Love, Yourself: A Story of Resilience and Hope Through Adolescence

January 20th, 2011: 14 years old. I am sad diary. Much. Too. Much. Something's wrong with me. Something bad. Scares me. Often.

I wrote those words when I was 14. I knew that I was not okay, but I couldn't see that I was worthy of getting help. I know now that by confronting these entries, I can both remember the pain and reflect on how far I have come.

Over the past decade I have struggled with self-worth, finished high school, battled depression, fallen in love, read more books than I can count, experienced crippling anxiety, completed an engineering degree, started my career, endured constant guilt, and made life-long friends. This piece aims to encourage the belief that we all deserve mental health support and to provide hope to those who are struggling. I hope that I can bring you comfort, provide a new perspective, and remind you to be kind to yourself.

My story begins in 2009. I was in the middle of Grade 7 and my biggest problem was the rise of the uncomfortable skinny jean. Then I found out my parents were getting divorced.

Growing up my family was everything to me; my mom was warmth, my dad was superman, and my sister was my best friend. We were the family with matching rain coats, weekly movie nights, and a holiday newsletter featuring Sears family photos. A divorce doesn't only change family traditions or the place settings at the dinner table. Divorce often forces children to realize that their parents are not invincible, but human, and this can be a difficult lesson to learn.

At only 13, I discovered that my parents don't know everything. Living in a home that felt empty, I started looking for the things that I could control. I became obsessed with getting good grades to prove that I was alright. My parents had enrolled my sister and I in counselling as soon as they told us they were separating. In our sessions, I remained as honest as I knew how to be with a complete stranger. I completed all of the activities my counsellor suggested and thought I was on a path to controlling my happiness. On the outside I appeared okay: I had friends at school, I was eating, and I was playing sports. After a year, I began to accept my parents’ divorce and my counsellor told my mom that I was doing okay. Wanting to show how okay I was, I agreed to stop our sessions. But on the inside I was starting to talk down to myself. I didn’t realize then that I was a building a foundation for the belief that I was worthless.

Looking back, I realize that this was a turning point. Had I focused on what I needed, instead of focusing on how I might burden others, maybe I could have shared how I was feeling and started to heal. If someone had explained that identifying my needs was not selfish, but necessary to grow, I may have learned to focus on what I needed. But back then I thought that by sharing my thoughts I would be dumping my problems onto others. Now I recognize that there are people in this world (my family, my friends, my healthcare team) that want to hear about my challenges to ensure I am not struggling in silence. I also recognize that by not sharing the darkest of my feelings, I wasn't allowing anyone in and I was reinforcing the negative self-talk in my head. We all deserve to be kind to ourselves, to share how we actually feel, and to ask for help when we need it.

When I started high school, my need to perfect whatever I could strengthened. With a desire for perfection comes a fear of failure, leading me to experience what I now realize was anxiety.

I had always been someone who experienced what I thought was nervousness. Before all of my hockey games, I would feel sick to my stomach. At the start of a new dance class I would tear up before meeting my new classmates, scared that I wouldn't fit in. In Grade 9, when I tried out for the girls hockey team, I sat in the car before each tryout and cried beside my mom until I had to go in. When I was passed over for girls that didn't attend the tryouts, but played at a higher level than I did, I was beside myself. I felt frustration (I had pushed myself so hard to attend those practices), followed by embarrassment (now I have to tell everyone I didn't make the team), followed by guilt (it's not the coaches fault, I'm not any good and I shouldn't have tried).

Recognizing that I was struggling, my mom reached out to my counsellor. I felt a wave of relief until my mom informed me that my counsellor had a new patient that made seeing me a conflict of interest. Feeling betrayed and having no desire to start seeing someone new, I gave up on the idea of counselling.

Having lost confidence in myself and feeling awfully alone, I put my effort into mastering academia. There was a rush that I got by getting a test back with 100% written in the top corner. I would experience a feeling of pride and any feeling that took away my numbness was welcome. If you're thinking that this doesn't sound healthy, I was thinking the same back in 2011:

April 18th, 2011: 14 years old

I cried today. Longish and hard for no good reason, in my own opinion, at all. Which sucks. To disagree with yourself - ouch, harsh. I'm not sure what's happening. I'm worrying over nothing and I'm stressed over little. But a little in my brain is a lot. Great. Now even I don't understand me. And when that happens there is a problem. 98% average 2nd semester. How can I compete with myself?!?

To outdo myself, I don't have to work harder on school. I...


Ha. Wish me luck.

I knew I was using my grades to avoid focusing on what was really going on, but I didn't realize how often I belittled my own struggles.

"I'm worrying over nothing and I'm stressed over little.”

Why would someone who doesn't believe their struggles are valid ask for help? And if that person doesn't ask for help, how are they to get better? In my case I wasn’t getting better and I continued to lower the bar for what "normal" felt like.

I often wish that I could travel back in time to give my younger self a hug. I felt alone, but I didn’t want to ask for help. I look back now and think if I shared how much pressure I put on myself, then maybe someone could have helped me recognize that it wasn't just nerves that I was experiencing.

To feel nervous is the body's way of warning you that you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position. To feel anxiety is to be overcome with dread that fills your mind and your body - it's debilitating. In my case, anxiety cannot disappear with a funny story, a reassuring hug, or a favourite song.

While it is common for teenagers to feel nervous going to their first job interview, or going on a first date, it is an impenetable obstacle to feel paralyzed or be overcome with dread when embarking on these firsts. Over time, by checking in with myself on how my body and mind feel when I am nervous, I have identified the difference between my nerves and my anxiety. Since recognizing my anxiety, I have been able to seek support and build a set of skills to keep me grounded when I start to experience dread or panic. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to realize that I was dealing with anxiety and an even longer time to seek support.

The next three years looked typical on the outside: I started working, learned to drive, started dating, tried my first beer, and decided on what I wanted to do after high school.

On the inside, however, it looked like this:

February 4th, 2012: 15 years old

I feel very detached. No one can solve this for me. It's up to ME. I have good days. I have bad days. I have really bad days. I need this to stop.

October 15th, 2012: 16 Years Old

I am still a mess. I am crying. Sobbing. Desperate. Why am I still sad?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME! I'm messed. Ruined. Sick. Pressured. Hurt. Confused.

January 7th, 2014: 17 years old

HELP ME. I was feeling sad again today. Still have no clue as to what's going on. You'd think I'd be okay by now! I'm not too sure as to WHAT is going on in my head. Which is awkward because if I don't know...who will!? Help? I want it to go away for good.

Then, all of a sudden I was graduating high school.

Reading these entries is difficult for me. I get hit with waves of emotion from that time and it makes me forget for a second that this is not happening right now. I know that while these same thoughts pop up once in a while, they are no longer a constant in my life. I can experience positive moments in my life and hold onto them the same way I once held onto the sad ones. A part of me wishes that I could turn back time and share these emotions with my loved ones. They would have helped me and I wouldn't have been a burden to them. Instead I fell deeper and deeper into my depression, and told myself I had to figure it out on my own.

Over time I attributed my feelings to my age. I believed that when I turned 18 I would become an adult who knew how to reconcile her negative feelings. I remember justifying my feelings to myself and belittling my entries as dramatic takes on the teenage experience. But the adjectives written here "ruined, sick, pressured" are not the words I would use to describe a stressed-out high school student. These words indicate a deeper sorrow, they describe a person who not only needs, but deserves, support. Now, ten years later, I know that I was (and still am) worthy of getting help and worthy of feeling better than sad. I even deserve to feel better than okay.

Back then I clung to the idea that by changing my environment, moving to a new city, and leaving home, I was setting myself up for a change in my mental health. Graduation was a light at the end of the tunnel. I believed that when I left for university everything would change. I thought that the factors contributing to my mental health were all at home. It would take me years to accept that your mental health isn't solely controlled by an environment, a period in time, or external pressures - it lives within you.

Prepared to launch into a new world, to become a new me, I ended my journal with the one feeling that I still hold onto every day: hope.

May 1st, 2014: 18 years old

Happy Birthday Self. You are officially 18 years old. You have been extremely happy and incredibly sad. You have grown up .... I have grown up throughout all of these pages. I am beyond grateful for the people in my life and I would not change a single thing that has happened over the past five years. All of the sadness and heartbreak was meant to make me stronger. Everything happens for a reason and this is mine. You never know how strong you are until you conquer what seems to be impossible. So here's to being an adult. Wish me luck ... Never forget to smile.



Chloe Grande's picture
About the author

Kaitlyn is passionate about improving the mental health system. She is currently on a team working to standardize the evaluation of digital mental health services for youth. She is also the author of the newsletter From Me to You. You can sign up at ""” to receive letters, stories, and notes reminding you that you are loved. Kaitlyn hopes that by spreading kindness and sharing her experiences she can help others on their journey with mental illness.”