Let’s be realistic — some days are simply ‘harder’ than others

On #BellLet’sTalk day, Social Sciences student Tim Hewitson writes about his own experience with mental health issues.

High school was painful.

I battled an immense internal conflict — rejecting the fact that I was gay. On top of my inner struggle, I was being subjected to verbal abuse about my sexuality, and I wasn’t very good at maintaining appropriate wellness measures.

The world that I was living in was fogged by self-depreciative thoughts that spiralled down and had a snowball effect until I found myself debating and even planning death by suicide.

After a lot of reflection, self-help, and professional aides I now perceive my world through a different lens; I accept, love, and cherish who I am with a renewed sense of self.

My name is Tim Hewitson — an undergraduate student in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour at McMaster University. I aspire to inspire; that is, I align myself with scholastic and professional opportunities where I promote self-fulfillment through the wonders of learning and discovery.

My experiences with my own mental health has led me here today, but no one, by any means, should ever endure this feeling of pain and isolation.

I am forever grateful to my family, friends, and teachers for their guidance through this dark time. I can only dream to be the light who directs someone through their darkest days.

Now, let’s be realistic — some days are simply ‘harder’ than others. But what does harder mean to you?

There are three fundamental determinants within the study of wellbeing — physical, mental, and social health (i.e., the Health Triangle). It’s the balance of all three which leads you to be “healthy”.

Being mindful, being social, being active and reaching out to talk to someone when you are feeling overwhelmed are just a few of the many ways you can keep yourself healthy.

While on the subject — let’s talk mental health in slightly more technical terms:

All mental health diagnoses are labelled in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Psychiatrists use the DSM to label an individual’s symptoms. Mental disorders are NOT definitive diagnoses with etiological roots — instead they provide a universal language to describe groupings of symptomatology.

What does that mean in layman’s terms? It means when you are “depressed,” it is not a disease or a disorder — it is simply a state of the brain (i.e., its chemical composition). This is the foundations of neuroscience, where we discuss reasons for chemical change. It’s within the social sciences where we talk about the mind (i.e., how this effects a person’s experience with the world).

Mental health exists on a continuum. Sometimes you feel superior, ‘meh’, or inferior. When we are in a state of prolonged inferiority, we’ll do whatever we can to reduce these feelings.

Our feelings become reinforced by our thoughts, and behaviours. We then begin to process and react to our world in insensible ways. For me, it was when I was at my lowest point that I experienced negative narratives and self-depreciative thoughts that only tightened the never-ending knot-like sensations in my stomach.

By getting help to change my routines and thought patterns, I reversed a pattern of negativity and depression. It worked for me. If you are feeling sad, overwhelmed, angry or confused, isn’t it at least worth a try?

The most difficult part is admitting to someone that you’re experiencing some form of inner conflict, so let me settle some negative misperceptions surrounding mental health.

Have you ever caused a cramp in your calf by quickly going from a stand-still to an Usain Bolt-like sprint? If yes, would you then consider yourself physically ill or disabled? Probably not.

Did you ever excuse yourself, or reject a social outing because of other commitments (or one that required self-reflection, e.g. needing some ‘me-time’)? Most likely — and I bet you didn’t consider yourself socially disabled.

Would you be hesitant to discuss a dental appointment with a superior, parent, or peer? Most likely not. Then there should be absolutely no issue discussing mental health-related commitments either. This is still your health that we are talking about!

To anyone reading who may be struggling: thank you for allowing me into your space.

Realize that there is no better time than right now. I’ve listed some tools available to you that can be accessed in confidence.

I invite you to personally connect with me if you’re looking for innovative self-help strategies — I am no professional, but I can certainly point you in the right direction!

Looking forward to your continued contributions in our world J

- Tim

Email: hewitst@mcmaster.ca

Instagram: http://instagram.com/ITeachTimmy

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ITeachTimmy

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/timothyhewitson

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Community Supports

Greater Hamilton Community

· Canadian Mental Health Association (Hamilton)

· eMentalHealth.ca

· Mental Health Rights Coalition

· Sexual Assault Centre (SACHA)

· Hamilton Health Sciences

· St. Joseph’s Health Care

· Mental Health Helpline

· Telehealth Ontario

· Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST)

McMaster University

· Student Health and Wellness Education Programs

· McMaster Peer Support Line

· Student Health Education Center (SHEC)

· McMaster Athletics and Recreation

· McMaster Equity and Inclusion Office

McMaster Employees

· EFAP Homewood Health

· Mental Health Supports

· Workplace Wellness Supports

McMaster Student Health and Wellness Centre