Overcoming Stigma for Serenity

Feb 27, 2024

by Nicole Shields, Youth Peer Advocate Program Manager, Mental Health Advocates

Growing up I felt like something was off. I never felt right or like I fit in. I was quiet & easily blended in. When I began drinking alcohol & using substances as an early teen, it made me feel like I could talk to anyone. It made me feel good because it numbed the negative feelings within. I could be anyone or anything I wanted to without a care.

At 25 while in an inpatient facility, I was diagnosed with Bipolar, Depression, and Anxiety. My recovery journey also began that year. A few years ago, after being able to be open and honest with my journey, C-PTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder) would be added to the list. I did a dance with medication from young adulthood until I truly accepted just a couple years ago. I did a dance with medication from young adulthood. I can look back at my journey and see patterns and insanity cycles. I didn’t understand, accept, or want to deal with my issues because I never learned how to be kind and loving to myself.

I learned more recently that I also struggle with Imposter Syndrome & perfectionism. On the outside I seemingly have it all together—happy, motivated, peaceful, free. But on the inside, I can struggle with accepting myself as is. I’ve always strived for something that isn’t obtainable and beat myself up for falling short. My natural instinct in those moments is to isolate, self-medicate, self-sabotage and self-harm. I have self-harmed to various degrees. From biting my nails to cutting to trying to end my life. It wasn’t until I fully understood and therefore was able to accept my diagnoses that I began to free myself from my own self-induced personal hell.

I have taken the time to learn about myself to understand and better help meet my needs. By taking moments to pause, breath, connect and communicate, I am much better suited to handle my strong emotions. I have no problem seeking and asking for help now because I know I can’t do this alone. I believe humans aren’t meant to be alone. We are meant to identify with each other and support one another. The opposite of addiction is connection. The support team I have today is truly amazing. They help me fulfil my purpose of helping others while helping myself. I am forever grateful.

I believe humans aren’t meant to be alone. We are meant to identify with each other and support one another.”

Nicole will serve as a distinguished speaker for Save the Michaels teleconference on Monday, March 25.

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