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About to break

By: Andrew Smith
Everything is not fine. Photo supplied by Nicole Cars and her unofficial support dog, Jack.

“I’m finding mental health incredibly challenging,” says Nicole Cars. The MacEwan University fourth-year psychology student is ironically not in a good place right now.

“Even when I’m finished everything I needed to do for the week, I can’t relax. “I’m scared some secret assignment is going to come out of nowhere.”

Nicole’s circumstances aren’t exactly typical. Being a full-time student, full-time employee, and having a dad with cancer makes every day pretty stressful. “It feels like everything is waiting for me to get comfortable so it can stress me out all over again.”

Nicole hasn’t officially been diagnosed with any mental illnesses, but even her physiotherapist agrees she’s incredibly anxious. She has near-constant headaches that are so bad her shoulders started aching too. “[This is] Related to stress and anxiety according to the pro,” says Nicole.

“I’m barely eating, and I get feelings of dread in waves. Sometimes I’m not sure if this is ever going to end.”

Even with a full-time job at S.T.A.R.S, Nicole says that she barely makes enough to make it week to week. “I just have to get through this week, and it’ll be okay,” she tells herself. “But it’s like that every week,” she adds.

“Between a pandemic and online schooling, this whole semester has been compounded into one hyper-stressful event.”

MacEwan University offers a mental health and counselling service to all students. “Mental and emotional health can be affected by anything at any time. Let us help you manage and overcome these challenges in a positive and healthy way,” says their webpage.

“I don’t trust MacEwan for that,” says Nicole. “I feel like if I saw [a therapist] at MacEwan I’d see them in the halls or something. That feels rather exposing in a way.”

A dog lover herself, Nicole was dismayed to learn that MacEwan’s Pets Assisting with Student Success program is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. The program, called PAWSS for short, allowed students to spend quality time with a furry friend to cheer up and stabilize themselves a little.

“I’m so thankful for my own dog these days,” says Nicole. “The only good thing about this whole thing is he’s with me through everything while I’m at home.”

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