If you would rather not read, go ahead and listen.
When I first shared my blog post online, I didn’t mean for it to influence people.
I just wanted to let about 100 people know that I was dropping out of school due to mental illness. The mindset went like this: “So the next time you run into me, please don’t ask me about how anthropology is going because when I tell you that I’m dropping out of school, you’re not going to know how to respond and I’m just going to feel more shame.”
That was the idea. That was the simple intention - to protect myself.
Instead, it got big. It did impact people. Thousands of people read that blog post, several large media platforms wanted an interview, and hundreds of students shared their similar experiences with me. Intense stories of academic probation, suicidal ideation, hospitalization, trauma, and shame, exacerbated by academia.
Intense is... an understatement.
I had never wanted to do mental health advocacy.
It’s exhausting to fight for something that affects you on a daily basis. I was barely keeping myself alive and at the same time, I was trying to fight for systemic change. I relentlessly worked up the bureaucratic ladder, repeatedly sharing my story, repeatedly defending myself for why I was forced to drop out, to finally sit down with a high-level UBC administrator and realize that I was powerless. I was one mentally ill college dropout. I couldn’t change the system. I couldn’t initiate academic policy change. I couldn’t even formerly sit in on the conversation because I had no credentials and I was no longer an official member of the community. Neither alumni nor student.
But with hundreds of people looking up to me for my “vulnerability” and “strength,” I couldn’t sit there and do nothing. I thought to myself, “Knowledge is power and power is responsibility. You hold the stories of hundreds of students. What are you going to do about it?”
So I created The Tipping Point.
I spoke at community events, wrote about my mental health experiences, and held space for dozens of people. All while presenting myself to be doing so much better since dropping out.
In reality, I was still terribly struggling. Dropping out was supposed to be the start of a fresh chapter of healing. But instead, the media attention overwhelmed me and my healing became a performance. I couldn’t stand the shame of dropping out of school and of no longer belonging to a community that I so badly wanted to be a part of.
To numb through this hurt, I distracted myself with workaholism and sex addiction. As I was preaching self-care, I did not take a single intentional day off for 8 months. As I was preaching self-love, I slept with men who had no interest in me as a person.
And in April 2017, one year since the original tipping point, I broke down. Again. It started with watching my friend’s mini-documentary on his bipolar disorder. In it, he says,
And in that moment, I knew. I had been lying to myself and everyone around me that I had made heaven. Don’t get me wrong - it was definitely way better than the year before - as in I no longer struggled with suicidal ideation and I could get out of bed before 3pm - but it was no heaven.
I think I cried all weekend. When I thought I could cry no more, a small negative interaction triggered a panic attack. And I tried to hospitalize myself.
I fucking hate the hospital, but I was so desperate that I tried to run away from myself by caging myself. It unfortunately and fortunately didn’t work. Then later that week, I received a blatant sign from the Universe to address my sex addiction. And the week after, I hosted our one-year anniversary event, Thriving.
Oh, the irony.
I started this movement from a place of responsibility and ego. The ego went away as I unlearned the saviour complex and the shame through recovery and healing from last year’s breakdown. The work continued from a sense of disciplined responsibility.
But I’m sorry to say, I think I’ve reached my limit for the time being. I’ve been running this movement mostly by myself for the past year, while going through my own healing and trying to build a self-made career. Many people have wanted to help, but I don’t know how to manage and lead a team in which everyone lives with mental illness. Most importantly, I don’t enjoy the work, nor does it feel fulfilling. And I don’t want to trudge through it as an obligation anymore.
With that, I am choosing to walk the talk
and take a step back from The Tipping Point and my mental health advocacy. I am currently not equipped to build a sustainable non-profit organization to make the type of impact I first envisioned. I have changed and grown as an individual and have set my mind on other ways of creating impact, ones that I feel are more aligned with who I am today.
I am sincerely sorry for the disappointment this news may bring. It was a difficult decision to make, and it is a step that I must take for my own well-being and growth. Whether TTP will be back in the future, with or without me, I’m not sure yet. But until then, I am excited to see these conversations continue to evolve in breadth, depth, and complexity through university efforts and student organizations. My only request is that education reform and academic flexibility become the forefront of addressing mental health in academia. We must go beyond awareness to institutional change.
Before I let go, I want to thank each individual who shared their stories with us, who expressed their appreciation for this work, who supported this movement in whatever way they could. I also want to specifically thank Janis Vetsch for creating The Tipping Point brand and online presence, Aaron Bailey for igniting my fire to take the first steps, Ashley Bentley for teaching me the importance of systemic change, John Wang for holding me up during the numerous times I wanted to quit, and all of the team members for committing to this work with me. Thank you.
On April 22nd, we are hosting Thriving 2.0: #HealthOverHustle to talk about the effects of the hustle culture and burnout. Event proceeds will go towards the Student Leader Network of Healthy Minds Healthy Campuses, CMHA BC. This organization is most aligned with what we have been trying to achieve at The Tipping Point and we’re excited to contribute to its growth. Please join us in this conversation and to the contribution of this cause. I look forward to seeing many of you there.
Much love & gratitude,