Open Relationship: An anthology

BY STEPHANIE BERTOLO

This is a series of poems I wrote during my time in an open relationship. He and I still remain friends, but I came to discover the great importance of reflecting on my own feelings through writing and deciding when it was best to act upon them. 

This

May not be

The love

You find in fairy tales

Or the one

You take home to mom

But damn,

Does it feel good

To fall asleep with

Gentle Fingers

Tracing grooves of my back

Thankful whispers

For my existence.

The space between

The cage of his

Heart beat

And

The arm

Falling perfectly

In the dip between

My ribs

And

Hipbone

Is the place I call

Home

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Managing Perfectionism

BY AYESHA KHALID

Being a perfectionist doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Setting high standards can drive us to work hard to achieve our goals. However, the problem comes when those high standards are unrealistically high for us. For example, maybe your goal is to get an A in a class – this goal makes you focused, and you work hard to be organized throughout the semester. But then you might start having thoughts like, “I must get an A on this exam and if I don’t, then I am a failure.” When we add that last piece – the negative label we attach to ourselves if we fall short of our expectations –  we can be discouraged from trying again next time, and this type of thinking can really destroy our self-confidence.

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I would say that I can be a perfectionist at times, particularly around academics. I have always had high expectations for myself around grades, which worked for me because it pushed me to study hard. But I notice that even after I write a test, for instance, I constantly tell myself that I didn’t do good enough even though I haven’t gotten a mark back yet. And even if I get a good grade, I focus less on the fact that I did well and more on how I could do better next time. I don’t take the time to give myself credit for doing well because I am always focused on what I did wrong rather than what I did right.

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A case for non-objective journalism and why it is good for mental health awareness

BY ZAKIYA KASSAM

One thing I was told repeatedly during my four years in journalism school was that my writing needed to be objective, above all else. In a field like journalism, where you are only supposed to be a vessel for the facts, I understood that my opinions were simply not relevant. That said, the landscape of journalism has changed enormously in the past few years alone, and that model of objective writing which was once germane, now runs the risk of outdatedness.pen-blank-paper

When I graduated with my degree in journalism in 2013, I took a vested interest in writing for online platforms. Around this time, I also noticed a rise in the popularity of confessional journalism platforms like Thought Catalog, for example, which is (as its name suggests) a website for writers to submit their general musings or thoughts about pretty much anything in the form of personal essays or other varying prose. For those of you not familiar with Thought Catalog, it runs just like any other submission-driven outlet; it has a publisher, a bevy of writers, and a submission model similar that of the Huffington Post.

When I first stumbled across Thought Catalog during my later years of university, I was shocked at what people were willing to share; it was like one big diary. I read about eating disorders, broken hearts, social anxiety, and unrequited affections. These were things that were relevant to me, above all else. All of a sudden, I felt a little more connected to my generation as a whole. The juxtaposition of these brutally honest articles against the picture-perfect posts from my friends on Facebook was jarring, but also comforting. Nothing on this site was written objectively; in fact the more personal the article, the better it was received by readers. This form of journalism heavily relied on a first person voice.

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Make Your Words Count

BY CHELSEA RICCHIO

I love cards.

There seems to be a trend now of doing away with cards because they’re pointless and overpriced.

While they ARE overpriced, nothing about them seems pointless to me.

Walking around Hallmark yesterday searching for a card for my mother, it occurred to me how picking the perfect card is like a testament to how well you know that person and the memories you’ve shared.

Maybe you find a hilarious card that you know will make them laugh. Maybe you find a card based on their favourite Disney movie (I know that’s my dream). Maybe you find a card that has one of those sappy, emotional messages that actually sums up how you feel better than you ever could. Continue reading

Welcome to SPEAK OUT!

My journey as a mental health advocate began with writing. Over the summer of 2013, I wrote my story down as a way of working through the tangled web that was my life at the time. Then, I returned to an old hobby of mine – blogging.

I started off on tumblr with Bird & Cage, and over time I’ve grown more and more open and honest, talking about my personal relationships and even my recent experience with Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome (long story). Why? I don’t really know.

All I know is that there is something so satisfying about being honest in public. I’ve always been very in tune with my feelings and honest with myself, but not necessarily honest with the world. I’ve never pretended to be someone that I’m not, I just stayed quiet. I tried very hard to be nobody, essentially, because I figured that no one wanted to know who I really was. It was better to just blend in.

Well, I’m pretty sure that anyone who follows me on tumblr now knows more about my life than my own parents do. Blogging has made me someone again, for better or for worse. I feel like I started existing as of September 2013.

Sharing my story (whether anyone was listening or not) has helped me so much that I have sort of made it my life goal to help other people share theirs too.

In my fourth year of university, I joined a group called Active Minds at UofT, and I started running events called SPEAK OUT. These events featured students sharing their stories of their lived experiences with mental illness through speeches, music, comedy, poetry, and more.

This is SPEAK OUT in blog form.

I’ve had the idea for this blog for a year but I knew that I didn’t have time for it while I was still in school. But I’ve graduated now and have all the time in the world, so this is my new project.

If you’re at the University of Toronto or just in the Toronto area, I highly encourage you to go to the events that Active Minds at UofT will be holding during the upcoming year. But of course, those are not accessible to everyone for various reasons, not least of which is location.

The Internet is global. I wanted SPEAK OUT to become bigger than just my university or even just one city. I also wanted to expand the concept of SPEAK OUT to issues beyond mental illness.

And although it is digital, I still want to foster a sense of community. The ‘comment’ feature on websites exists for a reason, but it is so rarely used to its potential – either not at all, or inappropriately. I want to see comments on SPEAK OUT. I want to see people having conversations. I want to see people learning from one another. I hope that this blog is able to accomplish that.

If you want to write for us, that would be awesome! Head over to our How to Contribute page.

You can subscribe to the blog via email or through WordPress if you already have a WordPress account (links in the sidebar to your right).

You can also follow us on social media so that you don’t miss new posts:
SPEAK OUT on Facebook
SPEAK OUT on Twitter
SPEAK OUT on Tumblr

Thank you for checking out the site and I hope you stick around!

***I would like to thank my friends Charlotte Rauchberger and Matthew McLaren for their help in designing this website. Matthew helped with the initial web design and taught me how to buy a domain name. Charlotte spent hours with me designing our logo and social media graphics. Without you guys this all would have taken a lot longer!***


CHelsea ricchio

Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 22 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate. 

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