without a pulse

only seeds were left

her white-washed cheeks

and those protruding bones.

just the little girl

next door in the window

pounding stained glass

with the hurry of heartbeat

now, there are only echoes of words

don’t look through the curtains

stay in the back alley

skipping over puddles,

smoke fills the house

abandoned and broken –

without a pulse.

My Journey

A recovery story is a messy thing. It has a lot of beginnings and middles. There is no end to a journey such as this one. The story continues. Sometimes it restarts or rewinds back to the start again. It is mostly an internal battle, a war with oneself.

I knew that I had depression before any doctor diagnosed me. It was the beginning of grade 10.  I have snapshots of the beginning. A quiet girl hiding beneath layers of clothing, looking down with no ounce of confidence. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I couldn’t shake off this feeling of not belonging not only with my friends, at my school but also in this world.  As the days grew more hazy and cloudy, I started missing school and skipping classes. My anxiety kept me in bed for days and days. Being a shy person before the storm hit, i went unnoticed in school – sitting in the back of class, rarely.. in fact, never raising my hand to answer a question (even if i knew it). I perfected the act of pretending to be fine. My smile turned into a straight line of grief that i did not know what to do with. As my illness worsened, I dug myself deeper into my grave. I began self harming later that year to get relief from my emotions and intrusive thoughts. Little did i know, i had some friends who saw the cuts on my arms and legs and told a councillor. Little time passed before my school got involved and notified my parents. I continued struggling even more with harming myself. I didn’t know then, but that was the best thing i could do at the time. Letting someone know that i wasn’t fine is what helped me.

I sat in children’s Emergency for a mental health evaluation, it wasn’t until the next morning when i finally was given a diagnoses of depression and prescribed medication. Months went by very slowly and very fast. I felt like a ghost with a beating heart. My name was put on waiting lists and programs i wasn’t sure i wanted to be on. I went through the programs and courses. I saw countless therapists and counselors but nothing really seemed to fit for me. I tackled each day, forcing myself to leave my bed, going from class to class. I lived as my diagnoses, it became my only identity as i lost myself in a very dark and never ending place i wasn’t sure i could escape from.   I didn’t notice the medication helping me or the therapy. At this time i felt hopeless and helpless. I acted inwards, taking out all of my frustration on myself.  My friends stopped talking to me and I stopped trying to talk to them, my family tried to talk to me – and they did their best. I started bingeing and purging, starving and restricting. There was no middle ground. It was one extreme or the other. Negativity sunk into my pores as exhaustion took over me. Of the many times I’ve tried to commit suicide, something always took over. A desire to live again. Some people find it helpful to get in touch with religious beliefs, like prayer or another higher power. For me, writing became my religion. Writing poetry or simply writing stories was the one thing keeping me alive.

I started an intensive outpatient program, i was able to connect with a therapist and that alone made a difference in me. This therapy has been very beneficial for me. Throughout this year, I have become a strong and even more passionate individual. It took me a very long time to realize that this was the right thing to do for myself. I couldn’t of come to this decision without the help of a very special friend who helped me along. Through my struggles I’ve been able to achieve awards and graduate from high school on time. I am now learning that i do not need to act on my thoughts, emotions, intrusive suicidal ideations. I have gone through so much already in my short life, more than your everyday teenager could comprehend.

My story is still being written, day by day i flip another page. As a mental health sufferer, survivor and advocate I want to help others that are in my place, I want to help erase the stigma surrounding mental illness. I wish for my life to be filled with more smiles and less tears. I understand now, that there will always be positive and negative aspects to life – now i have learned the skills i need to deal with any triggering events that come up. My journey has been long and painful but it has been hopeful and it has offered opportunities. My journey has not ended and it will continue on. I’ve met many amazing people that have been helpful to me and it is because of their support, i have been able to see myself as they’ve always been able to see me. I have found purpose in pain. I believe that with immense struggle, comes strength.

I am determined to win, to keep pushing through the hard days because even though it doesn’t always seem like it- there is some good in everyday. I have committed myself to learning how to live opposed to just existing. The only thing I ever really needed was the “right” support to get me back on track. I wanted to feel like I was worthy and deserved a better and fulfilling life. I’ve learned that i dont need to be “fixed”, there was nothing wrong with me in the first place.

Starting the conversation

Mental illness has been talked about in my school but for the most part only in almost non-existent whispers. I believe that starting the conversation needs to be done and which is what I hope to continue to do within the community. For some reason being honest about what we are dealing with is frowned upon when really there is something extremely powerful about sharing our personal stories.

One in five people will experience a mental illness over the course of their lifetime. And of those who do say that they feel ashamed and avoid seeking treatment because of the stigma. Families, too are embarrassed and blamed. Friends don’t always understand or have the right words to say. How can you comfort your friend is in emotional turmoil that you’ve never experienced, so you just watch them suffer and pull away from the person you used to know.

In the obituary’s, we always see the courageous fighters of those who lost their battle with breast cancer or other rare diseases, too. We almost never see the picture of a girl who was going through so much pain, there is no picture of a brave, intelligent, young woman who couldn’t see any more hope to keep pushing through the dark pit of depression. When there is a segment about teen suicide on the news, there is sadness and sorrow in the atmosphere. Until something like this breaks the news, we do not like talking about it. Plain and simple. But it still remains the most common subjects that most of us avoid speaking openly about.

It is crucial to have champions who talk about mental health and mental illness. Personally, I find that there also is power in recovery stories. Stories have to capacity to change both the storyteller and the listener. People who tell their personal story of mental illness are modeling recovery. These people are standing in blunt contrast to the negative public images of mental illness and of the mentally ill, too.