Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett

 

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health

 

Being Scared of Life Saving Procedures

Firstly, I need to begin by stating that I have not been diagnosed with a specific phobia, nor do I condone self-diagnosis. This information and these opinions are based on academic knowledge and research with correlations to life experience.

Have you ever been so scared of something that is has impacted your health and/or your day-to-day life? Unfortunately, if this is true you may want to seek professional help. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by intense fear of an object or situation that persists for more than six months. They typically cause panic attacks and can develop into panic disorder.

Have you ever heard of the term “white coat syndrome”? To put it simply, a person with white coat syndrome gets extremely elevated blood pressure levels known as hypertension when in medical environments. This phobia can have detrimental and life-threatening impacts on people with this disorder.

Ever since I was a child, I have always been afraid of anything that is medically related. Doctors, dentists, hospitals, needles, nurses, clinics, and the list goes on. It was not simply just being afraid of these people and these places, it was the fact that I would have panic attacks, nightmares, and fits when having to experience these situations. Uncontrollable fear and anxiety overtake my body. I feel as though I have no control over my body or emotions when in these environments. I have incredible mood swings, unfathomable fear, uncontrollable crying, exacerbated pain, and intense stomach aches. There is very little that can be done to comfort me in these scenarios. I will share multiple examples and stories with you of situations that I have been in that have caused extreme and unnecessary duress for myself.

My fear and extreme anxiety are always invalidated and undermined when I am in medical environments. I have been made fun of at school for having panic attacks when receiving vaccines, I have been diminished by health practitioners and professionals when refusing certain treatments and procedures, I have had eyes rolled at me and prolonged sighs, I have had irritation and impatience from nurses that did not have the time for my “outbursts”. It seems as though medical professionals have no respect for those with this type of fear. Not only is this unhelpful, but it also aggravates the situation by causing more discomfort and panic on patients that is absolutely unnecessary.

The first story in which I am sharing is one that I often get made fun of and ridiculed for. “It’s not a big deal, get over it, how old are you?” are comments that I was subjected to and still am to this day. I was seventeen years old at the time, returning to the dentist after nearly five years. Dentists give me intense panic attacks even for the most remote things. I went to the dentist for a simple cleaning. I was panicked regardless. Luckily, in this particular situation, the dental hygienist was profoundly understanding and empathetic. She let me calm down before beginning, she explained every step of what she was going to do, she let me listen to music during the cleaning, and she talked to me in a reassuring and soft voice. She did not treat me as a burden, she did not roll her eyes at me or give me attitude, rather she empathized with me. She could see the fear in my eyes was not fake and was definitely not exaggerated. Then when the dentist came in he discovered a cavity. That did not go over well for me. I had a panic attack because I knew what a filling entailed; a large needle being pocked into my gums while wide awake. Instead of getting frustrated with me she consoled me. Yes, I am aware that these are small procedures that will most likely not cause me any harm. Unfortunately, anxiety does not listen to logic and I cannot always reason with myself or others. I apologize if my anxiety is embarrassing to you! Imagine what I must feel like having parents stare at me in the waiting room while I’m crying, and their small children are not. I can feel how annoyed they are, and trust me I am just as annoyed, discouraged, and embarrassed with myself as anyone else there if not more; I do not need more ridicule.

The next situation infuriates me every time I think of it. I think that we can all agree that having our wisdom teeth removed is a big deal for most people, especially those with a fear of it. Having someone slice into your gums, remove giant teeth, and sew them back up all while being wide awake is unappealing to almost anyone. There was not a chance that I was going to let anyone near my mouth while being conscious. I explained profusely to my surgeon that I had severe anxiety and that I would need to be put under general anesthesia in order for the surgery to take place. The surgeon reassured me that I would be fine and that they would sedate me enough that I would not need to be put under. I had no choice in the matter because the procedure was being performed through government funding and general anesthesia costs more, so the dentist made the final say. The day of the procedure, I arrived at the office and had one of the most severe and extreme panic attacks that I have ever had. I was crying and trembling uncontrollably and there was nothing that could be done to soothe me. After an hour of this, the surgeon finally called us into the back (my mother and I). Once he saw me, he refused to perform the procedure on me and blamed my mother for the situation. He said, “I would never put my daughter in this situation if she was this upset.” My mother was dumbfounded by this comment since we both insisted on general anesthetic. He finally realized how serious my anxiety is and rescheduled the surgery for a month later under general anesthesia. I was put into that highly stressful and debilitating situation for nothing just because a medical professional did not take my disorder seriously.

The final story that I am about to share definitely shows the lack of empathy and training that nurses and doctors have when it comes to mental illness. I had woken up in the middle of the night with something feeling wrong. I did not know what it was, and I was not in pain, but I was uncomfortable. I tried to fall back asleep and ignore the feeling. I woke up in unimaginable pain, pain so bad that I thought I was going to die. My roommate and her boyfriend rushed me to the hospital where I continued to moan and vomit in pain. They wanted to run tests on me which included taking blood. I had never had my blood drawn before because I never allowed it. It was just one more thing for me to panic over. Now, not only was I in severe pain, but I was also terrified out of my mind. I was five hours away from my family, in a hospital where I knew and trusted no one, and thought I was dying. This sounds stressful enough right? Well, to make matters worse, the doctor on call and the nurse who was assigned to me were as cold as ice. They were unfriendly and uncaring. They seemed bothered by my anxiety and tears. They barely checked on me during my eight-hour wait and were distant when they actually did. They needed to do more testing and so they sent me for an ultrasound. The technician wanted to perform another procedure on me that was invasive. I went into another intense panic attack, but after making a couple of phone calls home, I gave consent for the procedure. I was still very shaken by it and so the technician refused to perform it after finally convincing me. I was infuriated; I tried to push myself to do something that petrified me, and I tried to wrap my head around it and he just abruptly changed his mind. The cause of pain was a kidney stone. For those of you that have not experienced this, a nurse compared it to labor pains. Even though the other procedure would not have been necessary to diagnose this, the doctor was extremely annoyed with me for not doing it.

Therefore, the point of this post is to bring awareness to how serious and intense anxiety can be. I am constantly made fun of and diminished by friends and medical professionals for my extreme fear. Let me just remind you all that pain is exacerbated exponentially when in fear. Not only am I embarrassed with myself, but I am usually in a great deal of pain. That being said, before being ashamed of someone for crying at the doctor’s office or dentist’s, think of how frightened they must be, put yourself in their shoes. Always choose kindness. There is no need to put anyone down especially for something that they cannot control.


Worth Living Ambassador Cat Davis


Hello. My name is Cat, and I am a 21 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.

Bipolar v Anxiety

Why is it easy for me to talk about bipolar, but hard to talk about anxiety?
Since my diagnosis with bipolar disorder in January, 2017, I’ve become
more and more accustomed to talking to people about my mental illness.
People tend to take the word “bipolar” seriously. It’s uncommon,
unusual, misunderstood, or not understood at all. Besides statements
like “the weather is bipolar today” or “my teacher was acting so
bipolar,” I never thought much about the disorder until it plagued me.

Bipolar disorder has quickly become easy for me to talk about. People
are fascinated by bipolar, and I am more than happy to educate and
inform them. I enjoy helping people understand and I really think it
is one of the reasons why I am here. Reading textbook definitions of
mental illnesses is rendered useless compared to speaking with those
with firsthand experience them. Mania, euphoria, grandiosity,
recklessness, hallucinations, delusions: these are just words. Funny
anecdotes about spontaneously chopping all of my hair off or being
hospitalized for a rash across my entire body (that was much later
attributed to a visceral reaction to my bipolar mania) help people
relax and feel more comfortable and confident asking me more. Or quite
serious stories about the time I really, truly thought I had a
miscarriage (there was no child) or when I really, truly imagined an
old ex-boyfriend entering my gym and watching me (there was no boy):
those incidents have meaning. Those stories get down to the grit and
raw emotion of a truly debilitating mental disorder.

I rarely talk about my secondary diagnosis of generalized anxiety
disorder, or GAD. GAD doesn’t come with funny stories about absurd
shopping sprees or blackout nights at the bar. It doesn’t come with
highly unusual events like hallucinations or delusions, which intrigue
and fascinate people. You can’t see it in my constantly enlarged
pupils or my bright red skin rashes. Anxiety is a silent disorder,
unnoticed by most, except for the person it inhabits, controls, and
attempts to destroy.

Anxiety embarrasses me. I don’t want to bite my nails or twist my hair
the moment I feel uncomfortable in a situation. I don’t want my heart
to race when I see or hear something that triggers the memories I try
so hard to forget. I don’t want to become paralyzed by the thought of
an upcoming social event, or an important exam, or a rapidly
approaching deadline. Anxiety tells me not to bother my friends with
my problems, that no one will understand, that no one will care.

Of course they care.

My rational mind knows they care.

My anxious mind tells my rational mind to shut up, no they don’t,
leave them alone, your feelings are stupid, you just need to get over
it. Get. Over. It.

People don’t expect me to get over bipolar. They hear that word and
expect the worst. On the other hand, the word “anxiety” is thrown
around, considered a more common term and used as a synonym for
stress.*

I am not stressed.

My anxiety is a mental illness, too.

It is just as important as my bipolar disorder, just as horrifying,
just as obscure and unimaginable.

But for me, it is so, so, so, so much harder to talk about.

I don’t want to feel weak. I don’t want to be seen as weak. I want to
be just as strong as my support group thinks I am. All the time.
Unwavering. Forever.

I know that keeping things bottled up, that allowing my mental
illnesses to be silent killers, only makes things worse. I know that.
I do. But knowing doesn’t make it any easier. Speaking out, ignoring
the pangs in my gut telling me not to, not hiding behind the stories
I find easiest to tell, will make it easier. Listening to other
stories will make it easier, too.

*Stress and anxiety fill up college campuses and are often ignored or
at least not properly dealt with. Whereas stress can be a healthy
reaction to challenging, uncomfortable situations, anxiety can
psychologically and viscerally affect your ability to perform everyday
tasks. If you are at all concerned with whether or not you experience
extreme stress or have an anxiety or panic disorder, please reach out
to a licensed professional. He or she can give you study tricks and
relaxation tips to better manage your stress, or help provide or find
therapy and psychiatry treatment for an anxiety, panic, or other
mental disorder. I only wish I had reached out sooner.


Worth Living Ambassador Dale Vernor

Dale is a writer and researcher in the field of mental health and substance abuse. After a battle with addiction, Dale was able to earn his Bachelor’s degree and become the first in his family to earn a degree. Dale was able to find a job doing what he loves, and enjoys writing about substance abuse and mental health to help lift the stigma associated with both of them. You can find more of his work on Twitter.

My Life Worth Living

Lots of mornings I still wake up amazed to feel so full of light and hope. I admit this amazement is sometimes followed by familiar darkness and anxiety. Thankfully, I am able to master my anxiety myself and not be drowned by how I feel.

Anxiety is not something new to me. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) some ten years ago, just a few months shy of my 20th birthday. This is apparently early since the average onset of GAD is at 31 years old.

Then again, my life was a pressure cooker and I believed I was destined for that anxiety. I was one of a handful of pre-med students in an Ivy-league university.  Not only were we required to have high grades, and please professors, we also had to have a social life.

So I embraced my fears and compensated by taking more pills than my doctor prescribed, by upping the dosage of my meds on my own, and by combining my prescription with sleeping pills or any other pills I could lay my hands on. I told myself I was merely curbing my anxiety so I could function properly.

All Lies

It was all a lie. Even then, I knew I was becoming dependent on the drugs I took. I was a very bright pre-medical student, after all. I realized early on that aside from having GAD, I was becoming a drug addict.

I’m only fortunate that during one incident when I had again taken one pill too many and overslept, my lab partner had the audacity to rummage in my bag. She found my phone and called my older sister, whom she knew was a doctor.

My parents had died when I was young and my two much older sisters mothered me ever since. When they found out what happened, my sisters descended on me and promptly enrolled me in a drug treatment facility.

This was, of course, the height of embarrassment for me and I really hated them at that time. I took longer than most to allow them to visit me.

In retrospect, I proved that they really did think of themselves as my parents. My sisters never faltered in their affection towards me even in those dark times. When I finally got over myself and the three of us hugged for the first time after almost a year, I could literally feel their internal celebration. The whole time they were thanking me over and over again because I came out of the ordeal as healthy as I did. They thanked me!

By then, I had already realized that I was blessed to have my sisters. Plus I was lucky to be alive at a time when there were already many forward-thinking rehabilitation centers. The one that my sisters sent me to had a design to treat my dual diagnosis, or a co- morbid condition, as it was called then.

My rehab program was designed to treat my General Anxiety Disorder simultaneously with my substance addiction and not one after the other. The facility recognized early on that this would be the most effective way.

After I recovered, I didn’t go back to that Ivy- league school to finish my medical degree. However, I still became a doctor. I figured I owed it to the universe who had conspired to make me feel that my life was worth living. I don’t like to talk about that part of my past because the few times I do, they say I made it sound so easy. It really wasn’t. I lost many opportunities and I had to work harder at putting my life back in order.

But I strive to be an inspiration in many other ways. And most days, I actually think I’m able to make a small positive difference.

 


Worth Living Ambassador Tylia Flores


Tylia Flores is a 23-year-old born with cerebral palsy. Although her condition has affected her mobility, it has never affected her will and determination to make a difference in the world. Through her many life challenges and obstacles, she discovered her passion for writing. Tylia’s goal in life is to share her stories with the world. In doing so, she hopes to help others with disabilities realize that they too have the potential to make their dreams come true.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Dating for me has always been a challenging part of my life considering the fact that I am in a
wheelchair and have cerebral palsy. Finding my perfect prince charming hasn’t been the easiest
task.

I sit here and think about it and I could blame many things. Society, the way people look at us
as people with disabilities especially able-bodied people who don’t want to deal what the
responsibilities of being a caregiver to someone that they choose to love.

Or are they just don’t have very much awareness on what it is like to have a disability or they
don’t have hearts to look past our disabilities. For me the chair has always been the biggest
obstacle.

When it came to putting myself out there as a young woman with cerebral palsy in the dating
Scene, it always made it much harder because once the young man noticed my cerebral palsy
and my limitations in regards to my condition because of my being in a wheelchair and that is not all
that comes with my cerebral palsy.

I have spastic attacks and I need 24 -hours of care. I have to go to several doctors’ appointments.
So of course it’s hard for me to find someone who understands that.

But on top of that, I have adjustment disorder which is an abnormal and excessive reaction to an
identifiable life stressor. The reaction is more severe than would normally be expected and can
result in significant impairment in social, occupational, or academic functioning. Adjustment
disorder is sometimes referred to as Situational Depression.

So it makes hard for me to date because I overthink things while I am in a relationship because I
have a deep desire to find my “real life” Bud Davis who would sweep me off my wheels and
dance with him to Mickey Gilley’s Stand By Me.

But overall having both a disability and disorder have made my journey of finding my picture
perfect cowboy a little bit more difficult. After getting diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder and
all, I thought I would be single for the rest of my life and no young man my age would be
interested in dating someone with my special needs

But a few months ago I stopped looking for love in all the wrong places because I met my
boyfriend, Bobby , just by a fluke while online and we have dating ever since. The
key to dating with Adjustment Disorder and Cerebral Palsy is being yourself and expecting who
you are because, to be honest, you got to love yourself before you love others


Worth Living Ambassador Shaelynn Baxter

Hello, my name is Shaelynn Baxter and I’m currently a student attending the Social Services Program at the Nova Scotia Community College in Sydney, Nova Scotia. However, I will further my career after this program to obtain a Social Work Degree. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and that’s how I began to dedicate my time to helping others in need. Mental Health has had a huge impact on my life and I’m happy to be able to finally start sharing my story.

 

Shining Light into the Darkness

It’s the days where getting out of bed is too hard. It’s the days when you’re looking in the mirror asking yourself “what’s wrong with me?”, “why am I the one who has to deal with this?”, or “why aren’t I skinny or pretty enough?” It’s the days where you feel like giving up because fighting through isn’t worth it. Those days are when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom and don’t know how to start over again. I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. There were many days where I thought if I ended it that day, then the pain and suffering would end as well, but what I realized was that by me killing myself, I’d just be passing the pain onto someone else. What I actually needed was someone who was willing to listen, I didn’t need a response, I just needed to know they were listening.

I was only 12 years old when I first got diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Being told you had mental illness at such a young age was hard to comprehend and understand,  that there was a reason why you felt the way you felt. I always felt hopeless about life and I would always feel like I was a waste of space and wasn’t worthy to be alive. I started to want to die because that seemed a lot easier than being alive and suffering. Living with both mental illnesses didn’t bother me too bad until I went to High School. As the pressure of having “perfect” grades intensified, I felt myself breaking down and couldn’t get myself out of the darkness I was pushing myself into. I would hide in bathrooms or leave school early because I felt “sick”, holding back tears so my friends or family. I could never tell how overwhelmed I really felt. Getting out of bed everyday was becoming a hassle and most of the time, I would skip school, just so I didn’t have to deal with it. I started to become a very angry person; mad at the world, mad at everyone around me and most of all, mad at myself. I would consistently ask myself why everyone else seemed so happy and had such perfect lives, and why couldn’t I be like them?

For the next  five years after I graduated high school, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to college or university to further a career, I wasn’t ready to be put under that much stress again, so I decided to work in retail until I felt I was ready to go back and further my education. Working in retail had its ups and downs, customers who were verbally abusive definitely put a damper on my mental health, which caused more relapses and mental breakdowns.

Eventually in 2017, I got accepted into the Social Services Program at NSCC Marconi Campus.  I was still very negative and angry at the world when I first went into the program but after a few months and with the positivity, support, and help from my professors in the program, I began to shine. I started to come out of the darkness I was in and began to come to the realization that I was meant to help others in need and help them through tough times in their lives. I know what it’s like to face the disease of mental illness every single day and if I can help make one person’s life a little bit easier, it’s worth it.

There has been a countless number of times that I would cry myself to sleep because I’d start to convince myself that I had no worth and there was no point of me being alive. I would over-analyze text messages and phone calls from friends or family, and I would believe my mind telling me that they didn’t like me, that they wanted to see me fail, or they didn’t care if I was alive or dead. The thoughts became so overwhelming that I just feel like I was  drowning and can’t do anything about it. I would purposely scratch at my skin, sometimes making it bleed, because that was my comfort zone to calm myself down if I was having an anxiety attack or depressive episode. Overcoming anxiety is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and even though I’m still not there yet completely, I’ve made progress since the age of 12. I can go into public areas without thinking people are staring or laughing at me, I can call and make my own appointments, and I reach out for help when I need it the most. My anxiety disorder still hangs over me but it no longer controls me and that in itself is a massive accomplishment. I’ve come a long way with both my anxiety and depression, and for that, I will always be proud of who I’ve become.

Of course, I still have bad days, weeks, even months. Days where all I feel is emptiness and the thought of being happy is never going to happen, but I’m definitely stronger than I was a few years ago and I’ll be even stronger in the years to come. I’m not letting my illnesses win this battle. If you don’t have a mental illness, it’s hard to understand them and you may think it’s easier to leave that person in the dust instead of just being there but it’s not. All that person needs is for you to be there, talk to them, listen to them and love them. I’ve lost a lot of important people in my life because of my illnesses, some I thought would be in my life forever and I only have one thing to say to those people, thank you for leaving because you’ve shown me that I didn’t need you to be strong and you’ve also shown me the people that were willing to stay in my life despite what was going on. To the people who have stayed during my bad days, thank you. I am so lucky to have the friends and family I have, the ones who pick me up when I’m down and support me with everything I do.  I wouldn’t be here or the person I am today if it wasn’t for all of you. You’re never alone in your journey, life isn’t easy but it’s worth living.


Worth Living Ambassador Taylor Bickerton

My name is Taylor Bickerton, I am nineteen years old and I am attending Seneca
College-Markham Campus for their three-year Business-Administration Marketing advanced
diploma program. I am strongly passionate about mental health and I strive to raise awareness
about the importance of it. I believe mental illnesses should not be stigmatized and pushed to
the side. This is why I decided that it was important and crucial to me to get involved with
Worth Living.

Four Goals to Help Achieve Success in a New School

My school journey has been a roller coaster ride, with many ups and downs. I performed
well in high school and pushed myself to achieve high marks, as well as being involved in
several clubs, committees, and taking the time to volunteer and attend events in communities:
locally, nationally, and even on a global scale. I did this while knowing that I was living with
anxiety and depression.

Things took a turn when I went off to Carleton University for their Global and
International Studies program in September 2017. It was a completely new environment. I did
not know anyone and my immediate family lives back in Nova Scotia. Yes, I made friends and I
met my boyfriend there. However, there as a lot of negatives: bad residence experience, not
enjoying my program, worrying all the time, not getting the grades I wanted, and burning
myself out completely. I attempted to go back, but in a different program in September 2018. I
could not survive one day of class and stepping foot onto campus made me uncomfortable. I
was out of school for a few months, worked full time and am started back up this month on
January 7th.

Going to a new school is a huge change for me. I decided to set four goals for myself to help
keep myself on track and to be as mentally well as I can.

1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Something that I have adjusted to doing before heading to work the next morning is
laying out everything that I need. I make sure my clothes are washed, my outfit is laid
out, I make my lunch and put my snack in my bag, make sure my electronic devices are
charged, and more. This way I can go to bed with a clear mind knowing that the most
important things I need to do are complete. I plan on continuing this with going to
school full time and in my workplace, part time.

2. Use a Daily Planner
My brain runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is always thinking,
thinking, and worrying constantly. It is beneficial for me to not keep things bottled up
and to make my mind clear. Having a planner and using it religiously will help keep my
anxiety at peace and will significantly increase my time management skills. I also have a
desk calendar and a calendar for my basement apartment kitchen.

3. Healthy Eating = Happy Belly + Mind
Healthy eating is something I could definitely improve on, especially while going to
school full time. The temptation of getting fast food or making ramen noodles is there,
and I know it always will be. However, while I was in university, even with an all access
meal plan, I should have eaten much better. I was not putting enough nutrition and
calories in my body. I know now that it had a negative effect on my academic
performance. I have to remind myself to eat properly every single day, especially since I
am taking Zoloft. A goal of mine is to meal prep and to plan out my breakfast, lunches,
and suppers. I am hoping that with these changes, that I will in fact have a happy belly
and mind.

4. Use Campus Resources to My Fullest Potential
It took me a long time to reach out for help while attending Carleton. It was not until
December 2017, that I visited the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities. I
completed an assessment for my mental health, and started going to counselling. I am
now not afraid of asking for help and support when needed. I know that Seneca is very
accommodating and inclusive. It is a goal of mine to reach out and visit their counselling
services. However, there are plenty more resources that are beneficial and would make
my experience extraordinary: getting involved in clubs and societies, volunteering,
attending study sessions, and reaching out to a tutor if necessary.

These are just four important goals that I have in mind for my fresh start and there are plenty
more. I have to remind myself that the past is the past. I learned from my experiences and I will
only become a stronger human being. I am excited, but scared. I have to remind myself that I am worthy, I am intelligent, and I can do this.

So here is to 2019, my new program and school, and whatever else is yet to come.


Worth Living Ambassador Frankie Samah

Hi I’m Frankie and I’m from Wales, UK.  I am a psychology teacher and postgraduate education psychologist. I am a women’s right activist, working with women’s aid to raising awareness and to break the silence. I am a mental health advocate and writer. I believe in counteracting the stigma around mental health and we should begin with the ideology. Instagram- Frankie Samah www.frankiesamah.com

Thriving After Major Depression

New research released in 2018, suggests epidemiological literature indicates that the orthodox view of depression as being chronic, recurrent,  and lifelong is hugely overstated.  Depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how we feel. However, too much emphasis is placed on it being a lifetime illness, and new research suggests we can recover and thrive after depression.

More and more people with mental health conditions are now told that their prognosis is gloomy.  This is somewhat ironic that psychopathology research spreads epidemiological gloom when in fact biographies of leading researchers reveal trajectories that go from severe disorder to productive living.

Elyn Saks tells us in her book The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey through Madness- her story of hearing voices as a teenager and harming herself repeatedly to becoming an accomplished lawyer and now a pioneering psychiatrist in the area of mental health law.

Kay Redfield Jamison’s book An Unquiet Mind tells us of her story of episodes of bipolar disorder to gaining control over her illness and now is a leading researcher in the field of bipolar disorder.

Marsha Linehan, who is a researcher in borderline-personality-disorder research, revealed how she had psychiatric hospitalization for two years in her youth.

There is a somewhat gloomy outlook predominantly for people with a diagnosis of depression which is noted over and over again especially in journals that are aimed at practitioners.  Here are a few examples-

  • “Depression is a chronic, recurrent, and often familial illness that frequently first occurs in childhood or adolescence.” (Brent and Birmaher, 2002, p. 667, in the New England Journal of Medicine).
  • “Depression is a chronic and recurrent condition, with each experienced depressive episode increasing the risk of future episodes (Solomon et al., 2000).” (Hitchcock et al., 2016, p. 92, in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry).
  • “During the last decade, researchers and clinicians have become increasingly aware that major depression, which was once thought to consist of discrete episodes of illness followed by full recovery, is both chronic and recurrent in many patients.” (Keller, 1994, p. 205, in European Neuropharmacology).

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is now the foremost source of disability worldwide.

However, there is hope. A team of psychologists led by Jonathan Rottenberg at the University of South Florida proposed there is a significant subset of people who recover and thrive after depression, yet research into this area is rare. Therefore, they propose a definition for “high functioning after depression” (HFAD) arguing that the advice given to people with depression need not be so gloomy, and layout key areas for future research.

Rottenberg cites 3 studies and they find that an average of 40-50% of people who experience an episode of depression don’t go on to suffer another episode.

It may be somewhat irresponsible for me to suggest everyone who has had a diagnosis of depression can never experience it again, that’s not what I am saying.  It’s more with proper care, well-being, and treatment,  people with depression can experience a full life. A further reason High Functioning After Depression needs to be further researched is that it is part of the truth, which  practitioners, patients, public, and everyone are owed.

For me, it opens new questions to be explored- Are people who are HFAD more likely to have sought help? If so, what type of support did they receive? Are there more HFAD’s in a specific region/country/area? (One of the studies cited was conducted in Sweden- is depression better treated there?) Can we adopt these strategies? Does depression itself play a role in triggering the long-term improvement seen in HFAD? (Something similar has been proposed for trauma). Can we apply what is learnt about HFAD to enhance clinical interventions?

The one thing I am sure of is the more people who speak out about their own experience with mental health, the stigma attached to it will slowly disappear. A growing number of celebrities testify to the possibility of renewal after psychopathology, to name a few- Lady Gaga, my daughter’s hero- Dwayne Johnson, Adele, Miley Cyrus, and Demi Lovato.

I cannot tell you the number of people who have told me they don’t want to go to the doctor’s and be labelled with ‘depression’, as it would affect their future or other just as outdated views.  If we have correct medical care and we look after ourselves, there is a high chance that depression won’t be recurring.  Far from signalling a lifetime prison sentence, the onset of depression can herald a delimited period of suffering, after which we can emerge as highly functioning, successful members of the community, who are  loved and are  love.  Let’s start 2019 with a new narrative.

If you are feeling that you may be experiencing mental health issues, please consult medical care.

 

 


Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett


Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health

The Gray Area of Mental Illness

There is such a conflicting mindset when having mental illness. There are times when you want to be healthy and free, but there are also times when you either just want to give in to your illness and do what it tells you or to just let it defeat you. Not only does having mental illness create a vicious cycle of questioning your own sanity but when adding thoughts that question whether or not you can be you without it just creates more emotional anguish.

I know that, for myself, I often feel that if I recover completely that I will no longer be the person that I have always been. I feel like I will be losing such a crucial part of my persona that I will be unrecognizable and that my past self would be erased. In many ways, this would be a beneficial outcome due to the detrimental impacts that my illnesses have had on me. However, they have also created connections for me and gave me strength in their development. Without my illnesses I would not be friends with many people, I would not see things with the same perspective, and I would most likely not be taking the same career path as I am now. I would be a different person altogether. Now I am in no way saying that I do not wish for recovery, but what I am saying is that I am scared of achieving it. Nobody wants to be sick, but many of us are not particularly fond of change either.

I fulfill many types of activities now more than ever before. One illness that I am slowly, but surely, overcoming is generalized anxiety. I can talk to new people without breaking into a cold sweat, I can push myself to make phone calls to book appointments, I can state what is on my mind to others when I am distraught, I reach out for help when I know that I need it. These are some things that I could have never done before. Even though this disorder still haunts me, it no longer controls me and that is something of which I will always be proud. Yes, of course I still struggle with it, but in light of the fact that it would drive me to skip school or have constant panic attacks. I have come a very long way. This is also extremely physically beneficial as well since panic attacks are so damaging to the body causing extra stress to the nervous system. I would have intense anxiety throughout the day which caused me to develop blotches all over my chest and neck (looking like a rash). I hardly ever experience them now for which I am grateful. When in anxiety-provoking situations, I would scratch at my neck and hands to the point where I would bleed and burst blood vessels. I rarely scratch myself anymore. Generalized anxiety is definitely a disorder that I wish to completely recover from so I can move on with my life and decrease the number of unnecessary barriers and stressors that I have.

Depression on the other hand is a completely different story. Even though I have made substantial progress with this disorder, it still continues to run my life. It continuously makes harmful decisions for myself, decisions that I know are wrong but that I continue to pursue anyway because the thoughts are so loud. It makes me push people away, it makes me hate myself, it makes me cry for so long and so hard that my eyes are nearly swollen shut the next day. It makes me tear myself to shreds, it shatters my spirit like glass, it devastates me, it makes me a burden on others, it makes me selfish, it devours me and yet, for some reason I cannot picture myself having a future without it. It is not that I do not strive for happiness and recovery in this domain, it is simply that it has been controlling me for so long that I feel that I will not be me without it.

I spend countless nights crying myself to sleep because of how much I believe that I have no worth. I agonize over actions and words that I cannot take back. I fantasize about what it would be like to disappear. I imagine what others would think or feel if I was gone. My thoughts are so compelling that it terrifies me every time I have them. It is not simply the essence of wanting recovery, anyone can want something. It is about whether or not a person has what it takes to use their will power in order to change what needs to be changed. A person requires extreme self-control and dedication in order to attain recovery and sufficient change. They cannot only want it, they need to accomplish it. So, the question is; do I want recovery? Yes. Do I have what it takes to change? Yes. Do I want to change? I am unsure. I know that is not the correct answer, but it is the honest one. Like I said, change is difficult and not particularly pleasant. However, in order to achieve recovery, it is mandatory to act upon it.

It is not something that will happen overnight. I will need those closest to me to continue to have patience and encouragement in order for me to see this through. I do not want to recovery just for myself, I want to recover for those I surround myself with. I do not wish to continue being a burden on others. I want to prove to myself that I can survive this even when I don’t see the point of it. That is where the gray area comes in. I want to be free, but I do not wish to lose part of myself even if it means it will destroy me.


Keith Anderson, Founder of Worth Living


I am a lawyer who had depression. I first went public with my depression 10 years ago with an article in the National Post newspaper, called How I Returned to a Life Worth Living. Since then, I have spoken at national mental health conferences, legal conferences, universities, and the Cape Breton Regional Police Service for their mental health training. I have also served on several Boards of Directors and Committees for mental health groups. One huge step in my recovery was my time volunteering with BringChange2Mind, a mental health advocacy group co-founded by Glenn Close. A few years ago, I put all my work under the brand Worth Living Mental Health, which is now active in several countries.

2019 – We Own This Year!

This tends to be the time when we reflect on the past year and look forward to a new year. I think we ought to do that throughout the year, but for the sake of convention, let’s start today. It is the first day of new dreams and goals.

On a personal note, last year was certainly one to remember, full of wonderful people and exciting times. It`s the people I get to meet and work with, in person and online, who made the year one of joy. I will often smile and feel better when I read your comments and posts. Our conversations tend to be the highlight of the day or week. A huge thanks to all of you.

But like most of us, there were challenges to address and overcome. I had the difficult but necessary occasion to dismiss a few people from my life. As we all know, the toxins that surface in our lives have no place. We don`t realize the heaviness of the weight that we carry until it is removed and then the light shines brighter. I will strive this year to stay ahead of that which brings me down.
So I begin this year knowing that I am in a very good place with opportunities ahead.

Worth Living had an incredible year with more people getting involved and many initiatives undertaken including blog posts, Spotify playlists, podcasts, presentations, wellness days, and a Facebook live forum where some Ambassadors shared their journeys.
Going forward, we will continue to have more blog posts, music, and podcasts.

Some Worth Living Events are already scheduled.

The Worth Living Conference is set for May 31 in Halifax with an incredible line up of speakers. I hope to see you there. We are looking at more Conferences and Wellness Days as well as Speaking Tours. We could host these in your city or community.

The Worth Living Run Ambassadors Program will have a Team in the Bluenose Marathon in Halifax this June. We have local runners and some coming from other provinces to participate. Please consider joining us. You could launch your own Run Ambassadors Program in your city or community.

One idea we will explore is a Worth Living App.

It is critical that we continue to share our journeys as we are making a difference by helping others while we help ourselves. No one is alone on this path to wellness. Each step is important, with some steps going forward, some sideways, and others backward. Every step, whether small or huge, leads us overall to that safe and comfortable place in time. Never give up.

One goal I have is to establish the Worth Living Policy Institute as a centre to bring together Worth Living Ambassadors and others to discuss the important issues facing people with mental health challenges. The Institute and discussions will be focused from the perspective that we, as people who know the darkness, bring to the conversation. We would issue and present papers and articles to be published. As well, we could include some discussions in podcasts and other means to engage the public. We need to get policy makers more in tune. I acknowledge that this will require time and work, but it all must start with an idea. Dreams do become reality. There was a day when Worth Living was just me!

All of this could not have been achieved without you. The support, help, and ideas from the Worth Living Ambassadors are all needed. You make my life better. You make Worth Living a more relevant, active, and current initiative.

All we want is the opportunity to have a hopeful, healthy, and happy life. We all deserve the best, a life worth living.

Please contact me if you have any ideas or suggestions. I am always looking for people to participate in Worth Living Activities, so please reach out.

I wish you well this year. This year belongs to us!


Worth Living Ambassador Nikki Opara

 

My name is Nikki Opara, I am 23 years old and a recent psychology graduate from California State University Fullerton. I am a Mental Health/ Lifestyle Blogger, with a passion for fighting the stigma around mental illness and encouraging young teens to never give up. I hope to attend grad school someday and pursue my masters in macro social work and global practice.  – Nikki ( Her Daring Thoughts ).

 Four Ways to Combat Negative Self Talk

Every one of us gets a negative thought or two that flows into our minds.  Not everyone is “Positive Nancy” 24/7 I guarantee you. But I will say this, the difference between you and the person next to you is that they have mastered the approach of combating Negative Self Talk when it comes. These are four things I am learning to do to help me combat negative self- talk.

  1. Recognize Your Negative Voice

The sooner you realize that you are your own biggest critic, the faster you will be at recognizing the negativity you are telling yourself. It was a big eye opener for me when I had to come to the realization that although I have had my share of bullies from school, I am actually my own biggest bully. I  can talk so low to myself to the point where I am in tears and wanting the day to be over. This is the most important step in combatting negative self- talk because now you know who to focus on, YOU. Because at the end of the day, YOU have the power to control YOU.

  1. Reality Testing.

Fact check your thoughts. Sit with it for a minute and ask yourself if the negativity you are saying over to yourself is factual or just your interpretation based on a current circumstance.

Okay I know this might sound like you’re doing too much, but I truly believe it is absolutely necessary. I was reading an article called ,“Challenging Negative Self Talk” by Ben Martin (PSY.D),  in this article, he elaborates on the idea of Reality Testing. This method helps to really differentiate on whether what you are saying to yourself is true or if you are jumping to negative conclusions

  1. Put Your Thoughts Into Perspective

In Ben’s article, he also mentioned another really good point. Putting your thoughts into perspective. A lot of times being anxious, at least for me, comes from the negative over-exaggerated stories I am telling myself. One of the most difficult things for us to do in an on-going rushed culture is to take a step back and put things into perspective. Take a minute to ask yourself,“ Will this matter in 5 years?”, “ Is this situation as bad as I am making it out to be?”, “ What are my best options?”

  1. Replace With Positive Affirmation

Replace those negative comments with positive affirmations.“ I’m actually going to be okay” , “ I am capable and smart enough to pass the next exam, I just need to study harder”. There is so much power that is given back to you when you follow all the past three steps and then come to the positive affirmations. You will notice that as you practice these methods, you feel more in control of your thoughts and what you allow your mind and body to entertain.

If there is something I have learned over the past 23 years of living, it is that there are already so many people in the world with negative things to say. You might as well be the nicest you can be to yourself. You owe it to yourself. You are going to be OKAY.