This blog is not FDA approved
The root of my mental health issues is a person. A tiny, little, innocent person whom I barely knew and remember very little about.
My sister – Nadine. Who died when I was four and she was only two.
My sister was born with a heart valve missing. Technology back then (1982) wasn’t what it is today. My mom had no idea she was going to give birth to a sick child until she did.
I don’t remember anything from that period of time. Not even Nadine. Sometimes I think I remember her and then I realize I have made up memories based on the stories my parents and relatives have told me over the years. It makes me sad.
My problems began when she died. I didn’t go to her funeral. My mom told me she died, but I have no recollection of it at all. I just know I started acting strangely – sleeping on the staircase at night, begging my parents not to forget me if they had to leave the house for some reason, being anti-social with other children, especially kids Nadine’s age.
I learned how to appear okay on the outside. I smiled, went to school, got good grades. I had friends. I got a job in my field only two weeks after graduating college. I had an apartment of my own. A boyfriend. A social life. A career. Golly gee, I was on the right track.
But inside – inside was a black hole. Everything was gnarled and twisted up inside me. Everything bad inside me was constantly spinning and whirring like some kind of fucked up manic depressive washing machine of doom.
People asked me how I was, as we humans do when we’re making inane small-talk with one another, and I lied through my teeth. But, I did imagine what it would be like if I actually said what I was feeling.
“Hey, how are you today?”
“Actually, I think I might be dying inside. All I see, hear and feel is blackness. I think my heart and soul are on fire and soon, all that will be left is a burning pile of white-hot ash. I have no emotions. I am numb. I am sinking and suffocating. I don’t even know if I’m human anymore. Most of all, I’m scared. Because I’m not sure what these feelings make me capable of. There are definitely days I want to die. I think about that a lot.”
Of course, I didn’t say that. Instead, I pasted a fake smile on my face and said, “Oh hey. I’m going super-great, and you?”
I lived this way for a long time. It got to the point where I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning. Taking a shower seemed like a monumental task. Eating and even the thought of it, made me puke. My plan to just fake it was falling apart. My attempts to smile and pretend were failing. Instead of smiling, my face became a twisted mess. I couldn’t do it anymore. People started noticing I was falling apart. My insides were spilling out all around me.
I finally went to see my family doctor. I was 25. He told me he’d been waiting for me and he knew that eventually, I’d need and want his help. I was officially diagnosed – manic depression and anxiety disorder.
He put me on medication. At first, it was awesome!!!!! I felt like a badass superhero all hopped up on rainbows and euphoria. I had energy again. I felt happy again. I could focus again. The first few weeks I was manic because my system was getting used to the medication. I cleaned my entire house from top to bottom. I went grocery shopping. I paid my bills on time. I went to work and was productive.
As I adjusted to the medication though, the sticky, tarry blackness began to creep back in.
“Hey asshole,” it said to me one night. “You know all this happiness and peace you’re feeling? Well, IT’S TOTAL BULLSHIT!!!!! It’s not REAL. It’s only possible because the medication is tricking your brain into thinking it’s all happy and shit. You aren’t REALLY happy. You’re still miserable. And I’m still here. Just lurking and waiting. I’ll be back. This is all a sham. And medication may work for a while, but it will never get rid of me. I’m still here. Just so we’re clear. Just so you know.”
It was right. I freaked out.
I stopped taking the medication, which was like trying to kick heroin, and started going to therapy. I reconnected with my First Nations culture, traditions and spirituality. I let go of my anger toward and resentment of my little sister, whose death altered my life in a way I never imagined. I made peace with her. I forgave her. And myself.
I still have bad days. I figure I always will. They are far more rare than they used to be. In fact, there was a time when bad days were the norm. It’s not like that anymore. Not usually.
Depression isn’t like a cold or flu. It doesn’t just run its course and then go away. It’s always there. I can feel it.
Sometimes, it feels like it’s quietly threatening me. “Hey asshole. Yeah, you. You thought I was gone, but I’m not. I’m still here. And I can return anytime I choose and ruin your stupid life. Just so we’re clear. Just so you know.”
I knew if I was ever going to be okay, I would have to dig down into the deepest parts of myself and start mending the gaping wounds my childhood left on me. I knew I would have to drag out all the emotion and wrestle with it. I knew I would have to take all the emotional scars and seal them, for good. No more band-aids or bullshit. There was real work to be done and, if I ever wanted to function again, it was work I HAD to do.
So I did. I still am. Working on it, I mean.
I’ve had a lot of help, love and support along the way. I’ve also lost a lot of “friends” along the way too. Mostly because I scared them and made them uncomfortable. Because I was and still am unpredictable, strange and messed up. I always will be. I’m okay with it now.
People have talked about me behind my back. They’ve called me crazy. Mentally unstable. Insane. Totally fucked. It hurts because they don’t understand. It hurts because it’s true.
But I am getting better. Now, when I hear that blackness whispering my name, when I feel it pulling at the complex web of my mind, I am able to say to it, “Hey asshole. Yeah, you. I know you’re still lurking around inside me because I can feel you. But you don’t own me because I won’t let you. Yes, you manage to take hold of me sometimes, but not like before. Never again like before. Because I am stronger now. And YOU DON’T OWN ME. Just so we’re clear. Just so you know.”