How Counselling Changed My Life

I couldn’t control my leg. Up, down, up, down, up. It jittered away as my mother and I waited in the call room.

A dingy smell wafted throughout the building, like when you open a old unused library book and all the dust particles flow out of it, that made me nauseous.

It became a reflex action, all the nervous energy flowed into my right leg. Beads of sweat dripped down my forehead, and my stomach turned as the counsellor opened the door to the waiting room and said, “Josh.”

My mother and I stood up, but she said, “I would like the first session to be with the patient, if that is OK with you, Josh.” I gave a worrisome look to my mother, and with her deep brown Portuguese eyes, she smiled at me. Quietly I nodded, and followed the counsellor, as light after light in the ceiling flickered on and off.

I didn’t make eye contact the entire time walking from the call room to her office. And when we entered, I sat in the furthest corner next to the window.

“I have a few questions for you,” she said. I nodded, and kept my gaze at the floor. It’s not that I was afraid, but that I was embarrassed to be there in the first place. Mental Health disorders have this stigma surrounding them, and I didn’t want people to think I had a social anxiety problem.

A few standard yes or no questions passed in our interview, so the counsellor could get to know me. Then a personal question caught me off-guard, “Have you ever thought of ending your life?”

My eyes darted up, and I made brief eye contact with her blue eyes. My heart raced and I realized how dangerous I could be to myself. I have had countless nights wondering how others would react if I was not around. Would they care? Would they be better off without me? In a knee jerk reaction, I replied, “No.” I couldn’t let this stranger into my dark secrets, yet.

The next session, after noticing how little I talked, my counsellor opted for a new tactic to get me more involved.

“Josh, I want us to try a game,” she said, and handed me a sheet of paper.

Little did I know at the time, but this was the turning point for my counselling, and I realized I could unveil those dark secrets.

I scanned the contents and was taken aback from the goals listed.

“Buy a shirt from a store, walk out, and turn around to return it.”

“Send back a meal from a restaurant, complaining the waiter/waitress got your order wrong, even though they gave you exactly what you ordered.”

Those words on the page felt like punches to my gut, and I gulped in fear just from reading them.

“What does this have to do with my situation?” I responded.

“This is a list of goals that will help you to get more social, and step out of your comfort zone.”

“I- I don’t know if I can do these.”

“Don’t worry, take a look at some of the other ones. I want you to take small steps. I can’t even do the t-shirt challenge, I’ve tried it and got scared at the thought of attempting it.”

The tension in that moment released. The bridge dividing us vanished into thin air. This counsellor, who seemed invincible, has dealt with similar problems to me and knows to a degree what I’m going through.


The scene described above is true.

It was during a dark time in my life, a time that I was never sure if I wanted share about with others. However, I feel being a Varsity student-athlete with the Vikes, I have a responsibility to be a role model for children and other people in the community.

I have been extremely blessed in my life. Being born into a caring family, having an amazing support group of friends, and been given the chance to pursue my running and writing dreams at UVic.

With that being said, I couldn’t pinpoint the reason why some days I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed, and isolate myself, despite having healthy relationships all around me.

Now, this isn’t a pity piece, and I do not want people to feel bad for me. I want to spread the word that mental health is a real disease, that needs to be treated like any other, and I want to bring mental health to the spotlight, with the Canadian Alliance Mental Illness Awareness Week coming up from October 1 -7.

UVic has amazing counselling facilities, and I would encourage anyone that feels overwhelmed to stop by second floor of the University Centre. Last year, UVic even ran a whole week dedicated to mental health awareness, showing this university is first-class when dealing with mental health problems.

It is gratifying to know I’m at a place that truly cares about their students.


Ray Bradbury put it best, “Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.”

Anxiety and depression are a disease, like any other, and need to be treated as one. There are many others that have similar stories to me about anxiety. For those of you out there, I want to let you know that the first step to talk about it is the hardest, and there is always someone willing to listen.

Thank you for reading,


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