Trigger Warning: suicide, emotional abuse
Mental health is just as important as your physical health. That's why we value having real conversations with people in our community. We interviewed Tanya, a graduate from our Social Services Worker program at Vancouver Career College.
Tanya has personally struggled with anxiety and depression. Growing up in the 1990s made it hard for her to overcome, due to the heavy stigma around mental health. Majority of people kept quiet about their mental health, oftentimes suffering in silence. That's why Tanya is now an advocate for mental health and seeks to remove the stigma from it. Tanya has tried a combination of tools to manage her mental health, including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and medication for OCD, PTSD, anxiety, and depression. She acknowledges that these tools will not work with everyone, and you should contact your healthcare professional.
"I'm proof that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We can only embrace mental health, learn to live with it and use it as our strength," says Tanya
At 19 years old, Tanya had her first panic attack while walking through bay shopping for a gift for her brother's wedding gift. She remembers at first she felt as though she was having a heart attack and called the ambulance.
"Back in the day, we didn't know what anxiety was. I started seeing a psychiatrist when I was 16, for physical, verbal, and mental abuse. It put me through high-risk behaviour such as substance use and trying to cope with mental issues," says Tanya.
According to studies by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), mental health and physical health can be linked. Tanya was experiencing high-stress levels, which caused her to develop ulcers and others from not properly addressing her stress. After she had her daughter, things got better for a little while until her depression returned, and Tanya battled multiple attempts of suicide.
"The pivotal moment for me. I had dropped my daughter off at school at 9:30am. I lived in a picture-perfect world in the suburbs, but nothing was right. I sat in the car and rolled up windows and sat with the car running. At that moment, I knew that I needed to go get help," says Tanya.
She chose to live and switched off her car, called her therapist, and ensured that she got the help that she needed. She thanks her daughter, who gave her even more reasons to be there for. Tanya was able to get an emergency appointment and has been in recovery from it. Every day she wakes up stronger and wants to live life.
"When we bring things into the light, they can heal, but if we keep them within in shame or fear, they will make you sick. I've had to become an advocate for myself. I'm learning not to be triggered by news stories. There is beauty in everything, and if I didn't go through what I went through, I wouldn't be able to support the people I support, especially in my decision to go to school for Social Services Work," says Tanya.
Tanya credits self-care for helping her through her journey. She sees a professional counsellor at least once a month. She also recommends journaling and painting. Her art, photography, and writing have served as a means of expression for herself and her healing. Tanya also adds that exercise can be very beneficial for many dealing with mental health issues who need an outlet to express themselves.
The main reason that Tanya chose to study in the Social Services Worker program at Vancouver Career College is because she feels she could train to have the support that she didn't have as a child. She is thankful that she brings a little bit of joy and sunshine to the people she works with. She believes the connection is key; as humans, we are wired for human interactions.
"My experience at Vancouver Career College opened my eyes to so many things. By graduation day, I had grown so much. I had do a lot of work reflecting on myself and why I was there. When I put my walls down, I discovered a community that embraced and supported me.”
Tanya currently works as a Social Services Worker instructor at Vancouver Career College. Learn more about the diploma program here. https://www.career.college/programs-and-courses/social-services-worker-professional/