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April 9, 2019 | by  | in SWAT |
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You Are Not Your Illness


For those who suffer from mental illnesses, so much of our attention can be placed onto trying to just get rid of it. And that totally makes sense. Mental illness is an immensely difficult thing and I’ll always support people trying to find an approach to recovery that works for them.

Still, I want to address the idea that mental illness defines who we are and what we can do. I remember having an assumption back in school that I could never be a leader because I was too scared to talk to people. An assumption that anxiety meant I’d never be the person in the centre of the room who made things happen.
But I do have anxiety, and I am a leader.
I have an amazing wellbeing team, and co-facilitate a beautiful creative writing group. I’ve attended meetings with staff at the top of their fields and I speak in front of a group every week. I even speak in front of crowds.

Do I feel an ocean of calm within me when I do these things? Absolutely not. My heart can still lurch like I’m on the old pirate ship at Rainbow’s End (although maybe not everyone is as scared of that ride as me!) and I still indulge in some classic over-analysis. Yet I also have so much fun. I get to be a person my younger self would never have imagined.

It should be acceptable to skip class because of anxiety in the same way that it would be acceptable if you had the flu. The “just get over it” rhetoric is awful, and “fake it till you make it” has always been the easiest for those who already seem to have it made.

You are not your illness. Labels can be both liberating and constricting. I might identify with anxiety, but my story does not begin or end there.

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He Tāonga

:   I wanted to write this piece, in order to connect to all tauira within the University, with the hope that we can all remind ourselves that we are a part of an environment which is valuable, no matter our culture, our beliefs or our skin colour. The ultimate purpose of this