Krystian Shaw

Overcoming Mental Health Challenges

by Krystian Shaw


I was born mentally challenged, but never really had any serious mental health issues when I was young other then ADHD and anxiety disorder. Medication helped.


As I got older and left school, getting involved in change helped turn things around for me. I became less hyper, able to focus more on my interests. I took less medication until I didn’t need it anymore.


I was lucky enough to have a supportive family and friends, professional camp counselors with Easter Seals and BC Lions Society, and other support workers that worked with children and youth all around me all my life. Unfortunately, other people aren’t able to get this level of support. In that case, I think the best way of dealing with mental illness head on is to surround yourself with positive, upbeat people. I liked all my supports.


Ever since I was 13, I wanted to make this a better world for people with disabilities and those with developmental disabilities. As a young adult, I also have a passion for stopping stigmas towards people with mental illness – especially after it happened to me. If struggling with mental illness, the best way of fighting it is to find an interest you really enjoy and focus on positive things.


I learned the hard way how true this is when I was 22. I started to lose interest in things for a while, and didn’t know what to get involved in. Boredom set in and so did mental illness. I started to hear Voices and see things that were not there. I was hospitalized twice.


I was diagnosed with psychosis NOS {not otherwise specified] disorder, and put on medication. I sunk into a deep depression for a little bit. That’s when I learned people who are mentally challenged are more vulnerable to getting a mental illness than other members of the population who are not mentally challenged. My mom got CLBC in Kamloops involved and they had workers take me out and make sure I had a social life. That helped a lot.


I got involved with self-advocacy and started my own newsletter, called the Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter. I asked one of my workers named Justine about starting a newsletter and she directed me to other agencies that I went to for funding and the rest is history. My newsletter is a success.


Then CLBC In Vancouver asked me to be on their Editorial Board. I’m so busy now that mental health issues for the most part are behind me. After about 2 years, my psychiatrist took me off all medication and I am doing fine.


The best advice I have for those struggling with mental health challenges is to keep busy doing things that are meaningful to you. Take medication for as long as a doctor says is necessary. They are an important part to recovery. Take action to try to make changes that need to be done regarding mental illness like surrounding yourself with people that make you laugh and who appreciate you for who you are. Focus on others instead of yourself.


I enjoyed all the love and care from my family and friends, professionals and volunteers. I want to give back to people with diverse abilities the same care that was given to me, and I want to make others’ lives better as well. From the time I was 15, I volunteered with elderly people and with kids and I still volunteer at 2 jobs even today along with working on my newsletter, being on the editorial board and being a self-advocate.


I love working in the disability/special needs field and being on the CLBC Editorial Board with fellow self advocates/co-workers. I enjoy their friendship and they are nice to hang out with.


I still have my anxiety disorder but I only take medication for that as needed to deal with that – not every day. But remember, you can’t let mental illness get in the way of your goals. Take control of your mental illness instead of it taking control of you. I am constantly told Don’t worry, be happy, and that is what all of us should aim for in life in hopes of fighting against mental illness.


If you would like a newsletter e-mailed to you, please contact me at thekamloopsselfadvocate@yahoo.com.

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Krystian Shaw

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