Finding the Strength to Move Forward Through Writing

by Jo-Anne Santos

During my freshman year in high school, I was going through many changes and transitions such as a new work load, family issues, the pressures of keeping up with social status, and finding myself. Within that year, I was faced with so many changes that, mentally and emotionally I could not handle it. I started losing sleep and it affected my performance in school and had my family really worried. It got so bad that my family did not know how to handle it and I was admitted into the mental health ward at 15 years old. Throughout that first year in high school, I was in and out of the hospital but the summer I was in summer school, I got a really intense panic attack and that was when my parents decided to place me in the mental health ward for 3 weeks. It was such a different experience for me and there were many restrictions. At the time, the doctors diagnosed me with minor depression and psychosis because when I got admitted into the mental health ward, I was having a severe attack and claimed that I was seeing a lot of different things. Out of this whole experience, I was able to keep sane through writing. I remember asking the receptionist for a paper and pen and I went back into my room and started writing. I was writing my thoughts about the whole process and how I felt about being in there. This was a huge defining moment for me. I felt like I found a part of my purpose when I was in there.

I share this story to say that, there is always light in a dark place as long as you search for it. Even though it felt like I was falling a part, I found something to keep me sane and to keep me balanced. This is what writing/journaling has done for me and I hope that whoever reads this, that you are able to find that “thing” that keeps you sane.

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi! My name is Jo-Anne Santos. I am a writer, educator, and author currently residing in Toronto, Ontario. I released my book of poetry & short stories “Growing Wings” this year and I’ve been writing since I was a small child.

What is one thing no one really knows about you?
I’m slightly allergic to mangoes. As much as a I love the fruit, sometimes my lips get really itchy if I eat it really messy.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I remember some of the best advice I received was from one of my previous mentors, Kevin Chin. He said to me “you are the 1, everyone else is the 2. Remember you have to focus on the 1, before you focus on the 2.” This advice was so big for me because at the time, I wanted to make everyone happy but he showed me that in order to do that, I must be able to focus on myself first.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
What I would say to my 16 year old self is: “stay true to yourself and don’t neglect your intuition to make others feel better. How you feel is a part of your inner power, and no one can ever take that away from you.”

What message do you think every woman should hear?
I definitely think every woman should know that they are powerful beyond measure. I believe that for so long, we’ve been underestimated, but there’s a whole army of us that are rising and have risen. I believe this is such a beautiful thing.

What is your favorite thing about where you live?
I was born and raised in Toronto and I believe aside from the diverse food we have here, I just really love the scenery out here. This city is so beautiful and has a perfect balance of greenery and urban landscapes.

What do you love most about yourself?
What I love most about myself is that I’m caring. I used to feel like this wasn’t a great trait of mine because I often got looked at as that “I care too much.” But, I feel like we need a lot more people that care in order to bring humanity forward.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned along the way?
I’m currently learning that pace is a sign of maturity. This is a big lesson for me so far because I was so used to everything happening so fast. Aside from living in the city, I’ve always been a fast learner when it came to certain things but I believe that pacing myself out has added joy to my life. I don’t have to feel like I need to move in haste to be happy. I can still take my time and bask in the moments that I tend to miss when I’m moving through life quickly.

What motivates you most?
What motivates me most is humanity. When I see people coming together, collaborating and working towards the good of others is what keeps me going. It allows me to continue to live out my purpose so others can be impacted positively.

What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
One thing that I think people would be surprised to hear about me is that I was previously married. The experience itself has impacted me and has made me into the woman that I am today.

More About Jo-Anne

Jo-Anne Santos is a poet, writer, and educator from Toronto, Canada. Jo-Anne aims is to educate others on ascending from their life circumstances through the power of creative writing.

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