Name: Madi Banks
School: University of New Brunswick (Fredericton)
Major: Joint Honours in Classics and Archaeology
Fav thing about your campus: How innovative and forward thinking we are and are becoming.
Dream Job: I would love to work for National Geographic as a Travel Journalist and Photographer, but right now I’m working towards my PhD in Classical Archaeology, which will allow me to travel and discover.
What is your connection to mental illness?
I’m always telling myself “keep it short but sweet, Madi,” and I think that’s what I have to do in this situation as well, even though I have a lot to say. Like everyone, I had a pretty hard time in middle school and high school, with friends, stress, and schoolwork. It was really internalized and most people didn’t notice it. Unlike everyone, however, these things really wore on me, and I just felt myself getting heavier and heavier. Like there was a tiny weight tied to the back of my tongue that slowly grew heavier, pulling my head down from the inside. My moods changed rapidly, and when I was happy, I told myself that I couldn’t be depressed. It was as much of a lie to myself as a lie to everyone else. Fast-forward 6 years, I’m in my second year of University, and I’m being diagnosed with Social Anxiety, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), and (the kicker for me) OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder), after already knowing I had depression (which was being managed as well). It was a little shocking (a lot shocking) because it began to explain why my depression wasn’t ceasing, even when being managed in a multitude of ways. In the larger timeline of my life, this diagnosis wasn’t that long ago, and I’m currently on the road to recovery and rediscovery. I’m learning how to manage these things I always had problems with instead of learning to deal with “new problems.” All these things just kind of make me who I am, and even though they have a negative impact on my life sometimes, I’m learning how to control the negative while keeping who I am.
How do you deal with stress from school?
Oh gosh. I’m an OG when it comes to stress, but definitely not the best at dealing with it. Something I’ve learned to fall back on now is being open with anyone and everyone in my life that my stress affects. Its not always easy, but 99% of the time they get it. Friends, employers, professors, they all get it. I never let my stress be an excuse, but now that I’ve learned to be open about it, I am able to breathe a little easier.
I take a lot of time for myself, and I make sure to justify it. I don’t want to feel guilty laying in my bed watching Netflix, or spending 2 hours playing with my pet rats instead of studying for Latin. I mean, schoolwork is important, but feeling good and doing well is better than doing great and being exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. At least for me. My ADHD makes me impulsive and one thing that I have learned is to define my impulses into ones that are going to benefit me and ones that I am just doing to stay distracted. So the other night when I was up at 1:00am cause I couldn’t sleep, and I was watching reruns of Community I had already seen, but all I wanted to do was paint, you betcha I got right out of bed and listened to that impulse. And maybe I only painted for 10 minutes until I went to sleep, but it would have been another 20+ minutes on Netflix being deconstructive.
What does your campus do to help students' mental health?
I’m very blessed to go to the school I do for this reason. My mental health wasn’t totally something I understood when coming into university, and although I knew I was aware of it, I don’t think the ways in which I was dealing with it was anything to be proud of. One thing I want to highlight about UNB is how accepting we are of people battling and struggling with so many different things, mental health and beyond. We have exceptional counselling services, who are extremely active and visible on campus, and we have *excitingly* just added coverage for mental health under the healthcare our student union provides.
Our student union also hires a Mental Health Coordinator and a mental health committee to help out with various events throughout the year, such as our Wellness Week, and other events geared towards raising mental health awareness. Apart from these, there are many different groups/societies/clubs on campus that, while do not have, contribute to the overall mental health and wellbeing of the individuals they are enacted for such as Qmunity, Spectrum, and Best Buddies, to name a few. From campaigns to committees, our University community goes above and beyond, and continue to recognize when more support is needed.
Do you have any school year self care tips to share with other students?
I thought I would have a lot to say for this question, and I probably do somewhere, but only one thing seems to be repeating itself in my head. If you’re anything like me, a lot of my journey has been trying to internalize this struggle, always maintaining a self-aware persona. I think this helped keep a lot of what I was feeling secret. I don’t regret this, even though I had outbursts, I think being so self aware allowed anything I was dealing with to be easier for those around me, and because of this, I became more and more driven into helping other people, even though it was hurting me. If you’re anything like me, you will always put other people first, and this is something I’m slowly learning to balance out. My piece of advice would be something my doctor is constantly reminding me of: you need to take care of yourself before you help others. I think there’s a lot of truth to this, and sometimes I think me helping others is just a distraction to what I’m going through at the moment. Don’t forget about yourself while reminding others not to forget about themselves.