Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier


Hello I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I like music, coffee shops, art, poetry, and I do weightlifting. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. 

Oh gosh, I don’t know where to start which makes writing for Worth Living both exciting and daunting. I suppose I should start with talking about my disorder and try to paint a picture of what the inside of my head looks like but with words. I want you to see where I’m coming from.  I have been suffering with my mental state since I can remember. When I was young I never understood why I felt the way I did. It was only when I was around twelve years old that I got my first diagnoses: Major Depression, Social Phobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Middle school was by far the worst time in my life. My demons weighed me down. I was in the depths of a dark depression and my anxiety was constantly clawing at my chest. I used to get panic attacks so bad I’d puke. I did poorly in school and had no motivation for school work, let alone the motivation to live.

In my youth, I faced many challenges including a series of traumatic events that left me with psychic wounds. Many of these challenges I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to overcome. Getting help was difficult. The mental health system is severely flawed. Dozens of hospital visits that mostly resulted in being turned away, distressing interactions with police, long waitlists and less than adequate care by psychiatrists and other mental health “professionals.” I felt more like a perpetrator than a victim. I felt guilty for being sick, like I was a bad person for feeling this way.

The way I feel and think has always been confusing for me. Always living life looking from the outside in, never knowing how to fit in with everyone else. I wondered why after all these years, no amount of therapy or fancy pill cocktails could help me. The constant emotional turmoil, the years of self harm, a lack of identity… shouldn’t I have found myself by now? I was living from one emotional calamity to another. I eventually came to know of the illness Borderline Personality Disorder.

I finally had a name for the madness. It made sense. Now this disorder is not pretty. It’s heavily stigmatized and you will not receive any sympathy. You are a monster, the bottom of the barrel of mental disorders. People with BPD are seen as hard to treat and it feels like, and maybe this is partly due to the feelings induced by others, but it feels like you will never get better. You feel like you’re impossible to love and a burden on others. It truly feels as if you make everyone around you miserable. It’s best to keep on walking the thin line between sanity and insanity, trying your best not to fall. Living life with borderline is hard, but it’s all you know. And it feels like it’s all you’ll ever know. Read any article or book on BPD and you will read all about how much of a terrible person you are. It’s a very misunderstood disorder. I believe the development of BPD, at least for me, stemmed from childhood trauma.

As a person with borderline, you never learn how to deal with your emotions as a child and it translates into adulthood. If you delve into my psychic landscape you will soon want to leave. I often struggle to articulate how I feel in a way that makes sense to most but I will attempt to do my best.

At first glance I may appear normal but if you look a bit closer, you can start to notice my loose threads. I hurt a lot, in fact I am in emotional pain most of the time. And there’s nothing I can do but sit there and feel it. I can’t help how I feel. There’s no protective layer. I feel absolutely everything and to every extreme. Sometimes it has to do with external stimulus. Sometimes it doesn’t. There’s also a lot of emptiness. It occupies my insides as an unwelcome but frequent visitor. At these times I feel a crushing and heavy emptiness that I can’t rid myself of. I’ll do almost anything just to feel something. Some days I’ll just be feeling sort of okay and then all of a sudden I want to die. And I don’t necessarily know why I want to die, but I just do. I don’t know how to stop these feelings but I’ll try and I will do this by any means available. Self harm is a big part of my illness. Hurting myself always seems like the most viable option in any given scenario.

Another big part of my illness is the fear of abandonment. This fear makes me so afraid of losing people that I desperately want to keep them there. My entire self worth is based on how much others love me. When people leave it’s the end of the world which often results in me leaving them first in order to avoid the pain of being abandoned.

Then there is the self hatred. It’s strong and it’s singing to me and it’s making itself known. I hate myself more than anything in the entire world. Guilt is my game and I play it well. Wallowing in self pity is fun and I blame myself for everything that has ever gone wrong in my life. As you can tell, there are many symptoms I have to deal with on a day to day basis. Now, a lot of this has improved with years of very hard work and determination and I’m still struggling very much.

If we backed up a few years in my story, you’d learn I had many years of outpatient therapy as a well as a hospital stay as an inpatient for three weeks. The therapy defiantly helped me a great deal but was mostly focused on my anxiety and never dug deeper into my core issues. As for the hospital stay, that probably caused more harm than good. Most of the work I’ve done in my opinion has been on my own. I had realized I had permitted my illness lordship. I may not have a good sense of who I am, but what I do know is that I have determination.

I got myself through high school despite many mental health issues, I graduated and got into university on scholarship. I go to school whilst working part time. My mental illness will follow me everywhere. Into the workplace, into relationships and even on my way to the grocery store. I have come a long way but the illness is still there like a rip tide current. Sometimes it pulls me underneath and I can’t breathe for a moment, but other times I am able to surface and break free.

There is never going to be a clear cut explanation for my disorder or yours. And there is never a one fits all recovery plan. I am not better in the sense that I am “cured” or my disorder is “gone.” I think with mental illness, it’s a life long journey. Recovery to me is being able to deal with my symptoms enough to live life the best I can. To have a life worth living. And to me in order to make my life worth living, I want to help others in the ways I know how. And sharing a part of my story with you is one of those ways.


Worth Living Ambassador Kayla Lacey

My name is Kayla Lacey, I’m a philosophy major at Acadia University, and I have had a lot of experience with mental illness.

When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and anxiety. Having an eating disorder was all about control for me. If I couldn’t control anything else, at least I could control my food. The irony of it all was that I had never been in less control of anything in all my life. Nothing in my life has ever felt as bad as the feeling of not having any control over my own mind and body. Going through therapy felt like an exercise in gaining control back. Looking at it now, I was storming the castle of my mental illness in an attempt to gain back lost territory. This had felt better than thinking about how scary the whole process really was. An anorexic’s worst fear is gaining weight, and yet if I ever wanted any control, to feel healthy again, that was exactly what I had to do.

There is a stigma that persists about the mentally ill, people who suffer from disorders like mine, or any inside the full spectrum that exist. This stigma proposes that if you have a mental illness, or you suffer from one, it makes you weak. But if you suffer from a mental illness you know that is the furthest thing from the truth. Every day we face our fears in ways that make us better for it. Whether it’s finally finding the courage to look at yourself in the mirror after gaining enough weight back to fit into your old clothes, or whether it’s finding the courage to get out of bed in the morning. These actions are no small feat. For me, conquering my fear put me on the path to self-recovery. Sometimes I failed, sometimes my fears knocked me down and I had to start over. Sometimes it took me a while to get back up, but admitting your failures doesn’t mean admitting defeat.

When approaching recovery, for me the best way to find hope when I felt like I had been knocked down was to embrace little goals. Going outside, eating something that my anorexia told me I shouldn’t, showering with the lights on. Ways that I could feel like I was serving myself, even when every ounce of me didn’t want to. Facing my fears, even in small little ways helped me overcome the bigger hurdles. Accepting that small victories were just as important as large ones, not only helped me value myself more, but value the progress I had made more.

Finally, when I found myself in recovery, and ready to get my life back on track, victories over fear that I had experienced throughout gaining back control over my mind and body, shifted into something different. It was important for me to contribute to self-care but I recognized that sometimes self-care for me meant doing things I didn’t really want to do. If every inch of me was screaming to stay in bed and keep the curtains drawn, sometimes the best way to serve my mental illness was to make the effort to get out of bed and to shower, to eat, small victories one step at a time. One foot in front of the other.

I recognized that even though I reveled in self-care that had me bundled up in a sweater watching super hero movies and eating popcorn, I needed to equally value and appreciate the self-care meant getting up out of bed and going to class. Sometimes living with mental illness feels like a battle, the most important thing I learned is to relish the little victories as much as the big ones because they’re just as meaningful. There is no hierarchy for self-care. Whether it’s posting a selfie online that makes me feel good about myself or remembering to shower in the morning, acknowledging the ‘little’ stuff helped reduce the amount of times I felt like a failure for getting knocked down the odd time.

Taking control over my fear by acknowledging the little victories in myself care helped me feel strong again, and helped me understand that moments where I feel weak are not the moments that I believe define me. Being mentally ill, facing my fears, and acknowledging my victories have made me realize that I am worth more than my mental illness wants me to believe.

I am here, I am mentally ill, I am not defined by my illness, I am not defined by my fears or my failures, and I am worth living.


Worth Living Ambassador Katie Campeau

Hi, my name is Katie, I’m 20 years old and am in my 3rd year of Sociology at Acadia University. I love writing and reading, and I’m very enthusiastic about learning. I also happen to be dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. I know, just your stereotypical student.

I cannot stress enough how often I hear the words “That really bugs my OCD,” or “Sorry, I’m so OCD about that!” This is only the tip of the iceberg. Whenever I’m online, I see quizzes that are entitled “How OCD Are You?” and its always followed with images of objects that are not symmetrically pleasing to the eye. Then there are characters that are played over and over again who are always the same tropes. They enjoy organization a little too more than a normal person would and they also happen to like cleanliness. They are the personification of OCD.

This is not the only one disorder that is oversimplified and not properly represented. Eating disorders are always portrayed through women who are dangerously thin and therefore shunning anyone else who does not meet these body and gendered standards. Bipolar disorder is presented as someone who simply flips a switch between “overly happy” and “incredibly sad” with no other state of emotion. Schizophrenia is the person muttering to themselves in public or ranting about government conspiracies. All of these disorders and many more are presented as these unacceptable character traits that we use in our vocabulary as adjectives. And, quite frankly, I believe that it needs to stop because of how harmful its implications and side effects are.

As someone with OCD, I don’t fit the mold of what society has decided “is” OCD. I’m not at all organized, so if you were to go into my bedroom, you would see that my floor is covered in clothes, and I couldn’t tell you when I last washed my sheets. I also do not compulsively clean my surroundings for hours or take eight showers a day. This is not to say that some people with OCD don’t have these experiences—and that they’re not perfectly valid and real—but it means that my experiences are not typically represented in the mainstream media. My OCD is heavily related to intrusive thoughts about my loved ones dying and many other horrific thoughts. Because of these thoughts, my compulsions normally involve a lot of counting, repetitive actions, fixating on symmetry, and much more. Also, when I say symmetry, I mean to say that when I line up my books into two stacks, the stack on the left has to be higher than the one on the right. This is symmetrical to me, and this form of symmetry alleviates the anxiety caused by my intrusive thoughts. Weird, right? This isn’t the stuff that’s shown in mainstream media and that’s mostly because people only like things that they can understand.

So, going back to media, anything that you have learned about OCD is through what you’ve seen online, in books, or in movies. Many people don’t actually reach out to reliable sources in order to gain a better understanding of OCD. Because of that, when I say “OCD,” your mind immediately goes to buzzwords like “clean,” “organization,” “symmetry,” and “perfection.” This is the same with other disorders. When I say eating disorder, you hear “thin.” When I say bipolar disorder, you hear “super happy,” “super sad,” and “overly emotional.” And when I say schizophrenia, you hear “voices,” “delusional,” and “crazy.” These complex and intricate disorders have been reduced to broad traits. Whenever someone enacts one of these traits, that’s when we shout out “You’re so OCD! Anorexic! Bipolar! Schizophrenic!”

This process is incredibly harmful for many reasons. One is shown through someone downplaying their own struggles and putting off getting proper treatment. If everyone is experiencing these disorders in the media, if everyone “is so OCD,” then maybe you don’t really have the disorder, or if you do, maybe it’s not actually that bad and you’re overreacting. This was one of the reasons I put off getting treatment. I also didn’t match the media’s definition of OCD, so when I was having these intrusive thoughts, I thought that I was something else entirely. I was afraid that as soon as I talked to a psychologist, that they would admit me to a psychiatric hospital and throw away the key. But then, entering therapy, my psychologist showed me a book of intrusive thoughts that people with OCD have had and recorded. I learned that I was actually quite normal. But how was I going to come to this conclusion on my own when the media told me that I wasn’t actually OCD?

Even after getting my diagnosis, after learning about the complexities of OCD, I felt a pang whenever someone said “I’m so OCD!” It’s not because of the initial reason over not seeking treatment, but it was because of this trivialization. Whenever someone makes these comments, I feel as though they are devaluing all the negative experiences I was forced to endure. That I still endure. Experiences that I will have to endure for the rest of my life.

Now, I’m not saying that the people who make these comments are trying to personally attack me or anyone else. I don’t believe that these people are using disorders as adjectives on purpose. Not at all. As a society, we’ve been exposed to these inaccurate representations of mental disorders since the beginning of time. We’re taught how to view and understand mental disorders in an unconscious manner. I’m well aware that when someone uses OCD as an adjective, that they were conditioned into thinking that that is a proper use of the word and meaning. It’s similar to how people accidentally make sexist, racist, or homophobic slurs. We’ve been pre-wired to fall into this trap, and I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ve never fallen victim to it.

We all do it, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is ignoring the harms that come with using mental disorders as adjectives and to deny the fact that its harmful to the mental health community. I believe that there are three things that we can do to stop this negative process. First, when you use a mental disorder as an adjective, stop and recognize what you did. If you say “That’s so OCD,” take note that you described an action as OCD. Second, recognize that what you said is wrong. If you claimed that organizing your books alphabetically, or excessively washing your hands is OCD, then recognize that defining them as so is both wrong definitively and morally. The last point, which is a more long-term solution, is to research mental disorders. They are all so different and diverse, which is why the media only shows an oversimplified glimpse of this realm. If you put the effort into understanding someone’s disorder, then you’ll quickly learn that it is not okay to use it as an adjective.

Finally, I want to end this post by addressing the individuals out there who feel attacked by absent minded adjectives. I know that you’re frustrated by your disorder being trivialized. It’s so hard and so unnecessary. Your struggles are very real and valid. I know that you just want to shake the people out there who misuse your disorder to express something so simple, but you have to be patient with them. Instead of losing your cool—oh, trust me, I have lost my cool MANY times—you have to be calm. If someone doesn’t have the knowledge that you have about your own disorder, then help them understand it by explaining it to them. You can also be a part of the solution to ending this process.


Worth Living Ambassador Alex Campeau

Hi, my name is Alex, I’m 23 years old and am still going through a bumpy ride. I’m diagnosed with schizoaffective- depressed subtype, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a lot to swallow, but don’t think of them as disorders, think of them as personality traits. I have had three hospital stays and hope to have a smoother recovery than the one I am having now.

Caution: Alex mentions Suicide

When I was eighteen, I was a part of a program called The On Track Program which is for people who experience psychosis. They assign you a nurse and doctor to monitor how your symptoms and whether you were a danger to yourself or others. My nurse thought that I was suicidal and needed to be hospitalized. I had suicidal ideation, but I wasn’t quite ready to pull the plug. Anyway, my dad came home from work early to take me to the hospital because my nurse had called him telling him to do so. The hospital staff in the ER thought I was a danger to myself and that l was psychotic, so they admitted me.

My first hospital visit was strange to me because it was a new place for me. I couldn’t believe I was actually in a psych ward. l was mystified as to what went wrong. When I was in that state of mind nothing made sense, nothing was real. I remember one of the nurses asked if I knew why I was there, to which I replied, “No”. I had no idea because nothing was making sense to me. I remember pacing aimlessly, paranoid, anxious and depressed. The first thing my nurse did was give me a medication to calm me down. She did not even speak to me first, she chose the easy route by silencing me artificially. My parents had returned with my belongings such as pyjamas, toothbrush, all the necessities. l was introduced to my assigned doctor after. I met him before at the On Track Program. I’ll backtrack a bit. She and a nurse at On Track interviewed me to see if I can benefit from the program. So I was pleased to see a familiar face.

The following day, l was woken up to take more medication, Seroquel, which was used to treat my psychosis. I thought everything was a test and that I had to outsmart my nurses and doctors. I knew when to say the right things. Anyway, I was scared out of my mind one morning so my doctor gave me another medication. Next thing I know it’s three days later. I had apparently been seen by my On Track nurse, my parents, and I remember none of it. I was completely zombified. Things lasted like that for a few days until I had had enough. No more pacing the halls, no more meds, no more labels, and most of all, this isn’t the psychosis talking, no more brainwashing. I ended up checking myself out after ten days, a very short stay, I had just had enough of it. The hospital is not fun and I did not think I’d go back until a couple months later. I’ll make that my next post, my second stay that is.

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  www.suicideprevention.ca
USA – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom   www.nhs.uk


Worth Living Ambassador Julie Arab

My name is Julie, and I am from The small city we like to call Halifax, located in Nova Scotia. I am a property manager by day, foodie by night, obsessed with finding the best bite in Halifax so I can imitate it and enjoy my version of it at home.

Mental Illness. I have always hated those words. I hate the stigma, the myths, all the behaviours associated with it. I hated the fact that I had a mental illness, that I still have one. I think what I hated most was sitting in the hospital listening to the doctor tell me that they were placing me in the mental health wing because there wasn’t currently an eating disorder’s wing.

I knew that my eating disorder was a mental illness, but what I didn’t know was that it was going to drive me mentally insane.

My name is Julie, but when I look in the mirror, all I see is eating disorder.

From the moment I wake up, my eating disorder wakes up with me. It’s the same routine every morning.

Open my eyes, feel my stomach, hate myself. At this point a hundred thoughts race through my head.

“Did I gain weight? are your hands swollen? Should I step on the scale or is it just going to ruin my day? No! I have to step on the scale, I need to know what that number is. What did I eat yesterday? I’m so hungry, when am I going to eat today?”

These thoughts rarely ever go away, at least not without a sufficient distraction.

From the moment I wake up to the moment I lay my head back on my pillow to fall back asleep, I am thinking about food.

It feels like I’ve been this way for my entire life, but it’s actually been 12 years.

Sometimes I can’t believe that number to be true, but I know it’s a reality.

An eating disorder is not glamorous. It does not give you control and it does not fix all your problems. An eating disorder only takes until there’s nothing left of you.

The first thing my eating disorder took from me was my friends. Nobody wants to deal with a friend that always bails on plans and only talks about food. It gets to a point where you don’t even have a social life anymore, unless you count answering the door for the pizza guy.

The second thing my eating disorder took from me was my boyfriends. They never stay. My relationships have always suffered because of my illness and always end in a painful break up. Nobody wants to have to deal with a sick girl.

The third thing my eating disorder took from me was my family. They start off by being worried, but then that worry turns to anger and resentment. Lecture after lecture, fight after fight, all you can think about is how much you have disappointed your family. And yet you still choose your eating disorder every time.

The fourth thing, and perhaps the biggest loss of them all, is when my eating disorder took my hope. This loss is not something you can see, only something you can feel. You start to feel empty, as if there is no hope left for a happy ending. At this point you believe that the illness is going to take your life, and all you can hope for is to wake up another day.

It’s hard to get out of that dump, where you feel as though you have hit rock bottom and nothing will ever fix it. Most days I didn’t want to get out of bed but I always did. How else would I get to the scale in the bathroom to check my weight?

Eventually I saw some light. I realized that there was more to life than a piece of plastic that told me how many pounds I was. But the demons still linger.

I’m not sure what it takes to fully recover, or if I ever will, but I know that my fight is not over.

I have reconnected with friends and force myself to be more social. I refuse to let the eating disorder win. I refuse to be consumed by darkness. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

 

 

 


Worth Living Ambassador Alex Campeau


Hi, my name is Alex, I’m 23 years old and am still going through a bumpy ride. I’m diagnosed with schizoaffective- depressed subtype, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a lot to swallow, but don’t think of them as disorders, think of them as personality traits. I have had three hospital stays and hope to have a smoother recovery than the one I am having now.

I’ll start off by sharing how I am now after six years of constant struggle. At the moment I am depressed, I am paranoid, I have trouble concentrating, I’m all alone, and I’m angry. I’m like that mostly because of withdrawal from medication. I just got under six hundred pills a month. Ya, I take a lot of medication. I currently have five medications that no one would ever want because my medications are very strong and have very bad effects on my body. So I’m getting off those and hopefully I’ll begin to do better.

My psychosis really impacted my cognitive ability. I find it hard to organize information in my head. I sometimes forget what I’m talking about. I also have a working memory deficit thanks to my psychosis. It took a lot of help in school. I ended up dropping out and two and a half years later, I went to adult high school and received a lot of help just to do average which for me is huge.

After years of therapy, I’ve done Cognitive Behaviour Therapy around three times while in hospital, I’ve talked to four students over a nine and a half month stay in the hospital, and I’ve seen psychiatrists. At the moment I have a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist. My psychotherapist at the moment is teaching things like not labelling myself and that my diagnoses are just parts of who I am. It’s hard to accept or even to understand but recovering is all about challenges.

In my darkest hours I did want it to end. I was falling into this deep depression. I needed help to get back up. But people didn’t know how to help me so that’s how I got on all of those medications. My darkest hours always had something to do with medication. At one point I was given too much that I started seizing in the gym in the hospital I stayed at for nine and a half months. I was in the hospital for schizoaffective disorder and I thought people wanted to kill me. Every second in my darkest hours I thought I was going to get hurt. My depression made me feel like a burden to others. I thought I was failing them. My OCD was severe and still is. I count to four every three to four seconds to get some relief.

Recovery came hard to me. I always had a hard time trusting others. But it’s happening right now. I am getting better, I have goals such as to leave the house on my own, do some chores, get a job, and more. I didn’t truly have goals until now because I was too sick but now I face challenge after challenge at my own pace. Going off medication is my number one goal. It also is the toughest goal, but in my current mental state I always say, “Bring it on!”. I don’t know where the strength came from but I must fight to learn. Learning is key to recovery. Knowing your medications and their side effects, questioning your doctor, and questioning yourself. I always question now, “Ok I’m paranoid, but what are the odds? What makes me a target?”. Things like that get me through the toughest of days. You also have to know your limits. When I was in the hospital I wanted to buy a muffin. My anxiety stopped me from doing a lot, but I found ways to cope. Always keep fighting and don’t give in.

I have what I call “inner demons” that make my life really tough. I always remember to face them because if I hide, it’s still there. If I fight it off, I have much more freedom within myself. Some people say ignore your demons but in reality you’re going nowhere. You allow that demon to take control of you, to stomp on you. I choose to fight to save my own life.

For me what makes life worth living is how much of a mess the world is and I think of ways I can clean it up. Waking up in the morning is a blessing. Going to sleep is a blessing. I am a blessing. I’ve earned that title because I at rock-bottom and I climbed back up, with some help of course, but I did it. It’s like the Olympics. The Olympians train all their lives to compete so they can say, “I was there.” They made it by pushing themselves every day just like I am. I force myself to do physical activity every day and it boosts me. I feel good about myself. Every challenge is a blessing and I fight it and also explore it. Explore the feeling or act and learn. What’s worth living is the will everybody has to live.


 Worth Living Ambassador Caitie Gutierrez

Caitie is a 26-year-old who resides in Sydney, Australia by way of New York. She struggles with chronic depression and anxiety and wants to dedicate her life to making society a better and safer place for all marginalized groups.

Caution: Caitie mentions the suicide of a friend, along with a memoriam video.

Being diagnosed with mental illnesses later in my teenage years left me feeling different, isolated and alone. I missed out on a lot of things because of how my diagnoses hindered my ability to function throughout most of my life. I have experienced two major depressive episodes where I ended up hospitalized. Throughout it all, the most cathartic coping method for me was creativity whether it was singing, playing the piano or guitar, listening to music, or admiring relatable illustrations.

In February, someone that I had known since I was very young passed away from suicide. Jimmy was always creative. He would impersonate Charlie Chaplin for our class in elementary school. He was always drawing and involved with the drama productions. He even got to direct a show our senior year. We weren’t very close, but we always stayed connected by randomly catching up on social media or running into each other at house parties of mutual friends. He reached out to me last year on Facebook after I started becoming more open about my own struggle with mental illness. He talked to me about his personal experience and encouraged me to continue being transparent about my own.

The loss of Jimmy left myself and many others including his close friends and family feeling devastated. He inspired me to put things in motion. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that so many people who struggle with mental illness are creative. Today’s society doesn’t exactly cater to the arts. Many feel invalid in their creative pursuits when they want to make a living by doing what they feel passionately about and love the most. We are told that we can be anything we want to be but when it comes time to decide on our career, a career in the arts is not encouraged or taken seriously. The creative world can also be very elitist, so with these two factors you will find people losing hope and burying their dreams.

So, I decided to create The Bumblefly Effect. It is an inclusive and intersectional collective of creatives all over the globe who are committed to breaking the stigma of mental illness. It is a platform where people can share their creativity and stories in hopes to normalize being open and candid about our mental health, as well as embracing the healing properties the arts can bring to those who are suffering. I hope that by curating these works of art, someone will be able to find some peace and solidarity in their darkest moments. Suffering is a universal human condition. I feel that it is crucial to acknowledge this and start creating a larger space for those who struggle with their mental health in our society.

Memoriam video for Jimmy made by his friend Derek https://vimeo.com/203181427

You can find The Bumblefly Effect on Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/thebumbleflyeffect   Instagram:@thebumbleflyeffect and @caitie.bumblefly


Worth Living Ambassador Katie Campeau


Hi, my name is Katie, I’m 20 years old and am in my 3rd year of Sociology at Acadia University. I love writing and reading, and I’m very enthusiastic about learning. I also happen to be dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. I know, just your stereotypical student…

I’ve been racking my brain over what to write for my very first blog post. What do I have to share about mental health with Worth Living, and how can I make this post relatable for everyone? What should my very first take on mental health be about? As I thought it over, I felt it was only appropriate that I share what my current state of mental health is like, and address what it means to be in recovery. So, here goes nothing!

I’m in my second semester of my third year of university, and the stakes are pretty high right now because I need to maintain a certain GPA in order to pursue my Honours and thesis in my fourth year. It’s a lot of academic stress and responsibility. I also live in an apartment, which I love, but this also comes with the responsibilities of cleaning and making sure I buy enough groceries to feed myself. On top of this load, I’ve been juggling a part-time job, which thankfully I won’t have to continue to do for the rest of this semester. Even though I’m lucky enough to have parents who help support me financially, I still worry about all the expenses that come with everyday living. As you can tell, I have a pretty normal life with many normal tasks. Nothing special.

However, I have a constant battle in my head that makes these mundane activities the most difficult burdens to bare. While that sounds dramatic, I want to remind you that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder involves obsessing over disturbing intrusive thoughts, and these thoughts leave me feeling empty. If it was emptiness alone, then that would be one thing, but unfortunately my disorder makes me hate myself. This ties into negative coping mechanisms, and so when my OCD is at its worst,I find myself struggling with self-harm compulsions. Coupled with this is my depression, which makes it difficult to even get out of bed most days. These illnesses trigger each other everyday and at this point I am an exposed nerve, meaning that almost everything around me triggers an emotional breakdown. It makes living a regular life with regular responsibilities a bit more difficult.

With all of this in mind, you can tell that my mental health is in a bad state but I haven’t always been in this state. I actually got my diagnosis and started treatment four years ago. I’ve gone through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy—a psychotherapy that focuses on changing behaviour and thinking patterns through hands-on approaches. I’ve done a lot of the dirty work which is confronting your disorder face-to-face. But even when I started treatment, I had this unrealistic idea that talk-therapy would get rid of my disorder altogether. I thought after a year of therapy that I would no longer have OCD and depression and would come out the other side with a healthy brain. It’s not my fault that I came to such an inaccurate conclusion. Whenever we come across social media stories that centre on mental health and recovery, it’s often romanticized. We think of recovery through these rose-coloured goggles and this warm, fuzzy sentiment. You battle your demons and come out the other side better for it. After therapy you begin to start your best life where you are your most confident, accomplished self. This is a common misconception that I shared with many other people.

Now I know what the actual reality of recovery is  and I’m here to say that it is complex. It’s a roller coaster that is both terrifying and confusing. One minute you are riding out your highs and you are invincible. Then a minute, a day, a year later, all of a sudden you are at your lowest and wondering when you’ll get back up. Hell, sometimes you’re not even in one of the two extremes, sometimes you’re just hanging out in this awkward middle, feeling okay but something’s not quite right. Recovery comes with its own set of responsibilities, like working on your self-care skills. There are days where you have to force yourself to do the things you love in order to get yourself up and even then your effort doesn’t always necessarily come with a reward. There’s a lot of trial and error, some days are better than others. It’s about being on guard for triggers and preparing for how you’re going to handle the anxiety and depression that come with these triggers. Recovery has many faces and looks different for everyone, so even when getting out of bed may look like a trivial effort, it can be a huge accomplishment for someone else.

These past four years have been a wild ride for my own recovery. When I came out of therapy,  I aimed to conquer everything on my own terms. What I deemed successful is quite different from what others would claim to be successful. And I’ve done a lot of amazing things since getting over the the first hurdle of therapy. I’ve made many new friends, pursued academics that I’m passionate about, travelled, and pushed myself to be more confident and courageous. This was all happening while in recovery while I was still dealing with my disorders. I had one summer where it felt as though my OCD had almost vanished entirely, but in reality it was still at the back in my mind. I’ve had other high roller coaster moments where the disorders were still present but much more easy to manage and lock away when needed. Whenever I’ve been through these periods of recovery that are more positive, I’ve also been prepared for the periods where recovery is not going to be as effortless. This is where I’m at with my mental health now, a low.

When it comes down to it, recovery is not about upholding some sort of beautiful aesthetic where smiles will cure depression, or nature walks will rid you of anxiety. It’s not this linear process where there’s nowhere to go but up. I’m always going to have these disorders. No matter where I go, they travel with me. This is okay though, because even when I’m at my lowest I know I’ll eventually reach my highs. Even an awkward middle ground state will do. I hope that if you take anything away from this post, it’s that recovery is messy and that is completely okay. It is hard work, and the hard work is what makes life worth living.


Worth Living Ambassador Michele King

Hi! My name is Michele and I am 28 years old. Living with both depression and anxiety, I want to be a positive force of change to help end the stigma associated with mental illness, with hopes that what I share will help at least one person who comes across it.

The best way I can describe my anxiety is like this: constant thoughts ruminating over and over in my head. More often than not, I will latch on to one for dear life. Unfortunately, the thought that I typically tend to grasp onto is the negative, worst case scenario one.

Once this happens, my fight or flight response is in full force.  My heart rate increases, my palms get sweaty, and I become fully engulfed in this one thought.  There is no going back now.

I work diligently in silence trying to win the battle between my rational mind and my anxious mind, hoping no one catches on. You see, I know that my thoughts are just thoughts, and on the surface there is really nothing to worry about yet; but my mind and body have already taken the thought and ran with it as if it is reality.

It used to get so bad that I would get physical stomach pains from the constant worrying; my body would become tense and could not relax no matter how hard I tried to tell it to.

This is where panic attacks come in. For me, mine tend to be more silent, but if you really know me you may be able to notice my “calm” throughout this storm.  If you are with me when this happens you may see my “zoning out” (which often comes across as my being rude or not listening) or you’ll see my twisting my rings on my fingers, around and around, just like my thoughts moving in an endless cycle.  By the time the battle is over, I am physically and mentally exhausted. Did I mention this happens multiple times a day?

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I even realized I had anxiety. I simply thought this was my normal self. Once I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder everything clicked.  However, just because I now can understand what is happening and possibly why it is happening, it doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to have these attacks. I do, daily.

Thankfully though, I am getting better at becoming more mindful.  At times I am able to catch myself or a thought right before I spiral. If I have had enough sleep, and am in a good space that day, then I am able to remember to simply take a deep breath (or five) and not jump down that rabbit hole.

Now that I am more knowledgeable about what is going on with me I am able and wanting to talk about it. My anxiety and depression (that’s a story for a different time) are a part of my experience and I am learning to accept and embrace them along the way, hopefully while helping others do the same.

 


Worth Living Ambassador Thomas Morgan


My name is Thomas Morgan. I am a 21-year-old Sociology student at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. I am a brother to both a younger sister and an older brother. I am a son to two wonderful parents. I am a suicide survivor. I am also Bipolar.

Caution: Thomas discusses suicide

First of all, I just want to say how honored I am to be a part of the Worth Living team. When my sister, Hannah-Grace, had asked if I would consider applying to become an Ambassador I did it as soon as I got the chance. Mental health, as well as the discussion of it, are extremely important to me and I look forward to sharing my opinions about it. I wasn’t sure exactly what to write for my first blog post, until two friends said something recently that I have been hearing quite a lot lately which inspired this.

When you think of things that have made you a better person than you once were, it’s more than likely that we have different ideas.

On August 22, 2013,  I hanged  myself. I didn’t tell anybody for two years. The branch had snapped, it had been much weaker than it looked. I went home an hour or two afterwards, having lost the courage to make another attempt that day. When I got home I read three documents I had left on my computer in Microsoft Word, one for my girlfriend, one for my parents, and the last one for my little sister. I read these goodbye notes and realized I couldn’t leave my parents, but mostly my sister, with just a note toby which to  remember me. So, I kept going for them, my love for them and their love for me is what got me through the two years it took before I had completely accepted what I had almost done and felt the need to come forward about it.

Since the two-year anniversary of my attempt, when I came forward about my suicide attempt, I have constantly emphasized the importance of taking care of your mental health. Unfortunately, while I am a survivor, I have many friends who are not. Friends who I had no idea were struggling with such dark thoughts. This ate away at me last year, and eventually, near the end of June, I began hearing voices telling me that all of it was my fault. I didn’t see the signs even if I was a survivor. I knew something was wrong when I began to believe them. I did the best thing I felt I could do. I called someone very important to me and just talked for about an hour and a half. I never acknowledged anything was wrong and just talked with them about random things I can’t even remember with many silences between the conversations that always seemed to happen when we talked on the phone.

I continued to hear the voices, but at that point I understood for the past year what was going on, and recognized that, given time, the voices will be silenced and they were. A few months later, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. These two major depressive episodes are just two of my largest ones I remember and I eventually understood that what I normally thought of as a large part of my personality was the result of manic episodes.

Since then I have been put on Mood Stabilizers. I have focused on my studies, with my goal set on becoming an elementary school teacher. There are now multiple ways I am focusing my creativity instead of wasting it playing video games all the time, including when I should be studying. For example, I got back into photography, I sing (not well) and play the guitar, and I have begun reading, listening, and writing spoken word poetry. I exercise frequently, and I try to meditate once a day.

I do all this because I know I must work hard to stay healthy, whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally. I have been told many times by many people that they have noticed a good change when it comes to the way I am around them. This is the most wonderful thing anybody could say to me because despite how well I feel when I am alone, I don’t know if it is visible to other people around me.

When you think of things that have made you a better person than you once were, you may not think of mental illness as being one of those things. Mental illness, as ugly and emotional and chaotic as it can be, is one of the things that makes me who I am. My acceptance of my diagnosis, as well as the countless mistakes it has led me to make, is one of the things I find I am most proud of in my life.

While I do believe that I am much more than my Bipolar, I also recognize how much it has made me grow as a person overall. Mental illness has this social stigma attached with it that those who suffer from it are broken or dangerous or socially-inept, but we aren’t. We are not our mental illness. It does not define us. However, it does help shape who we are and that can either be a good thing or a bad thing. The choice is up to you.

I’m Bipolar, and I am a better person because of it.