Northern Ontario
OCD, Depression, Anxiety



My name is Andrew.
I deal with O.C.D., anxiety, and depression.

I started noticing it mostly when I was in Grade Eight, around there. I went to a psychologist for about a year, once every two weeks, and we went through behavioural therapy. I also take Prozac and there’s lots of breathing exercises, which I do when I start to feel anxious.

If I was talking to somebody I could never keep eye contact. Never ever keep eye contact. I look off into the distance and I’d line up two points of something, like let’s say the corner of a table and the corner of the T.V. And then I have to move my head and cross those two points. And so line the two points up and then I’d look from another angle and then I’d line the two points and then look back and line the two points up in my vision and I do that with literally everything and I don’t know why I would do it but I just have to do it over and over and over again. I’d be moving my head all over the place when I was talking to people and I couldn’t have normal conversations with people because I’d be doing that thing where I’d line up two points in the distance. Now being on the medication, I can talk to people, look them in the eye and it also helps me just be myself. All Prozac is, is it stabilizes your serotonin levels, I think. So, it’s not making me somebody who up I’m not, it’s just regulating my serotonin levels and making me be able to be myself.

When I was a lot younger, maybe about ten or even when I was like six or seven, I went through phases where I couldn’t eat. Just something my mind was telling me I couldn’t eat because I was going to choke on food. So I’d starve myself because I wouldn’t be able to eat because I’d try to eat and then I’d wouldn’t to be able to swallow because I’d think I was going to choke on it. And then throughout hockey, I’d always get nervous when I was younger, maybe eleven or twelve, I’d get sick before hockey games because I’d be nervous. I thought I had stomach problems. So I got tested for stomach problems and all that. They all came back, and I was perfectly fine.

Then once I started skate boarding in Grade Eight, my life turned around. My social life got better, I wasn’t having as bad anxiety, my obsessiveness all turned towards skate boarding. I was able to think clearly and have fun and do whatever. But then slowly after about two or three years of skateboarding, around Grade Ten, my obsessive thoughts started coming back and the same thing where I would be nervous and would get sick would come back. I wouldn’t be able to go to school anymore so I had to come up with something new. What helped me there was, and I got very depressed during that time period and I couldn’t leave my bed and then I started flying model airplanes or building model airplanes which was a hobby I had when I was a lot younger then I picked it up again. Then all my interest went to that and that kept my mind busy. I was able to live more my normal life. And then around the same time I started taking my medication, talking to my psychologist and everything turned around from there. I also started getting into fishing around the same time and that, fishing, and then took over.

Then the summer before first year university came around, I decided to quit the meds because I was going out and partying a lot. I wanted to be able to drink more without worrying about mixing it with my medication. So I quit the medication and then within the month of quitting the medication, all my obsessive thoughts came back. My anxiety came back. I couldn’t, wasn’t able to, do anything. Throughout the first three/four months of university, it was a struggle every day. I didn’t want to leave my bed or do anything. I still skateboarded occasionally but I just wasn’t all there. Then I started the meds again halfway through my first year of university and within about a month, or month and a half, everything turned around. My social life got better; I was hanging with people more and feeling better. I’ve been on the meds ever since then and still seeing my psychologist occasionally, two or three times a year, just to check up. And things have been going amazing ever since.

My object is my skateboard because my skateboard has had the biggest influence on my life. That’s where all of my, most of my, friends have came from is from skateboarding and all my life, like my friends I’ve known since before high school, are from skateboarding. And even though I don’t do it much anymore, it brings back so many memories and stuff. Starting to skateboard was the first point where I noticed all my rituals, O.C.D. Rituals, were still there but my anxiety and my depression got better because I was able to enjoy life so much more when I started skateboarding, just when I started before high school. And then after that, there are the model airplanes, which I’ve been in and out of. But then fishing has now taken over and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three/ four years. So I make fishing lures and all that. My fly tying desk, where I make flies or fishing lures or whatever you want to call them, that’s my safe space because it’s something that I’m passionate about, fly fishing. I cannot actually be fishing and I can still have something to do with it and enjoy it. While you’re making a fishing lure, you’re thinking about where you’re going to use it, when you’re going to use it. You’re thinking about how to make it properly and you can zone everything else out and just focus on what you’re doing. And it helps keep the bad thoughts, or anxious thoughts, away.



British Columbia
Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD, Anxiety



My name is Mikayla.
I deal with O.C.D., B.P.D., which is Borderline Personality Disorder, and occasionally bouts of social anxiety.

I’ve been dealing with it for about eight years. I think what brought on my mental health problems would probably be genetic and environmental.

I guess in terms of coping strategies, I would use stuff like anything from that I’d learned in terms of mindfulness, pleasure activities like drawing, but also bigger things like exercise and eating properly. And building those goals like going to work more and just taking it one step at a time. A lot of it is just focusing on yourself, focusing on how to get through the situations. I take the skills that I have been taught and I work it into my life. And with that it’s like when you kind of get little snippets throughout your days or months or weeks or years, you bring that, those little ideas in, and you just work with them. It’s a work in progress. I mean there’s no magical wand that is just going to cure you.

B.P.D. is a personality disorder so a lot of it is action based. So it’s a very, very, self-destructive illness. It’s very personal; it’s very all about you kind of thing. It’s the way you act out, the way you think and it’s personal with everything. Everyone’s different, but my own experience with B.P.D. is that I have challenges with self-harm and that was my biggest addiction. It’s masking your emotions or it’s a release. I mean it can be. I use to do it anywhere, any reason from being bored, to being angry, to being sad, or even happy. And sometimes I did it to feel emotion and sometimes I did it to suppress emotion. Sometimes I just did it because I was punishing myself for punishing someone else and I took it out of my body and then sometimes it was just plainly the release.

The thing with B.P.D is it is a very dramatic illness, and I mean there definitely were a lot of traumatic events based on the drama that went on in my environment. A lot of it I’ve learned, you know, that I have hurt people with my illness but it’s learning that it is not me that hurt them, but it is my illness that hurt them. It’s coming to that understanding that you know you’re not doing it to hurt people, it’s your illness, it’s inside you and sometimes it controls your brain, it controls your operating system. I give a big shout out to my family because I know they went through a lot and it made us stronger, it did, and it gave us a lot of really good moments too. And you know, it goes with any family who has a child who is very sick.

If we band together and we help each other, we’re going to spread that knowledge of what helps each other and what works and what doesn’t work and how we can fight back to get us, to get our voice heard. You know, you’re all worth it. We’re all worth it. We’re all pieces of a puzzle that connect the world.

I believe I can live positively. As much as it’s a negative atmosphere, it’s definitely is, I wouldn’t have had so many awesome attributes about myself. Some days I’m like I wish I never had to go through what I went through; I wish I’m not going through what I’m going through now. But when I am in a positive frame of mind, I wouldn’t take back those years. I wouldn’t change them because it’s taught me so much and it’s given me so much insight and so much wisdom and so much empathy and it’s really just kind of brought me to where I’m supposed to be in life and what I’m supposed to do. It showed me the path of what I’m supposed to do in life. I mean it can be a real pain, a pain in the bum, but it’s really, there are moments where, I mean even laughter even just having a bout of laughter and you cherish it so much more than most people. You don’t take things for granted. You don’t take those happy moments for granted. And so yeah I think I can live positively. You know maybe not all the time, as this is a lifelong process. But if I live in the moment and if I live through the skills and helping myself then yeah there are going to be a lot more moments that are really worth living for.



British Columbia
Dissociative Identity Disorder, Depression, PTSD, Anxiety



My name is Suzanne.
I deal with dissociative identity disorder, depression, complex P.T.S.D., and anxiety.

I was correctly diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder in May of 2003, but I’ve been dealing with it all my life, as well as the depression, anxiety, and complex P.T.S.D. So yeah, all my life.

D.I.D. is created in early childhood usually before the age of seven and it’s a result of overwhelming circumstances, in my case it was severe neglect and abuse, and it can also happen if a young child has had multiple surgeries or medical procedures. It also happens with kids, young kids, which have grown up in refugee camps and live in a civil war area. What it basically is is the child has nowhere to go when the overwhelmed circumstances happen. So what I did was, if the perpetrator came into the room, me the typical Suzy that you see here, would kind of go into the background and I created this persona that would deal with the event in the situation and they would hold all the memories and everything of that event. When the event was over and the perpetrator was gone, that persona would kind of go back into my subconscious and the apparent normal self, me, would come out just kind of carry on and try to carry on the best I could.

Beforehand my disassociation was my coping. Whenever life got too bad I would dissociate. In D.I.D. you create at a young age these personas to deal with stuff and so I would just kind of basically check out of life and another persona would come and deal with life. But then I would have no memory of what I had done. I’d have people come up to me on the street talk to me and they know who I am but I have no flipping idea who the hell they are because I don’t remember talking to them. Being aware when I need to pull out of things, I’m fairly busy and fairly active, but being aware when I know when things are getting too much and there’s personal stuff that I need to work on. Being able to be in an environment and the activities that I do, that I can say I need to back off, I’m going to stop for a couple weeks but I’ll be back. Like my dragon boat team, I’ve been dragon boating for ten years, and I’ve been in the hospital. I called the psychiatric unit in the hospital the St Joseph Spa and Treatment Centre and I’ve been there many times. But each time I come out, the dragon boat team, I still got a seat. So there’s nothing, I’m not going to lose any seat or anything like that.

When I was in the psych unit one time on my birthday – the hospital is up on the hill – they paddled during practice, they paddled underneath to sing me Happy Birthday. I remember sitting outside and my nurse came up to me and said what are you doing, you know conversation sitting at the picnic table. I said “Oh waiting for my dragon boat team to sing Happy Birthday.” Well she couldn’t see the dragon boat team because the hospital is on the cliff. So she’s looking at me like thinking is Suzy hallucinating again, what is she talking about? I said no, no it’s dragon boat practice and the team did paddle by, we couldn’t see them but we could hear them and they were singing Happy Birthday. They’ve been there from the very beginning and they have been an awesome phenomenal support system all in their own way.

I guess mainly knowing what I need to do, lots of self care, lots of knowing what my limitations are. For years I have, while I still have years of blank memories. I don’t remember Christmases, birthdays, any major events. Grade One, Two, Three, Four, I remember little snippets of it. I went to college for two years when I was thirty; I can pull up little bits of memory of that but not a whole. I don’t have access to those memories. I’ve obviously got them because I’m the one that was doing everything. But being able to pull up those memories, whether I’ll ever be able to, I don’t know.

I’ve got three/four, maybe five, major personas. One is Stanley. Stanley was created when I was six years old. I had an older brother who was one of my protectors, and when he was sixteen he joined the army, so I no longer have the protector when crap happened. I created Stanley and Stanley’s job was to find really small places for me to hide in when stuff happened.

I would like to get out more and be able to do more public speaking, talk to more students, talk to more classrooms. Actually I would love to do a conference, a mental health conference. But because I don’t have the PhD and all the letters behind my name, it’s kind of hard to get into it. But it will come. Whatever’s meant to come, will come. I never thought I’d be talking to youth and at risk groups and stuff like that. I never thought I would ever be doing that but that’s what I want to do. So I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. I have done presentations, given talks to nursing staff or nursing students from the college. I’ve also done talks with a couple at risk youth groups and then the girl’s group at the local transition society here. And then this last June, I went back to my old school, my old high school and presented to three psychology classes there. That was a little surreal. Each class is a bit different but yes; I just go in there and talk about the D.I.D. and what it really is and what it isn’t. I discuss how it’s affected my life and talk about the depression and the complex P.T.S.D., mental health in general and why we need to start talking about it. What’s really interesting is once I start talking about mental health issues, other people start opening up and it just blows my mind. Could be teachers, it could be people I sing with, could be people in the dragon boat team, people I golf with. Because mental health touches everybody, whether you have it or family member have it, you know somebody who’s got it, so it touches everybody. It’s very interesting that people come up to me and talk to me about their issues or their struggles with it.



Depression, Anxiety, Addiction



What is your name?
My name is Chris.

What are you dealing with?
I deal with the depression, anxiety, and addiction issues.

How long have you been dealing with it?
Probably all my life. I’m fifty now.

What are some of your coping strategies?
So I have healthy and unhealthy coping strategies and unhealthy ones have to do with addictions mostly like drinking and marijuana use, and I find that they don’t work at all. And another unhealthy one is how I manage stress in my life and I got to be able to deal with it better than I have. But healthy ones that I have I find are exercising are good and being outside. I really have to fight depression. I have to fight it with all I got just to get up and get out, but once I do make those steps the depression eases. So I find it’s really hard to do and it’s really tough. But if you can anybody, including myself, stay and fight it and don’t let it win then you’re on the road to recovery.

How has depression affected your work abilities?
Depression has affected my work horribly because I used to just jump from job to job to job to job and I couldn’t stay at any particular job for any length of time. And that’s really horrible actually and I don’t know. It was mentally tough not being able to keep jobs but I was always wanting to quit because I couldn’t handle the stress. My home life probably wasn’t that good. Numbers of times I got admitted to hospital. I attempted suicide. And so that didn’t really help my work out because I was unstable. So I find that one I get in to a good place where I have been recently is that I’m stable, I got a good frame of mind, and I keep doing healthy things.

So what are some goals?
I have goals. My goals for the future, and with my depression are trying to stay positive. I’m going to try my best to stay positive. I know what don’t work so I have to stay away from those. In regards to depression, if I have to take antidepressants for the rest of my life I’ll take them for the rest of my

life. But with that being said I’m going to go in a positive frame of mind and I also want to try to help people and get involved because I find if you help people with depression and they realize that you’ve been there you’ve got a better chance of helping people and by helping people you help yourself. I think that’s really, really important, and that’s a lot of the reason why I’m doing this today is to send out the message that ‘hey if you fight the fight we can beat this’ and you’re not alone, nobody’s alone. It may feel like it but you’re not and you know everybody has different struggles, mental illness and depression is one and it can be beat. I’m proof.

Do you think you can live positively while dealing with something labeled so negatively?
Absolutely I have to live positively because if I let the negativeness of depression and everything seep in then it’s when. So I got to always keep in mind to be positive. And by being positive and feeling well, because I find positiveness comes from within, and if you exude positiveness that depression can’t eat away at you. You’re winning the battle and I find that you’ve got to stay positive and all the negativeness that goes on about depression. I’m going stay positive myself and help people and try to turn people’s negativeness into positiveness and if everybody that suffered from depression that then depression would be beaten.

So what advice would you give individuals dealing with mental health issues?
My main advice to give people with mental health issues are dealing with depression or anxiety is to seek help. First of all get help, if you need to get help, and talk to people. You know if you can talk to your family or your loved ones there are professionals out there and that’s what I did. I called a twenty-four hour helpline crying and didn’t know where to turn. From there they helped me get the ball rolling and I was so glad that they were there for me. So my main thing is to talk and and tell people because some people don’t know what you’re going through and you don’t have to do it alone.

So besides the crisis hotline what else have you done to help yourself if you were in a situation where you needed individuals to help you?
I went to group counseling actually and everybody there was dealing with mental health issues. I checked myself in the hospital on a number of occasions, but most recently I attended group counseling. I went to see that two doctors a G.P. And a psychiatrist to help me and I also had a therapist to help me. And what happened was they put me on the right path. A lot of it is in your thinking and it and I was really negative in my thinking so they were beating it into me to think more positively about myself and all the good things. That really helped a lot that I’ve done that I followed through and never missed an appointment because there’s life on the line and right now it’s worked for me great. I don’t even see a therapist or anything anymore now but I know the signs that if I get unwell I have to see somebody.Any advice for individuals?
Another thing that I find that would help people suffering from mental illnesses are if your in unhealthy situations, like an unhealthy home or an unhealthy friends that hang out with, you got to change your lifestyle. And change it for a healthier way. If you’re hanging with people that party and drink, that’s all depressants. It ain’t going to help your mental health. So you have to change. You may have to change your whole life around healthier things and that’s what I’ve done and so far it’s working. I’m here.