Jessica first experienced depression as a young teenager. Like many of us, she was nervous to share her story publicly, for fear of what consequences may emerge. But when she did begin sharing, she found it to be freeing. Revealing her story inspired her to establish Wear It Accordingly a line of comfy sweats and t-shirts with a mission to help people struggling with mental health issues feel less alone.

“I created this brand to break the stigma that surrounds mental health. I want them to know that there is someone behind them, supporting them in the fight that no one else sees,” says Jessica. “The clothing is meant to start the conversation about mental health and give meaning to the clothing that people are wearing.”

The pandemic is hard on everyone, but isolation and the fragmented school experience is particularly challenging for teens who, for the most part, naturally want to be close to their peers. Mental health is taking a huge hit, and parents are desperate to help, but unsure of how to best support their kids.

With lived experience with both anxiety and depression, Jessica has great advice to offer. Her story also offers families a gentle gateway to discussion. 

What was the hardest part about living with depression? 

I think that it isn’t a question of “was” but “what IS the hardest part about living with depression?”.  Since I have shared my story, a lot of people are under the impression that I have overcome this illness all together when, in fact, I still battle with my mental health every day. Not to the same degree as I have in the past, but it is still something I deal with on a daily basis.

So what is the hardest part about living with depression? One quote I relate heavily to is, “Depression is being colourblind and constantly being told how colourful the world is,”-unknown. I think this quote summarizes how I feel when I am in a depressive episode, it feels as though you watch everyone around you carry on with their lives while you are stuck in this lonely and dark place. I also think the hardest part has been constantly feeling the need to hide my illness from everyone because it is very draining.

It took me a long time to open to my friends and family and constantly trying to pretend like you are okay when you are not is exhausting.  

What was it that made you finally comfortable to share your story?

Once I opened up about my mental health issues, I in turn got an amazing support system.  I am very grateful for it, and know that not everyone has that. When the first lockdown happened I was in a pretty dark spot but my therapist and I worked hard to get me on the road to recovery.

Once I was able to find the silver linings with my mental health and within the pandemic, I thought if I shared my story, it could help someone else. At one time in my life, I never thought I would ever open up to my closest friends and family (never mind make it public) but if it can help make a difference in even one person’s life, then it is well worth it. 

What small rituals have helped you pull through these past ten months, and what tools/activities are you organizing to manage the Covid winter?

To be honest, COVID has kind of been a blessing for me. I know that it has been very hard for many people and I am very fortunate my parents have been able to keep a steady income through all of this but truthfully the lockdown saved me. Right before the lockdown happened, I was in a very dark place. I was drowning in school, sports and within myself. When everything shut down I was able to go home, and my world stopped spinning for a bit, which allowed me to recover and get the help I needed.

It allowed me to change my perspective on my life and how I wanted to live it moving forward. I’ve gotten stronger and healthier (mentally and physically) since the pandemic started and I honestly don’t think I would have made the same progress if the pandemic hadn’t happened. Going into the winter, I am going in with the same mindset I have now: what can I take from this situation that is positive? The one thing that I have always done to help with my mental health is stay active, so I plan to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. 

What’s your best advice for a person right now who can’t find joy?

Take it one day at a time. Stop being so hard on yourself by trying to get better and just make it through one day at a time. Your feelings are valid and should be taken seriously. You are doing your best and your best is enough, just keep going. There is nothing I can say that is going to magically make your depression disappear but as someone who thought the pain was never gonna end, I can honestly say it does get better and the fight is worth it, it is not easy but it is worth it and you are stronger than you think.

Browse and shop the Wear It Accordingly collection here. A portion of net proceeds from all sales will be donated to CAMH Foundation.