Editor's note: Thank you, Rachel for sharing your inspiring journey on overcoming your mental health and developing confidence.


I’m sensitive.

Exquisitely sensitive I’ve been told; A “Highly Sensitive Person”, which is an actual term used  on my medical charts and upon which books are written. 

Now, there is much more to my story: technical terms, complex and multi-layered forms of treatment, diagnoses that have come and gone – but the one thing that I believe to have always been true is that I am sensitive.

 If I lead with the multiple mental illness diagnosis, I feel that that’s all the readers will see, that I will be placed in category of sickness and unpredictability – where couldn’t be further from the truth. 

I am extremely predictable, my moods are governed by circumstance and routine, punctuated by times of trauma. 

I hope that sensitivity is more approachable and relatable. That everyone can identity with that feeling.

You see, I felt a lot. Every feeling flowed from a tap with water that pumped at a visceral pace. It pumped through me to the point of exhaustion. Every thought needed analysis, every interaction was studied, and typically I always arrived at a conclusion born out of self-judgement and insecurity. This was a cycle I lived. It was all I had known. This was ground zero. This was my brain and my body with no stimulation. So, when stimulation came in the form of loss, trauma, and heartbreak,  my body was now drowning in that water. 

Now – most people know some of these circumstances, but they aren’t the point of this story. The circumstances I detailed on a multi-page document titled “My Timeline of Trauma” that I packed and folded in my purse as I traveled from waiting room to emergency room to plant in the hands of the next health care professional that would study me. I was tired of breaking myself open for strangers to connect the dots of my behaviour. I quietly would ask the nurse to pass it to the doctor before they asked any questions. I did not want to recount the horrible memories – I wanted someone to throw me a life jacket so I could float.

The life jacket came in many forms. It came in the form of loved ones, of medication and types of therapy, of rest, of time to heal. Like many of us, I wanted a quick fix. I wanted a diagnosis and a treatment. I wanted an answer to my question. That was a year ago. 

My ignorance and desperation resulted in an incorrect diagnosis. I look at it as part of my process, as a step in the right direction, and the first leg in my recovery. I was slowly sedated so that the water was slowed down. The water no longer pumped out of control, but it slowed so my reactions could be reflected upon and processed.It numbed some of the pain, and it allowed me to engage in some more intense forms of therapy. I slept through the nights and fought through fatigue during the day. I put on weight, which was a given side effect, but I’d take the weight over the pain. 

Some days I still felt like  I wanted to crawl out of my skin, some days I didn’t want to fight anymore. My thoughts were still analyzed, my interactions studied – but now I had the voice of an army of psychiatrists, therapists, trauma counsellors and social workers in my head. I was able to observe the way my mind operated, instead of chasing the thoughts. 

I was able to notice my sensitivity take different forms – and tried to channel that. I was empathic, passionate, and insightful. I could pick up on subtleties that most people couldn’t, I could connect with strangers and I could feel. 

After all the pain, I didn’t shy away from feeling. I attempted to embrace it in different ways. I realized the only way out was through – and that I would eventually need to unfold that piece of paper and admit to myself that I was living in the shadow of it every day. 

Despite accepting that I am who I am today because of what was detailed on that paper, I still choose to identify as a 24-year-old girl who loves yoga, and sunshine, spontaneous adventure, any moment at all with her darling boyfriend, and the winner of the family jackpot – before anything else.

I am who I am today, in spite of what was on that paper.

I am still sensitive, I am in the next leg of my recovery, but I am transparent. I am exactly who I am with no boundaries or lies. I believe I am much more than whatever was on a piece of paper I wrote myself or that was written by strangers. 

I still struggle to be compassionate to my trains of thought, to find moments to just be, to not be constantly chasing the next answer to my questions – but to trust I will get where I need to go. 

I didn’t want to label this a story about mental illness, I just want it to be a story about me, and I am much more than that.

Why is it important for you to share your story and experiences with mental health and illness?

I believe the way to beat this disease is to combat the isolation and shame that mental illness breeds. I want to inspire others to live their best lives despite any diagnosis they receive. I am passionate with first-hand experience and experience as a loved one to advocate for awareness and education for all things mental health.

- Rachel
Toronto, Ontario

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