Stories of resilience and portraits of strength

‘Resiliency happens when you make the choice to bet on yourself’: Tera’s story

Tera

Mental illness has impacted Tera’s life since she was a young child. She was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety and Tourette’s Syndrome in Grade 3. The obsessions and compulsions associated with the disorders consumed much of her time, even at such a young age.

As she got older, Tera’s symptoms would come and go in waves, and she managed with therapy. However, in grade 12, Tera experienced a severe manic episode despite not having any family history of bipolar disorder. She was not eating or sleeping for a week, and her mind was racing “like a non-stop caffeine buzz”. Realizing she was not safe to be by herself, Tera called 911, and was admitted to a psychiatry ward for one month for intensive treatment.

While in the hospital, Tera wrote a letter to herself as a reminder of her self-worth and acknowledged, “You are a fighter. Part of being a fighter is accepting the help and love you deserve.” Tera has become a dedicated mental health advocate and feels that sharing her experiences gives her a greater understanding of her own journey. She also hopes it can empower others, and help reduce the stigma around bipolar disorder.

What does resilience mean to you?

I believe that resiliency is embodied by the quote, “Not every day is a good day, but there is good in every day.”

Resiliency happens when you make the choice to bet on yourself, be kind to yourself, and just take things day by day. Even when you’re at your lowest, being resilient means always moving forward, even if you’re taking tiny steps. I find it difficult to be motivated if I don’t have any goals, and achieving these goals gives me a sense of accomplishment. Creating small, manageable tasks and finding the energy to complete them is an important strategy when dealing with a low mood.

What are dark days like for you and how do you find strength and resilience in these moments?

When I am struggling, I really lose all sense of perspective and my mind is taken over by negative thoughts. I lose all faith in my abilities and my relationships with friends and family. I unintentionally isolate myself, and I convince myself that this episode is worse than anything I’ve experienced before. It can be hard to blindly believe that things will get better, so it is important to look at past challenges and triumphs as proof that you can overcome anything.

It is also important to check in with yourself and to have the strength to reach out to others whenever needed. I have taken the time to learn warning signs that I exhibit when I am struggling, which include withdrawing from friends and family. When I notice this happening, I fight the urge to push people away, and tell my loved ones how I’m feeling instead.

Tera journaling

“Journaling is really important to help keep my mood and overall well-being in check day-to-day. It allows me to take a few minutes to recognize and appreciate the highlights of my day,” says Tera.

What is in your “tool-kit”? What are the things that help you find strength and resilience?

Journaling is really important to help keep my mood and overall well-being in check day-to-day. It allows me to take a few minutes to recognize and appreciate the highlights of my day. Journaling gives me the opportunity to assess if anything is bothering me, or if I am experiencing any hypomanic or depressive symptoms.

My OCD often causes me to have irrational fears that if I ignore a negative thought, this could somehow cause it to come true. However, when I actually see them written down on paper, I am released from the bonds of this intrusive thinking.

Writing things down helps me acknowledge what I am struggling with, allows me to let things go, and helps me gain perspective. Ensuring that I eat, sleep, and exercise properly is also essential. Getting enough sleep can be difficult socially in university, but it is essential to my well-being.

How do you feel about the future?

At times, it can feel daunting that I don’t have control over when, or if, another manic or depressive episode happens. However, over time and through my experiences, I have developed the tools to be able to handle moments when everything seems to go wrong. The more things I overcome, the more proof I have that I can conquer anything.

I am really proud of my accomplishments over these last few years, and they have given me the confidence and belief that I can tackle whatever comes next.

I don’t feel like my disorders give me any limitations. I know I am well equipped for my next chapter, and I am grateful to feel optimistic about the future.


If you need help in an emergency please call 911 or visit your local emergency department. If you’re feeling like you’re in crisis, or need somebody to talk to, please know that help is also available 24/7 through community resources:

About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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