What is a Role Model? Not too long ago, we decided that it wasn't enough to cast fashion models based on comp cards and height. We wanted every single person we worked with, to have a personal connection to mental health, and a story to share. Robin is one of those Role Models. Here's her story:
Growing up as a kid I was athletic, outgoing and creative. I played volleyball, basketball and loved track and field. I also loved creating new things and at a point in my life I honestly thought I was going to be famous because I discovered that soap and water could clean marks off of walls.
With all the skills and talents I had, you'd think I would have excelled in school, but things went the complete opposite for me.
I hated school because I felt like I didn’t belong. I was labelled a trouble maker. Around the age of 12 my family made the big move to a different town. I lost the group of friends that I had and felt lost in the new community we moved to. I began to withdraw myself at home and school. I started to experience anxiety which contributed to depression. I was finding it difficult to maintain "friendships" due to my constant mood changes and irritability, which at that time I didn't even know were symptoms that I was experiencing. I started self-harming as it was the only emotional release I had.
I hated myself so I would hurt myself. Never did I think it would be something I would struggle with for years to come.
I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.
I hated my personality.
I hated how much I isolated myself.
I hated being nervous all the time.
I hated how everyday was a drag for me.
By the time I entered high school my depression was dominant. I wasn’t hanging out with my friends after school because it was too much energy. I wasn’t doing well academically, and my attendance was poor since I rarely attended school. I was having issues keeping up with basic hygiene and completing tasks that used to be easy.
Throughout this time I never told anyone (because of the culture I grew up in).
In the racial community I belong to, mental health problems are rarely discussed.
It wasn't until the end of my high school education, when I went to a mental health conference (that I reached out)... I never knew that the conference was going to positively change my life. After hearing a young women tell her story, I ending up seeking out help and eventually began to receive counselling.
Self-Care Isn't Selfish Tank, available here.
I received my diagnosis of depression and anxiety (I was 15) which was honestly a relief for me as I was finally able to put a name to something that I was experiencing. I started to become more social by getting involved in some clubs at my school. I also started to educate myself about my illness and the different things I could do to help manage it.
However, the transition from receiving support as an adolescent to a adult was hard.
I went from having a constant support system through my youth counsellor - to having no one as I entered college. Near the end of my studies my anxiety started to become an issue again, and shortly after I graduated from college I noticed a lot of my symptoms started to effect my day to day life. I became overwhelmed with having a huge student loan, no job and having to a find a place of my own to live. All of the positive techniques I had developed went out the door and I began self-harming again. I became really depressed, and that year of 2012 I attempted suicide.
Once I was stabilized, I was able to truly begin to accept that the certain things in my life were not my fault. I began to realize that I wasn't all the negative things my mind was telling me I was. I began to actually like myself.
My perspective completely changed, and I started to be hopeful.
So what now? I'm currently a mental health speaker with Durham T.A.M.I, the exact same organization that had the conference which ended up changing my life. I have been speaking with them for three years, sharing my experiences and story with others. I also work on the school board, supporting children and teenagers that may have a mental health disabilities or problems. This year, I'm writing a book and started my own website
where I hope to help with the conversation around mental health.
My mental illness used to be my secret. But I've learned that our experiences are not meant just for ourselves. My story has taught me to never let my culture, peers, or mental health problems negatively define who I am destined to be. That is definitely not a secret I want to keep to myself.
Story condensed & edited by Wear Your Label.
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