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 (regardless of our clothing). Amanda is one of those Role Models. Here's her story.
WYL: Tell us a bit about yourself
A: My name is Amanda, I am 20 years old, and was born and raised in the small city of Fredericton, NB. I spent two years at the University of New Brunswick and recently transferred to Dalhousie University to finish off my degree in Halifax. I am completing a Double Major in Psychology and French and am setting myself up to do what I love most: teach. I have a passion for writing simply because I love it and want to teach English similar to those who inspired me to work through my battles by writing
WYL: What's your connection to mental illness? Why is it important for you to share your story?
A: This has always been a hard question for me to respond to. I have many connections to mental illness; I have grown up with close relatives and friends struggling with mental illness and have also struggled myself. I always found it hard because I grew up in such a small city where everyone knew your name and your story. In that case, I never told my story simply because I was embarrassed. I did not want people to know that I was not that happy person they saw every day. For this reason, I completely closed myself off because I believed if no one knew, it was as though it wasn’t even there. Eventually, I realized that the struggle I was hiding every day was only making things worse. I felt weak, which is the opposite of what I should have felt. Mental illness is not weakness; it’s the power to overcome your own mind. It shows true courage to stand up to the label you may have been given and true willpower to overcome it.
Today, if you were to walk up to me and ask I would tell you bluntly what I’ve been through but at the end of the day it does not matter, what matters is that I am still here. To me, what’s most important is what we all do to move forward and knowing that although it may be a long road, we are not alone.
I think it is important for me to speak out about my story because the stigma around mental illness is what has held myself and those close to me back and that is exactly what Wear Your Label is about.
WYL: How have you overcome your struggles?
A: During anxiety-stricken times I was taught to work on being mindful. The first step is being aware that it is there and figuring out exactly what is plaguing me. Many people work these out by talking with their friends but I pull out my journal and simply write it down. Once it is written down I can focus my energy on what is most important to me and everything else around me I have to appreciate. Putting my anxious mind on paper helps me realize that my situation may not be as severe as it feels. I have controlled my mind to relax as once it’s written down on paper they just become words that were once consuming my mind. They can no longer control me as I choose to erase them or keep them on that page: “I am ready to move forward; I am in control”.
WYL: How do you help others overcome a mental health challenge they might be facing?
A: To help others overcome a struggle, I just listen. There is nothing worse than being told you are being over-dramatic or given advice when it is not wanted. Sometimes all someone needs is to get it out of their system even if they already know the solution to their own problem. Simply being there and that friend, peer, family member or acquaintance knowing you are there for them is enough to help them through the day.
WYL: What would you tell someone who might be going through something similar?
A: There’s nothing worse than fighting with your own mind. It is easy to get stuck in a situation and believe there is no way out of it. However, if you take a step back and are determined to push through it, you will. It may feel as though there’s no way out but you can control it by being mindful of it. It has only helped me grow as a person and has helped me work on insecurities I did not even know I had. Whether it is a mental illness or just a hard time in your life, it will only get better with time and motivation. Appreciate the little things a little more and realize that the anxiety that is taking over this moment will not take away from your happiness for long. Everything you have been working for is on the other side of that anxiety and do not let your mind take that away from you.
Photos: Ashley Lemmon
Runway Photo: Brent McCombs / Atlantic Fashion Week 2015