Hi, I am Ananya (she/they), an international student studying Psychology at Vancouver Island University from Odisha, India. I am also a mental health advocate and work in the field of health care.
My experience with mental health challenges started when I was around five years old; I started to notice that I was different from the people around me. The ways that people expressed themselves were different from mine and I sometimes felt that I was being dramatic. My huge emotions were buried because I didn’t feel safe expressing them.
Somehow, I found out that dancing could be my form of expression. However, dancing was occasional and the months I didn’t dance would make me depressed again, as if I had lost the sunlight. I was scared people would laugh at me, which led to not sharing my things with anyone. My mum was worried, so she told me that there was a mattress fairy who would come at night to see me, and I could share my thoughts with her by writing letters. This helped me for a short time, but soon after I figured out that it was my mum who played the role of mattress fairy, I felt alone again.
I had everything I could ask for, but still nothing would make me happy. I even heard people saying that Apurva (my past name) would never be happy, since I was sad irrespective of having everything. So, I started exploring myself and noticed that my life was like waves: sometimes it was high and sometimes it was low, no matter what the circumstances were. I wanted to be more stable and for that I tried everything on my level; in fact, I changed my name to Ananya to see if that would make any difference, but it was the same as before. I also had massive fears like stage fright, fear of darkness, fear of driving or crossing the streets, fear of being judged and, above all, exam fear. Although I was a good pretender, exam fear was hard to hide as I couldn’t hide the result. One of my teachers even said that my work was of no worth and I was not good at anything. It impacted me to the extreme because I was holding the same thought. Since I felt my existence was worthless, I attempted suicide. Soon the news of me attempting suicide spread everywhere, since I lived in a small town. Instead of providing support, my friends bullied me and said things like I am a weak person. I don’t believe anyone is of weak personality; in fact, there is no such term called “weak person.” I think that most people are doing the very best they can to deal with their situations, and everyone is capable of reaching their full potential.
Since I wanted to figure out why I was different, I decided to pursue Psychology in Canada after high school. I am grateful that I chose this path because in March 2020 I was diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder and general anxiety disorder. I wouldn’t say that the diagnosis was the only thing that helped me to validate myself, but it was the major reason for me discovering that the feeling one is feeling is true and it’s not that they are pretending.
After the diagnosis I had several changes in my life like I had to come back to India for a bit and had to answer my family about what happened to me by using the words that would sound more usual. A few of my family members thought that studying psychology was the reason behind me having bipolar. Along with them, I doubted whether I would be a good fit for a career in psychology, maybe that time I underestimated myself. I’m sure that I will make a better change in society by being a clinical psychologist. This is my passion, and I will stick to it with all my heart.
I feel like the diagnosis has made me kinder. I am still discovering new things about myself and still working on being okay with me gaining weight or being judged by people. I also feel like the manic episodes are helping me to become more human. I have had two manic episodes so far and they have helped me to grow in some ways; of course, that growth has happened with the support of counselors, medicines, and lots and lots of social connection.
Again, I want to tell you through my story is be kind to yourself, and I know how it feels when someone lets us down, but I want you to know that I think you are a viable being. Nobody knows, not even you, whether you are fit for something or not unless you try. So, never stop trying and eventually I am sure you will reach the place where you are supposed to be.
Psychology Student at Vancouver Island University