What you tell yourself matters

Working on myself and learning to love myself saved me.

I have a history of depression and have always been an anxious person. When I hit rock bottom in 2019, I had a choice to make: I could restart medication after being on it on and off over the years, or challenge my mind to be stronger. I chose the latter. Using the practice of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), I learned to explore and challenge my automatic thoughts.

I started each day by watching a motivational video on YouTube and taking notes in my journal so that I could better process and adopt the healthier mentalities I was learning about. I worked out at the gym three times a week. Every time I didn’t feel like going, I told myself that this was the exact reason why I needed to go. I eventually developed discipline. I read more self-help books than I can count, and I would read a few pages every night. I listened to podcasts about mental health. I gave myself pep talks whenever I was feeling low. I made sure I had time to socialize despite being a student and a volunteer. And I always went to bed thinking of at least three things to be grateful for.

These tasks became my new habits. I followed through with this routine every single day and night for about a year and a half. I really had to learn to love myself. It was this love that forever changed the way I now treat myself and how I live my life.

I knew that it’d be easier in some way to be on medication and not have to stress about the potential decline of my mental health. But I chose to be stronger than I had ever been in my entire life during the absolute lowest period of my life because I knew the person I wanted to be and the life I wanted to lead. I believed that it was possible for me and this thought alone helped me transform my path of recovery into reality.

I knew that if I was on medication, it would help alleviate some of my symptoms. Being aware of its side effects and the effects of withdrawal, however, I didn’t want to be on medication if it absolutely wasn’t necessary. I never liked taking medication, so I had to learn to actively change my mind. I trained my brain to think positive thoughts—I constantly repeated them to myself. I practiced CBT on my own. With this technique, I was able to find reasons to help me believe in my new thoughts. I made sure to take the steps needed to achieve my goal.

What I learned was that what you feed your brain matters more than you think. You can truly effect change if you have the will for it. Even though I eventually got back on medication, I never regretted that year and a half of my life. I was proud of myself. Because of this time in my life, I now believe that anything can be possible if you set your mind to it.


Girls Who Like Money: How I Beat My Shopping Addiction

My story of hitting rock bottom and making it out on top

Girls Who Like Money is a column written to help you feel less bad about your money habits, plus some advice on how to finance your expensive taste.

Let’s talk about depression. When people think of an extreme case, they automatically think of suicide, but the extremities of your symptoms can manifest in every area of your life. Think finances: Who’s paying the bills when you live alone and sleep for 16 hours a day?

Depression is something every person can be afflicted by. Even if you aren’t diagnosed, it’s not an overreaction to say, “I’m feeling depressed today.” Of course, it affects everyone differently. As a person with chronic depression, it makes me feel like life is hard. In truth, my life is easy. For me, it just takes a little more effort.

The difference between myself today and myself two years ago is that I now make a continued effort to stay out of depression. I closely monitor my actions, my reactions, and my mood. If I feel like I might be getting into a depression, I muster up all my strength to crawl out of it. Not saying it always works. But it’s better than what I did before.

Two years ago, if I felt myself getting depressed, I would relish in it. Actually, I wouldn’t “feel” myself getting depressed at all. I would ignore it. I would skip class, not turn in assignments, and show up late to work. When I lost my job, I had so little confidence that I couldn’t find a new one. I almost got kicked out of school. I could barely pay rent, never remembered to pay bills, ignored calls from collection agencies… That year I paid my tuition six months late.

On the outside, I appeared fine. I would joke and hang out with my friends, go out every night of the week, and consistently treat myself to whatever I wanted. 

It’s called instant gratification. It’s when a person ignores the reason why they feel bad, and just solves it right away with something really cool. This is the root of all addiction. Only problem is, it wears off after about 30 minutes. For me, that was shopping. One thing that’s great about Concordia is that a new pair of shoes is less than a minute’s walk away. Great for me, anyway.

At that time, after class, I would make myself feel better for showing up to the lecture 45 minutes late by treating myself to something nice.

It started out innocently enough. I just needed a new pair of mittens, since they keep my fingers warmer than gloves. $12. No big deal.

Later that week, it got colder. I needed a new coat, as mine was not quite warm or chic enough. And a scarf. And, ooh, this cute hat! $65. It’s okay, only a few dollars more than my wifi bill.

Next week, I decided I didn’t have any pants to wear (meaning I didn’t have enough so that I only had to do laundry every three weeks instead of two). So I bought a few new pairs of pants. While in the store I realized I was simply out of cute shirts, so I bought a few of those as well. $200, gone. Woah, half a month’s rent… But it’s okay, I’ll get a new job soon. (I didn’t.)

After pulling one too many times from my tuition-only savings account, I started not having enough money for rent. I was now spending up to $600 in one shopping trip, about once a month, wondering why I couldn’t pay for anything else. I still had no job, and no awareness that I was depressed. After ignoring yet another late rent payment, I decided my only option was to never enter a store again. Luckily, Canadian Amazon sucks.

I recovered soon enough. The next year, I quit smoking cold turkey. Soon after, I met my boyfriend of two years. If anything, what a relationship does is make you really see yourself. I started talking to a therapist and realized I was depressed.

Therapy taught me that I am the only one able to help myself. I speak to myself much more kindly now. I forgive myself for not doing the dishes for two days straight, and I get up and do them. I force myself to pay rent and to turn in my assignments on time, even when I suddenly have the urge to drop out or move across the country. I have not one job, but three. I signed up for auto-pay. I use a planner. I have money saved for the first time in five years. Everyday depression is there, but now I’m strong enough to fight it.

Feature graphic by Lily Cowper

Student Life

Grabbing your mental health by the horns

Girl, Let’s Talk tips and tricks for recognizing signs of interpersonal distress

The Female Department, a Montreal-based women’s collective, hosted the first edition of their event, Girl, Let’s Talk, last Thursday, Jan. 31. The goal of the event was to open up a conversation on mental health led by two experts in the field, and to create an environment where women can speak freely about their mental health struggles with other women.

The founders of the Female Department, Danièle-Jocelyne Otou and Stephanie Arthur, timed the 10th edition of their series Cocktails n Confessions just ahead of Psychology Month, and the day after Bell Let’s Talk Day.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians experiences mental health issues or mental illness each year. Kristin Horsley, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at McGill University, offered simple tactics to keep mental health in check.

“Track it,” said Horsley. “Write it down. It doesn’t get more sophisticated than that. […]This is important to do because you need to know where you are to know where you can go. If you’re hungry, not sleeping, not getting enough exercise, not seeing enough people, you can expect your mental health to suffer,” said Horsley. “Basic self-care is everything. It is the foundation of our mental health.” Therein lies the struggle: keeping that foundation sound.

We live in a society where we measure ourselves based on those around us. However, you will never be anyone but yourself. “We’re constantly trying to see [how we take care of ourselves] […] as a form of progression,” said Em Tardif-Bennett, an event attendee. “We’re constantly trying to strive to perfection while also giving the illusion that we’re perfect.”

The event attendees agreed that, like anything else, mental health has an ebb and flow. It’s constantly in a state of flux, and determining when your mental health is under threat is onerous. “Once we let go of that expectation,” Tardif-Bennett said, “We can finally just be present in our lives, acknowledging how far we’ve come and how much work we’ve done for ourselves.”

But how do you recognize the signs of transitioning from being stable, to in a slump, to exhibiting detrimental behaviour? “When it affects your social function, your function at work and your interpersonal relationships, that’s when you know it’s time to seek help,” Horsley said. It is also essential to understand that emotions are our bodies’ response to change, and they indicate which areas of ourselves and our lives need more tender love and care.

Above all, Horsley explained, know that your emotions are entirely valid. “When you feel your anxiety and fear, lean into them because they’re telling you something,” Horsley said. “Lean into your fear and help yourself understand what it is telling you.”

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda


Soundcloud’s fixation on suicide

Artists like Lil Peep and XXXTentacion tackle issues of mental health and depression

California rapper Lil Peep  is leading a new nexus of rap artists. He recently released his debut album, Come Over When You’re Sober — a self-obsessed project which grossly portrays depression as something to be fetishized. Peep raps lethargically about depression over pop-punk inspired trap instrumentals, which usually transitions into a banally sung chorus about taking Xanax and smoking a healthy dosage of weed. When he sings, it resembles the nasally cadence of blink-182 or Simple Plan.

Also like Peep, Soundcloud mammoth XXXTentacion uses his history with suicide and depression as the focal point of his image and music. The topic of mental health serves as a means for these artists to establish an air of authenticity, given the grave imagery expressed in the music. In an interview with Pitchfork, when discussing his history with depression, XXXTentacion said, “Some days, I’ll be very down and out, but you won’t be able to tell, really, because I don’t express that side of myself on social media. That’s the side of myself that I express through music. That’s my channel for letting all that shit out.”

Suicide is an especially relevant topic in hip hop right now, with rappers of varying influence and range ruminating on their experiences with mental health. When surveying the current music scene, the vast majority of new rappers who have personally faced mental health issues rarely shy away from expressing their tribulations.

XXXTentacion’s has been making waves on Soundcloud with his mix of emo lyricism and edgy, anything-goes demeanor. His new song “Jocelyn Flores” peaked at number three on the Billboard. Lil Uzi Vert’s sleeper-hit, “XO TOUR Llif3,” which centres on the hook “Push me to the edge / All my friends are dead,” ubiquitously earned the award for Song of the Summer at the VMAs last August. The song ponders the mental hell of contemplating suicide in the midst of a failed relationship.

That same day, Logic performed his suicide-prevention anthem “1–800–273–8255.” These topics can be cathartic for artists. It may come as a surprise, then, that much of the public hadn’t expressed more involvement or concern about mental health until after seeing Logic’s performance. Following the VMAs, it was reported that the suicide prevention hotline saw a 50 per cent spike in calls.

If you’re confronting the same feelings the rappers describe, it’s understandable why you’d feel inclined to gravitate towards artists like XXXTentacion—someone who has yet to overcome his problems. For that reason, this has the potential to position XXXTentacion as a more pragmatic and sympathetic figure. Yes, it’s a troubling proposal for artists to sing so candidly about death and depression. But, this approach may very well offer a window into the ways X’s fans relate to his music.

Depression and suicide imagery in rap music isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon. Not only because rappers as successful as XXXTentacion are bridging the gap between art and reality, but because his own experiences are intrinsically intertwined with those of his fans. He is one of the main proponents of death as art or aesthetic, which he put on full blast when he posted a controversial Instagram video last August where he simulated his own hanging.

Consumers are actively seeking music which puts these topics of mental health centre stage. But if this concept of depression as a trend disturbs you — as it should — the imperative is not to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. For us to instill mental health awareness, it’s important to absorb a certain understanding of the larger, systemic complexes of mental health. This may lead us to a deeper understanding as to why an artist like XXXTentacion might feel depressed.

In addition to the pain that came with growing up in a broken home, his propensity for sporadic violence reflects America’s blatant reluctance to promote conversations about mental health. This also explains why a large portion of his fan base might be predisposed to suffering from depression.

These young rappers who display a certain fixation on death recall the MySpace melodrama of the early-2000s emo revival. Perhaps this is a byproduct of culturally-imposed gender roles, in which boys are discouraged from expressing a full spectrum of feelings for fear of being labeled “weak” or “soft.” This new embrace of the sad-boy aesthetic might be a step in the right direction. It’s definitely a start in the process of dismantling preimposed stereotypes, but not necessarily an end to the stigma surrounding mental health.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distress, please call Suicide Action Montreal at 1-866-277-3553 or visit Concordia’s mental health services for help.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Getting a ‘handle’ on mental illness

One student’s experience with OCD and depression, and how she learned to seek help

Close your eyes. Imagine walking the halls of Concordia University, just like every other day. All is well when, unexpectedly, your breath is stolen away from you. Your limbs become numb and your vision starts to wane. You panic. Your body does not belong to you anymore. Your flight or fight response kicks in, and all you want to do is escape the absolute dread you are feeling.

For some, this may sound like a horror movie scenario. Unfortunately, many students at Concordia do not have to imagine this nightmare. Attending school, studying and completing assignments are a struggle for individuals suffering from mental illness, such as myself. Luckily, those afflicted by mental health issues don’t have to struggle alone.

When I was a child, I had rituals I felt compelled to do even though they made no sense. Whenever my mother left the house, I felt the need to kiss her four times on each cheek. If I did not do this, I believed she would die a horrible death and it would be my fault. No one understood my behaviour until I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at age 12.

“So great,” I thought to myself. “I have OCD. I need to pull out and push in my chair four times and twist doorknobs until it feels just right. This is not what I want to be doing, but I can handle this.” And I did. All by myself.

A few years later, I began to experience a new feeling. It wasn’t quite sadness. I had felt sadness before. This feeling was far worse. It made me feel like I was imprisoned in the world I called home. This feeling turned the world grey and black, with only nuances of the colours I knew were supposed to be there. At 16, I was diagnosed with depression.

“So great,” I thought to myself. “I have depression to go along with my side dish of OCD and anxiety. I really don’t want to find out what dessert will be.” I was in absolute misery, but once again, I handled it on my own.

The thing about ‘handling’ a mental illness is that, eventually, the handle breaks. I took on the demons in my head alone for so long that they took the reins of my life. I had no choice but to watch as they sucked the life out of me.

At this point, I was so worn down that I simply did not care anymore. I stopped going to school because I thought: “What is the point in trying anything when your mind is constantly clouded with dark thoughts?” On good days, I would force myself out of bed, brush my teeth and, if I was lucky, I could muster the energy to take a shower. But when it came time to leave the house, I would crumble and find refuge under my blankets. On bad days, I didn’t make it out of my bedroom.

I don’t remember the exact moment I decided enough was enough, but I remember feeling angry. I felt angry that my brain was holding me hostage; it was robbing me of experiences, challenges and opportunities. I finally decided it was time to get the help I needed. I found a psychologist in the youth sector of the Jewish General Hospital as well as a psychiatrist who prescribed me medications to level out my emotions.

I am learning new ways to cope with these emotions, like focusing on the present instead of freaking out about some imaginary scenario that might never happen. Now, I make an active decision to care for myself every day.

I won’t lie—getting better is difficult at times. However, it’s the most worthwhile work you will ever do for yourself. And like any new endeavour, the beginning is the hardest part. Admitting to yourself that you are sick and that you need help puts you in a vulnerable position. Once you start getting better though, it will all be worthwhile.

Statistics Canada reports that one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. You may have heard this statistic a hundred times before, but I would like you to take the time to reflect on it. Statistically speaking, you, someone you know or someone you will meet will struggle with a form of mental illness. If you are suffering, please seek help. If you know someone who is suffering, please help them. Life is too precious to be spent in mental agony, and you are too important to stand for it.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

My experience with mental health

Dealing with depression, binge eating disorder and attention disorders

I used to try to pinpoint when it all started, but I have come to realize that there is no precise beginning to my experience with mental illness.

In my case, it was just an accumulation of things, like drops that accumulate in a glass until it inevitably overflows.

I grew up in Annecy, France, surrounded by mountains, lakes, nature and caring friends and relatives—a perfect environment.

Everything began crumbling apart when my parents divorced.

I first met with a psychologist when I was seven, to help me understand and accept my parents’ situation.

My parents eventually remarried, and I ended up moving to Paris with my mother in the eighth grade. That is when I truly started to feel my glass begin to overflow.

I faced rejection. I faced rejection because of my fashion style, because of the place I came from. Most importantly, I faced rejection because I made the mistake of being open about my homosexuality. I dealt with daily looks of disgust.

At the age of 14, I began binge eating. It started as a nasty habit, and turned into an addiction that I still fight. I would come home, walk straight to the kitchen, sit on the floor with my bag and jacket still on and stare at the wall as I compulsively stuffed my face with food.

I developed perfectionism and attention problems in high school. School has always been a challenge for me. Seeing my grades drop due to all my emotional struggles only generated more stress linked to failure and limited my attention span even more. I found myself in a vicious circle. My glass was overflowing. It was too much.

During my last year of high school, I asked my mother to help me find a psychiatrist who could help me, at the very least, with my attention deficit. The psychiatrist ended up diagnosing me with depression, and I was prescribed a daily dose of antidepressants.

It was then that my life started to slowly piece itself back together.

After six months, I had stopped taking the medication.  The pills helped and I started focusing on the things I loved in my life again. I started feeling better.

During my healing process, I talked to friends who could relate and help, or at least listen.  I eliminated toxic relationships from my life. I focused on doing things I truly loved. I did photography and drawing. I watched anime. I skateboarded and baked.  Over time, focusing on my hobbies and passions made me feel better.

These were all things I had left behind during my dark time. It took me time to realize that these things were what I was missing to help myself heal.

Most of all, I wouldn’t have gotten better without working on self-love. It took baby steps to gain back my confidence but every day, no matter how hard, I would tell myself that I should love myself for who I am.

I still have downs, and I have accepted that I always will. I don’t believe there are any immediate or magical solutions to mental illness. It was little and then progressively bigger steps that helped me towards remission. That’s what it takes. Open up to someone, surround yourself with the people who love you, do what you enjoy and work on being healthy.

Graphic by Florence Yee


What it really feels like to take antidepressants

Why I decided to start taking prescription medication to treat my depression and anxiety

The sun rises over the sleepy city, and I’ve already been up for several hours, lying in bed having an early morning existential crisis—the usual. The winter semester has just ended, and instead of feeling relaxed and elated, I feel tense, exhausted and utterly tortured.

My entire body is extremely bloated, and I struggle to find the energy to get out of bed. My skin itches and burns all over, and my jaw is locked shut from fiercely clenching it throughout the long, arduous night.

The last few months of university had proven to be extremely challenging for me. I could barely manage to stay afloat. I defied all deadlines for my schoolwork, pulling crazy stunts—like handing in a research project nine days late—and constantly asking for extensions. I also struggled to produce my opinions section for The Concordian on a weekly basis, and felt that I didn’t deserve my editorial position. I saw myself as an imposter hiding amongst a bevy of accomplished and ambitious journalists.

The pressure felt overwhelming, and the cracks in my life were becoming fissures.

Over time, everything became complicated and difficult, and my emotions went into overdrive. Even writing—my one true passion—became almost impossible. I was barely able to type out a single word. Staring at the blank screen, I felt infuriated and cursed.

I entered a period of self-imposed exile, where I withdrew from society—only speaking to a handful of close confidants. Everyone knew something was wrong and urged me to speak to a medical professional.

Almost a week later, I found myself in the doctor’s office, feeling like a wounded animal. I spoke with my family doctor for almost 45 minutes, and we filled out a survey together that asked general questions regarding mood, behaviour and appetite. By the end of the appointment, he concluded that I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression, and sent me off with a prescription in tow.

The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve always been an anxious person, but I’d always kept it under control. I was too naïve to realize that all these struggles could be related to mental illness. And now I’d be taking medication that would alter my brain chemistry?

Well, it turns out, 20 per cent of people in this country will experience some manifestation of mental illness at some point in their life, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. It’s a lot more common than we think. In an article published in MacLean’s in 2009, Lev Bukhman, the executive director of a student insurance program, revealed that antidepressants were the number one drug purchased by students.

Graphic by Patricia Petit Liang

“Mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges facing students today,” Bukhman said in the same report, highlighting that many students become susceptible during their time at a postsecondary institution.

Citalopram—the drug I was prescribed—is an antidepressant from a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). They are commonly used to treat both depression and anxiety, since they increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, according to Mayo Clinic—a renowned medical nonprofit based out of the U.S.

As one can imagine, I was incredibly anxious and cynical about taking these pills. The fear of losing my artistic abilities and personality were my main concerns, and I desperately loathed the idea of turning into a mindless buffoon pumped full of sedatives.

After doing a lot of research, I decided to take the plunge and swallow the first pill. Expecting to feel an immediate sense of euphoria, I was disappointed to discover that I didn’t feel any different. Everyone kept saying that I’d only begin to see a change in four to six weeks, but I didn’t want to wait.

All hope seemed lost, and I felt once again lost at sea. Was this what rock bottom felt like?

Small victories were made, though—one afternoon I found the will to find a new therapist. My old one had been a vapid creature with frazzled baby hairs and a medieval approach to mental health.

New research indicates that the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of both therapy and medication, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2014. This study followed 452 depressed individuals—some were given medication, while others were given medication in conjunction with cognitive therapy. The findings showed that the latter group fared far better, and their symptoms improved faster compared to their counterparts only taking medication.

Things gradually improved—albeit at a snail’s pace — and I began to notice tiny changes. I was able to get more than four hours of sleep each night, and on certain days, I successfully made it to the gym. My body returned to a normal state as I regained my appetite and the scars from those nasty rashes began to heal.

A huge debate continues to rage around the topic of antidepressants, with many diminishing the reality of mental illness, stating that they shouldn’t be treated with drugs. Giles Fraser, a journalist for The Guardian, wrote in his weekly column: “Happiness can be reclaimed by doing a bit more exercise or being more sociable. This sounds healthier than pills.”

I’m not saying antidepressants are for everyone, but I can definitely say they helped me tremendously. Although the process was painstakingly slow, my chutzpah has returned, and the very fact that I’m writing this article is a testament to the fact that you can recover from anxiety and depression.


  • Visit the offices of Counselling and Psychological Services on campus at H-440 (SGW) or AD 103 (Loyola) to request to see a counsellor. You can reach them at 514-848-2424 ext. 3545 (SGW) or at ext. 3555 (Loyola).
  • Visit a nurse at Health Services on campus at 1550 De Maisonneuve W. Room GM-200 (SGW) or AD 131 (Loyola). You can reach them at 514-848-2424 ext. 3565 (SGW) or at ext. 3575 (Loyola).
  • Visit the Centre for Gender Advocacy at the SGW campus for support at 2110 Mackay St. between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or at (514) 848-2424 ext. 7431. For peer support call (514) 848-2424 ext. 7880.
  • If you are in immediate danger on campus, call 911 or security at (514) 848-3717—option one.
Student Life

They say you can’t come home again…

Battling the worst first-world problem: post-Erasmus depression

On June 15, 2014, I boarded a plane at Charles de Gaulle airport heading home to Montreal after six months studying at Sciences Po Paris through the Concordia exchange program. I was numb as I went through customs, loaded up on bottles of Bordeaux at duty-free, and eventually boarded the plane. “It’s not over until I land,” I kept telling myself.

I sat down in my seat, half-listened to the “in case of emergency” spiel the stewardess gave, and started to cry—and I am not a crier. In fact I very rarely emote at all, let alone in public. I continued to cry as I watched Frozen and Her, and made small talk with the very worried and confused gentleman next to me.

I got off the plane, having composed myself sufficiently while I went through baggage claim and customs. Everything felt wrong, disorienting, unreal.

My mother ran to greet me at the arrivals gate, rushing up to me in a Love Actually-esque display of airport emotion. As I hugged her, I started to cry again—and not cute delicate tears, but full-on, snot-running-down-my-face, heaving-and-blubbering crying.

“You realize that most people here think that you’re crying with happiness at seeing your family again,” she whispered in my ear. “They probably think this is touching. They don’t know that you’re dreading being here and would love nothing more than to turn around and get back on that plane.”

My response was something like “nkalhekwvbwaaahhhhaaahhajoewj.”

A few hundred years ago, gout was considered the disease of the privileged. Today, that title goes to post-Erasmus depression syndrome. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is a non-profit organization that links students in higher education with international host facilities to study or intern abroad—essentially it’s a network for international exchanges like the ones

offered through Concordia and other schools worldwide. Post-Erasmus depression is a common experience amongst students upon returning from the glorious life of exchange to the grim realities of life back home, and it is certainly not exclusive to the European network (they just came up with the name first). This may just be the quintessential first-world problem, but it isn’t one to take lightly.

Already, the vast majority of college and university students experience some kind of mental illness. A 2013 article in the Globe and Mail breaks down mental health statistics among students, finding that 90 per cent of students felt anxious and “overwhelmed at all they had to do,” while just over 50 per cent relayed feelings of hopelessness, and 63 per cent admitted to being very lonely. Almost 10 per cent had considered suicide in the last year, and 1.3 per cent had attempted it.

“We do see more depression and anxiety than we did a few years ago,” said Dale Robinson, Psychologist and Manager of Counselling and Psychological Services at Concordia.

We can all agree that these statistics are troublesome, though not surprising. University courses are demanding, and it can be difficult to juggle academic responsibilities with working to support yourself, padding your resume with extracurriculars or internships, and navigating the treacherous waters of social interactions in your twenties.

Now, imagine that for a semester—or a year if you’re really lucky—you get to escape all the mundane, mind-numbing stresses of your life. You get on a plane, maybe to somewhere you’ve never been before. As quickly as it takes to get over your jet lag, you’re completely immersed in a new life, meeting new people, seeing new, exciting, beautiful things. Your only responsibility is passing your classes, which are often much less arduous than the ones at home anyways. Weekends are free to travel the world near your host city, or explore your new home, or forge bonds with other students from around the world. You learn about their cultures, teach them about yours, and find out that despite having grown up at opposite ends of the world you have a lot in common. You experience new things together. You breathe lighter with this extreme freedom. You’re living your life entirely for yourself. Everything is exciting and new, and as cheesy as it sounds, it will change you.

Then, in the blink of an eye that also seems like an eternity, you’re gone. Back home, back to where you started. You’ve changed, but nothing else has. Back to your soul-crushing part-time job and mini-dramas with people you feel that you’ve outgrown, and a city that feels a lot smaller than you left it.

“Change is always stressor, and anyone who has vulnerabilities of any kind is going to feel that impact much more,” said Robinson. “[Psychologist Abraham] Maslow talked about the hierarchy of needs; everything is built around the basic structure of where you live and what’s around you. When you change that, it changes everything else.”

A recurring theme amongst students who experience depression upon coming home from exchange is the reported feeling of being stifled by the lack of freedom and new experiences once you return.

“The word I keep using when people ask me about being back is ‘bittersweet.’ Yeah it’s great to see everyone but I miss the possibilities being on exchange offered,” said Matthew*, a Concordia student who recently returned from studying abroad in Paris in the fall semester. “Five months flies by and most is the same back at home. I know I constantly feel wanderlust, so being back just means I can no longer hop a budget flight under $100 and discover a completely new place in a weekend. Instead my option is $250 or more to go to Toronto.”

Robinson explains that readjusting to a new environment, especially after such a huge change as going abroad, can be difficult for many people.

“We adjust and respond to our environment, we can’t expect to be picked up and dropped off somewhere and be exactly the same,” she said. “For example, if the student went away and they felt more autonomous, were able to explore and experiment with their own identity, and then going back home you’re one of the family again, one of the kids again, you lose that autonomy.”

It is this kind of shift, which many students feel to be regressive, that has the potential to become a stressor that causes depression.

“Leaving for an entire year to Australia kind of made me want to start over entirely from scratch,” said Thierry Tardif, another Concordia student who spent a year studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. “I had a job, I paid my rent, my phone, my entire life over there was my own and I didn’t feel the need to meet anyone’s demands or my parents’ needs…I was my own person.”

For students battling with readjusting to life after exchange, Concordia International offers their services.

Sometimes simply sitting down and speaking with somebody about your experience abroad can be helpful, whether that’s in the form of mentoring a student thinking of going on exchange in the future, or sitting down with one of the International Liaison Officers, explains Pauliina Rouleau, International Liaison Officer for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at Concordia International.

“Staying active definitely helps readjusting to being home, and discussing with other people who have gone on exchange as they’ll be able to most likely relate to the feelings you’re having,” she said. “Personally I encourage returning students who are missing the international environment to get involved with CISA [Concordia International Student Association] as their goal is to bring students together in a warm and friendly environment.”

Robinson agrees that the best way to get over the readjustment hump is to stay active, and evaluate yourself and your goals on a new level.

“I’d encourage students to not be afraid of what they’re feeling, and to use that as an opportunity to ask themselves ‘what do I need right now?’,” said Robinson.

And, if your depression persists, you can always make an appointment with a psychologist at Concordia’s Counselling and Development department. This semester, they are launching a workshop entitled “Four Ways to Feel Better,” which will be held four times per semester starting Jan. 23.

In any case, going abroad is an incredible opportunity. It allows you to discover yourself as well as the world around you in unimaginable ways. It’s a dream life, to be sure, but it can also be a launching pad for future travels.

“Honestly nothing helped me until I made plans to go back,” said Jessica Prupas, a McGill student who studied abroad in Leeds, United Kingdom two years ago. She is now looking forward to attending grad school in London next year.

“All in all my mind is made up,” said Matthew. “I will not be staying in Montreal or Canada for very much longer.”

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