Meet Heather…I met Heather this past September in graduate school at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is kind, thoughtful, funny and a great friend. Heather has been very open to having conversations about her personal experiences of struggling with mental health, and through that I’ve found her very relatable and very inspiring. I’m very excited for you to learn more about Heather for this week’s #featurefriday post!!
In three words how would you describe yourself?
“I would say friendly, because I always try to think about how the other person’s feelings. I’d like to think ‘if I was in their shoes what would I want somebody to say to me.’ I would say also caring, and probably weird *giggles* but in a good way!”
You’re a Peer Wellness Educator at Wilfrid Laurier University and I was wondering if you could briefly describe what your role on the team is.
“It’s a volunteer position that I’m doing. We are basically in charge of promoting the wellness centre and hosting different events to promote student wellness on campus. Originally I saw a posting for the job and I thought that would be really interesting because it said that you’re working with the Student Wellness Centre to try and promote its resources, and improve the health & wellness with the students on campus. It really resonated with me because I’ve had a lot of experiences with the wellness centre and it’s always been positive, but I know that a lot of students don’t know how to get the resources and services that they need. I do a lot of concourse boothing to give a little plug about what the Wellness Centre is. I also got to write an article for the Student Health 101 Magazine which was pretty cool!”
Through this program, how have you specifically been able to health and inspire others?
“I would say through relating my own personal experience to other people. I know that I’m not the only one that struggles with anxiety and that struggles with the high high amounts of stress for university life or that we all have to deal with. It’s been really good helping to connect people to the resource so they know what’s available to them. Even working within the group of Peer Wellness Educators we’ve helped to see what might need improvement on campus or how we can promote different events to get more people to come. I think day-to-day I like to promote things that I think people would like, or to come to the event.”
What’s one way you choose to Thrive at building positive mental health?
“I would just say being vocal about it. The biggest issue I would say with mental health is the stigma that surrounds it. People are afraid to identify themselves as either having a mental health issue or just struggling. We all want to put up a good front and we all what to seem like we have it together when we really don’t, so I think the best thing is just being transparent about it and acknowledging to other people that you yourself struggle, and that there are options to help. The more we have a conversation about it and the more we talk about mental health I think the easier it will get for people to reach out and seek help when they are struggling. I’ve even found in my own experience just talking to people casually that you do find out about people on a deeper level that they might be struggling with the same thing that you are and you wouldn’t have known if you didn’t bring it up.”
I know you’ve gone through your own struggles with mental health and adversity, so I want to know how you keep positive to get through those tough times.
“In my experience I struggled for a long time before I said anything or reached out and got help. My biggest issue was anxiety and being too afraid to go out and do stuff. I didn’t know I was struggling with anxiety for a long time, I knew something was off but I couldn’t figure out what it was because I was never educated as to what I was experiencing and what I was feeling. I always thought something was wrong with me, eventually that spiraled into a really bad depression. I don’t know what exactly triggered me to reach out but I had enough, and I realized things aren’t going to change, I’m going to have to accept what is, and move on with my new reality. I have to figure out how to live with this, so I went to the Wellness Centre at Laurier. Once I got counselling, she really helped me set small goals that I would work toward each week, and it was nice because I had someone to talk to about things in a non-judgmental way. She helped me sort through all the things I had issues with.”
Wow that’s powerful. So you would encourage someone to go out and talk to someone?
“100%. That helped me so much. It’s a lot of work reframing the way you’re thinking – it’s more positive, to help yourself thrive really.”
Recently you sent me the song “One Of Us” by New Politics. One of my favourite lyrics is “bring the sunshine in the happy days, the hardship too.” So how would you say you bring the sunshine in on your daily life?
“I would say for me it’s just doing things that I love. That’s probably me bringing in the sunshine. It’s actually funny you mention that song because the other day Wes, my boyfriend, and I were driving in the car and I put this song on, singing at the top of my lungs and I was like ‘I just love this song, it’s just a good song’ and even that was me bringing the sunshine in. It’s always good to have fun and do the things that make you happy.”
What would you say is a quote you try to live by?
“Do things for you. A lot of the time you try to live your life trying to please other people or doing what you think other people want you to do *change of thought* … oh I know what life quote I live by I just thought of it! It’s a poem by Robert Frost, it’s called “The Road Not Taken.” It’s probabily THE BEST poem I’ve ever heard. The main thing that always resonated with me is the very last sentence “two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.” It’s so powerful because it’s true. You see everyone taking the conventional path.
It’s not saying that the road most travelled is not a good path to go on, but I think sometimes you have to look at what’s going to work for you. Personally, it’s super deep because I love going on hikes and I’ve always found that when I take the path less travelled I’m going to end up on an adventure that maybe nobody else has had. So that’s the quote I live by. You might think one option is the best option, or you might not be able to decide between two options but it doesn’t matter because if you pick the option that might not be as desirable you’ll end up somewhere else and it will work out!”
That’s so good. What do you want to be known for?
“I want to be known as somebody who’s kind, and to be that person that anybody can talk to. It’s not necessarily that I want to change things for other people because I think everybody has their own story and their own journey that they have to realize, I don’t want to tell people what to do, but I want to be there to help others get to where they want to be. I want to be known as the person that’s always there to listen and to be there for others if they need me.”