Trigger Warning: Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health Issues and Sickness.
My Journey with Mental Health Issues is a 4-part series I am doing on my blog and Youtube channel as a means to share my story and provide resources to those who may be seeking help. Everybody’s journey is unique and I hope by reading or hearing my story, you will be strong enough to share yours in a way that will empower others as well.
2014 was a tough year for me health-wise. In February 2014, I suffered a serious concussion as I fell on the ice and hit my head twice within a span of an hour. It not only triggered physical symptoms like short-term memory loss and migraines but it also caused my mental illnesses to flair up. I was battling physical and psychological symptoms that were debilitating to say the least. My concussion also lead me to dropping my courses that semester which put me behind a year in school. I was devastated that I would not graduate with my friends.
Once I made a plan for myself after my physical symptoms were much more manageable, I started feeling better emotionally. Fast forward to late July 2014 and that is when my life changed yet again. I was on the subway going to my university when I was spat at, had my hijab pulled and verbally attacked by a middle-aged white woman. It caused me a lot of anxiety. I never spoke to anyone about it for at least 10 days. Once I processed what I went through, I decided to take off the hijab temporarily. While it relieved my fears of being attacked again, I was on the receiving end of a lot of backlash. That took a huge toll on me. People asked me if I left Islam, if I still pray and said I am making a horrible mistake. I lived with guilt for so long. I felt like I wasn’t myself.
I got over the guilt eventually but soon after another test came my way. In October 2014, I started having sharp pains in my stomach periodically. They were so debilitating that I would vomit quite violently. I kept going to the hospital. Some called it was it was: a gallbladder attack and some called it muscle spasms. This pain went on for two months. On the evening of December 3rd, I was in bed relaxing after my final exam. I had another exam the next morning at 8:00am so I was heading to sleep shortly after. While trying to sleep, the pain started again but it was 10x worse than any other pain I have had in my life. I quickly started vomiting very violently. This went on the whole night. My vomit eventually turned black and that’s when I knew I had to go to the hospital. Long story short, my gallbladder was about to explode as confirmed in an ultrasound and I was rushed to the main hospital where I was going to have emergency surgery.
My anxiety was severely triggered by the fact I was going to have a 3-4 hour surgery. The last time I was under the knife was when I was 6 months old so this was the first operation of my living memory. I recovered quite well from the surgery but my mental health was slowly deteriorating to an extent that I would find out in 2015.
My mental health was [seemingly] doing well in the early part of 2015. I was doing relatively well in school, I was very involved in many student groups and I was blogging more often. However in June 2015, my life changed forever. See, I lived with my mom and her brother. My uncle had a form of autism and we were very close. We were more than just uncle and niece; we were like siblings. I was on my way to Windsor to go to a conference when my mom told me: “Your uncle is sick, I have to take him to the hospital.” The last time my uncle went to the hospital was in 1966 so this was a big deal. I was supposed to come back in a few days but I decided to book the earliest possible train back to Toronto. Once I arrived home and got to the hospital, our worst fears were said: there are tumours in his colon and his bowel was perforated. He had to have surgery which they would take as many tumours out as possible and test them for cancer. Days later, we sadly found out that my uncle had stage 4 colon cancer and it was not curable. I was beyond shaken. I tried to remain strong but the stress got to me eventually.
In October 2015, I started getting extremely anxious and would have bouts of crying in public. One day while I was having a panic attack, a staff member that knew me well saw me and took me into their office. Through that discussion, I talked to my professor of the course I was about to write a midterm for and with their support, I sought out accommodation to help cope. I also booked an appointment with my doctor and was seen within a week. That is when I was put on medications for the first time.
The medication called Effexor really helped me stay in control of my emotions throughout the rest of 2015. However, I gained weight quite quickly and it put a damper on my overall mood and confidence.