In honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, I decided to see if I could contribute to breaking the stigma around mental health by talking about my own experience. If nothing else, I would at least be moving forward on my New Year’s Resolution to be a bit braver. (Especially since my resolution to eat fewer chocolate covered raisins is at a standstill.)

So, here goes: My name is Juleigh. I’m a 4th year Hospitality & Tourism Management student, a Research Assistant for the Institute for Hospitality & Tourism Research and an entrepreneur. My struggle with mental health has had a big impact on my life the last few years. Even bigger than the Brangelina divorce.

I’ve come to realize that I have a tendency to block things out. To lock unpleasantness in a drawer in the back of my mind and never access it. This mechanism can be good. Like when you want to forget how many episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians you’ve watched in a row or how many Timbits you’ve consumed. But I also realized this behaviour can be debilitating. Not only to me, but to those around me. By not acknowledging the breakdowns, anxiety, and sadness, I was not learning how to battle them. Instead I found myself in the same situations, establishing unhealthy and self-destructive patterns.

Six months ago my boyfriend broke up with me, saying that my depression and anxiety were too much to handle and that I needed therapy. He said it in a mean way, to make me feel ashamed. And it worked – I did feel ashamed…and crazy…and worthless.

But it also made me realize I needed additional support, and that I was frustrated with the detrimental effects this illness was having on my relationships, friendships and ability to be happy. I needed to stop filling up that locked drawer and seek out help to learn to how to properly cope.  It was scary.

I started by reaching out to Ryerson’s Centre for Development and Counselling and I’ve made a lot of progress. With their help, I’ve learned how to be kinder to myself and I’m continuing to learn how to integrate some of my struggles into my life in a way I can manage.  I recognize that it’s part of who I am, and I’m really thankful for all the support and help I’ve received.

I hope that in writing this post, I might help others just a bit in their own struggles with mental health, and help them to recognize it’s OK – there are resources available so you don’t have to do it alone. If you ever want to talk, my door is open. But please knock first!

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If my story sounds familiar to you and you feel like you’re struggling, I encourage you to reach out to Ryerson’s Centre for Development and Counselling to see how they might be able to help. If you’re in crisis and need immediate support, you can call Ryerson’s Counselling Centre at 416-979-5195, from 9 am to 5 pm, or the Good2Talk student helpline, which is available 24/7, 365, at 1-866-925-5454.

Posted by Juleigh Giberson

Juleigh is a 4th year Bachelor of Commerce student in the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. She is an award-winning student leader and has been recognized for her work in research, entrepreneurship and leadership. Juleigh works as a Research Assistant in the Institute for Hospitality & Tourism Research, studying the impacts of virtual reality and destination marketing.

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