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Faces of mental health: Jessica Briand

Editor’s note (Jennifer Lee): For our last issue, each editor was tasked to fill their section with pieces on a theme or topic they feel strongly about. I was torn between doing something on rape culture or racism, but after doing a takeover on the Gazette’s Instagram, I decided I wasn’t done talking about mental health.

The Instagram takeover, namely the response to it, showed me the necessity to have people talk openly and honestly about shit mental health. This is a collection of just a few individuals who have struggled with their own mental health and their stories.


Name: Jessica Briand

Occupation: Student/Retail Worker/Writer

Labels: OCD, Depression, Anxiety


Tell us about your mental health.

I have been struggling with my mental health since I was 12-years-old, but the worst of it came the year I begun university. I was diagnosed with OCD around this time.

OCD is a difficult mental illness because it likes to team up with depression. Essentially what happens is a person has an obsession, something that weighs on their mind and makes them anxious (in my case, germs) and in order to forget about that obsession and put the mind at ease, you have to submit to a compulsion, which for me is cleaning myself, washing hands, showering, laundry, etc. But it becomes debilitating and you end up getting really depressed because there’s no rationality to it, you just feel crazy.

How did you first realize something wasn’t right, mentally?

I realized something was wrong when I could no longer function in my everyday life like a “normal” teenager would. Things like going to a bar, or sharing food, or riding the bus to university, or even using the public washroom, would make me so anxious that I felt like I was going to explode until I could wash away the germs.

What don’t people know about mental health?

People don’t realize a lot of the time, that the person struggling isn’t the mental illness. They’re two separate things. One of the things I pride myself on is the ability to be myself even when I’m struggling, because sometimes the person I am when I am struggling is not the person who I feel defines me, and I won’t let it be the person people define me as.

What’s your favourite self-care method?

My favourite self-care method is writing poetry. I find it very difficult to discuss with people in plain language how my mental health is, and what I’m feeling everyday of my life. When I’m having a moment of anxiety, a moment where my OCD wants to take over, I’ll writing the feelings out.

Using analogies and symbolism in poetry, allows me to find a way to express myself and free myself from the feeling of exploding that I normally have when dealing with OCD. In some cases, it can even take over the need for a compulsion to follow after an obsessive moment.

What advice would you tell someone who is struggling with mental health?

My advice for someone who is struggling with mental health is that you aren’t alone. I know that sounds so cliché, but when I first started dealing with my own mental health, I began the journey on my own.

I was silent—I was alone, because I wouldn’t let anyone help me. Getting the words out into the open and having someone hear them, a friend, a coworker, a sibling, a parent, etc. makes a whole world of difference.

For me, it might have saved me from exploding. Don’t be afraid to be stigmatized, don’t be afraid to tell the truth, don’t be afraid of anything, because you’ll be surprised by how many people you’ll have in your corner when you stop being afraid. The people who love you will just want to help, and anyone who responds to you negatively isn’t worth the time or the worry. Once you free yourself of that burden then you can really start to take care of yourself.


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