Worth Living Run Ambassador Charlotte Flewelling


I am many things wound into one, the sum of my parts. A human, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, dog auntie. A runner, visual artist, communicator and community maker, a Worth Living Run Ambassador, sharing lived experiences with autism and mental illness (anxiety and depression) and a learning disability (ADHD). A person living her best life here and now, one step at a time. I am Charlotte Flewelling (CharFlew23)

Disclaimer this blog is my opinion based on my lived experiences. If something is stirred within you, seek help.

Suspended

I’m sitting here in a moment in suspension, a moment between the worlds reality and my reality. Floating in a state of bliss but not ignorantly. This is where I’ll start… my bliss is a form of daydreaming. I tend to have my head in the clouds most of the time. I am far from the clouds. I observe life and people very deeply. I’m curious by nature and always have been.

I’m in love with the idea of stories about others or other things. This is the reason why I love writing, taking photos and posting to social media. I’m a huge word nerd and memory maker at my core.

I’ve been challenged and surprised by the community I’ve built. Everyday I’m grateful for it and most days without even knowing, it helps me!

Some of my favourite moments have been on the run. This is why I proudly represent you, Worth Living, as a Run Ambassador. Running has given me a reason to continue and not give up. I’ve had many struggles and continue to go with the ebb and flow “ups and downs” of life.

Growing up and in adulthood, being active has been key to my sanity. I’ll admit, I’d be in a vastly different mindset and spot. Actions speak volumes and for me it can be as simple as an outdoor adventure, run, walk, bike or hike. Sometimes it’s treating myself to a solo coffee date, where if I want, I’ll randomly strike up a conversation with another person. Taking photos of what I’m doing or seeing around me is another creative outlet.

My autism is the biggest mystery still. My diagnosis was in February 2014. I get that some traits, like talking to myself (scenario repeating) can be scary. It’s not scary, just my way of compartmentalizing all the virtual and real noise of life. It’s how I make sense of the world. It’s key to helping me with my creative and memory making moments. It also can be a worse nightmare.

I was left alone on a group hike in 2017. This was the first time I had an extreme rolling thought experience. I’ve been taught to think best case scenario, not in this moment. The rolling thoughts were how to survive the hike, figure out my path to safety (end of trail), and would my parents see me again. I was only 10-15 mins behind the group. The worse part…I was in Fundy National Park with a group of on duty and off duty park staff. This is where I survived and thrived. Mindset from that moment on was challenged, flipped, and served. I was considered lost in the park according to some other staff. I was on my way up to the last rally point when I found that out. I learned that my survival instinct is pretty apt and that I was ready to challenge myself. Later that year, tripping on an uneven sidewalk on my first half marathon, I was challenged again. I’m proud to say that I am a half marathoner.

The moral of all the situations and moments I put myself into is this…expect the unexpected, know that there’s something there to remind you and that as a human, we are able to do and be whatever we set our minds to. Go ahead! The world needs more real and less fake! Your story is part of you, not the whole you. We are in this together ~~ Charlotte Flewelling


Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier


Hello, I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. I strive to connect with others and share my struggles of mental health and trauma.

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

I am just quietly surviving. And at this point in my life it is all I can do. There is no right way to be a victim. But there are better ways to be a victim. A better victim than I was, than I am. The world wasn’t built for people like us. People who float somewhere between victim and whatever it is that I feel that I am. Someone deserving of what happened to them. Someone who asked for it. Someone who wanted it.

I did say stop. I did push his hands away. Sometimes. But there were times when I just lay there still, unsure of how to navigate the trespassing of my body. But you can’t say no to a question that was never asked.

It could have been worse. It could be worse. I could still be stuck in a violent situation. I could have been held at gunpoint, been a victim of sex trafficking. But my story is plain, and it is simple. I was violated by a man who mistook my kindness for willingness, my silence as agreement. He mistook my desperate need for validation as something more than simple teenage confusion that it was. It may not seem that bad, but it was bad enough to leave seething wounds. Bad enough to leave me living life in fear of bad men dressed in good men’s clothing.

Some people ask, “Why are you so angry?”
All I can think of is “How can you possibly not be?”
With other trauma the crime scene belongs to a car or a house or a battlefield
With rape your body is the crime scene
You can’t ever leave it
You must learn to live in the wreckage
The dress I wore I can no longer wear without feeling his hand slide underneath it
I pray for a day my body feels like it belongs to me instead of just property
I pray for a day I stop flinching every time my lover touches me
I feel like a collection of puzzle pieces made up of every man who’s ever hurt me
But the pieces never fit together quite right and the edges are sharp
Each a piece of glass I am now trying to extract
I never threw out the underwear, but I washed the blood stains out
I’m still trying to figure out what kind of bleach works best for the wounds in my heart.

My body has been through so much.
I’ve cut it, I’ve burned it, I’ve starved it.

But no matter what I do, my body is still here. Still standing. Still breathing. Still not giving up.

Quietly surviving.


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

Even in the Darkness, this is a Memory I Would Not Change

If you were to ask me what my fondest memory is, it would not be one that you would guess right away if you know me well enough. Some of you would probably guess that time where I sang in front of one hundred people in the fifth grade on a school trip. Others would guess the time that I won some awards for plays that I participated in during high school. Maybe you would guess that it was the night of my prom or the first time I saw Marianas Trench live. Most of you would probably assume that it was when I met Marianas Trench for the first time a couple of months ago. Although these are some great memories and experiences that I had the privilege of being a part of, none of these qualify as my “fondest memory”.

The day that I hold dearest to my heart is graduation day. It was not because I was finally leaving high school (as most of you may think). It was not because of the gifts I received in honour of this momentous event. It was not because there was a party to celebrate afterwards. It was because of the environment. I never enjoyed being at school, at least not really anyways. Going to school was always a hassle for me, I never wanted to be there. But the evening of my graduation I had almost all of the people that I held dearest to me in the crowd supporting me. I was anxious and I was a little bit scared. Clearly, since my leg was jumping up and down like the energizer bunny. I hate crowds and audiences. I wish I could say that I always have, but the matter of the fact is that I was once actually very outgoing and loved being in front of people. Sadly, that went away. But that didn’t matter. Because even though I was nervous, I was still excited. I was with the people that I had spent the past fourteen years growing up with. My close family members were in the crowd cheering me on. Having both of my parents as well as my sister and brother there for me during big life events is always heartwarming to me. People that I cared about very much and who cared about me at the time were also there. That is what made it so damn amazing.

I was also valedictorian which was absolutely terrifying since I was so nervous, as previously stated. But I was finally able to do something memorable during my high school experience. I got to recount funny and meaningful memories that I had made with my classmates. I got to express my gratitude towards my teachers and thanked them for their knowledge and dedication. However, I think my biggest achievement during the speech was making nearly every spectator in the audience cry or at least shed a tear. Either from laughing too hard or hearing something incredibly deep coming from me. Either way, I still believe it to be an accomplishment. But it was not just the ceremony that makes it my fondest memory. I was finally able to share something with someone that I cared for very much afterwards. It was a moment that I will never forget.

I’m sure you are wondering why any of this matters. Well, even though that night will always be my favourite memory, it still pinches when I think about it now. It hurts me to think of this night because it went by so quickly and so much has changed since then. It has only been two years since I graduated high school. It is weird because it feels like just yesterday but a million years ago too at the same time.

I thought that once I graduated that I would be happy, and that life would get better from then on. I definitely overshot. Because even though I was struggling as badly as I was in high school, that pain does not compare to that of today. My heart aches at this memory because I have burned bridges with the people I cared about the most. It aches because I have not been as genuinely happy as I was since that day. It aches because I cannot go back. It aches because everything has changed. I still hold this memory close to me, but it is one that hurts the most too.

I am thinking back on the people that were once there; the compliments I had once received and rightfully earned; the smile that had to be pried off of my face. I think back on this most often even though it hurts I can feel happiness in my pain. At least, somewhat anyway.

I am not okay right now. I think I am worse than I was in high school. I don’t know what to hope for anymore. I wish I could take things back. I wish I could recover completely from this illness and maybe one day I will. But, for now, I just need to be hopeful and keep on thinking that if I got through the hard times once, that I can do it again. The road to recovery is not straight; it never was. I guess I am taking a detour once again, except this time I need to do it by myself. Even if I no longer have some of the people that I could always count on, I still need to keep fighting. I need to do it for myself. Because I am not living in this world to please other people, I am living so that I can continue to prosper in life for myself. If that means I need to let go of things that I cannot change, then I will learn how to do so.

I will leave you with this.

I Lay Here

I lay here,
In a body of water.
Nothing but water surrounds me
For miles.

I have no life jacket.
I have no rope.
I cannot see the shoreline.
I have nothing,
But an anchor,
Attached to my ankle.

The water is not clear.
The water is not blue.
The water is not polluted.
The water is black.

The black darkness engulfs my body.
It consumes me.
I do not scream.

Not because I am unafraid.
On the contrary.
I am terrified.
I am paralyzed completely.

I lay here in the water,
Floating on my back,
Screaming from the inside.
There is no point in screaming,
No one can hear me.

Even though I am paralyzed,
I can feel myself sinking.
The weight of the anchor,
Slowly pulling me down.

The sky above me is bright.
I stare at the clouds,
As they drift away in the sky.
I can feel it.
The emptiness of sinking,
Being alone.
I float into the abyss of nothing,
As if I had never been there before.

When after all this time,

I had never left.

By Jessie Fawcett


Worth Living Ambassador Michele King

Hi! My name is Michele and I live 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.

 

12 Things I Have Learned from My Anxiety this Year

  1. Just because you make me FEEL like there will be impending doom doesn’t make it true.
  2. I can sit WITH you. I don’t have to avoid you or try to overpower you. In fact the more I sit WITH you the more I realize that I am safe and the more clarity I get.
  3. Never underestimate the power of taking slow deep breathes. Inhale for 4 counts exhale for 4 even slower counts (don’t forget to really push your belly out on the exhales—this is a calming technique, not a bikini competition).
  4. You do not play nice with physical symptoms from other medical issues. Actually, sometimes it feels like you guys are tag teaming against me.
  5. Speaking of medical issues…Because I am open about having you in my life, when I do have physical symptoms and medical things come up you are going to be blamed first and I am going to have to trust myself and advocate 10x more.
  6. Diet plays a large role with you. I recently found out I have Celiac Disease and have noticed a difference in you when I am eating gluten verses when I am not.
  7. Removing you isn’t the goal, learning to co-exist with you is.
  8. I don’t have to follow you down the catastrophizing thought cycle of worst case scenarios. I can get off this ride at any time—I just have to make the choice to.
  9. When you get really bad I need to, in my therapist’s words “Up the meditation”. Seriously, taking a few minutes to be present really takes away your power.
  10. Being in nature and “unplugged” really helps put you at ease.
  11. How to have Faith more and trust God. In my own personal experience the more you come at me, the more opportunities I have to lean on my faith and trust that God is in control.
  12. The more I am open about you, the more I am finding others who live with you too. It’s easy to want you out of my life but the reality is at some point everyone experiences anxiety to some degree. Talking about it helps.

 Shannon LeLievre – Co-Lead Worth Living Run Ambassadors & WL Event Planner

Shannon is an event planner and teacher who focuses on creating event experiences for fitness and health-related businesses. A graduate of the University of Ottawa, she has a degree in Human Kinetics and a Bachelor of Education which allows her to combine her passion for fitness and health education as she inspires others to pursue an active lifestyle. Her website showcases her event history and features a blog addressing hot topics in the fitness and health industry. Shannon is an avid runner and  has launched a podcast called Run For Your Life with a Phoenix-based blogger, Melissa Kahn, which shares stories about the power of running and fitness in maintaining mental health.

The Power to Choose

I’m a 40 year old mother of two little kids so driving by myself is a luxury, and aside from putting on a one-woman show for passing drivers, it’s also my time to think. On my drive this evening, I couldn’t help but think about a post I saw on Facebook earlier today which mourned the loss of another first responder. As the sun set behind me, I kept wondering why did I escape the darkness and he didn’t?

I’m a former military spouse so the struggle our veterans and first responders face is always on my mind and today’s news hit me in the gut. I’m also a teacher and a mother, so when I saw a Twitter account dedicated to encouraging a 15 year old who has survived eight attempts on her life, I felt like screaming in frustration! Why are we failing these people who don’t hesitate to serve us? How can we make a difference and help young people who are unable to see that tomorrow will bring a brighter day?

As I drove along, singing to my carefully curated playlist of uplifting songs, I realized that maybe the only way to help them is to keep helping myself.

I won my fight over the darkness but it’s a daily battle not to let myself sink. Tragic stories in the news threaten to knock me off course but decades of cognitive behavioural therapy and reading and listening to podcasts and surrounding myself with motivational people have taught me that although I didn’t choose depression or anxiety, I can choose to heal. I get to choose to find health and happiness.

There is so much power in having the opportunity to choose the direction your life is going in. Talking to my doctor back in 2000 and telling her I was struggling was a choice. Joining the Worth Living team was a choice. Sharing my story and writing this blog post are choices. I find healing in every word that hits the page and if my words can help even one person make a different choice, then maybe I don’t need to scream in frustration anymore.

Why did I escape the darkness? I don’t really have an answer for that and I doubt I ever will. I accept that we will lose more first responders, and veterans, and teenagers to the battle we fight too silently. We need to make noise. We need to scream out our stories of victory and of happiness. We need to scream out that we’ve been there too and no human on earth is ever alone in the challenges they face.

I choose to not read those news stories because I know my sense of peace depends on not knowing the details. I choose to run and exercise because I know my heart and head depend on it. I choose to see the kindness in the world while the darkness looms. I choose to live because I’ve decided that life is worth living.

If you are not sure you can choose to face tomorrow, choose to trust me when I tell you that there is hope. There is healing. There is health. There is happiness.

 

 


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.