Worth Living Ambassador Rachel Beazley
Hi, my name is Rachel. I just finished my first year in the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg. I like writing, creating, volunteering, canoeing, math, poetry, singing, teaching, and learning. I live with 5 mental illnesses, Post-Concussion Syndrome, chronic pain, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. I’m a stigma fighter.
I first came across Worth Living on Instagram in 2016. I can remember being hooked on the title. Worth Living was a phrase that I had been hearing a lot around that time. They were words that really resonated with my mental health goals. At that point, I was just starting Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT), which is a treatment program for people who have difficulty with emotional regulation. The goal of DBT is to build a life worth living. Successful and sustainable recovery was one of my goals. The other was to use my story of lived experience with mental illness to encourage kind and thoughtful conversation about mental health and mental illness, specifically among my peers. It was also the beginning of my first-year of university as a full time student. I had my mission laid out. The focus of my year boiled down to three words: recovery, advocacy, and studying. I was determined to eat, sleep, and breathe progress. My plate was full but I was eager to dig in.
To backtrack, I have lived with multiple mental illnesses for my entire life. They have caused me incredible suffering for as long as I can remember, but I try not to dwell on that. The earliest diagnoses were OCD, Tourette Syndrome, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was seven years old. ADHD and Major Depression were added to my repertoire in Grade 10. I say “repertoire” to describe my collection of mental illnesses because my illnesses are parts of me that I am tirelessly aiming to master so that I can use them to encourage positive change in the fight against stigma.
I think of the process of embracing my experience with mental illness as if I were a musician. Musicians put together collections of pieces of music that will help to develop and showcase what they can offer on a public stage. A good musician keeps in mind that some pieces may be more challenging than others but that those tough ones will often be well worth the extra effort. It’s the same with my health problems. Maybe I have a few more health problems than the average 18-year-old, but how awesome is it that I can use that fact to initiate this conversation about mental health and mental illness in an informative, raw, and relatable fashion? I think it’s very awesome.
I always say, mental illness is not who I am but it is what I experience. For the past year, I have been learning to hone in on my flaws and my gifts in a mindful way. Not all of my flaws concern my diagnoses and some of my gifts actually do. I don’t believe that people’s shortcomings are directly correlated with the social, medical, or societal labels that are put on them. If I did I’d be perpetuating stereotypes that stem straight from ignorance. That’s why I’m all about education through story-telling. I try to use the good parts and the bad parts of what I’m going through when I tell my story so that I can allow for an unpolished experience of mental illness to be noticed by whoever is interested.
That’s where #ThisIsTheDay comes in. An Instagram account, a website, and a book. Those are my main projects right now. They’re the advocacy components of my personal objectives for this year. I haven’t always considered myself to be a creative person. The idea of being creative almost made me gag at certain points in my life because I was so fixed on representing myself through hard facts and logic. Over the last few years, I’ve realized that everyone is creative in their own way and that creativity can be used for a lot of purposes. My identity these days is based on my writing and my writing leads me on many different paths, all of them involving forms of advocacy, leadership, and teaching.
As dramatic as it may sound, I like to think of my mental illness as the catalyst for the establishment of my life purpose. I didn’t have a life worth living for what seemed like forever. I was a slave to the symptoms of my mental illnesses and I didn’t know how to stand up to the war inside my brain.
Now I have gathered a lot of the skills necessary to pick myself up from the depths of despair and I am using the momentous brain power that has resulted from a healthier mind to be there for other young people in similar situations. I know it’s hard. Your struggle and my struggle are valid. The fact of the matter is that the stigma of mental illness and mental health will be beat. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will get there. If I’ve learned anything while on this journey though, it’s that we have to work together. #ThisIsTheDay we get to work as a team, united by our common struggle and by our long-anticipated victory in the fight against stigma. I’m excited!
Please visit me at www.thisistheday-endstigma.weebly.com/