My name is Samantha Teichman, I am 20 years old and I study Sociology and Women & Gender Studies at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS. What is most important to me when addressing issues of mental health is that they are endlessly complex when attempting to address, diagnose and treat. If I have learned anything about mental health over the years, it is that treatments and help are far from one-size-fits-all.
Personally, I have struggled with severe depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress. My journey with mental health has been long with a lot of ups and downs. Things started going downhill around eighth grade when I started comparing myself to other people. It started with things like grades and evolved into things like body shape and ultimately ended with me having little to no self confidence and being way too hard on myself- leaving me feeling completely worthless. This was the starting point of my depression and anxiety. However, things took a turn for the worst a year later in the when I lost my mother suddenly to a heart attack. That night, my whole world was flipped upside down and from then on I knew that everything was about to change. With such a traumatic experience came symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and a worsening of my pre-existing depression and anxiety. I can so clearly remember feeling so overwhelmed with the funeral and everyone asking me if I was okay; the countless efforts to make appointments with counsellors made me want to shut down and just scream. With a loss so profound, it can take years and years of healing. Grief suddenly took over my life.
First of all, there is nothing in this world that frustrates me more than when people refer to the grieving process as a sequence of stages, as if it is planned, organized and ordered. When dealing with the lost of a loved one, you should never feel as though you need to grieve in “order” or grieve for a certain length of time. Personally, I remember feeling so pressured to fit the “Stages of Grief” which did not allow any freedom for the proper healing that I do desperately needed. What is crucial to remember is that the healing process is very personal and can only happen when YOU feel ready, no one can decide how to heal but YOU! It has been five years since I lost my mother and I am finally beginning to understand that when dealing with mental disorders, the goal is not to be fixed but rather to learn how to cope with a new reality.
Samantha’s Advice on the Loss of a Loved One
1. Never stop talking about them. Whether you are telling stories about them or talking out loud to them, just always continue to keep them in your lives.
2. Appreciate their memories. Rather than being angry or upset for the memories they will miss, cherish the ones that you had. It is important to be grateful for the time we had with them: I think it definitely builds for a brighter future when we appreciate the past. Next time their favourite song plays on the radio, turn it up and sing it loud, just for them.
3. Acknowledge signs and symbols from loved ones. The world has a funny way of working when it comes to signs and symbols from loved ones who have passed. My mom comes through to me in many different ways, but a personal favourite is through Michael Bublé songs. She LOVED Michael Bublé, (we called him “Michel Bubbles” growing up) and I find that on my worst days, one of his songs will come on the radio or if I am stressed while studying his song will appear next on my playlist. It's things like this that bring comfort and let you know that they are still with you wherever you go, no matter how long it has been.
How Sam Does “Me Time”
When I am feeling overwhelmed, stressed or upset I find it very important to take a break and allow myself some “Me Time”. One thing I have learned is that what might work as a fix on one bad day might not work the next time, so it is important to have different outlets. For me, some of outlets include:
• Journaling: For me, writing in my journal can help me come to terms with any emotion, whether I am scribbling all over because I am angry or I am writing a letter to express how I feel, by the end I usually feel relieved.
• Exercise: Physical activity has become a very important aspect of my life. Exercise directly impacts your mental health and when I am feeling overwhelmed, a run can be the perfect break.
• Driving: Going for a drive can clear my head in seconds. For those of you who know me, you know that I love to sing while I drive. Something about belting my favourite song in the car seems to change my mood for the better almost instantaneously.
• Nature: A personal favourite of mine is a break with a view. There is a good chance that regardless of whether I've had a great day or an awful one, you will find me watching the sunset as nature is very calming to me.
I can honestly say that the emptiness in my heart from the loss of my mother will never truly be filled. Big events like prom, graduation, and birthdays are always hard without them, however it can be a random day when you least expect it that you will miss your loved one most. My mother left big shoes to fill, but I am so lucky to have such amazing family and friends help fill my life with love and laughter even without her. I am not going to say that this has been an easy journey nor am I going to say that things are great again. I strive to make choices that my mother would be proud of and keep in mind that she’s always watching over me. I know my mother would hate to see me in such pain and I think that is what motivated me most to seek help with my mental health. My mental health has become a huge priority in my life and I can only hope that my mother is proud of the woman I am today.
My Advice to You
If I can give any advice to anyone who is suffering from a mental disorder, it would be to never be afraid to ask for help. I can remember many times where I felt so alone and told myself that no one would want to “deal with me”, but I was proven wrong so many times. So many people are willing to help, myself included, so please do not feel like you are alone.