Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi, I’m Danielle. I am 19 years old, and I was born in Bathurst New-Brunswick, but I currently live in Halifax Nova-Scotia. I am in my second year of university at Saint Mary’s, working to achieve a bachelor of arts in International Development, and Sociology. I have a passion for yoga and music, and fortunately can always feel at ease with the help of Stevie Wonder. I have an immense constant desire for sweets, or anything chocolate related. I adore animals, especially my cat Nahla, I couldn’t ask for a better Netflix or study buddy. Most of all I love spending time with my friends, and meeting new people who help me grow and learn new ways to enjoy life.
What is your connection to mental illness?
Growing up I’ve always felt enormous pressure to uphold a strong identity, which created large defenses in my life because often I felt far from being a strong person. I began getting panic attacks in high school, and later found out it was due to my anxiety. I wasn’t clinically diagnosed with anxiety, or depression until leaving an abusive relationship in my first year of university. I began to self-medicate with marijuana, and the approval and watch of my doctor. A common misconception is that a diagnosis is followed by a cure, but recovery has its ups and downs and is different for everyone. After being sexually assaulted In October 2016, my smoking habit became increasingly worse. The realization that I needed to make a change in my life came quickly, when I noticed I was receiving strong negative effects from my habits. I’ve always tried to be a positive person, and this outlook has really been able to keep me grounded throughout my journey. Today I can say that I am happier than I can ever remember myself being, and that I truly love myself and who I’m becoming to be.
What resources/things did you find helpful in your recovery from Sexual Assault?
I was able to receive help from a local organization here in Halifax that aids in the recovery for sexual assault victims. Being able to talk to someone who knew what I was going through, and could explain why I was feeling certain ways really helped me have a quick recovery. My friends were also really understanding and accepting of my often lack of alertness. I received massive amounts of support and patience from my school, family, and friends which made recovery easier knowing that I wasn’t alone and had people in my life who loved me no matter what.
What are some things that we (friends, relatives, colleagues, etc) can do to support a survivor of Sexual Assault?
Supporting survivors of sexual assault differs for every individual person, but I think that the most important thing someone can do to help is to just be there for him/her. Whether that means simply listening, talking or just being in their presence. A common struggle for survivors is feeling safe in their own skin again. Often the biggest thing someone can do to support a survivor of sexual assault is create a place where they can feel happy, safe, and free to talk about their feelings.
Why is speaking about Sexual Assault important to you?
Speaking about sexual assault is important to me because of the stigma attached to survivors. I was scared to talk about my assault not because I feared the man who assaulted me, but because I was scared of what people would think of me if they found out. I was afraid to be labeled as damaged or weak, or blamed for my assault. It took a lot of work for me to be able to say that I am not to blame for my assault, and I am not broken because of it. Being able to speak about my sexual assault makes me feel stronger because of it, and hopefully it can empower other women who potentially feel secluded. 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence in their lifetime, so it’s important to talk about it and know that you’re not alone.
What are you most proud of yourself for?
I never thought I could ever love myself. Now, I can’t imagine loving anyone more. I am proud of myself for truly getting to know myself. Along with creating my own happiness, and not letting others dictate my perceptions.
What does your Self-Care Sunday look like?
My Self-Care Sunday typically involves a good documentary or television series and copious amounts of love from Nahla. She’s really my partner in crime when it comes to all my self-care rituals. She’s always around to bite my toes whether I’m taking a bath or practicing yoga. Nahla has truly brightened my life, and a Self-Care Sunday wouldn’t be complete without her.
Photos by Sarah Davison