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Thanks to Cassidy Slezak for this beautiful quote and artwork

As a little girl, I grew up in a great big beautiful house. Sometimes I even think of my upbringing as the perfect example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I experienced an overwhelming amount of stress growing up. It seemed to almost build up and grow inside of me each day.

I didn’t know what was happening to me, and, for a while, I was pretty convinced I had an eating disorder. I was sick literally all the time, nervous all the time and I couldn’t figure out why. I always felt like a huge part of me was missing.

Fast-forward to ten years later, I was still feeling these symptoms on a lesser scale physically, but on a much greater scale mentally. I went through a really difficult toxic relationship and it had worn me down.

I was physically tired, mentally drained and often self-medicated by drinking myself to sleep and using drugs. I still felt the aching need to complete myself. I was always searching for the next best thing to make me feel better.

I asked myself time and time again, “Why do I get into these situations? Why am I always stressed? Why am I so miserable?”

Last year around this time, my life was spiraling out of control in more ways than one. I was constantly having anxiety attacks, could barely get out of bed in the morning and work was the epitome of Hell to me.

I would drive home from work crying because I felt like my life had no purpose.

I had a diploma I wasn’t using, I lost the only man I ever truly loved and I was missing this part of me still. My eyes would wander from the road to the ditch and back again. I had never in all my 23 years of living wanted to throw in the towel so badly.

On one particularly bad day, I came home from work and sat alone in my kitchen while I watched the horses run and play outside. I remember thinking to myself, “I feel nothing anymore, I’m finally numb.”

I stood up and walked to my medicine cabinet, grabbed a bottle of painkillers and dumped a bunch into my hand. I was never going to get my missing piece. I was never going to figure out why I’d felt the way I did.

Today I am a different woman and would now like to think of myself as complete. I found my missing piece – and the funny thing is, that piece was… me! I was missing love for myself. I put down those pills.

A week or so later, I began medication and counselling. I had always been hesitant to take medication and preferred to deal with my anxiety and depression with natural alternatives.

But listen to me when I say it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I was finally able to discover who I was again and I felt this huge weight come off my shoulders.

I loved myself enough to advocate for myself, and finally said, “I need help!” Then when I eventually felt prepared enough, I started doing little things to love myself more and more, such as work out, lift weights and go out with my friends like I used to.

Everything was finally balancing out. I was able to go back to work, and even do something I thought I’d never do: go back to school.

Today I am a student at Trent University studying social work, and I hope I can help improve the lives of others, like myself, who suffer from mental illness.

The stigma attached to my mental health issues was so great that I denied my need for medication for a very long time and thoroughly ignored the fact that I may in fact have a chemical imbalance.

My amazing doctor put it to me like this: “If you had diabetes would you ignore the fact you need insulin? No, you wouldn’t because you need it to function.”

I strongly encourage anybody who is feeling like I did a year ago to seek help! There are various resources in Peterborough, such as Community Counselling Peterborough and Trent University and Fleming College’s free counselling sessions for students.

Friends, please remember: you are enough and you are worthy of life and happiness just like everyone else! Even the great Justin Bieber thinks so, when he says, “You should go and love yourself.”