How I Coped with Mental Illness in my First Year

This picture encapsulates how much I LOVED school. I was the queen of school spirit.

I have always loved school. I adore learning in a classroom, the community that school provides, and the practice of using my own voice in academia. Then COVID hit, my high school graduation was canceled, and my big move to UVIC was postponed: my world fell apart.

Suddenly I hated school. Everything was online, I felt no sense of community, and learning felt like a chore. With all of these things combined, I was crippled under the weight of depression and anxiety.

I could not eat; sleeping was near impossible; I loathed the thought of leaving my bed; I cut off all my friends. I was at rock bottom; but the good thing about rock bottom is that there is no place to go but up!

Halloween is my favourite holiday. This was the first time I spent it alone, but my anxiety prevented me from going out.

I had to trust those that loved me the most. My mother was integral in this. She pulled me out of bed and put me in therapy.

I had tried therapy in the past, but it had never worked. But my mom sought out a therapist that specializes in academic anxiety, and everything clicked. I needed to talk with someone who knew what kind of pressure I felt I was under.

Next, my family, doctors, and I decided that it was time to try out anti-depressants.

All of my friends had stigmatized mental health medication in the past, so I always had a negative opinion.

However, through my own self-reflection, I know there’s no shame. Mental illness needs as much attention as physical illness!

My amazing family, who were integral in my recovery.

But no mental health treatment is complete without A LOT of work on my own. I took my morning coffee with my mom over a walk.

I talked to my cousin every day on the phone to vent about how I was feeling. I drank smoothies when chewing triggered my nausea. And Hugs (lots and lots of hugs).

My dad took my to the island to clear my mind, but we never skipped a mental health walk!

I am a part of the UVic Dance Company. I danced in high school, but never thought I would have the capacity to dance after first year.

To maintain my positive mindset, I started volunteering at a non-profit youth mental health clinic to help those that were going through similar experiences.

I ended up landing a job at the clinic in my final summer living on the mainland. This job allowed me to be in an environment where mental health came first. For me, this was essential.

Slowly but surely, I started to feel like myself again. I still love school and love learning–and am a member of three clubs!

If I had to choose one sentiment that got me through, it would be that the one thing that would be worse than how I was feeling, would be giving up.

Not everyone will be able to emulate my process, but there are many resources out there (shout out to UVic Student Wellness Centre) that are available to you.

You can do it, even if you have to ask for help.

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