I think I was born hating myself. I’ve always felt like my heart is too big and that I feel far too much. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve felt depressed but until I was sixteen I didn’t know it had a name. I thought it was just life.
I was always tearful at school but I love to learn and elementary school became a safe haven for me. I suppose I truly started to feel not only different from my peers but completely alien to them around the age of eleven when I went to my third funeral. Death visited my family often from then on so that by the time I was fourteen I’d been to five funerals, all of people close to me. I managed to deal with my grief and depression through perfectionism and performance at school. I was on all the sports teams and got nearly perfect grades. I graduated from my eighth grade class as Valedictorian and winner of the principal’s award. Staying in the spotlight helped to distract me from the darkness taking hold but eventually I couldn’t outrun it anymore.
That darkness stuck around and the boredom and apathy of my high school was the beginning of the end of my hope. The drama between my peers was light years away from being important when I was concerned that I would be next to die of cancer. Instead my mom got it. She caught it early and was in remission before I knew it but it was the last straw for me. I didn’t give up easily, though. Instead I fled through applying to an exchange to France. A year later I panicked because pain just hung on until every fiber in my body was poisoned. I felt like I had tar in my veins.
Major depression fell hard and fast. I realized that there was more than death weighing me down and the isolation while living overseas for three months plunged me head first into being suicidal. I was hospitalized within weeks of returning home to Canada. And so began my journey into the broken mental health system. I self-injured on a daily basis, pushed all of my friends away, and was hospitalized again and again. At eighteen one of my closest friends committed suicide after spending the day with me. Life was a living hell. I stayed behind a year at school and watched what acquaintances I had left go off into their dream schools and dream lives. I decided I was far too broken to ever succeed and upon graduating high school I went into my bedroom and shut the door. For the next five years or so I would only leave the house to go to therapy or a quick coffee with my family.
Between the ages of 16 and 25 I was hospitalized too many times to count. I tried to kill myself many times, received many stitches, I starved myself and tried to hate myself out of being depressed. I felt like I had no reason to be depressed, I just had a lack of willpower. I just couldn’t handle life.
Eventually something in me shifted and in one last effort to save my life I applied to go to Homewood, a residential treatment facility about an hour away from home. About a year later I was admitted into their “Integrated Mood and Anxiety Program” during which time I was forced to talk to other people that were depressed. I was terrified out of my mind but I did it. I did art therapy, horticultural therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy. I began to realize that I wasn’t depressed because of lack of willpower. That I had a treatable illness.
A year later I did a post-traumatic stress disorder program at Homewood. It helped me feel safe enough to stop self-destructing and once I learned how to sit and tolerate my feelings something major from my past floated up to the surface of my mind. It feels like one of the last essential puzzle pieces of my recovery.
I’m still in therapy now and am on a ton of medication, but finally my life is improving. I do a lot of art and a lot of writing and I find joy in my many pets. Working with mindyourmind.ca has given me direction and hope for a better mental health system, and a world of less stigma associated with mental illness.
I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. For every person that regains their life back from depression, there are ten in the background that never do. There basically isn’t any support out there for those who can’t afford to pay a professional therapist which is usually about $100 PER SESSION. My parents have been able to pay for my therapy and because of that, more than anything else, I am alive today.
After years of telling myself to shut up, I am learning to get my voice back. I want to tell you what it’s like to be too depressed to move and give you tips for when you feel that way. I want to help fill in the gaps in our broken mental health system. Maybe I can share with you what took me too long to learn. Maybe you will make the same mistakes as me or maybe you won’t. Fighting depression is a constant battle but there IS hope. That fact that I am here today writing this proves that there is another side to the darkness. Even if you can’t see it now. I’m not out of the woods yet but I’m really getting there. Read along, learn from my experiences, share yours with me and together we can make it through. ♥