By: Chelsea Dwarika, University of Calgary Distress Centre on Campus Blogger
To: Chelsea, September 2009
(Nervous, getting out of a multicoloured eye makeup phase, entering the first year of high school, still reeling from Warped Tour that summer, dreading gym class.)
Take care of yourself.
Your high school years will shape you in so many ways. It’ll be loads of fun, you’ll learn so many cool things, and you’ll make a few lifelong friends.
It’s also incredibly tough at times. You’ll have so many expectations to live up to from your parents, teachers, peers, and ultimately, yourself.
Soon enough, you won’t be able to evade the question of “What do you want to do with your life [after high school]?”
Juggling classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and being around 200 fellow teenagers everyday is not always going to be easy.
Take care of yourself. School is important, but your mental well-being is even more important.
In Grade 11, I got…sick. Stress was a huge factor. Poor eating and sleeping habits were another. Assignments began to pile up and cause even more anxiety, and so began an awful cycle. I was already pretty bad at Math, and then I missed two weeks of IB Calculus…meaning I had to catch up on two weeks of IB Calculus. Yikes.
Part of me had this stubborn feeling of invincibility – I didn’t need anyone, I wanted to feel strong and get through this rough patch on my own. I was determined to pull through.
The other part of me had been dreading getting out of bed every morning, overwhelmed by having to face another day. I felt like there was a cloud hovering over me, and it would never go away. I couldn’t focus in classes, I still wasn’t eating enough, I barely slept. I don’t even know how it started. ‘Sad’ didn’t cut it.
I was not okay.
It went on for months. My printer had a paper jam one morning as I was in a rush to print off a report and run to the bus stop. I ended up breaking down into tears on the kitchen floor. I remember yelling at my dad that I didn’t want to wake up anymore.
I learned a little bit about depression. It felt like a dirty word. It felt like my problems weren’t big enough to fit under that definition.
I worried that my friends thought I was just being over-dramatic. I fell deeper and deeper. I fought, and almost lost.
I can’t stress how lucky I feel to have made it out of those few months. It was the first of quite a few low points, but I learned how to cope, and how to deal with my problems in a more effective and healthy way.
I know now that asking for help when you just can’t deal isn’t weak. In fact, it’s the opposite. It takes strength and courage.
It’s taking a long hard look inside yourself, realizing you might not be okay, and accepting that you will be, and that by no means do you have to face this alone.
Talk about it.
Not everyone will know how to react. My parents were scared, and even though I know they love me, they just didn’t know how to help.
Luckily, there are lots of resources out there for you to reach out to! Today the world is talking more openly about the importance of acknowledging mental health issues, and dealing with them in a healthy and positive way. Know that you’re not any lesser of a valuable human being because of what you’re going through. Taking the time to invest in your mental well-being is so important and so worth it. Mental health issues take a toll on your day-to-day life, on your physical health, and even on the people around you.
Make an appointment with your school’s counsellor, or talk to a friend you’re comfortable with. Call Distress Centre or ConnecTeen and vent to a stranger who will listen without judgement.
Your community, your parents, friends, and teachers, hundreds of people who have struggled with mental health issues in their own lives will listen – reach out, and you’ll find support!
Take care of yourself.