January 25th is Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Day. It’s a day to talk about, raise awareness of, and money for mental health initiatives across Canada. Today is the day to speak out and let others know they are not alone. Open up. Be a listening ear.
These last few days have brought emotional, physical, and mental stress. Not anything really horrid or crazy, just tense interactions, lack of sleep and lack of down time. I have learnt over the last 15 years that when this happens and I feel my stress rising, that is my cue to take a walk, a nap, a tea or pick up some healthier food. Today I was at that level. That level where the little tape recorder in the back of my head starts re-playing the sick mantra “I hate my life. I want to die. I hate my life. I want to die.” This recording showed up in my head about four years ago when I was pregnant with son number two. I was homesick. Living on the opposite side of the country from my family and home. I felt alone and constantly sad, not enough and too much all at once. I had constant thoughts of suicide rattling through my brain. One day I just stayed in bed the entire day and could not move. All I could do was sleep and pray, sleep and pray. Pray “God why? Why am I such a terrible person? Why am I stuck here alone and misunderstood? Why am I terrible at being a good person? A good mother? A good wife? What can I do? God please help. God please take me. Save my baby. Take me” This was the low point. Not the lowest. God brought me through.
When I was 22 I hit my lowest point. I attempted suicide after a particularly stressful time at work. I couldn’t deal, I wasn’t sleeping, I was looking for comfort in sugar and caffeine (BAD choices!) I became so entrenched in my own misery that I concocted this fantasy of being gone and everyone missing me. I took pills, fell asleep on the couch and didn’t think of the effect that and my awful note would have on my husband or my life. My attempt was definitely a plea for help. I was lost.
I feel that way often. Now after years of therapy, speaking with others who live with depression, and being evaluated professionally, I know my signs of depression and stress fatigue. I know when I need to ask for help. Sometimes I wait too long and the recording takes over. It makes me spiral down. If I start replacing the recording early enough, or admit I need help, or sleep I can stave it off.
The largest thing I have learned is that talking about it helps. A counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, my husband, family or an understanding friend. These have been my refuge. Learning my tells, learning my patterns and changing them each time has been essential in my personal journey through and with depression.
Along with living with depression for the past 15 years of it popping in and out of my life and psyche, I also live with anxiety. Not my own. It resides in my husband’s psyche. It plays havoc with our lives and has made us both feel alone and destroyed. It causes my husband so much trouble. It has made him miss out on family events, parties with friends, job opportunities and every day fun with our family. Anxiety wracks his body with intense feelings of fear, lack of control and inability to determine if it’s anxiety or his chronic illness causing him to feel this way. Living with a chronic illness, acute anxiety and panic disorder, OCD and mild Hypochondria sucks. It sucks for him incredibly. It also sucks for me, and for my kids and all of our family. We are all living with it. He bears the brunt, the heavy burden of feeling that this thing has hijacked his life. He feels like he causes us all pain, that he is our burden. IT SUCKS!!! We walk it day by day and try to keep the anxiety at bay. I feel alone often. I feel I carry so much on my back, but I feel guilty for feeling that way because I now he deals with more. Being afraid to walk outside is not something that makes you feel empowered or surrounded by friends. I know he feels just as alone, if not more, and I know he feels just as guilty about everything.
Anxiety and depression has threatened our marriage, caused us to hurt each other with our words, or lack of them, and our actions. We are learning to cope. But coping feels a lot like surviving instead of thriving. We have gone to therapy, we go to church, we pray, we try to work things out and we are learning how to talk to each other about our struggles without pointing fingers or blame shifting.
Living with mental illness is a reality in our family. We do it every day. If you feel alone reach out. Speak to someone. Call me. Let’s talk. http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ #bellletstalk