I’ve been living in Ottawa for six years, studying at Carleton University for journalism. As of now, though, I’m studying abroad in Glasgow, Scotland for the semester, and its safe to say that this has been the best experience of my life. I spend more time traveling Europe than actually studying — it’s all about balance.
I’m originally from Canada’s east coast — Nova Scotia, to be precise — and I moved to Ottawa with my mother when I was fourteen. Maybe it was because my life was being uprooted and I was leaving my friends, or the fact that I was going to live in a relatively big city, but this is when I began to notice that my mental health wasn’t well, healthy.
My anxiety has more of a social impact than anything, and I can get fairly anxious from social situations, crowded rooms, or even just talking to the wrong person. For me, there’s the constant worry of if I’m doing something wrong and how I can fix certain situations — even if they don’t involve me. Unfortunately, I’m usually in the middle of situations between my friends bickering and pressuring me to ‘take a side’ — even at twenty years old.
I first realized I was an anxious person when I was fifteen. A girl in my class got frustrated with me for saying I didn't like a specific teacher when she did. I don’t exactly remember the exact details of this event, but I remember her getting angry with me, so much so that she was rude to me for a relatively long time. As a person who had a goal of being generally well liked in high school, this stuck with me, and I worried about it for much longer than I should have.
It surprised me that something so minuscule — and someone irrelevant to my daily life — had affected me so much. Perhaps it was the build up of small events like this happening, bad friends, or failure to take care of my mental health.
I’d soon come to know that situations would come up where I’d be worried or stressed out for a small reason — or even no reason at all — mostly due to myself. In 2015, my anxiety was combined with depression; mostly due to my grandparents falling ill and having a terrible summer job. In this time, I would find reasons to be anxious. I’d ask myself ‘What am I stressed about again? What am I sad about?’ And a reason would immediately pop into my head.
Currently, things seem to be going relatively well. However, I still wait for the other ball to drop if I find myself happy and at ease. I’d think to myself ‘Why is everything going well, why am I happy? What’s going to happen?’ Surely, something is going to happen — even if it’s small — to disrupt my current state.
Since my anxiety mainly affects me with social situations, my main coping mechanism is simply studying and focusing on my academics. I’ll go to the library, dive into my textbook about political theory or economics, and divert my mind into something far more complex.
When I do have a tough day with my anxiety, however, I have a fantastic support system. My mother is not the right person to talk to — and that’s perfectly fine — but my friends are. Two of my closest friends know the ins and outs of my mind and are aware when something is wrong, and are always around to listen to me and support me.
For me, having a distraction and a support system is so key, that I don’t know what I’d be like without realizing how I can help myself.