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Mental Health at McMaster

Prioritizing Optimal Health & Well-being at McMaster

Bounce Stories

Welcome to our collection of stories.

“All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship – we change the world, one story at a time…” – Richard Wagamese, Anishinaabe novelist, journalist, and mentor

Introduction to Bounce with Dr. Catharine Munn

Welcome to Bounce! In this short episode, you’ll get to know Dr. Catharine Munn, the Bounce project leader. She’ll walk you through her inspiration for Bounce, how she hopes Bounce will help the McMaster University community, and even stories of the furry friend that helped her through the pandemic.

Zeinab Khawaja on Finding the Courage to Reach Out For Support

Follow Zeinab as she describes how she puts different parts of her identity together during her time as an undergraduate student at McMaster. Zeinab had a great time at Welcome Week and would make some close friends in her first year. Eventually in first year, she would open up to a few people about what had happened a few days before Welcome Week – her wedding for her arranged marriage. Zeinab’s story highlights how the act of sharing your story is healing. She reminds us that “even if you don’t feel like you deserve it, even if you’re not sure what will come of it, even if it might end up being bad and hurtful. The trying is what matters. Knowing that every time I tried to tell someone, I was telling myself, you deserve to be heard.”

Zeinab has also shared a spoken word piece that she has written about the events discussed in this episode.

Dr. Mat Savelli on Slowing Down And Reflecting on What You’re doing and Why

Dr. Mat Savelli loved school, and this didn’t change when he was doing his bachelor’s degree at McMaster University. What did change was his relationship with his parents, siblings, and girlfriend. In response, he continued to focus on school until he realized in third year that that too would be ending soon, leaving him uncertain of many things including which continent he’d be living in. Now, reflecting back on this time period, Dr. Savelli would want to tell his younger self three things: 1) There isn’t something wrong with you; 2) Slow down, step back, and think about what you’re doing and why. Is it something you really want? 3) There are supports, resources, and other pathways open to you. You don’t have to continue down this path if you don’t want to.

Dr. Deborah Sloboda on Being Seen as a Whole Person Who has A life Outside of the Lab

Dr. Deborah Sloboda is currently a well-known researcher in fetal and maternal physiology. If you don’t find the advice, “don’t be a superwoman” helpful, Dr. Sloboda would agree with you. Dr. Sloboda defended her PhD thesis (while heavily pregnant) at the University of Toronto, and moved to Australia for a Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF). Having her baby in a different country was a challenge in itself, but the bigger ongoing challenge was being seen as a whole person, who has a life outside of the lab. At the time of her PDF, Dr. Sloboda was the only female PhD scientist in her department. Despite the overall outward appearance of equity, subtle but profound differences in how Dr. Sloboda was treated impacted her daily work life. Her support network helped her navigate these difficult times, and continue to do so today.

Mathura Mahendren on Changing Relationships and Your Body’s Response

Mathura Mahendren was the first in her immediate family to have attended university. She found that the transition to university was difficult, but not necessarily due to the schoolwork. How do you find your people amongst so many people? How much freedom do I really want? Do I really want to pull all-nighters? How do you manage your identity when it feels like home and university are two different worlds? How much can I tell my parents about my life without stressing them out?

If anything, sometimes completing schoolwork was almost a relief, especially when Mathura was going through the breakup of a relationship from high school. She learned the hard way that resisting pain is more painful than feeling it, and that there is value in cultivating support and safety nets to catch you in these more vulnerable life moments. Through it all, Mathura gained a more nuanced understanding of her self, emotions, and body, as well as a better sense of how to work with them.

Dr. Jennifer Heisz on Overcoming the Shame She Associated with Her Mental Illness

Many would describe Dr. Jennifer Heisz as a kind and considerate person. She also believes this to be true, but there was a time when she was seriously concerned about who she was. It all started during graduate school, when strange and distressing thoughts began showing up in her mind. The thoughts made her afraid she might hurt others and she began to close herself off. But the thoughts kept coming. At that point, she went to see a psychiatrist but her mental health journey did not stop there. After seeing multiple mental health professionals, enduring disastrous group therapy, and trying out different coping mechanisms, she finally found a solution that worked for her. Listen to how Dr. Heisz goes from hiding her story at all costs, to sharing it with us and in her book that is coming out March 2022, Move the Body, Heal the Mind.

Dr. Tracy Prowse on Knowing when Self Help Isn’t Enough

Dr. Tracy Prowse was finishing up her PhD in biological anthropology at McMaster when she realized that she constantly felt unsure of herself, was worried that she didn’t belong in graduate school, and found it difficult to describe to her friends what was wrong. At the time, it was difficult to understand what was happening. She knew that graduate school was difficult and had experienced a recent breakup. She also had faced difficult circumstances when her mother passed away a few years ago. However, even taking into consideration situational factors, she still felt disproportionately and relentlessly sad and anxious.

With family far away in Alberta, Dr. Prowse relied on her friends and eventually her supervisor, whom she confided her concerns to. She continued managing on her own by trying different self-care techniques, before coming to the decision to seek the help of a psychiatrist. The combination of regular therapy and medication helped her work through this period of depression. Now, Dr. Prowse is in a good place, but she also makes it clear that she would not hesitate to reach out for help again, if needed.

Dr. Natasja Menezes on Carrying on After Receiving Negative feedback

Dr. Natasja Menezes would have wished to have more psychological awareness when she was younger. She wishes that she had the ability to press pause instead of pushing through school until there was a breakdown (which happened frequently). She wishes that she had the ability to reflect and realize that sometimes, difficult conversations involving you are not necessarily about you or because of you.

Even after two decades making a living processing difficult conversations, Dr. Menezes can still be viscerally affected by one back in her undergraduate medicine days. In this conversation, Dr. Menezes highlights how helpful hearing different perspectives can be and how she uses that in her roles as a psychiatrist, educator, and researcher.