#smileforkyle

When I was in high school something tragic happened, a student named Kyle took his own life.

Our school community was devastated. Walking through the halls like zombies were numerous students who not only knew Kyle, but were close friends with him. I remember seeing a girl I know who was best friends with him in the hall the day after it happened. I could tell she needed comforting so I simply walked up to her and gave her a big hug, letting her cry on my shoulder. Another one of my close friends who knew Kyle very well and was devastated by his death. I made sure to let him know that I was there if he wanted to talk and gave him a comforting hug each time I passed him in the halls.

It was truly amazing to see our school community (students, teachers, parents) come together and support each other in this time of grief. All throughout the school you could witness students being comforted by each other. Counsellors were available for those who desired them, and the Chapel was open for anyone who needed space.

I only wish that someone would have been able to see that he was struggling. That someone was able to save him.

Kyle always had a smile on his face and appeared to be extremely happy. Students at my school began using the hashtag #smileforkyle and so many tweets were made that the hashtag was trending on Twitter. We all hoped that this would raise awareness on how serious and real suicide is. Each day we remind each other to smile for Kyle.

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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!

Overthinking – Pondering What Could Be the Cause of my Mental Turmoil

When someone is seeking answers to something, they seek out the experts. Meeting and speaking with them, hoping that spilling their innermost thoughts and feelings and presenting the facts that match to things that they know, they hope to receive an answer that matches the research they themselves have conducted. As for myself, I think I’m afraid to know, but desperate to confirm.

I hate jumping to conclusions and I hate diagnosing myself before a doctor can, but as I have been waiting this long to know what is wrong with me, it is only natural that a paranoid, anxious psychology student would start seeing parallels with the many mental illnesses I study within myself.

Last week, I found myself switching from general anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, and depression, as those can be diagnosed by a GP, to thinking I might have a more severe condition. Thoughts of bipolar disorders and cyclothymia crossed my mind. I almost drove myself nuts seeing if my symptoms matched the reported symptoms of these disorders. However, I am my own worst doctor, I will always think I am over-exaggerating or under-reporting my own symptoms. I don’t condone Google-diagnosis, but I still find myself doing it, in my endless search for answers.

I can’t seem to sit still, my mind is both exhausted and racing everyday, and I just want to keep moving forward but feel so stuck. The anticipation of finally getting some confirmation and answers are almost overbearing. The stress of this term has taken its toll now; I have felt an anxious nausea sitting in my stomach for almost two weeks, feeling both hungry and repulsed by food, yet still overeating. The weather has had me down for so long, my emotions feel blunted to the point I can’t remember what a strong emotion feels like, and the world is both too bright and too dull. I feel crazy and calm all at once.

I try to keep my mind away from focusing on things like this too much, but sometimes its all I can focus on. I really just want confirmation, so that I can stop adding the disclaimer *not yet diagnosed* to my statements on mental health. I hope someone else who is struggling with a lack of diagnosis can relate to my feelings, and maybe feel less alone. I hope if you are reading this, everything will fall in place for both of us in time.

Til then, good luck and much love.

Someone to Talk to

It is so important to find someone you feel comfortable talking to. Someone you can tell anything to and know they will support you. Someone whose always ready to listen, to ask if you’re okay, to see if you are drowning.

I am so thankful that I have found 2 of these people. I know that both my best friend of 10 years and my boyfriend of 2 years are there for me when I need them. I can tell them anything whether it involves stress, my mental health, school struggles, family issues, or anything else which may be bothering or worrying me at the time. They have both shown to me that they are listening when I open up by asking meaningful questions, checking in on me when they know I am going through something difficult, and most importantly asking me “Are you okay?”.

Sometimes when we open up to someone and tell them how we are feeling or what we are going through, it seems as though they aren’t really listening. They aren’t really hearing what we are saying. Perhaps they are and they just don’t know how to respond. But we can’t always determine if this is the case.

It can be difficult finding someone you are completely comfortable with and can talk about anything to, but once you do life becomes much easier. I used to always bottle up my feelings and then cry when no one was around. Hiding your feelings and tears is a lot harder than just letting them out once in a while.

I hope that all of you are as fortunate as myself in that you have found someone to talk to when you are feeling anxious, depression, or stressed. And if not, I hope you feel safe expressing your feelings and thoughts on this blog, knowing that we are all here to listen.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

I love spending time with my friends. Being a student can be so stressful and time-consuming, but going out and relaxing with friends makes the hard work all worth it. They know how to pick me up when I’m down, and sometimes they even know me better than I know myself.

With all that being said, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to leave the safety of my room to go see them. That’s the problem with social anxiety; part of me would do anything to just go out and have a good time, but the other part refuses to be around anyone at all. I wish they would understand that it’s not because I don’t like them, or that I don’t have fun when I’m with them. It is because some days even getting out of bed in the morning is a real struggle, and anything further than that seems like mission impossible.

But the last thing I want to do is blame it on my mental illness because I don’t want them to look at me differently, or stop asking me to hang out in fear of rejection. I just wish people knew the strength of the effects of social anxiety. It has the power to completely destroy any will to go out in public and carry on with what is considered a normal, everyday life.

Maybe one day everyone will understand that people with social anxiety don’t enjoy bailing on plans at the last minute, we just need to give ourselves time to be mentally prepared to go out in public.

My wost nightmare

  • Caution, Please read with care as it may trigger some people

So, roughly a year ago my sister and her friends were on their way home from a hockey game when my mom got a frantic call from my sister… her friends and her were hit by another car.  On the phone, she sounded fine and didn’t think she was badly hurt. It wasn’t until when my mom and I go to the accident site when we realized how bad it was.

The scene was three side streets long and through a main intersection. I looked and thought, how did no one die? I was stunned and I broke down. I was angry at the people who were gawking and taking pictures, even though the police told them not to. I was broken, I didn’t know where my sister was and I started to panic. I could see the truck they were driving in and I needed to see my sister right away to make sure she was okay. After about 5 minutes (which felt like 30) an officer comes up to my mom and I, and tells my mom she can ride with my sister to the hospital – I can’t drive so my mom told me to go. The truck engine was across the street and we later found out the car did a 360 turn.

So, the officer walks me over to the ambulance and tells me everything will be okay.  I was terrified as I wear my heart on my sleeve, so my emotions are very visible. I was in shock, I had never witnessed a car accident at this point. My sister was strapped into the gurney and all I wanted to tell her was that everything was going to be okay. She didn’t look too hurt, compared to what I had braced myself for. We get to the hospital and I tried to keep her calm while were in the trauma bay. I held her hand and didn’t want to let go for the life of me. My parents arrived soon after we did but, they had to take turns coming back since I came with her.

My sister was attended to the best that they could since all four people from the accident were rushed to the same hospital. While my parents and my other sister took turns coming in to see her, she said she was sorry for what had happened, even though she wasn’t driving and they were the ones who got hit. Her friends got to the hospital shortly after she did and she wanted me to go see how they were – the nursing staff did not like that at all. I was so angry – they told me that I had to go back to my sister’s room or I’d be taken back out when my sister’s friend’s dad calls me. Thankfully they let me see him so I could tell my sister her friends are doing well. This really annoyed me because I told the staff my sister was just in an accident she wants to make sure her friends are okay.

Just before my sister goes for her x-ray the police constable came into my sister’s room and asked what happened. He was very nice and assured her her friends were the ones who were hit not the ones who hit the other car. I overheard them saying they were hit at 190 KM/HR. This made my heart sink to know that if the truck they were driving in was an inch further out – it could have been a very different story.

So, how has this affected me, well to start off I am terrified to drive because at this moment I can’t put my life at risk and drive – I know I am a good driver but there are a lot of people who shouldn’t drive. I get very anxious when my friends drive and I have had a panic attack.  I am still dealing with this accident and I wasn’t even in the car. I sometimes feel guilty because I feel this way. Hopefully, by writing this, it helps make people more cautious when the drive and will help heal me.

I just want to thank my sister for allowing me to share this and for the miracle that happened that night.

Booklist

Here are some recommendations of books for enhancing and strengthening your mental health:

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (by: Brene Brown)

This novel by Brene Brown, focuses on whole-hearted living and the tools for developing worthiness, which Brown classifies these as courage, compassion, and connection. Personal stories are provided as examples of how these concepts work together in real life. The book follows ten guide posts relating to the importance of accepting one’s imperfections. Brown engages reader’s minds, hearts, and spirits through this easy read best-seller.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (by Brene Brown)

In this best-seller, Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotion, such as fear, grief, and disappointment, and the source of love, innovation, and belonging. Common myths regarding vulnerability are debunked, allowing readers to see how deep vulnerability truly is. Brown argues that our vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage and explains the ways in which it can be used to transform our daily lives.

Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution (by Brene Brown)

Each one of us is going to stumble and fall at some point in our lives. The process of regaining our footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage becomes tested. Rising strong after a fall is how we develop wholeheartedness, which is an ongoing process. Brown teaches us that this process is where we discover the most about who we are.

Eat Pray Love (by Elizabeth Gilbert)

Eat Pray Love tells the story of a young women who seems to have it all, yet is not happy. Rather she is filled with panic and confusion. The story follows Elizabeth as she leaves behind her outward marks of success, and sets out to explore three different aspects of her nature. Through this journey, Elizabeth aims return to a health state in both her mental and physical health.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (by Elizabeth Gilbert)

Readers are encouraged to tackle what they love most, embrace their creativity, and face down what they fear most. Attitudes, approaches, and habits for living a creative life are discussed in this best-selling novel. Gilbert encourages readers to uncover the “strange jewels” which are hidden within each of us and learn how to infuse our lives with more mindfulness and passion.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (by Malcolm Gladwell)

This novel will change how you think about obstacles and disadvantages. A new interpretation of what it means to endure various setbacks is offered by Gladwell. Readers have said that this book serves as a constant reminder that no matter what the circumstances, anyone can succeed. This novel truly is an eyeopener.

Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career (by: John Krumboltz and Al Levin)

Unplanned events and experiences often play a huge role in our lives, sometimes more than all the things we carefully plan. Luck is No Accident actively encourages readers to create unplanned events on their own, to anticipate changing their plans regularly, and to take advantage of chance events when they come up. This book has an easy style which encourages readers to make the most of what life has to offer, with personal stories which help bring the ideas into focus.

Mindsight (created by Wendy Stanyon) http://mindsight.uoit.ca

Mindsight is an excellent resource created by a professor here at UOIT. The aim of the module is to reduce stigma by promoting awareness of mental illness, as well as providing a greater understanding of the basic signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses. Self-help strategies and those for helping friends, peers, and/or family members are provided. Community resources are also available through this resource. There are 10 different sections to this training: stigma, depression, anxiety, substance use, suicide, self-harm, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, psychosis, and trauma. Once all the training and quizzes have been completed, a certificate of completion can be requested.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (by: Miguel Ruiz)

The Four Agreements reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that frequently create needless suffering. Ruiz provides readers with a powerful code of conduct which can rapidly transform your life to a new experience full of freedom, happiness, and love. The Four Agreements are: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and to always do your best.

The Secret (by: Rhonda Byrne)

This novel focuses on the laws of attraction providing historical examples of its application. A three-step creative process (Ask, Believe, and Receive) is outlined for making dreams manifest. Gratitude and visualization are highlighted as the two most powerful processes which can help make one’s desires manifest. The manner in which to use the law of attraction in various areas of life such as wealth, relationships, and health is discussed, allowing readers to understand how it relates to one’s life and the world.

The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (by: Jack Canfield)

The Success Principles will teach you how to increase your confidence, live with passion and purpose, as well as tackle daily challenges. Readers will learn to realize all their ambitions, through numerous principles which have proven successful throughout history. The fundamentals laid out in this novel are the same for all people, no matter how large or small their goals. Through learning these basics, you can move on to tackling the important inner work required to transform yourself into the person you want to be.

Strengths Finder 2.0 (by: Tom Rath)

This assessment is designed to help readers uncover their talents and learn numerous strategies for applying individual strengths to everyday life. Readers are informed of their top five themes and provided 10 strategies for building on each. A personalized action planning guide is laid out for applying your strengths in both the immediate and long-term future.

If there are any additional books you have found helpful regarding your mental health, please leave the title in the comments below!

book

Sweating

This past week I attended a Sweat Lodge put on by UOIT’s Indigenous Services. My Honours Thesis is on Aboriginal women, and therefore I thought I would go and give it a try, to put an experience to the topic I was studying.

I attended with a friend of mine, and I can honestly say it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever partaken in. Without digging up all the little details surrounding the Sweat, I will explain how it works.

You put rocks, called Grandfathers, into a specially designed fire and allow them to heat for 2 hours while you build the lodge. It consists of a frame made from tree branches cloaked in canvas. While the stones are heating, Rick, the Sweat leader, taught us about the significance of each thing we were doing: from spreading the tobacco on trees that we used branches from to offer thanks, to the way we had to use our left hand to do things because it was closest to your heart. Once the Grandfathers are hot enough, we crawl into the lodge and place them in a pit, 7 at a time. Cedar water is then poured over them, creating incredible amounts of steam and heat, and you sweat absolute buckets. After everyone has a chance to pray either out loud or in their heads, 7 new Grandfathers are brought in and the process is repeated a total of 4 times.

Walking out of the lodge after it was finished was so freeing. I left everything inside of me in that lodge and asked for forgiveness or healing for myself and those around me. I was able to let the steam wash over me and cleanse me, so to speak. I’m not usually spiritual or religious, but this was a beautiful experience. It’s not traditional mental health counselling or westernized approaches to mental health, but it was so eye opening and freeing. I cannot wait to attend the next one on March 18th!

Time Management – How Do I Do It?

I am not trying to toot my own horn here but I am actually the best person I know at time management. I mean I would have to be with having two jobs, school full time, being on a committee and being a peer mentor…basically if I didn’t have amazing time management skills I think I would lose my mind. A lot of people ask me how I do it and I have decided to compose a list of ways you can be better at time management:

  1. Organization is everything – If you are not organized in your notes, daily schedules or things you do, then how do you expect to be organized in your head? I can admit I am not perfect and there are things I forget about all the time (supper is my best example) but by keeping some aspects of your life organized it will help to multi-task.
  2. Keep track of what you need to do, when you need to do it, and where – Keep a calendar, sticky notes, hell write it on your hand if it helps! It helps with organization, time keeping and it keeps you on track for what you need to do.
  3. Make a weekly schedule – Plan out your day, week, month, or even year! Determine how long you want to plan things for and do it. It honestly helps me when I know I have a deadline and make time around everything I need to do and what work needs to be done.
  4. Try to get your work done ahead of time – By making these schedules not only will you be able to work around other schedules like work and extra circulars, but you will be able to feel ahead of the game and be on the ball!

By following my list you should be able to be on your way to being a successful time manager!