By Sherika Harris
Centennial College student finds a way to overcome mental health issues.
From a large black hand bag, fourth-semester journalism student, Anissa Calma-Brown pulled out her MacBook Air, a mini black note pad, and her favourite black pen; this is a good day. On her good days, you’ll catch her smiling more often. She is punctual, organized and always working on her latest assignment.
But there are bad days. Days when she doesn’t understand why she is crying. Days when she’ll have random outbursts. Days when being alone in a washroom stall is necessary.
“I didn’t know it was anxiety. I didn’t know why I was feeling a certain way. I didn’t realize it could affect how you live day-to-day,” Calma-Brown said. “I just thought I was just overwhelmed.”
The summer before Calma-Brown’s first semester at Centennial College she was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a hormone imbalance in women. Doctors surgically removed three cysts from Calma-Brown’s ovaries and later explained to her that she may have difficulties conceiving children in the future. Health issues and the constant fighting between her parents left Calma-Brown in a bad place. School was not a priority.
“I didn’t care about anything that was going on. I didn’t care about assignments that were due, I would hand them in whenever I wanted,” Calma-Brown said. “I didn’t have any passion. I was barely making it.”
Calma-Brown was at the Old City Hall Court of Justice in Toronto for the Jian Ghomeshi trial for a second-semester photography news assignment.
“It was raining, there were protester, reporters and people just waiting to hear the verdict of his trial,” Calma-Brown said. “I was in the middle of the crowd being swarmed while I was trying to get this picture. I had a rush of adrenaline and I knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.”
Calma-Brown attended every photography class, completed every assignment, and began to excel.
“I could see that she was interested in (photography),” Centennial photography teacher, Tyler Anderson said. “(I could see) that she felt engaged in what I was teaching.
Over the span of two semesters Calma-Brown’s love for photography grew stronger. Anderson became a mentor and someone she could talk to.
“If something is bothering me, I will just go up to him and say this is my problem will you help me fix it?” Calma-Brown said.
The combination of doing something she loved and having someone push and support her was all Calma-Brown needed.
“Maybe I subconsciously sensed that she was struggling and my solution was always to challenge her,” Anderson said.
The support didn’t end with Anderson. Calma-Brown found herself connecting with more teachers and peers. She now prides herself on being a Centennial College student.
“Before I started at Centennial I was very anti-social. Centennial’s environment has made my confidence rise a lot.”
Anderson says finding something you love doing can give guidance to students struggling in college.
“Just go do it. When one foot moves in front of the other. It doesn’t really matter what direction you’re going in, it feels like you’re going forward,” Anderson said. “It feels like progress.”
Anderson not only feels that it is important to connect with students on a personal level, but he also understands the benefits of practical learning.
“The solution is engagement,” Anderson said.