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Against the Odds

Ashley Z

When I was in the beginning stages of being diagnosed bipolar most people wrote me off. They thought this girl’s out of school, she can’t keep a job and she certainly cannot contribute to society. I was a self-fulfilling prophecy in a sense I thought I was worthless and so I became worthless. I was out of school for just shy of 3 years and I couldn’t keep a job even if it was the last job left on this planet. I was a substance abuser and my life became unbearable. When my parents came up with an amazing alternative in being admitted to a mental health and addictions facility, I went against the rules and got myself kicked out. I even eloped from the hospital during my last institutionalization and wound myself locked up in isolation. But it was that exact moment that I decided I needed to turn my life around. I needed piece of mind, I needed to better myself and I needed to ultimately defy the odds.

Just over a year later from my last institutionalization, I have completed my first year back at school with a B+ average, I am enjoying a part time job that I have managed to keep, I am a publicity and fundraising exec for a mental health club at school and the most exciting of all I have been given the opportunity to volunteer at CAMH. A lot of people, me included feel like being diagnosed with a mental illness is a death sentence. And the death is referring to that life that we “use” to live. Sure my life has managed a full 360 degree turn, but that has been completely for the better. I feel happy to look in a mirror again that I now have purpose and I have determination and I have ambition. Mental illness is by no means the “death” of a different version of you. It is the slow emergence of a new, healthier and happier you.

When I was struggling with my bipolar I thought that there was no chance to live a happy and fulfilled life. I fell victim to my symptoms and I wouldn’t let anyone in, professionals included. Life felt bleak, empty, hopeless, and mostly unbearable. I never saw the light at the end of the tunnel and so I just acting impulsively and wound myself up into a lot of trouble. Now I can’t say everyone will have that defining moment, but I can assure you every illness can be managed and everyone deserves a happy and purposeful life. Rome was not built in a day and so you will not become “better” in a day. It takes hard work, perseverance, resilience and determination. With time, the ups and the downs become much more manageable. My life use to be a rollercoaster and I never knew what to expect. Now my life is a swing, and although I still experience ups and downs I have become better and better at coping and recognizing the signals and symptoms. I am living proof that anyone can defy the odds.

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