Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Hilda-Matilda and I’m 19 years old. I’m currently a university student working on an undergrad degree in International Development Studies. I’m an avid believer and advocate for social change in various areas of life; human rights, gender equity and mental health. On the side, I’m a barista as well as a model. I love fashion, photography, a good amount of time on Netflix (24/7 if possible) and sweets, treats and everything nice. I’m currently preparing to travel to South Korea for one year on student exchange to improve my language proficiency. I have an avid interest in East Asian culture in regards to customs, languages, fashion and of course food!
What is your connection to mental illness?
I’ve always been a major advocate of mental wellness. In a society like the one we live in today, like the one I lived in – the school community I was surrounded around for many years, I grew up thinking it was a taboo to speak about such matters. It was not until I noticed classmates being absent for several days in a row, the trend of wearing long sleeves to hide cuts on arms, skipping lunches and prolonged minutes where hurling sounds bounced off the bathroom walls…what seemed like the growing pains of teenage girls in an all-girls high school suddenly began to make sense.
Words like depression, bulimia, and anxiety started to pop up more often and I became more aware of these issues. Up until the age of 12, I had always heard the word “emo” a word synonymous to teenagers who were “too emotional” or “attention seekers”. It was not until those close to me started exhibiting behaviours that people always labelled as a mere overreaction that it all came into perspective. I began to realize that mental illness affected those around me more than I had ever considered. This realization pushed me to co-lead on the Stop the Stigma group in my high school. As a team we hosted various campaigns promoting mental health discourse as well as support groups.
For many years I lived as a supporter until I personally began my own battles – silently but bravely. While I’m not clinically diagnosed, I’ve seen the struggles of those I loved and faced personal battles of my own. It took me a long time to become comfortable in my own skin. Not only am I taller than most girls, I’m also underweight. It caused be a serious stigma for a portion of my life. Many made fun of me and teased me with ideas of forced starvation due to anorexia or bulimia. They took such serious illness and gave me labels of their own. This caused me to be very withdrawn and ashamed of my body but also emotionally scarred the image I had of my own self.
What is your greatest success so far?
I still find it hard to categorize events in my life as things of great success. After much consideration, the greatest success in my life beats events such as graduating high school as the government’s scholar or my sponsored scholarship to university. While these may have been great accomplishments as roots from my hard work, my greatest success is more personal and fulfilling to me as an individual.
My transformation from who I was up until the age 12 to who I was able to become by the age of 18 is my greatest personal success. I considerably changed from a shy girl with hidden big dreams to someone with a burning passion to fulfil them. Even with my speech hindrance (due to a stutter I developed since childhood) my passion is so strong that it has not held me back in any way. I have become more confident in the way I see myself and have also accepted the flaws which have stitched me wholly together to become who I am today. I’ve been through so many adversaries in my life and just knowing I’ve overcame them all has given me the strength to fight through any circumstance that comes my way. This is my greatest success,
Who is a Role Model to you?
Throughout my life, I’ve had several people who have guided me and help me mould into who I am now. These include my parents, teachers and dear friends who not only support me but inspire me. Not only am I thankful for their support but through watching how they lead their own lives (through success or adversaries) I am constantly inspired to make positive decisions in my life.
If you had 30 seconds to share a message with the world, what would you say?
It’s okay. It’s okay for things to go wrong. It is okay not to know your purpose or where you’re headed. It is totally okay to stumble in adversaries. At the same time, it is okay to love yourself and be your own biggest supporter. It is definitely okay to be selfish once in a while. Don’t let anyone tell you that you love yourself too much – that in itself is a contradiction. Whether good or bad, things happen and life happens and we can all get through it. One day things will make sense. It’s okay not to be okay.