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!

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Leading up to the Psych Ward

When I finally got into a psychiatrist, one of the first things he told me was that he wanted me to spend some time in a Psychiatric hospital.

A thousand thoughts started running through my mind at once.  Was I going to have to quit my job?  How long would I have to stay?  Did I have to sleep there?  Was I allowed to leave?  Why did I have to go there?  Was I crazy?!

I started thinking to myself, “no, I’m not crazy,” and before I even finished the thought, I remembered that “crazy people don’t think they’re crazy.”  That worried me even more.  I was fully aware that I had already begun to lose touch with reality for short periods of time, but I was terrified that I was even further gone than I’d realized.

“It’s the best way to get a clear diagnosis,” he told me.  He assured me that I was still psychologically stable enough to make my own choices, and he therefore couldn’t force me into anything I didn’t want to do.  He couldn’t admit me to the hospital against my will.

My next thought was, “okay great, so I won’t go.”

He wasn’t about to give up that easily, though.  He listed reason after reason why it was a good idea for me to go.  And eventually, I agreed – not without reluctance, however.  This all took place on a Thursday afternoon, and my bed at the hospital was reserved for the following Monday.  I was to stay two weeks.

I left my appointment that day feeling like I had failed myself.  I never imagined that anyone would think it necessary for me to stay in the psych ward.  I had never pictured myself in the situation I was now finding myself in, and I didn’t like the way it felt.  I called up Nick and I cried on the phone to him, telling him everything that had just transpired.  As always, he was supportive however he knew how to be, and assured me that the doctors knew the best route to take.

That didn’t ease my mind.  Although I knew that at this point my visit was voluntary, I managed to convince myself that they’d find something seriously wrong with me and I’d never be let out.  I was going to spend the rest of my life locked up in the loony bin.

Hello, anxiety.  Hello, paranoia.  Hello, delusional thinking.

My mind was a roller coaster.  My thoughts were strapped in, looping around and around, up and down, shaking me up as they went.

By the next day, I was in a full-blown depression.  I was dreading the trip to the hospital, and I couldn’t focus on anything else.  I came home from work that Friday evening and decided to go for a walk to try and clear my mind.  I didn’t take anything with me – not my phone, not my keys, not even a jacket.  It was just me and my crazy roller coaster mind.

I don’t know how long I was gone.  I wandered aimlessly for hours.  I stood on the bridge overlooking the river, then walked down, staring at the water for far too long.  I must have faded away from myself for a while, because the next thing I knew, I was sat at the train station near my house, just watching the trains go by.  I was sat at the end of the tracks – I always did that, because if I ever got the courage to jump, I wanted to be close enough to do it before I changed my mind.

Thankfully I never got the courage.

I don’t remember much from that night.  I remember being at the subway station, and then I remember standing outside my apartment building, reaching up to ring my own bell.  I was buzzed in, and I slowly climbed up the stairs.  Nick was running down them, panic-stricken, asking me where I had been, what I had been doing, what I had taken.

“Out.  I don’t know.  Nothing.”  Zombie-toned responses, expressionless face.

Although I was completely out of it, I hadn’t actually taken anything that night.  There was an open bottle of ibuprofen on the counter, and Nick thought I had gotten into it.  I hadn’t.  I had learned by that stage, through trial and error, that ibuprofen was just not going to get the job done.

Nick brought me inside, questioned me some more, and told me he had been so worried that he had been asking everyone if they had heard from me – he even had people on their way over to help look for me.

I was mad.  Furious. How many times had I told him not to tell people things about me?

I went into the bedroom, and Nick retreated back to the kitchen.  His senses were always on high when I was in a state, so it’s no wonder he heard me opening up the window, and was back in the room with me before I managed to climb up into it.  He stopped me well before I even attempted jumping.

I stormed out of the bedroom, probably en route to the kitchen for a knife, and I screamed bloody murder when I saw a friend in our living room.  He had just come in – he was already on his way over when I stumbled home.  I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there with us, and it shocked me so badly that I was sent into a sort of panic attack.  It also sent my anger over the edge, and I was instantly determined to do something, I just didn’t know what.

I can’t begin to describe the thoughts that were going through my mind at this stage, because I sincerely do not remember.  I can’t put myself back into that moment of time, because I wasn’t there with myself.  That person was not me.

I closed the bedroom door, claiming I wanted to just be alone, and when I thought no one was listening, I opened up the window again.  I climbed into the window sill, stood on the ledge, looking down four stories, as the bedroom door swung open behind me.  Nick bolted in, got me down from the window, and begged me to stay away from it.

He told me the bedroom door had to stay open now – I had proved to him that I couldn’t be trusted.

He said he’d leave me alone, but he’d be in the next room, with plain-sight view of the two windows.

I told Nick that I wanted the friend gone.  He said okay.  He left the room, I heard the door, and that was that.  I calmed down.  I got into bed.

I was just coming back into myself when I saw two men walk into my bedroom.  I didn’t know them.

I sat straight up, bewildered, and they spoke to me, in German, asking if I was okay.

Paramedics.

I told them I was fine now.  I knew I had to admit what had happened, because I was sure they already knew.  I told them I had had a bad moment – that yes, I had attempted to jump from the window, but I wouldn’t do it again; that I was calm now; that I was okay.

They stayed there and spoke to me for a while, suggesting they bring me to a hospital in Nussbaumstrasse – the very hospital that had a bed with my name on it reserved for two days later.  I told them I was going there on Monday, and that I would be okay at home until then.

All they had me do was promise them that I wouldn’t hurt myself.  I promised.  I could have easily been lying.

The medication works

For a while, I was convinced my doctor was giving me placebos.  I was certain he thought I was making everything up; that I was simply imagining my symptoms.  I thought there was absolutely no way he would prescribe me with real medication.  Even after researching the pills I had been prescribed, and getting them from the pharmacy with a complete list of ingredients, I thought they were fake.

I was positive that my doctor was just waiting for me to say I felt better.  And I thought that when I finally did, he’d say, “I told you so.”

I never thought the medication worked, until I found myself in the middle of a genuine, heart-felt laugh. 

I remember exactly where I was.  I was sitting on a train in Berlin, with my friend Charlynn.  I don’t remember why I was laughing, I just remember that I was – and it felt like the first time in my life that I ever had.

It wasn’t a laugh concealing a frown this time.  It wasn’t a laugh to trick people into thinking I was fine.  It wasn’t a laugh with a hidden agenda.  It was simply a real, happy, spontaneous laugh.

I caught myself in that laugh and I realized that I was finally okay again.  I knew I still had a long way to go, but for once I felt like I could actually get there.  Finally something was helping.

At this point, I had been taking my medication as directed for about two months – it took that long to notice any sort of change. I had thrown the pills in the garbage on more than one occasion before deciding to just stick with it.  Had I stuck with it from the beginning, that laugh probably would have happened a lot sooner.  But it didn’t, and that’s fine.

My relationship with my medication didn’t change right then and there.  While I realized I hadn’t been taking placebos after all, I still didn’t like the fact that I needed to be medicated in the first place.  I thought it was embarrassing that I had to ingest these little things every day just to be normal.  I hated my pills.  I resented my pills.  I saw my pills as a weakness.  I saw my medication as a problem in itself, even though I was fully aware it was meant to be part of a solution to a different problem.

Eventually I realized that it’s just a pill – that’s all it is!

It’s not a sign of a weakness, and it’s not a bad thing.  It’s a pill; a medication to help me get better.  Everyone needs a little bit of help with something – I happen to need a little bit of help balancing my mind.  And that is perfectly okay!

The medication works, and I am so thankful that it does.  Because for a long time, I was certain nothing would.

Here’s why you should talk about suicide

Suicide is the loss of a life at the hands of the very person living it.  It is raw, and it is scary.

Suicide is a sensitive subject – one that not everyone is comfortable with. People often shy away from talking about suicide because it’s not something they want to accept as relevant – they’d rather ignore it and hope it goes away.

Unfortunately this creates a vicious cycle, as it instills a fear in the suicidal – they are afraid that they will be judged and ridiculed for acknowledging their demons, and so they choose to suffer silently.  If people don’t openly talk about suicide, those suffering from its hold will not feel comfortable in coming forward to ask for help. They will be much more likely to succumb to their dark thoughts if they aren’t confident someone can help in fighting them off.

The depressive suicidal don’t believe in getting better – they don’t believe it’s possible.  They feel like they are stuck.  Hope is a foreign concept.  They don’t know what hope means anymore because they’ve forgotten what they’re being hopeful for.  They’ve forgotten what it feels like to be happy, and so they feel like happiness just doesn’t exist for them.  They aren’t hopeful they’ll get better because they can’t imagine a different life for themselves; they don’t remember life before depression took over.

Although society is headed in the right direction, there is still a strong stigma attached to mental health disorders and suicide.  We can’t fight that stigma with silence, and so we need to get people talking.

We need to open up.  We need to share our stories.  Because by sharing our stories, we can open eyes.

We can save lives.

Many of those we speak to will have never experienced this sort of thing for themselves.  Some might have a friend, a sibling, a parent or a child, who has.  We might be speaking to some people who have never ever knowingly been touched by suicide.

However, I can guarantee that we will also be speaking to people who have.  We might even unknowingly speak to someone who already has a plan.

We can be the reminder to that person that there is another way, even if they can’t see it right now.

We can be the reminder that they’re not alone, even if it feels like they are.

We can be the reminder that it’s okay to talk about it – and that they should talk about it.

We can be the reminder that they can get help; that things can change – that things can get better.

We can be the reminder that suicide doesn’t always win.

Music and Writing

Music is the world’s favourite form of expression, and a solace for many.  No matter the emotion you’re feeling, there is a song that relates.

My favourite artist alive today would have to be Sia.  Despite her music being everywhere, Sia stays in the background, where she likes to be.  She doesn’t want her face plastered on magazines, she doesn’t want to star in make up ads – she wants people to listen to her, and not focus on how she looks.  She happens to have a lot to say.

Apart from being extremely vocally talented, Sia seems to write directly from her soul.

I wrote this poem by rearranging lyrics from various Sia songs.  I feel like it shows just how much she really understands the afflictions many of us deal with in some form or another.  I hope you enjoy!


I wake up with a blind headache,
feels a bit like I might explode.
Electricity floods my brain,
and I can’t hide the pain.

I’m crying out – I’m breaking down.
I’m a mess; a fool; an empty space.
I am one single grain of sand,
going down the drain.

But I’m holding on for dear life.
I’m trying not to fall apart.

And while it’s a heavy load,
carrying those tears around,
death by crying doesn’t exist.
The tears on my pillow will dry,
and I will learn.

The pain may fill me,
but this is only right now.
There is hope for me.
The pain will not kill me.

I stand tall.
I know that I can survive.
I am strong.
Yesterday is gone and I will be okay;
I am a blank page waiting for life to start.

Giving up on Depression

When I’m depressed, I can’t remember what it feels like to be happy. I forget that I’ve been happy before. I believe I’ve been like this forever: this is the only state of mind I’ve ever been in, and it’s the only state of mind I will ever be in.

If somebody on the outside is telling me, “it gets better,” or “you’ll be fine.” It just makes me more angry. All I can think in those moments is, “yeah that’s you. You might feel better later. You can remember what it’s like to be happy. Yeah, that’s you – that’s not me.”

I get so delusional when I’m depressed that there is no convincing me – at least not from a third party. When I read my own words, though, there’s just no denying it. So when I’m in a good mood, I try to write about it. And then I read it when I’m depressed.

Sometimes I think, “yeah well, I felt like that before, but I’m never gonna feel that way again.”  But in the back of my mind, there’s always that thought that, no- you know what- that was me. Those were my thoughts. And if I’ve been there before, after I’ve been in a state like this, then it’ll happen again; I will climb out of this.

When I’m depressed, I think that everyone is against me. I think that I’m useless and I think that nobody wants to be around me, and the only reason people are – if they are – is because they feel bad for me, or they feel guilty, or they feel responsible. I hate myself and I can’t even imagine how anyone could feel any differently.

I forget that people are there with me because they want to be. They’re there for me because of the non-depressed me. They remember the real me, who’s hiding somewhere underneath this blanket of depression that is sometimes all too consuming. They remember that person and they want to help fight to get her back. That’s why they’re there.

On one hand, I want someone there with me. I want to know I’m not alone.

But on the other hand, I don’t want anyone around because I don’t want anyone subjected to my negativity and I don’t want to have to explain myself to anyone.

I want to just cry, and feel bad for myself, and ignore everything else in the world and just live in my fucking miserable bubble. Because it’s really all I feel like I can do.

These are the thoughts that are going through my mind:
“I’m a piece of shit.”
“Everyone hates me.”
“They want to have their own life without me in it.”

When I’m in a better state of mind, I feel bad for myself and for the fact that I cant realise how much people actually love me. 

I don’t think anyone really resents the person that’s projecting these feelings. They resent the depression – the thing that’s making the person be that person, because they’re not that person.

So this is what I want to say, to anyone who recognizes the feelings I described above:

This isn’t who you are. This is a state that you’re in. This is something that can be dealt with.

You feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You feel totally useless and helpless, and hopeless, and worthless. You feel like you’re not even here anymore – you feel like you’ve already died. And on top of that, you genuinely believe that nobody actually wants you around.

You think that you’re taking away their fun. You think that you’re taking away all of the happy feelings that they could be feeling, that they cant be feeling because they’re busy feeling your sadness with you. But they can always leave – they can walk away. If they don’t want to be there for you then they don’t have to be there for you.

There’s always gonna be people who just don’t get it. People who just brush you off – the worst is when people accuse you of making shit up. They just don’t understand. They never will. And that’s okay.

Nobody wants to see you sad. But it’s okay that you are. People can help you get out of that sadness. Whether it’s therapy, binge watching a tv show and pigging out on ben and jerry’s with a friend – you don’t have to say a word. Whether it’s medication, or going for a run, or reading a book and forgetting about yourself for an hour or two.

Or whether it’s feeling everything that you’re feeling – all of those terrible emotions. Let them consume you for a bit. Feel shitty. Feel terrible. Feel awful. Feel everything and then let yourself become numb to it. And then, take a deep breath. Cry yourself to sleep. And then get up in the morning and read your happy thoughts. Try to picture yourself at the moment you wrote it – try to remember how great you felt. The same person who wrote those happy things is the same person who’s feeling shitty right now.

You were happy. You can be happy again.

Don’t give up. Even if it’s all you wanna do. Because even if you can’t see a future for yourself right now… you still have one. And you can figure out what it is.

Just don’t give up.

Help me instead of hating me

For me, writing has always been a sort of solace.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed by my thoughts, I write to get them out and organize them.  I have countless word documents on my computer from over the years. Most of them are short; just a few lines I wrote when I needed to vent.  I typically feel the need to vent when I’m in a bad state, and so a lot of my writing is quite sad.  Some of it, though, is downright scary – even for me.  It’s those documents that remind me of how very real depression is.

I make an effort to write when I’m in a happy mood, too.  I write to myself so I can read it when I’ve fallen back into a depression.  I read my own happy thoughts as a reminder that I’ve been there before, and I can get there again.

Although I am feeling strong right now, not everyone is.  And I wasn’t always.  The following is a rework of many recurring thoughts I’ve had when I’ve been depressed.

I’ve written it to anyone who is trying to support a person suffering from depression.  I get that it can be exhausting to care for someone who doesn’t seem to respond to your attempts to help.  I wrote this, hoping to provide some perspective – to both parties.

——————————————————————–

You may never say it, but I know you resent me.  At least sometimes.

You resent me for holding you back.  You resent me because you don’t want to be stuck here, looking after me.  You are annoyed by me.  You wish I had no problems, so you could go out and do whatever you want, whenever you want, and never have to worry about me.

I’m sorry to put you through this. 

I get that it’s hard for you, too.  You want to understand but you can’t.  You can’t because you’ve never experienced this – and I am so glad for that, because believe me: this fucking sucks. 

You want to provide solutions.  You want to fix my problems.  But you can’t.

You know this isn’t my fault, but sometimes you forget.  Sometimes you get mad at me for being such a downer.  And sometimes, you do blame me – you say it is my fault, and that if I’d just get out of bed, everything would be fine. 

No.  It’s not that simple, although I wish it were – and I know you wish the same.

I want so badly to want to do things.  I want so badly to want to go out.  I want so badly to want to be social.  But I don’t want to.  I can’t want to.  No matter how hard I try to want to.

I want to believe that people like me, and that they want to be around me.  But I can’t believe it.  My mind won’t allow me to believe it.

I know that my negative attitude brings my negative thoughts to life: I know that no one wants to be around someone who is sad all the time.  You don’t need to remind me of that.

Try to remember that I can’t help it.  I didn’t choose this.  It chose me, I guess.

Support me by reminding me that this is now; this is not forever

Validate my feelings, because what I’m feeling is real.  Accept the fact that I am the way I am right now: I am sad.  I am feeling worthless, useless, and hopeless.  Validate me, and then remind me that you’re here for me; that WE will get through this together.

I know you’ll have moments where you resent me.  That’s okay.  This isn’t a walk in the park for you, either.  Just try to remember it’s not me you’re resenting: it’s the depression. 

Help me instead of hating me.

My Two Closest Friends

Depression never used to knock before coming in.  Depression would just show up, uninvited, and stay as long as she pleased.  She’d hang out with me wherever I was.  She’s quite lazy though, and usually convinced me to stay in bed all day.  We wouldn’t do anything!  Even if we watched a movie, I could never pay attention because she was so distracting – always rambling to me, talking about god-knows-what.  It’s really hard to focus on one thing when someone is talking in your ear about something else.  Basically, whenever she came over, I was stuck doing whatever she wanted to do (and that doesn’t consist of much).

Sometimes, when I had friends over, she’d leave me alone for a bit.  She’d hang back, I’d hang out, she’d wait for them to leave, and then she’d come out as soon as the door shut behind them.  Usually, though, she’d demand all the attention: my friends would come over to hang out with me, but they’d end up hanging out with Depression.  I’d kind of just be there in the background… somewhere.

One day, Depression and I were hanging out.  She left soon after she came though – which was a very rare occurrence! – so I decided to go out.  I ended up meeting Mania that night.

Mania and I instantly hit it off.  We went out together with a group of my friends and had a fantastic night out.  We spent a bit too much money and drank a bit more than we maybe should have, but I didn’t care!  It was too fun to care.  After that night, Mania and I hung out nonstop for about two weeks.  We had become inseparable!

I guess Depression heard that Mania and I had been spending a lot of time together, and she wanted to be a part of it.  But for some reason, our schedules never allowed for us to spend time as a trio.  Depression kept asking me to hang out more and more frequently.  Every time she’d heard that Mania had been over, she’d insist on coming by the next day.  She was even more selfish during these visits, if that were even possible.

Everything had to revolve around her.  If she didn’t feel like eating, we wouldn’t eat.  Oh, but if she did want to eat, we’d eat an unnecessarily large amount of food.  If she didn’t feel like talking, we’d sit in silence.  But, of course, if she did want to talk, we’d talk nonstop about whatever she wanted to discuss.  I say ‘discuss’, but really it was more of a lecture: I just listened to her talk; I never had a say in anything.

Eventually, I couldn’t even have friends over anymore while she was in town.  She would literally take the phone out of my hand and write up some excuse.  She even forbade me from going to work.  She’d call in, pretend to be me, and say she was sick with the flu, or food poisoning, or whatever else came to mind.

I don’t know why I never stopped her.  I just never really felt like I could.  Peer pressure, maybe?

Anyway, I started to strongly resent Depression.  Hate her, really.  Looking back, I realize that Depression had sort of become a little jealous of Mania.  But at the time, I just wanted to hang out with Mania and forget about Depression entirely.

Mania and I always had so much fun together.  She managed to make me forget about Depression, even though we’d been so close for so long.  I always thought Depression and I would be in each other’s lives forever, but Mania made me second-guess that notion.  She pointed out how terrible Depression treated me.  I honestly never realized it until then, but it was a very abusive relationship.

It was a good thing that Mania and Depression were never in the same room.  I feel like Depression would have definitely taken away all the fun.

Those days, I hung out with Mania as much as I could.  Depression would still come by every once in a while, but she didn’t stay as long as she used to.  Mania was my new best friend.

The early days of my friendship with Mania were great!  We would always be on the go, doing something, going somewhere.  We would spend our free days making things, writing stories together or planning a trip.  I would go to work and she would entertain herself – that was another thing I greatly appreciated, because Depression couldn’t handle me leaving her alone while I went to work.  We went out on the weekends and the occasional – albeit rare – week night.  We had a great social life and my friends absolutely loved her.

After a while though, she started to go a little wild.  And, well, I saw how much fun she was having and couldn’t resist joining in.

We started to go out a lot.  We spent money on things we didn’t need.  We drank. We did drugs. We had a very unhealthy sleep schedule.  We would go days without sleeping properly, and then crash for 20 or more consecutive hours.  Usually, I’d wake up to an empty bed and the doorbell ringing: Mania was gone, and Depression was back.

It was exhausting, keeping up with those two!  If I wasn’t with one, I was with the other.  I had very few days to myself.

Depression came over after Mania and I had had another binge.  I wanted her to go the second she walked in, but I didn’t want to be rude, and I had a hard time flat-out asking her to leave.  After all, she did just want my company.

She eventually opened up and told me she was upset – she felt like Mania had taken over and that I didn’t like her anymore.  She told me she missed me, and just wanted to spend more time with me.  She asked me if we could just stay in bed all day and pretend to watch movies while she distracted me, like old times.  The fact that this all made me feel guilty didn’t even matter: I was so exhausted after my binge with Mania that it actually sounded like a great idea.

So, we stayed in that bed for almost an entire week straight.  We slept most of the time.  We ate occasionally.  We would start a movie and I’d turn it off after a few minutes of her rambling.  I would wake up in the morning and see that she was still asleep, and I’d resolve to stay in bed so as not to leave her. It always upset her to wake up alone.  Sleep, sleep, sleep, repeat.

After a couple of weeks, Depression left, and I was by myself for the first time in over a month.  I was able to reflect on things, and I realized that maybe Depression wasn’t as evil as Mania made her out to be.  She was just lonely.  I felt bad for her more than I felt hurt by her.

Mania wasn’t perfect, anyway – was she?  Sure, we had loads of fun together, but I always spent way too much money while she was around, and it took me days to recover from our sleepless, drug and alcohol induced binges.

It was hard to talk to my other friends about Depression and Mania though, because they didn’t know either of them like I did; they could never really understand our relationship.

Sure, Depression held me back sometimes, but she also held me closer than any other friend ever had.  I could feel how much she wanted me around.  No one can argue the fact that it feels nice to be wanted. And yes, Mania would encourage me to do things that might not have been the best idea, but in the moment, it was always so fun and exhilarating.  We spent money I didn’t have, but we created amazing memories.

Mania was much better at winning me, as well as everyone else, over. She would show up, just like Depression always did, and instead of coming in to hang out, she’d insist we go out and do something.

She wasn’t always in her wild, party mode: sometimes she’d revert back to her original form, and we’d be incredibly productive.  She’d come over and help me clean my house (this was especially nice when she came after Depression had been over, because there was always an accumulated mess), or we’d cook a delicious dinner, or we’d paint something or draw something or rearrange my apartment.

I started to resent Depression.  Again.  This time, more intensely.  And it stuck.

She’d come over and my spirit would sink away to nothingness.  I knew that the moment she walked in the door, there was no more fun to be had.  So I got fed up.  I told Depression that she couldn’t just keep coming over without at least telling me first.  She needed to give me a warning before she came, so I could prepare.  I could never get anything done while she was around.  What if I needed to do laundry?  What if I had someone visiting and actually wanted to spend some quality time with them?  Reluctantly, she agreed that she’d let me know she was coming when possible, but couldn’t always be sure how long she’d stay.  Fair enough, I thought.

As with many things, I was wrong.

These days, Depression sometimes lets me know she’s coming.  I know she’ll be here in a few days.  I can prepare myself as much as possible, but I can never really prepare.  I don’t know how long she’s going to be here.  I know I’m going to be stuck with her, and I know I can’t tell her to leave, but I don’t know when she’ll be gone.  Trying to plan my life around her uncertainties is even worse than being utterly uninformed of her arrival.

Mania never tells me when she’s coming.  I’ve asked her to, but she refuses.  She says she wants it to be a surprise.   I’d rather be surprised by Depression than by Mania.  I want to know when Mania is coming because I want to be able to look forward to the fun.  I want to be surprised by Depression because I want to be oblivious that I’ll be in pain until the pain has already begun.

Unfortunately though, that’s not how it is.  Depression’s compromise was a warning.  She won’t leave me alone, but she’ll let me know when she’s coming.  Mania’s ‘compromise’ is surprise.  She won’t leave me alone, she certainly won’t inform me of her plans, but we’ll have a blast when she gets here.  I cannot rely on her.

This is how it is.  These are my two friends, Depression and Mania, and they’re going to visit me until they tire of me.  They’re going to stick around as long as they please, without my permission, my consent or even my affection.  It’s not certain how often they’ll come, or how long they’ll stay.  It’s not even certain that they’ll ever leave.

All that’s certain is me.   I am certain that I cannot, and will not, ignore them. I am certain that I will accept them.  But most of all: I am certain that they will be my friends, and not my keepers.  I will run the show; they’ll just be my co-stars.

Schizophrenic Parenting

It’s pretty nice to be at a point where I can think about what I want for my ‘future’.  I didn’t always think I’d have one – I didn’t always want one.  I still have days where I don’t.  But, generally speaking, I do.

So, what comes to mind when I think about my life five, ten, fifteen years from now?  Kids.

Do I want kids?  I honestly do not know.  If I do have kids, though, it definitely won’t be any time soon.

I need to be realistic and honest with myself.  I need to think of the pros and cons.  And I can’t be selfish about it.  Would I really be able to raise a healthy, stable-minded child, when I can’t even describe myself that way a lot of the time? And even if I did manage it – hopefully, with the help of said child’s paternal figure – would it really be the right thing to do?

Even if I can teach a child right from wrong, how to cross the street safely, how to feed him/herself, etc… do I really want to subject my own flesh and blood to a life of living with me?

Like I said, I need to be honest with myself.  And realistic.

Schizo-affective disorder is likely with me for life.  And there is no telling whether it will get worse or better, stay the same, or if I might pass it on to future generations. Genetics aside, though, I just don’t know if it’s fair to bring a child into my world of uncertainties.

Looking back at my not-so-distant past, there were periods where I was the child.  A grown-up child – the worst kind.  I needed to be taken care of.  I needed people to watch out for me, to keep me safe, to make sure I was keeping myself healthy and alive.

If I fall into a state like that again, what would happen to that poor babe of mine?

I can say – and part of me believes it – that it wouldn’t happen if I had a child.  I’d persevere.  I wouldn’t let my mind stop me from taking care of my baby, because my maternal instincts simply wouldn’t allow for it.  But is that really true?  Would it really all pan out that way?  It kind of seems like a naïve way to look at parenting.

But then again, by saying this, am I just furthering the stigma about mental health?  Am I just putting myself down?

We’ve all heard the stories about mothers hurting their own children while in a psychotic state.  Sometimes, the poor mothers and children don’t survive.  Sometimes, they do survive, but are left with a scar and an inability to trust the very person who brought them into the world. This isn’t always a woman who suffered with her mental stability before she had kids.  Postpartum depression comes in many forms and severities – mild to downright scary.  All this tells me is that having kids is always a risk, regardless of your state of mind beforehand.

So, there are some of the cons.  What about the pros?

With me as a mother, I think any child would have a rather open mind.  They’d have to.  They’d be surrounded by me and my loud opinions, and I’d certainly introduce them to other opinions – even some I don’t necessarily agree with.

They’d grow up with an understanding of life that a lot of kids are likely sheltered from. It isn’t all black and white, and no baby of mine would be a stranger to that knowledge.

They’d grow up with more responsibilities than the average child.  But, at the same time, I would baby them more than I probably should.  It’d be an interesting mix.

“Come on, you’re 8 months old – make your own dinner!”
“Oohh, come here, let me cuddle you to sleep even though you’re 15.”

I think, especially for me, a very important factor about becoming a mama would be to make sure I had that perfect partner in crime.  I’d need a dude with a clear understanding of me and my quirks.  He’d need to know how to deal with me at my absolute worst, and he’d need to know how to encourage me to be my absolute best.  He’d also need to understand that I’ll have days where I hate him for doing just that.  But he’d have to stick to it.  I don’t need to be married to him for all eternity – but I do need to know, with confidence, that he’s up for the challenge – and the ultimate reward – of parenthood.  With me.  For good.  But isn’t that the same for everyone?

Finally, the biggest and most important pro of all: that baby would be LOVED.  I would love that tiny human with my entire soul and more.  I’d shower that munchkin with hugs and kisses and words of affection.  I’d embarrass that baby well into their teenage years.  I’d bake them their favourite cookies at ungodly hours and I’d always let them crawl into my bed, regardless of how silly the reason.  They’d be my entire universe and they’d be well aware of it.

While love is a very important tool in parenting and life in general, it doesn’t solve everything.  It can’t pay the bills.  Love isn’t going to pull you out of bed when you’re feeling low.  Love, sadly, can’t conquer everything in the world we live in.  There is a lot that goes into raising a child, and I still don’t know if I’ve got it all in my schizo-self.

I really don’t know what defines a good potential parent.  A person could appear to be the strongest and most reasonable person on the planet, but then the responsibility and the feelings of vulnerability that come with parenting may break them down completely. How can you know what kind of person someone will be once their entire life has changed?  How can you judge someone’s ability to do something without giving them the opportunity to actually do it?

Unfortunately, though, it seems to me that the people with the strongest opinions on the matter are usually the ones who don’t really have a clue.

Often times, I hear people talk negatively about schizophrenia, bi polar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder (the list goes on).  As soon as I mention I’ve got one – or two, or a combination – of the above listed disorders, they’re extremely surprised, “oh my god!  I’m so sorry!  You totally don’t seem messed up at all!”  they go on about how guilty they feel about all the nasty things that just escaped their mouth.

But maybe, if you’re so surprised, and you feel that guilty about what you just said, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

I think there are a lot of factors to consider, and I think there are a lot of uneducated people with skewed opinions on the matter who spread the wrong kinds of information.

So, what do you think about it all?  Should the mentally ill be parents?

I hope you never understand

I hope you never know what it’s like to wake up and wish you hadn’t.  Not because you’re tired and you want another few minutes of sleep; not because you’re hungover; not because it’s Monday and you don’t want to go to work.

I mean you wake up, and you realise tomorrow came – and it’s not a good feeling. I mean you wake up and you open your eyes, only to close them right away and silently will yourself away from it all.  I mean you wake up and you are disappointed that you didn’t, by some miracle, die in your sleep.

Quite simply, I mean waking up is just a reminder that you haven’t escaped your life yet.  You’re still here.  And I hope you never understand what it’s like to wish you weren’t here.

I hope you never understand what it’s like to be unable to get out of bed.   Not physically – because physically, you are capable.  Your legs work.  Your heart is beating.  But I hope you never understand what it’s like to be unable to move simply because your thoughts are crippling you.  I hope you never understand what it’s like to be held in place, stuck there, battling with yourself within your own mind.  Swing that leg out and touch the floor.  Take a step.  Get out of the bed.

I hope you never understand what it’s like to forget what happiness feels like.  I hope you never feel like there’s no way out of your sadness.  I hope you never get overcome by numbness.  I hope you never experience that feeling of pure emptiness.  I hope you never feel like there is nothing good, or bad, coming around the corner.  I hope you never feel like you can’t imagine there being a future for you.  

I hope you never need to rely on people to remind you to eat.

I hope you never need to rely on people to remind you to sleep, or to be awake.

I hope you never need to rely on people to remind you to take your multiple medications on a daily basis.

I hope you never, ever need to rely on people to hide all the sharp knives in the house so you can’t get ahold of them to hurt yourself.

I hope you never, ever need to be checked on every time you take a bath, just because there’s a chance you’re trying to drown yourself.

I hope you never know what it’s like to not be trusted near open windows.

I hope you never have to convince yourself not to jump in front of the train as it approaches on the platform.

I hope you never understand what it means to be afraid of opening the front door and stepping out into the real world.

I hope you never have to force yourself to appear normal and happy when all you want to do is run and hide, and never come out.

I hope you never understand what it feels like to worry that everyone in the world is against you.

I really hope you never understand what it means to feel completely alone while you’re surrounded by people.

I really, really hope you never understand what it means to want to end it all.

I do hope you understand that you can’t always understand.

I do hope you understand that you don’t need to understand.

I hope you understand that you can’t fix everything.

I hope you understand that no one thinks you can, and no one is expecting you to.

I think you do understand that no one knows the battles other people are fighting.

I think you do understand that we all have our own stories.

I think you understand that we don’t need to understand each other to support each other, and to love each other, and to wish the very best for each other.

I think you can see that all anyone has ever wanted is to be accepted.

So, stand by me.  Lie next to me.  Sit with me.  Talk to me.   Stay silent.  Hold my hand or smile at me.  Tell me you’re with me and that everything will be okay, someday.  It might not be now.  I know that.  I might be hurting for a long time.  I might be numb for a long time.  I might be happy for a long time, and I might feel myself falling down the tunnel again.

So just tell me you’ll stay with me and you’ll protect me from myself, because that’s who I’m most afraid of.

Tell me you’ll hang out with me until the storm passes.  And then, once it has, hang out with me some more.

You don’t have to understand me.  I don’t want you to know what this is like, because I know it’s awful, and that’s enough.  I don’t want you to know it for yourself.

I just want to know that you’re here with me.