Name: Samantha Phillips
City: Toronto, ON (Mississauga/Oakville)
Fav thing about your city: The kindness people show in and around the city
Tell us a fun fact about yourself! I have a twin brother named Matt! (no we can’t communicate telepathically, unfortunately).
What is your connection to mental illness?
Mental illness has been something I've struggled with for most of my life.
I was a fairly happy and confident kid but when I got to high school things changed - I started to experience symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder. I began to use unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-harm and suicide to deal with my emotions.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and admitted to treatment. Since then it’s been a roller coaster of a journey – as it is for anyone suffering from mental illness. For the last 3 years I have gone through many treatment programs and hospitalizations, and unfortunately I had to drop out of school in 2014 due to my illnesses.
Now, I am proud to say that I am happy and healthy. I am able to go to school full time, am working as a part time nanny, and am finally enjoying life again. I have developed healthy coping mechanisms and am able to manage my depression and body dysmorphia. I have repaired my relationship with food and broken free from my eating disorder.
It’s been a long and hard journey filled with lots of tears and heartbreak. But it has also been one filled with hope, healing, love, and laughter. I truly believe that I have come out of this a stronger person and I am more ready to tackle what life has to throw at me.
How do you spend your Self-Care Sunday?
My favourite form of self-care is decorating my agenda. For Self-Care Sunday I love to pull it out and work on planning for the upcoming week. I currently have one of those really crafty planners with a million stickers and every colour of washy tape you can imagine. Decorating my agenda brings me so much joy and it’s a great way to explore my creativity.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
The main advice I would give to my younger self is to remember the happiness and never give up hope. If I had the chance I would be honest – I’d say: things are going to get rough. Shit is going to hit the fan and there will be times where you don’t think you’ll make it. Don’t be afraid though. You WILL make it.
I would tell myself to remember who you are now – the fun-loving, confident, happy little girl you are. The girl who believes in her beauty and worth. The girl who sings at the top of her lungs, even in front of people. The girl who loves candy and waffles. Know that you will get back to that.
One of the greatest quotes I’ve heard is “if you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive”. I would tell my younger self that even in the darkest of times you must remember the little girl you once were and trust that you will get back to her.
What does your everyday look like?
I am currently working on completing my grade 12 year and am planning on graduating this June. As a student I spend a good chunk of my time attending class, revising, and working on assignments. During the weekdays I also work as a babysitter/nanny to twin infants and their 7-year-old sister. I find my experiences with the kids to be extremely rewarding and beneficial for my mental health. In my spare time I love to watch YouTube videos so I fit that in whenever I can! On the weekends I spend a lot of time practicing self-care and taking time to rest (aka napping!).
Who is a Role Model to you?
I can’t say that there is just one person that I view as my role model. As I go through life and develop as a person I notice characteristics that I value within the people around me and I use that as my role model.
For example, my friend Rachel is very determined which helps her succeed in life, especially with the mental struggles she has faced and continues to face. Her quality of determination is something that I wish to emulate.
Ultimately I strive to be the best me I can be. I wish to follow the characteristics of inspiring peers while staying true to myself and focusing on growing as a person.
Photos by Sophie Barkham