It’s that time of year. #BellLetsTalk
Journal excerpt from December 22, 2016:
I want (well, sort of) to recall my months of depression with the purpose of blogging them, though we’ll see if I have the guts to (I probably will and then take it down).
I spent much of my days this past year contemplating suicide, going as far as to carefully plan the act and even ensure backup if the initial attempt wasn’t effective. I played out the necessary actions at least a handful of times, standing achingly at the edge, my mind racing with paradoxical hopes of freedom.
Suicidal ideation and attempts are heavily peppered over my history, dating back at least two decades. But you see, I didn’t want to end my life because I hated it. I wanted to end it because I could no longer shoulder the weight of such an empty burden, such a great disconnect from reality.
People asked me what they could do. I couldn’t identify with all of those articles online, those lists: “10 Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person”, “7 Ways to Help Someone with Anxiety” or whatever.** Because there was no list, no specific thing. And when there was, it all too often changed. That’s the problem with trudging through the days simultaneously feeling everything and nothing. I didn’t know what to do for myself; I certainly couldn’t tell someone else what to do for me.
When I came back to work, started speaking again, started socializing again, it was just bearable. At first, I strongly advocated talking about it. When people asked, I was honest – “I was depressed”. I’d explain the course of it with a practiced ease, a rehearsed lifelong script, often effectively referencing one of my favourite bits from the most accurate depictions of depression I’ve read, Hyperbole and a Half – it’s like having dead fish.
But it didn’t take long to tire of it. It wasn’t even the explaining I could no longer tolerate, it was the response. Even people with the best intentions couldn’t hide their thoughts: pity, shock, shame, fear. Everyone was trying to treat these confessions as ‘normal’ and still, that elephant followed me into every room I entered. Still, I found myself consoling others for the peril I claimed to overcome. Eventually, I didn’t acknowledge it at all.
Yes, I know I’m supposed to help stop the stigma, try and help people understand the severity of mental illness, but I couldn’t – I can’t – get on board with every bit of rhetoric. I can’t liken mental illness to the excruciating pain of cancer. Nor can I liken it to a broken arm, as some people have done. A broken arm isn’t 15% more likely to result in death by your own hand (pun [not] intended). (See what I did there? I toy with, tempt, beg for death, overcome the temptress, and still I can’t take this business seriously.)
The term “mental illness” literally has the word illness in it! So shouldn’t it be treated as such? – a category on its own. It’s managed in a remarkably different manner than most ‘tangible’ illnesses and that alone, I feel, is unacknowledged.
So where am I at now? I’m generally happier, less burdened, and grateful that I made it alive through another episode. For me, depression is a lifelong war, and no matter how broken and bruised, I can either be weakened by each battle, or – if I manage to pull out a win – gradually learn from it and maybe become just a little bit stronger.
** I’ll admit that these tips shouldn’t be disregarded.
Brain excerpt from January 25, 2017:
- I’ve been noticing small deficits in my cognitive behaviour that may be due to my overactive imagination, but I thought it worth a bit of research. Although it’s likely I’m simply succumbing to age, I found this article regarding Neurocognitive Functioning in Bipolar Disorder quite interesting.
- Turns out working out really does help depression. Also turns out I don’t want to hear that when I’m depressed.
- If you’re talking about it, whatever it is to you, thank you. If you’re listening, to me or to anyone, thank you. If you’re not talking, thank you – sometimes silence is the most beautiful sound. The terrible truth in that regard is that most of that “stigma”…? I don’t see it as much in others as I do within myself.
#BellLetsTalk #OrNotTalk #ImGoodEitherWay
Next up, I attempt to remember what on earth I did in Costa Rica so I can finally pen it nearly a year later.