Worth Living Contributor Jessie Fawcett

Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m an X University (formerly Ryerson) Alumni with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Currently, I am pursuing my career as a Social Worker by supporting folks in securing employment and discovering opportunities based on their personal desires and needs. It has been extremely rewarding and I am excited to see where this journey takes me. Mental health has impacted my life for nearly a decade now and I have found that in sharing my experiences and my story with others that not only has it helped me cope with my mental illnesses but it has also helped others feel less alone and that in itself is a gift.

Depression is many things, but one thing that it is not is simply feeling sad all of the time. Sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Depression is a debilitating entity that can take over a person’s life. It is presented in many ways. It sits at the end of your bed while you’re laying there, feeling trapped and suffocated by it, unable to move. It torments you constantly, making the simplest of things like showering, getting dressed, or eating the most daunting of tasks. It drains you entirely, either making you sleep for 15 hours straight and waking up exhausted or haunting your dreams, keeping you awake all night. It makes you push people away and resent friends for not being present at the same time. It’s excruciatingly debilitating loneliness that makes you question whether life is even worth living anymore. It is more than just sadness.

Longing for the Rain

Let me tell you about what is one of the most frustrating parts of struggling with mental illness. 

You see, it is no secret that I have been struggling with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder for just short of a decade now. I have been pretty candid about it. I struggled profoundly in high school which continued throughout university. Well, I have since graduated from both and things have not changed much.

 The challenges I faced in high school were different from the challenges I faced in university, but I was able to overcome them (to an extent). So, you would think that in overcoming certain challenges that perhaps mental illness would lay off a bit. I can confirm that, in my case anyway, that is simply not the reality. In fact, I would say that I struggle just as much now as I did in high school except in different ways. And this is what is frustrating, being able to see how fortunate you are and how many amazing things you have accomplished and still being in the same amount of pain as before. Success does not equate happiness. 

I have a lot of things in my life right now that I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have. I have a roof over my head, a reliable vehicle, a wonderful and rewarding career, food in the fridge, and a few people in my life who love me. I recognize the privileges I have and how lucky I am to have these things and people in my life which not everyone can relate to. 

I may not always be able to appreciate how fortunate I am, but I try really hard to remind myself everyday of how much worse things could be, even though it is not a competition. So, with all the things I am grateful for, why is it that I am still struggling so severely? Why is it that I am still so unhappy? Why will my depression not allow me to remain content for any extended period of time? Why does my depression feel the need to constantly convince me that I am not worthy of happiness, that everything will come crumbling down, and that everyone will always leave me eventually? Why is it so difficult for me to remain happy for the moment without questioning it instead of being numb and waiting for everything to come burning down? Before, I used to agonize about going to school, (high school and university) stressing over the challenges I was experiencing and the work I had to complete. But now, it’s different. 

I wake up in the morning and the first thing I do is look out the window. Is it sunny or is it raining? If it is sunny, will it rain at some point? Will it rain tomorrow? Can it at least get cloudy? I don’t really understand why I ask myself these things, hoping for the rain. I think it’s because I just hope for the weather to match my mood so that I don’t feel bad about lying in bed most of the day (excluding work hours of course). Maybe it’s because I feel that crying all day on a rainy day is more acceptable than crying all day on a sunny day. Maybe it’s because my tears are a reflection of what the sky is feeling which is expressed through the rain. All I know is that I wake up disappointed if it is sunny outside because I feel like I must wear a mask again in order to hide the rain and clouds inside of me. Why does my mental illness not allow me to enjoy the sun? Because I think the majority of people would enjoy a sunny day over a rainy one on most occasions. 

Why must I always keep myself busy? And I mean…always. After staring out my window in the morning, I get ready for the workday, and I work all day. Even during my lunch break, I must keep myself occupied. Whether that be by using my phone as a distraction the whole time or going to Walmart to get groceries. Why is it that after work I convince myself that I must go somewhere no matter what or do something or find someone to do something with? Why can’t I just be okay with being by myself doing nothing? Why must I always fill the silence? Why can I never enjoy a weekend by myself alone in my apartment?

It’s no secret that I go home to be with my family almost every weekend. Maybe it’s because I crawl out of my skin when I’m alone, feeling like a stagnant glass of water that’s been sitting on the counter for a week. Maybe it’s because my mind cannot and will not stop racing a million miles a minute constantly going over and over things that are out of my control. Maybe it’s because I spiral when I’m alone. Maybe it’s because my loneliness has been so debilitating that I give myself reasons to be around others with the fear that, if I don’t, I won’t be able to control my thoughts. Why does my depression make me isolate myself from others but also crave their attention and affection at the same time? Why does my depression tell me as soon as I’m alone that, all of a sudden, there is no reason to keep fighting?

Why does my depression feel the need to constantly tell me that everyone I love will leave me? Well, perhaps that one is from the trauma I have experienced both in the past and recently. I’m losing trust and faith in friends and relationships, and this makes it really hard to persevere when every fiber in my body is telling me that nobody cares, everyone hates me, and that I am a horrible and atrocious human being. I’m sorry that I was not good enough, I’m sorry that I have toxic traits, I’m sorry that I could not always be present, I’m sorry that I let so many people down. I wish you would have given me the opportunity to show you that I can be different. 

My mental illnesses are not justifications or excuses for bad behaviour although they can be useful in explaining certain patterns and reactions. Please know that I am trying to be the best version of myself possible and that self-reflection is a very challenging skill to master but I am always trying. 

Why can’t I just be thankful for the friends that did stay; for the friends that still care even when things are hard? Why is it so hard for me to express to my loved ones how much I love and appreciate them? Because I do. I think the world of the people that stayed, I just don’t know how to express my love into words (believe it or not). Not being able to express feelings with certain people brings this sense of guilt that I will never be able to shake.

I think that’s another challenging aspect of living with mental illness; the guilt that comes with it. The guilt of being a burden is almost always experienced by folks with mental illness, which I too possess.

But I also have another kind of guilt. The guilt of being high-functioning and depressed. I wake up in the morning, make my bed, and get ready for the day (noting that some days getting out of bed is impossible), but most days I get up, get ready, work all day, make dinner, stay busy, get ready for bed, and wash, rinse, repeat. I am able to maintain good hygiene, clean my apartment (unless things are really bad), leave the house, work, and take care of myself. And I am so lucky to be high functioning and for that I am utterly thankful. Yes, I do experience days where I can’t get out of bed, I can’t brush my teeth/hair, and showering seems just as daunting as running a marathon. 

But I am still able to do these things and live a generally “normal” life for the most part. Whatever that means. But, in doing so, I always feel that because I am able to do these things,  I am not sick enough and that I have to prove myself, that because people have it worse than me that my pain isn’t valid. These statements are simply untrue, and I need to remind myself of this as does anyone else with high functioning mental illness.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, as I have done in the past, is that it does not matter how many things you have in life or how privileged you are, anyone can experience mental illness, no matter their life circumstances. I have many beautiful possessions and people in my life that I am eternally grateful for. I have a job that I love and that provides me with security that not everyone is lucky enough to have. I know that I am doing well in life and that people think highly of where I currently am on this journey. 

But at the same time, please try to remember that it doesn’t matter how many amazing things, opportunities, and possessions people have, folks can still be suffering. You never know what someone may be dealing with. I too am guilty of judging others and being jealous, but I try to remind myself that you never know where someone is in their journey; they may be in the best place of their life, or they may be falling apart at the seams. Be kind and remember happiness is not solely based on our accomplishments but rather through the enjoyment we find within ourselves and our lives. I’m still working on finding mine.

Worth Living Ambassador Shaelynn Baxter

Hello, my name is Shaelynn Baxter. After acquiring my Social Services diploma at NSCC Marconi Campus in 2019, I now attend Mount Saint Vincent University and I’m studying for my Bachelor of Arts Combined Major with Family Studies and Psychology degree. I’m working towards obtaining a Social Work degree. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and that’s how I began to dedicate my time to helping others in need. Mental Health has had a huge impact on my life and I’m happy to be able to finally start sharing my own experiences.


The year 2020 has been a blessing for some, and for others a nuisance. This year has been all about testing how strong you are, especially when it comes to mental health. I’ve been tested this year like no other. My mental health was on a decline since the start of the year and then I came to find out I wouldn’t be returning to Halifax to finish my second year at university as it decided to close its doors for the year and hold classes completely online. I cried for quite a few days after that announcement, knowing I wouldn’t be able to return to the city I loved to live in, not being able to see any of the great people I met, and not being able to see my older friends who moved to Halifax anymore. It may only be a 4-hour drive from Cape Breton to Halifax, but with the craziness that’s in the world today, who could take the chance?  

I’ve been having more and more low days than I’ve had good days this year and I’ve been tested in every way imaginable. From learning how to deal with online courses, and not being able to receive the help you would if you were in the classroom, to my car being in an accident two times within a two month span, neither time being at fault. Sure, people will say “cars are fixable!” or “All university students are in the same boat, we’re learning to deal!” but for someone with anxiety and depression, it starts to take a toll and you end up asking yourself how much more you can take before you completely break down and give up. I tend to stay away from people who say “oh well you could always have it harder” because that may be true, but when you have a mental illness(es), sometimes you feel like the world is working against you and only you. I think it’s totally okay to feel that way and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way sometimes.  Somedays, it’s hard seeing the good in every day and personally I haven’t seen good in a while, lately my days have been nothing but gray. I know it’ll get better with time and I know I’ll have ups and downs and start seeing yellow again, but I’ve learned that you can be upset or frustrated with materialistic things and you can feel like the world is only against you. That’s the way the world works and sometimes you do need to cry and let everything out so you can start to feel better. People may have it worse, but that shouldn’t invalidate your feelings in the current moment, and I stand by that. 

I almost lost one of the most important relationships in my life currently, I was becoming an extremely toxic person because of everything being thrown at me and I didn’t realize how toxic I truly became until one day when I was faced with the fact that my significant other was going to return home to England because he felt as if he couldn’t be in the relationship any longer. That was one of the biggest wake up calls I’ve ever faced. I realized I needed to change my ways to fix the relationship, and I had to stop relying on him to “stick around” no matter how ignorant I was being.  We’re doing good now, we are working together to heal our relationship, I’ve learned from my mistakes and that a relationship takes two people, not one, to make it work. I’ll always be grateful for the fact he decided to stay and see if we could rekindle the relationship instead of packing his belongings and returning home.

The reason I mention the above story is to show that sometimes, even when you truly don’t think you are, you can become the toxic one in your relationship, whether it be with your significant other, friends or family, it can be you and not them. Somedays, you must sit down and reflect on your actions and you can’t always blame your mental illness for the way you’re acting, I have learned that the hard way. The best advice I can give is that you reflect on your actions, admit your mistakes, and move on in a better direction and with a healthier mindset. 

All in all, this year has shown me how strong I truly am in ways that I didn’t think were possible. 2020 has been bad for most of us, but I think some were tested more than others. Even though this year has been extremely hard for me mentally, I’m also thankful for this year because I was given the chance to learn from my mistakes to become a better version of myself. 

Some days are always harder than others, but like I always say, life isn’t easy but it’s always worth living. 

Worth Living Ambassador Nikki Opara

Nikki is a Mental health/lifestyle blogger. She has a passion for ending the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness, while also sharing the brave stories of others as well. Nikki owns a blog called Spokenbyher ( Originally called “HerDaringThoughts”), where she has shared openly about her experiences with depression, self hate, anxiety and her passion for social change. She hopes that her writing helps one person remember that their life is worth living.

I do not want to speak for every black person. But I wrote this to really express how I have been feeling through all the current racial injustices. Although, if you can relate and learn from this as well, I have done my job.

4 Emotions We Are Feeling in the Black Community Right Now

Racial Trauma: “A form of race-based stress, refers to People of Color and Indigenous individuals’ reactions to dangerous events and real and perceived experiences of racial discrimination.” — Comas-Díaz, L., Hall, G. N., & Neville, H. A. (2019).

 Even if you were not at the scene when it happened, as a Black individual watching George Floyd’s video and having to come to terms with the sick reality of our society, it puts a psychological and emotional strain on that particular Black person and the Black community as a whole, whether they are aware of it or not. This is a topic that I think people do not take the time to be aware of and reflect on because if you did, you would keep the people around you accountable; you would have those difficult conversations with your friends and family to help challenge those hidden prejudices, racial biases and stereotypes.

I, as a young Black woman, have noticed this emotional and mental strain happen to me this past couple of weeks, as I went through a load of various emotions. I went from being in shock, to sad, to fearful, to angry, to overwhelmed with passion for change, back to being sad, to shocked, to almost wanting to put a few people in their place, if I’m being completely honest.

I thought about this scenario: imagine an abused child who is aware that his two parents are supposed to be there for him, love him and protect him. Instead, he experiences overwhelming amounts of physical and verbal abuse from them over and over again throughout his childhood and teen years. 

This goes hand in hand with the experiences of the Black community. Since you are little, you are taught that a police officer is one of the people who serve and protect. But as you get older, you begin seeing and observing, over and over again, that police officers are shooting and senselessly killing someone who looks like you and getting away with it.

“Racial trauma is unique in that it involves ongoing individual and collective injuries due to exposure and reexposure to race-based stress.”Comas-Díaz, L., Hall, G. N., & Neville, H. A. (2019). 

There are so many different emotions and feelings that occur in the Black community during this time. Everyone is different in what they are struggling with inside, but this is what I have come to observe:

  1. Confusion.

You know the role of a police officer is to protect and serve. But now, as you observe over and over again the people who look like you get senselessly murdered by police, you start to question what you have been taught since elementary school. You are trying to align it with what you are experiencing, and it does not match up. Confusion because as the Black Lives Matter movement is being pushed to the forefront, many are saying “All Lives Matter” — but that is not being carried out. That may be the goal, but it is not our reality.

  1. Fear.

You are having to deal with that unconscious fear: will that happen to me? Could that be my dad or my brother? “I am being pulled over; this interaction should not be a big deal, but if I am asked to take out my driver’s registration and I start reaching towards the glove department will he shoot? It happened to Philando Castile.”

  1. Anger.

There is the anger, knowing that a police officer raided the house of Breonna Taylor and shot her multiple times, yet still roams free. This is one of the many cases that boils the blood of the Black community; without protest and pressure, the people with power are not held accountable. Anger because of so many people lose sight of the root cause of this crisis and chaos: racism.

  1. Sadness and Exhaustion

When there is peaceful protest, it doesn’t seem loud enough, then people decide to be more reckless and loud with their protest but it is too destructive and violent. It is like running on a treadmill and not getting anywhere, and then being told how you are supposed to feel about it.

I share this to give you all a peek of the different emotions and feelings that take over the minute another video of the murder of a Black man or woman comes out. To hopefully remind you that at the end of the day, racism affects a person not only physically but also psychologically and emotionally.

But, what I found so profound is that even among the systemic racism and police brutality, the Black community comes out with doctors, lawyers, professors, creators, social workers, artists, photographers and so much more. So, do not get it twisted; we still and always will come out on top, even in the midst of injustice.