Worth Living Ambassador Felicia Singh

Hello, my name is Felicia. I am a 25 year old healthcare professional and
counseling/psychology student with anxiety. As well as someone with an unexplainable
yearning to understand mental health disorders. The who, what, where, when, and whys of it all.

Although I am young, I have had the opportunity to experience several different
individuals with different mental illnesses. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and
anxiety. And you know what? They’re just normal people. WE are normal people. I have had the
pleasure of knowing these individuals both in my personal and professional life. They all have
something unique about themselves to share with the world. I always say you can learn
something from everyone you meet.

For me personally dealing with my anxiety was something that I avoided for a long time.
As it got progressively worse and started to interfere with my relationships, I realized it was
something I would have to find ways to cope with. We all have certain stressors or triggers for
our disorders. Identifying what those are is a key part to getting better. I realized that my two
major stressors at the time were my job and my home life. After long consideration and planning,
I decided to make an effort to change those situations.

The answer for keeping my anxiety under control was finding out what caused me the most stress and then finding ways to manage my stress levels in a productive way. Both of my major stressors involved unhealthy
environments and people. I was able to tweak and adjust these issues through communication
and life changes.

I also workout, I write, and I make a conscious effort to surround myself with
genuine people that understand and support me. I haven’t had any anxiety attacks in almost a
year. Whether you choose to take medication or see a counselor is something that is totally up
to you. There are many different ways to live fulfilling lives while managing a mental illness.
Our environment and the people we choose to have in our lives are huge contributing
factors to our mental health. Good and bad. Sometimes a life cleanse is in order. Whatever it
takes to put you in a place of peace and contentment.

Too often we undermine the importance of inner peace. The importance of our happiness. If you’re here then your life’s worth living. You should live it to the fullest.

Worth Living Ambassador Mariandreina Farias

I was born in Valencia, Venezuela on October 15, 1987 but raised in Miami Lakes, FL . At the University of Florida (UF), I received my degree in Communications specializing in Event Management. As a 24 year old woman at the time. I experienced a Nervous Breakdown that turn into a Psychosis episode. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by thinking and emotions that are so impaired, indicating that the person experiencing them has lost contact with reality. These experiences can be frightening, but for me it turned into experiencing God’s Grace as well as finding my purpose and the step towards a call to the ministry of Counseling. As an end result, a passion for counseling built upon the convictions of the sufficiency of Scripture, came into the centrality of my core, and became a new vision into my life. I’m an Amazon Best Seller Author and part of the project I AM R.E.D.D. which. chronicles the journey of seven women through hardships, anguish, hurt, mental illness, homelessness, defeat, and much more. Each woman recounts how what should have been debilitating circumstances shaped them into the indomitable force they are today.


We all experience those moments of self-loathing, unrelenting frustration that stems from our own hands. We also seem to hit a wall every now and then, question the road that we’re on and maybe have a quarter and/or middle life crisis. It’s not entirely inexplicable.

Indecision, self-doubt, lack of confidence or motivation are all bi-products of our inner villain. We don’t need to demonstrate a Dexter-complex to know that we can be the number one cause of our own failures and downfalls. Fortunately, there’s a solution: we just have to be aware of this monster inside of us, understand it’s a game plan and overpower its demoralizing voice:

Sometimes, I purposely don’t let myself feel happy, because in some twisted way, I don’t feel like I deserve it. I feel like if I’m happy for more than two seconds, some evil in the universe will rain on my parade and laugh in my face for that reason: I am my own worst enemy.

Our critical inner voice is formed from our early life experiences. Without realizing it, we tend to internalize attitudes that were directed toward us by parents or influential caregivers throughout our development. For example, if our parent saw us as lazy, we may grow up feeling useless or ineffective.

The word sabotage may seem too strong when considering how we might treat ourselves but I really believe that it’s accurate for some situations. We do sometimes sabotage our own success or happiness. It’s just a fact. We subconsciously set into motion certain actions or words that we have a hunch will stop growth from happening and then we may be surprised when we don’t see our hopes come to completion. It’s a vicious cycle that some people sadly never orbit out of and find a path of true breakthroughs.

The question at the heart of it all is why? Why would we intentionally, albeit subconsciously, hinder our own lives?

Here are several possible underlying faulty beliefs.

1.) I Don’t Deserve Good Things:

If in our heart of hearts, we don’t think we deserve to reach our weight loss goal or have an authentic loving relationship, we will do things that make sure we don’t receive these gifts. Many of us grew up with parents who encouraged our growth and the development of a solid self-image but for every child that was raised in an encouraging home, I believe there are more who did not. If we were not brought up to believe we deserve goodness and can achieve it, then we will unknowingly sabotage our adult efforts. We have to come to a deep understanding that we were made to live a fulfilling life and it is our duty to give our best efforts towards that goal. Otherwise, we live with a nagging sense that happiness and personal growth are for other people but not us.

2.) I Will Lose Loved Ones If I Change:

As a counselor, I often hear people talk about wanting to make significant personal changes in their lives but they are very concerned about how those around them will respond. This is a real challenge for many people. If we go back to school and better our career, we may lose touch with current co-workers or if we decide to take an honest look at our dependency on alcohol, there is a high likelihood that our social circle would need to be altered in maybe some significant ways. We all know on a gut level that as we make radical or even semi-radical changes in our lives, things around us will shift and not all loved ones will be happy with the new us. I find this really sad honestly and should serve as a red-flag that perhaps some of our relationships don’t have our best interest at the core.

3.) If I Try And Fail, I Will Wish I Had Not Tried At All:

To me this is probably one of the hardest of the self-sabotaging thoughts to identify and therefore hard for us to correct. We lie to ourselves and say that of course we want success in life so this concern is often buried way below the surface and requires us to be brutally honest with ourselves if we are going to pinpoint it as a reason for self-sabotage. This fear plays out in a manner that looks like minimal efforts when better efforts were possible. It looks like taking the slightly easier road all the time rather than going full speed into personal growth. Basically, it looks like laziness, half-baked efforts and slothiness (I think I just turned sloth into a new word but you hopefully get my point). Chronically giving less than our best efforts is the name of the game. We often see this in teenagers who are afraid to put themselves out there and maybe not meet the mark even after having tried really hard. This same thinking follows people into adulthood too.

Whatever the reason may be that we find ourselves being our own worst enemy, there is one simple solution to this trap and that is start taking those thoughts and compare them to a positive view. One of the best exercises is to challenge ourselves to repeat the following:

“I will stop criticizing myself. I will stop sabotaging relationships. I will stop believing lies that I’ve created. I will stop being content with feeling sad/depressed. I will stop worrying about what everyone thinks.

I know this isn’t going to be easy and I’ll probably mess up a lot, but changing how I do life is going to take some time. Changing how I operate in relationships is going to take work. ”

If you feel like the only person who’s holding you back is you. Don’t let yourself get in the way of reaching your fullest potential. Don’t let yourself dictate what you can and can’t do.

Get out of your own head and embrace yourself and life.

Love yourself and love others.

Let yourself be loved, because “The opposite of love is indifference.” – The Lumineers


Link to I Am R.E.D.D.: Stories of Refinement, Empowerment, Dedication, & Determination on Amazon


Worth Living Official DJ Scratchey Q  &  Worth Living Ambassador Zippah

Courage can be interpreted in various ways though most often is termed as the ability to do something that frightens you. At different occasions, different times, we find ourselves In places that we need to rise up to the occasion and be the better if not the best version of ourselves.. Through these songs we hope you get inspired, you get the courage to do greatness.. Hold back no More.. The time to do it is Now
20. Bob Marley -Everything’s Gonna Be Alright



19. Lupe Fiasco & Guy Sebastian- Battle Scars


18. Yego- Khaligraph Jones


17. The Climb- Miley Cyrus


16. Lindsey Stirling ft. Christina Perri- Brave Enough

15. Rosella- H_art the Band  ft. Lady Jaydee  

14. Sia- Unstoppable

13. Lenny Kravitz – Stand

12. Nelly- Self Esteem

11. Eminem- Not Afraid

10. Diamond Platnumz- Mdogo Mdogo

9. Katy Perry- Rise

8. TobyMac- Speak Life

7. Pink – Try

6. 2Pac- Keep Ya Head Up

5. Tyler the Creator- Find Your Wings


4. Demi Lavato- Confident


3. Tragically  Hip- Courage

2. Octopizzo- Something For You

1.Sauti Sol ft. Red Fourth Chorus- Kuliko Jana

Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Brar


Jessie Brar is a recent Queen’s Universty graduate from Caledon, Ontario. After struggling with her own mental illnesses for many years, Jessie now dedicates her time to raising awareness for mental health. She is a speaker with Jack.Org and goes to universities, colleges and high schools in her area to spread mental health literacy. Jessie also heads @TheMHSpotlight, an Instagram project dedicated to raising awareness about mental health in the South Asian community.

Growing up, I was in a constant state of fear and anxiety. My father was an alcoholic. His parents, who lived with us, were physically and verbally abusive. My mother was working double shifts to try and make enough money to feed her kids. When she would get home, the fights would start. My father would yell. He would smash the pictures on the walls. His parents would start yelling too. My mother would cry, pleading them to stop. I would hide in my room with my siblings, hoping they would leave my mother alone.

Once my parents separated that feeling of fear and anxiety stuck. I was on edge, had frequent mood swings and had an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. I was the oldest child so, after the separation, I felt like I had to grow up very quickly. I took on the responsibility of caring for my siblings so that my mother could work and make sure we didn’t become homeless. We were living paycheck to paycheck, trying to do the best we could. I felt under so much pressure at such a young age. I was 12 years old with the responsibilities of an adult. I didn’t have time to play or socialize. I had to help my mom take care of our family. I was constantly upset. I would find myself crying in the bathroom, trying to hide it from my mother because she already had so much on her plate and I didn’t want to burden her further.

I also had so much fear about what was going on. I felt lost. This fear eventually took away my appetite and I stopped eating. My anxiety grew day by day and I was too afraid to tell anyone. I thought that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I hid my problems from my friends as well because I was afraid that they would think I was weak or pity me. I didn’t want anyone to judge me or think of me differently. I was silently suffering.

There was so much going on in my mind and my life, but I had no idea what to do. No one had ever told me what depression was. I didn’t know what mental health meant. I thought that I had a problem. I was never taught to talk about my feelings. In my Punjabi household, feelings were supposed to be private. I thought I was doing this to myself. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt, hopelessness and most of all, loneliness.

When I moved away to go to university my mental health got worse. It was having a huge impact on my day to day life and I was constantly struggling with my thoughts. I couldn’t sleep at night, and then I would skip my classes the next day. I started self-medicating to put myself to sleep and to deal with the constant negative thoughts in my mind. As soon as Friday hit, I would start drinking and would rarely stop until Sunday. I was spiraling. My friends noticed, but I pushed them away. By this time, I knew that I needed help, but I didn’t want the label of a mental illness. I didn’t want everyone around me to think I was crazy.

One day in second year, I attended a presentation with a group of students I was working with. The presentation was all about the university experience. The different presenters spoke about how this had been such a great place for them, how they made friends and how this place helped them do amazing things. It made me feel so sad because university had only made my life worse. Then the final speaker, a young South Asian male, came up. His topic was mental health. He spoke about his own struggles moving away from home and transitioning to university. He spoke about how he too had a downward spiral. Then he spoke about how he got help and that he was alive and thriving.

I was inspired. His presentation gave me hope and the courage to go and seek help for myself. He doesn’t know, but he helped save my life. After the presentation, I went to see a doctor. The doctor prescribed me medication to help with my anxiety and depression.

Getting better was a journey in itself. It took about 4 months to find a medication that worked for me. The first one had made me feel worse and increased my suicidal thoughts. The second one made me sick to my stomach and I was constantly nauseous. Finally, the third one helped me control my thoughts and feelings.

I started feeling better. I was sleeping normally. I no longer felt the need to self-medicate. I felt that I had recovered. Then I stopped taking my medication. I thought that I was okay now and didn’t need it. I was fine for a few months, but then the negative thoughts and overwhelming hopelessness came back.

At this point, I knew I couldn’t handle this alone. I reached out to my boyfriend. I told him all about what was going on and he was nothing but supportive. He offered to come with me to see a counsellor. He was there when I went to see the doctor. He helped me along the way.

Once I saw the counsellor, she helped me take a holistic approach to tackling my mental illnesses. We got my course load reduced so that I was better able to handle my academics. I reached out to my professors who were very willing to help me in any way they could. I went back on my medication and knew that this time, I needed to stick with it.

I was able to open up to my mother as well. She held me as I cried, telling her about how I had struggled, but how I was doing better. She told me that she would always be there for me. I received so much support from my best friends as well. My support system made me feel strong. No one changed around me. No one thought differently of me. In fact, I felt more loved than ever. I know I was very fortunate for that because stigma is still such an issue.

I ended up graduating university and getting on the Dean’s List. I found an amazing job that I love. I have come to realize that I am not my mental illness. I do not need to suffer. I have a mental illness, and I am thriving.

There was a lot that stood in the way of me getting help. I was scared of the stigma associated with mental illness. There was also a huge cultural barrier. In Punjabi culture, mental illness is often ignored. I felt so lost and alone. I am so glad I was able to find help. Now I work to raise awareness about mental health so that no one else feels as if they have to suffer in silence like I did.

Worth Living Ambassador Elliott Smith

My name is Elliott Smith. I’m a 46-year-old Network engineer from St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. I am Challenged with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD (combat related) Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorder. I am driven to support and inspire others struggling or challenged with Mental Illness by leading a quality life in spite of my symptoms by discovering what’s effective in daily life and sharing my fight with others.

Warning: Elliott discusses suicide

Let’s get my credentials out-of-the-way first.

I am the proud owner of a seemingly accurate Bipolar I diagnosis. (Originally they hung a Bi-Polar. II label around my neck but I got upgraded along the way to type one!) I also have medical jackets out there that confirm that I am indeed challenged by Combat Related PTSD. (Sounds Macho, am I right?) I am an Operation Desert Shield/Storm Veteran from The US. Army’s Esteemed 82nd Airborne Division. I also have Borderline Personality Disorder (No big deal).
If you are familiar with Mental Illness or not you may recognize the names.(I like to call this group of diagnosis the Unholy Trinity of Mental Illness. They are bad just one at a time They are a Mother Fucker all packaged up together). I like to refer to them as the Hollywood disorders. Blockbusters like Rambo, Grand Torino, all focus on Veterans struggling with PTSD. We have seen the young female protagonist of Girl Interrupted struggling with the devastating and harmful effects of Borderline Personality Disorder. Who could forget the adorable presentation of Bipolar in Silver Linings Playbook? (Not I!)

Mental Illness makes a wonderful plot device. I loved Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. But it makes for what can be a deviating reality for the person who has to live with it.

I have been institutionalized four times, about once a decade. The first time when I was 16 and a Junior in high school. I was intercepted midway through my Plan of what was my first Suicide attempt. The second institutionalization was shortly after my second suicide attempt. I was in the Army and recently back from the Gulf War and I was a fucking mess. I put a 9mm pistol to my head. I then pulled the trigger. I was unfamiliar with  the operation of the pistol (It was not mine but my roommates). I thought I could pull the trigger and it would fire, when in fact you had to pull the hammer back to fire the first shot. This fact was the only thing that saved my life. I reported my attempted suicide to my squad leader, he told me to “walk it off.” (FTA) The third visit to the locked area of the hospital was after punching myself in the face as hard as I could. I was trying to somehow convey my love to partner at the time with this activity. (Yay BPD!). The last visit was a nice locked Ward in the VA hospital after I tried to hang myself in a locked bathroom while my wife at the time panicked to get into the room to save me. (She succeeded obviously) It was kinda a DICK move I know but at the time it seemed like my only realistic option. It seemed like my only real choice.

I have given you a glimpse into my darkness. Real or imagined, at multiple points in my life I fell so low, so beaten, that taking a dirt nap was the only thing I could fathom as being capable of giving me relief. I wanted relief. I longed for relief.  No matter how good things got. (My children, my music, my many successes) I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the bottom to drop out. Waiting to have an “episode” as I started calling them. That was my Mental Illness reality. It didn’t matter what I was doing successfully at the moment I was always terrified that the demon in me would surface and fuck everything up again. Shatter all progress. Return me to the pile of shit I convinced myself I was.

Then a funny thing happened. I couldn’t tell you how it came about or why I did it. But I discovered that I was eligible for Veterans benefits through the Veterans administration. Then somehow I got my shit together enough to file for disability for my hearing and PTSD.  I was awarded 60% disability for PTSD and hearing problems.
The main thing this interaction with the VA provided me with was a mental health team invested in my recovery. Free of charge. Access to the medications I could not afford before I got into the VA system. Free of charge.
I  was unemployed. I was technically homeless. Mentally shattered, sick and tired of my symptoms driven life. I knew there was no cure but maybe there was a workaround?

Since 2010 I have been in active therapy at time up to three days a week for three hours for DBT (Google it) I had a break down. I got back up. I got into a vocational rehabilitation program through the VA. Learned a new trade. I have held a Job for two years without interruption.(Fuck you, that is huge for someone with symptoms as severe as mine) Met an understanding and beautiful woman to love and who loves me. Today I have an amazing life.

I found a work around!

What I finally found that was effective for me were the things that I was told to do all along.(Who knew?)
Take my meds.
Keep my appointments.
Don’t stop taking my meds when I feel better.
Ask for help.

Be in the now.
Take it as it comes.
Create Supports.
Use the supports I created.
Act not think.

I also came to understand some hard truths.

My life will never be simple or easy. I will always be this way, I will always have the illnesses. The world will always have their fucked up stigma but that’s on them not on me. If I am confused about what I am thinking or feeling talk about it immediately. If my symptoms are trying to destroy the quality of life I have built, I take steps to minimize the damage. I remembered how to fight! Every day, I fight that thing inside. I do and I grow. I share and I strive. That thing inside me never stops trying to kill me. I fight back as if my life depends on it! (It does) It may sleep or rest but it is waiting for me so. I fight! I may fall down again. I may lose my shit and find myself back in the embrace of a chubby orderly while Nurse Ratchet plugs me in the ass cheek with a sedative again. (True story) That could happen. But I will go down swinging. I will stand right back up to fight again and again.

Stay tuned more to come.

Worth Living Ambassador Cat Davis

Hello. My name is Cat, and I am a 20-year-old diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Reading and writing became my solace during the darkest times in my life: the times when my journal seemed to be my only friend, the times when my jaw forgot how to make sounds, and my mind failed to form relationships with others. I decided to post my journals on a personal blog, both as a way of releasing my emotions and as a way to continue the mental illness conversation. Through writing out my experiences, I hope to provide hope—even the teeniest tiniest amount, even to only one person—because one cannot survive without hope. Hope is the genesis of recovery. Hope inspires hope. Thank you.

I was proud of who I was. I was educated, hardworking, giving, independent, attractive enough, upper middle class, funny, popular: all of the things I wanted to be. And then I went crazy.

Well, publicly crazy. I’d been privately crazy since I was 13 years old. No one knew. Some people still don’t really know. They still think that my mania is my normal. I used to think my mania was my normal, too. I suffered through my depressions alone, not wanting to be different, not wanting to show weakness. Depression was never my normal.

But hiding became more difficult in college. As classes demanded more and social events lingered around every corner, I devolved. When manic, school didn’t matter. Grades didn’t matter. Friends mattered. Parties mattered. Drinking mattered. Drugs mattered. And when depressed, nothing mattered. I wasn’t good enough for my school. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt slow, stupid, for the first time. I would never reach my dream of becoming a doctor. I would never have anything I wanted. In fact, my (ex) boyfriend broke up with me for this depression. My “stress stressed [him] out too much.” And that was the trigger, the end. That pulled me from a dangerously low depression into a frantic  and more dangerously, high mania.

My roommates found me going crazy. They—like the beautiful, amazing, beyond caring people they are—called my school’s emergency services on me. They ignored my screaming, my desperation, my voice repeating over and over again, “I swear I’m okay; I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it.” I put myself together long enough to tell the on-call therapist that there was no problem. She didn’t believe me, but she also didn’t pressure me to reveal myself. So I didn’t reveal myself. I hung up.

But I called back.

I began the journey of no return. And I quickly realized that I am not alone. My journey is a journey known well. A journey of ups and downs, backs and forths, twists and turns. But it is my journey, our journey, nonetheless. The most humbling journey I’ve ever experienced. Today I want to share this journey with you, broken down into 8 steps, 8 hurdles, 8 realizations. So here we go:

The 8 steps of humility for a person with a mental illness (as told by my journey)

1. Admitting that you have a problem

The day after I went crazy, I called my school’s therapist back and told her the truth. She asked me if I was going to be around people tonight, if I was going to be safe. I said “yes” and waited until the morning, when she had scheduled an 8:00 am emergency therapy appointment for me. I slumped my shoulders forward as I walked in. But I still didn’t believe that my craziness was real. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it when I was told that I “need extensive therapy for the rest of [my] life.” I didn’t believe it during my first meeting with my therapist (because I didn’t believe in therapy). I didn’t believe it until I was sitting in my psychiatrist’s office, officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). And even then, I only believed it a little bitty bit.

2. First diagnosis

The first thing I thought while my psychiatrist assessed my symptoms was, “anyone can figure out which questions correspond to which diagnoses.” I knew I was depressed. My mom was depressed. My grandfather was depressed. Thus, I was depressed. The anxiety diagnosis wasn’t too surprising either, as I lived my life in between panic attack after panic attack. I believed her. My psychiatrist seemed competent enough. She was a resident under an experienced doctor and promised me that many people were working together to provide me appropriate care. They all agreed on my diagnoses. No need to worry.

3. So many medications

What was worse than hearing that I’ll need therapy for the rest of my life? Hearing that I’ll need handfuls of medications for the rest of my life. Hearing that willpower will never be enough. Determination will never be enough. Desperation will never be enough. Hope will never be enough.

I will never be enough.

My medications will control me. My medications will own me. My psychiatrist will own my medications, and thus he will own me, too. I will walk a fine line on my medications, because their effectiveness will fluctuate indefinitely. Does that even make it my life anymore? I wasn’t sure.

I will have to carry my pill case to every sleepover. I will hide out in the bathroom to take them, all of them, so no one will know. I will carry my anxiety medications in my backpack, because I will never know when my next panic attack will hit. When I will not be able to breathe. When my heart will beat out of my chest. When my blood pressure will skyrocket. When I will feel like I am dying. When I will want to die.

People crave the brain I’ve come to resent. Some do cocaine to lift them up, up until they experience my mania, the mania I often still crave, too. Alcohol can raise them up in the same way. But as a depressant, it always brings them back down. The downs are worth the ups for some. Not for me. The downs are too down for me. More down than their downs are. I’ll be forced to stick to my drugs, my tranquilizers, my antidepressants, my mood stabilizers, my antipsychotics. I will be told repeatedly that I’m really not supposed to drink alcohol or do drugs. But that’s not fair. Everyone else can do it. Sometimes I will not strong enough, or I won’t care enough, and I’ll do it with them.

Q: How many medications does it take to (attempt to) fix me?

A: Six.


4. The inevitable hospitalization(s)

The medications weren’t enough.

I gave up.

I was interviewed to enter a crisis unit facility, which provided the same psychiatric care as an institution, but with much more mental stimulation. My therapist loved this place. It was set up like a home and had 13 patients at a time. I had group therapy every hour from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, with only one break for lunch. My dad came to see me for two measly visitation hours each day. I spoke a lot but said nothing. I would later learn that I was bad manic upon acceptance, and then good manic for my week locked up. I really thought I was better. Everyone really thought I was better. My manic was still considered my normal. Eighteen friends came to my visitation hours my last day there. More visitors than any other patient ever! I was thrilled. My life was getting better every day. Soon I’d be perfectly healed.

Too bad no one knew I was bipolar yet. Too bad no one knew my mania was mania. Too bad my antidepressants would rapidly drive me up and down and up and down, faster than ever before, and too bad I would have no idea what was happening

Forty-one days later, I was interviewed again, but this time I entered a real life psychiatric institution. I hated myself for being so incompetent, so out of control of myself. I was terrified. There were criminals, people who plead mentally ill for petty crimes and came there instead of jail. People were shouting and cussing and threatening each other. I got asked out on a date by a gang member my second night. I watched someone make a shank out of the end of a plastic spoon. One dude had a black eye from a street fight.

We had to get permission to enter the cafeteria. We had to get permission to use deodorant. The girls weren’t allowed to have underwire in our bras. The nurses barely allowed my mom to bring me clothes; most of the patients sported disposable paper scrubs.

There was no mental stimulation. We sat in the day room for 12 hours a day, staring at the TV and the wall and each other, and that was it. The only fresh air we got was during smoke breaks. I guess you can’t really consider that fresh air either.

Believe it or not, entering this second institution became the best thing that ever happened to me. Because that was where I met my fifth psychiatrist. My current psychiatrist. The doctor who saved my life.and also changed my life, with three words: “you are bipolar.”

5. Becoming a test rat (aka: The second and third diagnoses)

Three months before my fifth psychiatrist saved my life, when I was still at school, I asked my therapist and psychiatrist if I was bipolar. I wrote out why I thought I was bipolar. I basically had a thesis ready for them. They dismissed it. My therapist was the head of the Bipolar Support Group at my school, so he knew how bipolar students thought and acted and they thought and acted differently from me. Obviously. My psychiatrist told me that I “shouldn’t worry” and that I “should be thankful that [I’m] not bipolar, because being bipolar is much more difficult than being depressed and anxious.”

My fifth psychiatrist disagreed. Obviously. I had been thrown around from professional to professional, and everyone had a different opinion, and everyone had a different solution. I tried concoction after concoction of the drugs I mentioned above. My brain felt poked, prodded, removed, observed, and placed back inside of me, a little different, a little changed, every time. I was diagnosed as bipolar 2. Then bipolar 1. But the specifics hardly matter. The treatment matters.

6. Becoming dependent

I finally placed my complete self into the hands of my fifth  psychiatrist. I didn’t trust anyone except for him at first. I wanted to rely on as few people as possible. When you have bipolar disorder, though, as few people as possible is still a lot of people. I next placed my complete self into the hands of my twelfth  therapist. But professionals weren’t enough. They told me the stronger social support I had, the better off I’d be. So I started with my family, who is required to love me no matter what, right? They accepted me. They loved me no matter what. But professionals and family weren’t enough. I knew I’d have to go back to school one day. My professionals and my family wouldn’t be right beside me anymore. So one by one, I told my friends. I started with friends whom I knew had also gone through mental health struggles. I figured they’d understand; they’d help. I expanded to my closest friends, the ones I trusted, the ones who were also required to love me no matter what, right? And then to some of my sorority sisters, whom I’d be living with next semester, if I went back to school. I tried my best to explain my circumstances.

“I am manic when I start talking too fast, or go on impulsive shopping sprees, or drink until I blackout, or yell at people without a good reason to, or have superhuman self-confidence, or get a red rash on my face, or chest, or arms, or stop eating, or stop sleeping, or exercise until I cannot stand any longer.”

    “I am depressed when I am silent, or stop socializing, or cannot concentrate, or don’t leave my room, or don’t shower, or stay in the same clothes for days, or overeat, or oversleep, or do not move, not even to go to class.”

    What am I like when I’m normal? “I don’t know yet”

7. Acceptance

I did not know everything about being bipolar when I decided to accept my fate. I still do not know everything about being bipolar. No matter how many books I read, or how many professionals I talk to, or how much research I participate in, I will never know everything about being bipolar. All I know is my experience. My normal is bipolar. I don’t know what anyone else’s normal feels like. No one else knows what my normal feels like. Not even other people who are bipolar

My normal is bipolar.

Bipolar is my normal.

8. Sharing the rollercoaster that is your life

People tell me how amazed they are that I can write about my journey so openly. It has taken me eight months of constant pressuring from my therapists and psychologists for me to write anything at all. I “came out” on Instagram as bipolar a month and a half ago. I was terrified to share a piece of my life, right now the most important piece of my life, with so many people, almost all of whom I know. Right after I posted, I threw my phone across the room. I did not pick it up for hours. I was scared no one would understand. I was scared no one would care.

I received comments and texts and phone calls of overwhelming support. Even better, I learned of others’ journeys, others whom I would never expect to have gone through what I have gone through. Honestly I was thankful that most people claimed they would never expect me to go through what I have gone through. My crazy hadn’t driven people away after all. My crazy brought us closer.

Thirty-six  days after my Instagram post, I felt prepared to take the next step. I created a blog to share more of my journey. There is still so much I feel I will never be able to share, but I used to feel that way about what I have already shared, too. And look where we are. The rollercoaster keeps on rolling, up and down and up and down, but I keep rolling with it. And my supporters roll with me. And I roll with those whom I support back. And the tracks go forward. And we go forward. Up and down and up and down.I am proud of who I am. I am still educated, hardworking, giving, independent, attractive enough, upper middle class, funny, popular: all of the things I want to be. And sometimes I go crazy. Who knows, maybe I want to be crazy, too. I now realize that no matter how much I want anything in this world, I realistically have no control over anything. The only thing I have control over is my reaction to the anything that is handed to me. The ups and downs and ups and downs. I will try my best to accept, and hopefully one day share, it all.

Please visit my personal blog https://www.highrisk1.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/highrisk1cat/
Instagram: @highrisk1

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/

Worth Living Ambassador Lorna Morrison

My name is Lorna Morrison and I am a 22 year old Film and Television graduate. I blog about mental health and my recovery from an eating disorder in the hopes that I can aid others to seek the help they deserve. 

I know that saying your mental health disorder is a voice in your head sounds like some stereotypical rubbish that you don’t want to hear. Believe me that’s what I thought when it was first explained to me.. However, once I started to look at it in this way it helped me so much.

Living with an eating disorder you have a voice nagging you from the moment you wake up to the time you fall asleep. It won’t let you forget it. It has an opinion on most things you chose to do and a lot of the time it takes these choices from you. Whilst you’re suffering, the eating disorder voice is the loudest one and you just succumb to its desires. The difference once you start going through recovery from an eating disorder is that it can feel like you have two constant voices in your head battling with each other. One the “eating disorder voice.” telling you “you’re this, you’re that, you need to do this.” and then your own voice that is trying to fight it off telling yourself you’ve come too far to go back now.
I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve been in recovery for 2 years now and I still get days when I suffer badly from this voice but honestly that voice gets so much easier to dull the further in your recovery process you get. It becomes so much easier to tell your own thoughts from the disorder and to be able to push that cruel voice away knowing what it is telling you is untrue and unhealthy. For me now, I’m aware of the voice, when it starts trying to get inside my head again I can tell straightaway it’s my eating disorder talking and not me and because of this I’m now a lot stronger to not fall into the behaviours it tries to tell me to do.

A big part of recovery is being able to detach yourself from your eating disorder. You are not your eating disorder you are so much more than that. You are you!

Quit putting yourself in the bracket of your eating disorder it isn’t what makes you. I felt so attached to my eating disorder that sometimes it just became who I would define myself as in my head and that’s so unhealthy.
In my group therapy, we were given a work sheet to write two letters to a friend on how we would imagine our lives in five years time. One had to be our lives still living with the disorder and the second had to be what our lives would be without the disorder. This was so that we would detach ourselves from the eating disorder and make us look to a future without it and see how much better life would be. This was an activity that really opened my eyes to what I could have if only I removed that voice.

If you are suffering yourself try this activity and read the letters back and see how different they both are. Hopefully it will help you chose what you deserve. Recovery!
Please follow my personal blog at www.bitingback1995.blogspot.co.uk/?m

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.

Warning: These are my experiences alone and I do not speak for all survivors of sexual violence. Please be warned that the following content may be triggering and discusses sexual violence as its topic.

I never expected as a child that existing would be this hard. That being me would more often involve surviving than it did living. That I would be wearing a perpetual sign on my forehead reading Hurt Me. It wasn’t long into my childhood before I experienced violence for the very first time. I didn’t realize then, that violence would be a recurring theme in my life. People warn children not to talk to strangers. We’re all guilty of teaching our children only about the people we perceive to be monsters. The man in the white van, that offers your child candy. The stranger who lures your kid into the forest. These are what we imagine predators to be. They are the monsters that jump out at you in the dark, wolves snarling, baring teeth. We know what monsters look like; at least we think we do. We teach our children about these monsters, but fail to teach them about the wolves in sheeps’ clothing. The family member, the kind neighbour, the friend, the boyfriend. The ones closest to us, the ones we may even love.

Sexual violence kills someone’s soul. It tears it out and leaves it on the floor to rot. I remember hearing someone in high school once say they rather be raped than murdered. I remember being angry with them but not knowing how to put my anger into words. I never had the words until now. Being raped is like being murdered except you don’t get to die.
When I was eight years old, I experienced repeated sexual violence. I did not understand what was happening at the time. I just knew that it was happening. The perpetrator was not a stranger, was not in a white van and wasn’t even a man. The incidents did end. I don’t even remember why. I don’t think I even thought about it until years later. Thinking back, I don’t know why the person did what they did but I don’t think the reasoning is relevant. All that mattered is that it happened and that it hurt me.

I’m not sure if I was predisposed to being vulnerable. If there is something in my DNA that makes me weak or easy prey. It’s hard to feel like I wasn’t to blame for my victimization when I found myself in another sexually violent situation a few years later, and a few years later after that… and after that.

I began to realize that this is how it was for me. I was a small fish in a world full of sharks. The sharks mostly took form in the shape of men. Hungry for what they claimed to be theirs. A fish isn’t a fish to a shark. It’s just food.

What did middle school look like for me in terms of sexual violence? It looked like eighth grade boys grabbing at my body like a free-for-all buffet, a male friend describing how he would rape me, and yes, he used the words rape. A friend telling me how her father would assault her over and over again. Her mother telling me that his abuse was somehow my fault. It looked like a girl who was assaulted in the stairwell. The teachers telling the female students to take a friend to the washroom with them just in case something happened in the hallways. As if that were the solution instead of charging the boys for assault. It looked like a teacher telling my mom it was best if I stayed home but didn’t give her a reason as to why. The reason was that the boys at my school were treating me as theirs to take. Steak served and ready to be devoured. Starving eyes staring back at me.

When you are young you are told that the adults are there to help. If something goes wrong, they will save you.  I soon realized the only saving would be the saving I did myself.

After being treated like subhuman for so long I began to feel subhuman. I gave up on myself. I put myself into situations I shouldn’t have been in and didn’t deserve. I didn’t fight back. I once casually took my jacket off after realizing someone had spit on it and proceeded to clean it off in the snow. I didn’t make a big deal out of it because I felt that maybe I somehow deserved it.

Slut. Whore. Worthless. Every time someone uttered one of these words it made its way under my skin leaving wounds that still haven’t fully healed over. And it wasn’t just the kids- in my middle school some of the staff thought I was selling myself for sex (but didn’t do anything about what they thought was happening), a staff member once told me they knew I was a good person deep down inside and that I should respect myself more. Apparently I was taking advantage of the boys and not the other way around.

Tenth grade. A boy- no a man befriends me. He just wants to be friends. He just wants to be friends but now his hands are down my pants and I can’t scream. I say the word “no” but it barely comes out. He laughs. It’s a joke to him. It’s not a joke to me because I still have nightmares to this day, I still see his face on strangers on the street and I still flinch when people touch me.

Twelfth grade, I’m walking up the staircase. I feel a hand where a stranger’s hand shouldn’t be. I turn around. I say “why did you do that” to which the girl replied, “Because I felt like it.”

There are some experiences that just begin to feel inevitable. Catcalls, sexist jokes, being sent to the principal’s office for having a skirt too short, because your teenage body is being sexualized. By adults. Men who sit too close to you on the bus, men who follow you home… shall I continue?

Boyfriends who go too far without asking, boyfriends who I let go too far because I think “what’s the point of trying to say no?”, The way I always type 911 on my phone when I walk home in the dark ready to press CALL. Considering carrying pepper spray in my purse but realizing I am more likely to be assaulted by someone I know, and knowing I have my own personal statistics to back this up.

These are just the way of living I tell myself. This is what I know. I remember telling a male friend that I wish I could go for a walk at night whenever I felt like it. He answered “Why can’t you?” I remember seeing a sign on my university campus that said “We Believe Survivors” and another male friend said “Why would you believe them all?” As if people speaking up about their assaults has ever been easy, has ever gone their way. As if survivors should receive any ounce of doubt.

I remember being in a criminal behaviour class and the topic was sexual violence. The males in the class were talking about how the video the professor played “Was just not realistic” and ” Men aren’t like that” I remember thinking to myself moments before how accurate the video was.

Recently I was listening to a spoken word poem and the speaker said “You don’t just get raped once because the world rapes you a second time.” And that is nothing further from the truth.

In a world that literally hates women, where women are raped and killed for just being women, where men almost always stay silent when they are the victim, it’s hard to see the light. I know that I will continue to experience violence even if it is not to the degree it has been in the past. Healing is a long process. It’s hard to heal in a world that is built against you. A world that re-traumatizes. I know not everyone reading this will be comfortable, but this isn’t supposed to make you feel comfortable.

I didn’t share every story of sexual violence- there were too many, and sharing all of my experiences, would just be far too vast to fit neatly into a blog post.

Although this article strays far from being uplifting, I want you to take one positive thing away from it. I got through all of this, and much much more. I survived. I will never edit my experiences down to make them flowery or easier to read. Although I may spare you the gory details I will always tell the truth. The point of writing for this blog is to share with you real life experiences relating to mental health. Sexual violence has been one of the biggest parts of my mental health and a contributing factor, in my opinion to many of my illnesses. Sexual violence is a hard topic to tackle but I chose to share this with you. If it can help at least one person out there feel less alone, then I have accomplished more than I could hope for.

I was once told that my life was like the series of unfortunate events but worse. I’ll take that as a compliment. I have experienced some terrible things in my life. But I survived. I survived.

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.

How I LOATHE you and
The tricks you play
on. my. mind.
SO easily.
The moment I think I have you under CONTROL
You’re already giving me something to think about
And think about…
And think about…
And think about…
Oh my G.A.D.
My heart is racing now.
My palms are sweaty too.
My mind is stuck in a battle
I see a glimpse of reason coming through. Oops… It’s
Just. Out. Of. Reach.
Oh my G.A.D.
Take a deep breath now.
Always remember to