I grew up in a nice neighbourhood, I had a loving family and the best friends I could ask for. I had pocket money and I had access to community sport. My parents were able to give me every opportunity to thrive and be happy as a child. But I still ended up depressed.
My depression set in in high school, and throughout my life I have associated it with my history of concussions. I am happy to report that I am almost completely off my anti-depressants, and I haven’t experienced a severe concussion symptom in at least two months (although headaches do happen occasionally). I have come out the other side, stronger and wiser.
But, there is one thing that has stuck with me over the years.
“You have everything, why are you sad?”
This is what my mind would tell me, day after day. I am privileged, I have money for university, for sport. I was never abused, and my experiences with trauma were minimal.
“There is someone out there who has it worse.”
I would repeat this like a mantra in my mind over and over until I felt that my problems were so small and insignificant. I told no one about them.
It took me a long time before I admitted to myself that I needed help. I talked to my mom about it and my family doctor, and finally I started to see a therapist. I went on meds, and the fog started to lift (after a long adjustment period).
So, why, after all of this time – when I consider myself in good mental health – does the idea that someone had it worse than me still haunt me?
I often forget that mental health stigma is not just in the mind of observers, but it festers in the mind of the hurting as well. Convincing myself that I was better off than other people who were experiencing similar things ended up harming me more than aiding me. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t people in harder situations. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t have amazing things in my life that should have been making me feel happy.
It only means that we are all different. Every mental health case is different, and everyone experiences emotions differently.
This stigma that my problems must be unimportant perpetuated my depression. I think it brings up important questions about how we deal with mental health patients. Acknowledging different upbringings, backgrounds and gender is so important. But, we cannot compare them.
We must not.
My first blog post comes with a heavy heart, as a week and a half ago my friend and mentor Kaya Firth passed away in a tragic kayaking accident. When I received the news, I was consumed by sadness and anger. How could someone who was such a light in this world be taken from us? I didn't know how to express my feelings about this situation, and I wanted nothing more than to be able to have more time with her. Time I felt that I didn't have nearly enough of to begin with. I experienced emotions that felt out of control, I felt sad, angry and guilty for feeling that way when I knew that there were other people who knew her better than I did, and I couldn't even begin to imagine the emotions that they were feeling. I have been looking for a way to say good-bye to Kaya, and the only way I know how is to write.
They say that you don't know how special a person is to you until they are gone. I never understood that statement until now. I only knew you for a short time, and not nearly as well as I would have liked to, but you inspired me. I showed up to the first Ontarion volunteer meeting in September, excited about journalism, but with little experience under my belt. You told me not to worry and offered me advice anytime I might have needed it. I am sorry it took me a month and a half to write my first article, but thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for encouraging me to keep going even when I said I was too busy with other things. Thank you for putting your trust in me when you offered me the Canadian Press gig for the football game. Thank you for teaching me that I can be a writer, and I can be a journalist. Journalism is a career path that I had never really considered until I started working with you. Thank you for sending me your pitches when I couldn't make it to meetings. Thank you for always giving me constructive criticism and advice on my pieces. I know I have a long way to go with my writing, but thank you for inspiring me. I wish I could have gotten to know the person so many people were lucky to know. I wish I could have told you that I want to go to journalism school after Guelph and most of all I wish I could have thanked you for everything you have done for me.
I hope I can continue to honour you through writing,