to how I was living anymore. When I saw my GP he suggested anti- depressants which I had always been so against. I had heard so many stories about them turning you into a zombie. I didn’t want that even though the thought of numbness did sound appealing. He assured me he would trial me on them and see me again in two weeks while also referring me to a PWP/Therapist. I booked an appointment and collected my medication on the way out.

I waited just over a month to see my therapist.

This was an experience that shot my anxiety through the roof, talking to someone truthfully about how I felt and realising it was real. I wasn’t better and still needed much more help. But getting it off my chest and taking that step was also a great relief for me. I felt like I had already made progress. It was only a small step to a long road of recovery but it was a step forward and not back anymore

Don’t ever be scared to speak to your GP as I was at first. They don’t look at you like you’re crazy no matter what you say to them or how upset you get. They have heard it all before and are trained to deal with whatever comes their way and you are their priority. It’s their job to look after you.

So if you are reading this and know you need to speak to someone, let this inspire you to do so because it will be the best thing you will do. Sooner rather than later is key!


Worth Living Ambassador Kay Ska

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Kay Ska, 21, UK
There is so much of stigma attached to mental health that I tried to ignore my own mental health problems for as long as I possibly could. And let’s just say that wasn’t the best thing I did. Now, I’m extremely passionate about spreading the mental health awareness and getting rid of all the stigma attached to it! As well as helping people in any way I possibly can, by sharing my story and things that have/are still helping me on my recovery journey.

Ho, ho, ho! It’s Christmas time, a time to be ‘jolly’. But what if you’re not?

Do you beat yourself up for it? I know I used to! Especially when other people ask you why you’re not all merry and when they expect you to be. But guess what, mental illness doesn’t take a break for Christmas holidays or any holidays for that matter. If you or others around you expect you to be more jolly, unfortunately, that can have the opposite effect on your mental health.

I wrote myself a little survival guide for this time, things that I need to remember to do, to keep myself sane through this period. It’s personal to me, however, it may help you or give you some ideas what you could do to make this time a little bit easier. Get up early (ideally about an hour before sunrise). This is something I’ve been trying really hard to do! As the days are still so short, I do try to get the most I can from the daylight. And as it gets dark so early I don’t feel like I am as productive as I was in summer, that’s why I try to get all the important things done in the morning/ afternoon. Though, believe me, I know how hard it is to actually get myself out of the bed in the dark, cold mornings, BUT it’s SO WORTH it (I tell myself)!

• Eat healthier, in the past months I’ve got myself a little bit in a bad cycle of not bothering with ‘proper’ good food, being too lazy to cook, getting more takeaways, then feeling more sluggish and tired because I’ve not eaten well. There is a lot of studies out there now that show the brain-gut connection. So, no wonder when you eat something ‘bad’ it can leave you feeling sluggish for hours or even days after you’ve eaten it! Also, our immune system needs so much more nutrients in the cold weather. It’s so important to listen to your body and notice how you feel after eating and eat more of what makes you feel good and fuels your mind & body!

• Breathing exercises, meditation. One of the most important things I’ve learned this year is how extremely important good breathing is! For someone who used to have extremely intense panic attacks AT LEAST once a day, to barely having any (at least when I don’t challenge myself too much, I used to get them every day even if I was just at home not doing much though) now I am able to get grounded so much quicker and even prevent one from happening. A lot of that is thanks to my breathing/meditation practice. It definitely takes time and regular practice, I’m not always great at it, my mind still wanders off, but that’s okay. Every day is different, and each time you do breathing/meditation your experience will be different. I will leave you with some great resources now: Kelly, she’s my wonderful friend and a yoga teacher, has taught me SO MUCH. She’s been my guide, my angel and she continues to inspire me every single day. You can find her on YouTube channel where she has simple breathing exercise and gentle yoga videos & she also does Facebook Live and will be doing breathing exercises leading up to Christmas and on Christmas day! Definitely, go and check her out. I also recommend the app Calm to everyone too, which is great for mindfulness and guided meditation.

• Move your body. For me, that’s doing yoga daily and when I want to challenge my body more I put Yoga with Adriene on. She’s actually great for anyone, whether you’ve never done yoga before or you’ve been doing yoga for years, she has videos for you! Sometimes I do have days, weeks where I prefer a softer, more gentle practise. But I still need to let my energy out somehow, so I usually dance or do some HIIT workouts. Moving my body really helps so tired and start feeling more alive in the evening, which can be good sometimes, but I’ve had so many late nights because I get myself so pumped up after replying to one email, then another, then working on something else and so on. The plan for this is not to do anything too ‘important’ after 6 pm. And then switch offline about 8 pm (or mostly offline). This is especially important for me to get the early mornings. The more chilled, earlier night I can get, the more chance for me to actually get up early and not be too tired the next day.

• Being offline, I had to mention this one of course! On my twitter, I’ve said countless times how switching off really helps me. I’ve tried doing offline weekends which were great but usually would mean that I’d overdo on the internet on the weekdays and I’d really look forward to the offline weekends. However, that hasn’t necessary made things better. It’s that concept of balance which still proves to be challenging. But that also made me realise that I actually do need to take more, proper time offline. Online world really is amazing, most people are wonderful, and there are countless opportunities, but as the blog and all my social media have been growing so has the amount of emails I get, the amount of people I try to help, and of course the amount of mean things and not so nice people. All those things together can make me forgot that I am also still in recovery myself. This year has been extremely challenging, and I’ve grown so much during all those challenges, but I still need time to heal. Believe me, I would much rather look after and take care of everyone else. But I have some wonderful people around me who remind me that I too need to take care of myself (Ahhh, every time I write something like this it makes me cringe, taking care of yourself can be really damn hard!).

AND LASTLY

• Be kind to yourself, listen to yourself to your body, find what works for you, allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. It’s okay not to be okay. If you don’t feel all happy and excited for Christmas or New Years, that’s absolutely okay, because whatever you’re feeling, it’s valid! Allow yourself to feel it. But, also don’t forget to look after yourself and have fun!

I feel like each year, the Christmassy feeling is more and more non-existent for me and it used to really bother me because I thought I HAD to feel like that. But I don’t. I really, really don’t feel Christmassy
and that’s OKAY. Thinking of it as just another day, apart from spending more time gathered around food and giving/opening presents, pretty normal day really, eh?

I hope this was even a little bit helpful for you, let me know what helps you to get through Christmas time!

I wish you all a magical Christmas!

Lots of love,
Kay.❤

Please follow my personal blog This is What a Person with Mental Illness Looks Like


 Worth Living Ambassador Delicia Raveenthrarajan

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Delicia is a performing arts student who also takes on the world with her passion in spoken word, motivational speaking, song writing, the arts, musical theatre, and changing the world with strength and kindness. She has become who she is by volunteering, speaking and life changing travels. Delicia simply  states her journey so far: Canada Born. Kenya Bound. Arizona Built. Amazon Braving. Strength Embracing.

I live with major depressive disorder, I am on medication and I continue to seek treatment regularly in order to take care of myself. So, I guess that means I’m in recovery.

Sometimes I feel hypocritical because I work as a speaker in order to share my story with others and give them hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. Because of the disorder I live with and the ways in which it affects me, a depressive episode can choose to crash in my brain without ringing the doorbell or paying rent. I’ve accepted the fact that being in treatment is not a short term contract because neither is my illness.

So I’ve come to this conclusion:

It doesn’t get better. YOU get better. YOU get stronger.

I’ve also come to this conclusion:

Having a depressive episode is out of my control. Who on earth would choose to be depressed? Who would want to feel pain, so great, fear so deep, and emptiness so constantly?

AND this:

STOP TELLING YOURSELF THAT YOU HAVE TO BE BETTER. I felt pressure after I got a bit better, unlike any other to feel better, to feel happier, to feel stronger. In reality, that wasn’t the case. Without realising it, I was feeding a monster. I was feeding my illness. I was forcing myself to feel certain things. I was forcing myself not to feel. And that in itself landed me back at square one.

I live in fear. I have a bad day…and I can deal with it better than ever before. I have a few bad days in a row and panic sets in. Because I have felt such darkness in my life that the very thought of returning to that place causes tears to run down my face. The thought of spending every Tuesday at the clinic for treatment instead of spending it with friends or doing what I love scares me. The thought of spending days in bed without the desire for anyone or anything scares me. The thought of people around me thinking that I may be a little too broken scares me. The thought of my world crumbling to the ground scares me.

But then I had a check-in with my doctor and she told me something that I hold onto every day. She turned to me and said “You’re right, it could get worse and it could come back. But there’s a big difference. Now you know how to take care of yourself and let yourself feel all those horrible things. Now you have a whole support system, ready to catch you if you fall. Cherish the amazing time you have right now. Cause it could get worse. But now we can kick ass. It could get worse. But we will deal with it when it comes. Together.”

MY recovery is very grey. I’m doing quite well. But there are times where I’m doing quite the opposite and all I’m in search for is a little empathy and some Kindness.  The difference between then and now is not the situation. It is me. I’ve learned to accept what comes my way and brave the storm as it starts to rain. I’ve learned to grow while the sun is still out. If darkness comes my way, I won’t look for that light at the end of the tunnel. I will become that light.


Worth Living Ambassador Beca Wilson

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Hi, I know it’s been a while. I have missed you all deeply.  With this post I go a little deeper. I dig a little further and I share the story of my suicide attempt. I haven’t told many people the “full truth”, other than my Mental Health Counsellor and my Psychiatrist. However, I figured if I want to spark a conversation and make a difference, I may as well start with my own story. With that being said, I hope you can take a little piece of something from this, if not for yourself, maybe for someone you love.  

Caution: Beca discusses her thoughts and actions taken on the topic of suicide.

Dear Future Beca,
You need, NEED, to remember to be gentle with yourself. You are human and it is okay to admit that sometimes things are just too much; too overwhelming. You are allowed to reach out and ask for help. Plus, so many people are inspired by your story. They are inspired by your truth. So, you go girl! You speak that truth. There is no shame. Attempting suicide does not make you weak. It does not make you a bad person. The fact that you are still here is a true blessing. You keep doing you!
All of my love, Present Beca

The day that I tried to end my life is one of the worst days of my life, actually probably the worst for sure. I was at a very low point in my life. I was in a bad place. It was a mixture of feeling overwhelmed in my personal life as well as in my intimate life. I don’t want to go into details but my boyfriend and I were fighting about some relationships he had in his life, that didn’t seem to include me. Needless to say, it didn’t help at all with my state of mind.

After about half an hour of my crying profusely and his trying to understand what was going on; I decided I wanted, no needed, to go for a walk. I begin to walk. I should mention, our house is about 4 blocks from our river bank. It is really beautiful at the end of June. I decided to call one of my best friends and just chat. I tell her that Kode and I had a fight. I tell her about what. I tell her that I am feeling betrayed. I tell her that I am just so confused and I don’t know what to do. We talk for about half an hour. She says she needs to go and I say goodbye.

I kept walking for about 15 minutes and I reach this bench facing the river. It was a bench, coincidently, that was in memory of a young woman whose life was taken by a drunk driver a few years ago. I sat there for a few minutes. I don’t know where the first thought came from but I began to contemplate my life. I began to think that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, would be so much better off without me. I decided that Kode would be better off without me and he could move to British Columbia like he wanted. I figured my friends would be better off because I am a loon! I decided my family wouldn’t miss me because there are soooooo many of us. What is one less?

So, imagine this: I am sitting on this bench. I am facing the beautiful, rushing, river. I am crying my eyes out and people are staring at me as they walk past me. I felt like the worst human being in the world. I felt like a piece of shit. I hated myself in those moments. I hated my life. I hated who I was. I hated EVERYTHING! That is when this tiny spark ignites in my mind – Jump.

This is where it gets ugly. I am having an inner battle with myself about ending my life. I was fighting with the thought of ending my life and with the thoughts knowing that it was not at all what I want. The crying became a little louder, more like sobbing. I grasped the bench for dear life because I knew that if I let go, I would walk to the edge of the river bank and I would jump.
I sat like this for a while, I always say 30 minutes, but in reality it could have been 2 minutes for all I know. Those moments seemed to pass like grains of sand in an hourglass. One at a time and very slowly. Finally, I thought I would be okay to get off the bench. I jumped up, turned around, and bee lined for the road. I turned my back on that river and I didn’t look back.

As I started my journey home, I got to a cross walk by the school just down the back alley from my house. I can almost see my house. I push the crosswalk button to get a walking man when I notice a car approaching on my left. It is travelling at a great amount of speed. I decide that if I take a single step forward, I would be in front of the car and at the rate it was going I would die. I wouldn’t walk away from this.

I took that step forward. I took that step that I hoped would end my life. But, I was too late. As that car sped past, I noticed a little girl sitting in the passenger seat with a giant smile on her face. I like to imagine her singing along to the radio. Or maybe she was telling the driver a silly little girl joke, regardless she was happy. I saw an innocent little one whose life would be ruined if I had been just two seconds faster. I saw a little girl who would have faced ghosts and demons for probably the rest of her life. She would probably have nightmares for years. She would have to see a counsellor. She would never be the same. She would have the life from which I was so desperately trying to get away.
At that point, I was at my lowest point. I didn’t know I could get any lower. Yet, I went and proved myself wrong. I make it home. I walk into the house and my babies greet me with love and kisses. Kode is on his phone. He looks up at me and I say to him, very casually, very nonchalantly and matter of fact, “I tried to kill myself”.

I don’t think I will ever forget the look on his face. I will never forget the sound of his sobbing and apologizing. I will never forget watching the man who has always held me up, crumble to the floor crying. I don’t remember if I slept that night. If I did, I didn’t dream at all. I don’t know how I went about getting ready for the day and thinking going to work the day after I tried to kill myself was a good idea.

I remember opening my desk drawer that morning and seeing my Ibuprofen box, I did the math in my head of how many grams it would be. I figured out the likelihood of me actually overdosing and dying. I looked at my scissors in my rotating desk organizer and wondered what I could do with those. I went into my boss’ office just before noon that day and I told her my truth. I told her I wanted to die and that I didn’t feel safe with myself. I didn’t trust myself to get through the day safely. When I was done spilling my beans to her, she called my doctor’s office. She told the office that I needed to be seen NOW and “no “ was not an option.

That afternoon I did see a doctor, not my own, but one that was there. They talked with me for a bit. They asked me how I was feeling now. Did I want to kill myself now. I remember being mad because I thought, OF COURSE I WANT TO KILL MYSELF THAT IS WHY I AM HERE. Of course, looking back I know that it is their job to ask me those questions.

Regardless she instantly referred me to a psychiatrist, for whom I am now very thankful. I had to call Kode to come and get me from the doctor’s office because they couldn’t let me be alone since I was now on “suicide watch”. I remember the car ride up to my psychiatrist’s office. I remember telling Kode I was so sorry that he had to miss work for this. That I was so embarrassed by this. That I can’t believe it has come to this. THIS being suicide, of course. THIS being the giant elephant in the room that makes most people uncomfortable. THIS being what my life had become.

We sat in the waiting room for over two hours before I was seen. I witnessed many people come in and out of the office. I looked at some and thought, “It could be worse”, and I looked at others and wondered what their invisible war was. I admit now that that is not how it should be. That is not the frame of mind that was needed in that situation. It is never smart to compare one’s journey with someone else’s. The point is that we are each here. We are walking and living our truths and we should be proud of ourselves. We should be encouraging each other to keep going.

That day, now 6 months ago, seems like a whole lifetime ago. I am a completely different person. I have since been re-diagnosed and re-diagnosed again. I am getting the help I need. I am on 4 different medications that sometimes seem they should be cancelling each other out. I will tell you one thing though, do they ever help. They have given me my life back. A life I didn’t even know I was missing out on.

So, to anyone out there who is new to this Mental Health community, you are not alone. To anyone who is a veteran but still struggles at times, stay strong. You are an inspiration to many people. To anyone who is sometimes still trying to find their way and themselves, keep on going. The journey may seem far but the adventures along the way make it so worth it (even the not so good ones). You are enough and you belong on this Earth telling your story.

NOTE: If you , a family member, friend, or colleague is experiencing  thoughts of suicide or distress, call 911 now.
Other resources :
Canada- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention  Suicide Prevention
USA – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom   NHS


Worth Living Ambassador Rachel Burridge

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Hello, I’m Rachel from the United Kingdom and I am 22 years of age. I have been on a journey with mental health for seven years now and facing the stigmas and hush hush around it. I will recover from my illness while helping others to recover as we all go on the journey together.

At Primary School,  I was always the energetic, bubbly, nothing can get in my way and stop me kind of girl. I would literally put myself up for anything no matter who laughed or put me down, I wanted to be known and heard. Any camera that was pulled out in front of me, I wanted to be doing funny dances or taking pictures with it. That was who I was.

When I was moved up to high school, I was so excited for the new possibilities it would bring and the new friends I would meet on the way. I could not wait! I believed high school would change my life for the better, how wrong I was.
Everyone got the odd snigger or comment, you can’t avoid that with a bunch of new people. I was prepared for that but I was not prepared for how far some people were willing to go to put me down. It started as they bullied me for my lazy eye, that I wore glasses.  “Specky four eyes” they would shout and “are you looking at me?”  It hurt deeply. I had never really given my eye condition a thought before or that my glasses made me different. Then I decided to find myself a bit and experiment with my looks in year 9, 2 years into school. I dyed my hair black from mousey brown, but in return I was presumed a goth or ‘emo’ was the most used name. I was never known by my name only by my “flaws”. Within a couple of years of trying to get on with school and concentrate on work it finally got too much, I wasn’t eating, sleeping, talking to anyone, laughing, smiling…I wasn’t me anymore I was lost!

The bullies picked up on this and saw me as weaker than ever. They decided I no longer deserved to be alive, that I wasn’t worthy of being here.  I was told this daily. One day in class a student unscrewed a blade and passed me it and told me I deserved to feel pain…that was the beginning of a long road to recovery. Schools don’t know how to deal with bullying. They pass the victim around to different classes as I was to avoid ‘disturbing the lessons’ for them. They never worry about what the long term damage to the victim will be or punishing the bullies for what has been done, which in turn makes the victim feel like they are the problem.

Seven years on, these people who ruined my life and stole my identity from me live happy fulfilled lives forgetting any knowledge of what they did. For anyone out there reading this don’t suffer in silence like I did, call the bullies out and seek help. Bullying destroys lives.

I feel almost like I have lived two lives as two different people now all because someone found it funny to look cool in front of their friends and be popular.

 


Worth Living Ambassador Sarah Gobeil

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Hi world, I’m Sarah.  I’m an odd, energetic ball of dancing wonders. I love to make others happy and to influence the world in the most positive way I can. I also really like to smile.  Smiles are contagious, please show me yours.

I will be the first to say that I have not lived through it all. I have not experienced all that life has to offer me at 16 years old. In fact, I probably haven’t lived a quarter of my time on the earth.

But I can also say that I have lived. I lived through ups and I’ve lived through downs, just like everyone.

When I was five years old, I would have never thought that I would one day look in the mirror at my dance class and be absolutely disgusted. Fast forward 6 years; that was my reality. I was 11 years old and I didn’t want to go to dance because I thought I was fat. Eleven years old. Fat. A young, pubescent girl’s absolute worst nightmare.

It’s amazing how one small thought can lead to a time of such disaster. I so soon found myself questioning everything I put in my mouth. Will this make me even fatter? Will I look like a whale after this? Will people look at me weird if I eat too much? Will people look at me weird if I eat too little? My mind was constantly focused on food. Spinning around and around.

Life has a way of throwing curve balls, and somewhere along the way a 13 year old Sarah discovered calories. Good grief. What a mistake. 1800. 1500. 1200. “Wow I’m doing so good!” 1000. 900. 800. “Why do people say you need to eat so much I feel so good!” 700. 600. 500. “I’m really tired mom…” 450. 400. 300. Starving.

I was 13 years old, absolutely hated myself, and felt like I was a waste of space. The hatred of my own body felt like it would never end. Until I made a decision. I found myself looking in the mirror for literally hours each day. Critiquing all the flaws, blemishes, scars. But one day when I stood in front of the mirror (bawling) I wanted it all to change. I didn’t want to hate myself. I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling about myself. So as I looked, I picked things about myself. I complimented myself. Eyes. Collarbones. Nose. Waist. I didn’t care if I actually believed what I was saying to myself; I was still saying it. I started to draw things on my mirror – flowers, hearts, birds. I wrote the words beautiful and strong and powerful and kind. Did I fully believe what I was telling myself? No way. But I wanted to hear those things from the most important person in my life; me. And after a while, I started to believe it.

It only takes one step of initiative to make the change in your life that you’ve wanted to make. Nothing in life worth having comes easy, but everything is worth working for. Draw on your mirror, set reminders on your phone to tell yourself that you’re amazing, take a snack break when you want one, record videos of you complimenting yourself and play them when you need it. Loving yourself is all in your hands and it is 100% attainable.

Self- love is not selfish. Self- love does not equal conceited. Self- love does not mean self- centred. Self- love simply means that you are able to recognize the beauty that you were given without doubt.

Self -love is a beautiful thing.


Worth Living Ambassador Ann Ottaway

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Ann is a 30 year old former legal assistant, animal lover, and a believer in new beginnings. Ann shares her recovery journey with the hope that her story allows others to realize they are not alone. This is her third post for the Worth Living Blog.

The holiday season is wonderful! It is a season of time spent with loved ones, nostalgia, decorations, great food and gifts!

But to be entirely honest as wonderful as this time of year is, it truly fills me with moments of dread, anxiety and guilt.

At a time of year where emotions are naturally heightened, I am on high alert with respect to my feelings.  Anxiety and guilt are amplified as a result of invitations to parties and family gatherings.  I want to attend all of them so as not to disappoint anyone but I ultimately end up at the whim of my nerves as social anxiety creeps in together with balancing hectic schedules.  I often end up exhausted from going from one place to another and talking myself through intrusive thoughts that make me feel self- conscious and shy.  I consider picking and choosing events but then I get anxious about disappointing and hurting people. Stores are crowded, homes are crowded, people are hustling and bustling and all of it makes me want to just stay home in bed.

The flip side of the anxiety is the joy that comes from pleasant times and catching up with old friends once I am able to ease into a social situation. Once I relax, I have a great time! The excitement of watching friends and family open gifts that I have carefully selected for them is always something to which I look forward. There is always the overwhelming gratitude when I open gifts that were so thoughtfully and generously given to me.

It`s  this back and forth push and pull of emotions that becomes most exhausting. My internal dialogue is along the lines of this – “I should go to that party. Oh but I need to be somewhere else the next day, I’m going to be exhausted. No, no, I should go, she’ll be upset with me if I don’t go. What if she gets mad? Maybe she’ll stop talking to me. Okay, I will definitely go, it’s okay I can rest up later. Okay so what am I going to wear? I can wear my black sweater. Everyone has already seen that, I should get a new one. Oh but I shouldn’t spend the money. Okay, different outfit. This will be fine. I wonder who will be there? Oh no, what if he is there? What if he isn’t? Maybe he’s avoiding me? Ugh, I can’t do this. No, I have to. Okay, I’m here. This is uncomfortable. Are they looking at me? I probably look stupid in this outfit. This person is really nice. This is actually pretty fun! A gift? I love this! This is so sweet, I can’t believe she got this for me! I hope she likes her gift! She does? I’m so happy. This is such a fun night! I’m so tired and I have to do this again tomorrow and then I have to work all week and do my baking and then wrap gifts. Ugh, I can’t do it tomorrow. Her party is so important to her, she’ll be so disappointed”.

Now imagine that all day every day for nearly an entire month!

Self- care tends to be put on the back burner this time of year for many people. These emotions kick in and I neglect self- care at a time when I need it the most. Self- care is difficult for me during the holidays because there is such an emphasis on giving and selflessness.  Self- care and saying “No” seems downright selfish when we are supposed to be spending time with loved ones. But what about time for ourselves?

This Christmas I am giving myself a gift – the gift of self- care. I am pacing myself, I am not saying yes to everything. I am setting boundaries and scheduling time to rest and relax. By taking care of myself I am also giving my best self to others and I am giving quality time over quantity of time. Giving doesn’t have to mean always saying yes, it doesn’t have to mean compromising your feelings for those of others and it doesn’t mean you take from your emotions to give them to others. Giving doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing.


Worth Living Ambassador Jessica Rodarte

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Hi world! My name is Jessica Rodarte. I’m just a normal 24-year-old discovering my purpose in life. I am currently on the pursuit of happiness after being diagnosed with a mental illness earlier this year.  I’ve overcome many obstacles throughout this journey by turning my negative into a positive for others.

I am excited to share that I’m now an official ambassador for Worth Living. Worth Living is a  community of people from all over the world who are creating a mental health initiative. I was approached on Instagram by the founder to become part of an amazing team of people; of course,  I said YES! There is no other feeling then being a part of a community with like-minded people coming together to stand up for something that is so close to the heart. It’s inspiring to speak with individuals who have gone through the same struggles; comforting to know I am not alone. By sharing our stories we are creating a conversation about mental health.

The two simple words “Worth Living” are a symbol of the struggles I have overcome and I’m honored to wear a shirt that represents that. Worth Living has different products you can purchase and a portion of the proceeds are donated to two amazing organizations that promote mental illness awareness. My goal is to be involved in as many organizations as  possible that are starting the conversation in hopes to finally end the stigma of mental illness.

I’m excited to see where this new journey with Worth Living will take me! Stay tuned…”

You can follow my personal blog at Beeing Jess


Worth Living Ambassador Justine McNeil

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Justine McNeil is a 24 year old child and youth worker honours graduate from Ontario, Canada. She is a passionate motivational speaker, sharing her personal stories to advocate for mental health as well as creating awareness on social and global causes by using what she has learned through travelling with Me to We to Ecuador, Kenya, India, and Arizona for their Advanced Facilitation Training. She has spoken  at WE Day, events for Me to We, Jack.org, Niagara Public Health, and various schools and organizations in Ontario. In 2015, she raised and donated $10,000 to Free the Children to build a school in Kenya.  Her  work and stories have been published by Stigma Fighters, The Mighty, in various newspapers, and for Me to We marketing. When she’s not speaking, planning her next volunteer trip or working at a local school, Justine enjoys photography, listening to country music and spending time with her family.

Not Just Black or White

People sometimes have a difficult time deciding what to wear in the morning, but for me, so many questions run through my mind before I even think to open my closet door. How confident am I feeling today?  How many times do I want to answer the same question? Am I feeling brave enough to accept my flaws?  You see, I ask myself all these questions because for me, wearing shorts or anything that reveals my legs for that matter, exposes a whole other side of me, a story that not many people would assume or know.

All my life, I grew up not knowing that there was anything different or wrong with what I was doing. Ok, yes, my mom was always telling me to stop or asking me questions, but I used the excuse that she gave me; I have thin skin. Maybe I do and maybe I don’t but either way that is not the cause for the scars that creep up my shins like spider webs, each with their own unique story. Some started as harmless bug bites, others deliberate in a state of anger or anxiousness but none the less, people never guess that the scars left are from acts of self-injury.It actually wasn’t until my second year of college that I realized that what I was doing was actually classified as self-injury. Before my responses to abuse class, I always thought of self-injury as being cutting and burning, but never did I even think that the act I had been doing my entire life also fell into this category. That is when I learned that self-injury is not just black or white.

Every single person has their different ways of coping, their different methods of dealing with the emotions and pain that can come with mental health struggles and one thing I have learned is that we should not judge each other for this.

Over the years I have come to accept my scars and that they are a part of me but how am I supposed to respond when a three year old asks me what is wrong with my legs or when I get constant stares while out in public. It is hard for people to understand, especially when they have not struggled themselves.

Like with everything else surrounding mental health, this is where education is needed. It is needed so that this subject is not just black or white, education so that people know that this does happen more than they realize and education so that people don’t say “why don’t you just stop”.

This is a part of mental health and like the rest,  it is complex but if we all do our part to educate, get educated, support and not stare (as I am sitting writing this in Starbucks I have gotten many stares due to the gauze on my arm) because nothing is just black or white.

You can follow my personal blog J’s Daze