Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I feel like Humpty Dumpty with nothing but a gluestick.

Lately it feels like every day comes with a new insight into just how broken I am. I’ve known since I was fifteen that I have clinical depression.  For more than twenty years I have cycled between dysthemia (low level but constant depression that dulls your senses and affects every part of your life) and major depressive episodes.  There have been periods where I was depression free – most of university for example and most of the time since I’ve been on my meds – but most of my life has been lived in varying degrees of depression.  The first time I spoke to someone about it I was fifteen, ever since then every conversation I’ve had with anyone about my mental health has been about depression.

No one has ever asked me about anxiety, no one has asked me about flashbacks, no one has asked me about anything that would have helped them to see what I believe is the bigger picture.

The first time it occurred to me that I might have PTSD was over ten years ago.  But the images we are given of PTSD are of soldiers returned from war hitting the deck when a car backfires. We are led to believe that anyone with it can barely function and has vivid full-blown flashbacks where they lose touch with reality and relive their trauma. So I never spoke to anyone about it because I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously, I’d never been to war after all and I never hallucinated or lost touch with reality.

It’s the same with anxiety, I’ve only ever had two anxiety attacks in my life. When I was about ten I had an attack that left me rocking back and forth, crying, convinced that “they were coming to get me”, I’m still not sure who “they” were.  Last year I had a mild anxiety attack with a racing heart and shaking hands. They were very different experiences but I call them both anxiety attacks, the first because of the intense fear and paranoia, the second because of the physiological symptoms. I had always thought that having an anxiety disorder meant having panic attacks all the time so I figured that while I had some anxiety it obviously wasn’t bad enough to talk to anyone about.

A lot of the time if someone had asked me about anxiety I would have said, “No, I don’t have a lot of anxiety” when what I really meant was that I don’t feel anxious all the time. What I failed to acknowledge was that the reason I didn’t feel anxious was because I had circumscribed my life to avoid those things that made me anxious.  But living a life of avoidance is not the same as being anxiety free.

Part of the problem too is that I honestly don’t know what “normal” feels like. I don’t know how non-anxious people respond to things so I don’t know if my responses are anxious or normal.  I find myself asking things like, “Is it normal to get shaky and feel butterflies in my chest when I mildly disagree with someone on Twitter?”  I’m guessing no.

So maybe I could just say that I have the dual diagnosis of depression and anxiety but I still don’t think that’s the whole picture.

When I went in for my mood disorder assessment the psychiatrist told me that I needed to treat my trauma before I got any CBT or MBCT.  Which got me thinking about PTSD again.  So I Googled it, and there was one symptom that really jumped out at me: The sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career).  Did I ever tell you that I used to believe that I would never live past the age of twenty-five? True story.

Another significant symptom for me was “persistent feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt, or being completely different from others” (  Although, to be fair, I’ve felt completely different since I was a child, the feeling has only grown more intense as I’ve gotten older.

So, last night I started looking at online assessments.  After three tests the consensus is that I do likely have PTSD.

So I guess that’s how broken I am.

This whole journey has consistently shown me how wholly inadequate the mental health care system is.  Not once in the last twenty years has anyone given me a comprehensive mental health evaluation.  I said I was depressed, they asked depression related questions and then they agreed with my assessment.  This is not how diagnosis should work.

Depression is known to co-occur with, or be a symptom of, other mental illnesses but everyone I ever talked to took for granted that depression was the extent of my problem.  A friend of mine recently had the same kind of experience.  He’d spent most of his life trying to get treatment for depression only to find out upon proper assessment that he has BPD (you should check out his blog, he’s writing great stuff about his own process).

It’s hard enough to get any kind of treatment or assessment for mental health issues – especially when you have no money – but to have a diagnosis based on tunnel vision can severely prolong how long you go untreated or inadequately treated.  How might things have been different for my and my friend had we been properly diagnosed ten or fifteen years ago? Nobody knows.  All we really know is that our lives have been put on hold for way too long, and to think that we could have had treatment and perhaps moved forward with our lives decades earlier is saddening and infuriating.

And even now that I feel pretty sure of this diagnosis I have a sinking feeling that there will still be no treatment in sight.  And of course that awareness that I may continue to be insufficiently treated only solidifies my fears that I have gotten as far as I can in my professional life, because without some kind of healing I can’t begin to imagine how to do what I need to do to move forward.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Room

There is a part of my mind that is still in that room.  I can see it so clearly, two single beds, one by the window, one with its head against the wall.  Black out curtains on the window so no sunlight could sneak in.  As I remember it there wasn’t much else in there, no posters on the wall, maybe a dresser? I’m not sure.

But it's not just the room.

The bed, the shorts I was wearing (since shredded ceremonially), his face, his hands. His hands, where they had no right to be.  Where they had trespassed. My face turning to the side, looking away unable to stop it, unable to say no or to move his hand yet again.  And I remember how it felt, physically. I remember that my body first betrayed me, and then it hurt.  I remember feeling defeated.

The house is still there, the house where part of me died a slow death.  I try to not look at it but I can’t stop myself, every time we drive by.

But that room, that room has moved. That room has found a new home in my head.

And there is part of my heart and my mind locked in there, crying on the bed, wishing he would just get the fuck off of me.

Song of the day: Long way to happy by P!nk

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Life as it should be

I once had a therapist tell me that I’m living life as it should be in the world as it is.  It was probably one of the most powerful things a therapist has ever said to me.  I find myself living with a constant narrative in my head telling me that I don’t measure up to others, that I’ve missed the boat on growing up, that I have and am destined to fail.  So here’s my dirty secret: the closest I’ve come to a “real job” is a three month contract about a year before I had M.  That came after completing a psychology degree with honours, one year of grad school, a diploma in web design and administration and a certificate in arts administration.  All that edumacation and I never managed to get beyond one short-term contract.

When I had M and started connecting with other moms they were all on mat leave, coming from a wide variety of professions. While they were trying to decide how long to stay home before returning to work I was filled with anxiety and insecurity because I had nothing to return to. When I became pregnant I was engaged in a long and fruitless job search in arts admin and the thought of trying to return to that with an additional few years of being out with my kid seemed impossible. For about a year I operated under the delusion that I wanted to be an electrician until on the last night of my electrical theory class I realized there was no part of me that really wanted that.

So I went home, sat down with H and said, “I don’t want to do this, I really don’t” and he said, “Okay, let’s figure out what you do want to do” (have I mentioned how much I love that man?). I picked up the continuing ed course catalogue for a local college and started to flip through it for inspiration, and I found it.  One of their courses was in “life skills coaching”, not the same thing as life coaching but it reminded me that I had actually thought about becoming a life coach before but had dismissed it because I figured I couldn’t afford the time or money to train for it.  I did my research, picked a school and dipped into the money given to me by my grandfather.  Two years later I had a certificate in hand, a website up and running and even a couple of clients.  I love coaching.  It feels like a perfect fit.  If I could afford to I would do it for free but of course I can’t afford to do that.  And therein lies the rub. Whenever I think of how little I contribute financially to my household I get overwhelmed with guilt, insecurity and a diminished sense of worth.  It’s like my ability to make money overshadows everything else in my life.

I love where my life is at right now. I have a great partner and a solid marriage, an incredible child, a home that I love (despite the old roof and bizarre DIY work of the previous owners), some great friends and I’m doing work that I love.  But when I start to think about money and my perception of what others see as valuable or important it eclipses all of that. It casts a pall over my otherwise thoroughly fulfilling life.

I also know that I was not just twiddling my thumbs while everyone else was pursuing their careers and “getting things done”.  But the work in which I was engaged was of a deeper more personal kind.  While others were building their external lives and engaging with the outside world I was doing the hard but invisible work of healing, of trying to learn how to be okay.  It boggles my mind now to think of how many years I went, knowing that I needed some kind of treatment, some kind of professional support in my quest for mental health, and got none.  Ironically, university was the one time in my life when I could have gotten free therapy but I never availed myself of it because university was also the longest stretch I went un-medicated with no significant episodes of depression.  Until a month or two before graduation when I started to slip into a nearly paralysing depression that waxed and waned for more than a year.  At a time when I should have been jumping into the working world I was barely able to leave the house, just struggling to keep my head above water.

I know all of this. I know, intellectually how important the work of healing has been and how much energy and time it has taken and still takes.

But despite knowing all of that, I just can’t seem to shut down that voice that tells me that I can’t and will never measure up. That failure is inevitable. That I’m going through the motions, pretending that I haven’t already failed.  That there’s nowhere left to go because if I can’t make a success of this I don’t know what else to do.  That even if I decided to give up and go to work for someone else, no one would have me.

And right now I just want to “live my life as it should be” and “the world as it is” can go fuck itself.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sigh. Here we go again.

So the ugly beast rears its head again.
I am so tired of this
This being crazy
This being broken
This roller coaster ride that is my mental health.

I spoke to a friend about my insecurities when I hear other mothers talking about how tired they are after they run off a list of the fifty things they did that day.
I told her that when I hear this I think, “How did you do all of that? I barely clean and I’m still exhausted.”
The reality is that with every day I am doing the invisible work.
Not the invisible work of motherhood or marriage but the invisible work of being and staying okay.
The invisible work of holding myself together.

We talk a lot about the importance of being true to yourself and forging your own path. We talk about the value of the outliers and those who see the world differently.
We talk about not caring about social expectations or conventional norms.

What we fail to talk about is that just because you are different, just because you follow your own path, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard as hell.

I don’t want to be anyone else.
I don’t want to fit in.
But I do want to have somewhere that I feel I belong.
I try to imagine what it must feel like to not feel so profoundly set a part from those around me.

I want to know what it feels like to not feel profoundly, inexorably broken.

I want to know what it feels like to not have lost a parent.
I want to know what it feels like to have a clear and well-defined path.
I want to know what it feels like to have a cohesive extended family.
I want to know what it feels like to assume that things will work out.
I want to know what it feels like to have a consistent group of long time friends.
I want to know what it feels like to feel comfortable in social situations.
I want to know what it feels like to not always be wondering if I should expose this or that part of my life and my history.

And sometimes, when things get bad I want to know what it feels like to drink myself into oblivion.
Sometimes I want to know what it feels like to make the pain real with a razor.
Sometimes I want to know what it feels like to smash everything in sight.

For whatever reason, something stops me. I can’t bring myself to cross these lines.
I know that I have to find a way to push through.
And then sometimes I feel trapped.
I feel trapped by the knowledge that not living isn’t an option.

And so, I’m tired. Tired to the marrow of doing what I need to do to be okay.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Silence means "no"

Get ready 'cause this is a long one.

When I was thirteen I had a bad boyfriend that changed everything.  I spent years telling the story of K__ to any friend that would listen, I processed until I was blue in the face.  As an adult I don’t talk about it.  Like an old wound, it’s the scab that I don’t want to pick.  I am scared that if I tell that story one more time it will open a crack and that crack will become a chasm.  This is not okay.  This is not healing.  Out of fear of rumination I have locked that confused, hurt thirteen-year-old in a cage.  Just thinking about writing this makes my heart clench and my tears flow.  I don’t want this 21 year-old wound to have this kind of power over me anymore so for the first time, I am going to write it.  I apologize in advance for some of the language but these are words I haven’t let myself say in twenty years, this time I won’t shy away from them.

K__ was my second ever boyfriend.  I was in grade 9 and still not used to the idea that boys might actually find me attractive.  Both he and his best friend E__ wanted to go out with me but I chose K__.  From the beginning I was very clear about my boundaries, I told him that nothing was going to happen below the belt.  I spent every lunch hour and every weekend with him, mostly at E__’s house.  Because I didn’t live in town I would spend the whole weekend, sleeping at E__’s house because his mother was never around and we could do whatever we wanted.  In two months we never went out anywhere, no movies, no hangin’ at Tim Horton’s (kind of like Dunkin’ Donuts for all the Americans out there), not even the pool hall.  All we seemed to do was make out. 

Before I started dating him I went to every dance.  The one time I went to a dance while I was dating K__ he refused to go and threw an all-out passive aggressive temper tantrum.  He even had E__ and his girlfriend ganging up on me about what a horrible bitch I was to go the dance.  I though I was so empowered when I went to that dance.  I had my small victories, like when he tried to tell me I couldn’t have male friends.  I told him that he didn’t get to tell me who to be friends with.  I fooled myself into believing that I was “not taking any shit.”  I knew enough not to let him tell me what to do, but I wasn’t prepared for the more subtle and insidious kinds of control. 

One incident that sticks out in my mind was one of the most baffling and surreal fights I ever had with a boyfriend.  His best friend E__ had a crush on me, he had since before I started dating K__.  This one day E__ was particularly mopy about not having “got” me and complaining to K__ about it.  So K__ got mad at me.  Seriously, I’m not shitting you.  My boyfriend got mad at me because I didn’t “like” his friend.  What the hell can you say to that?  In everything K__ ever did that was manipulative, hurtful or controlling E__ was his sidekick.

Throughout all of this I was sinking into a depression.  One day, when the four of us (me, K__, E__ and The Girlfriend) were walking to E__’s house I became so overwhelmed by it that I just stopped dead and sat down on the sidewalk.  Nobody knew what to do, it took about ten minutes for them to get me up and walking. 

K__ was always testing my boundaries, he’d try to get his hand in my pants, I would move it away.  He’d put my hand on his crotch, I would pull it away.  One time, when I didn’t want to touch his dick he badgered and whined, “just this one time, don’t you love me, come on are you going to be a virgin forever?!” then he moped and E__ and girlfriend hounded me for the next half hour.  I don’t really know how to convey the atmosphere of relentless pressure, it was exhausting.  My mother, my friends and even one of his friends kept telling me that he was treating me like shit, that I should leave him. 

One day we were making out at E__’s house, as usual, and he tried to get his hands in my pants, as usual, but this time I just didn’t have any more resources to say no.  I was worn out, worn down.  It was not a “yes” it was defeat.  When he finished I said, “you promised you’d never finger me” and he said, “I didn’t.”  And I believed him.  I fucking believed him because I didn’t know any better.  Then he asked if just this once he could kiss me “down there”  “I promise I won’t eat you out” he said.  “Fine” I said as I turned my head to the side.

Later, I ran into a friend of his who told me that K__ said he’d eaten me out.  I was angry that he’d talked about it but I was also confused.  Who had he lied to?  Me or his friend?

The next day I raided my mother’s closet for an outfit that would be too hard for K__ to get his hands into.  When I think about that, it’s like there were alarm bells ringing in my head but I didn’t know what they meant.  That day K__ and I got in a huge fight because I was upset that all we ever did was make out.  It ended with a lot of yelling and swearing and me dumping him for the third and final time. I don't remember the details of the first two break-ups but I do know a few things.

I know that the first time I dumped him he wrote me a letter with veiled suicide threats, “if you don’t take me back I may as well kill myself.”  I knew it was manipulation and yet I went back. 

I know that the second time I dumped him I wrote a poem* about how badly he treated me, and yet I went back, hiding the poem from him to protect his feelings. 

I know that he cheated on me more than once and I continued to trust him.

I know that he forced me to watch porn.

When I left the house that day I had nowhere to go.  I walked straight to the house of a guy who had been nice to me at the dance.  He seemed so nice and understanding, he listened to me and I told him what had happened.  He promised never to pressure me.  The next day when I wouldn’t let him in my pants he told me we were “moving too fast" and we shouldn't go out together.  It was like a brick to the face.  I couldn’t believe I’d fallen for his “understanding guy” routine.  I walked out of the house and sat dead in the middle of the intersection.  I sat there for twenty minutes while he yelled at me.

Sometimes my depression made me seem batshit crazy but I honestly didn’t know what else to do, I was literally stopped dead in my tracks.

After that last time I broke up with K__ I swore I wouldn’t go back, but then I started to weaken.  The only thing holding me back was the thought of what my mother and my friends would say.  Still, I was on the verge of taking him back when I found out in an unceremonious prank call that he had cheated on me.  Not just with hickey’s this time, no, he had fucked R__.  It saddens me that everything else he did wasn’t enough to keep me away.  It saddens me to think that I was only thirteen.

Not long after, I had a major emotional break down.  My parents were away on business for the night so I had the house to myself and I lost my shit.  I mean breast beating, throwing myself at the walls, shrieking, wishing someone would strike me dead.  So I called K__.   He was so freaked out that he told his mother who told the cops who came to get me and take me to his house. And that is how I wound up crashing at my asshole ex-boyfriend’s house talking to his mother until 3AM.

I never told her about how her son had treated me, but I think she knew.  She told me his story of abuse.  It was horrifying the amount of abuse that boy had taken.  It didn’t make it okay but over the years it helped to have some understanding of why he may have been the way he was.

Over the next couple of years I stopped talking to him and he and E__ spread all sorts of nasty rumours about me.  I was labelled a slut just for having dated him. 

Three years later, after suffering from the rumours he and E__ spread about me and his occasional attempts to become my friend, I saw him at the pool hall and decided that it was time to confront him.  I told him that he had sexually coerced me and made it clear how much damage he’d done.  I thought he was going be defensive, I thought he was going to tell me to “fuck off bitch!”  I said to him, “I know you’re probably not even listening to me.” And he said, “I’m listening.”

I think that was as close to “I’m sorry” as he was able to get.

After that I was able to find forgiveness for K__.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to forgive E__.

In reading about depression recently I came across a description of one’s first depressive episode as being triggered by a catastrophic event.  When I look back at my first “major depressive episode” I can see that it started when I was with K__.  So while I know that K__ is not to blame for every problem and every depression, it is clear that that catastrophic relationship pushed me to the brink.  In two months he damn near broke me.

That experience cast a shadow over every relationship I had after that.

So let me be perfectly clear, in case you haven’t picked this up yet, just because no physical force or threats are used doesn’t mean there’s no assault.  Nobody talks about coercion.  Nobody takes it seriously.  When I tried to get a youth support worker to help me work through this and I told her I’d been pressured into doing things I didn’t want to do she dismissed it saying, “Oh every girl goes through that.”

She’s probably right.  And that scares the shit out me.  So, to all the parents out there, what is the most valuable thing you can do to prevent your boys and girls from falling into this trap?  Teach them to talk openly and honestly about their sexuality.  Teach your boys that it’s okay to not want sex, teach them about respect for themselves and their partners, teach them that sex is something that is shared, not taken.  Teach your girls that their sexuality is their own, teach them to talk about what they don’t want and what they do want, teach them to use their voice.  And if nothing else, teach them all that if you can’t openly talk about it, you’re not ready to do it.

*Used (1990)

I don't know where my mind is
I think I've lost my heart
I think I've lost my everything
you've ripped me all apart.
I don't know if you love me
you always say you do
but often you just treat me like
I'm just another who.
I wish I knew my feelings
I lost them with my heart
it seems to me that I'm to you
another little tart.
You may have never noticed
but I have feelings too
I tried to understand,
I pretended I was you.
I know you were confused
and I know you lost your head
but don't say you lost compassion
I know that I've been led.
Around your little fairground
of mind destroying games.
I don't want to see you
I don't want to hear the names.
I know they call me slut and bitch
I know they call me wench.
I also know who started that,
I know who was their hench.
I appreciate your caring
I appreciate your love.
Those last two lines are bullshit,
you just aren't good enough.

And I still took him back.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shaking the demons and a Thanksgiving message

This is the third time I’ve tried to write this post. Every time I try to write about my early high school experiences I get bogged down in the details. I feel like I need to describe all these incidents to get across what it was like. I feel that if I don’t tell certain stories no one will believe that it was as bad as I remember. And worst of all, deep down there’s this voice telling me that I’ve made a big deal out of nothing and I’m just a wimp who couldn’t hack it.

So let me get a few stories out of the way before I get to the point.

Late in grade nine I came to my locker to find a defaced picture of myself taped to the door with the words “DIE BITCH” written beneath it. It didn’t even occur to me to report it, even though I was pretty sure I knew who had done it. I just ripped it down and went to class. When I walked into class one of the guys snickered, “nice picture.” I later found out that my former best friend, whose parents had declared me a bad influence, had been involved.

On several occasions I had complete breakdowns, or “flip outs” as I liked to call them. Sometimes it happened at school, often it happened at home when my parents were out. One time it happened as I was walking from the bus stop at the end of my driveway to my front door. Halfway up the driveway I just collapsed into a sobbing, hyperventilating mess. This was one of the few times that someone sincerely tried to help. Eric made the bus driver stop and came running over to me to see if I was okay. For that I want to say to Eric H., thank you.

My time in that town, at that school was the hardest time in my life. I faced regular sexual harassment and out right bullying, I was often being warned that some girl or another wanted to beat the crap out of me. Aside from one or two guys that stuck with me consistently I was regularly being dumped or shunned by people who had been close friends. Between the bullying, the isolation and the fall out from an incredibly unhealthy relationship, it’s not at all surprising that by halfway through grade nine I was suffering from some pretty severe depression.

I went to a school where the administration wouldn’t intervene until someone got hurt. I had friends who had problems with alcohol and drugs. I had friends who had attempted suicide and friends who cut themselves. I had friends who were beaten at home and friends who had been sexually assaulted. I feel lucky that I didn’t have any friends die. There were so many broken people and sometimes I feel guilty about leaving them all behind.

At the end of grade ten I went to my mother and told her that I couldn’t take it anymore. She cried at first but then we found a way for me to move away, back to where my grandmother lived and where my old public school friend went to school, three hours away.

I thought that escaping the situation would be enough, and to this day I know that it was the right thing to do. Sometimes I still get angry that I was driven to leave home when I was fifteen, leaving a loving and supportive home in order to escape a miserable school. But I left, and I made new friends and my circumstances, while no less crazy, were immeasurably better.

The following Christmas while I was visiting my family I tried to kill myself. At some point in my first semester at my new school I realized that, even though I had left behind my tormentors and started a new life, the pain and the depression were still with me. I realized that escape is not that simple and I could see no way to escape the darkness and the demons. It felt like they would follow me anywhere and never let me go.

I didn’t plan to kill myself. I got in a stupid fight with a family member and ran up to my bedroom, once I started crying it brought all of the pain to the surface and it was excruciating. I blasted Nine Inch Nails and wrote in my journal. The last thing I wrote before I swallowed all my painkillers was, “I don’t even have the balls to kill myself.”

So here, finally, is the point. Bullying is cruel and vicious and can make a kid’s life a living hell. But it’s the depression that kills you. So yes, we need to stop the bullying. But, unless we find ways to reach out to those who are targeted and help them to pull themselves out of the situation and the depression, we will continue to hear about these tragic suicides and helplessly ask ourselves, “What could we have done?”

Just because there are no bruises doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like hell.

Postscript: To those who showed some compassion and liked me for who I was, thank you.

To Ollie, thank you for being there for my late night crying jags and thank you for caring enough to be angry at a certain crappy boyfriend.

To J, thank you for being completely un-phased when I showed up at your house in the middle of the night crying. You could have been angry, embarrassed or even flustered but you just looked at me and asked, “What happened?”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It gets better, but is that the point?

Lately it feels like every day on Facebook there’s a new post about a queer (or presumed queer) teen killing themselves as a result of homophobic bullying. My reaction to this has not been the predictable shock or sadness. Not because I don’t care and not because this isn’t appalling and tragic. No, the reality is that there is nothing about this that surprises me. This is not new. Queer teens have always had a significantly higher rate of suicide. Queer teens have always faced merciless bullying. Even teens who are not queer face homophobic bullying if they are deemed somehow unacceptable by their peers. The only thing I see here that is new is that the media is actually talking about it.

In response to these tragic stories Dan Savage has started a YouTube campaign aimed at giving queer teens some hope. Hundreds of people have posted videos to the “It Gets Better” campaign including the likes of Ann Hathaway and Kathy Griffin. I admire the intent behind this and I believe that it will provide some glimmer of light for some teens but I guess I’m also a little cynical. I imagine myself at 15 struggling to muddle on through the fog of my depression and I know what I would have been thinking watching all these videos telling me it would get better. I would have thought, “You don’t know me, you don’t know my life. Just because it got better for you that has nothing to do with me.”

And this is really what it comes down to. What is the line that divides the bullied kids who do try or succeed at killing themselves from those who don’t? The most likely answer is that those who take their own lives are suffering from depression. And the mind under the influence of depression has its own dark logic. Man, when I was in a depression I could ‘reason’ away anyone’s message of hope or sound advice. If someone said, “You’re a wonderful person, so intelligent and compassionate” I would just tell myself that they didn’t really know me and I wasn’t who they thought I was. If someone said, “I promise it will get better, this is just high school” I would just tell myself that it was a meaningless platitude and they didn’t understand just how bad it was. But beyond all of that there is the simple fact that at that moment when you’re standing on the edge of that cliff, it doesn’t matter if it will be better in five or even two years. What matters is that it’s unbearable right now and you can’t imagine how to live with this pain until that magic grown-up time when “it get’s better.”

When I tried to kill myself it wasn’t when I was in the thick of being bullied. It wasn’t when I couldn’t bear to face another day of school. No, when I reached my breaking point with the bullying I talked to my parents and we found a way for me to move away and go to another school. The suicide attempt came several months after I’d escaped that hellhole. It came when I realized that while I’d left the circumstances behind, all of the incumbent misery was still right there with me. The bullies may have been removed but the depression remained. When I realized that leaving the bullies behind was not enough, that was when I truly despaired.

So yes, give your message of hope. But lets talk about what’s really killing these kids. Homophobia and bullying are the circumstances that absolutely need to be changed but if you don’t address the depression in a way that’s more meaningful than simply pulling out a prescription pad, those kids who are at most risk will remain at risk.

I don’t have any answers, at least none that don’t require some massive cultural and policy shifts. All I can say is that the one and only thing that stopped me from trying again was that after my first attempt I finally understood what it would do to my friends and family.

To my mother, my sister and everyone else who was there for me, I am deeply sorry. And for all of your love and acceptance, thank you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Try not to laugh: adolescent poetry (1st installment)

Okay, to follow up that last post here's the first installment of my teenage angst in verse.  I know a lot of people have been doing open mic night where people read their adolescent poetry to the great amusement of the crowd.  This is not what I'm doing.  I'm not putting this out there so we can all have a good laugh at how silly teenagers are.  I'm doing this as a way to talk about how real those feelings were.  Once we grow out of the crazy emotional roller coaster that is adolescence it can be easy to dismiss teenagers as being over-dramatic.  This attitude is invalidating, insulting and flat out inaccurate.  If teenagers express their emotions in a way that seems overblown and larger than life it's because that's what they are truly feeling.  I remember one particular high-school dance at another school and I found myself sitting on the floor crying (again), not an unusual occurrence in my frequently depressive state.  One of the cops who was working the dance said to me, "What's wrong?  It can't be that bad, you're only fifteen!"  I didn't say anything.  I wanted to say, "Only fifteen?  At fifteen I could be getting abused at home, assaulted by my boyfriend, mercilessly bullied, struggling with addiction etc. etc." Life can throw crap, even devastating crap, at you at any age.  And it's about time that we start to really hear what kids and teens are trying to tell us about their lives and their perspectives.  So, to serve that end I share with you the darker places I went to as a teenager struggling with depression, bullies and not so healthy relationships.

Installment 1:
Doubt (1991 - grade ten or eleven)
Every time the platform starts to balance out in weight
a leaden rock descends upon the shoulder scales of fate.
I await the day the bulging mass dissolves into the air.
Although I know it's foolish, the pointless hope is there.
External woes surround me, eating at my mind,
creating inner turmoil, my self created bind.
I can no longer separate to whom the fault belongs,
Whether self inflicted or to the hostile throng.
If I be the instigator of this sad demise
then shall I seem so pitiful in those others' eyes?
I would that they refrain from taking such a view.
Unknown to them is the strength that I've  begun to lose.
The one remaining hope is now a distant dream
I cling to this with every fibre of my meagre being.

When I was a teenager sharing my poems with others I often liked to ask, "Can you guess what this one's about?"  I'll spare you that question.  It's pretty clear that this was one of many poems about depression plain and simple.  Stay tuned for the next installment (with much less preamble).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Crying jags, a "strong" woman's best friend

I am supposed to be together.  I am supposed to be strong.  I am supposed to have overcome my struggles and beaten depression.  Most of the time I feel like this is true.  But every once in awhile I get kicked in the gut by by those gut wrenching tears in the middle of the night.  You either know what I mean or you have no idea what I'm talking about.  I can have a dozen  people who would be there for me in a heartbeat but it's almost 2 in the morning and we're not teenagers anymore.  Calling people in the middle of the night just doesn't apply anymore.  I have a partner soundly sleeping upstairs who would want me to wake him up and let him hold me, but I don't want him to know that I'm not okay.

I feel like I've taken the people who love me around this little theme park one too many times.  If I talk to someone about it then I have to admit to what I'm feeling and thinking.  I know that there is nothing new about these doubts and fears.  They've heard it all before.  And I'm supposed to be okay now.  I'm supposed to be better and stronger and free of self-doubt.  And yes, I know how ridiculous it all sounds.  I know that I would feel better if I could talk about it, but I just feel so damn stupid.  I feel like I should know better and that no one who's been there for me over the years should have to listen to anymore of it.  They've done their time.

Ninety five percent of the time I feel fine.  Fuck, I spend a significant amount of time thinking about all the things for which I'm grateful.  But at two in the morning when everyone else is sleeping and all the lonely feelings and niggling self-doubts start to bubble to the surface I may as well be thirteen again for all the tears and sobs and hyperventilating.  So I curl up on the couch with my go-to sad songs and curl up into myself.  And I know that the only way to get through this, short of crying myself to sleep, is to get out of my head.  And since there's nobody to talk to at this ungodly hour, I write.  And since I know that I can't just keep it all to myself, I blog.  Because if this blog is about honestly putting myself out there then this is it.  Because depression isn't just something you go through, get better and leave behind.

Before I went on antidepressants I knew that, even when I wasn't in a depression, it would inevitably return with little warning to suck the life out of me for another year or two.  Now that I'm medicated it hits me on the occasional lonely night.  If it's really bad it sticks around as a low level numbness for a few days.  But even when I know that the feelings are temporary they are so real and so intense that I just get swept away on the tide for a few hours until I finally come back to the surface.  And I don't really want anyone to know.  And that's not okay.  Because once you start hiding it, whatever it is, you're already losing the battle and letting it control you.  So for now I blog and in the morning I'll tell H.  And just for good measure I'll make sure to get a great big hug from the girl.  Because God knows that's all the love I need.