It’s been a tough week. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, the wheels just started to wobble early on and it just seemed to be a steady downhill ride and they fell off. Considering I think I coped pretty well. I got back up and carried on putting out fire after fire at work, attempting to justify myself without getting on the defensive. I haven’t had a chance to see my pony, so that’s probably added to my lack of energy. I’m fighting a chest thing. I don’t know what it is, all I know is I can’t run…and it’s driving me nuts not being able to train properly. I received less than ideal news about my thyroid from my recent scan.
There have been some great positives to this week with volunteer work opportunities and a teaching opportunity with a pony club. So I’m excited and clinging dearly onto those little highs.
Last week I wrote a blog, which I then deleted from Facebook. It covered a pretty sensitive topic: suicide. I decided I wasn’t in the right mind frame really to talk about it and I was pretty concerned about how people close to me might read it and take it in a way I didn’t mean.
But I’m back. And since suicide has been in the news almost every single day since I deleted it, I decided to buck up and get back on here and talk. That’s what I started this blog for right?
From the beginning: I’ve struggled with depression since I was young. I was probably about 14 when I first realised I wasn’t coping like most people cope and I described the feeling to a close friend as ‘the dark bubble’. It was only way I could describe it at the time. I’m not even sure if the idea of depression crossed my mind then. But I did know something wasn’t right.
Depression and a bunch of other stuff that tends to go hand in hand with it runs in my family. I’ve never been diagnosed by a doctor. I think I’ve probably only ever actually identified it openly with words as depression twice in my life, once with my friend with whom I called it ‘the dark bubble’ and once in casual conversation with my mother. Otherwise, it can just sit in the back of my mind.
Why I’ve been subject to a fairly shitty thing could be down to a number of reasons: over active thyroid (I have a toxic thyroid nodule) issues almost always go hand in hand with mental health and depression, it’s in my family, or I have a personality which is partial to it.
Pick a reason.
To be honest it actually doesn’t matter for what I want to talk about.
That word is one that’s not particularly easy to type and I’ve only ever once said it in conversation about myself…and that was last week to my partner.
I post regularly on a FB pg called YouthNet and every article just about has something to do with people needing to open up and talk about these issues, “People need to talk about mental health issues and suicide; it needs to be something we are not afraid to deal with.” That’s what most of the articles say. And I get right in there and say “YES!”
Yet I never speak about it personally.
Why? Because I’m afraid. What if my family starts to worry about me? I’ve survived 100 per cent of my days so far, I know I will be fine. What if a future employer comes across this and thinks I won’t be able to work properly? What if something thinks I have a ‘mental health disorder’ and they don’t want me to be part of their organisation? What if Sam’s friends and family don’t like me anymore? What if people think there is something wrong with me?
And that right there, is exactly the reason we have a massive issue with suicide and depression in our country.
Isolation and fear mean people do not want to talk about it. Not when it’s to do with them.
When I was 14 I remember very clearly plotting out all the different ways to die, narrowing them down into my top two. And whenever I hear someone has died that way it hits a nerve…every single time. Back then it gave me a sense of control over myself and my life. I felt like if I had the option to escape, then it was always my choice to continue. And that took a massive weight off my shoulders.
I often would stop eating. Never enough to be of a major concern and it had absolutely nothing to do with my weight. I probably didn’t realise what I was doing until this year when shit hit the fan when I came back from overseas and I found myself skipping meal after meal.
I saw it this way: I couldn’t control how I felt, but I could sure as hell control a) whether I had to live through it and b) I could punish my body by with holding food. I punished it because it wouldn’t work like other peoples. It was anxious, it was too skinny, it was struggling with things most people found easy.
One day mum knew someone who committed suicide. She told me about it. I saw the pain on her face, the sadness, the hurt, the ‘why?!’
I think it was probably the reason I understood death was in fact final. It was not just an escape, it was over for good. And while it’s easy to say ‘well, yeah? Duh.’ It’s actually a concept that’s hard to grasp when you’ve never seen the effects of death or the reality of it. That is why we need to talk to our children about it.
By about 15 I started to feel ok and by 16 I can’t remember any suicidal thoughts. I never said anything when I was younger and I’m not entirely sure why. I think because, while I knew most people don’t think that way, I was really fine. I didn’t want to die. At the end of the day it was about control.
Life has had many, many up and downs since then but while I’ve suffered moments of depression, I haven’t had any overwhelming thoughts about death. So I never really worried about it. It became a moment in time that could easily be forgotten. I was young, hormones were changing.
I’ve put a lot of it down to things like my thyroid, my diet etc. And it was the reason for a lot of the issues. But it’s not the reason for all of it. I don’t know the reason.
So it took me by surprise when last week, out of nowhere, in the midst of life feeling pretty darn good, I found myself back in those moments when I was 14. “What’s the best way out?”
And it was then that I had to actually accept this is something bigger than me. People don’t just ‘get over it’ and moments of depression, of wanting out, strike out of nowhere and there is very little one can do about it.
Someone came up to me on Sunday and asked, “Are you ok? You seem a little off.”
I replied with “Yeah, I’m fine.” I mean, I don’t really know how to just sort of lay “Oh yeah, nah, I’m struggling with suicidal thoughts out of nowhere that I can’t explain and I’m really fine, but also feeling like complete shit.”
Laying that on someone makes it real.
No I don’t want out. I love my life. I love being alive. I love the people I am with and my friends, my family are some of the best around.
But that doesn’t stop those thoughts creeping in.
And that is my message. You have absolutely no idea what is going on in someone’s life. There have been moments in mine where it really was all turning to shit and I was feeling like I was living in some joke that went wrong, yet it looks fine. It looks good.
Doesn’t mean it is.
And just because someone may have an amazing life with what seems to be no reason to be upset. They can be struggling. They can be fighting their biggest internal battle and you do not know that.
Some of my friends have had no idea the extent of my thoughts last week. But they are the reason I’m feeling resilient and pretty good this week, even though it’s been a crappy one. I know they’re there for me, they want to support me, they want to make sure I’m ok without having to make me feel like I’m ‘different’ or ‘weak’. I’m not different and I’m far from weak. This is not a struggle only I struggle with and I think the news this past week has made that pretty clear to New Zealand.
Let’s stop making people feel like they need to ‘toughen up’. Let’s stop ignoring teenagers when they aren’t coping and telling them ‘you’re only young, what do you have to worry about?’
We need to stop treating people like they’re less of a person because they struggle with something they cannot control.
Knowing people care, a smile in a coffee shop, a hug from an acquaintance at church, a wine with the girls. I didn’t want to get out of bed so Sam brought me breakfast in bed. And then gave me no choice to get up. Having my friend and her husband send me some absolutely amazing encouragement…that’s what gets me motivated in those moments. No one needed to take on my burden – that doesn’t help anyone, but just knowing someone had taken a moment of their time to care about me, that’s what I needed.
For me, when I’m struggling often I seem really bubbly, I seem happy. But there a moments I’ll stare off into nowhere. I’m not sure why that is. It’s just me. When I’m not struggling, I can have a bad day and I’ll look sad, I’ll feel sad. But that’s sadness.
Moments of depression feel as if you are in sinking sand, it’s the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, it’s the dread of the day, it’s the not seeing a way out from the moment of darkness you’re in.
One of the most powerful quotes I have read came from a site called The Broken Borderline (follow her on FB).
If the photo hasn’t loaded on your screen it says this: “The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any other abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from a window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘don’t and ‘hang on’ can really understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to be personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
For me personally, those flames have never been close enough for me to do anything other than weigh up the options. And that has been my mission for a long time; make sure those flames never do get close enough.
I have surrounded myself with amazing, caring people who complement me. I have quit things in life that drag me down and make me feel like I’m worthless. I have taken on volunteer projects and have found ways to make sure every single day I know, without a doubt, that I am valued, I am loved, I am wanted, and I belong.
Most importantly, I belong.
And that is why I came back from my travels with an absolute certain drive that I wanted to be in a position to help. To make sure people do not EVER feel like they do not belong in their own lives. That they are WANTED, LOVED, VALUED. And most importantly, that there are people who do GET what it feels like to feel the flames and want desperately to escape the terrible thoughts that surround your mind. The darkness that wraps itself around you and makes its home in your tears, anger and frustration.
It does get better. I can promise that. But I will admit it is still at times a struggle, but every single moment I wake up in the morning and I am glad to be here. That is a victory. And I know that. The struggle is worth it.
I’m studying psychology because I want to fix it. I started, to be honest, because I actually wanted to understand how to fix myself. But now I feel like it’s bigger than me. And because of that I try to find at least one thing in my day that went either well, or that I am thankful for. It can even be the lady at the supermarket who helped me with a smile.
I cling onto just about anything good. Because I do understand what it’s like not to feel anything good. And because of that, I really do appreciate what good feels like.
So to end I just want to say be kind, be loving, be the kind of person you’d want to meet on a bad day. Buy someone a drink or a coffee, make the time to send a text to someone on your mind. Don’t ever stop caring about other humans; create an environment around you where people can be open. People should not be afraid to be open in whatever forum they want to be.
Just writing a post like this is a massive step for me. Talking, even with a very guarded mindset to my partner about it was also massive.
But as everything in my life…it’s one step at a time. One step toward loving it, toward coping with it, toward just being a bloody good person.
Be a community. Love as a community. Because you have no idea who may very well need you.
You are valued, you are amazing, you are one of a kind, and please stay around because the world needs people like you.
If you know someone struggling, what this video from the other night on TVNZ. It really is worth a watch for everyone…
Also, have a scroll through these pretty real and wonderful quotes from The Broken Borderline pg.
Much love x