For those who don’t know me my name is Brigitte Herrema and I have Generalized Anxiety Disoder (GAD) and Depression.
For most of my academic career, I was a bit of a social outcast in terms of what the “cool kids” thought were cool. Although I was involved in dance at Uxbridge Dance Academy and did various other things in the community, I was never heavily involved in extra curricular activities at the school. My family lives on a farm just north of Uxbridge and my dad was in politics in town most of my childhood; which had a lot ups and downs throughout my teen years. Being a farm kid, I spent a lot of time working outside of school, often up at 4 am to do chores, then went to school, came home, did chores and then finally did homework. I was often made to felt extremely insecure about how I chose to spend my time, often mocked and people thought my hobby was rather obscure; which for those who are not in the cattle world, I can understand.
When I was in grade 12, my life began to become a lot more complicated and I was really struggling academically and stopped caring as much as I use to. I was constantly battling myself, and had a hard time getting along with some people at school, and that’s when the mental blocks started occuring. I could no longer write tests-I would freeze. I couldn’t pay attention, and I was constantly worrying about stuff that had nothing to do with the task at hand. I ended up not getting into university but rather went to college. In college I thrived. I was very involved, was surrounded by some really cool people studying agriculture and was deeply passionate about going on to University. I ended up graduating college with the highest recognized leadership scholarships. All these awards came from all the activities I was involved in during high school, from national level to provincial level, to being student council president at my college. This allowed me to meet the current VP of Research at Laurier who was the President of Ontario Agricultural College at the time, and allowed me to continue on to the University of Guelph to do study my dream BSc. Agriculture with a major in Animal Science. I put the challenge on to myself that I would do it in three years. Talk about game on.
In university, my anxiety went full tilt. New city, new people, fully independent, way more difficult course content and unfortunately, I was in a bad relationship at the time. I hated studying and I hated doing exams. I had and still have a hard time memorizing information and performing tasks at a set time. Pressure gets to me and I start highly doubting my abilities no matter how hard I try. Ask me to do a paper and I will write them day in and day out, easily. I almost failed out having to prove that yes I did have anxiety and I ended up getting help from my course counsellor, as well as tutors and just a change of mind set.
I really started doing well in my final year when I was living with other girls. I found a love for hot yoga-Moksha, specifically. My best friend from my childhood and I were together in university which helped a lot. I drove with friends from home and just found I needed to put headphones in and get work done. I graduated with my degree in Spring 2017. Being the first person in my family to graduate with a Science Degree.
When I was 22 and just home from school I had a panic moment, broke and totally lost. That’s when my first real depression hit. I would have small episodes in school but I could usually work through them. This was different- I couldn’t shake it. I went stir crazy almost and needed a break. I started doing contract jobs with cattle shows and other jobs and travelling more. I went to Australia essentially alone and visited my cousin and travelled alone. I began to find myself again. I loved being transplanted in a new place where I didn’t know almost anyone, just blending in doing my own thing. I’ve always loved doing my own thing, drifting and being independent; this was when I really found out I was an introvert.
Sadly this past summer I had another depression spell that lasted almost a month, I had a hard time getting up, just dead quiet, feeling helpless, turning to alcohol more than I should and just not myself. It was the longest period of my life that I was home consistently since I was in high school. I had a lot going on and I couldn’t land a trigger on it and I ended up eventually having a bit of a mental breakdown. It was time for me to begin to make changes. I went out travelling on the roads more, going to more shows and trying to find new ways of life. I’ve had some amazing opportunities to work with some of the top show cattle in Canada and the world, and really have began to find myself a new person. I love reading- you can often find me with two books on the go or more. I started listening to podcasts, removed as much negativity as I can from my life, I stress clean, and I enjoy the little things, like a big cup of coffee and Disney movies.
It’s ok to be extremely lost and not know what to do, be terrified beyond belief, shaking, crying, not sure what direction to take. The important thing is to surround yourself with people who want to see you win and want to see you at your best. I have been extremely humbled to have the level of success I have had and work with amazing people and cows. To say my happy place is a barn with cows, music and a drink and a couple of friends is the truth. To say being in a foreign country immersed in a different way of life is also my happy place to me, shows how important it is to be ok with evolving and changing. Adjust your sail and let the wind take you somewhere new. Just because you feel one way and battle your demons daily exhausting yourself, you should never loose your roar.
Though she be but little she is fierce - William Shakespeare
- Brigitte Herrema