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.

Since my last post for Worth Living, I have had people reach out to me asking if there is anything that I have found truly helpful in coping with my anxiety. The answer: Yes.

1.       Therapy
First and foremost, if I am being 100% honest here, the biggest catalyst in dealing with my anxiety has been therapy. I realize while I am writing this that therapy may not be the best answer for everyone, however, it helped me a lot. Once I found the right counselor (I have had my share of ones who were not the right fit) and was open to doing the work needed on myself, the healing/coping process began.  I am the type of person that when there is something wrong or not working, I want to find a way to fix it. Through counseling I was able to get outside of my mind and have a third party offer different perspectives, help me to see when my thoughts were being irrational, and just someone to vent to without any judgment.  My therapist also taught me various ways to slow my mind down and breathe, which leads me to number 2.

2.       Meditation/Grounding Exercises

If you are new at meditating and aren’t sure what to really do, the CALM app is a great place to start. The app offers guided meditations for different lengths of times and for different focus’s all for free-though you can pay to unlock more meditations. I like to use the CALM app before bed and I am working on getting in the habit of starting my day with it too instead of being so rushed in the morning.  If you aren’t interested in the app, even just spending a few minutes a day focusing on your breathing can help.  (inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts…repeat 4 times)  Grounding exercises are helpful to keep you in the present moment, especially if you are having a panic attack or are out in public and feeling extremely anxious.  My favorite Grounding exercise is to list (in your head or out loud)

·         5 things you see (I often look for 5 things of the same color)

·         4 things you hear

·         3 things you feel/can touch

·         2 things you smell

·         1 things you taste

3.       Himalayan Salt Therapy (Halotherapy or Sensory Deprivation Tanks)

Ever since I stopped taking medicine for my anxiety I have been looking for holistic ways to help me. Benefits of Himalayan Salt Therapy include: reduced stress/anxiety, increased energy, better sleep patterns, reduced depression, as well as helping with breathing and other skin ailments. I have a Himalayan Salt Lamp next to my bed; have gone to Himalayan Salt Caves (Halotherapy) where you sit in a room that is basically full of Himalayan Salt on the floor and walls made up of salt lamps. The sessions last for about 50 minutes. I come out in a better mood and feeling more energized every time. A pricier option is to use the Sensory Deprivation Tanks. The tanks are filled with 1000 pounds of Himalayan Salt and about 10 gallons of water, so you are basically floating in an enclosed pod. This is said to be the closest feeling to being back in the womb, which is why it promotes such relaxation. I have luckily been able to do this a few times now and it truly is a calming experience once you get used to it. I was able to reach a deep meditative state and came out feeling relaxed and feeling like I had slept for 2 days. I also felt my body feel less tense.

4.       Working Out

Working out makes me feel good, period. If I am feeling especially anxious working out helps relieve some of that energy and gets my endorphins going. I have also tried hot yoga- which is just what it sounds like, practicing yoga in a hot (105 degree) room. I love the mental challenge that comes with both. For me, it is more about seeing what I can get my body to do and to push past the mental barriers that are telling me I can’t.

5.       Massage Therapy

I think I am a sensory oriented person so getting a deep tissue massage literally feels like they are pushing the all of my anxiety/stress/tension away.  If you don’t want to spend money on a massage a cheaper version would be to buy a foam roller or use a lacrosse ball. I use both by lying down on the floor and rolling on foam roller or lacrosse ball on my back, neck, and legs. I also will put the lacrosse ball between me and a wall and roll out that way; it seems to work better in releasing the tension in my neck and shoulders.

6.       Turmeric

Turmeric is the main spice that is in curry that contains many healing properties, one on which happens to be an anti-depressant. It is best used in its original form, which is the spice itself; though it can also be taken in capsule form. I take a capsule of it once a day and will occasionally use it to cook with.

7.       Write

When I am feeling really anxious, writing my thoughts down helps me to see what the underlying issue is and release it. Writing is a great way to gain perspective and sort through any irrational thoughts that might be coming up and passing through. Something about seeing those thoughts written on paper helps me gain a different perspective and even laugh at myself at some of the ways my thoughts may have spiraled.

8.       Color

Coloring has some of the same benefits that come from meditation and also lets you be creative in the process. I notice when I am coloring I focus on what I am doing and let my thoughts flow through my mind without getting stuck on one.

9.       Essential Oils

Again, when I was coming off of my anxiety/depression medicine I was looking for an alternative approach. Essential oils have helped me significantly. You can apply them topically to your skin (with some you may need to use a carrier oil, like coconut oil so it doesn’t irritate your skin) or you can also diffuse them. I do both. You can also put some of them in your bath too. I use Lavender because it helps me relax and doesn’t irritate my skin.  My favorites to use for calming down are Lavender, Uplift, Serenity, or Balance. You can also mix some of them together to get more of a calming feeling. I personally buy my oils through DoTerra and sometimes stores like Michael’s if they have a bigger container that isn’t too expensive and I am out of my other ones.

10.   Be Kind to Yourself/ Practice Self-Care

This one is huge. I am still working at it and at the end of the day it is probably the most important. Healing and Recovery is a process so it is important to take things day by day and not beat yourself up if you fall short. The more you beat yourself up over the situation the more anxious you will get. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and try again the next day.  It is more about the process and the progress you are making.  Remember to stop and take time to give yourself what you need in that moment.

Worth Living Official DJ Scratchley Q

DJ Scratchley Q is the Official DJ for the Worth Living Organization.

 She is 23 years old from Manitoulin Island, Ontario, who loves sharing her passion for DJing with the public. She is a natural performer who has no problem filling a dance floor and keeping it moving. Scratchley Q is a high energy performer who has established a reputation as a versatile and professional, hardworking DJ. She has DJ’d many events including bars, dances for all ages, benefit concerts, private events and socials, formals and proms, birthday parties, anniversaries, stag and does, weddings, talent events, New Year’s Eve parties, Pride events, outdoor concerts, corporate events, retail, collaborations with other artists, and many more.

 Scratchley Q has mixed Worth Living BPM Therapy, 5 Volumes, and is a regular contributor to the Worth Living Blog with her Top 10 Lists.

Top 10 List

The sun is shining and the weather is starting to warm up! I’ve got some major summer feels at this moment. Here is this week’s top 10 count down. Check it out!

10. Stitches -Hold On

9. Have Mercy – Good Christian Man

8. Keith Urban ft. Carrie Underwood – The Fighter 

7. Banks – Crowed Places 

6. Yellow Card – A Place We Set Afire 

5. Wizkid ft. Drake – Come Closer 

4. Hasley – Now or Never 

3. Mary J. Blige ft. Kanye – Love YourSelf 

2.The Chainsmokers ft. Emily Warren – My Type 

1.Major Lazer ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj – Run Up




Worth Living  Ambassador & Official WL DJ – DJ Scratchley Q

DJ Scratchley Q is 23 years old from Manitoulin Island, Ontario, who loves sharing her passion for DJing with the public. She is a natural performer who has no problem filling a dance floor and keeping it moving. Scratchley Q is a high energy performer who has established a reputation as a versatile and professional, hardworking DJ. Scratchley Q has DJ`d many events including; bars, dances for all ages, benefit concerts, private events and socials, formals and proms, birthday parties, anniversaries, stag and does, weddings, talent events, New Years Eve parties, Pride events, outdoor concerts, corporate events, retail, collaborations with other artists, and many more. She is the Official DJ for the Worth Living Organization.

You can catch Scratchley Q’s 5 Volumes of Worth Living BPM Therapy


Worth Living Top 10

Sometimes we forget that celebrities are human and they feel the same emotions as everyday people. They have struggles and difficult times. Each one of the emcees who are in this Top 10 Chart speak openly about their own personal struggles with mental illness through their music. They are also open to how they have over come their struggles. These emcees are opening conversation to talk about mental health.

10. Isaiah  Rashad “2x Pills”    “Don’t go through the problems in your head alone. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. The worst thing to do is think ur alone in it”



9. Danny Brown “Die Like A Rockstar”    “I can’t sleep my anxiety is at an all time high (sic) but don’t none of y’all care about that Sh*t,” Depression is serious y’all think I do drugs cause it’s fun.”


8.  Krizz Kaliko “Unstable”    “In 2015 I contemplated suicide. The world felt like a big ride I wanted to get off.”


7. Future “Codeine Crazy”   “Drownin’ in Actavis, suicide”


6. JCole  “Born Sinner”   “There’s a mentality that I had that was never shaken, it was quiet, it wasn’t outspoken, it was all in my head. The minute that changes and now I’m dealing with a mind state I’ve had to deal l with before- which is fighting all these negative thoughts- that’s the dark place I’m talking about.”


5. DMX “Slippin”    “I used to be really clear on who was what and what character each personality had… but at this point I’m not even sure if there is a difference.”



4. Joe Budden “Only Human”    “Tired of being strong, please let me be weak for a minute. Kinda thought that my disease tried to kill your man first.”


3. Scarface “ Diary of a Madman”    “But back then, I felt like attention was the last things I wanted. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you if it was any one specific thing that had pushed me to that point. I just know that I was mad. Mad and sad. I felt like no one wanted me.”


2. Kendrick Lamar “U”     “I couldn’t understand that. -That can draw a thin line between you having your sanity and you losing it. This is how artists deteriorate if you don’t catch yourself. And my release therapy is music.”

1. Kid Cudi “The Prayer”    “There wasn’t a week or a day that didn’t go by where I was just like, ‘You know I wanna check out.’ I know what it feels like, I know it comes from loneliness, I know it comes from not having self-worth, not loving yourself.”

Worth Living Ambassador Thomas Morgan

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

When people think of Bipolar Disorder, they usually tend to think that those who are diagnosed with it just get extremely happy or sad, and that their mood is generally unpredictable. However, I have found that it is not common knowledge that some of us who have Bipolar Disorder can also have psychotic symptoms.

When I say psychotic symptoms, I mean delusions. These are in the form of auditory and visual hallucinations. I, personally, hear voices. These voices, as well as what they say, are entirely dependent on the episode I am experiencing. Because Bipolar Disorder is an episodic illness, they tend to go away when I am stable. Unfortunately, lately my episodes have tended to cycle rapidly, meaning I hear the voices frequently.

I have two different experiences with the voices and I want to explain them to the best of my ability in this article.

When I am manic, the voices comfort me. During mania, my brain has countless ideas racing through my head at once and the voices tend to help me deal with that by organizing the thoughts or sometimes by giving me motivation. I occasionally have moments where I have a verbal discussion with them. This has rarely happened in public, but when it does I tell people I am just thinking out loud. They encourage me, further elevating my mood. Sometimes I make a joke that nobody in the room understands or finds funny, but the voices find it hilarious.

I enjoy my productivity boost when experiencing mania and I channel it into my studies or hobbies. I love the euphoric feeling of being on top of the world. I also look forward to hearing the manic voices during an episode. At times they can be annoying, such as when I am in the gym trying to listen to instructions on proper form from friends. Overall, I view the voices that I experience during mania as friends.

If the manic voices are my friends, then the voices I hear in my depressive episodes are the things of nightmares. When I am depressed all that I hear is screaming or shouting in my head. A lot of it is incoherent, but I can usually make out a few words or phrases. Imagine the sound effects that you have heard from the THX company that always played before movies years ago. Imagine turning the volume to the maximum and listening to it on repeat for hours, sometimes days. That, coupled with certain words and phrases, is what I usually hear while depressed. Sometimes the screaming is directed at me and other times it feels as if somebody is just screaming and raving at nothing or nobody in particular.

Dealing with this is incredibly difficult given the fact I know I cannot do anything about it and have no idea when it will end. When the screaming is directed at me there is a separate voice in the background whispering things such as “Everyone hates you”, “You’re worthless”, “It’s your fault they died”, and explaining various ways I should end my own life. There are countless times when I have ended up covering my ears trying, unsuccessfully, to stop the screaming, while also being curled up on the floor crying because I am so scared of them.

Growing up I always thought hearing voices was normal, like it was a way everybody processed their thoughts. Despite having an incredibly supportive father who also has Bipolar Disorder, who shared exactly what being Bipolar meant in a way my sister and I could understand it since we were young, I never knew that psychotic symptoms could also be involved. Therefore, as you can imagine, the experiences were frightening beyond compare when I was not aware of my diagnosis.

The voices I hear because of my mental illness can be encouraging and helpful, or crippling to the point where I consider ending it all. To be honest, I am constantly having moments where I struggle with my acceptance over my Bipolar diagnosis with these auditory hallucinations playing a large part in that.

In my last article, I mentioned how mental illness shapes who we are, depending on how you work with it. This remains true. However, it is also important to keep in mind that living with mental illness will always be a struggle for some. Our struggles, and the results of them in particular, are what I believe make life worth living.

Besides, if you never get knocked down, you’ll never learn how to fight.

Worth Living Ambassador Alex Campeau

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

I see life and society in general as a massive lego project. And right now the lego project is a mess. The term “mental illness” is used far too often. Those diagnosed with mental illness are just different kinds of people.

I was diagnosed for being articulate, creative, and having a different view of the world. Medication screwed me hard because it took my creativity away and I’m just not the same. Most people diagnosed as having a mental illness are just deep thinkers. And that’s what I am. I am a deep thinker. Is there anything wrong with that? In my opinion no.

I believe I was diagnosed with mental illness because my writing was very dark and depressing, I was writing about religion, and God forbid, I say something negative about this almighty we follow. But if your beliefs are different from the majority of people, you’re a winner in my books but the everyday simpletons treat you like a loser.

Now in my writings in the past I mentioned that people wanted me dead but that  talking it out with someone helps tremendously instead of saying that to your psychiatrist and be put on multiple medications you don’t really need. Now, a lot of people would get upset over that because they may have a story where medication saved their life. Think about what that medication is doing to your body. Most people don’t know the dangers medication presents. Mine are affecting my liver, my memory, my eyesight.

A psychiatrist is going to see you maybe ten or twenty minutes a month, whereas, for me, I see a psychotherapist every week and we talk. We actually talk for an hour and those symptoms of “mental illness” are bearable. Sure it’s easier to take a pill, but do you want to risk everything? I’m getting my creativity back the more I go off meds. I’m not taking six hundred pills a month anymore. I’m in the process of getting my life back. I should have never gone to my guidance councillor and explored this ADHD thing with her and the psychologist. The more meds I was on, the more convincing I was to having a psychosis. I am absolutely livid at the way my six years have gone. Six years stolen from me and at the age it all happened my brain was still developing.

I always had a belief that a small group of people can make a change. That is why I joined Worth Living. Right now we are at fifty-seven people diagnosed with mental illness, fifty-seven people in the process of making a change, fifty-seven people standing up and sharing their stories.

I just want to caution people about medication and what it does to you. This society is not forgiving of our crimes. Crimes of artistry, crimes of intelligence, crimes of being human. There are second chances in life. Hopefully your second chance has a fight in it. I have been given a second chance and I will not be ashamed for being articulate, for being creative, or even for being a little dark. A lot of people see darkness as something bad or sad. I see it as one of the most beautiful things out there. I see grey skies, stormy clouds and rain. When everything has a touch of grey to it, it brings out emotions sometimes. Yes I am a naturally dark, sad being but there’s nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with being negative when it has a positive outcome.

Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Living Ambassador Kayla Lacey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Living Ambassador Katie Campeau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth Living Ambassador Alex Campeau

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

Caution: Alex mentions Suicide

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

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

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

NOTE: If you , a family member, friend, or colleague is experiencing  thoughts of suicide or distress, call 911 now.

Other resources :

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

Worth Living Ambassador Julie Arab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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