Over the last two and a half weeks, my Life is Sweet bloggers have been sharing their stories of the difficult times they've faced and the losses they've overcome. For many of them, the things they've faced have been the most challenging things in their lives to date, but seem to come out stronger and more resilient on the other side. While today's post is entitled 'Life isn't Always Easy', today's blogger Trish has demonstrated this strength and resilience following the challenges that she has faced with mental illness and I am inspired by her bravery in telling her story.
Depression and I have history.
To say it's been a bumpy road is a bit of an understatement. My first concrete brush with depression came at 15. Life for a 15 year old isn't always easy. Suffice it to say, my life situation definitely wasn't typical or easy but, my first major depression came as a result of something that happens to most of us. My first love left me for one of my very best friends. It broke my heart. The details are a little blurry for me now but after the conversation with him I went home and took an overdose. There were plenty of prescription drugs available in my home. It sounds dramatic but I felt like my life was over. I had no idea how I could go on. The heartbreak, the betrayal, the humiliation. I had zero coping skills for this kind of intense emotion. It was my first of three serious suicide attempts.
All three of the attempts have overdose in common. However, each time I did something a little different afterwards. The first time when I woke up I told my mom. She completely under-reacted and I wonder to this day if she'd taken it more seriously and given me access to mental health professionals, maybe I wouldn’t have attempted a second and third time. I didn't get any professional help after the first attempt but I did manage to work my way out of that terrible dark place. The friendship, was over but I still had to deal with the two of them in my social circle. It wasn't easy. I made up my mind to separate myself from "those people" as soon as I could. I left home the week I finished high school and moved far away and saw very little of the people I'd grown up with.
Attempt two, I was 19. I'd lost my first "real" job and it was my fault. I'd been warned about being late, three times. I was young. I was working in an environment that was difficult. I was dealing with exposure to some pretty terrible experiences. I was in the dictation pool of a psychiatric hospital. The pay was great and I was really good at typing but the daily exposure to the horror of the things we human beings do to each other took a toll. I'd been self-medicating but it got harder and harder to get to work on time. I was in a relationship with a sweet guy. A sweet guy who had some addiction issues. I had a great roommate. A roommate who had access to lots of drugs. It was a bad combination.
When I woke up I knew I had to do something differently. I went to the emergency room and confessed. Again... things are kinda blurry, my brain does a pretty good job of protecting me from the worst of it. They admitted me and when they released me I broke up with the boy and moved out of the townhouse. I continued in an out patient treatment program for a while. It seemed to help.
Life continued. I had a kid, got married, had another kid, got divorced. The divorce wasn't easy but I was busy and surrounded by good people. I got through it and I was doing well. Really well. I went back to school, got a great job, met a great guy and fell madly in love. Yay me, but things started to unravel. I got married, a beautiful wedding surrounded by wonderful friends and family but things continued to unravel. I would cry for nothing. The tears would start and I couldn't stop them. I knew what this was and I wasn't going to ignore it. I asked for help. I went to therapy. My doctor tried me on an antidepressant and then another and then another. She added something, she took something away. She finally admitted she didn't know what else to do and sent me to a pharmacologist. He adjusted the meds. I still didn't feel better.
The smallest thing would set me off and the night of the last attempt I can't even remember what that "thing" was. I do remember the thought I had as I took the handful of pills - "I just can't do this anymore. They'll be better off without me." I completely believed it. My husband found me, figured out pretty quickly what was going on and called an ambulance. I woke up and I was angry. Angry that I'd failed. Angry that it wasn't over. I spent a short time in the hospital but it really felt more like a holding place. The attempt had bumped up my priority and I was on a list for inpatient treatment at Homewood in Guelph.
Homewood had an amazing major depression unit and I was there for an entire summer. It was a back to basics program. Basics meaning, sleep, eat, and exercise. I hadn't been doing any of those things very well. Being forced to get up at a certain time everyday, to eat (or you and your group didn't leave the dining room) and to walk outside everyday. Routine. So important at this point. They nudged me out of my dark spot. For the first time I participated in group therapy, it was scary. I learned one of the most important things in group - I was not alone. I was not the only one feeling these things. Sounds simple but it was such a relief. I formed some amazing relationships there, including a new one with myself. Art therapy, music therapy, individual therapy, couples therapy, family therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy. I was given techniques to deal with the stress. I was taught how to recognize the early signs of danger and what to do. I was taught how to change the negative internal dialogue in my head.
Life still isn't easy but I'm in a better place. Today my life includes keeping an eye on my sleep, being aware of what I'm eating or more importantly for me, when I'm not eating, not isolating myself and exercise, regular exercise. I need to be proactive against depression every day. I made a promise to my children after the last attempt. I promised that there wouldn't be a fourth attempt. Some days are harder than others. Life can be bumpy, that’s what keeps things interesting. But I know, it's a promise I won't break.
Trish is a mother of two boys, a friend to many, an avid dragon boater, a beekeeper, a Community Manager and a survivor of depression and EDNOS. She writes about her love of flowers, social media, music and photography on her blog: The Adventures of an Urban Flower Girl. She can hardly wait for winter to end so she can hang out at the beach.