What is a Role Model? Not too long ago, we decided that it wasn't enough to cast fashion models based on height and comp cards. We wanted to showcase the stories of real people, who are brave enough to wear their label. Mackenzie is one of those Role Models.
WYL: First off, tell us a bit about yourself:
MM: The names Mackenzie Murphy, but my friends call me Little Mack. I’m turning 17 this September, and to say I like chicken nuggets would be an understatement. I’m from a not so small town of Airdrie, Alberta, where in 2013, I pushed to create an anti-bullying bylaw that was later passed in September of 2013. That is were my passion for advocating against bullying, and the mental health stigma began. I have been speaking about my struggles with bullying, and my own mental illness since I was just 13 years old. Since then, I’ve learned so much, and my determination for change has not died down. Between volunteering around my community, speaking at schools and events such as WeDay, and being your typical everyday teenager, I’ve had quite the journey that’s only just getting started. I started doing pageants almost 2 years ago, and have held titles as both Miss Teenage Airdrie, and Miss Teen Alberta American Beauty, where I represented my town and province both nationally and internationally at 2 pageants! This both did wonders for my self-esteem, and also gave me a unique way to share my story, and passion across North America. Today, I am continuing to share that passion for change, and working towards creating more resources for those who struggle with mental illness everyday.
"in 2013, I pushed to create an anti-bullying bylaw that was later passed in September of 2013. That is were my passion for advocating against bullying, and the mental health stigma began."
WYL: What is your connection to mental illness? Why do you want to share your story?
MM: It’s taken a while for me to come to terms with my connection to mental illness. I lived in a downward spiral of denial, and confusion for a very long time, scared of a label that I felt would change who I am, and how others perceive me. It was just last year that I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, after being admitted to the youth mental health ward at my local hospital 9 times over the course of 3 years. For the longest time I felt lost, and incomplete. There was no explanation as to why these dramatic, and overwhelming mood swings were happening in my head, and I often believed that I was the only one who felt this way. I was not only scared of myself, but also ashamed of who I was. Looking back, I met a few special people who were able to articulate their feelings of anxiousness, sadness and also their hope for recovery. I always admire these people for their strength in tough times, and allowing me the opportunity to relate to their struggles. This, among many other reasons, is why I choose to share my journey through mental illness.
WYL: How have you overcome your struggles?
MM: I don’t believe I could write a solid list of all the ways I coped with not only my illness, but with life itself. Everyday, I am faced with at least one hurdle I have to jump over, one way or another. I think the overall virtue I’ve come to appreciate, and has been the most helpful in most, if not all my struggles, has been patience. I often tried to rush my recovery. I put so much pressure on myself to become magically better in a matter of weeks. Once I stopped counting days, and allowed myself time to heal, I became stronger than my struggle. I refused to let my illness dictate how I was going to live my life. I opened myself up to setting goals that I never in a million years thought I would achieve, like having the chance to speak at WeDay, or wining a title at a pageant. These achievements helped my overall self-esteem, and gave me something bigger than myself to work towards.
"Once I stopped counting days, and allowed myself time to heal, I became stronger than my struggle."
WYL: If you could describe your mental health struggle in one word what would it be?
MM: One word? Neverending.
WYL: Why is ending the stigma important to you?
MM: Ending the stigma is important to me, because I shouldn’t be asked by psychiatric nurses, what I’m going to tell my peers about where I was, when I get back from treatment. I do not need an excuse, or a lie, because just like a kid that goes into the hospital when their sick, I needed help. I will not be ashamed of asking for help. I will not be ashamed of my disorder, and it is this very stigma that is causing millions around the world to stay silent. The slang, attitudes, and lack of resources are all components to a stigma that is so viciously attacking the ones who need to speak up. If I can play a small part in the fight to change the perspectives put upon those who struggle, and live with mental illness’s, I know that this will help at least one person ask for help, and when they do ask for help, they are met with open arms and a list of avenues, and resources in front of them.
WYL: How do you take care of yourself?
MM: I take care of myself in some unconventional ways. I treat myself to an entire pizza here and there, when I’m feeling down in the dumps, but I also find that volunteering has been the ultimate pain killer. There’s a kind of happiness you get when helping another human being, that no anti-depressant can replicate. Volunteering and pageants go hand in hand, which happens to be another way I take care of little old me! Pageants not only have given me the confidence and skills to step foot on stage, make friends, or nail a job interview, but they’ve showed me all the ways that I can evolve and improve myself in such a strong way. Just like Pokémon, we have to evolve in order to become better and stronger, and we learn so many skills along the way. Although that change might be met with fear, we must look that fear in the face, and move past it.
"volunteering has been the ultimate pain killer. There’s a kind of happiness you get when helping another human being, that no anti-depressant can replicate."
WYL: If you had 30 seconds to share a message with the entire world, what would it be?
MM: Never allow your mental illness to win. It will be hard. The war between your illness versus yourself will be the hardest battle you will ever have to face, but always remember that even the strongest soldiers have to take some time to clean up their own wounds, before heading back out on the battlefield. Although you may be blinded by pessimistic thoughts drowning your brain, know that hope and faith never leave your side, even when you can’t see them, they’re always there, along with your friends, family, that one barista at starbucks that adds a little too much whipped cream to your Frapp because they think you’re super cute, and yourself.
Photos: Courtney Borgford