My name is Rey, and I am a first generation Canadian, Jamaican descent. When people meet me, I’m not sure “mental illness” is something that comes to mind. The anxious thoughts that consume me are tiring. Yet, I’m told all the time how “resilient” and “strong” I am; but if you knew me, you’d know those are the last 2 words I would use to describe myself. Behind the outgoing, confident exterior, there is a shy soul, who’d rather blend into the background and not be seen. You would see someone who has mastered wearing many masks, every day while crumbling inside.

I’ve suffered childhood trauma, domestic violence, loss, and all the PTSD that comes with it, even when I didn’t know it had a name. And my many cries for help were dismissed as me being a drama queen, or paranoid. It was never even an option that I needed help. It was always dismissed, or I was told to “get over it”. But what does it mean when you can’t “get over it”? Is there something wrong with me? I carried these feelings under the surface for 15 years, until they came bubbling over during my pregnancy with my son. How could I bring an innocent child into a world that didn’t provide justice for me? How would I navigate sending him out there knowing all I know about the “real world”? This started my journey to mental wellness and understanding myself but also forgiving myself and the little girl I blamed inside all this time.

I am nowhere near being well, whatever that looks like. But I am learning to listen to my body and my mind and to do what makes me feel good today. I’m blessed with an amazing partner who encourages me to find my way, whatever that looks like, and a little boy whose laugh makes my heart smile. Some days that means saying yes to something scary, but coming down to Outside the Shape and taking a step to move my life forward has been one of the best things I’ve done. Being able to talk openly about my struggle and what it looks like for me, but also having women feed my soul and encourage me has lead to this post, something I would never have considered a year ago. I’m working on not feeling guilty when I need to take time for myself, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. I’m worth it and so much more, which is a constant battle.

With all the celebrity suicides, and losing a good friend has shown me that struggling in a corner with my thoughts and feelings isn’t helping me at all, in turn not helping my family. One of the few things I haven’t tried is speaking up, and it scares the daylights out of me, but for someone else struggling to hang on, it can be the biggest moment in life. I’m done with being strong and invincible all the time.

I’m Rey, and I struggle with my mental health every day. But there are others like me looking to find a rainbow in every day, no matter how small. So smile at a stranger, compliment another person’s outfit, just be present, and watch the changes that can happen.

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