I can’t clearly remember when I started struggling with my mental health or when I started losing faith in myself. If you asked her, my psychiatrist might say that my story began on the Wednesday when I started getting proper treatment for my depression. My parents might say it began on that Thursday in middle school when I reached out to them for help. My friends might say my story began that Friday when I came out to them.
Growing up, I didn’t notice the symptoms when they crept into my life, impairing the Lucas that I knew myself to be. I stopped going to sports meets and didn’t always attend class like I used to. I started isolating myself and lost myself in the uncertainty of what each day would bring for me. Each time I left my bed was a world record of achievement that drained the energy from me more and more.
Unable to stop the flow of tears, I didn’t even have the energy or desire to lift a tissue to dry my sore eyes. If I was a colour, I was the coldest shade of grey.
Maybe my story starts on the Sunday when I looked in a mirror and couldn’t appreciate myself or understand the way my body took shape. I had foreign curves that gave rise to new silhouettes, stretch marks crawling into new places, and weight distributed where I didn’t expect. I had reached the point where I didn’t recognize myself inside or out. This body dysmorphia led me to struggle with my relationship to food; I began cutting and harming myself. I just wanted to feel something. Anything. Because I couldn’t feel like myself.
Have you ever been told you look like someone else? Maybe you have the same figure as a local bartender, or could pass as Jennifer Aniston’s stunt double. Imagine what your doppelganger looks like at this very minute, or even how they are thinking and feeling. That’s what it felt like for me. I looked like me, but not quite. I felt and thought like me, but not in a way that was familiar to me.
Struggling with my body image and sexuality led me to struggle with the symptoms of depression from a young age. I didn’t have the words to express how I felt, nor did I have the vocabulary to get help. Dealing with depression felt like being asked to colour a rainbow with a black and white palette. I struggled this way for a long time before things finally culminated one night when I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the next day. Without sleep, food, or any form of self-care, I had hit (what I then thought) was the end of my rope. I had little faith in myself and even less in the future.
In what could have been my last moment, I decided to call a friend. Luckily, I was then opened up to a support network that led me onto the path I needed to get help. That was a Monday and perhaps the beginning of another part of my story.
April 3rd, 2015 was also the day I got help from a variety of community supports. I sought the care of psychologists, psychiatrists, and a variety of resources that gave me the treatment and mental health literacy I needed. I suddenly had words to describe the way I thought, felt, and acted. I soon came to realize the power of faith. The word faith means something deeply personal to all of us. For me, faith is within myself. Faith is the belief that I have power over my mental health: the power to make change for myself and those around me.
I learned so much about who I am as a person. Where once I felt gray, I now felt a rainbow. Where once I felt alone, I now felt a sense of community. For the first time in my life, I believed in myself. I became confident in myself, inspired by myself, motivated by myself. I realized how much potential I had as a leader in creating a mental health revolution, how much resilience I had to make a difference. I had a fiery passion to enact change. I had a burning love for my community, for broadening my community, and for reaching those that felt alone and silenced by the stigma surrounding mental health. I became empowered to experience the world as much as I could and learn from others about their experiences with mental health. In schools and communities across Canada, I began to share my story with thousands of others to inspire them to have faith in themselves, to know how to identify the signs of struggle, and to get help when needed.
Sometimes when we struggle the most, feelings of doubt and uncertainty can creep into our lives. Don’t listen to them. Your mental health matters and you are not alone. You know yourself better than anyone. Your struggles are valid and deserve proper help and (sometimes) treatment.
You deserve to look into a mirror and see YOU, to feel like YOU, and to think like YOU.
Following this chapter in my life, I decided to head to university and pursue studies in the field of mental health through psychology. I decided to get involved with my community through the volunteer work I do with Jack.org. I lead our Jack Chapter here in St. John’s where we identify and tackle problems that local young people face with taking care of their mental health. We work with our university to develop mental health policies and services for students to succeed and thrive. I also became a Jack Talks speaker, delivering educational mental health presentations to students across Canada in communities like Barrie, Ontario and Moncton, New Brunswick. I even got involved as a Jack.org Network Representative to help magnify the voices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as young people work together to develop a Canada where we all have what we need to take care of our mental health. I work tirelessly each day to use my platform and experiences in this space to help those around me.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in Canada today. This isn’t a problem we are going to fix overnight, but rather one that requires change in the way we think about mental health here in Canada. We have work to do because my story is not unique and
too many of us have struggled in silence. So, today I’m writing my story to remind us all to have a little faith. Whether you find faith in the process, in a higher power, or deep within yourself, it’s important that we all face the fact that we have mental health and we all deserve to get the help we need.
The journey of getting help for your mental health is one that requires immense belief. What I’ve learned from this is that we each have the ability to paint our own reality. Validate your struggles, practice self-awareness, believe in yourself when sometimes your symptoms tell you not to, and get help when you need it. I guess that’s the end of this story, but the beginning of another.