What is a Role Model? Not too long ago, we decided that it wasn't enough to cast fashion models based on height and comp cards. We wanted to showcase the stories of real people, who are brave enough to wear their label. Caitlin is one of those Role Models.
WYL: Tell us a bit about yourself:
C: My name is Caitlin, but my friends call me Cait. I was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta and raised in Quispamsis, New Brunswick. I am currently completing my BA in sociology and applied ethics at Dalhousie University in Halifax. I hope to someday peruse graduate studies in social work or law. Right now I am working at KV Oasis Youth Centre, trying to improve youth mental health in my hometown of Quispamsis. In my spare time I love shopping, taking long baths, volunteering, instagramming and looking at animals on the Internet.
WYL: What is your connection to mental illness?
C: At thirteen I started self harming – at the time I had no idea what mental illness was, no one talked about it, it seemed scary, I didn’t even know that I struggled with it. Mental illness scared me and I didn’t want to admit that I was suffering. As I got older my struggles got worse. I became severely anxious, depressed and angry. No one could tell me what was really going on in my head or why I felt the way I did. In 2013 I attempted to kill myself. I spent 6 weeks in a pediatric psychiatric unit that summer. In 2015, after 6 years and 8 different diagnoses I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Today, mental illness is no longer something I fear or ostracize, I live with it every day and every day I get stronger.
WYL: How did you overcome your struggles with mental health?
C: After meeting with countless psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and social workers, trying several different medications, dozens of self-help strategies I finally discovered what worked for me. Every day is an uphill battle but I get stronger with every fight. Recovery takes time; you can’t rush it.
WYL: Why is ending the stigma important to you?
C: Because stigma sucks! Anything that prevents people from seeking the help they need, needs to stop. So many people suffer in silence in fear of speaking out. Hearing other people talk about their stories inspires me so much, and no one should ever be afraid to wear their label.
WYL: What would you tell someone who might be going through something similar to what you experience?
C: I know it seems cliché but I would tell them they are not alone. When I was struggling I felt completely isolated, I thought no one in the world could possibly understand what I was going through and I thought no one had ever experienced it. I would tell them to reach out; when you start speaking about your mental health you start meeting people who feel the same way as you do. Knowing that someone else understands is so important.
WYL: If you could describe your mental health struggle in one word what would it be?
C: Bittersweet. I know it seems silly but even though my mental illness was and is crippling and nearly cost me my life – it helped me become more compassionate, kind and understanding. It helped me meet all these amazing, inspiring people and allowed me to become involved in all these amazing things, just like this.