Hello everyone and happy Tuesday, wherever you are in the world! It’s sunny here, feeling like 20* Celsius (that’s 68* to the Fahrenheit users reading this!), and the sky is a wonderful blue with wispy tufts of cloud.
Today I’m continuing to share with you my personal struggle with mental illness–and triumph over it–in a series called A Light in Darkness.
What is A Light in Darkness all about? It’s where I share the highs and lows, the tears and scars, and the joy and spark and love that has ultimately gotten me to this wonderful point of my life. My path, my beautiful life. I hope that by telling my story, I can inspire others to keep going with their lives and feel wonderful.
I am by NO means a trained counsellor. I cannot offer you professional advice. I do hope that my words help, and it will be wonderful if they do. My only training comes from life itself, and I’m still learning! You can read my first post in this series here.
I felt that I had a mostly happy childhood. I lived an extremely isolated life in rural locations, friendless and homeschooled until age 13 (when I was given up on and left to my own devices), with very ill parents and no real exposure to the outside world. I loved my adopted mom, but she was emotionally and verbally abusive to a terrible extent, making a hugely negative impact on my life. I filled my time with art, writing, play, and imagining. I became self-reliant, my own best friend.
But by age 11, I often felt listless. Sad for no reason. Mom’s constant emotional and verbal attacks left me wide-open, raw, unable to defend myself from the next attack as she grew more volatile. I cut myself for the first time at around that age, because I felt like I needed to be punished for whatever nonexistant crime Mom had made up. Then I couldn’t stop. I hated myself. My reliance in myself, my own best friend, became the complete opposite. I became my own worst enemy.
My dad had a massive stroke at just 55 years old, when I was barely 13, and so began my life as full-time caregiver. I didn’t get to leave the house for months at a time. I soon began to feel hopeless. This life continued until I picked up and moved to Canada at 23 years old, and by then I carried many deep scars–both emotional and physical. I continued to be depressed, suicidal, and experience anxiety that was so extreme it crippled me.
In lieu of professional counselling, I worked very hard over the last few years to help my emotional health and my outlook on life. It was always very grim, full of ridiculous worse-case scenarios that my mind could only see as pure truth, and severe depression where I could barely get out of bed; made so much worse with exhausted adrenal glands from my constant fight-or-flight anxiety. Seeing that all these thoughts and actions weren’t “me”, but part of the illness, was a HUGE eye-opener.
However, it’s been incredibly difficult to come up with strategies for coping and healing when the symptoms of this illness are so unpredictable, especially when I was first beginning to treat it with medication. It was “normal” to me.
As I mentioned in my first post, I’ve always had to stay on top of my mental health to keep it buoyed up, once I had the presence of mind to do so. It’s been hard. I’ve pushed it away for long periods, I’ve watched it carefully, I threw myself into a creative life and felt so much happier. I slowly exposed myself to new things, such as taking the bus on my own, and eventually I was able to leave the house without having panic attacks. Even when the depression and anxiety seemed to be nonexistent, I felt that It was a crawling process. If I moved too quickly or got too cocky, I would often find the darkness suddenly devouring me again.
I lived with medication (Cipralex, 25mg) for three years, supplemented with a B-50 vitamin and cognitive behavioural therapy, both of which my doctor suggested. It was very difficult to get him to refer me to a therapist, so I gave up after a while. The other three methods helped me so very much, along with talking things out with supportive friends. I continued to move too quickly, and sure enough, the darkness would consume me over and over again. It was a terrible battle.
I kept beating myself up for regressing, for–as I saw it–failing to heal and defeat it.
But then I realized that every step I took toward bettering my mental health was one step forward to healing. Even if I got knocked a couple steps back, I was still further ahead that I had been two months earlier! And bit by bit, the uphill climb made me stronger. It gave me endurance. Every little bit took me higher, able to look down and see the darkness increasingly further and further away from me.
It’s brought me to my current point, where I’m still climbing, but the darkness is so far below me now that I can clearly see into brightness. I’m still going to seek out professional counselling to help my healing along and hopefully complete it. I would love to one day never see the darkness again, not even a glimpse on the horizon.
So, what I’m trying to say is this: it doesn’t matter if it’s the first, third, or one hundredth time you’ve used any method–such as medication or counselling–to deal with the illness. If you keep climbing, bit by bit, day by day (even hour by hour sometimes), you’ll get there. You’ll get where you need to be, no matter what kind of help you choose to receive.
And it is so worth the gradual climb. The struggle. When you catch those rays of brightness that fill your entire being, you’re not gonna want to let go!