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Unlocking The Secret to Happy Brain Health—here's how I kicked depression's butt

I’m breaking the fourth wall of blog writing, and addressing you dear reader.

I see you.

I hear you.

I am with you. 


I see you dealing with your poor brain health and pain while desperately looking for a sister, a friend, a mentor that can show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is not all your life will ever be.


You are not meant to be in darkness. You are not destined for a life of pain. You are far too special and valuable to feel anything less than amazing.

I understand that these words can sometimes feel empty—especially when it comes from someone who hasn’t experienced the pain that you might feel. But, here's the truth, I’ve had my own struggles with mental health. I’ve dealt with these struggles for many years of my life—stretching from childhood into adulthood. 


I also understand that I must show you, dear reader, that there are success stories, My depression has shaped who I am—how I interact with others, myself, and even the career I’ve dedicated my life to.


Let’s take it back to my middle school years where these struggles started. I was accepted into a SciTech program where hundreds of kids applied for fifty spots—I was one of the fifty. It was every parent’s dream. 


However, when I started school, I was in for a shock. I quickly realized that I didn’t look like most kids in my class. I was a brown girl with a hairy body with no permission to shave any of it, and to top it off, I had acne all over my body.


In middle school, kids are mean. I was bullied, and I remember crying every single day on the bus ride home.


In gym class, I would avoid changing in front of the other girls. One day, my young tiny frame mustered the courage to change in front of the others, only to find my two closest friends violently laughing at me and the acne that covered my back. They said awful, terrible things about my body.


I felt lonelier than ever. My final two friends had now hurt me beyond words. These memories, and this one in particular, shaped how I saw the world—and even worse, how I saw myself.


Disgust.


That is the feeling I felt every time I looked in the mirror at myself. This feeling engulfed me, and in every circumstance, it's glaring, tantalizing nature stood out from all the other emotions I felt...I felt disgusted to be me. 


The summer before high school, I began to change as much as I could about myself. I learnt to do makeup from watching hours of YouTube videos. Till this day, most of my makeup and hair skills are from that summer. I soon began to value myself with how I looked, as if being “prettier” made me more likeable. I was bullied for my looks so I thought that if I changed everything about myself the problems would go away.

When high school came, I became obsessed with my success in my grades and sports performances.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, a toxic relationship came into my life in grade 11. I would lie to my parents about where I was going, just so I could see him. They knew he was bad for me, but I refused to see things from their perspective and even ran away from home at one point. 


I had such low self-worth that I couldn't even get myself to leave when I found out that he cheated on me. 


When we think of depression, we think of someone who stays at home all day and can’t leave their house. But, depression looks differently for everyone. Depression might be scheduling a busy day to avoid being alone, or it might be total isolation. It might include lashing out at everyone, or passively agreeing to what anyone says. 


Depression for me looked like angry outbursts, erratic behaviour, quitting all my sports teams, entering a toxic relationship, destroying all my other relationships, and seeing my grades drop. My depression just kept getting worse and I couldn’t perform my best anymore. 

I somehow managed to get into Waterloo University where my limits were tested that much more . I barely had any friends at this new school. I started isolating myself in my room. 


As my depression worsened, with it came anxiety. I started to have frequent panic attacks. The walls felt like they were closing in on me, and I could not move or see beyond the tiny enclosure of my room. On a scary night, I ended up at the hospital. This is where my true journey towards mental empowerment and brain health really started.


Ending up in the hospital was scary. I decided that I never wanted to end up here as a result of my poor brain health, ever again. I understood that if I didn't pull myself out of this depression, I was going to be stuck here forever. So I finally decided to get help. I started seeing the most wonderful therapist, Lindsay. To this day I am still so grateful to have had the chance to connect with her. She literally saved my life.   


The more I worked on myself, the more excited I got to change. I started trying different techniques to help me improve my mental health. This was powered by my need to want to feel joy and be excited about my day. I didn’t want to feel overwhelming dread and anxiety about living. I even tried group counseling which I found out I hated. I took my experiences from these sessions to create my own program—The Hot Girl Brain Club. 


With a renewed sense of inspiration and strength, I researched for weeks on end what foods and workouts can better my mental health. I tried different diets, turned off technology before bed, and went to the gym at six a.m. I got involved with my university community, became an athlete again, and started doing things out of my comfort zone. I even started experimenting with spoken word poetry and did some performances at my university , which eventually led to performances at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. 


Poor mental health was no longer an option for me, and I knew I needed to find what it is that made me feel like the best version of me. Working out, eating well, and creating good habits gave my body and brain the tools needed to maintain a healthy state of being. 

I remember one day at university, I was angry and stomping back to my apartment in the pouring rain. It was a hard day. Everything felt stacked against me.  I remember yelling out, “no matter what happens, I am not giving up on myself.” This is what I used to repeat to myself over and over again during this tough time.


Here’s the thing, at the end of the day, you are your biggest ally. You are the only one that can ensure long-term change. I knew that no matter what God threw at me, or what problems came my way, I would not give into the darkness. There was no more negotiating—I would not give up on the life that I wanted to build. 


As third year university rolled around, I started to notice myself feeling better. The work that I was doing to support both my mind and body was paying off. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t close to where I wanted to be mentally. So my therapist suggested that I talk to my doctor about medication, I did, and then before you know it, I was taking 37.5mg of Venlafaxine.


Life became so wonderful, so great, and so worth living. My mood changed and just like a puzzle, the medication acted as the final piece to achieving happiness. Everything fell into place and I felt amazing.


This medication felt like it was completely changing my life… 


Until one day, reality hit me hard in the face.


I was home from university and I realized I forgot my medication at school. Just missing one dose caused my entire world to crash around me. I started feeling like a drug addict who needed her next hit to get through the day. I was nauseous, dizzy, and felt all my negative feelings and thoughts came back stronger than ever...I hated that someone other than me was in control of my happiness. I knew at that moment that I needed to find a way to live without them. 


Please note that this isn’t an invitation to cut-off your medication cold turkey. You need to be in contact with your doctor to slowly wean yourself off them. I am not against antidepressants. I think that medications can be a really important tool in  lowering the intensity of your mood symptoms symptoms while you create healthier coping mechanisms that will allow you to effectively manage your challenges and build stronger coping mechanisms so that you can feel good without them.


And that’s what I did. I stayed on the medication while I worked on myself to eventually thrive without them.


So, dear reader, I’ve told you my story to show you that it’s possible. It’s possible to turn your life around and live the life that you deserve to live. I’ve seen the darkness that makes us want to run away or stay locked in our rooms forever. I’ve seen the pain that comes with hating who you are and thinking that no one will truly love you. I’ve felt it for years of my life, but I managed to change the narrative I have about myself...


Today, I have the opportunity and ability to provide a safe space to support others by helping them optimize their brain health using lifestyle strategies and supplements, cognitive behavioural techniques. 


There are so many ways to improve brain health and achieve that happy lifestyle we crave. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for help—I’m here to provide you with the tools and conversations needed so that you become the highest version of yourself.


At the Women’s Brain Health Clinic, I offer a complimentary 30-minute brain health assessment to show you all the WBH—and myself—have to offer. Together, we can strengthen the self-discipline and willingness that already exists within you so that you become the most badass version of yourself. Life is a mental health empowerment project and it’s time for you to take on yours.




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