The story of a sexual assault survivor

After a negative experience with SARC, Concordia student decided to turn to his Indigenous roots to heal.

After Salim, a former Concordia student, dropped out of school following his negative experience with the Sexual Assault and Resource Centre (SARC), he wanted to heal. He decided to escape from what he knew about healing to finally find peace. For anonymity purposes, The Concordian is only using his first name.

Before his life changed, Salim was a history student and a member of the Concordia University Catholic Student Association (CUCSA). He had friends in the association, but when he came out to them as gay, “they rejected [him] entirely,” he said. 

When he told his other friends what had happened, they were not as supportive as he hoped. Several stayed by his side, but for the most part, it was a long and winding road back to a better place. 

“I don’t feel that the religious clubs are really prepared yet—not only for 2SLGBTQ+ issues, but also sexual assault issues,” said Salim.

On Jan. 29, Salim was raped by a non-student off-campus. The experience traumatized him, and he went to the SARC for help. 

During his first session, he told his counsellor about this incident and that he was having passive suicidal thoughts. Even though Salim was clear about The counsellor, Salim said, had a “look of panic on her face.” 

“She was calling a lot of people and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not getting out of this session on my own.’ I was frozen because I just couldn’t do anything,” said Salim. “This was out of my control already. I didn’t have any say in what happened next. It was really tough. I got escorted to an ambulance by the Concordia security guard in front of everybody. The whole campus saw me. It was really, really embarrassing.”

The ambulance drove him to Jean-Talon hospital. He was left alone in the waiting room, so he decided to leave and go home.

“I didn’t think anything else was going to happen,” said Salim.

But when he arrived home, two police officers were waiting inside beside his parents. They told him that he had to go back to Jean-Talon hospital.

He arrived at the hospital and was locked in a room. There were no windows and no pillows, and he was forbidden from using his phone. The only thing in the room was a small bed with a seat belt. Salim was put on suicide watch, and became completely cut off from the world.

He was locked in that room for 16 hours before seeing a psychiatrist. During that time, a nurse only checked up on him once. 

“I think it was my normal reaction to just scream and kick the door so they could let me out. I never thought I would be in that kind of situation in my life,” said Salim.

He recalled that most people in the emergency room were minorities. Salim is a descendant of the Quechua nation, from the Andes mountains of South America. 

As an Indigenous man, he witnessed how different the treatment was towards minority groups in hospital facilities. After being sent to the hospital a second time, Salim went back to SARC for another session. He was still struggling and confessed that he was having suicidal thoughts. The counsellor had the same panicked reaction as before. 

He recalled that she got frustrated with him regarding how much time had passed since he got raped. She asked him, “It’s already been a few months, you should be over it by now. Why are you still sad?”

“The incompetence I felt, the helplessness I felt—I was basically left alone. Mostly what [SARC] does, if anything, they will send you an email: ‘Are you alright? How are you doing?’ And that’s it,” said Salim. “Basically, they won’t do anything else unless you tell them to do so.”

SARC was the only resource Salim knew about. The centre he thought would help him did the complete opposite. He does not know if the treatment from SARC is different for Indigenous students. He is concerned for these students that they may not get the treatment they deserve. 

The Concordian reached out to SARC for an interview but has not heard back.

“I don’t know for Indigenous students, if the process is different on their centre that they have, but I can’t imagine if there’s an Indigenous student who faces sexual assault, what kind of help they’re going to get,” said Salim. “It’s going to be even worse for them going to SARC, because I don’t think they [SARC] are trained in Indigenous visions of health and healing.”

Salim realized that Western medicine was not the cure for his trauma. No amount of medication was going to dial down the traumatic symptoms he was feeling. 

“The whole psychiatric and psychological modern institution that we have is also rooted in colonial investigation and colonial visions of what is health, what is illness,” he said.

He decided to explore the roots of his Quechua ancestors and reconnect with his culture. Salim realized that he needed to shed what he knew about healing and modern science, and tune into himself to heal. 

“I think that decolonizing myself also told me that, you know, that nature is with me and that I’m part of this whole entire thing [existence]. So nature healed me,” said Salim.

“It was something necessary for me. It’s unfortunate that it had to happen this way, but in the end, I’m very thankful that Mother Nature, Pachamama, as we call Mother Earth, took me back in her arms.”

Salim “remembered the knowledge his ancestors gave him”, by simply being present with nature, going to the park, and feeling its beauty. He recalls facing the sun, and acknowledging the heat he received from “his father, the sun, Tata Inti in Quechua, hugging him with his light. 

“Now, I look at [Tata Inti] and see “oh dad, there you are,” said Salim. 

As he looks at the trees, he acknowledges them that they are his brothers. As he sits on the grass, he is sitting on his mother, Pachamama’s, lap and she welcomes him home, letting him know he is safe.


Is TikTok’s “healing era” trend empowering?

TikTok’s “healing era” trend helped me become a better version of myself.

What’s TikTok’s “healing era” all about? The healing era is when someone decides to prioritize themselves, stay away from toxicity, and do introspection through journaling, going to the gym, engaging in fun activities, and doing all they can to develop better life habits. 

Last year before the #healingera went viral, I deactivated all my social media accounts. I wanted to focus on myself and eliminate distractions. I started working on projects I had been postponing and was quite productive. However, this did not last long. I started feeling isolated and felt like I did not have the tools to navigate my healing. It was just me getting lost in my thoughts.

Later, I decided to go back and re-activate my accounts. I downloaded TikTok again, and since I was searching for self-love quotes all the time, the algorithm started bombarding me with “healing era” videos. I discovered that an entire group of people in this world are going through exactly what I am going through. Knowing that you’re not alone is comforting. 

After watching tons of those videos, I became inspired and hopeful. I started seeing progress in those young women’s lives, which motivated me to work on myself. I started journaling and took a boxing class, and as hard as it once felt, I started taking myself on dates without feeling lonely.

For the longest time, I thought choosing myself and prioritizing my mental health was selfish. It took learning from other people’s journeys worldwide to realize that choosing yourself is self-love and self-care, not selfishness. 

After the healing era, women enter their villain era, another TikTok trend. Despite the name, the villain era is not about being mean or hurting others. The villain era is when a woman sets boundaries, stops being a people-pleaser and continues to choose herself unapologetically. 

In the #villainera, you often see before and after videos of how a woman who was once broken and crying turns into a confident woman who is unshakeable. I find the villain era trend to be empowering because it motivates those going through their healing era and shows them what’s waiting at the end of the tunnel. 

As much as I despise TikTok for making me doom scroll, I am still thankful for the app and those creators for teaching me ways to love myself and to not give up in the middle of my healing journey. The ‘healing era’ trend taught me how to be gentle with myself, and the ‘villain era’ trend has helped me visualize the version of myself I want to become.

Regardless of any TikTok trend, healing is a long process, and we should not rush through it. There is no deadline for when the healing era has to stop and the villain era must begin. We should take things slow and not be hard on ourselves if our healing takes longer than people online. We all have our pace, and eventually, we can all get there.


Holocaust Survivor Angela Orosz speaks on intergenerational trauma

“I dreamt of the Germans,” says Orosz’s daughter who was conditioned to learn adulthood before she even knew the meaning of the word

When she was just three years old, Katy Orosz was sent grocery shopping on her own. Unbeknownst to her, her mother Angela was secretly following along to ensure her safety. Still, the trauma of that early push for independence lingers in Katy today.

In late January, Angela Orosz, one of the youngest Holocaust survivors, spoke at the Montreal Holocaust Museum (MHM) to discuss her daughter’s experiences with intergenerational trauma.

The event, which held an audience of 350 people, took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. 

Former Chief Anchor and Senior Editor of CTV News, Lisa Laflamme, hosted the public interview with Orosz to discuss how the genocide impacted aspects of her life, notably her motherhood.

Laflamme covered Orosz’s story on CTV News in 2020, when the two visited Auschwitz. It had been the survivor’s first time back at the concentration camp since her birth.

Orosz was born on Dec. 21, 1944, in German-occupied Poland at the Auschwitz concentration camp. She was one of few to survive the liberation that following year.

The public discussion unraveled the painful psychological impacts of the Holocaust, and Orosz explained its influence on her early parental experiences.

During the mid to late 1960s, Orosz gave birth to her daughter Katy in Budapest, Hungary. Orosz passed down many of the “survivor skills” that she learned from her mother Vera Otvos-Beins. This consisted of sending her young daughter off to go grocery shopping and take public transportation “alone.”

“She was three years old. She can’t forgive me. I taught her how to go shopping by herself. She didn’t know I was following her, but I wanted her to have that feeling that whatever is happening, she is not lost,” confessed Orosz. 

This motherly instinct to push for early independence and adulthood in her toddler reflected the trauma she endured when anticipating a recurrence of the Holocaust. 

“I think it’s understandable, given what you’ve been through, what your mother probably taught you as a little girl,” said Laflamme. The journalist sympathized with Orosz on the challenges of teaching one’s own child as a survivor. 

In August of 2016, Orosz was asked to speak about the transmission of psychological trauma from mothers to children at a psychiatric conference in Dresden. However, Orosz’ reaction to the invite involved instant denial to her repressed feelings of trauma. “I’m not going to do it, I don’t have trauma,” she said.  

Orosz went directly to her two children to ask about their thoughts on her attending the event. When she questioned her having trauma, her son had little to say. “But my daughter gave me a list to China and back, on what I did,” she jokingly stated. 

“She said, ‘Mom, are you telling me you don’t have trauma? Your whole life is the Holocaust, everything was the Holocaust. You wanted me to be strong and you made me scared. I couldn’t go to sleep because I dreamt of the Germans,’” explained Orosz. 

Sarah Fogg is a staff member at the MHM and a third-generation survivor to her two grandparents, Marek and Mara Lewkowicz, who survived the Holocaust in Balkhash, Kazakhstan and Kassel, Germany. After World War II, the young couple began a family and fled as refugees to Canada, where they started a new chapter in their lives. 

Fogg has worked with Orosz for years, and emphasized her good intent in trying to protect her daughter from potential harms after the Holocaust. 

The thought of Orosz instilling fear into her daughter at such a young age had never been her intention. “For Angi, it wasn’t from that perspective at all, she was just trying to build a safer human,” expressed Fogg.

Orosz felt strongly towards being open about her past with her children, in hopes of teaching them resilience and gratefulness. 

She referred to memories early on in her parenthood when her children would complain about something. For instance, if they disliked the meal their mother cooked for them, Orosz would reply with “you know how happy [you] would have been in Auschwitz?”.

“We were happy if water came from the faucets in Auschwitz, how could you dare to complain?” she often asked her children.

When her children were young, she juggled the task of being a novice mother while carrying the weight of being a Holocaust survivor. Orosz was also just trying her best, and many other survivors were too.

“When I think of the survivors that I know, again I can’t speak for everybody, everyone’s different, everyone has just tried their best. They came to Canada as refugees, they had to build new lives, learn new languages, new jobs, start from nothing. And I think they all just did the best they could, really,” said Fogg.

Despite never enduring trauma from the Holocaust, Fogg sympathizes with other descendants who’ve felt as though they lived within their families’ tragic stories. 

“Now that I work at the museum, I know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to bring up the history because it could be really traumatizing to talk about it, for the listener and for the survivor,” said Fogg.


The power of Indigenous humour — sharing Indigenous experiences and voices through laughter

Guest speaker Stephanie Pangowish discussed how humour is an integral part of Indigenous communities

Stand-up comedian, Northern Style Women’s Traditional dancer, educator and backup singer, Stephanie Pangowish does it all.

Part of the Anishinaabekwe from Wiikwemkoong on Manitoulin Island, Pangowish is known for her community involvement.

In an online seminar organized by the Feminism and Comedy Working Group at Concordia on April 1, Pangowish spoke about the importance of Indigenous comedy and storytelling.

“Humour was always part of our family – growing up, I’d listen to elders joke about hard situations to minimize them, or I’d see my family tease each other out of love and appreciation,” said Pangowish.

Pangowish was even further drawn to comedy when she started watching comedy specials on television with her parents.

“When I saw someone on stage make this big auditorium full of people laugh, I knew there was good medicine attached to humour.”

As she grew older, Pangowish noticed that, despite humour being an integral part of her communal life, it was often overshadowed by stereotypes surrounding Indigenous communities.

The books written by authors who had not experienced Indigenous cultures, “failed to include our humour in their narrative,” she said.

Resilience through Indigenous humour

While visiting different Indigenous communities across North America, Pangowish realized she could connect with anyone through their humour despite speaking different languages or having different ceremonies.

“When I first started getting into comedy, I noticed that humour in our community was used to soften some of the experiences of everyday life,” said Pangowish.

“That is one of the things that helped our people become more resilient.”

Pangowish recalls that, even while attending the annual imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto, she noticed humour being widely integrated into the films that were being presented.

“Though these films were about residential schools or being removed from your land, there was still laughter,” said Pangowish.

When she began her masters studies, Pangowish explains that she was promoting the fact that Indigenous humour was a topic worth exploring. After encouragement from a classmate, Pangowish put forth a topic to the TEDxTalk panel and was accepted.

As part of her research on Indigenous humour, Pangowish began reaching out to different community members until she came across the findings of Dr. Michael Yellow Bird of the University of Manitoba, who focuses on the effects of colonization, methods of decolonization, and genetic science in Indigenous people.

Dr. Yellow Bird talked about the 5HTTLPR gene — a serotonin transmitter that is shared among many Indigenous community members around the world and mediates happiness, among other emotions.

“Our dances, ceremonies, prayers, celebrations and singing, are all part of our communal life which bring us good energy, and laughter.”

Pangowish explains that Indigenous humour helps to cope with difficult situations by making fun of them.

“We’ve taken misfortune and turned them into funny stories with lessons attached to it,” said Pangowish, during her TEDxCentennialCollegeToronto talk.

Educating through Indigenous humour

When Indigenous stories are being told through books or movies, the storytellers are often non-Indigenous, mostly white authors who often have no connection to the culture itself, explained Pangowish.

“I’ve always wanted to share that we are not just what society and media portrays us — we are not just those stereotypical images …  I use humour to make fun of those images, and talk about how powerful our people are, and how amazing our culture is.”

Though the Indigenous communities across Turtle Island — the Indigenous name that some Indigenous peoples use for North America — are very diverse, Pangowish explained that there are many aspects of humour that are similar, including teasing, making fun of difficult situations, and punching up instead of punching down.

By this, Pangowish explains that Indigenous humour avoids jokes about people with disabilities or minorities, for instance. Instead, it aims at institutions of power, such as governments.

“Sometimes there are controversial topics, but if you approach them carefully and are thoughtful with your words and delivery, there are many that we can joke about. But what I won’t do is oppress another group of people,” said Pangowish.

Through her stand-up comedy, Pangowish also aims at sharing stories beyond Indigenous communities to bring awareness to non-Indigenous folks.

“I wanted to bring forth our experiences to Canadians by trying to bridge the gap and talk about policies and other important aspects that are part of our life, that they might not be aware of,” she said.

During her acts, Pangowish includes jokes about policies such as the Indian Act or the First Nation Trust Fund, all with the intention of bringing awareness to these topics in a comedic way.

“The Indian Act that’s over 150 years old, determines who is Indian and who isn’t,” said Pangowish.

“If I were to have a child with a non-status Indian or Canadian, and my child goes through the same thing, my grandchild will not be acknowledged as an Indian through the act.”

Joking about the effects of policies such as the Indian Act is a way to discuss them and educate people about the experiences of Indigenous people, explained Pangowish.

Beyond poking fun at stereotypes and building inter-communal resilience, Pangowish explained that, “Humour is truly a huge part of who we are.”


Graphic from event page on the Concordia University website

Student Life

Ayurveda: A spiritual and physical journey to health and recovery

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic medical practice encouraging self-healing through the mind, body and soul; and it helped me heal.

In his book Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing, medical practitioner and professor of Ayurvedic Medicine Dr. Vasant Lad writes that Ayurveda is concerned with eight branches of medicine: pediatrics, gynecology (female health), obstetrics (childbirth), ophthalmology (eyes), geriatrics (elder health), otolaryngology (ear, throat and nose), general medicine, and surgery. 

According to Lad, each branch is addressed according to theories of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water and earth), the tridosha, and the trinity of life (body, mind and spiritual awareness). The tridosha are three energies that define a person’s makeup: Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth). 

An ayurvedic practitioner will determine your constitution through tests like observing the tongue, nail health, taking your pulse, etc. They ask questions about your health in detail, from your bowel movements to how you sleep. Your makeup is then determined and you’ll receive a plan to help you heal and balance your doshas.

My experience 

My symptoms of nausea, bloating, indigestion, etc. worsened and hadn’t faded after over five years of visiting various doctors. My family doctor dismissed my symptoms and blamed them on my anxiety. My gastroenterologist (without testing me) dismissed me by concluding I had a “sensitive stomach” and recommended I remove meat from my diet (which I already had). I was fed up and lost hope when I noticed additional complications like iron deficiency, among other things.

After visiting Bita Bitajian, an ayurvedic practitioner at the Transformation Ayurvedic Center in St-Lambert, I was told my makeup is Pitta-Kapha: I am full of fire and warmth, making me intelligent, sharp, emotional but tolerant, calm and loving. I gain weight easily and have trouble turning my mind off to sleep. 

With my symptoms, I was diagnosed with aggravated Vata, which can throw my doshas off balance. I had to drastically change my diet for more than a month: no carbs and gluten, fermentation or processed sugar, limited starch and dairy intake, and I had to avoid bananas. I basically ate grass for a month because I don’t eat meat and usually only eat carbs. I also had strict rules to follow: eat before 1 p.m. and not after 8 p.m., drink rose tea twice daily, go to sleep before midnight, go to the gym three times a week and practice yoga and meditation almost daily. 

I didn’t realize how much the food I ate actually impacted how I felt. Since I was so often dismissed by my family doctor, food intolerances didn’t really cross my mind; I didn’t think my symptoms were as severe as they actually were. 

After one week, I felt lighter; I wasn’t bloated or nauseous, nor was I running to the bathroom every hour. Despite the difficult diet, the initial results were enough for me to stick with it. I was very strict with my diet, I tried to go to the gym as much as I could and I focused on breathing exercises every night to help with my insomnia and anxiety. I felt incredible after two weeks.


Seven weeks in, I’m fed up with the diet but incredibly grateful for the results. I occasionally get indigestion and get bloated, but not like before. This journey has taught me to be mindful of what, how, when, and why I eat. I learned it’s important to listen to your body and provide the proper nutrients to function at its maximum potential. I even started slowly integrating some things back into my diet and am now looking to get tested for gluten intolerance.

I would recommend Ayurveda to anyone who feels stuck and needs to change their lifestyle and habits. If you need physical and spiritual healing, this could be a great option for you.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

A guide to the sacred traditions of Montréal’s trees

Unearth the historic roots running throughout the island of Tiohtiá:ke

Scientific historians speculate that it was Aristotle who first decided all living things could be divided into two domains: plants and animals. While biological taxonomy is a touch more complicated these days, the conceptual divide between flora and fauna remains central to western scientific thinking about nature.

But here’s the thing: a key assumption of that conceptual divide is that animals are apperceptive, while plants are not. Plants don’t feel pain, while animals do. Yet, over the past few decades, there have been a number of startling studies—such as one led by Antonio Scialdone at the U.K.’s John Innes Centre, which found that Arabidopsis thaliana were “capable of doing some complex arithmetic to prevent starvation at night.” These findings, as well as others, suggest this divide may not be as clear cut as it seems.

Trees, in particular, are known to have strangely sentient qualities about them. The belief that trees have some kind of innate intelligent life has been with us for millennia, as Cambridge professor Stanley Arthur Cook wrote in the 1911 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. So, it is not surprising that trees are cited as having spiritual properties in many sacred traditions.

The Concordian teamed up with the Concordia Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre to create this guide to the sacred traditions associated with the trees found on the island of Tiohtiá:ke/Montréal, unceded Indigenous territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation.

You can use the provided map to find locations where these trees grow, and the leaf graphics to help identify specific species. For each one, we mention which aspect of life it is supposed to help with, from prosperity to fertility. If you’re struggling with something, why not try meditating on it under one of the trees associated with your problem?

1. Rapides du Cheval Blanc Park: Ash tree

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, the Ash tree was very important to the ancient druids of Briton, and had a prominent place in Celtic culture. It was considered the female partner of the Father Tree, the Oak. The Celts valued Ash for its healing and enchantment properties. The Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region have also had a long connection to the Ash tree, according to Nicholas J. Reo from Michigan State University. Within these communities, though, it is valued less for it’s spiritual properties and more as a construction resource, particularly for baskets and snowshoes. However, there is a tradition within the Wabanaki Confederacy that maintains that humans were first created from Black Ash trees, according to Native Languages of the Americas, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Indigenous languages of the western hemisphere.

2. Corner of St. Sulpice and Picket Roads: Birch tree

According to Trees for Life, Scotland’s leading conservation volunteering charity, in parts of Europe the Birch tree is linked to fertility, healing magic, new beginnings and purification. This is likely because its seeds can thrive in extremely inhospitable environments, so they’re usually the first trees to grow again on land that has been razed. Through their resiliency, they set up the new ecosystem for the slow-growers like Oak and Beech. In some Ojibwe and Chippewa communities, Birch bark is thought of as a sacred gift, and was sometimes used in ceremonial wrapping of the deceased for burial, according to Dr. Kelly S. Meier, the Senior Director of Institutional Diversity at Minnesota State University. In fact, Birch bark does have medicinal properties for pain relief, and birch leaves can be used for treating arthritis, according to WebMD.

3. Corner of Guy Street and Argyle Avenue: Cedar tree

According to the Indigenous Studies department at the University of British Columbia, in Ojibwe traditions, the Cedar tree is associated with cleansing, protection and prosperity. It is thought of as the most sacred tree among some Indigenous communities. The west coast Indigenous peoples consider the Red Cedar to be the “tree of life” and believe that it plays a key role in nurturing the mind, body and soul. A prayer of respect is recited prior to any part of the tree being harvested. This is because of Cedar’s ubiquitous use in all parts of northwest Indigenous peoples’ lives, including canoes, clothing, cooking utensils, medicines, ceremonial masks and more, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.

4. Raymond Park: Oak tree

For many Indigenous tribes of east and mid-eastern North America, Oak is a medicine tree, connected with strength and protection, according to Native Languages of the Americas. Individual Oaks are known for their tremendous size and longevity. According to Indigenous tradition, the location of Oak trees often serve as spiritual and civic centres for important gatherings. In Celtic lore, the Oak is regarded as the holiest of holy trees, according to the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The ancient Greeks and Romans also associated the Oak with their highest gods—Zeus and Jupiter respectively. Even the Norse associated it with Thor, their god of thunder. The Oak tree is the ultimate spiritual symbol of strength and endurance.

5. Wilfrid Laurier Park: Maple tree

Maple syrup was known and valued by Indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, long before the arrival of European settlers. This tree is so central to some Indigenous cultures that the explanation of the origin of maple syrup production figures into their story about when the Creator made earth world itself. In many North American Indigenous legends, maple syrup originally comes out of the maple tree already edible.
However, at some point, an intervening trickster god—whose name differs from community to community—forces people to process the sap if they want the sweet reward. According to Indian Country Wisconsin, in Anishinaabe legend the god’s name is Wenebojo, but in Abenaki legend he’s named Gluskabe. The maple tree is also seen as a tree of tolerance and gentleness in many Indigenous traditions. It is also the preferred source of ‘talking sticks’, a tool used during council meetings to indicate whose turn it is to speak.

The Concordia Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre runs a series of field-trips every school year to various sacred sites. For more information about this year’s outings contact the centre:

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda.

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

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