Edited by: Jina Aryaan
I moved to Toronto three years ago, alone, after getting accepted into University of Toronto. While studying in Canada’s top University kept me excited, settling in was exhilarating. I had never lived without my parents before, and certainly never been so far away from home. The night before my first day at Uni, I went to the airport to see off my parents. The next day, I missed my alarm, skipped my breakfast, and almost missed my bus.
Even more difficult was realizing that life in the West is not at all like the one shown in Hollywood movies. You don’t make a group of friends the day you move in, like in Big Bang Theory. You don’t go to parties every weekend, or get A+ in every assignment with ease.
People often label Canada the Hufflepuff of the countries, but it’s not all glitter and rainbows. There are many people who are prejudiced against immigrants.
Every day I crawled out of my comfort zone, dealt with new people, and new teaching methods. Somewhere between managing my commute, and my studies, I lost control. After five months, I finally went to see a therapist at the Health and Counseling Centre on campus. They were kind, comforting, and sympathizing. But their questions made me panic, the white walls suffocated me, and the therapist’s stone cold blue eyes glaring at me made me uneasy. I never went back to see the therapist. Rather, I called the online counseling services, and ended the call the moment the operator picked up.
Asking for help, even from an anonymous person, is hard.
While my restlessness at Uni raged, troubles at my new home kept me tense all the time. Most of my relatives called me out for taking Professional Writing and Communications. They were upset, and rather disappointed that I, the Head Girl during my senior year, took English and Writing courses and not the mainstream sciences or engineering. They would prefer me doing engineering from a D-grade college, rather than doing English from the University of Toronto. Everyday, I wanted to make them write my eight-page essay on Aristotle’s three Modes of Persuasion, or analyze Beowulf, a poem written in Old English. All hell broke loose one day when I was studying for my midterm, and my relative said, “Your study seems easy. Your book has pictures in it.”
I was a mess most of the time. But my grades were great, so nobody bothered asking me about my mental health. It took me months to find my safe place.
If you too feel anxious, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but unable to call for help, here is a list of a few strategies I used to take care of my mental health, on my own, at my own pace and on my own terms.
- Get out. I would go to either J.C. Saddington Park by Lake Ontario, and sit with my feet dipped in the water at a remote place with no people, or climb down to the Credit River valley near UTM’s Principal’s house. I would sit on the rocks by the river, hear the tree’s creaking around me and close my eyes for some time. If it helps, scream out your pain and anxiety. Pack your bag, and explore your new home. If you can, take your friends with you for a bonding experience.
- Scented candles. I lit candles while studying at home. I tried out lavender, apple pumpkin, and cinnamon before settling for Balsam and Cedar, and Beach walk. I love both rustic and fresh fragrance. They helped a lot during the snow storms, and I would sit with my laptop, sometimes binge watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine and feel relaxed by the aroma.
- Light up some lights. I got fairy lights from Walmart, and strung them on my wall above my bed. They made my room look mystic at night, and kept me less nostalgic during Diwali.
- Treat yo self. I would go out weekly, buy lunch, or dinner, sit in the corner seat of the restaurant or café by the window, and devour my food with headphones plugged in, no person to bother me.
- Rant it out. Always talk to your friends about the things that are upsetting you. I called my friends every other day, and Skyped with them every weekend.
- Use office hours. If your grades are dropping, talk to your professors. You won’t be the first student to walk into their office, asking for extensions because University is tough. Professors always listen to your complaints, and usually give extensions.
- Be soft with yourself. If you make a schedule, and aren’t able to stick to it, don’t be so hard on yourself. Things pop up from nowhere, and you may be behind your readings, or assignments. Grades are important, but you will have to remind yourself that you; your mental health, getting adequate sleep, eating properly, maintaining proper hygiene, talking about your problems to your parents, siblings, friends, or therapists, is even more vital.
I won’t leave you, my wonderful reader, with another cliché inspirational quote that things will get better, because we have all read them so many times already, and they don’t necessarily make things any better. But I will say this, whatever you do, never lose your purpose. Never forget your dreams. And never ever disappoint your 10-year-old self who never lost faith in you, or your future.