By Jadeyn Kastning

I should’ve told you sooner.

My earliest memory of ever discovering I’d be at risk for any sort of mental illness was probably picking hockey over dance at 13. The transition from a tiny dancer body to a bulky, muscular body was something that made me feel wildly uncomfortable. I thought it had something to do with my eating habits, so I wouldn’t eat as much or I’d give my lunch to someone else at school. I realize now it was a sign of early body dysmorphia. Sometimes I still struggle with it. Am I too thin? Too bulky? Am I not strong enough? In time, it became easier to handle, as I got used to being an elite athlete.

I didn’t know that wouldn’t be the end.

I developed a medical condition that changed the way I lived life. As a child, I had an unexplained and unrelenting fear of death that my parents could not understand where it came from. The very thought of it would send me into overwhelming panic attacks. This medical condition, where my mortality was challenged, changed my mentality to live life day to day. But it was still not that easy. I am still scared. As the medicinal doses I began taking increased, so did my agitation, anxiety, fatigue, weakness and depression. I thought it was just part of being a teenager, but when suicidality came into the picture, the side effects became a whole other beast. I hate to admit it, but it caused problems in almost all relationships; little things became so much harder to deal with. Feeling so disconnected from the world and from reality, made it difficult for me to maintain strong and significant relationships. Thinking that no one understood and with not very many things making me happy anymore, the thoughts became frequent visitors. However, the thoughts didn’t really stop me from doing regular things. My days were filled with sports and homework and I would fill my free time just so I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts. Basically, I taught myself how to be high functioning when I’m in a depressive state. As I got older, I realized that I am a high functioning person with a mental illness. The reason, I think, others didn’t realize anything was wrong was that I kept everything together, including my schooling, my training and so many other activities. What could possibly be wrong? I learned that what I feel and felt is so much different from what anyone could “see.” Just because I was the happy, always laughing and driven one, did not mean I struggled less or didn’t beat myself up about it day in and day out. I hated admitting it to myself that I struggled. Even more so, I hated the thought of admitting it to anyone else, but I should have.

I should’ve told someone sooner.

In time, my condition was controlled, but the thoughts and feelings made their home. Eventually, the thoughts formed into a plan. But when it came down to it, the thought of hurting anyone that I have ever loved made it stop. You made it stop. I could not let my loved ones suffer, wondering why. It has been my longest and darkest kept secret until now. And for that, I am sorry. I kept it a secret because I thought no one needed to worry about me, that other people needed me to look out for them . I thought that looking after my own happiness and wellbeing was selfish.  I didn’t want to burden anyone with my problems, because I always thought someone had it harder than I did.

Over the years, I let friends go and I developed trust issues that would extend into my adult life. This loneliness caused me to throw myself into my goals, leaving everything and frankly everyone behind. It wasn’t until offers upon offers started coming in that I realized I was being recognized for the effort I put into my sport. I never accepted these offers because I knew my family could not afford it. I could not afford it. I didn’t want to be a burden. So, I stayed home through high school instead and stayed home for my first year of college.

Then I got the call that would change my life again. I packed my bags and left to start my NCAA Div. I career across the continent. But I left before the school year was over. My mental health tanked and I was also dealing with multiple chronic injuries. I worked myself to the bone and I eventually broke. My piano teacher said before I left for school that if I didn’t like what I was doing, I could always come back. And that sentiment set the tone for what I live by. If I gave it my all but I still ended up coming home, at least I tried. But that summer back home, I stumbled back into self-damaging behaviours that I thought I beat. Was it worth it? Maybe.

Life continued on.

Although sudden, I should’ve seen it coming. I saw what mental illness can do to the people I love and the ways it affected those who love them. I saw what I should have seen before – that people I cared deeply about needed me the same way I need them. They needed to be helped and, like me, they needed saving. From there, my mindset took a full 180.

Now I always say, check on your friends.

Or even, check on those who don’t seem okay.

Things have been looking up for a while now. I’ve come to learn that it is OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. That I don’t have to be the strongest in the room. That talking about something like this shouldn’t make you tremble in fear. That I need to take care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. That it’s fine to put myself before others because it is okay to be selfish sometimes. That I NEED to be honest with myself when I. Am. In. Pain. Because pain is normal. But pain is temporary. Pain can be treated. I learned that I need help from others to heal properly. That I don’t need to be alone. I do not need to be perfect. I do not need to punish myself for not being perfect. I am exactly who I need to be and I am where I need to be. For so long I have felt so alone, and I am happy to say that is slowly changing. I am now taking care of myself in all aspects and recognize when my pain needs to be treated.

So, thank you. Thank you to the few of those who have listened quietly but did not know. I should not have been ashamed and hidden this from you. I should have let you in.

There are two sides to every person. I encourage you to let the one you hide, out.

Check on your friends.

Embrace your friends when you see them.

Don’t be afraid to be sensitive.

This life was meant for you to live.

Note: Many things I do want to keep to myself as they cause me a significant amount of anxiety to even be written down. It is okay if you do not understand. This is okay. I will be ready to share it all one day. My goal in sharing a vague version of my story is to give hope for those who suffer silently and to spread awareness that anyone can be fighting a battle you know nothing about.

TWU Spartans Mental Health Resources
Bell Let’s Talk Official Website