It Gets Dark at 5 Now

It’s still October and relatively nice out – cold, but not so cold that I dread getting out of bed and going outside. I can still wear my nice coat.

But I am filled with dread all the same, because winter is coming. Obviously. Normally I am so excited because of Christmas, and I don’t start to feel the impact until January, but it’s starting early this year. Really early.

That’s because last winter was absolutely brutal for me, to the point where I can count the number of good days I had throughout the entire season on my hands. I was in a depressive episode, although it took me way too long to figure that out. I was constantly tired, and when I try to remember those months the weather is always dark or cloudy, even though I know that’s impossible.

That’s just how things seem to me when it’s cold out. It’s not S.A.D. because I’m perfectly capable of being depressed at any time of the year, it’s just way more likely in the winter.

And now I am constantly tired except in the middle of the night, and that’s only because I get up really late and take naps in the middle of the day. Things are starting to seem pointless because I have nothing to look forward to until April.

I’m terrified of falling again. I’m terrified of even just remaining where I am right now.

My life requires a LOT of energy. I do not have time for naps. I do not have time for sitting on the kitchen floor for 15 minutes because I was opening a drawer to get a pot and then just gave up while I was down there.

I don’t have time to be sad, let alone depressed.

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This is Me

You may remember the video I shared a few weeks back from Healthy Minds Canada about Cynthia Foster, who recovered from bulimia. Although we released that video first, I was actually the first video subject.

This video was shot way back in January. It was ready a long time ago, but after filming Cynthia, we realized that we wanted the videos to look a little different. We wanted to make them more personal, with photos and videos, and we wanted to add facts and information so that people learned more. We wanted to make them longer so we could tell a more complete story.

And the first cut of my video just wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. The story I want to tell is less about the way that I am, and more about WHY I am the way that I am. Oftentimes, people don’t talk about the “why”, and that is especially the case when it comes to bullying – it’s dismissed as a typical childhood phase, something everyone goes through, something that usually doesn’t have a long lasting impact. It’s all over when you graduate.

But that’s not true, and that’s why I am the way that I am. So we recut the footage that we had in order to tell that story, and this is the result of that. Because it was filmed so long ago it’s not perfect, and I would probably say different things now, but I still stand behind the core messages of the video – mainly, that before dismissing a person, you should always ask why. Find out what’s bothering them, step into their shoes for a bit, even if perhaps they aren’t behaving perfectly at the moment. Most people are inherently good, so ask why and try to find that.

I had a great time editing it but now that it’s been released, I have a hard time sharing it. I don’t know why really, I’ve said most if not all of this stuff in writing before. But it’s just different somehow in video form. More personal. The pictures and video from when I was a kid and in high school – even the ones that seem normal, I can see the story behind them, and I feel like now everyone else can see that too, even though that’s probably ridiculous.

I could just not share it, but that would defeat the purpose of all the hard work that we put into it, so here it is – my hope is not that you will understand ME better but that this example might help you to understand others in your own lives better.

I hope you enjoy the video and please share it if you think it might help others. ❤

Watch the Video Here

Fears vs. Dreams

Fears vs. Dreams

I am NOT spontaneous person. I wouldn’t say that I’m the least spontaneous person out there, but I definitely prefer it when I have a plan. My idea of spontaneity is harmless small things, like, “Oh my god, I randomly decided to buy a dozen cupcakes on my way home from work, I’M SO IMPULSIVE.” (To be fair, I am actually extremely impulsive when it comes to spending money.)

Lately I’ve been a little more reckless – my “plans” for Canada Day fell through and I was so sick and tired of being upset about people doing this to me that I decided to do something to distract myself, which was to dye the ends of my hair purple (see above). It doesn’t really take a psychiatrist to figure out why this is. I would hazard a guess that it has something to do with the fact that my world was turned upside down three months ago. I’ve been trying to pretend like that didn’t really happen, but I’m learning that maybe that’s not such a great idea.

But my newfound tendency to be spontaneous and take risks paid off last week when the above photos were taken.

I have followed the mental health non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms since I was 16. In high school my boyfriend/best friend/most important person in my world self-harmed and I had NO clue what to do about it. I kept the secret and I couldn’t tell any of our friends, which put even more pressure on me (though I doubt they would have been helpful anyway. They likely would have been like, “Ugh oh my god, what a drama queen” and then I would have killed them and I would be in jail). I never really did figure it all out, but it helped to hear the story of how TWLOHA was created – through the organization’s founder, Jamie Tworkowski, helping one of his friends through various issues including self-harm.

It was nice to know that recovery was possible and that sometimes loving and helping someone actually works. I felt like I needed help too, because it tore me up inside that someone I loved that much couldn’t really see that and was hurting. I never participated in the TWLOHA community, but I followed their social media and it made me feel less alone. Seeing their inspiring blog entries and stories of healing helped give me strength to not give up on him even when he was pretty much forcing me to. There are lots of other mental health non-profits out there, including the one I work for now, but this was the first one I came across and still the only one that I feel is speaking to me. At their core I feel like they are about self-expression, and they do a lot of writing – I think that I’ve developed a style of writing that is largely influenced by those blogs I’ve read over the years. They don’t throw around a ton of statistics and facts, it’s more about raising awareness and making sure that people know that there is hope, love, and help out there in the world, somewhere. There is someone who has been where you are.

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On Medication and Dysthymia

This post was originally posted on tumblr here on May 7th 2014. I’m starting to blog both there and on WordPress now, and I thought that this post gives a fairly good impression of who I am now. Upon posting it again however I do want to emphasize that rather than being “better” (as much as I want to believe that) I’d say I’ve just become better at dealing with my problems and I’m better able to recognize them, and catch them before they go too far. I still have bad days along with the good, and I’m probably always going to have to keep adjusting.

So hello, nice to meet you, and here is some very personal information about my life. Welcome to my world 🙂 

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week! It was just Mental Health Awareness Week in January, but maybe that was just around here. I feel like no one is more aware of mental health than me, but I like the idea that I could help share information and experiences with people who are not so aware.

Now that I’ve had the conversations I needed to have, I feel comfortable saying that I’ve been on medication for my depression since the beginning of March. I’m going to talk about my experience with it so far, because there are a LOT of pretty strong opinions out there. At least at my university, the most popular opinion by far is that medication is awful and pushed on everyone for no reason. And of course sometimes that’s completely true, and it really isn’t for everyone. I never thought it was for me and I resisted it for years. So I’m going to share my experience, because people should know that it’s not always a horror story, and some people just honestly want to know what it might be like. I know I did.

I’ve suspected that I had dysthymia since high school, but I was only diagnosed with it this year. Dysthymia is a form of low-grade depression that is chronic and lasts for many years. It can last for so long that people simply believe that it is who they are, and don’t realize that there is anything ‘different’ about them. This was the case for me. If you want a bit more info, the Wikipedia article is actually very good. I believe that my dysthymia has been following me around since elementary school, when I first started to dread going to school and had anxieties surrounding friendships – probably around the first or second grade. When I was in high school I was “triggered” into experiencing more severe depression due to a horrible breakup and subsequent bullying situation that resulted in the loss of many of the people who were closest to me.

I never wanted to be on medication. It was suggested to me when I was 17, and I refused, because I felt like medication should be a last resort, and I was 17 for goodness sake. I should have been in therapy at that point in my life, but there was no space for me and I couldn’t afford a private counsellor.

So I just dealt with it on my own, and for a while it did seem to get better, but eventually I realized that I had just become numb in a lot of ways. I was never truly happy. I never managed to pull myself out of that depression, I just pushed it down.

Fast forward a couple of years – I’m now nearly 20, and it’s the summer before my third year of university. Things are the same as they’ve always been for the past two years. I’m living with my new boyfriend in Toronto working a job I hate and generally bored out of my mind. Then something life changing happens.

I was in love with someone back in high school who loved me back, but did some not-so-great things and then left me for someone else. I didn’t think I would ever see him again, let alone form a relationship with him. I saw him at a few parties and realized that I was still in love with him. He told me that he’s sorry for high school and that if he didn’t mess that up, we would still be together now. He didn’t say he still loved me. He didn’t actually say much. But I looked at his eyes and they were so sad and said everything else. It was one of the few times in my life that I’ve felt something right down to my core. It broke me out of the numbness that I had been feeling (or not feeling, rather) and pushed me into action.

I couldn’t just let that go. I broke up with my boyfriend and moved home. We “hung out” for several months and said all the right things and had such lovely plans for the future. The reason I’m saying all of this is because he was the ONLY person I have ever met who could break through the cloud that was constantly hanging over me. With him I didn’t have dysthymia. I was just me, the best possible version of myself. Knowing this in hindsight, it’s easy to see why I loved him so much.

But that didn’t last. “Perfection” fades, and as it did my depression returned stronger and stronger until everything screwed itself up again. The only thing that could make me happy was perfection – otherwise, nothing was good enough. After a while I could only see the bad and I couldn’t feel the good as much, and I nitpicked about things that in hindsight really didn’t matter. I couldn’t truly feel love, either for someone else or from someone else, and I wasn’t the best version of me any more.

What happened in the year that followed isn’t really important. It can be summed up by saying that I just kept getting worse and worse and that, left untreated and coupled with unfortunate social situations, led to  suicidal ideation and serious depressive episodes. This can happen in cases like mine, in which dysthymia is left untreated for a long time and triggering experiences keep happening. This is called double depression (also referenced in the Wiki article). I was a loose cannon. Even I couldn’t predict myself. Mid-February of 2014, at 21, I landed myself in the hospital for a night. They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help me, but luckily by the end of the month I got into the counselling centre at my university where I had previously been on the wait-list, where I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with dysthymia and again suggested medication.

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