Faith Mackey, Director, Worth Living Blog
5 Ways to Participate in World Kindness Day
By: Faith Mackey
World Kindness Day is here! And you know what that means: it’s time for you to get out there and be kind. But if you’re not sure how we’ve got some ideas. Whether you want to dedicate an entire day or a few hours to helping others, here are some ways to get involved with World Kindness Day! This is a great day to get involved with your community, connect with loved ones, and give back to your best friend, YOU!
Random act of kindness
The simplest way to participate in World Kindness Day is to perform a random act of kindness. That could mean holding the door open for someone or simply saying “thank you” when someone holds it for you. It doesn’t have to be anything big: even just saying hi and smiling can brighten someone’s day!
Random acts of kindness don’t have to cost money—in fact, sometimes they’ll actually save money! For example, helping someone cross the street, carrying in a neighbour’s groceries, or even just giving someone a smile. As they say, a smile is worth a thousand words.
Think outside the box! Here are some great random acts of kindness that you might want to try:
- Making baked goods and giving them out to strangers, family, or friends
- Volunteering at a local shelter
- Donating clothing items
- Buying a bus ticket for a strangers
- Leave encouraging messages around for people to find
- Pay for the person behind you
- Give someone a compliment
- Donate food
- Give a friend a gift
- Write a note for someone in your life
Call a loved one and tell them why they lift you up
Shine light on a friend or family member who is a true person in your support net. Call them up and tell them why they make your days brighter! Here are some things to chat about:
- Tell them what you appreciate about them.
- Tell them how they make you feel and how they make your life better, or at least more bearable.
- Tell them how they’ve made your day so much better just by being in it.
Donate to your favourite charity
Donating to a charity (if you have the means) can be a great way to participate in World Kindness Day. Here is some things to consider when choosing a charity to donate to:
- Donate to a charity that you believe in.
- Donate to a charity that is local to you.
- Donate to a charity that you have personal experience with.
- Donate to a charity that you can afford.
Have a self-care night (give kindness back to you!)
You are your own BFF and sometimes you need to give yourself a bit more kindness. Use World Kindness Day to celebrate you and your strength. Here are some great ways to get your self-care on:
- Take a bath
- Read a book
- Eat your favourite treat
- Watch your favourite movie
- Do a craft
- Listen to music
- Light some candles
- Do a face mask
- Do some laundry
- Stay in and just relax
Keep being kind
Being kind is a great way to show love and respect for others, but kindness also has the power to make you feel good about yourself. Being kind to others in your community makes you feel more connected to that community as well.
It’s easy to focus on being kind because it makes other people feel good. However, it’s important that we also take care of ourselves in order for us to be able to give out kindness throughout the year. To practice this self-kindness, try doing something nice for yourself every day or week! Because there are so many things that make us who we are (like our personality traits), it might take some time before figuring out what is best suited for your needs—but once you do find something that works well enough, keep doing it!
World Kindness Day is a great way to remind yourself and others of the power of one small act of kindness. It can be easy to forget about all the good we do for each other on a day-to-day basis, but with this holiday we are given an opportunity to pause and reflect on how much good there is in the world! Whether you’re celebrating by writing cards or volunteering at your local shelter, make sure that tomorrow (November 13th) is spent doing something kind for someone else.
Worth Living Ambassador Amber Chin
Hello, my name is Amber and I am a Dalhousie Alumni with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and Gender and Women’s Studies. Currently, I study Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University with the hope of one day supporting patients living with chronic pain and their mental health. I personally live with Fibromyalgia and have struggled with mental illness since I was young, both anxiety and depression.
My Mental Health Journey
When I was sixteen my mom took me to the doctor. I had scratched the knuckles of my fingers raw, deep large scabs carved by my own fingers like I was a chunk of firewood someone was determined to make into art. I just showed them my hands when I was asked why we were there, my mom shaking her head from my side. I was put on my first antidepressant. I stuck with the story that I’d just get so anxious that I wouldn’t notice what I’d done and the first time that was true.
Every time after, I’m not so sure.
I have lived with depression and anxiety since I was young, I was known and teased for being the fearful one, the sensitive one. At least until I learned to hide the overwhelming panic and fear that monopolized my thoughts. I got really good at it. I know it motivated my self harming behaviour and that this wasn’t the first time I had hurt myself and hoped someone would notice. I was only sixteen and I could only carry so much self-loathing, fear and trauma inside without feeling like I was watching popcorn in the microwave waiting for that first POP. I felt the temperature rising but I was the only one awake to watch it spinning.
The pills didn’t help and the concern was short lived even as the hits kept coming. I was a different person for a long time and my mind unravelled so slowly and so quietly that I had to wonder if anyone noticed. My behaviour became more and more unhinged but I only understand that looking back with kinder eyes. I had many of my breakdowns in isolation and in ways I am grateful to have come back from them as I did. I didn’t know how to ask for help, I, hadn’t yet learned how and hadn’t really felt safe enough to understand that.
I was really good at pretending to be fine. I did so well in school that people forgot to ask about my grades. I had been working part time since I was sixteen often leaving my day at school to work until 10pm, homework until however early in the morning and then do it all again three to five times a week. I was a good kid.
When I moved for University I was privileged enough not only to be at University but to also be able to see a therapist covered by my tuition. I was raised with a deep distrust for doctors and counsellors and making the appointment was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done for myself. I would see my counsellor for the next four and a half years until I left University.
I remember at the end of my first session my therapist telling me that she thought she could help me but if I didn’t think she would be a good fit for me, she would gladly refer me to someone with a different style. This was important to me, that in the midst of my swirling and heightening panic where I no longer felt like myself or like anyone who should be making decisions, she gave me the opportunity and the validity that I could decide for myself what I needed. It was the first of many lessons I would learn.
It was the first step in a core lesson I’ve learned that I call “showing up for myself”. I struggle with an abandonment wound largely stemming from the absence of my birth father which has also cultivated itself over the years through mangled other relationships. In voicing my longing that someone would show up for me and meet the need I was feeling at the time for validation and assurance, my therapist asked me if I could show up for myself. Something so simple but which has been a life saver ever since and a mantra on days when it is just so hard that motivates me that extra step towards taking care of myself.
There are many other lessons I learned in therapy and having that time set aside that was for voicing feelings I had long bottled up, to a person who would be focused on me for the whole time was critical to my healing. It allowed me to release and create space for recognizing the other parts of me that were strong and kind and honest. I hope to one day do the same for someone else as I embark on my new journey towards becoming a therapist myself.
The fears are still sometimes so bad that I can’t leave my house because I’m convinced something bad will happen. But I have changed in so many painfully beautiful ways and created space for an idea of myself that I never could’ve imagined back when I was sixteen. I put in so much work and faith to internalize that I was someone worth taking care of even when I’m mean and push myself too hard. And I am. And so are you.
Faith Mackey. Directot of the Worth Living Blog
How to pull yourself out of a funk
By Faith Mackey
With many of us returning to the “real world” as October is in full swing, it can be easy to overload ourselves with expectations and tasks that can lead us into a “funk”. Sometimes we can feel ourselves start to lag out of nowhere and the days seem never ending. Use these clinically backed strategies to help keep you on the right track for this Fall.
What does it mean to be in a “funk”?
Being “in a funk” can mean feeling out of the ordinary for yourself. Feelings of sadness, languish, and lethargy can occur for no reason in particular. These feelings are especially prevalent during changing seasons, such as from Summer to Fall.
Reading is a great way to engage your mind with positive and uplifting information, while also passing time. There are many ways you can enjoy reading:
- Read a book of your choice, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.
- A great way to pull yourself from a rut is to learn about how others have pulled themselves from difficult situations. Our book recommendation is Life Worth Living: A Mental Health Anthology (available on softcover or PDF), which contains the personal journeys of twelve authors with diverse backgrounds on their mental health challenges.
- Read blogs, magazines, or articles online to expand your knowledge of the world around you.
- Listen to an audiobook while doing other things like driving or cleaning your house.
- If listening in these situations isn’t possible for you, then try watching TV shows on Netflix instead!
- Dr. Pamela Rutledge, a media psychology researcher says that rewatching a movie or tv show that you feel comforted by can be a tool to help folks with anxiety. Rewatching something where you already know the plot is essentially just another way to regulate your emotions and have control when you feel like there is none.
Moving your body
- Movement is key to getting out of a funk. Increasing your circulation and getting outside in the fresh air can be a great mood booster. A study noted on Harvard Med showed that just 15 minutes of regular exercise or an hour of walking a day can help decrease symptoms of depression.
- Movement can be a great practice for decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms as well as a great way to give yourself structure during the day.
- As most of us know all too well, movement allows your body to produce endorphins! Which are one of the feel-good hormones in our brains. Endorphins can aid in a better mood, less stress, and feeling more productive.
- This is one of those things I will never stop recommending, journaling! There are so many different ways to journal, it does not have to be long and tedious, your journaling practice can be whatever works for you! Journaling is a great way to get all of your thoughts onto a page without judgment or a plan. It can help you to identify the root cause of your funk, which in turn helps you to work through your feelings surrounding an issue. Writing down all of the negative feelings you experience over time can help you fund the trending in these issues and identify solutions to these problems.
- Now, on the off chance that there is nothing you can do about this situation, try shifting your focus and journal about things that can make this situation easier on yourself or things that spark joy.
For example: If you feel like your friends don’t like you because they don’t text you first after a hangout, consider that there might be another reason why and write those down in your journal! Maybe they are busy or need time alone after a night of socializing to recharge, these are all valid possibilities. A solution to this problem could be to text them first instead of waiting for them to reach out and ask to hang out again soon!
Here is some great journal prompts to add to your daily practice:
- Three Good things- each night, reflect on your day and write down three good things that happened to you.
- Write down the problem you are experiencing
- Write down the possibilities as to why that problem may have occurred.
- Write down a solution or two that you could act on to make the situation more manageable for you.
- No Judgement Time
- Set a timer for 10 minutes and just write! Write about whatever comes to mind, anxieties, things you are looking forward to, etc. This can be a great way to reflect and destress. 2 Favourite Things
- When things get rough, it can be very helpful to have a list of your favourite things that you know boost your mood. Tried and true activities that bring you comfort could include baking, going on a walk, watching a comfort show, or whatever you wish!
- Favourite Things
- When things get rough, it can be very helpful to have a list of your favourite things that you know boost your mood. Tried and true activities that bring you comfort could include baking, going on a walk, watching a comfort show, or whatever you wish!
- Socializing with friends and family
- Socializing with friends and family can be a great way to bring more normalcy to your day when things are feeling out of whack. Try doing an activity with a friend to get yourself in a good mood such as painting, a coffee date, a trip to the mall, watching a movie, playing a board game, etc.
- Setting attainable goals
Setting attainable goals is a great way to build motivation and bring a sense of consistency when you are feeling in a funk. Small, attainable changes in habits can help you to accomplish your goal which might be what you need to kickstart your way back to normal! The first thing you should do is define your goal, and ask yourself: Is my goal achievable? What is the timeline for my goal? Do not set too many goals at once. It’s important not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t achieve your goals, go back to the planning stage if this happens and go for the gold! Evaluate what did not work last time and what you think might work better this time around. On the other hand, if your goal is not challenging enough, it won’t have any long-term benefits of improving your mood- so make sure that the goal is something worth working toward!
What are SMART Goals?
SMART Goals are an easy way to structure your goals and help you to make a plan to achieve those goals. SMART stands for:
S- Specific: Define your goal clearly: What is your goal and what is the deadline: For example, by October 31st I want to have read the book Life Worth Living: A Mental Health Anthology in its entirety.
M- Measurable: Make sure that you can track your progress toward this goal. For example, Each week I will read 30 pages.
A- Attainable: Is your goal attainable? Set up checkpoints and stick to them to make sure you are setting yourself up for success.
R- Realistic: Be realistic, set manageable goals with realistic periods. For example, I will read an entire book in one night! This is not a realistic goal.
T- Time-bound: A deadline will help you to enforce your goal and make you aware of when your goal will be completed. For example, I will read this book by October 31st, 2022.
Try using SMART Goals to help build your sense of accomplishment and get yourself “out of a funk”!
I hope that you enjoyed this post and that you try some of the strategies above. Remember, everyone has “off” days so be kind to yourself. There are lots of ways to pull yourself out of a funk! If reading isn’t your thing, try another strategy listed. It makes a world of a difference when we take care of ourselves and set intentions to not let ourselves languish. Let us know if you enjoyed this post or the strategies on our socials!
Bailey, Ryan R. “Goal Setting and Action Planning for Health Behavior Change.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, SAGE Publications, 13 Sept. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796229/.
“Boosting Your Mood.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/boosting-your-mood.
“Home: Dr. Pam Rutledge: Media Psychology.” Dr. Pam Rutledge Media Psychology, https://www.pamelarutledge.com/.
Latham, Gary P. “The Reciprocal Effects of Science on Practice: Insights from the Practice and Science of Goal Setting.” Canadian Psychology 42 (2001): 1-11.
“More Evidence That Exercise Can Boost Mood.” Harvard Health, 1 May 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood.
Worth Living Ambassador Sam Bonnar
Hello, my name is Sam Bonnar. I was born in Digby Nova Scotia and was raised in Cape Breton after I was adopted at the age of 5.
I am a single mom of a 10-year-old beautiful little girl, and I am always trying to make sure that her mental health is doing well. I am also a proud Alumni from NSCC Marconi Campus with a Social Services Diploma.
I understand firsthand what it is like to deal with bullying growing up in school for 15 years, it was a huge tow on my mental health. Mental health has always been a big part of my life because I have struggled with anxiety, financial issues, depression, suicidal thoughts, and PTSD from all the types of abuse I went through my whole life. I have always felt the need to become an advocate for the ones that can’t speak up for themselves and help the ones that struggle to put food on their tables just like I have had for so many years.
After I completed a research project about organizations serving news for my work placement and graduated from the social services program in June 2021, I knew I just had to work with a non-profit organization to help serve the vulnerable population.
I started working with a non-profit organization in July 2021 and I am honoured to be working with such an amazing team. We are very welcoming, nonjudgmental, and always willing to help anyone that needs help.
Since October 2021, I have become a facilitator for a woman’s peer support group to empower women. I feel such overwhelming pride knowing that the women in our group have trust in me to open up and expressed to me what is going on in their lives and how their mental health is doing.
From being lost in the darkness to finally being able to guide others to their life. I couldn’t be prouder of the person I have become and looking forward to seeing the future me
Where I am now from Where I was
Where I am now, starts off from where I came from.
I am from one abusive biological Indigenous family to an abusive Caucasian adopted family to losing every bit of her culture/background at the age of 5.
I am from darkness never knowing when I would find the light.
I am from leaving my “home” at the age of 16 and having a baby at the age of 21 on social assistance barely surviving.
I am from breaking each and every cycle, so my daughter could have a better childhood and future that I was never able to have.
I am from having a crying baby, burps, diapers, Co sleeping but barely sleeping and learning to be a single mom not by choice.
I am from a barking dog, toys to trip over, loud bassy cars, baby steps, and strollers as my daughter is reaching the age of 1.
I am from baby bullet food instead of baby jar food because at least this way I knew what my daughter was about to eat.
I am from nosy and aggressive neighbors, barking dogs, trains with their whistles, daycares, and school while we struggle but still survive.
I am from Garlic fingers because they were my favorite food my whole pregnancy and now surprise, surprise, it’s my daughter’s favorite as well.
I am from struggling to survive to finally be proud of being a smart, strong, independent working single mom.
I am from anxiety and depression to being a social services graduate.
I am from anxiety holding me back and thinking “I am not good enough”, to becoming a facilitator for a woman support group called the Women’s Empowerment Squad to empower the women that feel or felt the same way that I have.
I am from “Nope, I will never get behind a wheel”, to, “Oh my gosh!, I own a jeep, I have my beginners, and now, I love driving every single day”.
I am from now working with a non-profit organization helping the vulnerable just like I was helped when I was lower than I ever thought my life would end up.
I am from Asha Rae, who would I be without you, you complete me by making me your mom.
I am from Mylynne, we are sisters not by blood, but we learned to love each other eventually and now I feel blessed to have my sister.
I am from Vickey because without her unconditional love the last 9 straight years, I wouldn’t have a “mom” to help guide, support, and praise me into the person and mom I am today.
I am from Angie because without her support, guidance, and love the last 6 straight years, I have no idea what the type of person or mom I would be today.
I am from “kisses?”, “Oh my gosh!, I am so proud of you”, and “I love you Infinity and beyond” because cycles are broken, and parenting done the loving way.
We are both from every weekends brunch of bacon, eggs, and French toast. The aroma fills the air in our home and makes the hunger grow stronger.
I am from Asha’s first steps in our first home in Leitches Creek.
I am from our first puppy love at our third home in Florence filled with lots of puppy breath, puppy play, and of course the potty training.
I am from teaching Asha how to swim without a lifejacket at the age of 6, all the smiles and giggles we had that day at Dalem Lake.
I am from giving cuddles, kisses, hugs, I love you, and I’m proud of you, because I became a mom. This is what I live for every day, my daughter.
We are from bonds that are not broken just because the systems are.
I am from mine and my daughter’s present and future not just by my past.
I am from being proud of where I am now because my past made me a stronger person and a better mom that my daughter deserves.
Faith Mackey, Director of the WL Blog
Hello all! My name is Faith Mackey and I am the new Director of the Worth Living Blog! I am so honoured to have this position and be able to share the story of my mental health journey from letting my thoughts rule me to learning to be free. Trigger warning: topics concerning mental healh challenges are lightly mentioned.
Everyone gets anxious thoughts from time to time, some more than others. Anxiety is a normal human response-but if left unmanaged it can become a problem for our day-to-day mental health. Anxiety is mainly caused by our brains registering uncertainty or danger, and then reacting accordingly. For example, you may feel anxious before performing a task, as your brain is interpreting this task as a possible threat and is trying to prepare itself to fight. But, sometimes anxiety is more than that and is experienced regularly, for example, daily panic attacks. When anxiety feels overwhelming and all-consuming this can be a turning point to try something new. Trying something new to manage anxiety symptoms can seem daunting but who knows, you might find yourself living a life not bound by anxiety with these tips.
What are anxious thoughts?
Anxious thoughts or “negative mind chatter” as it is commonly referred to, are thoughts that are irrational, negative, and likely unhelpful to your success. Thoughts such as:
- “This is all my fault.”
- “Everyone will hate what I have done.”
- “No one really wants me at this party.”
- “What if people don’t like me?”
- “I know I won’t have a good time at this event.”
The first step to challenging an anxious thought is to identify the thought you are having. Next, and this is where it gets challenging, is to question the thought and its power. For example, if you feel as though no one really wants you at a party, question why would that be true. Once you come to challenge the thoughts, you will see that they are not based on your reality and that it is highly unlikely that these terrible thoughts will occur.
To further this new practice of challenging your anxious thoughts it is important to recognize when and where you are having them. When you are doing something that is out of your comfort zone these types of thoughts can pop up without warning. Anxious thoughts often stem from our deepest worries and doubts about ourselves and others. But there is hope! Research does show those who actively challenge their negative thoughts will experience lessened anxiety over time.
What are some types of anxious thoughts?
There are many ways that anxious thoughts can take form, such as
- Fortune-telling: Predicting the future and imagining it in a negative light
- Discounting positives: Not recognizing the positive aspects of a situation
- Catastrophizing: thinking that something will be awful or life-changing in a negative way
- Overgeneralization: Assuming that because one aspect of a thought was true that the rest of it will be true as well
- Arbitrary inference: Drawing conclusions with a lack of evidence to support the conclusion
When we allow ourselves to add to these types of anxious thoughts, we are only fueling the fire and making them seem more true than they are. The key to not letting anxious thoughts take over your life is to confront them!
Some ways to cope:
- Exercise: Exercise is a great way to release pent-up stress and tension in your body, which can help reduce feelings of worry or fear. The next time you feel anxious, try going on a brisk walk while listening to your favourite music, podcast, or simply the sounds of nature.
- Talking to a friend: Talking to friends about our problems can be a great way to get validation that we are not alone in our worries. It is natural to worry and feel anxious sometimes and having the support of a friend can help calm those worries.
- Journaling: The practice of writing down your thoughts can help them to feel more manageable and gives them less power over you. By getting out everything you are feeling onto a page it has less of a hold on you because it is not stuck in your head anymore! If pen-to-paper writing is not your thing, try your hand at online journaling. Journaling is also a great way to track and see how your thought patterns are changing in real-time.
- Reading: Give your brain a break by reading a good book that brings you comfort and joy. Reading can help to stimulate feel-good hormones and lessen stress. Fantasy, historical, autobiographies, or one of our favourites: Life Worth Living: A Mental Health Anthology which is available in our website store for purchase.
If these strategies aren’t helping as much as you need them to, consider seeking professional help from someone such as a therapist or counsellor who can guide you through other techniques-you deserve all the support available!
Using Positive Psychology to manage anxiety
Positive psychology is the study of human flourishing and what makes life worth living. The focus of positive psychology is to look at what is right with us and how we can use our strengths to better our well-being. Self-efficacy is the power of believing in yourself and your ability. Research has shown that those with higher self-efficacy are more confident, have higher self-esteem, and perform better at tasks. The key is, as you may have guessed, believing in yourself! Now, this is certainly easier said than done and will take time and deliberate practice. Here are a few positive psychology-based activities that can help you to strengthen your self-efficacy.
- 3 good things: each morning, write three things that you are thankful for/looking forward to. When we start our mornings off on a positive note, we are more relaxed and more likely to remember to use our skills to lower our anxiety.
- Positive mantras: take some sticky notes and write a few positive messages to yourself, put them in a place you will see them every day and make a conscious effort to read them to yourself once a day.
- For example, A thought is just a thought, I can do anything I set my mind to, etc.
- Meditation: Meditation is an effective way to reduce anxious thoughts and feelings. Even if it’s difficult at first, keep practicing- it will get easier!
You are not your anxiety
It is vitally important to take control of your thoughts. Similar to training a muscle, training your brain to reject anxious thoughts will take time and practice but in the end, you will be stronger. Remember, anxious thoughts are just that- they aren’t real, are not held in truth, and can be overcome with conscious effort. There will always be situations in our lives that make us anxious but if a certain situation is causing stress or worry, try seeing if there is another way around it without avoiding it. Being able to overcome a situation and not letting your anxiety get the best of you will strengthen your self-efficacy skills as well.
When it comes to finding methods to help calm and soothe your anxiety, consider the list of strategies above. If one method does not work then try another one until eventually, one will stick-remember, coping with anxiety is not always a one-size fits all method.
Positive psychology is a great place to start when looking to find ways to cope with and overcome anxious thoughts. Try the techniques mentioned the next time your anxiety begins to spike and see which ones help to recenter yourself. Positive thinking can help you feel more confident in yourself, lessening negative mind chatter, which will make it easier for you to deal with future challenges.
Burke, E. (2018, November 20). 10 common anxious thought patterns & how to overcome them. Empowered Therapy. Retrieved July 12, 2022, from http://empoweredtherapy.org/10-common-anxious-thought-patterns-how-to-overcome-them/
Maddux, J. E. (2002). The power of believing you can. Handbook of positive psychology, 277-287.
|Nguyen, T. (2017). 10 surprising benefits you’ll get from keeping a journal.’.|
Rafizadeh, E., Morewitz, S., & Mukherjea, A. (2021). Handwritten Journals for Supporting Behavior Change among University Students. International Journal of Health, Wellness & Society, 11(1).
Sarason, I. G. (1984). Stress, anxiety, and cognitive interference: Reactions to tests. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(4), 929–938. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.529
By Faith Mackey
Hello all! My name is Faith Mackey and I am the new Director of the Worth Living Blog! I am so honoured to have this position and be able to share the story of my mental health journey from letting my thoughts rule me to learning to be free.
Trigger Warning: topics such as depression, self-harm, and eating disorders are lightly mentioned.
“Small, small, small. I want to be good and small, and once I am small I will feel good.” These are the words that I let run in my mind for most of my adolescent life.
From a young age, I had always felt quite out of place. Never fully satisfied or comfortable with who I was. Middle school was when I really began to question the feelings I was having inside. I looked around at the girls in my classes and I wished I could be more like them as if that would be the answer to why I felt so low. “If only I was prettier, had the right clothes, said the right things and was skinner. This reinforced my negative thinking that “once I am small, I will feel good.”
I have over the years struggled with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. Depression to me was a dark hooded friend that was always there, always wanted to stay in, and always found a way to stop me from getting any help. For most of high school, depression was my best and sometimes only friend. I told myself I was “too much” too loud, too big, and too stupid, and when I was having a hard time with my mental health, the one thing I felt I could control was my weight. This has been a continued struggle that comes and goes, but I am proud to say I am now on the winning end.
High school for me was a blur filled with many lows, many days of not wanting to get out of bed, feeling anxious as to whether people liked me, and struggling with my self-image. I started freshman year as a bubbly girl on the cheerleading team who had friends, went to parties, and overall seemed well adjusted. But then I would come home and take off my mask. I didn’t like the girl in front of the mirror, she was fake – a fraud. How could anyone truthfully like or care for me when all I could do to keep it together was to play pretend? I compared myself to the girls on my cheer team who seemed so happy, so fearless. I told myself I would do anything to be more like them and again I found myself morphing into yet another person I was not.
I decided not to return to cheerleading after my freshman year. Like many other entertainment sports, there is an underlying emphasis that one must be thin to do well. I found myself calorie counting and worrying about how much I had eaten in a day and how long I would need to work out after cheer practice to burn whatever I had consumed off. To me controlling what I ate sometimes felt like the only control I had over my life.
For my last three years of high school, I found myself surrounded by a group of people who felt the same way as me, struggling. It was comforting for a time to know that others felt the way I did, but I made the mistake of not seeing that as a sign to tell an adult about what I was going through. So, I continued on a path where, although I had found a group of friends, I felt completely alone. For a few years, I let my depression get the best of me. I stayed in, didn’t take care of myself, and at a very dark point in my life, I turned to self-harm. I wanted so much to get help but I felt ashamed that I had let myself get to such a low point.
After hiding it for so long, I was not sure how I would be treated by the people in my life. To me, my depression was my fault and my fault alone and the last thing I wanted to do was to let someone in, especially my parents. To let them see how I had been treating myself seemed scarier than dying at the time. I was ashamed and angry at myself that I just could not “get it together” no matter how hard I tried. Through that darkness was a small bit of light, a few hours a day that I looked forward to, going to my part-time job at a coffee shop where I was a barista. It was some of the older people I worked with who convinced me to open up to my parents about what I was going through and get help, which I eventually did.
After seeing a therapist it was suggested that I attend a DBT group. I can confidently say that dialectic behavioural therapy changed everything for me. While it was uncomfortable to grow and change, I embraced that struggle. DBT is a form of therapy in which one learns new skills and outlets to redirect harmful thinking and acts. There are four main pillars of DBT which are mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. In DBT, I learned how to soothe my triggers and redirect my anxious thoughts. Many skills such as TIPP (Temperature –Intense Exercise –Paced breathing and – Paired muscle relaxation.) which is a set of four practices that one can do when it becomes difficult to regulate their emotions, and is a skill that I still use to this day.
Once I had graduated high school, I thought that everything would get better, but the road to being our best selves is not linear and there will always be setbacks and challenges. I now see that all of these experiences, while very bittersweet, were opportunities to grow and learn new skills that will last a lifetime.
Now, I am sure after all of that you are wondering how I have changed and what I did to pull myself up from that darkness! First I began to think of how I would treat a friend going through what I was going through and I started to do those things for myself. I would plan things during my week to look forward to such as spending time with a friend, buying myself a treat, and so on. I also placed a larger emphasis on self-care and finding exercise that made me feel good. Next, I tried to live more in the moment and learned ways to stop my mind from stressing too much about the future. Finally, I learned to set attainable goals for myself so I could not only achieve but also gain the feeling of accomplishment.
There are two big pieces of advice that I can give to anyone that may be feeling how I felt. 1. It is not your job to compare yourself to others – the only person you need to be concerned with is yourself, and comparing yourself to others seldom makes us feel our best. 2. When we are kind, gentle, and truthful, we are our most authentic selves. Essentially this means that when we stop judging ourselves and give ourselves the patience we lend to others, we are much happier and able to regulate our emotions more effectively.
It has now been six years since I first began therapy and I am in a much better place in life. It took realizing that once I started focusing less on changing myself, and more on accepting who I am, I grew in ways I could not even imagine. While I no longer regularly see a therapist, I do still have one-on-one counselling with a positive psychology life coach. She remains a very important person in my support system and represents the more positive phase of recovery.
I am so very honoured to be able to share my story with you all. The message I hope to have passed on is: Never let a negative belief get the best of you, because in the end they are just thoughts and only hold the power you give to them.
Worth Living Contributor Jessie Fawcett
Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m an X University (formerly Ryerson) Alumni with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Currently, I am pursuing my career as a Social Worker by supporting folks in securing employment and discovering opportunities based on their personal desires and needs. It has been extremely rewarding and I am excited to see where this journey takes me. Mental health has impacted my life for nearly a decade now and I have found that in sharing my experiences and my story with others that not only has it helped me cope with my mental illnesses but it has also helped others feel less alone and that in itself is a gift.
Depression is many things, but one thing that it is not is simply feeling sad all of the time. Sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Depression is a debilitating entity that can take over a person’s life. It is presented in many ways. It sits at the end of your bed while you’re laying there, feeling trapped and suffocated by it, unable to move. It torments you constantly, making the simplest of things like showering, getting dressed, or eating the most daunting of tasks. It drains you entirely, either making you sleep for 15 hours straight and waking up exhausted or haunting your dreams, keeping you awake all night. It makes you push people away and resent friends for not being present at the same time. It’s excruciatingly debilitating loneliness that makes you question whether life is even worth living anymore. It is more than just sadness.
Longing for the Rain
Let me tell you about what is one of the most frustrating parts of struggling with mental illness.
You see, it is no secret that I have been struggling with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder for just short of a decade now. I have been pretty candid about it. I struggled profoundly in high school which continued throughout university. Well, I have since graduated from both and things have not changed much.
The challenges I faced in high school were different from the challenges I faced in university, but I was able to overcome them (to an extent). So, you would think that in overcoming certain challenges that perhaps mental illness would lay off a bit. I can confirm that, in my case anyway, that is simply not the reality. In fact, I would say that I struggle just as much now as I did in high school except in different ways. And this is what is frustrating, being able to see how fortunate you are and how many amazing things you have accomplished and still being in the same amount of pain as before. Success does not equate happiness.
I have a lot of things in my life right now that I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have. I have a roof over my head, a reliable vehicle, a wonderful and rewarding career, food in the fridge, and a few people in my life who love me. I recognize the privileges I have and how lucky I am to have these things and people in my life which not everyone can relate to.
I may not always be able to appreciate how fortunate I am, but I try really hard to remind myself everyday of how much worse things could be, even though it is not a competition. So, with all the things I am grateful for, why is it that I am still struggling so severely? Why is it that I am still so unhappy? Why will my depression not allow me to remain content for any extended period of time? Why does my depression feel the need to constantly convince me that I am not worthy of happiness, that everything will come crumbling down, and that everyone will always leave me eventually? Why is it so difficult for me to remain happy for the moment without questioning it instead of being numb and waiting for everything to come burning down? Before, I used to agonize about going to school, (high school and university) stressing over the challenges I was experiencing and the work I had to complete. But now, it’s different.
I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is look out the window. Is it sunny or is it raining? If it is sunny, will it rain at some point? Will it rain tomorrow? Can it at least get cloudy? I don’t really understand why I ask myself these things, hoping for the rain. I think it’s because I just hope for the weather to match my mood so that I don’t feel bad about lying in bed most of the day (excluding work hours of course). Maybe it’s because I feel that crying all day on a rainy day is more acceptable than crying all day on a sunny day. Maybe it’s because my tears are a reflection of what the sky is feeling which is expressed through the rain. All I know is that I wake up disappointed if it is sunny outside because I feel like I must wear a mask again in order to hide the rain and clouds inside of me. Why does my mental illness not allow me to enjoy the sun? Because I think the majority of people would enjoy a sunny day over a rainy one on most occasions.
Why must I always keep myself busy? And I mean…always. After staring out my window in the morning, I get ready for the workday, and I work all day. Even during my lunch break, I must keep myself occupied. Whether that be by using my phone as a distraction the whole time or going to Walmart to get groceries. Why is it that after work I convince myself that I must go somewhere no matter what or do something or find someone to do something with? Why can’t I just be okay with being by myself doing nothing? Why must I always fill the silence? Why can I never enjoy a weekend by myself alone in my apartment?
It’s no secret that I go home to be with my family almost every weekend. Maybe it’s because I crawl out of my skin when I’m alone, feeling like a stagnant glass of water that’s been sitting on the counter for a week. Maybe it’s because my mind cannot and will not stop racing a million miles a minute constantly going over and over things that are out of my control. Maybe it’s because I spiral when I’m alone. Maybe it’s because my loneliness has been so debilitating that I give myself reasons to be around others with the fear that, if I don’t, I won’t be able to control my thoughts. Why does my depression make me isolate myself from others but also crave their attention and affection at the same time? Why does my depression tell me as soon as I’m alone that, all of a sudden, there is no reason to keep fighting?
Why does my depression feel the need to constantly tell me that everyone I love will leave me? Well, perhaps that one is from the trauma I have experienced both in the past and recently. I’m losing trust and faith in friends and relationships, and this makes it really hard to persevere when every fiber in my body is telling me that nobody cares, everyone hates me, and that I am a horrible and atrocious human being. I’m sorry that I was not good enough, I’m sorry that I have toxic traits, I’m sorry that I could not always be present, I’m sorry that I let so many people down. I wish you would have given me the opportunity to show you that I can be different.
My mental illnesses are not justifications or excuses for bad behaviour although they can be useful in explaining certain patterns and reactions. Please know that I am trying to be the best version of myself possible and that self-reflection is a very challenging skill to master but I am always trying.
Why can’t I just be thankful for the friends that did stay; for the friends that still care even when things are hard? Why is it so hard for me to express to my loved ones how much I love and appreciate them? Because I do. I think the world of the people that stayed, I just don’t know how to express my love into words (believe it or not). Not being able to express feelings with certain people brings this sense of guilt that I will never be able to shake.
I think that’s another challenging aspect of living with mental illness; the guilt that comes with it. The guilt of being a burden is almost always experienced by folks with mental illness, which I too possess.
But I also have another kind of guilt. The guilt of being high-functioning and depressed. I wake up in the morning, make my bed, and get ready for the day (noting that some days getting out of bed is impossible), but most days I get up, get ready, work all day, make dinner, stay busy, get ready for bed, and wash, rinse, repeat. I am able to maintain good hygiene, clean my apartment (unless things are really bad), leave the house, work, and take care of myself. And I am so lucky to be high functioning and for that I am utterly thankful. Yes, I do experience days where I can’t get out of bed, I can’t brush my teeth/hair, and showering seems just as daunting as running a marathon.
But I am still able to do these things and live a generally “normal” life for the most part. Whatever that means. But, in doing so, I always feel that because I am able to do these things, I am not sick enough and that I have to prove myself, that because people have it worse than me that my pain isn’t valid. These statements are simply untrue, and I need to remind myself of this as does anyone else with high functioning mental illness.
I guess what I’m trying to say here, as I have done in the past, is that it does not matter how many things you have in life or how privileged you are, anyone can experience mental illness, no matter their life circumstances. I have many beautiful possessions and people in my life that I am eternally grateful for. I have a job that I love and that provides me with security that not everyone is lucky enough to have. I know that I am doing well in life and that people think highly of where I currently am on this journey.
But at the same time, please try to remember that it doesn’t matter how many amazing things, opportunities, and possessions people have, folks can still be suffering. You never know what someone may be dealing with. I too am guilty of judging others and being jealous, but I try to remind myself that you never know where someone is in their journey; they may be in the best place of their life, or they may be falling apart at the seams. Be kind and remember happiness is not solely based on our accomplishments but rather through the enjoyment we find within ourselves and our lives. I’m still working on finding mine.
Worth Living Ambassador Shaelynn Baxter
Hello, my name is Shaelynn Baxter. After acquiring my Social Services diploma at NSCC Marconi Campus in 2019, I now attend Mount Saint Vincent University and I’m studying for my Bachelor of Arts Combined Major with Family Studies and Psychology degree. I’m working towards obtaining a Social Work degree. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and that’s how I began to dedicate my time to helping others in need. Mental Health has had a huge impact on my life and I’m happy to be able to finally start sharing my own experiences.
The year 2020 has been a blessing for some, and for others a nuisance. This year has been all about testing how strong you are, especially when it comes to mental health. I’ve been tested this year like no other. My mental health was on a decline since the start of the year and then I came to find out I wouldn’t be returning to Halifax to finish my second year at university as it decided to close its doors for the year and hold classes completely online. I cried for quite a few days after that announcement, knowing I wouldn’t be able to return to the city I loved to live in, not being able to see any of the great people I met, and not being able to see my older friends who moved to Halifax anymore. It may only be a 4-hour drive from Cape Breton to Halifax, but with the craziness that’s in the world today, who could take the chance?
I’ve been having more and more low days than I’ve had good days this year and I’ve been tested in every way imaginable. From learning how to deal with online courses, and not being able to receive the help you would if you were in the classroom, to my car being in an accident two times within a two month span, neither time being at fault. Sure, people will say “cars are fixable!” or “All university students are in the same boat, we’re learning to deal!” but for someone with anxiety and depression, it starts to take a toll and you end up asking yourself how much more you can take before you completely break down and give up. I tend to stay away from people who say “oh well you could always have it harder” because that may be true, but when you have a mental illness(es), sometimes you feel like the world is working against you and only you. I think it’s totally okay to feel that way and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way sometimes. Somedays, it’s hard seeing the good in every day and personally I haven’t seen good in a while, lately my days have been nothing but gray. I know it’ll get better with time and I know I’ll have ups and downs and start seeing yellow again, but I’ve learned that you can be upset or frustrated with materialistic things and you can feel like the world is only against you. That’s the way the world works and sometimes you do need to cry and let everything out so you can start to feel better. People may have it worse, but that shouldn’t invalidate your feelings in the current moment, and I stand by that.
I almost lost one of the most important relationships in my life currently, I was becoming an extremely toxic person because of everything being thrown at me and I didn’t realize how toxic I truly became until one day when I was faced with the fact that my significant other was going to return home to England because he felt as if he couldn’t be in the relationship any longer. That was one of the biggest wake up calls I’ve ever faced. I realized I needed to change my ways to fix the relationship, and I had to stop relying on him to “stick around” no matter how ignorant I was being. We’re doing good now, we are working together to heal our relationship, I’ve learned from my mistakes and that a relationship takes two people, not one, to make it work. I’ll always be grateful for the fact he decided to stay and see if we could rekindle the relationship instead of packing his belongings and returning home.
The reason I mention the above story is to show that sometimes, even when you truly don’t think you are, you can become the toxic one in your relationship, whether it be with your significant other, friends or family, it can be you and not them. Somedays, you must sit down and reflect on your actions and you can’t always blame your mental illness for the way you’re acting, I have learned that the hard way. The best advice I can give is that you reflect on your actions, admit your mistakes, and move on in a better direction and with a healthier mindset.
All in all, this year has shown me how strong I truly am in ways that I didn’t think were possible. 2020 has been bad for most of us, but I think some were tested more than others. Even though this year has been extremely hard for me mentally, I’m also thankful for this year because I was given the chance to learn from my mistakes to become a better version of myself.
Some days are always harder than others, but like I always say, life isn’t easy but it’s always worth living.
Worth Living Ambassador Nikki Opara
Nikki is a Mental health/lifestyle blogger. She has a passion for ending the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness, while also sharing the brave stories of others as well. Nikki owns a blog called Spokenbyher ( Originally called “HerDaringThoughts”), where she has shared openly about her experiences with depression, self hate, anxiety and her passion for social change. She hopes that her writing helps one person remember that their life is worth living.
Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier
Hello, I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. I strive to connect with others and share my struggles of mental health and trauma.
When I sat down to write this I wasn’t entirely sure what I was intending to write about. I just knew that something needed to be said. I had something to say, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. Things have been tough lately and not just because of what is currently unfolding all around the world. I just feel although I’m in an unsure period in my life. Everyone seems to be settling down more or less. People have graduated university, gotten jobs and are getting their lives sorted out. I feel ashamed to not be further than I am. Although I am in a very different place than I once was I still feel like I’m not where I should be. I’m not even sure if this pressure is purely put on by myself or not. I feel as though I should be done with school and should have a decent paying job. I should be happy… I should be. But I’m not. I face several challenges others do not face. I have chronic pain, haunting trauma and a plethora of mental disorders.
I may not be frequenting the hospital emergency like I once was or reaching for substances to numb the pain. Nonetheless, I still have complete mental collapse- just much more quietly than I did in my teens. Instead of crying out for someone to fix me, I cry to myself waiting for the only person I know to pick up the pieces and move on. And that person is me. I feel a responsibility to tell myself that I am being emotionally unreasonable, and eventually I calm down and get on with my day. The issue however is this gets tiring. It gets tiring pretending that you have things half figured out when you truly don’t. And trust me when I say I am better. Better than I once was. I have most certainly changed and grown as a person. I don’t relate to who I was years ago, I just acknowledge her and understand that we have both once occupied the same body. I plan to finish the few classes I have left in my degree. I plan to attempt to find a job that I can both find fulfilling and cope with. I plan to do a lot of things. But what I didn’t plan on doing is enduring this… what I’ve come to decide is a quarter life crisis.
I am attempting to navigate my life as someone who has always and will always deal with some amount of physical and mental anguish. I don’t fit the typical healing journey narrative. No amount of journaling nor “self care nights” can undo the damage. I listen and nod when people tell me of their recent accomplishments and attempt to feel happy for them. Often instead I find myself wondering why I cannot measure up. What did I do wrong to be so far behind them? I often have to remind myself that my life has always looked vastly different to the people around me. Now I do understand that everyone has their share of struggles but I have had more than my fair share. I have jumped through hoops, dug through endless mounds of dirt and climbed barbed-wire fences only to still be so far from the finish line.
Education has always had its barriers. I struggled with a learning disability since I was very young and couldn’t do basic math or learn a second language the way other kids could. My short term-memory is terrible and I have difficulty sometimes following conversations or understanding what people are trying to say to me. I misinterpret and have a hard time receiving and organzing information. My brain is a puddle of jumbled alphabet soup. I had a difficult time getting good grades for most of my schooling and had a hard time making friends. I suffered extreme anxiety and wasn’t the most likeable child. For whatever reason, kids sensed something was off with me. I dealt with bullying the majority of my childhood and teenage life. I think this was because I had always been different.
Trauma has been a recurring theme in my life that I can’t seem to find my way out from. I guess at my core I was always destined to be a victim. Victim of bullying, victim of sexual assaults, victim of abusive relationships, victim of my own mind. I don’t need to write a play by play of everything that has ever happened to me but just know that I have been the victim more than I would care to admit. I struggled in high school mentally and after falling behind in class and using substances to get by, I ended up being in a program for students with mental health struggles. I eventually integrated back into my normal high school. Towards the end of school, I had a few good friends, I began getting good grades and took extra classes so I could graduate on time. I was proud for a short period of time. I had gotten into my program of choice on scholarship and proved every school teacher and peer who ever told me I would never finish high school wrong.
I had hope for university. I thought being independent woud be good for me. I thought I would flourish. Sadly, I was proven wrong- I was one of hundreds of students in a lecture hall listening to the professor drone on and on with no room for conversation or debate. In high school, I thrived on engaging with my teachers and the immediate feedback. University was nothing like I thought and wasn’t how I learned either. I couldn’t make friends and I couldn’t thrive in such an environment. The following semester I dropped out. That year was hell. It was a blur of madness and depression that I succumbed to further and further. When I finally mustered up the courage to return the following year, things just never really looked up for me. I took a few classes I genuinely enjoyed but I mostly just dragged my feet through the mud. I went through the motions of classes and part time work. I could never handle more than 3 classes at a time. I dropped classes more times than I could count. Come exam season, I would cry and threaten to drop out. I hated school. And despite this all I have continued to persist.
I met some bad people and fell into dark relationships during my university years but I also met a few good friends and finally the love of my life. I found my passion for powerlifting. Before the pandemic, I was in a decent place for once. It may not have been exactly where I wanted to be but it was a step closer. Since then I have become overworked and overstressed, slowly driving myself closer and closer to madness. I dug myself so hard into the ground that I had to make the decision to take temporary leave from work. I had felt my mind recede into a previous darker place. It was a long time coming but it felt that all of a sudden the world turned entirely grey. I felt like I was suddenly living under water and every human interaction felt foreign. The ugly dark hole in me started to grow again, attempting to swallow me up. It had been quite some time since I had felt this way, the sickness seeking to pulverize my entire being.
I did not get better overnight- I am still struggling severely. I fell back into some old habits. I considered ending it all. I was even close to it. I am now taking the time to reflect on where I am and where I want to go whilst not comparing it to the people around me. I struggle with chronic pain and debilitating mental illness that has caused me to miss school and work and go at life at my own pace. I may take 6.5 years to get my BA, I may never be able to work a full time job but that’s okay. I have no idea where I am going but I know where I have been. And I know I never want to go back there. This relapse has allowed me to take a good hard look at myself and my life and realize I didn’t get things easy and I shouldn’t act as though I have. The education system was built to see me fail. Mental health services are largely inaccessible (especially for complex disorders) and the workforce is unaccommodating. I want to take each day as it comes and hope to eventually build a life for myself that I am proud of. I am slowly getting there even though it does not look like my peers and probably never will- and that’s okay.