Monthly Archives: November 2013

Support

One of the most important things someone dealing with mental illness can have is a support system.

I tried for a long time to do it all on my own.  I kept what I was going through a secret.  I hid my self-inflicted wounds and scars, I cried in private, and when my depression was really bad and I couldn’t get out of bed, I pretended to have a migraine or the flu.  I did everything I could to hide my disease.

And I only got worse.

The reasons I isolated myself were fear and guilt.  I feared judgement if people knew what I was going through and what I was doing to myself.  I had already been judged by some of my peers when I had been honest about my illness.  When I shared what I was going through with some of my friends, many of them abandoned me.  They called me unstable and crazy. 

So I learned to hide.

Guilt also ensured loneliness in my disease.  I didn’t want to burden anyone with my problems.  I felt guilty for being so unhappy when I had so much and was blessed in so many ways.  There was no reason I should have been so miserable.

So I stayed quiet.

And I got sicker.

Then I met an amazing group of people at a church I began attending in Downtown Toronto.  It took me a while to open up to them, but when I did, they didn’t judge me.  They didn’t gossip about me or avoid me.  They loved me.  They accepted me.  They invited me in instead of pushing me out.

It was the first I had ever felt like I belonged somewhere. 

These friends became my confidantes, my cheerleaders, my shoulders to cry on.  They welcomed me on my good days and my bad days.  And they fought for me when I was too weak to fight for myself.

They prayed for me, checked up on me and were there when I needed them.

I remember going through a bad time with my depression a few years ago.  I wasn’t going to work, I was bailing on social plans and I didn’t show up for church one Sunday.  A friend of mine came to my apartment and banged on my door until I got up to let her.  She brought with her fresh fruit and a few other groceries, and made a meal for me.  Then she made me get dressed and go out for a walk with her.

The next day I started feeling better.  It’s amazing how healing love and support can be.  I don’t know if she knows how much what she did meant to me.  It’s something I will never forget.

Over the years as I have been more open with my depression, I haven’t always found acceptance.  I was still judged by some, ignored by some, and gossiped about by some.  And I know I still am.

And that is painful. 

The most heartbreaking is when the people you expect to be loving and accepting aren’t.  I have had people in the church judge me because of my depression.  I even had a leader in the church, who I admired and respected, use my depression against me.  She indicated that I couldn’t be in leadership within the church because of my ’emotional issues.’

There will always be people who will judge me because of my disease.  But for every person who has judged me or treated me poorly, many have loved me and believed in me.

My depression does not make me less of a person.  It doesn’t mean I can’t do things that others can.

And there are many people in my life who know that.  They have loved me and supported me through the worst of times.  They understand that my depression is out of my control.  They understand that I am working hard to be healthy and it’s not my fault when things get bad.

They are the friends who knock on my door until I get out of bed.

They are the friends who bring me food when I haven’t left the house in three days.

They are the friends who text me just to tell me they are thinking about me.

They are the parents who drive from Windsor to Toronto at 2am because I am on the phone telling them I don’t want to live anymore.

They are my support.

They are the ones that matter.

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Finding Strength

I look back at my life and the struggles I endured because of my depression, and I wonder how I am still alive.  I shouldn’t be, especially since I spent nearly a decade on the road to complete and total self-destruction.

But I am alive.  I am here.

And I know why.

I was diagnosed with depression at 16 (although looking back, I now realize it began much earlier).

I had been cutting myself for months when I finally confessed to my mom that I was harming myself.  She took me to the doctor, who sent me to the hospital.  They assessed me and (thankfully) decided I didn’t need to be admitted.  I was sent to the Crisis Centre.  And thus began my treatment for depression.

I am a person who likes to be in control.  Many things in my childhood were beyond my control, so in my young adult life I held on tight to everything.

I tried to deal with my depression in so many [unhealthy] ways.  As already mentioned I was cutting myself.  This happened, on and off, for about 10 years.

Now I have a body full of scars; reminders of the trauma I went through, but also reminders of what I have overcome.

Aside from cutting I would try to hurt myself by slamming my hand and/or fingers in doors and drawers.  I used to boil water and pore it over my hands and arms.  Anything to distract from the excruciating pain inside.

In my early twenties I turned to alcohol and drugs to take away the pain and emptiness.  I would drink myself into a stupor, pass out and walk up the next day with a vague recollection of the previous night.

After university I tried to find happiness in material things.  I got myself into thousands of dollars of debt buying clothes, jewelry, music and more, hoping that one item would be the miracle cure I needed.

Of course, no item was.

How did I survive?  How did I find healing and peace?

God.

My father in heaven rescued me.  For years I had been trying to mend myself through earthly things.  And they never worked.

At 23 I started to go to church again.  I found an amazing church in Toronto where I was welcomed and accepted immediately.  That was something I had never experienced before.

There, with the help of new friends, great teaching, and amazing leadership I learned what it meant to be a true follower of Christ.  I learned how to have a relationship with God.

I began that relationship timidly, but that was all God needed.  He needed me to turn to Him and He was just waiting.  He had been waiting, for a very long time.

This wasn’t a miracle cure.  My life didn’t suddenly become perfect.  My depression didn’t just disappear.  But as I grew closer to God, I learned to release the control I was desperately holding on to.

I didn’t have to suffer alone anymore.  God was with me and all of the pain I felt, He felt too.  And through Him I gained the strength to fight against my depression.

God also opened my eyes to all the beautiful people in my life who loved me and supported me.  I was definitely not alone.

My life is still really hard sometimes.  My depression can get really bad and the pain can feel unbearable.  But I don’t turn to negative things to try to put a bandaid over the gaping wound.

I turn to Him, and there I find strength.  Because I know that no matter how bad it gets, He will help me through it.

I know this because of all He has already helped through, even when I didn’t seek Him out.

I know why I am still alive after so many horrific years.

God can take anything bad and create something good out of it.  He has taken my struggles and given me a voice to use them to help others.

That is why I am here.

Mental Illness and why I am writing this blog

This is my first foray into the blog world, and there are two main reasons I have chosen to start this.

The first is because of my passion for writing.  For years I’ve put my writing aside to focus on other things, and I am finally coming back to it.

The second is my desire to be a voice for mental illness.

Mental Illness is a phrase that makes people uncomfortable.  Despite the research of what mental illness is, how it is caused, and how common it is, there is still a stigma attached with it.  For some reason, people still don’t see it as what it is…a disease.  A disease, just like diabetes or cancer, and one approximately 1 in 5 Canadians will experience during their lifetime.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is common around the world, with an estimate of 350 million people of all ages affected by it.  350 MILLION people, and yet we still shy away from the topic.  How is it possible that a disease that is among the leading causes of disability in the world (according to depressionhurts.ca) is still regarded as a stigma?

The good news is that people are talking about mental illness more.  The bad news is that it is still not enough, and the perception of those who have never experienced it is generally negative towards those who have.

I am someone who suffers from depression, and I have faced judgement because of my disease.  I have lost friends, I have been called crazy, I have even lost a job because of my illness.
It is painful to be rejected over something one cannot control.

And it makes me angry.

I am NOT crazy.   I am NOT unstable.  I am NOT unreliable.  I do have episodes of depression, and there are times I cannot get out of bed for a few days.  But that doesn’t make me lazy or weak.

In fact, all the struggles I’ve been through, all of the pain and suffering that I have endured and overcome makes me STRONG.

Generally I am grateful when someone tells me they don’t understand depression.  I am grateful because it means that they have never experienced it.  It is a horrible, de-habilitating disease that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

But I am tired of being judged because people don’t understand.  You don’t have to understand.  Honestly, only anyone who’s experienced depression will truly understand it.  But please, at least try to be compassionate.

Is kindness too much to ask for?  Is grace too much to ask for?

I can’t change that I have depression.  It is a disease.  It is treatable, but not curable so I will have it for the rest of my life.  But I fight every single day to overcome it.  I fight to be healthy, and I fight to be happy.  It’s a daily battle I can’t begin to explain.

But it does not make me inadequate.  It does not make me less of a person.

Please don’t make assumptions when you encounter someone with mental illness.  Often they are fighting for their life and they need support and encouragement, not judgement.

Join me in being a voice for those who struggle.

Some days are rocky...but we won't stop fighting
Some days are rocky…but we won’t stop fighting.