A Saints on the Hill presentation from two years ago resonated so deeply with Maddie ’24 that it gave her the confidence to share her similar mental health journey with her peers. And that is just what she did at a recent School Meeting, delivering her own Saints on the Hill talk in the hopes of further inspiring conversations about and awareness of mental health.
“My story started in the third grade. At the time, ‘little me’ had no idea why life felt so hard,” Maddie recalled. “Why did leaving my house feel like my heart was being torn from me? Why did new people feel like threats? Why did trying new foods make me nauseous even before eating them? Those behaviors were the first signs of my anxiety and depression.”
Maddie spoke of how she found ways to manage her internal struggles and challenges through elementary and middle school. Eventually, her anxiety subsided, and she was able to navigate her day-to-day life. There were still moments when minor slip-ups in her routine—a change in schedule or unexpected conflict—affected Maddie’s mindset, but she persevered. Then came the COVID pandemic.
“Now imagine those small disruptions, which were minuscule during most of my days, turning into a six-month lockdown,” she shared. “Due to the worldwide pandemic that shut down every possible avenue for me to continue my routine, the side effects were unimaginable.” That was during Maddie’s Third Form year at Canterbury, and while things started off well enough, the weeks-long stretch between New Year’s and the March break took its toll. That is when she sought help from Director of Counseling Cynthia Willmen, L.P.C., and other members of Canterbury’s Health team.
The major takeaway for Maddie? “I was able to pick myself back up with the help of others,” she said. “I still had that occasional internal monologue return, but I knew I had people to catch me when I fell.”
Having experienced—and learned—so much in her journey, Maddie was eager to share some important advice with her peers. “First, there is strength in vulnerability. The only way my issues could get closer to resolution was for me to open up about my internal struggles. I applaud my 14-year-old self for having the courage to do that,” she told them. “Next, trust your gut. Instinctively, I knew that the way I was living could not continue, which prompted me to reach out for help.”
She saved what was perhaps the most important message for last. “You are not alone. There are plenty of people who have similar experiences and outcomes. You should never feel ashamed for having a hard chapter of your life, and you should know that people are here to help you. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please let this be your sign to reach out for help. You are supported.”