This is a recent Facebook post from my girlfriend, who has lived with depression and anxiety for the better part of her life.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 1 in 5 Canadians will develop a mental illness some time in their life. “…but numbers only imply trends, while stories acknowledge chaos.” (Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree, p. 41). Everyone should read this post because I hope my story will teach you a little something, or maybe reinforce what you already know. I know most of my friends on Facebook are smarty pants.
I know how my family, friends, and boyfriend might feel about me posting this in a public space. There is such an undeniable stigma associated with mental health despite all the social media campaigns. It breaks my heart and infuriates me everyday to have to live alongside it because of how it can silence you rather than raise awareness. Social media has become such a strong tool to break that, and it has been my dream to create a safe online community for those who are living with mental illnesses. And it will happen. When I regain the energy and accomplish my other career goals first. And most importantly, when I stop treading water. You better be looking out world.
The truth is, I know there are many of you in my Facebook world who are suffering or survivors. I know there are plenty of others who suffer in silence. And you should know that I understand, if no one else in your world does. I am here. Trying just as hard as you to live every. single. day.
I am here, living and breathing, because of my Sister. My brother. My brother-in-law. My best friend. My boyfriend. My giggles and shits girlfriends. I love you all so much. “I won’t give up” in the Lennon and Maisy version is dedicated to you. You! Because you are the reason I am trying to breathe right now. At 4 am and formed in a psych ward. I’m not tagging anyone in this post because you all know who you are. You’ve either reached out and been there for me before I tried to kill myself on Tuesday or you haven’t. It’s as simple as that.
Let’s cut to the chase. On Tuesday night, I tried to take my life by overdosing on anxiolytics with tequila and gin. I’m classy like that. I said my goodbyes and my best friend caught on and called the police to come into my apartment. Why do I want to die you ask? If you have ever lost control of your mind, or your feelings, even for a moment, you know how much it sucks. Now magnify that by 10 years. Pretty much every day. It’s been 10 years since I first started feeling depressed and anxious. I was fortunate to have some genetics that have predisposed me to become vulnerable to certain life events, which developed into something greater, that I could never predict. Now my diagnosis has officially changed from generalized depression and anxiety to being bipolar. I managed the last 10 years in silence, with the unconditional love and support of my ex-boyfriend (but great and amazing friend still), and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A little bit of routine, eating clean, and exercising really helped. I was great at putting on the Stepford wife smile and living that life.
But wait – let’s not triumph and give me a round of applause on how I managed “10 years without medication.” Everyone reading this right now needs to learn and accept that a lot of mental illnesses are related to your brain chemistry. This is a fact. My receptors do not distribute all my happy chemicals properly. Certain neurons don’t cooperate. Because of the stigma associated with mental health, I suffered without the aid of medications for 10 years. I even settled on living life feeling depressed for 1 week every 2 to 3 months, because that was the extent of how I could manage with CBT and routine alone. No medications.
My depression took a turn for the worst about a month ago. It was as persistent as I was in fighting it without medications. In a similar fashion, many of my family and friends challenged me when I suggested using medications to help with my depression. This serotonin wasn’t hanging around in my brain, bro. It was bad. I trialled Zoloft, a popular antidepressant, for about 3 weeks. I was absent from work most of the time because 1.) I couldn’t eat – I would gag and choke on everything I ate and therefore had no energy 2.) Everything I ate tasted like nothing 3.) I couldn’t work out because my quads would burn on FIRE 20 burpees later, or even on a short 30 minute walk 4.) I was nauseous for at least half the day, which made getting out of bed impossible some days. In retrospect, I was kind of gross actually… burping and dry hacking everywhere I went. I sucked it up and put on a happy face for some of my friends anyway. I had exactly 3 good days in the span of a month where I was eating, genuinely laughing, and not crying meaninglessly while washing the dishes or doing some other chore.
Here I am now. It’s 4:30 am and I’m sitting in this half decent bed in a locked psych ward with nothing too familiar around me. I woke up because I had a nightmare. I was drowning. As it turns out, I just had to pee. Laugh away, but now I can’t fall back asleep because the back of my throat feels like cardboard despite all the water I’m chugging. I also smell like a walking Christmas tree because I used peppermint oil to try and battle the nausea. Those are some of the side effects of taking lithium. I absolutely hate how Gravol and other anti-emetics make me feel. It’s just not worth it. And now it’s too late and early in the morning to take any of my Imovane or Trazadone (sedatives) to put me to sleep.
I could’ve written this in my journal. I chose to expose this very part of me to the world wide web because everyone should know that medications are not a sign of weakness. Mental illnesses aren’t just full of some person’s “feelings.” Mental illness is developed from your genetics and your experiences, which alters your brain chemistry and in turn, how you feel. Hopefully with small efforts like this, we can all improve our understanding of mental illnesses. Education is key.
If you are considering medications or are currently trialling medications, I’m right there with you. Finding the right one is hard. Literally, surviving, and not dying, through all of medication’s trials and errors, is the toughest part.
But tonight I have found myself finding meaning in why I haven’t tried to kill myself again and it’s because of you, my loves, and all the unconditional love, support, and time you have given to me. I am grateful to you and the universe. Like I said, I won’t tag anyone because you know who you are.
“I won’t give up on us,
even if the skies get rough.
I’m giving you all my love.
Still looking up, still looking up.”
– I won’t give up, covered by Lennon and Maisey
My love for all of you is to infinity and beyond.
Thanks for listening. You can follow my thoughts at Chasing Yarn.
Editor’s note: This article discusses the personal experiences of an individual and should not be taken as professional advice. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from a mental illness and require support, please refer to the following organizations:
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– Featured image sourced from IndustryGrowth.net