Written by QCMHA Sponsorship Coordinator Sarah Andersons
Facing the barrier of asking for help was one of the biggest challenges I have faced, as I had to admit, to not only myself, but to others that I was struggling with. As a child, I was diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, which led to being in and out of therapy from the age of three. Growing up I never had to ask for help, for I was too young to even realize what was wrong and make that choice. I was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who could identify when I was “not myself” or when I needed some extra support.
The second lockdown for the COVID 19 pandemic happened when I was in Grade 12. There was nothing in the world I could really control and I began to feel lost. Unfortunately my focus turned to my appearance and an extreme focus on body image. At this time in my life I decided to hide my struggles from everyone, even though I knew my peers would be supportive. Why would I hide something that was so harmful to my mental and physical health? Unfortunately as young adults there are many reasons why we may not reach out for help.
Mental illness always comes with its ups and downs and, as we get older, we want to be more independent and in charge of our emotions. Being independent was one of my strongest traits, so I felt that asking for help may make others think I was weak or inadequate in some way. For a long time, I thought my eating disorder was a problem I could fix on my own, but it was not. It is kind of ironic that I started certain daily habits to have some control over my life during Covid 19, and then it ended up just being completely out of my control.
One day I felt so lost I didn’t know how to help myself any longer, so I got over my fear of being seen as a dependent person, and went to my mum for help. I realized that reaching out does not make you weak, it actually makes you stronger and more self-aware.
Another large barrier for me in the process of reaching out was accepting the fact I was going to be faced with a new diagnosis. As someone who has been through the recovery phase before, getting a new diagnosis shouldn’t be a big deal. However, the thought of being the girl with anxiety, OCD, and an eating disorder was terrifying. Especially since I was at an all-girls high school and the thought of admitting that I had an eating disorder among other mental illnesses raised a lot of anxiety for me; I was ashamed of myself.
However, as soon as I reached out for help, I started telling my friends, family, other support systems and teachers about my personal challenges and instantly realized I lost that feeling of shame. Struggling is completely normal and talking about it actively reduces the stigma. I found there was so much support and understanding from others and I needed this to help me move forward with recovery.
Throughout this experience in my life, I learned that asking for help may seem scary, but really was the biggest relief. No one sees you as weak or helpless, in fact it’s actually the opposite. Additionally, I have come out the other side of this challenge a stronger and more self-aware person. Knowing how to get over the fear of asking for help by realizing there is no shame in it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.