As an educator, I’ve learned a lot about identity: others and my own as well. The best way to find allies is through speaking up so that’s what I intend to do in the hopes that I can be an allies for others suffering from mental illness and also that I will find allies if I speak often and loud enough. I’m a strong advocate for social justice and making the world a little bit easier by deconstructing the ideas that society has put in my head about gender roles, sexuality, ability, skin colour etc. to help every single individual feel more comfortable but the most recent thing I myself have been struggling with is depression and mental illness. I recently was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It took me years to go to a psychologist even after being asked numerous times. I always thought I was the strong one in the family and didn’t need help; that I could work through whatever I was going through on my own. Around July, I got to a point where I knew I couldn’t handle myself on my own and I started seeing my family Psychologist who then made my diagnosis. I was too terrified that I would go to the psychologist and have her tell me that I was fine. I was literally petrified that I would be okay (silly, right?). But I’m glad that I did and I’m so grateful for the people in my life. I now know that being strong isn’t handling things on your own but instead being strong enough to ask for help or to ask for a friend when you need it. I’ve got a wonderful group of friends who put time and effort into building me up and who I hope I do the same for. My family tries to help as much as they can despite my discomfort with them. I wish I knew what to say to them but our relationship isn’t nearly as open as those with my friends but it is getting better and that’s all I ask for. I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of having to choose my words carefully when I’m “not feeling well”. Today I went into work and asked to leave halfway through my shift because I was so frustrated yesterday, cried on my way home and for an hour in my driveway and then slept for a total of 3 hours the whole night. I’m really not feeling well as you can imagine but not because I’m hungover or because my boyfriend called into our workplace as well (which I didn’t know about but I can see why a manager would be suspicious of that) but because I’m exhausted and sobby and mentally not present at work. So now I’m at home, about to take a nap that will hopefully be 3 hours or more, publicly identifying for the first time as someone who suffers from mental illness (which is terrifying). Mental illness is just as real as a cut or a cold but no one talks about it the same way we do for physical illnesses. It’s less acceptable. Seen as lazy or shy or bitchy or grumpy( all excuses I’ve used instead of being honest about my depression -which I know now fuels stigma towards mental illness) But it doesn’t make it any less valid. It’s important to take care of yourself when you’re ill and this is no exception. Take time for yourself, build your friendships up, take care and talk about it. The only way to relieve the stigma of mental illness is to talk about it. Be courageous and kind with your story.