My name is Chelsey, and I am in my third year of Speech Communication and Business at the University of Waterloo. It is not uncommon that I get the question, Speech Communication what is that?! And this has been harder to answer than I would like to admit considering how much time and money I have invested into my program. Apparently my struggle with describing my degree is not uncommon, so what my classmates and I have come up with as a description is as follows: We study all aspects of communication, written, verbal, nonverbal and interpersonal, in addition to theory and meaning making. Throughout my degree, I have become more passionate about issues that were areas of interest for me in high school, these include mental health, the environment and indigenous rights, and I have picked up a minor in Sociology. In my program we have a co-op option and I am working for mindyourmind, as my second placement for four months.
Judging from my first paragraph it may seem that I have a firm grasp on what I am doing academically and I probably have since my first year orientation week, let me tell you this is definitely not the case. In grade 12, when all my friends were applying for college and university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had good grades,friends, and extracurriculars, I even had a specialist high skills major in communication technology but I could not decide a field of study. I had never been so stressed as I was in that moment, so I decided that I was not ready to go off to post-secondary and took a victory lap to see if that would help me figure out what I wanted to do. After my victory lap I had decided I wanted to be in journalism and I applied to two universities and stumbled across the Arts and Business program at the University of Waterloo, I only applied to UW because when you apply to university in Ontario you pay one fee for three applications. As my acceptances came in, I had a change of heart and realized that I did not want to limit myself to just journalism. This is how I decided that the University of Waterloo would be my home for the next 5 years (phew, thank goodness I applied there). Fast forward to the end of my first year and I had to declare a major, the requirements were that we have taken 2 courses in our majors curriculum and a 75% average between those courses. I had been desperately trying to be a sociology or legal studies major and struggled in those courses, so I could not declare a major. At UW, we have to declare a major by second year or we cannot stay in the co-op program. Not being able to declare a major in the area of study that I had been working so hard for in the prior year, has probably been the most stressful situation I have found myself in at the UW. Thankfully, with the help of my academic advisor I was able to find speech communication, as a “temporary solution” so that I could get my grades up in sociology or legal studies. Little did I know that I would fall in love with my major and succeed.
As great as it was to have my major figured out and that stress behind me, I started to notice that I could not focus as well as some of my friends and that my grades kept slipping even though I loved what I was studying and devoted a lot of time to learning the material. As my second year proceeded, and I missed my first co-op job because I could not find a job, I decided to talk to my family doctor about these struggles. He decided that I should go see an adult psychiatrist to be evaluated for ADHD, sure enough 6 months later, in my second year I was diagnosed with ADHD-combined type (which is mixture of both ADHD and ADD). Everything in my life started to make sense to me, but I also faced a new problem: stigma. I started taking medication, which helped with my everyday tasks and school, but I found if I told people the typical responses that I would get are “ADHD is only a kid thing”, “medication for ADHD gives people an unfair advantage” or my favourite one “ADHD isn’t real”. I had never face stigma before and was not sure how to handle it, as I was still learning coping mechanisms. One day I stumbled across a vlog called How to ADHD. This blog helped me learn so much about ADHD and why I struggle with certain things like organization and time management and how I can use different techniques to become more organized and have better time management.
After the whirlwind that was my first two years, I was able to find a co-op job and school has been a lot more manageable. I am glad that I had these experiences because it allowed for me to end up where I am today and be in a program which I LOVE. I still have my struggles but I now know coping strategies to help me through them. And I still do not know 100% or even 50% what I want to do after I graduate but co-op allows for me to test drive different careers. All in all, reflecting back on this, I can see how mental health awareness has become an area of immense passion for me. I am nervous about my future still, but I am excited to embark on my mindyourmind adventure!