Dec 2, 2020
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
My story with mental illness began in March 2010. I was completing my final year undergraduate research project at a local university. I was preparing my final presentation for my project. I began to not eat properly, not sleep and had increased stress levels. I was spending most of my time at the campus doing long hours and then continuing my work when I got home. As well, I was volunteering with a local organization and I began to have symptoms, but at that point I had lost touch with reality but did not know that I was.
My undergraduate supervisor called me one day, and I said something concerning and she ended up calling the ambulance which came to my place and took me to the local hospital. I ended up being hospitalized for two months on a psychiatric ward. I underwent many tests as the doctors were unsure what exactly was going on with me. I don’t recall a lot of my exact thoughts while I was in hospitalized, however, I do remember not understanding why I was there. I thought everything was going fine with me.
at that point I had lost touch with reality
During my stay, I was told that I was going through a psychotic episode. I was started on medication. My health care team, family and supervisor suggested that I go home to my parents to recover. I felt anger and frustration as I had worked so hard during my undergrad and final year to achieve my degree. I was told that due health conditions, and my marks up until the point I got sick, that I had passed my courses prior to writing final exams for that semester which resulted in me having enough credits to receive my degree! I was so excited and proud of myself. However, I was also disappointed how I ended up completing my degree. The psychiatrist agreed that I could attend my convocation and was discharged a week or so after. I still had thoughts of pursuing my Master of Science, but because of my illness, I put that on hold until January 2011.
When I was home that summer, I still was not feeling 100 per cent. I had residual symptoms and did not feel quite like myself for some time. Every night I would go to bed questioning myself and my ability to do daily tasks. When I went back to the campus to study again, it didn’t feel the same and I felt ‘out of place’. Eventually, I began to have depressive and anxiety symptoms and was started on an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication. I tried to stick with the master’s program for six months however, I just couldn’t get comfortable in my own head and environment. I was working with a social worker at that time and he reframed my thoughts of “quitting the program” to “leaving the program.”
This reframing helped me a lot in making my decision to leave the program less difficult. Although, it was one of the hardest decisions I made thus far in my life.
When I left the master’s program though, I still felt like I did not complete my goal of pursuing further education. I took some time (a couple of years) to look for jobs with my bachelor’s degree, however, nothing was coming up-few interviews and no offers. I was feeling frustrated again. I began to research other two- to three-year programs at the local college which was different from the college I completed my bachelor’s degree at. I applied and was accepted into a program and graduated from the program two years later (2015), after a move to a different city in the middle of the program. I achieved this diploma with a lot of support from health care professionals, family, and friends.
Work-life balance is very important to my routine
I completed my final placement during my diploma in acute care mental health. I chose this because of my own experience in the mental health system. During my final placement, I applied for a job and went through the interview process, and I ended up being one of the successful candidates. I am still currently working with this organization and became a permanent staff in January 2019.
Some of my coping strategies during my struggles with my mental illness included exercise, social support time with friends and family, and eating nutritious food most of the time. Work-life balance is very important to my routine too. Adhering to my medication regime and following up with my mental health team was useful in preventing relapse during the past 10 years.
Overall, I would say I’m in a good environment and headspace. COVID-19 is taking a toll on my mental health right now but trying to do things that I have control of including previously mentioned exercise, nutrition, and good sleep patterns.