What if this goes right?

By Rebecca Kenward

Mental health is something I think about and advocate for on a day-to-day basis. My own mental health, on the other hand, isn’t something I talk about often and, in fact, I didn’t even begin to talk about until a few years ago. My struggle with anxiety is something that’s hard for me to articulate and I’m still having trouble with it myself. I seem to have mastered the art of appearing put together even when I’m falling apart, or at least I’d like to think so. It has been a constant barrier that I have had to adapt to and learn about in order to conquer and overcome.

Growing up, I always felt uncomfortable in my own skin and I would constantly compare myself to others, which led to years of self-harm and very low self-esteem. Not believing I was good enough or knowing my own self-worth left me with no conception of my own value or who I was. I felt alone. On top of that, having family members who were extremely ill, both mentally and physically, while I was in my teen years was tough on me to say the least. But ultimately, I think this entire experience has made me who I am today and I truly believe everything happens for a reason.

One way I can try and explain how my anxiety works is my mind revolves around “what ifs”. I am at a constant battle with myself and, at times, I am my own worst enemy. Life has its ups and downs and times in which I am losing this battle, I remember that the fear of what others think, of failing, of not being good enough is not going to stop the world from turning. It’s so important to take a step back and think about the bigger picture and realize that there is so much more to life than these little insignificant problems, no matter how paramount they may seem at the time. Someone once said to me, “Depression is worrying about the past and having the inability to move forward in the future, whereas anxiety is worrying about the future and having the inability to move forward from the past.” This really struck a cord with me personally.

My own experience with anxiety has been an eye opening experience and has taught me many valuable lessons. I think I am able to really connect with people on a much deeper level than I would have been otherwise. The courage to speak out about my own struggles in combination with encouraging others to open up as well, is both gratifying and self-affirming. I am no longer afraid to be who I am and to speak my mind because being afraid is only going to stop you from getting to where you want to be. So, rather than thinking about the “what if’s”, I force myself to think, “what if this goes right?”.

Even though I still struggle a little bit every day, as many others do, I know what a strong person I have become. Finally seeking help, getting rid of negative people in my friendships/relationships, and finding my passions turned my entire world around. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this change occurred, but I think one day I just woke up and was sick of hating myself and having nothing in my life I was proud about. For me, writing and building my career has been extremely motivating. My ability to think outside the box, connect with people emotionally, express my thoughts, and forgive myself when I make mistakes has allowed me to continue my fight in finding peace of mind. Not to mention, I have amazing friends and family who mean the world to me and who I know support me in everything I do.

Ending the stigma surrounding mental illness is more about starting conversations and taking initiative, rather than normalizing people’s experiences. No one’s experience with mental illness is the same, whether it be anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder. People are dynamic and relationships are hard, even our relationships with ourselves, and are almost impossible to understand. Labelling people in terms of their illnesses universalizes this experience and potentially creates further stigmatization. Thinking critically about the world and considering what can be done to improve the circumstances of so many people is central to the idea of advocacy with regards to mental health. (Can you tell I’m a Sociologist yet?).

So, now, when I wake up in the morning instead of worrying about all the things that could go wrong, I ask myself, “Why not try to be a better person?” and, “How can I make today better than yesterday?”. Taking things one day at a time and realizing nothing great happens overnight is a substantial piece of recovery and is one of the many valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey. I think being patient, kind, smart, hard-working, and living life fearlessly is the most beautiful thing in the world. Life is too short to not be who you are and those who don’t accept you, well they don’t matter anyways. Because hey, they might very well be struggling with their own issues too, so keep fighting.

About the Author:

Rebecca is a current student at The University of British Columbia, working to achieve her Bachelor of Arts degree studying Sociology with a minor in Gender, Race, and Social Justice studies. Born and raised in Vancouver, Rebecca finds happiness though journalism and other creative aspects of her life. In the future, Rebecca hopes to pursue a career in the PR and Media Marketing industry, making meaningful connections with others.