Toxic Friendships

SO I just finished binge watching the new netflix series “13 Reasons Why” (yes I should be studying for exams but this was worth it) and if you guys haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you do. It is about a girl who is bullied throughout high school to the point where she ultimately decides to commit suicide. The experiences the characters go through make this series extremely relatable. As I was watching it, I’ve connected things that have happened in my life to the show, and I think that is why I probably cried every episode (but I cry when I watch anything, it can be a comedy and I’ll cry, I’m an emotional person okay?).

I’m not going to give the show away to you guys, but I thought I would talk about an experience of mine that may help you make decisions about your friendships. Have you ever been in a toxic friendship? Or maybe you currently are in one and do not realize, or do not want to realize.

I was best friends with someone for years. Every single secret or big thing that happened in my life, this person was the first to know, before my own parents. Some things you just don’t tell your parents, even if you realize you should have. Every person needs a friend, someone they can talk to and open up to about situations you wouldn’t disclose to just anyone. Things started changing, this person began to put me down, talk behind my back, and tell some of the personal things I have told her to others. I am not a confrontational person, which sometimes SUCKS, because during this time I still remained her friend, because I did not have anyone else. We were known as a pair, everyone knew we were inseparable, so imagining us not as friends was strange.

I would ask why she did things but she would deny it all. I knew she was lying, but I did not want to be alone. I am an introvert in the sense that she introduced me to people and brought me out to parties, I never did that stuff on my own. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, I was so afraid to do something wrong because I thought she would make fun of me again, or tell other people my secrets out of spite. She would be happy and normal around me, but once I was gone she was different. She would talk about me to her other friends, and I still don’t understand why. I never did anything to hurt her or to betray her trust, but it was like a Jekyll and Hyde relationship!

The turning point was when I had a traumatic experience happen to me, and I immediately called her. I told her what happened, but she didn’t believe me. She also didn’t tell me I was on speaker phone and her other friends were there, which meant they all know what happened as well, and they didn’t believe me either. I heard the snickering in the background and that is when I realized I was already alone this whole time. I hung on to something so toxic, that I didn’t realize being alone was probably better for me anyways.

Toxic relationships are not only intimate relationships, they can be friendships too. But, they are just as bad, and just as hard to get over. I look back at what happened to me and wish I would have had the courage to stick up for myself and walk away before things got worse. A friend shouldn’t be judgemental and gossipy, they shouldn’t discredit you, make fun of you, be resentful, or be self-centred in the relationship. If you feel uneasy around a “friend” because you are afraid they will hurt you, make fun of you, or tell people your secrets, it is time to walk away. Do what I couldn’t do, and make the decision which will benefit your mental health and your life. When you are in toxic relationships like the one I experienced, you feel depressed, anxious, and nervous all the time.

When I decided to stop the friendship, it was hard. I slowly stopped messaging her and segregated myself from her friends. We went to different schools so it was a little easier for me, because I did not have to face her everyday. The friendship really took a toll on my life – it took me a very long time to have a “best friend” again, I think it was because I was weary of getting close with another person. I can promise once you leave, it will get better. The anxious feelings and the overthinking subsides, and you will find your groove again. Learn from every experience you have, and make yourself a better person from them. You will know what is right and what is wrong, and what works best for you.

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The Troubles with being a Social Introvert

Growing up, I have always loved being around people and socializing at parties. One of my favourite past times is hanging out with large groups of people because you will always find someone to talk to or something to do! Although I love to socialize, I’ve only ever had a handful of close friends, and as I’ve grown up the handful has gotten smaller as some of my friends have moved away.

Although I’m a socializer, I’m very introverted. I enjoy having time to myself, I am perfectly comfortable with watching movies alone over the weekend, and you will probably never catch me asking people to hangout after class. I feel super uncomfortable when I am faced with making the decision to try and get close with someone. My good friends have always been the more extroverted, who would plan the social gatherings and bring me along. Now that those friends have went across Canada and the US to different universities, I find myself in a rather strange predicament. I want to go out with friends, but am too shy to meet people. Peculiar dilemma, isn’t it?

The craving to socialize has always been there, but when you are placed in large classes, how do you do it? If you are going through something similar, I’ve devised a plan to help you (and I) get to know some university students without feeling awkward about it.

1 – Check out the sororities on campus! 

Looking at how close students in sororities interact with one another and really get to know each other is envious. I wish while I began attending university I looked into UOIT’s sororities just so that I could get to meet people and feel connected to others. Its a funny thing because my friends were ALL in sororities at their universities, and the amount of close friends they walked away with is amazing. You can find everlasting connections while on campus, and this is one of the ways to achieve them!

2 – Join a club or a committee that interests you!

Honestly, THERE ARE CLUBS FOR EVERYTHING! Just a quick google search of UOIT’s campus clubs makes me wish I would have looked into it earlier. Do you like gardening? There’s a club for that! Do you like art, drama, dance, or music? Clubs for that too! Are you religious and would like a place to meet others with the same religious values? There are clubs for that! What about humanitarian opportunities, board games, billiards, sports, SUPER SMASH BROS (I’m not kidding), like there is literally a club for everything. Find a hobby of yours or something that you are really interested in, and join the club to meet like minded people. You may have to pull of the bandaid of actually attending the sessions, but hey, think of all the cool stuff you’d be involved in and the amount of people you will meet who share your interests.

3 – Create a study group for your class!

This is something that not only will benefit you socially, but it can also benefit your grades (and we can all use that). Through blackboard, just message the whole class asking if people would like to get together for a study group, I GUARANTEE YOU people will respond. Even if you do not end up hanging out with the students on the weekend, it is still a way to meet people and to have that social fulfillment of being around others. You may meet your new best friend this way, you never know. Keep an open mind!

PSA to you all: Do not pull a “me” and go through your whole university career wishing you  met more people. I’m graduating in April and I regret not joining clubs or looking into ways to meet the students I’ve sat beside for the past 4 years. I seriously recommend looking into what UOIT offers, because I never did and I think it would have made my university experience THAT much better!

Feeling Pressured to Grow Up

We are all different. We do not all have the same goals, the same wishes, and the same outlook on life. This does not mean one is better than the other, this simply means we should try to see the world in others’ points of view.

That being said, have any of you felt pressured to grow up? Have you felt pressured to conform to what everyone else is doing in their lives? I know I have, and I know we aren’t the only ones.

Backstory: I am 22 years old, I have been in a relationship for 7 years, I still live at home with my mom, and I do not feel ready to leave the nest.

I always get bombarded with the questions about marriage, moving out, buying a car, when I want kids, and why my boyfriend hasn’t proposed yet. As a university student, I am just not ready for these things, and I have come to the realization that it is OK! We all grow at our own pace, we deal with things differently, and we all have our own paths laid out for ourselves. I want to continue with school, go on for my PhD, and slowly settle in to “adulthood”. Many friends of mine are starting to get into their careers, want to save to buy houses, want to get married, and want to have children in the next couple years. At times, it is discouraging seeing how my friends are settling into their lives and I am still sitting here in school barely able to afford my coffees for the week with my part time job. I sometimes wonder if I am holding my boyfriend back because we won’t be able to purchase a house or really get our lives started together until I am finished my schooling. As down as I feel some days, I always remind myself that these are my goals. Just because my friends have different goals, does not mean I should look down on my own. I should embrace the process of growing at my own pace; never force yourself into situations or back out of your dreams just because your path deviates from everyone else’s. That is what makes you unique, what makes you you.

Moral of the story: Do not worry about what others think you should be doing. Pursue your hopes and dreams, and everything will come together at one point or another. Keep pushing – as winding and bumpy the path may be, just remember you chose it for a reason 🙂

My Experience with Stigmatization

Stigmatization – the degrading attitude that discredits a person because of an attribute they have (in this case, mental illnesses). 

Stigmatization is the one thing we all learn about in school, the one attitude that can discriminate and make others feel helpless because of a certain attribute they may have. My experience with stigmatization is a bit different than what others may have, it has not directly happened to me, but others that I have been around.

I volunteer at a great government-run organization where I get to help children under 12 who have a wide range of mental health issues. I have the pleasure to volunteer with children who live with depression, anxiety, OCD, ODD, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and many other mental health related disorders. I get to know these children, I get to hangout with them, I get to listen to their hardships, their achievements, and their stories about birthday parties and school days. As much as I love this position, it can be hard at times because I get to know many children who are taught to hide and be ashamed of their issues.

Its sad to think children this young have been taught to keep quiet about their issues, to act as though they do not have them. I remember one pair of siblings who told me they weren’t allowed to tell their friends or family that they come to the organization – instead they tell their friends they go to a babysitter’s house. I’ve had another child ask me if he’s a bad person because of his diagnosis, and another laugh about how her parents tell her to lie to her friends about who I am (I guess I’m her “fake” cousin). These children are so young, yet are already taught that they need to “hide” a part of them, as if attending this organization is unnatural. This makes them feel as though their mental illness is wrong, is something to be ashamed of, and is something that you need to lie about in order to be considered “normal”.

My question is what is the big deal? Why is society so quick to stigmatize mental health issues – and why are parents teaching their children that having a mental health disorder must be hidden? These creative, smart, witty little individuals are being taught that their psychological disorders are restricting, rather than something that is completely manageable. A person is not defeated by a diagnosis; a person should not be labelled as their diagnosis; a person and his or her diagnosis are separate entities that live together. We need to break this cycle of stigmatization and ensure children, teenagers, and adults don’t have to be ashamed of their mental health. We need to stop labelling mental health issues as “abnormal”, because in reality, what is normal anyways?

 

Are You Overworking Yourself?

Let’s face it, most of us have overbearing schedules and too many commitments. We wish there were 48 hours in a 24 hour day just so there would enough time to complete all the tasks that are required from us. I’ll admit it, I have experienced work overload way too many times in this school year alone – and it isn’t even half way finished! Responsibilities like family life and babysitting my brothers, attending class and completing assignments, my volunteer commitments, my job commitments, and of course having a social life (when I have time..) sometimes crash down on my shoulders all at once leaving me face down in the dirt. I have felt miserable over not having time to myself, I have felt stressed out because I didn’t have time to relax, and I have felt alone because I didn’t have time to see my family and friends. We all overwork ourselves at one time or another. Whether it be from procrastination (and having to write a 10 page essay the night before its due – P.S. don’t do this, its a bad idea), working too many hours at work, or whatever other reasons you may have. To simply put it, overworking yourself sucks. When you put too much time and energy into your responsibilities without allowing yourself to regenerate, you’ll experience burnout. Here are some tips and tricks to help you refrain from overworking yourself.

(1) CARRY AN AGENDA – Seriously, this is my NUMBER ONE tip for you. Having the ability to plan ahead and actually see when your commitments are due is a miracle. Have you ever had that panic feeling when you look at a syllabus and realize you have a paper due that week? Guess what – an agenda will save you from this nightmare. Write down every class time, every assignment that is due, every midterm day, every volunteer date,  your job schedule, and whatever other commitments you may have.  You will officially have the advantage over your workload, you will be able to tell what weeks are super busy and prioritize where you should focus your time. And lets be real, you’ll actually have a valid reason to use the phrase “let me check my schedule” when booking an appointment. Organization is the key to help you relax, I promise.

(2) SET DATES FOR YOUR SOCIAL LIFE – The one thing that irks me is when my friends and family ask me to go out to dinner or a movie last minute and I can’t make it. This happens all of the time, us busy bees tend to always miss out on fun things because we are occupied with other commitments at that moment. Key phrase – we are busy AT THAT MOMENT. We aren’t busy all of the time, so instead of missing out, plan ahead with your friends! I’ve been through weeks where I have felt gloomy because I’ve been constrained to the 4 walls of my work space, no contact with friends, and no nights out. Don’t pull a me – plan ahead and enjoy your time while you have it!

(3) DO NOT BE A PROCRASTINATOR! – I know it is easy to say, but procrastination is a huge contributor to burnout. I struggle with procrastination – it is the one thing I have struggled with from the beginning of high school, it has continued throughout my university career, and it has made me go bonkers. Having a start on your assignments means having more time to relax and do things that you want to do. Do you know how great you feel when you have a paper due in a few weeks and only have to work on the last couple paragraphs because you’ve already started? Or how much easier it is to study when you already have your notes printed out prior to the midterm week? When you have free time or are bored, instead of spending meaningless hours on your phone watching cat videos, why don’t you start looking at assignments that are due later on? You won’t have the added stress of having to complete hour long assignments if you break it down beforehand. Scheduling in time for my assignments is one *new* technique I’ve tried this year, and being a chronic procrastinator – it has helped!