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 to showcase the stories of real people, who are brave enough to wear their label. Laura is one of those Role Models. Here's her story:
Just three years ago I never would have imagined I’d ever be writing about my experience living with mental illness.
Even though I was living and struggling with it every single day, I barely even knew what mental illness was. Growing up in a rural town in Nova Scotia made it extremely difficult to get the support I needed. Learning about mental health was not a part of the school curriculum, and professional help took upwards of six months to access.
Right before I started my final year of high school, I was diagnosed with panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I didn’t even know what panic disorder was, and I was being forced to live with it. I was terrified. During my worst, I would have multiple panic attacks every day. I would black out, become extremely nauseated and dizzy, and it would feel like the heart was going to beat right out of my chest. The thought of people caring about me or paying attention to me caused me anxiety, and it seemed impossible to maintain my social life. I was embarrassed of my mental illness, and I would do almost anything to hide it. The things that normally brought joy and pleasure to my life no longer did, and my bed soon became the only place I felt comfortable. A few months later, I was diagnosed with depression. I blamed myself for my feelings, and I was convinced I was nothing but a burden on my friends and family. I felt different and alone.
But I wasn’t different at all, nor was I alone. With ongoing support from my sister, my mother, and my counsellors, I realized I was just one in five people that struggle with mental illness. All kinds of people were struggling with similar issues, but I never knew because mental health is simply not something that’s comfortable to talk about. That needs to change. I am where I am today because of the conversations I had with people who were able to relate to me. That’s why Wear Your Label is such an awesome initiative- it strikes up important conversations between people that hold a similar passion: changing the way society views mental health.
Let’s unleash the noise about mental health, because nobody should ever have to suffer in silence.
Today, my mental illnesses still impact my daily life, but I am learning how to live with them and how to properly take care of my mental health. I still have days where I can’t seem to leave my bed, and days that I get anxious just by sitting in class. However, I now accept that it’s okay to not be okay. I am studying Psychology and Health Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS. I am a residence assistant, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. I am a proud mental health advocate and I hope to increase the availability of professional help in rural areas, as well as increase awareness of mental health among children.
“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go, they merely determine where you start,” – Nido Qubein
- Laura, @lauralowe18
Photography by Tim Lingley