Be a Firefighter

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the heavy subject of suicide with a new person in my life.   The best description of suicide I have come across is a famous quote by David Foster Wallace – a writer who, sadly, ultimately lost his own battle with depression.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

― David Foster Wallace

What I take away from this quote – and what I shared with that dear person – is that no one can possibly know the depth of another person’s agony.  No one will ever know how hot that fire is without being in it.

This dear soul, however, like many, had a tendency to call suicide selfish.

How can a person be so concerned with their own pain, that they’d just end it all, leaving all of their loved ones behind and transferring that pain to their still-beating hearts?  Leaving them with the guilt that they couldn’t make them happy enough – a guilt they’ll carry with them forever.  Don’t the suicidal think of others?

This isn’t an uncommon opinion by any means.  And it isn’t a nonsensical one, either.  Of course suicide could seem selfish when you look at the surface.  The suicidal are leaving everyone behind.  Everyone who is left behind will be left with pain and guilt in their hearts – forever. 

But what if we go deeper than the surface?

What if we try to understand that the suicidal are so consumed by that hot fire, that they feel like nothing can save them?
What if we try to understand that the suicidal have looked for every way out, but the smoke is blinding them?
What if we look at their jump as a way to notice the flames, instead of resenting them for trying to save themselves?
What if instead of placing blame on them for not being able to escape alive, we work to fight harder to save the ones who are still trapped?

I’ve been in that fire.  I hate that damn fire.  It gets unbearably hot.  I couldn’t focus on anything but the heat.  I was too overcome by being burned alive – from the inside out – to even consider anything else.

After discussing this quote, the fire, my own thoughts and experiences, I got a very simple response,

“That’s why we need firefighters.”

And then I realised that sometimes, it really can be that simple.

And then I remembered as I lay there choking on the smoke, contemplating freeing myself and jumping into that cold air outside, a firefighter came and saved me – many times.

Once it was my ex-boyfriend, pulling a tired/drugged out me from the bathtub that was lulling me into an endless, fireless sleep.
Once it was a teenager on the internet, talking to me when no one else was.
Once it was a pair of paramedics, watching me protectively as I lay quiet in bed, almost at my end.
Once it was a toddler, obliviously smiling at me on the platform as I considered a deadly jump.

I have made every attempt to turn my negativity into positivity – to look at all the pain I’ve been dealt with, and the ways I’ve learned to cope – and bring that new positive perspective into other people’s lives.  I have learned to fight my own fire – with and without the help of others – and it’s my job to spread those lessons around. 

So.  This is my request to you reading this:

Be a firefighter.

Be a positive energy.

Be a smile.

You might never know how many fires you fight – but I can assure you, you will win at least one.

And isn’t that more than enough already?

Why I haven’t posted in over a month

I haven’t had health insurance since I left to go on my backpacking trip in April of last year.  Before my insurance expired, I refilled all of my prescriptions. Even though I had gradually reduced the amount of medication I was taking – to make the supply last longer – as happens, it eventually ran out in the summer.  I didn’t refill it until this January, when I was at the doctor’s,  paying out of pocket for a completely unrelated reason.  While I was there, I figured I’d ask how much I would have to pay for my prescriptions without insurance. To my utter bewilderment (not to mention pure joy), it costs less than 60 euros for a 3+ month supply. Wow.  I had been expecting a bill of several hundred euro, which is why I had been putting it off for so long.  Naturally I got both prescriptions refilled and began taking them again the very same night. Relief. Remember, I’ve been on the on/off medication train several times.  Sometime last year, I finally accepted – and embraced – my meds, and their power to help me.  I wanted them back.

So why haven’t I posted about this, considering how relative it is to my whole journey?

In mid January, I posted about self harm.  What I failed to mention was the fact that I cut myself the same night I wrote the post. I didn’t want people to know.  I want to give people hope, an example of things getting better. I want them to read my words and imagine moving past this negative stage and back onto happiness.  I don’t want them to read my earlier posts of improvement and good times, only to then see that I’ve failed again. Because naturally, with a depressed mind, seeing me fall means there’s no hope for them either. That’s not the message I want to send.

Anti depressants are not instant fixes.  They will not make you better overnight.  In fact, often times, they’ll make you worse before they help you at all.  But once you get past the initial tough stage, it becomes worth it.  You can feel again.  You can think again.  You can get yourself out of bed again.  You can socialize again – hell, you want to socialize again.

That rough spot began in early January for me, and lasted until about three weeks ago.  I wrote that post, felt like a hypocrite for not telling the real story, and just left the blog alone. A little while later, I got a comment on a post, simply asking me if I was happy.  I couldn’t bring myself to respond. I didnt want to lie.  But I also didnt want to tell him the truth – that no, I wasn’t happy.  At least not right then and there.  So I just ignored the comment. And the blog altogether.

And then, soon after, the rough storm turned into a sunny afternoon with a beautiful rainbow. I felt better.  Again, I had one of those “it’s working” moments.  It’s funny how it sneaks up on you – gradually, you improve, but it happens over time and it’s hard to pinpoint when things got better.  And then, one afternoon, I was sitting on my kitchen floor, listening to Sia and drinking a chai.  And I smiled to myself because at that same time mere weeks before, I had called in sick to work because the thought of leaving my bed left me feeling  crippled.  I noticed how far I had come, and how calm I felt, and I smiled again, happy that I was back.

I haven’t posted because the first couple of weeks were spent feeling sorry for myself, while the remaining ones were spent surrounded by friends, good food and fantastic fun. I was so busy enjoying everything that I never took the time to write.

So, to the person who asked me if I was happy: 

I’m not happy everyday. Sometimes, I go days, weeks, even months, being unhappy.  I have times where I want nothing to do with being alive. I have times when I’m angry at myself, or the world around me. I have times where life seems pointless, and happiness seems fake.

And then, overall, above everything; all of the negative; all of the days I want to die, are the days where I am so, so, so incredibly happy.

After living in a dark, cloudy mind for so long, the sun seems to shine that much brighter once it finally does come out.  I feel the joy a million times over. I revel in it. I spread it. I sing at the top of my lungs in crowded – and empty – bars.  I cook (and also order, let’s be real here) delicious food with friends. I look forward to going to work, and planning fun activities with the toddler I am so lucky to take care of. I smile. I laugh. I make a fool out of myself. I have fun. I am happy.

Of course, sometimes that euphoric feeling is nothing but a manic phase. Sometimes I even have to ask myself, “am I happy or am I manic?” And I can never really know for sure. But it doesn’t really matter. The fact is I feel the joy and that’s enough for me, as long as I keep myself in control.

Any mental illness is a journey.  Every journey takes a different road, or takes a different turn.  Keeping up with yourself is important – checking in with your thoughts, keeping track of your feelings and major events. It helps to understand yourself when you can look back at what you’ve said, done, or felt, and view it with a different part of you. That’s what this blog is to me. I try to be as honest and open as possible, and then I go back and read through things later on.

So. To conclude, this rollercoaster ride is still going.  I’m buckled in tight, and I’m not getting off any time soon. 
I’m going to enjoy the ride as much as I can, when I can.  And I hope you do too.

Why do you self-harm?

I have scars on my body.  Proof of the things I sometimes wish weren’t true about me;  constant reminders of the many times I’ve slipped up and let my demons take the reigns.

I have scars on my legs, my arms and my torso.  Some are tiny, faint little lines.  Some are big and texturised.  Some were made with a knife.  Others with a razor blade.  Some with broken glass.  One, with a broken hair clip.  Some of them bled a lot. Some of them barely bled at all. 

All of them were self-inflicted.  None of them were meant to kill me.

I used to hide my scars at all costs.  I didn’t want people to know I had cut myself.  I had a story for each scar; a made up explanation for how it got there. 

The one on my wrist? I was climbing a tree and scratched it on a branch.
The one on my hand? I didn’t realise there was a knife in the soapy dish water.
The one on my side? I scraped it on a rock while swimming in the river.

After a while, though, there were too many scars and not enough stories to pair them with.  And, eventually I grew to accept the scars – and myself – and the potential whispers stopped bothering me.  I stopped hiding. 

When I started this blog, I decided to take every possible opportunity to talk about mental health issues.  What better way to get people talking than to expose the evidence?

Sometimes I catch people looking and I know they want to ask, but are afraid to.  Sometimes I get supportive comments, or people share their own stories with me.   Sometimes, I get questions.

Not everyone understands the concept of physical self-harm. I’ve noticed that some people even have a hard time differentiating between self-harm and attempted suicide.  For example, after discussing the scars on my legs being from self-inflicted cuts, one person said, “Why would you cut yourself there? That’s not going to kill you.”

When we take part in something and know it very well, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has those same experiences.  So when that person indirectly told me I was bad at suicide, I was just surprised they didn’t realise suicide had never been my plan in the first place. When I drew the knife across my thigh; when I cut my wrist with that broken hair clip; when I sliced my side open with a razor blade – I wasn’t doing it to end my life.

But why on earth would a person intentionally hurt themselves?  Being a person who has self-harmed since I was a young teenager, this is a question I never really even considered – it’s just what I have always done.  However, I realise there are several people in the world who – thankfully – simply never had to know the answer.

  While I can’t speak for everyone, I can speak for myself.  And to me, the answer seems simple.  Why do I hurt myself?  To feel the pain.

“But why do you want to feel pain? Do you like the pain?”
No. I hate it.  It hurts. And most of the time it leaves an ugly scar.

“If you know it’s going to leave an ugly scar, then why do you still do it?”
When I’m in a state of mind poor enough to self-harm, the thought of a lasting scar doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I feel like scarred skin represents me better than flawless skin in these moments – the skin should match the mind.

“Are you trying to kill yourself?”
No.

“Then I don’t understand.”

The best explanation I have is this: 
Self-harm translates the confusing, sad, angry feelings I’m unable to disect into a physical, tangible and understandable pain.  I can look at it.  I can control it.  I can understand why it hurts.

Not everyone who self-harms is suicidal.  Sometimes, it’s just a release.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed and angry and upset and I don’t know why and I can’t calm myself down, cutting brings me back to reality.  I see the blood and I’m reminded that my heart is still beating; that I’m still breathing; that I’m still living. 

Suicide ends your story, while self-harm just leaves a mark. 

I’m not condoning cutting, or any other form of self-harm.  As much as I understand how “helpful” it can feel, I realise it is in no way a good thing.  Unfortunately, though, it can be addictive. Self-harm is something that I’m still fighting with; it’s something I always revert back to when I fall down the tunnel.  It’s a battle I’ve yet to win, but one I won’t give up on.

The cuts I make will soon stop bleeding and close up – the skin will scab, then toughen with a scar.  The crippling thoughts lodged in my mind are just as temporary – they will change, and I will be okay.  When I forget that, the scars are my reminder.

Suicide: a How-To Guide

I came across a website today.  It’s all about suicide.  It provides a range of information – statistics about suicide; what causes it, who commits it, how they commit it. I read further and discovered several pages discussing the various suicide methods. There is even a table compiled, listing the fatality rate of each method, along with expected time required for death to take place and the amount of pain thought to be experienced from start to finish.  To my horror and disbelief, I also found a detailed guide on how to successfully off yourself using each method.

This website was one of the first to come up in a Google search for depression and suicide.  I imagined a person at their lowest stumbling upon this; a website to help them select whichever method seemed to best suit their death wish, and all the information required to implement their heart-breaking plan.  The worst possible form of “help” I could imagine for these poor souls.

It made me angry.  Livid. Why on earth would someone provide the world with information on how to end their own life?  How does this person sleep at night, knowing their words might have been (arguably) responsible for someone else’s death?  What in the world possessed them to create such an awful tool?

I continued reading, and I changed my mind.

On top of the how-to-suicide-guides, I found unbiased, factual information regarding the likelihood of failure (and potential lasting health implications) for each method.  For the particularly gruesome suicide styles (such as firearms, jumping in front of a train, or hanging), there was a section outlining what someone would be exposed to upon discovering the body – how it would look, the trauma the person may experience, and the clean-up they may have to do.  There were statistics, references and resources listed at the bottom of each page.

The website is written by a person with a history of mental health struggles and suicide attempts.  He shares a brief summary of his story on the website, carefully separating fact from opinion.  He describes his own suicide attempt, and his honest and raw thoughts upon realising he failed, “I woke up I don’t know how many hours later – it was still light on the same day … feeling like shit, and being bitterly disappointed I was still alive.” These words took me back to some of my own dark moments.

It’s not at all uncommon for a suicide attempt to fail.  “For every successful suicide attempt, there are 33 unsuccessful ones. For drug overdoses, the ratio is around 40 to 1. In fact, if attempting suicide, there is a much greater chance you’ll end up in hospital alive, with either short or long term heath implications, than dead.”

The author goes on to summarize these facts into one eye-opening statement:  “The first thing you should be aware of if you are trying to kill yourself is the odds are against you.”

On top of the suicide statistics, I also found information on the reality of mental illness.  The writer makes a comment many of us have likely heard before, comparing cancer to depression – both are real, diagnosable illnesses that have the potential to be deadly. He shares some referenced facts to show just how true that statement is, “According to the American Association of Suicidology, major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide. The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population.”

To compare, the chances of developing and dying from cancer (of any form) in the United States is an average of 22.83% for men, and 19.26% for women. 

This information seems daunting at first glance – as though major depression were a death sentence, much like cancer can be.  Fortunately, the next paragraph presents us with statistics that prove otherwise, “The risk of someone suffering from an untreated major depressive disorder trying to commit suicide is around 1 in 5 (20%). However, the suicide risk among treated patients is around 1 in 1,000 (0.1%).”

So, this confirms that a depressed person has a 20% chance of falling victim to suicide, much like the average person has an approximately 20% chance of dying from cancer. The fortunate difference for those who fall into the former category is when depression is properly treated, the suicide risk factor is greatly diminished. 

The author writes in a way that is completely open: not encouraging, but also not directly discouraging, a person from committing suicide.  He writes in such a way that his readers are forced to take a step back and view suicide objectively; everything is to the point, and nothing is personal. 

While this website does provide information which could be used to end one’s own life, it also offers a refreshingly realistic and matter-of-fact discussion about suicide.  It allows suicide to be seen as the epidemic it is in today’s world, instead of hiding away from the reality we should not dare deny.  Instead of simply saying “don’t do it”, this website informs about everything that goes along with suicide – before, during, and after – to allow a person to really think strongly about what it is they are considering, opening their eyes to what suicide really entails, without attempting to persuade them one way or the other.

Suicide is a taboo subject, and the majority of articles online don’t go into too much detail – especially avoiding descriptions of how a person can successfully commit suicide.  One can assume this is because people are afraid of planting dangerous ideas into already unstable minds.  So, instead, they stick with the “just don’t do it” approach, which seems safe.

What this approach fails to acknowledge, however, is that suicidal people are often so desperate that they are willing to try anything, and simple discouragement is therefore not enough to stop them.  Many suicides (attempted or successful) are done impulsively. If a suicidal person can’t find the information they are looking for at their moment of desperation, they will try whatever they think might work.  While their uneducated attempts will rarely result in death, there is a good chance they will experience other negative side effects – anything from superficial scarring to permanent brain damage.

The website I found today takes an entirely different approach – one I had not seen before, and one that is nothing short of controversial.  It takes the suicidal back to a child-like state in a way; offering explanations for everything from how to get things done, to what to expect in the (statistically likely) event of failure.  Instead of shunning away the notion of suicide, this website embraces it and creates an educating and empowering environment, allowing people to make sound decisions, rather than impulsive ones.

This website challenged my perspective on suicidal discussions and how we should approach the subject as a society.  Simply saying “no” without laying out the reasons why – in an unbiased, educational way – is a sure-fire way to lose the attention of a potential suicide victim.  This website shocked me into wanting to read more, and opened my eyes to the fact that there are many ways to help someone.  Sometimes, we need to shock people into realising what they are considering before we can expect to open their minds enough to truly help them.

For those of you who are interested, the website I have been referring to can be visited at:
http://www.lostallhope.com

Cancer statistics found at:
Lifetime Risk (Percent) of Dying from Cancer by Site and Race/Ethnicity: Males, Total US, 2009-2011 (Table 1.19) and Females, Total US, 2009-2011 (Table 1.20). 2014. Accessed at http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2011/results_merged/topic_lifetime_risk_death.pdf on December 27, 2015.

This is a picture of depression

image

On Saturday, I asked Nick to take a picture of me.

I was low that afternoon. I was sad. I was anxious. I was angry. I felt overwhelmed by nothing specific, yet everything all at once. I felt every emotion intensely at one moment, and I was completely numb to the world by the next.

At one stage, I had managed to pull myself out of bed and into the kitchen. I was standing there for a few minutes, talking a bit with Nick, when I noticed myself dropping to the floor in tears.

I was losing it, falling into myself.

This is a scene he has witnessed a hundred times before – and one he will likely witness a hundred times again. There I was, lying on the floor, looking sad and pathetic, crying my eyes out.

And then I saw him seeing me.

And he was looking down at me with nothing but compassion in his eyes.

And so I asked him to take a picture of me.

Because I saw him looking down at me and I saw the pain I was feeling mirrored in his expression. I saw him seeing a broken person; a lost person; a sad and fragile person. I saw him acknowledging me. I saw him validating the demons in my mind. I saw him feeling everything with me.

When I saw him seeing me, I saw just how much he understands. And I understood why he does.

This is the very scene that I fought for years to hide. This is the part of me that I never dreamt of exposing to the world. This is the person I was ashamed of being. This is the darkness I didn’t want to admit I was afraid of.

But this isn’t a picture of me. This isn’t a picture of the person I am. This isn’t a picture of someone crying on the floor.

This is a picture of depression.

Dear depressed me

Dear depressed me,

You are me.  I, however, am not you.  Not anymore (or at least not today).

I wish I could be the face you saw in the mirror, instead of that empty shell.

That look of pure nothingness; all excitement faded long ago. That blank stare. That twisted, screwed up face you make as you try to hold back your tears.  You look at your reflection and you try to be strong.  You stare into the mirror, hating what you see.  And still, you try and tell yourself you can do it.

One more day.  Push through one more day. Tomorrow might be the day things change.

But you’ve told yourself that same thing day after day, week after week, month after month, and it’s yet to prove true. You’ve yet to see me staring back at you.

I’m here. Somewhere. I am. And I’m telling you that one day I’ll be able to push back to the surface. That one day, I’ll teach you how to smile again, without dying inside as you do.

I know that right now you don’t remember me. You’ve heard of my existence, but you’re not convinced I’m real. You think you’ve always been a shell- you can’t remember being a warm and cozy home. You’re sure you’ve smiled before – there are pictures to confirm it. But you don’t think the smile was real – or at least you don’t see how it could be again.

You are me. Your thoughts are mine. My thoughts, however, are not yours.  But one day, they can be; they will be.

You will look into the mirror and you will see somebody new. You will see a reflection of your strength, in place of yesterday’s empty eyes.  You will see a smile staring back at you, just as you did before.

You will see me.

And then, you will remember that you are me – not the you you are today.

Right now, it’s back.

It’s back.
Was it ever really gone?
It goes away for a while; it gives me a break;
it reminds me how it feels to be alive.

For a moment.

And then it comes back,
and it hits me harder each time it does.

I remembered the happiness- I felt it. I lived it. 
I swam in it and I soaked it in.
And now I’m drowning again, but in very different waters,
and I can’t remember how it feels to swim.

I know I was happy yesterday.
But today makes me doubt that truth.
I know I am alive. I know I can fight.
But right now I just don’t want to.
Right now I don’t have the energy.
Right now I want to melt away.
Right now I want to go straight down the drain.
Right now, I want to disappear.

I hope that by tomorrow, the waters will have changed.
I hope that by next week, today will be the memory.
I hope that by next month, I’ll have nicer things to say.
But right now, in this moment, I want everything to end.
Right now, in this moment,
I want to close my eyes,
And let the ocean lull me off to sleep.

Disclaimer: I’m not going to hurt myself in any way. Don’t worry, and don’t freak out. I might be feeling like I’m at the end, but I know I’m not. Sadly, this is my reality far too often.  Just thought I’d share something different from the usual posts. I hope I didn’t upset anyone with this.

A week in the psych ward

When my doctor told me I had to stay at the psychiatric hospital, I had to decide what to do about work.  I was working full time at a kindergarten.  Although the German health care system ensures you are paid for any work missed due to documented medical reasons, I wasn’t sure what to tell my employer.  Should I be honest, and risk ridicule or a change in people’s perception of me, or should I lie and say I was home with the flu, and have no one be the wiser?

At this stage, I was worried about that sort of thing.  I didn’t want anyone to see me as weak – I mean, after all, I was missing work for being ‘sad,’ wasn’t I?  Of course there is much more to it than that – but depressives don’t always give themselves enough credit.  And, let’s face it: unfortunately there is still a strong stigma, and not everyone is empathetic or understanding.

After much consideration, I ultimately decided to tell only one person at work the truth, and I told the rest I had bronchitis – that was believable because it happened to be going around the school at the time.  Apart from one colleague, everyone at work was left in the dark.  I preferred it that way.  They didn’t need to know.  My opinion on this matter – believe it or not – has not really changed.

So, along came that dreaded, long-awaited Monday morning.  Nick and I woke up, I threw some clothes and basic essentials in a bag, and we set off.  The hospital was only two subway stations away – I was about to be locked up a mere five minutes away from my comfort zone.  Somehow, that made everything worse – so close to home, yet so far from normalcy.  As we were sitting in the waiting room, organizing paperwork, I contemplated getting up and leaving – going back home to bed, pretending like nothing had happened.

We were sent upstairs, greeted by a nurse upon arrival.  I immediately didn’t like the place.  It was so cold and sterile.  There was no life in that building.  All doors were locked; a nurse and a key required for everything.  I was shown to my bed and Nick and I said our goodbyes. I knew I was going to see him later that night – he had promised to visit me – but despite that knowledge, I felt lonely and abandoned when he left. Everything was so foreign to me (in every possible way) and the thought of facing it all alone was not a happy one.

I was introduced to Evie – one of my three roommates, who happened to be ten times crazier than I was.  She was a very nice woman. I feel bad saying she’s a big part of why I felt so uncomfortable.

Just a reminder: I am Canadian, but I live in Germany.  I do speak German, however it is not my native language and therefore not my language of comfort. Handling such a sensitive situation would have been difficult already, and I had given myself the added stress of facing it in a foreign language.

Soon after my arrival, one of the nurses came to sit down with me.  She had a stack of papers, a whack of questionnaires to fill out together.  We sat and spoke for about twenty minutes.

Why are you here? – My doctor insisted.
You’re not German, I see.  Where are you from? – All the way from Canada to a German psych ward.
What sort of symptoms have you had?  – What symptoms haven’t I had?
Are you suicidal?  – Isn’t everyone?
(I was very cynical.)

I was told all about the daily routine:  7:00am wake up.  Check the schedule upon waking up – if your name is on the list, go for blood work before breakfast.  8:00am breakfast.  Medication rounds.  Meetings with doctors/therapy sessions.  Lunch at 11:30am.  Medication rounds, where required. Visiting hours.  Dinner at 5:00pm.  Medication rounds, where required. More visiting hours.  Quiet time after 8:00pm.  9:00pm: final medication round.  Lights out at 10:00pm.  Try to sleep through the noise of disturbed people all around you.

The schedule didn’t sound so bad (apart from the 7am wakeup, of course). I was happy to hear that I had lots of time for visits, and even happier to find out that I was allowed to leave the building during those hours.  The nurse was sure to remind me that – at least until they got to know my patterns and behaviours – I would not be permitted to leave without supervision.

After the nurse told me all she set out to tell me, I found myself alone in my room, desperately wanting to go home.  I knew there was a common room where I could entertain myself with board games, cards and fellow crazy people, but I wasn’t particularly interested in any of it. 

As I was lying in my new bed crying, Evie came in and started talking my ear off.  She spoke incredibly fast, and it was sometimes difficult to understand her.  She’d ask me all kinds of questions, but she never gave me enough time to answer before she moved on to the next one.  She was very friendly, and wanted to introduce me to everyone else in the ward.  I didn’t want to make friends.

That hospital had been home to Evie for over six months by the time I met her, and she had no idea when she would be allowed to leave.  Unlike me, Evie wasn’t there voluntarily.  Even more unlike me, she was more than happy to stay.

My first meeting with the doctor was pretty uneventful.  He asked me the same questions the nurse already had, and set up some appointments for the upcoming days – blood work, electrocardiography and an MRI.  He also gave me a few questionnaires to fill out, to help with coming to a diagnosis.

In the afternoons and evenings, I was lucky enough to have friends come and visit me.  I don’t think I spent a single afternoon alone.  That helped keep me sane, but also reminded me of how much I knew I didn’t want to stay there anymore.

At the end of the day, I just felt like the hospital was not the place for me to get better.  Being surrounded by so many people whose mental afflictions were much more severe than mine just reminded me of where I might end up one day.  I didn’t like that constant reminder.  For me, it was easier to imagine myself living a normal, happy life if I was surrounded by normal, happy people.  I felt like the hospital brought me further into my illness instead of bringing me to a point where I believed I could combat it.

This is not the same for everyone, as I learned from Evie.   She improved there.  She actually got the help she needed there, because it was the best, most comfortable option for her, and she wanted it.  She needed the stability.  She needed to be woken up every day.  She needed to meet with doctors.  She needed to have her meals prepared and placed in front of her three times day.  She needed routine created for her, because if left to her own devices, she’d never have it.  I didn’t feel that was true for me.

I decided one week was enough.  I was checking myself out.  The doctors and nurses tried their best to convince me to stay.  They reiterated again and again that constant observation and supervision was the best way to diagnose me.  I agreed.  However, I protested and stood my ground.  I was leaving.  I didn’t want to risk coming to a graver diagnosis, and I felt that was the only possible outcome if I stayed at the hospital.  With reluctance, they wrote a synopsis of my stay and passed all necessary information onto my psychiatrist.

I left with a diagnosis of “suspected bipolar disorder, type 2”. Several months later, I finally made a follow-up appointment with my psychiatrist.  Several months after that, I was diagnosed again.  This time, with schizo-affective disorder.  And thus began my “recovery.”

24, Broke and Happy

Today, I turned 24, and  I am not who i thought i would be.  I did not envision myself being so lost and unsure about life at 24.  I realise I’m still a baby in the eyes of some (and in the grand scheme of things to some degree), and i have heaps of time to figure  this whole “life” business out.  But still: this is not the life i expected to be living at the age of 24.

I did not think i’d be “unemployed” and i did not anticipate that i’d be hopping between continents, unable to decide where the hell i belong at any given moment.  I did not think i’d have a recent history of attempted suicide, psych ward visits and a body full of scars and necessary chemicals.

However, none of this means i am not entirely thrilled by, and proud of, the person i am today.

A year ago, i had my sincerest doubts that i’d live to celebrate another birthday.  I thought i was terminally ill.  I thought my schizo-affective disorder and depression were going to kill me, and the scariest part was knowing they would use my very own hands to get the job done.

But I fought.  And i fought hard.  But i did not fight alone.

In the last year, i have gone through a lot of changes.  I have grown a lot.  I have matured.  I have gotten wiser with each and every day that has gone by, and with every conversation i have been a part of. This year has been the longest (and somehow also the shortest), most testing of my life.  But also the best.

I want to say thank you to every single person in my life. I would not be the same without you.  I would not be here without you.  I would not be able to do what I do without your unending and unconditonally loving support.

One of the many things I have learned this year is that i can really help people. By simply speaking my mind and posting my rawest thoughts on the internet, I can help people.

And my will to do so has never been stronger.

To my friends, my family, my acquaintances – old and new alike – and even to the strangers I have yet to meet: thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul.  I owe you my life and in return for that, i’ll do whatever I can to remind the world of the lessons I have learned with your help: a mental illness does not have to be a death sentence.

I’ve been on this road a while, and I’m certainly  not cured.  I’m sure as hell not perfect.  I’m still fighting, and chances are I always will be.  But i will never fight alone again.  And if I can help it, neither will anyone else.

I love you all. Here’s to being 24, broke and happy!

Do you love someone with depression?

lovesomeonewithdepression

I’m working on writing an article from the “outsider’s” perspective.
IE: the significant other-, the close friend-, the relative- of a person with depression.

If anyone could volunteer their input on this, I’d be ever-so-grateful! Either comment here if you’re comfortable with open discussion, or send me a private message or email (23brokeandhappy@gmail.com).

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
-when did their depression begin?
or, had it always been going on?
-how did you recognize their symptoms?
-did they reject support/treatment at any stage? if so, how did you react?
-did you approach them, or had they already sought help?
-what was the most difficult thing for you to understand?
-what hurt you the most to see or hear?
-is there anything you wish you had done differently?

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:
-what’s the number one thing you hope they always remember?

THANKS GUYS!! xxx
(if you could SHARE THIS, i’d greatly appreciate it!
I’d like to get as many responses as possible to paint a relatable picture.)

love you aaaaall!!
Becca