Our Stories; Dane Woodland
TRIGGER WARNING: Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Disordered Eating
My mental health journey is complicated, challenging, and unfinished. I can still remember the first time I had true disdain for myself. I was only 12 years old. 15 years later, I have navigated various challenges, diagnoses, and have also learned so much about myself. What started as intrusive and harmful thoughts eventually spilled into harmful behaviours; direct self harm and various forms of self sabotage. As I grew, my coping mechanisms grew too - some more positive, others still toxic.
I was 20 when I was diagnosed with a mild form of depression, dysthymia.
I was 24 when I was diagnosed with a mild form of bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, and began a structured rehabilitation program for my eating disorder.
I have taken a whole host of medications to try and combat a variety of symptoms and circumstances; sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, mood variation. I have also cycled through various harmful habits of consumption, with food being a particularly troublesome coping mechanism. I have battled a disordered relationship with food that has spanned nearly a decade.
To most, I am a happy guy and I do my best to share my joy with those around me. The reality is, I am that person, but I have to work hard to be that person. After putting all of my hope in things and people around me, I have learned to find hope in myself. I have learned where I must draw the line, how I must live, and what I must do to protect my mental health and work toward wellness.
Being at war with myself has taught me that it is not about rejecting undesirable circumstances as much as it is about managing them. I have spent too much time trying to run away from who I am, but I have learned that the more that I collaborate with that person, the more I respect that person; the more I respect that person, the more I care for that person.
Practicing self care has not been glamorous for me. There are few nights with bath bombs, wine and Netflix. When I practice self care, I make the hard choice to remove myself from toxic environments, to say no to the temptation of harmful decisions, or I prioritize making time for myself.
Sometimes self care is voicing my concerns, and sometimes it is taking refuge in a safe space. It varies from one day to the next depending on my needs, but it is always pursued with my health in mind, and I am proud to prioritize my health.
Do I always get it right? Definitely not. I still face my demons. But, I also savour the sweetness that is joy, because I have worked so hard to find it
I forgive myself on a regular basis.
I learn from my mistakes.
There were times I wished I wasn’t alive or wished I didn’t have to feel such hurtful things. I can now say I feel so lucky to be alive and that I am so grateful to feel, even when I feel hurt, because hurt provides context for happiness, and happiness is what I work for, every single day.