Worth Living Ambassador Justine McNeil
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