Talking about depression isn't easy. This is part of the reason why the Life is Sweet project was so important to me; I truly believe that we need to open up a dialogue about mental illness because it is happening all around us. I'm thankful to have people in my life who get it and are willing to talk about their experiences.
I’m not sure if it’s genetic, environmental or a stroke of unfortunate luck that I have mental illness. It’s not as if I chose to be this way, it just is what it is. After many years of struggle it’s incredibly liberating to say, “it’s ok not to be ok.” The backstory is that I started to experience severe depression and anxiety as a teenager and well into my twenties. I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t look for help, I simply suffered in silence. I was embarrassed because on the outside I tried to project a happy, loving and relatively optimistic person but on the inside it became almost debilitating to go to sleep, wake up, try to get out of bed and live a life of “normalcy.” It was incredibly frustrating to be split into two people – the one I so desperately wanted to be and the other who was caught in misery’s chokehold.
“I feel like a defective model, like I came off the assembly line flat-out fucked and my parents should have taken me back for repairs before the warranty ran out.” ― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
At twenty-five I experienced something that forever changed my life; I witnessed someone commit suicide. In seconds, I saw a life end and didn’t know why. I didn’t even know the name of this man, just the very last expression on his face before his life ended. Can I tell you how f*cked that is? If I can pull any sort of positive from this experience is it is; life is precious. You are given one body and it is to be loved, respected and treated with the upmost care. I started practicing yoga, became a vegetarian, enrolled back in school to become a nutritionist and learned how to find beauty in everything.
This was fine and well until depression knocked on my door again and I wasn’t prepared for its visit. And with depression came attempted suicide, also known as rock bottom. It’s not so much that I wanted to die; it’s that I wanted to stop hurting day after day. Fortunately when you are at your lowest, the only place you can go is up. I am a full believer in integrative healing (meaning both traditional and alternative methods); so with this in mind and a combination of diet, supplements, yoga, therapy and medication I was on the path to recovery. Am I 100% better? Nope. Will I ever be? I can’t answer that but I now have coping skills to help me through.
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it's a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” ― J.K. Rowling
Most importantly, I learned that it is ok to not be ok. It’s ok to have mental illness. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association one in five adult Canadians will suffer a mental disorder in their lifetime. If I can leave you with any sort of advice, it is this; if you have mental illness, talk about it and carry with you even the smallest amount of hope that things will get better. Trust me, things will get better.
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ― Thomas Merton