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!