Out Stories; Crystal Mews
LONG POST AHEAD! Settle in with a cuppa!!
Trigger warning; depression, anxiety, death, descriptions of self harm, sexual assault.
I remember beginning 2018 with the 100 happy days challenge (that I stuck with and actually completed!) I would detail one happy thing about every day, or something that made me happy in general, for 100 days and make a post on my instagram account every day. I needed something to lift myself up. I needed something at the time to remind me that there is something beautiful and magical in every single day. Ironically, I got the idea about this challenge via an article about a woman’s passing, Victoria Best. She was a music teacher from Clarenville, NL and an amazing human by the sounds of it. I didn’t know her, but her story resonated. She struggled, like I (and so many others) do, with depression and anxiety, but she unfortunately lost her battle.
I was inspired, since at the time I was going through a tough bout of depression myself. The thoughts of ending my life were frequent and terrifying. The holidays, and winter in general, usually get me into a little bit of a funk, the days are short, and I can almost never seem to get outside in the daylight, working 8-5 Monday-Friday only leaves two days for outdoor adventures, and with our Newfoundland weather, getting a nice day on a weekend is like Russian roulette. That and my love for sleeping in on the weekends, I think this trails back to the anxiety and depression as well, though. There were also some other things going on in my personal life as well but we won’t get too deep into those.
So I did it. I completed the 100 happy days challenge. I had rough days, of course, but for the most part I was in good spirits. I had a goal and I was accomplishing it, it felt great!
But, I was trying to forget the problems I was facing in my personal life by masking it with a challenge, a distraction, something to keep my mind off of it. Which at the time seemed like a good plan, in hindsight I was just bottling it all up.
So when the distraction ended, I had nothing else. I felt a little bit empty. What now? How do I keep myself feeling half well, how do I continue to distract? I had an idea to make a scheduled post 5 or 6 days a week on my Yoga Instagram account, Monday would be a theme, Tuesday would be a different theme etc. etc.; this was where I posted the 100 happy days challenge. You may be thinking while reading this “wow, she’s certified to teach yoga?” Yes, I am a certified Yoga Teacher, who has depression and anxiety. I’ve come to find that a lot of people who practice Yoga actually come from similar mental health backgrounds a lot of the time, the practice has a way of sucking in the people who need it, I guess. I was teaching Yoga once a week at the beginning of the 2018 too, during the challenge. I was feeling good! Then the challenge ended and like I said, I just kind of went back to my normal thought patterns. Deeply rooted habits are hard to break. That’s the problem with this illness, the recurrence. I could be completely fine for months, having the best time, in the best spirits, and then the next few months are the complete opposite. All it can take is one little comment, one little hitch in a plan, one little thing and I’m in the depths again.
I think I’ve always had anxiety, I have no idea where it came from, that’s something I guess I need to delve a little deeper into. As a small child I can remember, especially on birthday parties, getting super shy and nervous. To the point I actually hid in my bedroom one birthday because I didn’t want to open my presents in front of all my friends. I would get anxiety at other people’s birthday parties when the kid would get to opening my present, worried they wouldn't like it or would already have it or something. I would get nervous almost to tears for presentations in front of the class, to the point that in High school when I was diagnosed I actually had a doctor’s note to excuse me from class presentations.
On October 6, 1998, when I was 10 years old, my dad passed away in a boating accident. I remember this day like it was yesterday. I’m pretty positive this was the start of my depression. They say anxiety is anticipation of the future, and depression is dwelling on the past. I definitely do both of those things often so that makes complete sense to me.
I was in class in Grade 5, my brother and some family friends came to the door with tears in his eyes and pulled me out of school, We were living in Burnaby, B.C. at the time and my parents had just purchased a motor boat. They were testing it out one day on the Fraser River, they weren’t going to be very long so no one wore a life jacket, it was just a spin to test out the boat. They hit a sandbar, (this is a place in a river where there is an accumulation of sand, this can move with the tides and currents so it’s hard to know where they are underneath the water) the boat flipped; my dad, my mom and their friend all went into the water. My mom is not a swimmer, I don’t think she could swim a stroke if she wanted to, but miraculously a helicopter was flying over at the exact time and my mom and Don, their friend, were rescued. My dad, who actually was a good swimmer, who took me to my swim lessons, swimming at the pool and the ocean to swim for fun, was lost in the river. He was unable to be found for 12 days; on the 12th day, they found his body. One of the first and only bodies they had found in this river, at the time, or so I was told, since the current is so unforgiving.
So my mom uprooted us from B.C. and moved us back to our home province of Newfoundland where we had family to help us. Mom at the time didn’t even have Grade 12 since schooling ended at Grade 11 when she went, so she completed her GED shortly after we returned home, which I am so proud of! She worked at Walmart, Canadian Tire, and Garrison Guitars to name a few places, until she received a position at Eastern Health and has been there ever since. Which has now been over 10 years ago, also super proud!
My dad was a mechanic with GM when we lived in B.C. (RANDOM FACT: he once fixed the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile), my mom was a stay at home mom. We went from a one good income household to one low income household so we went without a lot of the time. No, that’s the wrong way to say things and that doesn’t give half as much credit to my amazing mother as it should. We never “went without”, somehow mom always found a way to keep the roof over our heads, keep clothes on our backs and food in our cupboards. We couldn’t afford a lot of the name brands, expensive game consoles, trips etc. Jealousy was a strong emotion inside of me that I had to be aware of at all times. Seeing everything other people had, that I did not, whether it be family dynamic or material things, growing up was tough. Looking back now, I don’t have those same emotions, that’s also because I’m more aware of them. I’m grateful for how I grew up because it made me modest, it made me frugal, it made me crafty, and it made me appreciate the value of a dollar.
Losing a parent as a young adolescent, I’ve learned through therapy, is the hardest time of life to lose a parent. Not only is your entire body going through extreme changes, but then you have this tragic loss and extreme change in environment. It takes a toll on the psyche. For me the loss of my dad obviously turned into me having “daddy issues”, and intense fears of abandonment which have ruined a good few relationships; personal and romantic. I have bounced from friend group to friend group my entire life, mostly at signs of drama, confrontation or disagreement in which I ultimately end up getting pulled into.
When I was 15, I started self-harming. I would scratch my wrists at first with small little cuts with a safety pin, then I moved onto huge gashes on my thighs with a razor blade, which I still have scars from to this day, which I plan to eventually cover with a meaningful tattoo.
I didn’t know why at the time, but I was feeling so much distress. I was in pain, but not a physical pain. It’s was and continues to be so hard to explain in words, if you’ve never felt it it’s hard to empathize. At the time I couldn’t understand my emotions, I needed to have a physical reaction to accompany the emotional pain.
Eventually before my 16th birthday, I showed my mom my cuts and told her I needed help. I’m glad I did as it probably saved my life. I knew I had so much to live for and it was silly to be feeling this way. I knew there was something wrong and I needed help.
I began to see a therapist at the Janeway. I was prescribed a few different medications before we stuck on Zoloft, which I continued to take for approximately 5 years. We settled on this one because it gave me little to no side effects and I felt like my moods were regulated.
I wasn’t sad anymore, but I also wasn’t happy either. It was just a baseline. I was able to get out and socialize a lot more and I would have fun in the moments, but I would come home and go to school etc. But I was just physically there. Moseying on by. I didn’t want to kill myself anymore, though, so that was a bonus.
Around the age of 22 or 23 I was taken advantage of, in two separate incidents. I don’t like using the word rape, as it wasn’t violent or forceful, but if we’re talking technicalities that's what it was. This is something that only recently has come back to haunt me, as at the time I didn’t realize it was wrong. One of the incidents ended up with a pregnancy and abortion, which in itself for a woman can be traumatizing, but I knew it was the right thing to do, there was no second guessing.
It was around this time that I started practicing yoga as well as smoking marijuana heavily; I stopped my depression medication cold turkey. I had found Mary Jane and yoga and that’s all I needed, or so I thought. I was hanging around with people who I enjoyed their company whole-heartedly. I was beginning to get into yoga a lot more and becoming aware of my actions and thought processes. I was finishing up university and I was about to move provinces and start fresh (that didn’t exactly go according to plan, but that’s a story for another day). This was the beginning of my journey to self care and wellness. Yoga has helped me in so many ways, and though I don’t practice the physical parts of yoga as often as I would like to, I do practice the fundamentals every day, and I’m sure I’ll get back into it as my mood improves.
Though some may argue this, I believe these illnesses we struggle with are not curable, however we can all agree that they are manageable. It is constantly putting in the effort, and some days when you just don’t have the energy to put in the effort, THAT’S OKAY. These are days when you know you’ve run a little too thin and need your self care moments. These are times when you reflect on your thoughts and actions to come to the conclusion of why this feeling is present in this moment. It’s a constant balancing act of actually being okay, pretending to be okay, and breaking down.
I’ve come a long way in my journey, but there is still so much left to discover and uncover. As I sit in a bout of depression at this very moment, I know this. I’ve recently began a new anxiety medication and I believe it’s helping. I know that one day I will feel these emotions less and less as I delve deeper, but I also know they will never completely subside and it will always be effort to keep myself afloat.
Feel your feelings. Sit in both your hard moments and your happy moments. Appreciate them all, because every moment is fleeting, the only constant in this life is change. Knowing this helps moments seem a little less intense. Sit with the sad feelings, but know that there is light at the end of every tunnel and this too shall pass. Learn to appreciate the hard moments, because it makes the happy ones so much more gratifying.
To anyone who made it through this read, thank you. I appreciate you and your willingness to understand mental illnesses. I hope something resonated with you or helped you in some way. More than anything, I hope that together, we can end the stigma.