My name is Kate. I’m 17 years old and in my final year of high school. I love science and reading and aspire to be a neuroscience engineer. And my mental health is something I work on. Every. Single. Day.
I am a regular high school student. I’m highly involved in Girl Guides, my community, and school. However, I struggle with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression. For a long time, I struggled to talk about it, as I did not have a way to cope. It interfered with my daily life and it continues to now as I struggle with the simplest things. I continue to stride through every day, and go to school and try my best despite my insecurities and fears. I take part and volunteer and try not to hold myself back. I have worked hard to receive high grades in school, as well as a variety of other accomplishments such as volunteerism awards, publications and participating in science fairs and programs. Every day, I feel as if I might just have to give up. That it is too much, but I continue to convince myself to get out of bed and try my hardest in everything I do.
I often worry about my mental illness and how others may react. I believe that even though I have things that hold me back in life, I can still move forward and overcome them to achieve great things. I believe that this is what courage is.
I joined Pathfinders in my first year of junior high school. During this time I was having trouble with peers and stress. I struggled to communicate and participate in new or overwhelming activities. After several stressful days, my mom decided that I needed a change. She wanted me to get involved and meet people to build my confidence. So she arranged for me to attend a Pathfinder meeting. After that meet-up, I registered and have stayed with Guiding since. As a result I have been allowed so many opportunities both in and out of Guiding. Through my participation in my community I gained confidence and managed to get through junior high.
When I entered high school, it became worse and I struggled again with anxiety. It impacted my school work and my ability to be with others. I began visits with a counselor and about a year later in grade 11, I was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD. This was both a shock and relief. After finally understanding why I struggled the way I did, I was able to find ways to cope and manage my feelings of being overwhelmed. I still struggle daily and there is no fix all solution. But as co-leader of my school’s Mental Health Committee I continue to learn and speak about mental illness and its stigma.
Overall, I have gotten through the previous years by doing what I love. I love volunteering and speaking about issues important to me. Girl Guides was a large part of that and I am thankful for it. It is amazing how impactful acceptance and compassion can be.
Guest post by Kate, a Ranger and grade 12 student in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Kate is a recipient of a 2017 Girl Greatness Award for Courage. 2018 Girl Greatness nominations open February 1.
Girl Guides of Canada’s Mighty Minds program helps girls develop positive mental health skills they can use to cope with the challenges they may face in their daily lives, while addressing the stigma that exists around mental health and mental illness in our society. Check it out!