As teenagers, there are a lot of different pressures being forced upon us, whether they are related to school, family issues, social media or peer pressure. As a gifted student, Emma Vandermeer faces an excessive amount of pressure which may come with additional side-effects, which Emma has had to cope with. In this interview, Emma shares her personal plight with her mental health as well as the things she has focused on to ameliorate the situation.
Can you share your personal experiences with mental health?
In my opinion, “mental health” can mean a lot of things. The term mental illness is a term I don’t like using, as it pushes people into a bracket of being “ill”. But as well, mental health is not the same thing as struggling with a mental disorder/mental illness. One can have no official diagnosis and still face issues with their mental health. This is the case in my circumstance. In the past, I’ve faced anxiety and extreme sadness. I’ve been in multiple headspaces where I had no will to live, and in terms of what the general population would say, I’ve been suicidal. I have struggled with self-harm (not in the conventional way), but above all, I fall into the gifted bracket. Giftedness defined as an aspect of mental health has been a debate among scholars for years, but personally, my giftedness is manifested in extremely high and intense emotions than the average human. Giftedness promotes hormonal imbalance and asynchronous development. These aspects of giftedness bring light to what I have faced in other facets of my mental health, as my heightened emotions cause me to sense things more intensely than most, this leads to diagnoses that are otherwise borderline feeling far more intense. Overall my mental health has had its ups and downs, but from my standard, I have grown more than I have struggled- but trust me, some days I do struggle.
What helped you get through these obstacles?
Personally, my faith as a Christian has been instrumental in growing beyond my struggles. However, I have also worked to get myself where I am. I have worked with counselors and developed the coping mechanisms that work for me. With the support of my amazing mother, many incredible teachers, and several friends who have accepted me at face value for who I am, I have flourished beyond being defined by the struggles presented by mental health issues. I am constantly turning to my primary coping mechanisms, being poetry and music, during tough times. The two combined have been very instrumental in my personal healing and investing process, but as I stated before my faith (which is not my religion as I do not want to be seen falsely as religious as I am not) has helped me above all else.
What is Societies’ Cries and what does it mean for you?
Not only is Societies Cries’ a poetry book, but it is a cry for those who are in pain, who struggle to love themselves and who cannot speak for themselves. Societies’ Cries is my hope for the world; it is what I want to see in the future. It is a testament of the hope that has always been chasing me that I finally fully embraced, and is a testament that at the end of the tunnel there is a light, and even in the painful journey everyone still has value and is undergoing so much to be made even more beautiful. Personally, Societies’ Cries is the opening of my heart, and it is something that continually keeps my eyes open, and honest with those around me. It is the songs my heart has been weeping for years but has struggled to put to words, and it is the story of a girl who found she was loved through her deepest brokenness.
What inspired you to write Societies’ Cries?
There are several different circumstances and moments that have contributed to Societies’ Cries in the past months and years, so it is difficult to pinpoint one inspiration for Societies’ Cries. Writing a poetry book was never my dream or my intent. Instead, poetry became a coping mechanism for me as I faced struggles with my anxiety and my worth. It became my outcry and my frustration with society and the pressures being put on several groups, particularly females. I’ve been writing poetry quite frequently the last two and a half years as I grew, and my limits were stretched through periods of change, loss, and hopelessness. About a year and a half ago, a teacher told me I should begin compiling my poetry in one place, and as I did Societies’ Cries’ was birthed from some of the deepest places in my heart. The poetry within spans over a course of nearly four years, one of the earliest poems being written in The Legislative Assemblies of Ontario Page Quarters, after a particularly gut-wrenching day in The House Of Commons, where very essential autism funding was stripped from the children who so depended on it .Societies’ Cries indeed had several inspirations and was just itching to spark into what it has become.
An anecdote you often share is “you are loved.”. Can you speak to what this means for you?
My mandate and mission for the past years has been to love people, and to love them relentlessly. As I grew up I struggled to love myself, and as a result, I became very rude to those that I did love. As I learned to love myself my view of the world around me shifted. Loved became my word and my daily reminder. Now I love as I was first loved. The word loved is constantly written on my wrist, and someday I plan to have it tattooed there. I have encountered love in so so many different spheres and spreading the message that you are loved despite your trials, and brokenness really has grown into my cry for society.
How have these obstacles shaped you into who you are today?
My trials have only shaped me because I have not allowed them to define me. They have been a part of me, and the pain I have faced has put me under time and pressure. I have been stretched thin and compressed, had all the life squeezed out of me, but this pressure and time have truly made me beautiful. Like diamonds, pearls, and butterflies, I have grown from ugly and broken into what I am today.
Do you have any advice for people who may be facing the same obstacles you?
The obstacles you are facing/ have faced are only a part of your story. It doesn’t end here. You are loved, despite what you may be feeling, what you believe. Never ever succumb to what is eating away at you. Find a coping mechanism that works for you, and use it. Never ever stop being yourself even when you feel strange, and are struggling to find your people. Work to find people who love you for the real you, and nothing less. It is okay to feel pain and emotion. Learn to love yourself, and speak life into yourself.
Mental health awareness has become critical in our society. We must all make the effort to support each other and give others the resources to grow. I encourage everyone who is struggling with their mental health to follow Emma’s mandates and be aware that reaching out for help is one of the most crucial steps in the road to recovery. Linked below are some is the Canadian Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is open 24/7:
1-833 456 4566 or Canada Suicide Prevention Services