“I knew at some point that I wanted to share my story with others. I had dealt with everything in isolation, but I could not express it. I wanted to turn that negativity into positivity.”
Last year, I was scrolling through my Facebook Newsfeed to find an honest status written by Ameera. She had bravely revealed her new blog called Surviving By Living: the story of how mental illness didn’t claim me.
For the past several years, Ameera has been living with two health conditions that have significantly impacted her daily life: conversion disorder and depression. She expressed that many people have heard of depression before, but conversion disorder is not as well known.
“I have physical manifestations of psychological issues. My brain doesn’t process emotion properly. Instead of my brain sending signals to the logic and reasoning parts of my brain, it accidentally sends the signals to my motor cortex, which causes uncontrollable movement. I can have seizures, or I can lose feeling in my limbs.”
Ameera shared that there have certainly been ups and downs with experiencing two mental health conditions at once, especially while balancing a full-time course load as a business student.
I was curious about what sparked Ameera’s interest in writing a blog in spite of her already busy schedule. She smiled and explained that Surviving By Living represents her approach to life.
“My way of surviving through every day is by living each day. Every day, I do one fun activity: whether it’s buying myself a treat or planning an adventure. Then, I always have something to look forward to… My blog is my way of being completely open and honest about everything I’ve gone through. I don’t read or edit my posts before I publish them. I want my writing to be as authentic and truthful as possible.”
I admired Ameera’s dedication to finding fulfilment in special moments that she creates with intention and enthusiasm.
When I asked Ameera about her clothing choices, she explained that she has made “subtle changes to her style” over the years to accommodate to her symptoms. “Overall,” she said, “I like to wear loose clothing that makes me feel comfortable, even when I’m anxious or my hands are shaking.”
She offered a few cool examples:
- Shoes that reduce stress: Ameera only wears two types of shoes: slip-ons or high top sneakers. Slip-on shoes take away the stress of shoelaces, which can be difficult to tie with shaky hands.
High top sneakers, which do have shoe laces, are incredibly helpful for Ameera during her conversion disorder ‘episodes.’
“During an episode, when I suddenly have a seizure or feel disoriented, my feet turn inward, and my joints lock, including my ankles,” she described.
Amazingly, the height of her high top sneakers can prevent her ankles from locking.
- Functional details:
While shopping, Ameera
looks for pants with pockets and shirts with few (or no) buttons.These details allow her more flexibility and functionalty when it is difficult for her to move her hands. When the shakiness in her hands occurs in a public setting, she puts her hands in her pockets to feel more comfortable.
- Accessible accessories: You can often find Ameera wearing baseball hats and sunglasses to protect her sensitive eyes from lights that are overly bright. Every morning, she likes to start her mornings with music, so headphones are another one of her favourite accessories!
Ameera also mentioned that she is a big fan of a fashion line called Wear Your Label, “a clothing company that promotes positive messages about mental health and reinforces self-care.”
Ameera has used her challenging personal experiences of living with conversion disorder and depression as a catalyst to spark conversations about mental health. Alongside working on her blog, she is also a member of her university’s chapter of Jack.org, an organization dedicated to enhancing student mental wellness and shifting conversations to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. This year, Ameera is also on the planning committee for the Jack Summit, an annual mental health awareness and innovation conference held in Toronto.
“Since I published my first blog post and shared my story, all these opportunities within mental health kept opening up. I enjoy talking about it all now. It feels like an ongoing process.”
When have you surprised yourself with something you have accomplished?
Knowing that I’ve made it to my graduating year of university is huge, especially considering that I was not sure if I would even graduate high school due to my health challenges. At many steps along the way, I was told “no,” but thankfully “no” was my biggest motivator to keep going and working hard.
What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I collect playing cards! When I realized that flying and travelling often may not be ideal with my health conditions, I started to ask friends and family to bring me back a set of playing cards whenever they went for a trip. My goal is to have a coffee table made entirely of decks of playing cards one day
Where do you find people stumble with their understanding of your health conditions?
It’s difficult for people to understand how physical my mental illnesses are. It’s not just what I’m thinking or feeling… it’s all physically representative. People don’t realize how scary it is to wake up in the morning and not be able to feel or move a part of your body. It’s something I deal with every day. What has become normal to me may be surprising to others.
What has helped you emotionally along this journey?
Music has been really helpful for me. I carry my headphones with me everywhere. When my anxiety is bad, I listen to the same song on repeat. It centres me. Since mornings can be difficult, I listen to a few songs that put me in the mindset to work. In terms of my support system, my sister has been really helpful. She hasn’t seen a lot of what I’ve dealt with, but she knows about it. I also see an amazing psychiatrist who has helped me to understand my conversion disorder and depression.
What advice would you give to someone who is experiencing a similar situation to yours?
It’s important to know that it’s okay to not be okay. I wish people would be more considerate of that. I’ve been told to just “try being more positive,” but it doesn’t really work that way. Sometimes, it’s not about immediately fixing a problem. It’s about understanding it first. Try not to be afraid of what you’re going through, and take things in stride. A lot of cool experiences can come out of the struggles you face. They make you a better and stronger person. You never get more than you can handle- even though it may feel that way. It’s also important to build a good support system, which only comes with first being honest about what you’re going through.
We are thankful that we had the opportunity to learn about Ameera’s story and style. We look forward to following her journey through her blog!