Name: Kassandra Rosina Benoit
City: Montreal, Quebec
Fav thing about your city: The coffee shops! Oh, and the Mural Festival!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself! If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would absolutely be pomegranates.
What is your connection to mental illness?
Growing up, I learned a lot about the stigma surrounding mental illness through my mother’s experiences. She was suffering from an undiagnosed physical illness, and we spent most of our time seeing specialists and trying to get answers. This was my first run-in with the stigma surrounding mental illness. She lived with Manic Depression and experienced psychosis, and because of this, no doctors would seem to take her seriously. I remember being no more than six years old, tying my mother’s shoes as she cried before we headed out to another appointment that we knew would be no different from any other. I should mention that Manic Depression runs in my family. I’ve lost my grandfather and uncle to it, and for years I was afraid I would lose my mother too. Some days she’d drop me off at school and let me know what to do in case “anything would happen to her” that day. On other days, she would be so excited with life that we’d spend hours in our car chasing rainbows.
At a low point, my mother had decided that she didn’t want me living with her anymore. My parents have been divorced for as long as I could remember, and my dad took me on full time. I love my mother very dearly, and even if we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, I am so grateful for everything she has taught me. We were similar, I’m sure, to every other mother-daughter relationship: we had our share of storms, but there is always a rainbow after the rain. Most importantly, though, she has taught me to be a more patient, and understanding person.
I had spent most of my early life as a part-time caregiver, and once removed from that situation, I had a hard time discovering my identity. In that time, I thought I found comfort in someone who didn’t have my best interest at heart. I’ve lived with General Anxiety for quite some time now, and I am taking the steps in understanding my mental health and taking care of myself. I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic support system, and I get to live with and love the man of my dreams! Our rescue dog, Luna, has anxiety too. We’re learning how to better care for ourselves together, and it’s a wonderful journey. I’ve learned to allow myself to go through whatever storms I need to go through, and I know that they too shall pass.
What does your everyday look like?
Every morning, my cat wakes us up bright and early (Can you believe he knows how to open doors!?). We’ll wake up and take the dog for a walk, then prepare for school. I’m currently a student at McGill University, where I’m learning to become the best Mathematics teacher I can be! If I’m not at school or work, I’m working with 60 Million Girls, a volunteer Montreal-based public foundation dedicated to girls’ education in developing countries. I am also the Montreal co-regional director of the Canadian Improv Games, an education based format of improvisational theater competition for Canadian high schools. So basically, I’m usually running around. (I’m working on slowing down!) I always try to end the night with at least one episode of whatever series I’m binge watching or a bubble bath!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You are NOT selfish for wanting the best for yourself.
Who is a Role Model to you?
That’s a difficult question. I believe everyone has their strengths, so I look up to many different people for a variety of reasons. A common theme, though, is honesty. A role model is someone who can speak candidly about their feelings, and who doesn’t shy away from conversations about mental health. A role model is someone who reaches out and asks for help when they need it. A role model is someone who knows how to take care of themselves and cares for others.
How do you spend your Self-Care Sunday?
I try to make my Sunday breakfasts spectacular to treat myself after a long week. Usually to some good 90’s R&B tunes and my partner and I dance around in our PJ’s flipping eggs and toasting toast. We usually end up settling in front of the couch for a few hours of Netflix, often joined by Luna the anxious husky and Nero, the temperamental cat! I really enjoy grocery shopping, so that’s a self-care Sunday task for me. We’ll take the time to plan what we need for the following week to keep our bodies healthy and happy. Speaking of planning: I love to organize my agenda on Sundays and mentally prepare myself for the week ahead! OH! Not to mention a long walk with our pup to get some fresh air and walk around our beautiful city.
Photos by Catherine Ong