Back in 2006 I was struggling in my early adult life, especially after high school. I worked for a temp agency for a while but couldn't find the motivation to stick with it. Everything was a drain on my system and all I could fathom was staying at home.
So I did, for about a year and a half, watching Star Trek reruns and creating art. I was very isolated and didn't want to go out anywhere. My life was very insular but I had a group of people online that I considered my only friends at the time. And I could reach out to them and talk about my feelings. For the first time in a long time I felt a sense of community and like I was connected with people who could understand and empathize.
I moved to Ottawa in 2011 where I started interning on the hill for Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada. I also became involved with several grassroots community organizations who were involved with creative non-violent direct action. A great use of my time as an artist and creative soul. I even found a job working with a community of folks with developmental disabilities. This was very rewarding work but took a toll on my mental health.
I started to become highly energized and paranoid during this period which, with time, finally abated by itself. This is when I was starting to experience extreme burnout from all of my political and community organizing, plus working a full time job.
I learned that I had suffered a psychotic break and would be medicated immediately.
I hastily quit the job that I was working and immediately took a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia where I stayed with some friends and burned through my dwindling cash reserves. My mental health had started suffering at this point as I was feeling the stress of being spread too thin with the various social engagements I was a part of.
When I returned to Ottawa I managed to find a nice, quiet job, at Mountain Equipment Co-op. I was no longer pursuing activities within politics and community organizing. It was a much needed break and everything seemed to be going well for a while. I started rock climbing and cycling for fitness.
In 2013 I started going to university again -- full-time -- at Carleton University in Ottawa. I was also still working at Mountain Equipment Co-op full time and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I had just spent a turbulent couple of years in Ottawa being very busy with my political and community organizing life.
I had burnt out at some point and failed to stay engaged with all of the people I had made friends with during that time and was increasingly isolating myself from my peers.
My therapist and I had just hung up the phone with each other. This would be our last session and I was devastated. I could feel something desperate creeping up on me but I didn't know what it was. All I knew at the time was that my mood was suffering and that I had begun to experience things that were abnormal.
Going to the hospital was the best thing that ever happened to me.
One morning, when I woke up, everything about my reality had changed. I was convinced that there was a group of people following me for some ominous, yet to be learned, reason. This didn't stop me from attending classes and getting school work done, but it did drastically affect my ability to interact with people normally, so I chose not to interact with anyone at all. Further isolating myself.
It took three years and a lot of travelling but in 2016, after spending time in a rapid assessment unit at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, I learned that I had suffered a psychotic break and would be medicated immediately.
Before entering treatment and recovery I was terrified to reach out to anyone about how I was thinking and feeling. I was afraid of what they might think or say. I was afraid that people would be terrified of me. It turns out that these beliefs weren't true.
People cared and came to my aid while I was entering treatment. Going to the hospital was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was evaluated by a psychologist and introduced to a nurse therapist and my psychiatrist. These people have become pivotal to my recovery today.
Please, whatever you do, don't be afraid of talking about your symptoms or feelings with friends, family, or peers.
Community is vitally important to recovery and that's where I am at today, post psychotic break. Rebuilding community with a new network of friends and peers. I've also reached out for help from local crisis centres in my area where I received some amazing care and guidance. This was while I was transitioning from a psychotic state to normal functioning.
For those of you out there reading this and experiencing any sort of mental health issue or crisis I highly recommend getting in touch with your local crisis center if you have one. Here's a list of crisis centres across Canada from Partners for Mental Health.
Please, whatever you do, don't be afraid of talking about your symptoms or feelings with friends, family, or peers. This can be a great first step in addressing your own mental health needs and possibly identify any issues that you may be having in your life that may require psychiatric or therapeutic attention.
You have options, you are loved. Believe in yourself and your own internal strength.
Frame Of Mind is a new series inspired by The Maddie Project that focuses on teens and mental health. The series will aim to raise awareness and spark a conversation by speaking directly to teens who are going through a tough time, as well as their families, teachers and community leaders. We want to ensure that teens who are struggling with mental illness get the help, support and compassion they need. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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