Youth and mental illness.

“You keep finding dead ends to what you thought were good beginnings”


Life can be agonizingly difficult during a depression and/or anxiety episode. I am lucky that my experiences are limited to ‘curable’ episodes (typically lasting a few months). For some people, the symptoms never go away. I am also lucky to be an ‘adult’ in my 40’s with a fair amount of life experience, a loving family network, and a large (very large) amount of therapy and medication behind me. It must be so hard for children experiencing the same illness. It’s a testament to the strength of the young that any of them make it through at all. It is this strength that we now see rising up again and again in the form of youth who are coming forward and talking about their experiences with mental illness. The courage of these young role-models never ceases to amaze me as they make use of social media platforms to get the word out there… “mental illness can and does affect anyone! So, let’s talk about it…”

So I turn the rest of this blog post over to a talented young (13 years old!) advocate called Olivia. This is her ‘Slam’ poem in which she bravely and insightfully shares her experiences with some very problematic mental health. Her words speak for themselves, so I will say no more…

At just the age of 4,
I was already having anxiety about every little thing in my kindergarten class.
Whether it was taking the attendance down
or sharing something in a circle.
I always felt nervous.
 
At the age of 8,
I felt the need to be perfect with all the work that I did
because the last thing that I wanted was
to be laughed at.
When a test was being handed back,
I could feel my teacher’s eyes burning on the back of my head.
I could see a gleaming red ‘A’.
But later in the day,
peers were telling me that I did worse than them
as my worth was merely something to compare to.

 

At the age of 12,
I was more worried about the routine I had to do every night than my homework. All my books must be an odd number.
My laptop must be clean.
My bed needed to be made perfectly.
These routines anchored each passing day
and tricked me into thinking that my anxiety would go away
Now, at the age of 13, all of this combined is my reality.
Every little thing you can think of in a day, make me nervous in some way.
Even simply getting on the bus…
All I can think about is the hundreds of things my bus driver might say to me.
 
Before a presentation,
I find myself slowly shaking to the point where its uncontrollable. I can see the sweat on my hands leaving marks on the table. 
And then my name is called…
I find myself slowly moving to the front of the class.
I feel like a deer in the headlights,
waiting to be hit with the stares of my peers.
 
 
If one little thing goes wrong in my day,
my brain latches onto that memory
and keeps on thinking about it for two weeks…
until it finally goes away.
Only to find that it comes back haunting me 
the next day.
 
If I get invited to go somewhere
My thoughts go to every situation imaginable.
Just thinking about that
makes me feel so ashamed because I just want
to go somewhere
without having to say “no”

 

Anxiety is like going through a maze.
Except it never ends.
You keep finding dead ends to what you thought were good beginnings.
No one is around you trying to help because they can’t see you on the inside.  

…You feel truly lost without anyone.


“1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness in a given year. As people get older, their mental health often gets worse. But, not many people talk about it because there is still… a mental health stigma which creates stereotypes and offensive comments. This can lead to many dreadful outcomes. We must speak out because…

…there shouldn’t be any shame.”

Written By Olivia

Mental health advocate

Age 13

One thought on “Youth and mental illness.”

  1. So relieved there is more support now. Not enough, but more.those not impacted by mental illness will never know the struggle and I hope they never do. I do hope they become advocates though and not another battle.

    Liked by 1 person

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