Written by Paul Barber
I’ve always been someone who loves to engage with change. I feel like there is so much to learn and to grow when you’re placed outside your comfort zone and so much people can gain from change.
Yet I’m really nervous about leaving university. It’s weird to think that it’s one of my last months in my last year at university. However, for me, I think a reason I am struggling with the concept of leaving is because of how I’ve perceived my mental health journey. Coming into university, I did not know how to handle my mental health nor did I understand what coping mechanisms worked best for me. I didn’t feel connected to local resources and didn’t have a good understanding of what I could do when I was really struggling.
I am so privileged to be able to say that so much of this has changed during my time and that now I feel far more equipped to handle my mental health difficulties. The amount of progress I’ve made on my personal mental health journey has been huge, and is something that I am incredibly proud of.
However, all this change for me has happened at Queen’s – and I recently realized that I associated all of that change and the sense of comfort that comes with it with the city of Kingston. I was attributing the successes that I’ve had in making progress in my mental health solely to my friends and my university.
While I do believe that the supporters and leaders that I had in my life have been the biggest reason for my progress, it was the thought that these external factors were solely responsible that was making me nervous to leave. I associated feeling connected and more mentally-healthy with where it happened for me. This has been a big struggle that I’ve been facing this year.
One thing that is been making me feel a lot better about leaving Queen’s is realizing that I can attribute some of my progress to the actions and steps that I’ve taken alone. It’s important to celebrate the role that you can play in your own recovery or mental health journey – which was something that I was avoiding doing.
Once I started giving myself credit for the effort and energy it took to persevere through the struggles of the past four years, I started feeling better about leaving. I still do not know how I will find being in a new place and I still question whether I’ll be able to feel connected to resources and such a strong support network, but celebrating my own contribution to my mental health journey has helped me gain more confidence that I will be able to overcome future struggles.
So in short, this is a reminder to celebrate the successes you’ve had in the past and to recognize the effort it takes to understand and manage your own mental health. It takes courage, strength and vulnerability to be able to open up and share, and forming new connections and support networks can be scary: but if you’ve done it before, you’ve already shown yourself that you’re capable of it. No matter what stage in your journey with mental health you are at, please take some time to celebrate what you have accomplished so far.