Evening people! It’s Tuesday! For those who know me, yes, I had my latte today! 🙂
For the rest of you, it’s blog day! Over the past week I have been fairly busy with training sessions with my new job, caring for my sick kitty, plus pool that I really haven’t had much time to myself. This evening after work I came home, watched some reruns of 2 Broke Girls, had a nice bath, and now my head is clear for the blog I have been planning for this week.
Over the past week I have been reflecting on my war with depression. My last entry was an open letter that fellow blogger Dave Sullivan wrote addressed to Prime Minister Trudeau discussing the issues that people deal with while going through the health care system for help with their mental illness. It really hit home for me. Also, knowing that someone close to me is dealing with some issues I thought I would be raw and honest with this one as inspiration to help her.
I have always been an awkward human. As I have mentioned in earlier entries, I was teased growing up by the kids in my school because I was different. I enjoyed reading and writing and would rather be lost in a world of fiction. I remember as a kid using my imagination and playing a lot by myself, which sadly led to more teasing. I never fit in.
As I grew older, I began to adapt to whatever surroundings were around me. As a chameleon of emotion I would go with the crowd I was around. Whether because it was socially acceptable, or just to fill that primal need for human interaction, I would hang out with whoever would hang out with me. At times, I was used because I was known as a “good girl” in the eyes of parents and that meant that some of the girls would use me to see other friends that their parents didn’t allow them to hang around with. At the end of the day I knew that I was being used. I wasn’t stupid. But at least I was going outside and doing what was socially acceptable. Who cares that I was the awkward wheel of that metaphorical cart at the grocery store that I typically end up with that keeps sticking.
My parents were fairly strict when I was a pre-teen; my curfew was very early compared to that of others which also created an obstacle between me and the other kids. Once I became a teenager, I think they realized that I didn’t have much options to actually be rebellious. They eased up on the rules, especially considering at 15 I found Jesus and went to church every Sunday. I wore my cross around my neck with pride and prayed to God every night for strength. This alienated me even more from the kids I grew up with. Besides for one of my great friends who still is there for me when I need her despite our lack of communication anymore, I was alone. At the time though, I was never alone. I had God by my side.
No matter how sad I was, especially when I was a teenager, no one knew how sad I truly was. No one ever knew. The thoughts that the dark passenger would bring up in my head perhaps made its way through my poetry, but that was about it. The thoughts of ending my life at times were too real. I would look at knives as I was wiping them for my mother and thinking perhaps I should just take one and end it. Until I was 15 and I was held in the arms of one of my best friends as I gave myself to God. He held me as I wept the first night of the conference, and held me again the following night as I trembled and raised my hand to praise Jesus.
This gave me the strength to embrace my differences. I was a part of God’s family. I always had someone to talk to no matter what.
About four months later, one event that would forever change my path happened. And that’s when one of my inspirations to follow Jesus, one of my favorite people that have ever existed, took his own life. My grandfather.
I never ever thought I would be on this side of the coin. To have to witness firsthand what it is to be the family left behind after someone commits suicide. To still to this day fight tears. It’s almost 12 years since and I still can’t wrap my head around it. It shook my beliefs to the core. I to this day cannot support a deity that would condemn someone for having an illness that was telling him things that were untrue which caused him to make the decision to end his life. This is why I walked away from religion and fully wish that there is a higher power.
A couple of months later I began to really not care. I would seek attention from whoever would give it to me. I went back to being that chameleon, fading into whichever crowd would have me. The only one that really saw me break down was my mother, who, after 15 and a half years, finally said that it was time to seek help.
We set up an appointment with our family doctor who tried to rule of any physical reasons for my breakdowns and my quick change of mood. He sent me for an EEG which showed that I was “normal.” After that he set me up with sessions with a counselor. I spent that summer in a dark room basically beginning the construction of my mask. He cleared me saying that I was a bright young lady with great potential. It seemed it was summed up with a mixture of adolescent behavior and grief. No more counselor for this lady!
I spent the eleventh grade trying to find any escape from my hometown. I would chat with strangers from far away places online. My main focus was to get out. That year there were times I would get home from school, have a nap, have supper, then sleep again until late, get up, watch TV, then go back to sleep again. On weekends I would spend them with one of my good friends who also was trying to find an escape. As long as there were no breakdowns, all was good on the parental front.
That following summer was the summer I met my current partner and best friend. He has been my rock throughout the past 10 years and without him I have no idea where I would be. However, I feel horrible that he didn’t know what he was getting himself into. He has seen me at my best and at my worst. He has seen the mask slip many times and he has seen me clumsily adjust it to put my best face forward. He can see right through it.
It became a fixture of my being, the mask was a part of me. The older I became, the heavier that mask became on my face. Through university and my jobs afterwards, I couldn’t let it fall. I had to juggle work and school and later 2+ jobs. As long as there was a smile on my face and some sarcastic jokes thrown in, no one would ever know what was happening. That is until it became too much.
One day early last year I was at work as one of the morning supervisors. I was ready to go on my lunch and relay information to the evening crew. As I tried to speak, they would speak over me to each other and ignore what I was trying to say. This irritated me to say the least, so I said to myself, “screw it.” and I went on my lunch. This gave me the time to let myself stew in what had happened. I began to doubt my value at my job. This made me feel sick to my stomach.
Once I got back to work my stomach began to churn. I felt sick and dizzy. One of the managers looked at me and asked if I was okay. I began to cry. She told me to go out back. I went out back and tried to calm myself down with little success. I even tried to return to the floor and work but the tears wouldn’t stop. My manager that was on duty sent me home. And that was my first true blue panic attack.
This scared me. I began to associate work with anxiety and it began to make me stomach sick to even enter the workplace. That mask slipped; everyone saw behind to see me at a weak moment. I tried to speak with my partner about it and he tried to help but it got to the point that enough was enough and it was time to seek help from a third party. Take the gloves off and start fighting back. When I realized that this was beginning to seep into my professional life it was time to take a step back and try to work through it.
So I went to my doctor and explained my situation. Firstly, he gave me meds. Secondly, he referred me to Eastern Health to follow up for some counselling. In a few days I heard from them. They said it could take about a year and a half to find a counselor, however there were group sessions happening in a couple of months that I could try. I also became very lucky because the woman I was speaking to told me about another way I could see a counselor faster and I started to see her within a couple of months. I did the group session that was recommended to me and completed it.
Soon after that I began this blog and the rest, well, you can read about the rest. I apologize that this blog is long and wordy, but I feel that it was necessary to give you my backstory to see how I became me, the DumbOptimist that I am.
It had to take the slipping of my mask to make me realize that the person behind the mask matters too. I FUCKING MATTER! I FUCKING MATTER! It was time to take care of ME!
I still have a long way to go. It took me a chat with a friend from my previous job to really see that I wanted to share my full story in hopes that it helps inspire others to break out and start realizing that they matter.
Depression is firstly an illness. Unfortunately, there is no antibiotic that fights it and kills it forever. It is a daily battle, some days are easier than others. But you make the choice to fight the dark passenger, tell him (obvs, my dark passenger is a guy. :P) to fuck off or to let him fester inside of you.
One more thing I want to share before I leave tonight is something that I learned in my group session. It’s called the cost/benefit analysis. The premise is to pick a belief that you have and discuss the pros and cons of keeping that belief, and then counteract that and discuss the pros and cons of getting rid of the belief. For example:
“I can’t be helped.”
- Pro to keep belief:
- This allows you to sit tight and not have to change your lifestyle
- Con to keep belief:
- There is a the feeling that nothing can get better from here.
- Pro to lose belief:
- This opens you up to the opportunity to work on yourself and better your overall self
- Con to lose belief:
- Now you have to accept the fact that there is a possibility that if you work at seeking help you can better yourself.
Now you have a choice to make. To some the idea that they can be helped is amazing and help them gain the fight to accept help. To others, the idea to actually seek help is scary and perhaps they are not ready for such a commitment. The real question is… are you ready?
Well I’m ready to call it a night I tell you! I’ve been typing for two hours!! So it’s now time to bid you adieu!
Cheers and stay smiling!