Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Depression. My Story

My hands are shaking right now typing this out.

I'm sure everyone has heard about the absolutely tragic, and horrifying news of Robin Williams' passing due to suicide. This death has hit me hard. Not only because he is such a beloved actor/comedian, that I grew up watching, and loving. But also because depression has played a major role in my life for as long as I can remember. So, I decided that I would share my story. A story that only those very close to me know the details of, a story that could have ended in a very different way. So, I apologize in advance if this gets long, and winded.

I was 12 I had my first panic attack. I thought I was dying. I have always been a very dramatic person, and a slight...alright, a HUGE hypochondriac. At first, it was a feeling like I couldn't swallow. Now that sensation alone is hard to describe. My mouth was completely dry, and trying to swallow, which always seemed like a natural reflex, suddenly got really difficult. My reflexes would kick in, and I would be able to swallow, but, the panic that had already set in at the thought that I couldn't swallow did a number on me. My heart started racing, I started sweating, and my throat felt like it was closing in. I remember telling my mom I couldn't swallow, and she didn't get it. Nobody in our immediate family had ever had a panic attack, so my parents truly had no idea what was going on. I went to the hospital, and they focused on the swallowing. I immediately felt better when we got to the hospital, the fact that there were doctors everywhere to "save" me, made me feel 100x better. Well, they found no reason for my swallowing issues, and sent me home.

These panic attacks continued. It got to the point that I carried a bottle of water everywhere I went, and if I didn't have my water, it would send me into an intense panic. I remember forgetting to bring it along one time on the way to a shopping trip with my mom. I freaked out so badly that she frantically raced to the nearest drive thru to get me a drink. My panic attacks came to a head one weekend at my Grandma's house. I had a very intense panic attack that had me confined to my bed. I was completely immobilized. I didn't recognize at the time that my anxiety had sent me into a deep state of depression. I only left the bed every morning when my mom drew me a bath, then I would crawl back into bed. I was anxious, scared, sad, and unbearably lonely. I was surrounded by people, but nobody understood what was happening. My lowest moment at that time was begging my mom to take me to the hospital. I remember yelling in her face "You'll be sorry. When I die, you'll wish you took me to the hospital." That was all it took. My mom took me in. The only instructions my father gave my mother before we left was to not let them medicate me. My dad didn't believe in that.

They did medicate me. They had to. I think even they were surprised at the level of my anxiety...I mean for a 13 year old. And just like that, after a weekend trip to my Grandma's that was supposed to last only 2 days, but had lasted a week, I was well enough to make the car ride home.

The next few years were miserable. We moved from Hamilton, to the middle of nowhere. The adjustment was more than I had ever anticipated. And I had my first real boyfriend, which as any teenage girl knows, can destroy your life in a million different ways. I was depressed. I had no idea why, I had no idea  how to deal with any of the feelings that I was having. I was lost. So, I started cutting.

Now, I've never been able to explain cutting to anyone. Why I did it? Why it made me feel better, and worse all at the same time? Why I couldn't stop? I just don't know. I remember the first time I did it. I was having a breakdown, and felt so full. Full of emotions, full of sadness, full of loneliness, full of hopelessness. Si, I grabbed the closest thing in my reach (a push pin) and started cutting. Instantly I felt a release. An unexplainable feeling, that calmed me down. After that day, I was in a constant battle with myself. I knew that what I was doing was dangerous, and not normal coping behaviour, but I also knew I couldn't stop.

After a few long months, my brother realized what I was doing. I made him promise to keep it to himself, and I think I really did expect him not to tell our parents. But, he was 12, and he was scared. My parents confronted me, and I broke down. I started counselling right away. My counsellor implemented a "number system" My parents were to periodically ask me throughout the day what number I was at. Any number below a 5 or 6 was concerning, and meant I shouldn't be left alone. I started to dread the question "What number are you?" It meant I needed to talk about how I was feeling. I hated that. I hated how sad it made my mom. I hated how crazy it made me feel. I hated it all. I had been missing a lot of school, I was still horribly depressed, and now the principal was telling my parents that there was no conceivable way I could make up my credits, and have a successful school year. They wanted me to drop out, take some time off, figure my shit out. Whatever way you want to put it, they wanted me out.

I felt worthless, I was an embarrassment, I was a burden......I was nothing. For the first time in this entire ordeal, I wanted to die. I had never felt like that before. In fact, I had always felt the exact opposite. I had been through enough panic attacks to know what dying felt like (or so I thought) and I had actively tried to avoid that feeling. But, over a very short period of time, my despair, and heartache had turned into thoughts of suicide. The thought of dying consumed my thoughts. I thought about how, I thought about when, I wrote several drafts of a suicide note. I just wanted out. I felt like my parents had suffered enough grief on my behalf. I thought they'd be much better off without me. They would be happier. I even imagined them being relieved that they wouldn't have to deal with my shenanigans anymore. They would be free. And so would I. I wouldn't have to pretend to be happy. I wouldn't have to smile, when I felt like crying. I wouldn't have to lie, and say that I was fine, when I wasn't. I was exhausted, nothing made sense, and I felt more lost and lonely than I ever had before.

Everything came to a head one afternoon. It had been a rough day. I was fighting with my dad. He wasn't too happy about me laying around the house when I should be in school. I was horribly hurt and ashamed, but I agreed with him. I was a lazy, freeloading, sad sack. What was I doing here? I didn't belong here. My parents didn't deserve this, they didn't deserve to be burdened with this. I had had enough. I had a small pocketknife, I had locked myself in the bathroom, and started cutting. Well, thank God the knife was a million years old and super dull, and thank God my dad wasn't done fighting with me, and busted the door open. I was a mess. I couldn't even stand up straight. I was broken.

That was almost 15 years ago...wow. It doesn't seem like that long ago. I can still remember how I felt. Explaining depression to someone that has never experienced these feelings, is difficult. They just won't understand. Not because they are a horrible person, or they don't love you, but simply because, there is no way to describe these feelings. Such a deep despair that you are simply exhausted just existing. Such a strong loneliness, that you always feel alone, even when you're around people. You feel lost, like you just can't find your way home, and you keep walking in circles. That's depression. Not necessarily wanting to take your own life, but not wanting to live. Because the pain is so deep, it physically hurts you to talk, move, smile....

I know that I will always struggle with depression. Yes, I'm on medication. Yes, I have been through counselling. But, depression is forever. You can treat it, and most of the time, you will feel like yourself. But, I still have periods where I look around and have no idea who I am. I am urging anyone who is struggling, to please, please get help. Trust me when I tell you, you are not alone. This isn't about anyone but you. You are important, you are an important piece to the world's puzzle. You are loved. You are worth it. And, if you have friends or family that are struggling, do your best to help them. Don't tell them to "snap out of it" Don't expect them to get better on their own. Be there, listen, save your judgements, and love them. Nobody deserves to feel this way. Nobody wants to feel this way. Watch for the signs here: http://www.health.gov.sk.ca/suicide-common-warning-signs If you see any of these, act fast. Don't brush it under the rug, don't assume the person is bluffing. Get them help.

These are the Canadian suicide hotlines: http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/international/canada-suicide-hotlines.html

This is the info for the suicide prevention lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/