Here’s a public service announcement from me to whoever wants to read this- whoever suffers with mental health, whoever had a bad week or a bad day, or a bad month- to whoever just needs to feel less alone.
Here’s the main misunderstandings that I’ve encountered in dealing with my depression, and here’s what I have to say about all of it.
1. It’s not a choice to feel sad. Or to feel angry at the world. It’s not a broken perspective or negativity. It’s not self defeating behaviours. I mean, those can exist in conjunction I guess, but that’s not why depression exists in a person. Those things are a result of suffering.
2. Having depression doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean that your brain is broken. It might mean that your heart is. But it doesn’t make you any less of a human being. And it doesn’t make you less worthy of anything good in life.
3. Depression does not look like you might automatically think. Sometimes it looks like cancelled plans over and over. Sometimes it looks like anger all the time. Sometimes it looks like crying often. Sometimes it looks like an extreme calm. Sometimes it looks like cries for help. Sometimes it looks like nothing.
4. Not all people with depression need or want to hear that you “understand.” I speak for myself and many others when I say that you don’t know the first thing about what my suffering looks like. And that’s okay. That’s not your fault. I wouldn’t want you to. But i also don’t want to hear that you understand. Or that you’ve been there. Because you haven’t stood in my body and felt my heart hurt. You haven’t felt my mind drown out the rest of the world. And that’s okay.
5. You don’t need to fix me. I’m not broken. I don’t need to be carried. I need to be loved. I need my hand to be held. I need to learn to love myself again.
6. Depression doesn’t have a time line. It is not linear. I don’t need to have “gotten through it by now.” Healing is a marathon, not a sprint.
7. Being on medication does not make me weak. It means that I was strong enough to ask for help and acknowledging that I couldn’t do it on my own.
8. Depression doesn’t always make sense. I need you to understand that I don’t always make sense when I’m not okay. My inability to understand and process my own feelings and thoughts is hard enough without trying to explain it all to a world that doesn’t understand- that can’t understand. And that’s okay. I’m learning to forgive myself for not always having the answers.
9. There’s no handbook on how to survive a bad day. Bad days look different for everyone. Mine look like the fetal position in a parking lot on the way home. They look like laying on the ground outside. They look like sitting on the floor of an office or on the deck. They look like anger and resentment. They look like annoyance. They look like despair.
10. Just like there’s no handbook on how to live with depression, there’s no handbook on how to love someone with it either. It’s not easy to watch. It’s not easy to sit with someone in their darkness. But it’s necessary. And even when I can’t describe for you how important your existence is in that moment, please know that you make a difference for me every time.
Lastly, and most importantly,
11. Depression is not the fault of anyone involved. It’s not your fault for having it. It’s not your families fault. There is no fault. It is an entity of its own with its own agenda. But you are here in this moment for a reason. Your pain is not your fault. Your anger, your sadness, your disappointment, your grief. None of these things are your fault.
12. Depression does not determine where you will go in the future. It does not determine who you are. It does not equate to and is not contingent on your failures and successes.
I just felt like I needed to put this out into the universe. Maybe it helped someone. Maybe it just helped me find some peace today. But either way, its out there.
I am not ashamed to be who I am.
I am not ashamed to be open about the debilitating monster that lives in my mind. I am not scared to talk about it.
Silence is where fear grows, and I’m not scared of fighting for my happiness.
What would it be like to walk barefoot through life? To feel all of the world beneath your feet the whole time. To feel the pavement, the twigs, the dirt, the warm water, the cold snow, the way the earth breathes into your feet. I picture it being like how empathy feels when a person has the capacity to give it-to really give it.
When I think about empathy, I think about the few times that I have been able to really give it to someone fully and I think about how hard it was to do. It isn't easy to be empathetic. It isn't easy to hear about someone's darkness and to honestly and truthfully sit with them in it; immersed in their pain and their doubt.
For months now I've been feeling like I lost that ability and I thought about how that could have happened. I thought about all of the changes that have occurred this last year that may have contributed. I thought about how I stopped taking my meds- but that couldn't be it, I told myself- those numbed me to any feelings-that can't be it. So I thought about how I've been hurt by people closest to me- that can't be it either, I told myself. That's happened before-that isn't in your control and you know that. That can't be it. So maybe it was all of the change. Maybe it was the guilt of being less than the person than I know that I am. I couldn't find the answers. Not for months. There wasn't one.
Then this week, I went to work like always. And on Thursday I met with someone in their home. The building itself is a reminder of someone who I used to work with-someone who died. It's hard to go in sometimes because I miss that person a lot. But I always do because life goes on and I have to move along with it. So I went in to do my job- the job I've always done. And I met with who I was there to see.
The room mirrored her sadness. It was dark and crowded. She said "sometimes I just want to fall asleep and never wake back up." Those are words I've said many times. A feeling that I've felt a hundred times. And I told her that. She then proceeded to ask me how I got through it and I gathered myself and looked at her with all of the wisdom I could muster and told her that I didn't know- that I held onto whatever I could and I pulled myself into tomorrow-that I crawled myself to the afternoon-that I forced myself up and out of my shell-that I sat with myself in my physical and metaphorical darkness until my heart had enough and until my mind was strong enough to fight. And that's what I told her- I told her that I made a choice to fight and that I made the choice because I decided that all of the reasons why I was in the dark shouldn't be allowed to be the things that kept me there. I made a choice.
After the meeting, I got up and walked out of the building. I stepped out into the crisp air and my heart exploded into my chest. A lump grew in my throat. My eyes welled. I told myself I needed to just get to my vehicle-that I needed to hold it together. And when I got in, I sobbed. And then I realized that for the first time in months, I gave into empathy. I gave her a piece of myself while we sat in her darkness. And in doing so, I realized that I didn't need that piece anymore-but she did. I think I've made it a point to fight through every obstacle life throws at me. I've learned to love myself and to accept my faults. I've learned to take the hard moments or days or situations or decisions and to learn from them and grow from them. So I don't need the piece of me that reminds me that I was broken. Because I'm not anymore. And not breaking down every time I have a hard moment doesn't mean that I am less empathetic- it means that I'm stronger than I once was. And feeling empathy in moments like the one on Thursday are there to remind me that I don't have to live there anymore, and that I cant carry everything from my past into my future- that I can't carry other people's pain into my future, even though that's what I feel like I'm wired to do.
What I can do is to give those pieces of myself away to the people that need them now ad hope that they make the choices that they need to make for themselves-that they will learn to cope and fight and scratch their way through in whatever way they can. It's my hope that she can do that.
I don't have the answers for why bad things happen to good people. I don't understand life's mysteries. But I do believe in growth and in change. I believe in resilience, and I believe that caterpillars undergo a great deal of darkness before becoming butterflies- as lame and cliché as that is.
"We are all of us, gods and mortals, made up of many pieces, some of them broken, some of them scarred, but none of them the total sum of who we are." -Robin LaFevers
Do not simply state that “some people are just too touchy” or “too sensitive.” Yes, words are simply words. We all know that. But words create language and language portrays meaning. If that meaning is not given carefully, and given to the wrong person, it could very well be the last thing that they hear. Speak softly, for some people have not been hardened by the world- they have been broken. Give compassion, for some people have yet to see such a thing in their lives, and give empathy. Maybe to you, words are just simple consonants and vowels put together to make a sentence, but to someone else, they could be the bullets in an already contemplated loaded gun. People are people. People are who they are because of what they have gone through. So are you. Give them the change to change the ending of their story.
"You can't have a mid life crisis at 23."
I personally call bullshit.
In this day and age, there is so much weird pressure to know what you want to do. "Hey North, how are you going to change the world?"
Well, the thing that your parents don't tell you is that you have to learn how to change your own world for the better first.
Since I was 15, I have been saying that psychology was the thing I would do forever. And, don't get me wrong, my 15 year old self was onto something. She was so "onto it" that 23 year old me now has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and have completed all of my courses for a grad diploma in psychological assessment. Rad, right?
Six months ago, I would have agreed. Now, I'm not so sure.
Recently I have been going through both an internal and external dilemma. What I mean by that is that I have outsiders telling me that what I think is wrong, and my inside self is shaking her head calling everyone fucking crazy. But, that isn't even the best part.
The best part is that with all of these dilemma's happening, I started to believe that maybe I was the crazy one. Maybe I'm the problem. No matter where I go, these things happen to happen. My first job in the "field", I got in constant arguments with the higher up people. I used to tell them that their rules didn't fit for the people we were serving. Back then it more so sounded like this - "you guys are not doing this right *insert example here.* At that time, I was 18. My second job in the field, I found myself in the same situation, except this time I was busy wondering things like "why is that a policy? That's dumb. It should be like this.." I was 20 then. And now, after three more jobs, I am hitting the same struggles, but at an all time high. This time though, it sounds like this - "there is systemic oppression built into all aspects of systems. They are oppressive by nature. If something truly was client based, they would make all of the decisions. We, as social workers would, in theory, just be there to support the process."
And now, here I am in a big mess that I created by opening my mouth, yet again.
Now don't get me wrong. I stand by what I said. If you know me at all, you know that I am not the most politically correct person in the universe. For that, I have some big fans, and a whole lot of haters. So perhaps how I said things could have been better, but the point was strong. It was that people, no matter what their intersectionality, should never let their family, their profession, or their friends beat the individuality out of them. Because nothing in life is worth losing yourself.
If you don't know what intersectionality is, don't worry. I'll tell you. It is a fancy word for how all of the parts of who we are intersect to give or take away power from us in our lives. It was originally used in the feminist world to discuss how certain classes, races, or genders had "power over" the others simply because of how our society is constructed.
Now, stay with me, I know that is a whole lot of mumbo jumbo.
But the point I am trying to make is that my own statement about societal oppression was a huge epiphany for me before I even knew it was.
I always thought that my future was one of the things that defined me. It was the carrot I was chasing, so to speak. I always said "you know what, you just have to keep going through this because it will get better. You were born to fight the system and to advocate for people that can't advocate for themselves. You need to do this. Do this for all the people that can't."
And, though I would love to be that martyr that dedicates their entire life to that, I also know that I am usually a pretty damn happy and optimistic person- one that Is being destroyed by one day at a time- one job at a time, in this god forsaken system.
15 year old me made a life decision to become a psychologist because of someone that destroyed me. Maybe I was hoping that with helping thousands of other people, I could somehow make up for never being able to "fix" that person. Or, maybe I just wanted to feel like I could help people fix themselves.
Nevertheless, what 15 year old me didn't know was that I am a crazy, politically incorrect, tornado making, bull in a china shop that laughs harder than anyone else, cries longer than anyone else, believes in growth more than so many people, and passionately fights for things that are important kind of person. 15 year old me thought she was onto something.
18 year old me thought I had it figured out. She thought I had it made. She thought id have my masters this year and have my PHD before the age 30.
21 year old me thought that depression was going to own me for the rest of my life.
22 year old me thought "this is just a phase in the work. It will get better."
23 year old me loves all of those selves, but recognizes that they were all chasing a dream that was lost at some point in the midst of life's circumstances. 23 year old me doesn't feel that way anymore.
I don't feel that way anymore.
You see, there's a difference between chasing your dreams and feeling obligated to your past self.
There's a difference between developing yourself and passionately growing.
There is a difference between seeing yourself in the mirror and truly recognizing that person.
There is a difference between passion and obligation.
I guess I am rambling. But the point of this ramble is to tell you that you might not have it all figured out. You might not have the answers. And, that might scare the hell out of you.
I know it scares the hell out of me.
But I also know that there's only so much darkness that the world gives out, and we have a lot of power to give ourselves more than we deserve.
Don't be a martyr for what you think you should stand for. Be a passionate warrior for the things you know that you stand for- the things that you want to stand for. Be that person. Be the person that scares you and the person you don't fully understand. Be the bull in the china shop. Be the politically incorrect person. Be the mistake maker. Be the blogger. Be the winner. Be the loser. Be the person that you can be proud of- not because of all of the reasons that society wants you to be- or your parents want you to be- or your friends want you to be. Be the person you can be proud of. Be known because of your authenticity and outspoken nature. Be the pariah. Be the flower that grows through the sidewalk. Be the tree growing on the side of a cliff. Be the embodiment of resiliency. Be that person- whatever that person is to you.
Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many people bow down to you or how many people say that you're nice or whatever generic things people say. It matters that you're you. The you-est you. The you that you are proud of. The person that you recognize. The person that you didn't always know you would be, but the one that you are happy to be.
Peace and Love,
Betrayal sucks. Hurt sucks. Drama sucks. The unknown sucks. It all sucks. There’s at least a hundred reasons, I’m sure, for why that is.
People don’t like being hurt, and a lot of the time, people that hurt are the first to hurt others. Why this is, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they want other people to know what they feel like. Maybe it’s because they don’t know any different. Maybe it’s because they were taught that’s how you show your love for people. Maybe they don’t think they deserve anything more than the hurt that they feel when they hurt others. Or, maybe they don’t care. They are all possible.
The thing with my brain is that not only do I get hurt by others because I think so deeply, but I also hurt myself. I do it by constantly repeating to myself in a day that I’m fat - that I’m stupid or that I don’t know what I’m doing.
Truly, maybe I don’t know what I’m doing and maybe I made mistakes that day. Maybe I’m not flawless.
It’s funny because 90 percent of me knows that these things aren’t true. I know I’m beautiful on the inside and out. I know that flawlessness doesn’t exist. I know I’m intelligent and creative and loving and caring. I know that I learn fast and that not knowing everything all the time is a part of life- that learning is part of growing and that growing is kind of beautiful.
90 percent of me knows that to be true. No hesitation. But ten percent of me thinks all of the worst things. Why does that 10 percent seem to win?
Well, it’s because that measly ten percent is relentless. It is repetitive. It is competitive. It knows that if it keeps telling me the same things- that I’m not good enough and that I’m worthless, that I’ll start to believe it.
I don’t know if you reading this have this same issue. Maybe you’ve never experienced this. But, this is what someone with depression and anxiety feels like on a daily basis.
They are at war with themselves. There’s a constant battle in their own mind. It’s gnawing. It’s an internal grinding of your soul. The pieces of you just grind together like a bunch of gears in a clock that don’t seem to fit.
My heart often feels like it’s being crushed by my own brains' misconceptions of what life should be like. It’s an internal battle that I can’t always control- one that anyone would want to just get away from in whatever way that they could.
That’s why people become addicted to substances or sex or porn or sleeping all the time or eating all the time. There’s a void that they want to be filled. There’s a pain and aching that they need to escape. There’s an abrupt anger and an uncomfortable feeling of not knowing and knowing all to much in the same breath that people need to try to distract themselves from. What better way to silence the voices inside your mind than to destroy them? Unfortunately, most of the time people destroy themselves in the process of trying to silence those loud and relentless voices.
The catch of that too to keep in mind that no matter how much you try and escape, the more you are reminded every time they come back that you might never escape it. That’s the brutal truth of mental illness.
It exists beyond all intervention.
Now, I’m not trying to destroy your hope with this. I am trying to help people understand that mental illness is not a choice. That’s an insulting misconception. People wouldn’t choose this life- they wouldn’t choose this feeling. Because it’s not one that anyone who understands how it feels would wish on anyone else- we would not even ask you to walk in our shoes.
I don’t know if everyone with these issues feels the way I do, but I will say that I wear these shoes proudly.
I wear the tears in the souls with grace.
I step on rocks and glass with these shoes.
I trip on the laces and tie them up the best I can.
I wear them proudly because they make me who I am.
I don’t ask that you walk in them.
I ask that you admire me for the strength that I have to walk in them myself.
I ask that you recognize that they are different than yours.
I ask you to understand that the shoes I wear are not flawed.
They were not manufactured wrong.
They are not worthless.
They are unique.
They are different.
They are a part of me but they do not define me. They do not create me.
They do not decide my future.
They are simply the shoes that I gracefully, sometimes tragically, walk in.
I am proud of the holes and the mud.
They remind me of where I have been, how far I have come, and where I will go from here.
Respect me for my torn and tattered feet because they show you that I cannot be broken by the hardships I have battled through.
Respect my bruised yet soulful laugh.
Respect my imperfect worldview.
Respect it like I respect your perfectly shined stilettoes.
We don't always choose what we are given to wear in this life.
But we can choose how we look at people who dress differently than us.
Thanks for reading.
What to say after months away from the key board again.
I guess you could say it’s been an interesting couple of months. There’s been a landslide of brilliant things that have happened. I’ve shared some incredible memories with the love of my life. I’ve sustained another life for five years as of the beginning of this month. Said life I am referring to is my lovely dog, who by the way has seen me at my absolute worst more times than I can count. However, in the midst of all of the greatness, I’ve yet again found a heaviness in my heart. Everyone says “life is too short.” It’s too short to feel the sorrow that I feel. It’s too short to dwell on what you can’t control. It’s just too short. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Life is too short to not feel what you’re feeling. It’s too short to ignore your heart and it sure as hell is too short to minimize your own thoughts. The difference that’s important isn’t that you push off the sadness or you push off the hurt. It’s that you recognize that it, like everything in life, is simply temporary. The hurt in your heart is temporary. The shitty job is temporary. The pain in your chest is temporary. The headache that floods your mind is temporary. This moment of weakness is temporary.
You see, you don’t get to become a warrior by simply surviving in a world of difficulties and challenges. You become a warrior by crawling through the days you don’t know how to survive. You become a warrior by pushing yourself and screaming when nothing wants to come out. You get to be a warrior by advocating for your own happiness and rising to any occasion, no matter how daunting. Life has never been about letting go of your fears and feelings. It’s been about accepting them- accepting you, for everything you are. In every moment. Embrace the mess. Embrace the life that lives inside of every painful memory. Embrace the strength that exists in the hurting heart, and embrace the lesson that is in every thought.
Life might be short but it’s not about that, it’s about the shortness of patience that we all have with ourselves. The ignorance of our own incredible attributes. It’s the anger we share with ourselves when we “aren’t being good enough” and it’s the gut wrenching feeling we get when the world outside reinforces that negativity.
At the end of the day, I guess what I’m saying is that we don’t have control over the length of life. We don’t have the power to control the outside world, but we do have control of our inner love and we do have control over how we interact with our own minds. You’re worth it. You’re worth the patience. You’re worth the empathy. You’re worth the love that you forgot to give yourself on occasion. You are worth acceptance. You deserve that- and if for whatever reason, you can’t get that from the people outside of yourself, then the least you can do it be accepting of you.
There’s no one like you. There’s no one that can be you. You’re unique. You’re special. You’re beautiful. You are worth it.
You always have been.
Today has been hard. Actually this whole week has been. It’s not because I don’t have amazing people in my life. Because I do. It’s also not because I’m not the special, intelligent, and lovely human being that I was last week. Because I am.
It could be a plethora of things; because work is drowning me, or because school is overwhelming me in a way that I haven’t experienced in a while. It could be because I had the privilege of watching a key note speaker today that really reminded me of all the reasons I’m so passionate about Mental Health. It might also be because I (after six years i might add) finally might have some insight into why i carry anxiety and depression around in my everyday life.
For a long time, I attributed all of my mental health to a relationship that very obviously destroyed me. I blamed him for my anxiety because I lived in fear everyday. They were things that terrified me to think about. Would he start beating me up? Would he overdose? Would he leave me? Would he move away again? Would he cheat on me? These might not carry a lot of weight with someone else, but to me, they were the most horrifying thoughts at that time. They controlled my life, and they were all things that i had no control over.
One time, i remember driving with him in the vehicle. We got into an argument and he sped up. He kept speeding up and speeding up until i finally just gave in so he would slow down. I've always had a hard time not being in control, but this was different. It was a control tactic. It was a way for him to make me feel worthless and helpless. It was one of the hundreds of building blocks that created my home at that time-it was a home with a cracked foundation and rotting ceilings. It was a home with boarded up windows and it was a home that wasn't full of love, but coercion, fear, and infatuation. That's what it was to me. To everyone else though, to the people that looked into our lives, the house was beautiful. It was big and prosperous and shiny and clean. I was living in a home built of secrets and illusions. It was a place that i never felt safe. It was only ever a ward for my insecurities to flourish. It was a place for me to feel comfortable in a world that i was brainwashed into believing was too much for me-too overwhelming.
I'm coming up on the anniversary of the end of that relationship. I remember the day that it happened like it was yesterday. It was on Valentines day in 2013. Almost five years ago now. I did something id never in my life done before. I went through his phone. Not because he gave me an outright reason not to trust him, but because of a gut feeling. I remember thinking "Jesus Christ, what if I'm wrong?" I didn't think i could live with that guilt or the possible repercussions if he found out. But, i did it anyways, thinking that i could be wrong but knowing that i wasn't. And, it just turns out that i was right just as my gut had fiercely been telling me all along.
That day, i kicked him out of my life. I did it with no hesitation. It was in that moment that i finally realized that this was no longer for me-that it had broken me enough. And, for the rest of the day, i sat in a chair cuddled up to a blanket in a dissociative state, staring at a television that wasn't even on. I had no more thoughts. I had no more tears. It was just a silent room, in a silent mind, and a blank stare as i sat in the memory of the house that could have been.
I admit, it wasn't always like this. There was a charming blueprint of that house. It was something i always believed could turn into something special. I know now though, that it wasn't my responsibility to make it that way. Just like it has never been my responsibility to carry around this anxiety and melancholic angst.
Until Monday, i thought that he was the reason why i still did and for this whole time, i believed it.
On Monday, my therapist said "which of these cognitive distortions run your life?" She showed me a list. There's a page full of them and i looked at three of them and told her that two in particular are me, but one in particular gets me every time. It's the one where people say that they should be doing something or that they have to do something. It's where people beat themselves up over the things that they believe they "should be doing" or "should have done." She asked me what i do that with. I said i do it a lot when it comes to the gym- that i should be going and that i feel particularly guilty when it comes to that one. She asked me why i thought i held so much guilt about that. This made me, for the first time, actually say "because i think I'm fat." She asked me about my eating habits and where me thinking that might come from. I, without hesitation, told her that if i wasn't so stubborn and if i didn't have the rational side of me, that i would have an eating disorder. She paused for a second and asked me again why i thought i held so much guilt about that particular distortion. Then i paused for what felt like eternity. I shook my head and looked down at my lap. Then i looked up at her and said "oh my god. I just realized why i have the problems i do." She looked at me and asked the obvious question at hand- "and what do you think that is?" I sighed and said that it's likely because a part of me still has no self esteem. I remember getting angry for a second, knowing that it stemmed from that damn house that i once called my home-that one relationship that tore me apart for everything i had. The one that left me in pieces on the floor. There were pieces missing that i never got back. In that moment, i finally realized what those pieces were. They weren't my happiness, or my ability to be calm. They were the pieces of my self worth and confidence. The pieces of me that never made me who i was, and the pieces that i didn't need to make me into who i am, but the pieces that made me proud and confident to be the person i was then and that i would later become.
After my bout of anger, my eyes filled up with tears. I coughed and took another big breath of air and just said that it all made sense now. I laughed and told her that even last year, i wouldn't have been ready for that realization. I needed the last five years to come to terms with all of the things that happened to me. I needed time to acknowledge the hurt and the anger. I needed time to mourn the loss of the home that i had adored despite its shortcomings. But, mostly, i needed the time to forgive myself- for all of the times i was unkind to myself- all the times i destroyed myself for my mistakes and for obsessing over the things that i never could have controlled.
So, i sit here now in my living room of the home i built for myself. I sit here, five years later smiling through some of the tears that are falling onto my lap. I'm smiling because this is the home I've built with my own potential filled blueprint. It's the home i built, with my own two hands, by ripping the boards off the windows, painting the walls, hanging paintings, and laying out the welcome sign for all kinds of new and special people. It's the home i always had the potential for, but just recently started believing that i deserved. It's the home i built for me, from me, and to me. It's the home I'm finally accepting as mine. And, despite its imperfections and bumps and cracked tiles, its the one that I'm proud to own.
I'm not telling you that its not okay to have regrets or to dwell on things that you can't control. It is. It's what makes everyone reading this a human being. What I'm saying is that you should never allow someone to trap you in a house that's never felt like a home to you. That you should never be scared of putting that work into you-that you should never feel guilty for that. You're worth the work. You're worth the time. The paint. The sweat. The tears. The effort. You are never going to be perfect. There might be cracks in the floors and holes in the walls, but you have control over your own house, and your own potential for growth deserves your attention. Because that potential is there shining right onto those boarded windows- you just have to let it in.
When I woke up this morning, I felt relatively normal. I didn't have any major red flags minus the fact that I was tired from waking up from numerous times throughout the night. Like any other morning, I fed my dog and let him out. I brushed my teeth. I put my face on, grabbed some snacks and a bottle of water and I left. The thing is that I did it all really slowly. In retrospect, it kind of feels like I did it in slow motion. This should have been a red flag, but I assumed it was because I was tired. After all, Tuesdays are hard. Then I get to work and step foot into the training room. It was the moment I sat down that it all began. The heaviness began to build. I found myself overcompensating for my guilt of being distracted inside my own head by answering questions that I wasn't even prepared to answer. When it came to introducing myself, my palms were cold and sticky. My heart was pounding. I felt the slight pulse of a headache in my eye sockets. I am sure I looked normal to the rest of the group, but I was petrified inside. The mask I wear everyday to conceal my struggling heart is effective in moments like these.
When asked what I wanted to get out of the training, I said I wanted to learn about how to de-escalate a group of escalated individuals rather than just one. I think, really though, what I wanted to learn was how the hell I could de-escalate myself in that very moment. How I could continue living in a body that doesn't know how to handle my spirit-doesn't know how to handle my mind. The worst part, is that I can't blame my body for not knowing how to deal with the intruding thoughts and the effects they have on me. The feeling of someone sitting on your chest is a feeling I don't wish on anyone, and certainly not one I wish upon myself. Sitting there today, slowly taking my Ativan out of my purse and sneakily putting it under my tongue, I began thinking to myself a bunch of things. They weren't things I wanted to think about, but with my brain it doesn't matter what I want. It gives it all to me anyways. The thought of whether this field is good for me-how can I help other people when I am such a mess myself? How does a hurting heart try to heal the hearts of others who are also hurting? How can I put someone else's pieces together when I don't even have all of mine? All valid questions, I would say.
In all honesty, if I was talking to someone else who was having these thoughts and fighting this internal battle, I would look at them, I would smile, and I would say without hesitation that they were in the exact place that they needed to be. I would say it without hesitation because I know that having been broken is the only way that someone learns to heal. I know that missing pieces doesn't make you any less whole. It just means you have to work a little harder at your puzzle. You have to get creative. Sometimes you have to make your own pieces and maybe, in some cases, you have to start all over. I would tell that person that they were in the right field for the simple fact that they are more concerned about how to help others rather than attending to how they are feeling in that very moment themselves. That very thing makes someone fit for the kind of work I do. So, if I can imagine saying this to someone else, why couldn't I say it to myself?
The answer is that I don't know. I don't really know what I don't know. All I do know is that whatever sense of strength I have left, I need to use to figure it out.
I left my place of work today at 4:41 pm. When I approached the door, it felt like it was fifty feet away, and when I got to it, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I had been holding back and holding down all of my feelings and thoughts and emotions all day. I was sitting in the training wondering if anyone in the room had these same struggles. I wondered how many people really knew what it felt like to suffer inside their own temple-the very place that is supposed to be a personal sanctuary- a place of refuge from the world when it doesn't accept you. I didn't know. I still don't. But I sat there and breathed throughout the day. I told my eyes to vacuum the tears when my eyes started to well. I told myself repeatedly "you can do this, Morgan. Just breathe it out. It's okay that you feel this way but you need to keep it in just for a little longer. Find your strength. Fight. Keep fighting." Needless to say-it worked. I got through the day. And at the end when I stepped out of that fifty feet away door and felt the sun on my face and I smelled the air outside, I felt overwhelmed with the freedom I had waited all day for- the freedom to cry. Finally. I can collapse. I can sob. I can do the things I need to survive the rest of this day. But then I had to get to my vehicle. So I looked across at the street and looked at how far I still had to go. I wanted to fall to the ground. I wanted to become one with the pavement. I wanted to disappear. But I didn't. I put one foot in front of the other. I spend each moment, feeling like eternity was approaching. I spent the time avoiding thinking of anything but the next second that was coming because I didn't want to think of what would happen next. I didn't want to think about the class I had to go to. I didn't want to think about the assignments, and I certainly didn't want to think about tomorrow. So I didn't. I thought about the pavement on my feet as I was taking the steps to my car. I thought about the strength It was taking me to make it there. I thought about the fact that the vehicle was getting closer. That I could make it there, and when I did, I pressed that button and I threw my bag into the passenger seat and collapsed. I collapsed directly into the seat. I slammed the door. I collapsed into the sea of emotions I had been holding back all day, and I sobbed. I did for as long as I felt that I could at that time and then I started my vehicle and made my way to my school.
Long story short, I survived. I survived all of the pressure in my mind and in my chest. I survived the thoughts. I survived the long walk to the door. I survived the longer walk to the car-knowing I was so close to replenishment, yet so far. I survived the moments that felt like years. I survived the negative self talk and fought it with positive self support, I survived the entire day. I survived the heaviness of the emotions I felt and still feel. I survived the paranoia that someone would find out I was broken. I survived the lump in my throat that persisted throughout the day. Today was a fight I wasn't expecting, as many days are with a debilitating mental disorder like depression. It was a battle I didn't have the weapons ready for, and I could have given up and let it kill me. But, I didn't. Why?
Because my fight is not over. Because I am worth life. Because my pain does not diminish the happiness that exists somewhere inside of me. Because I have come too far in this war to give up now. Because I have the tools to beat this thing. Because I am good enough. Because I am worth fighting for. Because happiness is worth fighting for.
I am not telling the people reading this that you wont have days that you feel like you've already lost. I am not saying that the dark place is bearable. I am not saying that it's not the most terrifying place to be in the whole world. It is. It's a place cloaked in darkness upon darkness. It's a place that even the scariest of creatures would find unbearable, and it's a place where hope simply does not exist. I know these things first hand. But it's a strong belief I have that in those very moments that you cannot possibly find the light in the room, you need to find it within yourself. You need to find it somewhere in there-even if it is buried deep inside of you and covered in dust and cobwebs. Find that spark. Find that light. I promise you that you don't need much. A little spark will get you a long way-it's the very gift that allows you to continue long after you stop believing that you can.
Find your spark in the moments where the world isn't giving you light. In the moments that no one understands you, fight to understand yourself. When you feel unloved or unlovable, compliment yourself.
I don't care what anyone says-not my own little voice that tells me I'm not good enough and not the little voices that tell you similar lies. I am good enough. You are good enough. And nothing worth having comes easily. In our case, it's the fight to survive, to find our inner light, and to find our grit to move forward when we don't know how. You can do this. You have the tools. Find them and keep fighting.
It has been a really long time since I sat down at my keyboard and allowed myself to be vulnerable to whoever reads this blog. I apologize for that, as I know I have some people that really value what I write. Truthfully, I don't know why I haven't been writing. Maybe it's because I didn't have the appropriate words to explain how I felt. Maybe it's because I've been drowning in a sea of change that I have yet to figure out how to deal with. Or, perhaps it's because of the numerous medications I've been on for the last three months as my sorry attempt to get my anxiety under control. I realized as of late that I really don't enjoy serotonin medications-not because they don't help slightly with the presenting problem of anxiety, because they do. I don't like them because in the last three months I have watched myself transform into someone I don't necessarily recognize. Apathy is something I have always struggled with obtaining. I often used to think that all I needed was something that helped me to stop feeling things so deeply. What I have realized in the last while is that becoming apathetic propels me away from the comfort of myself. I become disconnected from the parts of me that make me who I am. Those pieces of me that cause me to cry for what seems like no reason-the pieces that bring great passion to me-the moments when a small ray of light or the words of a stranger or a melody of a song inspire me to the point of butterflies in my stomach. Some people call me neurotic or sensitive or depressed when these moments happen in front of them, but they are wrong. In simple terms that are free from judgment, I am myself in these moments. I used to hate that i'd begin crying when I read something that touched my heart. I remember tons of moments where a song would come on in my car and I would just break down and fall apart momentarily because the song made me feel so strongly that the emotions just had to come out somehow. I always equated it with my depression and looked at it as being problematic because that is what society deemed it to be. It took the last three months-it took the absence of these moments to make me realize how important they are to the person I am. It's ridiculous that people constantly need to lose things to realize what they have. It's disturbing how we don't even recognize how special we are at every given moment. It sickens me how society constantly beats the ingenuity and creativity and quirkiness and loveliness out of so many people just because they appear different than the greater population.
I guess my point of this and to anyone reading, it's just to always remember that the pieces of you that seem to give you trouble in some way or another are the pieces I think you should learn to love more than any of the other ones. Not because the other parts of you aren't important to who you are, but because the ones that give you troubles are the ones that can really teach you about yourself. I might be a mess at random times and I might feel things deeper than anyone I know, but I wouldn't trade that part of me for the world because its an inspired feeling that I cannot possibly obtain from anywhere else if not inside of me. It's the spark that constantly keeps sparking. It's the fire inside of me that burns when everything else is cold. It's the flutter of the butterflies in my stomach that remind me that things are important. It is my magic. It is the part of me that insists that I stop and look for the beauty that exists in every single day. It is my peace in the midst of the constant chaos that is this world and that is my body. Ironically, its the thing that antidepressant medication took away, yet its the one thing that has kept me alive.
I am not telling you that you should stop growing or stop reflecting on the pieces of you that you think need to improve for whatever reason. I am simply stating that the very things that you might crucify are the very things that make you the extravagant living thing that you are. They might be the most frustrating parts of you but they also might be the thing that creates a home for your soul within your body.
I hope that everyone reading this finds some peace with who they are and is able to recognize the ingenuity of the person that your life has allowed you to become.
Perfection is an illusion, but the beauty you possess at this very moment of your existence is not. That is very real. I hope you remember that in the future when you're wishing you could escape from yourself. I hope you remember that when you feel overwhelmed and angry. I hope you always remember that these moments of vulnerability and darkness are the stepping stones that guide you into a brighter future.
Keep fighting. Fight for you. Fight for your happiness. Fight to be at peace with all of the pieces of yourself.
"Dear you. Make peace with your mirror and the reflection will change."
Four years ago I would have fantasized about the last weeks of my undergraduate degree in psychology and literally cried from excitement about my future and my passion for the entire field. Even six months ago I would have. I honestly felt like psychology was the apple that fell right onto my head and allowed me to finally discover the gravity that was my life. And, if I had to explain the moment when I knew that psychology was for me, I would tell you that it was in grade eleven when I was sure that I had met the love of my life. Truthfully, he might have been one of them, but now I know that he wasn't the only one. In fact, he's the reason I don't believe in one soul mate. I believe there's a few and you have to figure out what kind of love you want in your life. I am getting on a little tangent here, but in grade eleven, I met this person that I swore to myself would be in my life forever. He was the badass dark and handsome type and I found him particularly endearing for reasons I still don't understand. I felt myself, on more than one occasion, just getting lost in the idea of him. The further I dug into who he was, the more in love I fell. It's the only time in my life I ever felt that way for anyone. I think the reason for that is that I always saw so much more inside him than he let on. He was a closed book but for some reason I thought I could break through that barrier with him. Eventually I did, I think. But the barriers are insignificant when two people are part of a puzzle and the pieces don't fit. He was my rock for a long time. I got so wrapped up in who he was to me and what he signified in my life. He was the second "love" that I had I guess, but he was the first one that made me understand what it felt like to need someone more than I needed anything else. He was that "run through your veins and keep your heart going" part of me. He was a huge piece of the person I was for a long time and he was the first story in my life that didn't have a happy ending. And, let me tell you that the story is long and sad.
But, the reason its relevant is because he had mental health issues that he covered up with drugs and risky behavior-so much so that he was taken from my life in a matter of days when I was not prepared. He didn't die, but it felt like he did. And though that was hard enough on its own, what made it worse was that I was constantly was doing what I could to help him. I wanted to fix him and when he wasn't there, I wanted to fix everyone else. I saw him as a bird with broken wings and the person that I am has always admired people like that because it made the moment that they started to fly so unbelievably special. I know now that it isn't my responsibility to fix everyone I meet, and it isn't my right to decide who needs to be fixed or how they should go about doing it. Surely I know now that I didn't know anything back then-not about how to help him with the pain he had gone through and certainly not anything about life. I was a naïve girl with a huge heart that just wanted to help every person see the light that they can give this world, even when they were lost and drowning in darkness.
I began my undergrad degree right after high school and right after I began that journey, he surfaced in my life again. It felt like a fairy tale and didn't take much to rekindle whatever relationship we had left. It continued into the last semester of my first year when it finally came to an abrupt halt. The seemingly attainable happy ending had been slowly deteriorating. Eventually, I began viewing him as a problem and as someone that would constantly drag me down and hurt me- someone that couldn't love me because he couldn't even love himself. I viewed him as a lot of things and I viewed our relationship as toxic and overall really unhealthy. So, on valentines day of 2013, it ended for good.
I will never forget that day because I sat in my living room for hours stuck in a dissociative state. I just sat there in my chair in front of the big window that looks onto the front of the acreage. I sat there for hours. I didn't talk. I just stared at the television even though it wasn't even turned on. I sat as beams of light shone onto my heavy beating head and my even heavier heart. I didn't feel warm. I didn't feel anything. And still to this day, I don't know how I got the courage to end that relationship. On that day, I just knew that I had to. I had to because the pain that we constantly caused for each other was becoming unbearable. The sense of dependency I had for him was so strong that after he was gone I didn't know how to stand on my own two feet. It was like I had to relearn to walk after years of being carried by someone I always thought was stronger than me- someone I valued more than I valued myself.
After that relationship, it was like all I was meant to do was help people. The fact I was able to break through his walls made me feel like I could do that with anyone. I had this intense need to carry people through life just as I had felt like I was carried for those years. My surroundings and information that I was continually given just validated that he was the monster and that he was all of these terrible things and that the problems lied with him. Yet, it was the very information that couldn't explain to me why I was still angry at the world and the situation I was placed in. It wasn't until last week when I hit another rock bottom and started writing in my journal that I began to understand why I was still vexed by this chapter of my life. I wrote that I had gotten so good at writing what I think I need to hear rather than writing what I needed to say. So that very day I wrote for hours and I cried. I forced myself to write everything down. and to feel numb all over again. I wrote about regrets and how I always told myself that regrets aren't a part of my life because everything i've been through made me who I am. Then I wrote about how maybe regrets are the things that don't line up with who we want to be or who we are now. Like they are the actions in our own past that make who we were feel like strangers to the people we are now. That made a lot of sense to me. So, naturally I wrote down all of the regrets I could think of. There was an entire page filled and when I started the flow of honesty, it hurt. In fact, I haven't hurt that much in a long time. It was the most painful experience of my life, but it was also the most necessary. I wrote that I regretted allowing people into my life repeatedly after they had let me down. I wrote that I regretted being vindictive to the one person I ever loved. I regretted allowing myself to be carried through years of my life. I regretted believing that I was so high and mighty that I could fix people-that I could fix him. I regretted every day I didn't tell the people in my life that I loved them. I regretted all of the times that I didn't stick up for myself-the days I didn't stick up for the person that needed to be fought for. I regretted all of the things that I let pass me by because I was too scared to fail. I regretted all of the things in my life that I avoided because I was too scared to fall. I regretted all of the days I tried to control him because I was so terrified of losing him. I regretted all of the moments that I swore I couldn't survive without him by my side. I regretted the times that I didn't believe in myself-all the days I was scared to let go of the branches holding me up, even though I was ready to fly.
After I wrote that entry, I read it again out loud and I couldn't even fathom how good it felt to let that weight lift off of me. Sometimes the past doesn't make us look good. Sometimes we look like the asshole- and maybe it is because we were. Maybe it because in that moment in time, we acted out of fear or anger or even out of love. But if you have moments like that and memories that haunt you because of the regrets you carry, then its only because you are human. I kept thinking people weren't allowed to have regrets because they have this negative connotation. But they don't unless that's how you address them. I don't address mine like that anymore. I don't because they turned out to be all of the stepping stones that sat waiting for me in my pond of life. The stones that waited patiently for me and believed that one day when I was finally ready to cross it, I would, and in doing so I would move onto the next chapter of my life.
The last few days, I've been even more lost than I was before being rejected from all of my masters programs. So here I was today looking into various music schools, thinking about how it feels to be honest with myself about what I want and where I want to go. And, as I'm complaining to one of the best people I have ever known that just miraculously landed in my life this past year, I tell them that I'm confused. Naturally they try and ask me why I feel like that and I reply stating that for my entire undergrad degree I have felt an immense passion for what I was doing because my ex set a fire in me that I couldn't put out. That little chip on my shoulder and inner narcissist wanted to fix the world one piece at a time. But, that as much as I love psychology, that I might need something a little different-something that feeds my soul in a different way. I said that since I started playing guitar and singing again, I felt like I rediscovered this piece of me that I, long ago, forgot I had. It was like I was punishing myself for all of the regrets I had with him and the people I felt like I let down in my life. I wanted to take all these new people and fix them to I could feed my own emptiness that I've been carrying since he left my life. And, while I still believe in everything I have learned in the last four years, and I still believe that education saved my life-maybe even saved me from myself, that furthering in this field might not be what my heart needs. I've always loved music and I have always loved writing and there is so many things I haven't even experienced yet. I know that if I were to really sit down and take my own advice, the advice I preach to everyone around me, it would be to pay attention to the signs of the universe. I have ignored them for the last year. I kept telling myself that this was the life for me and that the obstacles will make the pay off better-which it really does for a lot of cases. But now that I've been unsuccessful in getting into my masters, and I've taken up music again, I feel that it might be time to reconsider the path that I have been walking on since I was 17. I mean, who is to know at this point anyways? All I know is that I have to stop punishing myself for who I used to be and everything I should have or could have done. I need to accept that where I was isn't where I am. I have to accept that perhaps this part of my life is finally over and that maybe I can finally move on-finally forgive myself for being scared to let go of the branches holding me up-time for me to let go-time for me to learn to fly.
I think its time to cross the stepping stones in the pond. I think it's time to get to the other side of the rest of my life.
My name is Morgan and I have a passion for writing, just as I have a passion for supporting those that suffer from various mental health concerns. I fully believe that each day is brand new and we can do with it as we wish. Mental illness is crippling, and you may lose the battle but that does not mean that you will lose the war. Keep fighting and know that you are not, and never will be, alone.