My name is Shannon Tillett, I’m a 22 year old who is trying to decide what my future holds. I’m a full time student at the University of Manitoba majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. I take all my courses online so I can focus on other areas of my life and work full time to support my education.
When not in school, I work full time at a Grain Marketing Advisory Firm, working directly with the CEO as an Administrative Coordinator, planning events, creating content, directing client care and managing the day to day operations of the office. After hours, I work an online social retail business based in health and wellness that focuses on providing environmentally friendly products for clean living and physical and mental health support. I am very passionate about my small town roots, health and wellness and the environment. I’ve struggled with both my physical and mental health and am very open about the subject. I believe that sharing your story is a great way to help those around you and will never hesitate to share mine with those who ask.
So here’s my story, or at least a piece of it to get started. Two of my biggest struggles are with self image and anxiety. I’ve always felt uncomfortable in my skin, like it just didn’t fit quite right. It started with being bullied at a young age that only got worse as I got older. I was always too tall, too strong, too pale, too fat. Always too much of something. I started caking on make up, being very conscious of what I wore and spending hours each morning “getting ready” for school. As I entered high school, everything got worse. I was bullied more often and more harshly. My face became covered in acne, I gained weight, and developed stretch marks on my arms, stomach and legs. I was athletic despite my weight and excelled at sports, even making captain on the volleyball team. As I played more sports and became more social, the bullying started to stop. I was teased less and less and started spending time with new people, but the damage was done.
I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror or leave the house without a full face of make up and a carefully chosen outfit. I was extremely uncomfortable at school dances, in gym class and while playing sports. All this obsession over my appearance led to a handful of stints with an eating disorder. I started avoiding eating as much as possible, but making sure I ate when my friends did so no one would notice. I never ate breakfast and tried to avoid dinner. I worked out as much as I could even if I felt like fainting. I threw up if I accidentally ate too much with my friends. I felt constantly sick and hungry, but the pounds dropping off was a sign that I was doing the right thing. With all the secrecy and constant anxiousness, my normally mild anxiety began to flare up.
My anxiety, referred to as social anxiety, made me constantly uneasy around people. It would make me second guess every word I said, every word said to me, every thought I had. I analyzed body language until it made me sick. I chewed my nails or tapped my foot just to get through a conversation. I refused to answer the phone or go out, even if I really wanted to. My life became a mine field of eating disorders, anxiety, and self doubt for the rest of high school and into my first few years at university. As I got older, I continued to gain weight due to physical health issues (unknown to me at the time) and my acne “that only teenagers got” never cleared up as I entered my 20’s.
After a long and traumatizing stint with major depression a few years ago, I realized that I was contributing to my mental and physical health struggles. I was so scared of what others thought of me that I hadn’t actually done anything for myself. So I started playing sports again, made a conscious effort to spend time with my friends, booked a therapy appointment and quit my job and the university track team, and moved back home with my parents. I felt low, but also hopeful.
2 years later, I’m at a job that allows me to focus on school and maintain a steady income, I play volleyball regularly with a group of awesome people, I run my own online business along side a group of bad ass women, I have my own apartment with my incredible boyfriend and our two cats, and I’m almost finished my first of three degrees I want to earn. To say I have changed would be an understatement. I had to stop doubting myself and be willing to ask for help. It took years of discipline, support and therapy to get me where I am today and I’m just getting started.
My experiences made me realize that I want to help people. I want mental health to be taken seriously, and I don’t want anyone to feel as alone and hopeless as I did. I started a Facebook group called The Love & Evolve Project over a year ago to be a safe space for anyone who needs it. It promotes self love, self care and the importance of doing what’s best for you and knowing when to ask for help. Building on that personal movement, I decided to start a blog. Another safe space for those who need it, and a creative outlet for me to discuss topics like mental health, physical health, university life, being an entrepreneur, and the importance of clean living. If reading what I write can relate to even one person, then it’s all worth it.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi